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On Our 78th Birthday, Celebrating 78 Years of Stories

From NFB.org - Fri, 11/16/2018 - 12:19
Blog Date: Friday, November 16, 2018Author: Mark A. RiccobonoCategories: General

Today begins the seventy-ninth year for the National Federation of the Blind. During the past six weeks I have worked with blind people from at least a dozen states—having traveled to four of them—and have gained insight from visiting with blind people in two foreign countries. While this six weeks was more travel-intensive than most periods, the fact that I spent time with a diversity of blind people is not unusual. That is what I am expected to do as President of the National Federation of the Blind. I spend a lot of time listening to blind people, synthesizing their hopes and dreams, and helping to craft systemic strategies that we can use as a movement to make progress. If you are not familiar with the progress of the movement, I invite you to read Building the Lives We Want, published for the seventy-fifth anniversary of the organization.

This morning I was reflecting upon the thousands of stories that make up this great movement of individuals. So often individuals get focused on their personal story and their own perspective. Do not get me wrong, I think knowing, owning, and sharing your story is very valuable. However, I was wondering this morning about how often people miss the value in understanding the common bonds in other people’s stories. What I have found through my active participation in the National Federation of the Blind is that I can improve and understand myself by understanding the stories of others.

I never knew another blind person until I reached high school. By that time, I had formed an opinion about the prospects of living with vision loss, and it was not a positive outlook. There was so much I did not know, but, because I could see a little bit, I figured I did not have something to learn from the blind people I met. I learned later that was a real mistake. When I started to listen to the stories of blind people, I started to find myself in their experiences. It taught me I was not alone and that others had figured some things out already. Eventually I started to learn enough that I could share some of my own story and maybe teach something to others. What I had not expected was that the cycle would only accelerate. When I thought I was teaching, I learned even more about my strengths and my need to improve. I learned about my successes and about my mistakes and how they shaped who I am. I also learned how my reaction to situations impacted those who heard the stories of what I did when I faced discrimination or dealt with low expectations.

As I reflect upon the movement I am honored to be elected to lead, I recognize that the real joy is getting lost in the stories of the movement. The thousands of individuals—some visible leaders but many behind the scenes supporters—that make every moment count. There are never enough hours in a day, dollars in the treasury, or committed hands available to share the work. Yet there are always more stories to share. The beauty comes in weaving those stories into a fabric that changes lives every day.

I approach my work each day asking what can I do for the members of the Federation today. As I think about it, I learn a new story about the blind of this nation each and every day and that informs what I do. Please continue to share your voice and help to shape this tremendous movement. In order to celebrate the seventy-eight years of stories, take a moment to share a piece of yours. Together, with love, hope, and determination, we will continue to transform dreams into reality.

With deepest gratitude for those who have come before me in the National Federation of the Blind and the generations that will depend on the actions we take today, thank you.

Editor's Note: 

Mark A. Riccobono is the President of the National Federation of the Blind.

SMA No More? JAWS and ZoomText Annual Home Licensing: A Win for Consumers

From NFB.org - Thu, 11/15/2018 - 16:00
Blog Date: Thursday, November 15, 2018Author: Rachel OliveroCategories: Access Technology

We’ve often heard users of access technology products express frustration over the cost to keep their technology up-to-date. With a software maintenance agreement (SMA), a user incurs a periodic fee to make sure they have the latest version of their screen access program. For users on a limited or fixed income, this frequently means running an outdated version of their software and higher pricing to catch up later. It also means losing accessibility as programs are updated, as new web technologies are developed, and as their software lags behind.

With the recent release of JAWS 2019, Freedom Scientific has taken a different approach. For users of JAWS® and ZoomText® home licenses, users can now pay annually for software upgrades and support. This pricing aligns with the models being adopted by other software manufacturers like Microsoft, who now offers an annual subscription to its Office suite instead of requiring users to pay a significant one-time flat fee. The same is true for the Freedom Scientific model. Instead of a $900 purchase price and a biannual SMA renewal, users pay a sub one-hundred dollar subscription fee annually, and receive the benefits of customer support as well as all product upgrades while their subscription is active. Users are able to install the software on up to three computers and have access to a web-based portal for managing their licenses. Should your subscription lapse, you would no longer receive support or upgrades.


Pricing for this new Home Annual licensing is as follows:

  • JAWS® $90 per year
  • ZoomText Magnifier/Reader: $80 per year

Users can also choose to pay for a three- or five-year license when making the first purchase, or at time of renewal. Note that there is no discount, but it is convenient if you have the funds available.

What’s the Catch?

As far as we can tell, none. Home Annual pricing offers a lot of benefit to users compared to previous options. This plan should hopefully allow those taking advantage of it to stay up-to-date on JAWS® and ZoomText®, leading to increased accessibility experiences to applications and websites.

While they are not catches per se, there are a couple of things to be aware of if you would like to consider an annual home license:

  • Home Annual pricing is only available for home users. Those using professional versions of JAWS® and enterprise licenses, and those using JAWS® or ZoomText® in a commercial setting, will still need to purchase SMAs to keep those versions up-to-date.
  • Remote desktop and Citrix services are not included in Home Annual licensing. If you remotely connect from your home computer to a work computer, or other computers in your network, you will not be able to use this feature under this plan.
  • Home Annual licensing can only be purchased online. You cannot purchase or renew an annual license through a dealer or over the phone.
How Do I Get It?

To compare the different licenses available, consult the JAWS License Comparison or ZoomText License Comparison charts. If you would like to make a purchase, you can do so on the Home Annual Software page of the Freedom Scientific eStore.

We applaud the decision by Freedom Scientific to consider the needs of home users and offer a pricing model that makes it more affordable for those users to keep software up-to-date.

Alameda County Will Make Voting More Accessible to the Blind

From NFB.org - Fri, 11/02/2018 - 15:40


Release Date: Friday, November 2, 2018Category: Affiliate and ChapterChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgAlameda County Will Make Voting More Accessible to the BlindCounty Reaches Agreement with Blind Voters, National Federation of the Blind

Oakland, California (November 2, 2018): Alameda County has agreed to take necessary and timely steps to provide equal opportunity for participation by blind voters in the county’s voting program. The agreement resolves complaints by three blind voters who live in the county. The National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s leading advocate for the voting rights of blind people, is also a party to the agreement, and will work with the county to help it implement accessible voting technology and other components of the agreement.

