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KNFB Reader 3.0 for iOS Devices Launched

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 09:38

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Tuesday, May 15, 2018Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgKNFB Reader 3.0 for iOS Devices LaunchedNew Layout, More Document Support, and Other Enhancements Make App Even More Useful for Blind and Print-disabled Users

Baltimore, Maryland (May 15, 2018): The world's best print-reading app for the blind and print-disabled is now even better. The National Federation of the Blind and Sensotec NV announced today that KNFB Reader Version 3.0 is now available in the Apple App Store.

Since its first release in 2014, KNFB Reader has been allowing users all over the world to get access to print anytime and anywhere. The latest version of this award-winning app, KNFB Reader 3.0, sports a whole new look and feel to help users work better and faster. Navigation within the app is easier, with tabs at the bottom of the home screen to access the major screens and functions quickly and easily.

In addition to the industry-leading print recognition and conversion technology that users already love, KNFB Reader 3.0 now reads e-books and documents in the increasingly popular ePub format, as well as PDFs (image or text, tagged or untagged). This makes it ideal for students and professionals who must read content in multiple formats from multiple sources. The app is also customizable, so that people with different reading needs can tailor its settings to meet those needs. Now able to recognize and read documents in over thirty languages, KNFB Reader 3.0 is a comprehensive reading solution for people who are blind or who have low vision, dyslexia, or other reading differences.

“The National Federation of the Blind has been at the forefront of developing technology to help blind people access print for more than forty years,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “We have learned that, as with many accessible technologies, our leading-edge reading solutions benefit more than just blind people. KNFB Reader 3.0 represents the continued evolution of this technology, which now has more features fitting a wider variety of users than ever.”

KNFB Reader 3.0 is a free update for existing customers. For new customers, the app is now available for USD $99.

To learn more about KNFB Reader 3.0, visit www.knfbreader.com.

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), headquartered in Baltimore, is the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind Americans. Founded in 1940, the NFB consists of affiliates, chapters, and divisions in the fifty states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. The NFB defends the rights of blind people of all ages and provides information and support to families with blind children, older Americans who are losing vision, and more. We believe in the hopes and dreams of blind people and work together to transform them into reality. Learn more about our many programs and initiatives at https://nfb.org.

National Federation of the Blind Member Makes History at the 122nd Running of the Boston Marathon

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 09:03
Blog Date: Tuesday, May 15, 2018Author: Michael DavisCategories: GeneralStories

I am a long-time member of the National Federation of the Blind and have served as treasurer of the Tidewater Chapter of the NFB of Hampton Roads since 2009. Mr. Stewart Prost serves as our current chapter president. I want to tell all of you how much I appreciate being a part of the National Federation of the Blind. You have no idea how much it meant to me when I was twenty-four and heard Fred Schroeder say that “It is respectable to be blind.” I heard Dr. Schroeder say this at my first state convention in Virginia. I have never been to a National Convention, but I’ve heard they are amazing.

I am writing to tell you that I made history on Monday, April 16, 2018 at the 122nd running of the Boston Marathon. After joining the National Federation of the Blind, I joined an organization called Team Hoyt. Team Hoyt is a unique organization in which runners push people who use wheelchairs in competitive races. Its origins go back to Dick and Rick Hoyt—a father (Dick) who had a son (Rick) with cerebral palsy. Dick started pushing his son in marathons and triathlons. It’s a beautiful story of love, triumph over adversity and, most importantly, the integration of people with disabilities into all aspects of life, including competitive sporting events.

I was never athletic and, because of that and my legal blindness, I was picked last for teams and never picked by coaches, so I never imagined I could do sports. In 2009 I started running as a blind runner with a sighted guide. After my first half marathon that year, I was asked by a very good friend—Dr. Allen “Trey” White, who started Team Hoyt Virginia Beach—if I wanted to push another person with a disability. I decided it would be a great honor for me to push someone else with a disability because I know what it’s like to be excluded because of your disability; I wanted to give a positive experience of inclusion to someone else.

I completed fifteen full marathons between 2009 and 2017, including three Boston Marathons (2013—the year of the Boston bombing, 2014, and 2015); a marathon each in California and Louisiana; and several marathons in Virginia, including two Marine Corps Marathons. I have also completed several other half marathons and shorter races; in ninety percent of these races, I have pushed people who use wheelchairs with a guide runner. My guide runners do not touch the chair; they only serve as my eyes on the course by providing verbal directions.

One of the riders I thoroughly enjoy pushing—because we talk during runs and he smiles and gets so excited when we race—is Ashton McCormick. Ashton is nineteen years old and has Autism. I dreamed that one day I’d push Ashton in the Boston Marathon. I had already survived the Boston bombing so I knew I’d be able to do this. But it took four and one half years for our duo team to get to Boston.

We call ourselves Team Pretzel Hands because my friend Ashton LOVES pretzels.

This year was the 122nd running of the Boston Marathon, which had never had a duo team on which a blind runner pushed someone else with a disability. The Boston Athletics Association and I had literally hundreds of emails going back and forth because there were no rules on how to do what I was trying to do.

Last year we qualified at the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, and we were accepted for the Boston Marathon in October of 2017. This year, we made history—the first blind runner pushing a wheelchair user in the marathon. We finished in five hours and fifty-eight minutes and seven seconds.

I got to start this year’s Boston Marathon with seven other duo teams, but our team was the only one on which both the runner and rider had disabilities. The marathon itself was covered by ESPN.

The National Federation of the Blind has had a profound effect on how I view blindness, and I thank everyone in the organization for the way you have changed my life. Pushing my friend Ashton in the Boston Marathon is truly a dream that the National Federation of the Blind helped me turn into reality.

Tags: runningmarathon

Annual Run to Support Programs for the Blind Set for June 3

Mon, 05/14/2018 - 10:41

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Monday, May 14, 2018Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgAnnual Run to Support Programs for the Blind Set for June 3National Federation of the Blind Partners with Baltimore Orioles to Support Programs to Help Blind People Live Lives They Want

Baltimore, Maryland (May 14, 2018)

Event: National Federation of the Blind 6 Dot Dash

Date: June 3, 2018

Place: National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute
200 East Wells Street
Baltimore, MD 21230

Attention Sports, Lifestyle, Health, and Education Editors:

This year the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), which is celebrating the fortieth anniversary of establishing its headquarters in Baltimore, will again host the 6 Dot Dash, a unique 6K race to benefit the NFB’s programs that help blind people in Baltimore and across the nation live the lives they want. The NFB is partnering with the Baltimore Orioles to make this year’s race the biggest and best yet! The Oriole Bird will be on hand for this fun, family-friendly event.

