DEDICATED TO IMPROVING THE LIVES OF BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED PEOPLE

Resources for Partners January 22,2021

Scaling Up the Business/Disability Workforce Relationship

Kansas City-based InReturn Strategies “is redefining the purpose, execution, and scale of inclusion through a single platform that allows businesses to lead and control the results which drive long-term value”. They do this not only by making a business case for disability employment, but also by partnering with both employers and providers to expand the possibilities for people with disabilities to find jobs that truly match their skills and talents. Their website tells employers: “Don’t step into the social sector to do business, let us bring the social sector to you.” An article in The Washington Post explained: “InReturn’s platform connects private-sector companies with more than 4,500 access providers across the country. InReturn then helps companies tailor their practices to better work with candidates with disabilities.” Among those providers is the Kansas State School for the Blind, which is working on a pilot with InReturn. Take a deeper dive into their business model, which has earned them a spot on the CEO Commission for Disability Employment, by starting with InReturn’s content/platform”platform.

January Is National Mentoring Month…

For employment specialists and other workforce professionals involved in business development, January may require extra creativity to get companies’ attention. One way to do this may be to learn about how they mentor employees, and to draw their attention to some tools available through EARN, the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion. EARN points out benefits of mentoring to both employer and employee, and includes a Workplace Mentoring Playbook that defines 17 different mentoring models and how they work, including mentor and mentee led mentorships as well as virtual and hybrid models

…and Glaucoma Awareness Month

The State University of New York College of Optometry is marking Glaucoma Awareness Month with a Health Insights video of general information and an article about this silent stealer” of vision and the importance of regular eye exams as a preventative measure, since glaucoma symptoms generally do not appear until late in the disease’s progression. In addition, the article, “How to Safeguard Against a Silent Sight Stealer,” contains guidelines for those already diagnosed. Dr. Jennifer Gould, OD, an optometry educator, sheds light on new advances in glaucoma care, including “a novel device called iCare Home, a form of telehealth using remote patient monitoring that allows patients to take their IOP measurements at home.”

Free Braille Books for Children

Seedlings began in its founder’s basement in 1984 and has grown to include four programs: The Rose Project, which provides free World Book Encyclopedia articles to students in grades 1-12; the Book Angel for visually-impaired children (0-21) in the U.S. which offers 3 free braille books per year; the TVIP program which provides 4 free 1-volume braille books for teachers annually; and the Adopt-a-Reader Program (in four states only) through which children receive $100 certificates for braille books provided by donors.

Members of the National Federation of the Blind Braille Reading Pals Club receive one free book per year, a plush reading pal, activity sheets, birthday cards and more. Apply here.

American Printing House’s Braille Tales program is for children under five and for blind adults who want to read to their children. They’ll send 6 print/braille books per year so children “become interested in braille from a young age, encouraging them to be lifelong braille readers.” Sign up.

National Braille Press began accepting applications for a free year of the Children’s Braille Book Club on January 4. Under the program, funded through a matching grant from the NewCo Foundation, 125 families will receive 12 free books beginning in March. Families must be U.S. residents and the child must be under 10 years of age. Don’t hesitate, apply at Children’s Braille Book Club. NBP’s goal is to make the book club free for all children within the next five years, with a paid option currently available. Their Read Books! Because Braille Matters program, which launched nationally with a grant from Partners for Sight, is free to families with children from birth to 7 and includes a tote bag, age appropriate book, a tactile ball and 9 other items.

Increasing Deaf Blind Communication Skills through Technology

The Paths to Literacy blog recently released a story on how braille devices, in this case the Braille Note Touch Plus, can facilitate communication between someone who is deaf blind and a sighted person. The setup is fairly simple: A braille device and a keyboard are each attached to a monitor, and the deaf blind person launches a word processor and inputs in braille, with the sighted person on the keyboard. This is a great example of using technology to facilitate communication and promote more socialization. The blog, which contains a transcript of the communication between sixth grader Liam and his mom, is all about using this setup to increase his conversation skills and proficiency in using the technology: “We are now practicing having him using this device with other people at school and at home!” Read the blog post on the Paths to Literacy webpage.

