Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

RDPFS Resources for Partners September 3, 2021

Labor Day: Then and Now

While gearing up for the unofficial last weekend of summer, we looked into the history of Labor Day and other assorted information and news. According to The History Channel, Labor Day traces its origins to “one of American labor history’s most dismal chapters.” In the late nineteenth century, the average worker toiled for twelve hours each day, seven days a week, for often meager wages. Very young children worked as well, earning a small fraction of the wages of adults. At the same time, unsafe working conditions, especially for those who were poor and recent immigrants, created a dire scenario for many. Labor unions emerged in response, “organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay.” Workers in New York City held the first Labor Day parade on September 5, 1882, taking unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square. Subsequently, the idea of a “’workingmen’s holiday,’ celebrated on the first Monday in September, gained popularity in other industrial cities.” Congress legalized the holiday and President Grover Cleveland signed it into law in 1894, following a strike by employees of the Pullman (railway) Palace Car Company. Find out more about the history of Labor Day

Labor Day and People with Disabilities:

“Let’s be certain that we include the contributions of the members of the workforce with disabilities in that (Labor Day) celebration and continue to create a more inclusive and more accessible workplace that empowers the future achievements of all workers” stated the Bureau of Internet Accessibility in marking Labor Day in 2019. This message continues to be relevant today, as people with disabilities continue to experience lower rates of employment and lower rates of pay than those without disabilities. The pandemic has compounded the challenges. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Persons With a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics -- 2020, employment among persons with a disability decreased from 19.3 percent in 2019 to 17.9 percent in 2020. Among the highlights of the data: half of all of those with a disability were age 65 and older, about three times the number of those with no disability; and those with disabilities were “much less likely to be employed than those with no disabilities.” The Bureau of Internet Accessibility offered some insights into how to improve these outcomes, including digital accessibility and challenging misconceptions. “Creating accessible work environments, including digital systems and websites, and providing reasonable accommodations opens doors for job-seekers and employers alike.” Read about Labor Day and Accessibility: Celebrate and Empower All Workers.

In recognizing Labor Day in 2020, RespectAbility, a “disability-led nonprofit that works to create systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities,” marked 30 Years of the ADA and the Future of Work. Noting that people with disabilities have been impacted disproportionately during the pandemic, they affirmed that “across the country, there are professionals in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors dedicated to finding solutions and making the future of work better for the 22 million working-age Americans living with a disability.” Sessions from a virtual summit covering strategies and practices that advance inclusion for workers with disabilities are available on the website for RespectAbility.

Fall Workshops for JAWS and NVDA

By Ahmat Djouma

The Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library is hosting twelve-week remote workshops for two of the most popular screen readers for windows. Each workshop is limited to 25 participants:

Transitioning to JAWS - a Twelve-Week Workshop: The workshop for the JAWS paid screen reader, used widely in education, corporate and government settings, will be held every Tuesday from 6 to 7:30 pm ET, from September 7 through November 23. It is recommended for those who already have JAWS and need to refresh skills or for others who may be considering purchasing the program. The workshop will cover how to customize settings for JAWS, navigating Windows 10, how to work with text and manage files and folders, exploring the web, and more. A few spots are available, but are limited. To register go to: Transitioning to JAWS - Google Forms.

Intro to NVDA: a 12-Week Workshop: The increasingly popular NVDA screen reader was created by blind developers and is available free of charge worldwide. This training workshop takes place on Wednesdays from 3 – 4 pm ET from September 8 through November 24. It is recommended for individuals who can type, know the basics of Windows and would like to be more proficient in using this option. Sessions will cover how to customize NVDA settings, navigating Windows 10, and how to work with text and manage files and folders as well as exploring the web. A few spots for this workshop are available as well, but also are limited. To register, go to: Exploring NVDA, Fall 2021 - Google Forms.

Some Apps to Check Out This School Year

By Ahmat Djouma

APH (American Printing House for the Blind) offers a number of free Apps for iOs and Echo devices. Many of them are math or computer related. Among the highlights: Practice2Master Fractions as well as Math Flash on Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa! and O&M (Orientation and Mobility) Trivia. Visit APH to try out the applications and sharpen your skills.

Paralympics Highlights

The Tokyo Games began on August 24 and conclude Sunday, September 5. A few highlights are featured here, with more to come next week after the final Games.