The 6 Dot Dash supports NFB programs with a special focus on Braille literacy. Braille is the primary literacy tool used by blind people. It is a raised dot reading and writing medium in which one Braille cell, which represents one letter or number, is composed of up to six raised dots. The NFB’s annual 6K race represents our commitment to ensuring that blind students are taught Braille. Learn more about the race and all the initiatives it supports at www.nfb.org/dot-dash.

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), headquartered in Baltimore, is the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind Americans. Founded in 1940, the NFB consists of affiliates, chapters, and divisions in the fifty states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. The NFB defends the rights of blind people of all ages and provides information and support to families with blind children, older Americans who are losing vision, and more. We believe in the hopes and dreams of blind people and work together to transform them into reality. Learn more about our many programs and initiatives at https://nfb.org.

Introducing Amazon’s New Talking Locker Feature

Thu, 05/10/2018 - 11:20
Blog Date: Thursday, May 10, 2018Author: Peter Korn, Director of Accessibility, Amazon DevicesCategories: General

Amazon Lockers are secure, self-service kiosks where customers can pick up Amazon.com packages at a time and place that is convenient for them. Amazon Locker was introduced in 2011, and has since expanded to over 2,000 locations across 50 plus major metropolitan areas in the US. Hub by Amazon is a similar secure, self-service kiosk for apartment residents that uses the same Amazon Locker kiosk technology for packages delivered by anyone, and was introduced in 2017.

We are thrilled to introduce Amazon talking lockers, our newest improvement in accessibility for Amazon Lockers. We are also thrilled that our on-going collaboration with President Mark Riccobono facilitated our direct interaction with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and their deep expertise in accessible user interfaces, as we worked towards this key innovation.

Accessibility is a high priority for Amazon Locker and Hub by Amazon. Last year, we introduced our first major accessibility innovation - the lower locker preference. This preference can be found in the online checkout experience and allows customers to tell us if they would like their package delivered to an easier-to-reach lower locker slot. The lower slot preference is available at all Amazon Lockers and Hub by Amazon worldwide, and continues to receive positive feedback from customers who use the feature.

In March of this year, the Locker team debuted our latest accessibility innovation, talking Lockers, at the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference. Amazon Lockers now have a tactile keypad with Braille, and a headphone jack that allows blind and low-vision customers to insert their headphones to receive audio instructions to independently pickup and return packages.

Throughout the design and development of our talking Locker interface, we worked very closely with a number of blind and low-vision individuals both within and outside of Amazon, who shared valuable feedback to help shape our design and customer experience. Recently, at the CSUN conference in March, we had the opportunity to share the talking Locker experience and gather additional feedback from many blind and low-vision attendees. And as of today, the talking locker feature has rolled out to 100% of Amazon Lockers across the US and will expand to the EU and Hub by Amazon this summer. We are also rolling out improvements to the locker’s visual user interface, like larger, higher-contrast on-screen text, that will help low-vision customers.

Amazon Locker remains committed to the independence, security, and accessibility offered by our package delivery solutions. We are also committed to our strong, active partnership with the National Federation of the Blind. In our ongoing collaboration with the NFB, we will continue to improve on Amazon Locker accessibility as part of our ongoing efforts to continue to enhance the overall experience for all of our customers. We look forward to showcasing the accessibility features at the NFB National Convention in Orlando in July, and to bringing talking Lockers to a community near you.

Tags: accessibilitypartnerships

Introducing KNFB Reader Version 3 for iOS

Tue, 05/08/2018 - 10:31
Blog Date: Tuesday, May 8, 2018Author: Joel ZimbaCategories: Access Technology

KNFB Reader, the mobile app which has provided immediate access to printed information to the blind since 2014, has gotten an upgrade! Tinkering with the features or the user-interface of an app should never be undertaken lightly. We all know of formerly easy-to-use services which suddenly become inaccessible or require learning a new process just to get an everyday chore checked off your task list. We believe these enhancements will make KNFB Reader easier to use while adding more functionality.

The basic operation remains largely the same, but we have added more power and functions. Nearly all the improvements are those most frequently requested via KNFB Reader Support. There is something for everyone, regardless of your print-disability or experience with this technology. Here are a few examples:

  • Many functions are easier to use. For example, Multi-Page mode, formerly known as Batch Mode, now announces itself much more prominently and keeps track of the number of pages captured. Undoing mistakes is just a tap away. Resolving camera permissions and expanding error messages makes KNFB Reader friendlier.  
  • It makes the Cloud easy to access. Those dealing with large numbers of documents kept in multiple places will enjoy improved Cloud access, letting you read documents like inaccessible PDFs and ePubs stored in Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive.
  • The improved power of mobile devices has let us remove the fifty-page limit on multi-page documents. You can capture entire chapters of a book and store it as a PDF document which can be bookmarked and easily saved for reading on other devices.
  • New features benefit visual readers with dyslexia or other reading challenges. It highlights text by paragraph, sentence, or word as it reads out loud for following along. When capturing documents as PDFs, it is now possible to view the original image as your document is being read aloud. An even more immersive reading experience can be had with full-screen mode and by placing your device in landscape orientation.
  • There are many new options to customize settings to personalize your reading experience.

Not just cosmetic, the re-design of KNFB Reader started from the inside out. Once a Gordian knot, KNFB Reader 3.0 for iOS is built to incorporate future functionality and adapt to change as our increasingly connected mobile world will inevitably do.

This iOS-only update is free to all existing customers. Learn more at www.knfbreader.com. Stay up-to-date by signing up for our newsletter, liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter @KNFBReader. Check out our video to learn more.

Tags: technologyprint-disability

A Talking Locker

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 11:01
Blog Date: Thursday, May 3, 2018Author: Mark RiccobonoCategories: Access TechnologyStories

The National Federation of the Blind is the voice of the nation’s blind. We work to ensure that blind people can be fully participating members of our communities. More and more, our ability to participate in our communities and live the lives we want depends on the accessibility of the commonplace technologies being implemented throughout our environments. Therefore, we work to establish partnerships with entities that seek to develop innovative, accessible technologies that are better for everyone, not just people with disabilities. We are proud to have Amazon as one of our partners, and we join with them to share a new feature: the Amazon talking locker, an accessible, secure, self-service kiosk where customers can pick up Amazon.com packages at a time and place that is convenient for them.

A couple of years ago we established a working agreement with Amazon around Kindle education and we told them that there would be many more areas we would want to discuss with them. Amazon Locker was released in 2011, which was many years prior to our new relationship with Amazon. Over the past year  it quickly rose as an opportunity where greater accessibility functions became a priority. Although it took longer than we would want (we would have preferred that Locker would have been accessible at launch), we are encouraged that through direct dialogue, encouragement, and collaboration with the National Federation of the Blind, Amazon Locker is now accessible. This is a demonstration of Amazon’s growing commitment to accessibility and their partnership with the National Federation of the Blind.