The steps that Alameda County has agreed to take include:

  • Acquiring a remote accessible vote-by-mail system in time for use in the November 2018 election;
  • Acquiring new accessible voting machines for all polling places in time for use in the March 2020 primary election;
  • Instituting improved poll worker training and response processes for issues that affect a voter’s ability to privately and independently operate a voting machine; and
  • Ensuring that the county’s election website, including content such as sample ballots and voter information pamphlets, is accessible per the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Version 2.1 AA, with pre-2018 archived PDFs to be made accessible upon request.

Accessible voting machines use touch screens with features such as color and font size adjustment and/or speech output through headphones and a tactile keypad to guide blind voters through marking a paper or electronic ballot. A remote accessible vote-by-mail system 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 or vote-by-mail ballots without assistance on their own computers. The ballot can then be printed and mailed to the local board of elections. 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. Individuals wishing to use the remote accessible vote-by-mail system for the November 6, 2018 election can access it from the Voter Profile section of the Alameda County Registrar of Voters website.

“We are pleased to have reached this comprehensive agreement with Alameda County,” said Tim Elder, president of the National Federation of the Blind of California and one of the voters who filed a complaint with the county. “This agreement will not only benefit blind and deaf-blind voters in Alameda County, but will hopefully serve as a model for other voting jurisdictions as they work to meet their legal obligations to these voters.”

The complainants were represented by Jessica P. Weber of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP.


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 nfb.org.

Alameda County Will Make Voting More Accessible to the Blind

Latest News - Fri, 11/02/2018 - 15:40
Release Date: Friday, November 2, 2018Category: Affiliate and Chapter

Oakland, California (November 2, 2018): Alameda County has agreed to take necessary and timely steps to provide equal opportunity for participation by blind voters in the county’s voting program. The agreement resolves complaints by three blind voters who live in the county.

A Lyft to the Polls

From NFB.org - Thu, 11/01/2018 - 11:13
Blog Date: Thursday, November 1, 2018Author: Chris DanielsenCategories: AdvocacyGeneral

We've certainly come a long way, but voting still isn’t completely free of barriers for blind people. One such barrier can be transportation to the polling place. This can be a particularly troublesome issue for people who live in cities or rural areas that don’t have adequate public transportation. That’s why this year the National Federation of the Blind is pleased to partner with Lyft, the makers of the popular ride-hailing app, to help blind voters get to the polls.

Lyft has generously provided our national headquarters with a number of promotion codes, worth $15 each, which are being distributed through eleven of our affiliates: Colorado, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. If you feel that you could benefit from one of these codes, and you live in one of these states, contact your affiliate president. If you’re not sure who to contact or how to reach them, here’s a complete list of our affiliates and their leaders. If your state isn’t listed, you can ask your president about participating in the program, as affiliate presidents will still be able to request codes until we run out.

You can share your experience getting to the polls with Lyft on social media by using the hashtag #TheRideToVote, and tagging @NFB_Voice and @Lyft.

In addition to transportation, other barriers to the blind being able to vote privately and independently can include machines that aren’t working properly, or poll workers who have not been properly trained to activate the nonvisual access features.

The National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute wants to know if you experience any barriers to voting, so we developed a blind voter survey so that you can tell us about your voting experience. This will help us to identify problem jurisdictions and advocate for continued accessibility improvements.

The National Federation of the Blind has fought for the rights of blind voters for many years now. In the early 1980s, we advocated for a change to federal law allowing blind voters to have a person of our choice accompany us into the voting booth. This was necessary at a time when voting machines could not easily be made accessible to the blind and was a welcome change from having strangers (usually poll workers and/or partisan election monitors) assist us in operating the machine or marking our ballot. After the 2000 presidential election revealed serious problems with existing voting technology, Congress became interested in election reform. By that time, technology had advanced to the point where designing voting equipment with nonvisual access features was possible, and so we advocated for such technology to be required in federal elections. The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was signed into law on October 29, 2002, and it requires that every polling place have at least one voting machine that is accessible to the blind and voters with other disabilities.

Voting is a constitutional right, and it is the primary way that all of us can influence how we are governed. Be sure to exercise your right to vote on or before Election Day. If you encounter barriers, persist until you can vote privately and independently, just like any other voter, and use the blind voter survey to tell us about your experience.

Happy voting!

Canes and Costumes

From NFB.org - Tue, 10/30/2018 - 12:30
Blog Date: Tuesday, October 30, 2018Author: Kelly ColemanCategories: GeneralStories

There are those that have a hard time accepting a cane, and for a long time I was one of them. I was told it made me “look blind,” which was something I wanted to avoid at all costs. No kid likes feeling different, and I was no exception.

But while I didn’t grow up loving my cane, I did, and still do, love Halloween. I enjoy the opportunity to dress up, to be someone else for a day, and to put my own spin on a costume.

Through the years, along with self-confidence and training, I have found ways to make my cane, which is practical in terms of navigation, something fun. For example, I like to incorporate it into my Halloween costumes. This gives my costumes a fun extra prop, but also can help educate others at a party, or when I take my nieces and nephews trick-or-treating.

The actual decorating was tricky at first. I always want to make sure it’s decorated well, but that it’s light enough to use. This requires some trial and error. However, that doesn’t mean decorating my cane is expensive.

One year, I dressed up as a witch and made my cane into a broom. I wrapped brown duct tape around it to create the handle, and taped straw near the bottom so it looked like a broom (but I could still tap it). Another year, I dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood and my cane became a sign that read, “WANTED! Hunters to find a granny-eating wolf. Reward in basket.” I wrote the sign on a little piece of cardboard and stuck it on top of my cane.

I think the year I gained the most attention was when I was Darth Vader and made my cane a light saber simply by wrapping it in red glow-in-the-dark tape. It was longer, brighter, and more powerful than any toy.

I like to think those who asked about it were shown that a cane isn’t just used as a tool for navigation, but can also be a fun way to enhance a costume. I hope it made them less nervous around blind people and people with disabilities in general.

Happy Halloween!

