We have a special edition episode of Inform & Connect featuring the American Foundation for the Blind’s Director of Research, Dr. L. Penny Rosenblum.

Dr. Rosenblum will be discussing the Flatten Inaccessibility research report, the culmination of survey findings from 1,921 U.S. participants who are blind (65%) or have low vision (35%). The survey investigated the experiences of these participants during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to determine how they were affected in areas including access to transportation, healthcare, access to food and supplies, employment, education, and voting.


Melody Goodspeed: We may go over a little bit today. I hope that’s ok. We have such an incredible amount of material to cover and we're really excited to be sharing all this with you. But we also want to really let you know what AFB’s been up to because we really did feel we really took the lead. Well, Dr. Penny Rosenblum and her team definitely took the lead on… Really critical areas that had to do with COVID-19. So, Penny, thank you. Dr. Rosenblum, thank you so much who is my co-worker for joining us today.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: Well, I'm excited to be here. Thanks, Melody for having me and nice to meet everybody in the Inform & Connect Group. So thanks.

Melody Goodspeed: Oh, yes thank you so much. So I want to get started, Penny really as you said AFB really took the lead on this and really had a strong collaboration on these two surveys that covered multiple areas for when dealing with blindness in any degree and low vision and deaf and other disabilities through COVID-19 and then took us into education. So can you get us started on how the collaboration, that led to all of this took place first? We'll start there.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: Sure. So if you think back to March when you were trying to decide should I have dinner with those friends? Can I take that trip? And then we got into April and it's where do I get toilet paper? We were in a really chaotic time. And Troy Otillio who's the CEO of Aira recognized that people were calling into Aira which is a Visual Interpreting Service for different things than they were in February. They were getting on a bus and saying, "Can you tell me where I can sit six feet apart from somebody?" Many of us we were moving to working at home and we’re past that now all of a sudden you're not in your regular office and something was inaccessible to you. People were calling Aira to ask those kinds of questions.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: So Troy Otillio approached Kirk Adams, who is our CEO here at AFB and said, "Hey, let's do just a little tiny survey together." Well, that little tiny survey became a huge undertaking called Flatten Inaccessibility and between April 3rd and April 13th the survey was open. If you're on this call and you were part of that group, thank you so much for being one of the 1,921 people in the US with visual impairments who completed the survey. And we looked at a lot of different areas healthcare, transportation, social, education, access to meals, food and supplies, employment and voting. Important one coming up here, isn't it?

Melody Goodspeed: Yes.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: As soon as that survey came out in April, early April, Dr. Tina Hertzberg at the University of South Carolina Upstate who is a dear colleague of mine contacted me and she said, "I have been thinking we need to do something to learn about how COVID-19 is impacting our children with visual impairments, with teachers of students with visual impairments, or what we call the TVIs, and the orientation and mobility or O&M specialists." And so we turned around and we got that survey together and released it on April 22nd. It was open to May 13th and from that survey, we have data on 455 children from their family members and 1,028 professionals. So these two surveys are really large sample sizes for the field of visual impairment.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: And the reason there's such large sample sizes besides the importance of the topics, are because for the Flatten Inaccessibility Study there were 16 organizations including AFB and companies that collaborated in getting the word out about those. I'm not going to name them all you can go to our website www.afb.org/flatteninaccessibility that's all one word. And you can see the 16 organizations but these are going to be what you know. Aira, Be My Eyes, Humanware, Vispero, ACB, NFB, AER, VisionServe Alliance and more. So 16 organizations for Flatten and with Access & Engagement we had 20 including AFB many of the same ones. But we added in some of our children ones, from schools for the blind, Texas School for the Blind, Seedlings Braille Books, National Braille Press. So big collaborative efforts that really are giving us a lot of information, Melody.

Melody Goodspeed: That is amazing and I love the collaboration in that, that's so very critical and important and what I really want to highlight here with the Flatten Inaccessibility is the data that you got. And today everybody we're going to… There's so many ways we can go with this, but we really wanted to focus on the social aspect. So what we mean by that is just how this has this really affected the heart of our community. And Penny and I were talking earlier today and she was sharing some of the feedback with the research that they did. They've not only finished this out, getting the data, but really taking a look at the people and giving them the ability to have their voices heard.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: Absolutely.

