Blind Abilities

By Blind Abilities Team

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Blind Abilities: The most comprehensive resource for Assistive Technology, Accessible Devices, Blind and Low Vision Technology, iPhone demonstrations, success Stories, Job Insights, College and Career Pathways and all with a Blindness Perspective.

Episode Date
APH’s Braille Trail Reader LE Braille Display And Humanware’s Joel Zimba Talks APH Partnership and Listening to Podcasts on the Victor Stream..
23:09

Show Summary:

Joel Zimba, Blindness Products Specialist for Humanware, joined Jeff Thompson in the Blind Abilities Studio to talk about the new Braille Trail Reader LE.

The TechAbilities Logo-Dark Sunglasses with TA and BA bold letters in each lens.

This new Braille Display was developed in partnership with the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) for and fits right into the APH  line of Quota  Fund available products.

The Braille Trail is built off the Brailliant BI 14 Braille Display which is available from Humanwareand while the two devices are very much similar, the Braille Trail has a few specific student/teacher software features added to this bite size braille display.

Joel and Jeff also talk about the podcast possibilities built into the Victor Stream devices and how easy it is to follow your favorite podcasts.

For more information about the Braille Trail Reader LE, check out the www.APH.org web site and to find out more about the Brailliant BI 14 Braille Display, go to Humanware.com.

You can also reach Humanware by phone at 800-722-3393. 

You can contact Joel Zimba by email.

Be sure to stop by the Humanware exhibit at the NFB and ACB conferences coming up in July!

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Storeand Google Play Store.

Check out the Blind Abilities Communityon Facebook, the Blind Abilities Page, the Job Insights Support Groupand the Assistive Technology Community for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

May 22, 2019
Career Expo: Hands On with Physical Therapist Alex Loch, DPT. Doctorate Degree, Low Vision and Staying Fit
09:17

Show Summary:

State Services for the Blind hosted a Career Expo for high school and college students who are blind, low vision, or DeafBlind.

Image of man with cane and woman with service dog and City Skyline with Job Insights in bold letters.

The event took place on Saturday, April 27.

Throughout the Expo students had the opportunity to:

  • Connect with adults with a vision loss from a variety of professions and careers.
  • Hear from college representatives about what college is like.
  • Learn why diversity matters from an employer’s point of view.
  • Share and learn about assistive technology
  • Sign up for individual informational and/or mock interviews.

In this interview, Jeff Thompson caught up with Alex Loch:

 

Alex Loch, DPT 

Physical Therapist, Essentia Health

Alex Loch, DPT, earned his Doctorate of Physical Therapy at the College of St. Scholastica. He is currently employed as a physical therapist at Essentia Health, in Duluth, MN. Additionally Alex serves as the Company Physical Therapist with the Minnesota Ballet. He is also a professional modern, aerial, and ballroom dance performer and instructor.

If you would like to know more about Transition Services from State Services contact Transition Coordinator Sheila Koenig by email or contact her via phone at 651-539-2361.
To find your State Services in your State you can go to www.AFB.org and search the directory for your agency.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Storeand Google Play Store.

Check out the Blind Abilities Communityon Facebook, the Blind Abilities Page, the Job Insights Support Groupand the Assistive Technology Community for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

May 22, 2019
Exercise, Fitness, and Chocolate … With a Blindness Perspective - Blog Post by Kelsi Hansen

It is a well known fact that exercise and overall fitness is essential to living a healthy happy life. But for a blind individual, exercise may not be as easy to accomplish as it is for sighted individuals. There are definitely some unique challenges that come with exercise and being blind. For instance, I cannot just walk out my front door and go for a 6 mile jog by myself. Maybe eventually I could, but right now, I couldn’t. I can’t just join a yoga class for the first time, and expect to know what they are talking about when they say do “downward dog” or “child’s pose.” Watching the demonstration they give at the front of the class is not going to work for me. I am still not going to understand what they want me to do. So, how then am I as a blind person, supposed to get good quality exercise that I enjoy? 

First off, it is important to know that fitness is a journey. It is a journey without a destination; it is a life-long pursuit that is probably going to have a lot of starts and stops along the way. And that is okay; it is okay to take a break from exercising; it is okay to explore, and figure out what you like and what you don’t like; it is okay to say, “this exercise does not work for me.” 

If you can’t enjoy your journey, then you will not want to make it. And if you don’t make the journey, then it will be harder to stay healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I have stopped a lot on my journey. I don’t like to “exercise.” I prefer to, what I call, “be active.” It’s not fun for me to go to a gym and do weights day in and day out. I prefer to be out in the community doing things: hiking; rock climbing; biking; swimming etc. And I don’t want to label any of that as “exercise,” because then it won’t be fun for me. 

I have joined rock climbing, a swim team, judo, and track. I have taken belly dancing, swing dancing, and water aerobics classes. But none of them stuck. I got tired and burnt out on all of them after a few months, and I couldn’t figure out why.

 Over the years, I came to realize that I am very competitive. I am competitive and want to beat others. But I am also competitive within myself; I want to be better than I was, than I am. Which can be really healthy in the right dose. Unfortunately for me though, I am a very sore loser. I don’t mean to be, but I realized that I am. I am never top at anything I do. I am not super talented in the sports department. I am mediocre. And I don’t have the patience to push past my mediocrity, which meant I was always going to lose some; I was always going to be hard on myself for not being better; for not being as good as others. It may be an unhealthy thought pattern, but that’s where my head was at. So I gave up all sports, and decided that I was going to live an active life style. I was going to swim when I could or bike when I could, but I wasn’t going to actively exercise. 

But as a blind person, the active life style wasn’t going so well. Without many friends, a lot of activities I didn’t want to, or couldn’t do. I couldn’t ride my tandem bike outside without someone to pilot. I didn’t want to go swimming by myself. I could take walks, but that got boring and repetitive. After years of this, I noticed my health was declining. I no longer felt like a twenty something, and instead felt like I was forty. I had a lot of aches and pains, my energy level was low, and I just didn’t feel young.

 I had to figure something out. So I went online and found a class that I wanted to take. It was a barre class, which combines ballet and pilates in a way that works on balance. Only one problem: how was I to join this class without taking up too much of the instructor’s time, and slowing the class down? I decided to have a couple of private sessions with a personal trainer to learn what sort of things they did in the class, so I could keep up. And those couple of lessons have turned into a couple of years. I discovered that by having a personal trainer, I got to do many different types of exercises. If I don’t like one, we try another. 

Just having that small amount of exercise lifted my mood, and made me feel healthier. I started feeling more my age, and loved that feeling. So I decided to try new things outside of my short sessions with my trainer. I found a beginning running clinic in my town that I joined. Through that I met a lot of runners from the local run club who were willing to run with me. Running became less of an exercise, and more of a social event for me, which makes it way more fun!

 Through running, I met a couple of friends who invited me to go to the gym with them every day. I don’t like going to the gym, it is “exercising.” But I have found that the more I do it, the more I enjoy it. I enjoy seeing my friend’s everyday; I enjoy feeling strong; and most of all I enjoy that feeling of accomplishment I get watching how far I’ve come in my fitness over the last few months. The more I work out, the more I want to work out. I have become so much healthier. Instead of feeling my age, I feel five years younger. Also, the more active I become, the more I seem to accomplish in my daily life. 

This has been my fitness journey so far, and why I think it is so important. Exercise really does keep you healthy in every way, and it is more clear to me now, than it ever has been. It is hard to start, but once you take that first step, every step after that gets easier to take. 

Exercise is not a one size fits all activity. There are exercises that will fit you better than others. But some of them, you may feel like you can’t do because of your lack of sight. And if that’s the case, then you might not find the right exercise for you because maybe you feel like you can’t do it. So, here are some tips that I have learned over the years of trying many many different exercises: 

1. Exercise at Home 

Let’s say you can’t get out and exercise-maybe you don’t have a local gym; or just don’t really want to leave the house. There is always the option of exercising at home. Personally, I find this boring, but a lot of people prefer it. It is something you can do with, or without special equipment. Maybe just try some exercises, or stretches that you have learned before. If you don’t know any, you could have someone watch some work out videos, and show you the types of exercises in them. Or, if you could find a guided work out video online that talks you through the exercises, you could use that.

 The best part about working out at home is that you don’t necessarily have to do it for long periods of time. You could just do ten minutes here and there. A little bit goes a long ways towards helping you feel healthier. And, it might give you that first step you need to start your fitness journey. 

2. Fitness Classes 

You could join a fitness class that sounds interesting to you, whether that be a water aerobics, taekwondo, or zumba class. In the past, I have joined with a friend with the understanding that they would help explain the exercise. Or show me what I missed, or didn’t understand. 

 It can also be helpful to contact the instructor ahead of time to let them know that you are going to join the class and that you are blind. I haven’t always done this, sometimes it is uncertain who the instructor will be until the last minute. If I can’t get ahold of them before the start of the class, I make sure to arrive early and talk to them before class. That way the instructor is aware that I am blind. I can let them know some things that would help me have a good experience, such as having them describe what they are doing while they are demonstrating the exercise to the class. 

I have had one instructor who went above and beyond, and I didn’t even need the friend who joined with me. Once, I joined a belly dancing class, and the instructor would demonstrate for the class, and then come over to me, and let me feel how she moved her body, to make sure I understood what I was supposed to do, before starting the music. Touch is a really good way to learn what you are supposed to do. Not everyone is comfortable with being touched though, so it is good to find out if the instructor would be comfortable with it first. And if you are not comfortable being touched, then let the instructor or friend know, so they can give more explanation if necessary. 

Touch works amazingly, but it can be time consuming. Let’s say that you want to join a yoga class, where you might have to contort your body in very specific complicated ways. Touching the instructor, or having them position your body, through the whole class would take up a lot of time, and the other people taking the class wouldn’t get as much out of it. In this case, having a couple of private sessions before hand to learn the different poses is probably going to work best. Once you are familiar with the poses and their names, you could join a class without much disruption to others. 

It is important to note that a good instructor will take the time for you. Most fitness instructors that I have come across are very passionate about the activity they are teaching, and tend to just want people to be healthy. So most of them will take the time it takes to teach you because they really care about fitness.  I have found that the instructors can make or break the experience. So if the instructor is not great, go to plan B: ask a friend; or get a private session; or maybe just switch classes. But don’t give up! Eventually you will find your nitche; you’ll find what you enjoy; and you’ll find the right instructor or trainer!

3. Fitness Clubs

Joining a local fitness club is an excellent way to get some exercise and meet new people. In the past I have been in a martial arts club, and now I am in a runners club. My experience with both have been very positive. Within the club, when I go, people tend to just jump in and help. Or if you ask for help, they will help. There is usually no need for me to hire a personal trainer, or bring a friend to help me. The club members tend to fill that position. 

Or maybe there is some sort of small group, not necessarily a club, in your area that you could be a part of. Maybe there is a small group of people who go hiking once a week; or maybe there’s a group that goes for bike rides on a regular basis. If this is something of interest, do some research in your area. Put some feelers out, and see if there is any local clubs or groups that you might be interested in.

4. Weight Rooms 

Going to the Weight room is great for your fitness, and can be done fairly independently for a blind individual. Personally, it’s not my jam, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t tried it. So, how can one figure out a machine and set the proper weight without sight to rely on?

 The first thing to do is to explore the weight room you are using. Get familiar with where the machines are. Once you pick a machine, it’s most helpful to explore it; Find where you would adjust the weights, which is usually in front of, or to the right of the machine; find where you would sit, and how you would move the machine. Don’t be afraid to look silly.  Exploring the machine by touch is going to help you learn how to use it independently.  And attaining knowledge is never a silly endeavor! 

Before you  use the machine, you are going to need to adjust the weights. A lot of this is trial and error. You might not know what weight is best for you. Or if you do, you would need to set it to that weight.

 There is generally a hole in the brick, or weight, that you would put an attached pin in. Each brick usually  ranges from 10-15 pounds (at least in the US, I can’t speak for other countries.)  So if you put the pin three bricks down, you would be adding 30-45 pounds. Some machines have a minimum weight, so this 30-45 pounds might be added on top of that. Also, there may be five pound weights suspended above the machine that you can adjust to add smaller increments to the weight if you wish. 

One thing I would recommend is to not add any weight until you know how to use the machine. If you weren’t quite sure how it moved, and you added weight, you  might end up hurting yourself. It is extremely important to explore the machine before you use it. If you were to move the wrong way with weights added, you could strain or tear a muscle, or worse. Always explore your environment in the weight room to ensure your safety. 

If you want to use dumbbells or kettle belles, they are usually ordered from lightest to heaviest on the rack. The smallest is usually 5 pounds, and they generally increase by 5 pounds from there. Also, when you use kettle belles or free weights, you are going to want to make sure you have a clear space. If you are too close to a machine or a person, you or someone else could get hurt. This is another reason exploring your environment, and knowing your space is essential in a weight room. 

And lastly: CHOCOLATE!!! Most people love chocolate. I’ve only met a  few crazies who don’t. Okay okay, if I could be one of the few people who don’t like chocolate, I would do it in a heartbeat. If you are like me, then chocolate is your weakness. I have a mega sweet tooth, especially with chocolate, and I can’t just eat one. Now that I, yes I will say it, exercise on a regular basis, I can feel slightly less guilty when I indulge my sweet tooth. Chocolate is still not good for me … unless it’s dark chocolate, then it’s just heart healthy … and I definitely eat too much of it, but now that I exercise I can feel a bit less guilty when I eat it. This is another, if not the best benefit to regular exercise. Chocolate makes my world go round!!!

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Storeand Google Play Store.

Check out the Blind Abilities Communityon Facebook, the Blind Abilities Page, the Job Insights Support Groupand the Assistive Technology Community for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

May 20, 2019
Meet Kristin Smedley: Author, of Thriving Blind: Stories of Real People Succeeding Without Sight. Interview by Simon Bonenfant
35:34

Full Transcript Below

Show Summary:

Life is funny… sort of.    That’s how Kristin sees it! Kristin Smedley is an award winning non-profit leader, TEDx speaker, and author – but she never planned on any of that.

Image of the Thriving Blind Book Cover Image of the Thriving Blind Book Cover

however her personal path to greatness took an unexpected turn when two of her three children were diagnosed as blind. She had to learn the tools of blindness and build a team of experts that would help her navigate this path that she had not been trained for. Kristin’s two blind sons are now thriving. (taken from www.KritinSmedley.com)

Blind Abilities Teen correspondent, Simon Bonenfant, sat down with Kristin to talk about her book Thriving Blind. Kristin shares her experience from raising 2 sons who happen to be Blind, and how she found confidence from  others who were living successful lives without sight. Her journey through education and meeting parents who faced the limited expectations gave Kristin  the incentive to do more. 

Learn about the foundation she created and what led her to write her first book, Thriving Blind.

You can find Thriving Blindin paperback , and in Large Print, as well as in Kindle Edition. You can also go to www.KristinSmedley.comand get the Electronic Braille format.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Storeand Google Play Store.

Check out the Blind Abilities Communityon Facebook, the Blind Abilities Page, the Job Insights Support Groupand the Assistive Technology Community for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

 

Full Transcript:

Full Transcript

Meet Kristin Smedley: Author, of Thriving Blind: Stories of Real People Succeeding Without Sight. Interview by Simon Bonenfant

Kristen Smedley:
I was pretty much told, "They might have to know Braille, they'll have to learn how to use a cane, and good luck."

Jeff Thompson:
Introducing Kristin Smedley, author of the new book Thriving Blind.

Kristen Smedley:
Nobody told me what was possible for them. I had no education on blindness whatsoever. I spent 19 years going out and finding people that were literally succeeding without sight.

Jeff Thompson:
Thriving Blind on Amazon for paperback and Kindle, and large print, and you can go to kristinsmedley.com for the electronic Braille version.

Kristen Smedley:
And how about this? I told our principal about it, and he sent Michael's entire IEP team to that high school to hear Eric talk.

Jeff Thompson:
Kristin is an advocate for parents of blind children, and herself is a parent of two sons who happen to be blind.

Kristen Smedley:
"I'm kind of nervous and all," and she goes, "Are you kidding? I was so happy to be invited because the first book I was in, it was about being a failure."

Jeff Thompson:
An interview conducted by our teen correspondent, Simon Bonenfant.

Simon Bonenfant:
We all have our cross to bear, and we all have something that's going on, and there's two ways to look at that. We could either get down about that, or we can find encouragement in each other through our sufferings, and turn into something good if we stand together through that. It sounds like your book promotes that as well.

Kristen Smedley:
I love that, Simon.

Kristen Smedley:
Whether they were blind from birth or came into blindness later in life, they all had a different strength that they found in themselves.

Jeff Thompson:
For more podcasts with the blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, on Twitter @BlindAbilities, and download the free Blind Abilities app from the app store and Google Play store. That's two words, Blind Abilities. And be sure to enable the Blind Abilities skill on your Amazon device just by saying "enable Blind Abilities".

Jeff Thompson:
And now, please welcome Kristin Smedley and Simon Bonenfant.

Kristen Smedley:
When you're first told that you think you're going to have this life plan, and now you got to rethink your whole thing, it kind of stinks.

Simon Bonenfant:
Hello Blind Abilities, this is Simon Bonenfant here. Today I got a chance to talk to Kristin Smedley. How are you doing, Kristin?

Kristen Smedley:
I'm good, thanks. I'm so happy to be here, Simon.

Simon Bonenfant:
And you are the author of a book, Thriving Blind.

Kristen Smedley:
That's right, that's my new book. First book, new book.

Simon Bonenfant:
Very good, congratulations.

Kristen Smedley:
Thank you.

Simon Bonenfant:
And what is your book about?

Kristen Smedley:
So Thriving Blind is stories of real people succeeding without sight. It highlights 13 people that are chasing their dreams, living in the careers that they choose to have, regardless of vision loss. And I say 13, it's actually 12 interviews that I did, and the 13th person is Erik Weihenmayer, the blind mountain climber and adventurer extraordinaire that wrote the forward for the book.

Simon Bonenfant:
Very good.

Simon Bonenfant:
Let's just go back a little bit. How did you get the idea for the book, and what is your past interactions with blindness? How did you get in the blindness field?

Kristen Smedley:
I came about this by accident. Two of my three kids were diagnosed as blind 19 and 15 years ago. I was pretty much told, "They might have to know Braille, they'll have to learn how to use a cane, and good luck." Nobody told me what was possible for them. I had no education on blindness whatsoever. I spent 19 years going out and finding people that were literally succeeding without sight, because I wanted my boys to do that. I didn't want to just be that we would go home and be blind.

Simon Bonenfant:
What was their journey like throughout school?

Kristen Smedley:
They did all of the regular public schools. They were even on baseball teams and the swim team. All kinds of stuff in our town. I've worked myself silly to make sure that they could do everything that they wanted to do. Honestly, I never would've anticipated all of this, and I didn't think all of this was going to be possible when those first diagnoses came, until we met Erik Weihenmayer.

Kristen Smedley:
He had just come off of Everest and was climbing the other seven summits, and I thought, "Well... " That was when Michael was six. I thought, "Well, if he can do it, we can do it. We just have to find all the tools and resources to do it." Which has been an interesting journey with getting some things and fighting for others, as I'm sure your family can attest to. But we've made it work.

Simon Bonenfant:
And how did you meet Erik? How did you first meet him?

Kristen Smedley:
You know, somebody sent me his book when Michael was a year old, I believe, and then... I have to remember. Through happen circumstance, I found out he was going to be speaking at an event in my hometown of Philly, and there's the Associated Services of the Blind of Philadelphia—

Simon Bonenfant:
Yep. ASB, yeah.

Kristen Smedley:
Yeah, they put on an awards banquet every year, the Louis Braille Awards, and Erik was being recognized. Somehow I was able to get ahold of Erik's dad Ed. I got him on the phone and said, "Listen, while you're here, we'd love for Michael to meet Erik," and it turned out that Erik was speaking at a high school right near my house. And how about this? I told our elementary school principal about it, and he sent Michael's entire IEP team to that high school to hear Erik talk.

Simon Bonenfant:
Wow, that's incredible.

Kristen Smedley:
Yep. And I really credit that moment with, when they came out of Erik's speech, their minds were wide open to all the possibilities for Michael, and then eventually Mitchell when he went to that school.

Simon Bonenfant:
That's great. And I've heard you speak before [inaudible] and I've always taken away that you're a big advocate for the blind doing whatever they want to do.

Kristen Smedley:
Whatever they want to do. Yeah.

Simon Bonenfant:
It sounds like Erik really inspired you to get that way.

Kristen Smedley:
He was the number one inspiration for that, and the second person along those lines was a woman by the name of Kay Lahey who's a mom of a blind man, because he's now in his late 20s or early 30s on Capitol Hill, but she was the first mom that I met that said, "You can still have them do whatever they want, you're just going to have to do a lot of work behind the scenes in the early years to get them the tools that they need, and then watch them soar." So I was lucky.

Simon Bonenfant:
Very good.

Simon Bonenfant:
And when did you have the idea first to seriously pursue the book and chronicle your experiences and other people's experience? When did you first get the idea to say this is something that you're going to seriously pursue?

Kristen Smedley:
That's a great question. Right around 2011, I started the patient organization for our specific blindness. Initially it was set up to fund research for a cure, but then I was meeting all these parents through that organization that were pretty much, for the most part, sitting on the couch and crossing their fingers for that cure, because they still had no idea how to get out there and get the kids the tools and resources. A lot of schools were telling them that they didn't have the resources, and they were giving them some bad information in terms of Braille and activities and options and stuff like that.

Kristen Smedley:
So then I started sharing all the stories that I knew of these folks that I was meeting, blind architect and mechanic, all the possibilities that were out there, and I thought, "Okay. We've got to get this to everybody." It was going to be either a website or a pamphlet for doctors to hand these families so that they knew there was some potential. And that pamphlet and website evolved into a book.

Simon Bonenfant:
Wow, that's great.

Simon Bonenfant:
Just going back to your foundation, what is your foundation called, and how did you get the idea to start that up?

Kristen Smedley:
So crb1.org is the Curing Retinal Blindness Foundation, and like I said, it specifically started for kids like my boys that are, it's a mutation in the crb1 gene that causes their Leber's congenital amaurosis. We did initially start because there was work being down in the field that was using gene therapy to restore some vision, and initially that was my hope, that a miracle would come and they'd be able to see. All in a day's work, right? But then we quickly had to diversify the mission to realize that that's how we were going to help people get tools and resources to raise these kids.

Kristen Smedley:
Because honestly, there's a lot of people out there that are blind and happy with their lives that way.

Simon Bonenfant:
Oh, absolutely.

Kristen Smedley:
And honestly, in my house right now, one of two is saying, "I'm good. I'm fine. This is me, and this is my life, and I'm just fine." The other one's saying—

Simon Bonenfant:
That's the way I see it.

Kristen Smedley:
Yeah. And there's a lot of people in the blind community that are like that. And then the other half is saying, "Well, if I have an option to do some things that I can't do without sight, I'd like that option."

Simon Bonenfant:
And that's okay as well.

Kristen Smedley:
Yeah! Yeah. But you know, for a while there, the blind community wasn't open to... one side of the fence wasn't open to the other camp's way of thinking, and I think that we can all live in the same world with those two different options and be cool with that.

Simon Bonenfant:
Exactly. Because until that day comes, they're blind, and we can all learn from each other.

Kristen Smedley:
Yep.

Simon Bonenfant:
That's the way it works.

Simon Bonenfant:
So going forward to your book, how did you get the people that you were wanting to get? When you first started it, did you have instantly in mind these 13 people, or did it kind of evolve?

Kristen Smedley:
That's a great question. I just reached out to the people that I had met, and there's a few that I had not met at that point. It was just through conversations with the IEP team and other people. When I was saying, "I'm putting this book together," people said, "Oh you got to interview this person, and you got to interview that person." But for the most part, I met them all and they all jumped on board with it and said yes.

Simon Bonenfant:
Very good.

Simon Bonenfant:
So how did you conduct the interviews? Did you go to where they lived? [crosstalk]

Kristen Smedley:
It was all on the phone.

Simon Bonenfant:
Oh, on the phone. Okay. Very good.

Kristen Smedley:
Yeah, I found an app called... if I remember right, it was called Tape A Call, and I was able to record all the interviews and take notes, because my mind can't do one or the other, I have to do two things [crosstalk] And then I transcribed all of those interviews, and interestingly enough, initially I was writing the book in my take on their interview. And then a friend of mine said... I was in this Mastermind group where we all got together on Skype and talked about our businesses and our ideas and help each other work through stuff. And my Mastermind group said, "Wait a minute. People are going to want to hear their own words. From your people that you interviewed, do it in their words." That actually made it way easier. I just edited it down to fit in the book.

Kristen Smedley:
So it's totally written in, it's their own words, each of the people I interviewed, and you can tell one of my editors emailed me and said, "Is this guy that I'm going to... " it was Simon Wheatcroft... she goes, "Is he from the UK? Because he talks differently." The way I wrote it, I wrote it all in his voice. I said yeah. She's like, "Okay, I need to know that as an editor."

Simon Bonenfant:
Wow, so how long did it take you from the time of the interviews to the writing?

Kristen Smedley:
It was a few years, because I did all those interviews, and then it was trying to figure out what was the best mechanism to get it out there, and then it was... There was a lot of stuff that happened in my life, and kept getting put on the back burner, and the foundation was really taking off.

Kristen Smedley:
If I'm being perfectly honest, one of the biggest issues I had was fear. I was really nervous about; I had never written a book before and I wasn't a writer. I'm very good at speaking and—

Simon Bonenfant:
Yes you are.

Kristen Smedley:
I'm used to parties and stuff, but writing was one of my least talents on the list growing up, and in my adult life, and I was so nervous about putting a written work out into the world. And then my life just happened that I had to do something, I had to start getting some income, and it was also... This mission just had to get out there. I was meeting way too many moms that were struggling, and I didn't have this resource to hand them yet.

Kristen Smedley:
"You know what, Kristin? Get over it. You've got to get over yourself and your fears," and I went and talked to a lot of authors that had similar fears early on. Talked to people that published successful books, listened to a zillion interviews and podcasts, and just went for it.

Simon Bonenfant:
Wow. And who are the 12 other people? You mentioned Erik is the 13th person, but who are the 12 other people that you got?

Kristen Smedley:
Oh gosh, now I'm going off the top of my head. I'll give you a few highlights and then people can dive into the book.

Kristen Smedley:
One that really stuck with me, especially when I was editing and going through some stuff in my life, was Monty Bedwell. Did you ever hear of him?

Simon Bonenfant:
No, actually.

Kristen Smedley:
He's a good friend of Erik's. He kayaked the Grand Canyon and his book is called 226. That's how many miles are in the Grand Canyon.

Simon Bonenfant:
Wow.

Kristen Smedley:
But his story... I should mention that half of the people in the book... I didn't intend it this way, but half were born blind, and the other half went blind as adults.

Simon Bonenfant:
Oh, that's interesting. That's a good mix, then, I guess.

Kristen Smedley:
Right? And I didn't even intend that. But Lonnie is one of the ones that went blind as an adult, and the stuff he went through in his life, and being in the service, and all this stuff, and he goes blind from an accident that was caused by one of his best friends. Total freak accident. And the fact that Lonnie came through that, and his life is incredible now. His whole story, the undertone is loving and forgiveness and friendship and kindness. It got me through so many of the struggles in my own life. I always go back to Lonnie's chapter, and I talk with him every now and again, because he's just a cool, nice guy. He's a single parent, and his stories of how he handled...

Kristen Smedley:
It was actually his five-year-old daughter that was the pivotal moment of him handling his blindness. The story's hilarious of him... Let me just tell you, it involved driving a lawn tractor.

Simon Bonenfant:
Wow.

Kristen Smedley:
And his five-year-old putting her hands on her hips and telling him to get over himself and get on with his life. It's a hilarious story.

Kristen Smedley:
But Lonnie, that was a really cool one for me.

Kristen Smedley:
Chris Downey is another one that went blind as an adult. He was a very successful architect. Again, had a medical issue that there was something that saved his life, a surgery, caused his blindness, and when he woke up, totally blind. He said everybody came in and took his life away. Even his phone, because they said, "Your life is going to be different now. You're going on disability. You're not working anymore," and he said he had a 10-year-old son at home that he needed to set an example for. He got back to work as an architect within a month of that surgery, and he's more successful now than he was then.

Kristen Smedley:
That is a TED Talk that you should watch. Chris Downey on if we would design communities with the blind in mind, how much better those towns would be.

Simon Bonenfant:
Very good. Yeah, we could probably put that in the show notes.

Kristen Smedley:
Oh, that would be great!

Simon Bonenfant:
We have a show notes portion we put that.

Simon Bonenfant:
Getting on to TED Talks, you actually did a TED Talk. That's a good segue, right? You did TED Talk?

Kristen Smedley:
I did. I did. It was the hardest thing I ever did.

Simon Bonenfant:
Wow. What was that about, the TED Talk?

Kristen Smedley:
That was about how my perception of blindness changed, and it was from my two boys. Mainly Michael, because he was the first born.

Kristen Smedley:
For a long time, I wasn't proud to mention how horrible I was in dealing with the blindness diagnosis. I mean, if you want to see an epic example of how not to handle a blindness diagnosis, that was me.

Kristen Smedley:
But Michael changed my perception on that when he was three, and when I finally looked at the situation differently, that's when our journey just exploded into amazingness, and the talk is trying to teach the lesson that if you look at things differently, especially blindness, how much your life can open up.

Simon Bonenfant:
I'm sure you learned a lot from the book. What was the biggest takeaway that you learned from all the interviews that you apply to your own life? Because a lot of these stories can apply to anyone, really, not blindness. Just the idea of overcoming obstacles, whatever that is... that means blindness to some people, maybe it's not, maybe it's just in the mind for some people, overcoming fear and things. So what was your biggest takeaway that you apply to your own life from your interviews?

Kristen Smedley:
Oh my gosh, you have the greatest questions.

Kristen Smedley:
So I could probably talk for hours on this, but I think... I went into this to teach people about changing their perception of blindness, and that was the goal of each interview. But I'm telling you, when I was going through the process... remember I told you it took a couple of years to get it written and everything... every time I was going back to these chapters to rewrite and edit and get them perfect, something was going on in my life.

Kristen Smedley:
One of the biggest ones was when I got divorced. And then I was going through and editing these chapters, and I was taking stuff away from them, like Lonnie with forgiveness and friendship, and Diane Berberian is the iron man competitor, and her thing is just finding the fun in everything, and the joy. And her stories, you know, so much happened with her. She went through a divorce, too, and she went through a bunch of stuff, but she made me laugh through the entire interviews, and even when I was editing her chapter.

Kristen Smedley:
So I guess it's hard to pinpoint just one thing, but each person gave me a different takeaway, most of them being resilience, and everybody's got something. Everyone has something they struggle with. And even all these people, whether they were blind from birth or came into blindness later in life, they all had a different strength that they found in themselves along their journey somewhere.

Simon Bonenfant:
I always find that we could have encouragement from other people having struggled, because we all have struggles in our life. No one's perfect. I always say, "We all have our crosses to carry," and it's true that we all have our cross to bear, and we all have something that's going on, and there's two ways to look at that. We could either get down about that, or we could find encouragement in each other through our sufferings, and turn it into something good if we stand together through that. It sounds like your book promotes that as well.

Kristen Smedley:
I love that, Simon. That's... how old are you?

Simon Bonenfant:
17.

Kristen Smedley:
Oh my god. That's an incredible way to look at this world, and let's promote that perspective more, because if people would do that, could you imagine? If people would realize everybody's got something going on, and let's see what we can do to help the other person out, that would be an incredible way for things to not be such big things in this world.

Simon Bonenfant:
Exactly.

Simon Bonenfant:
And going back to the book, when you were doing interviews for the people, did you have a set of questions, or did you kind of make it go as the conversation flowed? How did you end up having a method, too, to where you asked the questions and things?

Kristen Smedley:
You know what? I was so nervous about it, because I had never written a book before. So to that point, I had a list of questions, and then I'm like, "Nah, that's stupid. Let's do it this way. Nope. Let's do it this way." And then I was putting off all the interviews because I wanted it to be perfect. So then I'm like, "Okay, here's what I want people to get out of this." I went back to my, when I was trained to be a teacher, a lesson plan. What do they know? What do they need to know? What are the objectives? And how will I know that this will see success to measure it?

Kristen Smedley:
So I figured, all right, I want people to know what this person's condition is, what the blindness is. Were they born blind or did they go blind? What are their big tools and resources that are going to be helpful to everybody else to know about? But the biggest thing that I wanted to come out of this, and that's in each chapter, there's a section at the end called The Bright Side, because I didn't want this to be a downer. I didn't want it to be heavy. So I asked every single person... We call them blind perks in our house. Hey, let's face it, when you're at Disney World and they see the cane and they go, "Do you want to go to the front of the line?" We're like, "Yep."

Simon Bonenfant:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kristen Smedley:
"It's 100 degrees and I'm standing in this line."

Simon Bonenfant:
I always do that in the airport with the security. That's a nice little perk, too.

Kristen Smedley:
And you know what? There's several people in the book that highlighted the airport as one of the biggest perks, that they just get to be treated like the red carpet.

Kristen Smedley:
Do you know Bill McCann?

Simon Bonenfant:
Yeah, I know him very well. Yep. [crosstalk]

Kristen Smedley:
So he's in the book, and he says that his partner Albert called—

Simon Bonenfant:
I know him, too.

Kristen Smedley:
Yeah, so Albert calls the cane the parting of the Red Sea. He's like, "Here we go. Stick the cane out," and everybody gets out of the way, especially when they're in a hurry. All that fun stuff.

Kristen Smedley:
But yes, I did go through... I had a list of questions. I was still nervous, though. And actually, I talked about Diane Berberian being all about fun. She was my first interview. I was so nervous, and then we got to talking on the phone, and I said, "I'm so happy that you agreed to do this. I'm kind of nervous and all." She goes, "Are you kidding? I was so happy to be invited because the first book I was in, it was about being a failure!" I said, "What?" She had trained for a triathlon and totally messed it up. She was awful. I don't even know if she finished. So somebody wrote a book about what not to do, and she was highlighted in that book. She's like, "I'm so excited that I'm involved in a book with the success word in it."

Kristen Smedley:
So then I had the questions and just kind of followed that format, but each of the interviews kind of took on a life of their own, and everyone's personality came through in those chapters. It was cool.

Simon Bonenfant:
Very good. That's the way I do my interviews. I don't really come up with a set question. I have obviously a topic that's going to come up, but as the conversation flows, I think up questions in my head and I ask them and answer them and it kind of segues in [inaudible] follow a strict format, it's not a from-the-heart conversation. It's so strict and rigid. It's got to come from the heart, and it's got to be a natural conversation. And those are the best ones.

Kristen Smedley:
Yeah.

Simon Bonenfant:
That's with podcasting, interviewing, writing, that's really what that's about, is the conversation.

Kristen Smedley:
Yeah. Again, your age and being able to do that, because that also takes a lot of... You have a very good talent for listening, then, because you really have to be a good listener to then know what you want to draw out of what that person is saying. That's cool that you can do that at 17.

Simon Bonenfant:
Thank you.

Simon Bonenfant:
Who is your biggest, or at the time was your biggest supporter when you were writing the book, and who really supported you in saying, "This is something that's going to be good," and supported your effort all the way through?

Kristen Smedley:
I'm extremely lucky, and I say it all the time, that I know how blessed I am to have the team that I have, in terms of family, friends and whatnot. I know a lot of people don't have that. Some of it I built through a network and all of that, and some I'm just blessed with, with my parents and I have a really big family, and then my kids.

Kristen Smedley:
But I would say, if I had to say who the number one person was, it was my three kids. They thought it was the coolest idea in the world. They knew that it was taking a lot of time and effort to get it together, and there was a lot of nights where they had to just... especially when I was doing the interviews, you know, you can't have anybody bursting in and yelling for something, and they'd have to sit outside and wait for me to finish that. But they had a lot of patience through the journey, but a ton of cheering, and now they're the ones out there helping me at book signings and interviews on Facebook and all that kind of stuff. Mitchell's here taking pictures and video for my social media. I mean, they're part of the book team, the launch team, and Team Kristin Smedley, I guess.

Simon Bonenfant:
That's great! I'm sure it's been good for them to see all the blind role models, and luckily they're going to have a network when they get into working. They're going to have a network of great people that they can tap into. And you're going to have that as well. [crosstalk]

Kristen Smedley:
Yeah. It's been cool. Of course, I guess they probably don't like it on the days where I'm like, "Really? You're acting lazy today? How about when this one had this issue," and I start quoting the book. They're like, "All right, get away."

Kristen Smedley:
Yeah, no, it is cool. They have a very big network of support and inspiration, for sure.

Simon Bonenfant:
Good.

Simon Bonenfant:
Yeah, I know you have a very big network. I was at your event back in March you did. Will you describe all about that event, and what was that event for? Because I was actually there, and I did a comedy act. I was telling jokes that night. But what was the broad scope of that night?

Kristen Smedley:
I'm still getting messages about how fun you were at the event, because we tend to always try to do something a little different than everybody else and you just really enhanced that that night. It was great.

Simon Bonenfant:
Oh, thank you.

Kristen Smedley:
So that's Cocktails for the Cure, and that is our big launch each year for the Cure Retinal Blindness Foundation. It wasn't actually designed in the beginning to be a fundraiser; it was a celebration of all the work that we've done. It's pretty much a gratitude party where we say thank you to everybody that's helped us, and get everybody geared up to do fundraising and outreach and help us build a network. The model of it has worked tremendously to grow that mission really far, really fast.

Simon Bonenfant:
Yeah, I got to meet some good people. I got to meet a friend of yours, [inaudible] that night, who actually was a teacher who taught your son Michael. Me and her got to meet up and talk, and that was great talking to her. I've actually reached out to her since, so she gets a little shout out in the podcast.

Kristen Smedley:
She's helping get book signings, too, for me.

Simon Bonenfant:
Very good.

Simon Bonenfant:
We ask this question a lot. It's sort of like a winding up question here at Blind Abilities. What advice would you give to either parents of blind children who are new to this blind world kind of thing, or blind children, or blind adults themselves who are trying to rebuild? What advice would you want to leave them with, listening to the podcast?

Kristen Smedley:
Here's the thing, I don't sugarcoat that diagnosis day. When they're handed something that is not anything that they had ever thought, like blindness, it stinks. When you're first told that you think you're going to have this life plan, and now you got to rethink your whole thing, it kind of stinks.

Kristen Smedley:
However, and I would say sit with those feelings for a little while. A lot of times, we say brush the feelings off and keep on going. I would say sit with it, find at least one person that you can talk to about all of your feelings around it, and then of course get Thriving Blind, and take a look at the different people in that book, and I would bet that each person that reads Thriving Blind will find one person, one chapter that is a person that's like them and start there. And then read through the stories where, because you'll see in every story, everybody grappled with that moment when their life changed, and then how they moved on.

Kristen Smedley:
The biggest piece of advice, though, is besides changing your perception and your attitude and your mindset, is get the tools that you need. You can have all the positive thinking in the world and all the role models and everybody cheering you on, but let's be honest. If you're a blind person in this world and don't know the tools of mobility and independence, like the cane or a guide dog, or literacy with Braille—

Simon Bonenfant:
And technology.

Kristen Smedley:
And audio, and technology, if you don't learn those things... Even if you're scared. I hated the words "Braille" and "cane" when I first was on this journey, because they meant my life was looking different. A lot of people go through that.

Kristen Smedley:
Once we embrace those, that's where it was Braille that Michael and Mitchell could sit in their school classrooms right alongside everybody and not only beat that 70%... they were expected to achieve a 70%... they not only blew that 70% out of the water... Michael was the class speaker at graduation, and stood up there surpassing everybody. That was Braille, that was confidence, and that was pushing the limits of what people expect you to.

Kristen Smedley:
I would say the number one thing is get those darn tools of what it is you need to succeed.

Simon Bonenfant:
Very good.

Simon Bonenfant:
I'm sure you've had to deal with people saying that your children could not do something. When someone said that to you, did you rise to the challenge? And what did you make sure that you did so that they would be able to do it?

Kristen Smedley:
I researched it, honestly, and I'll tell you a funny story real quick, if we have time. When they said at the kindergarten IEP meeting that Michael would only find his cubby... you know, the thing where you hang the jacket in? The hook?

Simon Bonenfant:
Yeah.

Kristen Smedley:
They said he would only find his cubby 70% of the time, that meant success because he was blind. And I said, "Hold on a minute." And we moved to a really nice school district, and I had been out of the classroom for years, and I knew that there was new technologies. I said, "Hold on a minute. The cubby. Does it move every day? Do cubbies move now? Or are they still the hook on the little closety thing?" I'm thinking maybe they circulate around the school or something, and they'd never be able to find it when they're blind. They're like, "No, it's attached to the wall."

Kristen Smedley:
So my question became, "What's expected of the sighted kids in this classroom? If the sighted kids are expected to find their cubby every day 100% of the time, Michael is expected the same," and they said, "You can't do that because he's blind." I said, "If he's missing it 30% of the time, then we're not doing our job, because that's an easy one."

Simon Bonenfant:
Yeah.

Kristen Smedley:
It's not driving a car. It's not looking across a room and seeing something. It's doing what other people do that really does not require vision. There's other ways to do it. So that was the mentality.

Kristen Smedley:
And honestly, I told you that it was right after that when I said that the principal took the IEP team to see Erik Weihenmayer. That sealed the deal for them that Michael could do all of that. So that was a game-changer for us.

Simon Bonenfant:
And I'm sure you've probably impacted countless other people who maybe wouldn't have their expectations changed about blindness, and when they met you, probably even raised their expectations for themselves and the sighted people around them as well.

Kristen Smedley:
Yeah. You know what? I just did a keynote for the Association for Clinical Research Professionals down in Nashville, and my one-hour speech was about setting extraordinary expectations and how I had to do that for Michael and Mitchell, and look where they are now. And usually people come up to me after my speeches and say, "You're such a great mom." Which is wonderful, everybody wants to hear that. This time, though, people said, "You just changed my life." And it had nothing to do with blindness. It was more what they're dealing with in their own lives, opening up their minds, changing their perception of it, and expecting a different journey than everyone anticipated for themselves. It's cool.

Simon Bonenfant:
Good.

Simon Bonenfant:
If someone wanted to find you on social media, what would they need to look up for you?

Kristen Smedley:
So first of all, when you say "Kristin Smedley" and "social media", all three of my children will roll their eyes at the same time because they're just thrilled that I'm on there and their friends follow me now, too. Karissa gets so mad. She's 14. She gets so mad when her friends comment on my posts. It's hilarious.

Kristen Smedley:
But anyway, my main ones are, on Facebook we have a Thriving Blind community, and it's just Facebook.com/thrivingblind. That's where you can follow stories of Michael and Mitchell, and now videos of the people in the book and then some. On Twitter, I'm @KristinSmedley. Same on Instagram, although Instagram is driving me crazy. I keep trying to learn it and it keeps surpassing me, but whatever.

Kristen Smedley:
Linkd.in is my big one now. Linkd.in has a lot of connections on there.

Simon Bonenfant:
Good. I always thought you do some Facebook live.

Kristen Smedley:
Oh man, Facebook live is a cool tool, man, because Facebook loves to push out that content, because it's their platform only.

Kristen Smedley:
Actually, Mitchell is my big Facebook liver. He does, on Thriving Blind, tech Tuesdays where he just highlights the technology that he's using. And the funny thing is, half the audience is moms and dads of blind kiddos that are watching it together to know what they should be asking for in their IEPs, but the other half is the sighted community. It just loves finding out this information, because they had no idea.

Kristen Smedley:
Did you see that campaign that went around about the blind people using phones? Somebody had an attitude, they put some negative things... "That woman must be faking being blind. She's got a cane and she's looking at an iPhone."

Simon Bonenfant:
Oh wow.

Kristen Smedley:
So then they were trying to do this whole educational piece to combat that of blind people do use phones. Well here on our little Thriving Blind community thing on Facebook, we're showing people every week the different things and how you use the phone and Braille and all that, so it's pretty cool.

Simon Bonenfant:
Oh yeah, technology has been a very, very big effort for the blind community. Well, for the sighted community, but also for the blind community in general, just open up a wide range of doors for us.

Kristen Smedley:
Oh, it's huge. And you know, did you ever meet Tom Lukowski at Comcast?

Simon Bonenfant:
No.

Kristen Smedley:
We'll have to get you guys together. He's right at Comcast in the city. He's their head of accessibility.

Simon Bonenfant:
I've heard about him, actually [crosstalk]

Kristen Smedley:
Yeah, he's cool. He's in the book, too. He actually, I think he went to college with Erik. And they were completely different, it's pretty funny.

Kristen Smedley:
His thing is, because he helped develop that X1 on Comcast where you talk into the remote, so his thing is don't build a technology product for the blind. Build it with all abilities and disabilities in mind, one product for everybody, and how that is such a positive impact on everybody is huge. Just like the X1. I mean, Karissa and I use that in our house and we can see just fine, but we're always yelling into that remote to change channels.

Simon Bonenfant:
Yeah. That's a nice feature. Comcast have always done a lot of good stuff.

Simon Bonenfant:
Yeah, and if someone wanted to buy your book, what formats do you have available, and where could someone find it, and what's the price and all that?

Kristen Smedley:
So right now on the print, the paperback and Kindle version are on Amazon, and a little plug for ourselves here, we hit #1 new release for both of those when they came out. They're on Amazon. Just search "Thriving Blind" on Amazon. Large print will be available, as of the recording of this interview, it'll be available in a week on Amazon. Then the super cool one that was one of the reasons that I started this whole journey in a book is the electronic Braille. That's coming out in, actually, while we're recording this, it'll be out in I think two weeks. And we have a whole team of blind youth around the country that are going to be doing a social media campaign that'll be really cool to follow on Thriving Blind on Facebook.

Kristen Smedley:
The e-Braille, the BRF file for that, was made possible by the CEO of T-Mobile, donated the money to National Braille Press to have that made.

Simon Bonenfant:
That's great. And the time of this recording, for the folks who would like to know, is May 4th today.

Kristen Smedley:
Hey, May the 4th be with you.

Simon Bonenfant:
Yeah, there you go. May 4th, 2019. So for those who are interested in getting the Braille version, that should be out in about two weeks.

Kristen Smedley:
And that'll be available at kristinsmedley.com.

Simon Bonenfant:
Oh good. So once this podcast is published, it'll be up there on the website so everybody can go grab it. All the Braille readers. That's great.

Simon Bonenfant:
Well Kristin, you're a very inspiring person, very inspiring advocate for the blind, and I truly want to thank you for the work that you do. Keep up the great work, because you are very inspiring and I know that your work is going to live on hopefully long past you.

Kristen Smedley:
Wow. Well thanks, Simon, and right back at you, dude. You've got some great stuff going on. It's fun to follow you.

Simon Bonenfant:
Oh, thank you very much.

Simon Bonenfant:
Well this is it. Reporting for Blind Abilities again, I'm Simon Bonenfant.

Jeff Thompson:
Be sure to check out the book Thriving Blind on Amazon and kristinsmedley.com.

Jeff Thompson:
Such a great job by Simon Bonenfant on doing this interview, and thank you so much to Kristin Smedley for sharing with all our listeners your story, your book, your experiences, and your passion.

Jeff Thompson:
A big shout out to Chee Chau for his beautiful music. You can follow Chee Chau on Twitter @LCheeChau.

Jeff Thompson:
I want to thank you all for listening. We hope you enjoyed. And until next time, bye-bye.

[Music]  [Transition noise]  -When we share

-What we see

-Through each other's eyes...

[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]

...We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.

Jeff Thompson:

For more podcasts with the blindness perspective:

Check us out on the web at www.BlindAbilities.com On Twitter @BlindAbilities

Download our app from the App store:
 'Blind Abilities'; that's two words.

Or send us an e-mail at:

info@blindabilities.com

Thanks for listening.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Storeand Google Play Store.

Check out the Blind Abilities Communityon Facebook, the Blind Abilities Page, the Job Insights Support Groupand the Assistive Technology Community for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

May 16, 2019
Career Expo: From College to Blindness Training and Not Living Within 10 Minutes From Home, Meet Teacher of the Blind and Visually Impaired, Beth McGarr.
09:08

Show Summary:

State Services for the Blind hosted a Career Expo for high school and college students who are blind, low vision, or DeafBlind.

Image of man with cane and woman with service dog and City Skyline with Job Insights in bold letters.

The event took place on Saturday, April 27.

Throughout the Expo students had the opportunity to:

  • Connect with adults with a vision loss from a variety of professions and careers.
  • Hear from college representatives about what college is like.
  • Learn why diversity matters from an employer’s point of view.
  • Share and learn about assistive technology
  • Sign up for individual informational and/or mock interviews.

In this interview, Jeff Thompson caught up with Beth McGarr:

 

Beth McGarr

Teacher of the Blind and Visually Impaired, Southwest Metro Intermediate District

Before working for SW Metro, Beth worked as a ParaEducator with children who are blind and visually impaired for Denver Public schools. She has degrees in Special Education and Vocal Performance. Before becoming a teacher, she worked as a vocalist and voice teacher. In college, she worked as a strolling opera singer for Macaroni Grill restaurant. 

If you would like to know more about Transition Services from State Services contact Transition Coordinator Sheila Koenig by email or contact her via phone at 651-539-2361.
To find your State Services in your State you can go to www.AFB.org and search the directory for your agency.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Storeand Google Play Store.

Check out the Blind Abilities Communityon Facebook, the Blind Abilities Page, the Job Insights Support Groupand the Assistive Technology Community for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

May 14, 2019
Career Expo: Self Advocacy and Self Determination Led Matt To His Current Job, and a Big Skill He Added Was Saying, “Ok, I Need Help with This”
07:20

Show Summary:

State Services for the Blind hosted a Career Expo for high school and college students who are blind, low vision, or DeafBlind.

Image of man with cane and woman with service dog and City Skyline with Job Insights in bold letters.

The event took place on Saturday, April 27.

Throughout the Expo students had the opportunity to:

  • Connect with adults with a vision loss from a variety of professions and careers.
  • Hear from college representatives about what college is like.
  • Learn why diversity matters from an employer’s point of view.
  • Share and learn about assistive technology
  • Sign up for individual informational and/or mock interviews.

In this interview, Jeff Thompson caught up with Matt Higgins:

 

Matt Higgins 

Assembly Operator, Minnesota Diversified Industries

After attending college, Matt began working with Dow Chemical where he was trained as an engineering technician. The skills he attained from Dow combined with comprehensive adjustment to blindness training through BLIND Incorporated have helped Matt continue to be a leader within his home, work, and as a part of a local band.

If you would like to know more about Transition Services from State Services contact Transition Coordinator Sheila Koenig by email or contact her via phone at 651-539-2361.
To find your State Services in your State you can go to www.AFB.org and search the directory for your agency.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Storeand Google Play Store.

Check out the Blind Abilities Communityon Facebook, the Blind Abilities Page, the Job Insights Support Groupand the Assistive Technology Community for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

 

 

May 12, 2019
Dogs-Guides or Pets? Blog Post by Kelsi Hansen

I have a pet dog, and I am often asked if he is my guide dog. Sometimes I am asked why I don’t have a guide dog, and just have a pet dog. This is kind of a complex answer. Having a guide dog, or not having one, is a decision each blind individual needs to make on their own. It is a personal decision, and there is no right or wrong answer. There are benefits to having a guide dog; and there are benefits to not having one, and just having a pet dog instead. 

For me, it was a difficult decision that took years to make. Originally, I was dead set on having a dog guide as soon as I graduated from high school. I even attended a weekend seminar for youth at the Seeing Eye, to learn about them, and experience what it would be like to have one. And I loved it! It was absolutely amazing! I could walk a lot faster; I could cross streets straighter; and I just felt twenty times more confident overall. Though, I was not so enthused about the strict schedule you are supposed to keep your dog too. To a 16 year old, getting up at 5 in the morning to take your dog out to the bathroom, and potentially have to pick up poop, was not at all a pleasant thought. But it wasn’t a complete deal breaker. I still wanted a dog guide. 

Towards the end of my senior year in high school, a couple of things happened that would really shake up my feelings on getting a dog guide. The first was that my mom signed me up to attend a blindness training center immediately after I graduated. This would give me no time to get a dog guide, as to get one you must stay at the school for several weeks. So I was going to have to wait until I finished my blindness training. 

The second thing that happened, that made a bigger impact on my decision, was that my beloved cat unexpectedly died. Seemingly, this has nothing to do with deciding whether or not to get a dog guide, but it was a huge factor. I loved my cat more than anything; more than anyone in the world. He was only seven when he died, and it hit me harder than anything else I had ever experienced in my life. To this day, I have not known that level of grief. 

If my cat, who I loved so dearly, could die, and leave me broken, then how would I feel if that were to happen to a working companion? A dog who I would rely on day in, and day out. I couldn’t fathom having another pet for fear of their eventual death. So how could I ever have a dog guide? Even if that dog didn’t die, they would get old, and I would have to retire them. And after they retired, I might not get to keep them.

 When I get a pet, I commit to having them for the rest of their life. I am in for the long haul. I don’t take pet ownership lightly. They become part of my family; part of my life. So how then, was I ever going to get a dog who would be my constant companion, and not be guaranteed that I could keep them after they were retired? 

Lucky for me, it only took a couple of years for me to get past the never wanting another pet phase. Now I have an amazing, beautiful dog, and a wonderfully mischievous pest of a cat, who. If I would have known when I got him how full of mischief he would be, I would’ve named Fred or George, and gotten him a collar that said: “mischief managed!”

 Anyway, if I got past my fear, why then did I not decide to get a dog guide? Why did I decide to get a pet dog if I love animals so much, instead of getting one that could go with me anywhere? The short answer is, that a dog guide is not a pet. They are a working dog. And working dogs require discipline.

 You must keep up their training constantly. You don’t let people pet them while they are working. You would constantly get people asking if they could pet your working dog. To which the answer is “no!” And I personally, would not be able to say no to an adorable four-year-old who really wanted to pet the cute friendly doggy. I lack the discipline required to have a working dog. I bark at, and talk to dogs that may be across the street. So how would I be able to say, “Please stop doing that” to someone, if they were doing that to my working dog? 

There were other things that factored into it as well. When I went through my training, I got really attached to my cane. I realized that I am a really independent person who doesn’t enjoy relying on anyone. If I were to get a dog guide, then I would rely on them constantly. I would get used to that dependence on them. And if the dog were to get sick, and have to take a few days off, I would not be comfortable just using my cane anymore.

 I know myself; I know that if I got used to using a dog guide, and for some reason couldn’t for a while, I would have so much anxiety that I might not even leave the house. I wouldn’t be comfortable with cane travel anymore, and might feel trapped, and not want to go anywhere until my dog was better. It would end up being more of a limitation for me, because my confidence would go down, and my anxiety would rise tenfold, if I couldn’t use the dog I had become so dependent on. 

Having a pet dog is wonderful, and is what is right for me. I still pick up his poop, and clean up his messes when he is sick; I still have some discipline with him, but I don’t have to be so strict; and I still take him for walks, but I can let people pet him, and say adorable, nonsensical things to him. Equally, I can leave him at home, if I don’t feel like having all the kids flock to him and ask tons of questions, when I pick my son up from school. It is a bit harder to find places to rent, and to bring him to social events with me. But in the end, for me it is totally worth it to just have a pet dog. 

I am not saying I am right; that having a dog guide makes you less independent. I am saying, that for me personally, I would feel less independent if I had one, more because of who I am than anything else. Having a dog guide can be a wonderful thing that can boost your independence, but it is not for everyone. Every blind person has to figure out what is right for them. You do you. Maybe having a dog guide would boost your confidence and enhance your life; or maybe you don’t really like animals, and having one would be more of a burden to you. Whatever the case, you must decide for yourself. You do you!

***

This is me! Hope you enjoyed the read. I love questions, so if you
have any, or just a comment, feel free to email them to

info@blindabilities.com.

Thanks

Kelsi

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Storeand Google Play Store.

Check out the Blind Abilities Communityon Facebook, the Blind Abilities Page, the Job Insights Support Groupand the Assistive Technology Community for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

May 10, 2019
Beep Baseball, An Adaptive Sport for BVI Teens and Adults. Meet Doug Van Duyne and Learn About the Sport and Upcoming Kids Day Event for Teens
16:52

Full Transcript Below

Show Summary:

Beep Baseball is an adapted form of Baseball and is played by Visually Impaired/Blind  players wearing “Sleep Shades” to level the playing field for everyone. The ball is a 16 inch round softball with a beeping sound that allows the defensive team locate the ball.

BlindAbilities Logo A black square with white initials, B A. Blind Abilities Logo

6 members field a team with a sighted picture pitching to their own team. The sport of Beep Baseball originated right here in Minnesota and we sat down with Doug Van Duyne, Manager of the Minnesota Millers.

Doug tells us about the game, the history and an opportunity coming up in June for teens to learn more about Beep Baseball and get a chance to run, hit and participate in a fun filled day with others sharing their love of the game.

The Minnesota Millers are already practicing and preparing for the big Bash in Chicago and their fund raiser is kicking off tomorrow to help support the teams travels and expenses. You can find out more about getting involved  and support the Millers on the web on the web at www.MNMillers.org

Here is the information about the Miller’s Kids Beep Ball Day event:

The Minnesota Millers Beep Baseball Team will be hosting a kids beepball day to teach the game of beep baseball to kids.

Blind & Visually impaired kids, 15 and under are invited to participate & learn the game. It will be a modified version of the International game incorporating a T-Ball version of the sport.

WHEN:   June 15th,  2019 

WHERE:  Casey Lake Park—North St. Paul, MN. Middle Field behind main ball field 

Time:   10AM—Noon 

If the weather is hot, please bring a bottle of water.

To sign up or get more information, visit www.MNMillers.org/kidsor email info@MNMillers.org

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Storeand Google Play Store.

Check out the Blind Abilities Communityon Facebook, the Blind Abilities Page, the Job Insights Support Groupand the Assistive Technology Community for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

 

 

Full Transcript

Doug Van Duyne:
What we're trying to do is reach out to kids that are 15 and under, boys and girls, that are blind or visually impaired and just introduce them to the sport.

Jeff Thompson:
Beep baseball.

Doug Van Duyne:
You've got some kids running around. Let them know it's okay to run, which is probably counter intuitive to anybody with a visual impairment.

Jeff Thompson:
Meet Doug Van Duyne coach of the Minnesota Millers Beep Baseball Team.

Doug Van Duyne:
We use a ball that's a 16-inch ball that's been modified. And the ball actually beeps. We want them to focus in on that cadence, which is kind of I'll clap with it, set, ready, pitch, swing.

Jeff Thompson:
Learn about the game. Learn about how you can help support the Minnesota Millers Beep Baseball Team. And you can find the Millers on the web at mmmillers.org.

Doug Van Duyne:
At the end of the day it's the ability, right? We don't focus on a disability. We focus on the ability.

Jeff Thompson:
Welcome to Blind Abilities. I'm Jeff Thompson. Beep baseball. It's a sport that is adaptive baseball for people who are blind. And I got the manager of the Minnesota Millers in the studio today, Doug Van Duyne. How are you doing?

Doug Van Duyne:
I'm great. Thanks for having me on.

Jeff Thompson:
You bet. This is really cool because it's a really neat sport and you got a big event coming up in June that a lot of people can learn about it. Youth can learn about beep baseball.

Doug Van Duyne:
That's correct. We're pretty excited about that. What we're trying to do is reach out to kids that are 15 and under, boys and girls, that are blind or visually impaired throughout the whole state. Our initial effort has been to reach out through mobility and visual teachers in the state and just introduce them to the sport. So it'll be a very low stress kind of situation. An introductory thing. Get some kids running around. Let them know it's okay to run, which is probably counter intuitive to anybody with a visual impairment. It's a completely safe environment and it's a great way to get some fresh air in your lungs.

Doug Van Duyne:
I meet some other folks that might share in some of the same struggles and tribulations that the community deals with probably on a daily basis.

Jeff Thompson:
Since we're talking about people learning about beep baseball, why don't you give us a brief description of what it is.

Doug Van Duyne:
That'd be great. It's a modified version of America's national pastime. We use a ball that is a 16-inch ball that's been modified by the Pioneers, which are the retired folks from the telephone company. And the ball actually beeps. What we do is we play ball. The pitcher and the catcher are actually on your team and they're trying to get you to hit the ball. And once the ball's put into play under the national rules, the bases are 100 feet away. There's first and third and one of those two will start emitting a buzzing sound. You have to run to either first or third, whichever one is activated and get to that base before one of the six fielders playing defense takes possession of the ball. And it's pretty straight forward. There's no throwing the ball after the fact. The field is divided up into zones and there are folks that can see, that have vision, that's what we call spotters. And they will yell out one-time what zone that ball is in so that the defenders have the opportunity to get a jump start to that area and try to get the ball in their possession before the runner gets to the buzzing base.

Doug Van Duyne:
I should also add the pitcher and catcher are sighted. That helps. And that's pretty much it. It's pretty exciting. The teams that we play from across the country are extremely competitive. A lot of athletes have lost either their total vision or partial vision for any number of reasons but take this extremely seriously. But here's the greatest part of the whole sport, on the field we're extremely competitive, but the minute the game is over it's one big happy family. And that's really the essence of sports and the way I think of sports.

Jeff Thompson:
Can you describe the equipment that each player is expected to have or that they use during a game?

Doug Van Duyne:
Sure. So every player, whether you're on defense or at bat, is actually wearing a blindfold. So those that have some vision, whatever that is, the field is completely level. You can't see anything. So, that's the one piece of required equipment that is a must. And the umpires will and expect to make sure there's no cheating. Unfortunately, there are some that try to get an edge. And there's a softball bat. And that's really the only equipment. You can wear a glove if you're in the field, but actually most of the players find that the glove is a hindrance as opposed to just using your hands, being very tactile, and cradling the ball with their hands versus trying to get it in a glove. Other than that a good pair of shoes is always great. Some folks wear knee pads because there's a lot of diving on the ground.

Doug Van Duyne:
I should also mention that we always play on 100% grass. So it's not even played on a baseball field. Most of the games are played on a soccer field that has been marked off in accordance with the field dimensions like a baseball field with 175 feet being a home run. So if you hit the ball in the air 175 feet, it's an automatic home run, which gives you two points. The ball does have to travel 40 feet for it to be considered fair. The pitcher's 20 feet away, pretty close, but there's really no other specialized equipment other than those buzzing bases and the beeping ball.

Jeff Thompson:
So you kind of key in, when you're up to bat you kind of keying in on that beep. And do they say pitch or anything when it's released?

Doug Van Duyne:
No.

Jeff Thompson:
Okay.

Doug Van Duyne:
That's a great question. So the pitcher does use a cadence. And there is required verbiage that's used. And it's either set, ready, pitch or set, ready, ball. Pitch or ball are the only two words that are interchangeable, but that sequence has to be the same. So when the pitcher says set, that lets the defenders know something's about to happen. The batters don't really key in on the beeping of the ball. In fact, in our batting practices we use a dead ball. And we want them to focus in on that cadence, which is kind of, I'll clap with it, set, ready, pitch, and on the fourth one they, we want them to swing. That's the rhythm of our cadence. Set, ready, pitch, swing. The beeping is really for the defenders to try and find the ball once it's in play.

Jeff Thompson:
So you just get that rhythm down and boom, boom, boom, swing.

Doug Van Duyne:
Yup. And as long as they swing consistently our pitcher will put the ball in the strike zone based on that person's swing.

Jeff Thompson:
Well that's kind of sweet! Now you're talking about it's a big family after the game. And that might explain why you're going to Bolingbrook, Illinois for a Beep Baseball Bash.

Doug Van Duyne:
Yeah, that's probably the closest tournament to us. There've been a couple already down in Texas. There's a couple coming up in Indiana, but Chicago, it's a six-hour drive, but it's the closest tournament to us. The Lyons of that community, Bolingbrook and the surrounding communities, do a great job in putting that on. There are eight teams and it's always probably the top seven teams that go. We are kind of in the middle of the pack in terms of ranking naturally, but these are all the top 10 teams for sure. And we like it because they're good teams. So that really, early on in the season, allows us to see what we have to work on prior to the World Series.

Doug Van Duyne:
It is a family atmosphere. Everybody looks forward to seeing each other down there in Chicago. Pretty much it's the same teams that come. And then the World Series, which we'll probably talk about a little bit, is a week-long. And so many families take that as their vacation just to reconnect with people from all over the country. There's a team from Canada, a team from Taiwan. Don't know that the team from the Dominican Republic is coming this year, but there are teams from all over that come for that week-long tournament at the end of the summer.

Jeff Thompson:
So you're the Minnesota Millers, but you get around. I mean Chicago to Oklahoma, playing teams from out of the country. That's quite a festive type of deal. I can see why people would want to use a vacation because ... You've been in this for a few years, so you probably know a lot of people that'll be attending.

Doug Van Duyne:
Yeah. And like I say when we're playing, they're probably not my best friend. But once the games are over for those of us that are able to have adult beverages, we'll be yucking it up in the bar and we're just one big happy family. It’s just a really unique thing. I've been coaching since I've been 17 years old. I've coached a lot of sports. And I've seen a lot of ugly in sports. There's none of that in this program.

Jeff Thompson:
That's really cool. How many years has the Minnesota Millers been in existence?

Doug Van Duyne:
Oddly enough the sport started in Minnesota back in the late 70s. And at that time there were four teams in Minnesota. And it kind of grew, but I would say in the early 90s the programs in Minnesota fell apart and that we resurrected it. Our first World Series was in 2010. We were able to get enough people together that really wanted to play. So, since 2010 we've been playing. So, this will be 2019, nine years.

Jeff Thompson:
Wow! Time flies when you're having fun, right?

Doug Van Duyne:
Exactly. Exactly.

Jeff Thompson:
So what kind of arrangements do you have? Spring comes, you have spring training, practices. You get together and see how the team's doing, see how everybody's interest is in it. And of course, you're going to interest a lot of youth here by having your event here. I think it's June 15? 

Doug Van Duyne:
Yup. That's right, June 15th. We try to get indoors. It's Minnesota, right? And like this year there was snow on the ground not too long ago.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, it could be tonight.

Doug Van Duyne:
Exactly. So, we try to get indoors and do some batting. Just get people loosen up a little bit. See who's coming back. Making sure there's no injuries and just starting to get loosened up. We had our first practice two weeks ago outside. It has really good. We had one last Saturday. This Saturday we'll be doing our fundraiser, but then we'll practice again the following Saturday. So up until June 9th or 7, 8, 9 actually is the Chicago tournament. We have a lot of weekends. And we have people from, throughout the metro area. A lot live in the Twin City metro area. Few come up from Rochester. I have one of the players out by Waconia. So, as you can imagine logistically pulling people together can be daunting at times because everybody, of the most part, needs a ride of some sort.

Jeff Thompson:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well that's quite a commitment. I mean people are committed so they must be enjoying it to keep coming back.

Doug Van Duyne:
I think so. One of the unique things ... We have a player from Hudson. Todd Paulson is his name. Great guy. Has been losing his vision due to a virus that he had. It was a cold or pneumonia. And this was going back several years. An avid softball player all his life. Found out about us. Came over. Been a great asset to the team not only in terms of a player, but as a person. But through beep ball has connected with a young lady and they're engaged now. So how cool is that? I mean it's not just a sport. It transcends into life and life skills and relationships and things of that nature.

Jeff Thompson:
Well it's really neat that it's a sport. It's an activity. And it's a passion once you get a taste of it.

Doug Van Duyne:
Yeah, if you don't me putting a shameless plug in.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh no, plug away! That's what it's all about.

Doug Van Duyne:
Nice. So, this Saturday at Tom Reid's Hockey City we have our fundraiser. It the Minnesota Millers Beer Bash/Silent Auction. And that runs from 1:00 to 4:00. You can buy a mug online for $15. It's a Minnesota Millers collectable mug. And then you get to drink free until the keg runs out. Or you don't have to drink beer and you can just come on down and put in some bids on some pretty nice items. Package from the Twins Diamond Club and all kinds of good stuff.

Jeff Thompson:
There you go. So, I suggest anybody that's listening check it out. Check them out this Saturday at Tom Reid's. That's Saturday, what is that? 1:00 to 4:00 right?

Doug Van Duyne:
Yeah, 1:00 to 4:00, correct.

Jeff Thompson:
Another opportunity in June, the 15th, for the youth to come out there. But if you're interested just to go out there to check it out, talk to everybody. Seems like a friendly bunch.

Doug Van Duyne:
Yeah, we get along pretty good. We have a good time. We like to keep it loose. We don't get too serious about it. Of course, nobody goes out to lose, but at the same time it's all about building confidence in a variety of levels. And building successes.

Doug Van Duyne:
Our website is mmmillers.org and we try to keep that up to date so there's a ton of information on there if anybody wants to check that out. We post our practices there. We post our events on there. It's a good way to keep in touch.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, I really like the name because my dad used to watch the Minnesota Millers back in the day. Was it the Minneapolis Millers or Minnesota Millers?

Doug Van Duyne:
Minneapolis Millers, yup, back in the day. You bet. Well maybe we'll have to get you out there Jeff.

Jeff Thompson:
That sounds like fun.

Doug Van Duyne:
We'll slap a blindfold on you. No commitment on your part but check it out. See first-hand.

Jeff Thompson:
No reason not to show up on Saturday either to support the team and get my mug.

Doug Van Duyne:
There you go!

Jeff Thompson:
And you can do that in advance. Someone can go on the website, mmmillers.org right now and order a mug. They're only $15.

Doug Van Duyne:
Yup. And then it gets you all the beer you like to drink till the keg runs out. And if you're not a beer drinker you could put pop in it. Nobody will give you a hard time.

Jeff Thompson:
There you go! And supporting this, this will help you get to the World Series down in Oklahoma for the big games.

Doug Van Duyne:
Yup. And that's exactly why we do it. All the money that we generate minus whatever the cost is goes directly to the players. A lot of the players have limited income, just cost. But it roughly costs everybody about $5000 to participate in the tournaments and the World Series between travel and lodging and all that stuff. Every dime we get we put right back into the players to help them offset any costs.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, I mean even taking a van or getting transportation in Chicago or anywhere. That's all you guys putting this together because of your passion, your love for the game. And it costs money to do all that. So, if anybody's listening, wants to help support this great sport go ahead. That's mmmillers.org.

Doug Van Duyne:
Yup. There's a donate now button on there too. So, they don't even have to buy a mug. And like I say, a dime at a time works for us.

Jeff Thompson:
But the mug's pretty good. I guess it's a frosted glass with two baseball bats on an X. Well you describe it.

Doug Van Duyne:
Yeah, it's actually our logo that we have temporary tattoos for and the like. But it's kind of a tribal look. It's a home plate, two bats crossed over it with a ball in there and some tribal scribing that doesn't translate to any significant meaning. And with the word Minnesota over the top and Millers under the bottom in a Nordic font to it.

Jeff Thompson:
There you go. Well Doug, good luck with all your games this year. Hopefully people come out, check them out. I hope they do because it's been around for a while. And I remember we practice beep ball a long time ago. And that beep, beep, beep, but no one told me about that cadence. That makes sense now. We were just listening for the beep. I like that. Boom, boom, boom, swing.

Doug Van Duyne:
It is kind of addicting whether you're sighted or not. When you see the game, everybody is just amazed at the level of activity. And really at the end of the day it's the ability, right? We don't focus on a disability. We focus on the ability.

Jeff Thompson:
Great. That's awesome. Well Doug Van Duyne, thank you for coming on to represent the Minnesota Millers and good luck this weekend.

Doug Van Duyne:
Thanks a lot Jeff. We appreciate the opportunity to spread the word and we'll have a beer together this weekend.

Jeff Thompson:
All right. That's Tom Reid's, 1:00 to 4:00. Get your mug. We'll see you there.

Doug Van Duyne:
Thanks.

Jeff Thompson:
For more podcasts with the blindness perspective check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com. On Twitter, @BlindAbilities and download the free Blind Abilities app from the App Store and on Google Play. That's two words. Blind Abilities. You can also enable the Blind Abilities Skill on your Amazon device. Just say enable Blind Abilities.

Jeff Thompson:
A big shout out goes out to Chee Chau for his beautiful music. And you can follow Chee Chau on Twitter @LCheeChau.

[Music]  [Transition noise]  -When we share

-What we see

-Through each other's eyes...

[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]

...We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.

Jeff Thompson:

For more podcasts with the blindness perspective:

Check us out on the web at www.BlindAbilities.com On Twitter @BlindAbilities

Download our app from the App store:
 'Blind Abilities'; that's two words.

Or send us an e-mail at:

info@blindabilities.com Thanks for listening.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Storeand Google Play Store.

Check out the Blind Abilities Communityon Facebook, the Blind Abilities Page, the Job Insights Support Groupand the Assistive Technology Community for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

May 10, 2019
Career Expo: Switching Her College Major Landed Her in Court! Meet Official Court Reporter Kayde Rieken
06:08

Show Summary:

State Services for the Blind hosted a Career Expo for high school and college students who are blind, low vision, or DeafBlind.

Image of man with cane and woman with service dog and City Skyline with Job Insights in bold letters.

The event took place on Saturday, April 27.

Throughout the Expo students had the opportunity to:

  • Connect with adults with a vision loss from a variety of professions and careers.
  • Hear from college representatives about what college is like.
  • Learn why diversity matters from an employer’s point of view.
  • Share and learn about assistive technology
  • Sign up for individual informational and/or mock interviews.

In this interview, Jeff Thompson caught up with Kayde Rieken:

 

Kayde Rieken

Official Court Reporter, Hennepin County District Court

Kayde’s job is to keep the record in the courtroom. This basically means she write down every word that's said, and she also gets to politely scold people for talking too softly or too quickly. She has to be able to write fast and not get tripped up by long words. She gets to meet interesting people and work with cool technology every day. Also, she’s always learning new things because of the variety of court cases she covers.

If you would like to know more about Transition Services from State Services contact Transition Coordinator Sheila Koenig by email or contact her via phone at 651-539-2361.
To find your State Services in your State you can go to www.AFB.org and search the directory for your agency.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Storeand Google Play Store.

Check out the Blind Abilities Communityon Facebook, the Blind Abilities Page, the Job Insights Support Groupand the Assistive Technology Community for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

May 09, 2019
Career Expo: Assisting People with Disabilities for 22 Years to Find and Keep Employment – Meet Employment Specialist Walter Waranka
05:47

Show Summary:

State Services for the Blind hosted a Career Expo for high school and college students who are blind, low vision, or DeafBlind.

Image of man with cane and woman with service dog and City Skyline with Job Insights in bold letters.

The event took place on Saturday, April 27.

Throughout the Expo students had the opportunity to:

  • Connect with adults with a vision loss from a variety of professions and careers.
  • Hear from college representatives about what college is like.
  • Learn why diversity matters from an employer’s point of view.
  • Share and learn about assistive technology
  • Sign up for individual informational and/or mock interviews.

In this interview, Jeff Thompson caught up with Walter Waranka:

 

Walter Waranka 

Employment Specialist

Lifetrack Resources 

Earlier in his career, Walter founded the nonprofit agency CHANCE (Challenged People Having Abilities Needing Competitive Employment), which educates disabled people in job seeking skills and potential employers about the advantages of hiring disabled people. He has been an Employment Specialist at Lifetrack Resources for 22 years, assisting people with disabilities and recipients of welfare to find and keep employment.    