Walmart Sued by Blind Maryland Residents over Self-Service Checkout Kiosks

From NFB.org - Fri, 10/26/2018 - 10:53


Release Date: Friday, October 26, 2018Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgWalmart Sued by Blind Maryland Residents over Self-Service Checkout KiosksNational Federation of the Blind and Its Maryland Affiliate Also Plaintiffs

Baltimore, Maryland (October 26, 2018): When Cynthia Morales and her boyfriend Linwood Boyd, who are both blind, made a routine trip to a Walmart in Owings Mills in late July of 2017, they didn’t expect to have to get the police involved.

But that was the result of a chain of events that began with Ms. Morales trying to use one of the self-service checkout kiosks that Walmart makes available to shoppers as an alternative to waiting in line for a cashier. Although the kiosks do issue some spoken prompts, those prompts don’t provide enough information for a blind person to use the machines independently. Ultimately, Ms. Morales asked for help from a Walmart employee, who completed the checkout transaction but also, unbeknownst to Ms. Morales and Mr. Boyd, requested forty dollars in cash back, which the employee pocketed. Because no audio prompt gave Ms. Morales the total of her transaction, she didn’t realize anything was wrong until the machine audibly prompted the user to take the money. Ms. Morales and Mr. Boyd then had a bystander outside the store read them the receipt; at that point, they realized they had been charged an additional forty dollars. The money was ultimately returned, but Ms. Morales and Mr. Boyd decided to do their regular shopping at a Walmart Supercenter in Randallstown from then on.

Now they, together with Melissa Sheeder—another blind Marylander; the National Federation of the Blind (NFB); and the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland (NFB-MD) are suing Walmart under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The suit asks the Maryland federal district court to order the giant retailer to make its self-service checkout kiosks fully accessible to blind shoppers.

Similar devices, such as ATMs, Amtrak ticket kiosks, and airline check-in kiosks, as well as some point-of-sale terminals like those in the back of many taxicabs, can be used independently by blind people. Usually voice prompts are spoken through headphones, and blind users respond with tactile keypads or accessible touch screens. The NFB has offered to work with Walmart to make its kiosks accessible, but Walmart has declined the offer.

“What happened to Cindy Morales is an extreme example of what can occur when companies like Walmart deploy inaccessible self-checkout or point-of-sale technology,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “The real problem is that Walmart has decided to treat blind customers differently from sighted customers. Walmart’s refusal to deploy readily available technology to give blind shoppers the same choice sighted shoppers have—whether to check ourselves out or visit a cashier—makes us second-class customers. That is unlawful and unacceptable.”

The plaintiffs are represented by Eve L. Hill, Jessica P. Weber, and Chelsea J. Crawford of the Baltimore law firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP.


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 nfb.org.

Walmart Sued by Blind Maryland Residents over Self-Service Checkout Kiosks

Latest News - Fri, 10/26/2018 - 10:53
Release Date: Friday, October 26, 2018Category: National

Baltimore, Maryland (October 26, 2018): When Cynthia Morales and her boyfriend Linwood Boyd, who are both blind, made a routine trip to a Walmart in Owings Mills in late July of 2017, they didn’t expect to have to get the police involved.

A Photographer's Insights on Vision Loss

From NFB.org - Tue, 10/23/2018 - 16:48
Blog Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2018Author: Ian MurrayCategories: EmploymentGeneralStories

"We’ll find out..."

It was a phrase said to me repeatedly by two of my greatest mentors, Fred Sanders and Jim Platt. Almost fifty years later, that phrase seems to pop out of my own mouth with increasing regularity.

I was a rebel, a loner, very independent, and full of myself as a teenager. Silly enough to cause lots of trouble, but just clever enough to avoid getting caught. Those who know me will probably say that in many respects I still exhibit those traits.

Fred and Jim where photographers in competing businesses close to my hometown, but despite being competitive they were not afraid to collaborate when it came to giving me a decade’s worth of mentoring and instruction in my passion: photography. They were tough and intimidating at times, and gave me some gnarly challenges to help develop and hone my skills. Tasks where commonly thrown in my direction which seemed impossible and would require Herculean effort. Tasks such as, “Go away and come back with ten photographs that scream the color red at the viewer.”

“Not too difficult,” I would think.

Then, just as I was about to go and get cracking, they would add, “But shoot only in black and white.”

“How can that work? It’s impossible!" And all they ever said to questions like that was, "We don’t know, but you go and give it a try and we’ll find out!”

“We’ll find out!”

That phrase irritated me a lot. They were supposed to be teaching me, giving me the answers, not giving me impossible tasks. But I was arrogant and had something to prove, so I went off and struggled with it for weeks. I wasn’t going to be defeated. I would show them. Three months later, I had ten photographs. Looking back, they were pretty abysmal, but although they didn’t scream "red," they could, at a stretch, be said to hint at a faint whimper of pink.

Of course, Fred and Jim barely looked at them before giving me the next challenging task, and that was how it went for almost fourteen years.

An impossible task, me asking how can that be done, and Fred and Jim saying, “Give it a go and we’ll find out.”

"We’ll find out..."

Fifty years later, after working full time as a photographer, a photography teacher, and mentor, I suddenly lost my vision. I was devastated. What could I do? How could I earn a living? What about my students and my mentees? The questions were unanswerable.

I withdrew for almost a whole year. I stopped teaching. I closed down my suite of studios, ended my business, and spent my time listening to music and audio books, and generally getting under the feet of my dear wife. I did, however, get the free long cane from the NFB and gave myself fits of anxiety by venturing out with it on my own, and thereby traumatizing many motorists whose hoods came frighteningly close to being festooned with my lifeless body. (The squeal of those brakes is indelibly fixed in my mind.)

This was weeks before I met my first mobility instructor, who taught me erroneously to rely first and foremost on what minuscule bit of vision I still retained.

Armed with my new mobility skills, I became much more confident. So much more confident using my limited vision, that I confidently rushed to get on the train I could clearly see was about to leave the platform. I didn’t hear the shouts of "STOP" echoing down the platform until I teetered on the edge and was about to fall onto the empty tracks. The train was still there, but what I had seen had fooled me. The train was on the opposite platform and there was nothing but completely empty track between me and the train.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. What little vision I have is deceitful. It lies and puts me in potential danger.

Where is all this going, you may ask, and what does it have to do with photography? Well, as a photographer, I always tried to emphasize that we see with our brains, not with our eyes. That the camera has a completely different way of seeing. The camera produces flat two-dimensional images with no actual depth. Every item in a photograph is equidistant from the person viewing it. The mountain in the distance is not actually in the distance. It’s just as close as everything else in the picture. Depth in flat two-dimensional images is illusory — it’s a construct created by the brain.

