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Sharing Our Progress in Making the Helen Keller Archive a Gold Standard of Accessibility for Other Digital Archives

We were so honored today to present at the Society of American Archivists 2017 Annual Meeting to discuss the Helen Keller Archive digitization project, and our work to create a


The Gift that Keeps Giving: Reviving an Historic Home in Monroe, N.Y. with Strong Ties to Helen Keller

Helen Selsdon here, the archivist at the American Foundation for the Blind. Back in March 2016 I received an email from a gentleman asking me about a house called Rest Haven in upstate New York. I knew about this house and its connection to AFB and I wondered what he wanted to know. Little did I anticipate the wonderful story that was about to unfold. It is my great pleasure to introduce Timothy Mitts, the man behind an incredible campaign to save an historic building that was once owned by AFB’s President M. C. Migel and enjoyed by Helen Keller. Here is Tim’s story: On March 23,


Helen Keller on Trying to Make the World 'A Little More As I Want It'

Image: Helen Keller walks in her garden in Westport, Connecticut, 1950. It is wintertime. Keller is seen smiling, facing the camera. She wears a long coat and woolen hat. She holds a wooden branch railing with her left hand. As the new year approaches, it’s a good time to review the progress that is being made to digitize the Helen Keller Archive. This is a mammoth task, and we are well on our way to accomplishing the work of preserving and disseminating online the over 80,000 items in the collection. We are simultaneously working on another major objective: to


Entertainment Technology Accessibility Status: The Good, the Bad, and the Delayed

Hollywood is waist deep into its annual awards season. There was a time when there would be little reason for blind or visually impaired people to take note of Tinseltown’s award-caliber offerings, as most visual media would have been largely inaccessible. This is less so today, thanks to emerging technologies that bring visual media to life for visually impaired audiences in theaters and at home, as well as to hard-fought legislation that is slowly making these technologies more widely available. Unfortunately, not everyone can fully enjoy Moonlight at the local multiplex or independently cue up a


A Director’s Experience: Creating Employment Opportunities for Individuals Who Are Blind

This blog post is by guest blogger Ben Caro, a film editor, screenwriter, and director on a mission to change the perception of blindness in our society. Ben is directing Cathedrals, a short film starring an actor who is visually impaired. Read about his passion project and mission to advocate for employment opportunities for individuals with vision loss. Cathedrals by Ben Caro I had to look in strange places for the right actor to play the lead role in my passion film, an adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short


Helen Keller: A Love Affair

Image: Helen Keller smelling flowers, circa 1919. This is the fourth in our series of posts celebrating Helen Keller and the wonderful new avenues that are opening up for research about her life and legacy as a result of the Helen Keller Digitization Project. This week’s post is from Christopher Carlson, author, screenwriter and playwright. Enjoy! I’m thrilled by the diligent work being done at American Foundation for the Blind to digitize its prodigious Helen Keller


When You Can't "Catch 'em All": Overcoming Social Isolation As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Image: Left to right, William Reuschel stands with Aaron Preece, looking at an iPhone, while Aaron's guide dog, Joel, appears to look for a Pidgey. It's time to dust off the old Gameboy, find the faded trading cards, and watch cartoons starring Ash Ketchum because Pokémon is making a HUGE comeback. The makers of Pokémon, Nintendo America, in cooperation with Niantic Labs, have introduced a new mobile app game, Pokémon Go. This international craze has taken over the world. It is in the news, on social media, and all over town. But what


"Yours Is a Different Understanding of Architecture": Helen Keller’s House in Easton, Connecticut

Image: Left to right, Helen Keller standing with Polly Thomson at the door to their home in Easton, Connecticut, circa 1955. AFB is thrilled to publish the third in our series of posts focusing on newly digitized items in the Helen Keller Archival Collection. This week’s post is from historian David Serlin, an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California-San Diego. Enormous thanks to David for contributing such a fascinating, thoughtful, and thought-provoking blog post.


Pokémon GO: Let’s Catch ’em All!

By William Reuschel and Aaron Preece Image: Aaron Preece stands with his guide dog Joel and a Pidgey Pokémon. Pokémon mania is sweeping the nation once again! The latest incarnation of the game that has players collecting and battling fictional creatures is called Pokémon GO, but this version is a little different from past games. You cant play GO on your couch. In fact, youll have a hard time playing it indoors at all. Pokémon GO is all about getting players outside and interacting with various points of interest around their towns.