“Lifetrack: Together, we expand educational horizons and open doors to meaningful career opportunities.”

You can find out more about Lifetrack on the web.

 Contact:

If you would like to know more about Transition Services from State Services for the Blind, contact Transition Coordinator Sheila Koenig by email or contact her via phone at 651-539-2361.
To find your State Services in your State you can go to www.AFB.org and search the directory for your agency.

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Storeand Google Play Store.

Check out the Blind Abilities Communityon Facebook, the Blind Abilities Page, the Job Insights Support Groupand the Assistive Technology Community for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

May 07, 2019
Career Expo: From Homeless, to Training, to Employment and Working on His Degree – Meet Bobby Binns
14:35

Show Summary:

State Services for the Blind hosted a Career Expo for high school and college students who are blind, low vision, or DeafBlind.

Image of man with cane and woman with service dog and City Skyline with Job Insights in bold letters.

The event took place on Saturday, April 27.

Throughout the Expo students had the opportunity to:

  • Connect with adults with a vision loss from a variety of professions and careers.
  • Hear from college representatives about what college is like.
  • Learn why diversity matters from an employer’s point of view.
  • Share and learn about assistive technology
  • Sign up for individual informational and/or mock interviews.

In this interview, Jeff Thompson caught up with Bobby Binns:

 

Robert Binns

Package Handler, Fed Ex Smart Post

 

Robert was walking to a college class when he lost his sight in 2012.  He fell into a depressed stage, believing that the only thing left for him was channel surfing and listening to television shows. One day he realized that he didn’t want to just sit at home for the next 40 years. He wanted to live. Because he was a new United States citizen, however, Robert had to wait for an extended time before receiving services. He ended up in a homeless shelter. All he has accomplished since then shows how high expectations and adjustment to blindness training can open many doors. 

Contact:

If you would like to know more about Transition Services from State Services contact Transition Coordinator Sheila Koenig by email or contact her via phone at 651-539-2361.
To find your State Services in your State you can go to www.AFB.org and search the directory for your agency.C

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store andGoogle Play Store.

May 06, 2019
That Blind Tech Show: Amazon Wants It, Hulu Ain’t Got It, Apple’s Got It but Won’t Tell Us John Legend Sings It, The Fold Folds It, Aira is Telling It and Tag! Marlon’s It!
56:13

Show Summary:

Welcome back to That Blind Tech Show with Brian Fischler, AT Specialist from New York, Allison Mervis, VR Counselor extraordinaire, from Ohio and Jeff Thompson, Wood Worker, Teacher and Just an all around good guy.

I also write the show notes and Jeff is me, so, no bias here.

This show is faster than spelled water, funnier than squeaky shoes and audio described for your listening pleasure. There is nothing quite like Described Audio!

Did you know, Amazon wants to have an Assistive competitor to Siri, Alexa and John Legend. Yes, John Legend, the new voice on your Google devices. Or, your neighbors Google device. Jeff’s got the Legend rocking on his Google devices.

What about Apple and the Apple Events settings? Listen in because basically, they are and will be all knowing. Big Brother was soooo 2010, HAL.

Can we call Voice Dream Scanner, VD Scanner? Let us know. Hulu, is starting a bit of some Audio Description and they don’t even know if they are really doing it either. Everybody's still looking for it. Look out Pokémon Go!

There is a lot more on this show than I can write about otherwise, I would just write articles about a fictitious podcast and we would be in book clubs and having coffee chats over lunch and believe me, that just may be an idea for next episode. Your thoughts? Hmmm.

Ok, get listening, hit the Play button, download the show and let us know what you think. And by the way, Marlon is back in full colors, and yes, his braille labels prove it. Thanks Marlon for the laughs and that stuff you keep sending us in the mail. You keep that up and we will keep you in the show,, Buddy Boy, Pal, Dude. I meant, email, not the U.S. Mail, Email Baby.

Fine. I am out.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

May 01, 2019
Partnering with VR: All About the First Steps. A Blog Posts by Serina Gilbert

Starting your partnership with Vocational Rehabilitation is highly individualized and will look different for every single person.  With that said, however, there are general procedures and timelines to keep in mind when preparing for your very first meeting with Vocational Rehabilitation.

Image of man with cane and woman with service dog and City Skyline with Job Insights in bold letters.

The first step towards receiving services with Vocational Rehabilitation is attending your Intake appointment. This appointment is a time for you to meet

Vocational Rehabilitation staff and discuss your disability/disabilities and discuss how your disability/disabilities impact your ability to prepare for,

enter, engage in, retain and/or advance in employment. This appointment is a time for you to be as forthcoming and open as possible regarding the barriers

that you face in all aspects of employment including independent living skills. While it may be tempting to begin discussing specific services that you

would like to receive, this appointment will primarily focus on gathering the information necessary to determine you eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation

Services.

Your counselor may request a variety of documentation including proof of SSI/SSDI status, medical/educational/psychological documents (including vision

reports, Individualized Education Programs, psychological reports, etc.), your resume and documentation of previous formal post-secondary education. Bringing

these documents to your first appointment may help expedite your application.

You can expect for your first appointment to last approximately 1 hour and you will be asked to sign a variety of documents including Releases of Information

so that Vocational Rehabilitation may collaborate with relevant medical, psychological and/or other professionals that may assist with your case.

After your first meeting, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors have up to 60 days to determine you eligible for services. This time period is used to collect

and analyze your documentation to ensure that you meet federally mandated eligibility requirements. If your counselor reaches out to you during this time

period be sure to provide them with any information that they request.

Have questions about the first step in collaborating with Vocational Rehabilitation? Comment below and we will get you taken care of and be sure to keep

an eye out for our next blog post about planning for services with Vocational Rehabilitation.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Apr 29, 2019
Embarrassing Situations - Are They Really Embarrassing? Blog Post by Kelsi Hansen

I am frequently asked if I can visualize things, even though I can’t see them. And if I have a visual memory of what things look like from before I went blind. The answer is that yes, I do remember what most things that I have seen before look like. And yes, I can visualize my surroundings. That being said, I am not always correct in my visualization; and I do not by any means know what everything looks like. This gets me, as a blind person, and I imagine other blind people as well, into some hilarious, embarrassing, and slightly uncomfortable situations. So, let’s talk about what I think things look like, and some of the more memorable and interesting situations that I have found myself in. 

First off: do not, I repeat DO NOT ask me what I think you look like if you do not want to hear the answer!!! This one has gotten me into sticky situations more than once. It’s gotten to the point where I just say, “Brown hair and brown eyes,” because those are the dominant hair and eye colors. Give more information than that, and you risk offense. Which, to my chagrin,  I have learned the hard way? 

A guy once asked me what I thought he looked like shortly after meeting me. I told him dark hair, dark eyes, and short-ish. He got really offended that I thought he was short. I should preface this by saying that a majority of men in my family are 6 foot and up, and I am not short either, not super tall, but not super short. So for me, a man being around my height or shorter, is kind of short in my mind.  Well, this guy was not happy that I envisioned him as a short guy. He was after all, an inch taller than me. Lesson learned: do not tell people that I think of them as short-ish. 

Another thing about me, is that I am really good at putting my foot in my mouth. It never fails, if I comment on any sort of physical characteristic, someone nearby always has that characteristic. For instance, when I first went blind and was about to go through chemotherapy, my doctors were explaining to me that I was going to lose my hair. Which of course, was the worst thing that could ever happen to me? So, I started yelling that I didn’t want to go bald, and that bald is ugly. Wouldn’t you know it? One of my doctors was in fact, completely bald! I have never and will never live that one down. 

 When things like this happen-when someone asks you what you think they look like, or you unknowingly comment on a characteristic someone around you has, there tends to be a lot of tittering. People might laugh and say that they do not look like that at all. Or maybe you are scolded in public for saying something that anyone might say. But because you didn’t see them standing there, or know that they are bald, you must be scolded. It can be shameful, and the intent of the rebuke was to make you feel ashamed, so that you don’t do it again. But honestly, everyone does it. You may be attempting to make us aware of the situation, and caution us to be careful what we say in public next time. But it really comes off as scolding a child. You wouldn’t say that about your sighted counterpart. You might laugh about it later, but you certainly wouldn’t rebuke them right then and there like you would a child. 

Also, I know it is amusing what we might think you look like … but when you laugh at us, we may feel kind of embarrassed. This is also pretty subjective. For me personally, I tend to just laugh it off most of the time. But for others, it can be really embarrassing to be laughed at. 

So, my advice to sighted people, is to just be more aware of how your blind friend/acquaintance might feel. And my advice to blind people is when faced with the question “what do you think I look like,” either keep it simple with brown hair and eyes, or say something completely ridiculous. Tell a woman you envision her as a giant hairy lumberjack who lugs around an ax everywhere she goes, or something equally preposterous. 

I have also found myself in some extremely embarrassing situations that in hind sight, are absolutely hilarious. But at the time, were mortifying. For me, most of these incidents happen at museums. For example: when I was 15 My mom took me to a Body Worlds exhibit. Which is essentially an exhibit with bodies without skin on display. It shows what different organ systems look like on the inside, and what certain diseases can do to a body , etc. They display the people in different positions to show what the articulation looks like under the skin. 

Anyway, this exhibit had just opened, and was extremely crowded. We had to wait in a line outside for 2-3 hours to get in. Inside, it was packed shoulder to shoulder and you could barely move between displays. One of the displays that we came to, had the people positioned in athletic stances-running, jumping , etc.

 When my mom was describing them to me, she said: “there’s a guy jumping over the hurdles.” My immediate naive response was: “how do you know it’s a guy?” None too quietly, I might add. The room filled with people packed shoulder to shoulder got really quiet, and then erupted in stifled laughter. 

This was by far one of the most mortifying moments of my life. I couldn’t see it, and I was curious, so I asked. Things like this happen to everyone, but because I couldn’t see, and I was in a jam packed room, it was more noticeable. So how do we as blind individuals deal with these situations, and the mortified feelings that follow? 

Honestly, I don’t have a good answer, I think it is a very subjective thing. Everyone will react differently, and there is no one single correct way to respond. If I try to avoid all potentially embarrassing situations, and not ask the questions I have, then I will lack information. Which could lead to a different potentially more embarrassing situation? Also, if I try to avoid all potential embarrassments, then am I really living? If I can’t be open, and ask the questions I have, and explore my environment in the way I need to, then can I really enjoy myself?

 This is no way to live for me. I would much rather be embarrassed, and expand upon my knowledge of the universe, than be ignorant and quiet because I was afraid of doing or saying something silly. And I have found that people accept, and love me for who I am, blindness included. By being so open and not worrying about embarrassing myself, I have learned so much more about my environment and the world. It has also taught my friends what information I may want or need. And they in turn tend to be proactive about telling me what I might want to know before I ask. Which actually sometimes avoids potentially embarrassing situations. 

I have also found that people enjoy my open, not afraid of embarrassment, personality. I think it makes them more comfortable in asking me what I might need. It also seems to make them less afraid to ask me questions about my blindness; and makes them less afraid of embarrassment if they ask me a silly question. Which then helps them accept my blindness, see me for who I am, and appreciate that I am no different than their sighted peers. 

So, I think the question then becomes, how do we deal with embarrassment? How do we deal with feeling embarrassed after we do or say something that does not necessarily conform to societal norms? Because that’s essentially all that embarrassment is: doing or saying something that is maybe not what you think is within the accepted norm, and feeling judged for it. 

Personally, I just throw societal pressures out the window. But not everybody is comfortable with that. And it took me a long time to become comfortable ignoring convention myself. So, I think a good starting point is to define for yourself what embarrassment is to you. What makes you feel embarrassed? What do other people do that you think are embarrassing. And so on. 

Once you can define your version of embarrassment, you can start to accept it. Maybe you realize that you didn’t need to be embarrassed in certain situations. Or, certain things aren’t embarrassing to you anymore. And if they are still embarrassing, then own that feeling. Once you can define it, then you can accept it. Once you can accept it, then you can move on. 

Also, realize that you are your worst critic. No one is going to judge you harsher than you judge yourself. With this in mind, maybe people aren’t judging you as much as you think they are. Maybe others don’t think what you said or did was embarrassing; maybe they understood where you were coming from; and maybe you are just judging yourself too harshly. Don’t be afraid to give yourself some slack. Enjoy life, and don’t worry so much about the little things. Especially if they are helping you grow in your knowledge of the universe. Knowledge is power. And the more knowledge you attain, the more confident and capable you become.

***

This is me! Hope you enjoyed the read. I love questions, so if you
have any, or just a comment, feel free to email them to
info@blindabilities.com.

Thanks

Kelsi

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Apr 27, 2019
Educating Congress and the Senators – Just another Washington Seminar for High Schooler Simon Bonenfant and Introducing Gabe Kaiser
06:37

Show Summary:

Simon Bonenfant, a transition age student in high school and our Teen Blind Abilities correspondent, went to Washington D.C. to educate Representatives and Senators on the legislative goals of the National Federation of the Blind during the annual Washington Seminar.

Simon took time to interview Gabe Kaiser, Manager of Government Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind.

Gabe tells us about the 3 legislative priorities the NFB is highlighting during their visits to Capital Hill.

BlindAbilities Logo A black square with white initials, B A. Blind Abilities Logo

Simon has attended the Washington Seminar for the last 7 years and shares with us his enthusiasm and his reporting skills. The experience Simon has gained is going to stay with him for years to come. From speaking skills, learning the priorities in detail and navigating Capital hill. Simon will not hesitate to bring the concerns and issues to the attention of our State and Federal leaders and carry the voice of organizations, groups, and of course, his own.

You can find out more about Washington Seminar on the web atwww.NFB.org

Simon has done a variety of podcasts for Blind Abilities and you can find them on the web at www.BlindAbilities.comand search for Simon Bonenfant.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Apr 25, 2019
iPhone101: SeeingAI Update: Channel Switching and Exploring a Photo
06:52

Show Summary:

Upon popular demand, we bring you the SeeingAI Update. This demo was previously published on That Blind Tech Showand to break it out and let it breathe on its own, we bring you the iPhone101 SeeingAIUpdate.

You can find all the iPhone101 seriesin our extensive library of over 500 episodes and you can find That Blind Tech Shows there as well. Remember to subscribe and stay up to date with all of the episodes from Blind Abilities.

In this episode of iPhone101we demo the Channel moving feature and the object recognition in a Scene. Yes, the Swiss Army Knife of an App just got a bit bigger, and that is not a bad thing at all. You can find all of our SeeingAIpodcast and listen to the developers talk about SeeingAI from the beginning.

The TechAbilities Logo-Dark Sunglasses with TA and BA bold letters in each lens.

Be sure to check out our Facebook pages, groups  and communities where we share ideas, give advice and learn from others. Job Insights Support Group, the Blind Abilities pageBlind Abilities Communityand the Assistive Technology Community for the Blind and Visually Impaired. There is something for everybody so be sure to check us out.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Apr 22, 2019
Job Insights: NCSAB Keynote Speaker Paul Schroeder - It’s Got to Come From the Heart If You Want it to Work
25:33

Show Summary:

NCSAB Keynote speaker: Paul Schroeder, Director, Public Policy & Strategic Alliances at Aira Tech Corporation,and spent over 22 years at American Foundation for the Blindin charge of Programs and Policy and Government Relations and more.

Image of man with cane and woman with service dog and City Skyline with Job Insights in bold letters.

Paul was asked to speak before the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind in Washington D.C.

Paul spoke about his schooling, his training challenges with limited expectations and how together we can all make a positive impact on enhancing the opportunities for future generations and today as well.

 

Join Paul in this lunch hour speech as State Agency Directors, Policy Specialist, Officials from RSA, the Department of Education listen on. And yes, grab a snack because this is an Academic Luncheon Speech event.

Blind abilities NCSAB coverage is sponsored in part by Be My Eyes.

Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call.

Download for iOS

Download for Android

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Apr 22, 2019
Orcam: Maker of the MyEye 2 – The Advanced Wearable Device Which Reads Text, Recognizes Faces, Identifies Products and More!
04:37

Show Summary:

In this Tech Abilities podcast we talk with Monte from Orcam. The maker of the MyEye 2which reads text, recognizes faces, identifies products and more.

Monte tells us about how Israel equipped  polling booths with the Orcam MyEye 2 during the elections to assist Blind and Visually Impaired voters cast their vote independently.

The TechAbilities Logo-Dark Sunglasses with TA and BA bold letters in each lens.

Monte gives us a brief demo of the MyEye 2 and talks about the uses and multiple features packed into this wearable device. Read the paper with OCR built right into the MyEye 2 without the need for internet or data. Recognize faces, products with a simple gesture or voice command.

You can find out more about Orcam on the web at www.Orcam.com

About NCSAB:

The National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB)held their Spring conference in Washington D.C., This is a conference attended by Directors and Administrators from the State Agencies and Vocational Rehab Centers across the United States. The attendees share successes and discuss the challenges with leaders from the Rehabilitation Services Administration, Department of Education and the Consumer Organizations including the American Foundation of the Blind, American Council of the Blind and the National Foundation of the Blind. Be sure to check with your State Services for the Blind, your Voc. Rehabilitation Services and find out what they can do for you.

Blind abilities NCSAB coverage is sponsored in part by Be My Eyes.

Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call.

Download for iOS

Download for Android

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Apr 19, 2019
Eschenbach: Vision Enhancing Products for Every Aspect of Life – Meet Timothy and Two New Advanced Portable Magnifiers
04:20

Show Summary:

In this Tech Abilities podcast we talk with Timothy from Eschenbach.

There are many opportunities in our everyday life when a vision aid can be beneficial and help improve one’s quality of life.

The TechAbilities Logo-Dark Sunglasses with TA and BA bold letters in each lens.

 When you’re reading a newspaper or a bill or watching television or at an outdoor event, do you often find that the object being viewed is too small or difficult to see? If so, Eschenbach can help!

In this Tech Abilities podcast, I met up with Timothy from Eschenbach at the NCSAB conference in Washington D.C. If you are a teacher of the Blind/Visually Impaired or Counselor or Tech Specialist  at an agency, then Eschenbach may have the Low Vision solution you have been looking for. Timothy talks us through two electronic magnifiers that are portable and loaded with features that can enhance the classroom experience for Low vision students.

The Vario digital Desktop Foldable 

The Vario Digital FHDis a foldable desktop video magnifier with outstanding image quality and compact design. It features a 15.6” full HD monitor with optical zoom from 1.3x - 45x magnification and an FHD camera that provides a true color image with a large field of view.

The Visolux Digital XL FHDis an advanced portable video magnifier that features a 12” TFT LCD display with touch screen interface an FHD camera, built-in stand, and many other features!

The device’s unique Dynamic Line Scrolling (DLS) feature allows the user to scroll both horizontally and vertically when on the higher magnification levels without having to move the device. Its FHD camera actually sees more than what’s shown on the screen, making reading a book or magazine easier than ever. Images can be captured and stored on a removable 8GB SD card.

Join Timothy as he explains the usability and multiple features found in these new magnifiers from Eschenbach. You can find out more about Eschenbach and all of their Low Vision solutions on the web at www.Eschenbach.com

About NCSAB:

The National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB)held their Spring conference in Washington D.C., This is a conference attended by Directors and Administrators from the State Agencies and Vocational Rehab Centers across the United States. The attendees share successes and discuss the challenges with leaders from the Rehabilitation Services Administration, Department of Education and the Consumer Organizations including the American Foundation of the Blind, American Council of the Blind and the National Foundation of the Blind. Be sure to check with your State Services for the Blind, your Voc. Rehabilitation Services and find out what they can do for you.

Blind abilities NCSAB coverage is sponsored in part by Be My Eyes.

Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call.

Download for iOS

Download for Android

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Apr 18, 2019
Sprint is committed to working with phone manufacturers and the blind and low vision community to deliver user-friendly accessible phones - Meet Outreach Specialists Diane and Rob!
07:07

Show Summary:

In this Tech Abilities podcast, I met up with Sprint Outreach Specialists Diane and Rob during the NCSAB conference. Sprint will provide Bills in Braille and large print, a discount on a plan and help BVI customers maximize the accessibility of their smart phone.

The TechAbilities Logo-Dark Sunglasses with TA and BA bold letters in each lens.

It is nice to see Sprint at and sponsoring conventions such as NFB, ACB, AFB and more, and to have Outreach Specialist like Diane and Rob available to ask those accessibility questions right at their booth. Plus, Sprint brings the Vision Store to the events offering up Bluetooth speakers and headphones that are accessible and at a very nice price.

Next time you are at a convention, stop by the Sprint booth and see what plans they can offer you.

You can find out more about Sprint and accessibility on the web at www.Sprint.com/vision

Contact Sprint by phone at 855-885-7568.

About NCSAB:

The National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB)held their Spring conference in Washington D.C., This is a conference attended by Directors and Administrators from the State Agencies and Vocational Rehab Centers across the United States. The attendees share successes and discuss the challenges with leaders from the Rehabilitation Services Administration, Department of Education and the Consumer Organizations including the American Foundation of the Blind, American Council of the Blind and the National Foundation of the Blind. Be sure to check with your State Services for the Blind, your Voc. Rehabilitation Services and find out what they can do for you.

Blind abilities NCSAB coverage is sponsored in part by Be My Eyes.

Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call.

Download for iOS

Download for Android

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Apr 18, 2019
Patriot Vision Industries: a Low Vision Solution for Everyday Life and in the Classroom
07:34

Show Summary:

In this Tech Abilities podcast we are talking to Charles from Patriot Vision Industries. Charles gives us an overview of the Low vision line of patriot products. The patriot ViewPoint, a wearable viewer that enhances ones existing vision to bright and clear magnification from across the room.

The TechAbilities Logo-Dark Sunglasses with TA and BA bold letters in each lens.

This device fits over the eyes like goggles and you may be surprised at the clarity and color that jumps to life. Charles also shows us the Patriot Pro 12.9, a portable viewer which utilizes an iPad Pro and a stand that creates like a CCTV experience and text to speech all in one. Toss it in your backpack and with it weighing in at only 8 pounds, it’s going where ever you need to go.  

Join Charles and check out Patriot on FaceBookand give them a call at 1-800-364-1612

And check out Patriot on the web at www.PatriotVisionIndustries.com

The National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB)held their Spring conference in Washington D.C., This is a conference attended by Directors and Administrators from the State Agencies and Vocational Rehab Centers across the United States. The attendees share successes and discuss the challenges with leaders from the Rehabilitation Services Administration, Department of Education and the Consumer Organizations including the American Foundation of the Blind, American Council of the Blind and the National Foundation of the Blind. Be sure to check with your State Services for the Blind, your Voc. Rehabilitation Services and find out what they can do for you.

Blind abilities NCSAB coverage is sponsored in part by Be My Eyes.

Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call.

Download for iOS

Download for Android

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Apr 18, 2019
Vispero - Helping Blind and Low Vision Individuals Reach Their Full Potential. Meet Douglas Gerry and Hear What’s Coming Up for the ElBraille and New Low Vision Solutions
06:13

Show Summary:

In this Tech Abilities podcast we are talking to VisperoRepresentative Douglas Gerry. Douglas gives us an over view of the Low Vision and Braille devices as well as some breaking news on the ElBraillecoming out this summer.

The TechAbilities Logo-Dark Sunglasses with TA and BA bold letters in each lens.

Join Douglas as he talks about the importance of learning the tools that will bring you success in the workplace and how starting to learn these devices early may help you succeed.

Vispero is the world’s leading assistive technology provider for the visually impaired. We have a long history of developing and providing innovative solutions for blind and low vision individuals that help them reach their full potential.

Vispero combines two Latin words: visio and spero.  Visio means “the vision”; and spero means “hope”.  At Vispero, we inspire hope, determination, and independence through our family of brands: Freedom Scientific, Enhanced Vision, Optelec, and The Paciello Group.

the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB)held their Spring conference in Washington D.C., This is a conference attended by Directors and Administrators from the State Agencies and Vocational Rehab Centers across the United States. The attendees share successes and discuss the challenges with leaders from the Rehabilitation Services Administration, Department of Education and the Consumer Organizations including the American Foundation of the Blind, American Council of the Blind and the National Foundation of the Blind. Be sure to check with your State Services for the Blind, your Voc. Rehabilitation Services and find out what they can do for you.

Blind abilities NCSAB coverage is sponsored in part by Be My Eyes.

Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call.

Download for iOS

Download for Android

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Apr 18, 2019
The Importance of Soft Skills - A Blog Post by Kelsi Hansen

Recently, I was asked to write about soft skills because I excel in that area. Oddly enough, I had never heard of soft skills and had no idea what it meant when they said I was good at them. So I did some research, and it turns out that yes, I am good at soft skills. They just come naturally to me, and are not something that I would necessarily define about myself. So, I want to share what soft skills are, and try to give some helpful tips on how to further develop them. They do not come naturally to everyone, but everyone can benefit from learning how to utilize them.

BlindAbilities Logo A black square with white initials, B A. Blind Abilities Logo

The definition I found says that soft skills are a set of skills that are valuable in the work place. They include traits such as: positive and flexible attitude, common sense, and the ability to interact well with others. They are basically a combination of social, interpersonal, and communication skills that help in the job market, and in everyday life. 

There are many different categories of soft skills, and they are different depending on which source you use. But they are all very closely related, and in some cases, to have one, you must have them all. I am going to focus on, and separate, the soft skills that I am particularly adept at, and that I think will help most with finding a job, and navigating life as a blind person. 

Positive and Flexible Attitude

This is one of the most important skills in my opinion. It is a sturdy base, and trickles through all of the other soft skills. If you have a negative attitude, it will trickle through to your social and communication skills. So what does a positive and flexible attitude look like? And how can you change the negative to a positive? 

I am a big advocate in being yourself. You be you! That being said, some people are just more negative than others. And that is okay. Would it help if you were more positive? Yes it would. But I don’t think that necessarily means that you need to change who you are. The simplest way to appear positive, even if that is not how you feel, is in your word choices. For example: if your boss asks you to do something that you particularly don’t want to do, but you know you have to, instead of saying, “I guess,” say, “Absolutely!” If your friend or coworker is having a baby, and you are not excited because you don’t care for babies, instead of saying, “Good for you,” you could say, “That’s wonderful. You must be so excited!” 

The words you use are extremely important. Some words are just more negative in nature. The way we, as humans perceive those words, really makes an impact on how we view people. Not only is it important to use the more positive words, you should also try to use a positive uplift in your voice. For example, people who are more monotone, tend to come across as more negative in nature. So trying to put that happy lift into your tone of voice can even turn negative word choices into positive ones. If someone asks you if you need help, instead of saying “no thank you” short and clipped, give your voice a lift and slow it down a bit. This will help it appear light hearted and friendly instead of cold and angry. 

This may also vary depending on culture. The way we as humans perceive things is so engrained into us from birth, that it is important to try and match your cultural norm. Unfortunately, if you don’t adapt the way you speak to what is socially accepted in your culture, than you can come across as very negative even if you’re not. 

Keeping a positive attitude helps in flexibility as well. Things change. They cannot always go 100% according to plan. Having that negative attitude will make things harder and more stressful on you. And if you are super stressed about it, it could make the situation worse.

 Keeping that positive attitude, or appearing to, will carry through into that flexibility. Instead of thinking or saying, “no! That sounds awful, and it’s not going to work,” try thinking or saying, “That might work. Let’s try it!” 

Positive attitude is everything when speaking to the public, friends, future employers, or coworkers. Being positive will help you get farther in life. If you’re negative, that promotion you’ve been waiting for could go to your more positive counterpart instead. If you are lost and need directions, and you have a reputation for being rude and negative, you might not get the help you need, as people may steer clear of you to avoid a negative interaction. Always be who you are, but don’t let negativity stand in your way. Positivity will take you so much farther. 

Social Skills

Social skills are a complex topic. What is acceptable socially can be different from region to region, and culture to culture. For instance, in some of the southern regions in the United States, it is polite to refer to people as sir or ma’am. Whereas in some parts of the Midwest United States, where I live, some are offended by being referred to as sir or ma’am. I have often heard women in the Midwest complain that they are not old enough to be a Ma’am. So how then, are we supposed to successfully develop our social skills if the social norms change from area to area? 

In my opinion, there are a couple of different things you can do, if you are not sure what is socially acceptable in a certain area. Firstly, you could do some research on that regions social etiquette. Look it up online, or ask people. There is no harm in asking. It will make you appear interested in local culture, and help you out in the future. 

The second thing you can do, which tends to be my fall back, is to be positive. It sounds silly, and simple, but I have found that it gets me farther socially than anything else. I do still ask a lot of questions about etiquette, and own what I don’t know, but I do still make social faux pas. But because, I am positive, and put that positive uplift into my voice, I find that people forgive those faux pas. People are receptive to positivity, and will be more likely to give you some slack for making a social blunder. 

This is not to say however, that social skills are not important if you can just be positive. Aside from research and being positive, here are a few social tips that will be relevant in most places: 

  • Smiling 

People are very receptive to smiles. When you greet someone, smile. It makes you appear friendly and positive. If you’re going to a job interview, smile. Employers want friendly employees with good social skills. If you smile, they might think, “hey, they are pretty friendly and positive. They might be a great employee!” 

  • Hand Shakes 

When meeting someone new, it is generally a good idea to shake their hand. Especially if it is in an interview. It shows confidence, and that you understand and have social skills, despite having a disability. 

  • Eye Contact 

 In the sighted world, eye contact is huge! It shows that you are listening and interested to what someone is saying. So how does a blind person make eye contact? Easy … you look towards their voice. Always look towards the voice of whoever is speaking, and they will unconsciously make the eye contact. It makes me laugh when people tell me that I am really good at making eye contact. I am not the one who is making the contact, I am just looking towards their voice. 

  • Punctuality 

And last but not least, being punctual! If you show up a few minutes late for an interview, or on your first day at the job, the employer may think: “oh, they are blind; they must not be able to get around well.” Or, “Maybe they got lost on the way, how would they find their way around the work place?” 
We need to be able to give the employers confidence that we can do the job. That we can be there on time, and that we are a better hire than our sighted counterpart. Unfortunately blind people have to work harder at proving ourselves than sighted people. And one way to do that is to show up a little bit early. 

Communication Skills

And lastly, the most important soft skill to attain is communication! Good communication skills are the foundation of success. As cliche as it sounds, it is the main contributing factor in almost every matter in life. You must be able to effectively communicate what you need, how you feel, your opinions, your questions, your ideas, etc. It is in general, a well-covered topic, and it is accepted that it is one of the most important life skills. But how can you put it into play? What can you do to actually better your communication skills, rather than just being told that you need to acquire them? 

First, it is important to note, that a positive attitude and good social skills, will trickle down and help with acquiring good communication skills. Effective communication skills may be the foundation to a successful life, but positivity and interacting well with others, are the stepping stones to a solid foundation. Miscommunications tend to be more easily forgiven if someone has a good attitude and interacts well with others. And people are more likely to want to communicate with you if you have those skills. 

One thing I utilize a lot when communicating, is questions. I tend to ask a lot of questions. Not too many, but enough that I know what I need to do. Sometimes you need clarification on a task, and it is better to ask, and make it known that you need more information. If you don’t completely understand what is wanted of you, and you decide not to get it clarified, then you run the risk of doing it wrong and having to start all over. Or worse, you could cause some sort of minor to major disaster. Mistakes happen, but if you can prevent making them by asking and clarifying what it is that you need to do, then what’s the harm? Not being afraid to ask, is a step towards becoming an effective communicator. 

Another thing you can do to improve your communication skills, is to speak up. Let’s say that your boss asks you to do a task that you have no idea how to do; or maybe they ask you to do something that makes you extremely uncomfortable. It is okay to say, “I’m not sure how to do that.” Or, “that makes me very uncomfortable.” If you don’t tell them, they won’t know. No One can read your mind, so speak up. If you have requested a day off that has been approved, and your boss forgets, instead of letting them continue with their plans for you that day you are supposed to be gone, remind them that you will not be there that day. It will be much worse if you don’t tell them. They will expect you to be there, and when you don’t show upp, it will reflect very badly on you. There is no harm in speaking up, as long as you do it in a positive appropriate manner. 

And finally, take a break. If you get frustrated or angry, take a break. Frustration and anger are natural emotions, but are less than helpful in a professional, or public setting. These emotions cause people to do things that they otherwise wouldn’t. And they often lead to regrettable behaviors.

 So if you feel yourself growing frustrated or angry, don’t hesitate to take a break. Instead of yelling at your coworker because they don’t understand what you want, take a breather for a few minutes. It will not only help you to cool down, but it will also help you collect your thoughts and determine your next course of action. It may not seem very productive, but it will lead to an increase of productivity in the future. By doing this, you can avoid anger driven reactions that could potentially be detrimental to your situation. 

If for some reason, you are unable to get away and take a break, I find it helpful to pause. Pause for a second, take a deep breath, and relax your body. Though not as effective as taking a break, it will help dampen your urge to yell and throw things. If you’re in a meeting, and you get frustrated, most of the time you cannot just walk away and take a break. So in those moments, it is helpful to pause, and settle your mind a bit. 

If you can utilize the skills I talked about:positivity, social skills  questions and speaking up when communicating, most times you can avoid getting to the point where you are angry and need a break. The Beauty of effective communication skills, is that if used properly, it minimizes frustrations. As with diseases, prevention is the best treatment. Develop your soft skills so you can prevent getting to the point of anger. Your life might not be completely smooth sailing, but it will definitely have calmer waters, and lead to more success in the long run. 

To sum it up, positivity leads to good social skills which in turn leads to good communication skills. These soft skills are extremely important on the path to a successful life. And there are loads more soft skills to be learned about. I hope to return to this topic in the future. And in the meantime, if you have any soft skills that you would like to hear about, don’t hesitate to let us know here at Blind Abilities. We love hearing from you, and would love to hear more about your thoughts and opinions on this topic! 

This is me! Hope you enjoyed the read. I love questions, so if you
have any, or just a comment, feel free to email them to
info@blindabilities.com.

Thanks

Kelsi

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Apr 15, 2019
White Cane Coffee: Providing Great Coffee to our Customers and Providing Sustaining Jobs for People with Disabilities – A Job Insights Spotlight
25:01

 

FUll Transcript Below

Show Summary:

Serina Gilbert is always coming across great stories and this one from Erin and Bob at White Cane Coffee is as good as it gets.

Image of man with cane and woman with service dog and City Skyline with Job Insights in bold letters.

Taking a Bad Day and transferring that into the launching of a new company, Erin and Bob, a daughter and son team, tell us why they wanted to start White Cane Coffee and how they want to impact others with the opportunity through the affiliate program coming soon.

You can check out the line of White Cane Coffee on the web at www.WhiteCaneCoffee.comand find the coffee that best suits you. 

Here is an overview of White Cane Coffee taken from the web:

Erin waving Hi near a river and with a package of White Cane Coffee.

Hi, I’m Erin from White Cane Coee. I, with the help of my parents, started this company to provide great coffee to our customers and provide self sustaining jobs for people with disabilities.

We have a variety of coffee roasts for your enjoyment. Colombian Supremo is sweet, smooth and bold. We also have a Colombian Supremo Decaf which gives you all the same great flavor without all the caffeine. But, if you want that caffeine boost, try our High Octane. Our Donut Shop blend gives you that fruity, clean taste you expect to find in your neighborhood pastry shop. If you like a bold, earthy cup of joe, try our Dark Roast, it is roasted from 100% Indonesian Sumatra beans. French Roast gives you that rich, robust flavor you may crave. Or if you prefer a Breakfast Blend, ours will give you that tangy, fruity flavor you will love. All of our beans are organic and micro-roasted, using hot air to give you the very best quality and flavor.

There is nothing worse than waking up in the morning and discovering you are out of coffee. (I shudder at the mere thought of it). So, that is why we offer a subscription service so you can receive your favorite White Cane Coee right on your door step every month. If you make your subscription for a full year, we will cover your shipping. You will also notice that, other than our sample box, (which I highly recommend so you find the right blend for you), our coffee arrives in 1 pound and 2 pound packages. You will actually get what you expect you are paying for.

Now a bit about White Cane Coee, and why we standout. The reason I wanted to start White Cane Coee is because, number one, “Who doesn’t love coffee.”. But most importantly, my brothers and I are all on the Autism Spectrum and I am also blind. We have found that finding jobs extremely difficult. In our experience, employers didn’t want to provide full time or a living wages to handicapped individuals. Or because of bullying on the job site staying at some jobs unbearable. So, at 22, I started to ask, “When you have the right people around you, the question stops being, What can I do? but What’s stopping me”. So here we are.

Our goal is to provide a welcoming environment to all people and provide jobs to the handicapped community at a living wage. Most of all, we want to provide you with a Great cup of coffee!

Check out this episode of Job Insights and send us your feedback and topic suggestions by email.

Follow the Job Insights team on twitter @JobInsightsVIP

Job Insights is part of the Blind Abilities network.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Full Transcript

 

Jeff Thompson:
I saw one on there that was called the high octane.

 

Bob:
Yeah, that one's double the caffeine, double have fun.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Do not ship that one to Jeff.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Job Insights, a podcast to help you carve out your career pathway and enhance the opportunities for gainful employment.

 

Serena Gilbert:
I saw a post from White Cane Coffee, and I was intrigued because the name, I think it's like a super awesome name for a company.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Learn about resources for training, education and employment opportunities.

 

Erin:
I swear, the excitement for me is just constant, because again, I'm just branching out on new things, I'm meeting with people in the community, I'm on podcast now. There's always new things that we're doing, so one part of it may not be as flashy or exciting as it was, but there's a new part that's brand sparkling new and just like, yeah.

 

Jeff Thompson:
You will hear from people seeking careers, employment from professionals in the educational field, teachers, and innovators in this ever changing world of technology.

 

Speaker 5:         

That's an easy one to remember, because everyone knows the white game, everyone loves coffee and.com there you go.

 

Jeff Thompson:
For more podcasts with the blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, on Twitter @BlindAbilities and download our free Blind Abilities App from the APP store, that's two words, blind abilities. Now please welcome Serena Gilbert and Jeff Thompson with Job Insights.

 

Erin:
If they do find work, it's for absolutely a pittance amount of money, so we're just like, let's employ them and pay them fairly.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Welcome to the Job Insights. I'm Jeff Thompson and with me is Serena Gilbert. How are you doing Serena?

 

Serena Gilbert:
I am doing absolutely fantastic, Jeff, how are you?

 

Jeff Thompson:
I'm doing good. You came across a great company on Facebook and invited them on. Tell us a little bit about it.

 

Serena Gilbert:
I was scrolling through Facebook like I do for, I don't even know how many hours a day at this point, and I saw a post from White Cane Coffee and I was intrigued because, well of course, first the name, I think it's like a super awesome name for a company, and secondly, what their mission was and how they started a company to be able to have nice jobs for individuals with disabilities to be able to be a little bit more self-sustaining. I really, really liked that idea.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Entrepreneurship right there. I like it.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Of course.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Well we got them here in the studio. Let's welcome. Erin and Bob from White Cane Coffee. How are you guys doing?

 

Erin:
We're doing well.

 

Bob:
Doing wonderful, glad to be here.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Well, thank you for taking the time, coming on to Job Insights. It's exciting, it's exciting. I read Erin's article on Facebook and yeah, I really liked it. Bang, here we are. Let's start it out by what got you started with White Cane Coffee?

 

Erin:
Well, honestly it started with me having a bad day, and so just it's hard when you're disabled and trying to find a job and just, it's frustrating. When I'm frustrated like that, me and my dad will play games, like we'll create [inaudible] or in this case we were just like, if you had x amount of money, what would you do to grow it? And so one day we started with a coffee company and then we just kept talking about this coffee company just like, well, what would you do with this, or what would you do with that? It's just like, well, why not hire people with disabilities for one thing, and just it kept growing until eventually were just like, Oh, we're actually doing this, aren't we?

 

Bob:
Yeah. That was about six months ago, and so then it was just doing research, figuring out exactly what it was going to take to create this coffee company. And so that meant we needed an accountant, we needed an attorney, we needed to figure out how we were going to get our coffee roasted, packaging, getting the shipping, getting the website up. It became a creature unto itself, but the best part was we had fun doing it and right now, I mean, the response we're getting, even from our local community, they love our coffee. We did a couple of hundred sample bags or whatever, and we just gave them out to everyone, and everyone said, "Oh isn't that [inaudible]."

 

Bob:
And then they called back and said, "You know, that was really good coffee. I need more."

 

Bob:
Now every time we turn around, somebody's calling us up saying, "We need more." That's our whole thing is getting the word out, letting people know we have great coffee.

 

Serena Gilbert:
That's fantastic, Bob, and I know you have kind of a unique business model. Do you want to share with us some of the services that customers can receive from your coffee business?

 

Bob:
The key is, they can go online at whitecanecoffee.com, and one of the first things that shows up, the first item there is a sample box because people always say, what is your best coffee? Well, they're all great, so it all depends on the customer. We suggest to them, order up the sample box, try them all, find the one that fits your likes, then order whether it's subscription or it's a [inaudible], whatever the case may be, but we want them to find the one they like the best. That's really our model, that in a nutshell is our coffee is roasted fresh for them. Most coffees that you get, say at a grocery store and some of the big names that I'm not going to mention but we all know who they are, those sit in a warehouse for up to a year before they even get to the store. We like our coffee what, how old Erin?

 

Erin:
About a week fresh, so from the time we package that to the point where it gets to your door, it's only about a week old, so you know you're going to get the freshest cup of coffee that you are able to have.

 

Jeff Thompson:
I couldn't help it but I saw one on there that was called high octane.

 

Bob:
Yeah, that one's double the caffeine, double the fun.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Do not ship that one too Jeff, Oh my goodness.

 

Bob:
Don't ship that one. That one is actually very popular, especially the people work like third shifts or you know-

 

Erin:
The mid night hour [inaudible].

 

Bob:
They're the ones who order it and they go, the flavor's great [inaudible] and we're awake. And I said, well that's pretty much what it does.

 

Erin:
[inaudible] through testing.

 

Bob:
Yeah, that one was hard.

 

Jeff Thompson:
You mentioned earlier you had a tough three weeks of testing coffee and that must've been fun, because none of these go out without you guys knowing what exactly you're selling.

 

Erin:
Exactly.

 

Bob:
Exactly, that's I mean each time ... We roaster whatever, we sample it. It doesn't just like oh it's good enough. The good enough is never good enough. The product has to be right every time it goes out, because that's our reputation that's on the line here. We're not some huge mega corporation where you get a bad pot of coffee and lose a customer they go, eh. With us, that doesn't work that way. Every customer needs to be happy.

 

Jeff Thompson:
And they can find this at whitecanecoffee.com.

 

Bob:
Correct.

 

Erin:
Yup.

 

Jeff Thompson:
That's an easy one to remember, because knows the White Cane, everyone loves coffee and .com, there you go.

 

Bob:
That was even our reasoning of naming the company and with our logo, with the young girl, with the white cane, we want people to know exactly who we are, when they see our logo, they know.

 

Erin:
It was [inaudible] a blind disabled person or blind disabled people, people and just disabled people, and people, people.

 

Jeff Thompson:
People, people. I like it.

 

Bob:
But that was it. We want people to know exactly who we are and what we're about, the transparency, I guess is the new buzzword that everybody uses, but that is important. They need to know who we are. When they go on our Facebook page or whatever, and even once the about page is done finally on the website, there's a picture of Erin right there. She is the face of our company, this is her baby. There's no big corporate board room back here where everybody's hanging out.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah.

 

Erin:
Home grown.

 

Jeff Thompson:
It's amazing the way you can start by just having a bad day, right Erin?

 

Erin:
I know.

 

Bob:
Isn't that how all the great companies have started though, is somebody sitting around saying there's a problem and then eventually somebody says, Hey, I think we can fix it.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Solution based, there you go.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Well, I understand that you guys employ a few individuals that also have disabilities. Is that correct?

 

Erin:
Yes.

 

Bob:
Yes.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Tell us a little bit about what made you design your business in that way?

 

Erin:
Well, if I was having trouble finding a job for my disability, and there is a huge population in our town of disabled people on who just cannot find work, or if they do find work, it's for absolutely a pittance amount of money, so we're just like, let's employ them and pay them fairly.

 

Jeff Thompson:
I like that.

 

Bob:
We're all about living wage. People sit in and say, well, like I said, you know, if you have a sheltered workshop, there's no bottom to how much they can pay their employees. Like ours, we have one here nearby and they pay about a dollar, dollar 10 an hour is what they pay their employees. You can't live on that. And second of all, with social security at 750 a month, I think it is, you can't live on that. I mean, you can't pay rent, you can't pay utilities, you can't do anything. They're all into survival mode. Well, there's more to life than just survival mode. We want people to have a decent wage, so at the end of the week they can pay all their bills and you know what, there's still some money left-over to do what they want to do and have some fun.

 

Jeff Thompson:
And buy some coffee.

 

Bob:
Buy more.

 

Jeff Thompson:
There you go.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Very smart business model there.

 

Bob:
That's what it really was all about. Not only have we found work for Erin and her brothers now, but we're finding work for people who are just like her because that's what you're supposed to do.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Erin, on your picture on Facebook, you do have a cane here wearing sunglasses, so you are blind?

 

Erin:
Correct. I only have 5% of my vision left.

 

Jeff Thompson:
When did that start?

 

Erin:
I started to lose my vision when I was about 15.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Did it affect you in how you did your education at school?

 

Erin:
Yes actually. I had to, with assistance, essence basically people reading me the questions on the test. I graduated high school at 15.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Look at that, wow. That's not an easy accomplishment. That's awesome, Erin.

 

Erin:
Thank you.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah, I could not imagine.

 

Jeff Thompson:
That's awesome for anybody.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah, it's a big deal.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Wow.

 

Bob:
Well, Erin was in the gifted program when she was in school, and so it wasn't much of a challenge for the school just to allow her basically to test out. It was interesting and it's like, okay, here's all the subjects you can pass everything, you can graduate and she did.

 

Erin:
Through the first try and they're just like, yeah, okay, that's fair.

 

Bob:
She had her diploma and we moved on.

 

Jeff Thompson:
There you go. You might want to give that college thing a try, that might be a piece of cake too.

 

Bob:
Someday.

 

Jeff Thompson:
There you go.

 

Bob:
But right now, like I said, we're challenged in what we're doing and I think right now as this company is growing here, this is going to keep her busy for many, many years to come.

 

Jeff Thompson:
That's great.

 

Erin:
We're hoping the best for this.

 

Jeff Thompson:
It's nice to have a challenge, and to challenge yourself and that's what we all kind of look for, is to accept the challenges and it keeps you waking up in the morning with a good cup of coffee, that helps too, right Serena?

 

Serena Gilbert:
Of course. Now if you guys start shipping out hot chocolate I'm in, because I'm not much of a coffee drinker because it makes me completely stay up for days. But some hot chocolate, I'll be totally about it.

 

Erin:
[inaudible] considered it yet, but maybe in the distant future, we're thinking maybe hot chocolate or teas or something like that, but for right now we're strictly coffee.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, I'm sorry, I didn't know she wasn't a coffee drinker. I would've got someone else to come on the podcast, sorry Bob.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Oh Jeff.

 

Bob:
On of the other things we are trying to do here is, hopefully within the next week is we are setting up affiliate programs so that other people who are blind and disabled all across the country can also be a part of this company, because we would love to see White Cane Coffee basically in every town, business, home across this nation. I want people, no matter where they go, they're going to see White Cane Coffee on Facebook, on Instagram, Twitter. That's the name of this game here. We have a great product, and we want to be able to share that with everyone in the United States, and we also want people to be able to earn a living as affiliates across the country, because let's face it, people like Erin and you guys or whatever all over, and so that the name of the game is let's create as many jobs as we can.

 

Bob:
People who will be able to sign up as affiliates on the website and what will happen is, they'll be given basically their own code that'll go on the end of whitecanecoffee.com, it'll be like, let's say in Jeff's case it might be whitecanecoffee.com/Jeff. Now Jeff's going to sit there and say, hey, all my friends, guess what? White Cane Coffee, great stuff, give it a shot. Here's their email address, and it'll be that one there. Any sales that those make, Jeff would then get a commission on. Does that make sense?

 

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah. I think that's awesome that you're building that, because a lot of the big company, like obviously Amazon, they have an affiliate program, target all kinds of places. I think it's great that you're seizing that opportunity to allow some of our audience to be able to have some fairly passive income coming in with being able to share their affiliate links and things like that. That's very unique to small businesses and I like that.

 

Bob:
Yeah, because we all have our own networks. I have my friends who are on Facebook and on Twitter and everything like that. You have your friends and acquaintances and business contacts on yours and Jeff does. We all have these little things, that's why they call it the web. The more that web over it goes on each other, then guess what? That's when the company grows.

 

Erin:
This way, we're not just helping our towns own disabled group, we're helping other towns and the State disabled groups.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, that's great. I like that idea. It gives me something, you know, I never wanted to do an Avon, Mary Kay or stuff like that, Tupperware. Now I can do White Cane Coffee.

 

Serena Gilbert:
But just this morning, Jeff, you were giving me some makeup tips, so I don't know.

 

Bob:
That's one of the things that people always, you know, because we've talked to a few people on the go, well, what's it going to cost us? It doesn't cost you anything. I mean that's the whole key. We'd like you to try our coffee, but if you don't drink coffee or whatever, that doesn't stop you from-

 

Erin:
Getting the word out there.

 

Bob:
And being involved.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Awesome. I like it.

 

Serena Gilbert:
I for one, when you guys get that up and running, please send us a link or message in that group chat that we have going, because I will definitely spread the word for you guys. I think that's awesome what you're doing.

 

Bob:
Absolutely. We'll make sure you guys get the invite to it and that, and that's the goal, we want as many people as we can. If 10,000 people sign up as affiliates, fantastic. Because that's 10,000 people who are going to try to do something and that's what we want to see.

 

Jeff Thompson:
I like it. Let's check it out, whitecanecofee.com, you go there, it says buy coffee. I clicked on buy coffee and I had eight choices. The first one was the package box and for $20, no tax, no shipping, it's delivered to your door. You can sample all the flavors, and the flavors come in, Colombian Supremo, Colombian Supremo Decaf, Breakfast Blend, Dark Roast, Doughnut Shop, French Roast, and my future favorite, High Octane. You have a choice of 16 ounces or 32 ounces. 16 ounces is going to run you $14.99, and 32 ounces is discounted a little bit at $27.99 and you can opt for a one month, three month, six month up to a 12 month subscription. That means it will be delivered to your door once a month and you don't have to lift a finger.

 

Jeff Thompson:
An incentive to do the 12 months subscription is there's no shipping costs, thus allowing you to save $7 and 50 cents every month just by subscribing to a 12 month. That's quite a savings. At $14.99 I think it's very affordable. When you click on one of these flavors such as the High Octane, it'll take you to the page and they'll do a write up on what that flavor is all about, probably high octane I imagine, or the French Roast, or the Breakfast Blend. They'll all have a description there. Check out the about page, because that talk about Erin and her story and what the company's all about and it'll have some of this information then it just relayed to you. With that in mind, let's get back to the show.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Erin, I want to go back to something, do you use an iPhone?

 

Erin:
I use an iPad, it seems to work best for me.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, that's good. With voiceover.

 

Erin:
Oh my gosh, yes.

 

Jeff Thompson:
There you go.

 

Erin:
So much voiceover.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, we're all about tech and we love our voiceover stuff with the iPhones. Not knocking any of the android stuff, it's coming along.

 

Erin:
Yeah, but Apple just seems to have, it has everything that you need for that.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Yep, they're doing good, and so are you guys whitecanecoffee.com, everyone go check it out, go sign up, get the sample pack, you can figure it out which one you like best and then place your orders. It comes once a month, right to your doorstep, and if you order annually, they knock off the price of shipping so you can save a little money there. Erin, Bob, I want to thank you for taking the time to coming onto Job Insights and sharing with us your, well Erin's bad day innovation, her entrepreneurship and starting this company. Serena, do you have anything else you want to ask?

 

Serena Gilbert:
Just do us a favor and tell our audience where they can find you on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.

 

Erin:
You can find us at White Cane Coffee on Facebook. You can find this on White Cane Coffee on Tumbler, weirdly enough.

 

Bob:
We're setting up our Twitter and Instagram pages because Instagram and Facebook kind of work hand in hand together now, so when you advertise on one, you advertise on both. It's always funny, we always say, we need to get some of the big influencers on Instagram or something of that nature, one of the Kardashians. [inaudible] say, hey White Cane Coffee, and things would go insane at that point, but no, the goal is we're getting the word out and we're really happy that you guys contacted us and wanted to hear what we're doing.

 

Serena Gilbert:
We absolutely love sharing what individuals in our community are doing, especially when it comes to employment and being able to live a little bit more independently, so we were happy to have you on.

 

Erin:
We were absolutely ecstatic to be on.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Do you guys have any questions or any additional information that you'd like to share?

 

Bob:
We look forward to seeing your podcast, because you're on YouTube, is that correct?

 

Jeff Thompson:
We're on YouTube, we're on Apple, you can download the Blind Abilities App right to your iPad and iPhone, any device like that. Pod Catchers just search for Blind Abilities, that's two words, Blind Abilities.

 

Serena Gilbert:
He's so trained over there. Oh my goodness.

 

Bob:
Sounds great, we look forward to that. Keep in touch with us, we like talking to people who are in the community, kind of how we find out what's going on. We hope that these conversations will go on for long time in the future.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Of course.

 

Bob:
It's funny, since we went on Facebook and started doing this, you guys just kind of caught our attention. It's like okay let's do this and-

 

Erin:
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

 

Bob:
Absolutely.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Next step is shark tank, right?

 

Bob:
Oh God no. No, never Shark Tank. Venture capitalists are about making money, we're about making a difference and so that would probably never happen.

 

Jeff Thompson:
I like that line. Put it on my tee shirt, or my coffee cup. There you go.

 

Serena Gilbert:
I will definitely be checking out your guys' website because I do have coffee drinkers in my family, so I might even show it to my husband, because we have a Keurig, but we have the little thing where you can put the coffee beans or in it and trick it.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Well, Serena, if you check out the website, they do have a coffee that has low caffeine.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Even for you, that would be too much caffeine.

 

Bob:
I'll tell you, if your husband likes that robust flavor, get the Colombian. If you like a coffee that's real smooth, you don't need milk or anything, look at the Dark Roast, it is so smooth. There's no bitterness to it.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Oh Wow.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Well I think I'm going to try the sample because I've always liked looking for that coffee that it tastes good and it does everything that you want it to do in the flavor without having to add the cream or this or the other thing. I just want that perfect blend.

 

Erin:
Yeah. We hope you like it.

 

Bob:
Yeah, get online after you're done with us, just go right to White Cane Coffee, you order tonight, they'll be out in the mail in the morning.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Oh Wow. That's fast.

 

Jeff Thompson:
There we go. The UPS or FedEx, one of those businesses know where you live, right?

 

Bob:
Absolutely. They're here up quite a bit, picking up boxes.

 

Jeff Thompson:
That's cool.

 

Bob:
They're happy, it keeps them working I guess.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Exactly.

 

Erin:
[inaudible] when we first started, they were so confused.

 

Bob:
They really were, but now they're just kind of used to it, they bring the truck up and get the boxes.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Is the excitement gone? I mean, usually if the UPS truck pulls up in front of my place, I'm like, oh.

 

Serena Gilbert:
What did I order?

 

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, I'm like rubbing my hands together.

 

Erin:
I swear, the excitement for me is just constant because again, I'm branching out on new things, I'm meeting with people in the community, I'm on podcast now. There's always new things that we're doing in the company to sort of get the word out, so yeah, it's just like, okay, so one part of it may not be as flashy or exciting as it was, but there's a new part that's brand sparkling new and just like yeah.

 

Bob:
Like in November, the Pennsylvania National Federation for the Blind has their convention in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Well now they're talking about having Erin come and speak at the convention.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, that's great.

 

Serena Gilbert:
That's huge. That's awesome.

 

Bob:
I wish she can make a difference. We really are looking forward to this, it's amazing. Everyone in this country drinks coffee, 90% of the people truly do have coffee first thing in the morning, that's what starts their day.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Take notes Serena.

 

Erin:
It's something that's so ingrained into our society, that coffee [inaudible] to help people with disabilities was just a no brainer. How many times have you heard in cartoons like, don't talk to me before I've had my coffee. I mean, when I was a little kid, on Christmas, we weren't allowed to open our presents until mum and dad had their coffee. I learned how to make coffee at age eight.

 

Bob:
No coffee, no presents.

 

Erin:
Just like brothers have already sorted out the gifts, specialized mugs in each hand they come downstairs, here you go, let's open presents.

 

Jeff Thompson:
There you go, and now you can do it with White Cane Coffee.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Exactly.

 

Bob:
Exactly. It's fun for everyone. I like seeing Erin excited. I like seeing her brother's excited. I like seeing the other workers excited because when they come to work, they're excited to be useful and to have a purpose. You know, that when they're here that they're welcome here, and we adapt to their needs instead of like a lot of jobs you have to adapt to the company. We kind of do it the other way around, we adapt to each person individually. What are their needs, what's going to make their experience here working better for them because we found if they're happy, they're much more productive, and so it's a win-win on both sides

 

Erin:
This may sound odd, but with some people's disabilities they have such strengths and others are like one of our workers, even though they are very autistic, they are also very hyper focused and are perfectionists, so we know every label is going to be on perfectly just like, alright, you do you man.

 

Jeff Thompson:
There you go. I like that where you're creating opportunities and not limiting them but enhancing their opportunities by embracing their set of skills that they have.

 

Bob:
Oh exactly.

 

Erin:
Exactly, and once you have the right people around you, it really is, you can do almost anything with it.

 

Jeff Thompson:
I like what you're doing Erin.

 

Bob:
We don't sit around and say, oh, what can I do? It's more of what's stopping us from moving on, changing things and making things better for everyone involved, and coffee is that venue that is allowing us to do that.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, I tip my cup to you guys.

 

Serena Gilbert:
We really appreciate your time.

 

Bob:
Absolutely.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Thanks Bob. Thanks Erin.

 

Bob:
You all have a good evening.

 

Erin:
It was great talking to you guys.

 

Jeff Thompson:
All right.

 

 

[Music]  [Transition noise]  -When we share

-What we see

-Through each other's eyes...

 

[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]

 

...We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.

 

Jeff Thompson:

For more podcasts with the blindness perspective:

Check us out on the web at www.BlindAbilities.com On Twitter @BlindAbilities

Download our app from the App store:
 'Blind Abilities'; that's two words.

Or send us an e-mail at:

info@blindabilities.com

Thanks for listening.

 

Apr 10, 2019
JobInsights: Reasonable Accommodations in the Workplace
29:48

Show Summary:

son. We focus on Employment, Careers, enhancing opportunities and bringing you  the latest innovations from across the Vocational Rehabilitation field to ensure your choices lead you down the career pathway that you want and succeed in gainful employment.

Image of man with cane and woman with service dog and City Skyline with Job Insights in bold letters.

From getting started with services, to assessments, Individual Plan for Employment (IPE) to gaining the skills to succeed and tools for success, Job Insights will be giving you tips and tricks to help your journey to employment and break down the barriers along the way.

In this episode Serina and Jeff talk about Reasonable Accommodations for the workplace. What is a Reasonable Accommodation? What is a Hardship? What can we bring to the table when Accommodations are being investigated and what solutions you may already have.

Sometimes creativity and innovations can bring about a solution and some of the common apps we use on a daily basis can be a tool for the workplace/ It’s not always a major purchase that is needed when considering accommodations.

While the word, “Reasonable” and “Hardship” can be defined from so many different perspectives and from company to company, Serina and Jeff explore solutions and encourage one to contact and work with their State Services, Voc-Rehab specialist and their company to find the best solution.

Join us for this Job Insights podcast and check out the other Job Insights podcast on the web at www.BlindAbilities.comand select Job Insightsfrom the category drop-down menu.

You can find out more about the ID Mate from En-Vision America, thePenFriend,Aira, and BeMyEyes App, EnvisionAI appand the over40 App.

Check out this episode of Job Insights and send us your feedback and topic suggestions by email.

Follow the Job Insights team on twitter @JobInsightsVIP

Job Insights is part of the Blind Abilities network.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Apr 08, 2019
Just Wait Until He Realizes You're Blind - Blog Post by Kelsi Hansen

As a blind parent, people say and do things, that they otherwise wouldn’t to a sighted parent. They are trying to be helpful, or funny, and for the most part I don’t sweat about it. But there is one thing people say that tends to upset me, and I don’t know how to respond to it. It is when they say: “just wait until he realizes you can’t see him"; or “you’re in for a lot of trouble when your son realizes what he can get away with, because you can’t see him.” 

There is a few different feelings I have when people say this. First, I am offended that people think my sweet little boy is manipulative, and mean spirited enough to  do this. Then I am slightly irritated that they have implied, that I do not know what he is up to; that I am incapable of keeping track of what he is doing because I am blind. Then I have this fear: what if they are right? What if, when my son starts to understand what it means to not be able to see him, he tries to pull one over on me? Then I think: no, this will not happen. He respects his mama and understands his boundaries. 

Well, if there is one thing I have learned about children, it is that they are experts in finding boundaries and pushing them. As much as I hate to admit it: they were right. My son has started to understand what it means to not be able to see. He is still my sweet little boy, but he has started to be sneaky and lie to me, because he knows I can’t see him. I think overall, this is pretty normal child behavior. Every child goes through phases where they try and see what they can get away with. I think it is just a little different when the child’s parent is blind.  

For instance: one day I was in the kitchen making dinner, and my son came up next to me. I figured he just wanted to see what I was doing. Then, he ran off, and it sounded like he had stolen something off the counter. I asked him what he took, and he told me nothing. He said that he was just putting a toy on the counter. And sure enough, there was a toy There that hadn’t been there before. So I continued what I was doing without another thought. A couple of minutes later I turn around to bring his food to the table, and I smell a banana. 

Not only had he lied to me about not stealing anything off the counter, but he sat practically right in front of me to eat it, because he knew I wouldn’t see him. He also was aware of the fact that he was not supposed to have a snack because we were about to have dinner. A sighted parent may have looked over and seen him steal the banana, or notice that one was missing. And if they didn’t notice they’re young child take it; the child most certainly would have hidden himself away to eat it. Not just eat it in plain sight. 

There have also been other similar instances. He has taken three fruit snacks, when I said he could have one, or three pieces of candy, when he was only supposed to have two. He has hidden toys in his coat pockets, or backpack to take to school, right in front of me. And I only find out because his teacher takes them away from him at school.

  On multiple occasions, I have asked him if he was dressed, and he says that yes he is. Then when I say, “Ok, let’s go outside,” he will tell me that actually he did not get dressed, and he is in his underwear. Similarly, he will get dressed to go somewhere, only to be in his pajamas. Or even this morning before school, we were running late, and I needed to grab rain boots for his backpack. He has two pairs, that visually look completely different, but feel the same. I quickly grabbed two, and because we were in a hurry, I just asked my son if they matched. He said yes. Then when we had gotten past the point of no return on our walk to school, he proceeds to tell me that they don’t actually match. 

A lot of this is probably normal child behavior, but some of it he is definitely doing because I can’t see him. He is testing the boundaries and figuring out what he can get away with, like any child. He is just doing it in a more apparent way, because he thinks I won’t know because I can’t see him do it. 

So, how do I deal with this? How do I take my lack of sight out of the equation, and teach him that my blindness won’t hinder me in catching him out? It’s been a learning process, and I am still learning.

 The first thing I learned to do, was to make him show me his hands. If I think he has taken something that he is not supposed to have, I feel both of his hands. If it sounds like he is getting into the cupboard, or on the counter, I check his hands. If he asks to bring a toy somewhere, and I say no, I check his hands. 

Also, now if he tells me he is dressed, I feel his arms, legs, and feet to make sure. When I do this, I can also check to make sure he is not wearing pajamas when he is not supposed to. Though, we did have a bit of an issue with this one day. I checked his legs to make sure he was wearing appropriate clothes for school, and he was. When we were walking to school, my son decided that he wanted to see if he could beat the bus, so we started to run. He suddenly stopped, and told me his underwear were sticking out. So I checked his pants, which were all the way down to his knees. When I had checked earlier, I neglected to make sure that he buttoned and zipped them. So now, I have also learned, that I need to check the buttons on his pants as well. 

I am constantly learning new techniques to help in parenting. Being a blind parent, is different from being a sighted parent. But it shouldn’t mean that your children can get away with more because you can’t see them. You just have to find different ways to handle situations-Feel their hands instead of looking at them from across the room. Use your ears to listen to where they are at and what they are getting in to, instead of using your eyes. I have actually found that using my ears is more effective, because I am still watching my child from another room-I do not have to rely on sight to know what they might be getting into in the next room. 

I feel that there is this misconception that in some way blind parenting is less than sighted parenting. That blind parents need more help than sighted ones, and that they are less of parents than sighted people are. It’s not true! We do things differently, but we are just as much parents as sighted parents are. And no matter where you go, kids are kids. They find boundaries and test their limits. We just need to find ways to enforce them, like every other parent in the world. 

So maybe they were right when they told me that I was in for a world of trouble when my son understood that I couldn’t see him. But it doesn’t mean that I can’t teach my son that I know! A Parent always knows! And blindness does not change that!

This is me! Hope you enjoyed the read. I love questions, so if you
have any, or just a comment, feel free to email them to
info@blindabilities.com.

Thanks

Kelsi

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Apr 04, 2019
TechAbilities DemoTime! EnvisionAI Packs a Lot of Tools in One App ! OCR, Teachable Object Recognition and Facial Recog, Too! Meet Co-Founder Karthik from Envision.
21:34

Show Summary:

Envision Co-Founder, Karthik, joins Jeff Thompson in the studio to talk about the EnvisionAI app. This is an OCR (Optical Character Recognition), Object Recognition and Magnifier for Low-Vision users.

The TechAbilities Logo-Dark Sunglasses with TA and BA bold letters in each lens.

The EnvisionAI app is one of the fastest OCR apps that I have experienced. The Object Recognition is up to par with my expectations and with the ability to “Teach” the app specific items makes this app stand out a bit from the rest. 

Karthik says to stay tuned as some Object Recognition advancements will soon be showing up in the future that everyone will be excited about.

The ability to scan multiple documents and with audio guidance to help center the text makes EnvisionAI compete with the best of OCR apps. Even more, the magnification feature allows one to switch the contrast to the user’s preference. The intuitive layout and settings makes EnvisionAI one of my favorite apps. With the ability to open images and photos from outside the app and the ability to teach specific objects and with facial recognition makes this Swiss Army knife like app one of my biggest surprises this year. Yes, I know EnvisionAI app has been around, but until I downloaded the app and begin my 14 day free trial, I did know what EnvisionAI could do, and it does it fast. I highly recommend everyone to download the EnvisionAI app, either on and Android or iOS device, and try it for free for 14 days. Then, make your decision. And be sure to give Karthik and the Envision Team some feedback as they are built around the community input and want to hear what you have to say.

Karthik shares with us how the EnvisionAI came to be and how the BVI community is everything when it comes to making EnvisionAI everything it is today.

You can find out more about Envision and the EnvisionAI app and the subscription plans that best fit your plan, on the web at www.LetsEnvision.com

You can download the EnvisionAI app from the App Storeand from the GooglePlay Store

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Apr 04, 2019
TechAbilities DemoTime! VoiceDream Scanner Enters the Crowded Ring with a Few Punches of Its Own
07:31

Show Summary:

Voice Dream Scanner just hit the market and for $5.99, this app from VoiceDream is another nice addition to the other apps developed by the VoiceDream Team.

The TechAbilities Logo-Dark Sunglasses with TA and BA bold letters in each lens.

VoiceDream Reader is one of the most popular apps in the BVI community and VoiceDream Scanner seems like the perfect addition. With the ability to save scanned text as PDFs, text files and copy to the ClipBoard, VoiceDream Scanner packs a new punch entering the crowded ring of OCR apps now available to the BVI Community. Does it stand out enough to make an impact? Probably so.

With an easy lay-out and great accessibility throughout, VoiceDream Scanner may just move onto some people’s front page of apps and not be buried in the ever-growing OCR folder on page 8. 

With features like Batch mode and the Auto Capture Beta, Scanner makes one pay attention as well as paying 5.99 one-time. Not so bad for quite an intuitive OCR app.

I think this app will be around for a while and with the addition of being able to import photos from your phone, maybe this Scanner app is all we are looking for when it comes to OCR? You make the call, 

You can get VoiceDream Scanner from the app store for $5.99 and check out the other apps from VoiceDream.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Apr 04, 2019
CSUNATC19 From a First Time Perspective: Learn How Brian prepped and Managed His CSUN Conference and What His Experience Taught Him for Next Year
53:30

 

Show Summary:

Blind ability see sun coverage is sponsored by Be My Eyes.

Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call.

Download for iOS

Download for Android

Our very own, yes, we will claim him, Brian Fischler, attended the CSUN Conference in Anaheim, California.

This Assistive Technology Conference is huge, Brian boarded his plane and headed West from New York and got quite the experience at the conference. Join Brian along with Jeff Thompson from Blind Abilities as Brian shares his preparation plan, his feedback from the sessions he attended and all about the exhibits. Brian knows what he will do differently next year and gives us a great perspective being that this was his first CSUN conference. And yes, he said he would do it again.

This Assistive Technology Conference is huge, Brian boarded his plane and headed West from New York and got quite the experience at the conference. Join Brian along with Jeff Thompson from Blind Abilities as Brian shares his preparation plan, his feedback from the sessions he attended and all about the exhibits. Brian knows what he will do differently next year and gives us a great perspective being that this was his first CSUN conference. And yes, he said he would do it again.

Be sure to check out all the #CSUNATC19 coverage.

Contact

Thank you for listening.
Send us Feedback via email
Follow us on Twitter @BlindTechShow

That Blind Tech Show is produced in part with Blind Abilities Network

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.
Get the Free blind Abilities App on the Google Play Store

Apr 02, 2019
That Blind Tech Show: Tim Apple Gets to the Core of Apples Upcoming Services and Launches Apple News Plus Subscriptions. An Apple Card? It’s titanium! You Know You Want It.
52:58

Show Summary:

Apple just quietly released some new updated products and now held an Apple Event focused on services. Yes, from an Apple Card, Apple News Plus, Apple TV plus, Apple TV App with Channels and Apple Arcade for the gamers. It is all here and you can find out more about all the new products and services on the Apple web site, www.Apple.com

I would go into detail in the show notes but why not just listen to the show and become the smartest new Apple News knower in your neck of the woods? Yes, we can give you that! Not much more, so take it. Oh, surely I jest, Yup, Jeff the Jester. Hmmm.

Join Serina Gilbert our Voc Rehab Counselor from the Mountains, Allison mervis, a Voc Rehab Super from the Grape fields of California, Brian Fischler, an Assistive Technology Specialist, stuck somewhere in the Big Apple and myself, Jeff Thompson, Teacher, Woodworker and media Specialist from the Frozen Tundra of Minnesota. And a special little cameo from our man in trouble, Marlon Parieaho from Trinidad.

That Blind Tech Show is definitely a humorous take on the latest news and happenings around the World of Blindness. We try to have fun with each other and bring a smile to your day. Humor is good for the soul and if we can’t laugh at ourselves, then hey, we would miss out on having a lot of fun. Don’t take us seriously all the time and yet, we do our best to bring you good news and information to help you through the obstacles and brick walls that seem to be holding us back or blocking our path. If you have any suggestions and/or feedback for us here on the show, be sure to let us have it. Smack between the eyes if need be. But, start with Brian, he started it anyways. If he can’t take it for the team, then I am in trouble. Ok, thanks for listening and see you next time on That Blind Tech Show!

Contact

Thank you for listening.
Send us Feedback via email
Follow us on Twitter @BlindTechShow

That Blind Tech Show is produced in part with Blind Abilities Network

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.
Get the Free blind Abilities App on the Google Play Store

Mar 28, 2019
Approaching a Blind Person - Blog Post by Kelsi Hansen

 Recently, I received an email with a question for me. As It seemed a simple enough question, I thought it should be an easy answer for me to give.  As I started writing though, my answer kept getting longer and more complex. And I decided that it would be a wonderful topic for my next blog post. 

The question was: 

How do I feel/react when greeting someone by name, and they seem surprised I recognized them?  

For example: Jane says hi, and I respond, “Hi Jane.” Then Jane might respond something like: “you remember my voice?”

There are a couple of different ways that this can be taken. The person who sent me the question, thought, that it can be kind of offensive. And they make a very good point. Sighted people are not surprised when their peers recognize their face, so why then should it be different with blind people recognizing voices?  But at the same time, I don’t always recognize the voice, and it is sometimes helpful for people to introduce themselves. And if they are used to doing this, then yes, of course they are surprised when I am able to recognize their voice. 

From a sighted stand point, they are not trying to offend, and there is likely no mal intent their words. For the most part, they don’t know what it is like to have to recognize voices rather than faces, because they do not have to rely solely on a single sense. If they stop and listen, and think about it, I’m positive they would be able to recognize voices and the differences between them. But the honest truth is that they don’t, because they don’t have too. 

However, if you have known someone for a long time, maybe years, and every time you see them, they still come up to you and say, “Hi, This is Jane,” then yes that is offensive, especially if it has been expressed that you recognize them and no longer need them to identify themselves. Whether the sighted person intends it or not, it is demeaning. To assume that we don’t recognize them after all these years, is not only ignorant, but it insults our intelligence. It implies that because we don’t have sight, we have no way of knowing who anyone is. Though this might not be intentional on the sighted person’s part, it is still offensive. 

On the other hand, it can be embarrassing when you don’t recognize a voice, especially if it belongs to someone that you know well. Maybe it is loud; maybe there is a lot of people and noises around; or maybe the person has a cold, and their voice sounds different, and you just don’t recognize them at first. Asking them who it is, only to be told it is a long-time friend, or coworker, is quite embarrassing. You should have recognized them, but for whatever reason, there was some kind of glitch, and you just didn’t. 

There is also the scenario where people just assume that you know who they are. Admittedly, there are times when this happens to all people, regardless of whether they can see or not. But let’s say they just assume that you recognize their voice. This is something that happens to me a lot. Maybe they say hi from across the street; or when they are driving past, they might call out to me from the window of their car. Or maybe you are in a place with a lot of people and some voices you recognize and some you don’t, but because you see the entire group of people on a regular basis, they just assume you recognize them. When this happens, I generally don’t have a problem asking them their name, but sometimes it is embarrassing, and I just have to swallow my pride and ask anyway.

So how then are the sighted people in your life supposed to know how to react? Should they tell you their name, and possibly offend you? Or should they assume that you know who they are, and risk causing you discomfort? It is a fine line. The answer is neither black nor white.  Like most things in life, it is a gray area, with no clear cut answer. It can be confusing and uncomfortable for all parties.

 The blind individual might be annoyed that this very familiar person continues to introduce themselves; or they could be embarrassed that they aren’t sure who this person is that they should know. And on the flip side, a sighted individual might not be sure if the blind individual will recognize their voice, and how would they know if the blind individual doesn’t recognize them? How will the blind person react if the sighted person does or doesn’t introduce themselves? There is a split second to make this decision, and I’m sure it can be slightly nerve-wracking for the sighted individual. 

What then, is the correct way to approach a blind person? First off, I think it is important that blind individuals try and recognize that sighted individuals may be uncertain on how to approach a blind person. Most of the population has no idea what it is like to be blind, and they are trying to do what they think is right when approaching you. So a little bit of understanding goes a long ways, and might ease some of the tension. 

