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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.

Conclusion

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.

Announcing New Accessibility Resources for Consumers and Industry

From NFB.org - Mon, 08/27/2018 - 14:51
Blog Date: Monday, August 27, 2018Author: Anil LewisCategories: Access Technology

You may remember that in 2016, with support from the Maryland Department of Disabilities, the National Federation of the Blind launched an important initiative aimed at generating new resources for accessibility.

We named it the Accessibility Switchboard. At its core, it is a dynamic online portal (accessibilityswitchboard.org) that houses guides, articles, and other resources that consumers, government, corporate entities, and educational institutions can use to effectively address various aspects of accessibility — from developing accessible websites to procuring accessible technologies.

All of our resources are designed to be action-oriented, and are grounded in proven success stories and existing best practices graciously shared with us by our Community of Practice members and member organizations.

We are continually updating and adding content to the portal as we work to respond to current needs for specific information related to accessibility.

Today, I’m excited to announce the addition of seven new Q&A articles and six new guides. As a preview, these will include answers to critical questions like, “How do I advocate for myself when my school has digital accessibility problems?” and “How can I overcome resistance to change in an organization-wide accessibility project?”

We will be rolling out this new content throughout the coming weeks, and I invite you to actively join in on the discussion by following and using the hashtag #A11ySwitchboard.

The key to creating a more accessible world is to ensure meaningful participation and active communication between consumers and industry. The Accessibility Switchboard brings consumers and industry together, providing up-to-date information about accessible websites, emerging technology, as well as frequently encountered accessibility problems and relevant solutions. It also serves as a centralized point of contact for consumers to voice concerns about barriers to nonvisual access.

By creating this dynamic accessibility information portal, highlighting the organizations that are doing it correctly, and creating a place where consumers can give real input, the Accessibility Switchboard can shift organizational implementation of accessibility from second hand to second nature.

I’m excited for you to be a part of and have the opportunity to help shape this effort as we announce our latest content. Be sure to check #A11ySwitchboard this week and beyond.

In 2014, the National Federation of the Blind founded the NFB Center of Excellence in Nonvisual Access (CENA) to Education, Public Information, and Commerce. The CENA serves as a concentrated center of expertise, best practices and resources that enables business, government, as well as educational institutions to more effectively provide accessible information and services to blind citizens. The Accessibility Switchboard is one of the many projects under the CENA. The NFB contracted with Chris Law of Accessibility Track to manage the development of the web portal and to facilitate the Accessibility Switchboard Community of Practice. With partial funding from the State of Maryland, through the Non-Visual Access Initiative grants (NVAI) administered by the Maryland Department of Disabilities (MDOD), the CENA seeks to create a more accessible world.

Military Space Available Accommodation Expanded to More Veterans with Disabilities

From NFB.org - Mon, 08/20/2018 - 11:41

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Monday, August 20, 2018Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgMilitary Space Available Accommodation Expanded to More Veterans with DisabilitiesNational Federation of the Blind Commends Congress and the President

Baltimore, Maryland (August 20, 2018): The National Federation of the Blind commented today on the inclusion of language expanding eligibility for the Space Available program in the John McCain National Defense Authorization Act that was recently signed into law by President Donald J. Trump. The Space Available Program allows certain categories of individuals to travel on military flights if space is available.

"The National Federation of the Blind has long fought for all veterans with service-connected disabilities to be granted equal access to the Space Available program," said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. "Thanks to the hard work of our membership and our allies in the United States Congress, an oversight which excluded many Vietnam-era veterans who are blind or have other disabilities from participation in this program has now been corrected. This is a great victory for the National Federation of the Blind, but more importantly, for thousands of blind and otherwise disabled veterans who earned this privilege by their honorable service to our nation."

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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 nfb.org.

Military Space Available Accommodation Expanded to More Veterans with Disabilities

Latest News - Mon, 08/20/2018 - 11:41
Release Date: Monday, August 20, 2018Category: National

Baltimore, Maryland (August 20, 2018): The National Federation of the Blind commented today on the inclusion of language expanding eligibility for the Space Available program in the John McCain National Defense Authorization Act that was recently signed into law by President Donald J. Trump.

A Home Run for Beep Baseball

From NFB.org - Wed, 08/15/2018 - 11:20
Blog Date: Wednesday, August 15, 2018Author: LaKeisha HolmesCategories: Sports and Fitness

Who knew that blind people could enjoy America’s favorite pastime!