My experience with the train and the illusion of closeness confirmed to me that actual vision can also be misleading. It took a while for my brain to slowly marinate in this revelatory moment, but I began to think that if vision was illusory to the extent of putting me in danger, perhaps it was not as essential as I previously thought. So, I played around with this idea for a while. Walking around Boston with my eyes closed, to see what would happen. It was clearly a case of “go try it and we’ll find out.”

I call it a “Fred and Jim moment.”

Since that time, I have tried many “Fred and Jim” moments. The car brakes still occasionally squeal, but not as often. I rely more on my cane to tell me when I need to stop, and I trust my limited vision much less than I used to.

I have traveled alone to many places, including flying to the UK. When anyone asks me, “Are you sure you will be ok, doing that on your own?” I just smile and say, “We’ll find out!”

Since discovering the local Cambridge, Massachusetts chapter of the NFB and being inspired by the many blind members who really “live the life they want,” I have begun to teach photography workshops once again. Will it work? I don’t know. But I do know “we will find out.”

The Confidence To Be a Blind Parent

From NFB.org - Tue, 10/16/2018 - 09:53
Blog Date: Tuesday, October 16, 2018Author: Shawn CallawayCategories: Parenting

In 2005, I was blessed and fortunate to marry my lovely wife, Latonya. After the marriage ceremonies, the most frequently asked question of me was, “When are you going to have children?”

When this question was asked of me, I would present a big smile and remark, “Soon.”

However, when answering the question of having children, I had a hollow feeling inside of my body. The feeling was caused by my belief that I did not have the ability to be a good parent because of my blindness.

Four years after my marriage, I continued to have feelings of inadequacy in regard to being an effective blind parent. But in the fall of 2009, I attended my first meeting of the National Federation of the Blind Greater Washington, DC chapter. During this meeting, I witnessed blind people being totally independent without the assistance from sighted people. In fact, the most intriguing moment for me was watching a blind woman interact and care for her two children.

At this point, I decided to join the NFB and, more importantly, I felt that I had the ability to be an effective blind parent. In 2014, my wife and I were truly blessed to give birth to our daughter, Camille Callaway.

When Camille was given to me by a nurse, I held her with confidence and I assured my daughter that she would be well taken care of. I relish the fact that my daughter relies on me for her basic needs. I conduct independent parental activities such as preparing her food and taking her to preschool.

I love the NFB because it is not only an advocacy organization, but it is a support network for blind people. If I have any questions about being a blind parent, I have access to several blind parents who can give me guidance and provide answers to my questions. I thank God for having the Federation in my life. Just as important, I thank the Federation for instilling in me the confidence to be a blind parent.

Editor's Note: 

Shawn Callaway is a board member of the National Federation of the Blind and the president of the District of Columbia affiliate.

A Federationist and an Ironman

From NFB.org - Fri, 10/05/2018 - 11:45
Blog Date: Saturday, October 6, 2018Author: Randi StrunkCategories: Sports and Fitness

As a kid, I always loved sports. My younger brother and I were always hitting the game-winning shots in our backyard.

But the older I got, particularly in the later elementary and junior high years, I began to tell myself that I would never be an athlete. In junior high volleyball and basketball, I went to every practice, but when it came to games I was on the last string. After years of practices with nothing to show for it, I had no confidence, and I decided to just stop working out until well after college.

I have been legally blind since birth, but I didn’t think to blame my failures on my blindness because nobody ever told me I couldn’t play. This was a blessing in its own right, but I also didn’t have any activities that were adapted such that I would have as great a chance to succeed as my peers.

As a result, I internalized my lack of athletic ability to be a “me” problem, not a blindness problem.

As often happens when we get older, and get those first jobs out of college, which was a desk job for me, I began to put on weight. But somewhere inside I still really loved sports just like I did when I was a kid. I knew there had to be something I could do to get into shape, however I wasn’t sure what that might be. But I had to start somewhere.

I began to do weight training with a personal trainer so I could properly learn lifting form. Then I took a class on running form, which was also my first time ever running with a guide. I also joined a gym with a small group and individual session model. This was great for building my confidence as all I had to do was worry about performing lifts correctly, and I always had someone there to correct my form if needed. I liked lifting and getting stronger - it helped to give me a new confidence in myself.

However, my pivotal moment came between sets of back squats one day when my friend and trainer said to me, “Hey, since you’re competitive, I think you might like triathlons.”

I didn’t even know what a triathlon was, let alone how I was supposed to do one as a blind person. So as any good 30-something does, I turned to Google and read every article I could find on blind people doing triathlons.

Instantly, I loved the idea and enlisted my friend as my guide. It was her idea after all!

We trained for six months, which included literally learning to swim, bike training, and run training. And in September of 2015, I did my first race, an Olympic distance triathlon consisting of a one-mile swim, a twenty-five-mile bike ride, and a 6.1 mile run. Though it was the hardest physical thing I had ever done, I was hooked!

Since that time, I’ve gone on to do a marathon and eight additional triathlons ranging from sprint triathlons of about fifteen to eighteen miles total, to a full Ironman triathlon which is 140.6 total miles of swimming, biking, and running. It was an accomplishment that even a few months before the race I wasn’t totally sure I could complete successfully, but I had my paratriathlon community to give me confidence and support along the way.

In paratriathlon training, I found a community of like-minded athletes who care about advancing the sport and each other. I found something that challenges me physically and mentally to reach places I thought impossible, and I found a sport that has given so much to me that I don’t know if I can ever give enough back, but I’m willing to try.

That’s also how I feel about the National Federation of the Blind.

I found the NFB before I found triathlon. I had blind role models in the Federation before I had my personal trainer talking me into racing. I had fellow Federationists who believed in me until I could believe in myself and see my own potential as a blind person. Without my Federation family, I don’t think I would have had the confidence in myself to find my triathlon family.

The National Federation of the Blind is a group of like-minded individuals who want to advance their cause and the lives of blind people everywhere, an organization that challenges us and our expectations of ourselves and each other, and an organization that has often given us so much, that it’s impossible to give as much back, but we want to try. My Federation family wants me to live the life I want, and I’m doing that through being in the National Federation of the Blind and by participating in triathlon. I’m doing that by being a Federationist and an Ironman.

