by Helen Selsdon
Today would have been Anne Sullivan Macy's 148th birthday. Let's honor her memory as Helen's beloved teacher and champion by supporting the Cogswell-Macy Act, which will provide equal resources and access to opportunity for children with vision loss or who are deaf/hard of hearing. Visit www.afb.org/CogswellMacyAct today for more information on the law and how you can help.
Anne led an extraordinary life. Many are unaware of all that she overcame prior to being chosen by the Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts to be Helen Keller's governess in 1886. Anne surmounted a childhood of poverty and neglect, her mother died of tuberculosis when she was 9 and Anne developed trachoma when she was 7 and remained legally blind until she was 15. She and her brother Jimmie were sent to the infamous Tewksbury Almshouse where Jimmie died 3 months later. Many years later she described it this way:
"Unexpected good has filled the chinks of frustration in my life. But at times melancholy without reason grips me as in a vice [sic]. A word, an odd inflection, the way somebody crosses the street, brings all the past before me with such amazing clearness and completeness, my heart stops beating for a moment. Then everything around me seems as it was so many years ago. Even the ugly frame-buildings are revived. Again I see the unsightly folk who hobbled, cursed, fed and snored like animals. I shiver recalling how I looked upon scenes of vile exposure—the open heart of a derelict is not a pleasant thing. I doubt if life, or eternity for that matter, is long enough to erase the errors and ugly blots scored upon my brain by those dismal years."
She successfully had herself transferred to Perkins when she was 14 years old. Her huge intelligence and fiery determination were paramount in enabling her to overcome crippling obstacles. Anne took all that she had learned about hardship and transformed it to foster and teach her young deaf-blind pupil. Helen rapidly learned to read braille and conversed using the manual sign language, she also learned to articulate words. As we know, that was just the beginning. Helen went on to global prominence.
When the pupil exceeds the master, the teacher has done their job well. Happy Birthday, Annie!
To learn more about Anne Sullivan Macy, visit the Anne Sullivan Macy online museum.
by Shannon Carollo
In an effort to provide tips for maintaining employment, I decided it would be far more engaging to read a "what not to do" list. Enjoy the list and please don't try these at home… or at work!
Without further ado: In order to lose a job….
- Prove to be dishonest. Lying, cheating, stealing—take your pick. This includes lying on a job application or resume.
- Make a habit of showing up late for work and/ or meetings. Choose the snooze button instead of ensuring you make the bus and definitely don't have a plan B for getting to your location of employment.
- Miss deadlines and skip important meetings. Go on, delete your virtual calendar.
- Demonstrate poor communication skills. You can do this any number of ways. Ideas: Forgo eye contact or directing your face to the speaker, use closed body language, fail to speak articulately, be passive or aggressive, gossip, and dominate every conversation.
- Abstain from problem solving. Don't show your employer you're innovative and efficient in solving problems. Any time a problem or issue arises, ask your employer to fix it for you. Seriously, every problem. It will irritate and overwork him or her.
- Refrain from continued job education and development. Do not increase your value to the company by learning skills used to meet its needs and fill its gaps.
- Refuse to learn technology which would make you more efficient and accurate on the job. Don't become proficient in typing, using the internet, or using a word document. If you are blind or visually impaired, be unwilling to learn assistive technology.
- Mentally check out while at work. Constantly text, chat, surf the Web, and lounge around on the job. My husband is in the United States Air Force. The Air Force has an acronym for mentally checking out at work, called being on "ROAD" status. R.O.A.D stands for "Retired on Active Duty." Active duty means full-time military service. In other words, if you want to lose your job, act retired at work.
- Don't assume personal responsibility. Never admit a mistake and always blame errors on others. Allow others to assume responsibility for getting you to work, for creating your work-related goals, and for providing your motivation to work.
- Appear unhygienic. Don't bother with frequent bathing, using deodorant or an alternative when it's needed, or wearing clean and neat clothing. You will appear unmotivated, insecure, and unprofessional.