But how, you ask? It’s called beep baseball, and this is how it works.

Beep baseball is played on a soccer field with a beeping ball and a beeping base. Each team has a pitcher, a catcher, two field spotters, and other players. There are two components to the game. The pitcher and catcher are on the same team as the batter. If the batter hits the ball, the batter has to run 100 yards to the base. If the batter gets to the base and tags it, they score a run. While the batter bats, there are six defenders in the field, each in a certain zone. The two field spotters are placed in designated areas so that they can call a zone in which the ball is traveling. The defender is responsible for capturing the ball before the batter tags the base. If the defender gets the ball before the base is hit, the batter is out.

Most importantly, beep baseball is also a family network, and our family reunion is every year at the Beep Baseball World Series.

The Beep Baseball World Series brings teams from all over the world together to compete for the number one spot. The 2018 Beep Baseball World Series took place in Eau Claire, Wisconsin from July 29 to August 5. There were twenty-two teams in attendance including teams from Canada and Taiwan. More than thirty games were played Tuesday through Friday with the championship game on Saturday. All teams had the same goal in mind: play hard enough to get you to Saturday.

This year, my team, the San Antonio Jets, made it to third place. We fought hard to the very end. I am very proud to be a Jet!

Looking back, I was first introduced to beep baseball when I was eleven-years-old in Atlanta, Georgia. I played on a team with several other blind boys and girls who just wanted a chance to participate in sports like our sighted peers. Although we didn’t win many games, we always had great spirits.

Getting introduced to beep baseball was a blessing for me. It allowed me to grow into my athletic skills, but it also allowed me an opportunity to meet new friends and build relationships that will last forever.

What My Sighted Child Is Learning from Our Blind Community

From NFB.org - Thu, 08/09/2018 - 14:16
Blog Date: Thursday, August 9, 2018Author: Stacy CervenkaCategories: ParentingStories

My husband Greg recently accepted the position of training center supervisor at the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Lincoln, Nebraska.

So, at the end of April, we moved our family from Sacramento, California to Lincoln. This included me and my husband, who are both blind, and our sighted children Leo, who will be five this month, and Josephine, who will be turning one.

While we were looking for a house, the Commission let us stay in the training center’s student apartments.

People who are newly blind or who want to improve their blindness skills come to the center for six to nine months as students. They learn the skills they need to attend college, find employment, or re-enter the workforce after losing vision.

While they’re here, the students stay in a large apartment complex in downtown Lincoln where they occupy the entire third floor. Besides apartments, there are various communal rooms where students can hang out.

Because everybody on the third floor knows one another and attends classes at the center together, it kind of feels like a college dorm, with lots of camaraderie.

The apartment complex is also right in the middle of downtown Lincoln, with lots of restaurants and things to do nearby, so, when they’re not in class, everyone is always coming and going.

Although I am so glad to finally be in a house again, I’m very thankful that my children, especially Leo who is old enough to remember, had the experience of living in the student apartments for six weeks, and being surrounded by blind adults other than Mommy and Daddy.

This meant that throughout his first six weeks in Lincoln, until he started day camp, all of the adults in Leo’s world were blind. His neighbors were blind people from every walk of life including grandparents nearing retirement age, kids just out of high school, people from tiny farming communities, and a young lady who was originally from Haiti.

One student who was a grandmother, Brenda, was always baking and dropping off cookies at our apartment. A guy just out of college, Dominic, was often hanging out playing his guitar, or doing cardio by running up and down the apartment complex’s five flights of stairs. A former student, Laurie, who now works for the center as the apartment resource manager, brought Leo lots of toys that had belonged to her own kids.

Leo told one of his day camp teachers that everybody who lives in the apartments is blind except for himself and Josephine. I could tell that his teacher thought that this was kind of bizarre and mysterious, but I’m glad that Leo knows better, and that being immersed in the blind community is just part of his normal.

Because of our jobs and our involvement in the National Federation of the Blind, Leo will grow up knowing blind people from all walks of life. He’ll know other kids with blind moms and dads, and he’ll also have blind friends his own age.

As his friends from preschool, sports classes, and our neighborhood begin asking him more questions and making more comments, I’m glad that Leo will grow up knowing that blindness is just another facet of human difference.