Melody Goodspeed: Yes, and so it's really… We had and showing there's definitely a degree of very resilient voices and also people with these fears and so we wanted to take the time to share a little of that with you from each survey.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: Okay, so let's start out and we're primarily going to focus on the adult survey. So remember I said there was 1,921 people. They got to choose which topics they wanted to answer based on how COVID-19 was impacting their life and remember this is back in early April. So 1,025 people or 56% of the people taking the survey had concerns that related to their social experiences. And so they chose to answer that section of the survey. Just for your own knowledge the two sections that the most people answered were transportation and healthcare. So if you have a visual impairment, you think to yourself about how COVID-19 has impacted you in areas those may come up first.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: And actually, Melody I want to mention to your listeners talking about transportation and healthcare that on October 23rd we're going to have the first of our three town halls here at AFB where we're going to not present a lot of data from the report, but instead take your questions and have it interactive. And the topics for the October 23rd 2:00 PM town hall are healthcare, transportation and voting. Notice where we put voting folks. Town hall on October 29th at 2:00 PM Eastern where we're going to talk about employment and technology because technology really cut across all our areas. And finally, on November 10th at 2:00 PM Eastern we're going to have a town hall where we're going to talk about education across the lifespan. This is not just about education for children, but folks who are learning orientation and mobility skills, or were just about ready to go off and get their dog guide have been impacted by COVID.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: So you can go to the AFB website www.afb.org/townhalls to sign up for those Town halls and to share your questions and comments that you want to address. But that wasn't really what you want that's just my commercial.

Melody Goodspeed: You beat me to the punch. I was going to be like, "What we're doing next?" But we'll do it again.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: …We can do that at the end. But let's get back to the 1,025 people and what they had to share about social. So social challenges for many of us, I have low vision myself, Melody. For many of us social situations can be a little challenging.

Melody Goodspeed: Yes, on their own without COVID yes.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: Well, here now we have the opposite. We're not in a room with people. We are socially distancing, we are staying home in quarantine, we are staying home at stay at home orders from our governor. So we had a different set of issues that came up for a lot of people and what's challenging when you have a visual impairment oftentimes you have other disabilities. Actually 43% of the people in our study and I'm going to just sneak a peek here at my phone so just excuse me, but 43% or 796 of the 1,921 people reported they had an additional disability and those top three disabilities were diabetes, deaf or hard of hearing, and then the third one was significant psychiatric disorders.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: So 158 people of that 796 or 20% of people who said, "I have an additional disability." had a psychiatric disorder, depression, anxiety. So when you put an additional disability coupled with visual impairment and COVID, boy that can be challenging. I want to share a quote with you from somebody who's deaf blind. "Deaf blindness is isolation enough without face to face tactile communication. I might as well be in solitary confinement." And this person was a white female aged 45 to 54 years old. So this woman's experience of that additional disability coupled with her visual impairment really caused isolation and I think a lot of people are still experiencing that seven months later.

Melody Goodspeed: Yes, I agree with you. I've seen it, we still see it today. So most definitely and I love how you're bringing up this point of the social aspect is. There's so many times when we pull out these numbers of research that they can think, "Okay, well, what does that mean?" And then the areas that I love how you and your team are leading in breaking it down to what those percentages look like. What it is we're actually hearing, what it is we're seeing identifying a whole bunch of different sets of issues and how we're going to be coping with them.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: Very much so.

Melody Goodspeed: Yes. And I would love one of the quotes that we were talking about earlier to talk about a little bit of resilience too because we're all facing those challenges. With that study when we're finding when you talk about other disabilities that are incorporated, how did any of the people in the survey talk about how they would cope with those situations with having multiple disabilities?