Secondly, there are some sighted people who may have had some form of education on how to interact with people with disabilities. I know that when I went blind, the doctors told my family to say their name when greeting me. Which they in turn communicated to the teachers at my school, and anyone else that may have had interaction with me? Though my family does not do this anymore, word of mouth spreads quickly. And I’m sure there are many other sources that say to do this when introducing yourself to a blind person. 

Though this can be extremely helpful, it seems that the sources have neglected to mention when it is appropriate to stop doing this. And this is what creates a problem.

 Every blind person is different in their opinion of this topic. Some might want you to say your name every time, and some might never want you to. It also may take some blind individuals longer to get to know your voice, then it would take others.

 Ultimately, I think it comes down to the situation, whether or not it is appropriate to give your name when approaching a blind person. For instance, I would say yes, absolutely it is appropriate to do when first meeting a visually impaired individual. It would then be up to that blind individual to communicate when they don’t need you to say your name anymore. 

Speaking up is something that I personally struggle with. I don’t want to embarrass anyone, or make them feel bad. But if I don’t speak up and communicate that I don’t need a particular person to say their name anymore, then I only have myself to blame when I am annoyed that they continually say, “It’s Jane.” As a blind person, it is up to us to advocate our needs, so it shouldn’t be any different in this situation. So don’t be afraid to speak up and tell Jane that you recognize her voice. 

It would also be highly appropriate to identify yourself when saying hi to me from your car when driving by. And on that note, if you honk at me to say hi … I still don’t know it’s you! If you don’t have time to let your blind acquaintance know who you are when passing at high speeds, maybe shoot them a text or Facebook message to let them know that you saw them earlier. That you were the one who honked at them to say hi. 

Lastly, it is definitely not appropriate to greet your long time blind acquaintance with your name every time you see them. And definitely don’t ignore it when a blind person tells you that they recognize your voice, and no longer need you to identify yourself every time they see you. If there is some sort of glitch, and we don’t recognize you, then it is our responsibility to ask who you are. This does not mean that we need you to identify yourself all the time in the future. It just means that for some reason, we did not recognize you in that moment.

This was a long answer to a simple question. I hope that my answer helps blind and sighted persons in future interactions with each other. 

This is me! Hope you enjoyed the read. I love questions, so if you
have any, or just a comment, feel free to email them to
info@blindabilities.com.

Thanks

Kelsi

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
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Mar 27, 2019
CSUN2019: Earl Harrison from HIMS Gives Us an Overview of the QBrailleXL, BrailleSense Polaris, the GoVision Pro, the Handy Tech Products and Some Hand-Held Candy for Low Vision
22:28

Full Transcription

Show Summary:

Blind ability see sun coverage is sponsored by Be My Eyes.

Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call.

Download for iOS

Download for Android

In this CSUN interview, Jeff Thompson welcomes Earl Harrison from HIMS, which has been providing Braille and magnification devices since 1999. Earl talks about how innovation is driven by feedback from customers and employees. 

From the BrailleSense Polaris to the first of it’s kind, the QBrailleXL, Earl gives us an overview and explains what separates HIMS and Handy Tech products from the rest of the market.

And for Low Vision solutions, Earl describes the features of the Go Vision Pro and the hand held Candy magnifiers.

You can find out more about HIMS and the Braille and Low Vision devices on the web at www.HIMS-Inc.com

Follow HIMS on Twitter @HIMS_Inc

And stay up to date on the HIMS Facebook page.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
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Mar 26, 2019
Are You in High School? Preparing for Transitioning to College or the Workforce? Want to Learn New Skills? Check Out the Blind, Inc. 2019 Summer and Youth Programs

Blind, Inc. Youth Programs

Blind, Inc. offers several programs designed especially for blind and low vision children and students who are attending high school and wish to participate in fun activities and learn new skills. More information on each individual program is available below. 

If you have any questions, or if you wish to obtain more information, Please contact Michell Gip, Youth Services Coordinator: 

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
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Mar 24, 2019
Lighthouse Center for Vision Loss: Summer Programs 2019

Dear Teachers, SSB Counselors, Parents and Teens:

It is March – a time when we all start looking forward to the warmer days of summer!  

Are you interested in a summer camp for a teen with vision loss (or yourself) - but searching for a camp that is fun, social and truly serves your teen’s (or your own) unique needs? 

 

This summer, the Lighthouse will offer two “Build Your Own” Camps -- each with a recommended participation of two weeks.   These flexible, individualized camps allow teens with vision loss the best of both worlds – the opportunity to gather with peers from across the state for shared learning and recreation, and also the opportunity to customize their learning for their own goals and interests!  

We are also pleased to offer again this year an expanded Blind and Socially Savvy Camp in collaboration with Minnesota State Services for the Blind (SSB). 

All Lighthouse camps include a strong recreational component - taking advantage of the unique Duluth setting which was named the #1 recreational setting in the nation by Outside Magazine in 2014!  Camps will include activities such as:  Sailing on Lake Superior; hiking along the Superior Hiking Trail; tandem biking; and swimming, water skiing, kayaking or canoeing on inland lakes; horseback riding; indoor rock climbing; goal ball; self-defense; ropes courses, and beep baseball.

Lighthouse 2019 Summer Camp Dates

Build Your Own Camp #1 – Mobility, Communications and Independent Living, June 9 to June 22

Blind and Socially Savvy, July 21 to July 25

Build Your Own Camp #2 – Blind and CAREER Savvy, July 26 to August 9

 

Lighthouse 2019 Summer Camp Descriptions 

Build Your Own Camp #1 | Mobility, Communications and Independent Living |June 9 to June 22, 2019

This camp builds skills especially critical for future success – mobility skills, independent living skills and communications.  Instruction in these areas will be customized toward each students’ skill level and interests.  Students may choose to focus more on one area over another.  A wide array of recreational and social activities will also be built into the camp days and evenings, as described above.  And, campers may also choose two elective options from below:

ð       Technology

ð       Individualized leisure activities such as wood working, arts or crafts, or fitness activities

ð       Workforce Readiness

ð       Braille

ð       College prep

ð       Additional instruction in mobility, communications or independent living

ð       Other topics possible upon request

Students will spend time doing complete tasks they will need to do when they live on their own.  For instance, they will research and use public transportation; travel to a range of destinations; plan, shop for and prepare entire meals; manage money, and more.  

At this camp, students will also be given the opportunity to hone their written communication skills.  Employers and colleges tell us that writing and literacy skills are severely hindering many young people today.  For individuals with vision loss, the challenges are greater – even for teens who get into college and are otherwise very capable!  Consider national data that only four out of ten blind or visually-impaired college students finish college, and only one in three visually-impaired adults has a job.   Ease and skill with written communications will help your teen beat these odds.    This Lighthouse camp will offer communication skill-building at each student’s level – ranging from basic literacy “brush-ups” to advanced writing or advanced technology use.  

Blind and Socially Savvy | July 21 to July 25, 2019 

Blind & Socially Savvy teaches students with a vision loss “soft skills” like professional image, nonverbal communication, networking, and employer expectations. Previously offered in a four-day version, the five-day version will allow time for recreational activities which will aid in learning, enjoyment and opportunities for practice.  For this camp, counselors and families should contact Sheila at SSB, sheila.koenig@state.mn.us                                          

Build Your Own Camp # 2 | CAREER Savvy | July 26 to August 9, 2019

The focus of this camp is career success!  Like Build Your Own Camp #1, this camp includes many customizable components.  Teens can choose a work experience from a number of choices based on their interests and skills. We will do our best to respond to each teen’s requested type of work.   Teen will also receive training in travel skills, independent living skills, and technology related to their career goals and individual needs.

ð       The first week of camp will prepare teens for a week of employment experiences the following week. Topics to be covered include: 

ð       Planning, traveling to, and orienting oneself to a place of employment

ð       Shopping for and dressing for success

ð       Using technology to create, proofread and send out a job application and resume

ð       Preparing for employment by completing a mock interview

ð       Practicing technologies used in the workplace, such as creating and editing workplace documents, answering phones, using office equipment 

ð       Knowing how to identify and ask for simple accommodations to make the workplace accessible for their needs

ð       Planning how to get to work on time.

During the second week of camp, students will use the skills they learned to participate in a job experience that is selected according to their interests and skills.  Students will experience full days of work, practice workplace etiquette and learn more about a career area of interest to them.  As feasible, students will utilize public transportation to navigate to and from the workplace.  During the work week, students will learn about balancing the work requirements with the practicalities of daily life, such as planning and preparing one’s own meals, enjoying recreation outside of work and more.

With questions or suggestions, call Mary or Haley at 218-624-4828, email me at mjunnila@LCFVL.org.  

Application Instructions

Teens and parents, if you are interested, please do the following

1.   Tell us asap of your possible interest by emailing mjunnila@LCFVL.org or calling Mary or Haley at 218-624-4828 with any questions.

2.   Discuss your interest right away with your State Services for the Blind (SSB)Counselor to determine if you are eligible for SSB funding.

3.   Fill out the Lighthouse on-line application, which is posted on line at 2019 Lighthouse Summer Programs To give us time to custom-build camps for each student, we ask families and counselors to please submit applications as soon as possible, including information about participant needs and interests, and at the latest, by May 1. 

Thanks again for your consideration.  We welcome your feedback!

Warm Wishes,

Mary Junnila, MPP

Executive Director

Lighthouse Mission: Fostering independent and vibrant lives for individuals with vision loss.

Lighthouse Values:  We believe in the dignity of all human lives. We embrace and promote the values of respectfulness, compassion, responsibility, diversity and accountability.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
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Mar 23, 2019
Minnesota State Academy for the Blind (MSAB) 2019 Summer Programs

Visit MSAB on the web!

Follow MSAB on Facebook.

The following programs will run from July 15 - July 26 from 8:00 am - 2:00 pm

Registration will be held on: Sunday, July 14 from 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

Please Note: Applications must be received no later than Friday, May 10, 2019. 

Application must include the student’s most recent IEP.  Space is limited in summer programs.  Decisions, in conjunction with other factors, will be based on a first come, first serve basis.

This Year's Theme: "Let's Communicate!" Finding mutual connections to enhance communication. 

Our theme-based curriculum consists of reading, writing, math, technology, physical education, music, art, social skills, listening skills and home living. This program is designed to create a learning environment for students. Our students will be able to participate in group projects within the classroom, school, and community.

 Independence 101: The Independence 101 Summer Program will offer opportunities for both middle school and high school age students.  Each group of students will participate in activities encompassing the three areas of transition (postsecondary, employment, and independent living). 

Focusing on increasing functional learning skills, this program is designed to create an active learning environment for students entering grades 7-12. 

Elementary: Designed to meet the needs of academic elementary-aged students (grades K-6), with an emphasis on academic and functional reading, writing, math, technology, physical education, music, library, art, social skills, listening skills and home living.  The goal of the program is for students to continue work on the identified essential goals of their individual educational plan.Students with Multiple Disabilities: This program is designed to meet the extended year service needs of students ages 5-21. The overall program focus is to maintain basic functional skills while integrating home living, self-help, and technology skills. Students will maintain individual educational plan goals relating to self-sufficiency and independence, and functional academics. The program components consist of functional reading, writing, math, technology, physical education, music, library, art, social skills, listening skills and home living. Cost: All programs are free to parents and students. The Minnesota State Academy funds most programs for the blind through dollars dedicated to the school by the Minnesota Legislature.

 

Eligibility: For all school-aged blind/visually impaired students in Minnesota. 

Medical Forms: All medical forms that are required for our program can be found on the MSAB website.

You can find out more about MSAB on the web.

Be sure to follow MSAB on Facebook.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
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On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
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Mar 23, 2019
That Blind Tech Show: The Return of Roy! Audio Describer and Voice Artist Roy Samuelson is in the Studio
34:22

Show Summary:

ROY SAMUELSON is one of Hollywood’s leading voiceover talents in film and television. Currently Roy is leading the way in the area of DESCRIPTIVE NARRATION / AUDIO DESCRIPTION, an aspect of television and filmmaking that allows Blind/Visually Impaired viewers to get audio description during a show without interruption and fills in the void as the action is not always obvious.

Roy Samuelson is a professional Audio Describer for some of the latest Hollywood productions. Movies like First Man, Venom, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Spiderman: Homecoming, Jason Bourne, The Magnificent Seven, Get Out, Skyscraper, Atomic Blonde and television shows like Lethal Weapon, NCIS, Blue Bloods and Criminal Minds.

Roy stops by the studio to join Brian Fischler and Jeff Thompson for an in-depth look at Audio Description and where it is today.

You can Follow Roy on Twitter @RoySamuelsonand check out his Facebook page, Roy Samuelson Biz, and be sure to check out his latest works and send in some feedback. Roy is happy to hear from you.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
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Mar 19, 2019
CSUNATC19: Join Kyndra Lococo from Google, Alexander Hauerslev Jensen and Will Butler from Be My Eyes, As They Announce Google as the Newest Specialized Help Partner on the Be My Eyes App!
11:58

Show Summary:

Blind ability see sun coverage is sponsored by Be My Eyes.

Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call.

Download for iOS

Download for Android

Alexander Hauerslev Jensen and Will Butler from Be My Eyes along with Kyndra Lococo, Accessibility Partner and Community Programs Manager at Google, join Jeff Thompson from Blind Abilities to share the exciting partnership announced at CSUN.

Image showing two phones in front of the other. The phone in front is displaying the Google profile on the Specialized Help platform, and the one behind is displaying a Be My Eyes call. Image showing two phones in front of the other. The phone in front is displaying the Google profile on the Specialized Help platform, and the one behind is displaying a Be My Eyes call.

“We are very proud to add Google to Specialized Help, this is a big step for accessibility and we are honored to have the support of Google to help blind and low-vision individuals lead more independent lives.” 

- Alexander Hauerslev Jensen, CCO at Be My Eyes.

It is Google’s mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful for everyone, and accessibility is a core consideration for Google from the earliest design stages to release. Now, Google also offers customer support that is accessible and more efficient for their blind and low-vision customers.

“The Disability Support team aims to provide the best support possible for people with disabilities. We are thrilled to partner with Be My Eyes as this brings us one step closer to achieving that goal.”

- Kyndra LoCoco, Accessibility Partner and Community Programs Manager at Google.

Kyndra talks about the training the Google support agents went through to make the experience for the BVI community the best support it can be. Informs as us about the Google Accessibility Support on the web at G.co/DisabilitySupport

The Google Disability Support will be open Monday through Friday 8AM-5PM PT, currently available in English only. Google can be contacted through the Be My Eyes Specialized Help platform by users in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, India, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 

We’re working to expand the Specialized Help platform, and if there are any companies that you would like to seek assistance from, please share your suggestion, and we’ll do our best to get them onboard the platform.

You can find out more about Be My Eyes on the web at www.BeMyEyes.comand Google Accessibility Support at G.co/DisabilitySupport

And a huge Thank You goes out to Stephen Letnes and Louie Chee Chau for their beautiful music. Stephen provided the music for the Be My Eyes Promo and Chee Chau, the music in the podcast. 

Find out more about Stephen Letnes and the Able Artist Foundation on the web at www.AbleArtist.org

You can follow Chee Chau on Twitter @LCheeChau

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.



Mar 17, 2019
CSUNATC19: Wearable AI Devices for the Blind – Meet the MyEye 2.0 and the MyReader from Orcam
08:45

Show Summary:

Blind ability see sun coverage is sponsored by Be My Eyes.

Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call.

Download for iOS

Download for Android

In this CSUN interview, Jeff Thompson welcomes Dr. Bryan Wolynski from Orcam. Bryan talks about his presentation at CSUN and the Orcam Wearable AI Devices for the Blind. Orcam has 2 wearables, the MyEye 2.0 and the MyReader.

The MyEye 2.0 - Uses AI technology and instantly reads text, recognizes faces, identifies products, identifies money and notes and more.

The MyReader – the most sophisticated AI assistive reading device.

Bryan gives us a great description of each Orcam device and how they can turn an ordinary day into an extraordinary day!

You can find out more about Orcam MyEye 2.0 and MyReader on the Orcam web site.

And a huge Thank You goes out to Stephen Letnes for his beautiful music. Stephen provided the music for the Be My Eyes Promo. 

Find out more about Stephen Letnes and the Able Artist Foundation on the web at www.AbleArtist.org

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
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Mar 16, 2019
CSUNATC19: IBM - Inventing Technology that is More human, empathetic and Adaptive to Everyone’s Age and Ability
12:08

Show Summary:

Blind ability see sun coverage is sponsored by Be My Eyes.

Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call.

Download for iOS

Download for Android

In this CSUN interview, Jeff Thompson welcomes Erich Manser, from IBM Accessibility Design.

Erich talks about IBM’s commitment to accessibility and inclusion. He expands on his sessions he is giving at the CSUN event and how IBM is impacting Industry through tools and guidance

Tools and Guidance

“Leverage an array of solutions and best practices that speed development efforts and help ensure web and mobile applications conform to industry accessibility standards. end, Tools and guidance.”

Find out more about IBM Accessibility Research.

And a huge Thank You goes out to Stephen Letnes for his beautiful music. Stephen provided the music for the Be My Eyes Promo. 

Find out more about Stephen Letnes and the Able Artist Foundation on the web at www.AbleArtist.org

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Mar 14, 2019
CSUN2019: Verizon – Building Accessible Brands! An Accessible Experience for All
09:25

Show Summary:

Blind ability see sun coverage is sponsored by Be My Eyes.

Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call.

Download for iOS

Download for Android

In this CSUN interview, Brian Fischler and Jeff Thompson welcome Mike Shebanek, Head of Accessibility at Verizon.

Mike has been involved with accessibility with Yahoo and Apple and is continuing to bring access and inclusiveness to apps and products with a great team at Verizon.

Mike talks about Verizon’s presence at the 2019 CSUN convention. The Accessibility Labs and Verizon’s continuing commitment to accessibility to all.

Our users are at the center of everything we do. We work ensure that the needs of people with disabilities are considered throughout the user experience research, design and development process to deliver an excellent user experience for all.

You can find out more about Verizon’s Accessibility Team on the web.

And a huge Thank You goes out to Stephen Letnes for his beautiful music. Stephen provided the music for the Be My Eyes Promo. 

Find out more about Stephen Letnes and the Able Artist Foundation on the web at www.AbleArtist.org

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
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Mar 14, 2019
CSUN2019: David Raistrick Brings Us the Latest Updates From En-Vision America
16:36

Show Summary:

En-Vision America’s David Raistrick joins Jeff Thompson to talk about what’s new at En-Vision America. David is attending the 2019 CSUN event and will have the ID Mate and the Script Talk devices at the booth. David goes over the latest updates and news from En-Vision America and gives us a demonstration of Script Talk in action. Be sure to check out En-Vision America on the web www.EnVisionAmerica.com

Contact Info:

David Raistrick
Vice President/CTO
En-Vision America
825 4th Street W, Palmetto FL 34221
http://www.envisionamerica.com
Direct: 941-702-6607

The Blind Abilities coverage of the 2019 CSUN Convention is sponsored by Be My Eyes. Here is some breaking news just released from CSUN:

A Warm Welcome to the Newest Specialized Help Partner: Google

You can now get help managing your Google products by the tap of a button.

We’re pleased to announce that Google is the newest company onboard the Specialized Help platform! Specialized Help enables blind and low-vision users to connect directly with company representatives through a live video connection. Blind and low-vision users can now request assistance from the Google Disability Support team through the Be My Eyes app for questions about assistive tools and accessibility features within Google’s products.

Getting connected to the Google Disability Support team through Be My Eyes is easy. Start by accessing the Specialized Help menu from the Be My Eyes home screen and select Google from the list. From the Google profile, you can make a call directly to the Google Disability Support team. Making a Specialized Help call to Google works just like any other Be My Eyes call, except that you’ll get connected to an official Google representative, who can help you with troubleshooting or other questions on accessibility features within Google's products or services effectively.

Please note that the Google Specialized Help option should only be used for questions or issues concerning assistive tools or accessibility features within Google’s products or services. You can make calls to Google through Be My Eyes Monday through Friday 8AM-5PM PT. Currently in English only, from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, India, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

If you have other requests for companies or institutions to become a part of Specialized Help, please send us an email at info@bemyeyes.com and we’ll do our best to include them on the platform.

Best regards,

Alexander Hauerslev Jensen, 
CCO at Be My Eyes

Find us on the web at www.BeMyEyes.com

Questions or concerns? Try our FAQ or contact our support team. If you'd

Find out more about Stephen Letnes and the Able Artist Foundation on the web at www.AbleArtist.org

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
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Mar 13, 2019
That Blind Tech Show: Aira Powered By Bose, Seeing AI Gets a Cool Update, Facebook and Privacy? Brian is Going to CSUN, and Yes, He Brought Shades!
48:20

Show Summary:

The gang is all back but where is Serina? Well,, Brian is off to CSUN, I am anticipating a Grandson and Allison can’t hold a steady last name. With all this going on, they all climbed back into the studio, whilst sharing but one chair! TMI? Stick around.

Aira Powered by Bose! Yes, the perfect marriage. Great job Aira Team! Keep them busy in the engineering and development department, we are liking what we hear!

Seeing AI has just updated their app with the ability to explore photos, yes, you can slide your finger over the screen and find objects that the sophisticated Swiss Army of an app comes up with. Impressive, I do say, mates! You can also rearrange the Channels to your hearts content. Good job Microsoft.

Amazon turning up the privacy dial?Maybe. Stay tuned. And how about web accessibility for politicians? Are they really government? Or, is their web site and social media included in this debate?

First time CSUN or any convention goer, take notes. We are sure that Brian didn’t. We wish him well. Good luck with a 6 AM wake up call, too.

Much more between the intro and outro, that is a fact Jack, and I am all about accessibility, no matter what this podcast says!

Here are some links mentioned in the podcast:

Don’t pack your batteries in your suitcase.

Is Augmented reality going to leave the blind behind?

If the government doesn’t care about accessibility why should it care about AI bias?

I cut the Big 5 tech giants from my life it was hell

Contact

Thank you for listening.
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Mar 12, 2019
ExcelAbility: Conversation with Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Microsoft’s Chief Accessibility Officer who happens to have deafness
39:32

In collaboration with Jack Chen, Blind Abilities presents ExcelAbility. A collection of podcasts from Jack Chen’s ExcelAbility Team.
ExcelAbility, empowering excellence and success for people with disabilities.
to learn more about ExcelAbility and to connect with the team, 

check out ExcelAbility on the web at www.teamexcelability.com
Jack Chen delivers talks and training for corporations and other organizations on empowering success for people with disabilities. Jack participates in Extreme Ultra Events, marathons, climbed Kilimanjaro, and was on the Sea To See Team in this years 2018 race Across America.null

Podcast summary

In this episode we speak withJenny Lay Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft. Jenny experienced increasing deafness as a child but never let it prevent her from pursuing her dreams.
Join to hear Jenny’s attitudes, techniques, and practices that enabled her to achieve incredible success.
Click here for a transcript of this episode.

Key lessons

Jenny will show us that 

  • Not hesitating to self advocate to get what you need, 
  • not seeing yourself as different
  • Embracing all of life as developing problem solving and innovation skills
  • Identifying your own board of directors to serve as mentors

have led to her tremendous success.

Connect

Send us your comments, feedback, or tell us about your own story of success. We’d love to hear from you.
Follow us on Twitter @TeamXLAbility
Like Team Excelability on Facebook
Visit Team ExcelAbility on the web for more resources

Mar 09, 2019
Interactions with the Blind-Do’s and Do Not’s – Blog Post by Kelsi Hansen

Someone suggested to me that I dedicate one of my blog posts to interactions with blind individuals. Initially, I thought that there was enough material about this issue already out there, and that this was an old topic. But recently I have been working as a counselor at a camp for blind youth, and it has come to my attention that there can never be enough written about this. It is, and should remain a hot topic.

BlindAbilities Logo A black square with white initials, B A. Blind Abilities Logo

So many ways people interact with us, whether that be parent, friend, or stranger, can really inhibit our growth towards independence as a blind individual. It could be in a small way, such as a friend always telling you where your food is on a plate; to, a parent never letting you walk anywhere without a sighted guide. In both of these instances, a blind person will never learn to explore their surroundings, because they have become so dependent on someone giving them this information. If a parent gives us absolutely everything we want, or does everything for us, how will we ever become independent? Most of us would never do this to our sighted children, or they might still be sitting on our couch at 42, waiting for us to bring them their dinner.

 Parents don’t do this to their sighted children, friends don’t do this to their sighted friends, and strangers certainly don’t do this to other sighted strangers. It should be the same for blind children, friends, or strangers. 

I know that people are compassionate, and just want to help, but sometimes trying to help in the short term, doesn’t help us in the long term. It is also hard to know when to help a blind person. Some blind individuals may require more help with certain things, and some might not. You might have the experience of trying to help a blind person, and getting yelled at because they didn’t need your help. So maybe the next time you see a blind person, you decide not to help because you got yelled at previously. Just as sighted people are all different, blind people are too. We all require different levels of help, and we all have different personalities. One may yell at you and scorn your help, but that doesn’t mean we all do. 

So how then should you interact with blind people, keeping in mind not to inhibit their independence, but also recognizing that they might need help with something?

 I’ve put together a short generic list of how to nurish blind independence, whether you be parent or family member, friend or stranger. 

RESPECT

Give us the respect you would give any sighted peer. We are still people, a disability doesn’t change that, we deserve your respect as much as the next person. Just because we are different from you, does not mean that we are less than you. So the first rule in interacting with someone who is different is respect. 

ASK IF WE NEED HELP 

Don’t just assume we need help and start yelling out directions, or worse, grab us and take us where you think we want to go. If you think we need help, or are not sure, just ask. If you get yelled at, or the blind individual you are trying to help, gets snippy with you, remember: we are all different , we all have different personalities, we are all people, and we all have bad days. 

Also keep in mind, if we really need help, we will ask. If and when we do ask, then it is definitely your time to help. Which leads me into my next topic: 

DO NOT JUST KEEP WALKING IF WE ARE TRYING TO ASK FOR HELP!!!!! 

This one, though it seems like common courtesy to not do, has actually happened to me more times than I can count. Maybe I’m lost, and I need to know the street name, or maybe I’m in a mall and can’t find the counter to ask which store this is, no matter the case: it is always beyond rude not to answer. I hear you walk past me and just ignore me. It’s not like I’m whispering, or just want to ask who your favorite sports team is. Yes I realize that sometimes you didn’t hear me, or had ear buds in, or were just in a hurry, but for the love of all things, don’t just ignore us. A majority of blind people definitely don’t have the plague. We are not going to infect you with blindness! We are not contagious, or demon spawn, or whatever it is you might think! We are people who deserve to be treated with respect and courtesy just as any other. 

So, stop walking, take out that ear bud, take five seconds, and listen. If you can’t help, that is fine, we will figure it out, but coming in contact with a blind person is no excuse to be rude!!!! 

BLINDNESS IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD!!! 

To the parents, or family members of blind children: blindness is not the end of the world. I can understand how heart breaking it would be to have a child who is different, but to be always heart broken or angry about it; to take care of your child’s every need or wish because of it; to coddle them because they have been dealt a bad hand in life, is to not accept them. To not accept them for who they are, and things they cannot control. 

There is a saying, “if you love them, let them go.” But there is a better one for this occasion: “if you love them, let them grow.” For people with disabilities, this is the best way you can love and accept them. If you think about it, this is really the best way to love anyone.

I’m a parent, I get it. You want to do everything you can for your child, you want to give them everything. But if I sit there every morning and night and help my son into his clothes, how will he ever learn how to do it himself? Wouldn’t I still conceivably be helping him get dressed when he is 15? And how would his quality of life be then? It is the same thing with blind children. You must accept us and our disability, and then you will be able to help us grow. If we are coddled, and know nothing else, not know independence, what quality of life will we really have? 

So, if you love them, let them grow!!! 

TAKE THE TIME TO THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU WOULD DO IN THAT SITUATION 

And lastly: take the time to think about what you would do, how you would handle a certain situation if you were blind, or had a disability. 

Try not to just panic if we drop something, or are approaching a closed door. Instead think about what you would do if you couldn’t see. Would you stand there and wait for and indeterminate amount of time until someone comes along to save you? Probably not. If you really stop and think about it, that would be silly. Chances are, we know what to do it that situation. You cutting us off to open the door; or potentially banging heads because we both bent down to retrieve what I dropped, is not really helpful. 

If you stop and think about what you would do, it will start to provide an awareness of what being blind might be like. If you can have that awareness, then you can start to understand how we might do things when you are not there to come to the rescue. If you can do this, then you can respect and nurish our independence. 

However, this is not to say never help. If we dropped something and can’t find it because it has bounced clear across the room, feel free to help, as any good Samaritan would in this situation. Just try to be more aware of when your help would be help, or if it would just be a hinderance. 

So, in conclusion, treat the blind people in your life with respect, and let us grow!!!

This is me! Hope you enjoyed the read. I love questions, so if you
have any, or just a comment, feel free to email them to
info@blindabilities.com.

Thanks

Kelsi

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.


Mar 08, 2019
Team See Possibilities Launches Inaugural Global Scholarship Program

Team See Possibilities is excited to announce the launch of our Global Scholarship Program, designed to help students with vision loss invest in their education.

team see possibilities - what's your possibility?

Since 2014, Team See Possibilities, co-founded by blind endurance athlete Dan Berlin with teammates Charles Scott, Alison Qualter-Berna, and Brad Graff, has taken on epic endurance challenges in iconic locations around the world to support children with vision impairments. Through our travels, we have visited dozens of schools for the blind and met with hundreds of children with vision loss around the world, encouraging students to overcome perceived limitations. “We were inspired by so many of the children we met that we decided to get directly involved with

investing in higher education opportunities for students who are blind or vision impaired,” says Alison Qualter-Berna, co-founder of Team See Possibilities.  Thanks to the outstanding donors who supported our most recent endurance challenge in New Zealand, we are able to offer 5 scholarships up to $5,000 each for the 2019/2020 academic year to aspiring students with vision loss in the United States and New Zealand. “Our goal is to alleviate some of the financial burden of obtaining a college education for students who have the drive and determination to take on the challenge,” says Brad Graff, co-founder of Team See Possibilities.  Moving forward, we intend to grow our Global Scholarship reach by expanding to the countries TSP has already touched, including Peru, Tanzania, China and Thailand as we continue on our quest of epic endurance challenges on 7 continents in 7 years.

The program is accepting applications beginning March 4th — April 30th, 2019, for scholarships worth up to $5,000 each.  If you are a student who is blind or vision impaired and meet the below criteria, we would love to hear from you.  

•  Considered legally blind

•  Citizen of the United States or New Zealand

•  A current high school senior or graduate

•  Pursuing an Undergraduate or Graduate degree at an accredited College or University

We are thrilled to announce this scholarship, which reflects our mission to embrace the remarkable accomplishments a person with vision impairment is capable of achieving.  To apply, please use the link below (Key: TeamSee), or visit our website at http://www.teamseepossibilities.com/global-scholarship-program.html.  

Click hereto apply.

For more information, please visit the FAQ section of the application, or contact Team See Possibilities by email, hello@teamseepossibilities.com.  

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Mar 07, 2019
Sound Made for the Shade – - Bose Frames: A Headset Built into Sunglasses! The Future is Looking Brighter, Think You’ll Wear Shades?
22:18

Show Summary:

In this That Blind Tech Show Extra, Brian Fischler joins Jeff Thompson in the Blind Abilities studio and unveils the new Bose Frames.

The Frames are a True wireless headset built into sunglasses. The sound comes from the sunglass legs and do not obstruct your ambient sounds. This may be just the ticket for listening to GPS or information while you are navigating the outdoors. With complete control available with one button on the right side, you can pair, play, invoke Siri and much more, although the volume is controlled by your Bluetooth connected phone.

Brian uses the Bose Frames throughout the entire podcast while connected to the Zoom meeting I set up from Blind Abilities Headquarters. Other than the digital effect from Zoom, the Bose Frames sounded really clear and I was impressed.

At $199, the Bose Frames seem like a decent option for navigating and listening to information and with the upcoming AI feature from Bose, this form factor just may be a giant step into the future. Imagine looking at a building and having Blind Square tell you what business or location is there. Interesting times and this wearable seems to be just the right fit for the BVI community. Well, with 2 Frame options, Alto (large) and Rondo (small), there is something for everyone.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Mar 06, 2019
Introducing Richard Turner - World Famous Card Mechanic: Finding The Possible in Impossible
48:28

Show Summary:

Our guest on this episode of Blind Abilities is Richard Turner, a world famous "card mechanic," also referred to as a card shark. Richard Turner is widely considered the best in the world in his field, if not the best who has ever lived.  So what exactly is a card mechanic? More than a mere magician, a card mechanic has the rare card skills that allow him to actually manipulate the course and outcome of a card game without being detected by players and observers mere inches away.

Richard started losing his vision during childhood, and gained a passion for cards. At the same time, his brain began to actually rewire itself away from the visual cortex and into his tactile sensory neurons, giving Richard an uncanny sense of touch. This in turn gave him the unique ability to handle a deck of cards like no one else. 

Listen as Jeff Thompson and Pete Lane evoke the fascinating details of Richard’s unique power with cards, and his amazing story of success in the magic community that is second to none. Listen as Richard describes his rebellion against blindness and his decades-long insistence on denying his vision loss to everyone except his family and close friends. Listen as Richard explains his talents, his ability to gauge the thickness of a single card, and how he developed this into a fruitful and long professional career in the magic community. Finally, listen as Richard describes his inevitable acceptance of blindness, and his adaptation to a new lifestyle of vision loss.

Enjoy this 45 minute chat with an articulate, passionate and truly talented man, complete with audio clips of Richards many interviews and appearances on TV shows, speeches and card conventions which enhance the listening experience as only Blind Abilities can present.

Also hear first-hand how Richard handles his cards, as we present audio description of several of Richard's card game manipulations, cuts, shuffles and “second card deals” courtesy of crystal-clear narration provided by Patrick Lane. 

Be sure to check out all of Richard’s  information, including speaking engagements, card show appearances, merchandise and upcoming projects on his web site:

www.RichardTurner52.com

And check out dozens of his videos on his YouTube channel:

www.Youtube.com/AsaT52

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Mar 05, 2019
iPhone101: 2 Ways To Skin This Cat! Managing Your Subscriptions with iTunes and Apps on Your iPhone
04:10

Show Summary:

In this iPhone101 demonstration, Jeff takes us through the process to manage your subscriptions so you can change or cancel subscriptions and not be surprised by another monthly charge.

There are 2 ways to Manage your subscriptions and thanks to Peggy's and Scott's feedback, an easier way is demonstrated first. Thanks Peggy and Scott!

 

1. Open up the App Store by tapping on the App Store icon.

2. Go to My Account.

3. Go down to Manage Subscriptions

That's all there is to it. Manage away!

 

Be sure to check out all the iPhone101demonstrations at www.BlindAbilities.com

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Mar 02, 2019
A Q and A Session: Questions by Jeff Thompson - Answers by Kelsi Hansen (Blog Post)

1. What is the worst stereotype that you would like to diminish? 

Answer: The unconscious comparison of blind individuals, or people with disabilities in general, to children. Most people don’t know they do it, but they do. Most able-bodied individuals cannot even imagine, or don’t want to imagine, what it is like to have a disability. They think that there is no way we could fend for ourselves, that we must be taken care of, much like children. Children cannot, and should not have to care for themselves; children are innocent and have no sexuality; children are cute and fragile; children are to be cherished, therefore people with disabilities must be the same, it is infuriating, and I think one of, if not the biggest barrier individuals with disabilities face. We are not taken seriously, we are not seen as equals, because of this damaging stereotype. 

2. What is something you would tell someone who is just starting their blindness journey-who is newly blind? 

Answer: Don’t stop doing things that you love. Figure out a way to keep doing them, and find new things to love. Stay active! And if you can, try to meet other blind individuals. I didn’t meet a blind person until I had been blind for a year, and after meeting them, things got easier for me. I got to see how they were adapted to their blindness, and realize that I wasn’t alone in being blind. I could still live my life to the fullest. 

3. what question do you get asked that really upsets you? 

I can only think of one right now, though I’m sure I’ll think of loads of good ones later. It is kind of annoying to me when people ask how I find my way home, or around my house. Especially if it is a route that I walk everyday. And I mean, how do they find their way around the house in the dark? I know they do it. I know sighted people don’t understand what it is like to be blind, but it would be nice if they just took the time to think about it … Think about how they would do it, and how it’s not that different without sight. I could just as easily ask them, “how do you remember your way home from work everyday?” 

4. How do you go about shopping for clothes? 

Answer: I usually go with a trusted friend or family member. I say trusted because they have to know what sort of things I like, and be familiar with my style. I could have someone at the store help me, but they don’t know my style, and they would undoubtedly have a different sense of style themselves. I don’t want to end up with anything “old lady-ish” or “teenie bopper-ish” because the store helper has a different sense of style than me. 

I tell whoever I’m with what I’m looking for. They will usually direct me to a wrack, such as the dress wrack, and before I go through colors/designs, I look at textures-which texture do I like the best? Usually I touch all of the clothes on the wrack, and if there is a texture I love, I pull it out and ask what it looks like. I am all about the texture-I have found a bunch of really good dresses this way! 

Then there is fitting, which is probably the same for most people. Do I like the fit? Is it comfortable? This is a big one, as my personal sense of style revolves around comfort. Am I equally comfortable sitting cross-legged on the floor as in a chair? And so on. 

5. When it comes to make-up do you have any tips or tricks? 

Answer: Not really. I don’t really wear make up. If I do wear any, it is usually just lipstick, eye shadow, or very rarely mascara. With mascara, I can tell you that it is helpful to practice with a dry mascara brush before you try the real thing. I suppose you could practice with a dry eye shadow brush, or a clear chapstick before hand as well. 

6. rumor has it, all your other senses are enhanced, can you explain this? 

Answer: I don’t necessarily think that the senses are heightened, especially not to super human standards, as many believe, rather we become more aware of our other senses. I know for a fact that I do not have super sonic hearing, on the contrary, I cannot hear higher frequencies. I pay more attention to my hearing because I have to. I may hear something from across the room that a sighted individual doesn’t, but that is because hearing is my primary sense.

7. who is one of your role models? Has their been anyone who really inspired you-that gave you that “I can do it” mentality? 

Answer: I don’t really have a role model, that may sound bad, but it’s true.

When I first went blind, I was extremely angry, and felt like my life was over before it had really begun. So when I met another blind person for the first time, it was very eye-opening for me. I noticed how easily she joked about her blindness. This really struck me. She had gone blind later in life, and she was able to joke and be light-hearted about it. She had her vision for much longer in her life than I had, and she seemed to be adapting just fine. I realized that I didn’t have to be so angry. That I could make light of my situation, and maybe things would start to feel more positive. This experience was really my first step in the direction of a “can do” attitude. 

8. Do you limit yourself? 

Answer: As hard as I try not to, I think that yes, I do limit myself. Ultimately I think that everyone limits themselves in some way. The way I limit myself happens to be in the technology department. I have never really been super interested in technology, even before I went blind. I always say, “I’m not good with technology,” which I then tend to use as a crutch and excuse not to learn more about it. Being blind in today’s world, this is a huge limitation. Though, now that I realize I have been using my lack of knowledge and interest as a crutch, I’m working a bit harder at learning more about what technology is out there, and everything it can do. I have joined an assistive technology facebook group, and I have recently upgraded to an iPhone 8 from my 5S. Baby steps!

9. Do you do any volunteer work? 

Answer: Yes, but not as much as I would like.  I have volunteered with child care, at the food bank and homeless shelters, with office work, and at an animal shelter for a time. I’m sure there are some things that I am forgetting, but I like volunteering, it is just hard to do on a consistent basis. 

10. you live in a winter community, how do you find the time to get outside and exercise, and enjoy the outdoors. 

Answer: I shovel!!! 

 Aside from that, I play outside with my son, and I am a part of a couple of different nature/exercised based groups that have set times, and like being out in nature no matter the weather. 

11: how do you feel about travel? 

Answer: I still get very anxious when I travel or think about traveling. Part of it is that I am just an anxious person, but the other part is definitely the blindness factor. What if I get lost? What if people are judging me? What if I can’t find my turn, or I forget how many streets I’ve crossed? And so on. 

Admittedly, I am much less anxious about traveling than I was before my training at an orientation center. Before I was trained I had this debilitating fear to even walk out of the house by myself. My anxiety level has certainly dropped immensely, I am not afraid to step foot outside, but it is still there niggling at the back of my mind. I am able to jump that barrier though because I am extremely talented at what I call: “getting un-lost.” So now, even if I have that anxiety, I am able to push through it, because I know that no matter how lost I may get, I know how to get un-lost!

This is me! Hope you enjoyed the read. I love questions, so if you
have any, or just a comment, feel free to email them to
info@blindabilities.com.

Thanks

Kelsi

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.


Mar 02, 2019
iPhone101: Adding Alternative Text to Your FaceBook Photos from the FaceBook App
04:03

Show Summary:

Straight from the Tech Abilities Podcast, we bring you the Alt Text demo. This works great and now more and more photos may get posted and the alternative text will give us all a clue to what the picture is displaying.

One of the main steps in this process, is that you have to publish your FaceBook post with the photo and then go to your post and add the Alt Text. 

  1. Create a post with a photo.
  2. Publish the post.
  3. Open the post after publishing and single-finger-double-tap on the photo.
  4. Click on the “More” button.
  5. Swipe down to, “Edit Alt Text”.
  6. Type in the description in the text box and save.

Be sure to check out the Blind Abilities Skill for your Amazon devices. Just say, “Enable, Blind Abilities.

Contact:

You can follow Tech Abilities on twitter @AbilitiesTech

Tech Abilities is part of the Blind Abilities Network and be sure to check out all of our shows and podcasts.

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Mar 01, 2019
TechAbilities: Samsung’s leak Fest, Galaxy Fold, and We Got Demos on managing Your Subscriptions, the Reader Feature and Alt Text for Facebook Photos
47:02

Show Summary:

Tech Abilities is back and What the? A Samsung podcast? Well, it is a big leak fest from Samsung and they don’t miss the mark. With the Galaxy Fold knocking on 2 Grand per unit, but remember folks, this includes some free Galaxy Buds, yes, FREE! Ok, you can get these with any of the new line of phones from Samsung.

The TechAbilities Logo-Dark Sunglasses with TA and BA bold letters in each lens.

We also demo the Reader feature on the iPhone’s browser. We demo tagging your Facebook photos with Alternative Text, and if 2 demonstrations is not enough, we bring you a third, yes a third. We demo how to manage your Subscriptions in iTunes/App Store. Samsung may have had a Leak Fest, will we are having our Demo Fest and loving every minute of it. Ok, every 3 minutes of it.

Join Serina, Andy and Jeff in this Tech Abilities cast and be sure to hit us up on the Facebook groups, Blind Abilities Community, Job Insights Support Group and the Accessible Technology Community for the Blind and Visually Impaired. There is something for everyone and we know everyone has something to share. See you there!

Contact:

You can follow Tech Abilities on twitter @AbilitiesTech

Tech Abilities is part of the Blind Abilities Network and be sure to check out all of our shows and podcasts.

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Mar 01, 2019
Holly Scott-Gardner: Catch These Words – Graduating University and pursuing the Career She Wants
33:36

Show Summary:

Holly Scott-Gardner is set to graduate University at the end of this semester and cross the pond to Colorado for Adjustment to Blindness Training. Holly is interested in pursuing a career in Teaching Blindness Training and her upcoming experience along with her volunteer experience at Enchanted Hills Camp, will give her a well-rounded set of tools to draw from.

Holly has a passion for writing and is a blogger and Blindness advocate, voicing her concerns, experiences and opinions on the latest trends and happenings around the community. 

Being from England, Holly has enjoyed gaining knowledge and hands-on experiences by traveling and volunteering in the United States. With her guide dog retirement coming up, Holly is traveling to Colorado with her cane and embarking upon a training program at the Colorado Center for the Blind. Her summer of 2018 was spent volunteering at Enchanted Hills Camp in Napa, California and this all seems like a great pathway towards her goals she has set before her.

Join Holly in the Blind Abilities studio as she talks about her education, her ambitions and her pursuit of a career that she wants.

You can follow Holly on social media with 3 short words, Catch These Words.

Be sure to check out her blog on the web at www.CatchTheseWords.com

Thanks for listening.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

 

 

 

Feb 25, 2019
Assistive Technology: Choosing the Right Tools for Success - Meet Jesse Anderson, Assistive Technology Specialist and Accessible Game Advocate
34:34

Show Summary:

(Full Transcript Below)

Screen readers, Refreshable Braille, Magnification, Audio Books, Computers and Smart Devices are just a few of the Tools for Success that are available to the Blind/Visually Impaired community. From education to the workplace, Assistive Technology enables people with a visual impairment to do just about anything they want to and apply for the jobs and the careers that they want.

State Services for the Blind has a technology Unit that makes assessments and help clients determine what assistive technology would best suit their needs as they set their educational and career goals.

Jesse Anderson is an Assistive Technology Specialist at State Services for the Blind (SSB) in Saint Paul, Minnesota. In this podcast, Jesse will take you through the assessment process and how assistive technology choices are made and individualized for each person and their educational and career goals. 

Jesse admits he is a nerd and loves technology. Jesse loves Accessible Gaming and Advocates for accessibility in the gaming industry. You can find out more about Jesse and accessible gaming on his YouTube Channel, Illegally Sighted.

If you want to find out more about State Services for the Blind. You can call (651) 539-2300

Find them on the web.

Outside of Minnesota, search for your state agency/Vocational Rehabilitation Services in your state and find out what they can do for you.

 

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Full Transcript

Full Transcription:

Jeff Thompson:
Be sure to check out the blind ability scill on your Amazon device. Just say, "Enable Blind Abilities."

{Music}

Jesse Anderson:
We're not just looking at, okay, how can we get you through your classes that you're currently in. We're actually looking at more of a long-term goal.

Jeff Thompson:
Meet Jesse Anderson.

Jesse Anderson:
They use Windows PC's typically in many office environments.

Jeff Thompson:
Assistive Technology Specialist from State Services for the Blind in Minnesota.

Jesse Anderson:
Mac is in a lot of the more artistic areas, so maybe audio, video production, maybe some web design. It's good for people to learn that experience as well, to kind of know how to find ways to fix problems. If you are low vision, how would you do that? If you are blind, how would you do that? Well, I might take my phone and use it as a magnifier. Or if I am blind, I might take my phone or my laptop, and snap a picture of it and have it read aloud with my Bluetooth headphones.

Jeff Thompson:
Welcome to Blind Abilities. I am Jeff Thompson. Today we're going to be talking about assistive technology. About the tools for success. The tools that will help you level the playing field in the job market, in employment, and in education. We'll be talking about the services that your state agency can provide to you, and how your participation is vitally important towards your success. So be sure to check out your state agency, your voc rehab, your state's services for the blind and see what they can do for you.

Jesse Anderson:
Have the technology skills and knowing those skills well I think is just a really good thing to do, no matter what you are going to be doing in your employment or education. If you are low vision, you may be a Zoom text user, but you know what? It might be a great idea to learn Windows Magnifier, because a. It's free, b. It's built into Windows.

Jeff Thompson:
If you wanna find more podcasts with a blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, and check out our extensive library. From job insights, TVI Toolbox, iPhone 101, and our tech show, Tech Abilities, where we cover the latest developments, the latest innovations and the technologies that will enhance your opportunities for success.

Jesse Anderson:
I am into a little bit of everything but I am definitely still a nerd.

Jeff Thompson:
Please welcome assistive technology specialist, Jessie Anderson. We hope you enjoy.

Jeff Thompson:
Welcome to Blind Abilities. I am Jeff Thompson and today I am at State Services for the Blind in St. Paul, Minnesota, and I'm talking to assistive technology specialist, Jessie Anderson. Jessie, how are you doing?

Jesse Anderson:
I'm doing pretty good. Thanks for having me on today.

Jeff Thompson:
Great. Jessie, I wanna thank you for taking the time out of your day to come on the Blind Abilities and share with our listeners the services that you provide here at State Services for the Blind as an assistive technology specialist.

Jesse Anderson:
Yeah, there are actually five assistive technology specialists at SSB and we all work out of the St. Paul office. How it works is we are assigned to specific counselors who cover specific areas of the state. For instance, I do cover the [inaudible] Cato area, and then you have all the other tech specialists covering the different other parts of the state. And the last couple years, my role has changed a little bit because I am starting to work a lot more with transition age students, and that's a little bit more statewide. So I do a lot of metro, but I am traveling around the state a fair bit as well. So I will do assistive technology assessments. Meet with students in the schools or at SSB or wherever we need to. And there's a lot of stuff going on with the transition program.

Jeff Thompson:
Well that's a good age, 14 to 21. Students that are transitioning from high school to college where they really wanna hone in on some accessible technology to gain employment.

Jesse Anderson:
Yeah. During one of the ... when I meet with a students, it could be anyone between eighth grade on up in school, and like I said, if they are in the area, sometimes they'll meet here at SSB and if they are local, that is really helpful because we do have quite a few more types of devices in our technology lab or our resource center here. But I do go on the road a lot especially to greater Minnesota. So a lot of times, we'll set up a meeting to meet in the student school during some time that they can meet either during study hall or something, like that. And when I meet with people, some of the things we look at ... we're not just looking at, okay, how can we get you through your classes that you are currently in? We're actually looking at more of a long-term goal. So even if you're eighth, ninth grade, we're still going to kind of be looking at, well maybe you want a summer job. Maybe you want to work a little bit after school, or maybe you are participating in some transition related activities through SSB or other organization.

Jesse Anderson:
And then moving onto maybe what are you thinking after graduating high school? Are you going to go to college? You kind of maybe have an idea what type of degree. Maybe you wanna work with computers or people or animals. Maybe you don't wanna go to college and maybe you just wanna look for work right away. So those are the kind of things that we look at and then what types of technology would kind of best work to meet those types of education or employment goals based on their vision.

Jeff Thompson:
Covers a wide spectrum of low vision to totally blind from whether it's their braille, or if they are going to be using a lot of brail, to if they are using more audio. You do a full assessment of what would probably work best for those type of goals that they are seeking.

Jesse Anderson:
Absolutely. We work with people who are blind, who are low vision, who are deaf-blind, and I have met with people of all those groups. Blind, deaf-blind, and low-vision. And it could also be an accommodation thing. You may have a low-vision user who has some usability vision but honestly, it's much more affective for them to primarily listen to audio and maybe they even know braille. So, instead of maybe you have a very, very limited field of view or very, very low-vision and so visual is just not practical. So we may still look at brail displays. We still may look at a lot of audio. Yeah, it could be anywhere from computer software to smartphones, tablets, braille displays, note takers, portable devices, CCTVs. Any kind of number of things.

Jesse Anderson:
And so when we get a referrals from the counselor and just kind of get an idea of the person's vision and kind of what they are thinking of doing, then we can kind of help them identify what would work best for them.

Jeff Thompson:
And that's great because people are coming in. They're probably trying to set up an employment program. And so they are working with counselor and then you have a transition team, and your part of this is when it comes to technology. So what is an assessment? When someone does in come for that assessment, how long do you spend with them? And where do you start?

Jesse Anderson:
Well, when we do an assessment, usually I tell people that I kind of schedule things for, I would say, between an hour and a half to two hours. I usually block off a two hour block of time, and then even have a little bit of extra time after, if needed. Because I always let people know that if we go through things quickly and end early, or if we go a little bit longer, that's totally fine. My main thing is, I don't want to rush people through everything. We're going to cover a lot of different topics. A lot of different types of technology during that assessment as it is, and so I wanna give people enough time to ask questions, try out some of the technology and not rush through everything. We'll have the information from the counselor's referral and I'll just kind of ask some general questions. What is your vision? Is it stable? Because we also wanna look at, maybe your vision is like this, but oh, maybe it was a little bit better six months ago. And is it stable or is it expected to deteriorate over time?

Jesse Anderson:
And so we want to look at if that is the case, you may be able to use some large print now, but you may also kind of want to look at using more speech or gradually, especially if someone is not used to it, getting used to using more audio and maybe braille or something like that. Because as their vision changes, they'll need to do that. We look at what their needs are. How they like to best process information. Are they a visual learner? Do they have to physically read it either visually or tactilely through braille? Or do they prefer audio? What's most efficient? If we're looking at employment, we're looking at even things like, yes, okay, I might be able to read visually, but it's not really that fast and if I was in a fast-paced work setting where I had to get my job done quickly, maybe I am talking with customers on the phone. I need to access client information at a customer service job, maybe print isn't the fastest and you do have to look at audio because you also have to look at level of productivity that makes sense.

Jeff Thompson:
My experience out in the work force and businesses and corporations and all that, it seems like a lot of companies are PC based or they are Microsoft based through their databases. I see a higher percentage of people using JAWS or NVDA on their computers that are in the workforce. I mean, Apple is good with voiceover and your phone. A lot of people use that, and the Androids. But predominately in the workforce, I see Microsoft based computers.

Jesse Anderson:
Yeah. That's actually what we see a lot too. It's actually really interesting in education because in high schools and stuff right now, we have a pretty good mixture. I'll meet with some students and some schools will use iPads a lot, especially for special education. You'll see some schools that try to use Chromebooks which, they do have accessibility built into them. I don't have a lot of experience with it. I really need to get my hands on a modern Chromebook to play with that a little bit more. But, a lot of people do find even though they do have accessibility built in, they find it a little bit more restrictive. So they would like to either use more of a PC or a Mac, but you have some schools, it'll have PC. Some will use Mac. Some will use iPads. And it's just a wide variety of things.

Jesse Anderson:
And then when you get To college, it's kind of a free for all, because everybody has their own way to take notes or write reports. You can use your Mac. You can use your PC. But like you said, in the work world, and this is even if somebody is in high school and if they are like, "Oh, I wanna be a psychologist", or, "I wanna work in an office", or, "I wanna work in some type of setting like that", I do let them know that, like you said, they use Windows PC's typically in many office environments. The main place where I would see Mac is in a lot of the artistic areas. So maybe audio, video production. Maybe some web design. But that could go either way.

Jesse Anderson:
So I mean, we do recommend some Mac packages. Or if somebody is maybe you do have a technical position but maybe somebody is wanting to ... they are a programmer and they need to develop for Mac or iOS. You have to pretty much have a Mac to do that. So there are cases where we do recommend, but yes. In a lot of business settings, I would say, I can probably count the number of actual office settings on one hand that would use a Mac, as it's all been pretty much Windows.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah. Well that's the unique thing about what you do here at State Services for the Blind, is you develop programs for individual for their needs. What works best for them to succeed.

Jesse Anderson:
Correct.

Jeff Thompson:
So Jessie, say someone does acquire a piece of equipment and it's working for them, but they wanna learn a little bit more about it. What do you suggest to them to do at that point?

Jesse Anderson:
Well, when we meet with people during the original assessment, we'll kind of also look at what their computer skills are. Not just computer skills, but how well they use the computer. If they are using an iPhone or an iPad, Android device, or whatever technology that is that they need or are currently using, and we'll let them know that we do have a couple of on-staff trainers that can work with them for some tasks and then we also have some certified contracted trainers that we work with throughout the state who can meet individually, one-on-one, with people for technology training. And that can happen at SSB. That can happen at the client's home. That can happen at the job site. Like I said, in addition to assessments, we will also go ... let's say somebody gets a job offer, and the company says we're using this software. Is this going to work with JAWS, Zoom Text or NVDA? Something like that.

Jesse Anderson:
And so we can work with the user and we can work with the business and we can set up a time to go to that business and get the demo of JAWS, or Zoom Text, let's say, installed on those machines, and have somebody at the job who knows what that position requires, and then they'll walk us through kind of what that person would be required to do, and then we can test how that assistive technology works with their software. Are there any problems? And if there are, what kind of things can we do to get around them or fix them? Yeah, there's a lot involved. With training, or with assessing job sites. All kinds of different things.

Jeff Thompson:
So they are not alone.

Jesse Anderson:
No, no. And if somebody has ... we got some equipment for them, or they have equipment already. Like I said, there is a training part of it, and then let's say somebody gets ... receives some technology with the assistance of SSB. We give them an assistive technology resource guide, and that's kind of a long document that has all kinds of helpful information. It'll have all of their device information. Their serial numbers of their devices. It'll have some common tips for different things. A lot of times we have a few cheat sheets for some programs like using some of the built in accessibility features of Mac and Windows. And then there's also in this resource guide, we also provide contact information for a lot of the common types of devices that we recommend. So be it a computer, a brail display, Zoom Text or JAWS. Something like that.

Jesse Anderson:
And we do encourage them. Yes, we are definitely there to help but we also do encourage them to contact ... let's say they have a computer program. Their computer just died, or they have a weird JAWS behavior problem or they have whatever issue. To also encourage them to learn how to contact some of the manufacturers and get some of their technical support too, because some of the really strange bugs, maybe some things that even we can't quite figure out. Or maybe there's a hardware issue, where they will have to kind of send it in. And so it's good for people to learn that experience as well to kind of know how to find ways to fix problems.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh yeah. And that's a life-long skill because all the way down to your job, career, whatever you are doing, you're going to come across problems and develop advocating for assistance, help, maintenance, whatever it is, pays off in the long run. So, Jessie, you've talked about going to college but employment seems to be the big thing. For people who are looking for employment, what suggestions would you have for them in regards to technology and maybe an employer not understanding what AT, assistive technology, is?

Jesse Anderson:
There are a few things that I will kind of tell people are as we are discussing things during the assessment or as we we're meeting in general. When we're talking about transition, the common sort of issues is that, well, this assistive technology is cool, but I don't really wanna look different. Like okay, I've got this CCTV or I've got this brail display and people are like what the heck is that? And we all know. I mean, I went through it. You went through it. Kids can be mean. When you're in high school, junior high, high school, kids can do some really mean things. And so they are kind of worried about looking different or standing out. And we just try to encourage them to ... if this makes your life a lot easier, like if you are really struggling to read that assignment, if you are really struggling to see the white board at the front of the room or to write that report or whatever it is for school, yeah, you might look a little bit different. But everybody uses technology in the room now. I mean, you've got people using their smartphones and tablets and laptops and things.

Jesse Anderson:
So you might have a few little bit different things, but if it's going to make your life a lot easier and more efficient, speed up what you're doing, and spend half an hour instead of three hours on an assignment, don't worry about it. And when you get to college, not only will people not care, but that's actually a really interesting conversation starter, because then people go, "Oh, dude, what's that?" And then you can show them stuff. Then they also get more of a positive impression of, "Oh, okay. You are going to college. You are going to look for work." Kind of gives them more of a positive impression on blindness or low-vision as well.

Jesse Anderson:
One of the other things that I would talk about is that when you are at that employment stage, I think it's just really important to treat the job search as a full-time job in itself. You know, I mean, a lot of people might kind of expect, "Oh, well SSB is here and they are going to help, or they are going to find me a job. Oh, they are going to get a job for me." No, we're definitely here to help you, but you definitely have to do your part as well. I'm speaking from experience, I got my undergrad degree and after that, I was unemployed for three and a half years. But that wasn't for lack of trying. I basically set aside anywhere between six, eight hours a day on weekdays, and sometimes weekends if I found a good job lead. And I would apply for jobs. I would look for jobs.

Jesse Anderson:
I had a whole jobs folder where I would have several types of templates for resumes and cover letters, where maybe I am applying for help desk jobs. Maybe I am applying for a web design job or a customer ... Any type of job, so I could just quickly get those out there. And then I would even have Excel workbooks, because I was applying for so many jobs, it's so hard to keep track. And so I would put, okay, I applied for this business, this position. I applied for it on that date. Did I get a response? Did I get an interview? What are the things [inaudible], because otherwise, I was not going to remember it. In that three and a half period, I got so many rejection letters, I jokingly would tell people that I could wallpaper my apartment with them. So it's just you really do have to put in the work and treat the job search as pretty much a full-time job to really get good results. You really gotta put in, especially since we have to prove ourselves. Hey, we're blind or vision impaired, or deaf-blind, but we can do things too.

Jesse Anderson:
The other thing that I would ... I kind of recommend as far as technology goes that can be really helpful is, okay, so you get an interview, and I didn't do this right away but what I found to be helpful as I started doing later on, was I would bring some ... not everything, but I would bring a couple of commonly used items with me to that interview. It could be my laptop in a laptop bag. It could be my ... now it would be my iPhone and you'll be doing the interview, and by that time, they will probably know that you have a vision impairment and they may ... employers will have concerns. "Oh can you do this part of the job?" Or, "How would you do this part of the job? Can you do it quickly enough?" And not only bringing the technology to the interview, but even having some documents on your laptop ready or some tasks in mind that you could do, so someone says, "Okay, we're in a meeting and we need to hand out these memos that we want people to read and we're going to discuss. Okay if you're low-vision, how would you do that? If you're blind, how would you do that?"

Jesse Anderson:
Well, I might take my phone and use it as a magnifier. Or if I am blind, I might take my phone or my laptop and snap a picture of it and have it read aloud with my Bluetooth headphones. How do I access the Internet? Well, let me bring up my phone or let me bring up my laptop and go to a website that you know, go to something fairly complex so that they can see that you are using the sites that everybody does. Go to Amazon. That's a pretty complex. There's a lot of information there. Pretty complex site. And just kind of showing them some of those things, offer to kind of show them so that way they think, "Oh, okay. Not only can you do it, but you can do it well." And know your assistive technology. That's the other thing. Know your assistive technology.

Jeff Thompson:
That's a good point. Because sometimes you may get the equipment, but you don't know how to use it and that takes a lot of time to get familiar with it so you can use it efficiently. And that's a great point when you're at a job interview because that person there, their internal monologue is wondering, can they do this? They're not saying it, but their thought bubbles are, I don't know if they can access a computer. So you're actually breaking that ice and it's showing them and just opening the door for the possibilities like, wow I didn't know that. Because a lot of people don't know what we can do with assistive technology.

Jesse Anderson:
Absolutely. And I would say that a lot of people really underestimate. That's one thing that I see in education. That's one thing that I see in employment. Just kind of everywhere. A lot of it isn't the ... as long as we're doing everything that we can, we're capable. But there's a lot of low expectations or just people just don't know that, oh ... I've had people ask me, actually it was very recently. I was getting my, I think I was getting mail and somebody at my apartment complex was like, "Oh so do you work?" And I'm like, "Yeah." "Oh, okay. That's interesting." I said, "Yeah. Not only do I work, I work full-time and I do this and I do that." It's just kind of even people that kind of see me around, they're like, I didn't know really what you could do. So yeah, we encounter that a lot. It's just a lot of low expectations. But something like that can help a lot. It's just being prepared.

Jeff Thompson:
That's the great thing about state services for the blind, because when you're in the predicament, maybe you just lost some eyesight or maybe you've been blind and you are looking towards transitioning to college to the work place, you can come here, get a counselor and you'll meet up with someone like Jessie, an assistive technology specialist, to find the tools for success that'll help you level the playing field basically. Put you on an even keel with everyone else. And like Jessie mentioned, employment. They have employment specialists as well that can help you look for jobs, teach you how to look for jobs, teach you some skills of resume building.

Jesse Anderson:
Mock interviews as well.

Jeff Thompson:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). There are so many services here that you can get at state services for the blind. Your state agency, your vocational rehab, wherever you are, check them out and Jessie what advice would you give to someone who is transitioning from college to high school to the workplace?

Jesse Anderson:
Really, it's just kind of a matter of look at what you wanna do. I've had people come in and say, "Well, what are some blind jobs I could get?" And yeah, there are certain things. I'm not going to become an airline pilot or a driver or something like that, but if you wanna work on mechanics, if you want to work in an office, if you wanna do ... work in education, there's probably ... especially with all of the services and all of the technology and different things, there's probably a way to make it happen. So don't pigeon hole yourself into necessarily like, oh, these are ... I can do customer service, or I can do tuning pianos or I don't know if that's even a thing anymore, but you know? And like I said, knowing your technology. Learning those technology skills as early as possible I think is really helpful because not only just for employment but I mean, for independence, I mean, just being able to look things up on the Internet. I mean, Amazon Prime is wonderful and evil at the same time, because it's so easy to buy things but I can research products and shop.

Jesse Anderson:
I can pay my bills. I can do all kinds of things with my phone or my computer. Whatever. So just having the technology skills and knowing those skills well, I think is just a really good thing to do no matter what you are going to be doing in employment or education.

Jeff Thompson:
Great. Jessie, on a daily basis, what tools do you utilize?

Jesse Anderson:
In my job, I use a lot of different tools myself, because I am indeed legally blind. I have some vision, but I am legally blind. So, I actually use a combination of magnification and speech. I find myself using Windows Magnifier actually, quite a bit. Especially in Windows 10. Windows 10 has Windows Magnifier built in. It also has some high contrast features that I've been ... especially in the latest October update. They've really fixed some things and added some things so it's worked better. But I'll use Zoom Text from time to time. But honestly, I use a screen reader. I use speech a lot. I use NVDA a lot. I do still use JAWS sometimes. But NVDA and even System Access, I really like the way System Access works on the Internet. So NVDA, System Access, JAWS, those are things I use all the time. I also use my phone.

Jesse Anderson:
I have an iPhone and I use the built in magnifier to read short little documents or serial numbers. Things like that. I use other magnification apps. I will use things like Seeing AI, or Prismo, or KNFB Reader to OCR a document really quick. I use Voice Dream Reader and BookShare books, and BARD, and I mean just reading books for recreation or even part as my job, I wanna keep up on technology and things like that. So I read a lot of technology related books and information. So there's all kinds of apps I use on my phone, but that's probably one of my most used tools is my phone.

Jeff Thompson:
And in the world out there, especially in the job market and having more tools in your tool box, [inaudible] that's a catchall phrase, but having different angles of attacking at certain solution problem is a screen doesn't read to have a couple things that you could draw from is probably a good skill to have.

Jesse Anderson:
I'm really glad you brought that up because I totally forgot about that. That is absolutely what we recommend as well. So if you are low-vision, you may be a Zoom Text user but you know what? It might be a great idea to learn Windows Magnifier because a. It's free, b. It's built into Windows. It doesn't cost anything, but you're not always using your computer. Maybe you go to a library, a computer lab, a friend or family's place and they don't have Zoom Text installed. You can still have magnification if you are a speech user, you may be a JAWS user, but guess what? NVDA is free. It runs on a thumb drive. You can use that. You might be able to get by with using Windows Narrator and of course Apple has its voice over for a screen reader. You have Zoom built into the Mac and iOS both. Yes, knowing more than one screen ... I regularly, professionally, I regularly switch between multiple tools. Like if one OCR app doesn't work, I'll use a different one. I might visit a website with JAWS and it doesn't work, and so I use NVDA or NVDA doesn't read something and JAWS does. So absolutely knowing more than one tool, especially nowadays with the way things move so quickly. Absolutely important.

Jesse Anderson:
It's really interesting being an assistive technology specialist right now, because things move just so much faster. Back in the day we had, maybe you had Magic and Zoom Text or you had JAWS and WindowEyes and now you've got the Windows stuff. You've got Mac. You've got iOS. Android. And then that's not even getting into people ask about smart appliances like Google Home and Alexa or the Amazon Echo. There's so many different platforms and they all can have good uses for them, but there's a lot to keep track of. Even we can't keep up with it all. I mean, I try to. I am a nerd, and I'm into that kind of stuff, but I can't even learn everything.

Jeff Thompson:
Especially, I'll go on my wife's PC and I'll hit the VO keys. Well there are no VO keys on that, the PC laptop, so it's kind of fun that ... going back and forth, for me, I can do it but I have to think about it for a little bit and staying up to date with stuff. So I'll use a Mac. I can use the PC. I can use a couple of other things and that's an asset that I do. But, it does take a little bit of work to get my brain wrapped around it again.

Jesse Anderson:
Yeah. Definitely. I want to say, especially if you are totally blind or if you are a speech user, magnification, you can kinda figure things out because the interface might be a little bit different, but you can kind of, oh I can click around and stuff. But me being a long time PC user and just learning Mac a few years ago, I'm still not a great Mac user, I'll admit it. But I know enough to kind of get around and do some damage. Yeah. The way that you would think of navigating a Windows screen reader is kind of a bit different with voice over and that took me a lot of time to kind of get used to. So people go, "Well I wanna use a Mac because I've heard it's good for blind people." Or, "I'm using a Mac and maybe I gotta learn [inaudible] a PC", and some people might have the mistake and impression, oh, well they are both speech. You just learn a few commands and you go. Yeah. Some can take a little more time to transition because some of the way you navigate and stuff can be a bit different.

Jeff Thompson:
Now in your position, a lot of us out here, we have friends in the community and stuff. We get to sample things once in a while. Try and kick it around the block a little bit here and there. Now, in your position, you probably go to conferences or events where they are displaying stuff or people want to show you stuff. Vendors and all sorts of stuff, so you probably get a whole onslaught of different tools and accessible devices to sample.

Jesse Anderson:
We do work with quite a few of our vendors. We do have vendors who come into SSB and show the tech specialists news devices or updates to new devises, but we also do periodically have events that are opened to the public where you'll have a vendor come by and they'll show their devices and device demonstrations and we've had people come in to do that. People come in to watch that as well. We also do, if we can, we will sometimes try to get down to the CSUN conference in California. Usually it's in March and that is kind of the premier assistive technology conference. You do have things like closing the gap in ATI, but those don't really focus on blindness as much, I think as they used to. I've gone to CSUN now twice and absolutely love it. They are actually going to be in a new hotel or a new venue this year. So that'll be interesting. I'm not going to be going to that unfortunately this year, but it's a fantastic conference if you're into assistive technology. If you're a tech specialist. If you're a user. Whatever. It is pretty fun. It's pretty informative.

Jeff Thompson:
So Jessie, this is your day time job. What are some of your hobbies that you do? And what's your interest in?

Jesse Anderson:
Well, I'm into a little bit of everything, but I'm definitely still a nerd. Like I said, I still do some technology stuff at home. Technology, gaming, I like music. I'm trying to teach myself the drums. Mess around with the guitar a little bit, that kind of a thing. But I do, like I said, I still do some technology and even game accessibility stuff in my spare time. For the past several years, I do run a YouTube channel called Illegally Sighted, and that's going pretty well. And I'm really trying to advocate, like I said, everything ... my day job is all about work, but there's more to life than just work and especially video games and VR. Virtual reality, augmented reality. Those things are all becoming quite popular in the mainstream world, and blind and low-vision users would like to be included in some of that, too, and so as I've been doing the YouTube channel, it's kind of turned into this ... I've really started working more with advocating for game accessibility and I have a VR headset at home.

Jesse Anderson:
So I've been trying to use that as a way to like hey, approach developers. We don't have standards yet for virtual reality officially, because everyone is still trying to figure it out. So if we can get someone in there to say, "Hey, you're trying to figure things out. Let's get accessibility as just one of those standards from the beginning because it's much easier to do it from the beginning than it is to bolt it on later." So I've been trying to advocate for that and as part of that, I did a presentation in fall of 2017 that's archived on my channel. I did a presentation for #id24, Inclusive Design 24, on VR accessibility for low-vision users, and in March of this year, I was actually invited to be a presenter, part of a panel, at the third annual game accessibility conference. GACon, as it's kind of referred to online and on Twitter. And you can go to gaconf.com and it's a one day conference that's held in San Francisco and I was able to get things lined up and working so I am going to be going down to that conference for the first time this year and be a panel speaker, and hopefully I'll be able to meet some developers, and a lot of the people that I have been kind of socializing with on social media, on Twitter and things like that.

Jesse Anderson:
So I'm really looking forward to it, and hopefully it can result in just getting another voice out there and making more developers and stuff realize, hey, it may not be as difficult as you think it is, but blind people, low-vision people are a market too, and we do have money to spend and we wanna do, we wanna participate in games and such as well. So, that should be really fun to see how that goes.

Jeff Thompson:
Jessie, thank you for being an advocate for everyone, because I know a lot of people out there that want to hang onto that or have the possibilities of playing games. It's a big market out there, and thank you for doing what you are doing.

Jesse Anderson:
Sure. No problem.

Jeff Thompson:
Great, well Jessie Anderson, I wanna thank you very much for coming on to Blind Abilities. Taking the time out here at SSB. That's State Services for the Blind of Minnesota. Thank you very much.

Jesse Anderson:
All right. Thank you.

Jeff Thompson:
Be sure to check out your state services, your state agency, your vocational rehab, and see what they can do for you. And be sure to check out the Blind Abilities scale on your Amazon device. Just say, enable Blind Abilities. And you can listen to the Blind Abilities on the Victor Stream. Just go to their favorites list and find Blind Abilities. There you go. You can search for Blind Abilities in any of your favorite PodCatchers. Just type in, Blind Abilities. That's too words. Blind abilities. And you can always download the free blind abilities app from the Apple store, or the Google Play store. And like I said, it's two words. Blind abilities.

Jeff Thompson:
I want to thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed and until next time. Bye-bye.

[Music]  [Transition noise]  -When we share

-What we see

-Through each other's eyes...

[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]

...We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.

Jeff Thompson:

For more podcasts with the blindness perspective:

Check us out on the web at www.BlindAbilities.com On Twitter @BlindAbilities

Download our app from the App store:
 'Blind Abilities'; that's two words.

Or send us an e-mail at:

info@blindabilities.com Thanks for listening.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Feb 21, 2019
The Blind Burden – Blog Posts by Kelsi Hansen

As a blind person, sometimes I fall into that trap of feeling like a burden on the world. I am very independent; I cook; I clean; I take care of my son and pets. The only thing I really need help with is rides. I can walk places independently with my son, or dog, or both, but I do still need sighted individuals for transportation. So why then, do I still feel like a burden to society? 

I think there are many different answers to this question. Some of them are probably just me personally. And others may be related to environment and the influence of people I must interact with. But I think one of the biggest reasons is the misconceptions the general sighted populous has in regards to blindness. I know this isn’t new to the blind community, we struggle with this on a daily basis, but this week, it weighs heavily on me.

 I would like to share some of my experiences that have contributed to my feelings of being a burden. I think a lot of people can relate to these feelings, whether they are disabled or not. Everyone at some point in their life, has felt like a burden. My hope is, that sharing parts of my story, will help lift the feeling of burden off others shoulders. Because you are not a burden, and you are not alone in feeling like one. So, without further adieu, my experiences: 

I have had a lot of bad experiences in the education department. Some of these were because I didn’t understand how to advocate for myself, and others were because sighted people don’t always understand disabilities and how one overcomes them. And this is what tends to cause one to feel like a burden. 

I attended a University after I finished my training at a blindness training center. My major was animal science, and I am extremely interested in science in general. As such, I had to take a couple of biology classes. My first biology class went very well, it was just an intro to bio class. My second biology class that I had to take, was more of a microbiology class. This class required you to take a separate lab class. I had never taken a lab, and I prepared as well as I could before hand. I went to the first lab class in hopes to make some connections, and see if I could partner with someone to see if they could help in describing what they saw under the microscope etc. I went, and no one talked to me, the class was very silent, and not very comfortable to be in. So I didn’t make any connections, and the teaching assistant who taught the section suggested that I meet with the professor who was in charge of those lab sections and discuss my options. I already knew that the disability services office did not provide someone to attend classes and help in the class itself. I also knew that my state agency would not help provide or pay for this either. So I would have had to hire someone myself to attend the lab with me, so they could look into the microscope and describe what they saw. Well, I didn’t have the money for that, which is why I was hoping to connect with a fellow student. 