Designing Automated Vehicle Access for People with Visual Impairments

The US Department of Transportation announced 10 semifinalists in its automated vehicle Inclusive Design Challenge. “This competition seeks design solutions to enable independent use of AVs by people with disabilities to access jobs, healthcare, and other critical destinations.” The semifinalists, who together received $3 million to develop their proposed ideas into prototypes, include Boston University for OpenGuide: A Scalable Human-Like Guidance System for Visually Impaired Travelers, “which can be used to train machine-learning models to provide door-to-car-to-door assistance for a person with visual impairments” and the University of Maine for Autonomous Vehicle Assistant (Ava) “an innovative ride-hailing and localization smartphone application designed to seamlessly assist passengers with visual impairment and older adults during pre-journey planning, travel to pick-up locations, and vehicle entry.”

Hearing the Sound of Light

Astronify promises to make the field of astronomy richer and more accessible by means of sonification, the process of converting data into sound. Rather than creating visual depictions of data in the form of images, graphs, and the like, sonification produces an auditory representation of that data. While visual depictions make use of color, shading, and form, auditory depictions make use of pitch, volume, and time. As such, not only can this new technology help visually impaired or blind scientists, but it allows sighted scientists to analyze astronomical data in a different way. This technology will undoubtedly lead to the discovery of more of the universe’s phenomena and mysteries, and it represents an exciting step forward for accessibility in the sciences. Listen to the story behind Astronify as heard on WYPR’s Out of the Blocks podcast, and check out these examples of sonified galaxy data on GitHub. Learn more from Astronify’s official website, where you’ll be able to immerse yourself in examples of the technology at work that are accompanied by written and narrated explanations of the galactic phenomena behind the data.

Fake News” Discredits Helen Keller

Last week one of our resources was a braille book of stories from the Onion, a satirical publication, and we noted it could be a way for youth to learn to discriminate fake news from fact. In researching items for the bulletin this week, we discovered a story in The Guardian titled “Helen Keller: why is a TikTok conspiracy theory undermining her story?,” which explains that among other things, young people can’t accept that Helen Keller could be deaf and blind AND read and write books. Tik Tok has taken some of the videos down, but others (some extremely offensive), remain. While these memes are meant to amuse, Isabella Lahoue, a student and author who writes on medium.com, asks “Why is it then that the only people who don’t believe in Helen Keller are teenagers?” and posits, after noting that people her age don’t learn about Helen Keller in school that, “It’s gotten to the point where it isn’t even a joke anymore as it originally may have been. Generation Z literally does not believe Helen Keller existed. And frankly, I’m having a hard time accepting that she did myself.” Isn’t it time for a response from the blind community?

January 28 is World Privacy Day

In 2020, we made a massive shift from the physical to the digital. Beyond adjusting to virtual classrooms and Zoom office meetings, many of us began to increasingly shop online, find entertainment online, connect with others online, and—let’s face it—live online. In doing so, however, we mustn’t forget that the digital extensions of ourselves, namely our data, is extremely important, carrying with it personal significance financially, socially, and otherwise. Together, we can ensure the protection of the universal human right to privacy and therein fight for personal autonomy, security, and dignity. Visit the website of the National Cyber Security Alliance to learn more about ensuring your privacy and security in this Digital Age.

Get Fit for Free

Angel Eyes Fitness and Nutrition was founded after a request for a 6-week Fitness Program from Vanessa Meadows, Program Director with the Georgia Libraries of Accessible Statewide Services. Angel Eyes’ mission is “elevating the quality of health and wellness for the blind and the visually impaired”. While classes usually take place at several locations in Georgia, Zoom technology is making their dance fitness sessions available to a larger audience, including through ACB’s community calls. Their regular fitness programs include Kickboxing, Belly Dance and Chair Fitness, but learn all about their current offerings and nutrition programs here.

Lift Your Voice

Kaleigh Brendle founded the Sing for Serenity Choir as a high school service project with a small number of singers, but since COVID-19 began, the choir has gone virtual and grown to an international group of 90 singers with youth and adult divisions and sections for different voices. Kaleigh and audio editor Katie Hall recently told the choir’s story and explained all the technology they use to put the performances together to Simon Bonenfant at Blind Abilities. View performances including You will be found from “Dear Evan Hansen” on YouTube or visit them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Interested in joining? Just email [email protected]