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Banquet Listening Parties Create Convention Feel at Home

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 11:30
Blog Date: Wednesday, June 13, 2018Author: Melissa RiccobonoCategories: GeneralStories

The National Federation of the Blind National Convention is an experience like none other. From the informative seminars on all types of topics to the excitement of being surrounded by more than 2,000 other blind people. From hearing so many canes tapping and guide dogs working, to the energy of the room on the day of opening session.

All of these experiences cannot be captured easily in words, nor can they fully be appreciated unless you are there in person. However, for a variety of reasons, being there is not always possible.

Luckily we now have the option of listening to the convention online, which at least means you can hear various presentations and catch some of the excitement.

But rather than listening to the entire event alone, why not host a banquet listening party? The banquet, of course, is the highlight of our convention. Attendees sit down and share a meal with others. They listen to an inspiring speech and share their thoughts about the speech. The banquet is about connecting.

Take advantage of this opportunity for connection and fellowship by hosting a banquet listening party of your own.

This year, the banquet will be held Sunday, July 8, at 7:00 p.m. EDT.

What You Will Need
  1. Good Company: Invite others to share in your banquet listening party. You might invite someone you know who has attended many conventions and just cannot attend this year, or you might invite someone who has never attended a convention before. You might invite sighted neighbors or family members so they can listen and learn. You might invite five or ten people, or you might be more comfortable with just one or two others. No matter who you invite, having someone to share the banquet with is an essential part of a banquet listening party.
  2. Good Food: The food can be as simple or as fancy as you would like. Cook a gourmet dinner or order pizza. Provide all of the food yourself or have others bring a dish to share. In 2012, when I hosted my own banquet listening party, I held a chocolate tasting after dinner. It was delicious, and made the evening a little more special.
  3. Good Internet Connection and Speakers: Of course you will need the ability to tune in to the online stream of the banquet. The link to the online stream will be available on the convention webpage soon. I would suggest tuning in right as the banquet is starting so you can enjoy the full experience. Of course, on the West Coast, this will mean your banquet listening party will have to begin around 4:00 p.m. There are many presentations at the banquet and, although the speech is definitely the highlight, the other awards given are certainly a valuable part of the experience.
  4. Good Discussion: Truly talk to those you invite to your party. Connect with them. After the speech is over, talk about it. Our national convention is filled with love, and this love is tangible, particularly in the banquet hall.

We hope your banquet listening party is full of love as well, that it will create great memories for you and your guests, and that attending the banquet virtually this year will inspire you and your guests to do all you can in order to be at the banquet in person next year.

Plug and Play Braille Display? Not Today, But Soon They Say

Mon, 06/11/2018 - 14:07
Blog Date: Monday, June 11, 2018Author: Amy MasonCategories: Access Technology

Last year, Karl Belanger and I reviewed the state of Braille support across a number of different screen reader and operating system combinations.

One of the biggest difficulties we encountered had to do with the installation and stability of Braille display drivers. Another difficulty was having to locate drivers when a device was heavily optimized for a specific screen reader or operating system, but we wanted to use it with a different piece of screen access software.

In other words, one of the hardest things about using Braille displays is just setting the silly things up in the first place.

Fortunately, the USB Implementers Forum has been working on a solution to this tricky problem. The group, which includes Microsoft, Apple, and Google, announced on May 31 that they have created a standard for a Human Interface Device (HID) compliant Braille display driver.

Here’s what that means when we strip away the “Geek-Speak.”

The USB Implementers Forum recognized that connecting and using Braille displays had been a pain point for a long time, so they decided to simplify that process by creating a set of rules to help Braille displays and computers speak to one another.

Think of drivers as very simple, literal-minded translators. They pass messages back and forth between your computer’s operating system and its components. These components can be things like speakers, keyboards, monitors, hard drives, and yes, Braille displays.

At present, components like keyboards and monitors speak a common language, so they can easily tell one common driver what they need to do, and that driver can relay the message to your computer. These devices might still have unique drivers that allow for special features, but by tapping into one common driver, the user can just plug in their device and start using it - no muss, no fuss. It is not that way with Braille displays.

