Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

Resources for Partners June 18, 2021

Student Artists Can Have a STEAM-y Summer AND Get Paid!
The Baltimore Space Telescope Science Institute is seeking high school student artists, particularly those who are blind or visually impaired, for its Space Sonification High School Art summer program. “It can be music, animation, drawing, writing, dance…whatever you like. It just needs to be about sonification and something we can share with the world.” Accepted students must be available for weekly calls from July 23 to August 27. The institute is taking applications until midnight July 1, and accepted students, who will receive an $800 dollar stipend for their work, will be notified by July 14. Information about sonification, project examples, and application details are at slideroom 60688. We learned of this opportunity through Perkins’ Paths to Technology, which has information on this program plus STEAM-y activities like accessible resources from the Chandra X-ray observatory, an abstract art lesson, and a huge list of coding related resources for students and teachers. Begin the journey here.

Podcasting: Where Blind Students Lead the Way
In 2019, tech savvy students at the Kansas State School for the Blind (KSSB) wanted to start a radio station, but the cost of equipment put that idea out of reach. One student had some experience in a new broadcast medium – podcasting. As they worked through the kinks and learned how to do a podcast, the students decided to launch their podcast in March 2020, and then the COVID pandemic hit full force. Undaunted, they released their first episode, “Introduction to Podcasting,” on April 4, 2020 and haven’t stopped since, with episode 22 first airing on May 6th of this year. Read about the students’ experiences and the popularity of the podcast at Paths to Technology. Select an episode from the list at KSSB podcasts, then listen on Simplecast or Apple itunes. KSSB offers podcasting classes for middle and high school students, too, so contact the school for more information.

The Story Seeds Podcast matches kids 6-12 years old and their story ideas with the imaginations of beloved storytellers who grow their “story seeds” into original short stories! The ten episodes posted on the Story Seeds site include making the transition from homeschool to public school and a story about a 74-foot tall detective. Accompanying activity books follow each podcast for $3.99. For those who want to learn to podcast during the summer, Story Seeds has a number of workshops beginning with a single-session Introductory Workshop on June 23 from 3-4:15 p.m. ET for 7-14 year olds, followed by a weekly mini-camp beginning July 14 and a week-long intensive camp in August. Programs are conducted over Zoom, with live presenters, and all have audio components. Guest presenters may create slides but will be speaking and providing audio clips as well. Fees apply. Learn more here.

Free Webinar: Empowering Employment: Leveraging Bookshare in the Workforce
On June 23rd at 7 pm EDT, Bookshare and Fable will talk about how Bookshare can be used in job seeking or enhancing skills. Fable, a company in Canada, employs people with vision impairment to test products for accessibility. They are working with Bookshare for the professional development of their employees. To register for the webinar.

Soft Skills Training – Tools for Assessment Webinar June 22
At Workforce GPS this coming Tuesday, hear workforce professionals describe the tools they use to determine the effectiveness of their soft skills – er, “personal effectiveness competencies” – training curricula. Speakers will discuss their selection, implementation and improvement processes plus tips and tricks. The virtual session’s from 1-2:30 p.m. EDT, and registration is required. First-come, first served for this interesting webinar, so if you don’t have a Workforce GPS account yet, sign up here right away.

Eye Health National Summit
Prevent Blindness is hosting their 10th Annual Focus on Eye Health National Summit from July 14-15, 2021 as a virtual, interactive event. Participants will have opportunities to join in moderated discussions on a number of relevant topics, chats with presenters, an exhibit hall with live exhibitor chat, video conversations and more. For more information and to register for this free event: Focus on Eye Health National Summit.

Insights into Apps from RDPFS Intern Ahmat Djouma
Ahmat recently learned more about the Envision AI app during a meeting with Glenda Such, group convener and meeting host, and the Delaware Valley Council of Citizens with Low Vision. This mobile application allows you to scan text, product bar codes and QR codes and read them aloud. Envision AI is very comprehensive, allowing users to import files to read with the app and also has the ability to translate text into numerous languages. Users can read signs or short text. According to Glenda, she was able to read a weather alert on her TV using the app. You can locate an object or even people using your camera. Available in both Android and iOS operating systems. Envision AI can be obtained through three payment plans: a monthly fee of $1.99; annually for $20.99 or a one-time fee of $89.99 for a life-time subscription. A free 14-day trial period is offered as well. For more information and to access the app.

He also checked out Voice Dream Scanner, an app that allows you to scan paper documents using the camera on your phone and read them using text-to-speech voice.  When hovering over a document you will hear a tone that indicates the presence of detectible texts. Once you are positioned, it will take a photo of text automatically and process it for reading through built-in text-to-speech.  This app is available for a one-time payment of $5.99.  Access it here.