Marrakesh Express Rolling Home

From NFB.org - Tue, 10/02/2018 - 16:04
Blog Date: Tuesday, October 2, 2018Author: Scott C. LaBarreCategories: Advocacy

Last week, the US House of Representatives unanimously passed S.2559, the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act of 2018, which amends our domestic copyright law to comply with the Marrakesh Treaty that our Senate ratified at the end of June.

The measure is now on its way to the President’s desk, and when he signs it into law, the United States will be free to deliver our ratification to the World Intellectual Property Organization, and thus fully climb aboard the Marrakesh Express.

I didn’t know it at the time, but my journey on the Marrakesh Express began at age ten when a virus took my vision. As a young boy, I loved to read, and I thought normal vision was an absolute requirement for pursuing the joy of reading. A little later, I learned that all hope was not lost. I could learn Braille and use audio recordings. But this never seemed to be a full solution because it took so long to get my hands on the same books my sighted friends and colleagues had read several months, even years before. 

Little did I know at the time that copyright law was one of the major barriers preventing timely access to books for the blind.

As a young kid growing up in Woodbury, Minnesota, I had no idea that the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and other similar organizations, needed to ask for permission from the rights holder to create an accessible copy of a work – permission that was either never granted or took a terribly long time to acquire.

In 1996, the National Federation of the Blind, along with the Association of American Publishers, took a decisive step in starting to eliminate the information barrier by urging the US Congress to pass what became known as the Chafee Amendment. Domestically, passage of Chafee solved significant problems and gave us greater, and more timely, access to published works, but it did not allow us access to the great wealth of material available throughout the world.

That is why the World Blind Union began advocating for an international treaty, which would create Chafee-like amendments all over the globe, and would expressly permit cross-border sharing of accessible works. The Federation, a member of WBU, officially joined this effort in 2008 to draft the first version of what later would become the Marrakesh Treaty.

In 2009, I personally became involved in these efforts when Marc Maurer, Immediate Past President of the Federation, assigned me to represent the NFB at a hearing before the US Copyright Office at the Library of Congress. It was there where the Registrar of Copyright was seeking input on whether the United States should participate in the effort to adopt the treaty proposal, which had been brought before WIPO.

In a relatively short post like this, I cannot possibly recount all the barriers we have had to face and knock down on our way. Believe me, there were many times when we thought that the Marrakesh Express was almost surely derailed.

Although I have been seen as the lead on-the-ground actor in our efforts, it has taken a huge team, internal and external, to bring Marrakesh home.

For me, the emotions tied to this journey relate back to that day when I realized that I was blind and I would be so the rest of my life. Then, I felt trapped, imprisoned by the inability to see, and the inability to read and access knowledge. Fortunately, I have since realized liberation and freedom, and know that I can live the life I want. It is precisely those feelings of liberation and freedom that I have felt along the Marrakesh road.

Through adoption of the Marrakesh Treaty and its ratification here in the United States, the world has definitively and undeniably declared that access to information for the blind and print disabled is an international human right and a global priority.

The founder of the Federation, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, in a 1966 law review article, boldly declared that the blind and others with disabilities have a right to live in the world. Last week’s passage of the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act of 2018 signifies that we have gone a long way toward securing that right, yet we realize we have not completed the entire journey. Let’s rededicate ourselves to bringing Marrakesh, and the promise of freedom and equality it represents, all the way home!

National Federation of the Blind Sues US AbilityOne Commission

From NFB.org - Wed, 09/26/2018 - 11:32


Release Date: Wednesday, September 26, 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 Sues US AbilityOne CommissionAlleges Violation of Federal Transparency Laws and Regulations

Baltimore, Maryland (September 26, 2018): The National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s oldest and largest organization of blind Americans, filed suit today against the US AbilityOne Commission, which oversees a federal program that is supposed to advance work opportunities for the blind and other Americans with disabilities.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Maryland, alleges that AbilityOne violated the Administrative Procedure Act and federal grantmaking and contracting laws when it designated the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) as a "central nonprofit agency" (CNA) in the AbilityOne program and signed a long-term agreement with AFB. The Administrative Procedure Act requires federal agencies to give public notice and an opportunity for public comment before making changes to their programs and the requirements for federal grants and contracts require competitive procedures to ensure the most qualified bidders are able to apply.

The AbilityOne program was created in 1938 specifically to increase employment opportunities for the blind. It requires federal contracts to be preferentially awarded to contractors that primarily employ workers with disabilities. Currently, over $3 billion in goods and services are purchased from over five hundred AbilityOne contractors each year, with more than half from the Department of Defense. The AbilityOne Commission oversees the awards of these contracts and compliance by the contractors. It does so through two CNAs: National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and SourceAmerica.

Without notice and comment or any opportunity for other bidders to apply, AbilityOne made AFB a third CNA as of July 26, 2018. The National Federation of the Blind is challenging this action and asking the federal court to reverse it. If it had been apprised of the opportunity, the NFB would have bid on the contract to become a CNA with the goal of leveraging the power of its fifty thousand members, its nearly eight decades of experience representing the interests of blind workers, and its three affiliated rehabilitation training centers, to move the AbilityOne program toward the full participation of blind people in competitive integrated employment, including new and emerging industries that pay prevailing wages, offer opportunities for advancement, and provide required accommodations and new technologies.  

The National Federation of the Blind and other disability groups have criticized the AbilityOne program and repeatedly called for its reform because it is based on outdated beliefs about the capabilities of people with disabilities. Many of the contractors given preferential treatment under the program segregate workers with disabilities from workers who do not have disabilities and require the disabled workers to perform menial jobs that do not prepare them for mainstream work. In addition, fifty of the AbilityOne contractors pay workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage – pennies per hour, in the worst cases. Furthermore, both the Government Accountability Office and Department of Defense have issued reports highlighting a lack of transparency and oversight of the activities of the CNAs and calling for significant changes to the AbilityOne program to increase integration and reduce the risk of fraud. 

The AbilityOne Commission’s selection of a new CNA seeks to "provide a framework for a new CNA model in the AbilityOne program that places the focus on increasing job placement and career advancement opportunities in knowledge-based positions" and identify "innovative employment opportunities, careers and lines of business for people who are blind" over five years.