I was hoping that in meeting with the professor in charge, he would have some ideas on how to  make the class work for me. Maybe he knew a student who would enjoy something like that etc. So I went into this meeting with high Hopes.   

When I met with the professor, everytime I made a suggestion, it was met with a huge wall of uncertainty. It wasn’t like he was mean, more like he had never met any sort of disabled person in his life. When I suggested that maybe another student could help, he said that that wouldn’t be fair to the other student, and we didn’t want to burden them with that. So then I asked if there was maybe another Teaching assistant available to help me out occasionally. And the answer was: no, that is not their job. Then he asked how I was going to be able to take the tests. So I told him about how the disability office would provide a quite room with a reader and a scribe for when taking the tests. At this point, the professor, not understanding that the disability services office itself provided this accommodation, told me that it wasn’t fair to take up their time just to give me a test.

 This meeting lasted about an hour, and though I don’t remember every word he said, I do remember the gist of it. If I got help I would be a burden on the university, it’s students, and it’s resources. I walked out of that meeting almost in tears feeling like all I was in life,was a burden to others because of something I could not control. 

I should have stood up for myself in that meeting, or taken action and reported him. But I didn’t, I couldn’t. I felt that every word he spoke rang true. I was a burden. What business did a blind person have being in a science related field? I would! like to say I would do things differently now, that I would have reported him, but I don’t know that I would. Now, I of course know that he was wrong, that I am worth the time it would take to take a test. But when one is made to feel so small, it is near impossible to pull oneself back up again. 

That was at the beginning of the semester, and I had a few other negative experiences that semester. I ended up dropping out at the end of that term. And feeling like a burden on the university, was definitely a contributing factor in that decision.

 I hope you learn from my mistakes. If you are struggling, or have had some negative experiences, don’t be afraid to contact someone. There are several resources you can utilize such as: your vocational rehabilitation counselor, the state agency you work with, or your disability resources office. That is what these services are for, they are in place to help people with disabilities. All you have to do is ask. Use your voice, because you deserve success as much as, if not more than, any able-bodied individual!

These next two are from when I attended a local community college for veterinary assisting. The first project due when I was in the program was writing a paper about going to the college’s farm, restraining, and giving lambs their vaccinations. I was taking a pharmacology class at the time, so we also had to learn how to measure and draw the medicine into the needle. I sat down with the teacher and offered up suggestions on how a blind person could participate in this project. I told her about how there were most likely needles marked in some way so the blind would know how much they were drawing up. I suggested letting me feel and get to know a clean needle, and to practice on an orange, which I’ve heard are great for practicing giving shots, before actually attempting the real thing. I wasn’t going to worry about not having a special needle, so I just needed to practice under her supervision using one of their needles. 

The teacher thought that this would be a good solution. If she still wasn’t comfortable with me giving a shot after our practice session, then I wouldn’t do it. I asked multiple times during the next few weeks, when we could get together so I could practice and attempt to get the hang of it before we went to the farm to actually give the shots. Everytime I asked she just said that we would get to it.

 Then one day she, without warning, announced that the class was going to the farm. I figured she was just going to demonstrate for everyone how it was done, and maybe let us practice restraining. But no. After she showed the class how to do it, she had them get needles, draw up the vaccine, and distribute it to every lamb. I was very confused and shocked. Was I supposed to have brought an orange to practice on first? Was I even supposed to be giving shots that day? 

When it came time for the last lamb, one of the teacher’s picked up a lamb, and showed me how to restrain it- which he then helped me do, instead of letting me do it by myself. While I was holding the lamb, another student gave the shot. Also that day, we were practicing banding, which is the procedure used to dock the lamb’s tails. Basically you use a tool to stretch out a heavy duty rubber band, which is then placed at the base of the tail. Which was something I could conceivably do, but when I asked to try it, I was told no because I could possibly get it in the wrong spot, or get it stuck on my finger. Was that not a possibility of happening to any of the students? 

At the end of the day, still in shock, I thought maybe we were going to go back to the farm another time to deliver other shots. Maybe the teacher wanted me to observe how it was done first, and before the next time, I could practice, so I could give the shots for real. But then she started talking about our papers, and when they were due. We were to write about our experiences with restraining, banding, and administering the vaccines. So I asked her how I was supposed to write my paper, when I didn’t do any of that. She just told me to do extra research into the vaccines we had given and write about that. 

I had a lot of similar experiences in that program. I had to take a domesticated animal anatomy class, and I wanted some 3-d pictures of some of the things I would need to identify. An anatomy book is large, and full of pictures, most of which I wouldn’t really need. So I asked the teacher to provide the pictures that he would use in the slides, and the ones that he would use for the tests, so the Disability services office could send them off to be raised. I started asking for this in the spring, and my class started in the fall. Over the summer, the disability office and I reminded him many times that he said he would do that. The last week before the fall semester started, the disability service office decided to just send the whole book off to be 3-d printed. This resulted in boxes filled with volumes of pictures, and was a huge expense to the college. And wouldn’t you know it? The teacher rarely pulled out the volumes pertaining to the lesson, and hardly ever marked the exact pictures they were using that day.

There were many other things that happened, from the computer program we had to use only being halfway accessible, and being told that I would just need someone to help me finish the assignment; to being told during a kennel design project to just have a sighted person do it for me. Needless to say, I felt like I was wasting the teacher’s time. If they wouldn’t give me a chance to prove myself, what veterinary office would? I was being told every time I turned around, that a sighted person would just have to help me, so why would a vet hire me over the sighted person that could do all the required duties? I started to feel like a bit of a burden, especially when the college spent all that money to have an entire anatomy book 3-d printed, and I wasn’t even going to be able to do the job. 

Something I try to do before deciding on any program, or taking any class,, is to contact and/or meet with the instructors of the class/program. It is extremely important to reach out to the instructor and make them aware of your needs before starting their class. This way, you get to know your professor, and assess their ability to meet your individual needs. You never know, maybe they can help in ways that your disability resource office can’t.

 Though this may not work everytime, it is always always always worth a try. Yes I had some bad experiences, but I also had some wonderful experiences because I made that connection. In my first biology class, my professor, realizing that I couldn’t fill out the paper worksheets, would email them to me and have me email them back when they were completed. Morral of the story: always reach out and try to make a connection with your future instructor, because they can help you succeed. 

The last thing I would like to share is something I think most if not all blind parents have experienced at some point in their journey. The other day, I had a group of friends who were thinking of going snow shoeing. This is something I am really interested in, and have never gotten a chance to do. Unfortunately, I did not have a baby sitter, so if I were to go, I would need to bring my son. This didn’t seem like an issue to me, as I would just rent him snow shoes and have him on the wrist leash. But I wasn’t sure if the group would want a kid a long, so I decided to ask.

 I happened to mention this idea to someone completely unrelated to the group of friends going. This person told me, that I couldn’t do that … I couldn’t ask my friends to watch my kid. I of course said that they wouldn’t be watching him, that I would. When met with this explaination, the person said that it didn’t matter because my friends would feel obliged to keep track of my son. This was kind of a blow to me. I didn’t want to burden my friends with this responsibility. I didn’t choose to have a child to burden others with our presence. 

It turns out that my friends would have been fine with him coming along, but they were going pretty far and weren’t sure a four-year-old would be able to walk that far. Even though my friends wouldn’t have minded, it still reinforced to me that a lot of sighted people, no matter how close to you they are, don’t understand blindness. They see it as a burden, because they can’t imagine what it is like to be blind. This is not going to be easily changed. So in the mean time, we need to remind ourselves, that we are not a burden. That we have our own way of doing things, and if someone feels the need to tell you that your child is doing something that you didn’t see, well … that was their choice. We did not ask them to watch our child, they chose to. 

Sometimes in our lives, there are things that we cannot control. No matter how hard we try, how many times we ask for those pictures to be sent; ask to practice giving those shots, it still may not happen. At that point it is out of our control. We cannot make others understand that blindness is not a burden, that perhaps they are the problem, not us. But what we can do, is recognize those situations, and work hard to get everything we need to succeed in life. You are not a burden, I am not a burden, and hopefully the people we interact with will start to understand that.

This is me! Hope you enjoyed the read. I love questions, so if you
have any, or just a comment, feel free to email them to
info@blindabilities.com.

Thanks

Kelsi

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Feb 18, 2019
Accessible Disney Coloring Books? Yes, Coming Soon! Learn about Tactile Maps, Braille Greeting Cards, and the Wonderful Services from Tactile Vision Graphics. (transcript provided)
21:34

Show Summary:

(Full Transcript Below)

Rebecca Blaevoet  from Tactile Vision Graphics joins Jeff Thompson in the Blind Abilities studio and talks about the new contract with Disney to produce accessible coloring books. Rebecca talks about the products and services Tactile vision Graphics provides and how they started in the business.

Below) Rebecca Blaevoet  from Tactile Vision Graphics joins Jeff Thompson in the Blind Abilities studio and talks about the new contract with Disney to produce accessible coloring books. Rebecca talks about the products and services Tactile vision Graphics provides and how they started in the business.

From Tactile Maps, Braille Greeting Cards and providing people with the accessible material at a timely rate. From handouts, to knitting plans, the team at Tactile Vision Graphics takes pride in their work and attention to detail. Rebecca is visually impaired and understands the need for Braille and Tactile production  as it allows for enclusion and access to information not readily available.

Join Rebecca and Jeff in this conversation on Tactile, Braille and accessible coloring books. Yes, Disney Coloring books!

Be sure to check out Tactile vision Graphics on the web.

Contact:

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Full Transcript:

Accessible Disney Coloring Books? Yes, Coming Soon! Learn about Tactile Maps, Braille Greeting Cards, and the Wonderful Services from Tactile Vision Graphics.

Rebecca:

Yeah, we've grown up with coloring books and we grew up with Disney. One of the things about our coloring books that we've always found is they're sort of inclusionary, vision-impaired kids can kind of have a cool sort of interactive activity that they're sighted peers understand.

Jeff Thompson:
From Tactile Vision Graphics, Rebecca Blaevoet.

Rebecca:

If a young person or an early reader who picks up one of our coloring books, they can also practice reading. We're great proponents of braille and tactile in museums, big time.

Jeff Thompson:
Creating Disney coloring books for the visually impaired.

Rebecca:

Well my husband is the ideas guy. So he years ago said you know what, we should really approach Disney and see about doing braille coloring books. And I said you gotta be kidding, come on, they wouldn't talk to us. We can do the braille for the roses in red on top of the color print, and so it's quite good. We can do transparent braille even, so you can have the braille dots in transparent ink.

Jeff Thompson:
Tactile maps, braille greeting cards, accessible coloring books, accessible calipers, from tactilevisiongraphics.com. 

Jeff Thompson:
Isn't that amazing? You make that phone call and what if they do say yes?

Rebecca:

I know, I know, that's the risk, right? The only risk is that they're gonna say yes. And it was a good risk.

Jeff Thompson:
And we're so glad that Rebecca took the time to come and join us in the studios at Blind Abilities, that's where you can find podcasts with a blindness perspective. Check us out on the web at wwww.blindabilities.com, on Twitter at Blind Abilities, and download the free Bind Abilities app from the app store and Google Play store. That's two words, Blind Abilities. And I wanna thank you, the listener, for tuning in to Blind Abilities. And now please welcome Rebecca Blaevoet from Tactile Vision Graphics. We hope you enjoy. 

Jeff Thompson:
Welcome to Blind Abilities, I'm Jeff Thompson. Today we're talking to Rebecca Blaevoet and she's from Tactile Vision Graphics from Ontario, Canada. How you doin' Rebecca?

Rebecca:

Just fine, thank you for having me on your show.

Jeff Thompson:

Thanks for taking the time on such a short notice coming on to Blind Abilities and sharing some of the news and about what you do with Tactile Graphics, braille and books, all sorts of stuff. And especially these coloring books that I just heard about that you're gonna be doing with Disney.

Rebecca:

Yeah, it's really exciting.

Jeff Thompson:

So how are you doing?

Rebecca:

I'm well, I'm well, yeah.

Jeff Thompson:
That's good, well is good.

Rebecca:

Well is good, yes.

Jeff Thompson:
So where are you from?

Rebecca:

We are in Windsor, Ontario.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh my gosh.

Rebecca:

So not that far from you I think.

Jeff Thompson:
That explains the metric calipers.

Rebecca:

Yes, metric and the imperial calipers.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, that really caught my attention because I do woodworking and having calipers, especially accessible calipers, would be a great benefit. So finding that on your website was really cool.

Rebecca:

A lot of our customers are in the states, but we do things that are sort of Canadian relevant as well.

Jeff Thompson:
I found a whole slew of stuff, books, coloring books of course.

Rebecca:

Oh, yeah, yep, tons of things.

Jeff Thompson:
As soon as I opened it up and I saw you do tactile maps for campus, or transcribe stuff into braille, it was like oh, I get it. So many times people start campus and they got an idea of it, but it's nice to get a general tactile feel of relationships.

Rebecca:

Absolutely.

Jeff Thompson:
We have East Bank and West Bank at the U of M, so they could definitely find the river and then give them an idea of where it is. That's how I like to use tactile.

Rebecca:

Oh, absolutely. And not everybody has a lot of facility with it, that's the thing. The more information you have, the better, Even if people didn't grow up using tactile graphics very much.

Jeff Thompson:
So you're vision-impaired yourself.

Rebecca:

Yes, I am. Yep, my husband is fully sighted, but I'm vision-impaired.

Jeff Thompson:
What got you into the tactile and the braille side of things?

Rebecca:

Well, it's kind of an interesting story actually because my husband and I had talked about starting a business and we both wanted to do that. And I thought we would end up doing language translation and it's a very, very difficult field to break into. There's a tremendous amount of competition and it's worldwide and a lot of it is automated. And it's terrible, it's not even, it really gets subcontracted and subcontracted. So we did a bit of language translation work and my husband said look, you're an expert in braille, there's a gap in the market for good braille translation companies that actually have people who are blind working in them. And he said why don't we look into starting a business doing that? So between the braille and the tactile graphics, which there really was a gap at that point, we started a business. We were living in Europe at the time and so it was in Britain. And then we had the opportunity to, there was a company here in Canada and they were retiring and they wanted somebody to take over the business who understood about braille and tactile graphics and they approached us to do it. So that was how we ended up back over here.

Jeff Thompson:
That's really cool. When did you start reading braille?

Rebecca:

I was six probably.

Jeff Thompson:
Six.

Rebecca:

So a lot of years ago.

Jeff Thompson:
Great time to start, right?

Rebecca:

Yeah, yeah, that's right. Not everybody has that privilege of starting to read braille when they're six, but if you do, it's great.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, I was 36 when I got the opportunity to start digging in to--

Rebecca:

 I see, I see, yeah.

Jeff Thompson:
Actually, some girls at the school wrote me a note, so I was forced to read. If there's a motive to read, there you go.

Rebecca:

That's right, that'll be it for sure.

Jeff Thompson:
A teacher actually had me pick a braille book of a book, my last book that I had read.

Rebecca:

That's a fabulous technique for getting somebody motivated to read braille.

Jeff Thompson:
And children's books.

Rebecca:

Yep.

Jeff Thompson:
Because you kinda can almost predict the sentences. You're almost following along, but you're moving forward.

Rebecca:

That's right.

Jeff Thompson:
Something I could relate to, like let's hop on pop.

Rebecca:

As an adult that's exactly right, especially familiar children's books, rhyming books, yeah, all sorts of good techniques for that.

Jeff Thompson:
And that's something that Tactile Vision Graphics has.

Rebecca:

Yeah, we do a lot of children's books and that we inherited from the people who had the business before us. We think it's really important to have some early learning books where it's letters and numbers, and also raised print and images that go along with that. And we have some basic storybooks and things that are in grade one braille and contracted braille, a little bit more of the more advanced things, but that's when we get into custom production more than sort of standard offerings. But the coloring books, an interesting development from that because vision-impaired people don't, sometimes we don't know what it is we're touching in terms of an image. Because in print you can use perspective and all sorts of other sort of devices to communicate three dimensionality when it's only two dimensions. And so early on we said you know what, we should label these pictures because it's gonna teach people what the shapes of things are in sort of in the abstract. And if you've only been used to touching, I dunno, a three-dimensional fireplace for example, how would you depict a fireplace in a tactile graphic when a person might be used to touching what a mantel feels like or the brickwork on the side of a fireplace? So it seemed important to label the pictures, that also teaches reading. If it's a young person or an early reader who picks up one of our coloring books, they can also practice reading. So there's a sort of multi-learning happening with our stuff a lot of the time.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, one of the things that I always found interesting when I first came across tactile graphics is I was just checking it out and someone says it's George Washington crossing the Delaware, or something, or the Potomac. Better get my rivers right, the Delaware.

Rebecca:

Which is it?

Jeff Thompson:
Luckily it was labeled, so I could figure it out.

Rebecca:
Yeah, that's right, exactly. You do need a hint sometimes.

Jeff Thompson:
Like you said, perspective. You mentioned coloring books and that's something that happened to strike my attention. Could you tell us something that happened with Disney and your books?

Rebecca:

Well my husband is the ideas guy. So he years ago said you know what, we should really approach Disney and see about doing braille coloring books. And I said you gotta be kidding.

Jeff Thompson:

Yeah, right.

Rebecca:

Come on, they wouldn't talk to us. Anyway, he said no, look, here's a phone number, call them.

Rebecca:

So I did with a fair bit of trepidation. Didn't get anywhere on the first phone number, I think they were going through some restructuring at that point. They were renaming some of their branches and things, consumer media and interactive. But we persevered and found another phone number and got to talk to somebody in New York who immediately gave us the phone number of somebody else. And that's where it started. So it was about a year and a half ago that we made our first phone contact with people who really seemed quite interested in our idea about doing braille learning activity books, primarily coloring books, but then with other sort of learning pages included. And they really liked the idea. And so little by little we've developed a plan and they came with a contract and we're starting design work now. So it's very exciting. We have 15 books planned over the next three years. We may increase that number on various different themes, classics, series with Mickey Mouse and Bambi and Winnie the Pooh and things.

Jeff Thompson:
It's Disney.

Rebecca:

It's Disney, I know, I know, it's crazy.

Jeff Thompson:
It's endless, plus your husband was right.

Rebecca:

Yeah, he was. Yep, his ideas are usually good ones. I'm the bean counter in the middle going well I don't know whether we can afford that. I don't know how many, anyway, I'm very much tend to be the pragmatist about these things. But he was right.

Jeff Thompson:
Well Disney beans are good.

Rebecca:

Yeah.

Jeff Thompson:
That's good for you, that's what got it into the news. Disney, it was like Disney? Oh, tactile. It makes so much sense because we've grown up with coloring books.

Rebecca:

Yeah, we've grown up with coloring books and we grew up with Disney. One of the things about our coloring books that we've always found is they're sort of inclusionary. They promote inclusion. Vision-impaired kids can kind of have a cool sort of interactive activity that their sighted peers understand. And everybody wants to color as a kid whether you can see or whether you can't see. And here's an opportunity to do that and these characters are ones that we all know. So at least people who grew up in North America certainly do and Europe, and I venture to say they're pretty worldwide in terms of their popularity.

Jeff Thompson:
My brain always like to think real fast and I'm going do you remember paint by number?

Rebecca:

Yep, I never did it, but I do remember that--

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, I remember that, it made you like perfect.

Rebecca:

I know, yes, yes, absolutely. Well, the scope is as creative as we wanna be in terms of what can be included in these activity books. But everything that we design has to go through them. They're very, very, what's the word I'm looking for? They're extremely conscientious in helping you as a licensee kinda get it right. And also their brand is important to them so they wanna make sure that everything that gets released is good, that they can be proud of it.

Jeff Thompson:
Well that's good. I think they have one of the highest quality controls over their brand.

Rebecca:

They're amazing. Yeah, yeah, we've learned so much about quality control working with them, they're very, very thorough.

Jeff Thompson:
This even leads into, this may not be something that you've thought about, but like a braille label for a crayon.

Rebecca:

Yeah, well we do braille labels. We haven't done any for crayons, it's a fabulous idea. We do braille stickers and braille labels. It's actually a really good, good suggestion.

Jeff Thompson:
Your website's quite extensive with some of the stuff and it actually casts ideas to people too, because the first time I opened it up I saw tactile maps for a campus. What a better thing for a person to get a perspective or a relationship to the geographic layout of a campus?

Rebecca:

Yeah, yeah, a university campus or a college campus is often so big and so picturesque, and lots of open spaces and curving paths. And as you say, U of M has a river and how does that feature into the landscape of a campus? And vision-impaired people are already starting with a sort of less information than their sighted counterparts have. So having tactile maps of campuses are a really useful tool, however extensively or not a person would use that item, it's a good thing to have available.

Jeff Thompson:
Kinda gives us a peak, just a little hint. Like oh, that's next to the library.

Rebecca:

That's it, exactly.

Jeff Thompson:
I know that. And the next time they go they can stop with their cane or their guide dog and know if they go one block further or the next building, which some campuses is a block.

Rebecca:

Something like the name of a street, Sunset Street. Okay, is that just within the campus or if you see a building, some other building unrelated in the city that's got the same address, it's got an address on Sunset Street, you'd say oh geeze, I wonder if I could take that street back up to the university campus? I bet I could. It gives you other clues to how to navigate around the city you live in and how to make your travel as seamless as possible as a pedestrian like with a guide dog or with a white cane, or even on a bus route.

Jeff Thompson:
Plus you do transcription for braille.

Rebecca:

Yep, we do.

Jeff Thompson:
Like if someone had handouts or something.

Rebecca:

Yeah, yeah, we like doing that kind of stuff, academic transcription. We can work to fairly tight deadlines. We enjoy those sorts of projects where it seems like an impossible amount of text to have to generate in a finite number of days and it's like yeah, bring it, we'll take it. It's always helpful if we have some idea that it's coming, it's nice. We've sometimes gotten a university or college will say look, we've got this math exam coming up, the exam's happening next Wednesday, we probably won't get it till Monday, can you do it? And we're like yeah, email us as soon as you have it, we'll put it in the UPS or Purolater the next day, we'll turn it around and get it back to you on the exam day if we have to.

Jeff Thompson:
That's good service.

Rebecca:

We think so.

Jeff Thompson:
Timing is everything when you're talking about receiving braille at the same time your cohorts receive their books and stuff, that's always been an issue.

Rebecca:

And I certainly know from my own experience that if you're taking a course and it's complicated, say it's in my case it was Russian, and having books arrive a year late. What kind of craziness is that? You shouldn't have to receive your course materials a year late. And if that's what that the company that you tend to send stuff out to does, well find a different company. Because students oughtn't to have to wait that long. But that can go for academic materials, but it can also, I remember at one point early on we were at a trade show and we were approached by two elderly women who said we're part of a knitting club and we asked our local blindness agency to produce a pattern and they said we'd have to wait nine months for it. Well our knitting club is starting the pattern next week, can you do it for us? And we said sure. It's a lot of work, patterns are a lot of work. Anyway, we got it done for them. And they were able to participate with their knitting club. When everybody else had the pattern, so did they. And that's a lot of fun. It's fun to be able to give somebody that kind of contemporary sort of inclusion as well.

Jeff Thompson:
Well getting there on time because no student wants to graduate and then start receiving their books afterwards.

Rebecca:

No, that's an insult. Yeah, it's true.

Jeff Thompson:
We talked about campuses and tactile maps for this and that, but I saw museums. Now that's really important to me because I've been to museums and I shuffle around, walking around, and yeah, there's something behind the glass or there's something over here. And there's these big placards that have something written on them and people are going oh, hmm.

Rebecca:

I know, people can spend 10 minutes in front of those things.

Jeff Thompson:
And yet with a map, they can actually know what's in front of them.

Rebecca:

Yeah, we do a fair bit of work with museums, both maps, sort of floor plans to help people know where the exhibits are located. But also overlays for artifacts that might be behind glass or information booklets about a particular museum exhibit. So it's not practical to put braille all over those big panels that you're talking about. I really try to discourage museum curators from thinking that that's a good idea, because you've got a vision-impaired person whose gotta stand there and hold their arms up horizontally out in front of them, but read a vertical space for as long as it takes to get through the braille. But also they're blocking the way for other museum visitors to be able to read the placards as well. So we tend to recommend a portable sort of booklet that somebody can take with them and maybe find a place to sit and read if they want to, maybe in the museum coffee shop or maybe they have benches or seats and tables to sit outside of a particular exhibit. A lot of museums have audio guides as well, which are great, except that it closes you off from your family or friends that you're strolling around the museum with. Where a portable booklet you can still read that and be interacting with your family and friends as well. We're great proponents of braille and tactile in museums, big time.

Jeff Thompson:
Awesome. Now when you're talking about doing a map or something of that nature, do you use like a thermal braille? is there some method or process? I know a lot of people that are into braille and tactile have all these techniques and stuff, what's your popular way of--

Rebecca:

We do have a particular process which it's quite unique, there are only a couple of other companies in the world that use it, and it's not swell paper and it's not Thermoform and it's not embossed, it's its own thing. And it's a proprietary technique, but it allows us to be able to do colored braille. So for instance, we do greeting cards and stuff as well. So that's a perfect application for this where it might be a greeting card in full color, say it's a Valentine's card and it's in full color and it's got red roses and everything. We can do the braille for the roses in red on top of the color print. And so it's quite good, we can do transparent braille even. So you can have the braille dots in transparent ink on top of a print piece of paper. And that works well for menus and stuff too 'cause you can have a bar menu or something where it's a wine list and then the braille is transparent on top of that.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, that's nice.

Rebecca:

But that's unique to our process. It's very durable, it feels nice, and it's quite unique. It's also a little bit labor intensive because it's very much a hand done process, but it produces a good effect.

Jeff Thompson:
And that's what matters.

Rebecca:

Yep, I think for the end user that's what matters.

Jeff Thompson:
And people can find these greeting cards, these book, coloring books, maps, and request some special stuff that might be unique to them.

Rebecca:

Yes.

Jeff Thompson:
Like I even saw something that was a recycling schedule. I never thought about--

Rebecca:

Yeah, absolutely.

Jeff Thompson:
Is it on Tuesday or is it on next Tuesday?

Rebecca:

Yeah, yep, yep. Now of course with smartphones you can get some cities anyway that are sort of progressive and think about these things. You can get e-reminders and e-waste schedules, but like our desktop calendars and our pocket calendars, some people really function better with that kind of reference material in a physical format that they can refer to. And so a recycling schedule would be a great application as well for that. Yes, people can request all of that stuff from our website which is tactilevisiongraphics.com. There's a contact us link, there's phone number, email address, all of that.

Jeff Thompson:
It's all right there.

Rebecca:

Yep.

Jeff Thompson:
Rebecca, when can people expect to see their first coloring books with the Disney characters?

Rebecca:

That is a good question. We expected that we would be ready to start shipping at the end of January, but they have told us that that's far too ambitious and we need to push that deadline back by a couple of weeks. So I would think that it'll be soon, but given the fact that we're learning a lot about this process the farther we go into it, I hesitate to forecast a date. However, I do believe that once we get the first one out, it's a pretty steep learning curve to know how to do the vetting process, but once we get the first one out, subsequent books can come out in fairly quick succession.

Jeff Thompson:
That's great. So when we get out of this big deep freeze, we have something to look forward to in the springtime.

Rebecca:

Yes, yes indeed, indeed we do.

Jeff Thompson:
Well Rebecca, I wanna thank you very much for coming on the Blind Abilities and sharing this great news about the Disney books, about the products that you provide. If you're interested, check it out. That's tactilevisiongraphics.com. 

Rebecca:

Dotcom.

Jeff Thompson:
There we go.

Rebecca:

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this, I really appreciate it. And just that you reached out to us.

Jeff Thompson:
Nothing against sighted or differentiating between sighted and blind or something, but it's so neat to know that I'm so glad you're blind, put it that way.

Rebecca:

Yeah, I hear ya.

Jeff Thompson:
But people who get into businesses like this, it's nice that they have a perspective of what is good braille, what is good tactile quality-wise? And with your experience starting at age six, you know what good braille is.

Rebecca:

That's right.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah.

Rebecca:

Yep, I do. My husband and I make a, I think we make a pretty good team because as I say, he's the ideas guy, he's good at the graphics side of it, and I'm a dragon when it comes to quality control about the braille. So we work well together.

Jeff Thompson:
You'll never get Disney, right?

Rebecca:

Who'd wanna talk to us?

Jeff Thompson:
Isn't that amazing? You make that phone call and what if they do say yes?

Rebecca:

I know, I know, that's the risk, right? The only risk is that they're gonna say yes. And it was a good risk.

Jeff Thompson:
Well there you go.

Rebecca:

Yep, pretty cool. Thank you for all your time.

Jeff Thompson:
Well thank you for coming on and you have a great day and I'll be in touch.

Rebecca:

Okay, talk soon.

Jeff Thompson:
All right, buh-bye,

Rebecca:

Buh-bye.

Jeff Thompson:
Such a great time talking to Rebecca Blaevoet from Tactile Vision Graphics. You can check them out on the web at tactilevisiongraphics.com. And it sure is gonna be exciting when the first release of the Disney coloring books, the accessible Disney coloring books from tactilevisiongraphics.com come out. So stay tuned. And a big thank you to Chee Chau for his beautiful music. You can follow Chee Chau on Twitter @LCheeChau, Chee Chau, Chee Chau. Once again, thank you for listening, we hope you enjoyed it. And until next time, bye-bye.

[Music]  [Transition noise]  -When we share

-What we see

-Through each other's eyes...

[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]

...We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.

Jeff Thompson:

For more podcasts with the blindness perspective:

Check us out on the web at www.BlindAbilities.comOn Twitter @BlindAbilities

Download our app from the App store:
 'Blind Abilities'; that's two words.

Or send us an e-mail at:

info@blindabilities.com

Thanks for listening.

Feb 12, 2019
Job Insights: Smart Networking 101- Don’t Be Surprised Who is Checking Out Your Virtual Résumé
21:57

Show Summary:

Welcome to Job Insights with Serina Gilbert and Jeff Thompson. We focus on Employment, Careers, enhancing opportunities and bringing you  the latest innovations from across the Vocational  Rehabilitation field to ensure your choices lead you down the career pathway that you want and succeed in gainful employment.

Image of man with cane and woman with service dog and City Skyline with Job Insights in bold letters.

From getting started with services, to assessments, Individual Plan for Employment (IPE) to gaining the skills to succeed and tools for success, Job Insights will be giving you tips and tricks to help your journey to employment and break down the barriers along the way.

In this episode Serina and Jeff talk about Networking and Social Networking. The internet has really enabled us to reach more groups, more people and more resources than most of us could have imagined 15 years ago. Sure, we shake hands, trade business cards and meet and greet on occasions, and in between those moments, the internet has brought on an entire new capability of exchanging information and accessing resources. But, we are not alone. Most of our interactions on Social Networks are logged and cast in stone for the world to observe and recall. This brings a responsibility to one’s use of Social Networking as more and more people, companies and agencies use the network for their data gathering, just as easy as doing a Google search, yes, a Google search on you. 

Join the Job Insights team, Serina and Jeff, as they build upon some strategies and suggestions for navigating the networking field. Get Networking! And remember, Social Networking is a resource for you and your potential employer. Keep your presence on the up and up.

Check out this episode of Job Insights and send us your feedback and topic suggestions by email.

Follow the Job Insights team on twitter @JobInsightsVIP

Job Insights is part of the Blind Abilities network.

Thank you for listening!

Contact:

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Feb 08, 2019
A Chat with Laura Hernandez: A Comedian, A Poet and An Advocate for Social Justice
35:53

Show Summary:

blind Abilities presents an in depth chat with Laura Hernandez, a blind comedian who has performed in a variety of comedy clubs and other venues.

As a spoken word artist, Laura, AKA "Ojos Del Alma”,  writes her own poetry, is an indigenous rights activist , and a highly educated individual. Laura shares her lifelong struggles with Marfan’s syndrome, a disease which affects the connective tissue in her body. listen as Laura describes the struggles with which she dealt from early childhood throughout her life with Marfan Syndrome. Despite this and various other setbacks in her education, Laura maintains a superb and extremely positive attitude. 

join Jeff Thompson as he conducts this intimate chat with Laura, as only he can present. And of course, we have inserted various clips from Laura’s stand-up comedy routine and other media appearances into the podcast.

You can find videos of many of her stand-up routines   on herYouTube channel.

Sit back and enjoy this 36 minutes interview with Laura Hernandez, a fascinating guest whose sense of humor and pragmatic perspective will entertain you throughout!

Contact:

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Feb 06, 2019
myTrueSound Just Released Gold Gun! An Audio Game for the BVI Community. And Special Guest, Jesse Anderson from the YouTube Channel, Illegally Sighted.
36:59

Show Summary:

David Oliva and Mikko from "myTrueSound" bring the BVI community a new audio game called Gold Gun. Jesse Anderson from the Illegally Blind YouTube Channel joins Jeff Thompson of Blind Abilities and talk about games for Blind and Visually Impaired gamers.

David and Mikko talk about what inspired them to begin developing audio games for the BVI and how Mikko and Jesse got interested in playing games and took it to the greater level. Mikko joined myTrueSound to help create and develop games, and  Jesse advocates for accessibility to developers to build in access to the games from the start so everybody can participate in the challenges and action packed adventures found in the councils, computers and mobile devices of today.

Image of a Gold Gun with Bold white letters reading Gold Gun

Gold Gun is the first game from myTrueSound and it has just been released on the App Store. The team at myTrueSound are working on more games and continuing to add to the Gold Gun game. David is all about audio and wants all the games to be as real to life as possible. So stay tuned for more games coming from myTruesound and go get the Free App, Gold Gunand begin the adventure today.

You can find Gold gun in the App Store.

Keep up to date with my True Sound on Facebookand on the web at www.mytrueSound.com.

You can see what Jesse is demonstrating or doing on his Illegally SightedYouTube channel.

Contact:

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Feb 02, 2019
Tips and Tricks From a Blind Perspective - By Kelsi Hansen

My last Tips and Tricks blog seemed to go over very well. I received a few emails from other blind individuals sharing their own helpful pointers. So, today I would like to share tips I received from readers, as well as a few more of my own. 

Let’s start in the kitchen again. One reader sent me a few different tricks that he uses when baking. He suggests using parchment paper or aluminum foil to cover baking sheets as things don’t stick as much, and it makes clean up easier. I have also heard this from other sources, and I can attest that it works wonders. Though, you do still need to grease the surface when using aluminum foil. I forgot to do this once, and it resulted in me picking foil off my cake and losing big chunks of the cake as a result.             

Another tip this reader sent me was in regards to frosting a cake. Frosting a cake can be a messy business so he developed an alternative technique. Instead of making the traditional icing and attempting to slather it on the bunt cake he was making, he added about 2 tablespoons of sugar to the bunt pan before the batter. He shook the pan to get it coated evenly, and then poured in the batter. This produced a nice shiny glaze to the bunt cake when it was done. Personally, I think this is an awesome idea. I recently had an icing disaster resulting in more icing on the counter than the cake. It all worked out in the end, but next time I think I will give this technique a try. 

Another reader had a good tip for socks using safety pins, or Sock Locks to attach her socks together when putting them in the dirty laundry, so they always stay matched. I have tried this before, but kept forgetting to pin them together before washing them, so I just bought all the same socks so that wasn’t an issue. Now however, I love fun, crazy socks, and I do not have a single pair of socks that looks like the other, so I might go back to using this technique. It would also be a good trick to use on my son’s socks. When he was a baby I just left his socks balled up when washing them, because they didn’t really get dirty. But now that he is up running around and getting his socks stinky and dirty, I’ve not been able to do that and have had trouble matching them. It was definitely a good reminder for me that this option was out there. So, thank you to the reader who sent me this email.  

This reader also told me her tip on how to apply toothpaste to a toothbrush. I’ve heard of many different techniques blind people use when brushing their teeth. She squeezes a bit of toothpaste on her tongue, and then scoops it up with the toothbrush. I’ve also heard that some people squeeze the toothpaste into their mouth’s and bite it off. I do it a different way. I hold the head of the toothbrush and squeeze the toothpaste on that way. It usually gets my fingers a bit sticky, but I am able to feel how much I put on, and it works for me. Applying toothpaste seems to be a very versatile endeavor. There are many ways to do it, and there is no right way. For me, figuring out how to put the toothpaste on was very difficult. It took me a long time to figure out when I first went blind, so I think however it gets accomplished is the best way to brush. 

Another thing that I personally had trouble with when I first went blind was telling the shampoo and the conditioner apart. Initially I put them on opposite sides of the shower. But what happens if they fall or get mixed up some how. At that time I wasn’t able to easily tell that the shampoo was sudsier than the conditioner, so I put a hair tie on the lid of my conditioner. Another option is to buy different sized bottles- maybe buy a smaller shampoo and a bigger conditioner etc. Now that I know the difference in the textures of shampoo and conditioner, it makes purchasing them and getting them into the shower easier. I used to have to put them in separate bags, and try to remember that the shampoo is with the granola bars, and the conditioner is with the peanutbutter and so on. Now I can just squirt a little in my hands before putting them in the shower to see if it is sudsy or creamy. 

Another reader recommends putting bells on the shoes of your toddler, so you can always find them. This is an amazing idea! Unfortunately, my son never left his shoes on, and still doesn’t. I can’t really blame him though, I am always barefoot, so I can’t really expect him to keep shoes on. So for those children who leave their shoes on, bells work wonders. She also said that her child runs up and down the stairs, but now he is pretty loud, so she knows where he is at. 

My last tip for you today, is something that I have been doing a lot of lately: SHOVELING! We have gotten at least a foot of snow in the past week where I live. I shoveled four times in 24 hours the other day. Needless to say, I’m becoming a pro in the shoveling department. Shoveling sidewalks is pretty straight forward, they are not very wide, so you can pretty much just scoop and toss to one side or another. Driveways however, they are a little trickier, especially if the driveway is double wide or bigger. So, the first thing I do, is to become familiar with my space and develop a plan of attack. I need to know how long and how wide the driveway is, and where to toss the snow. Since my driveway is wide enough for two cars, I start in the middle and push the snow to one side first. I do that all the way down on that side. I don’t always go super straight, but since I know that I’m not super good at staying straight, every couple of passes I walk back over what I thing I have shoveled... This is something new that I learned. I used to just keep shoveling so as not to miss something. When I walk over what I thought I shoveled, I can feel the snow under my feet in the spots that I missed. This is much easier, and less time consuming than just shoveling until I think I got it all. When I am done with the first side, then I do the second side and push the snow over to the other side of the driveway. After I have checked an gotten the driveway cleared, I move on to the sidewalks. Depending on how much snow we got, the sidewalk can be kind of hard to find, so getting the driveway clear first helps to find the sidewalk. I don’t own a snow blower, so I don’t have any tips for that, but I am sure it can be done. 

I hope these tips and tricks have been enlightening. If anyone has more to share, feel free to send them to me, I enjoy reading them, and would like to share them with others.  You can email me at info@blindabilities.com.

Thanks, Kelsi

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

 

Jan 29, 2019
That Blind Tech Show: Depends to Diapers a Royal Flush, And Where is Privacy Headed? Narrator Commanding Attention, Are You Being Tracked? If You Like Things? We Got Things!
01:02:17

Show Summary:

Brian, Allison and Jeff are in the studio and sifting through the latest news and happenings. From privacy being a thing of the past to seniors being blamed for Fake News, the TBTS get down deep into the bowels of Smart products from C.E.S. and did I mention the Smart Toilets for about 8 grand? Yes, fittingly, that’s where we found them.

Oh my, how about Smart Diapers! Smart Home eco-systems?  Which one is for you or is it too late? I hear you, and so do most of the Smart Assistant devices as well. 

So, buckle up for this ride on the That Blind Tech Show Episode 26. And please give a warm welcome to Marlon Parieaho, as he  snuck into the studio for a few laughs. Hey, being around Brian and Allison is alright, but give me a break! Right? No worries, it’s all for fun and fun for all!

Check out the topics and links related to the show:

Dumbest person of the year in January. Glad we got it out of the way
https://metro.co.uk/2019/01/10/blind-woman-told-to-get-off-bus-because-guide-dogs-cant-be-black-8329869/

New study shows people over 65 share the most fake news
https://www.theverge.com/2019/1/9/18174631/old-people-fake-news-facebook-share-nyu-princeton
City of L.A, sues Weather Channel App over misuse of targeted marketing
https://9to5mac.com/2019/01/04/weather-channel-app-data-lawsuit/
Is your TV tracking you? If you own a Vizio it may be.
https://techcrunch.com/2019/01/07/vizio-settlement-moves-forward/
Package tracking app turns users cell phones in to a Bot Farm
https://9to5mac.com/2019/01/07/package-tracking-app-turns-users-devices-into-a-bot-farm-violates-user-privacy/
Carriers can sell your location to Bounty Hunters. Boba Fett
https://www.theverge.com/2019/1/8/18174024/att-sprint-t-mobile-scandal-phone-location-tracking-black-market-bounty-hunters-privacy-securus
Now Tile is partnering with chip makers to embed its location tracking services
https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2019/1/7/18168760/tile-bluetooth-low-energy-item-tracking-ces-2019

So many different smart home plugs will everything be compatible? For
https://9to5mac.com/2019/01/07/fibaro-home-center-app-walli-outlets/

Apple Home Kit was the surprise winner of CES 2019
https://www.macworld.com/article/3332023/apple/homekit-ces-2019-siri.html#tk.rss_all 
Hey Siri, Flush the toilet! It’s finally coming!
https://www.appleworld.today/blog/2019/1/7/hey-siri-flush-the-toilet-homekit-support-for-kohlers-8000-intelligent-toilet`
Or if you rather Alexa flush the toilet thanks to Kohler
https://techcrunch.com/2019/01/07/kohler-put-alexa-in-a-toilet-so-happy-new-year/
Samsung is launching a wearable Exoskeleton or as we know it Iron Man!
https://techcrunch.com/2019/01/07/samsung-is-launching-a-bunch-of-new-robots-and-a-wearable-exoskeleton/
apple patent hints at smart clothing and smart furniture my parents recliners
https://www.appleworld.today/blog/2019/1/10/apple-patent-filings-hint-at-smart-clothing-and-smart-furniture

Contact

Thank you for listening.
Send us Feedback via email
Follow us on Twitter @BlindTechShow

That Blind Tech Show is produced in part with Blind Abilities Network

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.
Get the Free blind Abilities App on the Google Play Store

 

 

 

Jan 27, 2019
Eye-Link North Dakota Helps the Older Blind Gain Access to Technology and Living Independently
16:06

Show Summary:

Jim Justesen from Eye-Link North Dakota sits down with Aimee Volk, Vision and Independent Living Services Administrator for the Department of Vocational rehabilitation of North Dakota, and talk about the partnership that is bringing results to the older blind of North Dakota.

We had Jim in the Blind Abilities studio back in July 2017, talking about Eye-Link Minnesota and North Dakota, and in this episode, Aimee tells us how Eye-Link North Dakota is positively impacting the lives of the older blind.

Join Jim and Aimee as they talk about Eye-Link and how you can apply for services and a grant from Eye-Link.

Contact Info:

You can find Eye-Link on the web at www.ND.Eye-Link.org

You can contact Eye-Link by phone at 763-561-6767

To find out more about the Eye-Link Foundation go to www.Eye-Link.org

You can reach Aimee Volk by emailAt alvolk@nd.gov

And by phone at 701-328-8954

Find out more about Vision and Independent Living Services of North Dakota Voc-Rehab on the web..

Contact:

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Jan 25, 2019
TechAbilities: Nest and Ring Are Installed and We Are Back Fully Alarmed, Heated Up, Protected and Watching that Front Door 24/7
40:55

Show Summary:

Tech Abilities is back in the studio and we have put our toys to the test. We may not have Alarming results, yet our Alarms are being set with accessibility and now Serina and Jeff can Nest assure themselves that Temps, Locks, cameras and detectors are on the job and we feel good. Meanwhile, Andy wanted a Ring II, that’s his Ring Doorbell with a camera. Yes, Serina’s Nest hello doorbell is peeping outside and telling all, except for a Ninja now and then.

Join us as we talk about how our Smart home devices are doing. We got them, talked about them, installed them and put them to the test. So check out how we are satisfied and how installation and usability is going for us.

Serina used the Geek Squad service for installation. You can find the Geek Squad at your local Best Buy or look them up at www.BestBuy.com/GeekSquad

Join Serina, Andy and Jeff in this informative show and a special Parrot that once attended church, but not for long.  The Parrot then took to Amazon devices and is now chilling to Jazz and waiting for deliveries. Yup, Polly the Parrot is quite Posh.

Here are some of the Smart Home Devices mentioned in the Tech Abilities podcast:

Nest Hello Video Camera Doorbell

Ring 2 Video door bell

Nest Secure system with Base and door and window protects plus a fob or 2.

Nest Door lock

Nest Thermostats 

Nest Protect- Smoke and Carbon Monoxide sensors 

Apps for Nest and Amazon tips

'Away Mode' Alexa Skill Tricks Burglars Into Thinking You're Home

Just say 'Alexa, enable Away Mode,' and the skill will start playing hours of audio on your smart speaker to make it sound like people are home.

Contact:

You can follow Tech Abilities on twitter @AbilitiesTech

Tech Abilities is part of the Blind Abilities Network and be sure to check out all of our shows and podcasts.

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Jan 24, 2019
Aira’s Jonathan Mosen Announces a New Aira Promotion, and Talks about the New Opportunities For Aira Explorers. Download the Free Aira App!
45:29

Show Summary:

Jonathan Mosen sits down in the Blind Abilities studio to talk about the latest news from Aira. With a brand new promotion where anyone with a Free account can use the Aira service for 30 minutes, anywhere, anytime and when you want. Just download the Free Aira app from the iOS App Storeor Google Play Storeand you can use your Free 30 minutes all at once or incrementally any way you want. You must use the 30 minutes within 7 days, so what are you waiting for? This promotion won’t last for ever! Join the many Aira Explorers already utilizing Aira and see what Aira can do for you.

 Plus, you can now join the other Aira Explorers and learn how they are using Aira in their lives, at work, at home, during travel.

And here is the link to subscribe to the Explorer Email ListServe Community.

Jonathan also talks about the new Aira Training Modulescalled Exploring Aira.

From the web:

Exploring Aira is a series of audio lessons available for online listening or download.

Presented by Jonathan Mosen, Exploring Aira helps you to understand what we do, and how our service works. Jonathan takes you step-by-step through installing the app, registering for free service or for a paid plan, using our smart glasses, and understanding every feature offered by our app. You'll not only learn how to use Aira. You'll also hear from Explorers using Aira for a diverse range of work, leisure and study tasks.

 In short, Exploring Aira shows you how to use Aira, and what to use it for. 

Join Jonathan Mosen and Jeff Thompson as they explore all the opportunities and share experiences using Aira’s Smart Glass Technology.

You can find out more about Aira and Subscribe to an Aira package that best fits your needs, there is something for everyone. On the web at www.Aira.IOand follow all the latest news and announcements on Twitter @AiRAIO.

Contact:

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Jan 22, 2019
Introducing Ted Galanos: So Many Achievements, and So Many Challenges!
49:07

Show Summary:

Pete Lane is back with an inspirational guest, Ted Galanos. so often on blind Abilities we present great stories which we hope will motivate and even inspire our listeners. And it is so often the case that we measure our guests accomplishments against those particular challenges they had to overcome to achieve them. In this case, the significance of those challenges are certainly noteworthy, and our guest’s story is inspirational. 

Ted Galanos has faced a myriad of pitfalls in his life, beginning with RP and poor circulation which has led to numerous infections and the amputation of most of all of his fingers and thumbs, to a freak accident which started Ted's journey as a wheelchair user. Hear the details of Ted’s challenges, but listen carefully to his attitude and grit as he has overcome them all and become a mature, articulate and accomplished audio-file, computer and technology-user, an active member of the Out Of Sight.Net Social community, and an independent self-taught and well-rounded individual.

Of course, this podcast is laced with many examples of Ted’s audio productions, Game Intros, karaoke songs, and a sample of his Audio scrapbook tribute to a lost friend.

Set aside 50 minutes of your time to enjoy this fascinating  guest with a truly inspirational story, as only blind Abilities can present!

You can reach out to Ted:

Ted Galanos - 
Audio Technician for TheBlindPerspective.com.
Email: Teddy@TheBlindPerspective.com
Phone: 832-632-7779
Mobile: 832-706-7102
Skype: tedster1
Follow me on:
Facebook.
Twitter. 
YouTube.

And you can contact Ted regarding his Audio Scrapbooking business at:

BlindAudioScrapbooks@Gmail.com

Contact:

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Jan 22, 2019
Discrimination and Disability Rights: Knowing Your Rights and Receiving the Advocacy That Just May Right the Way For Your Success - Meet Heather Gilbert
22:37

Show Summary:

Heather Gilbert, an Attorney from Gilbert Law, is a Disability Rights Advocate for United Blind of Minnesota. Heather, having a background in disabilities, realized that Minnesota was under represented in the Disability Rights Lawyer field. She decided to take on a second career and got her license and went to work, forming her own firm, Gilbert Law.

The United Blind of Minnesota was in search of a Disabilities Rights Advocate and Heather came on board and now advocates for Minnesota residents who are Blind/Visually Impaired through the mission of the United Blind.

Heather joins Jeff Thompson from Blind Abilities and talks about discrimination and how she approaches cases to get to the bottom of the problem. Whether it be a violation of the ADA or it may be just a misunderstanding, Heather works with both parties to get a solution. Hopefully, it is a misunderstanding, and if it is more than that, Heather is there for you.

If you are a Minnesota resident and are Blind or Visually Impaired, you can contact the United Blind For Legal Advocacy at 651-528-8466. 

Check out the United Blind Facebook page.

If you reside outside of Minnesota, here is a link to the Members of the Disability Rights Bar Association. This link will bring you to a state by state listing of Disability Rights Advocates near you. 

If you find yourself in a situation and believe that you have been or are being discriminated against, be sure to find a Disability Rights Advocate, either by the links above or by contacting your State Services for the Blind, your s

State Services, your Vocational Rehab or a local blind Organization as they most certainly will have some solutions and experience in your rights and will be a great resource for you.

Contact:

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Jan 19, 2019
Job Insights: College Is Over, Now What? Leaving the Disability Services Office Behind.
25:25

Show Summary:

Welcome to Job Insights with Serina Gilbert and Jeff Thompson. We focus on Employment, Careers, enhancing opportunities and bringing you  the latest innovations from across the Vocational  Rehabilitation field to ensure your choices lead you down the career pathway that you want and succeed in gainful employment.

From getting started with services, to assessments, Individual Plan for Employment (IPE) to gaining the skills to succeed and tools for success, Job Insights will be giving you tips and tricks to help your journey to employment and break down the barriers along the way.

In this episode Serina and Jeff talk about the importance of weaning yourself off the services provided by your college student services office. How to take charge of your independence and hone the skills that you will be transferring into the workplace and the career that you want. 

Disability Services at colleges are needed, and can be a tool for you to use; however, for your own success in the workplace, learning the skills for the services you receive from Disability services will serve you better once you leave college and enter the workforce.

Join the Job Insights team, Serina and Jeff, as they leave the Disability Services Office behind.  Get Prepped, you’re seeking employment.

Check out this episode of Job Insights and send us your feedback and topic suggestions by email.

Follow the Job Insights team on twitter @JobInsightsVIP

Job Insights is part of the Blind Abilities network.

Contact:

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Jan 15, 2019
Bird Box From a Blind Perspective - Good or Bad? By Kelsi Hansen

There has been a lot of hype lately involving Bird Box, and the Bird Box Challenge in the blind community. I’ve heard: Bird Box gives an unrealistic view of blindness, and the Bird Box Challenge is dangerous. And this is true. It is definitely not advisable to blind fold yourself and go running through the woods, or drive a car without sight. And being under a blind fold for the first time in a terrifying, life threatening situation is most definitely not the normal feelings of an average blind person going through daily life. But I’m not here to rehash and continue the debate of why Bird Box provides an unrealistic image of blindness; I’m here to provide another perspective, to view Bird Box in a different light. I want to make one thing clear first: I am not in any way discrediting the existing arguments surrounding Bird Box from the blind community, I am simply providing my own and separate opinion. 

For those who are unfamiliar with Bird Box, the premise is basically: there is some unknown thing that is super dangerous, and if you see it, you die, hence the need for blind folds. So these people are put in a terrifying situation, and to be safe their sight needs to be taken away. For most people, going blind is one of their top fears, so in order to not die, you would have to do something that scares the daylights out of you. I think this was actually a perfect premise for a horror genre, choosing between the top 2 fears. I think the author was very insightful in this, (yes, it was a book before it was a movie.) It’s a perfect way to strike fear into the hearts of many, which is what horror is all about. 

So, It’s a great movie for it’s genre, but does it negatively or positively impact the general public’s view on blindness? As I mentioned earlier, some say that it gives a negative view on the reality of blindness, and yes that may be true. But there are at least two sides to every story, every debate. So could it not also be said then, that it makes a very positive impact on the general view of blindness? This is what I would like to explore. 

We are always being told to educate the public on blindness. People are afraid of going blind, and are not quite sure how to interact, or help blind individuals. So as a blind person, I was taught when I went to an orientation center, to educate, educate, educate. How is the public to know that we are independent, and blindness is nothing to fear, if we don’t teach them? But there are not cities, or large populations of blind people. Personally in my community, there is only a handful. So how then will the public at large be educated about blindness, when most people have never even met a blind person? 

Bird box has introduced the concept of blindness, and provided a small bit of exposure to the public eye. It has potentially even opened up a few minds on the topic of blindness. Taking a world of people who are forced to maneuver and keep safe without vision, has possibly shown people that things are not impossible as a blind individual. Maybe it’s even desensitized them to their own fear of going blind. 

Perhaps watching this film has encouraged people to think about the question of what life would be like without sight. If someone with sight were to stop and think about this, would it not make them start understanding how to accomplish certain tasks without the use of their sight? Would it not therefore give them a little perspective on blindness? Would they not then start to understand blindness just a little bit? 

If the sighted community could become aware of blindness, and discover that it is not the end of the world, Then maybe they could start to understand the actual realities of a blind person. And start to accept the independence and value of non-sighted individuals. If they then can start to understand this and view blindness in a different light, then perhaps it will open the doors to an understanding and acceptance of other disabled communities as well. 

Being disabled in any way tends to be a taboo. So if one movie can start the ball rolling, start to diminish that taboo, then who am I to complain? If Bird Box introduces the possibility of successfully living with a disability, than I embrace it. I welcome it with open arms!  

Safety Tip: If you are dead set on attempting the Bird Box Challenge, note that it is highly advisable to be supervised by a professional blind individual. 😎

This is me! Hope you enjoyed the read. I love questions, so if you
have any, or just a comment, feel free to email them to
info@blindabilities.com.

Thanks

Kelsi

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Jan 14, 2019
The New MacAir: Demo, Description, Overview, Hey Siri, Track Pad Gestures, iCloud, Desktop and Documents Sharing. No Unboxing, Promise!
23:03

Show Summary:

Brian Fischler, from That Blind Tech Show, gives a great description and overview of the new 2018 MacAir from Apple. From ports to keyboard and Track Pad gestures, Brian runs through the paces as well as his way of setting up the MacAir with iCloud and sharing across his other Apple devices.

Here are some common commands that Brian used throughout the demo:

First, the VO reference is the Command and Option keys pressed down. This is always associated with another key or keys pressed down as well.

VO+space – Activates an action such as pressing a button, tab, link, etc.

VO+ right or left arrow – moves cursor left or right.

VO-up or down arrow – moves cursor up or down.

VO Shift + D – Go to Desktop

VO Shift Down Arrow – interact with item.

VO Shift Up Arrow – Stop interacting with item.

Tip:

VO + K -  Start Keyboard help, type keys to hear their names, hold down the VO keys while typing keys to here Voice Over commands. Press the escape key in the upper left hand corner to stop keyboard help.

Contact

Thank you for listening.
Send us Feedback via email
Follow us on Twitter @BlindTechShow

That Blind Tech Show is produced in part with Blind Abilities Network

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.
Get the Free blind Abilities App on the Google Play Store

Jan 09, 2019
Traveling in Small Communities – Blog Post by Kelsi Hansen

Traveling as a blind individual can be challenging. If we have attended an orientation center for blindness training, we are taught that we can do anything, and that it shouldn’t be challenging. And a lot of that is true. But what we are not taught is how challenging it can be. We are taught to use our resources whether that be city buses, subways, trains, taxi’s, Uber or Lift. We become self sufficient and comfortable using these during training. But what happens when we go home? What happens if we come from a small community and go back to that community or another small community? A community without a good bus system? Without subways or trains? A community where we don’t have those resources we were taught to use? 

Image of Kelsi and her son on a pony ride at the fair. Image of Kelsi with her son at the fair.

I live in a fairly small area, and I face these challenges every day. I could live in a bigger city with better resources, but I choose not to. I enjoy small community life. So how do I combat these challenges? 

Let’s talk about the area I live in a bit first. My community is small, but not too small. We still have a city bus (I say this in the loosest of terms.) Our buses stop approximately once an hour, if that, and only run until 6 p.m. and not at all on Sundays. The stops are few and far between, and some buses only run in one direction. So you might have to ride almost the whole loop before you get to the stop you want. It is time consuming, and not super reliable as the times it stops are not exact. The bus could be a few minutes early or late, and you might have to wait another hour or longer for the next one if you miss it. We have no Subways, trains, or trolleys. We do have taxis, but you have to call for them ahead of time, and it is better to schedule them in advance, as they could take quite awhile to get to you. We do also have Uber and Lift, but they are fairly new to the area, and I have not had the chance to try them yet. But these last options are pricey. So how do I actually get around independently? 

The first thing I do is research. Before I move to a new place, I need to consider location; which area of town would be most accessible by bus. I need to live close to a bus stop for those few times when riding it would be convenient. I need to consider what is walkable; what is nearby; where would I need to go most often; and where I would want to be able to walk to. And then I consider all the other things you look for when moving such as: is it pet friendly, how many bedrooms it has etc. 

The biggest thing I had to consider in my last move was: where was the school my son would go to in relation to our home. It was the deciding factor to where I would settle. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a place with all my afore mentioned requirements. So I had to give and take a little. I knew that I had to be close enough to a school to walk. If I was far enough away that my son had to ride a bus, then that would mean that it would probably be too far to conveniently walk to. I always need to be able to get to the school easily and independently. What if my son was sick or hurt? What if something else unforeseen happened and I had to pick him up in the middle of the day? Also, if we were far enough that I would need to take a bus, well … our buses stop running at 6 pm. What about school programs or conferences? Those mostly take place in the evening, how would I get to those if I was unable to get a ride from someone?

 So, I had to be able to walk! But I couldn’t find anything close enough to a school and to other desirable places such as shopping centers or restaurants. So I had to decide what was more important. So of course I chose the school. After all, was it really that important that I be able to walk to get ice cream whenever I wanted? No … my son’s education is way more important than my sweet tooth no matter how much said tooth tries to convince me otherwise.  

I am however close to a bus stop, though I never use it. As I mentioned, it is more inconvenience than it is worth. But if I needed to, I could. So, as much as it pains me to admit, and believe me, it pains me a lot, I use paratransit. It is my cheapest and most convenient option. I was taught that taking paratransit or other similar option, was a huge no no. I am not disabled enough to be able to justify such a method. My legs work, I can walk. I was taught about all sorts of resources and how to use them. I know how to figure out where a business is, and how to get there using public transit. So, I should never have to use a door to door method. But I am not in a big city anymore, my options are limited. So I use paratransit, and I feel guilty for it every time I do. Though, I should not, and neither should anyone else. Sometimes it is just the best option. In my town, taking a city bus is time consuming and impractical especially with a child. I do not have time to waste up to two hours of my day getting to my destination and two hours coming home. It takes time away from my son, and we both deserve to have that time. So, never ever feel guilty for what you must do, especially when your options are limited. What we are taught in training can be extreme, and in a way it needs to be. We need to learn how to be independent, and that is probably the best way to do it. But there is no reason when we go back home, or move to a smaller community, to feel guilty when our resources that we had in the big city aren’t available to us anymore. Instead, we must adapt, and find our own independence, and if that means taking a door to door service, so be it!

And last but not least, rides from friends or family. I really struggle with this one, I don’t like asking for help; I don’t like asking people to take time out of their day to take me somewhere. But I do it because I have to, and I am getting better at it all the time.  Having a large community of friends and family has really helped with this one. I never used to have a community to call my own. I didn’t know what that meant, to have a “community.” I didn’t even know where to start to build one. But this past year, I started learning. I started joining different groups like a running club, and a music appreciation group. Just joining those groups got me out more, making more friends, and hearing of other opportunities to join other groups and make more friends.

Currently, I have a larger personal community than I ever have in my life, than I ever knew was possible to have. It is absolutely wonderful! Having so many people willing to help and support me, means that I have more people I can call on when I need a ride. Not only does it feel great to have a lot of people who care about me, it is extremely beneficial as well. It caused me so much guilt to only have one or two people to call on if I needed a ride. I felt like I was a burden, because I couldn’t see to drive myself, and I needed help getting around because public transit here is not ideal. And because there was so few people I had that I could ask, it fell to them a lot. So I felt like a burden, and I hated it. 

Now, I have a lot more people I can ask, and the burden doesn’t just fall on one person all the time. And I feel more free and independent because of it! 

As I mentioned, I enjoy small community life. And that is how I combat traveling in a small community.

This is me! Hope you enjoyed the read. I love questions, so if you
have any, or just a comment, feel free to email them to
info@blindabilities.com.

Thanks

Kelsi

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Jan 08, 2019
My Thoughts on Braille: - and The Braille Support Group on Facebook by Jo Fishwick
05:35

Show Summary:

I wanted to bring up this audio from a couple years back that Jo Fishwick submitted to a conversation the Blind Abilities Channel on Audio Boom was having. Now, we have moved on to BlindAbilities.com yet, I went back to the channel in hopes to find Jo’s conversation on the topic of Braille. Jo talks about how she got started with Braille at age 12, and how she encourages others to learn Braille. Use it and make it part of their routine. From labels, to newsletters, Jo keeps her Braille in-hand. From high school to college and beyond, Jo is a strong advocate for Braille. 

Jo and her VITalk members started a Facebook Group called, “Braille Support Group”, back in 2013, and today there are over 500 members strong.

So, if you are learning Braille or want to take the next step in learning Braille, check out the Braille Support Group on Facebook.

You can find out more about Jo Fishwick on a previous podcast:

Meet Jo Fishwick: Charitable Pioneer, Assistive Technology Coordinator, Wife and Mother

As Jo says in the cast, “Long live Braille!”

Contact:

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Jan 04, 2019
iPhone101: Text Replacement – the Keyboard Shortcut That Lets Two Letters Launch a Thousand Words
05:08

Show Summary:

iPhone 101 demonstrations and reviews brings you another demo and this one is all about the Keyboard shortcut, Text Replacement. With just a couple of letters for a shortcut, you can populate the dialog box or page with commonly used phrases, names, hashtags, email addresses and anything you desire.

Head on into the shortcut keyboard settings and check out Text Replacement. In this demo Jeff Thompson will “add” a phrase and a shortcut that he can use at any time, saving him a lot of typing. You can use this for quotes at the end of messages, common sayings in Facebook, and signature sayings that you want to add at the end of emails. 

And with just two letters and the space bar, here is one of mine:

xc (space) "The Only Full Bigger Than the Fool Who Says He Knows It All, Is the Fool Who Argues with Him" 

Be sure to check out more iPhone 101 demonstrationson the web at www.BlindAbilities.com.

We have everything you want to know about using the iPhone/iPad in easy bite-size episodes.

Thank you for listening!

Contact:

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Jan 04, 2019
Getting started with Pod Catchers and Podcasts. Blog Post by Jeff Thompson

Listening to Podcasts is the fastest growing media market and there are plenty of ways to access podcasts of all styles and topics. As a Blind/Visually Impaired person there are some ways better than others and with accessible technology and a few tips and tricks, you can be binging on what could soon be your favorite podcast shows.

Let’s start with a podcast. A podcast is like a radio show that you can digest when and where you want. You can store it on your device or stream it through your wi-fi. There are apps that do most of the work for you and with a little preparation, you can efficiently be accessing some great material as the shows are published. You can determine which shows download and delete upon when you finish listening. That way you can save room for the next podcasts down the road.

Podcast can range from humor, news, technology, special interests and podcasts like Blind Abilities, having a blindness perspective. Acadamia and educational podcasts are becoming more and more accessible through the thousands and thousands of available podcasts.

The Blind Abilities podcasts are available in many ways. You can listen and read the show notes on-line at www.BlindAbilities.com. The mobile web site is designed with accessibility in mind and you can find over 470 podcasts easily by using the Category and Search options. Categories like, iPhone101CollegeCareerJob InsightsTechAbilitiesSTEMand if you enjoy reading, our collection of Transcribedpodcast will give you the full text transcription. . On the web, you can scroll by using Headings and move from title to title and click the play button and listen to the ones you want.  You can also read the entire library of blogsour Blind Abilities Team produce.  

Another way of listening to Blind Abilities podcasts is to download the Free Blind Abilities App from the Apple App Storeor the Google Play Store. That’s 2 words, Blind Abilities. 

The Blind Abilities App allows you to gain access to the entire Blind Abilities library of podcasts and blogs, search for topics, explore through Categories and not miss an episode. This is one of the easiest ways to get the Blind Abilities podcasts right on to your iPhone, iPad or any Apple or Android device. We have worked with the development of the app to ensure everyone will be able to access and use the app with voice over accessibility.

Another way of listening to the Blind Abilities podcasts, and many other podcasts, is through a pod-catcher. This is an app that will search for a podcast and allow you to subscribe and always have the latest from that podcast show/producer. A free pod-catcher native to the iPhone and iPads alike, is the Podcast App. You can say, Hey Siri, Open Podcast and the app will open right up. When I said, it is a native app, I meant that the Podcast App comes with the iPhone’s iOS (Operating Software) so you don’t have to go to the App Store, the Podcast App is already in your device.

You can explore the Podcast App and search for podcast by single-finger double tapping on the search button. By typing in Blind Abilities, that’s two words, you will notice that our podcast appears and by selecting it with a single-finger double tap, you will be able to subscribe and receive all the podcasts from our extensive library. 

There are other pod-catchers out there and you can find them in the App Store. Some will cost a few dollars, ranging anywhere from 3 to 10 dollars. The most popular amongst the BVI community is Downcast, Overcast and iCatcher. All 3 have there pluses and minuses and all 3 will work fine. The differences end up being what you prefer and it may take just a bit to develop your tendencies or listening habits to determine which pod-catcher is for you. Overcast and Downcast are the most used and you may want to ask others what they are using  and why, to determine which one you would pay for. That is why I will suggest starting out with the Free Podcast App from Apple and see how you like listening to podcasts before you pay for a pod-catching app. You may find the Podcast App does just fine.

With in the podcast apps or catchers, you can go into the settings and limit the amount of podcasts you want downloaded to your device, opt to have none downloaded and only listen by streaming on wi-fi to preserve your data usage. Be sure to check out your settings so you can optimize the app to suit your needs. I suggest exploring the settings right after you subscribe to your first podcast.

When saying that there are plenty of ways to listen to the Blind Abilities podcasts, I mean, it doesn’t stop with pod-catchers. You can listen on your Victor Stream by subscribing in the podcast section right on your Victor Stream. If you have an Amazon Dot, Echo or an Alexa enhanced device, you can enable the Blind Abilities Skill and listen as well. Just say, “Alexa, Enable Blind Abilities”.

If you have a Google Home or Mini, just say, “Play the latest episode of Blind Abilities”.  

We are also on Pandora, iHeart Radio, Spotify, Stitcher and more.

Sometimes a listening service will ask for a feed, this is like an address or link that allows one to subscribe directly to the podcast. The Blind Abilities feed is https://blindabilities.libsyn.com/rss

Be sure to check out the Blind Abilities podcast any which way you can. Our podcasts always have a blindness perspective and aim to inform and help you navigate the journey, whether your transitioning from high school to college and the work place, wanting to learn more about accessing information or learn about others and their journey and how they deal with the barriers and challenges along the way. We want to hear from you and hear about your journey, successes and your perspectives. You can find us by email.

 

Have a wonderful time listening to your favorite podcasts!

By Jeff Thompson @KnownAsJeff on Twitter

Contact:

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Jan 02, 2019
Meet Mike Kelly: Persistent in His Drive to Fight Any and All Challenges, and Ultimately Persevere
34:34

Show Summary:

Blind Abilities presents this special chat with Mike Kelly. Mike is a consonant musician, having learned to play the bass at an early age, Join Pete Lane as he tracks Mike’s musical evolution through the music industry from the 1970s, and into the present. Listen as Mike details the myriad pitfalls he encountered during his lifetime, from his ups and downs in the music business, the loss of his wife and by far his biggest challenge: a diagnosis of terminal cancer.

But Mike’s story finishes with optimism around a lady named Brooklyn, their wedding and our collective hope and prayers that Mike will once again prevail over this, the ultimate challenge of his life!

Sit back and enjoy this story of Mike Kelly, an impressive bassist, a fighter who is focused on beating this challenge! And listen to the fabulous musical components throughout this podcast, courtesy of the Michael Gregory Band!

Contact:

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Jan 02, 2019
That Blind Tech Show: What Tech is Living on a Prayer? Mac SmackDown with PC’s, Aira Boxing, Narrator Climbing the Ranks, Microsoft the New Apple? And Who’s Singing Apple Music Now?
01:13:12

Ed and Brian are back together and Jeff just keeps hanging out counting the days. That’s days until New years 2019! The boys hit the studio hard with nothing but true stories and nothing but the facts. Ed and Jeff keep Brian in-line somewhat and maybe Brian is turning over a new leaf? Well, you can decide when you listen to episode #25 of That Blind Tech Show. 

We cover Facebook Privacy, if there is any. Jaws, ChromeBooks, PC’s, Macs  and some demos on Verticle Navigation and Voice Recognition in your Amazon Device. And what about Aira Boxing? Yes, it was mentioned here first! Aira Boxing, coming by 2030 or so. We even do a smack down of sorts, pitting the Mac against the PC world.

So kick on back and take in the show. There will be a test next week, so you better take some Braille notes. BTW, it’s all true or false, and here on TBTS, you know all the answers are True!

Here are some links pertaining to some of the topics from the show:

A human heart was left on a Southwest flight. Have you ever left anything important on a flight or in a hotel room?

Facebook just keeps continuing to give your info away. Are they to blame what about the companies that received it? Is privacy dead unless you are living in the woods?

Amazon promises Apple Music is coming to Third Party Alexa Speakers

Apple Patent Describes both Touch and Face ID on the same phone


Controversial AI service for flagging risky Babysitter’s gets shut down

What was your favorite tech lie of 2018?

Kids in 1904 had interesting predictions about the future. What do you think 2019 will bring for accessibility?

Contact

Thank you for listening.
Send us Feedback via email
Follow us on Twitter @BlindTechShow

That Blind Tech Show is produced in part with Blind Abilities Network

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.
Get the Free blind Abilities App on the Google Play Store

 

 

Dec 29, 2018
Tips and Tricks With a Blind Perspective. Blog post by Kelsi Hansen

Tips and Tricks With a Blind Perspective. Blog post by Kelsi Hansen

I recently received a request to share some more small tips and tricks that I might use to make daily life more accessible to me as a blind person. So I’ve been trying to think of different ways that I have adapted my life, such as folding the wrapping paper so I know where to cut, but it hasn’t been very easy. I’m not sure if that is because I am so used to my life, or because I don’t use very many tricks that would be different than a sighted person would use. Maybe the world is more tactile than one might realize. Or maybe I have so seamlessly incorporated my small adaptations into my daily life, that it is hard to realize exactly what adjustments I have made. Either way, I think that I have come up with a few to share. Some I have learned from others, and some I have taught myself, and I hope they are helpful to others whether they are blind or not. 

Let’s start with the kitchen. First off, I don’t use a lot of Braille. There is some on my microwave, but that’s about it. Not that using Braille is wrong in any way! I am just too lazy to label things with it. How do I tell things apart in my cupboards you might ask? I put them in different spots, or I shake them, or I sniff them. A box of Macaroni and cheese sounds much different when shaken than say, a box of rice. Cinamon smells very different than basil, which smells different than chili powder. The cans of tomato paste are very small, and don’t make noise when you shake them. I like to buy my tomato sauce in the half size cans, and my cans of pumpkin puree is kept with my baking supplies. Right now I don’t have very many canned fruits and vegetables, but when I do, I might put the peas in one cupboard and the green beans in another. Also, in the past, I have lined them in rows, so the first row might be pineapple, and the second mangoes. My kitchen appears very clustered and random, but it works for me, and that is what matters. 

I really enjoy baking, and with this, there was a couple of things that I used to struggle with. How would I know which measuring spoons/cups to use? How could I spray the pans evenly? How would I fill muffin tins? There were so many questions I had. If I couldn’t answer them, then I would never be able to enjoy baking again. So, I figured out that I should always keep my measuring cups and spoons together and stacked. The smallest was always ¼ cup or spoon, and the biggest was always 1cup or tablespoon. That way even if I didn’t label them, or the label fell off, I would always know which one was which. When using cooking spray, I learned that you do not have to hold it super far away from the pan and spray it evenly. Instead I hold it closer to the pan and spray it one spot then use a paper towel to spread it. As long as I get it all coded, how much does it really matter if it is sprayed evenly? And filling muffin tins, with or without papers, I use a ¼ cup measure. That way I’m only putting in a small amount, and if it needs more, I can easily add more. The same goes for filling loaf pans for banana bread or whatever it is you put in the pan.  Afterwards I wipe the spillage off of the pan the best that I can so it doesn’t burn onto the pan. 

When I was little, I remember watching my mom pour the grease from ground beef into a coffee cup so it could cool before she threw it out. After I went blind, I wondered how I was going to pour the grease from a big pan into a small cup. Well … I don’t do that, not that I couldn’t, I just choose not to. Instead, I use paper towels to blot the grease from the meat. It’s not a super environmentally friendly thing to do, but it works well. At least I’m not pouring the grease down the drain right?  Another way to do this  is to scoop all of the meat out of the pan with a slotted spoon, and then use a paper towel to wipe the grease out. Also, using a leaner ground beef, or even ground turkey, produces less grease so I don’t have to use as many paper towels. 

That’s pretty much all I can think of for small tricks I use in the kitchen at the moment. Another time I will write about cooking in more depth. The other tips I have to offer are more random, and don’t fit well into a specific category. So let’s start with medicines for my son.

 Like I said, I am way too lazy to label things, so I use some of the same methods I would in the kitchen with his medicines. I might buy one flavor of Tylenol, and another of motrin, that way they smell different. Or maybe I buy a big bottle of one and a smaller bottle of the other. For measuring the medicines out, I have someone cut a line on the syringe at the different marks,  such as .25, .5, .75, and 1 ml. Or I might have different syringes marked for different amounts. Now that my son is older though, he uses chewables which is pretty much just give him one and go. Though, there are still some medicines that I can’t get in chewable form, and with those I still use a syringe. When the bottles get too low to measure out with the syringe, I pour a bit into a small medicine cup, measure it with the syringe, and pour the excess back in if there is any. It might not be the best thing to do, but I don’t like waste. 