Right now, every Braille display driver is written by the manufacturer of the Braille display. The manufacturer knows the language of their machine very, very well, but may not be as good at figuring out how to convey its messages to an operating system. This is why Braille displays can be so frustrating to install and keep running, and that is also where the new HID standard comes in.

HID-compliant Braille displays will learn to speak the language of a “master translator” who knows how to convey messages very clearly back to the computer. HID-compliant devices are already in wide use in computing, and Braille displays would benefit greatly by working within this standard.

Whether or not we will see the standard take hold with Braille display creators remains to be seen, but I fervently hope that it does. If manufacturers work with the USB Implementers Forum to make the standard part of their business practices, we have a happy future to look forward to where we can just walk up to any computer, plug in our displays, and get started.

The Blind Will Soon Be Able to Bank with BECU Through Mobile and Online Banking

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 10:39

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Wednesday, June 6, 2018Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgThe Blind Will Soon Be Able to Bank with BECU Through Mobile and Online BankingNational Federation of the Blind and Boeing Employees’ Credit Union Reach Accessibility Agreement

SEATTLE (June 6, 2018): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), its Washington affiliate, and three blind individuals have reached an agreement with the Boeing Employees’ Credit Union (BECU). As a part of this agreement, BECU will work in collaboration with NFB and its members to make its website and mobile banking app fully accessible to blind customers.

The work to achieve full accessibility of the website is expected to be completed by March 31, 2019. Improvements to the mobile app will begin this summer and will be completed by May 31, 2019. BECU has also committed to long term policies and procedures (such as an employee training program) to ensure that accessibility is maintained, and pay an undisclosed settlement amount without any associated admission of liability.

Blind people access websites and mobile apps with what is known as screen reader software, which speaks text aloud or outputs it to a refreshable Braille display and will be used for BECU’s website and mobile app. However, websites and mobile applications that are not coded according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0, or other accessibility guidelines, do not interact well with screen reader technology, making it difficult or impossible for blind users to access some or all of a website or app’s information or functions.

“Blind people must budget, keep track of our accounts, pay our bills, make deposits, and transfer funds just like everyone else,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “Since these functions are now increasingly and sometimes exclusively performed via web or mobile applications, the blind must have full and equal access to these modern financial tools. We commend Boeing Employees’ Credit Union for agreeing in good faith to aggressive steps that will ensure access to its website and mobile applications now and into the future. We particularly appreciate that BECU has agreed to the testing of these services by blind people throughout the process, and we look forward to working with this institution to achieve the goal of equal access. We urge other banks across the country to meet the same standard of access for their customers and invite them to work closely with us in doing so.”

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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.

Rideshare Testing: After One Year, How Are Uber and Lyft Doing?

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 11:53
Blog Date: Monday, June 4, 2018Author: Valerie YinglingCategories: Advocacy

In May 2017, NFB initiated a rideshare testing program in response to our new settlement agreements with Uber and Lyft. Both rideshare companies had committed to changes intended to eliminate driver discrimination against travelers with service animals. So now, one year into our three-year testing program, are Uber and Lyft demonstrating improvement?

The answer is complicated.

Ask Maura Gay, and she might tell you how on February 21, before she could enter the car, a driver locked his car doors, announced that he doesn’t take dogs, and then sat and waited until he could claim Maura’s request as a “no show” and cancel the ride.

Or, ask Terry Lopez, and he might tell you about his April 7 experience, when a driver refused to transport him, his guide dog, and three friends, because the driver insisted that Terry’s guide dog counted as a person and that the car could not accommodate any more than four people.

These denials and the many others like them are not only inconvenient, they are unjust. Uber and Lyft clearly still have work to do, and the NFB won’t stop insisting on full and equal access, as outlined in the Uber and Lyft settlement agreements, and as required under federal law.

But the news is not all bad. We’ve received numerous reports of successful rides with drivers who understand their legal obligation to transport individuals with service animals.

Accurate ride provision rates have been difficult to identify, however, because of inconsistent data nationwide—frequency of reporting and rideshare market fluctuations both contribute to this. What has become critically important data during this first year of testing, though, are the comments testers provide when they fill out the rideshare survey.