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: Well, it's a couple things that I think are important, one is attitude and so let me read you a quote from somebody 65 to 74 years of age again, another white female. "I've had mental health issues in the past which I attribute to my visual impairment that I've had since birth, specifically anxiety and clinical depression. I've been successfully treated and feel that I am very stable at this point. I have to adopt a failure is not an option mindset." And I think this individual really helps us recognize that we each have choices when we wake up in the morning. We have a choice on how we're going to approach that day. And part of it, whether you have a visual impairment or you don't have a visual impairment, is that mindset that you take, that internal social talking is such an important piece of how you deal with any type of stressor trap.

Melody Goodspeed: Yes, it is. And that we do have the choices and we talk about actually, that's a very common theme that comes up in our podcasts is mindset, making your own destiny, creating your own happiness, and the perseverance so you do have the choices to make and then making that choice coming to a place of creativity and even of acceptance of the situation which we're all dealt with the COVID puts us on some even flat playing ground in a sense.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: Yeah, and I think another piece and I think listeners can definitely identify with this is that support network. Some of us have a large network pre-COVID friends, families, co-workers. Others of us have very limited networks and so one person shared this is another female. We have a lot of those 77% of our population of the survey were females so not surprising here, but a female 55 to 64 years of age said, "I'm lucky that I have a strong family support system. While I do have anxiety and mild depression, I'm able to lean on family and God's love to help me get through this." So that ability to be able to reach out to others if you're a person of faith to turn to your faith is important.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: On the flip side to that Melody, I do want to share and something I hadn't thought a whole lot about. I'm in Arizona, you and other AFB staff joining me today are on the East Coast. We're here in Zoom and with our listeners as well so we're connecting virtually. We had some participants in the Flatten Inaccessibility Study who talked about yes, I'm getting on Zoom meetings with my church group, with my family, with my musical choir group and other people are able to see each other, see those smiles, see what somebody is holding up or look at the thing I got in the mail or here comes the grandchild and how even though they were voice-wise connected through a tool such as Zoom or Google Meet or FaceTime. They weren't getting the same level of comfort or support from those interactions as the folks who were able to see who was on the screen.

Melody Goodspeed: Penny I'm so glad that you brought that up because me being a totally blind person I experienced that even now as we're on this Zoom call and connecting with everyone through Inform & Connect is really incredible. And the notes that I get afterwards from our listeners really just keep my heart full, but it's the same and I never as a person who is totally blind have found that sometimes people fall in the opposite situation which we talked about earlier, is you do have other challenges. Okay, how do I navigate this social scene? How do I navigate networking or whatever a party? Wherever you're at, right? But you don't realize how being around people and their energy and even if you can't physically see them how you do see them in a way and it does feel a bit isolating. So I just thought that was a really… I wanted to validate your point. It's not easy. I think people think, "Oh, well, they can just talk on the phone." And it's not.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: It's not the same. I keep sharing quotes, but I think rather than hearing my voice it's so important that we hear the voices of the 1,921 participants and we have over 50 quotes in the report. My gosh we found a multiracial female who's aged 35 to 44 with additional disabilities and this person talked about the importance of physical touch which is another piece of the puzzle. "I need physical touch to connect with people. I need handshakes and hugs that Sunday always brought from going to church. I was waiting on a counselor to be available to get me through a crime I experienced before COVID-19. Now we are supposed to stay at home and keep at least six feet from others. I've been alone with my own thoughts since mid-February. Depression has set in, my PTSD hasn't been put back in check from the crime and neither has anxiety. I'm just a wreck."

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: I think this was one of the most powerful quotes for our team. Our team was comprised of myself and six other individuals and as we were analyzing the data, and we specifically left out the crime that this individual experienced, but it was a violent crime. We cried not just from this quote but from many of the other quotes. It was very, very moving to read the comments that people wrote. Some people wrote a book because we were giving them an opportunity to share their concerns again, whether it was around healthcare, or transportation, or social, or technology use. They all really they're tied together because none of us just lives in our social world, or our healthcare world, or our transportation world. All parts of our world are intertwined. And that came through so loud and clear both with the positives and unfortunately, many negatives. Now, again, COVID has been a very stressful negative time. This was very early in the pandemic. I think many of us hopefully have adopted some strategies, but I really truly worry about people who don't have a strong social network and how isolated they must be feeling seven months into this.