"We appreciate that AbilityOne is pursuing a new CNA to support innovative jobs and careers for people who are blind. The move toward integrated real-world employment for people with disabilities is long overdue. Thanks to federal laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act, blind people have proven we can do real jobs and do not need to be segregated or relegated to menial work," said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. "However, AbilityOne’s decision to authorize a new CNA with no input from the public or from blind individuals, is an example of the inside dealing and lack of transparency that have long pervaded the program. As the nation’s leading membership organization of blind Americans, the National Federation of the Blind is taking this action in solidarity with the blind employees who work on AbilityOne contracts. Blind workers deserve to have input into the future of the AbilityOne program. In addition, as an organization with 78 years of experience helping blind workers find and succeed in competitive, integrated employment, the NFB has expertise and insight about innovations to support blind individuals to pursue the jobs of today and the jobs of tomorrow. We stand ready, willing, and able to help AbilityOne build the future. But we will not tolerate the AbilityOne Commission flouting the law and ignoring the voices of the blind Americans who will be affected by its decisions."


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 nfb.org.

National Federation of the Blind Sues US AbilityOne Commission

Latest News - Wed, 09/26/2018 - 11:32
Release Date: Wednesday, September 26, 2018Category: National

Baltimore, Maryland (September 26, 2018): The National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s oldest and largest organization of blind Americans, filed suit today against the US AbilityOne Commission, which oversees a federal program that is supposed to advance work opportunities for the blind and other Americans with disabilities.

US House of Representatives Passes Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act

From NFB.org - Tue, 09/25/2018 - 16:47


Release Date: Tuesday, September 25, 2018Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgUS House of Representatives Passes Marrakesh Treaty Implementation ActTreaty Now Awaits Presidential Action

Washington, DC (September 25, 2018): The United States House of Representatives has passed the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (S. 2559), which makes modest changes to copyright law that will bring the United States into compliance with the terms of the Marrakesh Treaty. The Senate gave its advice and consent to ratification of the treaty and passed the implementing legislation on June 28.

"For almost a decade now, the National Federation of the Blind, our partners, and other advocates have worked to bring the Marrakesh Treaty into being and into force," said Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. "Today we applaud the United States House of Representatives for its passage of the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act. We now urge President Trump to sign this implementing legislation, and to order the State Department to deposit the instrument of ratification with the World Intellectual Property Organization as soon as practicable. We are closer than ever to the day when blind Americans will have greater access to the world’s knowledge, in many of its original languages, than we have ever had in human history."


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 nfb.org.

US House of Representatives Passes Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act

Latest News - Tue, 09/25/2018 - 16:47
Release Date: Tuesday, September 25, 2018Category: National

Washington, DC (September 25, 2018): The United States House of Representatives has passed the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (S. 2559), which makes modest changes to copyright law that will bring the United States into compliance with the terms of the Marrakesh Treaty.

How to Build a Disaster Plan

From NFB.org - Mon, 09/24/2018 - 11:01
Blog Date: Monday, September 24, 2018Author: Rachel OliveroCategories: General

September is National Preparedness Month, when local, state, and federal officials collectively work to ensure citizens are prepared for the disasters likely to affect their area. Appropriate since, as I write this, there are four active named tropical cyclones in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

As with anyone else, it’s important for blind people to ensure we are prepared to secure the safety of ourselves, our families, and, for those inclined to seek such volunteer opportunities, our neighbors.

Preparedness doesn’t have to be difficult, or even cost you a lot of money all at once.

I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned from my hours of training in basic disaster response, basic fire suppression, how to safely extricate a trapped victim from a collapsed structure, and how to perform triage and basic first aid.

Some of the first steps you want to take simply involve getting informed and making a plan.

Things you should consider include:

  • What types of disasters is my community likely to experience? For example, Texas is much more likely to see the effects of tropical weather than, say, Minnesota.
  • How will I receive emergency alerts and be informed about impending disasters? While FCC regulations have changed to require text to speech for emergency notification crawls on television, as with any information carried on the secondary audio channel, one’s ability to quickly and easily access this audio is dependent on several factors. Consider how you will independently receive initial notification of an emergency, such as National Weather Service Weather Radio, and how you will access that information in a form you can read, should you need to parse the details, such as NFB Newsline®’s Acuweather integration or your local government’s website. Social media is also being heavily utilized by emergency management entities and is a good place to find text-based information which will be useful to those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Your local government may also offer text message alerts or “reverse 9-1-1” where you will receive a phone call with critical information.
  • How will I communicate with others during a disaster? Often, local landline and wireless telephone circuits will be overloaded with calls. However, where wireless service is still functioning, because they are relatively small packets of information, text messages will frequently stand a better chance of getting through when voice circuits are busy. Similarly, it is frequently easier to connect a call to an out-of-area contact than a local phone. As part of your planning, your family should designate an out-of-state contact whom everyone will check in with. This person can pass information back and forth as to the whereabouts and status of other household members. Even if you live alone, someone out-of-state will want to know you are safe. I would also be remiss if I didn’t put in a plug for amateur radio which, after passing a relatively simple test and purchasing some equipment, can allow you to stay in contact with others independent of phone service. Think of getting your licenses as a fun family activity.
  • How will I evacuate if necessary? Many blind people don’t have access to their own vehicles. Find out what your community’s options are for accessible transportation, make a plan with friends or family, or identify other ways to leave the area or make it safely to a shelter should an evacuation be ordered.

As you answer these questions, and build your disaster plan, you also want to give consideration to putting together a disaster supply kit. This kit should include supplies for yourself and your family to enable you to sustain yourselves without assistance for three days. You will want food (that can be prepared without electricity or gas), water, medications and other items to address any medical needs, first aid supplies, some basic tools, cash (a couple hundred dollars is recommended), and comfort items for children or pets. Make sure to include supplies for your guide dog too.

A great, and budget-friendly, way to put together a disaster kit is by using a checklist like the Weekly Steps for Emergency Preparedness provided by the Knox County Health Department. This spreads the things you need to buy and learn out over twenty-four weeks.

By taking a few small steps now, you can ensure that you are prepared for the disasters you may encounter in your community in the future. For more information, please visit the US Department of Homeland Security’s preparedness page at ready.gov or contact your local office of emergency management.

