U.S. Open Provides First Descriptive Audio Broadcast for Fans Who are Blind or Have Low Vision
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
There’s still time to catch the first U.S. Open that features “enhanced match audio broadcasts,” so that people with blindness or low vision can follow the play without needing to see the ball. The online home of this monumental first-time broadcast is Action Audio, which went live on September 8, 2022 to cover the Men’s and Women’s Semifinals and Finals matches. The coverage continues through the remaining matches, which go through Sunday, September 11, 2022. Read more in the online article U.S. Open to deliver enhanced match audio broadcasts for vision-impaired.
And stay tuned: in keeping with the tennis theme, this Bulletin will be releasing an article in the coming weeks discussing the intriguing but niche sport of “blind tennis” or “soundball tennis.”
Celebrating September as Healthy Aging Month
The national observance of Healthy Aging Month in September began in 1992, seeking to “’draw attention to the positive sides of growing older…September was chosen because so many people feel they can ‘get started’ more easily then.’” So stated Carolyn Worthington, publisher of the Healthy Aging® mutli-media platform and president of the nonprofit Educational Television Network, Inc., who created the observance three decades ago. In 2021, the U.S. Senate passed the resolution naming September as National Healthy Aging Month. The overriding message is to encourage people to “take personal responsibility for their health” to continue a healthy lifestyle and stay independent into older ages, a trend that has gained traction among older adults in recent years. Many steps can be taken to stay healthy, including keeping your mind and body active, choosing healthy foods, sharing health concerns with your doctor, taking steps to prevent falls, and staying safe while driving. The aging of the population has had a significant impact on vision, with an increased number of people affected by eye diseases and conditions like age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and cataract. However, getting older does not have to mean losing vision. “That’s why it’s important to spread the word about ways to prevent vision loss in older adults and support healthy aging,” according to the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). During Healthy Aging Month, NEI invites participation in its National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) to increase awareness about eye health and aging by letting members of your community know about how to protect their vision as they get older. NEI offers articles and handout materials to spread the word about preventing vision loss. For more background information about Healthy Aging Month, read the Healthy Aging® article entitled "September is Healthy Aging Month Celebrates 30 Years" and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s webpage on September National Health Observances. Additional details and resources about eye health and older adults are available on the NEI webpage on Healthy Aging Month.
Healthy Aging and Your Eyes Webinar: September 13, 2022
Find out about eye conditions related to aging and learn what actions you can take during a zoom event hosted by MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “Healthy Aging and Your Eyes” will take place on September 13, 2022 from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm ET. Learn more about this “Low Vision Resource and Support Group” program from the Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan Washington webpage, including how to log onto the zoom link, by clicking on Healthy Aging and Your Eyes. To register, call (301) 951-4444.
News from the U.S. Department of Labor
Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment: A Webinar Exploring a Statewide Collaboration
On September 14, 2022 from 3 to 4:30 pm ET, a webinar will be held on “Statewide Collaborative Efforts to Increase CIE (Collaborative Competitive Employment): Lessons from Colorado.” Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)’s First Community of Practice, the program will highlight the efforts of state and local organizations working together to expand CIE throughout Colorado. The presenters, based in Colorado, will discuss partnerships and policies that have been developed and sustained, the roles of all involved, and the components needed to achieve success. For additional details and the registration link, visit the National Clearinghouse of Rehabilitation Medicine website description of Statewide Collaborative Efforts to Increase CIE: Lessons from Colorado.
Support Granted to Operate a Policy Center on Employment for People with Disabilities
An award of eight million dollars has been announced by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to support a four-year agreement with the National Disability Institute to run a policy development center focused on employment for people with disabilities. The center, funded under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), will complement the work of ODEP's National Center on Leadership for the Employment and Economic Advancement of People with Disabilities. This initiative seeks to raise awareness about disability employment data collection and “’improve financial empowerment and career pathways. By doing so, we can help create more competitive integrated employment opportunities for people with disabilities,’” according to Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy Taryn Williams. The National Disability Institute and Social Policy Research Associates, which provides evaluation, organizational development and other services, will set up and maintain the policy development center. This center will aim to foster increased and more equitable access to WIOA programs and services, competitive, integrated employment opportunities, and “economic advancement resulting in improved outcomes for individuals with disabilities.” Read more in the DOL news release entitled US Department of Labor Awards $8 Million to Support Policy Development Center for Equal, Inclusive Employment of People with Disabilities.