Now, let’s go onto walking with my son. When my son was a baby and even up until he was three, I would papoose him on my chest or back. There are a number of different carriers for this, and a great “baby wearing” community in my area. This is the method I used most. I would wear him in stores, on walks, and cleaning around the house. Carriers are amazing, and I can’t say enough good things about them. Now that my son is older though, he doesn’t like to be carried, and he is getting too heavy for it anyways. So instead, I use a wrist leash, or tether if you rather. There are some people who think that leashing a child is wrong, but I don’t see it that way. Kids are prone to randomly running off. If they are tethered to you, you always know where they are. Besides I’m not very good at chasing after him. Keeping him tethered to me keeps him safe, and that is all that matters, so I don’t worry about what others think. 

I do also have a stroller. It is a jogging stroller, so it is super easy to pull behind me. Though again, now that he is older, he prefers to use a wagon. Now we use the jogging stroller for it’s original purpose, and one of my running partners pushes it while we run. Did I mention that I have the best running partner in the world? 

One last thing about walking in general: I have always lived in the middle of blocks. Never have I lived on a corner, so it’s never been super easy to locate my house. I could if I really wanted, count all the driveways and walk ways that came before whichever house I was in at the time, but that’s not super efficient, especially if I were to be in a hurry. So, I use a marker to identify my driveway. I used to live somewhere that had cement planters, so I put one on either side of the walk to my house. That was really convenient, unfortunately I was renting, so I couldn’t keep them. Planters are great for locating your house, but a lot of people have planters, so it might not be the best option. Another option, my personal favorite, is using some sort of lawn ornament. I would recommend a nice sturdy one, maybe that you could push into the ground so the wind doesn’t blow it away or no one walks off with it. However, this does not work if you live in an apartment. If this is the case, I would recommend a decoration for your door if it’s been difficult to locate.

All right, that’s a few  of my tips and tricks. I hope you have found them helpful! If you have some tips and tricks that you would like to share, send me an email and next time we hit the tips and tricks, maybe yours will be the one we all learn from.

This is me! Hope you enjoyed the read. I love questions, so if you
have any, or just a comment, feel free to email them to
info@blindabilities.com.

Thanks

Kelsi

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
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Dec 24, 2018
iPhone101: Air Drop – Sharing Across Your Apple Orchard and Keeping the Unwanted Out
09:17

Show Summary:

iPhone 101 demonstrations and reviews brings you another demo and this one is all about Air Drop. What is Air Drop? It is a feature in the Apple devices and Macs that allows you and others to share across a Bluetooth connection simply and easily by just a couple of taps. You can set yours up to limit just who can Air Drop to your device or Mac.

Let’s imagine you are hanging out and around a table and you want a friend to visit a really cool site on the web. You can share the site by Air Drop and, boom, your friend is on the web site within seconds! Consider this, you are writing a paper and you need some info from the web or an app, you can turn from your Mac and pick up the iPhone, iPad or iPod and easily find your info and share it by Air Drop to the Mac and, boom, you are ready to address your paper again with some really cool resources.

In this demo, learn how to turn on Air Drop on your iPhone and/or Mac and how to restrict just anybody from dropping something into your device.

Be sure to check out more iPhone 101 demonstrationson the web at www.BlindAbilities.com.

We have everything you want to know about using the iPhone/iPad in easy bite-size episodes.

Thank you for listening!

Contact:

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Dec 24, 2018
iPhone101: 3D Touch – A Light Sensitivity to a Firm Touch
06:18

Show Summary:

iPhone 101 demonstrations and reviews brings you another demo and this one is all about 3D Touch. So, what is 3D Touch? It is a feature in the Apple iOS on most of the latest iPhones that allows developers to set up a form of interaction with the App icon and within the apps themselves. 3D Touch can and does work like a single-finger-double-tap in some instances. However, in this demonstration, Jeff Thompson will show you how he uses 3D Touch, sets up the sensitivity level for the touch and gives a few examples of how to employ the 3D Touch feature. Jeff also digs in a little deeper into the Twitter settings to show off the 3D Touch tool.

Be sure to check out more iPhone 101 demonstrationson the web at www.BlindAbilities.com.

We have everything you want to know about using the iPhone/iPad in easy bite-size episodes.

Thank you for listening!

Contact:

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Dec 23, 2018
PACER Center: Letting Them Grow – Transitioning from Youth to Adulthood: A Conversation with Parents Barb Ziemke and Kate Reinicke (Transcript Provided)
41:18

Show Summary:

(Full Transcript Below)

In partnership with State Services for the Blind of Minnesota we are proud to present, PACER Center - Champions for Children with Disabilities. 

Barb and Kate sit down with Jeff Thompson of Blind Abilities in the sixth of a series of podcasts in partnership with PACER Center and State Services for the Blind. You can find the entire PACER Center series here.

Barb talks about her role as Co-Director of the National Parent Center on Transition and Employment and her experiences in advocacy that led her to PACER Center. Kate shares her experiences from her journey through her kids transition from youth into adulthood. What worked and where she found answers.

Join Barb, Kate and Jeff in this informative podcast about how PACER Center, State Services for the Blind and others played a role in the success of not only their kids transition into college, the work place and independence, but how Barb and Kate too, made the transition themselves in part by letting them grow.

From the web:

PACER Center enhances the quality of life and expands opportunities for children, youth, and young adults with all disabilities and their families, so each person can reach his or her highest potential. PACER operates on the principles of parents helping parents, supporting families, promoting a safe environment for all children, and working in collaboration with others.

With assistance to individual families, workshops, materials for parents and professionals, and leadership in securing a free and appropriate public education for all children, PACER's work affects and encourages families in Minnesota and across the nation.

Contacts:

You can find out more about PACER Center on the web at www.pacer.org

You can reach pACER Center by phone at 952-838-9000

You can find out more about State Services for the Blind on the web at

www.MN.Gov/Deed/SSB

And by calling 651-539-2300

Live Learn Work and Play

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities Appon the App Store.

Full Transcript:

PACER Center: Letting Them Grow – Transitioning from Youth to Adulthood - A Conversation with Parents Barb Ziemke and Kate Reinicke

Jeff Thompson:
State Services for the Blind of Minnesota presents PACER Center, champions for children with disabilities. This episode focuses on a parent's perspective of the transition period from youth to adulthood. We feature to speakers today. We have Barb Ziemke. She's the co-director of the National Parent Center on Transition and Employment. Also joining us is Kate Reinicke. She's the parent of three children with visual impairments. You can find out more about PACER Center and the National Parent Center on Transition and Employment on the web at www.PACER.org.

Kate Reinicke:
Have high expectations. Your kids can handle it. If they can't, you make an adjustment.

Barb Ziemke:
Desire to have my son included and to have meaningful experiences and not to be misunderstood or for people to judge his potential on the basis of assumptions.

Kate Reinicke:
Then after that it was taking care of. I didn't have to worry about it anymore. This was something he was handling.

Barb Ziemke:
Letting grow as a concept for young adults, especially those with challenges that do make this transition more challenging, as opposed to letting go.

Kate Reinicke:
Everyone was there with the same purpose. We all need information, we all want information, we all want to know how can we navigate this together. Everybody's there to help out.

Jeff Thompson:
Realizing the possibilities.

Kate Reinicke:
The blind abilities and possibilities.

Jeff Thompson:
Welcome to Blind Abilities. I'm Jeff Thompson. I'm at the PACER Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. Today I'm joined by Barb Ziemke. How are you doing?

Barb Ziemke:
I'm doing great. Thanks so much for being here today.

Jeff Thompson:
Barb, can you tell us a little about PACER Center and yourself?

Barb Ziemke:
Sure. PACER Center is Minnesota's parent training and information center that receives some funding under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to help families navigate special education, students on 504 Plans, any individual with a disability who requires support or services or accommodations.

Barb Ziemke:
PACER is here to provide information in family-friendly kinds of language to interpret the language or the law to language that helps families be the best advocate they can be to get what their students need to succeed. We like to support high expectations and help families know about the possibilities so that they don't feel alone on the journey. I like to say PACER tries to give both help and hope.

Jeff Thompson:
Well, that's great. How about a little bit about yourself?

Barb Ziemke:
Well, I came to PACER 17 years ago. I am the parent of two children: my daughter, Kristen, and then her younger brother, Brandon. When Brandon was born, he had an unspecific developmental disability with global developmental issues, including he has hearing only on one side and very poor fine motor skills and a variety of challenges, including intellectual disability.

Barb Ziemke:
As a parent, it just threw me for a loop. My background is education, but I didn't know anything really about disability or about special education, and so I dove head first into being involved in some local efforts to include families as much as possible in both policy and practices for helping young children with disabilities really have inclusive educations that led to great outcomes.

Barb Ziemke:
I lifelong have been an advocate for children, but when Brandon was in about seventh grade, I remember thinking, "I think I finally know what I'm doing around advocating as a parent within the education system. I wonder if there's any kind of job out there where you could help other families who maybe don't have a background in education or don't have the family support that I have, or maybe they don't speak English as their first language or they have a disability themselves." I thought of PACER and, fortunately, they had a job opening, and I became an advocate.

Barb Ziemke:
My primary role here for 15 years was as a special education advocate. Then a few years ago, PACER really realized that it's not enough to get students through school because the big challenge often is what some people call the transition cliff, when you have to make that transition into adulthood. We started the National Parent Center on Transition and Employment to support families and young adults as they launch into adulthood. I am co-directing that project along with our transition team here. We've partnered with State Services for the Blind for the last couple of years to provide more support for the pre-employment transition services, especially as it relates to family engagement in that process.

Jeff Thompson:
Well, you've done a good job with that. Let me go back a little bit. When you first realized that you had to start advocating, what feeling was that? Was it empty or were you lost?

Barb Ziemke:
Well, the first feeling was being overwhelmed and a bit scared. Mainly it stemmed, for me, and every parent is different, but I don't deal well with the unknown. I'm a researcher, I'm an information person. Because Brandon didn't have a specific diagnosis and his early prognosis was we're not sure if he'll ever walk, talk, be independent, it was difficult to figure out how to proceed when I didn't have any good idea of what the end might be. To plan with the end in mind when you don't know what the end could be was really daunting.

Barb Ziemke:
I had an older daughter, and although none of us can predict the future, I had basic expectations for her that were similar to my own life trajectory. Now I assumed she'd graduate from school, go to college, probably get married someday. Now I had Brandon, and I was supposed to make sure he got what he needed, but no one could give me a clear picture of where we were headed. Initially, it was pretty overwhelming.

Jeff Thompson:
Taking that experience, you brought that to PACER Center once you found them.

Barb Ziemke:
Exactly, because I remember what it was like. I also remember so much that desire to have my son included and to have meaningful experiences and not to be misunderstood or for people to judge his potential on the basis of assumptions. That drove my advocacy because I found that although the professionals who came alongside us were wonderful and we couldn't have accomplished what we did without them, that the parent voice was pivotal because other people can't care as much and they don't know as much. We are the experts on our kids.

Barb Ziemke:
It's just really drove what I do here at PACER because I really feel like if parents don't know how important they are in their role and if they don't have the support they need, that young people won't do as well. At the core of all this, I really care about youth and children success.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, great. It's a great thing that PACER is doing. There's other parents that come here for the same thing now as you did.

Barb Ziemke:
That's right. Those parents who don't become a professional staff advocate, the families that come to our workshops and use our resources online, it's training to be the best advocate they can be as well as to help support them in helping their youth and young adult to be the best self-advocate they can be and to make this transition as families with some supports during the process.

Jeff Thompson:
One of those parents we have here today.

Barb Ziemke:
I'm so thankful that Kate Reinicke has joined us today. Kate and her husband participated in a workshop and a focus group for us. One of the things that I personally have found really challenging as the parent of a young person with a disability was this process that we're supposed to be engaged in of consistently letting go, and especially as we reach the transition years, I would hear from many professionals, "Barb, you just really need to start letting go."

Barb Ziemke:
I have to say that for me that phrase early was a little bit like in my face, a little bit too much. I thought, "You have no idea why I'm concerned the way I am about this and the legitimacy of those concerns." At our house, we're big fans of Charles Schulz. When I thought about letting go, the visual image I got was like I'm flying the kite and the kite is up now and I'm supposed to let go. Then I think of Charlie Brown's kite in the tree and the string all wound around the branches and I'm thinking, "There's no way I'm letting go of this kite."

Barb Ziemke:
Over the years, I don't know where I heard the phrase ... It's out there, other people use it ... "letting grow" as a concept for young adults, especially those with challenges that do make this transition more challenging as opposed to letting go. I found that when I looked at it that way, I could see more of a role for me. It wasn't just an, "Okay, I'm done now," it was, "How do I cultivate some soil? How do we find an environment that's appropriate for this kind of seed? What can we do to support growth in collaboration with professionals and others? Then place our young person there and back off a bit and let growth occur."

Barb Ziemke:
Over the years, I've learned that the hard way. Sometimes I haven't let grow as much as I needed to. If people are listening to this who know me, I pretty much kill all the plants I try to grow, so it's not the best analogy. I did a little research, though, about growing and the two things I found really interesting were that the size of the pot is really essential, that if the pot is too small, you'll stunt their growth of their roots. If there's not enough space around the plant on the top of the soil, the plant can't grow.

Barb Ziemke:
I just, as a parent, I could see that what my role was going to be was make sure that we had increasingly larger pots and that I gave increasingly more space. Really, as I talk to families, I like to try to help them envision the growth process more than the letting go at this point; although, of course, you're always, as parents, letting go. That's part of what we do.

Barb Ziemke:
As I was thinking about doing this as part of a podcast, my concern was I have the perspective from having worked with families from all different kinds of disabilities. Then my own personal perspective as a parent of someone with a developmental disability and intellectual disability, but I don't know what it's like to parent a son or daughter who has visual impairment or is blind or deaf-blind, and I really wanted that voice to be part of our conversation.

Barb Ziemke:
I immediately thought of Kate. She had participated in a focus group and I talked with her at a workshop. She and her husband have, I'll let her tell you, more than one child. She has a lot of experience and she's in the middle of it. I'm really thankful that Kate Reinicke agreed to be with us here today. I'd like to introduce you and ask Kate to tell us a little bit about herself.

Kate Reinicke:
Hello. I'm Kate Reinicke. I'm the parent of three children, all of which have visual impairment. They range in age from 17 to recently 20. Our oldest is a sophomore at North Hennepin Community College.

Jeff Thompson:
Kate, how did you find PACER?

Kate Reinicke:
My family, we moved up here in November of 2012. Our middle son is severely autistic. In moving up here, we needed to know what kind of resources and supports were available here. I actually found PACER through a Google search, looking for supports and resources for our middle son in regards to his severe autism.

Jeff Thompson:
With the visual aspect, did you find State Services for the Blind?

Kate Reinicke:
Actually, the visual teacher for the blind and visually impaired, TVIs, we have a great set of those in the Anoka-Hennepin School District. They actually got us in touch with State Services for the Blind. We signed up our oldest son at the age of 14.

Jeff Thompson:
Because that's the age where transition students can apply for services.

Kate Reinicke:
That's correct. I was surprised that it would be that young. In my mind, transition was graduating from high school and moving on to college or career. To have a child sign up at 14 was a pleasant surprise to think about all the training that they could do in those years leading up to graduation.

Jeff Thompson:
Some possibilities were opening up.

Kate Reinicke:
Exactly, the blind abilities and possibilities.

Jeff Thompson:
Plug. With all those possibilities coming your way, what was it like before that happened? There had to have been some doubt, some confusion, as Barb was mentioning earlier in her situation. Now here we are with the blindness, the visual impairment aspect. What was that like for you?

Kate Reinicke:
These are actually my stepchildren. Coming in not only as a step-parent but also starting to learn more about our kids' disabilities, we were also in transition about learning what their visual impairment was, what the cause of it was, how severe is it going to get. We learned through the years that it's actually a genetic disorder called Bardet-Biedl syndrome, and it causes the children to have retinitis pigmentosa. With retinitis pigmentosa, I'm sure most of your listeners know, tunnel vision, loss of color vision, and blind spots in your vision.

Kate Reinicke:
As we're learning more about that, it was very helpful to have the TVIs and State Services for the Blind there to show us that there were already pathways set for kids like ours that, unlike Barb, we weren't starting from scratch. There were programs and resources already in place that they could help us get in contact with. Like Barb said, I'm the type of person that if I'm presented with a problem, I want to know as much as I possibly can so that I can come up with a good solution, so that the more I can learn, the better I feel.

Jeff Thompson:
What were some of the first solutions that came across your pathway?

Kate Reinicke:
TVI definitely and working with the IEP process at schools.

Jeff Thompson:
Did something surprise you? Was there a moment like a wow moment?

Kate Reinicke:
What I learned with retinitis pigmentosa is that our kids can become virtually blind in low lighting situations. In a lot of cases, I'd never paid attention to that. Going to restaurants and realizing, "Oh, it's actually pretty dark in here. My kids are going to need a sighted guide by holding my elbow," or walking through the hallways of their high school, "This area is really not well lit. This is going to be a problem," but also realizing how much accommodations could be made for our children so that they could succeed, and also getting in touch with BLIND, Inc., where BLIND, Inc. stands for Blindness Learning in New Dimensions and understanding that there are not things that my kids can't do, they just have to do them differently.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah. That's a local training center for adults and transition-age students in Minneapolis.

Barb Ziemke:
Kate, what you just said now just reminds me to the importance of that starting early. Most parents are not thinking about what's going to happen after school at age 14. They're just trying so hard to make school work. I just love that reminder that what you need, though, is several years at least once you've identified what they need to learn the skills to develop. You're learning what accommodations are helpful. You need that time, the technology. Waiting until 18 or 19 will not give you that time. That's one of the things that we try at PACER in our training with families is start earlier than you think you need to. I just really appreciate that illustration of age 14.

Barb Ziemke:
The other thing it just brought to mind for me, Kate, was I'm just wondering did you encounter any lower expectations for your children than you and your husband have or in general? Did you feel like the people working with your son or daughter, you have both, right, were on the same wavelength as you? Did you ever have to close that gap?

Kate Reinicke:
Thankfully, the folks that we were working with didn't have lower expectations. If anything, they were at the same school of thought as you are, that have high expectations, your kids can handle it. If they can't, you make an adjustment.

Jeff Thompson:
With that positive attitude that you have, how was it as your son started college and started spreading his wings a little bit?

Kate Reinicke:
Again, the more that I knew, the better I felt. Going to college myself, I never had the experience of working with a disabilities office or an accessibilities office. I didn't even know it existed. Coming to different workshops, either through PACER or through SSB, specifically focused on transition-age students and bringing in people from different universities that could talk about their disability offices or accessibility offices put both myself and my son at ease knowing that they already had mechanisms in place to help him and, again, not coddle him, not give him an advantage, but level the playing field.

Barb Ziemke:
That's so important. The whole idea behind all of this for families is that it's not just the son or daughter that's going to transition. We as parents actually have to transition as well. We're learning new skills, we're learning about what's out there, and we're having to change our approach.

Barb Ziemke:
One of the main things I emphasize when we talk to families about what comes next is like IEPs don't go to college and IEPs don't go into a workplace, and IEPs don't go to your resident manager of an apartment. While your role will change, you'll still have a role, but it will become more like an advisor, a mentor, a supporter, not the decision-maker. You're going to move from the driver's seat to the passenger seat and then, hopefully, the backseat and then out of the car at some point.

Barb Ziemke:
But in that process, Kate mentioned something so important, and I want to just address that. Kate sounds like a brave parent. I have some friends who are like Kate. They were able, unlike me, to learn about some new opportunity and just get some information and just send their kid off and be rejoicing as they went.

Barb Ziemke:
There are a lot of different kinds of parents, and I am more what professionals would call probably too cautious and maybe overprotective. I can still remember ... I kick myself to this day. My son is now ... He just turned 30. I do want to say he's living in an apartment in the community and he works at a community job. He successfully, both of us, made this transition.

Barb Ziemke:
But I remember early on there was an opportunity from his deaf, hard of hearing teaching said, when Brandon was in seventh grade, "Oh, I think it would be really great for him to go to Camp Courage. They have a literacy camp." I thought, "Oh, that sounds really good. Is it a day camp?" "No, it's a residential camp." I immediately thought, because of the needs of my son, "Well, that's not a possibility. He can't do that. He has other disabilities besides his reading disability, and you don't understand how much support he would need." It's all in my head, but I shut it down way too quickly. I went to the website and it didn't tell how they give the supports for overnight support.

Barb Ziemke:
This is a little reminder to professionals. Give us the information we need to make informed decisions upfront. Don't assume we know what you're talking about with your programs, because from our focus groups and surveys, about 30% of parents of kids who have blind, vision impairment have another disability with that. The support needs go beyond the support for their visual impairment. But, regardless, at this time I just shut it down and we didn't go.

Barb Ziemke:
Now that I work at PACER, I know about that camp and I know about the wonderful outcomes. I know now that camp has been around for 15 years, no child has ever been lost or probably injured. All the things I had in my mind that could have happened, I didn't need to base my decision on unfounded fears if I would have known upfront when I heard about the opportunity to take a breath and say, "What do I need to know in order to be able to do this? What does Brandon need to know upfront in order to want to do this?" Then do the detective work upfront. That has, all these years later, I think, "Gosh, darn it. He could have been ahead of the curve."

Barb Ziemke:
For those of you parents who do have some of the concerns and fears and your kids perhaps do have additional support needs, there are things that are dangerous for our kids out there. The safety concerns are not invalid. The unpredictability of an environment is a real thing. I just want to encourage you to take that breath and ask yourself: what would help me be able to even consider this? Sometimes it's talking to another parent like Kate, whose son has gone off to college. She might be willing to say, "Hey, it worked and this is why," or contacting PACER, State Services for the Blind, and get that information that you need.

Jeff Thompson:
Well, it sounds like Kate just pulls up tuck and roll and her kids just goes out there. I'm sure it's not that easy, though.

Kate Reinicke:
No, it's not that easy. This is after years of training myself to not be afraid for him. You have to decide what kind of adult do you want your child to be. Do you envision them being confident and independent, or do you envision them to be tied to your apron strings for the rest of their lives? My kids want to be independent. They want to learn Braille. They want to learn the technology. They want to have their own homes someday.

Kate Reinicke:
My husband teases them that they're going to live with us forever and it thrills me every time when they say, "No way, dad. No way." Keeping that in mind that they are still teenagers, they still have things to learn, thinking back to how did I learn to be independent and knowing that my kids need to go through the same thing just a little bit differently.

Jeff Thompson:
Exactly.

Barb Ziemke:
That reminds me, too, of just a really important principle of the dignity of risk. Some of your listeners may be familiar with that. Robert Perske, a long time ago, talked about how in our really well-intentioned efforts to keep people safe and to make sure that they don't experience harm, we sometimes take away the dignity that we all us adults should have in making choices and being able to make mistakes and perhaps even being allowed to fail.

Barb Ziemke:
Of course, there's risk management involved in this. Part of the trick for parents is this delicate balance between risk management and then offering the dignity of risk opportunity that all of us needed. If you talk to almost anybody who's successful in any field about how they got successful, they almost always come back to mistakes they made and what they learned from them.

Barb Ziemke:
I realized just personally for myself that my well-meaning flying in at the moment I notice that there was something that was challenging to my son, and a lot of things were challenging for him, was, as Kate said, I had to think to myself, but if I do it for him, what does his future look like versus could I just wait a minute?

Barb Ziemke:
I just read a phrase recently that, as our sons and daughters are moving towards adulthood, this young adulthood stage, that when they contact us with a problem, we should walk as if we're walking in molasses. Just slowing down this ... I don't know if it's true for other parents, but this immediate need to intervene, and even just start to, if your son is 14, 15, your daughter is 16, 17, you start to intentionally give it longer for them to be able to figure it out themselves. There's that quote "Mistakes are the portals of discovery", and so just allowing mistakes. I like what you just said about giving them those opportunities.

Kate Reinicke:
Like you said in becoming a mentor and a teacher, having our kids start to take over aspects of their lives that we had always handled, for instance, refilling a prescription, I taught my son how to do that. We put the phone on speaker phone, it's an automated system, and together we went through. I showed him how it was done. The next time he needed it, I watched him do it. Then after that, it was taken care of. I didn't have to worry about it anymore. This was something he was handling.

Kate Reinicke:
The same went with making his own appointments. He knows to check in with me regarding the family calendar and transportation, but learning also through his TVI that Metro Mobility is an option, Uber is an option to get him where he needs to go, that that works out, too. But he's also learning to check in with others to see how his schedule can mesh with others.

Barb Ziemke:
Which is huge for adult living, managing your schedule. I like what you said because it makes me remember, too, around the medication thing. When it just occurred to me we go to doctor's appointments together, and I would go to the desk and show them the insurance card. I thought, "What?" One day I just thought, "What am I doing this for?" There are things he can't do and he does need support for, but he can go and show them their card.

Barb Ziemke:
As parents, I think just thinking through, "Oh, wait a minute. Is this something they could do? Could we back off?" and now instead of doing for them, do with them. Then again move back. Perfect example with how much we schedule our kids and keep track of all their appointments. Now we have technology. Teaching them how to use the technology to do that is a great way to help them in this transition and for us to let go. I couldn't have let go or let grow like I was able to with my son when I say he's living in an apartment without technology because he has an iPhone, we have immediate communication, there's GPS built in. If he gets lost, he has emergency numbers.

Barb Ziemke:
I think as families, too, that's the kind of support that can help support you. My daughter doesn't have a disability, but when she had a cellphone, she used to call it her leash because she knew I could find her when she had it. That's one technique.

Kate Reinicke:
That's another good point that technology can be extremely helpful. I'm always grateful to SSB and PACER for introducing us to different technologies that I didn't know existed. On top of that, there are low tech options that are helpful for folks for everyday needs. My mother-in-law actually turned us on to Independent Living Aids and other vendors that sell very low tech items that actually we end up using every day that I didn't know existed. Again, the more you can learn, the better you'll feel.

Jeff Thompson:
What is the importance of meeting other parents of children with a disability as blindness?

Kate Reinicke:
It's been great to see how they're treating their kids and also to have them model behavior, if they've been working with their kids if they're kids are older, but also to just talk shop, for lack of a better word. When we sit down and chat, it's usually, "Oh, I just found this new app," or, "Oh, I just heard that such and such station is now doing video description," or, "I just heard my son's friend actually did an internship with a company that does video description," or, "One of the women that my stepdaughter rows with, she is fully blind now, and she just recently got a job working with a company, making sure that their website is more accessible to people who are visually impaired. It never occurred to me that that was a job. It never occurred to me that that was an option."

Kate Reinicke:
Being able to sit down with other adults that are either parents of youths or the youths themselves or recently adult, it's great to learn about the things that you didn't even know were out there. It's only by gathering information, sharing information, saying, "You know what? I tried this, I didn't care for it. I tried that, and I loved it."

Kate Reinicke:
Even between the children, my oldest son really enjoys his video magnifier and really liked the more low-tech version of it. That really worked for him. My youngest, she really liked the high tech tablet-driven video magnifiers that could do a few more things, but that was right up her alley. She loved knowing the ins and out of that technology. Also thinking that one size fits all, it's not true. Your kids have preferences just like anybody else, and it's great to find those.

Jeff Thompson:
In finding parents, PACER Center has a big hand in that, don't they?

Barb Ziemke:
I will say that one of my selfish motivations for coming to work for PACER was that I already understood that a real key to success was being able to access other families who had gone through similar experiences, but were perhaps a few steps ahead of me on the road. I knew that all the advocates here are also parents of kids with disabilities and that I would be talking with families a lot.

Barb Ziemke:
Honestly, and I say this in my workshops, I think about 80% of the real practical, tangible tips that I received about what app or what service or what program, even other services that are available, somehow came through another parent who mentioned it or I saw a resource around that. PACER, we don't do support groups per se, but I think our workshops are an opportunity to see that you're not alone in this. There's a lot of families who are doing the same kinds of things that you're working on and just informal conversations when you get involved in State Services for the Blind activities and you're dropping off kids or picking up kids.

Barb Ziemke:
Those are just organic opportunities to connect with families, but there are through resources online some great online supports for the family connect and other opportunities. PACER's page, the SSB partnership website page can refer families to other resources to connect with families.

Jeff Thompson:
Kate, you and your husband came here to the workshops.

Kate Reinicke:
We did. We first started with coming to the IEP workshops because that was a new process for us. Understanding what our rights were, what our role was supposed to be, and what schools were not only expected to do, but capable of doing for us was extremely helpful in not only being able to read the IEP and understand what it was saying, it can be a different language, the language of education. It can have some jargon in it that you're not familiar with.

Kate Reinicke:
Being able to sit down and work one-on-one with another parent advocate to say, "What does this really say? Is this actually helpful or is this just documenting all the things that are wrong with my kid?" After that, we signed up for the PACER newsletter and their mailings, and you can get very specific about what kind of mailings you would like to receive, to have the knowledge of what other workshops were coming up.

Kate Reinicke:
I would say one of the most helpful ones was the housing fair that you had held. My husband and I came to that as well to learn about what kind of options are out there for youths with disabilities and transition-age adults for where they can live, because they're not going to live with you forever and you're not going to be able to take care of them forever.

Barb Ziemke:
That's right.

Jeff Thompson:
Well, that's great information. Barb, how can they get a hold of PACER?

Barb Ziemke:
There's a few ways that you can do that. We do have a really great website with tons of information on it. If you go to the workshops and livestream, we do many of our workshops via technology as well. There is a list that you can sort by location, by date, by topic and take a look at what's coming up for usually the next three months or so. Again, signing up for our newsletters is a great way to stay in touch.

Barb Ziemke:
Our National Parent Center on Transition and Employment has a twice monthly e-newsletter that goes out that highlights all sorts of resources for all sorts of disabilities. These aren't specific to vision impairment, blindness, and deaf-blindness, but there's so much overlap between the laws you need to understand and what youth need to do to prepare.

Barb Ziemke:
You can also call and talk to a real person. It's one thing I really like about how we do business here. When you call, you'll talk first to someone at our front desk, who'll take some basic information, and then that will get routed to the most appropriate person to respond within PACER. We do, as Kate said, work individually with families around transition planning in their IEP. Advocates help if you're in disagreement with the school and you need to resolve that. We participate in conciliation and other methods for coming to agreement about educational plans.

Barb Ziemke:
Then our Transition and Employment website, there's an email link there. You can email us specific individual questions as well as just get help. We do a lot of resource and referral. I often say we don't know everything, obviously. You can't know everything. But we know a lot about who knows everything, and we try to connect families to who you need to connect with in order to get that question answered. That would be the primary ways.

Barb Ziemke:
Kate mentioned before that there is no one size fits all either to the students or to the parents. I think for parents who might be listening today who have young adults or children even with a visual impairment plus like perhaps autism or a severe ADHD or a mental health issue that's perhaps quite significant, you may be thinking, "Well, that sounds really great, but you don't really understand the challenges and how far behind we are in certain areas," and I don't understand your specific situation, but even for me, I found that having unrealistic expectations about the transition into adulthood was not helpful.

Barb Ziemke:
Typical youth nowadays are not routinely getting their college degree by age 21 and moving out of their family home. Adolescence has really extended up into the late 20s. For me, I realized that there was no way by age 21, when school was over, that we were going to have a plan in place for where our son would live, work, do everything that he needed to do.

Barb Ziemke:
I tried to go to a five-year plan. What do we want by age 26? What do we need to be doing to do that? I will say in our particular situation, it wasn't until our son was 28 that he was now living in an apartment successfully, had been to a college program for students with intellectual disabilities, which he didn't go to until he was 25, had work experience in between that he really needed. Take the pressure off yourself about the timeline, focus on what the hope for destination is there, and then just keep taking steps forward, and you will most likely come to a successful outcome.

Jeff Thompson:
It's great. Like Kate mentioned earlier about the pathways that she found that, Barb, you helped blaze earlier, pick up the bread crumbs that people have left behind and just take those and keep moving forward.

Kate Reinicke:
You may have to do some synthesis. You may have to take what you have learned in a workshop about helping students with autism and blend it with a workshop that you learned about how to help students with blindness. Chances are there will be another parent there who knows what you're going through and chances are that the moderator or the expert that they've brought in to speak about that topic has had to narrow it down to fit into the one to two-hour session. But if you take a few moments afterwards and ask them, "Well, my student has multiple needs. Can you tell me more information regarding my situation?" they will be more than happy to share their email, take a few minutes to chat with you, or give you information where you can find the answer to your questions. Please don't ever feel alone or that your situation is so unique that no one can help you.

Jeff Thompson:
It may seem that it's oceans apart, but there's so much common ground once you get down to the nuts and bolts of it all. Kate, the first time you came to a PACER Center workshop, what did you expect and what did you find out?

Kate Reinicke:
I expected to be ushered into a small conference room with a few chairs and someone with a screen down and a slide show, giving out a few facts here and there that maybe I could figure out how to utilize in my own life. I was shocked to walk in and find multitudes of parents. Your largest room was filled from wall to wall with parents like me, with kids like mine, with questions that I had. What was great was no one felt inhibited to ask question. Parents ask questions a lot.

Kate Reinicke:
Not only that, if there was a question that the moderator or the presenter possibly didn't know the exact answer to, sometimes there was another parent saying, "Oh, we just went through that. I can speak to that," or, "I'll talk to you afterwards." Everyone was there with the same purpose. We all need information, we all want information, we all want to know how can we navigate this together. Everybody's there to help out.

Jeff Thompson:
Now with the individual education plan, that's some place where you would have to get on top of, and advocate for. What was that process like as you ... The letting grow? Did you transition through that, too? You said age 14.

Kate Reinicke:
We did, not only with PACER Center's help but also with the TVI. They wanted to make sure that our kids, again, had a level playing field. SSB was great about allowing us to have technology evaluations and showing us what was available and coming to realize that there are so many different types of technology that our kids had options. What do you like? Do you like this? Do you like that? Do you prefer this? Do you prefer that? They could be in the driver's seat about what was most helpful for them.

Jeff Thompson:
That's great. At what point during the IEP did your son start speaking up for himself?

Kate Reinicke:
What was great about the teachers and the team that was put together for our kids was they made a point to specifically ask our kids questions and say, "Mom and dad, we don't want to hear from you. We want to know what does your kid need? What do they want? What have they noticed? And give them the opportunity to not only express what they found to be a problem or a challenge, but also encourage them, well, what do you think would be a good solution? Be able to participate in that conversation and that give and take over, well, what would be the best of all worlds and let's compromise to what works for you and what works for the staff."

Jeff Thompson:
That's when self-advocacy starts. That's a lifelong skill.

Kate Reinicke:
Any person, whether they have disabilities or not.

Barb Ziemke:
Looking for those opportunities to give them voice and choice I think is a key to it. Again, that swooping in-

Kate Reinicke:
[crosstalk]

Barb Ziemke:
... when we know that maybe we do know more and maybe we would have more to bring to the table, but allowing them that opportunity to speak for themselves is really powerful.

Jeff Thompson:
Kate, could you tell us a little something? Did you ever get the phone call or during a conversation where all of a sudden that light went off like, "Oh, my gosh. He's grown up"?

Kate Reinicke:
The light bulb went off for me that we'd reached a really good level with his independence when he could come home from class and say, "You know what? I had this problem," and my mind would immediately go to, "Oh, I need to jump in and fix this for him because that's my job as his mother," but I took a minute, I took a breath, I took a beat and said, "What do you want to do about it?" He said, "I already handled it. I walked down to the disabilities office and I explained what kind of problem I was having," or, "I walked down to the TRIO office and I explained the problem I was having. I sought help for myself. I'm just telling you about it. I'm not asking you to actually help me."

Jeff Thompson:
He's growing up.

Kate Reinicke:
Yes, exactly.

Jeff Thompson:
It goes back to you, Barb, let it grow.

Barb Ziemke:
That's a beautiful illustration of really what research even shows as, for young people in general, what they need from adults is for us to listen to validate their feelings or emotions about whatever the situation is and then support them in their ability to either fix it or take the next step. A perfect illustration of that.

Barb Ziemke:
One thing I wanted to talk about a little bit, too, is how I think sometimes it's harder for parents of kids who have challenges to make the shift at the same time as other students, like when they get to high school, to see them as high school students or to see them as a young adult. I learned that I needed to put on a bit of a new pair of glasses. My son has developed a mental disability, which delays him in many areas, but guess what? He still started growing a beard. He is becoming an adult even if intellectually he's at another stage.

Barb Ziemke:
Thinking through some of the things I wish I would have done earlier, for instance, if a son or daughter is still living at home, maybe even to go to community college. Perhaps it's time to move the bedroom down to the basement, give them a microwave and a mini fridge and redecorate a room that might still look like a childhood room to help them and to help you see them as the young adult that they actually are and are becoming. Just getting that shift from, "This is my child."

Barb Ziemke:
At PACER, we intentionally within our project here use the word "youth" instead of child when we're talking to parents, or young adult, because we as parents sometimes, they're our children forever, but we need to see them in this new light so that we can actually change the dynamic of our relationship.

Jeff Thompson:
You can't just squeeze them and keep them small like in The Waltons.

Barb Ziemke:
It doesn't work. I tried, it doesn't work. I think one of the tendencies for families who have students who are in high school particularly is to focus a lot on the educational component as far as academics. Academics are really important. With an overlay of visual impairment, there is a lot of work that has to be done to make sure that they do well academically. The skill acquisition around literacy skills is huge for successes in adults.

Barb Ziemke:
That's all important, but I think families need to consider once the school bus doesn't come anymore, once school is out of the picture, what you got on the history test may not be all that important unless your hope is to be a historian, and to look holistically at what are you focusing on. We know for students with visual impairments, blindness, for instance, having experiences in recreation and leisure, physical activities, extracurriculars, those are often where skills are developed that are going to actually allow them to have the confidence they need to have when they're in an unfamiliar environment, and that often families ...

Barb Ziemke:
And I don't have that perspective, but I have one from my own perspective of in trying to protect them from these environments that seem fraught with danger when you are feeling like you don't have the ability to navigate them, high school's really a time to look for those opportunities and, again, then work with your IEP team or State Services for the Blind to come up with what are those accommodations, what are those safety nets that could be put in place so that they don't lose that experience.

Barb Ziemke:
Social skills are going to be huge, and that's usually where those are developed, not in academic classrooms in high school. Really broadening your perspective of school is not really all about academics. College degrees don't really of themselves guarantee success. Looking at the big picture.

Kate Reinicke:
A couple of things that I wanted to mention that also helped our family and I feel could help other youths and parents alike is to have experiences with role models. I can honestly say as an adult in her 40s I had not met more than two or three visually impaired people in my everyday life. Now that my children are becoming more involved in the blind community, having those opportunities to meet other adults who are independent and successful not only can assure parents that it's possible, it is possible.

Kate Reinicke:
I know it's hard for you to imagine because you rely on your vision so heavily, it is possible to live an independent life without your vision and to then also show your children, your youths that there are successful adults out there doing what they like to do, doing what they want to do, and not feeling marginalized, not feeling that they can't. Again, they're just doing things differently.

Kate Reinicke:
Being involved in programs through SSB, Sheila Koenig had some really great programs. It was a job fair where all of the participants were blind adults. They ran the gamut from working in corporate America to being a package handler at UPS. The students could walk through and talk to everyone about how they were able to do their jobs successfully as a visually impaired person. I think that inspires our kids and also puts the parents at ease.

Kate Reinicke:
My kids have had great experiences with Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute with their adaptive sports programs. Again, they have to interact with the coaches and volunteers. I back off. I'm not going to be helpful as my stepdaughter is snowboarding down the hill. Their SHARE program, I can't highly recommend enough. Whatever activities your child enjoys, Stacy Shamblott can find them and find ways to make them adaptive to whatever supports your child may need.

Kate Reinicke:
My oldest son really enjoys playing the drums and has had the opportunity in the past few years to play in bands in bars and give performances and not have us hover over him. He did just fine. It was wonderful to see him express himself doing something that he loved and having an audience cheer.

Jeff Thompson:
Role models. That's very important. Like when you said you only knew two or three people or just met two or three people, but when they can meet a peer, someone their own age, and like, "How are you doing that?" or, "They can do it. Why can't I do it?" it just increases their self-determination and it just seems to roll after that.

Barb Ziemke:
I think a key component of that for all of us parents in this letting grow process is coming to terms with some of the limitations and there will just have to be some supports and ways that we ... Accommodations in place, but focusing, like Kate just said, on the strengths and the interests and the preferences. What makes this kid tick and how can we use that to launch them into adult life? Because who of us wants to have a job we don't enjoy? When we define ourselves, like if the three of us had more time to talk, I could probably see you get really excited when you talk about some of your personal interests or hobbies or things that you really like to do.

Barb Ziemke:
I think as parents, I always say we need to be strengths finders, strengths finder 101 to our youth and young adults. Sometimes they don't see it, and to notice what they're good at and not, again, make it all about academics but who they are and what they can contribute and how their personality and their relational skills call that out and help them see it, because that's really what they'll build their future off of.

Jeff Thompson:
I think this has been a great conversation for anyone that's listening to take all those analogies that you used, Barb, in the beginning that was so great, about the plant, the pot size, and the space needed to grow, and then the apron strings. I've heard that so many times, but when you can actually apply it and see [inaudible] you have to respond and let it grow, that's awesome. Thank you, Barb, thank you, Kate, for coming onto Blind Abilities. Thank you, PACER Center for putting this together with State Services for the Blind.

Barb Ziemke:
Thanks so much.

Kate Reinicke:
Thank you.

Jeff Thompson:
Be sure to check out PACER Center, champions for children with disabilities, on the web at www.PACER.org. Check out State Services for the Blind of Minnesota at www.MN.gov/deed/SSB. Live, learn, work, and play. A big thank you goes out to Chee Chau for his music. You can find Chee Chau on Twitter @LCheeChau.. From PACER Center, State Services for the Blind, and Blind Abilities, thanks for listening. We hope you enjoyed. Until next time, bye bye.

 [Music]  [Transition noise]  -When we share

-What we see

-Through each other's eyes...

[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]

...We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.


Jeff Thompson:
For more podcasts for the blindness perspective check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com. On Twitter @BlindAbilities. Download our app from the app store, Blind Abilities, that's two words. Or send us an email at info@blindabilities.com. Thanks for listening. 

Dec 21, 2018
iPhone101: Air Pods and the Live Listen Feature Allows You to Listen Up!
07:43

Show Summary:

iPhone 101 demonstrations and reviews brings you another demo involving Air Pods from Apple. Air Pods are ear phones that have no wire to worry about. They connect via Bluetooth thus allowing you to enjoy listening in stereo or by using just one Air Pod in either ear, you can keep one ear open for the environment you are in. Thus, doubling the life of the battery charge and allowing you to listen and hear around you as well.

Air Pods are kept in a charging case to ensure your day always has enough Air Pod usability even if stereo is the way you go.

Once you sink up your iPhone or iPad to the Air Pods, there is a Live Listen feature that will turn your Air Pods into a type of hearing aid. Turn up the volume in a meeting and point your iPhone’s microphone in the direction of someone that you can’t hear, and the Air Pods can bring that voice up loud and clear. The Live Listen feature utilizes the i-Device’s microphone to pick-up the sound and the volume control on your device let’s you bring that sound up to a hearable level.

In this demonstration, Jeff Thompson will show how to set up the Live Listen feature that is already in your i-device. Be sure that you are using the latest IOS update to ensure that you have the most recent fixes and up-to-date features.

You can find Air Pods on the Apple Store web site as well as at the Apple Stores. They retail around $149 and have been on sale as low as $129.

Be sure to check out more iPhone 101 demonstrations on the web at www.BlindAbilities.comand click on the iPhone101 tab or the Category drop-down menu and choose iPhone101. We have everything you want to know about using the iPhone/iPad in easy bite-size episodes.

Contact:

Thank you for listening!

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Dec 19, 2018
Minnesota Wild Blind Hockey Is Here! A Conversation with Lonny Evans (Transcript Provided)
15:51

Show Summary:

(Full Transcript Below)

A new Hockey program has just started right here in the Hockey State. The program is the Minnesota Wild Blind Hockey Program. Open to individuals who happen to be Blind or Visually Impaired. 

Lonny Evans joined Jeff Thompson in the Blind Abilities studio to talk about the Minnesota Wild Blind Hockey program, how it came about and describe the adaptive sport to our listeners. Lonny talks about the spirit and the volunteers participating, and the overall joy the sport of Hockey is bringing to so many individuals. With Canada leading the way and more teams out East in the States, we are excited about the Minnesota Wild getting behind and supporting an inclusive program. A program that gives individuals with vision loss an opportunity to challenge themselves and to participate in the popular sport of hockey.

You can find out more about Minnesota Wild Blind Hockey on the web at www.MNSpecialHockey.organd read below about the Hendrickson Foundation and the mission statement they stand by.

From the MNSpecialHockeyweb site:

Blind hockey, which is the newest discipline of disabled hockey, is the same exhilarating, fast-paced sport of hockey with minimal rule adaptations to make the game accessible for players who are all legally blind. The most significant modification is that the sport features an adapted puck that makes noise, an is bigger and slower than a traditional puck.

“Minnesota Disabled Hockey is proud to offer our newest program, Minnesota Wild Blind Hockey, to our list of programs for people of all abilities in the State of Hockey,” said Minnesota Hockey Disabled Hockey Director Antonia Gillen.  “This program will create opportunities for people with visual impairments to play hockey and expands the network of hockey programs for people in Minnesota with varying disabilities. We are so grateful for the continued support of the Minnesota Wild and their assistance in reaching another group of individuals who would otherwise not have the chance to play the sport we all enjoy.”

From the About page of the Hendrickson Foundation:

How Did It All Start?

In 2011, Founder Larry Hendrickson was in contact with USA Hockey and they asked for help with growing disabled hockey in Minnesota…to help provide the opportunity to play hockey to those in wheelchairs, with a loss of limb, with intellectual disabilities, or who were injured serving our country. In short, Larry realized that Hockey Changes Lives for everyone who has the opportunity to play and everyone, including individuals with disabilities, deserve the opportunity to play. As Larry likes to tell it, “These people zero in not on what is different about them but what is the same. With time, they’ve forgotten they are different. After I met the people, how their lives were affected, it’s one of the greatest joys of my life.”

Naturally the Hendrickson Foundationwas formed shortly after in partnership with Minnesota Hockey and USA Hockey. The mission: grow the game of  hockey in Minnesota by being inclusive to individuals with mental and physical disabilities .

Contact:

Thank you for listening!

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Full Transcript:

Minnesota Wild Blind Hockey Is Here! A Conversation with Lonny Evans

Jeff Thompson:
Over to Goldsworthy, he shoots, he scores. Ah yes, the great sounds of Minnesota hockey, and there's a brand new hockey program in town. It's the Minnesota Wild Blind Hockey Program. With me today is Lonny Evans. He's going to talk about the Blind Hockey Program, how you can get involved, and he's going to tell us a little bit more about this brand new initiative for the Minnesota Wild.

Jeff Thompson:
And, a big thank you for the Hendrickson Foundation for being a contributor of and supporter of Minnesota Wild Blind Hockey. The Hendrickson's mission is, grow the game of hockey in Minnesota by being inclusive to individuals with mental and physical disabilities.

Jeff Thompson:
Now, let's talk some hockey with Lonny Evans.

Jeff Thompson:
Welcome to Blind Abilities. I'm Jeff Thompson. I'm at State Services for the Blind, here in Minnesota in the Saint Paul area, and I'm with Lonny Evans. He's representing the Minnesota Wild with the Minnesota Wild's Blind Hockey. How you doing Lonny?

Lonny Evans:
Doing very well, thanks Jeff. How are you?

Jeff Thompson:
I'm doing good, thank you. This is exciting. When I first heard about this ... Well, I heard about Blind Hockey out east, and there's a few teams that are doing an interview with Liz Bottner, and she's a goalie out there. She said, "Well, maybe you should start getting it in Minnesota," and low and behold all of a sudden I saw on the news, all of a sudden there was an announcement of, "Minnesota Wild introducing Blind Hockey to Minnesota area."

Lonny Evans:
Yeah, it is real exciting. Recently, a couple of the coaches and myself went out to Pittsburgh, and we were able to interact with folks and observe a Blind Hockey Summit. As you referenced, there are several teams out of the East Coast area, and of course Canada's been doing it for a long time, but no real representation here in Minnesota. The idea that the state of hockey doesn't have Blind Hockey, there's some really good folks in that organization, Minnesota Hockey and elsewhere that decided, "You know what? We need to do something about it." So, we had our kickoff a couple weeks ago.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh wow. Was a good turnout?

Lonny Evans:
Yeah, we had probably just under 20 players come out, and then we also had great representation. We had Orono High School, had some of their boys and girls players come out. We had some volunteers as teachers, they had their students on the ice, and so it was really a neat mix of people coming together, and we had a wonderful first time on the ice together.

Jeff Thompson:
Such a great opportunity for everybody to learn. You got the people who are blind out there probably breaking through a barrier that they ... an expectation that they never thought they would have the opportunity to do, and other people learning that what possibilities people with a visual impairment can do.

Lonny Evans:
Yeah, I agree. I think the idea of attacking the barriers that either we put up ourselves and/or that others put on us is really important. So, the hockey is a great end-all, but I believe that in the end it will prove to be more than hockey, that it can be a real springboard for other things in life, social, just you know confidence. Enjoying the sport as a way to do all that thing is I think just a really neat combination.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, I agree. I think it's a great vehicle for breaking down those limited expectations that society puts upon people with a disability. This is just another way of sure enjoyment for ... I used to play, myself, so I was like ... I was thinking to myself, "Now hockey ..." Let's just switch this over to ... This is what went through my head, "How do you play? What are the rules? Are they the same? Is the puck the same? Is the sticks?" Can you explain it to us?

Lonny Evans:
Sure. Yeah, no those are great questions, and I think those are probably questions that most people have. There are very few modifications, on the higher end of play I would say. One of the modifications is that the net is at 3 feet versus 4 feet high. All of the players have up to 10% vision or less, so the players can have up to 10% vision and still qualify to skate with Blind Hockey. Some have zero vision and then somewhere in between there, and that's going to somewhat dictate plays. Well so, the forwards can have up to 10% vision whereas goalies have zero vision.

Lonny Evans:
Another modification is, that there needs to be at least one pass in the offensive zone. So, you couldn't skate from behind your net, bring it all the way up, and shoot on the goalie. Once you cross that blue line you have to make at least one pass.

Lonny Evans:
Another distinction is, the puck is quite a bit bigger. It's metal, and there are BBs inside that generate noise as it's moving and being hit and shot, and that type of thing. It doesn't make noise the entire path, so sometimes it's really difficult for players to pick up on that. I do believe, from what I hear, that they are continuing to work on a puck to make sure that the sound is being produced throughout the time it's being used. But in general, there aren't a lot of modifications.

Jeff Thompson:
I suppose that pass really helps the goalie, because if someone comes in, they might just be able to determine that someone's coming down the left side, but once you pass it, that sound of someone catching the pass gives the goalie a good chance of bearing down on the location.

Lonny Evans:
Yes, absolutely. If you were to stand behind a net and watch a goalie, you can see them absolutely reacting to that sound, but then there's that difficulty of when the sound isn't coming. You can imagine how difficult that is. So, the goalies have a really tough position, and it's amazing to see what goalies, with some experience can do, and it's really fun to see them make that save. Whether a goalie, defense, or forward, I have great admiration for the skaters.

Lonny Evans:
That's not because I came into it with low expectations or wanting to dumb it down, but I just know from my own experiences that if I were to have some kind of an issue with my hearing or sight, that that would really change it for me. So I guess, not starting at a point of low expectations, but my admiration for people has really taken off as I've been able to get out there and experience it with people.

Jeff Thompson:
Now, this isn't just for people who have played hockey before and who want a second chance at it or get out there. This is for people who are visually impaired that want to experience hockey, skating, and so they're coming in at all levels.

Lonny Evans:
Yeah, they really are coming in at different levels and experiences and different ages. So right now having one team, we run the gamut from younger elementary kids to folks that are probably in their 50s, and everybody in between. Some who've skated in the past, maybe before they lost their vision. Others, who a couple of weeks ago was their very first time on the ice.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh wow. That's where, like you mentioned, the students from the high schools and stuff coming out and volunteering and offering some help, that's where they get an opportunity to give assistance, and learn from them too.

Lonny Evans:
Yeah, I think the opportunities for awareness are great on both sides of that equation, and I thought the bonding that took place between or amongst everybody was amazing. I think that's going to continue to be a real highlight of what we do, especially early on.

Lonny Evans:
One of the neat things that I've experienced is, seeing kids who came in and maybe relied on two volunteers, one on either side as they leaned heavily into a stick to keep their balance, two, three practices later are now skating one their own, and the body language just tells you the confidence as well as the big smile on the face.

Lonny Evans:
So, I think over time the idea of having a lot of volunteers, but phasing out the numbers will take place as people gain confidence and experience, and they don't have other people doing it for them. They are skating, they are doing it for themselves. I like to think of the other volunteers and coaches, we're partnering with each other to do this.

Lonny Evans:
A fun experience for me in another kind of great equalizer was, I skated up to one of our newer skaters a few weeks ago, and I asked her if there's anything I could do. Is there anything that she would want to do to help out, and she said, "Well, could you grab the jersey on my left side?" So I agreed, and I skated over, and I grabbed a handful of jersey. She said, "Coach Lonny, that's my right side." So, we can always learn from others, and certainly that's the case for me. But, it was a great time, just another big smile. We're out here having fun on the ice and at that time, what could have been better?

Jeff Thompson:
Lonny, when you first heard about this and the Wild getting involved, how did that happen?

Lonny Evans:
Sure, my first invitation to get involved with Blind Hockey came a few months ago. I had been working late one night, stopped in at a store, and checked an email message. It was from a friend of mine from Minnesota Hockey, Toni Gillen, and she asked me if I was still interested in getting back into hockey. I said, "Absolutely," and her message was, "Well, that's wonderful, because I want you to be part of helping us start Blind Hockey in Minnesota."

Lonny Evans:
It really struck a chord with me, because I had worked with Toni, working with other folks with disabilities through the years, and loved all of it. But, this was also really personal to me, as my grandfather had lost his vision when I was younger. I was able to do a lot of things with my grandfather, actually he wanted to go fishing, and I would be the one who as a middle schooler, would take the boat out and we'd go fishing. I would take him to different events for folks who happened to be blind, and a bunch of things like that through the years. So, it was just very personal for me on that level, as well as knowing the impact that hockey can have on folks. I couldn't wait to jump on board.

Jeff Thompson:
And you have, if you may, have another personal story about someone with a disability that started playing hockey as well.

Lonny Evans:
Yes, absolutely. Our daughter Elena was adopted from Russia. She went from the hospital to the orphanage due to a birth condition where both of her legs were not weight bearing. So after we heard about Elena and pursued her, she came home at three and a half. A couple months after she arrived here in the US, she had both feet amputated at Shriners Hospital, healed up that summer, and then took her first steps as an almost four year old the day after 9-11. It was about two years later that she was the only girl on here all boys Might hockey team out in Minnetonka, and Elena started skating and that just kind of took off for her, her love for hockey. She's flourished on and off the ice since then.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, surrounding someone with high expectations, role models, her brothers and stuff like that, probably helped a lot.

Lonny Evans:
Absolutely. She would have therapy regularly at Shriners Hospital, but I think probably some of the most impactful therapy for her was trying to keep up with her brothers who were just a couple months younger or a year and a half older. That really was a normalizing type of experience for her. It absolutely ramped up the expectations. It absolutely ramped up the level of confidence that she can do things. She was very motivated, and so all that really helped her out.

Lonny Evans:
Even for example when she was playing hockey, the idea that she had to carry her own hockey bag made her part of what was going on, and she wasn't treated with kid gloves, but had the same expectations as everybody else. I think we've been able to apply that in a lot of different areas. There's no doubt that she's been able to do some wonderful things, but we're not surprised by that. We expected that for her and from her, and wanted that for her.

Jeff Thompson:
And, that's a great success story in itself, and it's continuing. Just like this hockey opportunity, Blind Hockey from the Minnesota Wild being an opportunity to people to show up, get going on something, and break down those barriers as we first started out by talking about. The barriers that we think are in front of us or people think are in front of them, and that's where all those low expectations come.

Jeff Thompson:
So, I think it's a great opportunity for people to get involved in it, whether you're a volunteer or whether you're putting on the skates. May have been awhile since you put them on, but it's an opportunity to actually get to know people, communicate, share ideas, and probably develop friendships in the long run too, networks.

Lonny Evans:
Yeah, absolutely. I think the benefits or the fruit of skating for the Minnesota Wild Blind Hockey Program, is already happening. We're seeing some really neat things take place right now, but I'm confident that that'll continue on and probably in ways that we can't even anticipate as an organization or individually. The feedback has been really positive. I think people are really grateful for this opportunity. It's just really fun to hear the excitement that kids and adults and parents and guardians have for this whole thing. As if any of us needed any other motivation, to see those smiles and to hear the excitement about doing this is just amazing. I think we're just scratching the surface here.

Jeff Thompson:
Well this is a great opportunity. Lonny, can you tell people who are interested in this or who want to learn more about Minnesota Wild Blind Hockey, where they can go to find more information?

Lonny Evans:
Yes, if you go to mnspecialhockey.org, there is a link to Blind Hockey specifically, and you can sign up as a skater, as an individual volunteer, or as a volunteer team.

Jeff Thompson:
And that would be like the high school players that came and joined in?

Lonny Evans:
Yes, yep. Absolutely. So, we have got some high school kids. We've got a Bantam team coming soon. I've got some friends who skate in the Adult Hockey Association who have signed up as a team. So, we want to encourage entire teams to come out, but also would love to have individual skaters come and join us on the ice.

Jeff Thompson:
Well Lonny, I want to thank you and the Minnesota Wild for creating this opportunity for everybody. I think it's a great thing, especially here in Minnesota. Remember, a miracle on ice, right?

Lonny Evans:
Yes. I have to tell you, when we were out in Pittsburgh, people heard we were coming. So, I think there's a real sense of family, so people knew we were coming representing Minnesota, and were welcoming us. We were also getting a lot of, "What took you so long," or "It's about time," and "State of Minnesota, state of hockey, what took so long?" So, there was some great teasing that way, but we talked about expectations as far as skaters and individuals and people with a disability or no disability. So I think it's kind of funny, but also I think it's kind of telling that there is an expectation that Minnesota would be doing something like this.

Lonny Evans:
So, I can't say enough about the Minnesota Wild and they are just so supportive, and are putting so much behind this. I think it says a lot about the organization, about the people there, and their buy-in, and their desire to see people of all abilities be able to participate at some level in the wonderful game of hockey.

Jeff Thompson:
Well, there's no time like the present, right?

Lonny Evans:
Absolutely, we'd love to get more folks out there. So, I thank you for the opportunity to spread the word, and thank you for the way that you are helping us to promote this and get the word out.

Jeff Thompson:
Thanks Lonny. We'll put the link in the show notes too, so if you click down below you'll be able to get right to that website and volunteer, join. If there's anybody that you know who is visually impaired that you think this would be something that they would enjoy, let them know. So share it out there folks.

Lonny Evans:
Perfect.

Recording:

Yeah!

Jeff Thompson:
It's great having Lonny in the studio. Be sure to check out the website at mnspecialhockey.org. Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed, and until next time, bye-bye.

Recording:         When we share what we see through each others eyes, we can then begin to bridge the gap between [inaudible] expectations and the reality of blind abilities.

Jeff Thompson:
For more podcasts with the blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, on Twitter at Blind Abilities, download our app from the app store Blind Abilities, that's two words, or send us an email at info@blindabilities.com. Thanks for listening.

[Music]  [Transition noise]  

-When we share

-What we see

-Through each other's eyes...

[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]

...We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.

Jeff Thompson:

For more podcasts with a blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.BlindAbilities.com, on Twitter @BlindAbilities. Download our app from the App Store, Blind Abilities. That's two words. Or send us an email at info@BlindAbilities.com. Thanks for listening.

Dec 17, 2018
Dreaming of a Blind Christmas - A Blog Post By Kelsi Hansen

Dreaming of a Blind Christmas - By Kelsi Hansen

Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday. Actually it’s a tossup between Christmas and Halloween, but that’s beside the point. It is the holiday season for those of us who celebrate December holidays, and it is one of the busiest times of the year.

There is tons of shopping to be done; wrapping; Christmas activities; and decorating. And I love every minute of it!

So, how and whywould a blind person decorate for the holidays you might ask? I asked myself those same questions when I first went blind. Why would I decorate for Christmas if I couldn’t see how festive it looked? If I can’t see it, what’s the point? Moreover, how would I decorate so that it looked good visually? How would I make sure the ornaments were spaced evenly, and not clustered on the tree? How would I make sure Santa was not hanging lopsided on the wall? There were so many questions I had about how as a blind person I was going to celebrate Christmas. I mean, how was I even going to wrap presents, something that I used to love to do. Sure I could wrap the paper around the gift, but how was I to cut the wrapping paper in the first place?

So, I had a lot of questions, and for a while, I didn’t help decorate, or wrap. When I first went blind, I thought the fun parts of my life were over. I was only twelve though, so I had a life time ahead of me. Well … it was going to be a long and dismal life if I kept that attitude wasn’t it? Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, so let’s talk about how to overcome some of these seeming setbacks.

One of the very first things I learned about Christmas as a blind individual was how to cut the wrapping paper. This was actually a crucial step for me in adapting to being blind. I mentioned how much I loved wrapping before, so if I could figure that out, what else could I still do? Anyways, I realized that if you fold the wrapping paper where you want to cut it, you can just follow the fold. Scissors sit amazingly between the two sides of the folded paper. It was an easy fix, so what else would I still be able to do if I just used simple adaptations like that?

I could do a lot, and I do even more every year. Last year, I took the tree down by myself and tied the branches together from each row so I wouldn’t have to sort them out this year. I string the lights and garland on the tree by myself, which I really don’t think is any different than the way someone with sight would do it. And the ornaments … well, I just kind of randomly put them on the tree. One top, one left, one right, one up, one down and so on. Though, this year my son got to help me. Up until now, the ornaments could only be at the top of the tree. Now the good ones are at the top, and the ones my son and cat (yes I said my cat) can play with are at the bottom.

As far as hanging things like Santas, Rudolphs, snowmen, and all the other decorations, my favorite thing to use is push pins. Push pins are the best! I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. You can put them in the wall, and if you don’t like how it’s hanging or the location, it’s super easy to fix. Just take the pins out and try again. Eventually Santa hangs straight. My walls are gray now though, so apparently it is leaving marks, and the white underneath is visible. It’s not a huge deal though. I just leave them up all year now, which makes decorating extra easy.

One thing I’ve never really done though is to hang lights up on the house. Mostly because I’ve never really been settled in one spot long enough to invest in lights. However, last year I did hang some of the net lights in a tree which was super easy. And they ended up in the shape of a heart, which was an unexpected bonus. Plus, I got to climb a tree, which is always fun!

Anyways, back to my other more important question: Why would I decorate for the holidays? This is something that I needed to figure out for myself before I could even think about decorating. Keeping in mind that I was newly blind, my mind set was that of: I can’t see the decorations like I used to. Was there a point in even trying to be festive?

Yes, turns out that there was. Along with adding holiday cheer, it provided a sense of normalcy to my life. Just because I couldn’t see the tree, or the lights, or the silver bells, doesn’t mean that they weren’t there. I still knew that they were there, could still visualize my environment and enjoy it. It was the smallest step forward to helping my life go back to normal, maybe not the original normal, but a new normal. It was a baby step towards accepting and adapting to my new normal. It opened the door to possibilities that I believed were beyond me. My life wasn’t over because I couldn’t see, it was just different. I needed to start accepting that, and learning how to adapt to my new situation. And here I am today, still loving and enjoying all the festivities around Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Meet Kelsi!

This is me! Hope you enjoyed the read. I love questions, so if you
have any, or just a comment, feel free to email them to
info@blindabilities.com.

Thanks

Kelsi

 

Contact:

Thank you for listening!

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities Appon the App Store.

Dec 13, 2018
TVI Toolbox: A Conversation with Keith Ford l- Retired Teacher of the Blind and Visually Impaired and Orientation and Mobility Instructor (Transcript Provided)
12:33

Show Summary:

(Full Transcript Below)

Please welcome Teen correspondent, Simon Bonenfant, as he steps into the interviewer role for Blind Abilities. While attending and presenting at the Pennsylvania NFB convention, Simon pulled out his recorder and went to work. Conducting 5 interviews from vendors and presenters. In this interview, Simon talks to Retired Teacher of the Visually Impaired/Orientation and Mobility Instructor Keith Ford. They talk about the importance of braille and how modern technology is changing the way teachers teach and Keith gives us some insight into the field of a Teacher of the Visually Impaired along with some tips for Transition age students.

Join Simon and Keith in this brief look back at the journey Keith has gone through and his optimistic view of the future of technology and training.

Check out previous interviews with Simon Bonenfant:

TVI Toolbox: Summer Academy, Total Transition to College Experience – Welcome Back Simon Bonenfant and Meet Fellow Student, John Dowling

TVI Toolbox:  Science, Technology, Engineering and Math: Carving His Pathway Towards Success, Meet Simon Bonenfant

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.

Full Transcript:

TVI Toolbox: A Conversation with Keith Ford l- Retired Teacher of the Blind and Visually Impaired and Orientation and Mobility Instructor

Keith Ford:
I got a Masters Degree as a teacher of the visually impaired and a certification as an orientation and mobility instructor.

Jeff Thompson:
Welcome to Blind Abilities. I'm Jeff Thompson. Blind Abilities presents Keith Ford.

Keith Ford:
Back in the old days it was just kids that were just partially sighted and totally blind but over time I had to learn to adapt my instruction to meet the needs of lots of different children and actually learn new skills.

Jeff Thompson:
A retired teacher for the blind and visually impaired and orientation and mobility instructor.

Simon Bonenfant:

I used the Perkins Braille writer for math because you could have lines horizontally, vertically where when the Braille was placed just a flat and horizontal surface and you can't do the spatial element of Braille which is missing but on the paper you get that.

Jeff Thompson:
This podcast was made possible by our team correspondent, Simon Bonenfant.

Keith Ford:
With this device that's being developed at the University of Michigan, it'll be like a Braille iPad which will just be like a sheet of Braille. The way it will produce lines and make it do graphs.

Jeff Thompson:
For more podcasts with the blindness perspective, be sure to check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, on Twitter @BlindAbilities and download the free Blind Abilities app from the app store and Google Play store. That's two words, Blind Abilities.

Keith Ford:
I'm real pragmatic. I would always tell students that they want to get into something that's going to lead to employment after college.

Jeff Thompson:
And now here's Simon Bonenfant with Keith Ford.

Keith Ford:
Well you certainly want to have dual certification as an O&M instructor and a teacher of the visually impaired, that's really important to have that flexibility.

Simon Bonenfant:

Hello Blind Abilities. This is Simon Bonenfant here and I'm here at the state convention in Pennsylvania of the National Federation of the Blind. I got a chance to talk to a man named Keith Ford. How are you doing, Keith?

Keith Ford:
Hello.

Simon Bonenfant:

Very nice to talk to you.

Keith Ford:
Okay.

Simon Bonenfant:

Keith, you are a retired mobility instructor, is that correct?

Keith Ford:
And a teacher of the visually impaired.

Simon Bonenfant:

Oh, very nice. It's very interesting because as I was talking to Keith I found out that he's not blind and he's sighted so we were talking about how that worked. How did you get into the field of orientation, mobility and teacher of the visually impaired?

Keith Ford:
That was way back in 1985 where I decided to make a career change and I thought something that a helping professional would be more something I was interested in pursuing and I guess it has to do with attitudes and interests and abilities and just a certain view of life. Maybe you just feel more comfortable working in a helping profession than something else. Maybe that's it.

Simon Bonenfant:

Yeah. Did you get a degree to do this kind of job?

Keith Ford:
Yes. I went to the University of Pittsburgh and I got a masters degree as a teacher of the visually impaired and it also had certification as an orientation and mobility instructor. I graduated in August of 1986.

Simon Bonenfant: 

Wow. Very nice. Did you do orientation, mobility and TVI all in the same kind of job?

Keith Ford:
As an itinerant teacher, yes.

Simon Bonenfant:

Okay. As you were working in this field, what did it teach you? What did you learn the most from your students as you were teaching them?

Keith Ford:
In the time that I taught you saw a lot of change occurring where in the early years most of my students were just partially sighted or totally blind, but then as time went on you saw more multi-impaired children. We like to use in the profession terms like life skills and learning support. You had more and more students like that and then you saw more and more autistic children who were visually impaired and then more and more students that are called cortically visually impaired where that deals with trauma to the brain since you have more and more premature babies being born.

Keith Ford:
CVI, cortical visual impairment, usually involves a long list of visual behaviors because it's trauma to the brain, it's not to the eye or the optic nerve. That's a whole different ballgame and it's still a relatively new aspect to what teachers of the visually impaired do.

Simon Bonenfant:

Right.

Keith Ford:
But they're predicting that CVI students will be the new face of blindness or visual impairment in the future.

Simon Bonenfant: 

Wow.

Keith Ford:
It's always been, to answer your question, over the time I taught there was just so much change. Back in the old days it was just kids that were just partially sighted and totally blind but over time I had to learn to adapt my instruction to meet the needs of lots of different children and actually learn new skills. Nowadays in orientation and mobility programs you're getting a lot more emphasis on students that are totally blind and totally deaf so that there's instruction involved with those kinds of students, which wasn't a part of my instruction back in 1985.

Keith Ford:
But the field is always changing because the population is just changing. Nowadays kids that are just partially sighted or totally blind, they're in the minority. You're also seeing a lot of new approaches to orientation and mobility. Back in the old days we were always taught that you had to have a control mechanism to cross an intersection, like a stop sign or a traffic light.

Keith Ford:
But now more and more travelers are encountering situations where there isn't a control mechanism so there's this emphasis on crossing at intersections where there isn't any control mechanism. There's a decision-making process involved in that called acceptable risk and non-acceptable risk. It's still a relatively new thing but it's blind and partially sighted travelers are running into situations now where they have to cross where there isn't a control mechanism.

Keith Ford:
Not that every crossing could ever ... There's some crossings you just can't make, they just can't be done, you shouldn't try it. The whole idea of acceptable risk and unacceptable risk is something you have to learn. There are decision-making skills you have to learn for that. It's something that's happening more and more in making those kinds of crossings.

Keith Ford:
Overall I would say what I've learned from my students is just learning new skills to work with students that have other handicapping conditions. That would probably be the most I've received from my students is I had to learn to adapt and learn new skills.

Simon Bonenfant:

Did you have to learn Braille when you were becoming a TVI?

Keith Ford:
Oh yes. We had a heavy emphasis on Braille back in the old days, certainly. Braille is very important, but there are some students that are lower functioning that just can't understand Braille so they can't use it.

Simon Bonenfant:

 Right. I'm sure you've seen a lot of changes in your time in the blindness field in terms of technology.

Keith Ford:
Oh yes.

Simon Bonenfant:

Were you using the Perkins Braille writers back when you started?

Keith Ford:
It's always going to be there, the Perkins Braille writer, because technology breaks down.

Simon Bonenfant:

Exactly. Yeah.

Keith Ford:
But the assistive technology they have nowadays is a much higher quality, much more reliable. Back when I started we had the VersaBraille P2C, which in its day was a wonderful thing but they had a lot of breakdowns and by the end of the school year you'd have to send the Versabraille P2C back to the manufacturer and they'd have to kind of do an overhaul just to replace things or just upgrade it to get it back to where it's totally functional for September.

Simon Bonenfant:

 Yeah.

Keith Ford:
But as time went on you'd have little glitches here and there but the quality of the equipment they have now for visually impaired students is a whole lot better, plus you're seeing ... Like say the iPhone, you have the accessibility options are built into the technology so it's technology that is used by sighted people but also could be used by blind and partially sighted so that brings the cost down.

Keith Ford:
You're also seeing, which I'm kind of excited about, up at the University of Michigan they're trying to build ... They're developing this ... It's like an iPad that will have refreshable Braille that will be less expensive. I've heard they're using, whether it's compressed air or some kind of gel technology to reproduce Braille cells on an iPad-like device with lines of Braille rather than the refreshable Braille units that are electronic and cost a lot more money.

Simon Bonenfant

Yeah, I know. Braille is very important.

Keith Ford:
But getting the cost down is really important. There's probably always going to be a need for paper Braille but I think as time goes on the paperless Braille is going to be more the case.

Simon Bonenfant:

Bring down the cost.

Keith Ford:
It'll be more common.

Simon Bonenfant:

Okay, yeah.

Keith Ford:
Being able to carry Braille in a small device like you have with you now certainly makes a lot more sense than those bulky Braille books.

Simon Bonenfant:

Yes.

Keith Ford:
But we're always going to have paper Braille and Perkins Braillers because things break down and you want to have a hard copy.

Simon Bonenfant:

Yeah.

Keith Ford:
But in their day I think the Perkins Brailler came out in the late 1950s. That was a really big deal when it came out.

Simon Bonenfant:

Oh, I know. I still use the Perkins Braille writer. When I transitioned to the Braille writer I used to think, I don't know if I'll ever use the Perkins Braille writer. But then I found a use for it and I'm like, you know, technology breaks down, stuff happens. With the Perkins Braille writer you don't need a battery, it works. Sometimes the best low-tech solutions are the most high-tech to get things done.

Keith Ford:
Yeah. I have a Perkins Brailler at home I used when I was working. It's a very reliable, very well-made piece of equipment and you always have to respect it. It'll always be there. 100 years from now it'll be still being used.

Simon Bonenfant:

Oh yeah.

Keith Ford:
But it's exciting to see all the new technology because it allows for blind and partially-sighted people to have greater access to the world in getting employment and right along with sighted people. It is a positive thing in the long-run.

Simon Bonenfant:

Oh yeah. Have you heard of the [iWear] application?

Keith Ford:
I've heard about that. I believe it's a device that you wear and then a sighted person at another location tells you what to look for or ...

Simon Bonenfant:

Yeah. It's a connection with a sighted agent and it can help in any kind of activity and it also helps in the mobility aspect. That's come a long way too because there are certain things that are not going to be visible with a cane like street signs or numbers on doors and things. That's something that [iWear 00:09:30] will help out with. The technology has come a long way with mobility and Braille and now we have things that will take print and read it out loud or take print that will put it in Braille material. Braille is getting to be more available these days.

Keith Ford:
Oh yeah. When I used to teach children Braille, children that were included within a regular environment, I used to work with a classroom teacher and we would teach the sighted children about Braille too. We'd have Braille cells all over the place and numbers on a child's desk in kindergarten. We'd have the name of the child in print and in Braille so that they could learn in class and get some experience with what their blind peer in the class was learning. It made it really nice. The kids enjoyed that and it helped the blind child to feel very much a part of the class. When I was teaching young blind children Braille readiness skills I used to do a lot of stuff like that, creative things, to just make everybody aware of Braille and they just thought that was neat.

Simon Bonenfant

Have you also used tactile diagrams, how to utilize them?

Keith Ford:
Well yeah, tactile graphics. I've used software that would produce tactile graphics for different things.

Simon Bonenfant:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Keith Ford:
And plus Patton, they would provide ...

Simon Bonenfant:

 They do that. Yeah.

Keith Ford:
Textbooks that had tactile graphic illustrations inside with Thermoform.