National Federation of the Blind Partners with Rice Krispies Treats to Create Braille "Love Notes" for Blind Children

From NFB.org - Tue, 08/07/2018 - 11:20

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Tuesday, August 7, 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 Partners with Rice Krispies Treats to Create Braille "Love Notes" for Blind Children

Baltimore, Maryland (August 7, 2018): The National Federation of the Blind has partnered with Kellogg's Rice Krispies Treats to create accessible "Love Notes" so parents can share messages of love and encouragement with blind children in their lunchboxes. The "Love Notes" are an accessible version of the writable wrapper on Rice Krispies Treats.

The new, accessible "Love Notes" are available in two forms: Braille stickers and re-recordable audio boxes. The "Love Notes" Braille stickers are heart-shaped to fit in the space on Rice Krispies Treats writable wrappers for written notes. Each Braille sticker sheet includes eight uplifting phrases in Braille for parents to share with their children, from "You've Got This" to "Love You Lots." The re-recordable audio box holds a Rice Krispies Treat and, when opened, plays a ten-second pre-recorded message. The audio box messages can be re-recorded over a thousand times, offering opportunities to share love and support throughout the entire school year. Every package sent to families will include a Braille letter explaining this program and a co-branded Braille alphabet card featuring Snap, Crackle, and Pop, along with information about the NFB's Braille programs.

Rice Krispies Treats came to the National Federation of the Blind to help create a back-to-school campaign that would intentionally include blind students. The first-ever "Love Notes" in Braille and audio are inspired by their work with many members of the Federation. A brand-new video, which will also be part of a YouTube ad campaign, features Emerie "Eme" Mitchell-Butler and her mom, Tabatha "Tabby" Mitchell, both active members of the National Federation of the Blind. The video demonstrates how Eme, an 11-year-old blind student, lives the life she wants and spreads love and friendship through her music. Kellogg worked closely with the NFB to ensure that the video was a positive and realistic portrayal of a blind student.

Information about the National Federation of the Blind will also be featured on the Rice Krispies website in an effort to let more families know about the support and programs we offer for families of blind children.

"The National Federation of the Blind is committed to helping parents raise blind children who are prepared to be confident, happy, and productive members of society," said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. "As a father of three children, I know that a parent's love and support are critical to every child's success, whether they are sighted, losing vision, or blind. We are therefore delighted to partner with Rice Krispies Treats, which we know shares our commitment to Braille literacy and our understanding that with love, hope, and determination, we can transform dreams into reality."

"Kellogg as a whole has a larger connection to this cause with W.K. Kellogg losing his sight and continuing to work at the company full time for a number of years afterwards," said Jessica Waller, Vice President and co-chair of the Kapable Employee Resource Group at Kellogg. "Inclusion is in our DNA and is now shared through Rice Krispies Treats 'Love Notes.' Everyone is important, and we want each child to be able to feel loved, supported, and acknowledged."

To order "Love Notes" for your own child at no charge, visit ricekrispies.com/lovenotes; and join Rice Krispies Treats in sharing love and support this back to school season with the hashtag #SoMuchToLove on social media. Visit nfb.org/feelthelove to learn more.

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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 nfb.org.

National Federation of the Blind Partners with Rice Krispies Treats to Create Braille "Love Notes" for Blind Children

Latest News - Tue, 08/07/2018 - 11:20
Release Date: Tuesday, August 7, 2018Category: National

Baltimore, Maryland (August 7, 2018): The National Federation of the Blind has partnered with Kellogg's Rice Krispies Treats to create accessible "Love Notes" so parents can share messages of love and encouragement with blind children in their lunchboxes. The "Love Notes" are an accessible version of the writable wrapper on Rice Krispies Treats.

National Federation of the Blind Recognizes Thirty Outstanding Blind Students

From NFB.org - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 15:22

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Thursday, August 2, 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 Recognizes Thirty Outstanding Blind StudentsHarry Staley, Jr. of Texas Awarded Top $12,000 Scholarship

Baltimore, Maryland (August 2, 2018): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation's oldest and largest organization of blind people, today announced the winners of its 2018 scholarships, which were awarded at the organization's recent national convention in Orlando. The winner of the organization's top prize of $12,000, donated by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, is Harry Staley, Jr., of Texas, who is pursuing a computer science degree at Texas A&M and whose career goal is to work in autonomous vehicle development.