My Month in Tokyo

From NFB.org - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 09:15
Blog Date: Friday, September 14, 2018Author: Caitlin BestCategories: GeneralStories

My fascination with Asian culture began when I was about thirteen years old sitting in my parents’ house near Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. It started with learning everything I could about the Chinese zodiac, various anime (which is Japanese animation), and manga (which are Japanese comics or graphic novels).

From there, it was a spiral into everything Japanese – from music to art, movies, and culture. The only thing that was difficult for me to grasp was the language, which I attributed to my limited residual vision. Stubbornly, I could rely on pictures!

In May of 2014, I lost the remainder of my residual vision and began training at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, thus throwing me into a unique situation. Luckily, I was surrounded by the most incredible group of people – people who were blind, and people who understood me and my struggles with self-esteem, self-doubt, depression, and confidence. The instructors played a huge role in my training, and I don’t think I could have asked for a better group of fellow students.

Fast forward three years later, and I was traveling to Tokyo, Japan for one month to conduct research for the final paper of my master’s program in Asian Pacific Studies at the University of San Francisco. The paper was a comparison piece focused on the United States and Japan when it came to people with disabilities – misconceptions, stigmas, stereotypes, and other areas such as laws and policies.

While in Japan, I ate my weight in onigiri (which are rice balls with different bits of food inside), sandwiches, and gyouza. To stay in contact with everyone back home, I rented a pocket WiFi device, which also came in handy when I needed to look up directions, restaurants, and attractions.

One thing that I found striking is how selfless Japanese people seem to be. For example, I asked a gentleman for directions to Daiso (which is Japan’s version of a dollar store) and rather than giving me directions or saying he didn’t know, he offered to walk with me to Daiso to pick up the items I needed before carrying on with his day. This wasn’t the first time that this happened to me and it’s not uncommon for Japanese people to be this selfless when it comes to foreigners (disabled or not).

Another striking thing is the sidewalks. The majority of the sidewalks have a divot down the center for blind people and others since a lot of the sidewalks blend almost seamlessly into the street. Plus, every crosswalk has tactile domes. Even train stations have Japanese Braille on the top and bottom of railings to let you know which platform you are heading toward.

The speakers on each train car are clear-sounding, and the announcements are in both Japanese and English. Train station staff will go out of their way to help as well. Since most of the posted signage at Tokyo’s train stations isn’t accessible, staff would show up at my exiting train to guide me to the correct exit, and if I had to transfer trains, someone would meet me and guide me to my transfer.

One thing I was nervous about was the language barrier, even though I had been studying Japanese for two years. I didn’t feel very confident in my skill, but a little will go a long way! I think a good practice for anyone going abroad is to learn a few phrases such as “hello,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” and “where is the bathroom?” I found out pretty quickly that a lot of Japanese people tried their best with English when we were speaking to one another, especially if I was struggling to find the right word to use.

One thing I made sure to have on me at all times was a sensational blackboard, pen, and paper, just in case I couldn’t get the meaning across. With these items, I had the ability to show them a crude drawing of what I was looking for, or even a map. Don’t forget, there are plenty of apps available to help with the language barrier as well (for example, I had to utilize Google Translate a few times).

I have a lot of great memories traveling through Tokyo, and these are memories that will stay with me forever. I learned how to make my own sushi, I attended a traditional tea ceremony where I drank out of a 200-year-old cup, I went to a dog café, I visited a Sensoji temple, and I saw a bunch of bands perform live.

Throughout all this, no one tried to unnecessarily grab my arm, yell, honk, or be obnoxious toward me in any way. It reminded me of attending our state and national conventions!

Faster Typing with FlickType for iOS

From NFB.org - Wed, 09/05/2018 - 14:36
Blog Date: Wednesday, September 5, 2018Author: Karl BelangerCategories: Access Technology

Whether texting a friend, taking notes, or writing a longer email, typing on an iPhone has always been a little slow for many people. Apple has tried to make things smoother with the introduction of things like touch typing and Braille Screen Input, but longer writing on the iPhone is typically avoided.

The introduction of third-party keyboards has provided the opportunity for alternate input methods and additional features, but there have been very few keyboards that really do anything innovative with on-screen input.

FlickType, however, is a third-party keyboard which does a very good job at speeding up text entry, and is fast becoming my favorite keyboard on iOS.

FlickType works by registering where on the keyboard you are tapping, not necessarily exactly which letters are being hit, and then uses various algorithms to predict the intended word. This allows you to type quickly and, as long as you are in the right general area for the word you intended, the app will usually get it right.

Some of you may be thinking that this concept is not new, and you’d be right. A keyboard called Fleksy, which started as a keyboard for the blind but has become much less accessible, has been doing this for a while now.

If you want to jump straight into using FlickType, please skip to the “Setting Up FlickType” section. For a little history of how FlickType came about, keep reading.

From Fleksy to FlickType

In 2012, a new app called Fleksy promised faster typing on iOS. The blind community quickly grabbed onto it and it became very popular on sites like AppleVis. As this was in the days before third-party system-wide keyboards, the app was limited to typing in a notepad and then sharing to mail, messages, Twitter, etc., or copying to the clipboard. Over the next year, the app continued to be upgraded with new features and refinements. However, in the beginning of 2014, Fleksy announced they were releasing Fleksy VO to maintain accessibility as the new version had some issues. A lot of people were not very pleased about this, and while the core Fleksy app did improve its accessibility, things were never quite the same. Fleksy transitioned into a mainstream keyboard, and while the core typing experience remained mostly usable, the extra added features had varying amounts of accessibility issues. Once Fleksy was acquired by Pinterest, Fleksy VO was pulled from the App Store and open sourced. The blind community largely left Fleksy after this point.

FlickType Brings Things Back to Basics

In March, a forum post on AppleVis announced that a new app called FlickType was under development, utilizing the open-sourced Fleksy VO code. This promised to revive the same style of keyboard as Fleksy, but with a simplified accessible interface. They recruited beta testers from the community and quickly grew in popularity. FlickType launched its first beta in a similar style to the old Fleksy, with a simple notepad and various export options. This beta, and the initial public app that soon followed, allowed FlickType to refine the typing experience. Once the initial app made it into the store, they quickly followed up with a beta of a system keyboard. FlickType is now available as a full third-party keyboard usable in any app. It even has features like custom dictionaries, support for iOS text expansions, and basic emoji support. It is available for free in the App Store, with system keyboard support costing $0.99 per month.

