New Collaboration to Improve Accessibility of Health Care Products
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
World Sight Day 2022 marked the unveiling of a major new corporate initiative for increasing the accessibility of pharmaceuticals. The partnership between Haleon, a leading health care company, and Microsoft’s Seeing AI is expected to make over 1500 of the company’s products accessible to people who are blind across the U.S. and the U.K. Seeing AI is a free app principally used for scanning printed text and having it read aloud or saved on a phone, or for scanning a product’s barcode to find out what it is and read labels. The app can also detect light by using tones, distinguish colors, and identify currency. Through this new Always Read the Label campaign, Haleon is now ensuring that, on scanning the barcode with Seeing AI, users will get detailed information from the manufacturer including the name of the product, ingredients, and directions for use. Microsoft Engineering Manager Saqib Shaikh stated: “‘[The collaboration with Haleon] is really important and exciting, because Seeing AI has always been able to recognize products, but the challenge has been having access to data that is really rich, and that comes from the manufacturer. Now you can just scan the barcode and hear exactly what was written on the package...The information is really accurate, and you’re getting it all in one place.’” Haleon Global Chief Marketing Officer Tamara Rogers added: “‘We have had great feedback from people who are blind and have low vision. They really value the increased independence that comes from being empowered to access our product information themselves. There’s a classic health industry saying which is, ‘Always read the label, always read the instructions,’ and for some, that just isn’t possible. This initiative will make Haleon products more accessible to people who are blind or have low vision.’” Microsoft hopes additional companies will follow suit and enable Seeing AI to make more labels and important information accessible through barcodes. You can find out more details in an article from TIMES Series entitled Game-changing new collaboration set to enhance health product accessibility for the blind and partially sighted and one from Microsoft: Haleon harness Microsoft's Seeing AI technology to make health product information more accessible for people who are blind or have low vision.
Recent Trends in Product Accessibility
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
An article from Forbes written by Bérénice Magistretti, who is visually impaired, and published October 13, 2022, in recognition of World Sight Day, surveys some consumer brands that have recently shifted their focus to accessibility. She begins by highlighting the new partnership between Haleon and Microsoft that will make a slew of Haleon products accessible to the blind through the Seeing AI app. She also mentions another app called Be My Eyes, which connects people with vision loss to a worldwide network of over six million sighted volunteers that help blind people with visual concerns through on-demand video. For years now, Be My Eyes has also been partnering with an ever-growing list of companies, large and small, in many fields, so that blind users can speak to professional representatives for help with their products or services. Magistretti highlights the more recent trend of companies bringing inclusive design to the fore. One such is a British upstart called Roam, which specializes in natural wellness intimacy products like lubricants. Despite the high expense, logistical challenges, and high risk for error, Roam makes a point of putting Braille on all their products. Larger brands such as L’Occitane and celebrity ventures like Pharrell Williams’ Humanrace skincare line are also getting in on the Braille action, while other brands like Procter & Gamble’s Herbal Essences use non-Braille tactile features to distinguish their products. The efforts of these manufacturers will hopefully incentivize further growth in product accessibility. You can find much more information by reading the full article entitled From Pharrell's Inclusive Skincare Line To A Lube With Braille Writing, Consumer Brands Are Finally Starting to Think About Blind and Visually Impaired Customers.
Pasta Packaging to Include QR Codes to Increase Accessibility
In expanding a partnership with Be My Eyes, a service that provides live audio and visual support to consumers who are blind and visually impaired, Barilla, a major pasta manufacturer, is adding QR codes on the packaging of ten of its most popular products. Previously, the company partnered with Be My Eyes to enable shoppers to communicate directly with Barilla representatives through smartphone cameras. With this additional feature, consumers can scan the QR code on a pasta box to be connected immediately with a company representative. Once connected, they can request any visual information needed, such as details about pasta cuts, recipes, cooking instructions, and more. To find out more about the partnership, read the press release entitled Barilla® Adds QR Codes on Packaging to Assist Visually Impaired Customers in Expanded Partnership with Be My Eyes.
Join in a Virtual Blind Health Expo: December 2, 2022
Accessible Pharmacy is hosting the 2022 Blind Health Expo on December 2, 2022 from 10 am to 4 pm ET, which promises to the “the largest virtual expo of healthcare information, products, services, and medication for individuals who are blind, DeafBlind, or have low vision.” This event is free to attend as well as to exhibit. Thousands of consumers, caregivers, healthcare professionals, educators, nonprofit and government agencies will be attending. Participants can visit virtual exhibits from companies in the blind community; learn about new and ongoing products and services; and gain access to information from exhibitors after the event. Exhibitors will be provided with an accessible virtual booth space that can be customized to showcase products and services; to host a Zoom room or presentations; to feature a video, audio, and text; or to provide links and downloadable documents. The deadline for exhibitor registration is November 18, 2022. Click here to register as an attendee and click here to register as an exhibitor. For questions, contact [email protected].