"I am grateful for the scholarship, but more importantly, I am grateful for the terrific leaders I have met throughout the National Federation of the Blind," said Mr. Staley. "They have taught me to dream bigger, pushing my dreams beyond what I once believed to be possible."

In addition to their scholarship, each student received a $1,000 check and plaque from inventor and futurist Dr. Ray Kurzweil, a Google Chromebook laptop, a $1,000 cash award from Google, a certificate towards the purchase of a Talking LabQuest from Independence Science, and nine months of service from Aira, for a total award for each winner with a minimum value exceeding $5,000. Here is an alphabetical listing of the other twenty-nine winners, with their home state and career goal or field of study. Unless otherwise indicated, each student received a $3,000 National Federation of the Blind scholarship:

  • Naim Muawia Abu-El Hawa, VA: Diplomat
  • Alexandra Alfonso, DC: Music, Education, and Pre-law
  • Tasnim Alshuli, AZ: Professor ($3,000 Expedia Scholarship)
  • Millad Bokhouri, PA: Medical program designer
  • Tyron Bratcher, MD: Rehabilitation counselor
  • Chrys Buckley, OR: Physician ($10,000 Charles and Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship)
  • Ozgul Calicioglu, PA: Environmental sustainability specialist ($8,000 Oracle Scholarship for Excellence in a STEM Field)
  • Olivia Charland, MA: Conservation biologist
  • Purvi Contractor, TX: Aerospace
  • Kenia Flores, NC: Civil rights attorney ($5,000 JAWS for Windows Scholarship)
  • John Harrison, WI: Advocate
  • Eric Harvey, CA: Near East cultural specialist ($3,000 Adrienne Asch Memorial Scholarship)
  • Justin Heard, GA: Teacher
  • J.D. Humphrey, MI: Ethnomedicine
  • Trisha Kulkarni, OH: Software engineer ($8,000 Oracle scholarship for Excellence in Computer Science)
  • Amanda Lannan, FL: Teacher education
  • Shane Lowe, KY: Cyber security and business administration ($5,000 Pehrson Scholarship)
  • 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 ($3,000 E.U. and Gene Parker Scholarship)
  • Menuka Rai, ND: Physical therapist
  • Elizabeth Rouse, IA: Attorney ($5,000 Mimi and Marvin Sandler Scholarship)
  • Yasmine Marie Sarraf, AZ: Forensic scientist
  • Caitlin Sarubbi, NY: Physician ($3,000 Expedia Scholarship)
  • Rilee Sloan, OK: Attorney
  • Matt Turner, ID: Economics and technology ($3,000 Charles and Betty Allen Scholarship)
  • Cathy Tuton, OK: Dietician ($5,000 NFB STEM Scholarship)
  • Paige Young, ME: Business administration

"The scholarship program is one of our most important initiatives," said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. "We are proud to honor these blind scholars, who are studying everything from aerospace to ethnomedicine, and in so doing raising the expectations of what blind people can achieve. Their accomplishments are proof of our conviction that we, the blind of this nation, can live the lives we want; blindness does not hold us back."

Several hundred students competed for the scholarships. A committee of blind people representing a diverse cross section of the NFB membership, including several former scholarship winners, narrowed the field to thirty finalists. Each finalist was then given roundtrip transportation, hotel accommodations, and assistance to attend the National Federation of the Blind National Convention in Orlando, where the committee spent several days getting to know each student. Only after that process was complete did the committee decide which scholarship to award each finalist. Nearly three thousand blind people, their families and friends, and other supporters attended the convention.

Special thanks go to the Jesse and Hertha Adams Charitable Trust for its support of the National Federation of the Blind scholarship program.

For more information about the National Federation of the Blind scholarship program, please 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 nfb.org.

National Federation of the Blind Recognizes Thirty Outstanding Blind Students

Latest News - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 15:22
Release Date: Thursday, August 2, 2018Category: National

Baltimore, Maryland (August 2, 2018): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation's oldest and largest organization of blind people, today announced the winners of its 2018 scholarships, which were awarded at the organization's recent national convention in Orlando.

