DEDICATED TO IMPROVING THE LIVES OF BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED PEOPLE

Resources for Partners August 7,2020

August is Childrens Eye Health and Safety Month

At Prevent Blindness, “awareness initiatives will include information about amblyopia, a condition that can affect two to three percent of children and causes permanent vision loss. During August, Prevent Blindness will highlight preventing eye injuries in children, signs of possible eye problems and general eye health. Topics on the site include getting children ready for school, dealing with childrens eye emergencies, and vision care financial assistance information.

Nonprofits and the Next Wave of Relief Funding

Mental Health Association National released a policy memo this week on the ongoing negotiations for the next COVID-19 relief package. They included the following hopeful information for nonprofits shared by the National Health Council. Lets hope these provisions remain in the agreed-upon legislation.

Expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

An additional $90 billion in funding for the PPP (the bill rescinds $100B in unspent funds and then adds $90B for a total of $190B);
$25 billion is set aside for organizations with 10 or fewer employees;
An available second round of funding for organizations who have already received PPP funding if they
Have fewer than 300 employees; and
Can demonstrate at least a 50 percent reduction in gross receipts during the first or second quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter in 2019;
$10 billion is set aside for community lenders;
The Small Business Administration Administrator is directed to prioritize underserved communities;
Eligible organizations now include many 501(c)(6) organizations;
PPE investments are now included in expenses eligible for forgiveness;
Many documentation requirements are waived or simplified; and
The maximum PPP loan is now $2 million.

At the Museum

The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago has a Science Hub at Home with pages of activities for children pre-K through grade 12. One favorite activity was to help children create a museum – of personally important items – at home, label the collection, and give tours to family members. The page explains how the Field’s collections are organized, and includes scientific vocabulary like specimen and taxonomy. This page could inspire a career as a curator. Ahmat says best access is with a desktop or laptop. Other science activities here. You’ll need to explore to find those that will work well for children with vision loss.

On August 20 from 2-3 p.m., adults who are blind or partly sighed can enjoy the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s free virtual descriptive tour of a new, groundbreaking exhibition. Picture This! – Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara is hosted by the Met’s curator for Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas. Reservations are required and space is limited. Contact 212-650-2010 or “[email protected] to register and receive instructions. For updates on upcoming programs, connect on Facebookor contact “[email protected]

Making Art Accessible Online: Art and Alt-Text

Three people looked at a piece of art at the Met, wrote a description of it, compared notes, and “created a single description for the alt-text field of the museum’s app: ‘Fragmented marble sculpture of three nude women, with missing heads, and their arms around each other.’” The description referred to a second century sculpture, Marble Statue Group of the Three Graces.” The Met’s requirement: the description had to be 30 words maximum. If they have them at all, museums make these alt-text descriptions available only to users of screen readers, but at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, “image descriptions are visible to sighted users who elect to see them by ticking a prominently displayed button.” Now artists are banding together to overcome financial disincentives to good alt-text descriptions by proactively providing them to publications or institutions that request to reproduce their work.

Artists Bojana Coklyat (who has low vision) and Shannon Finnegan put together a workshop, Alt-text as Poetry. “Alt-text is an essential part of web accessibility, making visual content accessible to blind people and people with low vision. It is often overlooked altogether or understood through the lens of compliance, as an unwelcome burden to be met with minimum effort. How can we instead approach alt-text thoughtfully and creatively? This project reframes alt-text as a type of poetry and creates opportunities to practice writing it,” Finnegan’s web page states. The accompanying workbook is free here.

College Transition – Get A Mentor

Ahmat recommends students heading off to college use Learning Ally’s mentoring service, a component of their College Success Program. “[The mentors’] visual acuity, fields of study and outside interests are quite diverse…and they are very eager to help you and other students to succeed on your unique college journey.” Ahmat says his mentor helped him over a lot of bumpy roads in his first two years at SUNY Albany. Enroll in the College Success Program here.

#ABLETOSAVE MONTH AUGUST 2020
Full participation in our society “includes the opportunity to become economically self-sufficient”, writes Miranda Kennedy, Director, ABLE National Resource Center for the National Disability Institute, yet only about 63,000 of 8 million eligible people have opened ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) accounts. For so many years, those who rely on benefits like Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, Section Eight and other benefit programs that are means tested risked losing their benefits if they saved more than a small amount of money. But now, with an ABLE account, those eligible can “save and have power over their own money.” The funds in an ABLE account are not counted by most federally-funded means-tested benefit programs, AND “savings and contributions made to an ABLE account by the account owner, their family, friends, employer or other sources,” can be used for a number of expenses including education, retirement and those related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. To learn more about ABLE accounts and state ABLE programs, visit the ABLE National Resource Center (ABLE NRC), managed by National Disability Institute. A “Roadmap to Enrollment” is here.

TECH TALK

Now available. The Android Braille Keyboard Recently, Google added to its Android mobile operating system a powerful accessibility tool that can be used systemwide: the braille keyboard. The feature, Android’s answer to iOS Braille Screen Input, is accessible via the TalkBack screen reader that is built in to the operating system, and allows users to put their braille skills to use in efficiently entering passcodes, composing messages, and completing forms. No longer is a third-party application needed to supplement the accessibility feature, and the addition comes along with a number of other accessibility improvements we’ll explore in future bulletins.

Zoom, Google Meet – Accessible with Screen Readers?

Many meeting platforms provide a simple way to join over the phone, both traditionally and with so-called one-tap mobile links. One-tap links are formatted so that they include the PIN needed to join the meeting; they eliminate the need to enter the PIN and can facilitate and expedite the process of joining a call.

It felt like Zoom did a takeover in the last year as it became the chosen platform for meetings for many businesses and organizations and many private and public universities. Luckily, Zoom is accessible to users of screen readers, and it includes a number of useful keyboard shortcuts. There are accessible mobile apps, and Zoom is screen-reader friendly via app or desktop. Meetings can be joined by phone. If you join by phone, two features available on video are available to you: raising and lowering your hand and muting and unmuting yourself. Hit star 6 on your phone’s keypad for the mute button and star 9 for raising or lowering your hand. Link to Zoom Here.

Another popular meeting platform is Google Meet, Google’s online meeting platform for business and organizations. Google Meet, in contrast to Google Hangouts (which we’ll discuss next week), includes a number of features important for online presentations and meeting security. The online interface is free to use until the end of September here. There are useful keyboard shortcuts to control the camera and microphone, and there is even a command to announce the current speaker. Learn more here; note you must scroll down to the section on Google Meet, as this is a list of important shortcuts for the G Suite as a whole.

Send questions concerning the accessibility of the platforms with JAWS, contact [email protected]. Send questions concerning the accessibility of the platforms using NVDA, contact [email protected]. Next week, we will explore more platforms and describe how to host your own meetings on all of them.

Ending on a musical note

Los Ciegos del Barrio, a New York City group playing Latin music, finishes up our bulletin with two of their lively recordings, available on YouTube music. Get moving and get ready for the weekend.
Here and here.