At Press Time: U.S. Goalball players:
Women Advance to Finals
Asya Miller and Lisa Czechowski have set a record for longevity, competing together in their sixth straight Paralympics. This week they also advanced to the finals against defending champion Turkey after the U.S. team’s victory over Brazil in the semifinals. Both players also won their first Paralympics medals “in the discus at the Sydney Games in 2000.” As noted in a previous Resources for Partners bulletin, goalball is “Designed specifically for blind and visually impaired athletes…” It is one of two sports “in the Paralympics that has no counterpart in the Olympic Games. [Boccia (for competitors with motor skills challenges) is the other].” Read more about goalball and the achievements of these players in The New York Times article: Goalball Teammates Set Paralympics Record for Longevity.

Another current U.S. Goalball team member, Eliana Mason, celebrated her 26th birthday by scoring three goals in the quarter final game against Russia. Teammate Amanda Dennis contributed “a pair of goals” in this phase as well. In the semifinals, Dennis again achieved renown, with two goals in the final 2-1/2 minutes and Mason “put the U.S. up 5-4 in the fifth round.” Read Team USA’s stories: Birthday Girl Eliana Mason Leads U.S. Women's Goalball Into Semis and U.S. Women's Goalball Advance to Finals After Double Overtime and Extra Throw Win Over Brazil.

Victors in Quarter Finals, Men Seek Bronze Medal After Defeat in Semifinals

After coming from behind to win against Ukraine in the quarter finals, the USA Men’s Goalball Team was defeated by China in the semifinals. They seek “’…to overcome this bump and bring home the bronze,’” stated Paralympian Calahan Young. Young scored the opening and only goal for Team USA during the game. Among the highlights of their victory in the previous game: “First-time Paralympian …Young fired the opening shot of the overtime period…” Matt Simpson began the scoring with a goal early in the game and Young scored “three consecutive goals…” later on. As team member John Kusku stated, “We never stop believing in each other.” Read more from the United States Association of Blind Athletes: USA Men's Goalball Advances to Paralympic Games Semifinals with Thrilling Overtime Win. For coverage of the semifinal game from Team USA, read U.S. Men's Goalball defeated 1-8, Losing to China in the Semis.


Paralympic swimmer Anastasia Pagonis, who was also cited in a previous bulletin, “won a gold medal in the S11 400-meter free style, breaking her own record at 4:54:49 and winning Team USA’s first gold of the game on day two.” The classification of S11 is specific to athletes who are visually impaired with “’low visual acuity and/or no light perception (according to World Para Athletes).’ To even the competition, all S11 athletes wear blackened goggles.” Another swimmer, Gia Pergolini, won a gold medal in the S13 100-meter backstroke. S13 refers to swimmers who are visually impaired as well, with higher visual acuity and/or a broader visual field than those in S11. Check out the item from ABC News: US athletes dominate at Tokyo Paralympics.

Colleen Young and David Henry Abrahams both received medals on the eighth night of the competition, September 1. According to Young, a three-time Paralympian, “Visually impaired swimmers can know how they did in a race by lights on the starting blocks.” Young won two medals in Tokyo, the second a silver in the 100 meter breaststroke SB13. She explains how the lights help: “…there's one light if you got first, and then two and then three. I can't see my time, but at least I know my place," In the men’s competition, 20 year-old David Henry Abrahams earned a silver medal in the 100 meter breaststroke. Abrahams has no central vision, losing his eyesight in eighth grade. He swims at Harvard, where he is majoring in mathematics. Read their stories, from Team USA: Visually Impaired Swimmers Colleen-Young-and-David Henry Abrahams Were Seeing Medals on Night Eight.

Martha Ruether has achieved renown not only as a Paralympic swimmer, but also as a coach for aspiring athletes. The two-time Paralympian advanced to the finals after finishing in the top eight for swimming in the semifinals, also on September 1. She has no vision in her left eye and 20/400 acuity in her right. Ruether recalls how early on she “’Iearned about Paralympic swimming when I went to a camp for visually impaired and blind athletes at State University of New York [SUNY] Brockport. When I swam, they noticed I was kind of solid at it and told my parents about the Paralympics and said I should get involved.’” Ruether currently works as a graduate assistant coach at Malone University in Canton, OH while pursuing a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. Read more about her story from the International Olympic CommitteeParalympics Results: Martha Ruether.

As the School Year Begins, Check Out This Brief, Smiling Bus Encounter

“‘What Can Your Smile Do?’” sums up a TV commercial from Colgate, depicting the experience of a young boy who is visually impaired and boarding a school bus. While seeking a seat, he introduces himself and beams his bright smile to a young girl, who cheerfully offers her name -- and they begin a conversation. Check out the video at What Can Your Smile Do?


Happy Labor Day: Enjoy the holiday weekend!