Blind Woman Sues California Hospital for Employment Discrimination

From NFB.org - Thu, 07/26/2018 - 11:39

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Thursday, July 26, 2018Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgBlind Woman Sues California Hospital for Employment DiscriminationNational Federation of the Blind Assisting in Litigation

San Francisco, California (July 26, 2018): Alina Sorling worked for ten years as a food service technician at Mercy Medical Center in Redding, California until she went blind from an illness. After successful rehabilitation in which she learned to manage her home and perform the duties of her job as a blind person, she sought reasonable accommodations from her employer to return to work. Instead, she was fired.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Ms. Sorling have filed suit in the federal District Court for the Northern District of California, alleging that Dignity Health, the parent company of Mercy Medical Center, unlawfully discriminated against Ms. Sorling, violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal and state laws. The National Federation of the Blind, the nation's leading advocate for the equal employment of blind people, is aiding in the litigation.

Ms. Sorling's lawsuit alleges that she was fired because she did not meet a new vision requirement that Dignity Health claims applies to its food service technicians. Yet, the suit alleges, Ms. Sorling's vision was never tested in all the time she worked for the hospital, nor has such a vision requirement been applied to other food service technicians there.

"Today marks the twenty-eighth anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act," said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. "Yet we still find employers discriminating against the blind, basing their decisions on fears rather than on facts. Many blind people work in food service jobs every day, using the kinds of reasonable accommodations that Dignity Health did not even consider before firing an employee with ten years of service. Alina Sorling's capabilities have not changed; only her vision has. We will fight for her rights, her dignity, and her ability to do the work she is qualified to do and live the life she wants."

"My termination has been a severe blow to me, not only financially but also emotionally," said Alina Sorling. "I have worked hard to be an asset to my employer. It is unfortunate that my former employer could not see the value that I brought to my work."

Ms. Sorling is represented by Timothy Elder of the TRE Legal Practice of Freemont, CA, and Scott C. Labarre of LaBarre Law offices of Denver.

###

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.

Blind Woman Sues California Hospital for Employment Discrimination

Latest News - Thu, 07/26/2018 - 11:39
Release Date: Thursday, July 26, 2018Category: National

San Francisco, California (July 26, 2018): Alina Sorling worked for ten years as a food service technician at Mercy Medical Center in Redding, California until she went blind from an illness. After successful rehabilitation in which she learned to manage her home and perform the duties of her job as a blind person, she sought reasonable accommodations from her employer to return to work. Instead, she was fired.

Finding a Career in Music Therapy

From NFB.org - Thu, 07/26/2018 - 10:08
Blog Date: Thursday, July 26, 2018Author: Kaiti SheltonCategories: EducationEmployment

Music therapy, like blindness, is very misunderstood. As a blind student in a field in which disabled people are just starting to become the helpers rather than solely the recipients of help, I've needed to find my own solutions to many complicated problems.

I received music therapy as an infant as part of my early intervention program. It helped me develop my social skills, enhance my communication abilities, and lay the foundation for an understanding of what it means to be independent.

When I needed service hours in high school, I asked my former music therapist, who is also blind, if she could use a volunteer. She agreed, and I was put to work doing simple tasks like sanitizing instruments and manipulatives, helping children play their instruments, and running errands around the building.

After a year, I announced that I wanted to become a music therapist myself.

My college provided Braille music whenever I needed it, but there were some visual concepts in print music which seemed foreign to me as someone who accessed music in an auditory manner or in a linear fashion when reading Braille music. I needed to teach myself how print music looked in order to speak a common language with my classmates and professors. This struggle would play out in various forms time and time again, from music theory classes which used a complex graphing system, to conducting classes where I spent time with my professor in office hours to learn how a conductor moved when I had never seen one before.

I remember sitting in class one day feeling totally at a loss as a supervisor talked about how important it was to see facial expression to document a client's affect (their presented state of mood). Several people would question me over the years about how I could possibly document someone's affect without being able to see facial expression.

People would also ask in a doubting way how I planned to work with clients who can't use spoken language, or expressed concerns over my ability to keep clients safe. Questions were also raised about how I would manage groups and accurately observe all my clients.

Of course, this had an impact on how I saw myself as a blind person. I was set on pursuing this career, but I had very little support in finding solutions to problems.

I reached out to my mentor, my childhood music therapist, but she was trained in a time when some of the requirements I had to meet were not as specific or stringent. I then dove into the research and found one article written by a blind music therapist, but it was ten years old. I didn't know of any other students or professionals I could talk to who would understand. I truly felt like I was the only one in my situation.