Melody Goodspeed: I can say I agree and I'm really happy that we're taking that initiative to have those town halls and to keep this conversation going.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: Absolutely, and it really brings up a good point. Do you want me to talk about the blog post now Melody or did you want to wait till the end?

Melody Goodspeed: No. Let's go ahead and talk about [crosstalk]

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: Let's talk about the blog post [crosstalk]

Melody Goodspeed: Let's talk about the blog post and then we will move to education.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: Okay. The blog post so I'm going to do my best to remember, but the day that the Flatten Inaccessibility Report which I do want to say is on the website afb.org/flatteninaccessibility and I want to point out two things about this report. One it is available as a fully accessible PDF so you will get everything as a screen reader user that is on that page. And I really want to thank our Community Engagement Team because that was not an easy feat. But we also have it up as a webpage and there's different sections so you can go to the transportation section or the social section. So you as somebody who is using this report beyond your own reading have some flexibility in how to use it. You're saying, “Well, Penny, I'm a visually impaired person. I took part in the survey or I just came today to Inform & Connect. What do you mean I'm going to use this survey?"

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: So when we released the survey I did a blind copy email to the participants who had left their email address when they took the survey to notify them that the report was out. And very shortly after an email went out, a participant emailed me and said, "Well, this is really great, but what are you going to do about it, by you they meant AFB." And that was my interpretation and I don't mean any disrespect to this person. I thank this person profusely. And I looked at the email and I thought to myself, "What do you mean what am I going to do about it? Well, participant what are you going to do about it?" And so, I sat down to write the participant an email and very quickly realized this made a great blog post because we each as people with visual impairments, as people who are invested in the lives of those with visual impairments if we happen to be sighted and we're not visually impaired, as a member of a consumer organization, or somebody who uses a product from a company that's not accessible. We all have a responsibility.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: So in that blog post which is on the Flatten Inaccessibility website there's a link. We talk about things you can do. So one of the first things you can do is write a letter to your newspaper tell them about something specific in your community that is challenging for you as a person with a visual impairment due to COVID-19 and then point them to that section of the report. You can get with an organization in your community. Go offer to give a talk to The Lions Club, The Rotary Club, The Better Business Bureau. They might be doing it via Zoom, but that's okay you can do it and share with them about the report and again, what's important in that report to you. Are you concerned that you can't get to a drive-thru COVID-19 test site, that's likely because, guess what you don't drive.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: Another suggestion we have is to reach out to your government officials whether that's at the county level, the city level, the state level, the federal level and again, don't just say, "Hey, here's a report." But what's meaningful in this report to me that I want you to be aware of so that I can influence the legislative decisions that you make. Another thing is many, many, many of our participants talked about technology challenges whether it was platforms like Zoom, whether it was apps like Instacart, or Walmart, whether it was telehealth apps. So if you have a specific issue with one of those tools, again, contact that company, contact them and not just say, "Hey, your tool really stinks, I can't use it." But, "Hey, these are the challenges for me as a screen reader user specifically with your tool. I'm not the only one experiencing this. Let me point you to the technology section of this report."

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: And in each of the sections in the report Melody, we give recommendations to assist people in making change. So, we don't want to just say, "Hey, this stinks for people with visual impairments that we can't get to COVID-19 test sites." We make recommendations about government officials need to have a plan in place for those who don't drive and it might not be because of a visual impairment. And there might be another emergency disaster so how are people going to get services? So those recommendations in the report are really important.

Melody Goodspeed: I'm so glad you brought that up and just to dovetail what she said this… In making those choices is saying to yourself. I love how you pointed it out, pick out what is yours because everybody needs their why story. If we go in with a generic, " Oh, well, this is bothersome." But what is it that really burns at your heart and you want to see change because that's how we're going to do it and there is a silver lining here. People are listening and if you can offer a solution and what Penny just said that it may be that you can't, but it could be other people not just the fact that you can't drive, but it would be to broaden their scope of thinking, "Geez, how could we get more testing accessible? How could we get this transportation more accessible?"