In order to demonstrate the accessibility of the Amazon Locker, our friends at Amazon sent me a package. I was sent an email with the location of the Amazon Locker and a six digit pickup code from our Amazon representative. I imagine that when a package is sent through normal channels, a similar email with location and code is sent to the recipient. Although the email gave me instructions on what to do, I approached the locker as though I knew nothing about how to get my package and let the tactile and audio instructions guide my experience. I retrieved the package from an Amazon Locker kiosk located in the entrance of a local 7-11 convenience store.

The Amazon Locker is a kiosk, which looks much like an ATM. It has a screen, Braille on a tactile keypad, and a standard jack that allows the user to insert headphones and listen to audio instructions. The keypad and screen are positioned flat against a wall and various size lockers are positioned on both sides, above and below the kiosk. Although the ergonomics of the layout would have been enhanced by placing the keypad at an angle that allows easier access to the Braille and buttons for people of various heights, the Braille on the kiosk, and the standard symbols for headphones, made it easy to orient myself and begin the process.

I activated the speech by inserting the headphones. The initial speech was very low and difficult to hear especially since the location was in a busy entrance area. After listening to the comprehensive instructions, I was given instructions on how to increase the speech volume. It would have been very helpful to have these instructions at the beginning of the transaction. By pressing the key to the right of the “#” key, I was able to increase the volume a little with each press of the key. However, after I pressed the key a few times, the volume cycled back to the original setting. I shared this feedback with Amazon, as well as the suggestion that Locker emit a tone to know you are at the highest setting, and I’m happy to report they already incorporated my suggested changes on initial volume. I am hopeful that they will also implement my suggestion to move the audio instructions about the speech volume to the beginning of the process. This is a simple example of how, with only a 10 minute exposure to the technology, we were able to add value to the interface.  

By following the audio instructions, I was able to input the six digit code. I was able to later confirm that once an individual is familiar with the system, it is possible to skip past instructions and get right to entering the six digit code to retrieve the item. After the code had been confirmed, I received audio instructions that the locker containing my package was to my right and approximately 59 inches above the floor. Then I was instructed to remove my headphones and stand back. After removing the headphones, the locker opened with a “click,” and I confirmed that a locker to my upper right had automatically opened. I located the locker, removed the package and closed the locker. Amazon Locker does offer the customer an option to select a locker that is closer to the floor if needed.

We are pleased that our partnership has helped result in the installation of Amazon talking Lockers in thousands of locations across the country. We are equally pleased that our partnership will ensure built-in accessibility to Hub by Amazon, a secure, self-service kiosk for apartment residents that will use the same accessible kiosk technology. We look forward to the development of more innovative accessible technologies from Amazon.

Oh, you want to know what was in the package. Visit me at the National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando in July, and if you are registered and in the room you might get to take it home.

Tags: accessibilitystoriespartnerships

Equal Treatment in the Workplace Means Equal Access to Technology

Thu, 04/26/2018 - 11:38
Blog Date: Thursday, April 26, 2018Author: Mark RiccobonoCategories: Access TechnologyAdvocacy

The National Federation of the Blind engages in strategic legal action to defend the rights and advance the equality of blind people. While we do not have the financial resources to assist every blind individual who experiences discrimination, we help individuals bring legal action where we believe that the result is likely to be important systemic change. With our help, a blind employee of Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), one of the largest public-school systems in the country, has just filed suit in federal court against its school board. The suit alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Florida state law.

Dr. Jan Bartleson, a counselor and emotional/behavioral disabilities clinician with M-DCPS for twenty-six years, has been unable to perform critical parts of her job independently because her employer requires that she utilize software, web content, and web platforms that are not compatible with screen reading technology. Dr. Bartleson’s job is to provide clinical services to students with emotional disabilities, individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, and conflict resolution, as well as participating in IEP meetings.

She is forced to rely on assistance from her sighted coworkers to perform tasks as basic as inputting student progress notes into an integrated student information system and accessing her own employment benefit information. Furthermore, she has been unable to apply for promotions and other employment opportunities within the school system for which she is highly qualified.

Because of the school system’s inaccessible technology, Dr. Bartleson had to fight for additional clerical assistance to perform these functions, the only remedy that the system made available to her. The small amount of assistance that the school system has provided is inadequate. It’s also beside the point, which is that no blind member of the faculty, staff, or student body of the M-DPCS can succeed without equal access to the technology being used. Dr. Bartleson’s lawsuit asks the court to order M-DCPS to fix the district’s inaccessible technology and web content or to replace it with accessible technology.

Dr. Bartleson is being represented with the assistance of the National Federation of the Blind by Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy LLP, and by Matthew W. Dietz of Disability Independence Group, Inc. of Miami, FL. For more on this case and other legal actions, projects, and investigations of the National Federation of the Blind, please visit our new legal programs web page, www.nfb.org/legal.

Tags: access technologyaccessibilityadvocacy

The Positive Impact of Collaboration on Independence

Wed, 04/25/2018 - 16:57
Blog Date: Wednesday, April 25, 2018Author: Anil LewisCategories: Access Technology

The National Federation of the Blind is committed to being present and actively participating in forums that foster innovation toward increased independence. These gatherings present us with a wonderful opportunity to identify potential partners in our effort to create innovative, transformative technologies. That is why I will be attending the 2018 M-Enabling Summit Conference and Showcase. In prior years the conference was simply focused on the development of mobile computing technologies. Now it is a showcase dedicated to promoting accessible and assistive technology for senior citizens and users of all abilities. In 2017 I had the pleasure of presenting during the opening keynote panel, “Robotics” along with our partners and friends at Amazon, Deque, IBM, and Microsoft.

The evolution of the utility of the mobile phone is demonstrative of the evolution of the M-Enabling Summit. It used to just be a simple little portable mobile phone that I could use to make phone calls. Now this portable, powerful, little smartphone has positively impacted my life in ways that I could have never imagined. And it has the potential to continue to create more opportunities for enhanced independence for everyone. Here are just a few examples of how collaboration between consumers and innovators has positively impacted my ability to independently use this device. I use my smartphone to:

  • Access information: I can use it to read text messages, emails, social media posts, e-books, and other electronic documents. I can access NFB-NEWSLINE® and read over 500 newspapers and magazines, access TV listings, get weather reports, and actively search for a job. I can use the KNFB Reader® to snap a picture of printed material and have it instantly read to me.
  • Manage my finances: I can check my bank balances, transfer money between accounts, send and receive money from family and friends, and even monitor my son’s spending. The most convenient feature is the ability to independently snap a photo of a check and have it deposited directly into my account.
  • Travel: I can order a driver, get information on the driver and the vehicle, obtain a quote for the cost of the trip, get notifications of the driver’s progress, and pay seamlessly with an app. For years, GPS apps have been used to provide information about points of interests and directions to assist drivers and walkers to navigate from place to place with turn-by-turn directions. The emerging indoor navigation apps provide similar information about indoor spaces that allow me to navigate through airports, train stations, malls, offices, and other buildings.

