Submissions for the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition Now Being Accepted by The San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired

For the fourth year, the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco is accepting submissions for the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition.

The Holman Prize is an international competition that is awarded annually to three blind individuals who wish to push limits and change perceptions about blindness around the world. It is named for James Holman, a nineteenth century blind explorer, who was the most prolific traveler of any private traveler before the era of modern transportation. Each winner will receive up to $25,000 to fund an adventure. From teaching blind people to be beekeepers in Uganda, to hosting the first conference in Mexico for blind children and their families led by blind professionals, to creating a travel documentary about navigating public transportation around the globe, the nine winners so far (hailing from five countries on four continents), have each found unique ways to make an impact.

Applications open January 15, 2020 and close February 29, 2020 at 5:00 p.m., Pacific Standard Time. Applications are accepted here.

To see the wide array of possible projects considered for the award in the past, see the 2019 finalists.

Podcast of the American Council of the Blind Webinar, Digital Accessibility for the Holidays, featuring AccessWorld Author J.J. Meddaugh, Now Available for Download

On Dec. 5, the ACB Information Access Committee (IAC) hosted an evening webinar on accessible shopping, technology, and home appliances with special guest J.J. Meddaugh, Author, AccessWorld. ACB Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, Clark Rachfal, and IAC Chair, Tony Stephens, led this discussion on what is naughty and nice in terms of accessibility, highlighted tips and tricks to improve the shopping experience, and shared ways that we can overcome the challenges when smart appliances fail the test on accessible interfaces for customers who are blind and visually impaired. Listen via your favorite podcast player or online To listen to the full webinar, including listener Q&A, visit the ACB Radio Special Events page. You can read the 2019 Holiday Gift Buying Guide here. A transcript of this podcast is available.

David Stupay Named Executive Director of Envision Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind.

Envision announced that it has named David Stupay as executive director of Envision Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind. Stupay joins the organization with a focus on expanding employment, programs and services for people with vision loss in the Dallas area. He will report to Michael Monteferrante, president and CEO of Envision, based in Wichita, Kansas.

“Envision Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind is evolving at a rapid rate, and the addition of David to the team will only strengthen our mission to improve the quality of life and provide inspiration and opportunity for people who are blind or visually impaired through employment, outreach, rehabilitation, education and research,” said Monteferrante. “David’s extensive background leading organizations through strategic expansion will be invaluable moving forward.”

Stupay has amassed a track record for growing and developing new revenue streams, increasing individual giving, launching new programs and improving quality in all aspects of operations. Most recently, he served as president and CEO of Heartspring, a Wichita-based provider of services to children with special needs and their families. Earlier in his career, he was president and CEO of Opportunity Enterprises, a nonprofit organization in Valparaiso, Indiana, serving children and adults with disabilities, and was executive director of Esperanza Community Services in Chicago, an agency that also provided support to children and adults with developmental disabilities.

“I am honored and excited to be stepping into this role,” Stupay said. “By capitalizing on the initiatives that have already been set in motion and aligning our operation with the rest of the Envision family, we will continue to improve the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired.”

Envision announced the addition of Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind to its family in April 2018. The organization has since been taking steps to expand its impact beyond employment to include low vision rehabilitation programs and services to meet an increasing need among the 150,000 individuals with vision loss who live in the 11 North Texas counties it serves.

Most recently, Envision announced a collaboration to establish Envision Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind as the new home of the American Foundation for the Blind Center on Vision Loss and Esther’s Place, a specially designed and fully equipped model apartment that helps individuals who are blind or low vision learn to live more independently. A grand opening is expected in spring 2020.

Envision Accessible Products Hotline Provides Advice on Accessible technology for Home and the Workplace

The Accessible Products Hotline from Envision connects consumers with vision loss with top accessible products for home, office and personal use.

Call 316-252-2500 and a trained professional will assist you with your questions concerning a purchase or operating an accessible product. The hotline is Funded by a grant from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) Foundation, and is operated by the William L. Hudson BVI Workforce Innovation Center. Products supported by the hotline were selected for their strong accessibility features and recommended by previous users who are blind or low vision. New items will continue to be added. Consumers can recommend a product by completing an online form. To learn more about the hotline, visit this page.

Dr. Ying-Zi Xiong is Named Latest Fellow for Postdoctoral Research at Gigi & Carl Allen Envision Research Institute

The latest postdoctoral fellow selected to conduct research at the Gigi & Carl Allen Envision Research Institute (ERI), which is housed at Envision, will focus on improving the quality of life of those experiencing both vision and hearing loss. Dr. Ying-Zi Xiong’s two-year research project will explore new ways to help individuals challenged by dual sensory loss (DSL), a condition that is prevalent among active and retired military personnel as well as a portion of the civilian population. The fellowship is sponsored by ADS, Inc. of Virginia Beach, Virginia, a company that provides military equipment, procurement, logistics and supply chain solutions for federal agencies and protective services.

“We are excited to have Dr. Xiong join us as our newest research fellow,” said Ronald Schuchard, Ph.D. FARVO, executive director of the ERI. “Her investigation of localization stands to improve how people with vision and hearing loss manage a wide range of everyday tasks, such as safely confronting approaching vehicles as well as improvements in social environments, identifying people in the public environment and locating the speaker in a group conversation. Difficulties with these tasks can hinder independence, hold people back from activities and induce isolation and mental health problems. We look forward to the new attention her findings will bring to the vastly overlooked challenges facing people with DSL.”