Now please, reverse these tips and maintain employment!
Teachers and Specialists working with youth who are blind and visually impaired, please use the Leadership Training lesson series, Assertiveness Training lesson series, Social Skills lesson series, and the Problem Solving lesson series as tools for instructing students in maintaining employment.
by Joe Strechay
If you haven't heard about Peter Butkus, you might want to take the time to read more. Peter is a senior at Mendham High School in New Jersey, where he plays center for the school's varsity basketball team. Why is this so significant? Peter was born with an eye condition called Stargardt's disease, which is a juvenile form of macular degeneration. Stargardt's impairs his central vision, making it almost impossible to see faces, numbers on a basketball jersey, or the score board. Peter is legally blind, but he is not allowing that to stop him from succeeding in life on and off the court.
Peter joins a growing list of amazing athletes who happen to be legally blind. You may have read about Charlotte Brown, the nationally competitive pole vaulter from Texas, or past U.S. Olympian, Marla Runyan. I love seeing athletes with disabilities succeeding in mainstream sports because they open the public’s eyes to what is possible with vision loss, and also show people that blindness is a spectrum. Many legally blind individuals have some level of vision intact—blindness is not all or nothing.
For me, this story is even more special because I grew up in a neighboring town, and I played football against Mendham. I still keep in touch with my football coach, who tells the story of having to lead me off the field during late-season practices in the dark. Our high school was limited on lights for our practice fields, and I wasn't able to participate after a certain level of darkness. I was legally blind at 19 or 20 years of age from an eye condition different from Peter’s, but found ways to keep participating in sports.
As AFB CareerConnect's program manager, I know that there are a number of coaches out there who are blind or visually impaired. In fact, I coached basketball and softball at a school where I worked in New Jersey for two years. Through CareerConnect, people can connect with mentors in many fields who are blind or visually impaired. I look forward to connecting Peter to some current coaches with vision loss.
by Helen Selsdon
On Saturday March 29, NPR’s Scott Simon read an excerpt from a letter that Helen Keller wrote describing her joy at “listening” to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony over the radio. The source of this feature is AFB’s Facebook post on Helen Keller: The Official Fan Page. We are thrilled that this post has been viewed by almost 2 million people so far. This letter is just one of the over 80,000 items in Helen Keller’s archival collection that AFB seeks funding to digitize. Digitization means ensuring that these materials are accessible to millions across the globe and preserved for generations to come. Please help us save the legacy of this extraordinary woman by donating to the American Foundation for the Blind and designating “Helen Keller Archives.”
For those who have not seen this amazing post, here it is. Enjoy!
Helen Keller wrote the following letter to the New York Symphony Orchestra in March 1924. Here's how she describes listening to Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony" over the radio:
I have the joy of being able to tell you that, though deaf and blind, I spent a glorious hour last night listening over the radio to Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony.” I do not mean to say that I “heard” the music in the sense that other people heard it; and I do not know whether I can make you understand how it was possible for me to derive pleasure from the symphony. It was a great surprise to myself. I had been reading in my magazine for the blind of the happiness that the radio was bringing to the sightless everywhere. I was delighted to know that the blind had gained a new source of enjoyment; but I did not dream that I could have any part in their joy. Last night, when the family was listening to your wonderful rendering of the immortal symphony someone suggested that I put my hand on the receiver and see if I could get any of the vibrations. He unscrewed the cap, and I lightly touched the sensitive diaphragm. What was my amazement to discover that I could feel, not only the vibration, but also the impassioned rhythm, the throb and the urge of the music! The intertwined and intermingling vibrations from different instruments enchanted me. I could actually distinguish the cornets, the roil of the drums, deep-toned violas and violins singing in exquisite unison. How the lovely speech of the violins flowed and plowed over the deepest tones of the other instruments! When the human voices leaped up thrilling from the surge of harmony, I recognized them instantly as voices more ecstatic, upcurving swift and flame-like, until my heart almost stood still. The women’s voices seemed an embodiment of all the angelic voices rushing in a harmonious flood of beautiful and inspiring sound. The great chorus throbbed against my fingers with poignant pause and flow. Then all the instruments and voices together burst forth – an ocean of heavenly vibration – and died away like winds when the atom is spent, ending in a delicate shower of sweet notes.
