by Joe Strechay
Spoiler alert: this post provides details and description from the premiere episode of "Growing Up Fisher."
Last night, I watched the premiere of the new network situational comedy television show, "Growing Up Fisher." I was pretty excited to watch this show for a few reasons:
- To see the portrayal of a father who is blind as a main character
- To check out how they depict the dog guide and its work
- The show has some really funny and talented people associated with it
I really enjoyed the show; it provided a background to the father, his career, blindness, and the family dynamic. The show has him using a chainsaw to cut down a tree, and the show alludes to him cutting down other trees after the initial. There is nothing impossible or implausible about the father cutting down the trees, as I know many persons who are blind or visually impaired who use a chainsaw with ease. In fact, I have written on this blog about a blind student who used a chainsaw well. I know numerous persons without sight who are amazing with wood working, farming, and electrical work.
The show has the father with a career as a lawyer, and there are many lawyers who are blind or visually impaired around the United States. You can search the AFB CareerConnect mentor database and see many mentors in that field. The show describes a dog guide well. The show mentions a Seeing Eye dog, which is a dog guide brand, like Nike for sneakers. The father explains that the dog simply guides a person.
The show does have the father showing his daughter how to parallel park, as an example to the daughter that she can do anything. This is a common theme in the show. The father will say, "I am blind and did this." He used, "I went to law school blind," for example, when telling his son he was going to cut down a tree.
The father relied on his son for description purposes at times; he also chose not to openly tell people he was blind, without lying. He just chose to not tell people. This changes once he starts using his dog guide. The show kind of ignores the fact that most dog guide organizations require a two-week to month of training at the dog guide school specific to using and bonding with the dog guide. (You can read some firsthand accounts of getting a new dog guide on the AFB Blog and VisionAware blog. )
Yes, some of us people who are blind bump our shins into coffee tables on occasion. I don't use my cane in my own house, and it does happen. I will look for some feedback from others about his use of the cane. I didn't notice any mention of a white cane. The show referenced the father using the son as his human guide most often. I will be curious to find out if he used a cane during the episode prior to getting a dog guide. I have known parents who are blind who have used their children or significant others as guides.
Overall, I really enjoyed the television show and the portrayal. I, as a married man who his blind or visually impaired, found the show entertaining, as my wife and I hope to have children in the future like many couples. I also look forward to my wife's thoughts on the show, as a spouse of a man who is blind. The comical, but realistic portrayal really hit home for me. The events may be exaggerated at times, as most persons who are blind have a variety of strengths and weakness, just like all people. We all have things that we can do well. I didn't see much that the father couldn't do, but I am sure that will come in time, as this was just the premiere of a thirty-minute show. I look forward to seeing what the next episode highlights.
Did any of you catch it? What did you think?
- Arts and Leisure
by Scott Truax
We are so looking forward to welcoming you to the 2014 AFB Leadership Conference this week. While you're in Brooklyn, we encourage you to use our conference hashtag (#afblc) on Twitter and Facebook to share your experiences and findings.
If you haven’t registered for the conference already, please do so as soon as possible: Register for the AFB Leadership Conference. After a last-minute bump in registrations, we are now expecting over 400 attendees.
If you have any questions, please let me know. Safe travels!
by AFB Staff
Perhaps AFB's most famous advocate said it best: "Cultivate love for love is the light that gives the eye to see great and noble things." With Valentine's Day right around the corner, Helen's wise words have never rung truer. In light of this upcoming special day, why not share the love with a Helen Keller eCard?
Our Helen Keller eCards are high contrast and large-print, featuring beautiful photos, with quotes from Helen. These electronic cards are accessible for people who are blind or have low vision, and allow you to type in your own personalized message. (They are also free to send.)
Whether it's your child sending a message to the grandparents or a pleasant surprise for that special someone, the Helen Keller greeting cards are a unique way to show someone you care.
