Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

Resources for Partners October 30,2020

Community Connections – Little Libraries Everywhere

You’ve likely heard of Little Free Library. Maybe you’ve visited one. LFL is a nonprofit organization that “inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. Through LFL book exchanges, millions of books are exchanged each year, profoundly increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds. Sandy Freel, whose vision is declining, cannot get out much any longer and was feeling isolated and lonely. She became a steward of a library in a box in her yard in Iowa, and is now feeling part of her community again. Some LFLs wrap books for various holidays and attach a tag with general information like genre or author name. Some LFLs are pop ups that can be taken to fundraising or other community events, and move with a change in program location. One teen in my community used the idea to set up a little free food library where people can leave a donation or select something to eat. With a nod to the COVID pandemic, Fordham University alum Brandon Montes, who set up a streetcorner mobile (crate) library in the Bronx, NY, made some changes to how his library works. Before the pandemic, the book selection was chosen randomly, and Montes would drop the crates off, secure them, and come back later. Now, “I disinfect the books and I wrap them in plastic,” he said, adding that he fills the crates with whatever donations are processed and ready to go. He wears a mask and gloves, and sits by the crates at all times to ensure that he is the only person touching the disinfected books. “I don’t want to be a super spreader,” he said. “I engaged people on what would make them feel safe. Streetcorner Librarian

Through its Impact Library Program, LFL provides no-cost book exchanges to communities where books are scarce. The Impact Library Package Includes: pre-built Little Free Library or Kit (styles vary); charter sign with registration number; steward’s information and resources guide; starter collection of books; library post with topper; paid shipping costs. Stewards must add the library to the LFL world map; keep the library in good condition and filled with books for at least a year; submit a photo of the library once it’s installed; produce at least one community activity in the first year of service, such as holding a story hour for kids; and respond to requests from local media if contacted. For more information and an application go to LFL Impact. Inspired by the creativity? How about a Little Free braille and large print books library?

Voting During the Pandemic

“…know that your vote as a blind or visually impaired person is important, counts, and has power. Voting is a huge part of our democracy and civic engagement. Arming yourself with the tools and resources you need will help you to vote successfully,” says Empish J. Thomas on the Vision Aware blogpost, How to Vote During a Pandemic. Thomas has pointers for in person as well as absentee voting, and includes the CDC guidelines for voting places and voters as well as a link to voting procedures by state. One important thing to bring to your polling place if you are voting in person on an accessible voting machine – patience. In a 2016 post, Thomas urged voters to insist – patiently – on using the accessible machine, even if the voter needs to wait while the machine is set up or while workers get it to work properly.

An app that makes voting easier

The Brink Election Guide, available free for both iOS and Android devices, states it is “built for accessibility”, “optimized for low vision and color blindness” and “made for a screen reader.” To get ready for voting, the user can access voting checklists for “registration, researching candidates, learning your voting rights, what to bring to the booth, and more!” The voter can preview their ballots to “See every race, research every candidate, and favorite your choices.” Our tester, a political junkie at heart, said he was able to find local candidates with his screen reader, read about them on their websites, add the ones he wants to vote for to the favorite list, and can refer to that list when he votes. Brink also offers instant help and support.

Making websites accessible in 48 hours

White Flower Farm in Litchfield, CT has been sending me print catalogs and online ads for years. While it didn’t work from my desktop, for the first time this week when I peeked into the site from my iphone, I found a blue wheelchair icon, and clicking it found all kinds of useful accommodations for visually impaired or blind users including a text magnifier, font enlarger, screen reader interface, line height and letter spacing, color and contrast adjustments and black or white large cursors via a website addon. Our screen reader tester noted that when visiting the site, he was immediately given directions on engaging screen reader mode, but found that the graphics descriptions were rather limited. To try it out, go here.

The add on, by accessiBe, which says it is the “first and only web accessibility solution that uses AI and automation to make websites of any size accessible to people with disabilities” can also be translated into 13 other languages. In a testimonial for accessiBe, Sisi, an experienced technology user who is blind, says, “You know, it is really funny how sometimes merchants don’t seem to be so interested in my money. But once you go on a website that is accessible and really works with a screen reader, that makes a great difference.” Learn all about it and view demos here.

Meet, Listen, Watch, Read

The Kessler Foundation is inviting the public to its virtual grantee symposium, “Falling through the Cracks: Implications of AI for Employment of Individuals with Disabilities” on November 13, from 12-1 p.m. EST. “Learn how employers use artificial intelligence (AI) in the employment process for streamlining resume screening, interviewing candidates, and onboarding new hires”, from featured speakers Betsy Beaumon, CEO of Benetech and Jonathan Kaufman, “Mindset Matters” columnist for Forbes magazine who focuses on the intersection of disability, business and leadership strategy. Pre-registration required

My Blind Spot has released the second episode in its Accessibility Works podcast, “Jonathan’s Story.” Podcast co-host Jonathan Hermus discusses his struggles with dyslexia, and “how he has created various workarounds to improvise, adapt, and overcome” the challenges his dyslexia presents. Download on any podcast platform or listen at Accessability Works

So you weren’t able to attend the webinar “Changing the Way We See: A Vision for Children with Cortical/Cerebral Visual Impairment” from Perkins Schools and Hunter College? Development CVI Webinar The recording is now available. Comments on upscaling our various systems added an interesting perspective to the discussion.

Yesterday’s AFB Town Hall focused on the Employment and Technology sections of its Flatten Inaccessibility report. What difficulties did employed survey participants encounter due to COVID? Would their employer provide a subscription to a service like AIRA when they could no longer call on the colleague next door? How would they deal with the Zoom polling feature? Would they have a job at all, knowing that economic downturns affect people with disabilities more? But there is also reason for optimism, with employers learning more about how effective employees can be from home. “We should be going back to better, not going back to normal,” one speaker emphasized. A recap of the session will be posted on the AFB blog, along with resources provided both by the speakers and by webinar attendees. Two things to read right now on the AFB site: “Small Business in the Gig Economy , and Inclusive Remote Work Environments.

Celebrate and Have Some Cake

The Optometric Center of New York is holding its annual Eyes on New York celebration virtually on November 5. The event celebrates women who have advanced optometric education, industry, and the profession. “Queen of Cake” Sylvia Weinstock will “share the scoop about her signature eyewear and the importance of vision care,” but celebrants may want to share a piece of cake in Weinstock’s honor while they enjoy a musical performance by singer-songwriter and electronic violinist Deni Bonet. Tickets are free but donations suggested when registering here.

Don your costume. Be your scariest

Halloween is upon us and the Farmer’s Almanac notes it will be a Blue Moon night, which means it’s the second full moon in the same month. “While Blue Moons are rare-ish (they happen every few years), this one is particularly special because of its spook-tacular connections” and the fact that a full moon happens on Halloween about once in 18 years. Maybe this one should be called a BOO moon. (Groan…)