Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

Resources for Partners June 5, 2020


It’s starting. In New York, region by region, phase by phase, reopening is happening. Massachusetts is expected to announce the date for a move to phase 2 on June 6, with daycare centers and day camps allowed to open, while overnight camps must wait for Phase 3 according to Colleagues at the Chicago Lighthouse will begin returning to their offices on Monday. Each state has a plan, but the plans don’t always seem logical.

A text from my salon this morning said they were reopening. After making an appointment, I received the following: “Everyone in the salon has to wear a mask. Please wear one that can get color on it; it’s impossible not to. When you get here, please stay in your car until I text you to come in. I have to make sure the salon is properly disinfected before you enter. I will look like a spaceman. Don’t get nervous, it’s still me. Can’t wait to see you it has been too long!”

If getting a haircut is this complex, we can’t imagine the complexities you are facing as you begin to reopen. We have already heard that getting PPE and other supplies may be difficult. We expect that setting up the ground rules for business operations is an arduous task, but that at the same having to rethink business practices has resulted in new opportunities. We will keep sharing resources as you move forward, and know that you will share with our RDPFS partner community.

Sum- Sum- Summertime

Our grantees are using a variety of strategies to prepare for their summer programs. Camp Abilities in Brockport is taking its sports camp virtual. Chicago Lighthouse’s First Jobs will focus on its Photography for All program (in conjunction with Apple) for summer employment while its one-week campus based Summer in the City is going virtual throughout the state, with five full days of activities including tours with an official city tour guide and a mobility using tactile maps to visit sites in Chicago and London. Visions, in NYC, is preparing both in-person and virtual summer curricula for both youth and families as they look forward to reopening. Their Vocational Skills Training will start virtually during the summer and move to in-person in the latter part of the year. Programs will run at 50% of normal occupancy to adhere to social distancing requirements.

Getting Around

Providing Orientation and Mobility services virtually continues to be a challenge in the current environment. While there is no replacement for in-person O&M services, in remote places providing mobility can be an ongoing challenge, not just because of geography, but also because of the lack of professionals to do the job.

A report in the International Journal of Orientation and Mobility (2016) described the use of the ROAM tool in Australia. “The client is set up with video conferencing equipment (on loan), which enables the O&M specialist to view video footage of their environment. The equipment includes a smartphone clipped onto a chest harness, and a communication device with speaker and microphone capabilities (for example, headphones with a built-in microphone). The O&M specialist establishes the video connection, and the support person assists with the set-up of equipment for the client. The O&M session then proceeds according to the needs and goals of the client, for example, learning to use the long cane; learning the route to access a shopping centre in a new suburb; and so on. The configuration of the ROAM set-up is quite flexible.

You Live Where? Maximizing O&M Services in Rural and Remote Areas Through Distance Consultation is a presentation from Portland State University in Oregon. Working with paraprofessionals and with families is fully discussed, as well as legal and ethical considerations in providing O&M services

Students transitioning to college work with an O&M specialist to learn the campus and routes to their classes. In a recent blogpost, Diane Brauner at Perkins gives sep by step guidance on how to use a new Maps feature from SAS Graphics Accelerator for virtual training. “O&Ms can now quickly create custom, accessible digital maps that can be shared! Students open the map on their computer and can explore the campus to discover the names of streets, buildings, and landmarks. Find out how here.

Ryan Strunk, an accessibility analyst for Target, spoke about traveling to India and France to Liz Wisecarver on the Blog on Blindness from the Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech. In India, Strunk said, “Traffic laws are a suggestion,” “…cows wander around on the side of the road. What would happen if you tapped one with a cane?” In another post, Liz discusses teaching students how to navigate through airports.

Exercising your right to vote

Blind BBC journalist Salim Patel worried that even with a tactile aid, his vote would not be secret.

On May 22, a coalition of disability groups filed a lawsuit with the New York State Board of Elections regarding absentee voting in the wake of COVID-19. Any New Yorker can request an absentee ballot for the June presidential primary, but absentee ballots are print only and must be returned by mail. While active duty military and overseas voters can cast their ballot via email, this option is not being offered to voters with disabilities, although it is available in six other states. “Plaintiffs seek reform to the systems and practices that discriminate against voters with disabilities in time for the June 2020 elections.” For further information contact Clark Rachfal or Chris Danielsen

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan group whose mission, quite simply, is “Empowering voters. Defending democracy.” The League has more than 700 chapters around the country and states: “The right to vote is a fundamental principle of our democracy. When more Americans can participate in our elections, the outcome better reflects who we are as a country.” Perhaps a local chapter can help with voter education.

Don’t miss these

The Kids Should See This (TKSST) is a collection of 4,500+ kid-friendly videos, and it’s free for everyone. Eleven of those videos are about vision impairment, including – a birdwatcher from Uruguay (Spanish with subtitles), a 70-year-old swimmer, and an astronomer who built his own observatory.

Readers can meet readers in Canada through the CNIB Foundation’s Unbound Book Club via Facebook. Full information on their site.

“It’s an artistic expression of the confusion I go through with my vision loss,” says George Redhawk, a Native American who suddenly lost vision. Using computer software, Redhawk creates gifs to show others how he sees the world.