Dr. Xiong completed her postdoctoral work at the Minnesota Laboratory for Low-Vision Research at the University of Minnesota, which is under the direction of Gordon E. Legge, Ph.D, and is one of the premier low vision research programs in the United States. She has authored articles about tactile acuity in pianists and reading acuity as a predictor of low vision reading performance. Dr. Xiong’s project “Fonts Designed for Macular Degeneration: Impact on Reading” earned her the 2018 Envision-Atwell Award for research in low vision and low vision rehabilitation.

At the ERI, Dr. Xiong will focus on: Developing outcome measures that can be used by clinicians and therapists to predict real-life object localization performance; conducting real-life object localization tests to evaluate the combination of audiovisual factors in people with DSL; and investigating sound-light combinations to localize objects in public space to increase the accessibility of the environment. Dr. Legge, Dr. Peggy Nelson, executive director of the Center for Applied and Translational Sensory Science and former chair of the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences at the University of Minnesota, and Dr. Donald Fletcher, medical director at the Envision Vision Rehabilitation Center, will serve as her mentors.

Established in 2013, the ERI attracts postdoctoral researchers from around the world and has established Envision as a hub of vision rehabilitation research. It was created to raise the standard for vision rehabilitation patient care and remove barriers by investigating the functional implications of vision loss, access to interventions, optimizing rehabilitation therapies and developing accessibility technology. Postdoctoral fellowships at the ERI provide an educational and research environment where appointees identify solutions to improve the quality of life for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Dr. Xiong joins Jing Xu, Ph.D., sponsored by Bosma Industries, as part of the fifth class of fellows to conduct studies at the ERI. Dr. Xu is studying ways to help adults with vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration continue to drive safely. Other classes of fellows include:

  • Susanne Klauke, Ph.D., fourth class of fellows, in her second year. Sponsored by Pitt Plastics in Pittsburg, Kan., she is investigating “Developing Rehabilitation for Interactions between Visual Impairment, Voice Recognition, Social Impairment and Depression.”
  • Marco Tarantino, J.D., fourth class of fellows, in his second year. Sponsored by National Industries for the Blind in Alexandria, Va., he is studying “Experiences of Blind and Low Vision Individuals at Different Stages of the Employment Cycle as These Relate to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 Regulations Implemented in 2014.”
  • Güler Arsal, Ph.D., third class of fellows, in her second year. Sponsored by ibMilwaukee in West Allis, Wisc., she is exploring “Navigation and Wayfinding Expertise of People Who are Blind or Visually Impaired.”

Additional details about the ERI and its postdoctoral fellowship program can be found online

Phil Raistrick, Visionary Founder of En-Vision America, Passes Away

It’s with great sadness that En-Vision America announces the passing of their beloved company founder Phil Raistrick. He sadly and suddenly passed on November 20, 2019. Phil was a giant of a man and a visionary who was dedicated to providing those with vision impairment greater independence through technology.

The company began in Phil’s basement. Phil and his two visually impaired brothers loved playing poker. While one knew Braille, the other did not. That spark fed the flame that would become En-Vision America.

The i.d. mate, a talking barcode scanner, was born in 1996. Phil worked closely on developing the program that would evolve to the bar code scanner that we know and love today. It is a tool that allows individuals with a vision impairment to barcode items and use the reader to identify these objects. In addition to allowing his brothers to better play poker, now they could identify millions of items that can be found in grocery stores today.

Not long after the barcode scanner, Phil worked on the problem of medication safety with the introduction of ScripTalk, a talking prescription reader. This system has expanded into tens of thousands of pharmacies throughout the nation and Canada and has evolved to include large print labels, Braille labels, dual-language labels and Controlled Substance Safety Labels.

“With all his heart, Phil loved this company and what we stand for,” says David Raistrick, En-Vision America’s Vice President. “We stood shoulder-to-shoulder with him to make a difference in the lives of others. It is because of him that we will carry on helping so many people around this world.”

“Best of Innovation” Hands-On Coding System to Make CES Debut

Code Jumper allows children who are blind to learn computer coding alongside peers.

Computer coding can start you on a meaningful career path, but only if you have the access to learn it. Other tools that teach students are visually based using drag and drop. This doesn’t work for children who are blind or visually impaired.

With Code Jumper students connect small pods, building strands of code. It takes block coding off the screen and puts it on the table in front of them. They can change sounds to create stories, songs, and jokes. The pods functions are indicated by a unique color and differently shaped knobs so that students can easily identify each pod by sight or touch. Students not only learn basic programming concepts, such as sequencing, iteration, selection, and variables, but also learn skills like computational thinking and debugging, which can serve them in all areas of life.

Code Jumper, originally designed by Microsoft, was developed by American Printing House for the Blind (APH).

“Every child should have equal access to the important jobs being created in the technology field. Code Jumper gives them that access and opens a path to a meaningful career,” explains APH CEO, Craig Meador.

The Consumer Technology Association awarded Code Jumper and American Printing House (APH) with a highly coveted Best of Innovation Award during last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The award acknowledges the importance of creating technology that is inclusive and creates a future that belongs to everyone.

January 2020 Table of Contents

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