Melody Goodspeed: Just whatever our website, "Wow, we convert… We're serving an under, what do we do here?" And I believe we all have that voice and sometimes when we're stuck, but vision impaired or not we think we're stuck, but we're not. So thank you for sharing it that way that perspective. And Penny I just… Before we move into the education piece I love how you and your team are so passionate getting this data and then turning it around and using it as a tool. And I think that speaks volumes to that and the collaboration that's been done to get this done. So I just wanted to applaud that before we move into the education piece.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: Sure. Well, thank you and absolutely, this is a huge village. Like I said, there are seven folks who authored the report, but there are many, many volunteers and AFB staff and other organizations that tweeted and blogged, and emailed about the study and now the report so it really does take a village.

Melody Goodspeed: Yes. And the volunteers that took the time to really detail the survey that gave us an added lift for our own voices. We now have… You've spelled it out all these different people from different walks of life have given you the time and talk. And if you are listening right now and you were, we thank you so much for participating and you’re all a y part of the AFB family. So we're just really blessed and honored to be here with you here today talking about this. So when you looked at the education piece, Penny, what did you guys find?

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: Okay, so we looked at education in Flatten Inaccessibility, we had two education sections and not a lot of people answered either one of these and partly that's because 25% of our people were retired. A lot of our people were working about 30% and so we had a small group who themselves were taking part in education whether that was community college, vocational, or whether that was vision specific, for example . Obviously, for most of those people who just stopped the training that they were in or your dog guide class was canceled. The people who were attending education online in some virtual format, some of those folks really struggled. Think for a moment, for example, let's say I'm taking a chemistry class. So, I'm in the chemistry lab I'd have a partner typically and so we get to a part of an experiment that's visual so maybe that's the part my partner does and for that part I take the notes.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: But now all of a sudden my chemistry professor has posted a video online of my professor doing an experiment, or somebody else doing the experiment. I'm supposed to watch the video and draw my conclusions. So things changed really quickly and so some people had to drop out of classes Melody, which is a real shame. And some people were concerned they wouldn't graduate. And so that was a big issue for a small group of people in education. We also looked at K-12 education through the lens of the adults taking the survey and many family members who took that part of the survey again, just a couple hundred reported that the tools that their child was using for education were not accessible to them. So one parent talked about, "I have a young child." I want to say it was a first-grade child, and I truly can't remember but, "I have a first-grade child who's sighted and I'm a blind parent and everything is a picture. They sent him a packet and I go scan that all I'm getting is images. So how can I help my child with this?"

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: So that was an issue for our parents. But really the bulk of our data on education comes from the Access & Engagement survey so of course, there's a website for that www.afb/accessengagement. And right now, today, on October 14th I'm reporting Melody, we have the executive summary up there so it gives you a good sneak peek of what's coming in the report and also has some recommendations that are key recommendations. That full report getting all our pieces together falls together on my Community Engagement Team colleagues so I drive them nuts. When that report comes together it will be up by the end of the month. And again, that will be a fully accessible PDF and the web pages that will be divided by topic areas which are early intervention, preschool, school-aged children which includes children through transition because many of our special ed children stay in school to their approximately 21 years of age. And then we have a professional section and then we have specifically skills that teachers of visually impaired students are teaching and O&M instructors are teaching.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: And what we learned about education is it was a real smorgasbord back there in April and May and some of our students were not getting education. Some of our students were not getting accessible education and Melody, the one statistic that really jumps out at me over and over again from that report. Sob we asked the teachers of students with visual impairments of which there were about 890 I believe, don't swear me to that number could be 880. But we asked those teachers, "Do you have at least one student engaged in online education?" And of that group who said yes, 85%, 85% that said they had at least one student who was having accessibility issues with class content. Now, how can a child participate in a class, a geometry class, a fourth grade English language arts block class, a 10th grade art class, a kindergarten class. I have a friend whose little sighted grandson is struggling with kindergarten and he's sighted. How can a child participate in anyt type of learning if the material isn't accessible? And that's a real concern.