This is only a small sample of the positive impact innovative mobile apps have had on my life, and the lives of other blind people. The M-Enabling Summit has similarly evolved to serve as an incubator of innovative ideas and concepts that have the potential to expand opportunity and discovery for many of us.

If we, the nation’s blind, are to ensure that there is thoughtful development of additional innovative uses of this technology, we, the consumers, must be in the room with the engineers and developers where the discussions happen. With its theme of “Accessible and Assistive Technologies Innovations: New Frontiers for Independent Living,” the 2018 M-Enabling Summit will provide a platform for empowering technologies and focus on next-generation innovations and breakthroughs for users of all abilities. That’s why I am excited to participate in the 2018 M-Enabling Summit this June 11-13, 2018 in Washington DC. Please join me!

Tags: access technologyindependent living

Medicare Information to Become Accessible to Blind Beneficiaries

Wed, 04/25/2018 - 09:50

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Wednesday, April 25, 2018Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgMedicare Information to Become Accessible to Blind BeneficiariesBlind Americans Reach Agreement with CMS on Accessibility of Medicare Information

Baltimore, Maryland (April 25, 2018): The National Federation of the Blind and three blind individuals have reached a settlement agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The settlement resolves the allegation brought forth in a 2016 lawsuit that CMS discriminated against blind and low-vision beneficiaries by failing to provide meaningful and equal access to Medicare information.

The agreement requires that CMS set up processes so that beneficiaries can make a single request to receive all communications and notices from Medicare in an accessible format, such as large print, Braille, audio, or electronic data. Additional terms include that CMS will:

  • Provide accessible, fillable forms for beneficiaries on Medicare.gov.
  • Issue accessibility best practices to Medicare Health and Drug Plans.
  • Implement a policy that extends the time in which a beneficiary must answer time-sensitive communications by the number of days it takes CMS to process the beneficiary’s accessible format request.
  • Develop a plan to promote the availability of accessible materials to Medicare beneficiaries.

CMS has already begun implementing critical procedural changes that include training employees on compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation act of 1973, implementing testing requirements to ensure that information posted on Medicare.gov is accessible, providing CMS’s most popular publications in accessible e-book formats at Medicare.gov, and establishing a Customer Accessibility Resource Staff to coordinate and support CMS’s accessible Medicare communications. The agreement prohibits CMS from changing any of these new practices in ways that would result in less effective access to Medicare information for blind individuals.

“Thousands of blind and low-vision people depend on Medicare benefits and must be able to apply for, understand, and manage those benefits independently,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “This agreement will ensure that blind Medicare beneficiaries have equal access to critical and often time-sensitive information about their individual benefits and this vital program.”

"The Medicare benefits a person receives are only as good as the access they have to them,” said Silvia Yee, senior staff attorney for the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund. “Without equal access to vital Medicare information, blind people not only face greater difficulty getting their health care needs met, they also run a higher risk of losing services and supports altogether when they can't properly access details about Medicare plan benefits, review services provided, or confirm how much those services will cost. DREDF applauds this necessary step forward by CMS in providing Americans who are blind --including thousands of aging low-vision Medicare beneficiaries--access to necessary information that non-disabled people get to take for granted.”

The plaintiffs were represented by Brown, Goldstein & Levy LLP and the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF).

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), headquartered in Baltimore, is the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind Americans. Founded in 1940, the NFB consists of affiliates, chapters, and divisions in the fifty states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. The NFB defends the rights of blind people of all ages and provides information and support to families with blind children, older Americans who are losing vision, and more. We believe in the hopes and dreams of blind people and work together to transform them into reality. Learn more about our many programs and initiatives at www.nfb.org.

About Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF)

Founded in 1979, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund is a leading national civil rights law and policy center directed by individuals with disabilities and parents who have children with disabilities. DREDF works to advance the civil and human rights of people with disabilities through legal advocacy, training, education, and public policy and legislative development. Learn more about DREDF's work at: dredf.org

Teaching Technology with Tactile Toys

Thu, 04/05/2018 - 08:47
Blog Date: Thursday, April 5, 2018Author: Amy MasonCategories: Education

“This is hard! I don’t understand why I have to go left and right and up and down. My notetaker is so much easier.”

I encountered several statements like this the summer I worked as a tech instructor for an independence summer program for blind high school students. The program is based on structured discovery which has been developed by teachers in the National Federation of the Blind, and has been used to great effect in our centers. I believe these teaching methods, which focus on learning to learn, problem solving, and thinking critically, provide a firm foundation for accomplishing most skills in life. In this case, my students were struggling with using the computer because they had never seen how Windows was visually laid out. I needed a way to better convey the basic concepts of the Windows desktop but I didn’t have a whole lot of resources to draw from. So I drew on the lessons I learned while at the Colorado Center for the Blind and “structure” a little “discovery” for my reluctant students.

I procured a box of Lego bricks and a large build board, wandered to my lab, and set to work. Later that night I emerged victorious…Lego Windows Desktop was born! Let me give you an idea of what it looks like, and then we can discuss how I used it.

Lego Windows Desktop

The Lego Windows Desktop can be built on a large build plate and consists of the following simplified features, all entirely conveyed through different heights of Lego:

  • The Desktop—This is the entire build plate upon which all other elements are added.
  • Desktop Icons—Four-by-four square Lego bricks laid out with space between them across the left-hand side of the build plate. Their shape and location simulate their size and positioning on screen. 
  • Taskbar—A horizontal bar of half-height bricks along the bottom of the plate. It contains a number of additional items built upon it to convey other elements.
  • Start button—Slanted brick placed along the far-left edge of the taskbar.
  • Running Programs—Square Legos placed with spaces between them on top of the task bar to represent the icons for currently running programs.
  • System Tray—An extra layer of height on the right-hand side of the taskbar to convey that it is both part of and separate from the rest. It contains a few one-by-two bricks to convey system tray icons.
  • Date and Time—Following the system tray at the far-right side, there is another smaller slanted brick to convey the location of date and time information on the bottom right corner of the “screen.”
  • Explorer Window—The final major element is a large square of bricks to represent a file explorer window. It takes up the majority of the center of the build plate. It also contains a small circular single dot Lego at top right to represent the close “X”.
  • Folder Tree—Left-hand section of the explorer window raised slightly. It conveys the location of this piece of the window, and can optionally include short horizontal bricks of various lengths to convey the ideal of a list.
  • Files and Folder Icons—The current incarnation of the desktop is built to mirror the Windows 10 default explorer window on launch, with a separation between “frequent folders” represented by four-by-four “icon” squares at the top laid out in a grid formation, a separator, then a “list” of “recent files” recreated by placing various length lines of one-by-one bricks to form what looks like a list of words, with some shorter and others longer.
Back to Summer Camp

With the Lego desktop in hand, I sat down with the students who were struggling with different Windows concepts and we discussed the implications. First, we discussed how the desktop was like a physical desktop on which a user would place papers, files, books, etc. The explorer window and other programs sat on top of the desk, and like a physical desk, the student could use keyboard commands to “shuffle” the files to place the one they need on top, or clear the desk completely to see the stuff that’s always there (icons). Next we discussed the differences between icon view and list view. By looking at the recent files as compared to desktop icons, the student could understand why sometimes they have to think in both horizontal and vertical space when working with icons, but only vertical when working in lists.