I vacillated between thinking I was in a unique situation to spark change, and feeling discouraged and doubtful of my abilities.

Thankfully, during my internship, my supervisors expected me to learn to function independently, and were supportive of my trial and error approach to testing solutions to find what worked best for me. They were happy to brainstorm with me and would hold me to task when they felt it was time for me to lead without their support.

I learned to lead groups of preschoolers with energy, care, and a spirit of fun. I documented affect by using the client's posture and auditory cues. I worked with clients who were nonverbal or minimally verbal, and by being keenly aware of my visual aids, I was able to use pictures to help them communicate.

I learned to be vigilant of safety concerns and intervene quickly when I saw a potentially harmful situation. I also found tricks and devices which help me work more effectively, such as a vibrating pocket watch I hang on my lanyard, and an accessible documentation form I created myself.

I also became very passionate about helping other blind music therapy students find accommodations which worked for them. 

Blind people and those with other disabilities deserve our care as clients just as much as they deserve support when they want to be the providers. If they can meet the requirements with reasonable accommodations for their disability, they deserve a seat at the table, too.

My experiences have taught me about the harm of internalizing negative messages about the capabilities of blind people, but they have also taught me a lot about resiliency, self-care, advocacy, determination, and dedication to personal goals.

Today, I have secured employment at a facility which serves adults and children with developmental disabilities in Indiana. Upon passing my certification exam, I can start working at a fantastic place which has expressed support and acceptance towards me ever since I applied. Words can't describe how empowering this feels.

Blind Students from Across the Nation Come to Baltimore for Hands-on Engineering Program

From NFB.org - Tue, 07/24/2018 - 14:38

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2018Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgBlind Students from Across the Nation Come to Baltimore for Hands-on Engineering ProgramNational Federation of the Blind Conducts First NFB EQ Program under New NSF Grant

Baltimore, Maryland (July 24, 2018): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) will welcome thirty blind high school students to its Baltimore headquarters next week for a summer engineering program called NFB EQ ("Engineering Quotient"). NFB EQ will be a jam-packed week of fun and learning. Students will spend each day in activities designed to strengthen their knowledge of engineering and problem-solving skills. In the evenings, they will explore the Baltimore community and participate in a range of interactive recreational activities that supplement and enhance their learning in the classroom.

This is the first of five new NFB EQ programs supported by a multi-year grant from the National Science Foundation. In addition to making blind youth aware of techniques to help them succeed in engineering and other STEM disciplines, the programs will contribute to important research on the development of spatial reasoning, the ability to mentally manipulate and comprehend 2D and 3D objects, in blind children and youth. Students will learn the basics of tactile sketching and technical drafting, create multi-view drawings and diagrams that represent forces and vectors, and develop their capacity to interpret 3D objects tactilely and represent them in drawings. They will also learn about architectural design and will explore the process from their own original sketches through to the building of their unique structures by the end of the week.

"For well over a decade now, the National Federation of the Blind has encouraged blind students to participate in STEM subjects and developed techniques for helping them to do so," said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. "We are pleased to once again have the opportunity to welcome blind high school students to Baltimore for a week of empowerment, learning, and fun, while at the same time enhancing the understanding of tools and techniques that will help these students in STEM studies and beyond."

For more information on NFB EQ, including testimonials from participants in past programs, please visit https://blindscience.org/nfbeq. Members of the media interested in reporting on the program during the week should contact Chris Danielsen at 410-262-1281 or cdanielsen@nfb.org to schedule a visit.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1712887. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

###

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.

Blind Students from Across the Nation Come to Baltimore for Hands-on Engineering Program

Latest News - Tue, 07/24/2018 - 14:38
Release Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2018Category: National

Baltimore, Maryland (July 24, 2018): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) will welcome thirty blind high school students to its Baltimore headquarters next week for a summer engineering program called NFB EQ ("Engineering Quotient"). NFB EQ will be a jam-packed week of fun and learning.

National Federation of the Blind Awards $50,000

From NFB.org - Mon, 07/23/2018 - 14:17

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Monday, July 23, 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 Awards $50,000Eleventh Annual Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards Presented at 2018 Convention

Orlando, Florida (July 23, 2018): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has presented $50,000 in cash awards to individuals and organizations that are a positive force in the lives of blind people and whose work advances the ultimate goal of helping transform their dreams into reality. At the National Federation of the Blind annual convention in Orlando, the eleventh annual Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards honored six innovators and advocates who are helping blind people live the lives they want.