Melody Goodspeed: Yes, I agree. You're not giving the equal access to education to all students and I know there was one quote that you read me earlier that I really from the child perspective that was one that got to me too.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: Well, that was a parent I believe who talked about the… We had two parents’ quotes I pulled. I didn't pull a lot of quotes, but, "My students are missing their time at school saying that they are allowed to be more independent in school. They are bored at home and needing more guidance from me and other teachers as to the kinds of things to do. I am trying to stay in contact with my team so we are getting some social interaction while still planning for our students." These teachers of visually impaired students and orientation mobility specialists have a huge, and still continue to have a huge, plate especially when we're talking about meeting the needs of children who have additional disabilities and/or are deafblind.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: And these are children who really need hands on instruction our braille learners who need to have braille under their fingertips and how do you produce braille for a child when you have one day notice literally to get out of the building and you didn't take your Bbaille embosser with you or your tools? And even if you did get to take that braille embosser, how do you get Bbaille to all these children across the district? Really challenging especially when our families don't all have the technology that we assume they do have. The is a really huge digital divide and it really is becoming evident going in the next school year.

Melody Goodspeed: Yes, and I agree and I'm going to ask the question that you wanted me to make sure that I asked you before.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: We're giving out secrets here, Melody. They're not supposed to know that.

Melody Goodspeed: Well, I want to make sure that you all know that we really took the time to be able to put this together and frame it nicely. But do you feel that with the sampling of this survey when it comes to children accessibility that the sampling represents children with visual impairments in the United States as well?

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: No, it doesn't, which is why I asked Melody to put that question in specifically. So our sample is actually United States and Canada. So we had 113 participants of the 1,432 who were from Canada. So I want to make sure we get our northern friends in there as well, but whether we're talking Canada or we're talking the United States including Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia which is all 50 States District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and six Canadian provinces. By and large, the individuals who completed the survey were white, female, and had technology. And this is a real concern for us as researchers. So our team, and this team is comprised of 10 individuals representing eight organizations and universities. Nine out of 10 of us are in for round two and round two is actually going to be released at the end of the month. So we're going to do Access & Engagement 2.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: We know that some of the issues that were facing children, families, and professionals in April and May of 2020 are facing them in October and November of 2020. We know that some things have improved, but we know that many things have not. We know that there are successes out there, but we know that there are a lot of challenges out there. And so our goal with the Access & Engagement 2 is to capture what's going on due to COVID-19. And this is where, Melody, I'm really hoping your listeners and others throughout the two countries will help us. If every person reaches out to one individual who may not have easy access to the internet, may not have access at all, may not have a device or may have access, but it's so overwhelmed with childcare and working and other things that if we each reached out to one person and offer to be a support, so that might be, "Hey, call me up when it's convenient and I'll fill out the survey I'll read it out to you and I'll fill out the survey for you online."

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: It might be, "Hey, I know you've got so much on your plate. How about if I bring dinner over for your family on Thursday night and I'll play with the kids in the backyard and feed them while you stay inside and complete the survey because it's so important." But we each need to reach out and offer to support those families who may not normally get a blog post or tweet, or email and say, "I'm going to make the half an hour to 40 minutes to sit down and do the survey." But we need to make them understand that their voice is so, so important to all of us.

Melody Goodspeed: And I'm so glad that you brought that up because I love the fact that we can talk about this, but then also point out where we still see the pockets that are not being reached and again, saying this is how we can help and lend that hand to do that and thank you so much. And I want to take this opportunity to say thank you for sharing all this with us. We're going to move into the question and answer portion so that we can hear from our audience. So I'm sure there's some more questions I would really love to hear your comments, but thank you so much Penny, for you and all your team and to everyone who's participated. And I know that I have my to-do items. So thank you so much. Not just today as the employee, but I'm also a visually impaired person and it's our duty to do this.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: Absolutely. Thanks, Melody. I'm anxious for the first question so Suzan, do we have one?

Suzan Henderson: We do and it's from Liz. Liz says for Flatten Inaccessibility, do you also hear from people with multiple disabilities or additional health conditions?