One of the most important things this exercise helped my students with was critical thinking. One of my students looked at the taskbar and said, “In JAWS, Insert F12 gives me the time, Insert F11 lets me access the system tray programs, will Insert F10 let me see what’s in the rest of the taskbar?” I answered, “Try and see,” which he promptly did on the actual computer. This was one of my proudest moments that summer.

These are just a few of the lessons conveyed with Lego Windows Desktop, but I want to leave you with the one I learned that summer.

Technology is a powerful tool which we are using more and more in our everyday lives, but it’s not always the right tool for the job. Sometimes, you need something simpler or much more basic. It might be a slate and stylus, it might be a cane, or a tactile kitchen timer. Keep lots of tools in your toolbox, as you never know what you are going to need. And remember, your imagination and creativity can get you an awfully long way…especially if you have a box of Legos.

Tags: Tactileeducationtechnology

Seattle Ends Subminimum Wages for Workers with Disabilities

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 14:59

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Tuesday, April 3, 2018Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgSeattle Ends Subminimum Wages for Workers with DisabilitiesNational Federation of the Blind Commends Unanimous City Council Vote

Baltimore, Maryland (April 3, 2018): Seattle’s city council unanimously voted yesterday to ban the practice of paying the blind and other workers with disabilities less than the city’s minimum wage. The National Federation of the Blind, which has led efforts to eliminate the practice at the local, state, and federal level (including in Seattle), commended the move.

“We appreciate the leadership demonstrated in Seattle by rejecting subminimum wages and, by extension, the underlying low expectations and misconceptions about the capacity of people with disabilities,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “Even as we continue to advocate for change in the United States Congress, we hope other cities and states will emulate what Seattle and the states of Alaska, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Vermont have done to promote fairness and equality for workers with disabilities. Congratulations to the National Federation of the Blind of Washington and its partners for achieving this victory for blind and otherwise disabled citizens of Seattle.”

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), headquartered in Baltimore, is the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind Americans. Founded in 1940, the NFB consists of affiliates, chapters, and divisions in the fifty states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. The NFB defends the rights of blind people of all ages and provides information and support to families with blind children, older Americans who are losing vision, and more. We believe in the hopes and dreams of blind people and work together to transform them into reality. Learn more about our many programs and initiatives at www.nfb.org.

Ohio Requires Accessible Absentee Ballots for the Blind

Mon, 03/26/2018 - 11:17

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Monday, March 26, 2018Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgStacy Brannan-SmithDisability Rights OhioCommunications Specialist800-282-9181, ext. 101Ohio Requires Accessible Absentee Ballots for the BlindDirective Comes after Litigation brought by Blind Voters

Columbus, Ohio (March 26, 2018): Blind voters in Ohio must be able to cast absentee ballots privately and independently, according to a recent directive from Secretary of State John Husted.

The directive comes after the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that a lawsuit brought by the National Federation of the Blind and three blind voters could go forward. Plaintiffs were represented by Disability Rights Ohio and Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP. The suit sought a court order to require Husted’s office to provide accessible ballot-marking solutions. The state had tried to have the lawsuit thrown out, arguing that accessible absentee ballots were not required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Under the directive, the state’s local boards of elections must make remote ballot-marking systems available to voters who are blind or who have other disabilities in time for the November 2018 election. These systems can be used alongside Braille or screen reader technology, which reads the text on a computer’s screen as spoken words, to allow blind voters to mark their absentee ballots without assistance. The ballot can then be printed and mailed to the local board of elections, just like any other absentee ballot. The system will also benefit voters who are deaf-blind or who have other disabilities that prevent them from visiting a polling place or marking a traditional ballot.

“With these changes, I hope to finally be able to cast an absentee ballot by myself, without any help from a sighted friend or family member, thus maintaining confidentiality, and not have the worry of getting to a polling location, just like any other Ohio voter,” said Shelbi Hindel, one of the three named plaintiffs on the lawsuit. “I hope that other people with disabilities across Ohio will take advantage of this important new option.”

“Secretary Husted’s decision to respect the rights of blind absentee voters instead of continuing to litigate the issue is a victory for the blind of Ohio and the nation,” said Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “The kind of ballot-marking solution that the blind of Ohio requested has been successfully implemented in other states and will allow blind Ohioans to make their voting selections privately and independently. The National Federation of the Blind urges voting jurisdictions throughout the United States to adopt similar systems.”

“Disability Rights Ohio is pleased that Secretary of State Husted is moving forward with creating a system that will give people with disabilities equal access to the polls,” said Michael Kirkman, Executive Director of Disability Rights Ohio. “As the new system is rolled out across the state, we encourage anyone who has questions or problems to call us.”

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), headquartered in Baltimore, is the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind Americans. Founded in 1940, the NFB consists of affiliates, chapters, and divisions in the fifty states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. The NFB defends the rights of blind people of all ages and provides information and support to families with blind children, older Americans who are losing vision, and more. We believe in the hopes and dreams of blind people and work together to transform them into reality. Learn more about our many programs and initiatives at www.nfb.org.

About Disability Rights Ohio

Disability Rights Ohio is the federally and state designated Protection and Advocacy System and Client Assistance Program for the state of Ohio. The mission of Disability Rights Ohio is to advocate for the human, civil and legal rights of people with disabilities in Ohio. Disability Rights Ohio provides legal advocacy and rights protection to a wide range of people with disabilities. Find out more at disabilityrightsohio.org.

About Brown, Goldstein & Levy LLP

Brown, Goldstein & Levy, based in Baltimore, Maryland, handles both civil and criminal litigation and has long represented organizations and individuals with disabilities in high-profile, high-impact disability rights cases. For more information, visit www.browngold.com.