The NFB’s Lyft Testing—Year One report identified that testers’ comments provide the best insight into individual rideshare experiences. These anecdotes are central to our attorneys’ investigations and ongoing dialogue with Lyft and Uber. We assert that reports from testers about a driver putting a service animal in a car’s hatchback, refusing to transport a service animal on a Lyft Line or Uber Pool ride, or taking other discriminatory actions should be used by Uber and Lyft for planning future driver education initiatives.

The clear takeaway from the first year of our rideshare testing program is that we need testers to continue to submit feedback and comments via our short online survey.

If you have a service animal or travel with someone who does, remember to fill out NFB’s online questionnaire every time you request an Uber or Lyft. Let us know if you notified the driver in advance that you were traveling with a service animal, and if that driver responded appropriately or denied your ride. Let us know if you filed a complaint with Uber or Lyft directly, and if so, how the company responded.

Your involvement in our testing program can and does make a difference—it is our best measure of how comprehensively Uber and Lyft are implementing the changes outlined in the settlement agreements.

For more information contact Valerie Yingling at vyingling@nfb.org and visit the following resources.

Disturbing Developments at the Department of Education

Thu, 05/31/2018 - 11:48
Blog Date: Thursday, May 31, 2018Author: Mark RiccobonoCategories: AdvocacyEducation

The National Federation of the Blind is actively engaged in improving access to education for blind students. Our activities on this front include our push for passage of the AIM HIGH Act, our self-advocacy in Higher Education Toolkit to help students assert their rights, and, when necessary, the filing of discrimination complaints against colleges and universities. In the past, the Office for Civil Rights within the United States Department of Education (OCR) has often been an ally in the struggle to make colleges and universities meet their legal and ethical obligations to blind students. But the recent activities of OCR show troubling indications that we can no longer count on such an alliance.

The most disturbing indication of backsliding at OCR is the recent publication of the office’s new case processing manual. Until this new manual was issued in March, both the Section 504 regulations and OCR’s prior versions of the manual required OCR personnel to investigate incoming complaints of discrimination, with few exceptions. But the new language provides that OCR personnel will dismiss complaints filed by an individual or organization who has filed a complaint before, as well as complaints against multiple colleges. This rule can have no effect, and probably no purpose, other than to make it difficult or impossible for the National Federation of the Blind and other advocates to bring violations to the attention of OCR. Apparently, vigilant advocates who face repeated discrimination and call it out are now considered troublemakers who are wasting the government’s valuable time.

The National Federation of the Blind, along with the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), have filed suit to stop this part of the new case processing manual from going into effect. We believe this rule isn’t valid, but our argument boils down to this: OCR is planning to decide what cases it investigates on an arbitrary basis. Obviously, we abhor meritless civil rights complaints, but whether a complaint is actually meritorious should be determined by proper investigation. There is no good reason for OCR to ignore a complaint simply because the complainant has rightfully challenged discrimination before. That approach denies due process to those who bring complaints in good faith and flouts the anti-discrimination laws that OCR is supposed to enforce.

This arbitrary rule change isn’t the only disturbing signal coming from OCR. Recently, the office revisited eleven resolution agreements it had reached with colleges and universities to make their educational content accessible. These agreements, which had required the institutions be proactive about accessibility so that content would be accessible to all current or future blind students, have now been rewritten to require only that equal access be provided when a student requests it. This is, of course, a step backward to the failed ad hoc accommodation model we know so well and which has frustrated so many blind students. Putting the burden on a student to request accessible content from a college or university is unlawful and wrong. It also doesn’t work, as the many thousands of blind students who have waited in vain for accessible course materials from a Disabled Student Services office can testify.

The National Federation of the Blind will do everything in our power to make sure that this failed approach does not once again become the norm.

National Federation of the Blind Announces 2018 Scholarship Program Finalists

Tue, 05/29/2018 - 08:24

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Tuesday, May 29, 2018Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgNational Federation of the Blind Announces 2018 Scholarship Program Finalists

Baltimore, Maryland (May 29, 2018): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation’s oldest and largest organization of blind people, today announced the finalists for its 2018 Scholarship Program, which awards thirty scholarships each year to recognize achievement by blind scholars. The students are listed below in alphabetical order with their home states and vocational goals.