Simon Bonenfant:

 They're a wonderful service. That is still used today.

Keith Ford:
Absolutely.

Simon Bonenfant:

I think that's the one thing ... Reading Braille on the electronic display, that's great but I think Braille paper is always going to be needed because tactile diagrams and stuff that can't come up on a flat display. I used the Perkins Braille writer for math because you could have lines horizontally, vertically where when the Braille was placed just a flat and horizontal surface and you can't do the spatial element of Braille which is missing but on the paper you get that.

Keith Ford:
With this device that's being developed at the University of Michigan, it'll be like a Braille iPad which will just be like a sheet of Braille. The way it will produce lines and make it do graphs. From what I'm being told they'll be able to produce graphs and all kinds of tactile graphics on this new device.

Simon Bonenfant:

That's great.

Keith Ford:
Yeah.

Simon Bonenfant:

Keith, my final question is: What would be your advice to blind students who are in high school or either transitioning to college or to the workplace, and also what would be your advice to instructors who are thinking about going into this field?

Keith Ford:
I would say ... I'm real pragmatic. I would always tell students that they want to get into something that's going to lead to employment after college, so any kind of technology field would be beneficial. I would also say that you want to do some vocational interest training or testing. At Penn State here we have the CEDAR program and you can do some vocational interest testing with them.

Keith Ford:
It's always good to gather data about yourself, whatever you've achieved in life, whatever area you've shown any kind of aptitude and interest and you want to get into a field where there's a need for your services. Any kind of technology related kind of degree is always going to give you a better chance.

Keith Ford:
You were talking about ... The other part of your question about the instructors or people getting into the field.

Simon Bonenfant:

 Yes.

Keith Ford:
Well you certainly want to have dual certification as an O&M instructor and a teacher of the visually impaired, that's really important to have that flexibility, you don't want to have just one.

Simon Bonenfant:

Right because you can get work in both and there's a high demand for that.

Keith Ford:
Yeah. The field is always changing. You want to get acquainted with this whole new system of cortical visual impairment. There's a whole new evaluation tool to get acquainted with that so that you can evaluate those kinds of students. You certainly want to gain as much ... And the programs I'm hearing about nowadays are putting much more emphasis on multi-impaired students, deaf-blind students, which wasn't the case when I was getting my university training because it was just a different time.

Keith Ford:
I would also mention the importance of just getting as much information and training and experience in dealing with just a wide range of visually impaired students.

Simon Bonenfant:

Yeah. Well, very nice. Keith, I want to thank you for coming on the program today, the podcast.

Keith Ford:
Okay.

Simon Bonenfant:

Thank you for sharing your insights with all of us. Have a good one.

Keith Ford:
Okay.

Jeff Thompson:
Once again, a big thank you goes out to our team correspondent, Simon Bonenfant and to Keith Ford for sharing with us his experiences as a BTVI and O&M instructor. And a huge thank you to Chee Chau for his beautiful music. That's @LCheeChau on Twitter. Once again, thank you for listening, hope you enjoyed and until next time, bye bye.

[Music]  [Transition noise]  -When we share

-What we see

-Through each other's eyes...

[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]

...We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.

Jeff Thompson:

For more podcasts with the blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, on Twitter at Blind Abilities. Download our app from the App Store, Blind Abilities. That's two words. Or send us an email at info@blindabilities.com. Thanks for listening.

Dec 13, 2018
That Blind Tech Show 24: Internet and Mind Police, Nest Equipped, Live Listen, Hey Siri Hey Googs and the Dazzling Demo Blitz
01:08:32

Show Summary:

We are back in the Studio for another podcast and we held nothing back this time! We got a demo here and a demo there. So kick it on back and join Serina, Brian and Jeff on this epicly long TBTS episode filled to the brim, just like your Christmas stockings should be. The nice thing is, you don’t have to wait for Saint Nick! Brian even through in a squeaky chair for all of us to get Grinchy about. Marlon makes a cameo appearance bringing in all that Holiday cheer, oops, I mean, bringing in What’s Pissing Off Brian Now!

From all of us here on the show, we wish you all a happy and safe holiday season!

 

Here are some links to the News and topics from the TBTS show #24:

That Blind Tech Show TBTS, has a new Facebook Group! Check them out on Facebook groups, That Blind Tech Show.

 

Who knew the blind were missing out on Cyber flashing?

Starbucks to block porn watching at all of its storescome January 

British Cops are building an AI.that flag people for crimes that have not happened yet!

The Malware of the future will have A.I.Super Powers. Are we prepared and doing enough to protect ourselves?

 

Flying for the holidays why not track your flight in i-Messages?

You can now say Hey Siri to launch ok Google

 

Apple Music is now coming to Alexa

 

Amazon TechTractcould it be the future of OCR

Instagram adds new features for the visually impaired. Do you care?

 

Contact

Thank you for listening.
Send us Feedback via email
Follow us on Twitter @BlindTechShow

That Blind Tech Show is produced in part with Blind Abilities Network

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.
Get the Free blind Abilities App on the Google Play Store

Dec 11, 2018
Oopsies with Blind Mama -- By Kelsi Hansen

Oopsies with Blind Mama -- By Kelsi Hansen

Being a parent means that your children are going to have oopsies, and some of them will be your fault. Being a blind parent means that more of them will be your fault. Okay, okay … not necessarily. I cause some accidents with my child because I am accident prone, not because I am blind. But sometimes it is because I am blind.

When my son was still in the toddling phase, I can’t count how many times I accidentally bumped into him and knocked him over. Just the other day, my son was going down the stairs in front of me and I thought he was farther down than he was, and I accidentally bumped my knee into his back and he tumbled down a few stairs. I didn’t see how close he was to me. Every parent knows the heart wrenching panic of your child falling down the stairs. Now add, not seeing which part of his body he landed on and how he fell, the fear is increased exponentially. Then there is the second of silence afterwards before the tears. In that second, I could not see how he landed and I feared the worst. Then he cried, and I knew that he was somewhat okay. Luckily, he landed on his bum and not his head. On top of all of this panic, add the realization that this was your fault. I bumped into him because I didn’t see him there. The guilt of these situations can be overwhelming.

So this complication was never on my radar to even think about as a potential side effect of being a blind parent. I mean I never thought before my son was born: “how to avoid catching my child’s finger in the door if I didn’t see it there.” Or, “Should I be worried about walking around the house with him? What if I bump his head into a corner? I mean I still do it to myself. How do I not do it to him?”

Let me just reiterate, this isn’t necessarily because I am blind. 80 to 90 percent of it is that I am accident prone, and just don’t pay attention. But I would say that a definite 10 percent is that I am blind, and just didn’t see his finger in the door, or his head getting too close to the corner when I was walking with him.

Does this mean that I shouldn’t be a parent because I am blind? Absolutely not! It’s not a cut and dry issue. There are always ways to work through potential difficulties.

So the questions have now become: “how do I avoid causing accidents where possible?” And, “how will my son adapt to being injured because mama couldn’t see him there?” And, how to personally deal with the guilt of accidentally hurting your child because of your disability whether that be blindness or clumsiness?

Answer: There is NO good answer!

No just kidding. There is a way around pretty much everything. Maybe not everything, but most things. For me, I know that I need to slow down and try to pay more attention to my surroundings. I do not need to be in a hurry all the time. Whatever it is that I need to do, it will wait half a second longer for me to listen, observe my surroundings and be more cautious. It should be noted however, I am not the best at taking my own advice. I am getting better at slowing down and recognizing where my son is at in relation to me … I just need to remember to actually do it. But the point is, that I am working on it and getting better every day.

Also, now that my son is older, as horrible as it sounds, he doesn’t tip over as easily, and can move faster.  It’s not quite as important for me to slow down as it was when he was smaller and barely walking. So recently, I’ve had to remind myself more often to be aware of my surroundings.

As far as my son goes, I would say that he has adapted quite nicely to having accidents that are probably mama’s fault. This is not to say that he does not get irritated when I bump into him and he stumbles. I still get the attitude riddled “MO-O-OM” that every parent in the history of the world is familiar with. Overall though, he knows that mommy didn’t mean it. I ALWAYS make sure I apologize so that he knows it was an accident. In general, as a parent I think it is extremely important to apologize to your child when you were in the wrong. But especially, when you as a parent cause some sort of oopsie. When you reach out to grab something that he is trying to hand you, or turn around with out realizing he is behind you, and your hand hits him, it is imperative that he know it was an accident. I would not want him to think that I intentionally smacked him, or that he was in trouble when he was not. I do not want him to ever think that I would intentionally hurt him, so as such I stress that it was an accident and apologize. Besides assuaging my guilt, it also shows him to take responsibility for your actions and to apologize for them.

He has also developed other techniques to avoid potential catastrophe. If I was carrying him down a narrow hallway, he might put his hand out, or flinch away from a corner. Though now that he can talk, he mostly just says something. When he was around 18 months old, together we came up with a unique way for me to know where he was at (which really helps when trying to avoid accidents.) It was sort of a bird call. I would screech, and he would screech back at me. Might sound a little odd, but hey … at least I knew where he was at and wouldn’t run into him. So some of the ways were pretty straight forward, and some were silly, but we figured it out together.

Now … how to deal with the guilt of causing an oopsie … well that’s more difficult. Apologizing definitely helps, as does preventing them in the first place by slowing down. But there will always be accidents that are the parents’ fault, whether they are disabled or not. No matter how hard you try, you cannot control every outcome. Accidents are accidents, and they happen to everyone. And they will always happen no matter how careful you are.

So how do I deal with the guilt of this? I think that is a question everyone, disabled or not, can relate to. Personally, the way I deal with it is to accept it. To accept that I cannot control everything. To accept that my son is going to get hurt, and sometimes that will be my fault. And if it definitely was my fault, to accept it, apologize, and try to be more aware next time. Acceptance really is a wonderful thing. Once you accept that something is inevitable, it makes finding ways around it, or through it, much easier.

By Kelsi Hansen

 

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities Appon the App Store.

Dec 04, 2018
Audio Describer and Voice Artist for Hollywood Movies and TV Shows: Meet Roy Samuelson (Transcript Provided)
41:12

Show Summary:

(Full Transcript Below)

ROY SAMUELSON is one of Hollywood’s leading voiceover talents in film and television. Currently Roy is leading the way in the area of DESCRIPTIVE NARRATION / AUDIO DESCRIPTION, an aspect of television and filmmaking that allows Blind/Visually Impaired viewers to get audio description during a show without interruption and fills in the void as the action is not always obvious. For example, the movie Castaway is nearly silent during the first half of the movie.  This is where Roy steps in with his descriptions.

Roy Samuelson is a professional Audio Describer for some of the latest Hollywood productions. Movies like First Man, Venom, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Spiderman: Homecoming, Jason Bourne, The Magnificent Seven, Get Out, Skyscraper, Atomic Blonde and television shows like Lethal Weapon, NCIS, Blue Bloods and Criminal Minds.

 

Join Roy and Jeff in the Blind Abilities Studio and find out how Roy got involved in Audio Description and how his voice makes it to your TV and Movie Screens across the world.

 

Contact:

You can Follow Roy on Twitter @RoySamuelsonand be sure to check out his latest works and send in some feedback. Roy is always happy to hear from you.

 

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities Appon the App Store.

Full Transcript:

Audio Describer and Voice Artist for Hollywood Movies and TV Shows: Meet Roy Samuelson

Jeff Thompson:
Blind Abilities welcomes Roy Samuelson, one of Hollywood's leading voiceover, audio description, and voice narrative artists.

Jeff Thompson:
A sharp dressed man steps from the train, pulls out a cane, and proceeds to go towards a building.

Jeff Thompson:
Including films First Man, Venom, Jurassic World, Spiderman: Homecoming, Jason Bourne, The Magnificent Seven, and TV shows Criminal Minds, CIS, Blue Bloods, and Lethal Weapon.

Jeff Thompson:
He enters a door where the sign says Blind Abilities Studios. A young lady looks up from the desk.

Speaker 2:

Good morning.

Jeff Thompson:
Good morning.

Speaker 2:

You've got Roy Samuelson, Studio Three.

Jeff Thompson:
Okay, thanks. I'm going in.

Speaker 2:

All right. Blind Abilities Studios. Uh-huh.

Jeff Thompson:
He proceeds down a hallway. He stops at a door and reads the Braille. It's door number three. He enters and sits comfortably in his chair, reaches over, flicks a few switches, pulls his boom microphone down. He pulls on his headphones, and then reaches for the big red switch and flicks it up. From the hallway, the sign above the door now glows brightly, On The Air.

Jeff Thompson:
Welcome to Blind Abilities. I'm Jeff Thompson, and today in the studio, we have Roy Samuelson, who is out in Hollywood leading the way in voiceover, audio description, and descriptive narrative. How are you doing, Roy?

Roy Samuelson:
Hey, I'm doing great, Jeff. It's good to be on your show.

Jeff Thompson:
Well, thank you very much. I'm sure our listeners are excited to hear from someone who does voiceover, audio description for movies and television shows.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, I'm really passionate about it. This is really wonderful work. I really, I like it a lot, and I'm going to stop using the word really.

Jeff Thompson:
Now you've got me thinking about it. I'll probably be using it. Let's first tell the people what kind of movies you have been doing and television shows.

Roy Samuelson:
Oh sure. There's a few series that are on right now. On CBS, there's NCIS and Criminal Minds, and on Fox, I'm doing description for Lethal Weapon.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, you're busy.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, it's a great season this year. There's a bunch of movies and there's another one that's coming out next month, and right now there's two movies that are out in the theaters, and they're really fun on the descriptive narration side.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, I saw the likes of, what was it, Spiderman?

Roy Samuelson:
That's right. Yeah, the more recent one. I was on Spiderman: Homecoming.

Jeff Thompson:
Wow. You even did Jurassic World.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, the most recent one, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jeff Thompson:
So what do you do in your spare time?

Roy Samuelson:
That's a great question. The things that I love about audio description have kind of started to spill into my own personal life. Some of the connections that I'm making through social media are turning out I'm getting some more friends on that side, so it's been fun to correspond with them and some people that have been listening to audio description. As far as other things, I really enjoy hanging out with friends. There's nothing like a night out, cooking some dinner at home, and having some fun, laughs, and conversations. I'm pretty low key when it comes to that.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah. Well, when it comes to audio description, there's so many different areas that people can receive their movies or television shows now that some people are cutting the cables and all that or in theaters, and now they're starting to hear your voice. What got you into giving audio description to movies?

Roy Samuelson:
That was a long ... I can trace it backwards. I can say from where I'm at now, I can look back and say all these steps led back to one person who introduced me to someone who introduced me to someone, and I did an audition, and I'm hesitating, because it's hard to say how it exactly happened. I think a whole bunch of things happened to come together at the right point and at the right time, and a lot of the work that I do in voiceover has certainly carried over into what I do with audio description, so I think I was kind of ready for it.

Jeff Thompson:
So you took to the microphone.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah. My first paid job was down at Walt Disney World for the Great Movie Ride, which is no longer around, but they had a gangster take over the ride, and the ride was maybe 60 people looking at different movie scenes kind of going through the movies on a ride, so with all the distractions going on, I was on mic as a gangster, so trying to figure out what's the best way to say what I needed to say, but not get in the way of what the audience members are trying to appreciate, but still getting the message across. The more that I thought about the comparison between audio description and that first job, there's so many overlaps. It's really amazing to think about it that way.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh yeah. That was one of the questions I was going to ask is how do you find the space? Like you were just saying, that gap, that space, that little pocket where you can describe something without taking away from the audio itself.

Roy Samuelson:
That's a great question. There's a script that's given to me. I don't write it. There's some really talented describers who look at the movie sometimes four or five times or even a TV show, and what they do is use a special program that gives me the words that I say as a narrator in between audio cues and between dialogue, sometimes in between visual cues. They give me a script with any one of those things, whether it's a time code where I'm looking at a screen that shows kind of like a timer countdown or a stop watch that shows all the time code, and that time code is a cue for me to say the next line. And sometimes they'll say this line needs to be brisk. You'll hear narrators talk a little faster than they normally do just to try to get it in.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh yeah. You have to nail it between those two points.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah.

Jeff Thompson:
And so by doing that, you do that in your own studio?

Roy Samuelson:
For the jobs that I mentioned, those are done at a studio. I guess it is possible that I could remotely do it. However, there's a few things that it's kind of to my advantage to do it in studio. First of all is having the time there at the office. I get to interact with the people there. It's not just going in and doing the job. I'm not socializing and hanging out at the water cooler, but a friendly hello to someone, these are the people that I work with, and that's pretty special. The other thing is there's a lot of legal requirements. I think with the internet, it's easy for things like content to get lost in the internet and get into some hands that might not use it for the intentions needed, not that I'd do it, but the studios as well as the networks are pretty protective of their content.

Jeff Thompson:
Plus they're pretty much isolated there. You've got all the equipment, the room, the booth, there you go. You're at work and you don't have the phone going off or someone knocking at the door at home.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, exactly. It's very focused. People talk about being in the flow, and I appreciate that so much, being able to go in and do my job while experiencing the movie, and it taps a lot of really good synapses in my brain.

Jeff Thompson:
So I have a question, and this is kind of personal for me, I guess, but I'm sure listeners might be curious too. As you're taking in the script and the movie, you are a narrator. You do a narrative to it, the audio description, but do you, like you said, you get brisk or do you go with the flow of the movie?

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah. I'm given the script, and then two minutes later we start recording, so there's no time to really look at what is about to happen, so it is ice cold. I can watch a trailer for a movie ahead of time or some of the series that I'm on, I get a sense of what the characters are and the kinds of things that they would normally do, but when it comes to ... let me make sure I'm answering your question correctly too.

Roy Samuelson:
I think when I'm doing the narration, my goal is to not be the spotlight. I don't want people who listen to audio description think, oh wow, that narrator sounded so good. If anyone thinks that, I'm not doing a good job because the attention should be on the storyline, the content that I'm sharing, whether it's the TV show or the movie. I don't want to get in the way of that. I think I want to enhance it. I don't want it to be all about me, so I try really hard to be within the tone or the genre of the film or TV show, and as that changes try to go with it so that it's not jarring or unexpected.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, that makes sense. Now that I think about listening back to movies, the narrative or the audio description just wants to fill in those gaps, so you get the script and you hit the marks.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah. I want to be part of the story. I don't want to be the story.

Jeff Thompson:
So Roy, when you're doing voiceover and work like that, did you see yourself doing audio description some day?

Roy Samuelson:
Maybe five or 10 years ago, I was unaware it existed. There are so many great opportunities for voiceover. There's narration for instructional videos. There's what they call voice of God where at a special event someone announces someone who's next on the stage. There's commercials, promos, all sorts of experiences, and I've done my best to enjoy those, but when I found out about descriptive narration, I've never felt so laser focused. Everything about it just rang so true to me in my experience and what I was excited about.

Jeff Thompson:
So what is it that you found in your voice that made you a talent? I mean, I don't know if that sounds bad or something like, but someone must have recognized something that you got the voice for doing what you're doing.

Roy Samuelson:
I can't speak to how I get chosen, but I will say that prior to doing descriptive narration, I spent about 10 years almost every week going to a script writing group as an actor. In this group, it was a really special group of maybe about two dozen writers, and they would bring in 25 pages of their script, and these are all produced writers, so the quality was really high. As an actor, I would go in and we'd been given a script ice cold, and I'd read 25 pages of it, and afterward the feedback would be given to the writer and not the actor.

Roy Samuelson:
My experience with that was the first few times I was like, oh, I need to do the best I can. I need to be an actor, and then I realized that the story was what people were focused on, so what I tried to do was when I was doing my acting, I was still acting, but I was trying to bring the story into it because I saw that that's what the writers were focused on, and I think that the combination of ... how many hundreds of times of doing scripts through the years every week, there definitely was a skill of cold reading, there was the attention to the story, the writing ... I'm sorry, I keep talking about the story, I get so excited about, story, story, story, but with all these things, I think it kind of paved the way for a nice foundation so that when the opportunity came to do descriptive narration, there's definitely a lot of nuance. There's still a lot of things that I needed to learn, but I really took to it pretty quickly.

Jeff Thompson:
Well, that's great because the blindness community really appreciates all the audio description that they are employing today in today's movies. It's getting to the point like when there's not one, it's like hey, hey.

Roy Samuelson:
Oh, that's great to hear. I saw on some website, I posted on Twitter the link, I can't recall the exact address, but I think there's 2200 titles available right now for audio description, and that's just unique descriptions. That's not overlaps. I thought wow, that's great, let's keep that number going up.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh yeah. I hope it does keep going up, especially with all these rules about the ADA and making things accessible, and it just shows that a Hollywood production that puts out a movie and takes the extra measure to put in the audio description, it just is more inclusive. It just makes people feel like hey, we matter, and I really appreciate what you're doing to bring that to light.

Roy Samuelson:
Ah, thanks for saying so. It's been great to be a part of that. The studios and the networks and even the streaming services are aware that yeah, this is audience. It's in everybody's ... it's such a win-win-win situation that I can't stand it. Everybody wins.

Jeff Thompson:
So Roy, if a movie's coming out, how soon do you get notified about working on the movie for the audio description piece, and when you're done with it, how soon does the movie get released after that?

Roy Samuelson:
Ah, great questions. My experience is pretty limited, so they give me sometimes a week's notice, sometimes a day or two's notice for a film that's coming out. It's usually about maybe three to five days. We set aside a day for it. It usually takes about maybe ... I can do a movie in about four hours. Sometimes it takes the full day depending on how they need to do it, and then once I'm done with it, it's pretty close to release date. The audio description is one of the last things to get done in post-production sound. Everything else is pretty much locked as far as the picture's locked and the sound is pretty much locked. Everything is kind of good to go to the theater, and then audio description is a special track that kind of lives above and beyond the whole movie. For my work to match up with what they do, as far as the dominoes falling, I think audio description has to be one of the last. And I guess the second part of your question, a movie can come out sometimes within a week of the work I do-

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, really?

Roy Samuelson:
And sometimes a few weeks to a month.

Jeff Thompson:
So you're one of the last guys on that assembly line.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, and they do take it seriously. The quality control, at least the company I work for, and I'm sure all the other companies, they really do take it seriously. They want to make sure all the characters are consistent and that there's not mistakes in the story. They genuinely care about what they're doing.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, that's great, and who would have thought that 10 years of cold reading scripts and something of passion that you love to do, obviously you did it for 10 years, would lend into doing something like this?

Roy Samuelson:
Isn't it funny? I think about other people that have talked about the things that they've I'm going to say invested in for the joy of doing it. I had no intention of oh, I'm going to spend the next 10 years working on this so that I could be an audio descriptive narrator. It did happen in parallel in some ways, but for the most part, it's great to see how that seems pretty common with a lot of different businesses. I really like looking at that.

Jeff Thompson:
Well, it's really nice when you have a passion for doing something and then all of a sudden, it just leads into something else that someone wants you to do, and you find yourself doing it, and who would have thought?

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, yeah. I think, if I could jump on that a little bit, Jeff, there's an openness, almost like a growth mindset that I think comes along. I do my best to keep a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset. I think if I had the fixed mindset, I'd think oh no, I need to make sure I stay focused on just one thing, and when some opportunity like audio description would come up, I'd think oh no, that's outside of my wheelhouse. I've never done that before. I don't know enough about it. I haven't heard about that, so it could almost be dismissed, and here's this great opportunity that can come up, and I use this example. I'm kind of digging my own pit here and my point. I think what my point is that having an almost curious eye and looking at things maybe not necessarily from the most familiar way, seeing things a little differently can open up a whole bunch of new opportunities.

Jeff Thompson:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, that's great. So I'm curious. Since your tool is the microphone and your voice, do you have your own microphone, your own recording, or a preference?

Roy Samuelson:
Oh yeah. I've got a whole studio set up in my house. It's called a Whisper Room, just basically a four foot by six foot building, and it's moved along with me a few times. Inside there, there's one side where I can sit down and I do audiobooks on that, because those are usually long form, and then the other side is a stand-up thing, so I've got the mic almost coming from the ceiling, and I read along either auditions on an iPad or if I need to call in for a project that I'm recording remotely, I can do an ISDN connection or even a file, FTP upload. It kind of gives me the freedom to stand and kind of play around with moving my arms around and kind of get into the story a little bit more.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, I suppose, especially with the audiobook, yeah.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jeff Thompson:
So what's your go-to microphone?

Roy Samuelson:
You know, at the studio where I work, they have a Neumann, and it's one of those condenser microphones. I think it's the 102. I'm trying to think. I'm pretty sure it's the ... anyway, it's a nice Neumann.

Jeff Thompson:
Typical thousand dollar-plus Neumann.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, and then for my home studio, I really like the Bluebird by Blue. It's just got a nice, for my purposes for auditioning, it's got a nice kind of warm open sound, and yeah, I still get a lot of sibilance though, so I have to kind of process that out a little bit.

Jeff Thompson:
Now when you say sibilance, can you tell our listeners what that is?

Roy Samuelson:
Sure. Sometimes S's can come across really hard. It's almost like the microphone is picking up a little too much on the letter S. It just makes it-

Jeff Thompson:
Kind of like that whistle sound.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, and the microphone just loves it, and it's like a magnet. It just sucks it right up, and so it makes it a lot louder and the experience on mic is a little too much, so that's one example of sibilance.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah. Well, that's great. Yeah, the Whisper Room. I've got to remember to use that. I've got to tell my wife about making myself a Whisper Room.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, it's a brand from, if it's not Kentucky, I think it's Tennessee. They specialize in that for a lot of musicians and such, but there's other kinds of quiet rooms and all sorts of, especially in Los Angeles, a lot of voiceover actors like to have custom-made ones.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh yeah, I follow the Booth Junkie, and he's always building his little booth and going inside it and coming out. So the Whisper Room, you can actually break that down and move it with you.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, and there was one time, Jeff, I did it myself, and I probably need to remember to have a friend come along. That's definitely not a one-person job.

Jeff Thompson:
So Roy, with all the work that the studios are doing to make audio description available to them, what suggestions would you have for our listeners that appreciate the audio description that they're receiving?

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, so a lot of the studios and the networks, they've got so many things on their plate. They're advertising, they're trying to put things together. It's easier for them to not gloss over, but kind of, I guess the best thing to say is if you're watching movies and TV shows and you appreciate the audio description, let the studios know and let the networks know and let the streaming services know that this is something that's really valuable, and that you want more of, and I think that kind of message will help everybody out. It gives more content to viewers who appreciate audio description.

Roy Samuelson:
In Los Angeles, we get a lot of traffic, and audio description is great for commuters who want to catch up on their TV shows or enjoy a movie when they're trying to fight traffic on the 405. It is kind of like an audiobook that's fully produced, so by trying to get commuters into the audio description game, that can only help audience members who also appreciate it for audio description. It's kind of a win-win for everybody, but I really think letting the studios and the networks and streaming services know how much this service is appreciated and liked, that helps everybody.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, for sure, for sure. It's available to us. We use Comcast, and we have that on our phones, and it has audio description so my wife can use her phone to watch a TV show, but she has audio description so she considers it watching TV, and it's like a book like you said.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah. Oh, very good, and that's the Comcast cable?

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, Xfinity, Prime Video. There's [crosstalk 00:18:43].

Roy Samuelson:
Oh, excuse me for the product placement there.

Jeff Thompson:
No, it's great. I like people to know that because it's available and it's working, and just turn it on, but everybody's a different individual here, and some people like a lot of description, some people like a little, but it's getting better, and as you said, there's what, over 2000 available titles out there with audio description.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, and that's just based on that one website I found, and who knows. There's probably some other options there too. Good to know.

Jeff Thompson:
You mentioned earlier when we were talking, I think this was before we started recording, your mother went to a show, a movie that just came out, and was trying to use the audio description in the theater.

Roy Samuelson:
Oh yeah, and it turned out great. The manager gave her and her guests a movie credit for it, but the opportunity for her was to try out the headset for audio description at the movie, and it just so happened that that morning there was an electrical glitch in the theater, so all the power went out and turned back on, and that audio description somehow got reset, and it was important for her to step out and let a manager know, but she was enjoying the movie and she didn't want to stop and interrupt her experience, but as theaters get more and more accessible, particularly with audio description, the more they understand how the ropes work, so to speak.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah. It's kind of interesting that she wanted to hear her son. Not too many people get-

Roy Samuelson:
[inaudible] there.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, not too many people get that opportunity, but that's great.

Roy Samuelson:
So hopefully the next time she goes to the theater, she'll be able to hear it.

Jeff Thompson:
Well, that happens with technology, especially when you have like theaters that the workers are going to college or doing other things and stuff like that, and they have this device, and when they work, they work great. It's getting more and more available to people. I love that the entertainment industry is making audio description more available to people and I really want to thank you for what you're doing, creating the voice that people are listening to without interrupting the show.

Roy Samuelson:
Well, that's the goal, and I always strive for that. Thanks for saying so.

Jeff Thompson:
Sometimes being in the background is just as important as being in the limelight.

Roy Samuelson:
Yeah, it's definitely ... I feel like part of the team.

Jeff Thompson:
Well, great. I want to thank you for what you're doing and for taking the time and coming on the Blind Abilities and sharing this with our listeners.

Roy Samuelson:
Jeff, it's a real pleasure talking with you. Thanks for having me on.

Jeff Thompson:
You bet.

Jeff Thompson:
It was really nice to learn from Roy Samuelson what he does, how he does it, and his interest in it, and he's really motivated. Like he said, contact the studios that are putting out audio description. If you like it, let them know. Let's give them feedback, and you can follow Roy on Twitter  @RoySamuelson. That's R-O-Y-S-A-M-U-E-L-S-O-N on Twitter.

Jeff Thompson:
So as always, thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed, and until next time, bye-bye.

Jeff Thompson:
Jeff removes his headphones, turns off his mixer, pushes his boom microphone up towards the ceiling. He sits back in his studio chair, looking satisfied. He reaches towards the red switch and flicks it down. The On the Air sign outside Studio Three fades to black.

[Music]  [Transition noise]  -When we share

-What we see

-Through each other's eyes...

[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]

...We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.

Jeff Thompson:

For more podcasts with the blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, on Twitter at Blind Abilities. Download our app from the App Store, Blind Abilities. That's two words. Or send us an email at info@blindabilities.com. Thanks for listening.

Nov 30, 2018
Ultra Extreme Advocacy: Team See Possibilities Attacks Mount Doom and the new TSP Global Scholarship Program! (Transcription provided)
23:45

Show Summary:

Full Transcript Below

Daniel Berlin joins Jeff in the Blind Abilities Studio to talk about phase 5 of his Team See Possibilities 7 continents in 7 years goal. New Zealand is the next target for Team See Possibilities.

[caption id="attachment_4090" align="alignleft" width="300"]Image of TeamSee Possibilities walking the Great Wall of ChinaTeam See Possibilities walking the Great Wall of China 2017[/caption]

Last year it was China and the Great Wall, another was climbing Kilimanjaro, and as you can gather, these extreme endurance events gain the attention of many throughout the world, Alison, Brad, Charles and Dan get most energized when they are able to meet with children who are blind and vision impaired. Each event includes visits to blind schools, parents and teachers of the blind.

Over the last 5 years, Team See Possibilities has raised over $100,000 to support children who are blind around the world. And they have been busy working on a Global Scholarship initiative that will launch in early 2019. This scholarship program is aimed at blind students wanting a college education and have a drive to succeed.

 

You can find Team See Possibilities on the web at www.TeamSeePossibilities.comCheck out their schedule of events and find out how you can support the Team’s mission.

 

 

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities Appon the App Store.

 

Full Transcript:

 

Dan Berlin:
We're on our fifth continent now, and taking on our fifth endurance challenge, this one in New Zealand.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Please welcome Dan Berlin, Team See Possibilities.

 

Dan Berlin:
It's the challenge itself that brings out the strength in us.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Blind ultra-marathon runner, extreme endurance athlete, co-founder of his own company, and blindness advocate.

 

Dan Berlin:
To see the possibilities, not the limitations, our message is always about letting each individual find their true own self human capacity, human potential, and help them to recognize that.

 

Jeff Thompson:
You can find out more about Dan Berlin and the foundation at teamseepossibilities.com.

 

Dan Berlin:
The barriers and challenges are there for someone with a visual disability, but they're not insurmountable. It's just, we always learn how to attack the problem from a different angle.

 

Jeff Thompson:
For more podcasts with the blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, and download the free Blind Abilities app from the app store, that's two-words, Blind Abilities.

 

Dan Berlin:
For anyone who likes Lord of the Rings, almost all of that film was filmed around that area. Basically we're running around Mount Doom.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Now, here's Dan Berlin. We hope you enjoy. Welcome to Blind Abilities, I'm Jeff Thompson. Today we got a special guest who's taken off to New Zealand. He's a blind endurance athlete. His name's Dan Berlin.

Thank you, Dan, for taking the time in such a crunch moment and coming on to Blind Abilities.

 

Dan Berlin:
Oh thank you Jeff. Thank you for having me.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, you bet. It's a pleasure to have you on. Can you tell people what you've been doing? You got seven countries, seven years, but you're doing something that's bigger than just the event itself.

 

Dan Berlin:
Definitely. This started out as a recreational activity in the extreme sense with three of my friends and I looking to run rim-to-rim-to-rim in the Grand Canyon. We did that four years ago. After that, it was so impactful that we decided to form a non-profit called Team See Possibilities. Since then, we've been taking on once a year, epic endurance challenges around the world with the mission of supporting children who are blind in each country that we go to. We're on our fifth continent now, and taking on our fifth endurance challenge, this one in New Zealand. We leave tomorrow evening.

 

Jeff Thompson:
You're going to be doing an endurance marathon. I mean, it's not just around the track 26-miles, this is something quite different.

 

Dan Berlin:
Yeah. We like to find things that are challenging. As any of us who have limited, or no sight know, uneven surfaces to the extreme of trying to run on the trail is about as challenging as it gets. That's kind of right in our wheel-house. We put ourselves in these tough situations and try to figure out how to get through it. Each time we attempt one of these runs, we're learning as we go, adapting, to different techniques of guiding. I've learned so much on the fly about how to deal with different situations as they present themselves, and doing it safely, and really relying on others, working together as a team to do these things that seem impossible at the time. Then we find a way to get them done.

 

Dan Berlin:
Then we try to take that message and share it, especially with parents, educators, children who are interacting, or who are visually impaired themselves, and really say that this is tough. It's hard to go through school. It's hard to think of a career when you have limited sight, but the reality is that the challenge can actually make us stronger. It's just like when we do train for an endurance event, when we do train for a marathon, we don't jump off the couch and run it, we have to put ourselves through all sorts of challenges in order to build up that endurance to be able to tackle the goal that we want to obtain. We use this analogy in taking on some of these tremendously hard endurance challenges, to really say, "It's the challenge itself that brings out the strength in us."

 

Jeff Thompson:
Doing such feats as this brings a lot of attention to it. You kind of relay into bringing attention to blindness, and the orphanages, and people involved in those countries.

 

Dan Berlin:
Yeah, definitely. We spend a lot of time with schools. Spend a lot of the time with children who are blind, and also their peers, their communities, their educators. So often it's about not coming in with pre-set expectations, or a very low bar of what somebody's capable of achieving. Our message is always about letting each individual find their true own self, human capacity, human potential, and help them to recognize that. So often it's the most well-meaning adults in the child's life that put up these roadblocks around them, or guardrails might be more ... to say to keep them safe. In so doing, oftentimes, limit their own self-beliefs on what can be accomplished, or what they can truly achieve. That's what we try to knock down.

 

Dan Berlin:
Professionally, I co-founded the Vanilla Extract Company, been CEO here for years. We actually just made a transition with the company, so now I'm back into a very large corporate environment. You know, the barriers and challenges are there for someone with a visual disability, but they're not insurmountable. It's just we always learn how to attack the problem from a different angle.

 

Jeff Thompson:
When you attack this problem of the trail ultra-marathon, you're not just going to run one, you decided to do two in a week.

 

Dan Berlin:
Yeah. You know what that say, that expression about you become the average of your peers? The real true test of that is to pick incredible peers to be hanging out with. When I got together with this team, if you said the bar was two-feet high, they looked at it and said, "Well, that's the first one, the real one's four-feet high." They're always upping the ante, and that's great for me, because we push each other to achieve things that we're not sure if we know we can do. When we go into these things, we never really know that we're going to accomplish it. That's what makes it so special when we do. This time, in New Zealand, we're taking on the Tongariro Circuit in the north island, which is about a 27-mile run. For those that love Lord of the Rings, if you picture Mount Doom, we're basically running around Mount Doom. Yeah, so you can imagine how rugged that terrain is in the films, that's where number one ...

 

Dan Berlin:
Then, for after leaving the north island, we head to the south island and take on the world-famous Milford Track. For this one, we're going to start by kayaking a few kilometers to the start. This is traditionally a four-day hike, about 33 miles. We're going to run it, actually reverse, to the normal route that's taken. It gets a lot of climbing, and the rugged terrain in there in the first half, and take that on, in less than a day.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Less than a day?

 

Dan Berlin:
Less than a day.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Wow.

 

Dan Berlin:
We're not bringing sleeping bags, so it's going to be pretty cold and wet if we don't make it.

 

Jeff Thompson:
There's the incentive. There you go.

 

Dan Berlin:
Exactly. That's what they say.

 

Jeff Thompson:
It's great what you do. I know you started this a while ago. This is number five out of the seven, right?

 

Dan Berlin:
Yeah, this is five of the seven.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Five continents. Last year you did the Great Wall, and wow, Kilimanjaro.

 

Dan Berlin:
Yeah.

 

Jeff Thompson:
The list goes on.

 

Dan Berlin:
It's great. Each time we go to one of these countries, we have the opportunity to speak at schools, to talk with children who have vision loss, and parents and teachers, and communities in which they live. So we always get lots of ability to interact with many communities, and to really spread our message of ability, and not pre-judging. The whole goal is to just blow up these perceived notions of what someone with a disability is capable of doing.

 

Jeff Thompson:
And let them see the possibilities as in the name Team See Possibilities.

 

Dan Berlin:
Exactly. We want everyone, the individual themselves, and those around them to see the possibilities, not the limitations.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, just like you said in other times when we've talked, you said, "You don't think about what you can't do, you think about what you can do," I like that attitude.

 

Dan Berlin:
Yeah. It's exactly. I mean, in the workplace, so often we focus on enhance your strengths, play to your strengths, take advantage of your strengths, do whatever you can to diminish your weaknesses, that's so often in many things, whether it's a sport, business, personally, that's what leads to success. For someone with a vision impairment, like myself, yeah, a significant weakness is the fact that I can't see what I'm doing. Mitigate that weakness, find an awesome team. I have three fantastic guides and play to my strengths. In my case, my strengths are the love and ability to do some of these endurance challenges and make that most of that.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Why don't you give a Team See Possibilities a shout-out right now? I think they're great. I've watched those videos, and wow, it's just neat seeing what they do for challenges along with you. Cause you seem like they're either crazy guy, and they're there with you though.

 

Dan Berlin:
Oh, sometimes I think I am the sane one in the group.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Oh wow.

 

Dan Berlin:
So it's awesome. We were first started with Charles Scott, longtime friends, been friends for almost two decades now. When I first got into just running, my goal was really to start running and get to a 5k, this was about nine years ago. I had no idea of getting into endurance sports at the time. I was in my late 30s, feeling down, gaining weight, had started a new enterprise, new company, and was feeling pretty low about my physical health, and just decided to go out and start running to try to get back in shape. Charles is really the inspiration to take it a step further and try a marathon. He's one of the main drivers of the team.

 

Dan Berlin:
Brad Graff is a longtime friend of Charles, and invaluable teammate. Brad is our logistics guru. He takes care of everything, packing list, plan-wise, transportation, gets us to where we need to be, keeps us on time. It's absolutely fantastic. Alison Qualter Berna is our third team member, and she's really the heart of the team. Alison brings so much compassion and joy to everything she does, that being out there together makes it so enjoyable. Then the four of us, we support each other. We all have our high points, and we all have our low points. It's all about doing this as a unit and being together.

 

Jeff Thompson:
You really caught my attention when I heard about ... when you ran the rim-to-rim, the Grand Canyon. Like one foot to the left would have been thousand feet down. You ran the ... First blind person to ever do that. Let's see there is South American, there's China, Kilimanjaro, there's Europe coming up next year, but I saw on your list of number seven is Antarctica.

 

Dan Berlin:
Antarctica is the big one. We systematically put Europe as number six, because if the opportunity opens up for us to be able to Antarctica next year, we're sure we can find a way of doing Europe the following year. That is the big one. We haven't determined exactly what Antarctica looks like yet. It's expensive. It's time-consuming. It's a pretty incredible place to be. That is going to be the capstone of this journey.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, the thing about at the South Pole, if you go 10 miles north, 20 miles east, or west, you're still on 10 miles from the South Pole.

 

Dan Berlin:
I know. It's pretty cool.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, mind-boggling is what I see this as. You guys are out there, you're a team. I like that team spirit that you have, you talk about, and what you're doing for all the communities, and that you get involved with. You're doing something else this fall, not only running two ultra-marathons in one week, but you're starting something very special this fall, why don't you tell the listeners about it.

 

Dan Berlin:
Definitely. In our travels around the world, we often speak at schools, and have been giving financial donations, contributions to school-by-school as we visit them. We started a music program in a school for the blind in Lima for instance. We helped buy supplies for an integrated school for the blind in Tanzania. What we want to do is create a more meaningful, lasting impact on the blind community, and those that interact with them. In thinking about it, we thought, tackling this transition, for youths, from high school, into college, and helping students obtain a meaningful secondary education. Now this is not for everyone, this is for the students that have the will, and the tenacity, and the fight to go and take on the college education.

 

Dan Berlin:
I know from experience, it's very challenging. It's hard enough to understand where should we go? Where can we get accepted? What should we major in? The expense, and the cost of going. Now layering on top of that, the challenge of having to figure out how you're going to get around campus. What type of support will I need in the classroom? Will my professors understand if I can't see what they're presenting, or the video that they're showing? These stresses are just in the added level of challenge that just requires additional hard work and tenacity to get it done.

 

Dan Berlin:
What we're starting up is a scholarship program at least where we can to help offset the cost of students that want to take on this challenge. We'll be rolling this out first quarter of 2019. Probably looking to take applications by March or April of 2019 for the fall of next year. Our goal is to be able to offer five $5000 scholarships. We targeted it around both New Zealand, and the United States for this year. The long-term goal of the project is to identify and create meaningful pathways for a student with vision-loss, or no sight, through a university program, into a career path, and be able to have mentors, and folks that have done it, that have navigated those waters before, available to help mentor, and just to be there as resources.

 

Dan Berlin:
Again, really, this is when a student approaches a professor in a freshman year of biology class let's say, and can't see the screen, having them have somebody that they can talk to and ask about, "How did you do it?" I think that will be very powerful, and really getting back to our mission about supporting children with vision loss and helping them achieve their maximum potential. Sometimes we get stuck trying to solve the problem when there's a solution, but if we can prevent having to reinvent the wheel every time, that's what we're after. This isn't for everyone, but this is for those that are really looking to get out there and go through a university program, and not quite sure all the roadblocks they're going to face. We're looking at initially financial support, and eventually building this into a lot more peer-to-peer mentoring support.

 

Jeff Thompson:
I really like what you say as a career pathway, a pathway for other people to follow. Like you said, reinventing the wheel, every person that comes along, they think they're the only person in the world that has ever done this, but just like when the next blind person gets to the top of Kilimanjaro, there's probably a little piece of braille up there that says, "Dan Berlin was here."

 

Dan Berlin:
I tell you, I mean, when I take on these challenges, I research the trail, and I look for anyone else who's vision impaired that has done similar things before, part of the trail, or similar type things, and ask them. That's one of the ways I met Jack Chen. Years ago, I called him when I was looking at going up Kilimanjaro, cause I read that he climbed it several years ago. I really asked him, I said, "Well what was it like? What was the trail like? How did you handle this? How did you handle that?"

 

Jeff Thompson:
Oh wow.

 

Dan Berlin:
To be able to provide that level of ... Somebody there to be able to be supportive, and just be that sounding board for a student to be able to ask, "Well, how did you get through a course that's all dealing with quizzes, and clickers, and you have to see the screen to enter the number, and which one you choose?" Little practical issues like that, that are the reality in college today. If we can solve some of those issues without having to involve ... Sometimes we don't like the stigma of having to involve university services, or to make a big to-do about special accommodations.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Sometimes there's just that little thing that gets you past something that you go, "Oh, that's it?" It's just a little simple thing. What I was going to say earlier is there's ... someone's going to get to the top of Kilimanjaro and find a braille Dan Berlin was here, but now I'm corrected, now it's going to say Jack Chen and Dan Berlin were here.

 

Dan Berlin:
Yeah, exactly. I mean that's how I met Jack. Jack is a fantastic person. He and I have such similar beliefs, and attitude towards life, and the way we view things.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Well, you guys did the Race Across America last year ... well this year, 2018.

 

Dan Berlin:
Yeah.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Wow.

 

Dan Berlin:
Yeah, it was the past June.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Two big major feats.

 

Dan Berlin:
I know. Time goes by.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Wow. Well Dan, I know you got to get packing, heading out to New Zealand for that endurance flight. I just want to thank you so much for coming on here, sharing. If you want to read more about Dan and his Team See Possibilities, it's teamseepossibilities.com on the web. Congratulations on the Race Across America. Good luck to you and your team, Team See Possibilities when you head to New Zealand, and accomplish your goals.

 

Dan Berlin:
Yeah, thank you very much Jeff. I really appreciate having the opportunity to share this with you, and the other listeners.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Oh great. I'm looking forward to hearing about it. I talked to you earlier, it was like, "What? You're going to New Zealand? Now what's up?" It's like, wow, that's really cool. I want to say if you get a chance to go onto the website, there's some videos there that just explain doing the wall. It's not just a path, the wall is not a path. There's obstacles, there's some parts that are perfect, picture perfect parts, but you kayaked in the morning, you climbed ... oh it was like, "Wow, this is really cool." There's other videos on there too. Just good information on there, and hopefully people can get a chance to go to your website and check it out.

 

Dan Berlin:
Oh, thanks Jeff.

 

Jeff Thompson:
I'm excited for you. I'm excited for your team. Good luck to all of you.

 

Dan Berlin:
Ah, thank you Jeff. I think this is fantastic. I really appreciate this, such short notice, this is great.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Safe travels man.

 

Dan Berlin:
Thanks Jeff.

 

Jeff Thompson:
All right.

 

Dan Berlin:
Take care.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Bye-bye. Be sure to check out Team See Possibilities on the website at www.teamseepossibilities.com. I'm sure we'll get back with Dan Berlin when they return, and some other exciting news as they start to launch the global scholarship project from Team See Possibilities. Once again, I want to thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed. Until next time, bye-bye.

 

[Music] [Transition noise]

When we share

-What we see

-Through each other's eyes...

 

[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]

 

...We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.

 

Jeff Thompson:        

For more podcasts with the blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com on Twitter @BlindAbilities, download our app from the App Store. Blind Abilities, that's two words, or send us an email at info@blindabilities.com. Thanks for listening.

Nov 28, 2018
A Conversation with Dr. Cary Supalo: STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and of course, Braille and Mobility (Transcript provided)
14:33

Show Summary:

Please welcome Teen correspondent, Simon Bonenfant, as he steps into the interviewer role for Blind Abilities. While attending and presenting at the Pennsylvania NFB convention, Simon pulled out his recorder and went to work. Conducting 5 interviews from vendors and presenters. In this first interview, Simon talks to Dr. Cary Supalo about his work and what suggestions he has for transition age students considering going into the STEM fields.

Join Simon and Dr. Supalo as they talk about the importance of learning blindness skills and the possibilities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

(Full Transcription Below)

Check out previous interviews with Simon Bonenfant:

TVI Toolbox: Summer Academy, Total Transition to College Experience – Welcome Back Simon Bonenfant and Meet Fellow Student, John Dowling

TVI Toolbox:  Science, Technology, Engineering and Math: Carving His Pathway Towards Success, Meet Simon Bonenfant

 

Read below to learn more about Dr. Cary Supalo, his work and his accomplishments.

From the Web:

Cary Supalo

Senior Developer, Cognitive Sciences and Assistive Technology
Educational Testing Service


Dr. Supalo received his Ph.D. from Penn State University in 2010 with a research interest in chemical education. He focused on the development of a series of talking and audible laboratory tools that promotes a hands-on science learning experience in the secondary science laboratory classroom. Through his research he modified various laboratory curricula to develop a set of best practices for teaching science in a hands-on way to students who are blind. . Dr. Supalo currently serves as a Research Developer with the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey. His research addresses accessibility concerns as it relates to high stakes assessments and working to help develop the next-generation interfaces needed to promote inclusion in the STEM fields of study. He has a strong passion for collaborating with anyone interested in working to make the hands-on science learning experience for students with disabilities more a reality.
Papers:
Breaking New Ground in Accessibility: Innovations in Making NGSS-Aligned Assessments Accessible to Blind and Visually Impaired Students
Developing Equitable Assessments: Creating Standards for Accessibility/Accommodations and Enhanced Item Innovations

 

Contact:

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities Appon the App Store.

 

Full Transcription:

A Conversation with Dr. Cary Supalo: STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and of course, Braille and Mobility

 

Cary Supalo:

I learned pursuing a STEM career, it's not going to be handed to you. If you wait for the world to make it all accessible to you, it's probably not going to happen.

 

Jeff Thompson:          

Please welcome Doctor Cary Supalo.

 

Cary Supalo:   

That's the essence of what STEM professionals do. We problem solve. We figure stuff, figure stuff, figure stuff out.

 

Jeff Thompson:          

STEM, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

 

Cary Supalo:   

To make something out of nothing or to do something that's never been done before, that's the beauty of being a scientist. No two days of work are ever alike. There's always the chance you're going to discover something really significant on any given day that can change the world.

 

Jeff Thompson:

Doctor Supalo has spent a lot of time creating and developing talking and audible devices for STEM students. He has created curricula for teachers of the visually impaired and is a huge advocate for blindness skills training.

 

Cary Supalo:   

You really need to have good blindness skills. You have to be confident in your ability to get from Point A to Point B on your own.

 

Jeff Thompson:          

Welcome to Blind Abilities. I'm Jeff Thompson. The National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania held their convention, and our man Simon Bonenfant was out there. Simon is a tenth grader. He is in attendance and also spoke about his experience while he attended a summer camp held at Penn State. We did a podcast with Simon about his experience, and you can find that link in the show notes. Simon's also been on before when he's talked about his experiences as a transition age student. He's a tenth grader and has a heavy interest in the STEM project, and that's science, technology, engineering and math.

 

Jeff Thompson:          

This time, Simon's going to flip around to the other side of the microphone and do some interviews. Simon is interviewing Doctor Cary Supalo, and he's a Senior Developer of Cognitive Sciences and Assistive Technology Educational Testing Service. Doctor Supalo received his PhD from Penn State University in 2010 with a research interest in chemical education. Doctor Supalo has been involved in various workshops across the states helping high school and secondary school students success in the STEM programs. He has also helped develop curricula to help teachers succeed in teaching students with visual impairments.

 

Jeff Thompson:          

Without further ado, I'd like to Simon Bonenfant, Blind Abilities' teen correspondent in Pennsylvania. Take it away, Simon.

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

Simon Bonenfant here. Simon Bonenfant here. Simon Bonenfant here. Hello Blind Abilities Podcasting, it is Simon Bonenfant here corresponding from the Pennsylvania State Convention of the National Federation of the Blind. While I'm here, I have the opportunity to sit down and talk with Cary Supalo. How you doing, Cary?

 

Cary Supalo:   

I'm doing fine. It's a pleasure to be here.

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

That's good. Now, Cary is a blind man himself. Where are you from, Cary?

 

Cary Supalo:   

Well, I'm originally from the Chicago area. I live in Princeton, New Jersey now.

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

What do you do in Princeton?

 

Cary Supalo:   

I work at the Educational Testing Service. I'm an Accessibility Expert to make sure that high stakes assessments are accessible for blind and visually impaired testing.

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

Very nice. What was it like growing up for you being blind and kind of coming into your role?

 

Cary Supalo:   

Well, when I was really young, I didn't know very many other blind people. I knew other blind kids through the educational co-op I was a part of, but I was in mainstream school with sighted kids. I used a lot of large print in my early years before I learned braille in middle school. I'm very grateful having learned braille, because I use braille every day now in my work. It was very valuable for me in college and in graduate school.

 

Cary Supalo:   

Between learning the braille and learning how to use a long white cane to get around independently and in making that adjustment to being willing to carry a cane, that's very hard for a lot of people to accept for one reason or another, but once I did that, I was off and running. It couldn't keep me pinned down too much.

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

Yeah. That's good. What kind of things are you interested in?

 

Cary Supalo:   

I love to travel.

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

Very nice.

 

Cary Supalo:   

I love to go to places where historically significant things occurred that we've read about in our history books. I like trying to bring history to life for me. It's one thing to read about an idea conceptually in a book, but it's a whole ‘nother matter to walk through the ancient Roman Ruins. As a blind person, I really wanted to use it to test my blindness skills to see if I could really navigate in other countries where they drove on the other side of the road and where they spoke other languages. I quite-

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

Yeah, they drive on the other side of the road.

 

Cary Supalo:   

They do, oh yeah. Absolutely.

 

Simon Bonenfant:

Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Cary Supalo:    So, that's one of big interests. I also like learning. I like to play competitive trivia whenever possible.

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

Oh, nice.

 

Cary Supalo:   

So, knowing lots of factoids about all kinds of things has always interested me, science, math are really my go-to things in my professional career. I took a liking to that in college. Going through high school, I could do the math and science stuff, but I wasn't necessarily in love with it. It wasn't until I got to college and I started meeting other blind scientists in the world that eventually became my mentors and encouraged me to keep going on the path. I learned pursuing a STEM career, it's not going to be handed to you. If you wait for the world to make it all accessible to you, it's probably not going to happen.

 

Cary Supalo:   

So, you need to get really good at thinking on your feet, fundamental problem solving all the time to figure out how to do things. It's one thing to do it as a blind person to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B, which we all know and love we can do, but then you take that skillset and apply it scientific questions, "Well, how do I make this compound from these starting materials? How do I design an experiment that will give me this type of result? What do I have to do to optimize the use of the scientific method to get the results that we hope to-

 

Simon Bonenfant:

Oh, yes, scientific method.

 

Cary Supalo:   

Yes, exactly.

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

First step, creating a hypothesis, you know.

 

Cary Supalo:   

Yeah. If you think about what blind people do, we have to figure out where we're going. We have to figure out how to read something. We have to figure out how to access a website or a software application at all parallels. That's a commonsensical thing for we as blind people to consider in STEM professions, because that's the essence of what STEM professionals do. We problem solve. We figure stuff out. The more people that have experience figuring stuff out, the better off our STEM workforce is going to be.

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

Right, you're the blind person that figures out the solutions for other blind people.

 

Cary Supalo:   

That's right.

 

Simon Bonenfant:

That's very good.

 

Cary Supalo:   

Yeah. To make something out of nothing or to do something that's never been done before, that's the beauty of being a scientist. No two days of work are ever alike. There's always the chance you're going to discover something really significant on any given day that could change the world. Most days aren't like that, but man, when it does happen, it's pretty exciting.

 

Simon Bonenfant:

Now, I know that NFB has had a very great impact on you. How did you come to connecting with NFB? Who are some of your role models that you connected with through this organization?

 

Cary Supalo:

Well, in my early years, going on NFB National Convention, seeing employment panels and other blind students just doing things that you didn't know was possible was very inspiring to me as a young blind person not knowing where my path was going to be in life. Looking up to blind people, successfully employed blind people, people like Curtis Chong who is sort of the ultimate assist tech guru that I've ever met.

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

Wow.

 

Cary Supalo:   

There are many others, but he is at the top of my list to blind lawyers, and blind engineers, and other blind teachers and such.

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

Seeing what you've accomplished in your life and in things that you've been able to do, it really echoes the message of the blind can do what we want. We can do what we want, live life as we want, and pursue our goals, pursue our dreams.

 

Cary Supalo:   

Yeah, that's right. Push it to the limit. Live life to the fullest.

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

Oh, yeah.

 

Cary Supalo:   

That's what I say.

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

Oh, yeah. Have you been to a lot of place ... a lot of travel, a lot of places?

 

Cary Supalo:   

Too many to count. Too many to count. When I was an undergraduate college, I went to Purdue University and my freshman chemistry course, we had a professor and he would say to us, "The nice thing about becoming a chemistry professor is you get to travel all over the world, other people pay for it, you get to do`lots of really cool things, and people think you're smart." I said, "I want to do that."

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

Have you ever encountered any inaccessible barriers that you've had to work through or educate people in your travels?

 

 

 

Cary Supalo:   

Oh, all the time, from misconceptions about abilities to misconceptions about blind people being able to walk up and down steps to unwillingness to read restaurant menus, whatever. You just problem solve and work through it. I mean, there are times to pick your battles, and there are times to fight, and there are times when you just got to do workarounds to get what you need.

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

Advocating for what you need, that's very important.

 

Cary Supalo:   

Yes.

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

Our final question is, what advice would you give to someone who is either high school, or transitioning to college, or transitioning to the workplace?

 

Cary Supalo:   

You really need to have good blindness skills. You have to be confident in your ability to get from Point A to Point B on your own. If some of you out there get sighted guide a lot or ask for directions a lot, I mean, that's okay while you're learning, but you have to get to the point when you can do practically if not all of it on your own. It's not saying that you have to do it, but you have to have the skillset to do it in case you need to do it yourself.

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

Right.

 

Cary Supalo:   

I love to travel all over the world and I do it without any second thought, but I know a lot of young blind people today are hesitant to use canes because they don't want to look different, or maybe they're in a place in their own lives where they're not accepting of their visual impairment. That's okay because until you accept it, I'm not sure how much you're truly going to get there. So, take your time. Everybody comes to this realization at their own pace. To be a successful blind science person, the cane travel skills are critical for job interviewing, for performing the work, to getting to the work. Also, the other skill that I think is critical is the braille, literacy.

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

Oh yeah, definitely.

 

Cary Supalo:   

You've got to know how to read math braille, and preferably in the Nemeth Code, because Doctor Nemeth was a brilliant mathematician and a blind person. A lot of people don't know that. He designed the Nemeth Code to optimize minimal cells in braille space, a very efficient braille system to read. Since it was invented by a mathematician and a scientist, it's really [inaudible] what we need to do. Knowing how to read braille on the fly, I read braille with eight fingers, some people read it with six, some people only ready it with one or two. If you're one of the people that's one or two fingers, I would encourage you the more fingers you train yourself to read braille with, the faster you're going to be.

 

Cary Supalo:   

When I lecture, I used hard copy braille when I gave lectures when I was teaching at university. I also used roll ... like braille lists of my students. So, I'd call out names of students when I'm looking for people to answer questions or taking attendance. I mean, the braille is a critical skill not only for learning the science but just for classroom management and keeping track of notes and research ideas.

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

Yeah, a very valuable tool.

 

Cary Supalo:   

Doctor Nemeth told me a story years ago about an experience he had when he had the opportunity to travel over to the Soviet Union. He was asked to visit Moscow and he was giving a lecture, I don't remember the name of the university over there, and he was giving a technical lecture on some advanced concept of quantum mechanics. Doctor Nemeth could hand write, because his parents taught him that it was very important for him to understand what the visual print symbology was in addition to the braille symbology. So, he could write mathematical equations on a chalkboard and he could space out the letters of numbers and symbols very nicely that were very legible.

 

Cary Supalo:   

Well, he would do this complicated math work, and he had all of his equations written out on three by five index braille cards in braille in his suit jacket pocket. So, he had one hand in the suit jacket pocket, the other hand writing on the chalkboard while he was talking about each step of this complicated series of equations. All these kids in Russia thought he was the smartest man they'd ever seen, because they thought he was speaking off of the top of his head. They didn't know that he had everything written out in braille index cards in his suit jacket.

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

Oh, wow. That is-

 

Cary Supalo:   

So, reading braille can give people a real positive impression of you if you're using it right.

 

 

 

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

Oh, yeah. Now, I'll flip this around a little bit and I'll say, what advice would you give teachers who are in the scientific area and who have to teach blind students? What advice would you be able to find information or resources in that area?

 

Cary Supalo:   

Well, your local search engine is a very valuable tool. Using that to search for terms like blind science, chemistry access, things of that ... accessible mathematics, you're going to get a number of hits. It's going to take a little effort on your part to conduct some research. Maybe do a little self professional development, if you will. A willingness to do that and do a little bit of research can go a long way in the life of your student with the visual impairment, for the minutes you invest on the front end will pay many, many dividends on the back end for your student. It's worth every moment of it.

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

I say if you have a drive, you have a willingness, if there's a will, there's a way.

 

Cary Supalo:   

Yep. Don't be afraid to think outside the box and try something new if the students gamed and willing. If they're not, well then rethink what you want to do. I think more times than not they're going to want to do more than that.

 

Simon Bonenfant:      

Well, thank you, Cary, for coming on the program and podcast. Very nice speaking with you.

 

Cary Supalo:   

Likewise. Thank you, Simon.

 

 

[Music] [Transition noise]

When we share

-What we see

-Through each other's eyes...

 

[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]

 

...We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.

 

Jeff Thompson:

For more podcasts with the blindness perspective:

Check us out on the web at www.BlindAbilities.comOn Twitter @BlindAbilities

Download our app from the App store:
 'Blind Abilities'; that's two words, Blind Abilities.

Or send us an e-mail at:

info@BlindAbilities.com

Thanks for listening.

Nov 26, 2018
Running to Thanksgiving by Kelsi Hansen

Running to Thanksgiving

by Kelsi Hansen

Thanksgiving? It’s already Thanksgiving? I can’t believe it! The years fly by, don’t they? Normally my family has a small Turkey Day, planned at the last second, and we all stuff as much food as we can into our gullets. Nothing too unusual, just the normal Thanksgiving. However, this year I decided to sign up for a 5k on Thanksgiving day. I’m super excited … I’m hoping I’ll be able to stuff more in without getting as full!

I started running about six months ago, and what a difference it has had on my entire life! Yes, I’m in better shape; yes, I have more energy; yes, I feel great overall; but the biggest change running has brought to my life is the sense of community it provides. And that is what I am truly thankful for this Thanksgiving.

[caption id="attachment_4079" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Photo of Kelsi crossing the finish line at the Sturgis 5k.Kelsi completing the Sturgis 5K![/caption]

I often get asked, “What is the hardest part about running in regards to my blindness?” As with most things in my life, my answer is: not much. Running as a sighted individual and running as a blind individual is about the same. I still have to work on my endurance and speed; I still have to work on building my core muscles; I still have to run on a consistent basis; and I have days that suck, and days that are amazing … just like all the runners I have ever met in my life. I do sometimes step off the edge of the side walk and roll my ankle, but lucky for me I have rubber ankles and they just pop right back. I wouldn’t say this is hard though. After all I don’t get hurt when it happens. If anything, it is harder on the person who is running with me acting as my guide. They have to watch for everything, they have to tell me when there is a turn, when there is a curb, when there is a crack, and any other unforeseen circumstances. Out of the two of us, my guide definitely has the hardest job.

This being said, there is one difficulty that I have found as a blind runner, and that is finding people who would be willing and able to run with me and act as my guide on a consistent basis. Not to say that this is anyone’s fault, or to make them feel bad … being a guide is a hard job and I get that. I also understand that people have their own lives and committing to running with me consistently may not be easy to pencil in to daily life. So to overcome this, I have built up a community of runners. Fortunately for me, the area where I live has a great running community that has already been established. When I decided I wanted to start running I got in contact with someone who is very prominent in the running community. He in turn put me in touch with a few other runners. One of which responded, and I am so unbelievably fortunate that she did. She is pretty much my running base. She was able to commit to running with me once a week. She is absolutely wonderful! I can’t say it enough.

Since I run with her once a week, I just have to worry about finding a running partner for the other 1-2 times I run in a week. Between races, the beginning running clinic I was a part of, and the established running community, I have found many people who are willing to be a guide for me that I can contact for those other days. I have also joined a facebook group for some runners in the area, so if I am having trouble finding a running partner, I can just post on there. I don’t succeed in finding someone all the time, and it took a while to build up the contacts that I do have but having built my community so much in the past six months, I usually find someone to run with.

Running is not easy. It is difficult in many ways. I’m not very fast and I am still working hard on building endurance and speed. But having this amazing community has helped immensely. I have met wonderful people and have made many friends. My running partners are very supportive and encouraging, and I have found that the running community in general is extremely supportive. They want people to succeed. All people. Disability or no. They are awesome people. Starting to run and joining this community is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I think that the hardest part of starting anything new as a blind person is building that community. A lot of times we need that support. I know that I am capable of many many things without sighted help. I could get a treadmill and run on my own, but I prefer running outside with other people. And so I have to rely on sighted people for that help. I have had to learn to advocate for myself and not be afraid to keep asking. I have always been told to advocate, but never really understood what that meant or how to do it. But running has really helped me learn how to. I’ve learned to ask and keep asking. I’ve learned to be bolder in my approaches. Not to be afraid to put it out there that I need help. Not to worry that I am bothering someone by continuing to ask and put myself out there. It’s been a difficult thing to learn, and I am still learning. But it really is the only way to make things happen.

So for those of you who struggle with this like I do, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to be “pushy.” Chances are, you’re not. People aren’t judging you, you aren’t bothering them. And honestly, if you are, that’s not your problem. If they are bothered by it, that is their issue, not yours. So if there is something new you want to do, find that person and contact them. And if that falls through, try again. Don’t be afraid to be bold. To build that community you need to advocate. To advocate you sometimes just need to let go. Let go of your worries and anxieties, and just be brave and take that step towards your goal.

So yes, I am extremely grateful for running and what it has brought to me: not only exercise, new friends, a new wonderful community; but also personal growth. What I am thankful for this Thanksgiving is running.

 

This is me! Hope you enjoyed the read. I love questions, so if you
have any, or just a comment, feel free to email them to
info@blindabilities.com.

Thanks

Kelsi

 

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities Appon the App Store.

Nov 22, 2018
Tech Abilities: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and a Visit with Squirt’s Dad, Crush!
31:00

Show Summary:

(full transcript below)

 

With the holidays upon us the deals and bargains are taunting our wallets and curiosities.

Do you look for others or just shop for yourself?

I make a list of items I am interested in and approach Black Friday from that perspective. Otherwise I am overwhelmed and miss out because there is too much going on.

That is just me, so I am joined by Serina and Andy as we contemplate the mad rush, and I’m not talking about busyness, but the rush you get when you find your dazzling treasure. Yes, it may be a gift for someone else, but like most of us, it is something we really want. Now, I did not say need, I said want.

Check out the TGI Black FridayApp Serina spills upon us. It is accessible and works great when you’re searching for that special deal.

We hope all of you enjoy your Black Friday rush and we wish all of you a wonderful start to the holiday season.

Contact:

You can follow Tech Abilities on twitter @AbilitiesTech

Tech Abilities is part of the Blind Abilities Network and be sure to check out all of our shows and podcasts.

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities Appon the App Store.

Full Transcript:

Tech Abilities: Black Friday, Cyber Monday and a Visit with Squirt’s Dad, Crush!

Serena Gilbert:
I am also looking for the Nest products.

Jeff Thompson:
Then we have Cyber Monday coming up, after that.

Serena Gilbert:
First, I was like "Whoa" then I was like "Whoa."

Jeff Thompson:
Pretty cool that it's...

Andy Munoz:
Yeah, Santa can't afford me. I can barely afford me.

Jeff Thompson:
What's on your list?

Andy Munoz:
What isn't?

Jeff Thompson:
Just simplifies a lot of things, especially when you're going to that checkout. Boom boom boom, done.

Andy Munoz:
Yeah, my Apple pay is a beautiful thing.

Serena Gilbert:
I love Venmo, 'cause you can literally send a text to somebody and pay them.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, there's gonna be some football on. I'll be watching to see how we all did; how much damage was done. When you get that thing in your hand, you're like "Got it!"

Serena Gilbert:
I got it! But Jeff, the home pod's gonna be $100 off at Best Buy.

Andy Munoz:
I know when they're talking about Mt. Wannahockaloogie.

Serena Gilbert:
Did you say boutique stores?

Jeff Thompson:
Thank you Serena, you're a real friend.

Serena Gilbert:
I'm their only true friend.

Jeff Thompson:
Welcome to Tech Abilities. I'm Jeff Thompson and with me are co-hosts Serena Gilbert, how are you doing?

Serena Gilbert:
I am doing great Jeff, how are ya?

Jeff Thompson:
I'm doing great. Glad to hear your voice again and we also have Andy Munoz. How you doing?

Andy Munoz:
Doing awesome, how about you?

Jeff Thompson:
Ah, just awesome myself and kind of excited here, as Black Friday rolls around here, I've been bombarded by emails and stuff in the mail. Black Friday stuff. Are you guys excited about Black Friday?

Serena Gilbert:
I love Black Friday, it's my favorite shopping day of the year. I used to, when I was younger and before I had a kid, we used to get up really early in the morning and be the ones standing in front of the stores at like four in the morning, trying to chase down a TV or computer or something. But now, more internet based now.

Jeff Thompson:
Well now, if you bring the kid with, they would get an extra coupon.

Serena Gilbert:
Or be the ticket that you need to get in.

Jeff Thompson:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's right. How about you Andy?

Andy Munoz:
I'm kind of so-so on it. Obviously, I like to see what kind of deals are out there. I've not been as brave as Serena. I've never gone and done the whole "Let's get up at o-dark-thirty and go be in line at the stores." I'm not a crowd person. I think it's certainly interesting to kinda see what's out there. I'm always looking, even if it isn't Black Friday.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah. I'm that way too, but this year I'm taking a different approach to it. I'm kind of thinking of the stuff that I really want to get, that I kinda need or come on, right down to it ... I just want it. So, I'm looking for the Nest product line, the Nest thermostat, the Nest Protect. I already have one, but I wanna put some more downstairs. They interconnect, it's a really neat idea. So, I'm gonna key on that. How about you guys, anything you're focusing on?

Serena Gilbert:
I am also looking for the Nest products. We want to get ... I don't know if it's the Nest Protect, but it's like the alarm system that Nest makes along with the-

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, the Nest Protect is for a smoke alarm or CO, carbon monoxide detection and for home security they have the Nest Secure.

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah, we were just watching YouTube videos like last weekend about it and we were trying to decide between the Ring Alarm System and the Nest, 'cause there's pros and cons of all of them. Ring's a little bit less expensive, but Nest has cooler things and is more expandable.

Serena Gilbert:
It seems like, to me, it's gonna be a little bit more accessible with the demos, 'cause there's a lot of audible tones when you arm and disarm. You can voice command it a lot. That's what we're looking forward to as well as a robotic vacuum. I am dying to have one with three dogs in the house to just help with getting some of the hair off the wood floor.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, I tell ya ours ... you open that thing up and you pull out like two gerbils at one time. It's easy. I was against it in a sense. I didn't voice my opinion because she wanted it and about three months later ... I love this little, I even clean up every once in a while just to make it shine. I like it. Especially when you have like, we have a yellow lab. It picks up lots of hair.

Andy Munoz:
Yeah.

Serena Gilbert:
What'd you name him? The Rumba?

Jeff Thompson:
I just call it Robot but others in the household call it Clyde. How about you Andy? Sounds like you might be interested into these vacuum robots.

Andy Munoz:
You know, I think they're pretty cool. We haven't bought one, we're still with our Shark. Certainly, when you have kids who don't do their chores, like they're supposed to, having one of those would certainly be a benefit.

Serena Gilbert:
Well one of the ones that we're looking at getting, because Kohls has a fantastic deal on it, but I don't know if I have to be at the store, or if I can get it online. I believe it's the Shark, the latest model of the robot version of it. I think it was like $199. It was either $199 or $229, something really close to that, plus you get $60 in Kohls cash with it.

Jeff Thompson:
Right, I wish they sent out those mystery stickers that you pull off. That would be neat.

Serena Gilbert:
Like a mystery discount?

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah.

Andy Munoz:
But even the Kohls cash is still a benefit.

Serena Gilbert:
I just use it to buy the gifts for the people on my Christmas list. That's a lot of money.

Jeff Thompson:
It is. That's when I went to Kohls, that's when we got the Rumba. They had one of those deals and everything just piles into discounts. I don't think Kohls ever sold one item at their store, at full price.

Serena Gilbert:
If you've paid full price at Kohls, you are doing something massively wrong.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah.

Andy Munoz:
Yeah. You were there on June 13th, that one day. 'Cause we're always getting deals, getting Kohls cash.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, it's a good deal. I think Black Friday is one of those times where, you just try and find all these deals, but I don't want to get lost in it, because I've gone through, just like when Amazon had their big day, you just start scrolling through all this stuff and you get nowhere real fast. That's why I'm trying to think of stuff in advance, or certain stores or certain boutique stores that I'm interested in and I'm gonna hound those first and see what's up.

Serena Gilbert:
Did you say, "Boutique stores?" Are you going clothing shopping?

Jeff Thompson:
No, specialty stores like Bows. A specific store not like Fleet Farm or Home Depot.

Serena Gilbert:
Gotcha.

Jeff Thompson:
Is my metro-sexual side coming out?

Serena Gilbert:
I wasn't gonna say anything, but ... talking about boutiques over there.

Jeff Thompson:
Andy's shaking his head yes. So what's your game plan Andy?

Andy Munoz:
You know, I have a tendency to kind of watch things all year. So, I have certain things that I'm gonna be looking for. Part of it is, there's so much out there. Then it kinda becomes ... like you said, you get lost or you just want freaking everything. I have this small list, short list of "This is really what I'm looking for." And if something else jumps out and I think it's worth it, then I'll explore that or jump on it, whatever the case might be. I usually have just a short list and I usually narrow it down all year.

Andy Munoz:
I used to be a very big impulse buyer, now I've kinda had to tailor that back. I have eight kids and a wife, so you can't just do that. I kinda take that list and look and see "Okay, is anything on this list potentially gonna be a sale on Black Friday?"

Jeff Thompson:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy Munoz:
That's why we don't let our spouses listen to this podcast.

Serena Gilbert:
But Jeff, the home pod's gonna be $100 off at Best Buy.

Jeff Thompson:
I know. That's the best deal so far that I've seen out there.

Serena Gilbert:
Target has an iPad I believe, it's gonna be either $199 or $229. It's a really good deal.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh for real?

Andy Munoz:
Yeah.

Jeff Thompson:
What model?

Serena Gilbert:
I don't know 'cause I don't need an iPad ... 'cause I have a Black Friday app that we'll share in the show notes that is totally accessible and searchable.

Jeff Thompson:
Nice.

Serena Gilbert:
Very much so usable. I saw it in there 'cause it was one of the top deals. I was like ... if somebody needs an iPad, it's a great deal.

Jeff Thompson:
So if you go to the app store, look up TGI Black Friday.

Speaker 4:          

TGI Black Friday 2017 [inaudible 00:07:39].

Jeff Thompson:
You may notice that the name still has 2017 on there, but they do address this.

