by Joe Strechay
You may have caught the recent New York Times about Charlotte Brown and Aria Ottmueller, two high school track athletes with visual impairments. They are not being publicized for competing against other athletes with vision loss, but against their sighted peers. These athletes are examples of the roads being paved in the United States for persons with disabilities. Many could not imagine athletes with limited sight competing and succeeding in the pole vault or high jump, yet they are doing it.
Programs like Camp Abilities from Dr. Lauren Lieberman, an AFB Access Award winner and author, have created opportunities for athletes with vision loss to build their confidence and learn about participating in sports. Camp Abilities pushes teens who are blind or visually impaired to get active and create their own opportunities through athletics. The United States Association for Blind Athletes (USABA) is another organization encouraging, supporting, and recognizing athletes who are blind or visually impaired. USABA-sponsored sports have made a difference in my life—I was encouraged to play Goalball, a Paralympic sport, while living in Florida. I loved participating, competing and being active with a team. I was legally blind at age 19, and Goalball gave me the confidence to become more active in sports. It brought back that competitive feeling that I missed. We all should have the opportunity to use our skills, especially in our youth. These students are competing in mainstream sports in the public schools. We need to be encouraging more youth with visual impairments, blindness, and disabilities to be active.
Physical Education and Sports for People with Visual Impairments and Deafblindness: Foundations of Instruction, co-authored by Dr. Lieberman along with Paul E. Ponchillia and Susan V. Ponchillia, Ed.D., is a great resource for general and special education teachers who want a guide on including students with visual impairments in a physical education setting. This is quite close to my heart, as my introduction to our field was as a teacher’s assistant in physical education and adapted physical education at a school for emotional and behavioral special education. Yes, I was legally blind by this time, and I loved the work. I had the opportunity to work with a whole range of students. Dr. Lieberman’s book is an amazing resource, and I have read it. I just wish I'd had this resource back in the day!
Read more about Charlotte Brown and her advice for other students who are blind or visually impaired in the “Our Stories” section of CareerConnect. Charlotte is also featured on the FamilyConnect blog.
High jump equipment image courtesy of Shutterstock.
by Helen Selsdon
May 9, 1933
To the Student Body of Germany
History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas. Tyrants have tried to do that often before, and the ideas have risen up in their might and destroyed them.
You can burn my books and the books of the best minds in Europe but the ideas in them have seeped through a million channels, and will continue to quicken other minds. I gave all the royalties of my books to the soldiers blinded in the World War with no thought in my heart but love and compassion for the German people.
Do not imagine your barbarities to the Jews are unknown here. God sleepeth not, and He will visit His Judgment upon you. Better were it for you to have a mill-stone hung round your neck and sink into the sea than to be hated and despised of all men.
From the Archivist:
It is 80 years to the day that Helen Keller penned this letter to the Student Body of Germany. It's as powerful now as it was then. Helen came to write this letter because her book entitled How I became a socialist was burned by Nazi youth during the book burning frenzy that took place in Germany in May 1933.
The Helen Keller Archival collection here at the American Foundation for the Blind contains over 80,000 items and there are plenty of extraordinary documents to read and beautiful 3-dimensional items to be wowed by. However, this letter has always stood out for me. It stands out not just because of its richly evocative language and scathing admonishment of what was taking place in Germany, but because it is singularly Helen Keller.
Helen is famous for fighting for those with vision loss, but she was also a fighter for freedom of speech and the right of every individual to live in dignity. Many still think of her as a child at the water pump or a saintly old lady, but this is to come away with a very limited understanding of Helen and what she accomplished.
Helen was a warrior who never ceased throughout her life to demand that women, the poor and disenfranchised be afforded an equal chance to live a full life. It is interesting to consider that as the Cold War set in and many American women were being relegated to the kitchen, here was a person who was in her 60s and 70s, who was deaf, blind, a socialist and a woman, and she was circumnavigating the globe unstoppable in her mission of equal rights and justice for all.
- Helen Keller
by Lee Huffman
G3ict (The Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs), an advocacy initiative of the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN GAID), is presenting the 2nd edition of the global conference and showcase, M-Enabling Summit on Accessible Mobile Technology for Seniors and Users of All Abilities next month.
Organized by G3ict and E.J. Krause and Associates, in cooperation with the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Summit is the only program of its kind focusing exclusively on mobile accessible services and assistive technology solutions that work for seniors and people with disabilities.
