From the Desk of Jason Eckert
Executive Director of Readers Digest Partners for Sight
We made it! Together but apart, close yet separated from family and friends. If you’re reading this, I’m confident you are grateful for having survived and possibly even thrived in what might have been the toughest year and a half we’ve ever experienced. Throughout this ongoing COVID crisis, the importance of connection, community, and communication has been on full display. We have all participated in activities to stay connected to each other in ways we could never have imagined.
At Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation (RDPFS), we have always greatly valued providing access to materials and systems that help those in the blind and vision impaired community stay in touch with each other and enjoy independence.
Many have told us how this bulletin has helped them stay connected to services, resources, and points of interest. I am grateful that we assisted in opening new and vital connections and encourage everyone to reach out to their neighbors, friends, family, in person or digitally to find common ground and companionship.
The bulletin displays the commitment of RDPFS to delivering solutions through sharing and caring even after the crisis wanes. Our goal is to create community that lasts and inspires social connectivity that helps all people living with blindness and vision impairment thrive. We at Partners for Sight believe that raising awareness about the many organizations and resources available and encouraging participation sustains these services and programs for all.
We are “tuned in” to the opportunities offered by our not-for-profit partners, the medical science behind the latest treatments and the technology being developed allowing those living with impaired vision equal access. We seek to pull this information together in the spirit of sharing and increasing opportunities for people with vision impairment to live as independently as possible.
All of you also have a fountain of knowledge to share. My email box [email protected] is always open to receive your notes, comments, and ideas. Let’s start the Fall season continuing to connect all members of the blind and visually impaired community together, using our shared knowledge and resources to make this community stronger than ever.
America’s Recovery: Powered By Inclusion: Gearing Up for National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)
NDEAM 2021 begins on October 1 with the theme “America’s Recovery: Powered by inclusion.” This underscores the “importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.” Each year NDEAM recognizes the contributions of people with disabilities to the nation’s workplaces and economy. Observances can be held by employers, educators, government officials, and disability organizations. The U.S. Department of Labor and its Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) offers extensive resources for planning NDEAM events, including a poster, sample proclamation and media materials. Check out their resources for National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2021.
Virtual NDEAM Events
September 30: Federal Priorities and NDEAM 2021
The 18-month-long – and counting – pandemic has transformed our world and the employment landscape for workers with disabilities. The federal government “is actively working to capitalize on the accessibility gains made by remote work…” and seeks to institute policies to ensure the safety of workers in a wide range of sectors of the economy. This webinar from RespectAbility, taking place September 30 at 1 pm EDT, will feature leading federal officials discussing their work and plans for the coming months. Find out more and register for Federal Policy Priorities on Disability Employment: NDEAM 2021 and Beyond.
October 13: Celebrating the Role of Persons with Disabilities in the National Recovery From the Pandemic
Helen Keller Services is hosting its second nationwide Zoom National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) free event on October 13 at 2 pm EST. The event features Dr. Richard Pimentel, Senior Partner at Milt Wright & Associates, Inc. as keynote speaker and a number of panelists representing vocational rehabilitation and employment resources. Dr. Pimentel is recognized as a leading expert regarding practical issues related to disability inclusion, management, overcoming workplaces challenges and barriers, and employment opportunities – as well as the “COVID return to work and the Americans with Disabilities Act.” For more information and to register, check out Helen Keller Service’s event for National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2021.
Looking Back: A Brief History of NDEAM
By Ahmat Djouma
National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) has been observed since 1945. Its origins can be traced to a law passed by Congress that year declaring “the first week of October…as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” The observance was renamed National Disability Employment Awareness Month in 1988 to reflect the employment needs of “individuals with all types of disabilities,” to recognize the role of workers with disabilities in keeping the nation’s economy strong, and to reaffirm the commitment to equal opportunity for all. Subsequently, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and federal education legislation in 1975 added momentum. The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 further guaranteed access. One of the most comprehensive disability rights initiatives, the ADA prohibits discrimination in “job application procedures, hiring, advancement, termination, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.” Later, the government enacted the Telecommunications Act, executive orders and tax credits to encourage the hiring of people with disabilities and to celebrate the work and accomplishments of those who are disabled. This also marked an effort to heighten public awareness and education about the need to be more inclusive. Progress has been made for employment of individuals with disabilities, but more work remains to be done. To learn more, visit the website of the Library of Congress and check out the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)’s piece on Disability & Employment: A Timeline. For more on the history, from Wikipedia: National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
White House Executive Order on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workplace
President Biden has recognized that the Federal Government, “As the Nation’s largest employer, … must be a model for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, where all employees are treated with dignity and respect.” This statement, included in his Executive Order on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce, affirmed the government’s commitment to strengthening the ability to recruit, hire and advance a workforce reflecting the diverse nature of the American people. To achieve these goals, the government must provide appropriate resources and opportunities. Accessibility is defined in terms of the construction and design of physical space and accommodations as well as reducing “attitudinal barriers to equitable opportunities…” The Executive Order calls for a “Government-Wide Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Initiative and Strategic Plan” to advance the process. Read the full Executive Order on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce.