Request from AFB: “Share Your Story”
In celebrating “100 years of building a world with no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired,” the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is asking for stories about “what a world with no limits means to you.” Stories will be shared with friends, supporters and advocates. Find out how to share your story here.

Professional Development: Recruiting Vision Specialists in Vocational Rehabilitation
The NRTC (National Research and Training on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University) is seeking students for their next class of Vision Specialists in Vocational Rehabilitation. Program Director Sylvia Stinson-Perez notes that this graduate certificate program “’provides rehabilitation counselors and other professionals new to the blindness field with a solid foundation on vision loss, quality case management, and a national network of peers to help ensure the consumers they work with receive effective services…’” Funded by the Rehabilitation Services Administration and provided online, the program consists of four courses over a one-year period, including a practicum involving 100 hours of supervised practical experience. More information is available here.
Blind Swimmers Set Their Sights on Tokyo 2021
When she hit the pool wall in the 2021 Para Swimming World Series in Lewisville, Texas in April, Anastasia Pagonis had not only won both the 100 and 400 freestyle S11 class races, she had also broken the American records in both. In a Sports Illustrated, Faces in the Crowd YouTube video, Pagonis, who is from Long Island, New York, talks about her progressive vision loss, which began at age 11; temporarily losing the ability to compete on a team in her sport; finding a coach who was willing to teach himself how to swim as a blind person and regaining her competitive edge again through Paralympics. She’s also an avid Tik-Tokker, who posts positive messages about working through blindness. It’s all here.

Like Pagonis, Cailin Currie is a Paralympic swimmer, who also competes on the college level for the D-1 team at Merrimack College. Currie, who competed in the 15th Summer Paralympic Games in Rio in 2016, was born blind and didn’t like swimming at all when she first began. Currie didn’t medal in Rio, but she “posted the [Merrimack] team’s best time in the 1,650-yard freestyle at the Northeast Conference Championships in 2020”. Read more on Goodsport.  

In her article “Swimming Without the Black Line: How Blind Athletes Adapt,” McClain Hermes, an intern at Swimming World Magazine, describes her own journey from vision loss onset through winning the Paralympic Swimming medal. She explains the S11, S12 and S13 classifications for visually impaired swimmers, her own swimming strategies and those of other visually impaired and deaf blind swimmers here .

Emergency Broadband Benefits
Eligible households will be able to receive a discount – of up to $50 each month toward broadband services and up to $75 monthly for households on “qualifying Tribal lands” –through the Federal government’s Emergency Broadband Benefit program. A one-time discount of up to $100 is also available toward the purchase of a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers. For more details about the program and eligibility, visit Broadband Benefits.

Juneteenth: Celebrating the End of Slavery
Tomorrow, Juneteenth, has just been declared a national holiday, and is being marked by a number of events across the nation, some virtual, others in person. In the nation’s capital, events range from all-day Smithsonian educational programming, in-person and online, to an outdoor orchestra performance to celebrating Black fathers, to name a few. For information about these events and more, as listed in dcist, an online Washington DC publication: Juneteenth events. In New York, a three-day virtual JuneteenthNY summit explores the theme “Rebirthing the Roots of Entrepreneurial Excellence.” The event offers workshops on such topics as health and wellness and aspiring youth entrepreneurs as well as entertainment. For more information: JuneteenthNY.

In commemorating Juneteenth, you can also virtually accompany storyteller Charlotte Blake Alston “as she honors and celebrates the strength, resilience, and contributions of the African American community through the lens of horticulture and the power of story.” Through “Voices in the Landscape,” Alston explores Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, via a series of ten stops. An accessible exhibition guide includes information for people with vision and/or hearing loss. Check it out: here.

Happy Father’s Day!
The warmth and love deaf blind 95-year-old Dad John Washington has for his children pours forth through his own words as he and his daughter communicate through a TeleBraille machine in this animated Story Corps video on The Kid Should See This. Washington, who wasn’t able to finish high school, learned braille and used his skill to teach others. The video’s less than three-minutes long, but every second is joyous! It’s a perfect ending to Father’s Day celebrations.

Fictional Fathers: Blind Dads on TV
The sci-fi series “See” on Apple TV envisions a world where humans have lost their sense of sight. Jason Momoa stars as a blind father to twins born with vision. Momoa’s character, Baba Voss, fights for the survival of his offspring. See’s second season is set to premiere on August 27, 2021. For more information. Additional information and a link to a trailer can be found here.

“Growing Up Fisher,” a short-lived series on NBC in 2014, was based on the real life of its creator, D.J. Nash, whose father became blind when he was 12 years old. The TV Dad is a successful lawyer who had relied on his son to be his guide until he got a guide dog. Links to episodes are available for a fee here. And for a review, check out Common Sense Media.