Of course this was not “hearing,” but I do know that the tones and harmonies conveyed to me moods of great beauty and majesty. I also sense, or thought I did, the tender sounds of nature that sing into my hand-swaying reeds and winds and the murmur of streams. I have never been so enraptured before by a multitude of tone-vibrations.
As I listened, with darkness and melody, shadow and sound filling all the room, I could not help remembering that the great composer who poured forth such a flood of sweetness into the world was deaf like myself. I marveled at the power of his quenchless spirit by which out of his pain he wrought such joy for others – and there I sat, feeling with my hand the magnificent symphony which broke like a sea upon the silent shores of his soul and mine.
The Auricle, Vol. II, No. 6, March 1924. American Foundation for the Blind, Helen Keller Archives.
by Crista Earl
I often discover new and useful apps for my iPhone or iPad by just randomly poking around in the app store. I really found an awesome gem this week. It needs some accessibility improvement, but I think you'll find it useful, even in its current version.
It's called Canine Translator 2020, and it claims to be the first interspecies automatic translator for home use. It's still in beta, and the makers caution that everything doesn't translate smoothly between humans and canines. Of course, dog owners know that already.
You need a small device, called the C-Translate, that hooks to your dog's collar. It reminds me of a Jawbone Up for Fitbit sort of thing—the manufacturer's site is a little vague about what it measures. It has an accelerometer, a heart rate monitor, and a light sensor. It connects to your IOS device via bluetooth. I got the beta version for $9.95, with free shipping.
Once you're hooked up, you ask your dog questions. The website suggests you have a friend ask the questions, as apparently having the owner do the asking can somehow influence the outcome. The app displays the dialog on the iPad screen in text, and the screen changes color based on the level of "certainty" of the translation from dog to human—green for sure, red for lots of doubt. This is where we could use some improvement—just explicitly stating the certainty level in text would allow it to be read by VoiceOver.
I asked a friend to sit down with Paige, my dog guide of seven years. Here's a partial transcript.
Human: Are you a dog? (I'll insert here that the questioners are advised to keep the questions very simple, and to begin with questions to which the answer is known. My friend might have taken this a bit literally.)
Dog: Yes [green screen]
Human: Do you like your job?
Dog: Job? [red]
Human: What do you like?
Dog: I like dinner. I love dinner. [green]
Human: Do you like the subway?
Dog: Yes, I like the train. [yellow]
Human: Why do you like the train?
Dog: Why? [red] (I reminded my friend that dogs don't do "why.")
Human: Do you like the bus?
Dog: I saw a bagel on the train[green]
Human: What else do you like?
Dog: It had a napkin...I ate the napkin.[green]
Human: What did your mom do when you ate the napkin?
Dog: My mother wasn't there...[yellow]
Human: I mean her (pointing to me) Dog: I like her. (Stands up and wiggles, wags tail) [green]
Human: What did she do when you ate the napkin?
Dog: The napkin...it had bagel dust on it...it was delicious...there was butter...[green]
Human: What else do you like?
Dog: I like the park. [green]
Dog: I like breakfast. [green]
Human: Do you like grooming?
Dog: I love grooming! (Wiggles, almost rolls over) [green]
Human: Do you like treats?
Dog: Treats! (Runs to me, out of range of the Bluetooth) [Gray]
No need for a translator for that one, I told my friend, and gave Paige a cookie for all her trouble.
If you're considering purchasing this item, the manufacturer indicates that this product is only available on April 1.