From the Desk of Jason Eckert, Executive Director, Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation
Fall is here and with it comes cooler weather and new beginnings. Much like the feeling of the start of a new school year in September, I am mindful of all the important work ahead and am ready to roll up my sleeves and move forward.
In the spirit of getting back to work, the RDPFS Board of Directors recently funded two exciting new projects which support both work and play:
The Carroll Center for the Blind’s Screen Reader User Tester Training Program (SRUTT) has been awarded RDPFS financial support for the coming year. As the internet becomes more present in every aspect of our lives, both at work and in personal activities, the limitations of website accessibility for persons living with vision loss have grown. SRUTT, an innovative vocational training program, addresses this ever-increasing problem. Many organizations need to have their websites tested to make sure that those using screen reader software can access the material being presented. The SRUTT program seeks to train individuals living with vision loss to become Screen Reader User Testers. These Testers will secure employment in organizations that provide website consulting services to businesses wishing to ensure accessibility. Accessible websites allow companies to gain access to the considerable buying power of the blind and vision impaired community and, in doing so, support compliance with the requirements of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).
We can’t be all work and no play, so RDPFS is also funding the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) Get Out and Play Blind Soccer Symposium for Adaptive Sports Physical Education Instructors and Coaches. USABA was recognized recently by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee as the official national governing body of blind soccer. This designation has prompted USABA to structure and prioritize the growth of grassroots and elite programming for the sport. Through philanthropic and partnership support from the U.S. Soccer Federation, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, and Play LA, the USABA has spearheaded the introduction of blind soccer programming across the country. USABA now looks to advance knowledge and access to this new, exciting, and emerging Paralympic sport, leading up to the 2026 FIFA (international football) World Cup and the 2028 Los Angeles Paralympic Games. The Get Out and Play Soccer Symposium seeks to educate Adaptive Physical Education Teachers and Athletic Instructors who work with persons living with vision loss about the game of blind Soccer. Teachers and coaches who participate in the Symposium can then launch the sport in their organizations, introduce it to their athletes, help to develop their skills, and facilitate organized league play. This will foster the creation of an elite team to pay in the 2028 Paralympics.
As we enter the Fall season, let‘s reconnect with friends and colleagues, and like the students who will benefit from the programs described above, commit ourselves to the important work we do, and get out there and play.
Free Webinar on Diabetic Macular Edema: Taking a Proactive Approach to Access Eye Care and Maintain Vision: October 4, 2022
People living with diabetes may develop diabetic macular edema (DME), which can result in damage to the body’s small blood vessels, including the eye, due to consistently high blood sugar levels related to “poor glucose control.” Patients with DME have difficulty adhering to treatment regimens requiring frequent injections in the eye to preserve vision, impacting their ability to work as well as daily functioning. On October 4, 2022, from 2:30 to 3:30 pm Eastern Time, individuals with DME, Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, and caregivers are invited to join in an online seminar to find out about strategies “to help you communicate your treatment expectations, engage in shared decision-making with doctors and other care professionals, and ensure access to wholistic care,” including controlling risk factors for developing complications from diabetes. A panel made up of an ophthalmologist, optometrist, patient advocate, and individual with DME will speak about the importance of regular eye exams for early detection and treatment, review treatment strategies to protect vision, and devices and tools that can help to reduce disease and treatment burdens. Find out more on the Prevent Blindness website here about the webinar on Taking a Proactive Approach to Access Eye Care and Maintain Vision for People with Diabetic Macular Edema or register directly here. Prospective attendees can also send questions to be answered during the live session.
Voting Accessibility Challenges in 2022
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
The November 8, 2022 midterm elections are just around the corner, and for those who wish to vote by mail, application deadlines for mail-in ballots in many states are approaching. On a recent episode of The Takeaway radio show produced by WNYC, journalist Melissa Harris-Perry spoke with Michelle Bishop, Voting Access and Engagement Manager for the National Disability Rights Network, about trends in voting accessibility from 2016 to the present. They discussed how, in 2016, the Government Accountability Office found that fewer than half of in-person voting places were compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), noting that accessibility improved in 2020 with the increasing use of mail-in ballots. Since 2020, however, accessibility seems once again to be declining. A major factor is the enacting of new laws restricting eligibility to vote by mail, requiring voters with disabilities to present medical documentation, and curtailing voters’ right to bring an assistant to the polling place. Other hurdles have to do with the lack of training for poll workers on the voting machines that make it possible for voters with disabilities to cast their ballots, and fears that these machines can be tampered with, leading to voter fraud. The inaccessibility of elections, however, does not come just from voting itself. A study of midterm campaign websites published by the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually-Impaired, found that none of the websites they examined could be considered fully accessible, and many did not even include an accessibility statement. The study’s findings, which surveyed websites in several states, were also reported on by Forbes and Time. Harris-Perry and Bishop concluded by pointing out that by improving the accessibility of voting in all forms, we improve the experience for everyone.
Workforce Recruitment Program Enrollment is Open
The enrollment period is now open for the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP), which seeks applicants for its 2023 database. Registration and applications are welcomed from anyone who is interested in federal employment with a disability who is a U.S. citizen and is seeking a degree or recently received a degree from a U.S. college or university. WRP, a recruitment and referral program, connects federal and select private-sector employers across the nation with “highly motivated college students and recent graduates with disabilities who are eager to demonstrate their abilities in the workplace through internships or permanent jobs.” Registration for the 2023 database closes October 13, 2022. Questions may be emailed to [email protected]. Learn more about participating in the WRP here. Those interested can also find out about the Rules of Behavior and complete the student registration here.