Enjoying Tactile Crafts with Kids

Tue, 03/20/2018 - 09:13
Blog Date: Tuesday, March 20, 2018Author: J. E. PintoCategories: ParentingStories

When my sighted daughter, Sarah, was a toddler, I worried that as her blind mom, I’d miss out on exploring arts and crafts with her. Coloring books, paint-by-numbers, water colors—everything marketed for kids was visually oriented. At least there was playdough, that last bastion of hope. Playdough was meant to be touched, molded, squished between chubby little fingers, and occasionally even tasted. But there were so many more projects and materials that seemed inaccessible to me, geared only toward the sense of sight.

I started wondering how I could combine the visual aspects of arts and crafts with the tactile. My daughter loved color from a young age. She would reach for women’s bright blouses, neon hair bows, and sparkling necklaces long before she could talk. I was anything but a crafter by trade. But I decided if I could add tactile elements to Sarah’s artistic sense from the beginning, she would grow up with them as a normal part of her world, not as a special approach her blind mom needed to enjoy her art projects.

As soon as Sarah started scribbling with crayons and paints, I began cutting out triangles, diamonds, and other shapes from tissue paper and cardboard. I helped her glue the paper shapes around the edges of her paint and crayon masterpieces, thus turning the flat pages into raised collages I could touch. I bought puffy, fuzzy, and sparkly stickers so she could add texture to her creations. The day she asked me to help her glue clean Popsicle sticks onto construction paper in the shape of a house so she could color between the sticks, I felt victorious. My preschooler was catching on!

The tactile aspect of Sarah’s art soon became as much her idea as it was mine. Arts and crafts turned into a visual and textural collaboration, and the gathering of the materials was often as much fun as the creation of the projects themselves. Anything we found could become part of art projects—pebbles from our garden, yarn and ribbon, dry leaves in the fall and fresh ones in the spring and summer, the acorns that dropped from the trees every autumn with their little top hats that came loose when they dried. Beads, dry beans, feathers shed by our parakeet, pine needles, stray buttons, bits of cloth, we used them all. Glitter and sequins became a focal point in Sarah’s arts and crafts repertoire from the time she got old enough to keep them out of her mouth.

At first plain school glue worked for us, but eventually we needed a strong multipurpose craft glue. We probably should have used a hot glue gun for some of the heavier items. But I’ve lost a few battles with glue guns in my time and have chosen not to engage in further conflicts. If you insist on hot glue, devote a small electric skillet to crafting. Leave a few inches of glue permanently in the skillet. When you need it, simply reheat the glue until it liquefies, then brush your items carefully across the surface of the glue and affix them to your project. Hot glue burns like molten lava and is not easily rinsed from skin. Don’t let children touch the glue or the skillet.

As Sarah got older, we built three-dimensional figures out of miniature marshmallows, pipe cleaners, and uncooked spaghetti noodles. Over the years we’ve made clay pots and Christmas ornaments, painted sugar skulls, fashioned jewelry and bead art, and experimented with tie-dying, sewing, weaving, and crocheting. Some crafts Sarah took up and put down quickly, others she has stuck with for a while. Some she has started, left, and returned to. She eventually got interested in drawing and painting without tactile elements, and I’ve encouraged her wholeheartedly in those endeavors.

Whether Sarah pursues arts and crafts as a hobby or simply views the work of others for pleasure, I believe her early introduction to its tactile aspects will add a new dimension to her experiences for the rest of her life. If she decides to craft or create art, the childhood memories of her tactile projects may influence the way she expresses herself as an adult.

I know this much—on our way home from school at age ten, she still stops on the sidewalk and says, “Hey, there’s a perfect pine cone. It’ll look awesome on the Christmas tree with glitter. And I see three little white rocks that’ll be great for something. I’m putting them in your purse.”

 

If you enjoyed what you’ve just read, consider checking out my author page at http://www.amazon.com/author/jepinto.

Tags: artTactileparenting

Blind Students Win Braille Reading Contest

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 10:15

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Monday, March 19, 2018Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgBlind Students Win Braille Reading ContestSeventeen Students Awarded Cash Prizes by National Federation of the Blind

Baltimore, Maryland (March 19, 2018): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation’s leading advocate for Braille literacy, has announced the winners of its 2017-2018 Nationwide Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest. The competition was sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois in partnership with the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB), which is also an NFB division. Eighty-one students from twelve states took part in the contest. The participating states were Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Virginia.

Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “I am delighted that the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille and our Illinois affiliate have brought back this beloved contest. This year’s participation shows that Braille Readers Are Leaders is once again in full swing. The ability to read and write Braille competently and efficiently is the key to education, employment, and success for the blind. Through this contest, we encourage blind children to enhance their love of reading and their Braille skills so that they will be prepared to live the lives they want. Congratulations to all of the winners of this year’s contest, and to all of the students who took part.”

To compete in the contest, students submitted reading logs, counting the number of Braille pages they read between December 15, 2017 and February 1, 2018. The contestants with the top three page counts in each of five grade categories were awarded cash prizes: $25 for first place, $15 for second place, and $10 for third place and honorable mention. Every student who submitted a reading log received a package of Braille-related gifts. Here is the complete list of the 2017-2018 Nationwide Braille Readers Are Leaders winners:

Grades K-1

First Place: Cameron Gooden, Carterville, IL

Second Place: Ander Mielke, Havre, MT

Third Place: Kenji Torihara, Chicago, IL

Honorable Mention: Anastasia Marinos, Burr Ridge, IL

Grades 2-3

First Place, Aisha Safi, Chevy Chase, MD

Second Place: Preston Rose, Eagan, MN

Third Place: Anna Sayles, Peoria, IL

Honorable Mention: Ely Giraldo, Staunton, VA

Grades 4-5

First Place: Jonah Rao, Columbia, MD

Second Place: Isaiah Rao, Columbia, MD

Third Place: Karli Copes, Oak Grove, LA

Grades 6-8

First Place: Holly Connor, St. Louis, MO

Second Place: Nicholas Tarver, Many, LA

Third Place: Anthony Spears, Mattoon, IL

Grades 9-12

First Place: Maria-Luisa Montero-Olivero, Marietta, GA

Second Place: Marie Presume, Staunton, VA

Third Place: Kaelyn Kinlaw, Staunton, VA

KELLY DOTY AWARDS

The Kelly Doty Awards of $25 are given to students who overcome special challenges to achieve fluency in Braille reading. Such challenges include, but are not limited to, having disabilities in addition to blindness or being an English-language learner. The following students received 2018 Kelly Doty Awards:

Alan Bunay, Spring Valley, NY

Miracle Douglas, Peoria, IL

Isaiah Rao, Columbia, MD

Jonah Rao, Columbia, MD

Aisha Safi, Chevy Chase, MD

Nicholas Tarver, Many, LA

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), headquartered in Baltimore, is the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind Americans. Founded in 1940, the NFB consists of affiliates, chapters, and divisions in the fifty states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. The NFB defends the rights of blind people of all ages and provides information and support to families with blind children, older Americans who are losing vision, and more. We believe in the hopes and dreams of blind people and work together to transform them into reality. Learn more about our many programs and initiatives at www.nfb.org.