  • Naim Muawia Abu-El Hawa, VA: Diplomat
  • Alexandra Alfonso, DC: Music, Education, and Pre-law
  • Tasnim Alshuli, AZ: Professor
  • Millad Bokhouri, PA: Medical program designer
  • Tyron Bratcher, MD: Rehabilitation counselor
  • Chrys Buckley, OR: Physician
  • Ozgul Calicioglu, PA: Environmental sustainability specialist
  • Olivia Charland, MA: Conservation biologist
  • Purvi Contractor, TX: Aerospace
  • Kenia Flores, NC: Civil rights attorney
  • John Harrison, WI: Advocate
  • Eric Harvey, CA: Near East cultural specialist
  • Justin Heard, GA: Teacher
  • J.D. Humphrey, MI: Ethnomedicine
  • Trisha Kulkarni, OH: Software engineer
  • Amanda Lannan, FL: Teacher education
  • Shane Lowe, KY: Cyber security and business administration
  • Seth Lowman, ID: Sound design and music production
  • Sara Mornis, VT: Writing and psychology
  • Connor Mullin, NJ: Cane travel instructor
  • Sara Patnaude, VA: Victim’s advocate
  • Menuka Rai, ND: Physical therapist
  • Elizabeth Rouse, IA: Attorney
  • Yasmine Marie Sarraf, AZ: Forensic scientist
  • Caitlin Sarubbi, NY: Physician
  • Rilee Sloan, OK: Attorney
  • Harry Staley, Jr., TX: Autonomous vehicle development
  • Matt Turner, ID: Economics and technology
  • Cathy Tuton, OK: Dietician
  • Paige Young, ME: Business administration

“The scholarship program is one of our most important initiatives,” said Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “We are proud to honor these blind scholars, who are studying everything from sound design to international diplomacy, and to welcome each of them to our upcoming national convention and to the family of the National Federation of the Blind. The accomplishments of these outstanding students are proof of our conviction that we, the blind of this nation, can live the lives we want; blindness does not hold us back.”

Each finalist will attend the NFB’s seventy-eighth annual national convention, beginning July 3, in Orlando, Florida, where the Scholarship Committee will spend several days getting to know each student and then decide which scholarship (ranging in value from $3,000 to $12,000) to award each of them. The scholarship winners will then be announced at the banquet of the NFB National Convention on Sunday, July 8.

For more information on the National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Program, visit www.nfb.org/scholarships.

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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.

apl.de.ap of Black Eyed Peas to Headline Convention Welcome Concert

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 15:35

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Wednesday, May 23, 2018Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgapl.de.ap of Black Eyed Peas to Headline Convention Welcome ConcertNational Federation of the Blind 2018 Convention Host Committee and Aira Announce Special Performance

Orlando, Florida (May 23, 2018): Allan Pineda Lindo, best known as apl.de.ap from The Black Eyed Peas, will perform live at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) on July 6, 2018. The National Federation of the Blind convention host committee—with representatives from the Federation’s Florida, Iowa, and Virginia affiliates—and NFB partner Aira announced today that apl.de.ap will headline a concert set for 7:00 p.m. on July 6, 2018. The event will take place at the convention facility, the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando.

Legally blind in both eyes from nystagmus, apl.de.ap has always lived the life he wants. On November 18, 2008, apl.de.ap launched the apl.de.ap Foundation, a charity dedicated to helping various communities and children in the Philippines and throughout Asia. As a brand ambassador for Aira, he is excited and honored to perform for everyone attending this year’s National Federation of the Blind Convention.

“The National Federation of the Blind strives to make each convention the best ever,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “This performance by apl.de.ap will significantly contribute to an unforgettable week for the approximately three thousand members and supporters of the National Federation of the Blind expected to attend this annual event. We thank Aira and apl.de.ap for this exciting addition to our packed convention agenda. No one will want to miss the 2018 convention.”

Preregistration for the convention is open through May 31 at convention.nfb.org.

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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.