Transcribing Digitized Letters from the Helen Keller Archive: A Transcriber's Account

We are delighted that our next post in this series of posts devoted to the Helen Keller Digitization project is contributed by Susan Pearce, a volunteer transcriber, and a very valued member of our "Captains of Transcription" team. From Susan Pearce, transcriber: This is an unbelievably interesting project. I have been getting to know Helen Keller better. Miss Keller travelled the world and affected so many people's lives. What has been wonderful to transcribe are the handwritten letters from young students in school who thought of her as a heroic person and also had read her books; notwithstanding the many


A Breath of Fresh Air: Helen Keller and the Importance of Playgrounds for Children

Helen Keller was always a vocal supporter for the rights of children. In 1923, she wrote a fundraising letter on behalf of the National Playground and Recreation Association of America. In it she passionately advocated for the need for outdoor spaces where children could run around safely and enjoy themselves. Keller instinctively understood that play is as important to the healthy development of a child as is study indoors. Read her words below they are as applicable today as when she wrote them over ninety years ago. I have been asked to write a letter on behalf of the "National Playground and Recreation Association of


In Memoriam: Patty Duke, Actress and Advocate Who Captured the Spirit of Helen Keller

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of actress and advocate Patty Duke. Ms. Duke immortalized the intelligent and rebellious spirit of the 6-year-old deaf and blind Helen Keller in her performance of William Gibson's play, The Miracle Worker. She starred in both the original Broadway production and went on to win an Academy Award in the 1962 film version with Anne Bancroft playing her teacher Anne Sullivan. Patty Duke was a longtime friend and supporter of AFB. In April 1963, AFB’s Executive Director M. Robert Barnett congratulated her on her Oscar win on behalf


Helen Keller: Transformation and Renewal

As holidays and spring time approach it is a good time to reflect on Helen Keller’s love of nature and its possibilities for transformation and renewal. In September 1940 a year after she and her companion Polly Thomson moved into their new home in Westport, CT Keller wrote to her close friend "Uncle Walter." Here is an excerpt from that letter: This place is already amazingly transformed. Between jobs at the desk Polly and I have worked with our faithful Herbert to make our four acres shady in


"Live each day with gentleness, a vigor, and a keenness of appreciation" Helen Keller

Below is an excerpt from Helen Keller’s essay Three Days to See. Enjoy her beautiful and wise words. ...Sometimes I have thought it would be an excellent rule to live each day as if we should die to-morrow. Such an attitude would emphasize sharply the values of life. We should live each day with gentleness, a vigor, and a keenness of appreciation which are often lost when times stretches before us in the constant panorama of more days and months and years to come… …Now and then I have tested my seeing friends to discover what they see. Recently I was visited by a very good friend who had just returned from a long walk in the


Save the Helen Keller Archives: Day 7

Welcome to this, the seventh day of our 8-day #BeAMiracleworker campaign. We have now raised $22,819, which is fantastic! But we have only one day left to reach our goal of $25,000. Please donate now and be a miracle worker. And don’t forget to follow the campaign’s progress on Facebook. A "Who’s Who" of the 19th and 20th Centuries "Some people are foolish enough to imagine that wealth and power and fame satisfy our hearts: but they never do, unless they are used to create and distribute happiness in the


Save the Helen Keller Archives: Day 5

Welcome to this, our fifth day of our 8-day #BeAMiracleworker campaign. Every dollar we raise will be matched by the National Endowment for the Humanities. For a short time only, your gift of $10 will be worth $20, $25 will bring in $50 – you get the idea! We need to raise the money by this coming Wednesday, September 30th. Donate now and be a miracle worker. And don’t forget to follow the campaign’s progress on Facebook. In the Realm of the Senses "I can tell music from other


Save the Helen Keller Archives: Day 4

Welcome to the fourth day of our 8-day #BeAMiracleworker campaign. Every dollar we raise will be matched by the National Endowment for the Humanities. For a short time only, your gift of $10 will be worth $20, $25 will bring in $50 – you get the idea! But we need to raise this money by next Wednesday, September 30th. Donate now and be a miracle worker. And don’t forget to follow the campaign’s progress on Facebook. A Super Star! "Smile! Laughter makes even subdued personalities sparkle. No one has a


Christine Ha Interview: Visually Impaired Chef, Author, and TV Personality

Christine Ha, Chef and Author Interview 3 with Christine Ha, winner of MasterChef U.S. season 3 on FOX, New York Times best-selling author of Recipes from My Home Kitchen (2013), co-host of "Four Senses, Canada" on AMI, and AFB Helen Keller Achievement Award winner Interview Date: September 11, 2015 AFB CareerConnect: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. AFB and AFB CareerConnect truly value you, your representation as a role model, and the passion and talent that you bring to the world.


