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AFBLC 2016 Has a Valentine's Day Treat for You!

Photo of Lincoln Memorial

As our special Valentine to you, we’re giving you an extension on the Early Bird Rate! Now you can register for the 2016 AFB Leadership Conference at the lower rate until February 16—but after that, rates are going up, so don’t delay!

If your agency is sending three or more people, please contact Scott Truax about a group registration discount. Also note that hotel rooms at the group rate are going fast—make your reservation before 6 p.m., Monday, February 15, in order to get the group rate!

  • Please join us for a complimentary lunch with JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s digital Customer Experience team members. These are the folks who add accessibility to the digital design process at Chase. You must RSVP for this event in advance to Amanda Kolling at Limit 30 participants. This event will take place Friday, March 4, from 12:30-1:45 p.m.
  • We’ve added a new session! Session 101: Facebook Accessibility Advancements for Desktop Web Browsers. Facebook has been making significant changes to its News Feed and Messenger products to improve the experience for people using them with a screen reader in a desktop web browser. This workshop will demonstrate how you can take advantage of these changes and get more enjoyment from these Facebook products.
  • Check out our demo sessions! Google is now offering three demo sessions on Friday, March 4: Android Accessibility Features; Chrome Accessibility Features; and Google Apps with a Screen Reader. In addition, Vanda Pharmaceuticals is offering a session called “Learn About Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder” on Friday, from 11:30-12:30. And Sprint is offering a session on Saturday from 2:30-3:30 p.m. called “Accessible Wireless Phones and Apps for the Blind.” Check the agenda for more details. [Please note that demo sessions are not CEU eligible.]
  • Our list of exhibitors is now available. Make sure you visit these tables: Humanware—Lead Exhibit Sponsor, AFB Center on Vision Loss, AFB Press, AFB VisionAware, American Printing House, Atlantic Low Vision, AudioEye, Inc., BAUM Retec, U.S.A., The Bureau of Engraving and Printing, The Carroll Center, Dancing Dots, En-Vision America, Inc., Freedom Scientific, Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired, HIMS, Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Library of Congress, LifeScience Technologies, Mississippi State University, National Federation of the Blind, NOAH (National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigementation), NuEyes, Orcam, Reineker USA, and Vanda. Remember to visit them all for a chance to win some fabulous prizes!
  • Are you a CareerConnect Mentor or want to become one? Current and prospective mentors are invited to gather for conversation, food, and drinks at the AFB Leadership Conference from 5 to 7 p.m., on Thursday, March 3. Space is limited to the first 25 who RSVP to Neva Fairchild before February 25. Call 214-438-5316 if you have questions.
  • Would you like to meet some of our authors? Maureen Duffy, author of the new 3rd edition of Making Life More Livable: Simple Adaptations for Living at Home after Vision Loss, along with Nora Griffin-Shirley and Laura Bozeman, editors of O&M for Independent Living: Strategies for Teaching Orientation and Mobility for Older Adults, will be signing books and answering questions about their new publications on Friday afternoon, in conjunction with the sessions on aging.
  • And if you’re able to stay a few extra days, Crystal City, Washington, DC, and the surrounding areas are full of exciting events and attractions. Check out our list of things to do and see for more ideas.

Want more information on the conference? Check out the agenda and then register today. And don't forget to reserve your hotel room at the beautiful and centrally located Crystal Gateway Marriott. Please book through our Marriott reservations page or call 888-236-2427 and let the reservation specialist know that you are attending AFBLC 2016. Be sure to indicate that you are staying at the Crystal Gateway Marriott as there are two Marriott hotels in Crystal City.

Special Thanks to Our Conference Sponsors
JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Delta Gamma
Consumer Technology Association (CTA) and CTA FoundationTM
CTIA, The Wireless Association
Freedom Scientific
LifeScience Technologies
ABD Direct

We are also grateful to APH, sponsor of Cerebral/Cortical Visual Impairment: A National Conversation, and to the National Research and Training Center (NRTC) on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University, Older Individuals Who Are Blind Training and Technical Assistance Center, U. S. Department of Education RSA Grant # H177Z150003, a sponsor of the aging track sessions.

Conference Recaps
Readers Want to Know

Valentine's Day Ideas for Friends and Family Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Helen Keller quotation on a silver bracelet
heart-shaped necklace with Helen Keller quote

With Valentine's Day right around the corner, there's still time to share the love with beautiful Helen Keller-themed gifts that help support the American Foundation for the Blind and its programs. Plus, all jewelry is on sale for a limited time. You can choose from a sterling silver ribbon-heart necklace inscribed with Helen Keller's quote "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart" or a striking silver cuff bracelet with the same quote.

Or how about an accessible, low-vision-friendly Helen Keller eCard? Our Helen Keller eCards are high contrast, large print, and screenreader-friendly, featuring beautiful archival 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, and help raise awareness about the important work of the American Foundation for the Blind.)

Helen Keller as a young woman, touching the branch of a flowering tree

"Cultivate love for love is the light that gives the eye to see great and noble things."
- Helen Keller

Want to purchase a Valentine gift for someone on your shopping list who is blind or visually impaired? There are lots of things to choose from, some of which are specially adapted for people with vision loss including simple gifts such as large print or braille games or cards that the two of you can play together. Check out VisionAware's list of Valentine Gift Ideas for People With Vision Loss.

If you are on Pinterest, be sure to check out AFB's gift ideas board.

If your child is blind or visually impaired, how do you support your child's impulse to create a handmade gift for grandma and grandpa, or in later years, keep up with the inevitable demands for cards for all of their classmates? FamilyConnect has your back, with advice and resources on accessible Valentine's Day crafts, cards, and more for children who are blind or visually impaired.