White Cane Day Virtual Events
As noted in a previous Bulletin, White Cane Day, recognized on October 15th each year, will be celebrated across the United States. Many events are being held in person for the first time in a few years. Here are two that can be joined in online:
On Friday, October 14, 2022, from 10 to 11:30 am Eastern Time (ET), the MCB (Massachusetts Commission for the Blind) White Cane Awareness Day Virtual Celebration will cover the history of the white cane, its benefits, different types of canes, and more. Inspiring individuals who use canes to travel to work, school, and community activities will share their experiences. Those attending will have the opportunity to earn one continuing education credit from ACVREP (Association for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals). Participants can join via Zoom or telephone. For additional details, and the Zoom link and telephone numbers, read the Mass.gov piece on the MCB White Cane Awareness Day Virtual Celebration.
Later in the day on Friday, October 14, 2022, from 1 to 2:30 pm Pacific Time (10 to 11:30 am ET), the Lions Club and the Los Angeles Center are hosting their White Cane Day Celebration, which will be held in person in Los Angeles and online. The event features a presidential proclamation, testimonials from white cane users, and more. Learn more and register by visiting the Braille Institute web page for the White Cane Day Celebration -- Los Angeles and Virtual.
The White Cane Law
Both of the events described above will also include background information about the White Cane Law. White Cane Laws, in effect in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, are laws that support pedestrians who are blind being able to access streets and public thoroughfares fully. They require drivers to use every possible precaution when approaching a pedestrian with a white or metallic cane or using a guide dog. A resource from the American Council of the Blind (ACB) details laws, regulations, and penalties for each state, as well as excerpts from the state’s drivers’ manual. Access the information here for White Cane Laws for States.
Recent Podcasts, Part 2: The Tech Hour
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
This is the second part of our survey of recent interesting podcasts. This portion focuses specifically on computer technology.
Since 2006, Freedom Scientific has produced FSCast, now hosted by Glen Gordon, covering the latest developments in their technology. The company now also offers a Training Podcast, which packages pieces of their extensive array of training materials in a podcast form. The former longtime host of FSCast, Jonathan Mosen, also has his own show, Mosen At Large, where he presents interesting tech and general blindness content. Another offering, The Mystic Access Podcast, hosted by Chris and Kim Nova, who are both living with blindness, “specialize[s] in providing the tools for blind and visually impaired users to become empowered to maximize their enjoyment of access technology.” In addition, Maccessibility and the AppleVis Podcast are both shows dedicated to helping people who are visually impaired learn about and use Apple products. Maccessibility is staffed by “a group of dedicated visually-impaired volunteers,” while AppleVis draws from the broader community on its website. Another option, iSee discusses “using various technologies from a blind person’s perspective.” Double Tap, “the show where blind people talk tech,” is a call-in, email-in show where individuals share their stories and technology tips.
For more podcasts on tech topics, please read the list from PodBean’s webpage, providing "An overview of the podcasts I follow for Main stream and Assistive Technology." Although the shows are not linked in the listing, they are available by searching wherever you get your podcasts. Highlights include the Blind Android Users Podcast, and Blind Bargains' various shows, as well as several podcasts about mainstream technology.
Drag Racing While Blind
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
People living with blindness and vision loss are constantly finding surprising and ingenious ways to do what they love in spite of their impairments. Such as the case with Miyoshi Takei, who created what we now know as blind tennis by adapting the standard game. That is also the case with Dan Parker (no relation to present author) and Sheldon Wilson, two blind drag racers. Parker, from Columbus, Georgia, wants to be “the world’s fastest blind man.” Calling himself “The Blind Machinist,” Parker is a former Pro Mod drag racer who went blind due to an accident in 2012. Born to a “racing family” in Salem, Alabama in 1970, Parker raced and won several prestigious titles until his “wreck” in 2012. In 2013, he built his own motorcycle and raced it at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Parker has designed his own system of audible feedback which enables him to correct course unaided. He now does the same with his 2008 Chevrolet Corvette. Parker has a website, a lengthy interview on YouTube, and stories on numerous other outlets. Sheldon Wilson, from Alaska, is a Dodge Challenger Hellcat racer who is legally blind and uses a sighted assistant to help him stay on course. An article about him can be found here, and you can also find him on Instagram.
Seeking “The Sound of All Human Knowledge”
“Sound helps shape our perception and how we learn about the world around us.” That statement from Wikimedia frames their search for a sound logo to identify content from all of their projects, including Wikipedia, when visuals are not an option, such as when a virtual voice assistant responds to inquiries. This universal statement could also apply to accessibility for individuals living with vision loss. Some sounds are easy to identify, like a rocket launch or waves crashing against the shore. The Wikimedia Foundation has organized an open contest, inviting “the world” to create “The Sound of All Human Knowledge,” which they state will aid in communicating what “the Wikimedia movement stands for – trustworthy, reliable, open, and accessible knowledge for all.” Submissions may be sent in until October 10, 2022. Learn more about the contest requirements, the concept behind it, or submit a unique sound by visiting the The Sound of All Human Knowledge webpage commanding "Hey, computer...what is the sound of all human knowledge?"
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