Upcoming Webinar to Address How to Advance Equitable Workforce Practices: October 27, 2022
“How can we advance equitable workforce practices that support improved outcomes for all participants while simultaneously providing innovative services for employer customers?” This introduces one of the issues that will be addressed in a webinar on October 27, 2022 from 3 to 4:30 pm ET. The program is sponsored by the National Center on Leadership for the Employment and Economic Advancement of People with Disabilities (LEAD), a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) policy development center. “Promising Practices on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) within the Workforce System” will share practices that have effectively promoted DEIA in business services, staff training, and implementation of workforce policies. Speakers from local and state career and employment organizations in Minnesota and New York, as well as U.S. Department of Labor officials, will share effective practices fostering equity and inclusion. Find out additional details here about Promising Practices on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) within the Workforce System and register here for the October 27 Webinar.
Free Virtual Workshops on Audio Description in Dance and More
Dark Room Ballet, sponsored by Movement Research, is providing free workshops via Zoom that address the needs of adults who are blind and visually impaired. All workshops are taught by Krishna Washburn, a blind professional dancer and dancing instructor. Upcoming programs include:
On October 29, 2022 ET, No Diagram Anatomy for Dancers in the Dark Room Presents: The Lower Leg Complex (Foot Class): This final workshop in a series of three sessions analyzing specific parts of the body will use movement, touch, and discussion to cultivate scientific knowledge about the foot and lower leg as well as increased body awareness and neurological learning related to “evolutionary history and the marvels of human variation.” No previous knowledge of human anatomy, dance, or self-audio description is required to participate.
Audio Description as an Art Form: November/December Workshops
Audio Description as an Art Form, a series of five workshops held on Saturdays and described below, will explore audio description for dance as its own art form. Each workshop may be taken separately, or students may register for all of them. Classes are suitable for students of all levels, from those with no previous knowledge of audio description to professional audio describers.
1. On November 5, 2022 at 4 pm ET, The Layered Body: Self-Audio Description that De-Centers Sight: Audio description for dance has been “deliberately superficial and visual in its descriptions of movement performance.” Participants in this session will develop greater body awareness to describe how the body feels in movement, rather than strictly how it looks, “rooting itself in visceral language.”
2. On November 12, 2022 at 4 pm ET, Your Memory is Real: Creating Memory-Based Self-Audio Described Dance: This “Blind Art workshop” will provide participants with tools, coaching, and a “safe space” to develop self-audio described movement performances for each other.
3. On November 19, 2022 at 4 pm ET, How it Feels: Integrating Physical Sensation and Emotion in Self-Audio Description: Audio description is often left out of audio description for dance. In this workshop, students will develop self-audio description skills to integrate the description of physical movement with the “accompanying emotional experience.”
4. On December 10, 2022 at 4 pm ET, Forming Effective Audio Description Partnerships Between Dancers and Describers: Audio describers are most effective when they work in partnership with dancers who have self-audio description skills. This workshop will foster teamwork between dancers who’d like to refine their self-audio description skills as well as audio describers wishing to learn what questions to ask when developing descriptions and how to apply the answers in their efforts.
5. On December 17, 2022 at 4 pm ET, Description for Traditional Ballet Performances:
Participants in this session will use Act 1, Scene 1 from the ballet Giselle to develop different expectations for audio description of traditional performances and will then create a “manifesto” for audio description of ballet for widespread dissemination among traditional arts presenters.
To register for these workshops, email: [email protected] and indicate which workshops you are interested in attending.
Happy Halloween 2022!
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
Halloween is upon us yet again, as are its attendant joys and challenges for those of us and our loved ones with visual impairments. One challenge is creating a costume which will mean something to a child with vision loss. Halloween Costumes: Things to Keep in Mind If Your Child is Visually Impaired, an article from the American Printing House’s Family Connect website, shares some ideas on how to tackle this. For example, a child with vision impairment may not share the interests of their sighted peers or may not want to portray a character. One suggestion to counter this is to prepare in advance for the holiday with your child, including pretend adventures to foster their interests and discussing costume ideas that fit with their preferences. Another idea is to create costumes that portray mainstream characters but stand out for a child with vision loss, due to the addition of tactile features or other adaptations, or else unusual costumes that will grab attention and remain interesting for your child. In my own experience, I have dressed as a train, a bird (in a sweater with feathers and a foam beak), and even an ice cream man with a wearable cardboard cutout of a truck, among others. The Perkins School for the Blind also has an article on Incorporating Blindness Canes into Halloween Costumes, if desired. Just as important as a good costume, if not more so, is safety. This article from Outlook Enrichment and this one from BrailleWorks both offer lists of safety tips to ensure a successful trick-or-treat or costume party. Among the safety tips cited: avoiding masks, face products, or clothes that will irritate children or reduce usable vision; practicing trick-or-treating routes beforehand; carrying a flashlight if a child has some sight; and traveling in groups. You can find more information by exploring the links above. Enjoy the holiday!
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