Helen Keller: An Artificial Eye

Hello to all those Helen Keller aficionados out there! For this week’s look Inside the Helen Keller Digitization project, I am posting a newly photographed item (left hand image above) it’s the receipt for an artificial eye for Helen Keller. On the right hand side is a photograph of Helen taken at the Perkins School for the Blind, circa 1888. The receipt


Helen Keller and Talking Books: A 'Priceless Boon'

Image: Helen Keller with Robert Irwin, feeling the vibrations from the speaker of a Talking Book playback machine in the library of the American Foundation for the Blind, no date. Welcome back to Inside the Helen Keller Digitization Project. Did you know that the American Foundation for the Blind was instrumental in creating the first Talking Book audio recordings? Mara


Helen Keller in Paris: Tourism, Nostalgia and Memory

Image: Helen Keller holds baguettes and stands next to Polly Thomson, 1952 This week’s blog for Inside the Helen Keller Digitization Project is a wonderful piece by David Serlin, associate professor of communication and science studies at the University of California, San Diego. Enjoy! One of my favorite objects in the


Helen Keller Sees Flowers and Hears Music

Helen Keller was interviewed in her home in Forest Hills, Queens by Hazel Gertrude Kinscella in 1930 for Better Homes and Gardens. The article, entitled "Helen Keller Sees Flowers and Hears Music" is excerpted here; it appeared in their May issue. Read on and enjoy! "...You wish to know what home and garden mean to me,” she said, at once. " "My garden is my greatest joy. I feel that I am in the seventh heaven when among my plants. I feel the little heads pop up to look at me my poppies, pansies, and pinks. We had a fine time in


Helen Keller: A Childhood Memory

Before there was Anne Sullivan Macy, there was Helen Keller’s mother: Kate Adams Keller. This sensitive and intelligent woman fought to find help for her young deaf and blind daughter when her child was an infant. Helen always spoke fondly of her mother’s intelligence and determination and corresponded with her mother continuously once she left Alabama and lived in Massachusetts. On Mother’s Day we honor Kate Keller for her tenacity and love. In Helen Keller’s autobiography, Helen relates an early childhood memory of being with her mother.


"Nature has the power to renew and refresh.." Helen Keller

Helen Keller reveled in nature. Her enjoyment of physical exercise and her love of the outdoors is beautifully captured in an article written 80 years ago this month and published in "The Guardian," a magazine "For Leaders of Camp Fire Girls." Read the transcription below and become inspired to stretch those limbs and enjoy the spring! Introduction: Among our hundreds of thousands of joyous Camp Fire Girls there are some who are blind, some who are deaf and some who are otherwise handicapped. We thought of them especially when we read Helen Keller’s article in Good Housekeeping which she called "Nature’s


"Helen Keller In Her Story" Oscar Winner 1955

Sixty years ago, Helen Keller was given an honorary Oscar as inspiration for the movie Helen Keller in Her Story a documentary by Nancy Hamilton about her life; she turned 75 that year and had spent 6 decades fighting for those with vision loss. Decades earlier, in 1916 she delivered an address on the Midland Chautauqua Circuit in which she said: I, for one, love strength, daring, fortitude. I do not want people to kill the fight in them; I want them to fight for right things. And that she most certainly did! In addition to her work for those with visual impairments, Helen


ESPN's Stuart Scott Brought the Cool to Sports Coverage and Dealt with Vision Loss

As an avid sports fan, and someone who was a bit more than obsessed with sports growing up, the passing of Stuart Scott after a long battle with cancer was extremely sad news. I will admit that I spent more than my share of time in front of the television with ESPN on. I watched college basketball games late into the night and started my day with "Sports Center" and a few sports pages. For me, Stuart Scott was my idea of the coolest sportscaster on television. I can remember


Helen Keller's Love of Reading

Helen Keller was a voracious reader. She describes her love of reading in her second autobiography entitled Midstream, published in 1929. "More than at any other time, when I hold a beloved book in my hand my limitations fall from me, my spirit is free. Books are my compensation for the harms of fate. They give me a world for a lost world, and for mortals who have disappointed me they give me gods. I cannot take space to name here all the books that have enriched my life, but there are a few that I cannot pass over. The one I have read most is


Getting Into the Swim of Things as a Person Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Come on in; the water's fine! AFB continues our summer recreation series with a look at swimming. Swimming can be an excellent activity for people who are blind or visually impaired. Whether you are looking to swim some serious laps, get a great workout, or just cool off on a sweltering day, get the latest on the quintessential summertime activity. Before you head to the beach or the pool, read up on VisionAware's Tips for Swimmers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired. Children or beginning adult swimmers might need to swim


CD Players, Reluctant Technology Learners, and the iPod

Everybody who works with people who are blind or visually impaired knows those reluctant technology adopters, or complete non-technology adopters. When the Pew Research Center says 15% of Americans are not connected, who are these people? They're in my singing group. Since I love technology more than singing, I at first found this puzzling. Technology is a tool to let me do things. I can listen to the songs I want to learn, record lessons and practice sessions, and listen to the key parts over and over. I can go online and hear our past


Helen Keller Letter on Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony Goes Viral