That's not all we have in preparation for Valentine's Day. We have gift ideas for adults with visions loss at our partner site VisionAware. And if you're the parent of a child who is blind or visually impaired, be sure to visit our partner site FamilyConnect for gift and craft ideas for children with visual impairments.
As a "hidden" bonus for children, they can also send a "secret message" to their friends or family members in braille. This is a wonderful way for both children with visual impairments as well as their sighted peers to learn about braille. Simply visit our Braille Bug Secret Message page, type in a short message followed by the recipient's email address (younger children should ask their parents for help and permission) as well as your name, and send away!
by Michelle Hackman
As I write this, I am watching my two-year-old nephew Ethan while my sister-in-law takes my niece to an ice skating class. Mostly, my nephew spends his time emptying his Lego basket or smashing cars together, but every so often, he does something truly worth documenting. Just this afternoon, one of those notable moments came when, upon discovering my mother's walking cane, he seized it and began parading around the house, banging it on the ground like a royal scepter. I immediately knew what I had to do. Grabbing my phone, I started chasing after him, snapping photos that I could only pray weren't coming out blurry.
Pretty normal reaction for a doting aunt, no? But perhaps not for an aunt who can't see what she's photographing.
My quest to document my life in photos may seem a bit quixotic to some. After all, unlike most, I can't consult the memories instilled in these frames long after they've been otherwise forgotten. My friends, privy to the irony of it all, often make fun of me for my over-reliance on photos to convey my latest doings on social media. Rolling pizza dough on my trip to Washington? Gotta tweet it. Silk-screening a t-shirt at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh? Obviously needs to go up as a Facebook mobile upload. I send pictures to friends so often — in texts, status updates and snapchats — that the act feels utterly pedestrian, stripped of its irony.
You could probably accuse me of falling prey to the much-decried trend of millennials rushing to gratuitously out-share each other, revealing to the world increasingly personal details about the most mundane aspects of their lives. That may hold some truth in my case, though you will be happy to know that I have never broadcast my choice of lunch food to my Facebook friends or Twitter followers. But I defend my photo-snapping habit for a much deeper yet simpler reason: I want to fit in.
Whatever can be said of constant documentation — that it comes off as vapid, that it prevents the photographer from actually enjoying the moment — it is undeniable that photos have become the social currency of my generation. A social media presence without photos appears bare, tedious, almost less than human. I have previously written about how easy it is to devalue a blind person’s humanity, In my constant dance to avoid such dehumanization, I have found photos to be a potent weapon. Though it may be my instinct, both as a blind person and as a writer, to describe what I am doing in a long, rambling status update, I understand that photos depicting the same activity come off as both more intimate and more socially savvy. The photos I post on Facebook draw far more likes and comments from my friends than anything I write, a small indication of just how many people view my activity each day. I can only speculate, but I would suppose the photos are a way to normalize me in the eyes of my peers — a potent reminder that, though I am blind, I can communicate just as well, and share as much of a sense of humor, as everyone else.
Independence Day fireworks on the National Mall
Perhaps snapping photos is symptomatic of a larger desire to keep on the same technological footing as all my friends. In high school, it seemed as though everyone around me was adopting the Blackberry, that indomitable phone of sticky keys, brick breaker, and the worst of them all, BBM. High school passed in a haze of pins and pings and buzzes, and without a blackberry of my very own, I was excluded from all of it. Now, this may seem like a trivial concern. I had a regular old flip phone, so I could still text my friends or email them or, gasp, even call them. But it didn't matter. When friends posted personal news or made plans, they always did so on BBM. Without a BBM account, I had been rendered invisible. I frequently heard about plans after they'd already passed, all because I wasn't keeping pace with the same modalities of communication as my friends.
This is the frequent plight of the blind person: constrained to technologies rendered accessible, we are often shut out of the trendiest spheres in which our friends orbit at ease. It is a digital divide, one created not out of lack of knowledge but lack of access. I maintain presences on Instagram and Snapchat, not because either comes naturally, but because each serves as a subtle reminder to my friends that I am every bit as hip, accessible, and human as they are.