The National Federation of the Blind Applauds the Introduction of Legislation Implementing the Marrakesh Treaty

Thu, 03/15/2018 - 13:46

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Thursday, March 15, 2018Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgThe National Federation of the Blind Applauds the Introduction of Legislation Implementing the Marrakesh TreatyTreaty will Expand Availability of Accessible Books for Blind and Print Disabled Americans

Washington, DC (March 15, 2018): Senator Charles E. “Chuck” Grassley (R-IA) and Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bob Corker (R-TN), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) have introduced the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act, S. 2559.

“The National Federation of the Blind was a principal leader in the development and negotiation of the Marrakesh Treaty,” said Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “By allowing the worldwide production and exchange of accessible books, the treaty will dramatically increase the availability of knowledge to blind people everywhere. We urge both houses of Congress to swiftly pass this legislation, and in doing so, unlock the doors to expanded literacy for millions of blind Americans.”

The legislation will make modifications to United States copyright law to ensure that it fully complies with the terms of the treaty. These modifications are supported by publishing, library, and disability organizations.

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), headquartered in Baltimore, is the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind Americans. Founded in 1940, the NFB consists of affiliates, chapters, and divisions in the fifty states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. The NFB defends the rights of blind people of all ages and provides information and support to families with blind children, older Americans who are losing vision, and more. We believe in the hopes and dreams of blind people and work together to transform them into reality. Learn more about our many programs and initiatives at www.nfb.org.

Sensational Diagraming

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 16:52
Blog Date: Tuesday, March 13, 2018Author: Rachel OliveroCategories: Access TechnologyEducationStories

The first time I attended college in 2001, a time I lovingly refer to as College 1.0, I was studying computer science. This required a decent level of mathematics, and the ability to gather information from, and create, certain technical diagrams. I was participating in a National Science Foundation grant to study methods of effectively teaching these concepts to blind students. We were trying a few different techniques to see how they stacked up against what other blind people had used before. One of the tools we used was a tactile drawing board: a wooden board with a rubber surface that made raised line drawings on specialized plastic sheets. This drawing board worked but had a few limitations. Most notably the cost of the plastic sheets, which were about a dollar a piece. The drawings also weren’t very effective once removed from the board. The lines tended to lose their height and were less detectable after just a short time. This recipe didn’t make it easy to have a diagram drawn and referenced later. If you were lucky, you might be able to figure out what it was supposed to be. If you weren’t, and you frequently weren’t, you just wrote it off as a new Dadaistic creation and hoped that question wasn’t on the test.

Fast forward about twelve years where a new sensation (see what I did there?) in portable, on-demand tactile graphics enters the scene. The Sensational Blackboard, created by Ann Cunningham, offers the ability to create raised line drawings on regular paper, substantially reducing the cost of utilization, and making it easier for someone to experiment without fear of wasting money.

I didn’t have a specific need to use the Sensational Blackboard in my own education, even though I was now in College 2.0, but I did find it extremely useful in helping my partner and a friend of ours get their amateur radio licenses.

At the time, all three of us were living in Lincoln, Nebraska where the local amateur radio club held licensing classes a few times a year. Karen and Kayde decided to take the first class in the fall and obtain their Technician class licenses. As part of learning about amateur radio, you are taught many things including basic electrical theory (how not to electrocute yourself), the differences between series and parallel circuits (series: when one Christmas light goes out, they all do), what various types of antennas look like, and other principles that are often illustrated visually. While some of these items have real-world representation that is easy to demonstrate in place of a diagram, a small vertical magnet mount antenna for example, others, such as a directional antenna for world-wide communications (some of which are the length of a small bus) are not so readily available for examination.

To help demonstrate some of these concepts, I attended the class with Karen and Kayde, and used the Sensational Blackboard to draw relevant items the instructor would show on the projector. A good example is the visual aid typically used to demonstrate Ohm’s law. Ohm’s law states that voltage is equal to current times resistance (E=IR), and in typical algebraic fashion we can, given any two values, calculate the third. The visual aid most instructors use to demonstrate this formula is a circle with a line drawn horizontally across the middle, and another line drawn vertically from the center of the horizontal line to the outer edge of the circle, dividing the circle into three sections. The letter E (representing voltage) is placed in the center of the top of the circle, and the letters I (current) and R (resistance) are placed in the bottom two sections. The idea is, by covering the value you don’t have, you are easily reminded how to treat the other two. Letters next to each other (I and R) are multiplied and vertically aligned values are divided. For visual learners, it’s an effective tool to remember the formula. For those of us who skipped dinner, it’s a good reminder that we want a pizza.

In talking with Karen and Kayde, they both felt that having immediate tactile access to the material being presented visually helped significantly in their understanding of the material. In an average class, I probably drew five diagrams for each student (and discarded at least three because of errors). Without the Sensational Blackboard, this instant creation of diagrams would have been a costly venture. Additionally, because of the way the Blackboard produces its tactile drawings, they were able to save the produced diagrams for later reference.

You can purchase the Sensational Blackboard from the National Federation of the Blind’s Independence Market Online, by email, or call  (410) 659-9314, extension 2216.

Tags: Tactiletactile drawingeducation

Coloring Inside the “Tactile” Lines

Tue, 03/06/2018 - 16:50
Blog Date: Tuesday, March 6, 2018Author: Karen AndersonCategories: EducationParenting

My mom, who was also blind, had been a teacher before I was born. She understood child development and was determined that I would participate in the same activities my sighted peers were doing, even if that meant I did them slightly differently. Sometimes it also meant that she, as the blind parent, also had to modify activities. This included art, and there was never a shortage of crayons in my house. I distinctly remember a time when I decided the basic box of eight crayons was simply not advanced enough for my four-year-old artistic needs and begged my parents for a bucket that must have contained at least 120 crayons. My parents purchased the bucket and also undertook the task of putting Braille labels on each crayon. This helped me learn my basic colors and gave me an understanding of how many hues there really are in the world and their relationships to each other.

I would have been happy sitting at the table scribbling away on blank paper, but my mom wanted to make sure I was developing the same fine motor skills other kids by learning to color inside the lines. Unfortunately, we didn’t know about many accessible coloring books, and the ones she could find were prohibitively expensive. What she did have was a large collection of cookie cutters. At some point she realized that she could give me the bag of cookie cutters, I could place one on the paper, and color inside that. This kind of worked, except I had a hard time keeping the shape still while I was coloring it in. She also wasn’t nuts about the fact that I was getting color on the cookie cutter as well as the paper, since that meant they weren’t very good for cutting out cookies unless you wanted an aftertaste of Crayola in every bite.