On Saturday March 29, NPRs Scott Simon read an excerpt from a letter that Helen Keller wrote describing her joy at listening to Beethovens Ninth Symphony over the radio. The source of this feature is AFBs 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 Kellers archival collection that AFB seeks


Marcus Roberts on 60 Minutes: Let's Look at Accessible Music Technology

Marcus Roberts was on 60 Minutes last night! Take a look, if you didn't get a chance to see it. He plays piano, he talks about music, and, my favorite part, they talked a little bit (too little to suit me) about the fact that he uses technology. No question, Marcus Roberts' most important piece of technology is the piano. He is first and foremost a talented musician, composer, and entertainer (this is my blog, I'm allowed to have three foremosts). But like any successful blind person, he uses any and all the tools that will get him access to what he needs and wants to do. Marcus, I'd love it if you'd comment here, or e-mail, to tell us about the music technology you use!


Watching "Growing Up Fisher"

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 My Reaction 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


Thoughts on “Anchorman 2,” Its Portrayal of Blindness, and Seeing It with Description

Last weekend, my wife and I went to go see Anchorman 2. We love going to the movies, and I love the experience even more now that we have a local theatre that provides video description (hat-tip to Cinemark. I hope the other theaters in my area follow their example). I was pretty excited, because I loved the first Anchorman. First, a little background: It is an outrageous and inappropriate comedy that is not meant for children. Will Ferrell plays Ron Burgandy, an anchorman who leads a team of newscasters from a San Diego television


Helen Keller Continues to Inspire

Over the past couple of months, we at AFB have received a number of correspondences regarding the announcement and promotion of various Helen Keller-related projects. While we can't always honor every request, we have been impressed with what has crossed our desks. Crazy as it sounds, there are many out there who don't know who Helen Keller was. So to see so many creative projects taking place with Helen as inspiration makes us proudand, we think, would have made Helen herself smile. Here's a brief look at some of our recent favorites. Three Days to See An


An Examination of the Portrayal of People with Disabilities in Popular Media

Warning: this post contains a handful of self-promotion. That said, what do Christine Ha, Erik Weihenmayer, Geri Jewell, and Marlee Matlin all have in common? Well, they are all mentioned in an article I wrote titled "The Media’s Impact on Public Perception of People with Disabilities" for the October 2012 AccessWorld. In the article, I cover some of the major portrayals of persons with disabilities that had an impact on my perception thereof, both good and bad. It's no secret I'm a fan of MasterChef Season 3 winner Christine


MasterChef Cooks Up Positive Portrayal of Blind Cook

I was catching up on some television recently when I caught the season premiere of MasterChef, starring Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot, and Joe Bastianich. My wife said to me, "Wait, I think I just saw a white cane." She rewound the recording and there was definitely a woman using a white cane. "Oh no," I said, "how are they going to portray her on this show?" We continued watching, and they teased it a little bit. They had her as the last person to compete for a spot on the episode. MasterChef features cooks from around the country


Inspiration from a Pop Star: Lady Gaga's 'Born this Way'

I'm not sure how many of you bought Lady Gaga's new album; it just came out a couple weeks ago. Well, I did. A few of the songs offer positive messages, but one in particular stands out. I'm sure you've already heard this song on the radio or seen the video on TV: "Born This Way" (which is also the album's title) has quickly become an anthem for all who are proud of who they are. I think this message needs to be embraced by those with visual impairments (or any disability). Lady Gaga didn't write the song alone, but she definitely delivers it amazingly. Simply put, she represents being who you are. I am not saying that those with a


Review of the new film, Going Blind

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a viewing of the documentary, Going Blind. As a person with low vision and a professional in the field for over 30 years I am always a bit hesitant to get excited about media that deals with issues related to blindness and visual impairment. But I received some promotional material on the movie, and decided to check it out. In Going Blind, director Joseph Lovett chronicles his own experience with glaucoma. As Lovett's glaucoma becomes more severe, he wants to learn how others are coping with vision loss. He meets six other individuals


A Pilgrimage to Helen Keller's Birthplace, Part 1

Guest Blogger Helen Selsdon, AFB Archivist I am an English woman who has lived for over twenty years in New York City. Eight of these years have been spent working as the Archivist at the American Foundation for the Blind, where I have organized the over 80,000 items contained in the Helen Keller Archives. I have come to live and breathe Helen and her teacher Annie Sullivan. A few weeks ago I visited Helen Keller's birth place in Tuscumbia, Alabama. It was easily one of the most memorable trips I have ever taken. Period. This trip was a


Braille Bug I Love You's

It's that one day of the year when everyone's talking about love... and we have a cute, creative way to celebrate here at AFB. If you visit our Braille Bug web site, you can e-mail braille love notes (like the "I love you" above) to your friends and loved ones. The recipient of your note will be taken to a page where they can easily decode your message. We think it's a fun, different way to say I love you. Rumor has it Cupid likes it too.