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: Yes. So we did, 43% of the people who completed the survey reported they had additional disabilities. I gave a couple of examples, but let me give another one that really stuck with me and this was from in the healthcare area. So we talked about how do you get to the COVID testing, but then what if you are hospitalized or you need healthcare and you have a visual impairment? Often you bring somebody with you to the hospital who can be an advocate for you, who can be a visual interpreter for you. So this is what one person said, "It would be terrifying for me to be hospitalized alone especially because I know people don't value my life because they think my quality of life is less than theirs. Without someone to assist me and advocate for me. I feel like I was fighting the virus and a system that doesn't want me."

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: We heard especially from our folks with additional disabilities that they were pre-COVID already feeling like their life wasn't valued, that they didn't have equal footing so to speak as those who are fully abled and which is not one of my favorite expressions, but people who are not with a disability. And COVID-19 especially in that beginning when we had all these news stories about what if hospitals ran out of beds and how to make a decision and so we did hear that, so thanks for that question Liz. Do we have any more Suzan?

Suzan Henderson: We do. We have one from John. He says, "Regarding Access & Engagement, how have things changed from the spring to the fall for students who are blind or low vision?"

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: Now, I can tell you a lot of incidentals John, because I follow several Facebook groups of professionals who work with visually impaired children, but we don't really know for sure. We sure don't know across the country and in Canada and that's why it's so important that we're going to embark on this Access & Engagement 2 survey at the end of October. And that survey is going to be open for probably three and a half weeks and we really, really again, are asking all of you to help get the word out to families and support any families who may need a little bit of encouragement or access to a device to be able to do that survey. So we'll have a much better idea for you after the first of the year, but incidentally, I can tell you things are not going well for a lot of our kids.

Suzan Henderson: We have a comment from John. Melody, do we have time?

Melody Goodspeed: Yes.

Suzan Henderson: Sorry this is from Lee. Do we have time? Okay. This is a bit lengthy so I'm going to read this to you, Penny. "COVID should be a wake-up call to people who are blind or visually impaired. Too many allow themselves to become dependent on others to do things for them, placing themselves in a very vulnerable position. It would be great for this fantastic survey to be a catalyst to encourage blindness organizations and professionals to work to create a mindset shift toward independence for people who are blind. Hopefully this could be a start to getting technology and resources in place for themselves to be able to better face all the future could bring."

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: Thank you to the individual with that quote and I didn't quote one of my favorite quotes from a Flatten study participant so I'll paraphrase it, but it's actually right at the beginning of the report. They're all blending together, but we have one of our participants who basically said the same thing that, "Let's use COVID-19 to create a new normal and let's make lemonade from lemons." This has been a very challenging time with over 210,000 deaths in our country. We're all feeling vulnerable whether we have a disability or not and it's really easy for us to just think it's somebody else's problem. But if we all come together, and here we had 16 organizations involved and with companies.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: With 20 again, some of them are the same with Access & Engagement. That's a lot of folks who really can pull together to really effect change at the policy level, at the company level, education level. So absolutely please use this report and the Access & Engagement report that'll be out in a few weeks and don't just read and shove on a shelf. What can you do with it at your own personal level? Thank you.

Suzan Henderson: Very well said Penny. Melody, we don't have any other questions. If anyone else has a question you can send those to us and I'm sure Penny would be happy to answer them.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: Of course.

Melody Goodspeed: And you can definitely send them through me at mgoodspeed@afb.org or you can send it to Penny. Penny, did you want to share information of where they can find you.

Dr. Penny Rosenblum: Sure. So my email address is prosenblum@afb.org and so that's prosenblum@afb.org.

Melody Goodspeed: And everybody Penny has done a great job. If you want to learn more about what we're doing with the Flatten Inaccessibility, where we're going, attend the town halls. Check out the blog post, do everything that we can because together we can create a life with no limits for ourselves and for everyone as we're better together as we unite. Thank you so much for being here with us today. We've covered a lot of ground here with one aspect of this, but it's such an important aspect. And Penny, thank you so much for what you and your team have done you’ve just really been awesome. So thank you guys, have a great rest of your week. And again, we're looking forward to seeing you next week. Take care, everyone.