In releasing guidance for people living with “long-haul COVID-19,” President Biden’s administration issued information on how those affected can access resources, accommodations, and support. Depending on the symptoms experienced, individuals with persisting symptoms may be considered to have a disability that qualifies them for protection from discrimination as well as possible disability benefits. The White House has also provided guidance on how people with long-term COVID symptoms can “better access disability support services.” Read more about long haul COVID and how to access resources and supports in The Mighty article Biden Administration Says Long-Haul COVID-19 to Be Federally Recognized as a Disability.
The Mighty Coronavirus (COVID-19) Check-In: Quick Survey on Community Impact:
The Mighty has prepared a user survey to learn more about what supports continue to be needed during the extended pandemic. Responses will be used in developing content helpful to those utilizing the resources provided by this digital health community “created to empower and connect people facing health challenges and disabilities.” To take the survey, click on The Mighty Coronavirus Check-In.
Thanks to new “’sonifications’” from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomy data conveyed visually can now be converted into sounds. For example, one of the sonifications, of the Tycho supernova remnant, utilizes sounds that begin in the middle of the remnant and move outward. Its reddest colors, representing iron, are communicated through lower notes, while the bluest colors, indicating sulfur, are conveyed through higher notes. One of the main goals of the initiative “was to enable blind or visually impaired people to appreciate the wonder of space,” according to Chandra Lead Scientist Kimberly Arcand. Read more about how to Hear the sounds of space with these Chandra sonifications.
Feather Chelle’s new book features hands-on activities, poems and lessons for young readers, “blind and sighted alike.” The author spoke with Blind Abilities and Jeff Thompson about her fourth book and life experiences. “Colors are not just visual,” explains Chelle, in that they can be described using all senses. A single mother of five, Chelle is totally blind and home schools her family, according to booklife by Publishers Weekly. To learn more about Chelle, her “journeys and passions” – and how to obtain a free copy of her book – check the post and podcast from Blind Abilities: Author Feather Chelle Releases New Book, The Color of Darkness, an Abilities Awareness Activity Book for Young Readers, Blind and Sighted Alike.
Eye On Vision
“The show for those with visual impairment” airs through WYPL-FM, based in Memphis, Tennessee, and via a podcast available everywhere. The latest podcast posted delves into two topics: the treatment of amblyopia “by anesthetizing the ‘good’ eye” and how a robotic cane can guide users using a three-dimensional color camera, computer and “inertial measurement sensor.” Check out their interviews with experts: Anesthetizing Good Eye to Strengthen Bad Eye in Amblyopia and 3D Color Camera and Auditory Cues Used With Robotic Canes.
On Tech and Vision
The latest episode of “On TECH & VISION with Dr. Cal Roberts” covers developments in tactile technologies. Building on the concept that the sense of touch is key to how we interpret our experiences, the show features two experts, Dr. Julia R. Greer, material scientist from Caltech, and Dr. John Gardner, physicist from Oregon State University. Their work aims to “develop technologies that will one day help people with vision impairment to experience images and graphics.” One of the oldest technologies, Braille, invented in 1824, has been instrumental in helping people who are blind to read, write, and communicate. Its limitation, however, is that it is confined to text and cannot convey visual images. For more information, or to hear the podcast from Lighthouse Guild, go to The Latest Frontier in Tactile Technologies.
The Vision Rehab Podcast
Aimed as a resource for those new to vision loss, the Vision Rehab Podcast is a monthly show highlighting topics and issues related to vision rehabilitation services and other offerings that can be helpful. The podcast covers how to address the functional difficulties experienced by individuals with vision loss from conditions like macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and other eye diseases. Recent episodes have covered such topics as background information on types of vision rehabilitation professionals, vision and hearing loss, diabetes and vision loss, and access to reading services. The latest show, from Low Vision Tech, covers what can be done when The Doctor Said There's Nothing More She Can Do.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling novel All the Light We Cannot See told the story of a blind teenager, Marie-Laure, in occupied France during World War II and her experiences with a German soldier named Werner. An upcoming four-part limited series on Netflix will re-tell their story, with shooting scheduled to take place in Europe in 2022. A search is underway to cast the role of Marie-Laure and “Actresses who are blind or low vision are especially encouraged to apply.” Those interested in auditioning can email [email protected]. More information is available from the American Council of the Blind (ACB): Netflix Casting Call: All the Light We Cannot See.
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