Do you take photos? Use other methods to stay "hip?" I'd love to hear your stories — either in the comments, or on Twitter using the hashtag #AFBBlog.
For more thoughts and yes, photos, follow me on Twitter @MHackman with the hashtag #AFBBlog.
- Personal Reflections
by AFB Staff
Editor's note: the following post is authored by Mary Bellard, Information Technology Services Manager at AFB.
On January 14, GW Micro announced, with support from Microsoft, they will make their Window-Eyes screen reader product available at no additional cost to any user with a license to Microsoft Office 2010 or newer (including users with a Microsoft Office 365 subscription). The only stipulation for using the full version of this product is that Office 2010 or newer needs to be installed and activated locally; users with access only to Microsoft Web Apps will be limited to a 30-minute version of the product. This version of GW Micro’s screen reader will also work outside of the Office programs, just as the current retail version of Window-Eyes operates.
Window-Eyes for Office is now available at www.windoweyesforoffice.com and differs slightly in the features and support currently offered with the full retail version. Most notably, the free version has a limited number of synthesizers included in the default installation, although additional synthesizers can be purchased. Supplementary materials, such as installation discs, braille manuals, and large print materials can also be purchased at an additional cost for the users of this free version.
Technical support is offered for any installation issue without charge, but users asking questions beyond installation will be required to pay a fee. GW Micro is offering multiple technical support packages to meet different user needs and can be reviewed in the Support section of the Window-Eyes for Office website at www.windoweyesforoffice.com/Support. GW Micro intends to continue development of its retail product, but Software Maintenance Agreements (SMA) for current licenses are not available for renewal. It will be interesting to find out how this changes the availability and use of Window-Eyes within the business and education fields in the upcoming months.
This announcement is particularly significant because it means Microsoft and GW Micro just expanded their user sets to include either those who previously did not want to pay for the Window-Eyes product and/or currently use another screen reading program. The market for users reporting problems with the Office Suite, and there are many accessibility problems to report, will increase significantly. My hope is this spike in user feedback will allow Microsoft to better understand what features of the Office product cause the greatest usability issues and encourage more timely resolution of those concerns.
The area with the most potential for improvement as a result of this licensing change is web and application development. As long as a developer is using a locally installed version of Microsoft Office, he/she will be able to use Window-Eyes to test a product’s accessibility. It has been an uphill battle to get accessibility concerns raised early on in the design process of a website or application, so having a free, full-featured tool available to developers to begin accessibility testing sooner is a very good thing.
Web developers commonly limit their accessibility testing to an open source product like the NVDA screenreader or use the free 40-minute demo version of the JAWS screen reader. Both of those products are excellent and popular in the blind and low-vision communities, but Window-Eyes is often left out of the development and testing phases because it either was not as economical as NVDA or as popular as JAWS. To further complicate things, the End User License Agreement (EULA) for JAWS states that "these demonstration or evaluation licenses are not permitted for purposes of development and testing of JAWS scripts, applications, HTML coding, or other Web Based code." This means that web developers using the free demo of JAWS for testing the accessibility of their product are in violation of the EULA and encouraged to purchase a fully-licensed version.
GW Micro does not restrict the use of the Window-Eyes product, either retail, demo or this new Window-Eyes for Office version, for development and testing purposes. Window-Eyes, therefore, can now be used more conveniently and effectively for web and application accessibility testing.
The announcement of this ongoing partnership between GW Micro and Microsoft is important because an accessibility testing barrier was just removed for developers and the availability of screen reader options for users was just improved. I wonder if the accessibility of Office is the last hurdle before Microsoft starts to offer a full-featured screen reader pre-installed with future operating systems, the way Apple utilizes its VoiceOver product. Inevitably, Window-Eyes for Office will provide Microsoft with significant user feedback, and hopefully serve as the much-needed impetus for future versions of Office to address accessibility problems more aggressively.
”Improve” keyboard photo courtesy of Shutterstock.