Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

Resources for Partners December 30,2020

Stimulus Checks – Who’s eligible and how much will you really get?

Will you be eligible for a second stimulus check? When will you get it? How much will it be? If you have direct deposit, you’re a winner. If you’re between the ages of 17 and 24, you’re not. If you have dependent children, the payment per child goes from $500 to $600. These and the other complexities of the recently signed stimulus bill are explained in articles from Cnet, which “tells you what’s new in tech, culture and science, why it matters, how it works and what you need.” Find direct information for everyone, including SSDI and SSI recipients, those who didn’t receive their first stimulus check, non-citizens and those who are incarcerated. Payment calculators weren’t accessible with JAWS. Start the series of articles here. Click on tabs in the articles to hear the audio versions.

The Holidays Continue

Kwanzaa, which honors African-American roots, is celebrated from December 26 to January 1. On each of its seven days, family and friends greet each other with the phrase “Habari gani” or “What is the news?” The response is the principle for that day: unity, self-determination, uplifting your community, cooperative economics in your community, purpose, creativity, or faith in the community. If you’re celebrating with children, try ideas like “Putting fruits and vegetables on the table [which] gives you a concrete way to talk about how parents in some communities harvest their own crops to feed their families.” Young children can learn to identify each by its shape, smell and texture. For older children, this idea can be extended to include a conversation about world geography, gardening, food insecurity, and giving back to the community. The blog at Family Connect reminds us that children do some of their best learning through experience. While that might require more creativity right now, think of things to do like purchasing ears of dried popping corn, removing the kernels, and popping them for a group snack.

Zoom in the New Year.

Sing “Auld Lang Syne,” and join Ibugtoday for its New Year’s Eve 2020 bash, which begins at 7:30 central time on the 31st with “a social gathering of our old and new friends from around the world.” Then watch the 1957 film “An Affair to Remember,” (audio described of course) with a follow up discussion. “Finally, we will watch the iconic Ball Drop in Times Square, NYC with audio description.” Zoom instructions on the website.
Keep the holiday spirit going until January 6. For more winter celebrations, join a number of cultures in celebrating the Feast of the Three Kings on January 6. It’s also, by the way, the 12th Day of Christmas, so sing of your Lords a Leaping, your Pipers Piping and your Drummers Drumming. In my high school years, on that day the cooks baked in the French tradition, by putting a single dried bean into a cake. The student who got the piece with the bean was declared king for the day, and didn’t have to do chores or homework assignments. Turns out it’s an even bigger day here, when there is gift giving, and the baked-in items is a mini baby Jesus figure.

Help Using Your iPad, iPhone or Android Device

You got a new iPhone or iPad as a holiday gift, but you really need help. Be sure to visit iBUG Today’s website, which hosts a number of workshops and meetings on a monthly basis. Ahmat called in to a Mac-N-Talk workshop (Tuesdays, once a month) with a problem and immediately got the help he needed. There’s also a Jumpstart Mentoring Program for those new to iPhone or iPad (sign up to be either a mentor or mentee), and while the focus of most of their meetings seems to be on Apple products, there’s a workshop for Android folk, too.

New Year’s Resolution: Learn Coding at no cost

Are there free accessible resources for a blind individual who wants to learn coding? There don’t seem to be many. One is Free Code Camp, whose mission is “to help people learn to code for free. We accomplish this by creating thousands of videos, articles, and interactive coding lessons – all freely available to the public.” Use the site to learn popular coding languages like HTML, CSS, and JAVA on a your own schedule. Says Ahmat: “One advice that I would give those that want to try is: coding is VERY FRUSTRATING, but when you get the code to run successfully, it is exhilarating. You miss one character and your code will not run. Visit Free Code Camp, create an account and start learning today!”

Looking Back and Looking Ahead – we update previous posts

Pregnancy and Privacy: Another Step Forward

It was just in the last issue of the bulletin that we wrote about the Be My Eyes/Clearblue partnership for reading the results of pregnancy tests. In an article last week, The New York Times reported the development, in England, of a prototype tactile pregnancy test – no agent readers, no sighted friends, and the opportunity for women to reveal the results when they wish to do so. ‘Such a Personal, Private Thing’: Rethinking the Home Pregnancy Test, reminds us that privacy was always the primary selling point for the tests, some 20 million of which are sold in the U.S. alone each year. Unveiled by the Royal National Institute for the Blind, the prototype “is larger than the conventional urine-stick test and features bright yellow and pink panels so women with low vision can differentiate the top from the bottom. It works with the same existing technology sensors but relays information through tactile bumps. A small bump on the underside of the stick confirms that the urine has been absorbed by the pad and a separate set of bumps on the stick’s top side raises to indicate a positive result.”

