DEDICATED TO IMPROVING THE LIVES OF BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED PEOPLE

Resources for Partners December 11,2020

ACB White Paper on Rehabilitation

The thing about government rehabilitation programs is that although names change, many issues that existed in 1995 are still in discussion in 2020. In its opening paragraph, American Council of the Blind’s White Paper, 2020 Status of Rehabilitation for People Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision states: “The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) is a perfect example of a well meaning, but flawed attempt to upgrade rehabilitation services and results. The flaws in the WIOA reauthorization are never more apparent than its consequences for people who are blind or have low vision.” In the following pages, ACB promotes a vision of the same seamless medical to rehabilitation approach (including equipment) for people who are blind or low vision as currently exists for other disability groups; calls for education and rehabilitation professionals to work hand in hand; commit “public relations assets and funds to uplifting the image of people who are blind or have low vision”; improve blindness specific workforce programs and count those working through them as successfully employed; improve older blind programs by credentialing professionals working in them; and strengthen State Rehabilitation Councils. Is common sense change about to happen?

Who’s Blind and in the Executive Suite

In its white paper, ACB commented on the lack of blind professionals in jobs outside the field of blindness. During 1989, a period of low unemployment, Julia Anderson, who for three years coordinated the Perkins Project with Industry, wrote in the Harvard Business Review about new innovations in technology leveling the field for blind employees and encouraging them to stop overlooking a group that now had independent access to print along with education and experience. Here’s her take on an interview for a job applicant named Russell with several telephone company division managers. “The applicant, blind since the age of two, had had five years of experience as a customer service representative with a government agency before attending a computer programming school. Russell demonstrated a device attached to a computer that allows the information on the screen to be read in braille on a tactual display. While he talked about his research in adaptive devices, he wrote a program to perform a simple data sort and then inputted the names of his interviewers. As the screen displayed the sorted material, Russell read it aloud by means of the attached display. Intrigued, the managers showered him with questions about debugging programs and the comparative versatility of braille and speech in accessing visually presented information. He answered them readily while he broke down the equipment and packed it up. As he left, Russell offered to show them “a piece of the most impressive technology ever developed,” and in one motion he snapped his folded cane into extension. Earlier, several of the managers had expressed reservations about bringing a blind person into the department. ‘What if there were a fire?’ one asked. ‘How would he find his way to the restroom?’ another wanted to know. But their interview with Russell convinced them that he would be an asset, so they offered him the job.” It’s 2020, and a search for blind or low vision executives at for profits showed that there’s still a whole lot of work to be done.

Chad E. Foster, VP at Red Hat , “the world’s leading provider of enterprise open source solutions,” received a diagnosis of RP at age three. He spoke with Authority Magazine for its series “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success”. Said Foster, who is also a motivational speaker and author of Blind Ambition, “Grit is what gave me the patience and drive to learn how to engineer software without being able to see the screen, and code the screen reading technology used by the blind to interoperate with the sighted world, even though I am blind myself….And after mastering my computer, grit was the foundation that allowed me to excel in the business world. Unstoppable Interview Foster explains more on his website. “… he taught himself how to write code in order to program his screen reading software. As a result he did what Oracle said could not be done – building a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software solution that created job opportunities for hundreds of millions of people.”

The Tulle Effect

The FMDG Music School’s five-week “Nutcracker” appreciation course was featured in the Monday, December 7 New York Times Arts Section. Students each received a packet containing “a pointe shoe, a candy cane, a long stretch of tulle (from which tutus are made), a story synopsis and glossary in large print or Braille, sheet music with sections of Tchaikovsky’s score, and, of course, a nutcracker” as study aids for the Zoom course. Their teacher, Jenny Seham of the National Dance Institute, said, ““They can’t sit in the audience and see the snow, but they can be the snow…For me this class is about being dance. Teaching the Nutcracker.

Holiday Ghosts and Musicals

Those missing the ability to board a train or plane can still travel to Chicago for holiday entertainment – virtually. Chicago’s Goodman Theatre has a free audio version of “A Christmas Carol” streaming from its own web page until December 31. To accompany the play, the Goodman also has fun activities such as sharing family holiday stories, creating a paper chain, and drawing a picture of the ghost of Christmas past and posting it on the theatre’s Instagram page. For a musical celebration, visit Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Peter Pan, A Musical Adventure. The 80-minute film streams free on demand from December 19 to January 1 and will be made available with Duo-interpreted ASL, Audio description, and Closed Captioning services.

Baking Sugarplums into Lessons

Teach children comprehension using the classic holiday poem Twas the Night Before Christmas Teaching Comprehension”Twas the Night Before… and then giving it a new twist with a version that includes the line “The puppies were squeaking / An old rubber mouse”. Finally, says Diane Brauner, writing on the Paths to Technology blog, get students to write their own “Night Before” poems. Along the way, build basic reading skills and vocabulary, and learn contractions and rhyming. Who ever knew so much learning could be contained in one holiday classic?

For students who are having difficulty concentrating on class work, especially during the holiday season, help is available from the National Homework Hotline for Blind and Visually Impaired Students Part 2″National Homework Hotline. Help is free for students from kindergarten all the way up through college. Support is there for core courses as well as technology including NVDA and JAWS. Students, families or teachers fill out a Google form so they can be matched with the right helper, at the right time, according to the student’s needs.

One tablet for all

You may have noticed that we try to feature resources that are free or virtually low cost, so we’ve been hanging on to this one for awhile, even though it is certainly an intriguing product. Prices hovering in the $6000 range are not our style, but if you’re looking at doing some spectacular gifting… the InsideOne tablet, which provides both Braille and Qwerty input with a 32-cell Braille display, might be just the ticket. When Cool Blind Tech reviewed it in 2017, they touted its Braille input, saying it “allows a person to type in braille on the screen, but there is no longer a need to make sure that your fingers are perfectly allied to be recognized. There are indentations in the glass, and this is where you place your fingers when typing in braille.” And “there is an option for a virtual on screen keyboard”. Insidevision , the company that created InsideOne, states it is “building a bridge between the sighted and blind worlds”. See a demo on YouTube and find the Inside One at 30% off ($3900) until December 31 at Mystic Access. An upgrade is coming in 2021. “Exclusive upgrade pricing to the new version will be available if you order the InsideOne now.”

A Wry Take on the Plight of Nonprofits in 2020

The editors of Nonprofit Quarterly shared a new video from the Human Resources Council about how government practices, budget cuts, and even some funders have affected New York nonprofits in the last year (and you can likely substitute your own state for NY).

The Grinch: A Non-Profitable Christmas Inthe Grinch takes on the role of an executive director who moves to New York for the job at the end of 2019. Write NPQ’s editors, “Groups here in New York completely embody the Whoville spirit of working together to better our communities. Just like the residents of Whoville, New York’s human services sector doesn’t need fancy things to get the job done, they make joy out of what they have.” But joy can’t get a nonprofit through all it faces, the video makes clear.