And while we’re on the subject, this Valentine’s Day, why not show your love for AFB with a tax-deductible donation? Your support is vital so we can continue to offer our expertise and award-winning programs throughout the year.

We'd love to hear your ideas in the comments section below, as well. Thank you!

*Donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.

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In Memory of Phil Hatlen, A Preeminent Leader in the Field of Blindness and Dear Friend

Photo of Phil Hatlen

It is with a heavy heart that I share that Phil Hatlen, AFB trustee emeritus and a preeminent leader in the blindness field, passed away earlier this week after an extended illness. Phil was an incredible mentor and dear friend to many, including myself. He was loved and admired by this field.

A true visionary, Phil is widely recognized as the person who coined the phrase, “expanded core curriculum” and detailed its importance to the education of the blind and visually impaired. Because of Phil’s work, children across the United States who are blind or visually impaired are receiving a more comprehensive education that will help them to succeed in work and life.

Phil began his career as a teacher of students who were blind or visually impaired who were included in mainstream classrooms. He served as principal of the California School for the Blind from 1962 until 1966, when he accepted a position as professor at San Francisco State University, where he prepared teachers of the visually impaired. In 1990 he left SFSU (SFSU) to become superintendent at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, which is now one of the premier schools in the country for students with vision loss.

Phil received virtually every award in the blindness field, including AFB’s prestigious Migel Medal. 

My heart goes out to his family and everyone who knew and loved Phil. I speak for many when I say he will be missed dearly.

In the News
Personal Reflections

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Reform and the Right to Read

Mark Richert

“At the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), we have worked for nearly a century to break down societal barriers and eliminate discrimination by achieving equal access to the world of copyrighted works. But for all the promise of technology to provide equal access to copyrighted works, the copyright laws that protect those works have sometimes served to impede that technology.”

Mark Richert, Esq., Director of Public Policy, was part of an expert panel at a free Public Knowledge luncheon today, entitled “DMCA Reform: Lessons from the Copyright Office’s Triennial Review.” Read his post on the Public Knowledge blog, We Should Not Have to Fight for the Right to Read, for more information about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), its anti-circumvention measures, and the impact on consumers who are blind or visually impaired. It’s time for Congress to limit the negative impacts of Section 1201 of the DMCA on the right of people with disabilities to access copyrighted books, movies, music, software, and more.

In the News
Public Policy

Day 4 at CES: Home, Health, and Fitness

Paul Schroeder at the MagicaVision booth, trying their Android phone

Paul Schroeder at the MagicaVision booth

On the second day of the official CES, John Lilly and I spent most of the day among the home, health, and fitness area of the show. At Whirlpool we learned that a line of “connected” kitchen appliances will soon be launched in the US. As with the connected washer and dryer, these are toward the top of the line, so they won’t be cheap, but the Whirlpool app does seem to work reasonably well with VoiceOver and they are interested in continuing to improve it.

Every year, CES attracts a bunch of start-up companies and entrepreneurs who seem right out of Shark Tank casting. This year, companies from France are much in evidence. French start-up MagicaVision is here at CES showing an Android phone designed specifically for people who are blind or visually impaired. The phone (shaped like a TV remote control) features a touchscreen display on one side and tactile buttons on the other side. Besides phone functions, the device will also work as a TV remote, color and light detector, obstacle detector, and more. The company says it will launch the device in France later this spring and hopes to bring it to the US late in 2016. The target price is $199. You can find some information at the website

Polymer Braille Inc., a North Carolina company that hopes to revolutionize braille display technology is also here at CES. Their concept is to use advanced polymer plastic to create the force to drive the braille pins. They do not have a prototype display to show yet, but their hope is to launch a multi-line display within a year. Unfortunately, many promising attempts to create new braille displays have failed.

With virtual reality just around the corner, John is working to get a leg up on some of the different products and research on display at CES 2016 since there is a possibility that virtual reality can be used to assist individuals with low vision. Here’s his update.

Oculus announced the consumer release of their Rift virtual reality headset with a price point of $600. This sounds a little pricey, but it is ultimately a video game device and the first release by Oculus.

Samsung’s Gear VR also made an appearance at the huge Samsung booth. This headset is unique because it is available for $99, but also requires a recent Samsung mobile phone that is used as the display. Since the display is not integrated, this would make the product a little more portable.

I also had the opportunity to test out some research done by Purdue University where they are developing a device that allows virtual reality devices to track forward and back positioning in 3D space. For example, they had a virtual solar system on display and when you looked at a planet and moved forward, you would zoom into that planet. The currently available virtual reality headsets only allow for side-to-side and up-and-down movements. This technology would be a great addition for virtual reality.

Finally, I stopped at the NuEyes booth, CES 2016 winner for technology that improves lives. While not exactly virtual reality, NuEyes is a head-mounted display aimed at helping individuals with low vision. This device is a very compact set of smart glasses that looks like a normal set of sunglasses with a few alterations including a camera and display integrated into it. The smart glasses are designed to fit over the top of your normal eyeglasses and enhance the usable vision by zooming and changing contrast. The glasses feature image stabilization so when you’re zoomed in far, the image in focus doesn’t jump around. The glasses can also be operated with voice commands as well as swipe commands on the side to change the zoom and contrast options.

CES 2016 is still going strong, and there are many more booths to visit, so we will keep you updated on any new technology we come across. Look for a full wrapup in AccessWorld® next week!

Also, check out the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)™ Foundation announcement of an initiative in collaboration with IBM that will research how cognitive computing can provide better information to help transform the lives of the world's growing aging population and persons with disabilities.

Conference Recaps
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