Ultimately, she found a solution. She would take a towel and fold it so it was reasonably thick, place a piece of paper on top of the towel, and put the cookie cutter on top of the paper. She would then hold the cookie cutter still with one hand, and punch holes around the outside of the shape with a stylus. When the cookie cutter was removed the holes in the paper made an outline of the shape that I could color in.

Thanks to advancements in technology, creating tactile graphics is much easier than it was when I was growing up. Even so, I think it is important to remember that accessibility doesn’t have to be done using fancy or specialized tools. Sometimes it means using things you already have in your house to make it possible for your child to color inside the lines.

Tags: artTactileparentingeducation

Out of Love

Tue, 02/27/2018 - 09:01
Blog Date: Tuesday, February 27, 2018Author: Melissa RiccobonoCategories: ParentingStories

Out of love, my parents clothed me. Out of love, they kept me safe. Out of love, they praised me for jobs well done. Out of love, they encouraged me to achieve all of my dreams.

Also out of love, my parents scolded me. Out of love, they expected me to do my share of the chores. Out of love, they said over and over things like “Look toward people when you talk to them. Don’t poke at your eyes. Hold your head up high and stand up straight. Shake hands when you meet someone; have a firm handshake, look toward the person, and smile.” Out of love, they said things like, “No, you cannot wear your oldest blue jeans to church. No, you made a commitment, so you cannot back out on it and go somewhere else that might be more fun. Yes, you have to do your homework. No, being blind does not mean you do not have to clean your room!”

As a child, I loved my parents’ praise. I loved when they kept me safe, and I loved their encouragement. As an adult, however, I love even more the times they pushed me—the times they had high expectations for me and the countless things they taught me that make it possible now for me to be a parent of my own children.

Out of love, I try to protect my children. Out of love, I tell them when I am proud of things they do. Out of love, I enjoy giving them things they want. But also out of love, I say things like, “Austin, please comb your hair! Oriana, please use your cane. Elizabeth, please feel the Braille with your fingers; you should not read it with your eyes.” This is not always easy. Often I feel like a broken record, and I wonder if anything I say will truly sink in. But then I think of my own parents and know that I can and should be both a soft-hearted, kind mom, and a “mean” mom out of love.

Tags: parentingencouragementlove

Growing in Confidence at Washington Seminar

Fri, 02/23/2018 - 14:43
Blog Date: Friday, February 23, 2018Author: Marilyn GreenCategories: AdvocacyStories

When nearly five hundred blind Americans travel to Capitol Hill with our long white canes in hand and a call to increase the independence of blind people nationwide, the United States Congress knows that the members of the National Federation of the Blind have mobilized for security, equality, and opportunity. We are the National Federation of the Blind, and we climb the Hill annually during our Washington Seminar to meet and speak to our members of Congress about our legislative agenda. The threat of a government shutdown and unusually cold temperatures in the District of Columbia did not dampen our resolve to improve the lives of blind Americans.

Our 2018 legislative agenda connects our spirit of independence to access to information. Approximately 70 percent of blind Americans are unemployed or underemployed. We cannot compete with our sighted peers if our education is delayed by inaccessible instructional materials, and we cannot increase our ability to work independently when accessible technology for the blind is unaffordable. Our Federation leaders delivered these powerful talking points for us to use in our legislative appointments and gave us tips and tools of etiquette when meeting with a member of Congress or a staffer.

With talking points in mind and fact sheets in hand, I met the Illinois team for my first congressional appointment. Our team leader strategized with us on how to approach the Congressman regarding our agenda items and asked me, the newbie to Washington Seminar, which item I would like to speak about. I volunteered to talk about the Marrakesh Treaty because I believed that I had a compelling story about the lack of accessible foreign language materials for the blind. Although my brain felt confident in my knowledge of the legislative item, my stomach did not agree. I had to admit to the congressional staffer who met with us that I was nervous and her kind words helped to lessen my anxiety. I listened to my team members confidently speak about accessible technology, inaccessible instructional materials, and our opposition to H.R. 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017.

After that first Congressional appointment, our team leader eased my nerves and said that I did well. Her confidence in me followed me through my remaining appointments on the Hill. I felt as though I found my voice in those appointments thanks to the guidance and support of my great team from Illinois.

In three short days, we, the nation’s blind, confidently advocated to improve our lives. We worked diligently as a team throughout the Washington Seminar to educate ourselves and inform our elected officials about our barriers to information. With mentoring from our leadership, we, the nation’s blind, will live the lives we want.

Tags: advocacyWashington Seminar

The National Federation of the Blind Sponsors Tactile Exhibit at the Newseum

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 15:16
Blog Date: Friday, February 16, 2018Author: Stephanie EllerCategories: General

Last month, the Newseum became the first US museum to host a major tactile art exhibit. “The Marines and Tet” exhibit, sponsored in part by the National Federation of the Blind, commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Tet Offensive which was staged on January 31, 1968. This first-of-its-kind, interactive exhibit is comprised of twenty photos taken by John Olson during the Vietnam War, ten of which Olson’s company 3DPhotoWorks made into tactile renderings. The displays also include audio components made up of descriptions of the photos and interviews with the Marines featured in them reflecting on their experiences.

The importance of this exhibit extends beyond honoring these men and the Tet Offensive. It is hopefully the sign of a new day when tactile and interactive exhibits become the norm, rather than the exception. Not only does this enable blind and low-vision visitors to appreciate these exhibits, it enhances the experience for all visitors.

On January 30, 2018, the National Federation of the Blind hosted a reception to celebrate this first-of-its-kind exhibit. Here’s what some attendees shared on social media about the reception and the exhibit:

@kea_anderson said, “Super excited to be at the @Newseum for the first tactile photo exhibit I’ve ever been to. I also get to enjoy a reception with my @NFB_voice colleagues.”

@Slateandstylish said, “’This is our gift to the sighted.’ Thank you John Olson, @NFB_voice, and @Newseum for the gift of this exhibit! As a wife of a veteran, I can’t wait to experience this historical moment!”

Members of the Federation also attended the Newseum’s opening reception on January 25, 2018. As a sponsor of the exhibit, the National Federation of the Blind was invited not only to attend, but President Riccobono was asked to give some remarks during the program segment of the evening. Below you’ll find video of the opening reception program, photos from both receptions, as well as various stories from media outlets that covered the exhibit.

We encourage you to visit the exhibit and share your thoughts with us. It runs through July 8th, 2018. Learn more at www.newseum.org.

Watch our short video to learn more.

Newseum Facebook Live Video Tour and Interview

“The Marines and Tet: The Battle That Changed the Vietnam War” Opening Program

Washington Post

CBS Sunday Morning

Fox News

Tags: tactile artaccessibilty

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