Young cooks conquer the kitchen with home delivered meal kits

When we first found the Cooking Without Looking blog from the College Transition Academy through the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind, the students had just started their Hello Fresh and Dinnerly trials. Their experiment lasted four weeks, and in that brief period their comfort in the kitchen and cooking skills grew exponentially. In week four, recipes required using the oven over and over. “I was so scared of the oven because I really wasn’t familiar with it at all. This week, since I was using it many times, I decided to get to know my oven. Something I did was taking some cold cookie sheets to practice putting things into the oven and taking things out. This gave me practice ensuring my chances of spilling anything or burning myself in the oven were little to none.” Another student wrote, “I was able to improvise; when a challenge arises now while I’m cooking, I know I can figure out a way to solve it.” A good thing, because Dinnerly forgot to send the last week’s box. The writer not only made chicken parmesan from a downloaded recipe, but made a family dinner, got together with friends for a “Make Your Own Pizza” night, and created a charcuterie board for a birthday gift. Week four blogposts.

NVDA, a free, open source screen reader adds features, gains in popularity

Over the course of 2020, NV Access, the Australian developer, released four major updates to the NVDA screen reader, adding new features, fixing bugs, and improving performance overall. Below are some of this year’s highlights:
• Added a Screen Curtain: blackens the screen so that only auditory feedback is given to the user, providing privacy in public spaces, and saving battery life (sometimes significantly. Set it up in Vision Settings or create a keyboard shortcut.
• Browser Improvements: Increased ability to fine-tune what NVDA reads aloud online, e.g.,choose to omit the announcement of figures/graphics. Enhanced how NVDA interacts with Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox.
• Added support for 10 new Braille devices
• Improved support for touchscreen devices

AI that works

Earlier this year, we discussed the app Seeing AI , developed by Microsoft, that can help blind and visually impaired users identify currency, recognize and read text, and scan bar codes. In 2019, a Boston-based startup by the name of Mediate released an app called Supersense for Android, which employs a unique design for efficiency and ease of use, and in April 2020 made it available for iOS users, too. Said one user about the app, “Totally blind dude using this app and it makes me frigging unstoppable. It really works for fully blind people. I love it.” The big plus is that Supersense works out of the box—the App Store. Supersense simply lets users point at text, bar codes, or money, and the app does the rest; there’s no need to set the app to a particular setting for recognizing denominations or reading text in advance. This simple design makes the app especially handy and appealing to less tech-savvy users. A visitor to the Supersense website will find a well-described video that demonstrates all the features, and points out which require in app purchases. Supersense does lack the multilingual and light intensity support that Seeing AI offers, and has difficulty detecting some currency denominations.

and AI that still has work to do.

Several issues back, we noted the appearance of the icon on the website of a flower and plant catalog. Disability rights lawyer Lainey Feingold spoke frankly about overlays and widgets in an article on her website exhorting companies to honor the ADA. “These tools do not focus on the needs of people with disabilities to participate in the digital world. And they do not involve disabled people in creating the accessible technology and content they need. Instead, they leave people with disabilities out of the equation and ignore well documented evidence that installing one line of code does not eliminate barriers to digital inclusion.” In several sections of the article, Feingold interviewed experts, like Chancey Fleet, a technology user and trainer, who had words of caution for companies. “…overlays are often accepted by organizations as a guarantee that the websites to which they are applied will be accessible for customers and employees.” Find links to many articles regarding AI accessibility tools here, too.

Authentic Inclusion in the Workplace

In the past, we’ve discussed My Blind Spot, an organization that specializes in accessibility testing and champions possibilities for people with disabilities. In the most recent AccessAbility Works podcast, the hosts speak with Lori Samuels, Accessibility Director at NBC Universal Media. The conversation begins with a recounting of the work Albert and Lori did to champion accessibility at software company Intuit, and progresses to a discussion of how to make the needs of employees and customers with disabilities more salient in discussions of corporate strategy and diversity and inclusion. The three discuss the progress that has been made in overcoming both physical and digital barriers to access and offer strategies for championing authentic inclusion in employment, entertainment, and overall life and look forward to a more accessible future. Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or the podcast’s webpage.

USABA Hall of Famers, 2020

On December 22, the United States Association of Blind Athletes announced its 2020 Hall of Fame inductees. Patti Egensteiner, world and paralympic record holder in track and field and goalball. Tim Willis, first blind cross-country runner in NCAA Division I history. 2008 USA Women’s Goalball Team, gold medal winners at the Beijing Paralympic Games. Cody Colchado, 33-time world powerlifting champion. “When I lift weights, I visualize all the people with disabilities who I’ve met over the years,” Colchado says. “I hear their voices and they lift the bar with me.”