About Aira:
Aira is a service that uses a combination of augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and professional agents to provide instant access to visual information. At just the touch of a button, Aira delivers a visual description of your life, as you live it. Anytime, anywhere, and always on your own terms. Enabling those who are blind or low vision to be more efficient with any task that they choose to take on.

Senate Committee Votes to Advance Marrakesh Treaty

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 07:55

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Tuesday, May 22, 2018Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgSenate Committee Votes to Advance Marrakesh TreatyNational Federation of the Blind Commends Committee Vote

Washington, DC (May 22, 2018): The Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Senate voted unanimously today in favor of advancing the Marrakesh Treaty to the full Senate for its advice and consent. The National Federation of the Blind commends the vote.

“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 commend the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for its favorable action today, and urge the full Senate to support the treaty so that the door to expanded literacy will be unlocked for millions of blind Americans.”

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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.

What’s That? The Art of Bird Listening

Tue, 05/22/2018 - 09:13
Blog Date: Tuesday, May 22, 2018Author: Allan R. SchneiderCategories: GeneralStories

We stop short, folks whisper, “What’s that?” It’s the unmistakable rattle of the beloved kingfisher, the rascal of the water birds, zooming along the river. It went by too fast; my restricted peripheral vision couldn’t locate it, but it caused me to smile. As a beginner two years ago, it was the first species I identified by sound. Shortly before that, at a meeting of the Treasure Valley Chapter of the NFB of Idaho, Steve Bouffard, a local ornithologist with the Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History at The College of Idaho, introduced the idea of taking blind people birding by ear. Although never interested before, I was intrigued. I became the liaison, and since then a real-life, visually-impaired birder! And why not? Even when sighted birders do official bird counts, 90 percent of the birds are identified by sound because foliage naturally camouflages birds. Today we are guiding a group of blind and visually-impaired people along a path on the north shore of Veterans’ Pond near the Boise River in Boise, Idaho. Minutes before the kingfisher, we were startled by the primordial grunting of a cormorant on a low perch over the pond. Some were startled; it was more the sound of a dinosaur than a bird. Two birds, neither one “tweeted,” and we moved on.

Suddenly Steve hushes us and we listen: it’s a western tanager, it sounds like a robin’s spring “cheer-up cheerily, cheer-up cheerily,” only hoarser. It won’t be here long; it’s on its spring migration to the mountains just north of us. Identifying birds by their calls and songs sounds daunting, but it’s really not. At a bird feeder, there’ll be house finches, chickadees, and sparrows for sure. Start small; first learn their calls and songs. Then choose two more common birds in your area, learn their songs and calls, listen for them, and . . . well, you’re hooked! Once again, the rhythmic sound of canes on the path checks, there’s another sound, and several people roll their eyes and giggle. It’s the harsh, incessant “oka-wee-wee, oka-wee-wee, oka-wee-wee” of the yellow-headed blackbirds that one of our members already declared, “Isn’t at all pretty like I came here to hear!” But another blind participant said that if he wasn’t here today, he’d probably just be sitting in his chair.

The insistent, subdued stumbling “kar-r-r-r-o-o-o, kar-r-r-r-o-o-o, kar-r-r-r-o-o-o” of sandhill cranes flying overhead hushes us without Steve’s urging. Maybe that haunting, caressing loveliness is closer to what she “came here to hear.” Steve grins at our immersion; he is enjoying the walk as much as we are. He is not atypical among birders. There are Audubon societies and other avid birding groups that love to share their passion. In our case, Steve came to us, but we could have contacted birders in our area on our own. And since we’ve started, a local group gave us a grant for bird skull replicas for blind people to feel a bird’s shape, and another invited us to bird banding and measuring activities.

A rascal again rattles downstream, and no one needs to ask, “What’s that?” Once you know, you know. Our group will likely never forget the enchanting call of the cranes, the grunt of the cormorant, the rattle of the kingfisher, and for sure not the incessantly harsh cackle of the yellow-headed blackbird. And later, as we near the vehicles, there is yet another rattle, and I again smile, remembering hearing that and two years ago asking, “What’s that?” for the only time.

From the Editor: Allan Schneider is an active Federationist, treasurer of his local chapter, and editor of the Idaho state newsletter. One of his favorite hobbies is birding by ear.

Tags: Birding

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.

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