Coming Soon in 2023 Software Releases
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
Every year, around August or September, Freedom Scientific discusses on its podcast new features coming out in the next releases of JAWS for Windows screen reading software; ZoomText screen magnification software; and Fusion, which combines both of the above. On the most recent podcast episode, Vice-President for Software Product Management Ryan Jones unveils a few handy new features which could prove very popular and useful. An interesting JAWS feature is called Smart Glance. On loading a webpage, JAWS will detect information meant to stand out visually, such as through a font choice, but which is not coded into the page as headings or regions would be. It then collects these visual highlights and allows the user to navigate through them by pressing the ‘Y’ and ‘shift+Y’ keys on the keyboard. By doing this it will find webpage sections, contact information, alerts, and other content that a visual reader would notice quickly, but which would take time for a blind user to find on their own. A new ZoomText feature called Teathered View mitigates the need for scrolling by grouping active areas of windows closer together. For example, while typing in the Windows Start Menu, the text box is at the bottom of the screen, but the search results are at the top. With Teathered View, it is no longer necessary to scroll with the mouse to the top of the window to read the search results, and it is possible to click on one while the edit box is still visible. The complete podcast episode can be accessed here.
Recent Podcasts of General Interest
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
In the past, this Bulletin has covered collections of recent interesting podcasts. Here is a list of recent podcasts that center on visual impairment and are worth a listen. Note that podcasts focusing more on technology will be in a separate article.
Hadley produces Hadley Presents, which features conversations on a variety of topics related to vision loss. Recent episodes include “Keeping Your Job After Vision Loss,” “Tips for Fun and Accessible Travel,” and “The Impact of Vision Loss on Marriage, Revisited.” RNIB Conversations, produced in the United Kingdom, and the Blind and Beyond radio shows in the United States are call-in programs presenting listener-submitted stories and conversations of people living with sight loss. Vision Insights from the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually-Impaired, Living Blind from Balance for Blind Adults and Vision Beyond Sight’s eponymous podcast are similar shows that feature interviews with experts related to health, education, and technology. A recent Vision Insights episode talks about cortical visual impairment, while another from Living Blind discusses Charles Bonnet Syndrome. The Eye on the Cure podcast from the Foundation Fighting Blindness brings together the most recent news about advances in the science of vision diseases. The most recent, rather different episode is an interview with Steven McCoy, the first black, deaf-blind journalist, and his challenges with Usher Syndrome.
On Tech and Vision from Lighthouse Guild explores how technology can improve the lives of people with low vision, whether by restoring vision or enhancing remaining vision. For a broader look at low vision issues, Let’s Talk Low Vision from Council of Citizens with Low Vision International is an option, with a recent episode discussing travel tips. The Blind Abilities podcast is “the most comprehensive resource for Assistive Technology, success Stories, College and Career Pathways and all with a Blindness Perspective.” Recent episodes deal with competitive sports and fitness training, iPhone tips and tricks, and music. Finally, be sure to explore the many podcasts from the National Federation of the Blind, including the flagship Nation’s Blind podcast, as well as those from the American Foundation for the Blind such as Inform and Connect.
“I Am Going Blind. This is What I Want You to See:” Expanding the Definition of Blindness
Yvonne Shortt is legally blind due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP), an eye disease that results in progressive sight loss. In a recent Opinion video piece in The New York Times, Shortt’s experience is chronicled by filmmaker James Robinson, showing how she, like most people who are legally blind, live “a nuanced existence between those who see well and those who can’t see a thing.” In his short film, Robinson describes and provides simulations of how Shortt navigates “her world with progressively declining eyesight but also recognizing what she has gained even as she has lost something precious.” Shortt describes her experience, noting that people might be thinking, “You don’t look like you’re blind” as she talks about how she has adapted to changing vision. The filmmaker provides several visual simulations of what occurs with vison loss from RP, explaining the workings of the retina and what occurs as the disease advances, showing blind spots in the visual periphery. One of the visual simulations, by a researcher who has the condition, illustrates clear central vision, with blind spots around the periphery. The narration and visuals depict a number of scenes from the visual perspective of a person with RP, such as street scenes and children walking. Shortt explains how she has emphasized and relied on her other senses, like hearing and tactile experiences, while learning adaptive techniques like scanning and the use of the white cane. She shares that in using her white cane, after her initial reluctance to “go public” with her vision loss, in navigating through a crowded group of people, “it was so amazing to have them just scatter to the right and left. I felt like Moses at the parting of the sea.” For more details, and to view the film, visit The New York Times Opinion video series page entitled Opinion: I'm Going Blind. This Is What I Want You to See. It’s also available with audio description on You Tube as What a Legally Blind Person Can See. For descriptive video, go to settings – audio track and select “’English descriptive.’”
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