Awards of $5,000 were presented to each of the following individuals and organizations:

  • Carol Begay Green of Farmington, New Mexico, who developed a Braille code for the Navajo language and will use the funds to teach the code to blind students and others in the Navajo Nation.
  • Peggy Chong, also known as the blind history lady, who shares stories of notable blind individuals throughout history through her website, books, and articles, and who will use the funds to take research trips to complete more of these profiles.
  • IBUG (iOS Blind User group) of Houston, Texas, a network of volunteers using both in-person and virtual training methods to help blind people learn to use the iPhone and other technologies.
  • Ski for Light, an organization that connects the blind, sighted, and others with disabilities through annual cross-country skiing events.
  • The Tactile Map Automation Project (TMAP) of the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired of San Francisco, developers of an automated process that can produce a tactile map of any neighborhood in the United states from an address provided by a user.

The top award of $25,000 was presented to Be My Eyes Inc., the Denmark-based developer of the Be My Eyes app, which connects blind people with sighted volunteers around the world via video conference to provide real-time visual assistance, such as reading labels or identifying colors.

Dr. Jacob W. Bolotin (1888-1924) was the world's first physician who was blind from birth. He achieved that goal despite the tremendous challenges faced by blind people in his time. Not only did he realize his own dream, but he also went on to support and inspire many others.

"Dr. Jacob Bolotin was a pioneer who overcame low expectations and discrimination to become a renowned member of the medical profession without the benefit of the support services and civil rights protections available to blind people today," said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. "The National Federation of the Blind is proud to honor the memory and spirit of Dr. Bolotin by recognizing and financially supporting those individuals and organizations who are doing exceptional work to help achieve the shared dream of Dr. Bolotin and the National Federation of the Blind—a society in which the blind, like all other Americans, can pursue their goals and live the lives they want."

The Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards Program is funded through the generosity of Dr. Bolotin's nephew and niece-in-law, Alfred and Rosalind Perlman. The late Mrs. Perlman established the Alfred and Rosalind Perlman Trust to endow the awards. Income from the trust is distributed to the National Federation of the Blind and the Santa Barbara Foundation for the purpose of administering the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards Program. For more information about the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards Program—including more about this year's winners, as well as eligibility criteria and application procedures—please visit www.nfb.org/bolotin.

###

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 Awards $50,000

Latest News - Mon, 07/23/2018 - 14:17
Release Date: Monday, July 23, 2018Category: National

Orlando, Florida (July 23, 2018): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has presented $50,000 in cash awards to individuals and organizations that are a positive force in the lives of blind people and whose work advances the ultimate goal of helping transform their dreams into reality.

National Federation of the Blind Files Discrimination Complaint with MCAD

From NFB.org - Wed, 07/18/2018 - 11:28

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Wednesday, July 18, 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 Files Discrimination Complaint with MCADAlleges Discrimination by Epic Systems Corporation

Boston (July 18, 2018): The National Federation of the Blind, the nation's oldest and largest organization of blind Americans, has filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Epic Systems Corporation. Epic creates and distributes software solutions used widely throughout the US healthcare industry. The complaint alleges that blind people are barred from employment at hospitals and other healthcare facilities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that use Epic's software because Epic has not made that software compatible with screen readers used by the blind.

Screen readers are technologies that render information on a computer screen as synthesized speech or Braille and allow blind users to use keyboard commands instead of a mouse. When technology is compatible with screen readers and meets certain other criteria, it is said to be accessible.

"Blind people are employed successfully throughout the healthcare industry at all levels, but Epic's discriminatory behavior threatens their ability to maintain or obtain such employment," said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. "Epic's failure to make its systems accessible is inexcusable, especially since the company has taken steps to make its patient-facing software accessible. Apparently, Epic thinks blind people are only fit to be patients, not healthcare workers. This is wrong, and the blind of America will not tolerate it."

The National Federation of the Blind is represented by Christine M. Netski and Grace L. McGuire of the Boston firm Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C., and by Joseph B. Espo and Kevin D. Docherty of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy LLP.

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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 nfb.org.

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