Speaker 4:          

**Updated for 2018 despite the odd name**you can make a shopping list, get coupons, price compare, plus buy Black Friday deals from your phone. Get instant alerts for new Black Friday ads and never miss a deal. Check out frequently for new ads from your favorite stores such as Best Buy, Target, Walmart, Sears and many more. Search "Sort and Compare" 10,000+ deals in stores. Create the shopping list and mark items as you buy them. Share your list or deals with yourself or others. Compare prices online and confirm you are getting the best deal. Cyber Monday sales and coupons.

Jeff Thompson:
So let's check it out.

Speaker 4:          

Open button. Two days until Black Friday. Padding selected, popular deals button. Newest ads button. Coupons button.

Jeff Thompson:
Here's some of the featured Black Friday ads.

Speaker 4:          

iRobot vacuuming robot, Sam's Club. iPod 6th generation Target $329.99 $249.99 Apple watch series 3 Target $279.99 $199.99 HP 15T Laptop double use/intel core I7CPU HP $1,239.99 $499.99 Samsung Chrome Book 311.6 intel seller on Walmart $199 $99 Element 55 Smart UHD TV Target $379.99 $199.99 Google Home Hub Chalk Walmart $149 $99 Toshiba 434 KUHD TV W/HBR Fire TV Best Buy $329.99 $129.99 Dell Inspirn 15.6 touchscreen laptop double use/core I5CPU Best Buy $599.99 $399.99 iPad 9.7 tablet up to $100 off Best Buy.

Jeff Thompson:
Those five tabs at the bottom.

Speaker 4:          

Selected featured tab one of five. Stores tab two of five Categories tab three of five. Search tab four of five my list tab five of five.

Jeff Thompson:
Let's see what stores are in Black Friday deals.

Speaker 4:          

Stores tab two of five. Stores padding Walmart, 290 deals. Kohls 702 deals. Target 322 deals. Best Buy 547 deals. JC Penny, Macy's, Old Navy, Dell, Costco, Dick's Sporting Goods, Bass Pro Shops, Big Lots.

Jeff Thompson:
And when you tap on one of the ads...

Speaker 4:          

Black Friday Google Home Hub Chalk $149 $99. Walmart opens 6:00 PM Thurs.

Jeff Thompson:
You have three choices.

Speaker 4:          

Shop now button. Add to list button. Share deal button.

Jeff Thompson:
Great tip Serena. That's the TGI Black Friday app.

Andy Munoz:
Sweet, that'll be nice. An iPad was kind of on my short list.

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah, there's gonna be some really good deals. I would check out Target and Best Buy for the iPad. The other thing that some of our listeners may or may not know is that Apple, every Black Friday does ... it's either 10 or 15% off usually, just on Black Friday. It's never advertised in advance, it just kinda pops up.

Andy Munoz:
That's actually funny because I never even knew that working for them.

Serena Gilbert:
That's funny.

Andy Munoz:
I mean for real, I'd get customers calling in "Do you know if you're gonna have a Black Friday sale?" Not to my knowledge. So, that's good info ... I didn't even know that.

Jeff Thompson:
Sometimes they throw on where you get $100 gift certificate to be used later.

Serena Gilbert:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Usually that's when you buy the top dollar things, like the Mac Books. I believe when they did their back to school, which honestly in my opinion's a better sale than the Black Friday sale. Weren't they giving away free Beats headphones when you bought a Mac Book?

Andy Munoz:
Yeah, I believe that is correct.

Serena Gilbert:
That's a pretty good deal, especially if you're gonna buy one anyway.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah. You make a good point, especially if you're gonna buy one anyway. That's the angle I take a look at this stuff. Then, we have Cyber Monday coming up after that where everything goes crazy on the internet. That's where I start really snooping around, because it's kinda "I didn't spend much here, so it's like I saved money to use here."

Jeff Thompson:
I really watch it, because sometimes I think a lot of these stores want to clear out their inventory, so they're taking last year's model. That's why when you ask, "Which iPad is it?" Is it their stock, like "Hey, we got to move these refrigerators, we gotta get rid of some stuff.”?

Jeff Thompson:
That's where somebody else comes in.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah.

Serena Gilbert:
Walmart is particularly notorious for that. 'Cause we are also in the market for a new TV, so Walmart has all these fantastic deals on their TVs. There's some that are only like $200, like ginormous TVs. But then you look into the specs and they're horrible refresh rates and things like that. Not that most of our blind and visually impaired community cares about that, but if you have a sighted spouse, they're gonna care about that. When you're buying that big of a TV, you want it to be quality. So look at that too.

Andy Munoz:
Or even if you're low vision like me.

Serena Gilbert:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy Munoz:
You could still appreciate some of that. I'm one especially, because I'm a techy, I look into that stuff. There's even certain brands that I'll shy away from just because I don't know anything about them, and I don't know their reputation.

Serena Gilbert:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy Munoz:
Even if they have the specs that I'm kinda looking for, I'll shy away from it, just because it's like eh, I don't know their reputation.

Jeff Thompson:
You really want to check out HDMI. How many are there? It used to be "Hey, it has HDMI, that's cool." But now, everything hooks up HDMI. So, as soon as you start hooking up ... oh let's see...

Serena Gilbert:
A cable box.

Andy Munoz:
Well just for example, I use Dish Network, so I've got a wireless Joey that's downstairs in my family room. That hooks up to an HDMI. MY son's got his Xbox that's connected to it, Apple TV.

Serena Gilbert:
Yup, a streaming box.

Andy Munoz:
Yeah, so we've got different apparatuses that are connected. So yeah, you definitely want to make sure you have those ports.

Jeff Thompson:
At least three. I think three is the standard right now.

Andy Munoz:
Yeah.

Jeff Thompson:
And then, having Smart TV where it actually connects up to the internet itself is pretty sweet too.

Andy Munoz:
It's nice too to have even ... my Vizio's will do Chrome cast.

Jeff Thompson:
But I get it Serena, you're saying that you used to go in, because of those special TV deals. Each store stocks up about 10 or 20 of these devices or the PlayStation, all these other things. Yeah, people are camping out the day before. It's kind of neat, kind of exciting.

Serena Gilbert:
And it's hard to get ... you think "Oh, I'll just price match it" or whatever. But it will be the same TV at Walmart and Best Buy, but they'll change the model number by like one letter at the end, so they're like "No, this one's on sale there, but this one's a totally different TV. Even though it's clearly identical, you know? It's kind of annoying.

Serena Gilbert:
But a lot of the things, you'd be surprised, you can get online. What we usually do is, Thanksgiving night, depending on the store, which for the record, I believe Target is one of the stores that's opening at like 5:00 on Thanksgiving, which I think is absolutely horrible. That means that you can probably, especially if you have a red card or a red debit card from there, you can get their sales the day before, so on Wednesday.

Jeff Thompson:
I have one.

Serena Gilbert:
But most of the deals, you can get them online starting at midnight, the night before. And that's midnight Eastern, usually. So log on, when it's midnight Eastern to see what you can get. What we do is, for the big things, we try to catch it online, but then it's a really good day to buy movies too. 'Cause you can usually get Blu rays with the digital copies for like $% on Amazon, Walmart and Target.

Andy Munoz:
I haven't picked up a disc in a long time.

Serena Gilbert:
But it's cheaper than buying them on like iTunes.

Jeff Thompson:
That's true.

Serena Gilbert:
I mean they're on sale every once in a while, but...

Jeff Thompson:
iTunes, $19, $14.

Serena Gilbert:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jeff Thompson:
Rent ‘em.

Serena Gilbert:
Yup.

Andy Munoz:

I think I sprung for like $19 a couple weeks back to buy The Lion King, 'cause my youngest has never seen it.

Jeff Thompson:

I was in the car yesterday and Lori's son Justin was playing Lion King at about 90% the volume.

Serena Gilbert:
Nice. You gotta tell our listeners. How old is Justin?

Jeff Thompson:
He's 19, he's gonna be 20. Yeah so, but it was kinda cool you know, Scar comes on "I'm gonna be king." It was fun. I remember when my kids were little, would turn that up in the morning and have The Lion King just belting out and that's one of the best movies I think there is in that type of realm.

Andy Munoz:
Yes, I would agree with that.

Serena Gilbert:
What? Better than Finding Nemo?

Andy Munoz:
Actually yes, I like Lion King better than Finding Nemo.

Jeff Thompson:
It is good.

Serena Gilbert:
Oh, Finding Nemo is my favorite.

Andy Munoz:
Yeah. We won't deviate too much from our topic 'cause yeah, that could be a debate.

Jeff Thompson:
For movies that have a toilet in them, yes.

Serena Gilbert:
What? Oh my goodness.

Jeff Thompson:
Isn't that how they got back? Isn't that how they escaped?

Serena Gilbert:
No. You haven't seen it!

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, I have.

Serena Gilbert:
They fall off the counter and roll across the road and then they're in this bag and they're like right by the ocean, but then they're still stuck in the bag, so-

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Serena Gilbert:
Nemo does go down the toilet, but all the other fish are like-

Jeff Thompson:
Hello, Hello.

Serena Gilbert:
In their gallon size bag.

Jeff Thompson:
See, I was finding Nemo. My favorite part of that movie though, is when they're talking about Mt. Wannahockaloogie.

Serena Gilbert:
When they're chanting it?

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah. What's funny is, my niece back in the day, she's the one that picked up on that, so I use that phrase a lot now.

Serena Gilbert:
Oh, my favorite is the turtle. "First I was like whoa, then I was like whoa." Anyways, we are so digressing.

Jeff Thompson:
We didn't even talk about Makuna Matata.

Serena Gilbert:
It's, Hakuna Matata.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh. Me and Justin will have to go for a ride again.

Serena Gilbert:
I'm pretty sure it's with an H. Alright, tie-breaker Andy.

Andy Munoz:
Yeah, I think it is an H.

Jeff Thompson:
It's Hakuna Matata?

Serena Gilbert:
What a wonderful phrase.

Jeff Thompson:
I've been singing it wrong for a long time, wow.

Serena Gilbert:
Gosh, that movie came out in like what, 92, 93? You've been singing it wrong for like ... 20 something years now?

Jeff Thompson:
And I've been calling these people friends that been surrounding me, not correcting. Thank you Serina, you're a real friend.

Serena Gilbert:
I'm the only true friend.

Justin:            excuse me, this is Justin, straight from the car, your resident Lion King expert in this situation. I would like to point out that it is indeed Hakuna Matata. Serena, you're right. Jeff, you're wrong.

Jeff Thompson:
There you go. But with Cyber Monday, we got Black Friday coming up, Thanksgiving. It really kicks off that holiday ... you're gonna hear Christmas music on the sidewalks downtown. It gets you going towards Christmas. Do any of you ... I know we're kind of selfish ... do you treat Black Friday itself as gifts for other people or is it yourself?

Serena Gilbert:
For me, it's more about things that we've just wanted throughout the year, kinda like how Andy said. Things that have been on our list that we're just like ... let's wait till we ... 'cause it's not anything we need. We're all spoiled and it's only just what we want.

Andy Munoz:
Yeah, yeah. Well for my wife and I, what we do is we kinda start early. And I'm not talking like July or August, we start kind of at the beginning of November. Kind of start to get all the small gifts for all the nieces and nephews and obviously, for our own kids, they give us kinda their top choices, then we go from there as far as what our budget is. So yeah, Black Friday if I'm looking, it's pretty much just for stuff that I want.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, that's the way I look at it. If I gotta do all the internet searching and all that, or if I'm gonna go to the store. My sisters are the ones who do ... like Serena you said, they got it all mapped out, they got it precisely planned. What is the best door to go in.

Serena Gilbert:
I actually kinda miss that. I would go with my mom and my sister and they both live in Texas now, but I really do miss, 'cause it's like a rush that you get when you're like "Oh, I got it" like right there in your hand, you know?

Jeff Thompson:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Serena Gilbert:
I know it's so silly. But it's the only time that you can be at a store at like four in the morning and get free Chick-Fil-Et while you're standing in line.

Jeff Thompson:
My nephew, two years ago, went into Kohls with my sister and he got the $500 one, where you pull the thing off.

Serena Gilbert:
I haven't been to Kohls in so long, like for Black Friday. Kohls gets crazy on Black Friday.

Andy Munoz:
What store doesn't though?

Serena Gilbert:
Kohls and Best Buy are like the two worst ... Best Buy is worse. Our Best Buy, I'm not sure if you guys in Minnesota have people doing this, 'cause it's probably -3 outside, we will literally have people in tents outside of our Best Buy by like noon on Thanksgiving.

Jeff Thompson:
Well, the headquarters for Best Buy is in Minnesota.

Serena Gilbert:
So they're really camping out.

Jeff Thompson:
Are they ice fishing? Oh, they're waiting for the store to open up.

Serena Gilbert:
And it's for like five TVs. They usually have five TVs at that super cheap price and you're camped out there.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah. And that's the thing, as you get older a little bit, you already have a TV, you already have some stuff. That's why I was saying the boutique stores or specialty stores 'cause I want to kind of narrow it down to see what certain companies I'm looking at. That's what I'm doing, I'm scouring and making a list and checking it twice.

Serena Gilbert:
What is on your guys' list for what you want Santa to bring you?

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, for Santa? Honestly, Lori and I have been talking about ... at our club, they have these spin bicycles, it's more like an apparatus for spinning or pedaling.

Serena Gilbert:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), okay.

Jeff Thompson:
Yourself.

Serena Gilbert:
If someone bought me air pods, I'd be happy. Oh, I don't know if you guys saw on Facebook what I shared today. There are jackets and I'm sure I'm like the last person to learn about these, that are heated with a little battery pack in the pocket. They will heat you up till it's like 100 degrees for up to eight hours.

Andy Munoz:
I'm laughing. A heated jacket, seriously?

Serena Gilbert:
It's literally a heated jacket that's battery powered, and you could use the battery to charge your cellphone.

Andy Munoz:
Wow, I have not heard of this, but I'm laughing-

Serena Gilbert:
I want one.

Andy Munoz:
...because I'm sitting here thinking-

Serena Gilbert:
'Cause you've already heard of these, huh?

Andy Munoz:
It's kind of ridiculous, but at the same point, with my job and having to-

Serena Gilbert:
It's totally needed.

Andy Munoz:
Having to travel and stuff.

Serena Gilbert:
You'd love it. That's what I was thinking of it for. For the days where I have to go up to Denver and I'm waiting for the bus.

Jeff Thompson:
You guys are not snow shoeing and cross country skiing out there to get places.

Serena Gilbert:
It's uncomfortable outside. We're not all used to -39 degrees Jeff.

Jeff Thompson:
That's reality over here.

Serena Gilbert:
So yod really like the heated jacket.

Jeff Thompson:
I'm really kind of getting back to reality because for the last eight years, prior to working at EBR, I worked from home, so I didn't have to go nowhere.

Serena Gilbert:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). They do have some stuff they make. I'm laughing because they were Jimmy Shoe or Jimmy Chu, I don't know, however you say it. They were $1,700.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh my God.

Serena Gilbert:
And those were heated boots.

Jeff Thompson:
I'll wear extra socks. Forget that mess.

Serena Gilbert:
The coat I think was worth it though, it was $139.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, that's still not bad for a coat.

Serena Gilbert:
No. It wasn't like a big, thick winter coat, it's pretty thin. But the fact that it's got the heating apparatus and stuff and it says you get free customer service. I would totally invest in that.

Jeff Thompson:
That's pretty cool.

Andy Munoz:
Santa can't afford me. I can barely afford me.

Jeff Thompson:
What's on your list?

Andy Munoz:
What isn't? Couple things that I'm kind looking at. I'm looking at a Chromebook. I want to play with that and check out the accessibility on it and have a little bit of knowledge of something new.

Serena Gilbert:
Those are pretty affordable.

Andy Munoz:
Yeah, they are.

Serena Gilbert:
I bet you could find one for like under $100 on Black Friday.

Andy Munoz:
Yeah, 'cause even right now, I looked, I found one that was just a little over 100 and it's not even Black Friday. Imagine when that day comes, lunch hour that day, I'll be looking.

Jeff Thompson:
November 23rd, right?

Andy Munoz:
Yes sir.

Jeff Thompson:
Like you were saying Serena, it starts at midnight Eastern time?

Serena Gilbert:
A lot of the sales, like Best Buy I know does. Walmart does. It's usually midnight Eastern, is when you can usually get on the sales. Amazon, I've never gotten a Black Friday deal on Amazon. Amazon is really weird the way they release them. They release them like ... so these deals come out at eight Eastern.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, yeah, yeah.

Serena Gilbert:
These ones come out at nine. It's just too much to keep up with, so I usually don't even bother with Amazon. Maybe they'll do it differently this year.

Jeff Thompson:
One thing I've done this year, is I switched over to Apple pay.

Serena Gilbert:
I love ApplePay.

Jeff Thompson:
I know. It just simplifies a lot of things, especially when you're going through that checkout. Boom boom boom, done.

Serena Gilbert:
Yup. Even on your phone it works. Even if you're checking out in Safari, it does it.

Andy Munoz:
It works on your watch.

Jeff Thompson:
I just had to set something up, I got the Amazon credit card, Prime I think it's called.

Serena Gilbert:
Now that'll really get ya. I love it, but then it's disgusting how much rewards you get.

Jeff Thompson:
It is, but I just paid it. I bought something and then I paid it and I had $10.

Serena Gilbert:
You have to pay that one off, yeah.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah. I think it's 16% interest or something.

Serena Gilbert:
When you first open it, I believe they give you $70 just right out the gate to you.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh yeah, yeah. It's really cool how those points add up.

Serena Gilbert:
You don't even want to know how many ... well put it this way, last year we had enough points, and we didn't get the card until February or March. In December, we were able to buy a cordless Dyson with the points. So that tells you how much that was. It was like, I don't know a couple $300. Then, right now we have enough, where if we were to buy the Shark, we'd only have to pay maybe like $100 for it.

Jeff Thompson:
It's a good deal, especially what comes with Amazon though is, if you get a product and you don't care for it, you got that 30 day window.

Serena Gilbert:
Some of it's 90. It just depends on the product.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, you can return it and it's just like that. Snap your fingers, it's almost gone and your credited back.

Serena Gilbert:
They credit it back as soon as they scan it at the UPS store.

Jeff Thompson:
Exactly.

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah.

Jeff Thompson:
It's not like, if I return something at Home Depot, it might be about four or five days before something happens. But I can get rid of my money a lot faster now that I have Apple pay because it's just boom boom.

Jeff Thompson:
Or PayPal works pretty good for some situations, especially when you're talking about smaller companies. They usually will have PayPal and that works out, it's pretty smooth. Few more clicks.

Serena Gilbert:
That's a really good tip, 'cause Best Buy is one even that accepts PayPal. A lot of bigger companies accept PayPal now and I prefer to do that then to type in my credit card number or try to figure out where I saved it.

Jeff Thompson:
Right.

Andy Munoz:
Oh, I've just got mine memorized.

Serena Gilbert:
I used to a long time ago and then I switched banks and I was like "Screw this, I don't feel like memorizing this one." So I never did.

Jeff Thompson:
I swear I've gone through three cards over the last year or two, because some of these breaches that happen here and there and you just don't know where, but all a sudden you get a new card and it's like "Okay, I used to memorize it." Now with Apple pay, it's locked in, it's ... I don't need to.

Andy Munoz:
Yeah. My Apply pay is a beautiful thing.

Jeff Thompson:
It is and there's other companies too. I saw Serena, you posted something about another type of paying format on Facebook.

Serena Gilbert:
I did. I use Venmo.

Jeff Thompson:
That's it, is that good?

Serena Gilbert:
I love Venmo 'cause you could literally send a text to somebody and pay them.

Andy Munoz:
Well, and you can actually do the same thing if the person has Apple pay, as long as you have your two factor authentication enabled, you can actually use Apple pay to do the same thing.

Serena Gilbert:
I don't have my two factor authentication turned on 'cause it kept annoying me and it still let me Apple pay someone via text, just over the weekend, yeah.

Andy Munoz:
Good to know, didn't know that.

Serena Gilbert:
I did have to authenticate it with Face ID. I didn't have to do the PIN number thing and all that.

Jeff Thompson:
What do you guys think about the early Black Friday deals? They say "Oh, early Black Friday" I think that's where they're cleaning up inventory.

Serena Gilbert:
When we're this close to Black Friday, I don't buy anything that's on my list within a month of Black Friday.

Andy Munoz:
You wait it out.

Jeff Thompson:
And then how long after Cyber Monday and then those weeks like "Oh, you missed it. You'll never get that deal again."

Serena Gilbert:
It's not true. They always have great deals.

Jeff Thompson:
They got inventory, they gotta move it.

Serena Gilbert:
And the markup on stuff ... electronics, it's not as much, but clothing and things like that, the markup is so high, they can do some massive discounts and still clear tons of profit.

Jeff Thompson:
I'm looking forward to it. I get excited, I don't try and let Lori know how excited I am, but she even said we should be looking for a refrigerator and I'm wondering it's like ... gosh I never looked for a refrigerator on Black Friday, but I'm sure some of those appliance places want to attract you.

Serena Gilbert:
They deeply discount that stuff on Black Friday too. You might not think ... 'cause I have some friends that bought the new washer and dryer on Black Friday and it was a really good deal. You won't have to fight people for it 'cause ... there's gonna be people at Lowe's and Home Depot, but they're fighting over some of the Christmas decorations and Christmas trees. They're not looking at refrigerators.

Jeff Thompson:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Andy Munoz:
That's actually a really good idea. We were actually looking to replace ours. Thanks for the tip on that. I think I'm gonna definitely be looking for that.

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah, the only thing I don't think they do discount is cars on Black Friday. The salesmen are all bored on Black Friday.

Jeff Thompson:
All black cars are on sale. Well, we're gonna put some links if we find some good stuff, we'll put them in the show notes here. My favorite spot to go is right to the website and get a lowdown. I don't have too many apps for stores, but I do have Target, Walmart, Macy's, Amazon as well. They'll talk about when their sales are coming up. So pay attention to that. We're gonna put Black Friday app that Serena found, that's accessible, right?

Serena Gilbert:
It is. It just looks really funny on the larger phone screens, but it still works.

Jeff Thompson:
It stretches.

Serena Gilbert:
It just doesn't fill the whole screen.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, that's kinda cool. It's kinda like when you watch those old movies on a big, large-

Serena Gilbert:
It's retro.

Jeff Thompson:
Well, everybody out there, Happy Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas shopping and stuff. What are you guys doing for the holidays? Big plans?

Serena Gilbert:
Turkey. We're smoking a turkey.

Jeff Thompson:
Really? Well you do live in Colorado.

Serena Gilbert:
Not that kind of smoking, oh my goodness.

Jeff Thompson:
You're smoking a turkey, so you have a smoker?

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah, the smoker. We did it last year, it's so good in the smoker.

Jeff Thompson:
How many hours does that take?

Serena Gilbert:
It doesn't take that long. I think, maybe three or four hours. I don't remember. It wasn't nearly as long as you would think though, because it's poultry, so it cooks a little bit faster.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, cool. Andy, yourself? Staying in town?

Andy Munoz:
Yeah, we are. We always get together with my wife's family on Thanksgiving so, we'll be going to my sister in laws. I was considering making my own turkey this year but I just don't have enough freezer space right now.

Jeff Thompson:
Here in Minnesota, there was a big thing for a while, where you deep fry a turkey.

Serena Gilbert:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), those are delicious too.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah. Lori's mom's coming up and we're hosting Thanksgiving here, so I'll let the gals have the kitchen and the guys will probably find the television.

Serena Gilbert:
That's usually how it ends up.

Andy Munoz:
There's gonna be some football on. I'll be watching.

Jeff Thompson:
We have Detroit playing Chicago and the Cowboys and the Redskins. Cowboys and Indians for Thanksgiving.

Serena Gilbert:
I think there's a golf tournament on Friday too between Tiger Woods and Phil Nicholson. It's like on paper view thing.

Andy Munoz:
One on one?

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah.

Andy Munoz:
Wow.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh wow, that's interesting.

Andy Munoz:
I'm just excited that I don't actually have to work on a holiday.

Serena Gilbert:
I can't believe they had you working on Thanksgiving.

Andy Munoz:
Oh yeah. We were 24/7 365.

Serena Gilbert:
Were people calling on Thanksgiving?

Andy Munoz:
Yeah.

Serena Gilbert:
Geez.

Jeff Thompson:
Well, that's the way it is. I would just announce that they're 24/7 every day of the year, so even on the holidays.

Andy Munoz:
Yep. World never stops.

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah.

Jeff Thompson:
Well you guys, good luck with your shopping. We'll get back together and see how we all did; how much damage was done. It's nice when you get a good deal. Like Serena said, when you get that thing in your hand, you're like "Got it!"

Serena Gilbert:
Oh, I got it!

Jeff Thompson:
It's a good feeling.

Andy Munoz:
Aint no waiting till Christmas on that.

Jeff Thompson:
Then, the next few days when the UPS truck starts pulling up, one after the other.

Serena Gilbert:
Dang it, it's just the dog food.

Jeff Thompson:
Well all of you, hope you get some good stuff and you all have a happy Thanksgiving. Best wishes to you and your families.

Andy Munoz:
Same to you.

Serena Gilbert:
Enjoy your shopping Jeff and Andy.

Jeff Thompson:
Well thank you all listening. This has been another Tech Abilities podcast and you can follow us on Twitter @Abilities tech. Thank you Serena, thank you Andy. Once again, want to thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed. Until next time, bye-bye.

Jeff Thompson:
For more podcasts with a Blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.BlindAbilities.com on Twitter @BlindAbilities. Download our app from the app store, Blind Abilities that's two words. Or send us an email at info@blindabilities.com thanks for listening.

Nov 22, 2018
Aira Director of Product Management, Greg Stilson, Broadens the Horizon on New Aira Access and Plans (transcript provided)
39:53

show Summary:

(Full Transcript Below)

Greg Stilson, Director of Product Management at Aira, joins Pete and Jeff in the Blind Abilities studio and talks about the new plans and opportunities available to everyone. From the Guest plan, where anyone downloading the Aira App, can use the Aira Access at a growing number of sites in the Aira Access Network. To the Intro plan, where you can get 30 minutes a month for $29 a month. And the Standard plan, which I like myself, you get 120 minutes for $99 per month. And if you want the Horizon Kit, it will be $124 per month as the $600 Horizon Kit is divided up over a 2-year period. The advance Plan gives you 300 minutes per month for $199 and $224 respectively if you want the Horizon Kit acvantage.

Join Greg, Pete and Jeff in this informative cast and learn about all the new Aira Access points and opportunities created by the Aira team. Seems like the value keeps growing and growing as their team and recognition keeps growing as well. Hear about the latest news and the Time Magazine recognition for Ara being one of the best 50 inventions in 2018.

You can find out more about Aira on the web at www.Aira.io

 

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities Appon the App Store.

Full Transcript:

Aira Director of Product Management, Greg Stilson, Broadens the Horizon on New Aira Access and Plans

Greg Stilson:
It's a testament to our Explorers as well, right? I mean the product wouldn't be where it is today without the great and constant feedback that we get from our Explorers.

Jeff Thompson:

Aira, your life, your schedule right now.

Greg Stilson:
We're so excited to have our Intro Plan. That's $29 a month, 30 minutes a month.

Jeff Thompson:

Greg Stilson, Director of Product Management at Aira.

Greg Stilson:
Almost 10,000 Walgreens in the U.S. now are Aira Access locations. The most exciting option, which is our Aira guest program, and that is that you don't even have to be a subscriber of Aira to use the service.

Jeff Thompson:

Checkout Aira on the web at aira.io.

Greg Stilson:
We are now on the GSA Schedule for federal government. If you a federal employee, you can get Aira purchased as an accommodation from your employer. If you're a veteran, any VA can purchase the product.

Jeff Thompson:

For more Podcasts with a Blindness Perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, on Twitter @BlindAbilities, and download the free Blind Abilities app from the App Store and the Google Play Store. That's two words, Blind Abilities.

Jeff Thompson:
Are you done for the year, Greg?

Greg Stilson:
No. No, we're not done for the year. Not at all.

Jeff Thompson:
You guys are open?

Greg Stilson:
24/7 baby. 24/7

Jeff Thompson:
There we go. Welcome to Blind Abilities, I'm Jeff Thompson. Today we're talking about a company that's been around for a little over three years, but it seems like they got something new all the time. Time Magazine 2018, one of The 50 Best Inventions of 2018, and that's Aira. Today we're going to Greg Stilson coming on and talk about their Horizon product, their pricing, and what Aira is today. It's evolved and I agree with Time Magazine, it is a new invention for 2018 because it's changed so much. With me today is Pete Lane. How you doing, Pete?

Pete Lane:
I'm great, Jeffrey. It's been awhile. How you been doing?

Jeff Thompson:
Really good. You are an Aira Explorer yourself.

Pete Lane:
I am. I'm coming up on my two year anniversary in December of this year. I joined as an Aira Explorer in December of 2016. So yeah, a long time. One of the early ones, not one of the original ones, but a long time Explorer.

Jeff Thompson:
Well, we've been covering Aira for it seems like three years when we first talked to Suman.

Pete Lane:
Yeah. It was right after NFP Convention in 2016 when we interviewed Suman. Yeah.

Jeff Thompson:
Back then when you first came onboard with Aira, tell us about the configuration, the form factor that they used?

Pete Lane:
Well, Aira, which has evolved big time since then, originally started with the use of your smartphone kind of as a controlling unit that would either be the iPhone or the Android. I think they had both the iPhone and the Android from the get-go, but their original glasses was a wireless glass called Google Glass. Now that Google Glass had been around for about three or four years prior to the time that Aira actually incorporated it into their configuration, but Google Glass was a technological kind of anomaly when Google introduced it back in probably 2012, maybe 2013, but it was a wireless connection that connected to your smartphone. Essentially it was the same basic configuration.

Pete Lane:
You would tap on the Aira app in your smartphone, connect to an agent, and then the wireless connection would bring in the Google Glass and the agent would have access to the video camera on board on the Google Glass. Now since then, they've evolved even further. They developed a second kind of a form factor of their glasses, which was called Austria. It was a little bit more technologically advanced, but it was a still wireless solution. It's a little lighter weight, maybe a little bit more appealing as far as the aesthetics go. The Google Glass, if anybody has seen it, was clearly a tech device.

Pete Lane:
Everything about it looked tech. It was kind of heavy. Had no lenses and kind of odd. It was noticeable when people would wear it. The Austria Glasses evolved a little bit. Had the lenses on there and looked a little bit more like a seamless pair of sunglasses. But then most recently back at the beginning of May, Aira introduced their current configuration, which is the Horizon Kit. The Horizon Kit is now a wired solution, but it actually incorporates the use of a separate controlling unit, which is the Samsung J7 Android phone, which is a dedicated phone equipped with all of the Aira configuration. It's tethered to the Horizon Glasses through actually a very hardy, braided, heavy-duty cable.

Pete Lane:
Not heavy in terms of weight, but durable. It provides for a much more stable and reliable connection.

Jeff Thompson:
Right. If I may, when we did the Super Bowl with Greg-

Pete Lane:
Right.

Jeff Thompson:
... where we did the podcast before and after, little did people know that he was actually testing the Horizon format that is being used today.

Pete Lane:
That's actually correct. As a matter of fact, Jeffrey, you may recall my son Patrick and I traveled to Dallas where we had the opportunity to watch a Cowboys game with Emmitt Smith serving as the agent for the game. I was testing those same glasses at that point. That was in October of 2017 I believe. Yeah.

Jeff Thompson:
That glass actually adds to the agent's use a wide angle lens so they can cover more, like a 120 degrees I believe, of what the Explorer is looking at. Now they have a bigger picture. They can see more. They can take in more and give you more feedback of what is in front of you.

Pete Lane:
Right. Right. Plus, the quality of the ... I don't know if it's a pixel count, but the quality of the video feed is considerably better than the older glasses.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, and without being tethered.

Pete Lane:
Right.

Jeff Thompson:
Always improving. Here in the Blind Abilities studio today to talk about the new opportunities and improvements and plans that they've created at Aira is Greg Stilson. How you doing, Greg?

Greg Stilson:
Good, Jeff. How are you?

Jeff Thompson:
Great. Pete Lane's with us too.

Pete Lane:
Hey, Greg, how are you?

Greg Stilson:
Great, Pete. Thanks for having me on, guys.

Pete Lane:
It's been a while. We haven't spoken with you since post Super Bowl back in February.

Greg Stilson:
Yeah, it's coming up again.

Jeff Thompson:
There we go. We won't mention The Packers or The Vikings this time.

Pete Lane:
Or The Jags. Yeah.

Jeff Thompson:
Or The Jaguars. Yeah.

Greg Stilson:
Or The Jags. Yeah. All three of our teams are not exactly tearing the cover off the ball here.

Pete Lane:
Mm-hmm (negative).

Jeff Thompson:
But you guys seem to be tearing the cover off Time Magazine. I just saw that 2018, Aira, one of The Top 50 Best Inventions of 2018. Congratulations.

Greg Stilson:
Hey, man. Thank you. It was a surprise and a tremendous honor for us. I was involved in sort of the representation of Aira working with a few of our other team members when we were talking with Time Magazine. It was one of those things where we were nominated and we're like, "All right. Well, we'll do this. That's great." I mean it's an honor just to be nominated in the first place, and then to actually have won it and to be named as one of the top inventions is just a tremendous honor for us.

Jeff Thompson:
I've been calling my friend saying, "I know this guy. I know this guy."

Greg Stilson:
Well, then it's one of those things is it's a testament to our Explorers as well, right? I mean the product wouldn't be where it is today without the great and constant feedback that we get from our Explorers. I mean this honor is as much yours as it is ours because you guys have helped make the product what it is. Just to be recognized as a company that is doing the things that we're doing and helping the people that we are is really awesome, especially from a mainstream magazine like Time.

Jeff Thompson:
Exactly. Very mainstream there.

Greg Stilson:
Yeah. Yeah, definitely.

Jeff Thompson:
I think that's one of the biggest crossovers that's been happening over the last years. You got the attention from AT&T. You got the attention from Time Magazine. Because all your agents are sighted, so you're bridging the gap between the sighted world and the blind community.

Greg Stilson:
Yeah, and I think it's also just in general regardless of the community that we're working with. It's a really awesome blending of human and technology, right? But we're doing something that hasn't really been done in this capacity before in that we have really highly trained agents working with really high technology. Smart glasses and AI and dashboard all blending into one solution that just works and it works to really change people's live and benefit people's lives. In addition to being a service that works as well as it does, it's an easy and awesome story to tell the mainstream so that they can see that this is a solution that is beneficial to everyone.

Jeff Thompson:
Greg, we've been following Aira for well over since 2016, somewhere around there, and all the advances they have been making. Can you give some of our listeners who may not be as familiar what is the Aira package?

Greg Stilson:
Absolutely, yeah. The Aira package, man, it's funny you mentioned that you've been following it since 2016. I've been with this company ... It'll be coming up on a year now. Just to see the way the company has evolved in a year, let alone two to three years since you guys have been following, is crazy. The company started out strictly as a smart glass option. In order to use the service, you had to have a pair of smart glasses. You had to have it connected to your app on your phone via a MiFi, and that was really way that you could use it. Today, when you look at the way that it's used today, it's used in so many different capacities.

Greg Stilson:
I mean we still are a smart glass company, so we designed our own Horizon Smart Glasses that can be added to any package or any service plan that you want to get. But in addition now, we have just the service only options, which are to be able to use the app just on your smartphone using the smartphone camera as the video source. We've simplified sort of our plans and things like that. The plans are now real simple. We're so excited to have a low entry point plan, which we call our Intro Plan. That's $29 a month, 30 minutes a month, that you can use with your smartphone.

Greg Stilson:
That's really to get a taste of the service, to start using it, see how it fits into your life and see if a higher tier plan is something that's going to benefit you. Then we have what we call our Standard Plan, which is the plan that we're really excited about because it covers ... Based on the data that we've collected, it covers the highest population of our users and that's $99 a month for 120 minutes. That's service only plan, but you can add the Horizon Glasses to that if you feel that the hands-free option would benefit you. Those Horizon Glasses can be added for either rent to own for $25 a month or you can buy them outright for $600 right off the bat if you want to.

Greg Stilson:
Then we have our Advanced Plan, which is $199 for 300 minutes a month, and then you also the option of adding the Horizon Glasses to that as well. The biggest thing that I think has changed over the years is that we started out as sort of a subscription option. Today, that is so far from the limits of what you can do. We started at the end of last year I want to say, maybe even earlier than that, offering this concept of Aira Access. Aira Access is a way for businesses to offer Aira as an accommodation to their locations or their products or their services for those who are blind and low vision.

Greg Stilson:
What is really cool about this is it's a way to offer Aira to more people and it's also a way if you are a subscriber for your minutes to go further. For example, the whole Aira Access journey started with airports. Airports are traditionally one of the most challenging places for a blind person. Not just a blind person, but anybody to get around. We started out getting a lot of interest from airports as an accommodation to the blind and low vision passengers because not only did it allow them to get to their gates and things like that much easier, but it actually allows a blind person ... I'm living proof of this. I'd spent a year pretty much traveling the last year only with Aira in airports.

Greg Stilson:
It really makes a blind person a real patron of an airport. If I wanted to go get a bite to eat or something to drink or go shopping or find a restroom, I could do that on my own, whereas before you would either need to ask somebody for help, try to get somebody to escort you to those locations, or just try to find constant directions that may or may not be correct. Today, we have over 35 airports now that are Aira Access locations. Jeff, Minneapolis, St. Paul is obviously one of the first ones that we signed up.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah. I want to thank you for that because now I sit with the bags while my wife goes voyages around getting food, coming back. Thanks, Aira.

Greg Stilson:
Anyway that we can help, Jeff. Anyway. That's really where the Aira Access journey started, but the Aira Access journey kind of exploded from there. We signed up the Wegmans grocery store chain I think it was a couple months ago now. It's a grocery store chain of almost a hundred grocery stores in the northeast. Just this week we announced our largest partnership, which was Walgreens. Almost 10,000 Walgreens in the U.S. now are Aira Access locations. If you need to just go fill a prescription or just go buy something for the holidays or whatever, you walk in to any of these Walgreen stores and you'll get a notification on your phone that says that this is an Aira Access location and all usage is free.

Pete Lane:
Yeah, that's huge.

Greg Stilson:
Sponsored by Walgreens.

Jeff Thompson:
Wow.

Greg Stilson:
Really where you look at the benefit is yes, if you are a subscriber, now your minutes go further because you're not using your own minutes in these locations, but then we also created what I think is the most exciting option, which is our Aira Guest program. That is that you don't even have to be a subscriber of Aira to use the service. If you download the app, we have a button there that says sign in as a guest. You just give us your phone number and your email address and you instantly are signed in as a guest. When you sign in as a guest, you can use the service in any Aira Access location, any airport, any Walgreens, any AT&T stores.

Greg Stilson:
We have almost 5,500 AT&T stores now that are live, and you can also, if you're signed in a guest, use what we call the Aira Access products and promotions. The last thing I'll comment on. It's a long-winded way of saying what are our packages, but there's a lot of different ways that you can use Aira. The last way that I'll say is using our partnerships with companies who are supporting us by offering Aira as a service to support their products or their promotions. We partnered with Intuit QuickBooks to support any blind person who is a small business owner or contractor who really works in their own small business.

Greg Stilson:
Anything that you're doing related to your small business, you can sign in as a guest and there's a button on the bottom of the app that says "call Aira with an offer" and you can choose one of the offers, being the small business offer. If the agent verifies that you're going to be doing something related to your small business, those minutes will be sponsored by Intuit QuickBooks so you don't need to even be in a location now to make a free call as long as you're doing something related to your small business. That could be scanning receipts. That could be filling out an expense report. That could be picking out paint for your office, your home office, if it wants to be.

Jeff Thompson:
Greg?

Greg Stilson:
Yeah?

Jeff Thompson:
Could you tell our listeners what Intuit is exactly? I know QuickBooks. It's business management software. Plus, they do a lot more.

Greg Stilson:
Yeah, they do a lot. Intuit is the company that really created TurboTax is really what their claim to fame is. QuickBooks and business management software, any of that, their big promotion here is to help the employment of blind people. They want to make sure that blind people ... We always talk about the really high unemployment rate and things like that. This is a way that they can help the employment rate of bling people is providing Aira as an accommodation to supporting their small business. As I said, any task related to your small business.

Greg Stilson:
If you choose the Intuit small business offer, there's a text box right in the app that says that you can inform the agent on what you're doing. At that point when you call, the agent will actually get a notice on their dashboard that this is what this person wants to do. If you even explain in your note to the agent that, "Hey, I'm doing an expense report for my business," you know, that's already validated and away you go. You don't even have to be an Aira subscriber. You can sign in as a guest and just use it right off the bat. Then the last one I want to mention is our partnership with Vispero.

Greg Stilson:
If you're a JAWS user, a ZoomText user and something isn't acting right with your software, let's say that JAWS isn't speaking or there's a window that blocking JAWS from being able to do what it needs to do, you can actually call in to Aira for free, sponsored by Vispero, and get a sense of visually of what's going on the screen. The agent even have the capability ... A lot of people don't know this, but agents actually have the capability to remote into your computer, with your permission, and actually close the window that maybe causing the problem or shut down the program that could be causing issues, or maybe it's just as simple as restarting JAWS.

Greg Stilson:
Even though you can do that with some commands and things like that, maybe the JAWS application isn't restarting for whatever reason. Well, the agent can actually manually do that with the mouse by remoting in. Just so many various offers that are available to really get a taste of Aira, to compliment your minutes so that your minutes will go further, and then try it out as a guest.

Pete Lane:
Greg, I wanted to amplify a little bit that the TeamViewer or Zoom connectivity feature where you just spoke about agents being able to remote into your computer, I've used that several times. Not just on clogging something that's not working with the computer, but actually going into online websites, things like that, assisting me with purchasing items. They can actually use your credentials, and of course, they're a very trusted secure agents. It's a really good feature.

Greg Stilson:
It's something that I think is not widely known, but it's a really powerful thing. Especially when you think of the amount of unfortunately still inaccessible web content that's out there, there's a lot of thing ... I'll give you one example. We have a lot of users who go on and use Airbnb. Agents will actually do descriptions of what the photos of the Airbnb location looks like. Unfortunately, those photos don't have the most robust descriptions attached to them, so using an agent in that capacity to understand how the Airbnb looks, what amenities do you see in the picture. Because something written in text can look very different than what it is in a photo.

Greg Stilson:
Just getting that level of explanation on a website that doesn't always have the most robust description of their photos.

Pete Lane:
Greg, another development that Aira announced just this week as well is Sendero. They've actually signed over access to the Sendero GPS technology to Aira and Mike May has joined the Aira team. Talk a little bit about that.

Greg Stilson:
Yeah, this one is really exciting to me. I've been a user of Sendero's GPS technology for a long, long time. Probably since 2002-2003. I remember using it on my BrailleNote Classic.

Pete Lane:
Yeah.

Greg Stilson:
I remember the feeling that I had when I first used Sendero, which was when I did that point of interest search to be able to hear all the places around me. Just completely opened my eyes to information that I never had before. GPS has become significantly mainstream now with Google Maps and Waze and Apple Maps and everything else in the iPhone. There's a ton of GPS apps for the blind to really cater to the way that a blind person travels. One of the things that we wanted to look into is what solutions are we looking to really build into AI to compliment our agents. GPS navigation is the obvious one, right? We have Explorers today using agents in conjunction with this app, with the Sendero Seeing Eye navigation app.

Greg Stilson:
We said, "Well, that makes total sense because you're getting automated directions and then if you need to call an agent later on, you can." Because remember, GPS doesn't get you to the door. It just gets you close to your destination, right? A lot of people refer to it as the last 50 feet, right? It'll say, "Hey, you've arrived at your destination." Now how do you actually find the entrance to the door? How do you find the entrance of the building that you're looking for? Sometimes those entrances are very different than where your GPS says that you've arrived. What's always then sort of our dream is to make this beautiful synergy between autonomous GPS and sort of the human-in-the-loop type of assistance.

Greg Stilson:
That's really where Sendero came in. Sendero on top of being one of the most trusted GPS names in the industry, I've always heard it called The Cadillac of GPS. It's almost been the most robust information source from a GPS that I've ever seen for blind people, but on top of that, what they do is they have different than several of the other GPS apps that were out there for blind people, they have their own routing engine that they use. You can within the same app use their routing engine to get you from point A to point B, getting turn by turn directions, whereas a lot of the other apps would ask you to leave that app and go into Google Maps or go into Apple Maps and use their routing engine.

Greg Stilson:
The difference there is that their routing engines in those other apps aren't designed for a blind pedestrian. That's really what really attracted us so much to the Sendero solution is Sendero provides some of the robust descriptions of intersections and directions as you're walking. It's very verbose and it gives you very clear pedestrian instructions. For a blind person, the pedestrian side is the most important. That combined with just the amount of information and things like that. What we've acquired from Sendero and we're still retaining much of the Sendero staff, their software developers during this transition period to make sure that we're keeping the apps updated.

Greg Stilson:
But most importantly, if you are an owner of the Seeing Eye GPS or the RNIB Navigator or the Guide Dogs GPS in Australia, nothing changes right now. Those apps will continue to be updated. Aira and the Sendero developers are working together to update these apps. We already have a feature list from Sendero of the most requested features from the users. Most importantly, I want to say nothing is going to change right now. At this point, just expect that those apps ... Actually we have update pending here that's going to be released relatively shortly that I've been working on with the team. Most importantly, nothing is going to change with your apps today. That's something that we want to make sure nobody is concerned about.

Greg Stilson:
Going forward, a lot of people asked me what are we going to be using this for. In my view, this directly impacts our AI offering with Chloe. To be able to take what Mike and the team over at Sendero have done and to be able to add that in with today's sort of modern Google-oriented GPS technology, if we can sort of blend all of that into an AI solution that is sort of synergistic with the human-in-a-loop offering, it's going to be a pretty darn good solution for somebody who's navigating. We have people walking for 20-25 minutes with agents at time. If you can do the majority of your route with an autonomous GPS and maybe you only need the agent for the final 50 feet or the last step, maybe that's a better solution for you.

Jeff Thompson:
You know, when you take Mike May, Anirudh Koul, your team with Chloe, I can only imagine what's around the corner for everyone.

Greg Stilson:
We're pretty excited. It's a really fun time to be looking at the future of Aira. Especially with Aira Access and with the offerings, there's a lot of potential with indoor navigation. There's a lot of potential with AI object and facial recognition and all that kind of stuff that's out there. But for us, I wanted to start with sort of the basics. The basics were that we were definitely missing a straight up, really high reliability GPS navigation tool. To be able to have that built into Aira down the road is something that I think everybody can be really excited about.

Jeff Thompson:
Well, that's really neat because I remember when Mike May first started in 1993. With all that experience coming into Aira now, as I mentioned Anirudh Koul with the Seeing AI, the developer of that, coming into Aira, it just seems like you're still growing.

Greg Stilson:
Yeah.

Jeff Thompson:
You're still a new kid on the block in a sense. It's very interesting times.

Greg Stilson:
I can't speak for Anirudh, but the fact that he wanted to join Aira I think speaks very highly of our CEO and the vision that we have. Anirudh I'm assuming saw a significant potential here. It's exciting. It's a really fun place to be. I was talking to my wife last night and we were kind of just talking about the Time Magazine. Then I stopped for a second. I looked at the things that we've accomplished this week. This week. We launched 10,000 Walgreens stores in partnership. We did a technology transfer of Sendero GPS. We were named one of the Top 50 Inventions of the Year in 2018, and then we also launched AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, as another sight access location.

Greg Stilson:
That's a pretty good month for some companies, so for us to do that in a week ... She said, "Why do you seem so tired?" I said that's it. It's been a week.

Jeff Thompson:
Are you done for the year, Greg?

Greg Stilson:
No. No, we're not done for the year.

Jeff Thompson:
Okay.

Greg Stilson:
Not at all. Not at all, but it's one of these things where it's fast-paced and it's exciting, but this is all really awesome stuff that's going to benefit a lot of people. If you think about the amount of people that shop at Walgreens, just to get their prescriptions filled or just to buy one or two things, and to not need to always go up to the counter and pull somebody away from the register to go help you or to wait in line to find somebody to help you, now you can just walk in with your phone as a guest or if you have a glasses as an Explorer and just walk around. That is super, super empowering.

Jeff Thompson:
Just to add to that, or the people who waited in the car because why walk in sometimes. Now they can go in and explore.

Greg Stilson:
Exactly. I love what you say there, Jeff, because I can't tell you the number of times I've gone shopping with sighted people and you just choose to wait in the car while they go buy something.

Jeff Thompson:
Exactly.

Greg Stilson:
There's so much out there that you can learn and just to be able to walk in not worry about how many minutes you're taking or anything like that, just go in and explore and see what's on sale or see maybe there's a new beverage or food that they have that you didn't even know existed. While somebody else is shopping for something that they want, you can actually be exploring as well. That's something that is really, really exciting.

Jeff Thompson:
Why shouldn't you be able to walk out of the store and say, "I went in there to spend 10 bucks and I come out spending 30."

Pete Lane:
Exactly. I don't want to beat this dead horse, but the guest account is huge, Greg. Anybody listening to this podcast who is not an Aira subscriber can download the free Aira app, create a free, free, free guest account, and walk in and use their smartphone camera and do everything we're talking about. It's incredible.

Greg Stilson:
It is. It doesn't hurt to leave that app even on your phone because the reality is that we're adding ... I mean we're adding new access locations on a weekly to biweekly basis. If there's not a place near you right now, there most likely will be soon. The reality is that we're looking at not just one-off locations like this airport and that airport, but as you see with Walgreens, big chains that are global or national, where they're going to be everywhere. That's one of the most exciting things about Walgreens is it's the first chain, that and AT&T, are the first chains that are pretty much everywhere in the U.S., that you can go everywhere and find a Walgreens or an AT&T store.

Pete Lane:
And Wegmans groceries, while it's not nationwide, it covers a great geographical area up in the northeast in the Eastern seaboard. Over a hundred stores.

Greg Stilson:
Exactly. Just having the app on your phone, having signed in as a guest one time, it doesn't hurt to leave it on there. I don't even know how many megabytes, but it's not that many. What that means is that when you walk into one of these locations, it will just notify you that, "Hey, you're entering an Aira Access location." Now we have a searching capability where you can search. If you go to the more tab of the app, you can actually search for where Aira Access locations are. If you ever are in a location that you want to figure out, you can contact one of our agents as well and they can even do the search right on their dashboard and tell you where some of the access locations are as well.

Jeff Thompson:
Now, Greg, I believe here in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities area, the YMCAs are a part of the Aira Access network.

Greg Stilson:
Yup. I believe it's the YMCAs that are there.

Jeff Thompson:
That's great for people to go in, explore the place. At least enter the door like we were talking about Walgreens. Go in. Explore.

Greg Stilson:
One of the things that I would say is a little bit daunting as a blind person when you walk into a gym that you've never been in ... I travel all over the country and globally and stuff like that. One of the things that is often a deterrent for me going to a motel or a hotel gym is I don't know how to use the machines, right? I've got a treadmill at my home gym and I've got a stair stepper that I've learned how to use, but having an agent there to orient you to where the buttons are, just telling them, "Hey, I want to start this type or run," or they could tell you what option there are, one of the things ... There's so many fancy treadmills now with built in TVs and stuff like that.

Greg Stilson:
Maybe you just want to watch TV while you're running. You know what I'm saying? Being able to work those type of touchscreen devices and things like that are never accessible. So to be able to have an agent actually get you started, get you on the channel, show you what the buttons do or generally where they're located, it's a pretty powerful thing. Maybe we'll get a few people we'll say less apprehensive to go the gym because you're concerned about not knowing how the things work.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah. 15 minutes later they could come back on and say, "Greg, keep going. Keep going, Greg."

Greg Stilson:
There you go.

Jeff Thompson:
Encouragements.

Pete Lane:
Motivation.

Jeff Thompson:
I think that is a big thing because there is so many situations where you don't even try. You don't even take that step. You don't walk out the door or go into some place, travel at the airport. I remember when you're talking about running through an airport to make a connecting flight.

Greg Stilson:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yup. To have the freedom to be able to run like that with nobody at your side and just have the agent letting you know, "All right. Off to your right. Off to your left," now granted I informed them ahead of time that I was going to be running, but just to have that type of freedom and not have to wait for somebody. I'm a super impatient person in general, so to be able to have that freedom is pretty powerful.

Jeff Thompson:
You know, one last thing that I want to bring up is, probably not the last, but with the Veterans, Suman announced at the NFP Convention last summer that the Veterans signed on to Aira.

Greg Stilson:
Yeah. Yup. This is really big. I covered so much of the packages and things like that that are available. All I've touched on there are the regular like everyday subscription packages or the Aira Access Guest packages. The way that you can use it as a guest, but you're right. What I didn't touch on is the federal government, the VA. One of the things that we didn't have much of a presence in at all last year or the year before is the federal government. Some of the really exciting stuff that we've done this year is we are now on the GSA Schedule for federal government. If you are a federal employee, you can get Aira purchased as an accommodation from your employer off the GSA Schedule. In addition, we are officially approved by the VA.

Greg Stilson:
Any VA can purchase the product. If you're a veteran, you can ask your Dist. coordinator or your bros or whoever you're working with and ask them. We do have VA pricing that's available.

Jeff Thompson:
Which is very appealing from what I've heard too.

Greg Stilson:
It is. It's great option for the VA. Then lastly, I want to say that one of the things that we struggled for a long time early on was getting approved as a vendor in States for Voc. Rehab. We heard Dan Frye earlier this year who's really an experienced person in the vocational rehabilitation services. He's done a great job helping us get on those list in different states. But what we've learned is that even if Aira is not an approved vendor in your state, you can still get the product purchased for you. We do have voc rehab pricing available, but you do have to write a justification letter.

Greg Stilson:
We're more than happy to help write any of those letters for you if you are looking to have voc rehab purchase Aira for you. We have annual pricing for voc rehab that fits into their purchasing schedule in the way that they purchase things.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, that's great. Like I said to other people, I said, "You know, the prices really haven't changed that much since they started, but the value added just multiplied over and over again."

Greg Stilson:
Yeah. It's 100% true, Jeff, and you're only going to see that increasing as our AI options continue and things like that. What I think I'm the most excited about with regard to the changes in prices and things like that is the lower entry point price. This was something that we've been asked for by all of the consumer groups out there, NFP, ACB. That was the number one request that we got from everyone is how do I ... If I'm not able to afford the $99 a month, can I get a little bit of Aira for a lower price? That's something that we're really excited about is at $29, you can get 30 minutes a month and use it for those things that maybe you don't think you need.

Greg Stilson:
You're not going to need 60 minute session or something like that, but maybe it's one or two minute task. I can give you one clear one that I use every single week. I have a two year old. I go to take her to school or to her daycare in the morning. On the way back, if we're low on her milk, I'll stop off at the convenience store in the corner, which they have milk there, and I'll run in and grab her a new gallon of whole milk. When I walk in, I could try to use one of the four OCR apps that I have on my phone to try to read the type of milk and the expiration date, but that rarely works.

Greg Stilson:
In 90 seconds, I can have an agent direct to where the whole milk is and check all of the expiration dates going back ... I learned very early from my mother that you always pick from the back. We always start from the back and check the expiration date.

Jeff Thompson:
Shout out to mom.

Greg Stilson:
Exactly. But it's one of things where what I could do in probably five to 10 minutes using various apps and solutions and maybe eventually just getting frustrated and going up and finding somebody to help me, I can do in less than 90 seconds with Aira. That's just one example of 30 minutes you have potential tasks that will be made a heck of a lot easier, even if it's just sorting through mail every few days. You can sort through mail in five minutes with Aira and do the amount of mail that would probably take you 30 to 45 minutes if you were using various apps or other solutions.

Greg Stilson:
All I'm going to say is that we're super excited to have this sort of low entry point option that allows you to really get a taste of Aira, see if it fits in your life, and you can go from there. Remember, if you are living near an access location, 30 minutes can get you pretty far if you live near an access location that you frequent regularity.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah. Serena Gilbert asked the question, "Hi, Greg. I'm just wondering. I'm from Colorado. I work at a vocational rehab center. What is the response to the changes that you've just made from the community?"

Greg Stilson:
As you can imagine, the responses is mixed. I'm a straight shooter. I always have been. Anytime you change prices, I don't care what business you're in, Jeff, the response is going to be mixed. There's going to be people that love the changes. There's going to be people that don't like change in general.

Jeff Thompson:
As a rule, yeah.

Greg Stilson:
As a rule, right? We knew that going into it, but the reality and what I will say is there are certain things that had to be changed. One of the things we modified was the unlimited plan. It was not sustainable as a business. If you want Aira to be here in 12 months, the pricing and the plans that were there were just flat out not sustainable. I urge everybody to kind of look at that and say, "This company is growing. We are expanding. We are doing everything we can to really transfer the onus of minutes from the subscriber more towards businesses and more towards access solutions. But for us to do that, we have to be a sustainable business." That's where I would say that those changes had to be made.

Greg Stilson:
In the process, what is most exciting is, as I said, the low entry point offering, the low $29 plan so people can try it out. But I would say also we were able to reduce the cost per minute for our consumers on our most popular plan, which is the Standard Plan. We went from $.89 a minute down to $.83 a minute. You're getting 120 minutes now for $99 as opposed to 100 minutes for $89. When we looked at our consumption numbers, we learned that the vast majority of people were falling within that 30 to 120 minutes. How could we make it the most affordable possible for our most common customers to be able to use Aira on a monthly basis. That's really where I'm really excited that we were able to do that. So yeah.

Jeff Thompson:
24/7 too.

Greg Stilson:
Yeah, and that's the other side is that we're increasing our costs by going 24/7. That's been another very sought after request from our customers is having the time with no agents was not an acceptable solution for people. We accommodated that as well this year. This is something that needed to happen in order for Aira to grow and expand and continue to change the way that we're able to do business. I think you're going to see significant improvement. Remember, we're always evolving as well. All of these changes came from listening to our Explorers and listening to the community. We're always listening as well. Keep that feedback coming.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah. Greg, I know Suman will probably tell you today or tomorrow, but what about next week?

Greg Stilson:
Next week's Thanksgiving, man.

Pete Lane:
There you go.

Greg Stilson:
Next week I'm eating a lot. That's my plans for next week.

Jeff Thompson:
You guys are open. People can use the service during Thanksgiving and-

Greg Stilson:
We are.

Jeff Thompson:
... Christmas, New Years.

Greg Stilson:
24/7 baby. 24/7.

Jeff Thompson:
There we go.

Pete Lane:
Greg, I wanted to add a question that I've been getting from my various communication platforms that I participate with Aira.

Greg Stilson:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pete Lane:
There's been some concern over the last several months about the quality and responsiveness of Aira tech support and customer care. I know that Suman himself came out with an email to all Explorers a few months ago explaining that he was aware of it and that they're putting a great deal of effort into improvement. Can you talk a little bit about what's improved with customer care, tech support, and what our Aira Explorers might expect if they make a contact?

Greg Stilson:
Absolutely. Customer care, as we're a growing company, first off, the number of customers has exploded and how many customers that we're serving. Making sure that we were able to accommodate and support those customers when things weren't working or when you had issues with your billing or when you had issues with your glasses or whatever else. We recognized that our support was not where it needed to be. As a startup company, this is a constant learning phase for us. We took a huge initiative. Suman took that very personally and made that one of the highest priorities internally. We implemented several changes.

Greg Stilson:
First off, we did ramp up our support hiring to make sure that we had enough specialists to answer your calls, but we also implemented an operator system. This is something that I think is really great is there's two ways of getting connected to a support agent now. Whenever you call in, you're going to get our operator. Our operator's job, if it's a simple problem, the operator can even solve the problem for you. If it's not simple, we have a number of different now care teams that specialize in various questions or issues that you maybe having. Whether your issue is related to hardware, to glasses, to billing, to the app, to your account, there's different teams that support those.

Greg Stilson:
Different connection points that the operator can get you to. If one of those team members is free, they'll do a direct transfer right then and there for you and you'll be able to work with that teammate to rectify your problem. If they're not, what we're doing is basically doing a scheduling a callback situation where you don't have to sit on hold anymore. You don't want to wait. Our agent will call you back at the specified time that you want to be called back in or a suggested time that works for the agent and yourself. This is something that we took very, very seriously. We're also significantly ramping up on our email communication. Making sure that within 24 hours you get an email communication back.

Greg Stilson:
It's something that, as I said, we took seriously and we're continuing to improve. Keep that feedback coming. If you're not getting the support that you feel you should be, make sure you let us know. It's support@aira.io. Make sure to let us know you are seeing the changes if they are improving or if they're not. That's the best way that we can learn.

Jeff Thompson:
The Explorers can now leave feedback for the agents. That there's certain things in the app that you have been improving so that you can get feedback to the agents better. If you're going to use a product or something, you can save time and your minutes by directly connecting up and they know what they're there for.

Greg Stilson:
Exactly. Yup. There's been a lot of changes to the app. We've always taken the feedback to the agents very seriously. You can rate an agent as good or poor, and then you can always leave comments. We urge everybody do that. It's the way that our agent analyst can help improve things if they're not going well or can give people a congratulatory pat on the back if they're doing something great too. It's a great way for us to understand how things are going for you. Then your comment, Jeff, about the access offers, that is a big change that we made in the app is to be able to initiate the access offer yourself rather than needing the agent to initiate it on their end.

Greg Stilson:
To be able to do that and actually call with an offer, you can actually call for free with one of those Aira Access offers so that you start that call using the sponsor's minutes rather than yours. As I said, you just use the button ... Not the big call button in the middle, but a button just below it called call with an access offer and that's where you can choose the small business offer, you can call using the Intuit QuickBooks product, or you can call using the Vispero product as well. We hope to add many, many more products and companies as time progresses.

Jeff Thompson:
My wife uses Chloe a lot at work because she has paperwork and stuff like that and she really likes that feature. Just the OCR just to be able to read it at will when she wants.

Greg Stilson:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yup. I'm excited to say that we're very close to releasing an update to the Horizon system. It's been a really fantastic year with Horizon. It's been super exciting and just the response that we're hearing from Explorers on the significant improvement in their agent experience. We're going to be releasing an update to Horizon and to Chloe very shortly, which will significantly improve the reading capability. Then in addition, we're also going to be offering a document capture capability very similar to that of KNFB Reader and Seeing AI and that kind of stuff to be able to actually capture a full sheet and have it read to you.

Greg Stilson:
I think that's really just the beginning of what we're going to be doing with reading.

Jeff Thompson:
That sounds great.

Greg Stilson:
Yes. There's that. In addition, we're bringing a lot of the Aira Access offers piece up to sort of parity with the iOS and Android app where you actually can say to Chloe, "Hey, make an access call," and she'll actually ask you, "Okay. Do you want this to be a Vispero product call, an Intuit QuickBooks call," so you can now initiate just by using your voice any of these access calls as well, and even to the point where you can ask Chloe, "Hey, where's my nearest access location?" She'll actually do a quick search and tell you, "Hey, you've got a Walgreens right down the street."

Pete Lane:
Cool.

Jeff Thompson:
I just want to compliment you guys. We went to England and my wife took all these pictures with her Aira Glasses and stuff. One of the big things is they label them.

Greg Stilson:
Yeah.

Jeff Thompson:
She didn't need someone else to help her with Facebook or something or posting it here or there. It was done. It just rounded out her vacation. That's what you do on vacations. You take pictures and you send them out, and she did it while walking along. You know? It was really quite an experience.

Greg Stilson:
I can tell you, as a blind person who cannot see pictures, it's one of the most sort of powerful and yet underappreciated features is the labeling capability. For those of you who don't know, the agent can take pictures either with your glasses or your phone. We have so many Explorers who literally work with agents just to get that perfect selfie. They can label those images for you. What's really cool about that is that is that the label will actually go into the photo, it's part of the meta data in the photo, and it's read by VoiceOver. They'll send that picture to your app on your phone.

Greg Stilson:
Even if you take the photo with your Horizon Glasses, even though you're not using your smartphone at the time, the photo will go to your smartphone's app and you can add that photo directly to your camera roll or to your photos on your phone, or even share with something like Google Photos or Dropbox or anything like that for later on. But the nice part about that is the description that the agent put in will stay with that photo. Whatever screen reader you're using, whether it's Voiceover or Talkback or JAWS on a computer or in VDA, it'll read to you as touch that photo or go over the top of that photo. That's super powerful both in a social setting, but also we have so many students who will ...

Greg Stilson:
Let's say that they don't have a professors who's really verbose in reading the board or a PowerPoint slide or something like that, I had professors like that all the time, we have some students who will ask an agent to take a photo of the board and just label or write down the information into the photo label of what that is so that they can go back, either connect it to a Braille display later on. Just when they're in their dorm room studying-

Jeff Thompson:
That's amazing.

Greg Stilson:
... they can listen to the content.

Jeff Thompson:
Fantastic.

Pete Lane:
That's awesome.

Jeff Thompson:
Greg, I really want to thank you for coming on the Blind Abilities here and talking to our listeners and telling us all the new opportunities people have with Aira. Pete, is there anything you want to add?

Pete Lane:
No. I just wanted to thank Greg as well. We've been speaking with Greg Stilson. Greg is the Director of Product Management for Aira. He's a regular guest here on Blind Abilities. It's always good to hear from you and chat with you, Greg. Thanks for the updates.

Greg Stilson:
Thanks for having me on, guys. It's always a pleasure and have a great holiday next week. All the listeners have a fantastic holiday. Keep that feedback coming. We're always growing and evolving and you guys are the reason why this product is what it is.

Jeff Thompson:
Thank you, Greg.

Pete Lane:
Thanks, Greg.

Jeff Thompson:
Such a great time talking to Greg Stilson once again. Be sure to check out Aira on the web at aira.io. I want to thank Pete Lane for coming back in the studios and a big thank you goes out to Chee Chau for his beautiful music. You can find Chee Chau on Twitter @LCheeChau. Chee Chau. Chee Chau. Once again, I want to thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed. Until next time, bye, bye.

[Music]  [Transition noise]  

-When we share

-What we see

-Through each other's eyes...

[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]

...We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.

Jeff Thompson:

For more podcasts with a blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, on Twitter at Blind Abilities. Download our app from the App Store, Blind Abilities. That's two words. Or send us an email at info@blindabilities.com. Thanks for listening.

Nov 17, 2018
Self-Advocacy, Self-Awareness and the ADA - A Visit with PACER Center’s Transition Coordinator Deborah Leuchovius (Transcript provided)
23:46

Full Transcript Below

Show Summary:

In partnership with State Services for the Blind of Minnesota we are proud to present, PACER Center - Champions for Children with Disabilities:

Self-Advocacy, Self-Awareness and the ADA - A Visit with PACER Center’s Transition Coordinator Deborah Leuchovius

 

Deborah sits down with Jeff Thompson of Blind Abilities in the fifth of a series of podcasts in partnership with PACER Center and State Services for the Blind. Be sure to check out all of the PACER series of podcasts.

 

Deborah talks about preparing youth for the responsibilities of adulthood and the protections of the ADA. How self-advocacy and self-awareness can help one self determine and understand their accommodation needs.

 

Join Deborah and Jeff in this informative podcast covering the history of the ADA, examples and the impact of the ADA and where you can learn more about the ADA and it’s importance during the transition years.

 

From the web:

PACER Center enhances the quality of life and expands opportunities for children, youth, and young adults with all disabilities and their families, so each person can reach his or her highest potential. PACER operates on the principles of parents helping parents, supporting families, promoting a safe environment for all children, and working in collaboration with others.

With assistance to individual families, workshops, materials for parents and professionals, and leadership in securing a free and appropriate public education for all children, PACER's work affects and encourages families in Minnesota and across the nation.

 

Contacts:

You can find out more about PACER Center on the web at www.pacer.org

You can reach pACER Center by phone at 952-838-9000

 

You can find out more about State Services for the Blind on the web at

www.MN.Gov/Deed/SSB

And by calling 651-539-2300

Live Learn Work and Play

 

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities Appon the App Store.

 

Full Transcript:

Self-Advocacy, Self-Awareness and the ADA - A Visit with PACER Center’s Transition Coordinator Deborah Leuchovius

Jeff Thompson:
State Services for the Blind in Minnesota presents PACER Center, Champions for Children with Disabilities.

 

Deborah L:
The purpose of the ADA is: (1) to end discrimination based on disability and (2) to promote integration or inclusion of people with disabilities into society.

 

Jeff Thompson:
On this episode, we'll be covering the American Disabilities Act and how it relates to transition-age students.

 

Deborah L:
There are no ADA police. It's up to us to bring lack of accessibility or discrimination to the attention of the people that may not realize that they are being discriminatory.

 

Jeff Thompson:
With us today is Deborah Leuchovius, she's a transition coordinator at PACER's National Parent Center on Transition and Employment.

 

Deborah L:
The Americans with Disabilities Act is that it is not an entitlement program. It is a civil rights law.

 

Jeff Thompson:
The importance of self-advocacy and self-awareness.

 

Deborah L:
If there's things that parents can do to prepare their youth for the responsibilities of adulthood and the protections of the ADA, it's to know what their accommodation needs are and be able to express them.

 

Jeff Thompson:
And you can find out more about the PACER National Parents Center on the web at pacer.org/transition.

 

Deborah L:
PACER's National Parent Center on Transition and Employment, just called 9528389000.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Welcome to Blind Abilities. I'm Jeff Thompson and I'm at the PACER Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. And I'm talking to transition coordinator, Deborah Leuchovius. How are you doing?

 

Deborah L:
Just fine, Jeff. Thanks.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Deborah. What is your role here at PACER Center?

 

Deborah L:
I'm a transition coordinator. I work primarily on two projects, but we all do a number of things. All my projects are related to transition that is working with families around issues important to youth in transitioning from their school years into young adulthood, independent living, post-secondary education and employment. I work on PACER's National Parent Center on Transition and Employment and also on Minnesota's Disability Employment Initiative, DEI project.

 

Jeff Thompson:
So the Americans Disabilities Act. Can you explain the importance of that with regards to the transition and transition students?

 

Deborah L:
Sure. The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990 and most of its provisions took effect in 1992. ADA impacts the lives of youth with disabilities and even younger youth and in many areas of our daily life we may not be aware of and we may take for granted anything that happens outside of the school setting. Anytime that you're out in the community. Again, I look pre-ADA, Mall of America is one of the most accessible places that I have been to. It really changed the way that shopping looks. If you go to the Mall of America there, it's full of people with disabilities in a way that it wasn't before the law was passed. So anytime you're out in the community, you'll see the impact of the ADA. Anytime that you want to join a camp that is not specifically for youth with disabilities. Anytime that you participate in recreation, that is not specifically for youth with disabilities.

 

Deborah L:
If you want to investigate employment programs outside the scope of State Services for the Blind or vocational rehabilitation. And you walk into a workforce center serving individuals in inclusive settings as opposed to segregated settings is happening all across America for people with disabilities because of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Especially in those transition years.

 

Deborah L:
The transition years are exactly that, moving into adulthood, so it's important for young adults to learn about the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act. As they leave the school system and the entitlement and services of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA that they have received in high school because things change pretty differently as they leave that K12 system.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Deborah, can you explain I-D-E-A, IDEA to the listeners.

 

Deborah L:
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is responsible for the provision of special education services to students with disabilities. From now, it's preschool through graduation. But for some students with disabilities that may be after their senior year, they may go onto an 18 to 21-year-old transition program. But at that point they leave the special education service system and go on to the adult world, at which point the provisions of the ADA will have a tremendous effect on what they do.

 

Jeff Thompson:
The word inclusive seems like the new thing right now.

 

Deborah L:
Oh, I don't think it's a new thing at all. Inclusive is the ... Purposes of the ADA is: (1) to end discrimination based on disability and (2) to promote integration or inclusion of people with disabilities into society.

 

Jeff Thompson:
I mean, businesses are out there using that word. It seems like the new word that's more prevalent today, like you'll see it in pamphlet, you'll see it on commercials. You'll see it on social media inclusion.

 

Deborah L:
Yes. I think that ... And that inclusion, it is meant in a really broad sense, not just to include people with disabilities but to include people from diverse cultures and a variety of backgrounds. But it's important to say that initially diversity efforts of Corporate America primarily focused on integrating employees of more diverse backgrounds. And diversity efforts are also include integrating the work place with people with disabilities as well.

 

Jeff Thompson:
While I was in college we had a diversity department, and they didn't include people with disabilities. `It was kind of separated. We fought to kind of be included in that, and I believe now today it is.

 

Deborah L:
Well, I think there've been a lot of efforts along the way that we ... Well I can say that there are some things that we'd like to see change, and sometimes we've seen setbacks, we have seen a lot of progress since the Americans with Disabilities Act was implemented. It does not mean that we've completed the task of being completely accessible or completely inclusive, but we're coming along way and we're still making progress.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Great. I lost my eyesight 21 years ago and ADA was just a word. It didn't mean anything. And then I started realizing reasonable accommodations, curb cuts, a few other things that, you know door widenings and accessibility steps, ramps and all that stuff. But what happens when someone is out there, and they run into a wall?

 

Deborah L:
Well, if you are encountering inaccessibility, either in the community or in an employment setting or in a post-secondary setting, there are ways to file a complaint. But the most important first step is for you to bring your complaint to the attention of the business owner or the employer or the school and let it be known that you're not happy with the accommodation or the lack of accommodation. So that you can work out a solution and ideally that's where you would be able to find the solution. There are provisions in place for filing complaints and I think especially small business owners, that would be one backlash against the ADA is the concern about having to lose space in their stores for display. Or something if they were to have to widen the aisles or make things more accessible. But you can work that out or you can file a complaint and the complaint process, I think it would best be described by the folks at the Great Lakes ADA Center. Because depending on whether you're making a complaint about an employment situation or a post-secondary school or out in the community, the complaint process differs.

 

Deborah L:
And again that number is 18009494232, but especially in the employment settings and in post-secondary settings, they should have internal people identified ADA coordinators or human resource coordinators that you would go to with your complaint. And that would be where you would start. The business owner is the person that you would first approach in a community setting.

 

Jeff Thompson:
You mentioned this earlier when we were talking, you said there are no ADA police.

 

Deborah L:
Yes, there are no ADA police. It's up to us to bring lack of accessibility or discrimination to the attention of the people that may not realize that they are being discriminatory. Explain how that process works. Most accommodations they say in employment settings costs nothing, and the same is true oftentimes in post-secondary settings. It's not an expense one can you modify a procedure or the way that things typically have been done, which is sometimes hard for faculty members or academics to get their head around changing the way the things is typically have done. But it's not something that is an expense. So you become responsible for education yourself, about the Americans with Disabilities Act and about how to accommodate people with disabilities.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Now, just I think it was a couple of days ago, I read an article that in Minnesota it might be a first that's someone filed something using the ADA against a hospital that their website wasn't in compliance with the ADA. And they said it was the first one in Minnesota, but lately there's been a lot of frivolous suits going around the nation. And they've to some administration trying to take some action against it. Has that impacted corporations, companies, how they view the ADA?

 

Deborah L:
I suppose it is. I see a lot of the reaction in the small business community where it's less easy to make an accommodation where small expenses are a bigger portion of the budget. And sort of in that title three world, title three of the ADA has to do with public accommodations, but web accessibility is huge because of course web accessibility changes at an astonishing rate these days. In fact, that's another area where although the US Department of Justice has made clear that corporations are responsible for making their websites accessible. They are again, in a recent letter indicated that they're willing to grant a certain amount of latitude in how they do that rather than trying to come up with specific standards which could be outdated in a number of years as technology changes.