Leading accessibility experts have confirmed their presence at the Summit, including Judy Brewer (W3C); Javed Abidi (DPI); Donna Cordner (HelpAge USA); Julie Kearney (CEA); Matthew Gerst (CTIA); AFB’s Vice President of Programs and Policy, Paul Schroeder; Claudio Giugliemma (LucyTech); Jim Tobias (Inclusive Technologies); Anita S. Aaron (World Institute on Disability); Richard Orme (RNIB); and Robert Pearson (AMI); among several others from the telecom, mobile and tablet manufacturers, app developers, rehabilitation, senior care, education, financial services, travel and tourism, government services, and ICT fields.
The M-Enabling Summit will be held at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel, on June 6 and 7, 2013. For more information on attendee benefits, latest agenda and sponsors of the Summit, visit http://www.m-enabling.com.
Business technology concept image courtesy of Shutterstock.
by Joe Strechay
I consider myself lucky to attend a number of conferences specific to blindness, visual impairment, and technology. Well, at the 2013 AFB Leadership Conference, IBM Research just raised the bar for accessibility in my eyes. The innovative work they're doing to create accessibility options for educational videos got me out of my seat. I feel like I am now an IBM Research groupie. The work that Chieko Asakawa, Hiro Takagi, and Peter Fay presented on during the preconference and general conference is making video description and captioning for video content a realistic option for large amounts of video.
Their work in creating video description software would allow users to insert their own video description. IBM clients would be able to load a video, pause the video at specific points, insert a text description, determine the length of the pause, and continue. The software uses synthetic speech to read the video description during the selected pause. You have the freedom to determine whether a pause is needed, but I particularly love this option. This allows persons who are not experts in description technology to create audio-described video. Does this blow your mind? It did for me. The IBM Research representatives stated that they estimate that only about one percent of educational video has video description. Do you remember the educational videos that you had watch during your education? I do, and many of them would need a ton of description.
IBM Research didn’t stop there. They developed a software solution that uses voice recognition solutions to caption video. So, a person could load a video into the software and allow it to caption the video. They can go through and edit or correct the captions as needed. The IBM Research team demonstrated the technology at the conference, and again, I was simply blown away. I am probably just a big dork, but I can see such a wide use for these types of technologies.
It doesn't stop there! The team has worked to develop a couple of unique crowdsourcing options to help improve accessibility on the web. The crowdsourcing solution that stands out most for me is "Social Access" or "Social Accessibility." This allows a person to have a toolbar available with the option to note accessibility issues with a page. For example, "The headers on this page are missing." Then an individual can go and select text, then select headers, and enact the appropriate headers for the page. So, for others using this crowdsourcing option, they would be able to see the note specific to the issue and view the page in the corrected format. This helps the managers of the website realize the issue, and allows users to view the site in an appropriate manner. How exciting is this? What a great use of crowdsourcing to improve the accessibility of the web pages.
Laptop and filmstrip image courtesy of Shutterstock.
by Darren Burton
Readers of AccessWorld know that I have written several articles over the years condemning the lack of accessibility found in Amazon's Kindle devices. A couple of their devices have had some half-baked solutions for accessibility, and their mobile apps have never been accessible or usable at all. However, on May 1 we learned that Amazon's new update for the Kindle app for Apple's iOS mobile platform has improved accessibility for people with vision loss. We took a quick look at it on an iPhone 5 in our AFB Tech product evaluation labs this morning, and although there are still some things they need to improve, it is definitely a significant improvement over their previously inaccessible apps.
We downloaded a handful of books, and we were able to access the print content of each of them. You can read the text of a book in several ways, including reading continuously, by page, by line, by word and by character. Several other tools are also accessible, including the Go To Page tool and the icon indicating your current page and location. If you have low vision, you can change the contrast from black on white to white on black, and you can also increase the font size of the text. We found the bookmarking, highlighting and annotation features to be partially accessible, and we had mixed success with the table of contents of one book we tested. We have yet to come upon any accessible graphics, and that will definitely be a concern going forward, especially for textbooks.
Although they are a few years late to the party, we at AFB are certainly happy that Amazon did eventually get around to taking advantage of the built-in accessibility of Apple's iOS platform. Now, they can keep the ball rolling by improving the accessibility of their Kindle and Kindle Fire tablet devices. Stay tuned to AccessWorld for a full evaluation in the June issue.
E-reader concept photo courtesy of Shutterstock.