Setting Up FlickType

When FlickType is first installed, launching the app puts you on a welcome screen which gives basic instructions. Along the bottom of the screen are five tabs.

  • Welcome (basic instructions for using FlickType)
  • Demo (simple notepad with export options where you can get familiar with the keyboard)
  • Upgrade (buy a subscription)
  • Settings (adjust various FlickType options)
  • Dictionary (add or remove words from the custom user dictionary)

In order to use the system-wide keyboard, you must have either a free trial or paid subscription (otherwise you can only type inside the demo tab of the app).

To enable the FlickType keyboard in iOS, go to Settings, General, Keyboard, Keyboards, and then Add New Keyboard. Find FlickType in the list and select it. Once FlickType is added, select it again and enable “Full Access” which will let the keyboard work properly. You will receive a generic message about the developer potentially having access to everything you type, which FlickType does not do. This message shows up for all third-party keyboards. Once FlickType is added and full access is enabled, you are ready to type.

Using FlickType

Once you begin editing a text field, there will be a “next keyboard” button in the lower left of the keyboard. Once the FlickType keyboard is selected, you are placed in a full-screen qwerty keyboard.

FlickType works differently than other mobile keyboards. Rather than looking for and entering each letter individually, you simply tap roughly where the letters would be on another keyboard.

Let’s say you wanted to type the word “blind.” Normally, you would move your finger around until you heard the letter B, then lift your finger to enter the letter, then find L, then I, and so on. With FlickType, just tap in the general area of the letters. As you type, you will hear clicks, but no letters announced. This is because FlickType does not show the letters until you complete the word. So for the word “blind,” approximate where the letters would be. FlickType then uses various methods to infer that the letters you typed based on their position and the number of letters is most likely the word “blind.” You may have actually typed N J P M S, but since there are five letters and they are all close to the letters for “blind,” FlickType will offer that word as the suggestion.

Once you are done typing a word, flick right with one finger, and FlickType will present the word it thinks you most likely typed. If the word is right, simply start typing the next word. If you are looking for a different word, flick down and you will move through a series of other potential suggestions. To continue our example, if you were a little less accurate when typing “blind,” FlickType might think you wanted the word “climb.” Just flick down until you hear “blind.”

Generally, the more letters in the word, and the more accurate you are, the better FlickType can predict the word you want. I find it is least accurate when typing two-letter words like if, of, it, in, and on, as they are all very close to each other. Once you get to four letter words or more it is almost always spot on.

If you want to insert punctuation, such as at the end of a sentence, flick right again with one finger, then flick down to choose the punctuation mark you want. Words will automatically be capitalized at the beginning of a sentence. You can flick left to delete any of your mistakes and flicking right and holding will start a new line or submit the field depending on what control you are in. There are more gestures for moving around the text you are editing which you can read in the FlickType guide.

If you need to type a web or email address, a proper name, or any word that is not in FlickType’s dictionary, you can type the word manually. FlickType manual typing works exactly like the standard iOS keyboard with a couple handy features. You can single tap with two fingers to toggle shift without needing to go and hit the actual key, and double tapping with two fingers will toggle between the standard and numbers keyboard. Otherwise, for VoiceOver users, manual typing works exactly like using the iOS keyboard in touch typing mode. Again, flick right once you’ve finished typing, and the word will be announced, and it will be added to the dictionary for next time.

Speaking of the dictionary, the tab in the FlickType app will show all the words you have manually typed. This enables you to manually type something once, and then be able to type it normally from there on out. Additionally, if you have set up text expansions in iOS settings, FlickType will allow you to automatically enter them when you type them.


FlickType has a lot of potential as a solid third-party keyboard for iOS. It is a stable keyboard as is, and it’s still under active development. Recently, they added limited emoji support, and are currently working on a half-screen version that will allow interaction with the text field using normal iOS gestures. Personally, I find FlickType to be a much faster experience than the standard iOS keyboard, and I find myself using it for anything longer than a basic search or web address. You can try it out for yourself by downloading FlickType from the App Store.

My Job at a Children’s Museum

From NFB.org - Thu, 08/30/2018 - 16:02
Blog Date: Thursday, August 30, 2018Author: Jonathan FranksCategories: EmploymentStories

If we were to ask a random sample of our sighted friends if a blind person could work at a children’s museum, the majority of those individuals might say no.

Well, my friends, I am here to erase that misconception. My name is Jonathan Franks and I work at an interactive children’s museum called the Thinkery in Austin, Texas that is focused on promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.

I have worked at this museum for a year and a half as a direct service staff member, taking on various responsibilities such as interacting with families and encouraging children to play with the various exhibits, maintaining and resetting the exhibits, informing families of the various programs that the museum is running, and answering any other inquiries that families have.

I also serve as a representative for the direct service staff members in the inclusion workgroup. The goal of this group is to ensure that the museum and all of its programs are accessible for each visitor and staff member. During the year, we work on promoting community spotlights to demonstrate our inclusivity. These spotlights cover topics including LGBTQ, Spanish heritage, foster families, disability awareness, and many other topics.

One of the many reasons I love working at this museum is that I am demonstrating that blind people can work in any kind of setting. It is also a huge educational platform for parents and children to learn about blindness from me. Every day that I work I am asked what my cane is and what it is used for, and I happily demonstrate why I use it and promote the values of the National Federation of the Blind by informing them how I live the life I want.

I strongly believe that informing children about the positive aspects of blindness will help them build acceptance of people with disabilities, and help them realize that we are high-functioning members of society and that we can work in any type of employment setting.

I met a physically disabled child who asked about my blindness and, after I talked with him for a few minutes about how I work at the museum, he talked to me about how he was an artist and how he utilized alternative techniques to do his art projects.  

I am thankful to have not faced many challenges as a blind person while working at the Thinkery, but I have come across a few occasions where I have had to advocate for myself and the other employees with disabilities that work at the museum. All of those instances, though, have ended well.

I do have to be cognizant of the children running around so that they do not trip over my cane (which happens every day).

I was fortunate to win employee of the month for my hard work and initiative this past January. Even though I know I will eventually move on once I graduate with my master’s degree next year, I am definitely appreciative of this job. I am developing pertinent job skills and memories, and deepening my understanding that blind individuals can truly work alongside our sighted counterparts on an equal platform.


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