 

Jeff Thompson:
It's hard to keep up with everything, isn't it? And how do parents and even the transition-age student get educated on the ADA?

 

Deborah L:
Well, we hope some of this is taking place in the schools, especially with regard to training transition-age students about self-advocacy. PACER has a lot of information on its website that was developed through projects that were funded several years ago, when the ADA was first being implemented. And so we have a number of information articles available to parents that they can educate themselves. We also incorporated into the trainings that we provide. I will tell you that when parents come to parent workshops here at PACER for younger youth, there will not be the emphasis on the Americans with Disabilities Act that it is until you get to the transition years will start to spend some years on the importance of learning about that. Great place to learn about the Americans with Disabilities Act are Centers for Independent Living, and also there's in our area the Great Lakes ADA Center, which you can get to through its website and also by calling with individual questions at 18009494, ADA. That's 4232.

 

Jeff Thompson:
That's great. What is probably the single most important thing that someone should take from learning about the ADA as they're transitioning to college and to the workplace?

 

Deborah L:
Well, I think the single most important thing is the need for self-advocacy. In the special education system, schools are charged with identifying students with disabilities and going out. They actually have the term, "Child Find," where they will find individuals with disabilities and identify them, then assess their needs and then they're responsible for meeting those needs in an educational system. The huge difference with the Americans with Disabilities Act is that it is not an entitlement program. It is a civil rights law, so you are protected from discrimination. But you have to know what your rights are because there is no one out there finding you and identifying your needs and then is automatically responsible for meeting those needs. You are responsible for advocating for yourself in order to get your needs met. So that also means one huge thing for young adults and for parents preparing their youth for adulthood is that they really need to cultivate self-awareness and self-advocacy skills on the part of their youth so that they can compete in this world where the rules change [inaudible 00:12:48] services.

 

Jeff Thompson:
With the ADA being implemented and here we are coming up on 30 years. What is one of the most threatened areas of the ADA? Surprise question. I'm sorry. I mean, sometimes it seems like the ADA is being challenged a little bit or it's not being implemented, or it's not even being addressed, or people aren't aware of it. Do you find any challenges with it?

 

Deborah L:
Well, there are always challenges with implementation. A movement that was very exciting for disability rights advocates that was based on the ADA was the Olmstead decision being applied to employment setting. So the Olmstead decision was a Supreme Court decision based on the ADA. It said that services provided by government should be provided in the most integrated setting possible. And at first that was mostly applied to residential settings, serving individuals with disabilities in community settings as opposed to segregated residential settings. But a couple of years ago there was a direction from the US Department of Justice under the Obama administration, which indicated that that was equally applied to employment settings. Not just the way that it had been interpreted in terms of providing housing for individuals with disabilities and community services for individuals with disabilities. But there's been some step back from that under the current Department of Justice and the current administration. So they've taken back that letter. I'm not sure if that's exactly how I would phrase it, but they have indicated that they're less willing to interpret the Olmstead in terms of employment settings.

 

Jeff Thompson:
And that's probably the biggest thing that depending on who's in charge, the interpretation gets changed from one administration to the other.

 

Deborah L:
Yeah, very much so. So that is a cause for concern and some disappointments among us advocates. And I have to say that I approached the Americans with Disabilities Act from an advocate's position. I am not a lawyer and I am not interpreting the law in a legal way, so I don't want to give your listeners the impression that I'm speaking from that space. But despite those disappointments, I would rather focus on the ways that the ADA has been implied. It's become and, in many ways, a way of life for us now, especially thinking just very obviously about how it affects the young people with disabilities. With vision impairments is things like Metro Mobility came into effect or into law across the nation as required by the Americans with Disability Acts. Likewise, protections about bringing your guide dog or service animals into places of public accommodation is also a protection that is provided under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

 

Deborah L:
So there are many, many ways that it's changed the face. Now granted you will find people that will tell you, you still can't bring your dog in, but by and large it's much more accepted, normal way of doing things in our society.

 

Jeff Thompson:
I remember when the ADA was implemented and when I lost my eyesight, two words popped out that was kind of like, no matter where I saw it, it was like, "Reasonable accommodation." Who determines the reasonable part of that?

 

Deborah L:
Well, it's a joint effort. So it will always be determined by the setting that you're in and between the person with the disability and what accommodation they are requesting that they need in order to perform some job function or some academic assignment. So between the person with a disability and who knows what they need in order to be successful and then making that request to whoever they are working for or working with. So that is the employer and/or the School Faculty Disability Services office at a post-secondary situation. It's always an individual decision based on individual circumstances.

 

Jeff Thompson:
It kind of a collaborative effort though, and that's where self-advocacy probably comes into play when you're in that situation.

 

Deborah L:
Not only self-advocacy. I really want to stress self-awareness is that if there's things that parents can do to prepare their youth for the responsibilities of adulthood and the protections of the ADA, it's to know what their accommodation needs are. So that and be able to express them. So, (1) is self-awareness, (2) is self-advocacy. You have to ... Sometimes things are done for young people without them even asking. And one example that I had from when my son was very little, and he used to wheelchair, when we switched from a manual chair to a power chair, I realized that I had automatically just been steering my son towards the curb cuts without him realizing that there was such a thing as a curb cut. He just thought you drove off the edge of the sidewalk into the street because that was how he experienced it.

 

Deborah L:
So there's some many things that we do for our young people that we don't even realize we're doing that. They don't realize they're doing, so building that consciousness of the kinds of accommodations that we make on a daily basis that are what is needed to be successful is an important part of growing up with a disability in our society.

 

Jeff Thompson:
So, transitioning from high school to college is one thing, but also transitioning into being your own advocate and creating your own self-determination, breaking away from the parents. I don't want to say grip, but their involvement you've got to start making decisions yourself too.

 

Deborah L:
Yes. I have been asked one of the things that, what can parents do to prepare their children for adult responsibilities? And that is to gradually wean them off of your own taking responsibility for them and of course it's age appropriate. And of course there may be differences for young people with disabilities and for young people without disabilities, but that's a good measure. What I do for my kid without a disability, what I am doing for my son or daughter with a disability, and try, and promote independence. At here at PACER by independence, we don't mean totally letting go. We know that parents are going to be involved in the lives of their children well into adulthood, as is the case in other families. But it's really important that you begin to give your children the opportunity to make decisions for themselves and also to fail and learn from their failure along the way. That's really important part of building resiliency and growing up and also learning what makes them successful.

 

Deborah L:
Again, relating back to the Americans with Disabilities Act and knowing what kinds of supports do you need in order to be successful in different settings, academic, employment, community.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Deborah, can you talk about Project Launch?

 

Deborah L:
Sure. Project Launch is a PACER Project that works primarily with families of youth that are older, making the transition into employment, into post-secondary education. The majority of our advocates here at PACER work with transition-age students who are still in school but are planning the transition to out of school. Project Launch works with that age group where they have either just made the transition into adulthood or are into their 20s as they are managing the transition to employment and independent living in post-secondary education settings.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Right. So how can a parent or a transition-age student find out more about the ADA and what you do here at PACER Center?

 

Deborah L:
Well, I would encourage people to go to our website for the National Parent Center on Transition and Employment and the website is www.pacer.org/transition and we have a number of resources there. Particularly if you go to our learning center under our employment section or if you go into our learning center under laws, it will give you information on the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you have specific issues that you would like to discuss with families, you can either get connected to PACER's Project Launch or to one of the advocates that work with our National Parents Center on Transition and Employment. And just called 9528389000, our general number and ask to speak to someone about adult services or adult transition. You can specifically ask for Project Launch. You can specifically ask for the National Parent Center on Transition, but pretty much once you give the age of student that you're working with and letting them know whether they're still in school or out of school, you'll be able to talk to an advocate about any individual issues that you might have.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Deborah, what advice would you have for a parent or a student as they're approaching transition?

 

Deborah L:
Well, other than what I have said earlier about self-awareness and self-advocacy, I would encourage them to learn as much as possible about their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. I would encourage them to investigate Centers for Independent Living and what training opportunities and there are that exists through those organizations. Once the ADA was passed and in its early implementation days, PACER rarely has trainings that focus specifically on the Americans with Disabilities Act. Instead we kind of roll the content about the protections of the ADA and the importance of knowing the protections of the ADA into our regular transition trainings or into our trainings about particular topics. So I suspect that the Centers for Independent Living have more direct training for learning about the Americans with Disabilities Act other than just self-study.

 

Jeff Thompson:
That seems like a nice way to do it because it's encompassing. It covers everything. And as for training here, you have the Simon Technology Center. You have a lot of different projects, departments here that someone could find on the website as well.

 

Deborah L:
Absolutely.

 

Jeff Thompson:
We've been talking to Deborah Leuchovius, a transition coordinator at PACER Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. Deborah, I want to thank you from State Services for the Blind for coming on to Blind Abilities and sharing with us about the American Disabilities Act and how it relates to transition-age students. And I want to thank you and PACER Center for all that you do for parents of children with disabilities.

 

Deborah L:
You're very welcome Jeff.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Be sure to check out PACER Center champions for Children with Disabilities on the web at www.pacer.org, checkout State Services for the Blind in Minnesota at wwwmn.gov/d/ssb. Live, Learn, work, and play. And a big thank you goes out the [inaudible 00:22:52], for his beautiful music and you can find [inaudible 00:22:54] on Twitter at [inaudible 00:22:56]. And from PACER Center, State Services for the Blind and Blind Abilities thanks for listening. We hope you enjoyed it. And until next time, bye, bye.

 

[Music]  [Transition noise]

When we share

-What we see

-Through each other's eyes...

 

[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]

 

...We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.

 

 

Jeff Thompson:

For more podcasts with a blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.BlindAbilities.com, on Twitter @BlindAbilities. Download our app from the App Store, Blind Abilities. That's two words. Or send us an email at info@blindabilities.com.

Thanks for listening.

Nov 13, 2018
Being a Single Mom Who Also Happens to be Blind - Blog Post by Kelsi Hansen

Being a Single Mom Who Also Happens to be Blind

By Kelsi Hansen

 

I am Kelsi, and I am a mother. A mother who happens to be single, and a mother who also happens to be blind. But first and foremost, I am a mother. People are constantly praising me for what a wonderful job I do as a mom. They couldn’t do it. They couldn’t be a single mom, let alone one who has a visual impairment. (Their words, not mine.)

My feelings on this sentiment are complex at best. On one hand, I am proud of my abilities and enjoy being complimented, but on the other hand, I feel mildly irritated by their praise. They could do it. It’s not that different from being a sighted parent single or otherwise. Most of their challenges in raising a child are the same as mine. How do you deal with a tantrum? How do you grow four arms? It is more a matter of mind set. If you put your mind to it, you can do it. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it, right?

This being said, here are some of my worries and challenges I have faced as a mother who also happens to be blind:

Growing up all I ever wanted was to be a mom. Even after I went blind as a preteen, it never crossed my mind to wonder how a blind person could be a parent. Yes I had worries, a lot of worries to be honest. How would I change a diaper; how would I know if they had a rash; what would I do if they were sick and needed to go to the doctor; how would I find them once they started to be mobile; how would I know if they were bleeding, and where to put the band aid without hurting them; the list goes on and on. But I never thought that it couldn’t be done.

I did not plan on being a single mother. My ex was sighted, and a lot of my worries just got swept under the rug. I had a sighted partner, he could help me. He would know if there was a rash, he could drive the baby to the doctor, and so on.

I became a single mother when my son was three months old. At that point, I had learned how to do diapers and baths and some of the things that I was worried I would never be able to do. Ultimately though, I was thrust into having to navigate my life, my motherhood, as a blind person with no sighted shoulder to lean on. Yes I still had family and help that were sighted, but ultimately it was just me.

Almost immediately though things got easier. I didn’t worry so much about how I could do something. I just did it because there was no other option. I learned that you can feel rashes, especially diaper rashes. They are rough and hot to the touch, and He was extremely fussy when changing his diaper if he had a rash. If he hurt himself, I could feel the sticky blood; and putting on a band aid… well you have to clean the wound first anyways right? So from that I knew how large the owie was, and the location of it. I did it all. Me. No one else. ME!

Honestly, the things I found hardest as a blind mom, was taking my son’s temperature. I’ve had a hard time finding an accurate talking thermometer, which is really just a tech issue. So I mostly do things the old fashioned way and feel his forehead. I also learned that when he has a fever, his hands and feet are abnormally warm. So if I couldn’t tell if he actually had a fever, I could just feel his hands and feet and know for sure. One other challenge has been when a doctor asks what color some bodily fluid of his was … gross I know, but important nevertheless. So I tell them about the consistency. Or if it was something ahead of time that I knew was important, there is always Facetime, or the handy dandy Be My Eyes app.

Now my son is four, and there is a whole new battle ground to walk. Though not because I am blind, or because I am raising him alone, but because he is four. And with that comes a lot of energy, tantrums, and unpredictability in his behaviors. Life is always interesting. He definitely keeps me on my toes!

I do find a lot of external challenges though. Challenges with people, not being blind, but how people interact with my son and me because I am blind. I often hear: help your mom; take your mom; you forgot to tell your mom about that curb; etc. This is an extremely difficult situation. It implies that I do not know where I am going, or want to go; that I always need help; that my will is not my own, and that it is my child’s duty to help me. How do you tell someone that your child is not your helper. I did not have a child so that he could help me. So that I could become dependent on him. But worst is how to explain to my four year old that he is not here to help me, I am here to help him. How do I inspire confidence in my ability to be his mom, if everyone else is telling him that he has to be my eyes. That I look to him for guidance, when it should be the other way around.

I know that people are just trying to help, and are not thinking of the implications of their words, or the consequences their words have on our life. I have to remind myself of this a lot. So what I do is talk about it with my son in terms that he can understand. I tell him that mommy doesn’t always need his help. That I appreciate him helping, but mommy does know that the stairs are there, or that we are crossing a street. I think it gets through to him. But a further complication of this is: how to teach him to be a good helpful human, without coming across as dependent on him for his help. It is a delicate balance. I want him to be a nice person who is always willing to help, but at the same time he needs to learn that his mother is independent. Most parents don’t have to worry about this fine line, but it’s something that weighs heavily on my mind as a blind mother.

The bottom line though is that external challenges have proved more of a difficulty for me as a mother who is blind, than the internal ones.

This is me! Hope you enjoyed the read. I love questions, so if you
have any, or just a comment, feel free to email them to
info@blindabilities.com. Thanks, Kelsi.

 

Nov 09, 2018
Rakeb Max: Breaking Down Barriers and Addressing Those Preconceived Notions
20:30

Show Summary:

 

Rakeb Max returns to the Blind Abilities studio to share what she has learned since entering her first year of college. On her previous podcast, Rakeb talked about her college transition plans and the steps she was taking to ensure she chose the right one.

Rakeb did choose Providence college and talks about how the realities and expectations are not always the same and how she is adjusting to her new location. Rakeb wrote a letter to the editor about some of the questions she gets asked and basically broke it down for everyone to understand that she is just Rakeb, that girl with the long white cane.

Join Rakeb Max in this brief and insightful interview and hear about what Rakeb is doing to make her presence known. Look out Providence College, Rakeb Max is on the campus.  

Here is the link to Rakeb's letter to the editor.

Be sure to check out Rakeb’s podcast on her transitioning from high school to collegeand how she went about preparing for her college education journey.

You can find out more about State Services for the Blind on the web.
Or call the main office at 651-539-2300.
Outside of Minnesota? Check out the State Agency Directory on the American Foundation for the Blind web site at www.AFB.org

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities Appon the App Store.

Nov 09, 2018
Job Insights: Shooting for the Stars and Landing on the Moon: Rejection in the Job Interview (Transcript provided)
22:37

Full Transcript Below:

Show Summary:

In this Job Insights episode, Serina Gilbert talks about her job interview process and the rejection she experienced and more so about what she learned and gained from the interview process.

Serina goes into the details when she found out about a position opening in her work place. How she prepared for each step of the process and what she gained from taking the risk of challenging her self and wanting to stretch her possibilities.

Join Serina Gilbert and Jeff Thompson in this Job Insights episode and learn how landing on the Moon is not so bad when you were shooting for the stars.

We hope you enjoy this Job Insights episode and you can send your feedback and suggestions to the Job Insights team by email

Follow the Job Insights team on twitter @JobInsightsVIP

Job Insights is part of the Blind Abilities network.

A big Thank You goes out to CheeChaufor his beautiful music!

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.
Get the Free blind Abilities App on the Google Play Store

 

Full Transcript:

Serena Gilbert:
Recently, I was presented with an opportunity to apply for a position that was not one level, but two levels above where I'm at right now. I am not joking you guys, there were literally nine people on my interview.

 

Jeff Thompson:

Job Insights, a podcast to help you carve out your career pathway and enhance the opportunities for gainful employment.

 

Serena Gilbert:
You will never know what you can do until you try. Even just the interview process built my confidence up.

 

Jeff Thompson:
To help you navigate the employment world and give you job insights and enhance the opportunities to choose the career you want.

 

Serena Gilbert:
It's a really good experience that helps me see that that interview process, wasn't nearly as scary as I thought it was going to be.

 

Jeff Thompson:
You could find the Job Insights podcast on blindAbilities.com. Part of the Blind Abilities network with host Serena Gilbert and myself, Jeff Thompson. You can contact us by email at jobinsights@blindabilities.com. Leave us some feedback or suggest some topics that we cover on Twitter @jobinsightsvip. Check out the job insight support group on Facebook where you can learn, share, advice and interact with the job insights community.

 

Serena Gilbert:
There's lessons to be learned in every single life experience that we go through. Sometimes they're easier to find, and sometimes they're a little bit harder to look for, especially when it's news that we don't like.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Learn about resources for training, education, and employment opportunities.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Especially you, Jeff. I keep you on your toes.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Now please welcome Serena Gilbert and Jeff Thompson, with job insights will come to job insights. Welcome to Job Insights, I'm Jeff Thompson. We're back with a brand new show with my co-host, Serena Gilbert. Serena, how are you doing?

 

Serena Gilbert:
I'm doing good, Jeff. How are you?

 

Jeff Thompson:
I'm doing really good. I'm glad to be back in the studio with you, and we're going to talk about a topic that's quite personal to you as of late. It's about rejection during a job interview. Serena, I really want to thank you for sharing this with the listeners.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah, it's something we all go through. It's not super fun, but I really wanted to ... Jeff and I talked about this podcast is like our therapy session in a way. So I wanted to take some time to share my experience and also talk about what do we do when we hear no, and when we get a little bit ahead of ourselves when we're looking at, oh my gosh, that'd be really cool to have that opportunity, and how do we make the best of those opportunities.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, and sometimes opportunities turn into lessons that we learn. What do we gain from them and I'm sure there's a list of stuff that you have gathered lately and are going to use them for in the future. If you don't get out there and try, if you don't challenge yourself, then you're not putting yourself out there. You're not making opportunities so good for you. Some people that have a job, they get complacent and they just want to keep that job, but I think when someone looks at the job and sees that this is not the peak of the mountain, they want to keep climbing a little bit further and you did just that. Good for you.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah, and it's perfectly normal to want to advance your career. Sometimes when we get into the, "Oh my gosh, it was so hard for me to get this job. I'm just happy to be working. I'm happy to be earning an income," we do get a little bit complacent like Jeff said. It's something that I'd like to avoid because if you're not growing and moving forward, then why are we here? I really strongly feel that it's important to advance our skills and abilities, even if it's in our same position or if it's promotional opportunities like the one that I went for a few weeks ago, that Jeff helped me with.

 

Jeff Thompson:
That's right, and I would do it again. Serena, you shot for the stars, landed on the moon. That's not a bad thing. Let's take our listeners back to when all this started.

 

Serena Gilbert:
So why don't we start with my story from the last few weeks, because that's part of the reason we haven't been recording in a while. Right, Jeff? One of us, I don't know who, was a little bit distracted with some things going on. Right, Jeff? That was totally you.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Plus, who had a cold for a while too?

 

Serena Gilbert:
I was sick and then I was feeling better, and then what a month later I was sick again. So that was fun. So for those of you that have been listening to the podcast, you know that I am currently a rehabilitation counselor here in Colorado. Recently I was presented with an opportunity to apply for a position that was not one level, but two levels above where I'm at right now. In our State, we have counselors and then we have supervisors of the counselors and then above that, we have program managers which is middle and high management level positions. So I thought, "You know what? I'm going to try for it, see what happens." If nothing else, this is me showing, hey I would like to at least be considered for upcoming leadership opportunities and get the experience of interviewing on such a different level of the interview process.

 

Serena Gilbert:
It was a little bit intimidating until I was actually sitting there and then I was like, "There's nine people sitting around me." This is awesome, but it's a great experience for what I went through. One thing that happened with me is the position posted early October and they did interviews late October, mid to late October. In that time from when I applied to when I had the interview, as is normal and human nature, I started thinking, "Oh my gosh, what if I get this position? What are the things I want to do? What are some things that would be different for me? How would our life look different," because it would have been a commute for me from where I live up to Denver, which I had already figured out.

 

Serena Gilbert:
I'm a researcher when it comes to at least figuring out what are my options. That in a way made it a little bit harder to take the, "We're sorry, but this isn't quite right for you right now," kind of conversation that was hard with me and that's tricky.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Because you put all that work into it.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah, because you start thinking about it. You know when you apply for that position that you're like, "Oh my gosh, this would be so cool." You start imagining yourself in that position. So in some ways, that's great because it shows that you're really thinking about what you'd like to do with that position, and the goals, and things that you have but then in other ways, it makes that fall a little bit further when you don't hear the news that you wanted to hear.

 

Jeff Thompson:
But you did hear some positive news.

 

Serena Gilbert:
I heard some great news. So I got really good feedback on my interview. It wasn't that I bombed my interview or anything. I was really well prepared. If you guys have listened to other podcasts that we've done on job interviewing and preparing, as you know I researched all kinds of really difficult interview questions that might be asked at the management level. I can answer lots of different questions from the counselor level, but there's a different way that you're looking at and approaching situations when you're interviewing for a management level position. So I did a lot of research with that and I knew that I did not have a lot of the management leadership experience that they would traditionally be looking for in candidates for that position.

 

Serena Gilbert:
So I took it a little bit above and that's just me, and I wrote a little at least two or three pages proposal for what I thought some of the important goals would be for one year, three years, five years down the road in that particular position. I presented that as part of my interview. I got really good feedback on that. I know that that was something that they appreciated, because it shows that you're looking forward and you're not just thinking of the two weeks from now or a month from now. It really just came down to you. I just don't have that experience that they need for such a high-level position running literally an entire unit at this point in time, but the really whole news is the director of my agencies specifically gave me some tips and complimented me on my interview. That really made the blow a little bit easier to take, even though I didn't get the news that I wanted.

 

Jeff Thompson:
What was some of those tips that you got?

 

Serena Gilbert:
It was really just that I needed to develop more management leadership experience. I have some ways that I'm going to go about that and partner with some staff that's within our agency that can be really supportive of that and look forward to the next opportunity down the road because our agencies go in through lots of changes out left and right. There's always changes with any government agency, so I never know what might come about down the road.

 

Jeff Thompson:
There might be a supervisor position opening up.

 

Serena Gilbert:
You never know.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Keep your ears spilled.

 

Serena Gilbert:
I was lucky in my agency that I got that feedback so openly. I didn't even have to request that it was just provided to me by the person that let me know, "Hey, here's what happened and here's the feedback that I have for you." If you're not lucky enough where that feedback it's not just given to you, then just ask. If there was nothing that I learned in the situation that I was just in is that you will never know what you can do until you try and ask for what you want. It definitely built my confidence up, even just that. Even just the interview process built my confidence.

 

Jeff Thompson:
That's great because now you're willing to share that experience with all the listeners here. I listened to you because when you're talking, you're invested in this all the time and I was really rooting for you to take this challenge. You did take the challenge. You got different news, but you're another step forward, I think.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Well, and I left the situation knowing that I literally did everything I possibly could to show my passion for that position. I researched, I talked to stakeholders, I put together that proposal. I prepared for really common interview questions and that they helped, because even if I didn't get asked that exact question, some of the scenarios that I came up with were still applicable to the questions that were asked of me. So I did not leave with any regrets. I don't feel like, "Man, I should've done this better. I should have done that better." I literally put my best foot forward and I'm proud of that, and that's a really good experience that helps me see that that interview process wasn't nearly as scary as I thought it was going to be. Don't get me wrong. It was a hard interview, but I was prepared for it.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Only nine people, huh?

 

Serena Gilbert:
Only nine. There were nine people. I'm not joking you guys, there were literally nine people on my interview.

 

Jeff Thompson:
All in the room?

 

Serena Gilbert:
All in the room, in person. They were all very nice, very supportive. There were many times when we were making jokes and things like that. I never felt like anyone was out to get me, it's never ... That's the thing that I want our listeners to hear is when you come into an interview panel like that, nobody wants to see somebody fall on their face. They want to see you do your best. They want to see you put your best foot forward. One of the people that was interviewing me, saw me when I arrived and said good morning to me. They asked, "How are you doing?" I was like, "I am really nervous." He said, "Don't be nervous. It's just a conversation between friends, and we all want you to do really well." That helped a little.

 

Jeff Thompson:
That was great.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah, I mean that's how supportive of an environment that I'm lucky enough to have to be in. That's why I'm like, uh. I was sad for a little while, I went through all those stages of no, man. At the end of the day, I really do feel that that's the case, that they really do want to see us succeed.

 

Jeff Thompson:
You're more prepared for next time this opportunity comes up that you decided to take the challenge, and put yourself out there again. You have gone through it once, this won't be your first rodeo?

 

Serena Gilbert:
No.

 

Jeff Thompson:
No.

 

Serena Gilbert:
No. Far from it, you know me. I don't give up.

 

Jeff Thompson:
That's right and it's the tenacity. Now someone that's out there that doesn't have a job to fall back into that is trying and tries again, I've known people who have tried eight, nine times. They keep that tenacity, the move forward and they're gaining from each time and they'll land a job.

 

Serena Gilbert:
It's really important to in my situation I was lucky enough that I'm in the agency. So I don't have, I have no problem. If I wasn't offered the feedback, I had no problem picking up the phone and saying, "Hey, how did I do? I need your honest feedback. I just want to be able to take that to improve the next time I go for something like this." We're not all applying for jobs that are within the agency, or the field that were already working in. So when that happens, I would still say do not hesitate to try to get that feedback from the employer that you interviewed with. You just say, "Hey, totally understand. I'm super grateful for the opportunity to have been able to interview with you, but so that I can move forward and improve upon myself, can you tell me a little bit about what I can improve on. What are maybe some skills and abilities that I need to work on?”

 

Serena Gilbert:
Maybe they'll have some feedback about your interview, and maybe you do have those skills and abilities but had a hard time selling them in the interview room. So that does two things for you. The first is if there were other positions that maybe they thought you might be a good fit for, they might give you a second look because they're like, "Wow, this person really wants to seek some feedback and show that they're able to improve upon themselves." Be humble about it, not angry and bitter about it because yes, that's definitely an emotion that is going to come up, but you don't want the employer to see that ever. Then number two, if there's not an opportunity in that particular company, then use that feedback to improve for the next job interview that you have, and the next after that because there will be lots of them. All you need is one person to say yes.

 

Jeff Thompson:
I got to hand it to you, because that is stressful to go through, put yourself through. I know over the last month that off and on you were talking about it, sending me emails on this and that and the other thing and it was consuming.

 

Serena Gilbert:
That is a little bit of a weakness for me. I do tend to go full on into stuff, like it's either all or nothing with me. I'm either completely and totally committed to it, or I'm just completely and totally disinterested in it and do nothing towards it. So there's no in between for me.

 

Jeff Thompson:
That's a good something to have or to illustrate on your resume. It's a good quality to have because people like to see finishers. People who go into something, invest into it and see it through. I know you gave 110% on this and I know it must have hit hard. When you got the news, how did you gather yourself after that? I mean you had to take a few minutes to just reflect.

 

Serena Gilbert:
It was kind of, it's going to sound really weird, but it was nice in a way. So I interviewed on a Tuesday at 9:00 AM. I knew by the following day, literally the next day at 9:00 AM that I did not get the position. I was at work, there was a handful of friends at work that knew what I was up to and helped me prepare and things like that. So I immediately went and chatted with them and I was like, I'm okay with it because they did tell me the individual that got it, and that person was well deserving of it. Think that person will do a fantastic job, and there was truly no hard feelings. It's still just the, "Man, I went for it and I didn't get it." It's not like I was truly slighted I guess is not the right word, because I knew even in the back of my mind, I was always telling everyone, "This is going to be a long shot, this is going to be a long shot."

 

Serena Gilbert:
As I prepared more and more forward, I was like "Maybe it's more reachable. Maybe it's more, maybe it's more realistic than I think." Then you get in your head. Really what helped me a lot is being able to chat with friends and reflect upon the feedback that I got that truly was really positive, and that helped during the work day. Then that night, I got home, and you start to ruminate about things. I had my little, I call it a blue funk for just that night. The next day was perfectly fine. I think that that's okay to go through that and be like, "I don't really want to talk to anyone right now for a few hours. I'm just going to go, listen to an audio book for a few hours. Just escape for a little while." That's okay. That's where I usually go when I need to regroup and things like that. This was almost a week ago now and I'm not letting it keep me down.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Serena, with this experience that you just went through, does any of this help you at your current job that you're doing today? Does any of this roll over into it?

 

Serena Gilbert:
With the position that I applied for is management level, so you're looking at things from a much more strategic perspective. I'm starting to look back and look at the job that I'm doing and starting to think, "How can I do this better? What are some strategic things I can do to expand what I'm already doing in my current role, and also serve the clients that I'm working with a little bit better?" Just look at that from more of that leadership slant on things, as opposed to just being the counselor. I think that that's going to help me down the road when it comes to being able to demonstrate some of that leadership experience. So it's just changed my perspective a little bit, because I put a little bit of a different hat on when I was looking for getting into that opportunity.

 

Jeff Thompson:
So all that work and all that studying, and all the questions that you went through and research that you did may be paying off today.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Yes sir. Darned schooling.

 

Jeff Thompson:
I tell you. That's the trouble with students, they lack education.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Just can't stop learning. Jeff, have you ever gone through some disappointments with a job search or business opportunities you were hoping to get into?

 

Jeff Thompson:
Of course there has been. There's been positions like even in the workforce when you want to move up a step, or a grade, or ask for a raise, or do something. You challenge yourself and you put yourself into that, to go into your supervisor's office or like you did. You went into a job interview with a panel of people talking to you. To go into those situations, you have to be thinking about yourself, putting your best foot forward. When it doesn't happen, you have to walk back out to where you were and do the best you can. Typically like you did, you improve upon what you're doing, and you take on extra steps, and other people will notice. I'm glad people noticed and gave you some good feedback in your situation as well.

 

Serena Gilbert:
I think it's important. One thing you just said is that other people will notice. People are watching you. When you have that kind of thing happen, people are watching what your reaction is going to be. Especially if you're already in the workplace, and you had gotten from promotion like we were talking about. If you react poorly and speak negatively of the individual that got the position, or down the road start talking negatively about that particular person, people are going to take note of that. They're going to start to wonder, "Well, how are they going to react if things don't go their way in the future?" They're going to fill in the gaps. They're not going to let you have that opportunity to demonstrate or show them, because they're going to look at your historical behavior.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah. Earlier episodes we've talked about what they're really looking for. One of the key things they're looking for is someone who fits the culture. Someone who is a team player and even though you're doing a job interview, it's always related. It's always 100%, you're on the clock. I mean there's no, that was during this situation. No, they'd look in at a comprehensive view of you whether your  in this situation, the other situation, they want team players and there's no room for negativity. Did I say that word right?

 

Serena Gilbert:
Did you say negatitivity?

 

Jeff Thompson:
I think I did.

 

Serena Gilbert:
We're totally leaving that in there.

 

Jeff Thompson:
There's no room for negativity.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Yes, there you go. Good save.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Well Serena, I'm glad you went through this experience and I'm glad you took from it and came out of it with a great positive, and you're willing to come back here. It's only been a week and you're here talking about it. So I think this was really good experience for you.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah, I think so. Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm not going anywhere. When I got into working for Vocational Rehabilitation, I already decided, and I even said this in my interview. I was like, I don't know if there's a really nice way to say this. I didn't want to say I'm an old timer or whatever, but I was like, "I'm not going anywhere." I plan on retiring from Vocational Rehabilitation, so this is a position or an opportunity that I'm committed to and that's why went for this opportunity, because I see myself being able to contribute to the agency on a little bit more strategic and larger scale. Not that I don't like my counseling job. I love it, but there's other ways that you can also contribute in that position.

 

Jeff Thompson:
I think it's really good. Here you're the host of Job Insights and usually talking about people going out and doing what you just did. So you actually experienced exactly what we've been talking about, and you're going to bring back this information and you're going to carry it with you. So like you said earlier, we both have been talking about it. The experience you gained from these, even though it doesn't come out the way you want it, there's so many little gems in there that you can take with you that enhances your job that you're in right now, and your opportunities for the future.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah and not to sound too cheesy, but there's lessons to be learned in every single life experience that we go through. Sometimes they're easier to find, and sometimes they're a little bit harder to look for especially when it's new is that we don't like. Having that true growth comes from looking at, well what lesson can I learn here? How can I improve? What can I do better the next time?

 

Jeff Thompson:
That's good and I'm glad you came back and talked about it.

 

Serena Gilbert:
I honestly want to take the time too to thank all of the people out there that helped support me from that first day when that job was posted, and I sent all these frantic text messages out saying, "Oh my God, that position's posted. I thought I had time to think about it. What do I do?" Every single person that surrounded me said, "Go for it. Try it. I support you." I had lots of people offer to write me letters of recommendation, and I just really appreciate every single one of you guys. I thank you for encouraging me and lifting me up to go for that opportunity.

 

Jeff Thompson:
You did a great job.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Especially you, Jeff and Pete from the Blind Abilities team.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Well, it's not hard to speak highly of you because you do such a great job.

 

Serena Gilbert:
I keep you on your toes.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Yes you do. Yes you do. Well I want to thank all of you for coming on the Job Insights. You can check out more of the Jobs Insights on the Blind Abilities website, that's at www.blindabilities. com and follow us on Twitter @jobinsightsvip.

 

Serena Gilbert:
Well, don't forget about our Job Insights Facebook page and Facebook support group, and you can also follow me on @BlindyBlog that's on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Jeff Thompson:
And @KnownAsJeff on Twitter for myself. A big thank you to Chee Chau for his beautiful music. You can follow Chee Chau on Twitter @lcheechau. I want to thank you all for listening, we hope you enjoyed. Until next time, bye bye.

 

[Music]  [Transition noise]

When we share

-What we see

-Through each other's eyes...

 

[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]

 

...We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.

Jeff Thompson:
For more podcasts with a blindness perspective check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com. On Twitter @BlindAbilities. Download our app from the app store, Blind Abilities, that's two words. Or send us an email at info@blindabilities.com.

Thanks for listening.

 

 

 

Nov 07, 2018
That Blind Tech Show is Airing Out the Apple Orchard, Audio Description, Group FaceTime, Spiders and Dynamite!
01:03:47

show Summary: 

That Blind Tech Show comes out fighting and takes on Spiders, a Messenger and what got into those earphones? The largely anticipated Apple event came early, and boy did Brian take notice. But due to his ability to dig down deep into the news and posts he filled the outline with all that mattered and was joined by Allison, Serina and Jeff to bring you a fun filled, informative and down-right explosive show. That is if you store your dynamite in the candle box.

And by the way, the Air is back with the Mac Mini and some iPad pro’s that are on steroids. At least it seems like that. We talk about Audio description and Roy Samuelson makes a brief appearance to talk about his start in the Audio describing business. I can’t go on as I got to get this posted before the Apple Air Power is launched. Oh wait, tha’ts probably not until 2023. Keep your fingers crossed.

You can find links to the topics and products mentioned in the cast below:


Man sets fire to his home trying to kill spiders

Facebook rolling out simplified interface for Messenger.

Get ready for an explosion of Alexa enabled headphones.

Apple has brought the Mac Air Back to life today!

Mac Mini

Contact

Thank you for listening.
Send us Feedback via email
Follow us on Twitter @BlindTechShow

That Blind Tech Show is produced in part with Blind Abilities Network

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.
Get the Free blind Abilities App on the Google Play Store

 

Nov 06, 2018
Tech Abilities: Hey Portal, You Watching Me? Smart Home Devices and the Smart Shadow Enters the Thought Bubble (transcript provided)
47:32

Show Summary:

Tech Abilities is back in the studio and Serina, Andy and Jeff talk about Smart Devices. From Smart Switches, Smart Thermostats, Smart Smoke and Gas Detectors, Door Bell Cameras and the Google Hub. But is the Apple Home Kit App good enough?

Check out this entertaining and informational look at the devices watching you and putting some convenience into your life. How did we get by without it? Hmmm.

You can follow Tech Abilities on twitter @AbilitiesTech

Contact:

Tech Abilities is part of the Blind Abilities Network and be sure to check out all of our shows and podcasts.

Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities Appon the App Store.

 

Full Transcript:

Tech Abilities: Hey Portal, You Watching Me? Smart Home Devices and the Smart Shadow Enters the Thought Bubble

Serena Gilbert:
It's called the Facebook Portal. Does anyone here trust Facebook?

Andy Munoz:
Other than the fact that we're tech nerds ...

Serena Gilbert:
Nope, I don't think I'm going to upgrade, and both of you did in a week.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, an accessible thought bubble.

Serena Gilbert:
Do you have a smart phonograph, Jeff? What the heck is that?

Andy Munoz:
Google's your friend, look it up.

Serena Gilbert:
So, you want a smart shadow.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah.

Andy Munoz:
Having these smart devices, they are truly game changers.

Serena Gilbert:
Silver.

Andy Munoz:
Space gray.

Jeff Thompson:
Gold.

Andy Munoz:
I smell smoke. Is your Nest going off, Jeff?

Serena Gilbert:
See what happens when you tell me I'm getting fat?

Andy Munoz:
I said you could grow into that Blind Abilities t-shirt.

Jeff Thompson:
Boom, music comes on and six sheets of toilet paper pop out.

Serena Gilbert:
Exactly.

Serena Gilbert:
All right, you guys ready? I'm not going to count down. I'm going to make you look for when we start [inaudible]. Good luck.

Andy Munoz:
Three, two-

Serena Gilbert:
No.

Andy Munoz:
One.

Serena Gilbert:
Nope. All right, I will count down. I'll be nice. Three, two, one. Welcome back to Tech Abilities. This is Serena Gilbert and I am, of course, joined with Jeff Thompson and Andy Munoz. Jeff, how are you?

Jeff Thompson:
Sorry.

Serena Gilbert:
Apparently, Jeff is choking.

Jeff Thompson:
I'm doing great, Serena. Glad to be back.

Serena Gilbert:
We haven't been around for a while now, but we are back and we've got a great episode. Andy, how are you?

Andy Munoz:
I'm good. I'm good. I'm actually glad to be back.

Serena Gilbert:
And, Andy's not choking for the record.

Andy Munoz:
Nope. No choking here.

Jeff Thompson:
Ouch.

Serena Gilbert:
Ouch. You'll be okay, Jeff. You're a big boy. Have you guys heard about the latest news about Facebook?

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, do tell. Do tell.

Serena Gilbert:
Apparently, they have a new smart device coming out called the Facebook Portal.

Jeff Thompson:
I'm got a feeling somebody's watching me.

Serena Gilbert:
Right?

Andy Munoz:
Cue the Michael Jackson song. There we go.

Serena Gilbert:
Perfect timing, Jeff, as usual. Everything about it is ironic from the name of it to all the press surrounding it. It's called the Facebook Portal so theoretically I know what they were going for there. It's like you're in the same room, but does anyone here trust Facebook?

Jeff Thompson:
How about you, Andy? Do you trust Facebook?

Andy Munoz:
You know, can you trust anything, honestly?

Jeff Thompson:
Right.

Andy Munoz:
Yet, we still use it. The way I look at it is I don't put something out there that I don't want somebody to know 'cause even with locking it down and doing all that stuff, there's people, they want it ... Where there's a will, there's a way. Don't put nothing out there that I don't want nobody to see.

Serena Gilbert:
The weird thing about Facebook is there's already a theory that we think Facebook listens to us when we're not in it. We've tested this. Start talking about childcare and all of a sudden, you're going to have every childcare center ad in your newsfeed that you ever wanted to see.

Andy Munoz:
Yep, yep.

Serena Gilbert:
There's something to it. I really do think that there's something that they're listening to. Imagine putting that in your living room where they're not only able to listen but see what you're doing.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, we could really paint this into a corner if we want to, but when you look at other companies such as Target and Home Depot and various other ones on the internet that have had hacks exposing people's identification and personal information, it's inevitable that stuff like this is going to happen, I imagine. It seems like when something like this happens to Facebook, it seems like it really gets a lot of attention.

Andy Munoz:
Usually, if you have a big name and something happens ... We've all got these high expectations so then they lose credibility, but it really can happen to anybody.

Serena Gilbert:
Well, let's hear about the specs on this Facebook Portal and then tell me what you guys think about it too. It's funny when you think about it. There's two different versions. There's the standard one. It will be $199. The Portal Plus, as they call it, is a much larger screen and then it's an HD. That will be $349. Both of them say that the camera essentially will follow you as you're talking to somebody or video chatting with them.

Serena Gilbert:
They initially said that no data was going to be stored and that everything was nice and secure. They then came back and said, "But, wait. We will the information to target ads to you." Yeah. So, the camera's following you in the room and they're targeting ads at you. Still like it? I don't know.

Andy Munoz:
Regardless of whether you like it or not, there's just no getting away from it because you get the ads even on Facebook itself. I can go right now and I can do a search on Amazon for smart home devices and I guarantee you as soon as I click into Facebook, it's going to show me what I last searched for. For me, it's more or less going to be about what all can it do? What are all the different features? What's going to sell it to me that's going to allow me to really overlook that targeting commercial stuff to me?

Serena Gilbert:
You're not taking it off your Christmas list yet?

Andy Munoz:
I wouldn't say I would take it off. It doesn't matter what you do, you're not going to get away from that stuff. As much as you'd like to, as much as I'd like to, it's there. At this point, again, it's going to go back to, what are the features? What's going to make me want to buy this thing that I can't do with another device?

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah. Jeff, you have this on your shopping list?

Jeff Thompson:
No, I don't have it on my Christmas list yet, but I should get that started. The thing is, with all these different devices and ecosystems out there, I'm starting to wonder if someone should start with one ecosystem and stick with just one such as yourself. What benefits does the Facebook Portal have over your Amazon Show?

Serena Gilbert:
I don't think it offers anything different because they both do the video chatting. The screen does appear to be a little bit larger on the Facebook Portal. I think that the entry-level price on it is cheaper because the Amazon Show is, I believe, $229 and the Facebook Portal would be starting at $199. There's a $30 difference there.

Serena Gilbert:
It's really funny because I saw the ad on Facebook, of course, and the comments ... I just had to read the comments 'cause they were so funny and everyone's like, "So, why can't I just FaceTime?"

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, right?

Serena Gilbert:
You're offering me a speaker that you say I can make all these calls on, I can just do that on my phone already, so what's the point? 'Cause they're not boosting that it has this awesome sound quality, they're not advertising that it's smart. I guess it will have Alexa built into it. Sorry, guys. It will have the 'A' lady built into it, but why would you spend the money on a third-party device to have the 'A' lady when you can get that straight from Amazon anyway?

Andy Munoz:
The other part of it too is you can actually video chat via Facebook Messenger just depending upon what device you're using. If I'm sitting at my computer, I've already got a 19" HD display so why would I want to invest in something different other than the fact that we're tech nerds and we like to know these things and we never know when we're going to run across something where we're maybe going to have to maybe troubleshoot something like that. That would be maybe its sole purpose.

Jeff Thompson:
Well, I think that Facebook is coming late into the game in this. The newness of the new products coming out, everyone wanted to experiment or explore these new gidgets and gadgets and now we all have probably multiple ecosystems in our house. You might have a Google or Amazon or an Apple device going right now. Is it time right now to add one more to the mix that we have in our house? That sometimes I think it's not doing exactly what I thought it would. So, I think people are being desensitized from the thrill of it all, the newness of these types of gadgets and Facebook is just a little late into the game.

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah, it always makes you wonder, is there really room on my shelf for one more smart device? Where would I even put it?

Jeff Thompson:
I wonder what we're going to have to say to invoke the Facebook Portal, "Mr. Senator," or "Yo, Zucker."

Serena Gilbert:
You say, and does this sound at all familiar, "Hey, Portal."

Jeff Thompson:
Really?

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah, which those of us who are super lucky enough to have HomePods ...

Jeff Thompson:
Super lucky.

Serena Gilbert:
Super lucky.

Jeff Thompson:
Super.

Serena Gilbert:
Super-

Jeff Thompson:
Lucky.

Serena Gilbert:
... lucky. We know what the wake word is for that. Very similar.

Jeff Thompson:
It'd be funny if it was Mr. Senator. Yes, Senator. Yes, Senator.

Andy Munoz:
What kind of responses does it give if you call it the wrong name?

Jeff Thompson:
I have no idea. It's not out until, what, November? Mid-November?

Serena Gilbert:
It says November. It doesn't even have a specific data, it just says November. I predict ... I think this is going to be a big, huge flop for Facebook. I think this is going to be a lot of lost money because who knows how many they've already produced. They'll probably sell maybe 100,000 which is nothing when there's how many billion users on Facebook?

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, plus the fact when I looked it up. I think ten things came up when I did my search, nine of them were about, "Is this a good idea? Should they pull the plug now? Should they save their costs? Are the stocks falling on Facebook?" and, "Do you trust Facebook to secure this information that it's gathering?" I don't know. I don't think it's going to be on my Christmas list, Serena.

Serena Gilbert:
I know one thing that I keep trying to get you to add to the Christmas list, but I don't know if you will.

Jeff Thompson:
What's that?

Serena Gilbert:
Remember? I told my bestie that you wanted a HomePod.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh! And you want to go to CSUN.

Serena Gilbert:
You know it.

Jeff Thompson:
That's coming up. That's around the corner.

Serena Gilbert:
Better get to planning.

Jeff Thompson:
The more we talk, the closer it gets.

Serena Gilbert:
There's a really good Christmas gift right there. Andy can go too.

Andy Munoz:
Hey.

Jeff Thompson:
There you go.

Serena Gilbert:
We'll get in all kinds of trouble. It's in Anaheim this time.

Jeff Thompson:
Someone's got to run that Colorado show out there though.

Serena Gilbert:
We'll be okay.

Andy Munoz:
We'll survive.

Jeff Thompson:
A new device that's out from Google is the Google Home Hub ... Yeah, the Google Home Hub.

Serena Gilbert:
The need a better name for that one.

Jeff Thompson:
I was wondering if this was the answer to anybody out there that has collected a few devices, one for their Google Home that works on their ... One works on the Amazon Device. If this is the answer that will solve some of the problems of bringing everything together.

Serena Gilbert:
How does the Hub work? I don't fully understand it.

Jeff Thompson:
Okay. A hub is also known as a bridge and what it is is a central location device that actually can control all the different smart devices that you have located throughout your house. If you have smart plugs, smart switches, smart doorbells, smart thermostat, you can actually connect them up all to one spot, which is a hub and then access that.

Jeff Thompson:
Typically, what people do is access it through an iPad or something so they have one control. From there, you can set up groups, you can set up different modes for things to be on that come on at certain times, go off at certain times. You can group lights together, you can have full control over all these devices in one location rather than using the TP app, the WeMo app, and the Nest app and figure out everything else. You can actually tie them all together and that's what a hub/bridge does.

Jeff Thompson:
The HomeKit app, that app was put out, is something that was trying to become a bridge in your wi-fi system to tie all these together. Now, you've got to remember that everything has to be able to reach the wi-fi system. You might have a plug or a switch far enough away where your wi-fi isn't that great, so you'll have to do an extender. Whereas, you can get pretty elaborate. You can go into the Z-Wave system, which actually every device that's hooked up becomes a little transmitter too so it can chainlink all these together so it can reach a further distance.

Jeff Thompson:
Interesting stuff once you get interesting stuff once you get into the high-end of homes, but as for affordability and everything, I think Google Home Hub is an idea. It might be something that works good for you, but I think HomeKit really has the advantage here in wi-fi in the future. If you're just talking about adding some conveniences to your house and not really going into the major planning of a full day operation of automation going on.

Jeff Thompson:
Shades open. Lights on. Mood setting. Thermostat adjust and someday turn on stereo system. Play phonograph. Set the mood. The possibilities could be endless. You can do some of that with HomeKit, but yeah. Basically, that's was a hub/bridge does. It ties everything together under one physical device that you can access and control everything.

Serena Gilbert:
I'm just so distracted because I'm pretty sure you said phonograph.

Andy Munoz:
He did say phonograph.

Serena Gilbert:
What the heck is that?

Andy Munoz:
It's a record player.

Serena Gilbert:
Do you have a smart phonograph, Jeff?

Jeff Thompson:
I'm just saying, yeah, there probably is one. You can get one to skip and ...

Andy Munoz:
Yeah, you can get it to do some scratchin'. Scratchin'. You know? You know?

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah.

Serena Gilbert:
Yes, Jeff. You are definitely the old man right now.

Andy Munoz:
Well, it's funny because my kid's now into buying vinyls and I'm like, "Why are they even still making those," and come to find out yeah, they're making record players again.

Jeff Thompson:
I have two record players and I collected albums back in the day and I still have them. They're popular again. It's kind of neat.

Andy Munoz:
It's kind of interesting how technology's going full circle.

Serena Gilbert:
Jeff, for the young ones listening to our podcast, what's an album? You going to tell them that? No, I'm just kidding.

Andy Munoz:
Google's your friend, look it up.

Serena Gilbert:
On your smart speaker.

Andy Munoz:
Ask the 'A' lady, she'll tell you.

Serena Gilbert:
I am curious, because this is all about smart devices, if we could go around, I guess the virtual table and let's hear about what smart devices you have in your home right now and what you like, what you don't like, maybe, if you're on the market for a new one. We'll start with you, Andy.

Andy Munoz:
Okay. So, right now, I don't have any. I'm in the market. I've got a pretty archaic thermostat. The thing is huge, but the problem is I can see the numbers, but I can't see how it programs. I certainly want something that I have a little bit more that I can do with it then having to rely on somebody else to set it up.

Jeff Thompson:
What you're saying is you want to be the master of your own domain.

Andy Munoz:
There you go.

Jeff Thompson:
There you go.

Serena Gilbert:
Seinfeld reference.

Andy Munoz:
Primarily, I'm just looking for a thermostat. Ceiling fans would be nice.

Serena Gilbert:
They make smart ceiling fans?

Andy Munoz:
Yeah, they make ...

Serena Gilbert:
I didn't know that.

Andy Munoz:
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

Serena Gilbert:
That would be really cool.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, yeah. They invented the ceiling fan right after the phonograph. When I was looking up the Google Home Hub, the GHH, they claim that it can connect up to 5,000 different devices. So, that probably includes the phonographs and let's see, what came out right after phonographs? Ceiling fans, Serena. Yeah, there's probably a smart gidget or gadget out there for pert near anything.

Andy Munoz:
Oh, yeah. When I was working with Apple, I got a guy that called in that was setting up a smart garage door opener.

Serena Gilbert:
Now, why do we need that? I really don't understand that. What does it recognize your car when you drive up to it?

Jeff Thompson:
Well, when you have your smart Amazon Drive in your car, you can then just say, "Open, sesame."

Serena Gilbert:
Oh, my God.

Jeff Thompson:
Lower the drawbridge.

Serena Gilbert:
Secret passcode, right? I really don't understand what a smart garage door would do that a regular garage door ... You push a button and it opens. What else do we need it to do?

Jeff Thompson:
You have to actually move your arm to push the button.

Serena Gilbert:
I get it because ... We laugh at how lazy this is making us 'cause we don't have to leave our couch to turn the light on or off or adjust the thermostat, but it truly does open up accessibility for tons and tons of people with disabilities that have mobility impairments or maybe even a cognitive impairment where it just makes a life a lot more independent and affordable. Before, doing something like this would be thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars, now they can just get it right on the market.

Andy Munoz:
Or, even just the simple fact that you either make some sort of adjustment cosmetically or what have you so that it could be used or you stay reliant on somebody to help you with that. Having these smart devices, they are truly game changers. For the rest of us, yeah, it makes us lazy.

Jeff Thompson:
As long as your wi-fi doesn't get knocked down.

Andy Munoz:
Yeah, that too. Yeah.

Serena Gilbert:
I was just thinking that. I was just about to say, "Until somebody hacks it." Then, it will drive you crazy.

Jeff Thompson:
One of the concerns I would be looking into is if I was going to get the Canary or the HomeSafe alarm system that hooks up to your wi-fi and is a smart device, that, just like the bridge and the hub, are these connected to just your wi-fi or if someone cuts your wi-fi cable, will it give you an alert through cellular or run off the cellular?

Andy Munoz:
I believe that they do because actually my brother-in-law just made some changes. He gave up his business-class wi-fi and went back to residential and they bundled it all and got the security system. Yeah, if the wi-fi goes down it then does go to cellular.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, that's nice.

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah, 'cause we have a Honeywell Lyric. With got it for free from our home owner's insurance company and they gave us four of them. What it is is you put anywhere that there's water that could possibly leak and it's connected to wi-fi. It also puts this obnoxious, loud beeping sound A, when there is water that it detects and B, just when the battery is dying.

Andy Munoz:
Does it go onto the floor?

Serena Gilbert:
Well, you can do it two different ways. We have one on the hose of our washer and it's got this cord that you can wrap around it that if it detects the water then it will set off the alarm. Or, you can just set it on the floor and you don't need the cord then. As soon as it detects water it will start beeping and it will send a notification to your phone.

Serena Gilbert:
When we changed our wi-fi, we never put them back on the new wi-fi 'cause I frankly couldn't remember how to do it. When we changed our router out and had to get a new wi-fi network put up, it sent emails to me saying that they were offline. That's really cool because your hot water heater could be leaking for days and you'd never know. Ours is in the basement. We don't go down there but maybe once a month.

Jeff Thompson:
That's neat. That's less invasive. There's a more invasive one that actually goes right into your plumbing system. You cut the line and you put this device in there and it will notify you if the pressure drops. If you're on vacation, your lines should have no open valves so there should be a constant pressure and if that pressure drops significantly, then it will give you a signal and notify you that there's been a change, possibly a leak, that could really devastate your home.

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah, that could save a lot of money. Imagine if you came back from vacation and there were six feet of water in your basement.

Jeff Thompson:
Swimming pool, yeah.

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah.

Andy Munoz:
Well, I was talking to somebody that they were out of town, but their son was there. He didn't realize it, but there had been a leak. So, their basement flooded and, on top of it, they ended up with a $5,000 water bill. That was in the course of three weeks.

Serena Gilbert:
Oh, my God. I would cry. Oh, my God.

Andy Munoz:
Yeah, it was pretty crazy.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, wow. I think a lot of these devices, like you're saying, for someone that has a speech impediment of some sort or something, that there's alternative devices now that through your wi-fi, making the home smarter. We just usually think about these devices that we're using today, but a lot of these switches and commands that we're using are pretty versatile and available to other people. Like you said, it used to be tens of thousands of dollars to make a home accessible for someone with a disability that it may help them open a door or turn on lights as you said, but now, these devices are stuff we buy off the shelf.

Jeff Thompson:
You can get the Hue lights and dim your lights and do other things and the switches and put everything on a timer. My driveway lights ... I have a WeMo light switch that my driveway lights come on when it gets dark, sunset, and goes off at a certain time. Then, I have some lamps in the living room that come on at the same time and go off at the same time. I have three switches working like that, plug in switches and one light switch. I like that automation because kind of get it. The lights come on. Oh, it's dark out, if you can sense that. If someone comes over, the house isn't just totally dark.

Andy Munoz:
Well, it's nice especially in today's society, you definitely want to have those lights on on the outside. You don't want people creeping up on your house. For me, I look at the negative side of that just because it is real. You definitely want to make sure that you have some light so your house can be seen, and I think it detracts from people wanting to do anything to it in a negative manner.

Jeff Thompson:
Plus, when you're away from home ... When I was in England, I could actually turn the lights off or on just from a flip on my phone, from the app.

Andy Munoz:
Right.

Jeff Thompson:
Something to remember about some of these home devices, it seems so great. Hey, just put a light switch in, but to put a light switch in with the WeMo and other ones, you do need all three wires there. You need your positive, your negative, and your neutral wire.

Andy Munoz:
Right.

Jeff Thompson:
Typically, a house that was built pre-90s, I believe, somewhere around there, switches were interrupters. So, they only ran the hot wire down to one side and to the other so when you switch is down, it breaks the connection. Lot of houses either had them drop down from the ceiling or they came up from the basement. The switches were not the place to run all the wires. They ran those to the lights above and just dropped down the ones.

Jeff Thompson:
That may be a problem if you want to add a light switch or a dimmer switch, but you will need to have all three there. If you don't, then you have to have an electrician come in and run a neutral wire up and facilitate it that way. So, that could get expensive.

Andy Munoz:
Right. It's good just to know that in general.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, for sure. It also might justify spending the money for a smart light bulb where you can control that specific light bulb or a group of light bulbs with a command from an app or a voice command directed at one of your personal devices such as an Amazon, Google, Apple device, your smart speaker device.

Jeff Thompson:
Another device that I'm kind of interested is the Look or Nest makes a product, a couple other people make these products, they're cameras on your doorbell. When motion happens at the front door, you'll get a message on your phone that says, "Motion at front door," and that solves the problem of thinking, "Why do I need a camera at the front door?" Well, the camera does give the indication that there's motion, which then triggers the notification that you'll get, but these two need the existing wire that the previous doorbell used because they need a transformer. So, that's something you want to look into.

Jeff Thompson:
If you don't have a doorbell, then you'll have to install this pre-wiring beforehand. If you do have one, you have to make sure that it's 24 volts running to it because all these devices do need a power source to be running. Just beware, when you're thinking and considering and buying these products, read the small braille.

Andy Munoz:
Love it. Love it. Small braille.

Serena Gilbert:
Oh, man. Isn't all the braille small?

Jeff Thompson:
There is jumbo braille for people with neuropathy.

Jeff Thompson:
Serena, what kind of devices are you working with?

Serena Gilbert:
I have a WeMo plug. One thing I wanted to share with you guys is that, if you have Amazon Prime, there's been a few times just in the last few months where they sent out a deal where you can get a smart plug or a smart light bulb for only $10. We bought one when they did that and, sad to say, it's still sitting in the package because I need two and I've just been too cheap to buy the second one for my lamps downstairs.

Serena Gilbert:
It was summer when I bought them, so I was like, "Oh, we never need the lights on anyways." Now, it gets dark at like 6:15, 6:30 and it would be nice to just go on my phone and turn them on or use the Echo to turn them on.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, I noticed and that's how I've got ... I don't know why I'm coughing.

Serena Gilbert:
You're just getting too old over there.

Jeff Thompson:
Geez, you're sticking with this one.

Serena Gilbert:
See what happens when you tell me I'm getting fat?

Jeff Thompson:
I didn't say that. I know not to say stuff like that.

Serena Gilbert:
Would you like to share what you said?

Jeff Thompson:
I said you could grow into that Blind Abilities t-shirt.

Serena Gilbert:
No, you said I'm going to grow into it because of the shake that I had.

Jeff Thompson:
Why don't you tell the listeners what you put in your shake tonight?

Serena Gilbert:
Shameless plug for Five Guys Burgers and Fries. I had a shake and I added Oreo to it and Oreo cream and Double Stuff Oreo. I see nothing wrong with that.

Jeff Thompson:
Plus, some ice cream, right?

Serena Gilbert:
Milk, with sugar.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, so I'll repeat it. You'll probably grow into that t-shirt.

Serena Gilbert:
This is not helping you. You're going to get some hate mail from all the ladies out there.

Jeff Thompson:
If anybody else would like to grow into a Blind Abilities t-shirt, email us at info@blindabilities.com.

Andy Munoz:
Yeah.

Serena Gilbert:
Oh, my goodness. Not very nice, Jeff.

Andy Munoz:
But, it is funny.

Serena Gilbert:
I'm telling my bestie on you.

Jeff Thompson:
You do have a HomePod, right?

Serena Gilbert:
I do. If anyone's ever listened to me on any podcast, they know I absolutely adore that HomePod.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, I hear it is good sound. So are the Sonos. The Sonos are pretty good and with the smart device built into those too. The thing is, with API on those since it's not a true Amazon device, you only get partial use of the full functionality of what you'll get out of an Amazon device like the Dot or the Echo. Sometimes you forget that you only get that limited usage out of them. I wonder how much the Facebook Portal will have?

Serena Gilbert:
It's probably the same API that they have on the Sonos because the Amazon's got to give you some reason to buy theirs. Why would you ever buy the Amazon one when the Sonos clearly sounds way better sound-wise. There has to be some incentive.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, just be aware when you're buying these devices what they connect up with. Some connect up with more than one platform. It might connect up to Amazon or it might connect up to Apple, but just check that out.

Jeff Thompson:
With the HomeKit app in your iOS device, that application is your hub, your bridge, and that might be the thing of the future, using your wi-fi. Whereas the hub, it just may be ...

Serena Gilbert:
I feel like it's another way for them to get you to spend-

Jeff Thompson:
More money.

Serena Gilbert:
$100. With me, 'cause I have the HomePod, I have the Amazon device, I'm trying to be smart about the devices that I choose since we don't have a smart home yet where either I can find some that work with both or depending on where the device that I'm buying is going to be, it works with whatever is closest to it.

Andy Munoz:
Definitely some strategy into it.

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah. One weird thing that I noticed when I did get the HomePod is, for some reason, and I don't know if it's the way that Apple's system is so locked down, but the devices that say they're compatible with HomeKit, they're never the ones ... They're always more expensive it seems. The ones that are compatible with the Amazon devices, there's so many of them that the price has come down on them. When you look at the ones that say HomeKit, it's like upwards of double the price for the same functionality.

Andy Munoz:
I'm guessing you're right that Apple is so locked down with everything that they do and you don't have a lot of choice as you do with Amazon or Google. A lot of the coding and development and stuff that goes into all that stuff is open source. Not to dog Google in any way, shape, or form by saying this, but their standards are more open than what you get with an Apple. I would venture to say that you're right on that.

Jeff Thompson:
When I first started down this path of adding smart switches and smart plugins, outlets to the house, I went with WeMo and I stuck with it. It seems to be doing good and just lately, I got an update and now the WeMo switches, the smart, mini WeMo switches, are able to work with the HomeKit, which is the native app in your iOS device titled, "Home," H-O-M-E.

Jeff Thompson:
The new ones that you get, they'll have a little code on them and you just scan it and it will register right into your application of your HomeKit and boom, there you go. That is very similar to my Nest Protect because all I did there was scan in the product and boom, it was connected up into my app, which just makes it very nice.

Jeff Thompson:
In the app, it does incorporate that these devices can now be synced up together. I have them synced up with my Amazon device, my google device, my iPhone. I can make my iPad, which stays at home basically, as the hub. By me invoking the HomeKit as my hub, do I really need a Google Home Hub? Do I really need a central device? I think I'm okay.

Andy Munoz:
I guess if you look at it from most people's perspective, we want it with generally a handheld device. Let's face it. There's times that we're not going to be in our home, when we want to be able to have that remote access, that remote control. I think that the hubs are a nice thought, but I don't know how realistic it is.

Jeff Thompson:
Serena, you had mentioned that you were considering a basement remodel. Have you thought about incorporating the smart home features?

Serena Gilbert:
It would be nice kind of thing, but yeah, we haven't officially done that. All I really want in the house right now is a smart thermostat because I really struggle with what temperature it is in the house. The house is only two years old. I meant the builder if they could put in a smart one for me and then I just spaced it. I regret that.

Serena Gilbert:
I really have to rethink it 'cause I know that my husband would like a doorbell camera at some point. It's like do we go with Ring; do we go with Nest because I'd like it to just all be the same brand just to make life easy.

Jeff Thompson:
I have a Nest Protect and that's a smoke alarm that mounts to the ceiling. If I buy another Nest Protect, they communicate with each other and announce their location. In a case of an emergency, you will know where the smoke is coming from.

Speaker 4:          

Emergency. There's smoke downstairs.

Jeff Thompson:
If I do get a Nest thermostat, that too will connect to the family of Nest products. If there is a fire, it will shut off the furnace so you don't have the air blowing around and flaming the fire ... Flaming? Wafting the flame.

Serena Gilbert:
Good job. Your old brain worked.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, it may not be as quick as a Millennial, but it's wiser.

Jeff Thompson:
So, having items from the same family, the same Nest products in my situation pays off for me. I would also like to mention that the Nest Protect, the smoke alarm that's in the ceiling, has a glowing light on it and it comes on when it senses motion. So, in the middle of the night, if you walk past it, it will glow brighter.

Serena Gilbert:
That's cool.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, so that's a neat little feature that will help family members as well. Serena, you mentioned the doorbell with the camera. Now, some people may say, "Why do I need a camera when I can't see who's out there?" However, the camera senses motion and then it will send you a notification that there's motion at the front door.

Serena Gilbert:
That's very cool.

Jeff Thompson:
I see the benefits in that as well.

Jeff Thompson:
Now, a friend of mine, just to be fair, has the Honeywell thermostat.

Serena Gilbert:
Is the Honeywell app accessible?

Jeff Thompson:
He says it is, however, he doesn't use voice over but he tested it and he says it is. I haven't put it through the rigors, but it's $100 cheaper and Honeywell is a good product. It has high ratings on it as well. However, being in the same family and interconnecting as such, I think Nest makes a good line of product that really should be considered. Plus, Nest is owned by Google, right?

Serena Gilbert:
Is it?

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah.

Serena Gilbert:
[inaudible] conspiracy.

Andy Munoz:
I have to say though, I'm with Jeff on the whole ... Usually, if I buy a brand, that's usually what I like to stick to and keep it consistent. A lot of it, I think, has to do for me about what the previous experiences have been. If I bought something like a Samsung TV and it's worked well for me, I'm going to be more inclined to go back out and buy that same brand just because I've had that good experience and I trust it. I think too, part of it too is if they can communicate with each other in some way, shape, or form, all the better.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, safety first. That brings up home security systems in your house that hooks up with wi-fi from doors to windows. I'm starting to wonder how many devices you can have connected up to your wi-fi system before it becomes over-weighted or strained. That's probably where a hub comes in because it would take that load. Until you get to that point, I think that's when you start wondering about a hub.

Jeff Thompson:
I just want to use the apps that each thing comes with. Set it up one time and move on. I don't want to have to pull that out all the time and say, "Honey, let's set the mood lighting for this movie," or have all my Christmas lights on my iPad so I can spell words or have special designs going across. That's not my bag. I just want these devices to work out of their own app. I just think the HomeKit, the home app, will suffice for most people that are venturing into the smart home devices.

Andy Munoz:
Well, because I think too we all have this thing where we generally know when we're going to be home and when we're not unless you have something where you're out of the norm, you have a function that you're going to go to or what have you. In my house, I generally know who's going to be home and when they're going to be home. To be able to say, "All right, yeah, let's have a heat come on at this time. Have it shut off at this time," that kind of stuff is super convenient.

Andy Munoz:
Because right now, it's one of those things where because I can't program it the way that I want and my wife isn't able to program it, she's [inaudible]. It's just an archaic thermostat. There's times she'll say 8:30 at night, "It's cold." I have to turn it up because yeah, it shut down when it really should have been on. There again, it would be nice to have something where definitely have that control and to be able to do that and know that it's going to be consistent.

Jeff Thompson:
Serena, do you want the Amazon Bathroom where you walk in and the lights come on, the toilet seat heats up, and boom, music comes on and six sheets of toilet paper pop out?

Serena Gilbert:
If you can find a way to heat my floor in my bathroom, I'd be happy.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, they have that.

Serena Gilbert:
I don't know if I need the toilet seat heat. I'm okay. But, I was thinking about what you guys were talking about and I was just thinking of the cost savings with that. Just the heat alone to save it ... 'Cause right now, our heat's just either off or on. Then, we all know the theory behind how long it takes to raise the heat so many degrees. It's more expensive then to keep it steady.

Serena Gilbert:
Then, there's also the cost savings of if you own your house. Especially with the smoke detectors that you have, Jeff, I'm sure you're saving money on your home owner's insurance too.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, that's great, Serena, because if you contact your insurance company you can find out so much more about what you could be doing to your house for safety-wise that will ultimately save you money in the insurance policy premium.

Serena Gilbert:
It'd be totally worth it.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, yeah. You want to tell them you have a smoke alarm. Don't call them and tell them you don't have any.

Serena Gilbert:
What do you mean you didn't have one? Hold on a minute. We need to raise your premium a little bit.

Jeff Thompson:
Back pay. It's just really nice that there's devices out there that we can implement into our lives. Like you said, Andy, just make it more convenient and ... Especially the doorbell. I'm really intrigued about that, the camera. I was the one that would always say, "Why do I need a camera? I can't see blah, blah, blah," but that it alerts you, you know?

Serena Gilbert:
Some of them have it where you can speak to them.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Serena Gilbert:
And, hear the sound.

Jeff Thompson:
That's a neat alert. You know someone's at the front door.

Andy Munoz:
Yes, I was just going to say, "And, they have no idea that you're not even home."

Jeff Thompson:
Right. I'm going to get one before trick-or-treaters come out. This will be fun.

Serena Gilbert:
Scare them. Oh, my goodness. Well, it will especially help during the holiday season when you're expecting your Amazon packages 'cause if there's sound with it too, there's pretty distinct noise when the UPS truck pulls up.

Jeff Thompson:
I think if you do it right ... We should appeal to all the truck drivers that deliver packages to wear little bells on their shoes so we know it's them.

Serena Gilbert:
It's like a code. That reminds me though. I was watching Shark Tank a few weeks ago and there was a business on there and they didn't get a deal, but it was a smart device that it was a box that the driver would scan the code on the package, it'd open up the box, they'd put the package in there, and then it would close back up again. They didn't get a deal for obvious reasons because, frankly, the UPS drivers probably aren't going to scan it. They're just going to sit the package on top of the box and keep going.

Serena Gilbert:
It did bring up an interesting thing though. If they could have licensed that to UPS or FedEx or USPS, made it part of their flow, that could really curb porch pirates.

Jeff Thompson:
I got a question for you guys. What device isn't out there yet, but you would like to have a smart device as?

Serena Gilbert:
Oh, you know what I'm going to say as my son always says when I ask him questions. I want my smart self-driving car.

Jeff Thompson:
That's coming.

Serena Gilbert:
But it's not accessible. There's too many laws.

Jeff Thompson:
They'll probably have a little screen to open the door and it will be like, "Everything's accessible except you can't get in the door."

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah. You have to put in this passcode that's on this touchscreen.

Jeff Thompson:
They'll have a Captcha.

Serena Gilbert:
God, I hate those things. Then, you try to listen to it.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, yeah. Four seven three apple two orange W.

Serena Gilbert:
You're like, "Are you in a call center doing this?" I don't understand.

Jeff Thompson:
I know it's crazy. It's like, "Gosh, I had good hearing until I heard that."

Andy Munoz:
If you'd get you a tin can that would sound so perfect.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah.

Serena Gilbert:
I hate those things.

Jeff Thompson:
I was on a website today. I know this is off topic. I was on a website today. It was all about accessibility. It's supposed to be an educational accessibility thing and all this stuff. It was really interesting. I was actually intrigued with the layout and stuff and they had a Captcha that was inaccessible. It's like, "Really? You did all this and now that."

Andy Munoz:
Somebody did not think that through.

Jeff Thompson:
No.

Serena Gilbert:
#accesibilityFail.

Jeff Thompson:
They have accessibility in their name.

Serena Gilbert:
Did you send them an email?

Jeff Thompson:
No.

Andy Munoz:
Wow.

Jeff Thompson:
I got off of it and I just sat there for a minute thinking, "That's so stupid."

Serena Gilbert:
You didn't make your trademark noise? Andy, what's the smart device that you're hoping for?

Andy Munoz:
Wow. That could be plenty but something that would open up my dryer and pull out my laundry and hang it up.

Serena Gilbert:
Oh, so you want the robot from the Jetsons.

Andy Munoz:
There you go.

Jeff Thompson:
That's be Judy wouldn't it?

Serena Gilbert:
Just your luck 'cause wasn't George always getting all this technology failing for him?

Andy Munoz:
Yeah, she malfunctioned one day and she did a bunch of different weird stuff that was all backwards.

Jeff Thompson:
I think for a device that I'm looking forward to and I hope they have it someday, is really a personal assistant, but not a physical one that would actually do things for me but you know how you think of to-do lists and you think of all this stuff? Something that follows your thought like that. When you wake up the next day, it's like, "Jeff, remember the garbage."

Serena Gilbert:
You want a chip implanted in your head.

Jeff Thompson:
Just call it the thought bubble or something.

Serena Gilbert:
Thought bubble.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, an accessible thought bubble. Just like, "Lori told me three things yesterday. What was that?" "Jeff, you weren't listening where you?" I want that companion, that thing that actually helps me move along.

Serena Gilbert:
Jeff, all you have to do is win the Powerball and then you can just pay someone to follow you around for the rest of your life.

Jeff Thompson:
But, I think this would help people. We're talking about old age, but people who have memory issues and stuff. That seems to be a prominent thing in today's world. Everyone knows someone that might be going through it or someone that is affected by it. Something that could shadow you, your shadow. If your shadow could talk, it would remember.

Serena Gilbert:
So, you want a smart shadow?

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah. Do you guys think that's far off?

Andy Munoz:
Time wise maybe. I don't know. Technology's so rapid that anything's possible at any given point. I think, for me, it's even pointless half the time for me to put stuff even as reminders 'cause I just ignore them.

Serena Gilbert:
I'm the same way.

Andy Munoz:
For work and stuff, obviously, I pay attention to my calendar and that sort of thing, but outside of that, I'll say, "Yeah, I put it in my calendar. I'll do this, that, or the other." It's like it's there but nine times out of 10 I'm just going to blow it off and ignore it anyway.

Serena Gilbert:
I have a reminder on my phone right now that's 19 days old but I still didn't do it. Like, "Oh, I'll just ignore it and it will pop back up in a couple weeks."

Jeff Thompson:
Avoid shakes from Five Brothers.

Serena Gilbert:
Five Guys, get it right.

Jeff Thompson:
Avoid shakes from Five Guys.

Serena Gilbert:
You guys don't have Five Guys up in Minnesota?

Jeff Thompson:
No. We only got three guys. We're working on it.

Serena Gilbert:
You don't know what you're missing. You don't have Dutch Brothers. You don't have Five Guys. God, how do you live?

Jeff Thompson:
Well, you're in the fastest growing city in the United States right now.

Serena Gilbert:
It's 'cause we've got all these Millennials. They love it here.

Jeff Thompson:
Really?

Serena Gilbert:
That's why we're getting all these cool home deliver things. We just got Prime Now here. We can get Whole Food delivered in two hours for free.

Jeff Thompson:
That's awesome.

Serena Gilbert:
Yeah.

Jeff Thompson:
How big is Cold Spring?

Serena Gilbert:
Old Spring?

Jeff Thompson: