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2021 Change Makers Transcripts

Episodes 21 to 43

  • Jack Fox: 0:00

    Welcome to Changemakers a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host.

    Sara Brown: 0:15

    Hello, and welcome to Change Makers I’m APH’s Public Relations Manager, Sara Brown and today we are looking towards the future…2022. We’re going to chat with some APH public figures and some committee members to find out what they want to see for 2022. Up first, we have APH’s President Dr. Craig Meador. Hello, Craig, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Craig Meador: 0:40

    Thank you, Sara. Good to be here.

    Sara Brown: 0:43

    So this podcast is looking towards the future. Tell me, what do you wanna see for APH overall in 2022?

    Craig Meador: 0:51

    You know, it , this that’s kind of a loaded question. I’m excited about 2022, just because , uh, 2021 turned out to be better than 2020. And 2021 didn’t quite fully deliver on its promises in some way. And so I’m hoping 2022 will , we’ll be able to get back to what I consider more of our normal routine. Um, and , uh, so that, that’s my biggest hope for 2022 .

    Sara Brown: 1:20

    There’s a lot of conferences on the planner for 2022 . And they’re finally starting to resume in person. Can you talk about what’s on the map for next year?

    Craig Meador: 1:32

    Oh yes. So , um, man, I’m so anxious. I’m so glad we , I think all of us who, whose part of our life is to try travel and , uh , uh , be out in public and connecting with people. We see that on the horizon and that is coming up January and , and , uh, so we are excited about that. That kicks off conference season and, and , uh , conference season, basically there’s like three, three seasons, the conference seasons. But we kick off this year with the Consumer Electronics Show. This is something that APH has had a presence at , uh , going on, I think four years now, we’ve been at four Consumer Electronic Shows and, we do that for a couple reasons. One is we really want to be out there in the mainstream telling the story about accessibility and accessibility and technology and what needs to happen and what could happen and the conversations we have, not only with people from the education field who per chance understand , um, access technology, but also from large , large corporations who have, are just beginning to understand or, or realize that this is an issue. We have found a lot of , uh , what I call “partners in waiting” at CES . So these are people who are just young, usually a lot of young minds who through a university have decided they wanna solve a world issue and they’ve taken on blindness or visual impairment as their focus and they have great ideas. Um , and they are just really gifted developers. Following right on the heels of CES. You have the Council for Exceptional Children, CEC, which is happening in Orlando, which is probably one of the largest gatherings in the world of all educators who work with students with additional needs. So that is , uh , everything from , uh , autism to vision, to mobility issues, to cognitive issues, to deaf hard of hearing. Uh, it is a grand gathering every year and this year it’s in Orlando. And then following the week after that is , uh , ATIA, and we usually have a presence there. We have a number of staff that will be presenting. We have our booth there, and that is also in Orlando, Florida. So January is the month of Vegas in Florida. In February we get a reprieve, there’s a few small regional conferences, which are always so fun. Um, and they’re fun because you just get to sit down and talk with teachers. That’s probably the best part. This is when you hear from the people are in the trenches every day , working with students at these small AER conferences March. The big one is , uh , Cal State University Northridge. What they call CSUN, which I think is the world’s largest presentation of access technology that is all related to blindness and visual impairment. That is a big shindig that happens in , uh , California every year. This year will be in Anaheim and we will be there. The large booth , uh , GoodMaps will also be there. And a lot of our partners will be there as well. And it is really a great time. We take some small breaks in April. Of course, VisionServe is happening in April. In May we pick up with a few more , um, AFB has their annual conference this year. And another conference we go to, which is outside our borders. And that is called Sight City, it happens in Frankfurt, Germany every year. We usually send a small team there… small delegation, we show some APH products. And , uh , the fun part about that is we have been introduced to the whole world of services and programs for blindness in Europe. And , um , it , it is once again, making new partners, finding new contacts, finding genius ideas that are happening in other countries and being able to bring those things back to APH. But then we jump into July and we have the two consumer conferences conventions we had , uh , ACB follow in Omaha, followed by NFP in new Orleans. And then the granddady of them all will be this late July, AER International. This was supposed to happen in , uh, last year. And it did not happen of course, because of COVID. And so it has been reset for this year. So we’re excited about that. Then we all take a big break in August few small things in September. And of course, then we move into Annual Meeting, which we are so ready. And I , and I know you wanted to talk about Annual Meeting. Annual meeting 2022. Oh my Lord. We are so looking forward to this , uh , we have missed our, our EOTs. We have missed all the , uh, partner programs that use Annual Meeting as a base for their, their Annual Meetings. And we can’t wait to have everyone back in Louisville. So the dates are set. We wanna just have a grand reunion at Annual Meetings. So we are looking, looking forward so much to that. Once again, here in Louisville at the Hyatt Downtown and we can’t wait for that.

    Sara Brown: 7:04

    And moving from conferences to buildings… APH’s building is going to undergo some major changes. Can you talk about the upcoming renovations for next year?

    Craig Meador: 7:15

    Yes. I can, because it’s now coming reality. I mean, we’re closer to reality. We’re not quite there yet, but , um, we have a wonderful Board of Trustees at APH and they have been in lock step with us as we have gone through this process. This process actually started about four years ago when we began to assess the needs of our current building. And, and , uh , I’m talking about the front part of APH. And every board member, and I think most people who worked at APH said, this is really an aged building and it is held up well, but it needs , uh , uh, you know, it’s like every other old building, this building that I’m sitting in right now, the president’s office built a constructed , uh, part of it’s constructed in the 1960’s. The other part was constructed in the 1950’s. We’re still running off steam heat, which sometimes works. We have updated a lot of things within the building, but it is shown its age. Um , you know, so it is time. Every building has a lifespan and there comes a point when you have to do some major renovations , uh, whether it be retrofitting or complete overhauls, and we are gonna get ready to go into a complete overhaul. We believe we have a , a design, but because APH sits in what is known as Clifton Historical District, it has to go through a historical , uh , architectural review. So we have submitted our plans. Um, it doesn’t mean our building has to look old-timey, basically what it means is you’re allowed to build something new and modern, but you have to maintain that spirit of what was there before. So we’re excited about the design that has come up. We’re a little nervous because it is a review and the , and this committee does have the power to say “yay” or “nay.” And if they say “nay,” then we go back to the architectural redesign. Um, so assuming everything gets greenlighted, we will begin the construction of the new building and the new museum. For those who’ve been to APH, you know, our museum is on the second floor of the oldest part of the 1880’s, part of APH. That’s being moved to the front of the building. We are building a world class museum on the front end of APH. So as you come into new APH, you will walk into a large , um , it’ll be like walking into any quality museum where there is a grand entrance, a reception, and the Hall of Fame will be brought down to the front of that museum, the History of Blindness and Education as well as a , a number of other things, this is gonna be big. We break ground in September. We will be in construction phase, probably for the better part. They’re saying 16 months. And if you know, construction, anytime someone says 16 months, you add another six months. So probably 24 months. So we will break ground in the fall of ’22. We are hoping that we wrap it all up in late summer, early fall of 2024. And it is our hope that we will doing our grand unveiling of the new museum and the new building in fall of ’24 during Annual Meeting. Once again, I’m speaking a lot of hope here. You never know about construction until you get into it. Uh , but , uh , we, that we are hopeful. We’re, we’re hoping that a lot of supply chain issues and costs of building materials come down, we have nine months till we break ground . And , um , so, but we are getting excited and moving towards that. And the other thing I think is it’s just gonna look fantastic. Um, I’m so proud of APH. I’m proud of the work that is , it has always done, but I’m really proud of the work that we , what we’ve been able to accomplish through partnerships over the last five years. I really believe APH is a world class organization, and I’m excited that we will have a building that reflects that, but a building’s only as good as the people inside. And the building is only as good as , as the impact it has on the people they serve. So we’re keeping those two things in mind, higher quality staff like we have right now continue to promote quality development of products and services that meet the needs of the people we serve.

    Sara Brown: 11:54

    And is there anything else you would like to mention as we look towards 2022?

    Craig Meador: 11:59

    Looking at, looking out to the field. Um, it’s amazing what, how our field, and I think the world in general has responded to the, the pandemic , um, as , as far as this ability to adapt and become creative , um, there’s some good things that have happened, and there’s some things you know, you wish could go back to the way they were, but getting back to , uh, one thing I’ve noticed, and this is just from , uh , the 10,000 foot level and looking at it , APH APH is , uh , for those who, who are just learning about APH. APH is really several companies under one roof. Or it’s the same company… Wow , better explain this, but, but the mission of the different departments are so unique that a lot of times they can move. Uh , I , I mean, for example, you could break out our product research division and they could be a separate think tank under an umbrella organization, somewhere else, our manufacturing department, the same way. Um , you know, and so many of the other things we do and we have worked really hard over the years to bridge , um, and really tie these departments together so that we think more cohesively and that we communicate better. And that’s probably been the greatest , uh, what I’ve really noticed. And this is once again, 10,000 foot view here to the ground, whatever cliché you wanna say , uh , just about looking over an agency. And , um, and I know this is true in other businesses, as well as , as things have spread apart, we have seen , um, even though we’re communicating more via Zoom and probably doing it more efficiently, we are seeing a, a cross- department breakdown in communication. So much communication, the good, what I call the , the “ripe communications,” the , the communication that adds color , uh , the communication that, that defines nuances happens in the hallways. The other thing is I think relationships, which are key to, to any business being effective and, and really meeting their goal and their mission. It is critical and relationship when you’re seeing people in the hall everyday, it’s easy to be easier to be dialed into people. Uh, if they’re up, if they down , you know, if, if they need a word of encouragement , um, if, if we need to, you know, talk for a few minutes, just to clarify, make sure we’re all on the same page that happens so much easier when people are face to face . And so I , I miss that. And I , and it’s not saying that we can’t fix those items, even if we remain remote because during construction, no, one’s coming back into the front end of the building. In fact, we’ll even have more people working remotely. So , um, so we, we have to become very intentional with how we connect with each other. And we’ve also got to provide as much opportunity as complete company to, to gather and to be around each other. And so the next two years, while we go through all, this is gonna be challenging. It’s, it’s gonna be challeng. And , and we , um , we have no choice, but to be successful and we will just have to figure out pathways to success. And then when the building’s done and people start to come back in , um, we will have to learn how to occupy space together. Again, those are, those are the things I I’m very cognizant of. It is as I look to the future. And I look to the work that is to come and where we need to go as an agency and a company , uh , to , to meet our missions.

    Sara Brown: 16:05

    All right . Thank you so much, Craig, for joining us today on Change Makers.

    Craig Meador: 16:08

    Oh, you’re welcome.

    Sara Brown: 16:10

    Now we’re gonna hear about what APH innovations are in the works here to talk about upcoming innovations and what to expect from APH’s developments in 2022 is APH’s Vice President of Innovation and Strategy Anne Durham. Hello, Anne . And welcome to Change Makers.

    Anne Durham: 16:31

    Thanks, Sara. It’s great to be here.

    Sara Brown: 16:33

    It’s an exciting time right now for APH. We just talked to Craig who talked about conferences and building renovations. You’re here to talk about upcoming innovations in the pipeline. Will there be any in the market next year and talk about just the, the path from, you know, product or idea to hitting the

    Anne Durham: 16:54

    Okay , Sara, you know, when we , uh , talk about innovations, you know, we consider any product that comes from APH to be an innovation because innovation is a very specific role that APH is designed to do. As part of the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind that authorizes APH’s federal appropriation, supposed to produce products that don’t already exist out there on the open market. So that means that we’re supposed to create the things that have never been created , uh, to meet the needs that have never been met and to solve the problems that have never been solved. So we’re in a very unique position, and we have a very specific responsibility to try and push the limits and directions that commercial companies might consider to be, you know, too financially risky. Let’s say. We have narrowed our innovation strategies down to five particular areas where we feel like we have the most , um, ability, to move the needle , uh , in the areas of education, employment, and quality of life. And those areas are , uh, in braille technology, braille literacy, low vision magnification technology O&M technology and in STEM. Science, technology, engineering, and math. Now , for each of these areas, we’ve developed a five year product roadmap and that’s kind of a , a term product roadmap , but it is exactly what it sounds to be. You know, it’s, we have a destination which is, you know, where we want to move the needle and those goals that we want to see , uh , students and our customers , uh, reach in their lives and how those products will help them achieve those goals. So, you know, developing of those products, I often say that a product is almost like a program in and of itself. And , um, you know, it’s not just about the product, it’s about everything that we build around that product. That’s going to help the student help the teacher, help the customer achieve those goals and their life. And so , um, in every case, we’re, we’re thinking about the barriers that those products are going to help , uh, uh , break through . And , uh, we, we figure out what’s going to be in that roadmap by of course, talking with our customers, teachers, rehabilitation, professionals, students, employers, and so on. We don’t make the decisions about these roadmaps in a vacuum at all. Uh , one example , uh , we determined that we really needed more accessible educational tools that would teach students about , uh , coding and programming. Uh , these tools we were told were very absent from the classroom. Plenty, plenty of coding, teaching tools out there, but none of them were accessible. They just simply didn’t exist. But what we also knew was that comp future literacy and fundamental programs, programming skills were going to be very essential to kids for their future employment. And we also knew that this could lead to very lucrative , um , careers for students. So a few years later now we have Code Jumper, we have Snappino we have the Code and Go Mouse. We have a variety of accessible coding products because of the planning that we, we have done through those roadmaps, those product roadmaps. Um, another example in our braille technology roadmap , we actually identified a need for a QWERTY keyboard with refreshable braille built in that was something that was not out there in the open market. And our goal there was helping students , uh , develop keyboarding skills , um, so that they would need those in the workplace someday and, and adults needed them and they needed that kind of tool in the workplace immediately. And so that led to the development of the Manus Q 40 . And that’s been out for a little over a year now, and it’s, it’s doing very well, and we’re getting a lot of good feedback as to how that’s helping students and it’s helping people in the workplace and that’s not just doing well in the United States. It’s doing very well abroad too. In fact, I think we, I heard that we sold , uh , 30 of them in Russia last month, you know, which is a , a big surprise, you know, and, and I think, you know, that’s a testament that goes to the planning to, you know, when you’re listening to what customers need and to understanding where those gaps and needs are, and , uh, you know, working with, with a lot of different people and then listening to what their needs are. So those roadmaps, they keep us really focused on what our destination is and the goals that, that our customers need to achieve and their , um , their learning goals, their life goals, and, and working to help them meet them. Um , I think that there’s a couple of things that people should know about product innovation at APH. Every product has to be surrounded by services and support, and that that can include training , uh , webinars. We put courses in the Hive around those products. It can include all of the customer service and support comes along with a product. Uh, people always have questions that, that comes up and, you know, particularly with the technology , um, that can include blogs that provide curriculum ideas. Those would be posted on or maybe in the ConnectCenter or on APH social media. Uh, the support documentation is always really important and that can be downloaded from the Product Page on our website. Uh , we also provide training at conferences , um, virtual or live hopefully very soon. And , uh, you know, our Annual Meeting is always a real strong showcase of our products and you know, we provide a lot of training there and we take people on, in depth of what we are working on at APH. And another thing I think that people understand is that this innovation that we’re doing , uh, takes time. It takes a lot of time. The one thing, you know, when you’re creating things that have never been created before, there’s no template to follow you’re, you’re making it up as you go for the most part, you know, and let’s say by the time like a Juno magnifier for, for example, is in your hands, you’re looking at a device that has been touched. Um, let’s say by at least 50 people, I know it’s probably more , um, and that’s over a two or three year period from that time, that idea has been conceived until it’s delivered to you. And a two or three year period on a product is actual , incredibly fast. We have some products that are in the pipeline , uh , a good six years sometimes. And , and sometimes longer , uh, just the first year alone that’s spent talking with customers deciding what is needed, finding the right partners, going through all of the legal steps that you have to do. Um , that’s, that’s a lot of, a lot of time. And then, and then when you go into the development of the product, there’s all the prototyping and the testing, and then the testing, and then the more testing and the more testing and the more feedback at every stage. And then there’s the setbacks. Um , the setbacks you inevitably encounter, you think you can plan for them, you can’t, again, you know, when you’re innovating something that’s , um, that’s never been done before, you, you can’t plan for everything and, and you have to solve those problems. And then as you get toward the end, you have to source the materials and plan the manufacturing process. And, and then at the very end there’s field testing again , um, and that might reveal even more changes that you need to make. And, and you may end up having to push out that date that you were , you were set to do. And , um, and throughout all of this time, you’re planning that ecosystem that I just talked about, the training and the services and the name of the product and, and all of those support materials. And , uh , I know, and, and I understand that for some out there, it feels like forever. From the time we say that we’re gonna start working on this product to the time we finish, but for me, and, you know, from behind the scenes, I think it’s amazing how fast all of these details actually come together. And, and I think that, you know, a finished product is, is a miracle. It’s a , it’s a testament of how committed our teams, our partners, and our customers are to working together and , um, how well they solve a gazillion problems together. And in the end, make something beautiful and useful that will make a difference. And , um , so I know you asked , uh, you know, what’s happening in 2022 and, you know, you take all of that in the consideration and you talk about miracles. The miracle is that somehow some way APH manages to release quite a number of new products every year. And in fact, last year we had 30 new products that came out last year, and we expect to have about the same number of products come out in 2022. Um, I’ll mention one , uh , that’s , I’m pretty excited about that’s the Polly, and this is a partnership , uh , product with Thinkerbell Labs. It’s an electronic product that will teach braille to young children, which are very excited about it kind of builds on what we’ve done with Braille Buzz. Um, you know, another opportunity for kids to start learning electronic braille at a very young age, and it’s a gameafication tool, so there’s a lot of really fun games that kids can play on Poly. And , um, one of the things that I love about it too, is I think it’s also a way for parents to engage with kids as they learn about braille and , and parents can learn a little braille too, along with their kids. I’ve learned a little bit about braille , uh , just, you know, testing some of the Poly devices. So I think that’s gonna be a lot of fun for people. And we’re super excited about the release of Poly, which I think people will be seeing in early 2022. Um, but you know, it’s not just , uh, the , uh, new things that come out like Poly. Uh , we have to keep refreshing our products , uh, to make sure that they stay innovative. So you’re gonna see a lot of UEB updates in 2022 and some revisions to some of the APH standards like the Caterpillar Book. And , uh, we also can’t forget APH Press, you know, that’s a real good friend to the teachers out there, and we’re gonna see a revision of the classic Guidelines and Games for Teaching Efficient Braille Reading. That’s gonna be published in 2022. And I know a lot of teachers are looking forward to that book. That’s a lot of fun ideas in there for teaching braille. So excited about that too.

    Sara Brown: 26:34

    One innovation I’ve been hearing a lot about in this building is the DTD also known as the dynamic tactile device. What can you reveal about it and where do you hope it will be in the process for next year?

    Anne Durham: 26:47

    Oh, I’d love to talk about the dynamic tactile device. This is, this is a big, big project at APH and , um, you know, one that takes up a lot of my time and I’m happy that it does cuz we are excited about, it’s also a great example of a product that is so innovative that it is taking a long time to come to market, you know, and I think that , um, you know, I worry about the fatigue of this one out there that maybe some people are worried that it will never, ever actually happen. I , I think this one’s gonna happen, Sara. I really do. I think we’re getting super, super close here and I’m , I’m really glad that you asked this question cuz I, I do wanna talk about, about it . You know, APH had already been working on the idea of this idea of a refreshable tablet device, you know, with an array of pens where you can , uh , feel graphics and also braille. Um, when I first came to APH in 2017, they’d already been into this project for a couple of years and at that time it was called Graphiti. And also at that time though, it was only focused on graphics only graphics. And , uh, what you could do is again, there was an array of pens and you could feed the graphics into this device and you could feel those graphics and this was an incredible breakthrough and it was incredibly exciting for everyone to experience these types that were coming out. Um, one of the first things that I was able to experience at APH when I came was actually a very , uh , a live demonstration of an eclipse happening through the graffiti. So , um, you know, as a team, we were all able to experience the eclipse together , um, as it , as it came through the Graphiti and that , that just really the power of what a device like this could do. Um, you know, but really the whole impetus for this project was about textbooks. And you talk about solving your big problems. There is no bigger problem to solve than how we solve the problem of on-time delivery of braille textbooks to students. Um, the transcribing, embossing and delivery of a single textbook can take months and sometimes longer , uh , a year or more , uh , particularly if this is a math or a science textbook that has a lot of graphics to it. It’s incredibly expensive as well. I have to say. Um, as is often a case , uh , a student won’t get these textbooks until , uh , months into the school year. So they’re perpetually playing catch up, and it’s been this way for years. Everyone knows this is not an unknown problem. Everyone has known that this is a problem for a long time. It’s just nothing that can be done about it. Um , and what’s more, you know, once they get these textbooks, you know, they’re , they’re huge. It’s just volumes and volumes. And as often the case, the braille, those that’s in one volume , the graphics are in another are in other volumes. So, so it’s very difficult to navigate. Um, it’s hard to match these, the graphics up with the text in other words, and it’s very hard to follow along in class. Um, so, so that’s, that’s always , these have always been issues they’ve always existed. So this is a project we’ve always called the “holy braille.” The “holy braille,” because just imagine the difference it could make, if students could have access to the braille and the graphics of a textbook on day one. And if they could navigate that textbook page by page in exactly the same way as their sided classmates, it sounds so simple, but that is an education equalizer that levels the playing field, like nothing else we could do at APH. It’s huge. And we’re not even talking about all of the other things that a device like this could do with real-time learning just that alone, just to the textbooks alone is huge, but everything else that it could do , um, it just blows your mind. I wake up in the middle of the night , thinking about other things that this device could do. And so does a lot of the team working on this project. But the Graphiti project was a start toward that because if you could at least provide the graphics and some of the other real time graphics you could have, that was gonna be huge. And we invested a lot of time and a lot of resources in that project. And we definitely learned a lot, but the thing that was missing was the braille, right? We still needed the braille. And we were thinking at the time, well , we could match Graphiti with more line braille, but it was still not integrated, right? And sometimes, and this is a very heartbreaking decision that you have to make after you’ve invested a lot of energy and a lot of resources in a project and everybody’s hopes are so high, but you have to say, “it’s time to cut the cord.” You know, this , this isn’t quite right. This is not gonna get it us where we want to go. And this is not going to meet the goals that we have set for our customers. And so that’s what we had to do. You know, we had to cut the cord there. We were seeing that the technology to do what we really needed to do was starting to become available. And we knew we had to go in another direction. So that’s what we’ve done. And, you know, we have , uh , formed new partnership , uh , with HumanWare. And we are now we have this best technology in prototype. Now we’ve developed the specs. We are, we are down the road, quite a ways at this point. I’m almost afraid to say this, but you know, our very ambitious goal is that we will have this ready for market in two years. That’s incredibly ambitious. You know? Um, I guess I do wanna say it cuz I want people to hold our feet to the fire. Um , but I know how ambitious it is. And , and let me, let me just say that. I know we are talking about planets and stars aligning for this to happen. Um, but um, I think it can, I think it can, I , we have some of the brightest minds on the planet working on this and we also have just incredible support throughout the field. I think that we are all at the point here , um, where we feel like we’re tired of waiting for this, that the time is now that students should not have to wait a day longer. And there is , um , uh , a , I think a unification across the field where everybody is ready to get behind this project and to do everything that they can to push it toward the finish line. Um, I’m just very excited about the momentum that we have, but, you know, yeah, this is, this is a good example of one of those things that takes a long time where sometimes you have to like stop something before you can start again. Um, and it’s not like we had to start over because we did take an awful lot of learning with us. Um, that’s gonna be really important, but , uh, but we’re very, very excited about, about where we’re at. And so in 2022, you’re gonna be hearing a lot about this project. We’re talking about it, every chance we get , um, it’s not our practice to develop our products quietly or secretly like a lot of commercial companies do because we need that constant feedback , uh , from our partners and our customers, because we have to get this right. Um , these are your products. Okay. Um, we’re developing them for you to solve your problems. So if we don’t hear from you throughout the development of something, it’s not gonna be right and we can’t afford to not get this right. We have to get this right the first time. So we want and need your feedback. So we’re gonna be talking about this a lot during 2022 at conferences, in our blogs , um, you know, every chance that we get , um , we’re , we’re , we’re making tours to schools , uh, to agencies , uh, to , uh , every place that we can, we’re talking to all of our partners. Um, you know, we have a , “nothing about you without you” philosophy , um, and innovation and strategy at APH. So , um, and, and we apologize, cuz we know this creates some anticipation. We, you all want and need this right now. Um, but , um, but right now what we need to do is we just need to hear from you and we need your feedback. So , um, so we’ll be talking about it really, wherever we can find a platform in 2022

    Sara Brown: 34:34

    And the APH museum is undergoing some changes. What will We see next year?

    Anne Durham: 34:40

    Yeah. You know, the APH Museum is near and dear to my heart because that’s our story. Right. And um, you know, I love to sneak into the Museum when I need to be motivated because it’s a story of overcoming , uh , those barriers, right. And using innovation to , uh, create change. And, you know, the , the Museum was already undergoing some significant changes , uh, just before the pandemic, because as we formed our partnership with the American foundation for the blind that brought their archives, their corporate archives and the Helen Keller Archives to APH and already at that point, our museum’s collection was outgrowing the space that we had for it. And, you know, getting those collections made it clear that we needed more space. So , um, in to 2022 and we are going to be breaking ground for an expanded museum that will be built onto the front of the APH building. And for this expansion, we are dreaming big, big, and , uh, we are going to , uh, build a museum that sets the standard for the most accessible museum in the world. We want this to be the standard by which other museums can learn from. And we want this museum to tell the story of achievement and , uh, to tell the story about meeting challenges, breaking barriers , how you innovate to solve problems and , um , really the fight for Civil Rights and Social Justice too. Our story, the story of blindness is , um, you know, I inspirational, everybody says it’s inspirational, but it’s, it’s really the story of overcoming barriers. And it’s a story that can inform everybody. And , um, we want to inspire future in teachers, innovators, employers, activists, and create change simply by helping people understand our field, the field that we all love. Um, and, and why we all stay here, why we all want to work in this field. And , uh , I’m so excited about it. You know , the Helen Keller story alone is great, but all of the stories of our field are great. And , um , it’s our board, the APH Board of Trustees is just very involved in this and we also have the expertise of people from across the field involved. So I’m very excited about this and the groundbreakings gonna be a great day for sure.

    Sara Brown: 37:02

    And we are gonna talk to some EPAC and ESEC members on this podcast, but tell me, how does innovation and strategy work with EPAC and ESAC?

    Anne Durham: 37:10

    Uh , you know, we’re so fortunate to have the guidance of the EPAC committee, which advises on our products and the ESAC committee, which advises on our services. And, you know, we’ll , once a year, they get together for a couple of days, two or three days. And we go through a lot of presentations where we let them know what we’ve been working on , uh, for the past year. And they ask us a lot of super hard questions, which is a great process because, you know, they come to it from their perspective as educators. And we need to hear that, you know, we’re all always open to feedback and we need to hear that. Um, and at the end of that meeting, they provide us with a list of things that first of all, that they commend us for, you know, which is things that we’re doing well. And that’s sort of a, “you know, what, you’re on the right track of here , here, you know, give us more of this please.” And that’s an affirmation, which is really important, but they also give us a list of recommendations. And that’s often like things that they would like us to work on to improve, or maybe there’s some new things that they would like us to consider. So we take both these accommodations and these recommendations very seriously, as we do all the feedback that we receive from, from everybody really. And , um, you know, then that’s kind of a process that happens after that, particularly with the recommendations. And, you know, I’ll also tell you for an example , uh , one example of something that they asked us to work on is they said it would be helpful if we provided QR codes on the boxes that would take people immediately , uh , to documentation that would allow teachers and professionals quick access to user manuals and other information about products. Yeah , that sounds simple enough, right? Except for this, that had to be accessible. Right? So as we all know, anything accessible is never very easy. So we start, we start searching and we have to find accessible solutions, and then we test them. And as we go along, we provide feedback to the committees and to the , the EX Officio Trustees, “how’s this sound?”, “how’s this look?” But then we also find out, you know, that integrating these things into APH’s current systems, not so easy as we thought, but it’s a great process because , um, you know, they realize that, you know, what sounded like simple suggestion in the beginning, maybe not was , was not so simple after all. And they learned more about our processes and systems at APH than , than maybe they bargained for in the beginning. But, you know, it, it was an idea that we never thought of and a need that they needed met that we never would’ve thought of. And we work really well together in trying to solve these problems. So, you know, I love that we have these committees and I love that we work together. Um , so well in solving these problems and they are so committed , uh , to the process and so devoted to APH. Um, we’re just so very fortunate to work with them. Um, I love the way that it’s set up. I really do. And , um, you know, it’s not, like I said, not easy all the time, but , uh , it’s , we’re just very fortunate to have EPAC and ESAC.

    Sara Brown: 40:00

    And is there anything else you’d like to talk about for 2022?

    Anne Durham: 40:02

    You know, ever since the pandemic, it has been so difficult to plan for any year and in 2020 and 2021, we , we found ourselves shelving our plans and having to pivot just to meet the needs . And , and we’re prepared to do that again in 2022, if something unexpected happens, but what we hope, what we hope will happen in 2022 is that we will finally be out meeting our customers again in person. Um , we have missed you so much. So we have plans to be at conferences in person . Um, we know that it’s been a long time for all of you since you’ve had a chance to be hands on with our products. And you’ve especially missed the opportunity to try out some of our new products like Juno, Mantis, Chameleon, Pix Blaster, Page Blaster, and all these great new coding tools that I mentioned earlier. Uh, we also have new things in the pipeline, new prototypes that we wanna bring to classrooms and to agencies like, like the dynamic tactical device. Right. Um, I think one of the hardest things about the pandemic has really been missing that up close and personal contact with everybody in our field. How do , how do we innovate without you? You know, we , we really, really can’t, we’re so dependent on you and your feedback and your experiences with our products. That’s the only way that we can make them better. It’s the only way we can make them, right. And we’re so grateful to everyone that helped us in the pandemic with the product testing and for everyone who gave us feedback as best as they could through some very impersonal and awkward channels. Um, but it was essential. And, you know, I just wanna say to everyone , um, we’re grateful for you. Um, we’re thankful to you please keep your feedback coming. We, we can’t build anything without you. Every product, every innovation that comes from APH is built for you and by you, and they have to work for you. So, you know, my biggest hope for 2022 is that we’ll be reconnecting better than ever with the customers that we serve and getting all of you more involved in our innovations and, and be working together to transform the future. That’s what it’s all about.

    Sara Brown: 42:14

    Anne thank you so much for joining me on Change Makers today.

    Anne Durham: 42:18

    Thank you, Sara.

    Sara Brown: 42:22

    Now we have APH’s Vice President Community Government Affairs, Paul Schroeder. He’s here to talk about what he wants to see for 2022 and funding and growth. Hello Paul , and welcome to Change Makers.

    Paul Schroeder: 42:36

    Hello, Sara, happy to be here with you.

    Sara Brown: 42:39

    So we’re looking towards next year and everything we like to see. Can you talk to us about what you wanna see regarding funding?

    Paul Schroeder: 42:48

    We’re it’s funny that we’re right in the midst of we’re right in the midst of, of the future, because as we should be already into the appropriations Federal Fiscal Year for 2022, the federal year starts before the calendar year. It’s just one of those weird little quirks. It starts on October 1, and we should have had a budget all set for the United States Government, which would include the amount that they’re giving to the American Printing House for the Blind. Should have had that all set by October 1st, it wasn’t, as listeners to this podcast and anybody who follows the traves of Congress know it rarely happens anymore that the budget is completed , uh, before October 1st vote. So we should have had that done just today. Uh, when we were recording this, the , uh , the Appropriation was about to run out and , uh, Congress , uh , did , uh , something called a “Continuing Resolution,” which is what they did back in the end of September when they knew they wouldn’t get to the October 1 decision point. Uh, they kicked the , the can down the road to December 3, and now it’s down the road into February. Uh, and what that means is their fund funding , the government and APH , uh , at the same level as they funded everything last year, last fiscal year. So funding all stays the same. So what is my hope? I mean, for sure , uh, my hope is that we get a full budget completed in past , in February, and that it hopefully has increase for, for APH. The first thing I’d like to see is, is I’d love to see the budget completed. I’d love to see , um, Congress , um , you know, not only the American Printing House for the Blind, but there were other significant increases for special education funding that were in the house past version of the appropriations bill. And I know we’d all like to see more support for , uh, the kids , uh , that we serve in special education.

    Sara Brown: 44:41

    In another area that’s in your department is the ConnectCenter, which is seen a lot of changes in growth just during 2021. What do you wanna see for the ConnectCenter for 2022 ?

    Paul Schroeder: 44:53

    I, I am so excited that the ConnectCenter has, has come over to my, my group. Um, it’s a set of programs that I was familiar with in my past incarnations. Uh , many know that I worked for the American Foundation for the Blind for a number of years and , uh , helped develop those sites. Um, I, there’s a couple things that I wanna make sure that, of course we are providing the kinds of information and resources in those centers that parents and individuals need to be able to take action , um, to support , uh, students and themselves in finding opportunities. That’s one, and , and I’d like to see the centers have a little bit more, more advocacy support so that people know how to advocate for themselves or their kids , uh, what to , what kinds of , uh, strategies to make, what kinds of actions to take. So that’s something I’ve been working with the team to try to enhance what we’re doing. And then of course just make the, the centers , uh, the sites that make up the ConnectCenter, just as strong as they can be. You know, we had a lot of work to do to , uh, reframe those and, and , uh, uh, reestablish those when we took them over. Um, and so there’s a lot of work still needed to kind of make sure the resources are there are up to date and accurate, and the links are accurate and all those things that go into a web program.

    Sara Brown: 46:10

    And is there anything else you’d like to mention for 2022 ? Anything else you’d like to see?

    Paul Schroeder: 46:16

    Oh my gosh, there are so many things. You know, one of the other programs in my area is the Museum. Uh, we’re gonna be doing, having a lot of focus on the Museum in the next year , uh, as part of our , uh, revitalization and renovation work. And , um , one of a , a key part of that will be the expansion of the Museum. And so I would imagine over the next year that we will have lots of conversations about how to tell the stories that we want to tell about history of education and rehabilitation and , uh, progress , uh, for, for individuals who are by individually impaired and have other disability is there’s so many stories that we already tell in the Museum, but there’s so much more that we can tell. Um, of course we’re privileged to have , uh , currently on loan , the Helen Keller Archives from the American Foundation for the Blind and that’ll be a key part of our storytelling with this museum. But there’s a whole lot of other stories to tell as well. Um, anyone never visited and I , I really do encourage you to , to do so , uh , come see the museum as it is today, and then , uh , stay focused because you’re gonna see some great changes over the next couple of years to that museum, but come visit us now , um , see what stories we’re telling, and then we’d love to have some input on changes you’d like to see. So that’ll be , uh , a , a very , uh , significant part of our work in ’22. And then the last thing , uh, I think you’ve, you’ve had some opportunities to talk about our regional and outreach , uh , programs , um , that are also part of my group. And we’ll be expanding. We’ll be adding more regional supports in , uh , ’22 , um , and opportunities for people to , um, have support within their regions, the, the EX Officio Trustees and other , uh , stakeholders as well to learn about APH products and, and services , uh , from somebody closer by. Uh , so we’re looking forward to expanding that we’ve already gotten Northwest and Southeast and North Central recently established, and we’ll be adding some more , uh , in ’22.

    Sara Brown: 48:16

    Thank you so much, Paul, for joining me on Change Makers.

    Paul Schroeder: 48:20

    Well, thanks for having me.

    Sara Brown: 48:22

    Up next. We’re looking towards accessibility, belonging, inclusion, diversity and equity for 2022. We have APH’s Director Accessibility, Belonging, Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity, Tai Tomasi. Hello Tai, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Tai Tomasi: 48:41

    Thank you so much for having me on the podcast.

    Sara Brown: 48:43

    What are you wanting to see for “ABIDE”, which also stands for accessibility, belonging, inclusion, university , and equity at APH for 2022?

    Tai Tomasi: 48:54

    So in what we call the ABIDE area, I’m looking forward to having some new trainings for employees, especially in this time of remote work , um, and ways to help make employees feel welcome when they can’t be with us in person at our facility. I’m also looking forward to creating some spaces where people can feel empowered to share about their intersectional identities, whether that’s disability, race, sexual orientation , um, all different kinds of intersectional identities that sometimes can create challenges for people , um, in terms of interacting with society . So we want to give them safe spaces to speak about those. We’re going to increase culture of belonging through some of the trainings and events, especially the ones , um , for people who are working remotely. Um , perhaps some of our wellness activities can incorporate some of our remote employees as well. Maybe we can use social media , um , to work with, with them as well and keep them included. And we really wanna help cultivate a culture where employees feel , um, comfortable sharing their lived experiences. Um, I want to help people cultivate a desire to learn more about accessibility and helping them learn how to bake it in from the ground up. We think of accessibility as , um, you know, know part of a cake. It has to be baked in from the beginning. You can’t just put it on the top, so we wanna make sure people understand that about accessibility. Um, and then I want to help departments establish some goals as for the abide areas that we spoke about. Um, just allowing them to put those things down on paper and have some good measurable information.

    Sara Brown: 50:33

    What would you like to see elsewhere for, you know, ABIDE in 2022?

    Tai Tomasi: 50:39

    I want to see everyone come to a, a willingness to learn and to hear other perspectives without getting so defensive. That’s something our whole society needs to work on. Um, we go , we go to confrontation and conflict too easily, and we ha we don’t have enough empathy. And I wanna see our society working on developing that. Um , I also want to see more acknowledgement that accessibility really should be a human right, and a civil right, that, that people have the right to access, basic access to things. Um, it is difficult for people with disabilities and those microaggressions of inaccessibility add up over time. So we wanna see that kind of become more of a right , uh , and the responsibility that comes with with making sure that happens for people. Um, we wanna see the increased understanding of the inequities in our society. That’s something I don’t think people understand. Um , there’s lots of programs that have benefited the majority in society. Um, but we wanna , we wanna talk about that systemic oppression of, of people who haven’t had those opportunities. And one of the examples I think of is apple picking. Sometimes people are too short to reach the apple tree, and what helps to create equity is to allow them to have a ladder so they can get up there and reach it better. Um , as compared to people who are taught , that’s kind of what equity means to me. Um , and I think we need to have increased understanding that improving equity are necessary.

    Sara Brown: 52:19

    Tai, thank you so much for joining me on Change Makers.

    Tai Tomasi: 52:22

    Thanks again for having me on the podcast.

    Sara Brown: 52:25

    Up next, we’re talking to members of EPAC and ESAC about what they would like to see for 2022. Now we’re talking to members of APH’s EPAC. Stands for Educational Products Advisory Committee, and their purpose is to advise APH in establishing priorities, standards, and policies regarding products. Review research, and development priorities, and more. Review products under development to consider approval for finished products for purchase with federal quota funds. To recommend parents, caregivers, students, and professionals in the field for research or field testing purposes. Now we’re talking to EPAC member, Kathy Segers. She is an EX Official Trustee for the State of Tennessee. Hello, Kathy , and welcome to Change Makers.

    Kathy Segers: 53:16

    Oh , thank you. It’s good to be here.

    Sara Brown: 53:17

    Now, this podcast is about looking towards the future just 20 22, which is just days away now, what would you like to see?

    Kathy Segers: 53:25

    Well, let me just say, from when I started this back in the 1980’s to where we are now, it doesn’t even look like the same animal. I mean, it, it , it’s just in , in 1984, ’85, when I first started teaching, we did everything on Perkins Braillers. There were no electronics at that point. You know, computers still filled the room. You know , we didn’t have PCs and things like that back then. And to be where we’re at now, from where I started in this field is just phenomenal. And, you know, I think that we need to be open to changes that will make it even more phenomenal for the future for our students. You know, I’m, I’m just blown away by all the coding products that APH has come out with. And I hope that APH continues that and makes that bigger and better, because this is something that has not been very accessible to our kids up until now, when they came up with Code Jumper and all the different products that, that are, you know, available now, and that are in development now. And I’m aware as an EPAC member, there are some in development right now. So I think we need to take that and go full ahead with that because our students need to understand coding to be competitive. A lot of our students are very good at technology, but that’s the piece that they didn’t have. And I think that will, you know, if we can teach them good coding techniques that will give them a lot more opportunities in the future. Now, as far as, you know, notetakers and braille and those kind of things go, you know, I , I don’t know that hard copy braille will, will go away ever completely, but I do know that we need more things in a more portable manner for our kids. It’s hard to lug braille books around are some things you need ’em for, you need ’em for the tactile graphics still. You know, I hope we come up with a tactile graphics pad, like, you know, we had the Graphiti that was in development. And I know that they’re, they’re still looking at trying to do something along those lines, but until we get a good solid products like that, we’re still gonna have, have to have those hard copy books around for the graphics. So, you know, notetakers are wonderful having, you know, files that you can use on your notetakers so that your brail is more portable. I think we really need to move in the direction of making all braille more portable, you know, so that we don’t have to lug around, you know, one volume of seven different books in our bookbags and that kind of thing where everything, we can have a notetaker that has, you know, tactical graphic capabilities in our book bag and all of our books on that. I think that’s the way of the future. Are we there yet? Nope . But we’re certainly looking that way and that’s the way that we need to be looking toward product development. You know, not that, you know, some people will always like a book. I still like having a book in my hand as a print reader, you know, but I also do some digital things as well. So it’s just having that, that option to do it that way. You know, we really need to move into more of a digital world. The rest of the world has, and the real world needs to move more so that way, and I know we are headed that direction, but, you know, I just, I think that has to be a priority.

    Sara Brown: 57:03

    Thank you so much, Kathy , for joining me on Change Makers today.

    Kathy Segers: 57:07

    Okay. Thank you.

    Sara Brown: 57:13

    Now we’re talking to EPAC’s Scott McCallum. He is the superintendent at the Washington State School for the Blind. Hello, Scott, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Scott McCallum: 57:21

    Hey, Thank so much for having me, Sara. I appreciate you welcoming me here today.

    Sara Brown: 57:27

    What would you like to see for 2022?

    Scott McCallum: 57:31

    It’s a great question. Uh , you know, I think the , the , the knee jerk reaction that I have is to say, I really wanna get back to in person. Um, I mean, we’re in-person here at the school. I wanna get back to being in with my colleagues. There , there’s an energy, there’s a level of support. There’s a level of understanding and empathy that, that I feel when I’m around my, my colleagues in this field. Um, and that happens at the APH Annual Meeting that happens at AER International Conference. And for now for two years, we’ve been on Zoom and it’s wonderful. Like it’s wonderful to be here with you, but it’s, it’s, I can’t wait to meet you in person. Um, because it , it is different, but I hope that we take some of the lessons we learned in , uh, over the last two years and , and apply them in ways that create some and important changes. I mean, I’ve seen , um, we’ve become so much more flexible in how we work and how we think of work. And there’s some, there’s some really great sides to that. I mean, for some, some individuals that I work with here, mobility has been a challenging thing because whether they utilize public transportation or, or what , um, it , it just was, it was really challenging for some to have to be here all the time. And so for some that flexibility to work from home or to work in a different way has been profoundly positive for them. Um, and , and possibly profoundly positive for our agency. So I hope we take some of the lessons we’ve learned over the last year and apply them to what we see in the future. Um, and , and I don’t like the words normal. I don’t wanna say let’s get back to normal, cause I don’t necessarily even believe in the ideal of a normal , um, I think there’s just a huge range of human experience. And so I just, I do wanna get back to where there are choices to be with people and , and to capitalize on that energy and positivity that comes from being together and , and feeling like you belong in a space. Like I, at Annual Meeting, I feel like I belong there and , and I feel like I’m appreciated there , um, in ways that fill my bucket, say that might be different from say, just being here, but , um, but I can’t wait to see everybody without a mask on too. And it’s a bit of a sighted bias that I, but there’s so many folks that I work with here who have been hired over the last two years, who I don’t know them without a mask on and I can’t wait to see their face. Um, even our students, I don’t get to hang out with our students here in the same way that I used to. Um , an example of that is , um , my office is right outside the lunch room . And so on a typical day , um, I’d hear the students going to lunch and I’d often go down and sit with them and, and make my way around to each of their, their tables and get to know our students for the beautiful humans that they are this year. It just in that in last year, it’s just, I can’t do that. I , I , I don’t feel like it’s safe for me to sort of invade their space when they have to be maskless. And they’re eating, even though there’s a, there’s an end game in mind. I just, I don’t feel like I have the relationships with folks like I used to. So I look forward to being able to build those really awesome, authentic relationships. And, and , um, because I thrive in that space and I think so many of our students thrive when they’re, they’re viewed for their strengths and they’re viewed for what makes them unique. Um, and , and it’s a little harder to do that right now when we have to be so distant. So , um, yeah, that’s a , a lot of, I can’t wait to be back together, but I’m also, we really take these lessons we learned and make life better for other people.

    Sara Brown: 1:01:29

    And one last question, is there anything else you’d like to add?

    Scott McCallum: 1:01:34

    You know, I, there’s a lot of divisiveness in the world right now. And , um, and there’s some real important topics that we’re talking about in ways that that either were pushed under the rug by some or marginalized or minimized. And so I hope we continue to have these conversations in a really rich way, rather it’s about race or disability , uh, or just making life better for people. Cuz I mean, I , I’m a, I’m a white guy. Who’s had every privilege ever in life. Like I, I , I know that I see that I’m constantly trying to , um, kind of work within that of myself, but also see how can I make life better for others. And so we’ve had some really important conversations over the last several years and I hope those continue with the same intensity , um, and the same intention of improving life for everybody. Um , in the future, you know, yes, I hope that we have self-driving cars and yes, I hope that every website’s accessible, but we’ve got some, we’ve got some things we need to work through as people and uh , and especially in our country as Americans and we’ve, we’ve gotta recognize our past and the impact that’s had on people. And that includes black and brown people. And it includes people with disabilities and , and a whole range of other levels of identity. And so I hope that, that this work continues. Cause I feel like we’re starting to build some momentum, at least in Washington. And , and also as a nation, there’s some, there’s some healing and repair that needs to needs to happen, but we, we also, this can’t be a flash in the pan past or a flash in the pan. It can’t be something we just talk about once and COVID, O’s over and we’re moving on to bigger and better things cuz that just isn’t that just in my mind, doesn’t work, we really need to honor , um, the situation that in and all the levels of complexity that we’ve brought into this as people, as Americans, as people of privilege and people who haven’t had the same privilege. And so I hope those things continue to those discussions happen and, and the world continues to change. Humanity continues to change to, to , um, recognize and value all people. So that’s what I hope.

    Sara Brown: 1:04:07

    Wow. What a great perspective, Scott, thank you so much for joining me today on Change Makers.

    Scott McCallum: 1:04:13

    Thanks for having me, Sara. I appreciate it. Appreciate the opportunity.

    Sara Brown: 1:04:18

    Now we have a few ESAC members here to tell us what wanna see for 2022 ESAC stands for educational services advisory committee and their purpose is to provide oversight and leadership in the planning, evaluation, and delivery of product related services, assisting the promotion of APH products, advise APH on general operations and communications as well as topics relevant to the education and rehabilitation of persons who are blind or visually impaired. We’re here with ESAC member, Beth Pieters, and she is the Literary Consultant for the State of Iowa and teacher of the visually impaired and Orientation and Mobility Specialist. Hello, Beth, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Beth Pieters: 1:04:59

    Thank you for having me.

    Sara Brown: 1:05:03

    What would you like to see for 2022 as well as the future?

    Beth Pieters: 1:05:08

    I would really like to see a lot more accessibility for our students, whether it’s through for testing , um, uh , or for , uh , the educational websites have really been bothering me lately that they’re just not accessible for blind and visually impaired students. So I’d really like to see that become a high priority for those developers, those websites. I also like to see more products or uh, orientation, mobility specialists. Um, there’s, there are a lot of tools out there, but not many through APH. It would be nice to be able to use quota funds for some of those things. Um, and of course , uh , more you just more access to braille. Um, uh , there’s a lot of tools that are available using an iPad or an iPhone, but then only parts of it are accessible for braille. So it would be really nice if those things could be more accessible.

    Sara Brown: 1:06:14

    Okay, Beth, thank you so much for joining us today on Change Makers.

    Beth Pieters: 1:06:19

    Thank you for having me again. Bye.

    Sara Brown: 1:06:22

    We have ESAC member, Jared Leslie . He is the Director of Media and Development for the Foundation for the Blind Children. Jared also serves as an EOT for accounts eight through nine for the Arizona Department of Education. Hello, Jared and welcome to Change Makers.

    Jared Leslie: 1:06:40

    Hello, thank you.

    Sara Brown: 1:06:42

    What would you like to see for 2022? This podcast is about looking towards the future. So what is it, what that you would like to see?

    Jared Leslie: 1:06:49

    Yeah, I think , uh, in the , in the field, I think focusing on , um, knowledge transfer. So you, you have a lot of , um , really just inherent field knowledge that is in a group of , um , individuals that are getting close to retiring and then you have a new cohort that’s coming in and helping to support that as well. Um , that knowledge you wanna make sure is available. And I think APH is making that effort , um , with the Hive on a national level. And I think in the state level , um , finding ways to be able to capture that and make sure that , um, on the state’s view , um, because everybody kind of tackles , um, the way that things are delivered in their state differently. And so that knowledge is, is really important to make sure that you hold onto that. I do have a couple other things too . I got a kind of excited just about thinking about 2020 , um, but I think integration of efforts and then also , um, making sure that we can tell our story. I think over the last two years, we have found ways to be able to invite people into our classroom rooms more and more , um, in a virtual way and be able to show what we’re doing individually as a state. I think as a field, we offered more and more webinars , um, to be able to provide trainings. And I would love to see that to , to continue , um, because conversations have happened from state to state and from I tot I that have not happened in the past because , um, you were used to dealing with the classroom cohort or the district cohort that you were working with. Um, and that has opened up quite a bit more into a national station , um , as well. And then lastly, obviously , um, increase for federal quota funding. I think that’s , um, always , um, a huge deal , um, within the classroom, the , for all resource centers that lend out items , um, it means just more students get what they, what they need at a faster rate.

    Sara Brown: 1:08:56

    Jared, thank you so much for joining me today on Changemakers.

    Jared Leslie: 1:08:59

    Thank you.

    Sara Brown: 1:09:01

    And thank you very much for joining us today on Change Makers. We hope you have a wonderful holiday season and happy new year as always be sure to look for ways you can be a changemaker this week and we’ll see you back next year.

  • Jack Fox: 0:00

    Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host.

    Sara Brown: 0:15

    Hello, and welcome to Change Makers. I’m APH’s Public Relations Manager, Sara Brown and today we’re continuing the conversation about National Family Literacy Month. The last podcast discussed braille literacy with books and products. Now we’re shifting to tactile graphics. We’re going to talk about tactile literacy, learn more about our tactile graphic image library in ways to create graphics for children. Up first, we have APH’s Tactile Graphics Designer, Sally Hart . Hello, Sally, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Sally Hart: 0:47

    Hi, thank you for having me.

    Sara Brown: 0:49

    Can you talk about the importance of tactile literacy?

    Sally Hart: 0:53

    Yes. Tactile graphics, deliver information through touch. So just like literacy and numeracy, the process of reading, understanding and gaining knowledge from tactile graphics is something that must be taught. A braille reader needs to learn how to read braille and how to read tactile graphics. It’s two different skill sets. So knowing the braille symbols and what the dot formations represent will not automatically make the symbols used on a diagram clear. Ideally , tactile graphics need to be introduced early because early experience, is the start of a solid foundation. Knowing how to systematically approach an image is vital. Not to be overwhelmed by that data, understanding the information contained in charts and graphs, diagrams, and maps that allows a reader to confidently participate in classroom and work settings. We live in a very visual world with visual information everywhere. As a print reader, I had to be taught how to approach and interpret visual information and the same needs to be done for the technical reader.

    Sara Brown: 2:18

    Your APH’s tactile graphics designer. How did you get into that?

    Sally Hart: 2:23

    I was actually learning and studying to do medical transcription. Yeah , it’s going somewhere. And I quickly learned that I didn’t like it. And then I met a lady. Her name was Jan Carol . She worked at the American Printing House for the Blind and she was telling me about braille transcription. And I thought, “okay, this is interesting. This is awesome. This is something I want to be a part of.” And then I saw tactile graphics. I’ve always loved maps and have always been drawn to the visual information. You know, if you have , um, you know, how to put together a piece of furniture, I’d rather look at the pictures and read the words. So once I was introduced to tactile graphics, I was hooked. So that’s, that’s how I got in the field.

    Sara Brown: 3:26

    Can you tell us about the work that you do as the graphics designer?

    Sally Hart: 3:32

    Well , um, APH is full of dedicated people and many different departments who are focused on tech graphics. I worked directly with two of them in the accessible test and textbook department, under director Jane Thompson . And like most folks, I wear a few hats, but my core job is to review. And when needed, improve the readability of images submitted for textbooks. I think my department is a fun group, but we take this editing process really serious. We recognize that a transcription is not considered complete without tactile graphics. And so I am tasked with checking their quality. I’m just one piece of the puzzle that makes a student receive quality textbooks.

    Sara Brown: 4:28

    Can you explain the process of creating a tactile graphic? What’s that like?

    Sally Hart: 4:33

    Uh, tactical graphics are representations and that’s a key word. They are representations of pictorial information and relief form of which the concept and the content are represented by a set of tactile symbols. They are selected for their ability to easily be identified and understood. So those symbols fall under four categories, four components that make up all tactile graphics. You have your area textures, lines, point symbols and braille . Now in the process of what to put, where and specific settings or materials that’s going to depend on your output method. That means there are different requirements in materials, equipment. If you are creating a collage display, then if you are electronically drawing for microcapsule fuser method, or for a high resolution graphic embosser. So there are lots of variables that go into the drawing process, but what doesn’t change is the thinking and the planning that is focused on the touch alone. Polly Edman and her book, “Tactile Graphics,” I really that book, it sums it up pretty well. I think when she wrote, “the main ingredient for good picture making is you. The important factors are how you think and both with your mind and your fingers.” So can you put yourself in a place of your reader and how can you represent that information so that the important facts are clearly understood and unnecessary details are omitted. I like that in question, because visual perception works differently than tactile perception. So merely raising what you see in print above the surface of the paper is not going to automatically make it readable. When you create a tactile graphic, you must find a way to deliver that information in a manner that’s understandable to the braille reader. It is done with simplification elimination, distortion and the separation methods that are set forth in the guidelines and standards for tactile graphics. This is a publication that was a joint effort by different organizations compiled by the Braille Authority of North America. It is to provide best practices and design principles to produce consistent tactile graphics . So this is a good place to start and it will introduce you to the basics and the four components along with a planning sheet to help you keep organized.

    Sara Brown: 7:36

    APH has the Tactile Graphic Image Library, tell us more about what it is, what it does, what it provides and how people can access it?

    Sally Hart: 7:48

    Yeah, the Tactile Graphic Image Library. Um , a lot of times just called “TGIL” because it’s shorter, is a free service provided by the American Printing House for the Blind. I am the administrator of the TGIL and I’m happy to say that it continues to grow with more assets and more users every year. This library service can be used by teachers, transcribers, parents, basically anyone anywhere to create standalone tactile graphics, or to supplement existing material. The TGIL website is It offers quick and free registration. Might I say everything about the library is free. You can register for free, download for free, free, free, free. Um , so after establishing an account, you will have access to over 2,000 editable, downloadable images that are ready for customization. Now, some images are detailed graphics, including braille labels, images of animal cells, atomic structures, life cycles and we’ve got printing greeting cards , um, that are this way. However, most provide just great starting points for you to create your own. That would be grids, country outlines, bone structure, shapes, things like that. And you can, and you really should adapt each graphic to fit your need and the image you are trying to represent. So go explore the library, visit, or on APH’s main website. You can find us under the “resources” tab.

    Sara Brown: 9:50

    And I know the Tactile Graphic Image Library just got an upgrade. Can you tell us more about that?

    Sally Hart: 9:57

    Yes, yes we did. Um, we’ve got a terrific new look. We’ve got a new logo. We’ve got a new URL, but we still have the 2,000 free images. What will be super helpful for users is we have a production method page. If you select this tab, it’s going to tell you how to use the tactile graphic image library with collage. It’s going to tell you how to use it with electronic drawing. We have resources on that page that will give you information on APH Pix Blaster and their page blaster, and just a few side notes on , um, things to look out for when you’re drawing electronically. So that’s the production method page. We have our contact APH page as always. We would love to hear from you. If you have questions, image ideas, comments require technical support. You can email us. Um, that email address has not changed. It’s Another helpful tab…at least that’s what we’re hoping for is our “resources” page. It will give you the link to, as I have talked about the “Guidelines and Standards for Technical Graphics.” It has a link to Tactile Skills Matrix. This is a site on, and I really like it. You can use this resource to locate APH products that support the development of skills and concepts that contribute to a student’s talk to literacy. So definitely something to look into you . We’ve got a Braille Blaster link apps and training webinars, and these are all of the TGIL series and the tactile graphics series that was originally done for Access Academy. So you can find all that information on there. And when you look at the assets, you can view by category and it has a different view . So the thumbnail images, if that’s what you’re using or bigger and easier to see . So yeah, lots of upgrades.

    Sara Brown: 12:15

    Do you have any tips or suggestions for people at home to make tactile graphics and images?

    Sally Hart: 12:22

    In short, a tactical graphic should provide equivalent information to the braille reader, just as the print version does for the sighted reader. Now that can seem daunting if you are new to tactile graphics or you haven’t done them in a while, the best method for learning how to prepare a tactile graphic comes from training experience and from constructive feedback from other technical graphic designers and the graphic reader. So my suggestion is to do those things, to gain experience organizations, such as NBA, AER, along with others, offer yearly conferences. APH’s own Access Academy offers live webinars throughout the year, and they are recorded. One of those recorded series is about tactile graphics. That series contains a TGIL specific recording. So if you would like a more detailed look at the library and how to use it with a free drawing software program, the access academy archive is the place to find it. The best tip I can give you is to seek out trainings, find a mentor, proofread your work and create it for the fingertips. You will improve with proper training experience and feedback.

    Sara Brown: 13:56

    And is there anything else you’d like to add regarding tactile graphics or literacy?

    Sally Hart: 14:01

    Well, we have talked about tactile graphics and what they are and their importance. I would like to mention what tactile graphics are not. There are activities that require a textile reader to “read the story presented entirely in pictures.” They have some that circle , the drawings that start with a certain sound task that require visual discrimination or visual identification are not readily recognized and interpreted by the braille reader. No diagram should be routinely admitted. If a comprehensible method can be found to, to make it tactile, but not all instructional objectives can be achieved as presented to the braille reader, because again, visual and tactile perception work differently. The guidelines and standards for tactile graphics, which you can download from has a decision tree that will help you decide if the image is appropriate for tactile graphic. I think I would like to close with the reminder that best educational practices include adapting images and materials and providing alternative activities that are going to support the braille reader and acquiring the skills of literacy and numeracy and graphics. See , we have to do this together.

    Sara Brown: 15:32

    We’ll be sure to put links to the tactile graphics image library in the show notes, as well as the email address. So you can send feedback. Sally, thank you so much for joining me on Change Makers today.

    Sally Hart: 15:43

    It’s been a pleasure. Thank you.

    Sara Brown: 15:49

    Now we have APH is Tactile Literacy Product Manager, Karen Poppe, and APH is Early Childhood Product Manager, Donna McClure-Rogers. Hello, Karen and Donna, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Karen Poppe: 16:02

    Hey Sara.

    Donna McClure-Rogers: 16:02

    Hi Sara

    Sara Brown: 16:05

    What are some important tactile literacy skills and what are some APH products that support the development of those skills?

    Karen Poppe: 16:13

    Okay, so Sara, this Karen , um, so let’s just touch briefly on the basics of technical literacy. Significant effort and time go into designing the best possible type of graphics for students with visual impairments and blindness. We always make sure that the graphics are designed according to establish standards and guidelines. However, all this effort and work is pointless and wasted if we do not prepare students at an early age for the meaningful interpretation and reading of tactful displays. Tactile skills are not automatically present or just because a student lacks vision, tactile skills need to be intentionally developed and practiced. We also need to cultivate a young child’s interest and enjoyment in tactical graphics through purposeful exposure to an assortment of graphic displays. Now, keep in mind that mastering tactile skills will play an important role later in a student’s educational career as they encounter tactile graphics and many textbooks and standardized tests. These skills will also continue to be critical and useful as they explore tactical graphics as adults. Preparation for successful tactile graphic interpretation does not begin with direct use of tactile graphics. Instead, we want to start with purposeful exploration of real objects. The first essential step to tackle understanding is encouraging early and varied hands on experiences with real objects within functional and meaningful context. A child needs to actively explore and handle real objects. When the objects are fully in reach and safe to explore, and identify salient features of the objects. For example, you don’t want a tactile drawing of an apple to proceed or supplant a child’s actual handling and firsthand experience with the real apple. A child needs to explore the apple’s overall shape, explore the stem, feel the weight of the apple, compare it to other apples and enjoy its unique smell and taste. A rich foundation of concepts is essential prior to using tactile graphics, an example of an APH product then encourages purposeful exploration of real objects is “Setting the Stage for Tactile Understanding.” Within this kit, I’ve included 12 real objects, such as a cup, a spoon, a cube, a ball and a toothbrush, but the child can actively handle and explore and identify unique characteristics. For example, the circular rim of a cup, the flexible bristles of a toothbrush, the flat sides of a block and so on. In doing so, they can build an understanding of various attributes and characteristics related to shape texture, contour, temperature, weight, hardness and more. They also learn to use their hands together in a purposeful manner as they explore each object and learn to recognize it and compare it to other objects. The child then learns that real objects in their world and environment can be represented by simplified tactical illustrations. For example, a raised circle represents a sphere, a raised square outline, represents a single side of a cube and a series of close together short lines can represent bristles of the toothbrush and assets. The tactical illustration represents something real in the world. However, it can not entirely capture all of the features of the real object. Something is usually sacrificed such as texture and or function of the object , the product setting the stage for tactile understanding systematically transitions or walks a student along the tactile continuum from real object to a realistic model or vacuum form to re really of the real object that is fairly easy to identify and eventually to be, to simplify more abstract raised outline of the real object . Another APH product that facilitates this graduated transition or approach is Giant Texture Beads with Pattern Matching Cards. They allows students to match 3D objects or cubes, rectangular prisms and cylinders with their tactical two dimensional counterparts reflected on matching cards. So to jumpstart , a child’s understanding of pallor tactical graphic is always symbolic as something real in their world, encourage the child to create a tactile drawing of their own. APH offers a product called Quick Draw Paper. As a student draws on the specialized compressed sponge paper with a water-based marker. The drawn image raises instantly. So have a child tries their own hand, for example, to create a simple raised drawing on the Quick Draw Paper, or have them trace around a real object to witness how the object converts into a very simplified outline that differs greatly from the real object. The student student in turn learns that their tactile drawing is only a simplified representation of the real object by allowing the child to create their own title of drawings. You, in turn, as the instructor will learn how the child perceives that object and which features they find important. To be a competent, tactile graphic reader, it’s also critical that a young child has a strong understanding of special concepts such as behind, between, next to, above, below, near, away from and so on. To practice these basic spatial concepts consider using APH this Tactical Treasures kit that provides a variety of tactical worksheets that present tactical representations of real objects. Within these worksheets, I’ve incorporated vacuum form, tactile objects that are common to a young child’s experience, such as buttons and pretzels, game tokens, scissors, gingerbread men, and more. The tactical worksheets can be used to review numerous concepts related to shape position size and page orientation. To compliment the use of Tactile Treasures with interactive tactical platforms, such as Picture Maker. That allows the child to independently position geometric shapes to demonstrate their understanding of various spatial concepts. For example, have the student place a triangle above or below a square, an oval between two rectangles, a rectangle beside star and so forth. Both of these products, Tactile Treasures and Picture Maker can conserve as an informal assessment of a child’s understanding of these very basic, but essential concepts that will assist their ability to navigate tactile graphics successfully. So when you think about a tactile, a typical tactile graphic of a map, or graph, or complex science diagram, it typically involves what I refer to as the main ingredients of a tactile graphic. And that is an assortment of raised line paths, points , symbols, and shapes, and aerial patterns or textures. Therefore be sure the young child has repeated opportunities to trace and track various line types, such as solid lines, dotted lines, dash lines, and low relief lead lines in a very systematic manner. Similarly allow them to experience various types of textures, such as bumpy, rough striped, smooth, soft, and more. And thirdly, introduce the student to a variety of shapes, circles, squares, triangles, and stars that are commonly used as tactical points , symbols within tactile graphics to represent a location on a map, a data point on a graph, or an identifying labels of some sort. Also remember that most graphics are supportive with braille labels and braille literacy and tactile literacy go hand in hand. APH’s Flip-Over Concept Books series provides interactive tactile panels to provide practice for line tracking, texture discrimination, part whole understanding of basic shapes and objects. APH’s board game, Web Chase is also perfect for discriminating textures, tracking along and navigating interesting line paths and identifying shapes within a recreational context with sighted peers. The third possibility is APH’s Texture, Sorting and Circles and Shapes that have magnetic bag pieces for use with APH’s All-in-One Boards. And these shapes come in different sizes and textures. It may not be obvious, but it’s very important that the child be exposed to a variety of tactical graphic methods to get comfortable and familiar with them in the process. Be sure they have hands-on experience with collage graphics and paper graphics, embossed graphics, thermal board graphics, microcapsule graphics, thermography, and other presentations of formats for tactile displays. Each method is very different and some incorporate more textures and heights than others. Those that allow variants in height and texture generate graphics that are typically easier to discriminate by younger students and are far more interesting to explore. APH now offers a robust embosser called Pix Blaster that is ideal for creating raised dot graphics, with various elevations of dots that permit texture , shading within graphics, if needed. If you have a Pix Blaster, consider using it to produce graphics downloaded from APH’s Tactile Graphic Image Library. There are some fun possibilities, including coloring pages, games, and puzzles and tackled greeting cards. There are many other technical skills that are important, including the understanding of perspective, such as top view, front view, side view cross-sectional view, interpreting tactile keys and logins and exploring a tactile page in a systematic manner, such as getting a quick overview or global view of the entire graphic first and then carefully scanning and dissecting the graphic in order to not miss important features and information. APH offers many additional products for students of all ages that help develop specific tactical skills. These products include early tactile storybooks, tactical games and science and math related graphics. So I’d like to reemphasize that a child should be a participant in creating tactile drawings on their own. So consider using products like Tactile Doodle, Draftsman, Color by Texture Marking Mats, to facilitate these opportunities. A child, to be a creator of their own graphics and drawings and not merely a recipient of graphics prepared by others. So in closing, remember the following: begin with active exploration of real objects, build an early strong foundation of basic concepts related to textures, shapes, lines and special understanding. Provide students with varied early experiences with tactile graphics of all types, encourage the use of graphics within both fun and educational context and last but not least allow students to independently create tactile drawings of their own.

    Sara Brown: 27:27

    Can you talk about how being exposed to tactile books help one develop tactile literacy skills?

    Donna McClure-Rogers: 27:34

    Sure. Sara, this is Donna. Um, well to build on what Karen said , um, you know, we now know that there are a lot of different types of tactical graphics. So it’s important to look at where the student is individually and their learning and what they need , um, as an individual and what also might be needed at home or in the classroom , uh , whatever environment a book might be created for. And so, APH has created , um, Tactical Book Builder Kit, and this is a wonderful product to assist teachers and just kind of providing the, the skeleton of what you might need for a book. And then you can take the information about the child’s individual needs and incorporate that into something that they can use in a book form. So this kit is going to come with complete with small binders so that you can put your pages together. It also has a lot of different colored vinyl pages that things can be glued to. Um, they can be used with hook and loop connection. Uh, there’s lots of different ways to utilize those and also build on the background color that’s available. A lot of these are primary colored pages and they’re very sturdy and able to be used by children of young ages , uh , so they can manipulate their own book and , uh , be able to turn the pages or they can even pull on them. And , and they’re not going to come apart from the binding, which is really important. Um, we’ve also got a lot of other skills that can be brought in by this kit. There are envelope pages where maybe a real object could be placed inside of an envelope so that the child can reach and learn to reach inside and locate what they’re looking for. There’s fabric pages, if you would, if you need to sew something on , um, there’s also magnetic pages and there’s even sound pages. If you need to add in that extra sensory element for the child to become more interested in the books that you’re creating. Um, braille paper is included and adhesive bailable labels as well, so that you can add text to , uh , each page, whether the child just needs one word or they’re at the point where they can begin to read sentences, whatever you might need to do. Um, this kit really , um, makes that possible and it helps the teacher to not have to run out and accumulate all of these different pieces separately. And it saves a lot of time and it’s just extremely helpful , uh , for the student and, and parents as well, because we know when we’re trying to get students interested in reading and in tactile graphics, it’s important to make sure that you meet them where they are. And this product is very helpful in doing that. Um, real objects can be placed on these pages as well with zip ties or magnets , um, anything that the child might need. And then you can also incorporate those images from the Tactile Image Library that you might print out onto braille paper onto some of these pages as well, so that if you need to do some sort of progression where the child , um, sees the real object in the beginning of the book and progresses to a more raised drawing on paper by the end of the book, you’re able to do that as well, just to kind of make that go step-by-step . Um, there’s also another product that we have, that’s very similar to the Tactical Book Builder, and it is called CVI Book Builder. And these two are quite similar. Um, but they are also extremely different because they were created for two different audiences. And the CVI Book Builder is, has a lot of products in it that are actually provide a black background for our students who need to reduce that visual clutter. So you have black small and large black binders. You have , um, black cloth pages and , um, black vinyl pages. And it , it’s just a lot easier to use these books in an environment , um, to reduce that clutter and help those children.

    Sara Brown: 32:23

    And is there anything else you would like to add regarding the importance of tactile literacy or tactile graphics?

    Karen Poppe: 32:31

    Uh , Sarah, I just wanted to mention , uh , several years ago I created the Online Technical Skills Matrix and that can be accessed on APH’s website. Just search for “technical skills matrix” using the “search” tab. It is now a permanent resource on the Tactical Graphic Image Library, web page as well. So the purpose of this matrix is I took 18 unique tactical skills and a pair of those with available APH products that support the development of each of those skills. So hyperlinks to the product page for each recommended product is provided. And this is a very , um, convenient resource for both teachers and parents to become familiar with the need for tactile skills and to also identify specific APH products that support the development of each of those skills. So in some cases recently, obsoleted APH products are still listed in that resource because those products are probably still out in circulation and available for those in the field to continue to use with their students. So thank you very much for this opportunity today to talk about tactical products and tactical skills.

    Donna McClure-Rogers: 33:40

    I would like to include that , um, with the tactile book builder and CVI Book Builder Kits, there are replacement parts available for each of the books style pages. So if you want to further individualize the child’s book and you think a child with CVI might be interested in a sound page or might be interested in the , um , a Ziploc page, or maybe even the , uh, the folder page, you can order that as a replacement part and our “replacements part” catalog, and be able to interchange those, those pages within the binders, because everything is the same size. So hopefully you can, you can achieve the individualized book , um, that each child is going to meet .

    Sara Brown: 34:27

    And if you want to check out some of the products mentioned during this interview, please check the show notes. We’ll have them there for you, Karen and Donna. Thank you so much for joining me on Change Makers.

    Donna McClure-Rogers: 34:38

    Thank you, Sara. I had a wonderful time.

    Karen Poppe: 34:41

    Hi Sarah. Thanks so much for inviting me today to be able to talk about tactical skills and tactical products. Well , thank you very much.

    Sara Brown: 34:51

    Now we’re talking to teaching fellow at the the University of Edinburgh and the CPD Coordinator for Visual Impairment at the Scottish Sensory Center, Elizabeth McCann. Hello, Elizabeth, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Elizabeth McCann: 35:03

    Hi, Sara. Thanks very much for having me today.

    Sara Brown: 35:07

    First off. Can you talk to me about what you do as the teaching fellow of visual impairment and VI CPD coordinator?

    Elizabeth McCann: 35:16

    So I work at the the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and I teach on the qualification. It’s a mandatory qualification for teachers to become qualified teachers of visual impairment. So on that course, I teach all the different parts that are related specifically to VI and the education of children and young people with visual impairment. And then I also have a , another job within the University of Edinburgh. It’s got Scottish Sensory Center and I organize professional learning courses for teachers and non-teaching staff, and even third sector who are working with and supporting children and young people, again, all with special impairments.

    Sara Brown: 36:04

    Now this podcast is about tactile graphics and tactile literacy. How do you incorporate tactile graphics into your teaching?

    Elizabeth McCann: 36:12

    Absolutely. So on the course that I teach, which is part of the mandatory qualification, we have a course code Issues and Strategies for Teaching and Learning. And on that course, I teach the , the teachers , uh , how to , um , create and teach at tactile graphics. Um , and that’s a very important part of the course because it’s all about, “how did our young people access learning?” And then also , uh, in the other role that I have , um, it’s taking that initial learning that we cover in our mandatory qualification and extending those skills. And very recently, I also had some courses with Sally Hart, from APH, who was sharing her knowledge about at tactile graphics as well. And these are really, really well received by our teachers here in the UK.

    Sara Brown: 37:08

    What is the process of teaching a student tactile graphics? Can you walk us through that? Is it like when you put their fingers and guiding their hands over shapes and outlines?

    Elizabeth McCann: 37:20

    So there is , uh , a progression of skills in order to learn and become profession in reading and understanding tactile graphics. And so we always talk about moving from three dimensional objects to the two dimensional, and it’s very important that children are taken through those stages in order to fully understand what tactile graphics are. So let me give you an example. I think that might be easier. So if we’re teaching about shape , for example, and it’s a circle we would expect, first of all, children, to know what a circle is to hold a real shape in their hand. And then from there, we , um , take away some of the chances to actually touch and feel the shape . So we might stick it onto a piece of card and then present it to them and they can explore it that way. And then we move on to use making shapes with different materials. So they may have been used to a plastic shape to begin with shapes and different fabrics and textures. And then we moved to line drawings and then outlines of the shape . So we take them through that whole, and it’s also as well about learning how to explore tactile graphics as well, and using our hands on the paper and it exploring the shapes and the picture that’s there in a way that’s systematic. And that is very important.

    Sara Brown: 38:53

    Earlier this year, we did a podcast called “Is Braille Still Relevant?” and all the people we interviewed gave a resounding “yes,” it is obviously still relevant. We asked that question because more people are listening to things. They’re not learning braille, they’re listening and devices speak to them and talk to them. They can talk to devices. So that made us pose that question. What would you say to anyone who does not think tactile literacy is important?

    Elizabeth McCann: 39:24

    Well, Sara, I’m really glad to hear that they decided that braille was still relevant because I absolutely agree with that 100% as well. Again, it’s about equality, equality of access, tactile literacy is vitally important. Uh , we can’t use just words to describe graphs. The understanding is just really difficult and in the same way for us to say to people, they say, “a picture paints of those words.” Well, so does a very good tactile graphic. Uh, and I stress the very good part there as well. So it is exactly the same concept. And so what we’re doing is we’re helping the children and the young people that we support to build up an understanding , um , about the world in which they live. And if we think, for example, in face tactile literacy is also about collage graphics as well. We think about the enjoyment that a sighted child has from a picture book. For example, then surely the child who is blind or severely sight impaired, should have that same enjoyment by having a tactile graphic collage or tactile graphic on their books as well. And they love it. They do get to exactly that same enjoyment. So absolutely tactile graphics can show so many things. They can be introduced at different levels. As the progression, as I said earlier, is , is vitally important that we match up the age and stage of progression and understanding of that child with the tactile graphic that is presented to them. So that is , is hugely important. They can learn so much more information and they can learn the same things as their peers as well in class using different methods, tactile methods that will give them that same level of understanding and, and their learning.

    Sara Brown: 41:35

    Is there anything else you’d like to add?

    Elizabeth McCann: 41:37

    Yes. Um, I think so. I think , um, the tactile graphics should never be a guessing game. So when we present a graphics , especially to very young children, we shouldn’t really be asking, “what do you think we have here?” There needs to be a teaching of that , uh , representation of what they have in front of them. So, and that is absolutely vital and critical. And the second point I think I’d like to make is that you don’t have to be artistic to create tactile graphics. And people often say , oh, Mrs. So-and-so, she’s very artistic. She would make very good, tactile graphics. And actually that’s not the case. It’s all about the person who’s creating that graphic, thinking about what the actual learner is experiencing. And it’s not about looking pretty, it’s not about looking exact an exact representation of the animal or , or whatever it is that they are portraying in that tactile graphic. It’s about how it feels and how it is perceived by the child or young person that is reading the graphic. And that is vitally important. I think another really important part is that you create a collage, tactile graphics with young children and ask them what they would like to add to the picture. This gives the whole process much more meaning. And then once the graphic has been created with them, they can go back and explain and tell you about it. They can explain to their friends , uh, what they have created. And it’s a really lovely learning experience, both for the child and for the teacher.

    Sara Brown: 43:28

    Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for joining me on Change Makers.

    Elizabeth McCann: 43:32

    Thank you very much. So lovely to talk to your ,

    Sara Brown: 43:36

    Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Change Makers. We’ll put any links, websites, and email addresses mentioned in this podcast, in the show notes, and as always be sure to look for ways you can be a change maker this week.

  • Jack Fox: 0:00

    Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host.

    Sara Brown: 0:15

    Hello, and welcome to Change Makers. I’m APH is Public Relations Manager, Sara Brown, and today we’re celebrating National Family Literacy Month. National Family Literacy Month is an opportunity for families to read together. So on this podcast, we’re talking about APH products that help plant the seeds for braille literacy. What APH Press books are good for educators teaching braille to children. And we’re going to talk about Braille Tales, an early program that helps children develop braille awareness skills and an enthusiasm for literacy in the hearts of young children through free books that have print and braille. Up first, we’re talking to APH’s Product Manager, Education, Product Innovation, Cathy Senft-Graves. Hello, Cathy , and welcome to Change Makers.

    Cathy Senft-Graves: 1:03

    Hi, glad to be here.

    Sara Brown: 1:05

    Can you talk about the importance of braille literacy and why it’s so important for children who are blind or visually impaired to learn braille?

    Cathy Senft-Graves: 1:13

    Sure. Well, literacy is the ability to read and write. For people who are blind or do not have enough vision to use print, braille is the medium they can use to learn, to read and write. We expect most typically sighted children to learn, to read and write using prints , including spelling and using punctuation correctly. And the same skills should be taught to and expected of children who are blind or visually impaired using braille. Literacy skills are required to get through school and become an independent member of society. I recently did a presentation where we asked the audience who were teachers and others in the field of blind ness and visual impairment; What first comes to mind when they hear the word braille, and some of the responses were literacy, language, empowerment, and self-determination.

    Sara Brown: 1:59

    If you’ve listened to Change Makers for a while now we do talk about the importance of braille literacy. And earlier this year, we even featured an entire podcast related to the importance of braille. That podcast is episode 21, titled “Is Braille Still Relevant.” We posed that question because a lot of younger children are listening to things rather than reading. Here’s a snippet from that podcast, where we have APH’s Head of Global Innovation, Greg Stilson speaking…

    Greg Stilson: 2:31

    “You know, so I think there’s, there’s always this debate today because of all the accessibility that’s there with, with text-to-speech engines, everywhere that, you know, your phone talks, your TV talks, everything talks, right? And so you always have the question of is braille still relevant and , uh , I’m going to start by saying that absolutely 100% it does. It is important because students and young children and people who learn braille, learn so much more than just the written word, right? They learn sentence structure, they learn layouts of pages. They learn grammar, they learn spelling. All of these things unfortunately cannot be learned by listening to a text-to-speech audio device. Having said that in my opinion, and this is, this is strictly my opinion. And from the time that I’ve , I’m a blind reader of braille myself, I learned braille in kindergarten, but just speaking to several teachers of the visually impaired, from what I understand and the way that I’ve, I’ve heard the most success come from, it is usually starting a student with a full page of braille, right…So a, usually a , a textbook or, you know, a physical piece of paper, right? What that teaches them is that it teaches them the spatial layout of things. So when you’re, going through a book when you’re reading a story , chapter titles or things like that are centered, and just that understanding that a chapter title is centered in the middle of the page. In today’s single line braille displays and things like that, that can’t really be represented adequately when you’re reading a single line display, everything is done linear in a linear fashion. Um, so the sentence structure, the , um, the , the, the, the layout of the page, things like that are really not represented in the same way that they’re represented on a, on a full page of braille or a full multiline , um, experience like that. So to summarize, I would say, starting the student, if you have the capability of , you know, the physical pages of braille or a, full, full page of braille , to teach them those really fundamental concepts, and then as time progresses and incorporating a lot of times, teachers have told me they use the electronic braille devices as sort of a reward for the student , uh, doing well with their, their written braille or they’re , they’re reading the physical pages of braille to then slowly transition them into electronic braille.”

    Sara Brown: 5:15

    We’re back with Cathy and we just heard the importance of learning braille and APH has a product called BOP or Building on Patterns. Cathy, what can you tell us about this product that helps set the foundation for braille? And is it quota ?

    Cathy Senft-Graves: 5:31

    Um, yes, it is quota eligible my answer, the short question first. So Building on Patterns is a systematic, comprehensive and balanced literacy program designed to teach young children with visual impairments to read and write using braille. In Building on Patterns, learning the dot configurations and rules governing braille are positioned in the larger context of learning to read and write. So Building on Patterns is not just about learning braille. It also includes instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics, listening and reading comprehension, high-frequency words, oral vocabulary, writing, including spelling and creative writing, using a braille writer, grammar and reading fluency. There are four levels of Building on Patterns. Pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first grade and second grade. There is a teacher’s manual or a teacher’s edition for each level available in both print and braille . The student materials for each level are sold separately in a student kit because many of the student materials are consumable, but the teacher’s manual can be used for multiple students. The first grade and second grade are each made up of seven units. Each unit is sold separately and has its own teacher’s edition and student kit. And all the braille contractions are taught by the end of the second grade level. The reason for that is because of high stakes testing starting in third grade. So it’s best if students transitioned to the classroom curriculum in third grade. That’s kind of an overview, the whole thing.

    Sara Brown: 7:00

    Talk to me about the team that you worked with on this project?

    Cathy Senft-Graves: 7:05

    Oh, it’s, it’s just very collaborative. I’m. I am privileged to work with a group of teachers of students with visual impairments on this project. And we have been working together for quite some time. Um, the Building on Patterns development team consists of teams of teachers of students with visual impairments, who are the main writers, other consultants and APH personnel. Um, one of the most important strengths of this program is that has been written by qualified, highly experienced teachers of students with visual impairments who embrace the value of reading and writing for students who will use braille. Teachers from four different states make up the current four writing groups. There are two groups out west in Oregon and California, one in the South in Arkansas and one in the East in Virginia. So the teacher input is from a variety of different perspectives, and these teachers are mostly itinerant. So they work with students in different schools, in their area of the country. Most of the consultants also, and most of those consultants that APH’s brought in for the different grade levels of the program have also been TSVI’s. And the core team of teachers/writers has been working on the program for over 10 years. Some of them have been with us for closer to 15. The experiences of these teachers actively working in the field are invaluable in the development of the curriculum. We meet regularly. We started using Zoom in 2019. So kind of ahead of the curve a little bit on that. And we work closely together to ensure consistency and continuity in the lessons. So they work with students in different schools, in their area of the country. Most of the consultants also, and most of those consultants that APH’s brought in for the different grade levels of the program have also been TSVI’s. And the core team of teachers/writers has been working on the program for over 10 years. Some of them have been with us for closer to 15. The experience of these teachers actively working in the field are invaluable in the development of the curriculum. We meet regularly. We started using Zoom in 2019. So kind of ahead of the curve a little bit on that. And we work closely together to ensure consistency and continuity in the lessons.

    Sara Brown: 8:41

    Why is BOP important for a student’s education? What are some of the skills and areas of focus a child will learn from BOP?

    Cathy Senft-Graves: 8:51

    So in addition to the literacy skills, I listed earlier, Building on Patterns addresses topics uniquely for braille readers, including tactile graphics. So we include a lot of raised line graphics in the curriculum for everything from tactile pictures to go along with the stories in the pre-K level to maps and charts and graphs, and even Venn diagrams in second grade. There’s also concept development and background for things that children who are blind and visually impaired don’t learn incidentally, the way typically sighted students do from seeing things in their environment or in pictures or on TV. Like for example, children who are blind need to know about colors and what color everyday items are in their surroundings. And of course, braille specific knowledge is incorporated throughout the lessons, including braille contractions, braille indicators, and how to use a braille writer.

    Sara Brown: 9:40

    And what is the age range for BOP?

    Cathy Senft-Graves: 9:43

    So generally students from four years old to seven years old, some of the instructional activities can be used with or adapted for older students, but teachers need to be careful about that because many of the stories and activities are designed for students in this age range, and won’t be appropriate for older children.

    Sara Brown: 10:04

    Are there any other resources for BOP? I know that there is Is there anything else?

    Cathy Senft-Graves: 10:11

    Yes, there is a website , um, and there are a couple of other things that everyone might not know about. So first I’d like to mention, there are reference volumes for the pre-K, first grade and second grade levels. And these include companion material to what’s in the teacher’s manual, such as background information about the program and its teaching philosophy, some relevant literacy research information on the skills taught and lists of words like contractions taught at each level. The reference volumes do come with the teacher’s edition for the first units of first and second grade. Then there are also post tests for kindergarten, first grade and second grade. In addition to assessing what a student has learned in Building on Patterns, the post test can be used to evaluate a new student’s braille knowledge. And then as you mentioned, there is a website for Building on Patterns. It’s, and it has pages for each level of the program. So each level has a page for themes, features and samples. And this includes example activities that can be downloaded. So teachers can see what some of the instructional activities look like, and they can show them to administrators and parents. There’s a teaching components page that includes a downloadable scope and sequence as a PDF and as a BRF or braille ready file. There’s an ordering information page that lists all the kit information and has links to the APH shopping pages. And then there are, there are teacher resources for each level. For kindergarten, first grade and second grade this includes the UEB teacher supplements. So all the Building on Patterns student materials are in UEB, but because we’re focusing our resources on updating the program, we’re currently providing free downloadable supplements for the teachers materials for these levels, with information on what changed for UEB in the student materials, rather than updating the hard copy teacher materials. There are also electronic versions of the pre-K parent letters and first and second grade homework letters that are in each lesson. Um, these letters can be sent home and they contain activity suggestions for families that go along with the skills and concepts being taught. And they’re included in the student kit in hard copy, but with the electronic versions, teachers can tailor the letters to the child’s family. And that I want to especially mention , um, for pre kindergarten , there’s a frequently asked questions list. So that’s a good resource for people using that level. Um, there are videos about using a braille writer, photos about the hand-under-hand technique for helping students. And there are sample assessments, so teachers can see how those can be utilized.

    Sara Brown: 12:56

    And is there anything else you’d like to add regarding BOP?

    Cathy Senft-Graves: 13:00

    So Building on Patterns can be used along with the general education classroom curriculum materials. Students need to be taught all the skills included in Building on Patterns, but whether they get them in BOP or in their general education classes, or some combination is up to individual teams and teachers. (period) Building on Patterns was written with details to aid, the beginning teacher of students with visual impairments. However, it’s not a scripted program. It is designed to be used by qualified teachers of students with visual impairments and teachers need to tailor their instruction to each individual child. Um, also APH is continuously updating this curriculum to keep up with changes in educational standards. The kindergarten level is currently under revision, but it is a time intensive process. It’ll be a little while before we send out a request for teachers to field test it, but when that’s complete, we will move on to updating the first grade. Um, and anyone’s welcome to contact me anytime with questions or input about the program.

    Sara Brown: 13:58

    We’ll be sure to put the links in the show notes to the BOP shipping page, APHBop.Org, as well as Cathy’s email in the show notes. Be sure to check there for more information. Thank you so much, Kathy , for joining me on Change Makers.

    Cathy Senft-Graves: 14:12

    Very glad to be here. Thanks Sara.

    Sara Brown: 14:15

    Now we have APH Product Manager, Educational Product Innovation, Donna McClure-Rogers. Hello, Donna, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Donna McClure-Rogers: 14:25

    Hi, thanks for having me.

    Sara Brown: 14:27

    We’re looking at a Lap Time and Lullabies Parent Handbooks and Storybooks. Can you tell us about these products?

    Donna McClure-Rogers: 14:33

    These were a group of products and that was originally supposed to be all in one kit. Um, but it is currently being sold separately. So you can get the 18 parent booklets as the parent handbooks. And then you would also want to purchase the two storybooks that go along with those handbooks. They’re mentioned throughout , um , each little leaflet and they help the parents to walk through the program with their children.

    Sara Brown: 15:02

    And are they quota eligible?

    Donna McClure-Rogers: 15:05

    They are. Yes.

    Sara Brown: 15:07

    What is the age range for a Lap Time and Lullabies?

    Donna McClure-Rogers: 15:12

    Lap Time and Lullabies is geared for younger children. Um, basically birth through preschool, the beginning of kindergarten. Um, it deals a lot with emergent literacy skills , um, which is the period before formal literacy instruction begins. So you’re looking at the background knowledge that children would need to understand basic language , um, how written language is used in their environment and different attitudes that they might develop prior to learning to read.

    Sara Brown: 15:50

    And is there anything else you can tell us about Lap Time and Lullabies?

    Donna McClure-Rogers: 15:55

    Well, Lap Time and Lullabies was created so that you would have the 18 parent booklets that work together with the two storybooks, these were broken down into the 18 parts, so that teachers would be able to provide parents with little chunks of information rather than handing them a textbook or a chapter to review in order to understand what their children are going through. The first four booklets are created to explain things that might occur in the parents and child’s life between birth and they’re the first year. So it’ll explain a lot of things about different visual impairments and how those impairments might affect how the child would interact with their environment. And beyond the fourth booklet , uh , the teacher can actually provide those in any order that she needs to, as she’s working with the parents in their home, these are great to teach different concepts like hand in her hand, help the parents to understand how to get their children, to explore their environment. And the storybooks are integrated within these booklets, teaching the parents, how to create that loving environment for children to learn the love, the written word, and understand that that’s where language comes from, how to incorporate that with the basic images that are on the pages and just to kind of get children into reading and loving stories and understanding what they’re hearing along the way. So , um , this is just a wonderful program to help parents and their children. And we’re very excited to get this out.

    Sara Brown: 17:51

    Thank you so much Donna, for joining me on Change Makers.

    Donna McClure-Rogers: 17:54

    Thank you for having me.

    Sara Brown: 17:59

    We have APH’s Prison Braille Coordinator, which oversees Braille Tales, Christine Genovely. Hello, Christine, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Christine Genovely: 18:08

    Hi, thanks for having me.

    Sara Brown: 18:10

    Can you tell me a bit about Braille Tales and how it encourages literacy?

    Christine Genovely: 18:15

    Yes, absolutely. It would be my pleasure. Uh, Braille Tales is a program that we run out of , uh , the American Printing House for the Blind that sends free of charge, print braille books directly to families six times a year. Now these books are children’s books that are in print and we make clear labels , printed with braille that we put over each page. So they are accessible for both the sighted and the visually impaired braille readers. Um, and this is an incredibly important program for us. You know, early reading has such a tremendous impact on childhood development and we really want to make that accessible for all children in all families, regardless of their vision level, braille readers. Um, and so that’s where this program comes in. Since we all know a home is the first and best place to learn literacy development or to begin that process. It’s never too early to start. We’ll start sending these books out from birth. And then they graduate at six-years-old. This allows families with either parents that are real readers or children that are visually impaired and likely to be braille readers, to both have the opportunity to experience that time reading together. So parents that are braille readers who enjoy that moment of, you know, curling up in bed , um, before bedtime and reading a story book together, they can read braille, the children can follow along in the print or vice versa, and that allows even children who are not literate yet , um, that are going to be real readers to have that first exposure where they can feel the braille, they can learn what their letters are going to look like. What their future’s going to hold in that regard. So the most important thing is just to create this opportunity for all families. And that’s another reason why it’s free of charge is because we all know braille books can be incredibly expensive and difficult to find, you know, so this allows for families to create their own home library of , uh , print braille books for them to use at any time.

    Sara Brown: 20:56

    And is there anything else you want the public to know about Braille Tales? I know it’s a part of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. Is there anything else you want people to know?

    Christine Genovely: 21:06

    Yes. Uh , actually, if you go to our website, you can apply directly online and that is , uh , and they’re applications online. There’s further information to contact us if you have any questions. Um, the one sort of sticking point I want to make sure I mentioned is that these books are, are for families. So , um, for children who are ages zero to six and who live in the U.S. Or in any of its outlying territories, you are eligible. So please reach out.

    Sara Brown: 21:46

    We’ll be sure to put links to Braille Tales in the Show Notes. So be sure to check there for more information. All right, Christine, thank you so much for joining us today on Change Makers.

    Christine Genovely: 21:54

    Thank you such a pleasure.

    Sara Brown: 22:00

    We have APH’s Press Director, Heather Spence. Heather oversees published educational content. Hello, Heather, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Heather Spence: 22:10

    Hi Sara. Thanks for having me.

    Sara Brown: 22:12

    Can you talk to us about what books are recommended for educators teaching braille to children?

    Heather Spence: 22:18

    Sure. Um, I would say the go-to book would be Beginning with Braille: Firsthand Experiences with a Balanced Approach to Literacy by Anna Swenson . Um, this book really for more than 20 years, I would say, has been , um, really the go-to resource for educators teaching braille to beginning students. The book was first published in 1999, I believe, and then updated again in 2016 with new content that included incorporating technology into literacy instruction , um, how to meet modern curriculum requirements and also how to work with dual media students. So beginning with braille is really a practical teacher-friendly book that emphasizes the importance of recognizing teacher’s roles really as co-teachers of reading and not necessarily braille teachers working alone, outside the classroom environment. Um, the book is divided into three parts. So part one is called a context for instruction and offers some basic background information, including trends in general education and braille literacy instruction. It has some guidelines and strategies for beginning braille, and then also an overview of assessment and documentation. Um, part two is called you and your braille student and has really devoted to literacy instruction for a wide range of learners. And then finally, the part three is beyond instruction braille and the inclusive classroom and includes chapters on adapting print, classroom materials and teaching braille decided classmates. So beginning with braille is really , uh , a great resource for teachers working with beginning braille students. Um, and then we also have another great resource , um, from APH Press that’s called, I-M-Able Kit by Diane Wormsley and I-M-Able stands for the individualized meaning centered approach to braille literacy education. Um, and it really is an innovated individualized student centered method for teaching braille and making it exciting for children who have difficulties with learning braille. This book also came out in 2016, but the concept really was first introduced in the book , uh , called braille literacy, a functional approach back in 2004. I-M-Able the concept really where the, I guess the premise behind the book was that it was meant it was designed to be an aid for teachers working with children with visual impairments and implementing that approach. Um, the, I-M-Able to approach , um, it could also be used for personnel preparation programs , um, in coursework for pre-service teachers learning how to teach braille reading , um, and in the teaching approach, that’s outlined in the book, the instruction is really centered on continuously analyzing the strengths and needs of the students and placing particular emphasis on engaging them using key vocabulary, words, and phrases based on their experience and interests . Um, so the guide provides really detailed direction on how to implement the components of the approach. Um, and I did , I want to mention too , in addition to the book that we have from APH Press APH also has a kit. Um , and I-M-Able Kit that includes the book along with other materials , um, that are designed to motivate and engage and reward students who are candidates for braille reading instruction, but who might be struggling. So the kit includes a copy of the book along with some training videos, APH Word House Kit, and the APH HANDS ON: Sorting Trays that can be used for playing games with work cards. So it’s really a kit that teachers can use to make learning fun.

    Sara Brown: 26:42

    Are there any other books you would recommend?

    Heather Spence: 26:46

    Sure. Um, there’s another great book. That’s not necessarily meant for teaching braille, but reading in general and it’s called reading connections strategies for teaching students with visual impairments. Um, breeding connections was released in 2015 and was really written for educators seeking to improve the reading skills of their students , um, who are visually impaired with the aim of offering an in-depth and user-friendly guide for teaching reading. So the book addresses the needs of students who read print braille or both. Um, so it , it provides teachers with a foundation for understanding reading instruction, along with a variety of activities that they can use on a daily basis to help students improve their reading skills. Um, the, in the second part of reading connections, all of the chapters in part two include sample activities. So there are probably , um, at least anywhere from a half dozen to a dozen activities in each of those chapters that can be used to teach the components of reading. Reading connections is really aimed at teachers working in general and special education schools, as well as instructors and pre-service teachers in the teacher preparation programs, but it can also provide school administrators with a better understanding of the rule of the TBI and teaching reading. So I think it’s a really great resource.

    Sara Brown: 28:19

    And since this is national family literacy month, is there anything else you’d like to add to this conversation about braille and children?

    Heather Spence: 28:28

    Sure. Um, we actually have another great resource that we’re working on a new edition for , um, and that is guidelines and games for teaching efficient braille reading. So this book, it’s a really fun book, you know , it’s , uh , it’s small and easy for the teachers to carry along with them. Um, it includes games that provide ideas for adapting, a general reading program to the needs of braille readers and really enriching early instruction in braille. And this, you know, we consider this one of our classic texts. It was first released in 1981, I believe. Um, so we’re coming up on a fourth . This is the, I guess the 40 year anniversary. So the book is being updated to reflect current technology and devices , um, any of the new methods and efficiencies that have evolved in the last 40 years and also the updates to braille instruction. So we’re really excited about this new edition and we think it’s going to be an invaluable resource for classroom teachers and really anyone working with children who are blind or visually impaired and it’s expected to be released in spring of 2022.

    Sara Brown: 29:40

    That’s that far her way. Okay, Heather, thank you so much for joining us today on Change Makers. Thank you for having me. It was always a pleasure. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Change Makers we’ll again, put any links and websites mentioned in this podcast, in the show notes and as always be sure to look for ways you can be a Change Maker this week.

  • Jack Fox: 0:00

    Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host.

    Sara Brown: 0:16

    Hello, and welcome to Change Makers. I’m APH is public relations manager, Sara Brown . And today we’re talking about National Disability Employment awareness month held during the month of October. The theme for this year is America’s recovery powered by inclusion. NDEAM commemorates the many contributions of people with disabilities to the workplace in economy. And to continue that conversation about employment in the workplace, we’re going to explore some of the resources offered through APH. We’re going to talk to a CareerConnect specialist , and we’re going to talk about the importance of accessibility, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace. And we’ll hear from a current job seeker. Up first, we have APH’s Digital Content Manager for the Career Connect program, Richard Rueda . Hello, Richard, and welcome to Change Makers,

    Richard Rueda: 1:09

    Sara. Hello, and thank you for having me on today. I’m excited to be here.

    Sara Brown: 1:12

    First off. Congratulations on your new role at CareerConnect.

    Richard Rueda: 1:16

    Thank you .

    Sara Brown: 1:17

    And can you tell us a little bit about your role at CareerConnect?

    Richard Rueda: 1:22

    Yeah. And thank you, Sara. I , uh , I’m onboarding as the Digital Content Manager. I’ve, I’ve switched over , uh, I’ve been on contract for a year and a helping out just in portions of the ConnectCenter and CareerConnect. And in my role, I step into as Digital Content Manager, I am able to really , uh, I don’t want to say resurrect, but really bring career connect to the modern day stage where we’re helping job seekers young and old, and all of those in between , uh, looking for career advice, career guidance, and , uh, we do webinars. I’m going to be , uh , hosting a forums on mentoring on how to get a job, how to get a job when you’re older , um , networking and bringing people together and have the other half of what we do in the connect center , uh, in CareerConnect, Sara is marketing and outreach. So doing presentations to the conferences, the consumer groups, ACB and NFB , uh, going to a head outside of the blindness organizations to disability in , and really letting people know how important and critical career connect is , uh , to our population, to our audiences, because there are so many resources. So managing that, managing our content, getting , um , all the experts together and getting it published through our forum , uh , with all the different media outlets that career connect has evolved to from, from blogs to, to our webinars.

    Sara Brown: 2:48

    Okay. And for those who don’t know, tell us why is CareerConnect so important and vital asset?

    Richard Rueda: 2:57

    You know, I , I, I thought about this and because we get this asked a lot, Sara, and what I like to think of CareerConnect, because I I’ve used it as a user and as a rehabilitation professional going past 20 years now. And I see it, I seen it evolve and grown from the days when it was with AFB and it’s done so much, and it’s been so much to so many folks in our field. Uh , I call it from, from legacy to legendary because there are so many aspects and layers of career connect. Um, it’s important because it is the single go-to for the curious , uh, job seeker for the curious person, wanting to explore a career, find people who are role models or mentors, we’re doing things. And we have that information up there. It’s , uh , it’s the single place that where you can connect and find other people who are doing the things that you’re curious or interested about. Uh, that’s, that’s the , the thing about CareerConnect, which is so critical and so exciting and awesome, and by modernizing and bringing out new content and new perspectives, including diversity and inclusion, we , we make sure we hear from voices from all walks of life and my networking. My , uh, 25 years plus in the field has given me the opportunity to know people in the blindness community and who are deaf blind, and, and from all walks of life who can come and contribute and who do it willingly.

    Sara Brown: 4:25

    Can you talk to us about what CareerConnect offers for those seeking employment? It’s it’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and tell us what does CareerConnect offer for those looking for jobs?

    Richard Rueda: 4:41

    Yes, Sara, we are , um, knowing that it’s October and National Disability Awareness Month, we , uh, we have blogs and we have articles on all our sites, even on FamilyConnect and a little bit on VisionAware. But we do , uh , put that up on , uh , CareerConnect as a blog and on our Facebook page. And we address what the theme is, how people can get involved, how employers can get involved , uh , some of the tools and , uh , curriculum that career connect hosts is, are one of the more popular items we have up. There is our job seekers toolkit and a little over a year ago, we revamped that toolkit. It’s a curriculum for job seekers and for rehabilitation professionals to work with their participants or clients, if you will, on how to get a job, how do you disclose your visual impairment, your blindness, when you are interviewing for a job, the pros, the cons, how should you do it before, during or after the interview? And we give scenarios on that. The job seekers toolkit also addresses , uh , w what is the best way to interview for a job? And how do you interview online? If you’re doing a Zoom interview, as many of us have been doing for the past year. If you were a job seeker or just your schooling, but also a how to do the handshake, what should you wear for the interview? Um, how to look for a job, how to search for a job, the job seeker tool kit addresses that, and that’s up on career connect, or if you will, APH career And I like to make that distinction, Sara, because when we inherited CareerConnect, we put APH in front of it. So people often will not find it unless you go to APHCareerConnect .org . Um, again, the other things that CareerConnect has our blogs and blogs are a way for you to get your ideas and opinions out. They’re not just from the professionals who are teachers of the visually impaired and rehabilitation, counselors and educators, but also students , uh , part job seekers. Uh, we have one, a young lady who I know wrote an article, a blog for us back in June, and how to interview during the pandemic, and how do you really make those connections and distinct , uh, connections when you want to be that person to be hired. And that there’s a blog up there on that. There’s a blog up there on how do you have your guide dog in the workplace? There’s articles on disability , uh, awareness on , uh, diversity and inclusion and Ann Wai-Yee Kwong and Giovanni Barbara and Daisy Soto here in California wrote a really good four piece blog article on diversity and how , uh , being blind, how being from other cultures and other , uh , walks of life really influences how they were able to advocate to go to college and get their first job and get out of the house. And that’s speaks to a lot of young people who are coming in from other parts of the world, wanting to get this information. So CareerConnect addresses that through our blogs. Uh , one of the other things that we do with career connect our webinars. Uh, the big buzz right now in the rehabilitation field is Pre-ets or preemployment transition services. And working through our advisory committee with CareerConnect, u m, Shannon McVoy up in Michigan and other, u h, subject matter experts, Sue G lazer down in Florida, we’ve put together several webinars on preemployment transition services. What does that mean to the vocational rehabilitation counselor? What does that mean to the teacher of the visually impaired and to the job seeker, the student who’s 16 wanting to get their first ever work experience? U h, those are some of the things among many other things that we are addressing, u m, timely and passionately through career connect.

    Sara Brown: 8:22

    What else can job-seekers find on CareerConnect?

    Richard Rueda: 8:26

    Yeah , uh, you know, our job seekers , uh, there there’s , uh , uh, it’s I talked about the job seekers toolkit. Uh, we are working on and updating the maintaining employment guide. So for people who are , uh , exchanging careers or transferring from one career to another , uh , we have information on that , uh, in the rehab field, we call it post-employment services or job retention. If you’re looking from one job to another, or how to retain your job, there’s information on that. Um, S success videos. We’ve a Russel Shaffer who some of us in APH know who’s on a part of the APH board who works at Walmart, and he talks about his struggles and challenges and ultimate triumphs , uh , going to work for Walmart as a visually impaired , uh, individual. And that’s a real powerful interview. That’s up on our success videos or succeed at works , uh , site , uh, Dr. Mona Minkara, who’s got a PhD in chemistry who works at Northeastern University in Boston. She is this a bright young lady who’s just super empowering and talks about how blind people students can get into the field of chemistry and really break down those barriers and get in the field of STEM. Science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. So we’ve got these videos up there. They’re about an hour long, but we break them into 10, 15 minute segments. So students can go in there during class time and watch a segment that their teacher may have asked them to watch and get, feel empowered, feel motivated. Um, that th that’s just some of the many things. Uh, there are resources for employers up there. There are resources for teachers , um, for the employers or for the job seekers, Sara , uh, we’ve got our virtual work sites. So if you’re working in the retail environment or an office environment, or in a factory , uh, we’ve have , uh, these data sheets on what job seekers need to be able to work on their job site. So if they’re low vision or blind, we have information on , uh , what you will need accommodations-wide, very similar to the job accommodation network. So we have , uh , the measuring tools that you’ll need that are adapted. If you’re working in like in a warehouse, versus if you’re working in an office, you might just need something for your low vision, for something that reduces glare or a screen reader. And again, we’re getting a lot of employers out there who are coming to career connect, who don’t know much about blindness, and we want to make them as informed and as empowered as possible. So through those virtual work-site curriculums up there, it’s another way to address how to work with people who are blind on the job.

    Sara Brown: 11:00

    The employment statistics for individuals who are blind or visually impaired are low. What can CareerConnect provide to employers who are hesitant? You touched on it just a minute ago with your previous answer, but is there anything else employers… CareerConnect can provide to employers who are just unsure?

    Richard Rueda: 11:20

    Yeah. A couple of things. I , I want to , um , kind of acknowledge our I&R line. The Information and Referral line through the ConnectCenter, because we often think of CareerConnect as just a part of a its own site, but we are a family of sites, CareerConnect, FamilyConnect, and VisionAware in our I&R line. Often we hear through our I&R line, which is Allen and Sharon who hear from employers or job seekers about the struggles they have on hiring a blind person or the blind person getting a job. So often those get funneled to the, to myself and or to Olaya and we kind of troubleshoot on how to best address that. So everything doesn’t just come through the site, but it comes through an I&R line. And that’s an important element to know, because it’s a team effort around here. It’s not just Richard saying what Richard knows, we share our knowledge. And then I also have established and , uh , November of last year, our APH CareerConnect Advisory Committee. That is a body of rehabilitation, counselors and teachers , uh , employers , uh, college professionals, who also can be kind of our go-to body to help address , uh, employment matters. And so employers can go to CareerConnect or call us and on CareerConnect with , there are , uh, information on how to hire a blind person , uh, best practices on onboarding a blind person, how to interact with a blind person, as well as communicating with us. So there’s, there’s multiple ways to understand and learn on , uh , what’s out there for employers to address the high unemployment rate, which, you know, we’re , we’re not happy to hear, but CareerConnect tries to bridge that gap by being one more resource. And we do a lot of outreach and we’re going to be doing so much more in my position in the next year to get out there to employers, to educate them, to engage them and to make them feel cool about hiring blind people. And the other thing I will say, Sara, I just looked at my notes here is , uh, we, we realize that a lot of employers don’t know about rehabilitation like we do in the field. So we’ll make the appropriate referral to the, their local rehabilitation agency who is , uh , tasked with helping employers as well as job seekers work with each other better and bridging those gaps by providing technologies on the job assessments and those things that are relevant to making it , uh, you know, seamless , um, on the boarding experience and a cool experience for the employer.

    Sara Brown: 13:51

    One last question. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

    Richard Rueda: 13:56

    Well, I , I think , uh, and thank you , uh , again for the opportunity I, as you can tell our hope, I, I’m very passionate about CareerConnect and where it has gone from being a legacy to legendary. And I really want people to think about that. Um, we have plans for the future. Uh , we’re not static, we’re alive and well, our , our Advisory Committee is really , uh , helping us put together a lot of events , uh, both in-person and on zoom hybrid, if you will, for the coming year. And we’re excited to be out there , uh , networking with folks from all walks of life. Um , one of the things that we will be launching in , uh , early next year and 2022 is something I’m calling , uh, it might not be the final name , uh , Career Conversations, and it will be a webinar where I will be interviewing , uh , similar to what we have been doing with Succeed at Work, in our Success Stories, interviewing blind professionals who are doing really cool and interesting jobs from, from just anything you can think of doctors, lawyers , uh , people working , uh , you know , at call centers, everything under the sun, the boring and not so boring jobs. I will be interviewing those folks, getting to know them, but also in the live setting, we will be able to allow our, our , uh, attendees who are watching on zoom , uh, to ask a question. So maybe for 20 minutes, I will interview you. And then after that, we will invite our audience to send in questions, to give , be able to ask that person things that are interesting about their job or how they got their job questions that are specific to them. And I think that’ll invite more people into the career space and through our Career Conversations and it’ll open up doors and then we can publish these webinars like we do with our other , uh, media. And it’ll , again, one more opportunity for folks to engage in , learn from blind professionals from all walks of life. I think the last thing that we want to do through CareerConnect in the ConnectCenter, as we build our team, since we’re growing, we’ll have a series of open houses over the next couple of months, where we are talking about VisionAware, FamilyConnect and career connect to the entire community , uh, where they come in on zoom, they get to ask our entire team what’s going on and also provide information and feedback on what we’re , um, what what’s missing and how we can make our sites even more interactive and more engaging to everyone out there. So be on the lookout for that, Sara and , um , I thank you and APH for Change Makers podcast. I’m a fan I listened every time it’s published. So thank you for having me. And I’m super thrilled. And over the moon to be a part of the APH family,

    Sara Brown: 16:30

    We’re happy to have you on board. And you know, this is your first time on the podcast, but I’m sure it won’t be your last. So thank you so much, Richard, for joining me today on Change Makers.

    Richard Rueda: 16:42

    My pleasure.

    Sara Brown: 16:49

    Up next, we have APH’s Director Accessibility, Diversity and Inclusion Tai Tomasi. Hello, Tai and welcome to Change Makers.

    Tai Tomasi: 16:57

    Hi, thanks so much for having me on the podcast.

    Sara Brown: 17:00

    Talk to us about accessibility, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace and why it’s so important. This is something we talk about frequently, and we really want to drive home the importance of having that in the workplace.

    Tai Tomasi: 17:13

    I think it’s important for people to recognize the stigma and the challenges that the blind and visually impaired and disabled communities face, but also other communities like the LGBTQIA plus community, all communities of color , um , we all experienced different issues and employment, different challenges because of implicit biases of the people in charge. Every one of us has implicit biases and that’s just something we all have to constantly counter within ourselves. But what makes a difference is the extent to which people are willing to do that, how much we’re willing to question our own, move beyond those biases and change our whole employment. Uh, the makeup of our, of our employers. We’re all more comfortable with people and experiences that we, that mirror our own experiences and it’s important to continually counter those biases. So every day we counter the predominant cultural experiences and we raised empathy for other experiences. We can’t have inclusion without universal accessibility, and we can’t have belonging without inclusion, accessibility and diversity and equity in all of our workplaces. So all of these are intertwined. And so many of us have these intersectional, multiple identities, whether we’re blind with a psychiatric disability or we’re black, and we’re visually impaired or we’re blind and lesbian, just to name a few, few different intersectional identities. Studies show that the more intersectional identities that are represented in a workplace, the more creative, innovative, and successful the teams are all different teams with people with disabilities and other minority statuses. So openly acknowledging the barriers and the challenges for blind and visually impaired people, obtaining employment really can’t be overstated. There are a lot of barriers, a lot of challenges. And the only way we can deal with that is through continued advocacy. We have to develop resilience. Um , even some systems that are designed to help our communities , um, often do harm through ableism and some microaggressions like some agencies like Social Security , um, Vocational Rehabilitation. These agencies want us to become employed, but even employees of those agencies sometimes are unfamiliar with our challenges because they’re may not be disabled. So the resilience and the problem solving strategies that the blind and disabled communities and communities of color and LGBTQIA plus communities bring to our organizations educates and improves entire teams and companies. So this is why all of the things that we’re doing with accessibility, inclusion, diversity and equity are so important in the workplace. They’re not just buzzwords. They truly eliminate the path to success for all companies and companies that address all these areas are consistently rated some of the best places to work because employee satisfaction is higher and people feel included and they feel like they belong. So for employees who are blind or visually impaired , um, that’s really important to feel like we can belong and that we’re accepted and people are listening to what our needs are.

    Sara Brown: 20:18

    And what do you want to see in the workplace for individuals who are blind or visually impaired?

    Tai Tomasi: 20:25

    For people who are blind and visually impaired , uh , employees who are blind or visually impaired. I want to see employers truly observe and listen to what blind employees are saying, where are the experts on our own needs? Um, and the disability community has adopted the mantra, which I may have said on here before on other episodes, “nothing about us without us.” I want to see employers take that to heart and defer to us rather than looking to academic academics or research about our needs. Academic scholarship and research is certainly important, but it really can’t replace the lived experiences of blind and visually impaired people. I also want , um , employers to make workplaces safe spaces, to discuss challenges and needs. And one way to help make safe spaces is to establish employee resource groups, which is something we’re going to do at APH. And in these groups, people with different identities have a safe space to discuss issues with each other. And preferably these groups don’t include executives , um , and are they’re led by someone who shares the identities being discussed. Um, also employers should not assume anything about what blind and visually impaired people can do or people with disabilities can do. And , um , realizing one , one important thing that employers can do is realize that everyone does things differently and that’s okay. People with disabilities are often scrutinized for that fact. And it’s really important to understand that we might do things differently, but we’re all working to accomplish the same things. The focus should be on, you know, whether this person is doing their job functions, are they completing the essential job functions? And , um, instead of criticizing what technique they might be using to do that,

    Sara Brown: 22:09

    What are some easy ways employers can determine if they are accessible and inclusive?

    Tai Tomasi: 22:14

    Yeah. So there are a lot of ways you can audit your organization to see , uh , whether you’re accessible. Um, you know, whether you need to work on diversity and inclusion, there are a lot of different audits out there to check on those practices. Um, you want to make sure that your practices and policies don’t have any disparate impact on people with disabilities. And that means that nothing in the workplace should cause an inequitable experience for employees or customers that have disabilities. I encourage people to contact me for specific resources on that. Um, there’s quite a few out there. Um, if employers need ideas about how to accommodate people with disabilities, first, have a conversation with the person with a disability. Um, that’s not off the table, you know, if someone needs accommodations, it’s okay. If we can talk to them about that. Um, if the disability has already been disclosed , um, talk to the person about what they might need and if the employee doesn’t know what they need , um, the job, the Job Accommodation Network is a good resource for ideas on that. Uh, finally the APH career connect program that we run has a lot of valuable resources for blind and visually impaired employees and employers who want to learn more about , um , what it is to be blind and visually impaired.

    Sara Brown: 23:23

    Is there anything else you’d like to add regarding accessibility, diversity and inclusion?

    Tai Tomasi: 23:29

    Yeah. If you have any questions about accessibility , um, belonging, inclusion, diversity, and equity , uh, feel free to contact me. I can be contacted at, that’s as my first, the first letter of my first name and then my last name. Um , you can also call me at (502) 899-2340. I’m happy to provide more resources.

    Sara Brown: 23:54

    Thank you so much, Tai, for joining us today on Change Makers.

    Tai Tomasi: 23:57

    I’m so glad to be here. Thanks for having me.

    Sara Brown: 24:02

    Now, we’re talking to a current job seeker who’s out there right now, looking for employment. We have Paulina Vasquez here. Hello, Paulina, and welcome to change makers.

    Paulina Vasquez: 24:13

    Hello. Thank you so much for having me. I am very happy to be here.

    Sara Brown: 24:18

    So can you tell me about your job search right now?

    Paulina Vasquez: 24:23

    My job search has been very dynamic and a lot of it has just been a lot of research and really being sure as to what I’m looking for and even in some cases what I’m not looking for, and that takes a lot of trial and error.

    Sara Brown: 24:46

    And have you used CareerCnnect for your current job search?

    Paulina Vasquez: 24:52

    Yes, I have. I have found the plethora of resources on CareerConnect to be very invaluable. I’ve used , uh , the blogs as , uh , resources, especially getting the job seeker perspective, in addition to the perspective of employers in terms of what they might be looking for and especially hearing it from other job seekers, like how they go through the interview process and what that was like for them. And of course, considering accessibility in mind. Additionally, I used the search options for exploring for jobs, for people who are blind and visually impaired in addition to exploring the Job Seekers Toolkit.

    Sara Brown: 25:44

    Have you been on any interviews?

    Paulina Vasquez: 25:46

    Yes, I have.

    Sara Brown: 25:47

    Have you felt any hesitancy from potential employers due to your visual impairment?

    Paulina Vasquez: 25:54

    Some it really depended on the job I was looking for. So currently I’m looking at a lot of customer service jobs, so some of them were a little concerned about how I would do certain aspects of the job. You would think that that would be too much of an issue given that a lot of it is mainly talking to people, but in particular, when it came to software that they utilized and I did my best to dissuade their fears by explaining the software that I utilized. And I proposed a lot of various solutions for those scenarios that they proposed to me as they were interviewing me.

    Sara Brown: 26:35

    When you’re using CareerConnect. And you’re looking at all the resources available to you, are there any that stand out or that, you know, really hit home for you to help you improve? Maybe whether it was how to prepare for an interview or how to conduct yourself during an interview? Was there anything that you learned from career connect that sort of stands out for you that you think is really good and beneficial?

    Paulina Vasquez: 27:01

    I think both of those resources were honestly truly beneficial. I also found the topic on disclosure to be beneficial as well. Because I think that’s quite a large topic and many people will have a lot to say about it, both good and bad. And I think it’s important to get that perspective, especially if you are looking for a job and you want to know how to tackle that question. And if that question comes up for one reason or another, I had that happen to me recently , um , where I did end up disclosing. And I will tell you that actually it was a very positive experience and I was able to propose a lot of solutions. So I think getting that perspective in addition to learning how to prepare for an interview, especially with your first or second interview can be very helpful.

    Sara Brown: 27:57

    Okay. And one final question for you. Is there anything else you’d like to add, whether it’s about CareerConnect or job hunting in general or doing interviews? Is there anything else you’d like to add?

    Paulina Vasquez: 28:11

    Um, I would say that I want to thank those accurate connect for the multitude of resources that they provide for job seekers. And I also just want to say for anybody who is job seeking out there, keep going, you know, it will take some time, but you’re going to get there and don’t give up. Even when it seems difficult, use all those resources, keep connecting with networks and continue with those interview preps and reading blogs and doing what you’ve been doing and trying new job leads as well.

    Sara Brown: 28:48

    Thank you so much Paulina for joining me on Change Makers.

    Paulina Vasquez: 28:52

    Thank you so much for having me. It’s been an absolute pleasure

    Sara Brown: 28:57

    And thank you so much for listening to this episode of Change Makers. We’ll put any links or websites mentioned in this podcast, in the show notes, and as always be sure to look for ways you can be a Change Maker this week.

  • Jack Fox: 0:00

    Welcome to Change Makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host.

    Sara Brown: 0:16

    Hello, and welcome to Change Makers. I’m APH is Public Relations Manager, Sara Brown . And today we are looking at the ongoing Annual Meeting. We’ll hear from APH’s President Dr. Craig Meador about the state of the company. And we’re going to hear from some very special award winners. APH’s Annual Meeting started on Wednesday, October 6 and runs through tomorrow, Friday, October 15, the meeting covered the usual topics and discussions and APH president. Dr. Craig Meador held his annual State of the Company address

    Dr. Craig Meador: 0:50

    “In 2021. We received $34.431 million, which was an increase. Um, 31 of that went to the appropriations for the operations at APH and $3 million went through our regional partnership with AIDB, which also funds our regional specialists and the work that we are doing there, which is ever-growing part of APH. And we’re excited about that. So you can see from 2017 to 2021, we have had a steady growth, almost $10 million in five years.

    Sara Brown: 1:22

    Dr. Meador also said.

    Dr. Craig Meador: 1:26

    “Production had a record year. This year production did a amazing job, not only with getting the right inventory in stock, but also reducing back orders. Three years ago, I hung a goal on them, which at that time seemed like it was a moonshot and that was get back orders. Now back orders are anytime you place an order and it’s not in stock. It goes on back order . And our goal was never to have more than a $100,000 of product in back order. So this year and a COVID year impacted by supply chain , uh, where we had to do switch up on , uh , bills and material everyday because we can no longer get this Velcro or that gray, flannel. Production this year achieved that goal. And in fact, we had two months, one month where they have back orders of $2,000, which is unheard of. And when you got… That was just fantastic job by the production team , uh, in the planning team to make that happen. So excellent job for them. So , uh , good year, great year, actually, for operations.”

    Sara Brown: 2:30

    To hear the full state of the company, please check the show notes. We have a link to our YouTube channel. On Wednesday, October 13, the Wings of Freedom, Horizon Award, Louis Award and Navigator Award were presented to trailblazers in the field. We’re going to hear some of their acceptance speeches and speak to the winners, but first let’s listen to the acceptance speech from Dr. Marje Kaiser . She was presented with the Wings of Freedom award. The night’s highest honor.

    Dr. Marje Kaiser: 3:00

    “When I think about the many people at APH past and present who have taught me and become my friends, I realized how much APH has enriched my life. You are all on my mind right now through APH. I grew as an educator and I was able to provide accessible tools for the students that we served in our state. Truly I received so much more than I contributed. Again, my thanks for being considered for this award. It is my great honor to receive it.”

    Sara Brown: 3:33

    The Wings of Freedom award recognizes and honors individuals who have demonstrated leadership in the areas of education or rehabilitation of those who are blind or visually impaired, Dr. Kaiser’s career has been a great example of servant leadership. She has served as a superintendent of the South Dakota school for the blind and visually impaired for 34 years. She’s been an Ex – Officio Trustee for APH served on numerous committees and is currently an APH board member. Hello, Marje, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Dr. Marje Kaiser: 4:03

    Hi, sir . It’s so good to be here. Fun to talk to you.

    Sara Brown: 4:06

    Congratulations on receiving the Wings of Freedom. How are you feeling as the latest recipient?

    Dr. Marje Kaiser: 4:13

    Probably the word that comes to mind is overwhelmed. Um, I still can’t quite believe it.

    Sara Brown: 4:19

    Your career has been about leading and service. How does an award like wings of freedom make you reflect on your career?

    Dr. Marje Kaiser: 4:27

    When I think about the last 30 plus years in this field , um, I know that I met amazing people, amazing students, amazing families, and the other people that I’ve worked with in this field have become another family as well. I’ve learned from all of them. And I think that’s one of the best ways that this field serves each other is that we are supportive. We share ideas, we collaborate. I’ve never seen it in any other contexts , the way I’ve seen it in services to blind children and blind adults.

    Sara Brown: 5:06

    You’ve done so much in your field and I’m sure you’ve honored legends in the field. What’s it like being a part of that esteemed group?

    Dr. Marje Kaiser: 5:15

    I’ve really never thought I’d be a legend that’s for sure. Um, but it really is an amazing thing to belong to the same group as the people that have received this award and other awards in the field, because I’m in the middle of the United States, I’m in South Dakota. I’m not part of the bigger schools and I, if anything, I hope that serves as a, maybe a guide point for others who think, oh, what I’m doing is too small. Um, I’m just not material for leadership. Uh , you can do that. Um, you just have to decide that you’re going to make that effort.

    Sara Brown: 5:55

    You’re on APH Board of Directors. What plans do you have for this next phase?

    Dr. Marje Kaiser: 6:02

    Well, I’m really excited about being on the APH Board, especially right now on , when we’re looking at making changes to the building and then reinventing the museum. It couldn’t be a better time to be on the board as far as I’m concerned.

    Sara Brown: 6:17

    Thank you so much Marje for joining me on Change Makers.

    Dr. Marje Kaiser: 6:21

    And thank you, Sara, for giving me this opportunity.

    Sara Brown: 6:24

    And congratulations again on your award. Up next, we’re talking to the recently retired HumanWare CEO Gilles Pepin who is the recipient of the Horizon Award, which recognizes creating and caring individuals who continually pursue new ideas that result in the development of innovative products designed to improve the quality of life for people who are blind and visually impaired has worked in technology and assistive technology for more than 30 years and has spent his lifetime developing braille products for the blind consumer. Let’s listen to his acceptance speech.

    Gilles Pepin: 7:02

    “I have the privilege of working with a great team, a fantastic team at HumanWare, a group of people that are extremely dedicated , uh, focused on delivering a high quality products. And I want to share this award with all of them, all of my colleagues at HumanWare who have contributed to bring these products to the market.”

    Sara Brown: 7:28

    Hello, Gilles, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Gilles Pepin: 7:32

    Thank you, Sarah , for having me. It’s a great for me to be here.

    Sara Brown: 7:36

    Great. First off, congratulations on receiving the Horizon Award during Annual Meeting and your recent retirement. That’s huge. So congratulations on that. So I’d like to ask you, 30 plus years ago, you founded the company that would become HumanWare. Did you have any idea where it would go?

    Gilles Pepin: 7:58

    Well, that’s a very good question. Uh, when I started , uh, uh, in this field, I was a young engineer. It was in 1986. In fact, I started working for an Institute for the blind. I was a young engineer working as a consultant and they hired me to help them with some new technologies that they , uh , have acquired and they wanted to see if we could help them , um, um , mastered that technology and well, it all , it was an eye-opener for me, for sure. I could , uh , see right from the start , uh, what impact , uh, this , uh, these new technologies would have on the lives of , uh, of , of blind and visually impaired people. And , uh, so that was in 1986 and I started the , uh, working with this Institute and trying to do more and more and , uh, you know, see all of the opportunities that were in this field. And , uh, about a year and a half , uh , after that , uh, in 1988 , uh, the executive director of this Institute came to me and said , uh, and invited me in his office. Uh , and he said, Jill , I want you to start a company in this field , uh , to create more technology for , uh, the blind and visually impaired people. And I said, well, yeah, that’s a great thing. I was, I was not an entrepreneur. I didn’t have any idea that I would start any company in my life. And , uh , he said, we’re going to support you, but we really , uh , have trust in you and we want you to do this. And , uh , so I started then, and, you know, it was , uh , an easy go , uh, on October 26th, 1988. Uh, I founded the company at that time. There was, you know, I hired one person and , uh , another engineer and we started working on different products and , uh , that’s how it started. Uh, and , uh, I think , um, you know, when I look back at the last 33 years, I’m certainly , uh , very proud , uh, uh, and , and, and , uh, looking at where we are and what we have done and what we have delivered , uh , so far. Uh it’s um , it’s, it’s certainly a big thing for me, but to answer your question, it’s clear to me that I have no idea where this would take me, but I’m very proud and very happy to have spent my career in this field.

    Sara Brown: 10:22

    Wow. That’s amazing. What is it like to see the company you founded create products that are in the hands of users today? Is it like that , that proud parent moment, you know, where you just sit back and think, look what I did and look at how it’s helping?

    Gilles Pepin: 10:37

    Well, that’s a, that’s a great analogy. Uh, I think , uh, when you think of , um , giving birth to , to a product , uh, I mean , I can tell you every time it’s painful, it’s a person it’s always longer than winter space . It’s always more difficult than we would have liked. Uh, it costs all the ways more than , uh , than we plan. Uh, but , uh, at the end of the day, you know, we put all of our arts, all of our, and that , you know, I’m not in a lone in this, obviously when we create products , uh , uh, we have a whole team and , um, I like to be involved with, although I , I, I really, you can ask our engineers. They hate me when I sit in these meetings and I say, no, that’s not right. We , we have to do more. We have to do better. We have to do quicker. We have to do, you know, less expensive. Uh, people hate me when I say that, because it , it creates more work for them. Uh , but at the same time, you know, we , um, we , we, we really like , uh , the feeling of, of working hard at passionately and creating this product , uh, at the end of the day, we’re extremely proud. They’re not, I must say, you know, over the last 33 years, we’ve created over 50 new products, five, zero, that’s a lot of products for a company of our size. And , uh , you know, with those , uh, 50 products, we served worldwide over 1 million people. So we have, you know, over 1 million people that have one of our products in their hands and, you know, on a daily basis, we hear from that and we hear back from them. Uh, and it’s so motivating. It’s so engaging for us to, to , um, to see that our mission is fulfilled through our products and through the help. Uh , it’s not only products. It’s , it’s the support, it’s all of the theme of human wear that is really supporting these people. And, and we see, you know, w what they share with us is mostly how it impacted their lives. Uh , sometimes very positively, obviously sometimes, you know, they , they, they hit some difficulties with the product, but most of the time it’s , um, it’s, it’s wow. You know, I’ve, I’ve been able to do this. I was not able to do that before and now, you know, I can pursue my, my, my education. I can , uh , work there. I didn’t know. I w I couldn’t do that. So I think, you know, over 33 years, we have seen the technology evolve so much and empower people in ways that we never anticipated. So, yes, when we think of a baby becoming an adult, you know, taking of our products becoming more and more mature and helping more and more people , uh, that’s uh , that’s, these are moments that , uh , all of our team , not me , but all of our team see as , um , as, as their mission in life as what they want to do. And , uh , obviously for me, that’s been my motivation all of these years. I’ve been passionate about technology, for sure. I mean, engineer , but I’ve been certainly passionate about how this technology is being used and what impact it has on the lives of people.

    Sara Brown: 13:54

    That’s remarkable more than 50 products in the hands of 1 million people. Wow. Just off the, off the cuff, do you remember the very first product you created?

    Gilles Pepin: 14:07

    Certainly I do. That’s a product that was called Iris. Uh, and , uh, it was in fact, we came out , uh, as the second , uh , uh, OCR reader , uh, for , uh , for the blind, so that , uh, a text reader that would OCR , uh, but that was in 1988, so long ago. Uh, but , uh, we, we came out , uh, I mean, Kurzwell came up with the first , uh , product in that category and we came up with the second version of it. And then we worked with Arkenstone at that time long ago , uh, and , uh, which in them in . And we did not , uh, a, a product that they used , uh , for promotion and an Arkenstone came out with their product in the us , but we had our product also , uh , spread all over Europe and also in the U.S. Uh , afterwards. So that , that was the first product, a great product that we , uh, we , we don’t carry anymore, but , uh, we, we , uh , we at that certainly a product that was a stepping stone for us in the market.

    Sara Brown: 15:11

    So that , that product was called Iris right now. Does Iris live on in any current products today? Or evolve into anything that we see today?

    Gilles Pepin: 15:23

    That’s a good question. No, I think, you know, we , we decided, and that was kind of a mistake , uh, from a lightbar , uh, around 1996, 1997. Uh, we , we could see, you know, there was a lot of , uh, uh, good screen readers on the market. Uh, OCR was very cheap. The scanners were cheap and , uh , you know, I made the call at that point. We , we had to move our, our harvest system , uh, that was DOS-based at the, at the beginning to windows. And , uh , we decided not to do it because my call was that this market would die because , uh , everything else was accessible , uh, from the start, you know, from , from the manufacturers. And I thought at that point that , uh, he should not, but it should not continue, but , uh , I can tell you that I regretted this, this move because , uh, these reading systems are still available today. Uh , uh, and , uh , uh , very , uh , useful for people.

    Sara Brown: 16:23

    Did you say DOS system-based?

    Gilles Pepin: 16:26

    Yes. Well , they , you remember when we, I mean, the first person with computers , uh, appeared on the market , uh, at the beginning of the eighties. So mid eighties, mid eighties, 85, 86 , uh, the first products for the blind and the vision people appeared on the market. And , uh, this is when this old industry of technology for the vision impaired started reading . Uh, there were products before, but the real big chunk of companies started in , in , uh, in the eighties , uh, and beginning of the nineties. So, so that was , um, at that time, at that time you have dusk and you had apple too . And that was, that was what we were working with.

    Sara Brown: 17:13

    It’s just hearing those names is a blast from the past that I wasn’t around for it. So just hearing DOS and it took me back,

    Gilles Pepin: 17:22

    I can imagine, oh my goodness.

    Sara Brown: 17:24

    Okay. Back back on track. So you receive this horizon award and the horizon award honors, those who pursue innovative products and ideas. What do you say to those listening right now who have a groundbreaking idea, or, you know, maybe a, a company that has a groundbreaking idea or a potential groundbreaking product.

    Gilles Pepin: 17:46

    Yeah , but first before I go there, I just like to , uh , yes, we’re receiving, I’m receiving personally this, this award , but , um, but first I want to thank , uh, APH. I mean, we’ve been working , uh , with APH, especially during the last five years with the new leadership at APH. And , uh, I want to thank them. They , they have pushed us to the limit of innovation. They have , uh, really being very creative in ways they wanted to , to us to develop products. And I think we’ve worked extremely well with APH, and I hope, you know, we , we see the impacts , uh, the products we’ve developed with ADHF I’ve had. And , um , we’re very proud of that and just recognizing what we’ve done that myself, but the old team that Humanware I think is , uh, is great. And I want to thank , uh , Craig neater, for sure. And around that we’ve been working with and all the team at the APH they’ve been fantastic working with, and we’ve really appreciate the support we’ve received from them. I also want to say that , uh, this award , as I said , uh , we’ve, I , you know, I’ve had, since the beginning a great team around me, I have people that have been around me for, you know, 15, 20, 30 years , uh, within HumanWare. And they’ve been as passionate as I am about , um , about technology and about the impact we have on people. So that’s really great , um, uh, receiving this award and being recognized for the innovation we’ve brought to the market. Uh, now to answer your question, I, I very often get calls or meetings with people that have this great idea. They all start from the same point technology. So they, they see it technology and they say, oh, wow, I can apply that to blind people because they don’t see the mistake they make is they don’t talk to the users. They don’t sit down, they don’t hear the voice of customers. And they start working on the technology, thinking they have the right thing, and they don’t want to share too much. They don’t want to lose their ideas to the public. So they , they , they don’t, and that’s a big mistake because, you know, the first time I talk with them, it’s very often too late. They have spent a lot of time, a lot of money. And , um , I tell them, you know, especially there was one case, you know, everybody thinks they have found a new technology to , um, identify objects in front of people when they move around or blind people so that they can go around. And the first question I ask them is, okay , uh, how do you convey back this information to the user? And they say, well, that’s not important. We can draw a picture of, of everything that is in front of them. And I said, yeah, but I mean, you know, how are you going to tell them this is there ? And I tell them about the white cane, about how , uh, efficient the white cane is and, or a guide dog. And, and they started that technology in this specific area is it’s not the impact they would like to have. Uh, but the thing is, you know , once, you know, we kind of discuss what, what is good about the technology they are using and, you know, the, the VR , the reorientation they should , uh, they should, they , I tell them how important it is. We, we are, we need young entrepreneurs, engineers , uh, innovators, people that have good ideas and are willing to commit to have an impact on society. We want those people to come in our field and help us. There is so much to be done. Uh there’s no, yes, we are competitive. We have competitors, but our competitors are people we work with. We , we, we, we know we’re there to help people, and there is so much that can be done and there was a market for everyone. So it’s not a question of , uh, you know, pushing back people. We want to include everyone that has talent and who is motivated to help us in our journey for sure.

    Sara Brown: 21:55

    Okay. And one more question. You are the chairman of the board for human wear and newly retired. So what’s next for Gilles?

    Gilles Pepin: 22:09

    Well, newly retired, probably not yet. It’s , uh , it’s still , uh, no, we just, as of September 1, I’m very happy to say that , uh , uh, I’ve appointed , um, uh , Bruce Miles as our new CEO. So I’ve , uh, trends , uh, transmitted all of my responsibilities, operational responsibilities to Bruce. Bruce has been around for five years, six years now with us. And , uh, Bruce has this , uh , passion about technology as well, and is a passionate of helping people. So, so I think he’s the perfect fit for, for human, where , and he’s done so much for us in the last five years , uh, mainly working on, on sales and , uh , structuring how, you know, our channels and how we work with our customers. I think it’s been a great journey for, for, for Bruce and for HumanWare. And I have full confidence. Bruce will be doing a great job , uh, before for human. Whereas as CEO now for myself , uh, I , I, I took the chairman position, so I’m going to be around for some years. Um, and , uh, still , uh, I think very much involved in the market , uh, coming to conferences, talking to our customers, generating new ideas , uh, but more on the strategy side of things, as opposed to the operational side of things. So yes, I will have more time for myself , uh , time that I’m, you know, I’m sitting on , uh, some boards of directors , uh , different fields , uh , and technology mainly, but , uh, and , uh, uh, I’ll, I’ll be, you know, very much involved with Bruce and the team to , uh , to make sure that the strategy and the move we do and the contacts we have in the field are still a good , uh, so, so yes , uh , uh, retirement eventually , uh, now it’s more a transition for me and it will give me more time. You’re right. I do a lot of sports, so I’ll, I’ll, I’ll continue to be very active. And , uh , I also have a cabin , uh, you know, isolated , uh, just on the side of the lake. And , uh, I’ll, I’ll have more time to go to the cabin and spend the time , uh , working there, you know, making things around the cabin. So having a lot of fun , uh, and enjoying gradually more time for myself, for sure.

    Sara Brown: 24:32

    Is there anything else you would like to add? Anything else you’d like to say?

    Gilles Pepin: 24:36

    Well, you know, I think that this Horizon Award is , is a great way to motivate people to do even more for this industry. And APH has played a very central role in indication . I, what I’ve seen , uh, especially in the last , uh , 5, 5, 6, 7 years , uh, I’ve seen APH , uh, taking a leadership role in terms of education and not only in the U S but worldwide. And that’s extremely important. We driving indication for visually impaired people , uh, is not only when talking about technology, but about everything, about education is crucial. We want more blind people, visually impaired people , uh, getting higher education and getting a job. And , uh, you know, we believe our part is technology. Uh, we believe APH is a great umbrella for , uh , making this happen, that more students, you know , get better education and get a job and , and everything that goes with it. Uh, so, so that’s, that’s what we’re trying to achieve. And, and I think APH is very essential in doing so.

    Sara Brown: 25:56

    Okay. Thank you so much for joining me on Change Makers today.

    Gilles Pepin: 26:01

    It was a pleasure meeting you, Sara, and , uh, really enjoyed the talking with you.

    Sara Brown: 26:06

    And congratulations again on your award. Now we’re talking to representatives from the Lego foundation, they received the Louie Award for their LEGO Braille Bricks. The Louie Award recognizes the impact and creativity of a product idea, method, or promotional effort that increased the availability or awareness of a braille or tactile graphic LEGO Braille Bricks promote braille as a tool of literacy, but also encourage students with, and without sight to learn through play. And let’s hear the LEGO Foundation’s Senior Play and Health Specialists, Stine Storm’s acceptance speech.

    Stine Storm: 26:45

    “Our mission is to inspire and create the business of tomorrow. And we do this by redefining play and re-imagining learning. It is our hope that this innovative playful concept will encourage children who are visually impaired to learn braille through play. Our focus is on developing a breadth of skills in all children, and by purposely making this concept inclusive, we hope that children who are visually impaired will learn and play alongside sighted children, thereby fostering skills, such as collaboration, communication, and joint problem solving . We are so grateful to partners in this project for lending their support and encouragement. Let’s continue the valuable work together and ensure that we create the builders of tomorrow.”

    Sara Brown: 27:30

    Now we’re talking to LEGO Foundation’s Senior Play and Health Specialist Stine Storm. Hello Stine and welcome to Change Makers.

    Stine Storm: 27:39

    Thank you. And thank you so much for inviting me.

    Sara Brown: 27:42

    What is it like to see the impact of LEGO Braille Bricks in the hands of children who are visually impaired?

    Stine Storm: 27:51

    Well, this project is simply so heartwarming. So to see these children actually have the LEGO Braille Bricks in their hands is just so touching. And it almost makes me cry every time. Um, but seeing them actually engage and having fun whilst learning is simply just so important for us. Um, we believe that that LEGO Foundation and learning through play , um, so this, you know, can benefit how children learn and how they develop their skills. So to , to actually see it in action just makes it so much more , um, important and impactful.

    Sara Brown: 28:33

    Okay. And how does the Louis Award reflect the LEGO Foundation’s mission?

    Stine Storm: 28:40

    Well, the LEGO foundation has a mission to inspire and create the builders of tomorrow. So we do this by what we call redefining play and re-imagining learning. So for me, LEGO Braille Bricks is just such an innovative and tangible example of exactly that learning creative, innovative tool.

    Sara Brown: 29:04

    What is it like to see LEGO Braille Bricks go from the idea to an award winning product?

    Stine Storm: 29:12

    Well , we’re actually quite humble about this because LEGO Braille Bricks is not really our idea. Um , and it couldn’t have been developed without the help of the blind community. Um, so it’s really a true example. Co-creation and we really sincerely hope that this co-creation will continue with the help of teachers, whom we encourage to continue to develop this , uh , teaching concept and methodology.

    Sara Brown: 29:41

    Okay. Stina , is there anything else you would like to add to this conversation?

    Stine Storm: 29:45

    Well, seeing it since a World Site Day today, I’d like to also announce that this week we , uh , launched our massive open online course, which is all about learning through play with LEGO Braille Bricks. Um, so please do , uh , look up the course , uh , online and , uh, we hope to see many of you on the course.

    Sara Brown: 30:09

    Okay. Stina , thank you so very much for joining me today on Change Makers.

    Stine Storm: 30:15

    You’re welcome.

    Sara Brown: 30:18

    The Navigator Award was distributed to AFB and Dr. Penny Rosenblum. The Navigator Award recognizes the collaborative efforts in partnerships necessary to remove the barriers and provide pathways, ensuring that individuals have full access to education and life. The 2020 and 2021 Access and Engagement Studies under the direction of Dr. Penny Rosenblum and many collaborators across the field conducted two large research studies that highlighted both need and disparity of services and access to education. During the COVID-19 pandemic, let’s listen to AFB’s and Dr. Rosenblum’s acceptance speeches.

    Dr. Kirk Adams: 31:01

    “Hello. I am Dr. Kirk Adams, president and CEO of the American foundation for the blind AFB at AFB. We value learning collaboration, impact and excellence. We convene leaders across our field and among business leaders, public officials, and other decision-makers to champion impactful policies and practices using research and data to support meaningful systemic change for people who are blind or visually impaired. Our research efforts are sure to continue. And I look forward to our future collaborations with the American printing house for the blind, again, our heartfelt gratitude. And with that, I will now pass the mic to Dr. L. Penny Rosenblum, who took the initiative of spearheading these important research projects and mobilizing the fields, Dr. Rosenblum .

    Dr. Penny Rosenblum: 31:57

    “Thank you, Kurk. Today, I’m accepting the Navigator award for all those who have authored the two reports. Dr. Tina Herzberg, Dr. Tiffany Wild, Dr. Justin Kaiser , Dr. Danene Fast , Dr. Paola Chanes-Mora , Dr. Kathryn Botsford , Dr. Carlie Rhoads , Dr. Rhett McBride , Ms. Michelle Hicks , Ms. Jasmyn DeGrant , Ms. Leanne Cook , Ms. Stephanie Welch-Greiner. You’ll note that the authors are combination of academics and practicing professionals. I think this speaks to the importance of all of us mentoring the next generation, Michelle, Jasmine , Leanne , and Stephanie gave up their time to the Access and Engagement Studies because they believed in the topic, but also because they believed in wanting to build their research skills. These ladies are our future leaders, and I’m very proud to know all four of them. Thank you to those at the American Printing House for the Blind who recognized our team’s work and have awarded us the Navigator Award in recognition of the contribution, the Access and Engagement studies make to the field. I believe the work, our team did will have the education of our students with visual impairments, including those with additional disabilities and deaf blindness, both in the short term and the longterm .”

    Sara Brown: 33:19

    Now we’re talking to Dr. Rosenblum , hello, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Dr. Penny Rosenblum: 33:24

    Thank you for the invitation to join you today.

    Sara Brown: 33:27

    First off, congratulations again, on being the recipient of the Navigator Award, The Navigator Award, honors collaboration and partnerships, you and your research team recently completed two huge studies regarding access to education during COVID-19. How does it feel seeing your work and the work of other researchers honored?

    Dr. Penny Rosenblum: 33:52

    You know, it’s a wonderful feeling to have the work that our group did together recognized. And I think it’s really important for everybody to understand the , um, AFB took a lead role in , um, allocating my time at the time to lead the studies. There was a large group of individuals from across the country who collaborated, and I want people to really understand that though I’m representing , um , the face of the person receiving the Navigator Award. It truly was a team and collaborative effort to get these two large scale studies completed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Sara Brown: 34:40

    Okay. And can you talk about the importance of partnerships and collaboration in this field and why it’s so important?

    Dr. Penny Rosenblum: 34:48

    You know, I have been in the field of visual impairment as, as a professional for 35 years. And then after that, my time as a child and an adult with a visual impairment, I’ve seen a lot of different nuances within our field, but I really feel like , um, in many ways the pandemic has really increased collaboration across our field. And I think about wonderful things that APH is doing such as , um, the Excel Academy that and TSBVI with their coffee hour. Um, we are a group of collaborators in our field. There’s no reason any of us should invent the wheel. And the data that we have gathered through the Access and Engagement Studies , um, is not just valuable to help people understand what is occurring in education for our students, with visual impairments during the pandemic, but also many of the systemic issues that we were able to identify and verify. I mean, things that we all know that when technology is not accessible to our students, how can they participate in education? Um , we have data that really helps highlight some of the specific challenges experienced by our students, their families, and the professionals who serve them.

    Sara Brown: 36:05

    And is there anything else you would like to add?

    Dr. Penny Rosenblum: 36:10

    You know, I think it’s really , um, a pivotal time in education of our students with visual impairments. And I hope as a field that we will continue to work together to really address the needs of our students. We all for so long have been talking about the high unemployment or underemployment rate of adults with visual impairments and the many people acquire their visual impairments as adults. There are also many people who require their visual impairment in childhood. There absolutely is a very strong connection between education and in life success, including employment and success in post-secondary education. So I hope we’re able to take what we’ve learned through the access and engagement studies and, and use that data going forward to affect change both with policymakers , with educators , um , and also within the school systems and for families. And I really would like to thank everybody who was involved with the studies, whether as a participant or researcher , um , to really recognize that this was very much a team effort. And I truly believe in the power of collaboration and working together.

    Sara Brown: 37:30

    All right, Dr. Penny Rosenblum. Thank you so much for joining me today on Change Makers and congratulations again on your Navigator Award.

    Dr. Penny Rosenblum: 37:39

    Thank you so much for having me.

    Sara Brown: 37:42

    And thank you so much for listening to this episode of Change Makers. We’ll put any links in websites mentioned in this podcast and the show notes. As always be sure to look for ways you can be a c hange m aker this week.

  • Jack Fox: 0:00

    Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host.

    Sara Brown: 0:17

    Hello and welcome to Change Makers. I’m APH is Public Relations Manager, Sara Brown . And today we’re previewing the upcoming APH Annual Meeting. We’ll talk to an organizer to find out what you can expect during the meeting. And we’ll also learn about the completely redesigned Louie database and check in with the National Prison Braille Network. Up first, we have APH’s National Director of Outreach Services, Leanne Grillott. Hello Leanne and welcome to Change Makers.

    Leanne Grillott: 0:45

    Hello, glad to be here.

    Sara Brown: 0:47

    So tell us what can we expect during this year’s annual meeting?

    Leanne Grillott: 0:52

    Well, we definitely did our little hop, skip and jump into virtual again this year. Not that it’s what we wanted. We really wanted to see everyone’s smiling, faces give hugs and high fives, but to keep everyone safe, we went virtual again this year, we chose to stretch it so that it’s over a group of multiple days. It’s also only in the Eastern time zone afternoons. So there’s definitely differences with that. We also took into account the things we learned from last year. So don’t expect last year’s conference. It’s a new one. This is the time to gain knowledge, learn about our products, learn about our services, but then also to talk to one another.

    Sara Brown: 1:39

    Okay. And can you tell us a little bit what’s new for attendees?

    Leanne Grillott: 1:45

    Always we have new products and new services. So this is the time you get to talk about them. Get a sneak peek at some of those, some that are still in the works, but you get a chance to talk to the people who are working on building those, and we have some new services coming into play. So those are some things to really think about now, something else we’re really unique for this annual meeting, which we have never done before. As we are having regional connections, we are having a time in the second week where groups by their region will be able to get together with their ex-officio trustees, our support people at APH, and be able to learn a little bit more about who is in their region and what type of support and training is available for that region.

    Sara Brown: 2:41

    Wow , that’s gonna be awesome. And it’s just really helpful so people can learn who’s in their region. So what, what are some of the sessions and topics that are on the docket for Annual Meeting?

    Leanne Grillott: 2:54

    Well, if you are interested at a dynamic, tactile display, well it’s on its way to reality. I think as a teacher of students with visual impairments, we have always thought about this tablet of braille lines before, but we are actually working on making this a reality. And if you want to learn a little bit more about that and the process that’s going into it, join us. It’ll be great. Now, something else, if you haven’t heard about poly , which is the gamification of braille learning while you’re in for a trait , Polly is a really unique tool for our students getting ready to come out soon. So you’ll hear a little bit more about that. Again, brand new. If you are a Louie fan, there has been a redesign for our Louie database for looking at textbooks. Guess what? You get to hear all about it at Annual Meeting. So those are just some of the sessions, but there’ll be things for just about everyone, whether you’re a college professor who wants to learn about what textbooks are getting ready to come out. If you are a Orientation and Mobility instructor, and you want to give your feedback on the products that we make and what products you’d like to see if you’re a teacher of students with multiple disabilities and you want to give feedback about the Lightbox kits, one, two, and three, that we have, we’re looking for that feedback. This is the time to make your voice heard, but then also hear what other people’s ideas are.

    Sara Brown: 4:24

    Okay. And just in case anybody who does not know, tell us who, who can attend the Annual Meeting. Is it just for specific individuals or is it for everyone?

    Leanne Grillott: 4:34

    What’s really interesting is Annual Meaning started out for our ex-officio trustees, a meeting it’s a meeting. And usually you’re invited to a specific meeting to attend. It has grown since then. And the idea of what we’re bringing to something called a meeting, as we’re surrounding a small piece of time, there is still a meeting that happens for ex-officio trustees, but we surround that with the educational components about the products and services. That’s part of what APH has to do. We are to educate about what we have and the ex-officio trustees are just a small portion of the people who utilize what we have. So we invite the world. If you’re a parent, if you’re a teacher, you can even be a general education teacher. We welcome you with open arms. If a student wants to attend, we can’t stop you from attending. Please join us again. This is an activity that we must do to educate.

    Sara Brown: 5:35

    And now when you register for the meeting I learned last year, which was my first Annual Meeting , there was the app, which I thought was super cool and so handy because it gave notifications that your session that you want to do attend is about to start. Can you tell us a little bit more about the app and just how convenient it is and um , what users can expect?

    Leanne Grillott: 5:55

    So the app is tied after you register. So you register in something called cvent. That’s the platform that you register and it connects directly to an app called Crowd Compass. So once you make your selections of what activities you want to attend, you then have an app that you can either access on your phone, a tablet, a computer screen, the computer screen looks more like a website, but it’s the same thing, has the same information. And you can get notifications. You can then use that tool to select the session and enter utilizing the virtual link that’s available for you. There’s actually a lot in there. You can read about the speakers. You can send messages to the speakers, but you can also find those other individuals who are attending annual meeting and say hi to them. If you are a college student and you want to make some connections with some of the professionals in different states , because you might be looking for a position there, you can start a message. Hey, are there any positions in New Mexico that I can apply to? So there’s actually a lot more in there. I hope to see more utilization of the app this year, because hopefully people had a taste of it last year.

    Sara Brown: 7:14

    Okay. I really enjoyed it. I thought that was really awesome to have this really nice and convenient. It’s so handy and convenient. Now, is there anything else you’d like to mention about Annual Meeting?

    Leanne Grillott: 7:24

    I would say one of the things we did is we learned from last year, last year was our first virtual conference. And so we are doing things a different. One of the things that’s really big is we definitely broke it up. We kept mostly meat and potatoes. We are trying to really give you the content. There are still going to be some of those normal feel , good things like the insights, art contest or the hall of fame induction. We have a few little new little pieces coming in there. We have awards, APH awards that we are giving out, and we haven’t done that for awhile . And we’re going to do it for the first time again this year. So realize that there’s going to be a break between each session. That’s really important. We all need to get up and stretch. We hope you do. And there is a section during the second week where we are really looking for your voice for the product showcase and the services showcase our ideas to provide you with knowledge, but then seek your feedback. We need to know, is this a product that works for you? Is this a service that’s providing help for your students? Is there something missing that you want from APH or is this something we need to tweak and make this a little bit better? We really do need your voice. It is part of the role of annual meeting. We already get advice from our ex-officio trustees, but we need those boots on the ground too. So we are for that. So that’s something a little bit different.

    Sara Brown: 8:59

    Thank you so much, Leanne , for joining us on Change Makers

    Leanne Grillott: 9:03

    Are very welcome and I hope to see all of our audience at Annual Meeting in a few weeks.

    Sara Brown: 9:09

    Okay. Thank you. Next we’re going to learn about the much needed changes to the Louie Database. We have APH’s Digital Resources and Technical Services Manager, Linda Turner. Hello, Linda, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Linda Turner: 9:29

    Hi Sara. Thanks for having meal.

    Sara Brown: 9:30

    Tell us what’s going on with the Louis Database? I hear there’s some exciting changes coming along?

    Linda Turner: 9:37

    Yes, we are very excited that the Louis Database of accessible material is getting a completely redesigned website, making it easier for our users to fund braille, large print and electronic textbooks and recreational reading materials for students who are blind and visually impaired.

    Sara Brown: 9:57

    How has this change and improvement from the previous layout?

    Linda Turner: 10:01

    Well, it would be great for Louis to take advantage of new technology to streamline and update the interface and improve search functionality by adding filters and an advanced search feature. We want to make the new website faster, easier to navigate more user-friendly and completely accessible for our users.

    Sara Brown: 10:22

    Have all these changes taken effect as of today? They have not taken effect yet. We don’t have a definitive launch date yet, but we plan on starting user testing in October. We hope to go lab before the end of the year. And how can someone find the new and improved Louie Database?

    Linda Turner: 10:44

    The Louie website is located at in the same site that it currently is located.

    Sara Brown: 10:55

    Okay. And is there anything else you’d like to add about this redesigned database?

    Linda Turner: 11:02

    Okay . The APH and the Louis staff endeavor to provide our customers with the most accurate up-to-date information about the availability of accessible educational materials and the Louis redesign is an integral part of this mission.

    Sara Brown: 11:19

    Wonderful. Okay, Linda, thank you so much for joining me today on Change Makers.

    Linda Turner: 11:23

    All right. Thank you, Sara.

    Sara Brown: 11:25

    Up next, we’re going to hear the latest from the National Prison Braille Program We have is Prison Braille Senior Director Jayma Hawkins. Hello, Jayma , and welcome to Change Makers.

    Jayma Hawkins: 11:42

    Thank you. And thank you so much for having me now.

    Sara Brown: 11:45

    Can you tell us about the National Prison Braille Network? The Prison Braille Network is a group of professionals from the vision, the corrections field, as well as ex offenders who have been released from prison braille programs and have cottage businesses at home. It’s a group that was formed in the year 2000 by Gary Mudd and Nancy Lacewell. And it was to bring all of the avenues of prison braille together so that we could bounce ideas off each other, solve problems, overcome hurdles and make good plans for the future. Now, can you tell us, when was this program developed? You said in the early 2000’s, can you tell us a little bit more?

    Jayma Hawkins: 12:32

    Yes. Um , as prison braille, you know, we have 44 programs in 31 states, those states are rather each program is an island and they weren’t really connecting to each other. So we wanted to bring everyone together to get a better feel and to become a network of, of colleagues. And actually, you know, as the years unfold, we’ve become a huge network of friends as well. And to see what the issues are , um, exchange ideas produce the best braille teams as possible. And I remember when it started as a very small focus group with less than 12 of us in a room, our last prison braille forum that we had in 2019 in person , there were 31 states in the room with 75 people. It has blossomed, it has grown. We’ve watched the success and we’ve overcome the hurdles and continue to network and , and grow that network and provide more services to prison, braille programs, to children, to our braille reading students and to those who are released from prison.

    Sara Brown: 13:47

    And can you tell us how many programs and inmates are participating in this prison braille network?

    Jayma Hawkins: 13:54

    We have 44 programs in 31 states and there are over a 1,000 people collectively participating.

    Sara Brown: 14:04

    Who benefits from this program?

    Jayma Hawkins: 14:06

    You know, this is a program that everyone benefits from the braille reading student benefits by receiving a quality well-rounded education and is given the opportunity of a higher education. And, you know, they go on to graduate college now and become happy, independent, productive citizens. The inmate benefits by earning national certifications, there is literary formatting, Namath, which is high math, UAB, technical music, certifications, proofreading certifications, as well as tactical graphic creation. Each sort of occasion that an inmate earns is an additional service that he or can provide as a private transcriber when released. Then they can go on to have a cottage business in their home using those unique skills while making that favorable wage. So it’s, win-win everyone wins.

    Sara Brown: 15:07

    And one last question, is there anything else that you’d like listeners to know about this program?

    Jayma Hawkins: 15:13

    I think if I had to say anything, I would, I would focus again on, you know, prison. Braille is really the best kept secret. Most people don’t know where their textbooks come from, nor is it their job to know just like sighted kids. Don’t pick up an English book and go, wow, I wonder who wrote this book? I mean, it just doesn’t happen. So if I had to think of anything, I would go back to it’s, win-win the inmates, aren’t in it for the income, they’re in it for the outcome. And they spend years gaining the skills and also work ethic, teamwork, organizational skills. When they’re released, they can use those skills to become the best person that they can be all the while providing those educational material to braille reading students who receive a meaningful education and they discover their passion as a result and use it to go onto a higher education and they to become the best people that they can be. So one feeds the other and everybody wins.

    Sara Brown: 16:25

    I like that. Everybody wins. Okay. Jayma, thank you so much for joining us today on Change Makers.

    Jayma Hawkins: 16:31

    Thank you so much for having me and allowing me to promote our program. It’s a big passion of mine.

    Sara Brown: 16:38

    Great. Thank you. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Change Makers and we will put any links or websites mentioned in this podcast, in the show notes and as always be sure to look for ways you can be a change maker this week.

  • Jack Fox: 0:00

    Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host.

    Sara Brown: 0:15

    Hello, and welcome to change makers. I’m APH is public relations manager, Sara Brown. And today we’re talking about the upcoming InSights Art competition. We’ll talk about the competition and the importance of art and hear from an artist up first, we have APH’s Special Programs Coordinator, Rob Guillen, and Special Programs Assistant Meg Outland. Hello, Rob and Meg, and welcome to Change Makers,

    Rob Guillen: 0:42

    Sarah . Thank you for inviting us. I’m happy to be here.

    Meg Outland: 0:45

    Hello .

    Sara Brown: 0:46

    Okay. So tell us about InSights Art, what is it, how long has it been around? Tell us what we need to know all about this cool program.

    Rob Guillen: 0:54

    The InSights Art program is now entering its 30th year. It is a international art contest for artists who are blind or visually impaired. Uh , it provides an opportunity for all artists of all ages around the world to be able to have their artwork juried by professional , uh, art , uh, individuals, people in the field of art. Um, it also provides them the opportunity to be able to exhibit their work , uh, if they win a prize or are accepted to the exhibit. Um, it is a really remarkable program. It’s been around again for a long time, but a lot of the artists who , uh, have maybe thought about being an artist and weren’t quite sure who of edit , uh, entered the contest, all of a sudden realize , wait, I might actually have a career in art. Uh, and it’s one of the fields of , uh, uh, professions that people who are blind don’t necessarily think about immediately. And we all know that art is a fundamental means of expression for individuals , um , of all ages, no matter who you are and , uh, artists who were blind, shouldn’t be excluded from , uh, the choice of creating art for a living.

    Sara Brown: 2:16

    Now, with this InSights Art, is there an age range in this competition, or can anybody participate?

    Rob Guillen: 2:23

    Uh, anybody who is at least legally blind can participate, but you can be any age. In fact, we get artwork from , uh, toddlers all the way up to , uh, individuals who are well into their nineties. Um, these are individuals who are both professional artists and amateur artists. Um, they can be from anywhere in the world. And , uh, we find that , uh , all it takes is just a little bit of encouragement, but artists are really totally enthusiastic to be able to participate in this , uh, regardless of their age. They’re really very , um, jazzed about the opportunity to be able to have other people , um, consider their art and experience it because that’s not something that everybody gets

    Sara Brown: 3:11

    How are the winners chosen and what do they receive? You said something about it being juried. So tell us about how they’re chosen and what the prizes are.

    Rob Guillen: 3:20

    So the contest has , uh, used , um, a professional jury of art professionals. So these are individuals who work in the field of art, so they could be artists themselves. They may run a gallery, they may be the head or , uh , an employee at an arts organization. They could be an art educator , uh , for anybody, either an adult or a child, but basically they would be individuals who are professionals who are really interested in art. And my experience with working with juries , uh, jurors, excuse me, is that they are often con uh , completely unaware of some of the challenges that accompany a visual impairment, but they learn so much and are often blown away by some of the amazing artwork that is created , uh, even more so if they realize that , uh, an artist is almost fully blind and has created something on the level of , uh, some of the artwork that they make at , in their own galleries or in their museums , um, they are often extremely surprised. They find it very difficult to judge the artwork. Uh, it’s so varied. There’s so many different levels and different skill levels , um, that they , uh, have a hard time really choosing. I think it’s much more difficult to be a juror than people realize , uh, the winners will get , uh , different scales of awards. So for our adult artists, we have three categories , uh, that would be “two dimensional art sculpture and craft” and for first place winners, they would receive $500. Second place would get $400. Um, third place would get $300 and “honorable mention” would get $100. For student artists, at this point we have a $100 for first place, $75 for second, $50 for third , $ 25 for “honorable mention.” There is another category of art that we judge. This is a non jury to award that’s offered exclusively by APH, it’s called “visioneer award.” Um, and it really tries to highlight the artwork , uh, that may , uh, help to , uh, talk about the field in general, or may be , uh , traditionally , uh, uh, under selected piece of art. Uh, and by that, I mean, it could be that a student has some severe , uh, challenges , uh, may not have a lot of fine motor skills. Their artwork may not be considered quote, classically beautiful. Um, and yet , uh, it exemplifies a great deal of artistic spirit as well as effort. And , uh, we tend to look at all the artwork to see, is there anything that really stands out that talks about these things? Uh, and we will award a one or two prizes or more for the adult categories as well as the student categories. So this year for 2021 , uh, we have selected , uh , two visionary awards, one adult and one student , uh, and we’re really always happy to provide that because it slightly broadens the , uh, the reach for the program itself. We, I believe that art , uh , encompasses so many things. And , uh , one thing I really want to be sure is that , uh , a lot of different types of voices are , uh, exemplified and magnified so that people can see the different types of things that come out of the insights art program.

    Sara Brown: 7:05

    I’m going to assume years past during the insights, our competition, people, the artists and their pieces came to the annual meeting. Now that we have COVID around, how has COVID impacted the competition and how do you receive entries for this year’s competition? Or how did you receive entries for this year’s competition?

    Rob Guillen: 7:26

    COVID really did change so much of how we administrate the program last year , uh, during the first year when we did not have an in-person exhibit or , uh , an in-person awards ceremony in well, 29 years, we had to rethink how we were going to do everything for the in-person exhibit. We realized that that was a very important part of the mission for insights art to provide a very public means by which , um , people, the public can actually view the artwork. So we actually created an online version of the exhibit, and this means that anybody from around the world would actually be able to see all of the artwork that has one, they would be able to read or listen to a detailed description of the artwork. They would also be able to read the bios of the , uh, the jurors , um, and be able to experience the wide variety of materials , uh, that have come into the contest. We decided to go ahead and make the artwork , um, available virtually for the judging and what this meant was at least for 2021 in its entirety, all of the artwork from both adults and students could be turned in by a photograph and email to us, and we would , uh, arrange all the photos. And then we allow the jurors to simply go onto a website to be able to view and rank all of the artwork from each of the categories. This did two things. Number one, it actually made it a little bit cheaper and , and , uh , less complicated for artists to be able to enter the contest. And that’s important to me because previously we would have had , um , all the student artists in any case, literally turn in ship into APH, all of the artwork , um, that got expensive. Uh, we also have to ship it back , um , and it was just , uh, a very , uh, difficult process of a second thing that it allowed is it allowed for , uh, jurors who originally only came from the Louisville Metro area to actually be selected from anywhere in the United States. So we are , uh, going to change the , uh, the , uh, submissions for the artwork in future years to include , uh, a lot more virtual opportunities to be able to turn in your art that way we can actually , um, select jurors from a lot of different places and , uh, have the archers , uh, have a wide representation. That’s very, very important to us to make sure that we have a lot of jurors from different backgrounds, different mediums , uh , to be able to look at all the artwork. So COVID has really changed that. And , uh, that was one of the better changes that went along with all of the co COVID chaos as I like to call it , um, while we still would love. And we’ll continue to have an in-person exhibit in the future. Uh, we will try very hard to make sure that all of our friends from, let’s say, for example, this year from Columbia , from India, from Canada, that all of those individuals have an opportunity to view all of the artwork that was in the exhibit, as well as have a place that artists themselves can point to, to show that the won a prize or that they were accepted to the exhibit. Those are also very important , uh, parts of the mission of the InSights Art program.

    Sara Brown: 11:00

    Now, when it comes to submitting art and you all are looking at this and up close and personal, is there any art that you’ve seen that stands out for you?

    Rob Guillen: 11:14

    I think , uh, some of the artwork that has come in over the years , uh , really surprises me and every year is always a little bit different. Um, some of the artwork that really amazes me are , uh, the work that come out of , uh, programs that work with children with multiple disabilities. Um, oftentimes , um, you know, students who are in programs are often thought of as less capable for a lot of different reasons. They may not have a lot of fine motor skills. They certainly do not have good vision. Uh, they may not. Um, uh, they may not necessarily understand , uh , sort of what I will call classical art forms. Um , however, some of the artwork that comes out of programs like that are truly amazing. I mean, really just mind-blowingly beautiful or provocative. Um, and it really has a lot to do with the teachers who guide the artists themselves and the artists themselves, because they certainly are not void of imagination. So those are some of the things that really have stood out.

    Meg Outland: 12:25

    And Rob had mentioned earlier as well, since a lot of it has been virtual, especially this past year, year and a half. Um, we had all of the artists send in their artwork virtually first, before we actually received it in person . So even being able to experience it virtually and then opening up the package to see it in person for the first time is absolutely incredible. Just because you get an idea of what it’s going to look like just by looking at it on your computer, but then when you actually get to hold it and see it in person, it’s just so much more depth to it that you didn’t realize before. That’s probably been my favorite part. There’s one piece that we’ve received this year called dandelion. And the background is it’s really pretty greenish, not quite lime green, but a light green, and there’s a woman and her hair is like a dandelion and B detail in her eyes and face. It’s absolutely incredible. It’s , uh , it’s just so stunning. And I was a 17 year old who did that to , I believe 17. Well, I can’t wait to see that one. Now, what has overseen InSight’s Art taught you about art or those creating the art?

    Rob Guillen: 13:38

    Well, for me, I think that one of the major things is to , um, be mindful of my own expectations of what people can accomplish. Um, having worked with , uh, this program for 10 years , uh, the last couple of years , uh, as the administrator of the program, I’ve certainly seen a lot of really , uh , exquisite art come through , um, work that is, and has been , uh , displayed and sold in galleries , uh, by artists who just happened to have a visual impairment. And one of the things that , um , I love is when I talked to an artist , um, and when they’re able to tell me exactly how they created a piece and it occurs to me that all artists are alike, they have this inner passion to be able to express themselves. They want to be able to tell the world , um, some truth about their experience. They may do it through beauty. They may do it through provoking. They may do it through abstracts, but it , it regardless, they’re really, really very interested in being able to express themselves. Um, and all artists really have that universal truth behind them. Uh , one of the things I love is being able to look at a work of art and to be able to think, wow, how did they do that? And , uh, in the last couple of years, there was one piece , uh, that came out of New York and , uh, it was this beautiful landscape. Um, basically it was a cityscape at night. Uh, the artist had , uh, created this beautiful cityscape of , uh , a set of buildings that were reflected on the water. It was very abstract, lots of grays blues, a little bit of pink and orange. And , um , I did not know how they did that. Um, the student was almost , uh, nearly fully blind. And , uh, when I talked to the teacher about how they did it, she described exactly what they did, which was to basically take a credit card, attach it to a , uh , yardstick , um, and basically scrape the art , uh, scrape the paint, excuse me, right on the , uh , uh, the canvas. And it was, again, a very simple answer to , um, what actually happened , uh, or the result of the artwork itself. It was an amazing , uh, solution , uh, that I really hadn’t thought of. And it’s really wonderful to be able to talk to teachers and to artists to talk about how they actually created their artwork. And I love doing that.

    Meg Outland: 16:18

    I think , um , InSights Art also reminds me that art is a form of expression that creates an inclusive experience for all creators. Like just being able to see all walks of life genders, anybody like entering into this competition is absolutely amazing. It just, it’s so mixed my heart warm.

    Sara Brown: 16:39

    Okay. And right now it’s too late to enter this year’s competition, but can you tell us when you can start submitting for next year?

    Rob Guillen: 16:48

    The InSights Art program , uh, will , uh , start at , uh, annual meeting for APH? So APH’s Annual Meeting is typically in early October of the year, and that is when we open up the following year’s , um , program , uh, that will allow for several months for artists to be able to turn in their artwork. So this year , uh, that will be October, October 7th , uh , is when , uh, the 2022 season will start. Uh, the , uh , due date will be probably late March or early April. We haven’t fully defined that yet, but , um , it’ll allow for several months to do that. Um, as we have done this year, all artists are welcome to either ship their artwork to us, or they can send us a photograph or two of the artwork so that we can go ahead and include that into the , uh, virtual judging. We ask that , um, artists take , uh, as higher resolution of a photograph as they can manage. Um, they’re very welcome to ask for help to take photographs for that artwork. Um , they can , uh, email the artwork as an attachment along with the entry form, which will be available also on October 7th, but they can also , uh , put it on a flash drive , uh, and mail that to us. And , uh , we will go ahead and enter them all into the contest. So , uh, that’s uh , how it’ll, that’s the process for, for including artwork for next year’s contest.

    Sara Brown: 18:25

    And one last question, before we go, is there anything else you would like to add about InSights Art about creating art, the artists, anything?

    Rob Guillen: 18:34

    One of the things I think I would like to do is encourage , um, all artists to participate in the program. Um, even if you don’t think, well, there’s no way that I would be able to compete with a professional artist. Everyone is welcome to enter the contest. Um, if you’re , uh, at least legally blind, if not fully blind and all of those artists of any age really have a depth of imagination that often , um, people don’t often realize how , uh , creative they can be. They don’t realize that they have that deep well of creativity in them to be able to , to make a work of art that is , um, provocative and exquisite. Uh, and in some cases really, really beautiful. Um, I know that some of the artwork at least one Insights Art were created by individuals who would be at least professionally classified as amateurs, but their artwork is hardly that it is amazing. And , um, I love being able to exhibit the artwork for new artists , um, because , uh , it really does give them the push to be able to consider art as a profession. And as we all know , uh , artwork is one of those things that is critical for a healthy society to be able to , um, look at , um, our world from different eyes to be able to , um, imagine the way a world could be or the way it had been. These are all really, really important things for a society. And those voices should come from everybody, including those individuals who happen to be blind or visually impaired. So , um , I definitely wanna encourage everybody to be able to , uh, enter the contest or encourage their friends and family to do that as well.

    Sara Brown: 20:29

    Okay. Well, thank you so much, Rob and Meg for joining me today on Change Makers.

    Rob Guillen and Meg Outland: 20:34

    You’re very welcome, pleased to be here.

    Sara Brown: 20:37

    Thank you. All right. Up next, we’re talking to an art teacher. We have the Braille Institute’s art instructor Erin Schalk. Hello, Erin . And welcome to Change Makers.

    Erin Schalk: 20:48

    Hello, Sara. I’m so glad to be here. Thank you for bringing me on.

    Sara Brown: 20:52

    Great, great, great. Now , uh , first, can you tell, tell us just a little bit about yourself and what you do in your position?

    Erin Schalk: 20:58

    Absolutely. So I’ve been a professional educator since 2010, over a decade now, and I started out teaching actually in Okinawa, Japan. I was teaching art, writing and English as a foreign language. Um , since 2018, I have been teaching at the Braille Institute of America in Anaheim, California. And in addition to my teaching practice, I’m also a professional artist and writer. Okay. So you were in Okinawa, Japan. Can you, what was that like? It was a really amazing experience. I think for a first time teacher, it was more of a baptism by fire sort of experience. I mean, not in a good way though. Um, I, you know, I was teaching internationally. Um , I was learning Japanese at the same time, the Japanese language, I was also working on earning a degree in east Asian studies and I had on-site classrooms, but I also had , um , my car, a blue Nissan Cube. That was my portable classroom. So what I would have to do with this is load all of my supplies constantly inside that cube. Sometimes on top of, in the case of certain artworks and I would go rumbling up and down the island to my different teaching locations. I’m bringing all these materials with me, and it was a really great experience because I had the chance to teach all ages, everything from pre-K through adult levels, even to professional educators, I would teach continuing education courses. And I had the wonderful experience to , of teaching students from very diverse backgrounds, students from Okinawa and mainland Japan. There is a distinction between the two as well as children and spouses of American active duty service members, and a lot of students throughout Asia, different countries throughout Asia, such as the Philippines, China, Korea, even Malaysia as well.

    Sara Brown: 22:55

    What an awesome experience. Wow, that is so cool. So bringing it back home, can you tell me as an art instructor, what is it like to teach art to adults with visual impairments or children? How do you get them to understand art and the actual process of creating it?

    Erin Schalk: 23:15

    It’s a lot of different things. Uh , something that I’ve found that can really be beneficial, and this is not necessarily what’s taught when you’re taught to be an educator, is to be highly sensitive to the unique situation of each student. Usually that’s a luxury in the classroom because teachers are having to balance the needs of so many students simultaneously. But for me, teaching adults, it’s so different. Uh , teaching an adult who has been blind since birth compared an adult who has lost their vision in say like middle age or partway through life and all of this requires diverse teaching strategies. So an example of this would be, see if a student has been blind since birth. The way that I would teach that student color would be through color symbolism. Also a balance between the abstract and the concrete, for example, skies and oceans are often blue and blue can represent tranquility. So a lot of my adult students come to art with an understanding of art that they’ve learned in school. And most of the time, this is art. That’s highly representational. Maybe it’s aesthetically beautiful as well. So students come in with these ideas in mind and they often feel like they can’t represent art in that same way. So what I really strive to do in my classroom is to make that space a place of first permission. Um, and by that, I mean, mistakes, failures, detours, experimentation, any of that kind of thing, all of it is very welcome because these are necessary parts of the creative process and one’s individual growth. So an example of this in action , a lot of people who have studied art before have maybe heard the term blind contour drawing. And this is traditionally taught in say like an art foundations program where sighted students are required to look only at the objects that they’re drawing and not at their paper at all. And there’s ideally going to be this mind body sort of connection from looking at the object and then transferring those marks, those shapes onto the paper. Now, what I do with my students in my classroom is we have an adapted version of blind contour drawing with key differences. What I typically do is I will bring out objects that have aromas even tastes in some cases, but in the case of an aroma, say a variety of flowers and these flowers will be different , uh , species. So different sense , textures shapes of pedals , leaves, things like that. And I encourage the students to take some time, really take some time to interact with these objects, to feel the contours of a pedal, to smell the flower, to get a sense of what the stem feels like. And once students have had the time to really engage with what they are going to draw, they begin to create a drawing, a tactile drawing using res lines. And I find this process is especially important for students who feel most comfortable creating realistic artworks, but we take that a few more steps. The next step with this process is to help expand students’ definition and understanding of art. So it becomes more accessible, no matter what anyone’s situation happens to be. So we learned that art isn’t just about a person’s individual perception or what a person would see visually it’s just what’s encountered or seen with the retina, but art can really be an expression of an inner emotional state. And so what the students do is once they get comfortable creating tactile lines of their drawings of their objects, then we move on to making lines and marks in a more gestural way, a more emotive kind of way. And you can think of the abstract expressionists where each mark and stroke revealed some sort of aspect of the painter, subconscious of the thoughts, internal states, emotions and feelings. And for my students, what I’ve really found is there’s this incredible freedom and placing a mark down , allowing it to be what it will be and just letting it go from there. That art isn’t always about seeing it can be more about being or expressing in a particular moment.

    Sara Brown: 27:35

    You just touched on some of the techniques that you use when teaching art. Do you have any others that you want to share?

    Erin Schalk: 27:42

    Yes, there are so many, but I’ll hit a few highlights here. A core approach that I do take when teaching art is emphasizing art techniques and materials that are multisensory . We often think about this as tactile, but we can do more senses. We can actually engage with more senses moving beyond the visual, into touch, sound, smell, even one sense of balance. And I’ll explain what I mean by that. Um , there’s a book called artist experience by John Dewey. It’s something that a lot of art students, art educators end up reading and at the crux of this book is the idea that art is experiential. It’s an experience it’s meant to be encountered with interacted with. It brings it to a level of accessibility to everyone. The idea of art. Now I adapt some of these philosophies though, for students with visual impairments, actually setting up situations where art can overlap effectively with orientation and mobility skills. And an example of this is a soggy man. Some of you may have heard of Sargy Mann. He was a very famous painter in England. He passed away in 2015, but he actually lost his sight completely by about age 35 or so or around midlife give or take. And he, despite this pioneered these techniques to still paint human figures, he would map the human figures proportions out onto a large cardboard tube, as well as his canvas using basically sticky tackling little bits of tack or putty and create these coordinates, these map coordinates of where say, look, the eyes would go in relationship to the chin and relationship to the bottom of the rib cage, et cetera, et cetera. So we use those same techniques , um , that soggy man did in our classes . Well, we map out say the proportions of the human face of a portrait of the eyes and relationship to the nose and the mouth. And it really helps students learn to navigate their way around a canvas, just like they would learn how to navigate around, say a busy intersection or around a building that they frequent quite often. So another technique that I also teach my students actually harks back a few years ago , uh , when I was in graduate school and I did this series of tactile paintings and this was years before I came to the braille Institute, but it proved to be a great training. I didn’t know it at the time, of course, for what I would be teaching down the road. And when I say tactile paintings, I mean really tactile. I don’t mean just impasto impasto as in thick applications of oil paint, I mean, paintings that are so built up with sculptural materials, like wire paper paint on top, that it blurs the lines between what a painting can be and what a sculpture can be. So we continue to use these types of techniques in my classroom as well, too, especially with acrylic paints. And for anyone who’s familiar with acrylic paints, they’re highly versatile, medium acrylic, essentially being plastic. Um , but what you can do with acrylic paint is you can do actually a one-to-one ratio take a one-to-one ratio. So one part paint to one part material and mix it together. And what we use, we honestly use just about anything you can imagine, but some of our favorite materials are , uh , to mix them with our paint , our soil, tiny glass beads, pumice ground, marble dust, even coffee grounds. That’s a big favorite because it has both the texture of the coffee grounds and the paint, but also the aroma too. So it really helps students be able to keep track of what paint is, what based on the textures, we can also add in aromas like essential oils to , um, in the case of the coffee grounds, especially since we’re based in Southern California, many students have made these really beautiful, I mean, just stunning seascape paintings with other paint mixed with coffee grounds because it simulates the color and the texture of say sand, a Sandy beach and the aroma too , of course, has that added benefit of waking us all up in the morning , uh, as we are trying to get going for the day, if we have an early morning class and another technique that is really helpful. And I think my students are better at this than I am honestly, but I’m still working on it is to incorporate a lot of metaphors and comparisons to familiar objects. And an example of this actually happened a few months back. We’ve been remote at the braille Institute for a while due to the pandemic. So I’ve been teaching students online and sending my students art kits through the mail. And I was trying to help my students figure out where their water color paper was and you know, the many layers of the art kit. And I was describing it . I defaulted essentially to, oh , watercolor kind of feels like, like cardstock gets , you know, it’s a little thick, it’s a little heavy and a student piped up. She had a much better comparison than I did. And she said, yes, it feels a lot like a Dunkin donuts box is you brought us right back to the here and now we all had a good laugh and everybody ended up finding their watercolor paper.

    Sara Brown: 32:56

    That’s too cute. The Dunkin donuts box, we all know what that feels like. Yeah, exactly. Okay. So what are some of those most popular mediums? Is it painting? Is it clay? Is it, what are some of the most popular mediums that you’ve noticed for you?

    Erin Schalk: 33:17

    Oh, there’s a wide variety. I think in terms of my students, mostly mediums that are especially tactile are really popular. That being said, I have a , I think a few surprises or surprising ones that students really like that I’ll share as well too. Um, obviously we work a lot with clay. Clay is great because it’s such a flexible material. When we were onsite , we could use traditional clay like terracotta earthenware that would be fired in a kiln. Now that we’re at home due to the pandemic, we can use air-dry in polymer clays . They’re not quite the same as say a kiln fired clay, but we can simulate similar quality , similar texture, similar forms. And for students, the beauty of that clay is that it can be a functional object. You can turn it into something like a bowl or a decorative vase that a student can use, you know , on an everyday basis. But it can also be sculptural to something that my students really like to do. I say, they’ll make a sculpture out of paper, newspaper first pack the clay around the top. And in the case of a clay that you can put in a kill fire that the paper burns away, and then you’re left with that ceramic sculpture. Something else that we’ve discovered something at the braille Institute that we’re really passionate about is helping our students become more comfortable with accessible technology. So I took this on as a challenge, as an art instructor, especially an art instructor who is more versed in say the plastic arts or, you know, something more analog, like paint sculpture, that kind of thing. And I put together a class that involves digital photo and also mixed media collage. So what we do with this is that it helps students with using their smart phones and they learn the basics of digital photography as well as how to manipulate those photos, using apps on their smartphones . There are a couple of accessible , uh , smartphone, photo manipulation apps out on the market that have been really user-friendly for our students. And so the students will create these images. And then we typically print them out onto say like a piece of unstretched canvas. And we start putting that down on a panel canvas panel of some kind, and then we begin create this collage layer by layer. So maybe we add in some tactile papers, tissue papers. We can also add in acrylic paint, stencils over the top. And what ultimately happens is every aspect of the collage has a different texture. So students actually had a student tell me this once I can tell them my composition. I can tell everything that’s on here because of the different textures. I can feel my way along the entire piece, but something that , uh , the pandemic has taught us kind of pushed us into a little bit beyond our comfort zone and our levels of experience. But it was a good experience for us is to work with sound art. Since we didn’t always have a lot of access to materials , uh , say in the art kit sometimes. Um, and then a lot of students don’t necessarily have a lot of art materials at home. We created these basically sound compositions, and I would do recordings through my computer. Do these audio tracks, sound recordings of the entire class. And we actually started out with making our own instruments from recycled materials. We’ve been using a lot of recycled materials these days and materials instruments that can make sounds. And then we combined these instrument sounds with spoken word poetry layer, all these different audio tracks on top of each other. And you get this sound landscape of sorts . It was really exciting for us because these sound pieces were eventually featured through the orange county museum of arts SoundCloud. So I think the great thing about 21st century art these days, a lot of people will criticize it, but what is happening in the past 20 years give or take is we’re seeing so much more interdisciplinary artwork. We’re seeing combinations of, you know, digital technology technology that we’re really wanting to help our students get more comfortable with, with the analog and things like poetry and music and all interwoven together into visual arts . And for my students who have often been taught that they’re not doing it right, quote unquote, right? When it comes to art, having this freedom, having this technical freedom, this freedom to express a variety of ideas, I’m taking these different elements and putting them together into one unified whole. This creates really fertile ground. I’ve seen at least in my students and in their work.

    Sara Brown: 38:06

    Wow. Erin , that is amazing how just hearing how technology has really helped elevate the creation of art and art for everybody. Thank you so much again for joining me today on Change Makers.

    Erin Schalk: 38:21

    Oh, you’re most welcome. Thank you so much for having me.

    Sara Brown: 38:25

    Now we have a real insights artist here to talk more about their creation process. We have Josephine “Joey” Hernandez. Hello, Joey, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Josephine “Joey” Hernandez: 38:35

    Hi, I’m so happy to be here today.

    Sara Brown: 38:38

    And just briefly, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

    Josephine “Joey” Hernandez: 38:42

    Okay, cool. My name is Joey. I’m an independent artist from Garden Grove, California. I work with acrylic and pencil portraits. I also kind of dabble in graphic design. Um, I’m a current student in the orientation mobility program at San Francisco state university and a recent graduate from Cal state Fullerton go Titans, fan of copy , fan of bad puns, and they have skateboarding. Wonderful, wonderful. And like I said, you are an insights artist. So can you tell me, how did you get started in, in the art world? The drawing, the painting? Well, I’ve always been interested in art. I think that interest really grew when I was in middle school, I really got into pencil portraits. Then I had an awesome teacher, but I actually didn’t start painting until I was in high school. And I didn’t start painting until after my vision loss. I kind of tend to do things backwards, but the reason why I started painting initially is because I was trying to show how I see things to other people , uh, with my visual impairment, I have a juvenile form of macular dystrophy. So in addition to everything being really blurry, I also constantly see neon lights that aren’t actually there. Yes. Even my eyes are extra. I got glitter going on. Um, but it was really frustrating , uh , trying to explain this to people , um, when all of it was new to me. So one day I decided, you know what, I’m just going to try to make an example of this myself. I started doing research into different types of mediums. I realized that with acrylic paint, I can get neon vibrant neon colors, and I can have them opaque. Um , so I could use that to kind of try to simulate what I see and, you know, after I tried it out and tried out painting, taught myself, I realized, man, this is really fun. And I just took it and ran with it. That is amazing. Now with your visual impairment, did you have to overcome any obstacles to create your art? Yes. So I mentioned before I used to be totally excited and I was into art before, you know , my visual impairment. So I had to come up with a lot of adaptive techniques in order to create my work. I can go on and on about that all day. But for example, I don’t have, my small sketchbooks are not the same size as what they used to be. My small sketchbooks nowadays are 14 by 17 . Um, I realized that if I were to lean over to look at my artwork , um , for extended period of time, that would end up hurting my back. It just wasn’t sustainable. So boom, adjustable easel. Now I to bring everything right up next to my face , um, with thinking of bringing things close to my face to , I took a lot of trial and error to figure that out. Um, sometimes with the way that the easel we propped up , um, the top corners of my work will be too far away for me to see. So I eventually figured out like, Hey, sitting on the ground, that’s what works for me. That’s how I’m able to get the most range out of my evil . Um, and those are just for like my actual seating setup , um, or actually working with the materials themselves. I discovered a lot of tactile techniques that helped me with identifying , uh, what supplies I’m using. So even though I have enough vision where I can tell , um , colors, and I , especially if they’re up close to my face , um, when you’re in the zone and you’re painting, sometimes you don’t want to stop in between every single color to bring it right up to your nose, or you don’t want to have to pull out a magnifier every single time. Um , so I started paying attention to things like the weight and texture of my paint tubes or their overall shape. If you know that you’re using a certain paint to quite a lot, you realize like, oh, Hey, now it’s got a funky dent and it’s a lot less lighter than the other one. And using these context clues and realizing that I set it down in this area before, it’s easier to figure out, you know, that that’s my, that’s the white paint that I need right at this moment. And I can just kind of keep going without having to stop. Uh , similarly for pencils. Are there any pencil artists out there in the crowd, you might be aware that , uh , some folks will use different hardness and Sophos levels of pencils in order to get like different levels of shadow. Um, if you have pencils that are all the exact same shape it to be really hard to tell which one is which , um, luckily I like mechanical pencils. I prefer those anyways. So I could just get mechanical pencils that are all different funky shapes. And on top of that, I can like label it with a big old giant, you know, put a painter’s tape, sticking out with Britain on the side to be a HB . So that way, when I am grabbing my pencil, I don’t have to stop and figure out like, what am I picking up? Um, I could just keep going. And on those rare instances where I’m really tired and I’m like, I don’t remember what exact, you know , one, this is, I can stop and look at that label. Um , afterwards. Absolutely . Just a couple of techniques. I have a couple more tricks up my sleeves, but , um, for me, I think it’s all about coming up with creative solutions , um, and fighting, just trying out different things, seeing what works.

    Sara Brown: 43:40

    Okay. Can you tell me what insights arts pieces or piece you’ve submitted and what you love about the program?

    Josephine “Joey” Hernandez: 43:50

    Gosh, I have submitted pieces for years. I’ll have one that sticks out to me was one that I submit . I think it was one of my first adult ones that I submitted. Um, and it’s a pencil portrait of my niece grabbing my cane while walking with me down the side of a busy street. Um , back when I was, you know, newer to being visually impaired, my niece was really little and she liked to help me. And by help, I mean, she would grab the end of the cane and then just walk it around and smack things. It wasn’t really helpful, but it was adorable. So I let her do it. So I have that piece of that. I entered and I believe I won that year. Um , so that, that would always makes me happy. Um, but I love the InSights competition overall. Um, there’s so many amazing things I could say about it. One that sticks out to me is I love the image descriptions that are available for all of the pieces. So if you are an artist with a visual impairment and you want to enjoy other people’s work, or if you’re just somebody else who’s casually viewing the artwork , um , they have descriptions of all of the pieces. So you understand what is being shown. I think that this , um , is something that all art programs, regardless of whether or not they’re targeting visually impaired people should strive for they’re fantastic and beautiful descriptions. The other thing that I love is seeing all of the youngsters have a program. I love that they’re being encouraged to create artwork, to show there are these side , um, and being taught early on that art can be for everybody.

    Sara Brown: 45:25

    Wow . One more question. Before I let you go, is there anything you would like to say to encourage, you know , any students listening or any adults that are thinking about getting into painting or drawing, but just don’t know how to begin or if, you know, feel that their visual impairment is holding them back?

    Josephine “Joey” Hernandez: 45:44

    I ‘d say just try it out. U m, sometimes you might realize that like your exact process for completing something might be entirely different from somebody else’s, u h, your process for drawing or painting might be totally separate from mine and that’s okay that doesn’t make it any better. It doesn’t make it any worse. It makes it yours. U m, and I would say if the first techniques that you tried don’t seem to work, if you’re having a hard time with something, if you are really interested, just keep going, modify and adapt, u h, you know, you might end up finding that you might end up finding a way to do something that’s really fun for you. I love that. Keep going, modify and adapt.

    Sara Brown: 46:26

    That is so true. Okay, Joey, thank you so much for joining me today on Change Makers.

    Josephine “Joey” Hernandez: 46:33

    I’m still happy to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

    Sara Brown: 46:36

    And thank you so much for listening to this episode of Changemakers. We’ll put any links in websites mentioned in this podcast, in the show notes, and as always be sure to look for ways you can be a change maker this week.

  • Jack Fox: 0:00

    Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host.

    Sara B.: 0:16

    Hello, and welcome to change makers. I’m APH is Public Relations Manager, Sara Brown . And today we’re talking about how to keep children active. We’ll also have a check-in with Partners with Paul here to talk about some of the adapted PE products APH offers. We have APH Product Manager, Educational Product Innovation, Tristan Price. Hello, Tristan , and welcome to Change Makers.

    Tristan P.: 0:42

    Hi Sara, thank you for having me.

    Sara B.: 0:44

    So this podcast, we’re focusing on physical activity and the importance of staying active, especially since fall is on the horizon. So first off, do you have any tips to keep children active?

    Tristan P.: 0:57

    Well, my number one tip is to always keep it fun. You know, think about it. There is a reason why so many toys and games exist on the market today. You know, children will participate if they’re having fun and have a sense of inclusion and accomplishment. So , um , one of the reasons I like using APH is Tangled Toy as a relay race tool is because children practice sound localization skills, matching, sorting. They get to do sequencing and , and just the comradery while playing that game. And it’s an all-inclusive game that children can play by color and texture as they run to the basket locate that next tangle segment run back to their team tag, the next kid. And then they attach their segment to the big tangle loop in the proper sequencing order. So they are learning the whole time. They’re having fun. My tip is provide accommodations. So children with disabilities can always participate and not be a spectator or just always the scorekeeper . You know, it could be as simple as providing a sound source to , uh , uh , running base or wearing brightly colored pennies for the child with low vision to identify a team member from the competition. Those tips are to have fun and to provide the accommodations and modifications if necessary we’re coming out of summer.

    Sara B.: 2:32

    We think, typically in fall there aren’t a lot camps in the fall or in the winter for children, but apparently there are. Can you tell us about the camps that are for children that are on the horizon for the fall and winter months?

    Tristan P.: 2:44

    Well, there, there are, there are not as many in the winter as there are in the summer. There there’s just a plethora of camps in the summertime , but there are some winter oriented camps. Um, I read about one camp it’s up in upstate New York. The kids actually walked across the ice to get to a secluded camp, you know, in the woods. And I got done reading about it and it was like, “I want to go to that camp.” I think it may have been associated with Camp Abilities. I’m not quite sure about that, but yes, there are just so many camps for kids who are visually impaired , um, like the previously mentored , uh , Camp Abilities. They are all across the country. Um, Camp Sparks is up in the Pacific Northwest, so I’m sure they’ve got fall activities going and oh, see camp adventures in North Carolina, that CSEE all caps , um, North Carolina. That’s, that’s a really good, I know they do like what, what a whitewater rafting and stuff like that. So then there’s always the , um , foundation of the junior blind camps and there’s just many, many others, but you know, like , um, there’s the sky high ski camp. There’s a lot of , um , you know, north American ski camps that go along and events, summer camps, and others are like just events that they hold every year. And a lot of kids who have attended a , uh , a ski camp, they then go back to these events and they just, you know, you age up into each age bracket as you go. So , um, that’s, that’s just a lot of fun, but, you know , uh , sometimes it might be challenging to locate a camp at your state and not every state has a camp. So I definitely recommend maybe checking with your state school for the blind, if your state still has a residential school for the blind. And if you’re interested in starting a camp in your state that your, your, your, your state does not have a camp, and you’re interested in starting one, you can go to the Camp Abilities Brockport website, and , um, it has a step-by-step instructions telling you how to do a camp, how to build a camp and to , to keep that camp going. So it cancer just so absolutely amazing. I have witnessed kids learning to stand up paddle board and do elevated adventure rope courses. Um , besides doing those typical camps, you know, those activities you typically have at a sports camp for the blind, such as your COBOL and your beat baseball and, you know, tandem, bike, riding and stuff, but, you know, activities which can be done just about in any season is in the evening go fishing. You know, a lot of camps that fishing in the evening, if they’re located on a body of water and then the kids can always organize power showdown tournaments , um, in the evenings, every kid, she can an opportunity to go to camp and with a majority of the students and the public schools, not in residential schools for the blind go into a sports camp, may be their only opportunity to meet other kids who have a visual impairment and to make new friends. So I truly, truly encourage , uh, experiencing , uh , Camp Opportunity. Gosh, it’s so much act so much fun and so many physical activities to do at camps and APH offers products to also to keep kids active.

    Sara B.: 6:19

    What are some of the products that you can talk about with us right now?

    Tristan P.: 6:23

    Well , um, APH has three signature that I call our signature physical activity products, and those are a Walk/Run for Fitness Kit, the Jump Rope to Fitness Kit and the 30-Love Tennis Kit. And these three kids each come with a large print and a braille guide book describing the activities, modifications and adaptations. So the Walk/Run kit includes a 20 meter and guide wire and a looped rope with a carabiner that you clip onto the guide wire . And so you can slide along the guide wire and use your arms and the correct emotion. Think about it. If you grab your hand and you just hold on to that, guide wire with a rope, you can pump your arm in the correct manner you should, and that can affect your gait when running. So if you put a carabiner on that, guide wire then put a looped rope in the Caribbean, or you just hold on to that loop rope . You can move your arms freely and pop in order to improve your running skill. So it also comes with a tether that is long enough to use with a wheelchair user, but if you don’t need that link, you can then shorten it if you’re running with a guide. So now the next one, the Jump Rope to Fitness Kit , um, besides including the different kinds of cord ropes or beaded ropes, it includes two key items, and that is the anti shock and , um , orientation mat and the talking cordless jump rope. So whether you’re sighted or not everyone migrates when jumping rope. So the orientation mat helps to prevent migration and possibly prevent, you know , hitting another jumper with your rope . You know, so if you’re jumping and you migrate and all of a sudden, you know, you go from feeling that cushion under both your feet, all of a sudden you feel the heart floor on one foot and the cushion on the other, you know, you need to kind of hop a little back in the opposite direction cause you know, you’re getting off your mat. So , uh, that’s, that’s very, very important. And a lot of people like that talking cordless jump rope, because if you program it just like a pedometer , um, the walk run for fitness has that talking put arbiter , the Jump Rope to Fitness Kit has the talking rope lists are cordless. If you program it with your height, your weight, it can tell you how many you’ve jumped, how many minutes you’ve jumped and how many calories you’ve burned. So a lot of people like to have that , that feature, you know , um, uh, let me see the, our third one, our third one is the 30-Love Tennis Kit. And that includes two rockets , two eye shades , and a set of six sound adapted tennis balls that are developed in Japan. So you can play singles and like many international sports for the blind. There are different classifications depending on your level of vision, which corresponds to the number of bounces the ball is allowed to make before you’re required to, you know, hit it back. Um , you can also play doubles when that would be where a person who is visually impaired partners with a sighted player to form a double team. APH also has two electronic sound balls, which are about seven inches in diameter and are meant to help teach and practice gross motor skills. So they’re not evolved designed for a specific sport. You know , it’s not a soccer ball or a basketball. It’s just a generic child’s ball to learn those gross motor skills. Um , the locomotive skills I’m like, you know, running and stuff like that. Then let’s see here, the yellow ball, it has a sound, a similar to ” boing, boing, boing.” The red ball is more like a techno dance beat kind of evolved. So let me think here. Um, we also have a portable sound source and , um, it allows the user to change the rate of the sound, the pitch and the volume of the sound , um, either on the sound source itself or with using a remote. And that remote control is a game changer for those who use this outsource to play basketball or need to change the sound emitting from one base to another base, you know, quickly, you know, in , in a variety of games and sports like that, you know, particularly, you know, what PE teacher wants to have to drag the ladder out between every class to get up there and turn the sound source off the basketball goal this way they just have that remote. So like I said, that was a game changer for , for a lot of people. Now, APH week , we also have a variety of toys that can be used for physical activity. Um , but with the early childhood , uh , population, and that would be things like our rivet ball and that tangled toy I talked about earlier. So , um , those are two, two toys that we have for the early childhood population that we also consider for physical activity. Wow. Okay. So there’s a ton of options in ton at diff tons of different items. Keep, keep children in to keep everybody moving and physically active. One last question I have, is there anything else you’d like to add? Well, yes I would. Okay. So , um , um , I would like to share that for accessibility or perhaps , uh , a product maybe age APH posts, the publications as free downloads. Um, I think people will be amazed too , to know how many written materials are available for free. So , um , Sara, I will, I will send the link to what we call the legacy , uh, download page and , um, the offerings in physical education at this time or physical activity and recreation are games for people with sensory impairments. You can just download that whole book for free. That includes games and , um, visual impairment and other disabilities as well. Then we have going places and in the title places, those are the titles of chapters for the book. Um, it’s, it’s still till this day. I think my favorite book I’ve I’ve ever been involved in , uh, getting published. So , um, that is now , um , available as a free download. We also have the sound, a localization guide book, which is the guide book that accompanies that portable sound source I was telling you about. And it actually has a lot of activities in it that teach sound localization skills, but in the back, there are games that you can play as well. And then we also have the gross motor development curriculum online. There’s also a video online that that’s quite extensive on the gross motor development curriculum. And so that’s going to teach both those local motor skills and those , um , um, object control skills, you know, handling the ball, you know, throwing under him pitch and all that kind of stuff. So , um, I would , um, I will also put that link. Um, I’ll send that link to you because I think many people are just not aware at all of how many , um, how , how many materials APH APHS that are for free. And I will, I will send the links to the Institute of movement studies for individuals with visual impairments and to the camp [inaudible] camp abilities. Um , when we lost our PE website and our camp listing, we have a capabilities , um, copied it over and they’ve been trying to list some camps for us. Um, and , um, people may not know that’s where they migrate it to, but they may find it definitely, you will find all the capabilities on that website, but I think they may have a couple others listed on there as well. And then I have the links to any of the products that I mentioned so I can send you all those links most definitely. And we will be sure to include all of that in the show notes too. So any listeners interested, confined get more information.

    Sara B.: 15:08

    All right . Thank you so much for joining us today on Change Makers.

    Tristan P.: 15:12

    Well, thank you so much for inviting me. I always always , cherish and opportunity to get to talk about physical education and sports in general. And you know, one thing I did not mention, but anyone online, just Google “blind alive,” and , uh, Mel, the woman who does that, she has amazing exercise workouts. Um , um, for anyone who is visually impaired or blind, it’s, it’s really a great, great resource for people to access.

    Sara B.: 15:47

    If you were at our annual meeting last year, we had Paralympian Tyler Merren. He was the keynote speaker and he is participating again in the Paralympics and Hand Ball. So I’ll be sure to put the global schedule as well in the show notes.

    Tristan P.: 16:06

    Yes. Do that, do that. Cause my friend, Matt , Matt, since then is on that same Goal Ball team. Ah , yes, yes. Uh , prior to them going to Rio and winning silver , um, they were training at the Turner center up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and that’s where they held the , uh, National Championships for Goal Ball. So I took a day off from work and I went up there to watch that play. If there was a lot of fun,

    Sara B.: 16:32

    We’ll be rooting for him and we’ll have the link to that whole schedule in the show notes interest in again, thank you so much for coming on. Today’s show.

    Tristan P.: 16:40


    Sara B.: 16:46

    Now we’re going to check in with Partners with Paul.

    Paul F. : 16:51

    Thanks again, Sara. And welcome back to Partners with Paul. Glad to be with you today and excited to have with me a first time guest to this particular program. This is David Tobin. He’s the founder and the CEO of AudioJack. Welcome David.

    David T.: 17:06

    Hey, thanks for having me.

    Paul F. : 17:08

    Can you help me and start by telling us what an Audio Jack is?

    David T.: 17:12

    Absolutely. An AudioJack is an audio based movie. There’s no words, there’s no video and there’s no music. It’s hundreds of sounds that are edited together to tell a story for your imagination. So for instance, you might hear the wind in trees start to fade in, and then you hear feet start to walk across grasp , and then they stop and a door opens, well , your imagination and memory is going to converge and start to create a narrative based on what you’re hearing. And because it’s all sound design, there’s no language barrier, it’s this, everyone can connect to it. And there is a story behind each audio, Jack, but it’s revealed that way. There’s never a wrong answer.

    Paul F. : 17:54

    That sounds great. And , um, are there any new AudioJacks that have come out and if so, can you tell us about those and how they were created?

    David T.: 18:03

    Yeah, absolutely. So we make new AudioJacks all the time and they’re in the AudioJack app that you can get your subscription through APH with, and they’re in a variety of categories , um, history, historical ones. So you feel like you’re different moments in time, there’s day in the life, which is actually great for orientation and mobility. Um, and a lot of TVI has used that. Um, and we just released a new AudioJack and some new features actually in the app. Uh, one of the things is a new feature that allows for offline listening. So if you’re in an area with poor internet or Wi-Fi or whatever, you can download the audio jacks to your app and have them stored. So when you go to those locations , uh, you don’t have to worry about that. You can play it just fine. And we just released a new audio Jack in the life category called EIG . And , um, I can’t tell you too much about it, but it gives you the experience of , um, I will say tattooing would be a great way to do it, but also I hate to say that because it opens your interpretation. If other people listen to this and they have a different experience. That’s great. Um, but I worked with a very famous tattoo artist named Friday Jones. She , uh, is a big part of a lot of different charities as well. Um, they do a lot of tattoo work for people who are , um, you have had women who have had mastectomies. They do tattoo work over that. They do a lot of tattoos for , uh, army and military vets , um , to make those scars and other elements come to life in ways. So you’re not just kind of stuck with that. And so we had her , um, do a very special thinking session. She didn’t tattoo me , uh , but she was tattooing. So when we got some authentic sounds of that, and then we took those sounds and built a whole story in a narrative around it. Um, so you’re actually hearing some very authentic things happening inside it, but how you get into that and how you leave it, that’s up to your imagination. Um, it’s a really neat one and that’s in the life category and

    Paul F. : 19:55

    What’s really cool about all of these is all of the sounds that are together and how they fit together. It’s just very well done. And I think if you haven’t heard an AudioJack, and you get to hear one for the first time, you’ll, you’ll understand that dynamic. So you talked a little bit about how you play AudioJacks, but where are they played and how can you listen to them?

    David T.: 20:16

    Yeah, absolutely. And you’re right. I mean, I even still get excited when I listened to this because essentially, you know, you’re closing your eyes. There’s no dialogue, it’s your imagination taking on this world and letting you visualize with no visual construct. Um, there is a , um , the best way is to go to the link. That’s going to be included in here , um, to go to the APH page then on there, there’s a link that I’ll take you to AudioJack, and that’s where you can get your subscription. Um, and when you do that, you can use your subscription to log into the web version of audio Jack, or download the app on any device and then use that subscription to unlock the content. And it works on every, every, you know, Google, Android platform and all the apple iOS platforms.

    Paul F. : 21:00

    So I can play them on my phone. I can play them on my tablet, on my computer, no limit to any of those. Correct. And finally tell us the best way to purchase the audio Jack then.

    David T.: 21:13

    Okay. The best way is to go through the APH link. It’s wonderful to be working with APH, a portion of the proceeds from your downloads, go back to APH, to help with resources and other awesome programming that they create. So , um , the link that’s included in here, if you hit that, it’ll take you to the APH page that has some information about audio Jack, and then there’s an option to click and it will take you to our website and that’s where you can pick up your subscription. Okay .

    Paul F. : 21:39

    All right , David, thanks for giving us the information about audio Jack and how it works. Hope everybody enjoys it. Thank you for joining us, David.

    David T.: 21:46

    You’re welcome. That was great. Thanks.

    Paul F. : 21:48

    And don’t forget everyone. Check the show notes. That special link is going to appear in those notes. Please use that link to benefit AudioJack and APH, and we hope you enjoy it. Thank you for listening to the episode today and back to you, Sara.

    Sara B.: 22:03

    Thanks so much, Paul, and here to talk about some awesome physical activities for younger children. We have Visually Impaired Preschool Services, otherwise known as VIPS, Early Childhood Special Educator, Ashley Emmons. Hello, Ashley, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Ashley E.: 22:19

    Hi, thanks for having me.

    Sara B.: 22:20

    Oh, good. So we’re talking about physical activity and I’m sure you have plenty to offer about the importance of keeping children active, but first and foremost, can you tell us what you do at VIPs and how long you’ve been there?

    Ashley E.: 22:34

    Sure. Yeah. So what could they say? My name is Ashley Emmons and I’ve been with VIPs for about 15 years. Um, during that time I’ve worn many different hats and often wear the same hats at the same time. Um, I have my Early Childhood Certification. I also have , um, I’m also a Certified Orientation Mobility Specialist and then I also have my teacher of the visually impaired certification. So a lot of times I’m wearing all three hats at one time, especially , um, most of the time I’m housed here at our Louisville location in our preschool. So oftentimes you’ll find me here in the classroom working with hers , um, kiddos here, but we have, it’s also served first steps, which is our birth to three population. Um, and I serve them as well. But with that, I’m really just wearing one hat and that’s not orientation mobility hat when I’m serving our first steps kiddos. So, but even then, it’s hard to take off the other hats when you’re so used to wearing all three, of course, of course.

    Sara B.: 23:32

    How does blindness affect physical activity?

    Ashley E.: 23:38

    Well, it’s the loss of vision. It can affect many different areas of development. Um, the loss of vision can impact your social motor skills, sensory integration is one we see quite a bit. And then of course your overall physical development , um , for students with vision loss, for them, it’s difficult for them to pick on things that typically developing sighted peers may pick up. So through incidental learning, a lot of us pick up on different skills, but when you have a vision loss, it’s really hard to learn incidentally. Um, with our little ones, we see a lot that there’s not too much motivation for them to want to move in space. It can be fearful, it can be scary. They kind of have their safe zone, whether it’s like a rug , um , in the living room and getting them to branch out off that rug can be tricky at times, but it’s really important to work on, encourage them to do that. Um, as well as with our students and vision loss, it’s difficult for them to pick on the nonverbal cues that those with sight are able to pick upon. And then they have difficulty with spatial awareness is where as well, knowing where they are in space, what’s around them. It can be a scary thing if you’re unsure of what’s around you. So encouraging movement and physical activity to just explore, gain exposure can really help build their competence and their skills. Um, so I always tell my family that it’s very important to encourage moving in space, getting them out of that comfort zone. And it’s important, not just for their motor development, not just for physical activity, but they also gain a lot of concepts as well through that. Whether it’s putting things in and out of a container, turning things on and off like a light switch, getting them to walk over to that, a lot of concepts can be built in into that one physical movement activity, even it’s just as simple as taking a few steps.

    Sara B.: 25:30

    Okay. So we know being active is important for students, but what are they learning? You kind of touched on it. Can you expand a little bit more?

    Ashley E.: 25:38

    Yeah, of course. Um, so being active and participating in physical activity is very important for the development of many different areas. Um, even things just as simple as building up endurance, building up strengths coordination is a big one because a lot of times with our little ones learning to walk, their posture and gait can , um , be a little off and , um, flexibility. And then of course the fine and gross motor skills. Those are all things that are important for being active. And for our young population here at VIPS, especially our birth to three, when we’re going into the homes and helping the families, we’re really working a lot with those kiddos, especially as an O&M from an O&M standpoint, working on sitting and crawling and rolling and walking, we encourage lots of active play, whether it’s rough and tumble, play, you know, wrestling on the floor, tickling , um, starting in their area that they feel most comfortable in, but then transferring that skill over to maybe areas of the home where they’re not as comfortable. And to know we can still have fun in here too. Um, we do a lot of encouraging of movement games, things just as simple as that, we grew up doing, playing ring around the Rosie is a great one for working on the skill of standing up and sitting down. A lot of times I changed the words to “we don’t fall down.” We sit down , um , playing games as easiest Simon Says to work on the body parts, body awareness, knowing where they are in space. Um , then of course, just simply just exploring playground equipment or going out into the community, exploring different playgrounds, maybe even indoor jumping, see a lot of those indoor trampoline parks or things, just getting out in the community, exploring, practicing, swinging, and sliding and climbing, running and jumping just because you’re visually impaired doesn’t mean you can’t do those skills. It just might take a little bit more creativity and getting comfortable performing those skills and breaking it down and making sure overall that the child feels safe when learning those new skills does being active, improve the reflexes for children who are visually impaired. And if so, how I would assume so maybe they’re , I don’t have any like research-based evidence on it , on this at all, but I would say absolutely physical activity is important just for all areas of development, including your reflexes. Um , for kiddos, with vision loss , we see a lot of times that they do have difficulty with their posture. They have difficulty with their gait patterns, how they walk in space. Um, just even simple things as motor planning. How am I going to get from the floor to a standing position? Um, it takes a lot of motor planning. Um, and then there’s also the reaction time of when things are for kiddos, especially with low vision. This can be a little scary and triggering with things coming right at them and knowing the protective responses and learning those responses. But once those things are taught and kind of learn , then they get more comfortable and willing to explore more. Whether it’s even like playing sports, like things like go ball or bowling, basketball, baseball, there’s all kinds of, especially it’d be find creative ways to adapt those sports, to meet their individual needs. I think it definitely improves overall reflexes.

    Sara B.: 29:00

    Okay. So you just mentioned sports. So when teaching a new game or sport, how do you do that? Do you, are you physically guiding the student through motion or I may need some, sometimes you can only explain so much. You just have to, you know , show. So how do you do that?

    Ashley E.: 29:19

    Well, years , creativity and flexibility, you kind of got to meet the needs of the students. All of our students that I’ve worked with have such individual needs. And when I’m in my preschool classroom here, you know, I have three, four, and five-year-olds with all different types of visual impairments, some may have low vision, some may have no light perception. So it’s important to kind of meet their individual needs and does thinking on this question and different strategies I’ve used within time, there’s all kinds of things you’ve done. You can break down the skill that’s being taught in two pieces or chunks. So they’re not learning it all at one time. You can allow the student to actually explore , um , another person performing emotion, whether it’s like the swinging of an arm to throw a ball, have them feel your arms swing back. I think that’s okay to do , um, physical use of physical cues, whether you’re helping the student, you’re physically guiding their arm back to practice rolling a ball. Um, of course you want to use lots of verbal descriptions to describe the actions you’re doing. I have in the past used different types of models. Um, I can’t think of what exactly what they’re called calling , you know, like the little wooden art models that you can kind of move their body into different positions. And then the student can feel that and kind of make their own connections on how their arms supposed to bend for a certain skill. Um, I haven’t used that a whole lot with our young young population, cause it does take up quite a bit of cognitive spills to process what they’re feeling on a model to how they’re going to do their body. But not saying it can’t be done for the young, but I have used that in the past to some of our older ones. Um, we’ve also have used , um, like tactile maps or diagrams of different , um, let’s think about maybe baseball, it’s a shape of a diamond and there’s bases that you run kind of creating a tactile map of that to kind of lay out what it would feel like. Um, and then perform that action. And as they’re running to the first base and show them on the map where they are on the diagram , um, getting creative, using lots of auditory and sensory cues, finding ways to adapt it. Um, here at VIPs, we use quite a bit a portable sound source available at APH to kind of guide them to maybe a basketball goal. We have a toddler go out in our toddler-sized bowl out in our playground. So we’ll kind of sit the portable sound source there. And as the students carrying the ball over, then they kind of helps guide them to the direction of where to put the ball into the basket and then just finding other creative ways to adapt balls , um, to provide sound source, a simple one that I share with my families quite a bit is even just wrapping a plastic grocery bag around a ball and tying it cause as it rolls, it kind of gives that auditory feedback constantly. Um, but there’s all kinds of different products out there as well. Just kind of can get a little pricey at times. Um, so finding ways to kind of adapt it on a cheaper scale is always kind of fun and exciting. Um, also one of the big things for teaching a new game in sport is allowing for wait time and processing time for them to understand and acknowledge what , um, the skill needs to be done and give them time to perform that skill. So if it takes them a while to roll the ball, that’s fine. As long as they eventually roll the ball, they’ve kind of developed that in the more they do it, then the more faster they may proceed in the future. I hope that answers your yeah, that did. That was just interesting. Now, have you seen students improve in other areas because of their physical activity? You know , have they oh yes, absolutely. Yeah. Um, when thinking about this question, some of the things that come to mind is a lot of times with our young kiddos, they may have delays in multiple developmental areas, whether it’s , um, you know, physical, gross, motor gross and fine motor area or cognitive language. And a lot of times we see our young kids, they kind of focus on one developmental area at a time. So once one is achieved, then they might be able to move on to the next one. So something that comes to mind is once a child becomes comfortable crawling or walking in space, then their language may start developing more. They might start communicating more, their social skills get improved. And now I’m thinking back to like all the components of the expanded core curriculum. Um, just because they’re doing a physical activity that you think falls under rec and leisure, but that physical activity is also going to promote things like social interaction, skills, self-determination skills, and even independent living skills. I don’t know about you, but I think putting dishes in a dishwasher is a chore and a sport in itself. So learning those skills definitely improves all areas. I think just physical activity overall improves multiple areas at one time and you don’t even really think about it, but once you do think about it, then you’re like, oh wow, just through that one thing I worked on this , this, this, this, and this.

    Sara B.: 34:20

    So overall, is there anything else you’d like to add or anything you want to say before, before we end?

    Ashley E.: 34:27

    Yes. So thinking about physical activity with this whole topic being addressed, it leads me to here at VIPS in the classroom or in the preschool, we do a developmental screening tool called the brute grants quite a bit. And that screening tool addresses different developmental areas, whether it’s physical, cognitive, self-help, social, emotional, cupboards , all kinds of areas , but something we’ve noticed when we’re doing this , um , screening tool on our kids is that we’ve seen low scores on the physical development with our kiddos with visual impairments. So when we got to thinking about why is that and how can we best improve that? How can we see those scores go up, focus on that a little bit more. So here over the past couple of years, we’ve been working on developing a PE specific curriculum that we’re going to use here at bips. And this will simply just be tied into the daily preschool curriculum, expanded core curriculum, all that, but it’s different. It’s a curriculum we’re developing that provides all the teachers here, different games or activities they can do to work on different developmental areas, whether it’s hopping balance skills, rolling a ball, throwing a ball, catching a ball, jumping all kinds of different developmental areas. And then we’re also having a monthly sport focus. So where we’re each month we’ll have a different sport focus . And we’ll kind of break down that sport into different areas to teach the kiddos, just to kind of really work on some more of those developmental, physical developmental skills that we’ve seen kind of a weakness on in the beginning . And some of those skills is standing on one foot for five seconds, walking into a heel toe pattern on a straight line. And that in itself is kind of a visual and this brigands is not geared towards students with visual impairments, but it’s something we see, especially with our low vision kiddos. They still kind of struggle with that area. So with this PE curriculum and it kind of embedding it to activities that we do in the classroom everyday , we’re hoping to see those scores start to skyrocket and see an overall improvement. So that’s just something I wanted to address while in here is that we’ve been really working on developing this PE curriculum to help advance those physical developmental skills.

    Sara B.: 36:44

    Okay. Well, Ashley, thank you so much for joining me today on Change Makers.

    Ashley E. : 36:50

    Thank you for having me.

    Sara B.: 36:52

    And we’ll be sure to include any links mentioned in this podcast, in the show notes. And we encourage you to look the ways you can be a Change Maker this week.

  • Jack Fox: 0:00

    Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host.

    Sara B.: 0:16

    Hello, and welcome to Change Makers. I’m APH is public relations manager, Sara Brown and today we’re talking about how to advocate as a parent or guardian for your child. We’re going to talk to APH experts about how you can help your child get the resources they deserve and how to choose the first piece of access technology for your child. It’s very important for children to get everything they can to be successful in the classroom. And that’s why we have Connect Center Director, Olaya Landa-Vialard to talk about advocating concerns for parents and what services are offered through APH. Hello, Olaya and welcome to Change Makers.

    Olaya L.: 0:53

    Thank you for inviting me, Sara. I’m so happy to be here.

    Sara B.: 0:57

    What are some common concerns you’ve heard from parents and what do you suggest to help?

    Olaya L.: 1:03

    Concerns that I hear from parents or at least that I’ve heard over the years , um, tend to deal with navigating the system. Um, the special education system has its own language, you know, some would say , um, I think one of the poems that really , um, lays that out for individuals is called “Welcome to Holland.” And , um, it it’s a poem you can find if you Google it online or on YouTube, there are , um , different versions of it being performed by different individuals. Um, and it’s just basically, you know, talking about the , uh, the expectations that one has when they’re getting ready to have a child. Um, and having that , um, expectation changed once a child is born with a disability and, you know, learning the different , um, the different systems that you have to navigate is, can be really overwhelming and confusing. Um, and, and then once you’re dealing with that, you know, you’re talking medical and all these other systems, but then once you’re starting to deal with , um, the school system and that includes , um, early intervention. That means early intervention is a lot of parents don’t even know that that’s a , that’s a service that they can get from the minute their child is born. Um, you know, in the home from birth to three years old , um , there are services educational services that can be , um, performed in the home to help teach parents about how to work with their child who is blind or visually impaired , uh, or has other special needs. And , um, you know , there are a lot of times when a child is born with special needs. If , if they, you know , have blindness or any other , um, impairments that may be impacting them immediately after they’re born, it’s understandable that the concern burn , you know, immediately has to deal with, okay, I want my child to live and the medical professionals around the parent and the child, of course, that’s their priority as well. Once the child is stable and the parent is ready to , uh , take the child home, that’s when early intervention can come in and begin to help the parent. And if they don’t know about that service, it’s very, it very likely that , um, bay the child can be home with the parent for the first three years of their life. And then eventually if they go to preschool, then start receiving services, developmental services for their child. And so those three years can be last , uh , as far regarding development, if we don’t have interventions that begin as early as possible in the home. And so parents don’t know about that. And a lot of times, and, and physicians and doctors don’t necessarily know about that either sometimes, sometimes they have a misconception that early intervention can’t help make their child see better. And that’s really not the purpose of what we do in an early intervention to get into the home as soon as we can , uh , to start helping the child and the family , uh, learn to work together. Um, a lot of times it’s parents , uh, again, it , it, it wasn’t expected , uh, learning how to navigate this new world of having a child with a disability can be overwhelming and sometimes causes of caregivers and families to, to, to shy away from interacting with their child. Uh, so that’s one of the things that , that I know I hear from parents about once they find out about those services, like why didn’t they know about it? Um, and so that’s also part of navigating the special education system, and it can be very overwhelming for someone who’s not trained in special education. Uh, and, and also, you know, you think about those parents who are , um , English language learners, it’s really hard , um, or our families who are immigrants, who are refugees , um , who are asylum seekers. It’s really hard to navigate the system. It’s hard enough to do it in English, but when you’re doing it in another language that just, they’re not familiar with these terminologies, and they’re not familiar with the systems, that is that that’s a real big concern. And I know I hear that concern quite often , um, from our families and from , uh, other individuals who I know and their families, other teachers of students with visual impairments. And so that is just one of the biggest concerns I think, that are trying to address link through APH family connect , um, through the connect center. Um, but also through a lot of the webinars and things that we offer. But I’ll get to that in just a second. I think one of the other , um, concerns that I hear from families , um, from caregivers is , um, you know, trying to understand , um , the eye condition and how it impacts their development. Um, yeah , they are also trying to figure out like, how do I get help for my child? Um, and then of course, one of the really big concerns his parents have is whether or not their child will have a quote unquote, normal childhood , uh, and be able to grow up to graduate, get a job, have a family, you know, the types of things that we see all other children , uh, an all other kids grow up to do. And that’s, you know, that’s a , parent’s hope, I mean , dreams for every one of their children. So those are big concerns that , that we have , um, from parents when we’re out there working with, with their kids , um, is yeah . You know, w w what’s my child going to be able to do in their life if they can’t see, or if they can’t hear, or if they can’t walk, or if they, you know, all these other issues that may be impacting their , um, their development and their ability to develop as a , as , as typically as other children without disabilities. So a lot of times I think the issue comes down to, with those concerns is not knowing what, what you don’t know, which then leads to knowing what questions to ask. Um, and, and, and you, you can find that in, in many situations in life in general, but when you’re dealing with the special education system, and you’re dealing with B outside of the special education system, you know, medical , um, medical systems and therapy systems and all of these things, it’s, if you don’t know what you don’t know. So you’re, you’re, you don’t know about blindness, you don’t know about , um, you know, how that’s going to impact , um, your child’s development. Uh, you don’t know which specialists , uh, you, you need to help your child. So you don’t know the questions that you need to ask, and that can also play a part into these concerns of, well, what what’s going to happen to my kid. Um, and you, that’s where there are some , uh, there are advocates, special education advocates that can help families. Um, though they come into play to help parents and caregivers understand the system, understand their rights, and understand the rights of their child to receive a free and appropriate public education. That is a big , um, that, that is one of the big acronyms that , um, is in our special education laws and in our parent procedural and rights booklet that every state has through their department of education. Some states have the parent procedural safeguards , um, in multiple languages. So that does tend to at least help bridge some of that gap between the language issues . However, parents have to have access right to internet. They have to have a computer to be able to access that. And yes, there are, they can go to libraries to access computers and internet if they need to. But then now we’re also looking at the downloading a booklet with all of these, these terms and these explanations of systems that they’re not familiar with. So even with that, we’re providing information, they can get, they still need someone to help them navigate that. And parent advocates can do that. Um, and in just a little bit, I , I’m an outgoing through some of the resources and where parents can find , um, advocates who are trained in trying to help parents and teach parents how to navigate these systems.

    Sara B.: 9:59

    What can a parent or guardian do for their child’s teacher?

    Olaya L.: 10:04

    So what parent or caregiver, what they can do for their child’s teacher , um, is, is establish an open and a relationship with that teacher , um, know how to get ahold of the teacher so that you can call and express concerns that you may have, or call and express happiness and appreciation for something they did with their, with your child. That was like really great that , um, you know, made it , made them stand out for, you know, for whatever reason , um, you know, if it was a special activity or , um, they did some kind of special , um, uh, you know, special , um, award that was given maybe to the, to the teacher, to the child , you know, there’s just, there’s other things that can , uh, you, you can show your appreciation for what the child, what they are doing for your child, right. What the teacher’s doing for your child. And if you are sharing your appreciation for, you know, to the, your TVI or the teacher of students with visual impairments, and they can see, then you are paying attention to them, then they’ll start really paying attention to your kid. Um, and so, you know, it’s, it’s, there’s this give and take relationship. Um, but I think if, if you are able to really get to know , um , your, the person who is providing services to your kiddo , um, that right there is step number one, you want to be able to do that. Um, then with that, that opens that communication and you can find out, well, what are you working with? Where do, what are you working on with my child at school? Um, what skills, or what should, what are you focusing on so that then I can continue to help focus on those things in the home, so that they’re getting reinforced all the time, not just when the child’s in school, but they’re also getting reinforced when the child’s at home. I think that that’s really important because we want kids to be able to generalize skills from the home to school and from school to home. And so having that open communication and being able to talk with your teacher about what they’re doing at school and how you can support that at home, I think is a really good thing, because again, it , it helps the teacher understand that you are paying attention to what’s happening and that you want to be able to help him or her with what they’re doing at school. You want to be able to support them with those that the same , um, skills that they’re working on at school. You wanna be able to support that at home, because then they’ll start seeing the progress. Um, it’s hard to, to, to really get the progress going if the only time that your child is working on a certain skill is only at school. So having that relationship I think can really help your child , um, start to progress can really help identify other areas that maybe need to be addressed. Um, and , and so it also shows your involvement , um , because you do, you , you, you have a right to be a part of your child’s educational team. And if you are in communication with their TBI, you’re able to really have , uh , a deep level of involvement in what educational decisions are being made , um, for your child and about your child. So I think that’s really important if you have an older child , um, you know, being involved not only with the TBI , but being involved with making sure that the older child is also involved with , um, with their own education and talking to the TBI, and also then, including you like having these, having phone calls together with the TVI , reaching out , um, double checking on, you know, what are there , are there certain things that the TVI need so that, you know , they can help your child be successful? Um, you know, and, and if they’re , if the TVI needs some help with , uh, advocating for your child , um, that’s something that you can learn from, from the TVI , and you can make that phone call to the Special Ed director or to the administrator for the school saying, you know, my , my child is, is , uh, is, is , uh, is blind and, or in visual or visually impaired and his, his or her teacher is indicating that they need certain materials or certain types of supports. And my, I see my child is not able to get that. So can we meet to discuss how we can help the teacher get what she needs or he needs so that they can then help my child get what he or she needs. And so that’s what parents can do , um, for, for your child’s teacher is having that open communication , um, really, and truly will help buy in on both ends from the teacher and the school and, and your end. And so you really want to make sure that that’s wellness established

    Sara B.: 15:07

    What should a parent or guardian do if they hit a dead end?

    Olaya L.: 15:11

    So one of the first things that I recommend , um , to families who feel like they’re hitting a dead end, is it, and not only myself that recommend us, but other , um, parents who have gone through situations like that is reach out to other parents , um, you know, find out what they did in that situation. There are parent groups on Facebook that you can go to and ask questions and you’ll get all kinds of, of guidance. Um, in response to your question , um, there are , um, there are parent groups that are specific to , um, parents of children who are blind or visually impaired , um, like the national organization of parents, of blind children. Um, the American council for the blind also has a parent group. Um, there is a parent group called thriving blind on Facebook. And so reaching out to other parents is really a good first step because you’re dealing with people who have gone through exactly what you’re going through, and they can help guide you through what they did, and that may help you figure out what you need to do. And in your particular situation. But in addition to asking other parents , um , you can visit, there are regional parent training assistance centers online , um, and , and so you can , um, just visit a regional parent training assistance center. If you Google that it’ll point you to the regional office that is , um, for that you belong to, depending on where you are in the United States. And then you can start downloading or, or obtaining information contact information about who you can call to get help , um, to help resolve this dead end, that situation that you find herself in. There’s also , um, the center for parent information and resources online. And so you can also , um , Google that, and , and in the show notes, there will be, I will have the links for these , um, for these resources for you, so that you can reach out to them. If you find yourself in a dead end situation and they have other information and other , um , contacts , um , that you can reach out to, to help get you some help for that. Um, and then of course , um, you know, there are the local special education parent advisory council. Um, so that, that as well, there’s a whole, that’s a whole nother group that you can find online that has put together resources that has contacts that has webinars trainings for parents. I mean, there are all these things that you can go to, to help get you information to help you work your way out of a dead end. But I guess too , after talking to, you know, the first step, like I said, talking to other families , uh, or their caregivers, other individuals who have been in the situation that you find yourself in , um, of course, you know, talking to your, the administrator, moving from the administrator to your , um, the school district level, special education administrator , um, and then, you know, if nothing is happening there and you’re still hitting those dead ends, then you know, you move on to what I was just mentioning about the parent groups on Facebook, getting their advice , um, you know, do going and visiting those regional parent training assistance , uh , technical assistance centers , uh , local special education, the parent advisory councils. And then of course we do have a state level , um, special education ombudsman . Every state is , uh , should have one. And so you can always contact your state board of education and ask to speak to the special education ombudsman , and that person will help with , uh, would help you find your way out of that dead end by, you know, through mediation , um, through having conversations with the school , um, so that you can work through , um, the , the issues that are happening because in the end, you’re trying to help your child. And , and that’s what all of this is about. And , uh, th the ombudsmen are there. Those are individuals who can help be the objective person in the room, and be able to look at the situation from, you know, without the emotions that can, you know, can be involved in, in situations like that when a parent hits a dead end. Um, so that’s, that would be my , um , advice to you as a parent, is to go through that , that , that these steps , um, to help you figure out or get out of this dead end situation. And I know it’s hard not to be emotional because you’re dealing with your child and, you know, I’d get emotional for my child do . Um, but I think trying to keep it from getting , um, you know, contentious and trying to keep it from , uh, getting just emotional, I think can help. And that’s where ombudsmen , um, and , and other organizations that you may reach out to, you may be able to step in and help , um, because it’s just really hard when your emotions are involved in it. And, but it’s totally understandable too , to have emotions involved. So , uh, it’s , it’s nice to have the outside help to be able to try and be objective and work through work through the problem.

    Sara B.: 20:26

    What are some channels a parent can use to advocate for their child?

    Olaya L.: 20:31

    So some of the , um, channels that a parent can use to advocate for their child, one would be going through your , uh , teacher students with visual impairments, right? Your TBI, especially if you’ve established that , um, that relationship, that community, that open communication relationship. Um, and, and, and also part of the open communication is being honest with the TVI , if you are not happy with something that’s happening or would like, would like to see something different, being open and honest in calling it, like you see it , um, uh, which is something that , uh , another parent of a student with visual impairments as a written for family connect, though, some of the advice that she’s given , um, her name is Emily Coleman. And , um , you can find actually her blog about , um, advocating for your child on family connect. And I’ll talk about that in just a minute on the , how on the resources that we have through the connect center and family connect, but going through the teacher and , and calling for an IEP meeting , um, because anybody, you can call an IEP meeting at any time , if you have concerns, and you want to talk about an advocate for your child. Uh, so going through the teacher, going through an IEP team in the committee meeting and , um, expressing your concerns and, and having all those concerns documented , um, and, you know, and make a plan for adjusting and, and addressing those concerns and adjusting , um , the education, the educational plan that you may, you may have issues with. Um, and of course, going from that to the administrator of the school of the administrator for special education at the school. Um, and of course then if that doesn’t work going to the special education district office or regional office , um, you know, just kind of working your way up the chain. Um, and , and I know it’s a lot of work to do that, and it can be exhausting mentally, emotionally, physically doing all of that, but that is, that’s just, you know , part of being an advocate for your child. Sometimes it just, it takes so long and so many steps to do it, but in order to really , um , get somewhere with the advocacy, you’ve got to make sure that you’ve gone through these steps, because if you don’t, they’re gonna , people will say, or, you know , um, or the school district will say, well, we didn’t know about this. Like the parent never came to us with it. Well, if you go through these steps, you’re documenting that you have brought up the issues , uh, with the , you know, at the school level with the teacher and then with the IEP team, and then with the administrator and with the , the special education administrator for the district or for the regional co-op , um, you know , working your way through that. And then of course , uh , getting a hold of your state special education ombudsman , and you can find that information by going to your state board of education website. Um, and also when you go to the website, you can get a copy of your procedural safeguards manual. And in there, it has contact information about who to contact when you are hitting a dead end or need, need help for, you know, for you, for you and for your child’s situation. Um, and then of course, mediation is also , um, a channel that parents can go to and you have a right to mediation, which basically is putting the two sides together. And having someone try to help mediate the issue, find a common ground, find a solution to whatever the issue is. And ultimately if mediation doesn’t work, then parents have a right to , um , go file a due process hearing , uh, or due process case with the, with the, the state, with the school district or against a school district, I should say , um, or against the , the , the actual school itself. So those are some of the channels that parents have , um , to go through. And again, we have , um, on family connect on the APH , um, connect center, family connect website, we have lots of information about those channels. How w how do you find out where the, you know, who, who is in charge of the state special education ombudsman office? Um, and so all of these things are listed out for you in different articles and blogs on our websites. Now

    Sara B.: 24:54

    You’re with the Connect Center. So tell us about the services offered from the Connect Center?

    Olaya L.: 25:01

    So there are lots of different services and resources, and I’ll try to kind of condense them as much as I can. And , um, families can, families, caregivers can, can , uh , visit our website , uh, when they, when they get a chance. And so first thing we have is , um, an Information and Referral Line. So parents can call the 1-800-232-5463 number, and I’ll repeat that it , our information and referral line it’s 1-800-232-5463. And that number is , um , staffed from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM Eastern standard time. And parents can call to ask questions about where to find services, resources , um, you know, what , uh, what school did , what, what can be offered , uh , for different , um, different regional services. Um, you know, how, what phone numbers are there for parents to contact the state, contact different , um , community resources as well. And so there’s that one thing that we can offer , um, then also part of the connect center. We also have a community calendar where parents can look and see what types of activities are happening , uh , in their area, and , uh, sign up if that’s what , um , the activity requires, but at least they get an idea of what is happening around them in their area that maybe they can attend with their child. So, and also that they can find out about , um , any conferences or parent training , um, that’s happening. And so the, we have the ConnectCenter calendar is also they’re available. The FamilyConnect , um, their website is , uh , And so , uh, that will also be in the show notes, but , uh, I’ll , I’ll just spell it out for us here. It’s family F a M as in Mary, I L Y connect C O N N E C, O R G. And that if you go to that website, you , then you will get to , um, an area where you see a drop down boxes about , uh, after the diagnosis, you can browse by age, if you have a little one, or if you have , um, a , uh , a middle-schooler elementary schooler or a high schooler , um, you know, someone who’s are in that transition age , uh, that 14 to 22. And so you can actually , um, break down the information that you would like to , to read about and find out about. And so that we have that you’ve got , uh , an education time that goes through about , uh , knowing your rights , uh, explains a little bit about IPS or ifs PS, depending on the age of your child. Um, what are , uh, information about your, the IEP team and placements assessments, there’s tips for families? Um, we also have a tab, a dropdown tab for , uh, information about multiple disabilities and assistive technology. Um, you know, what to do after diagnoses. We have success stories that are, that are there. We have a student , uh, who, who went through the school and she’s blind or visually impaired herself. Um, part of, one of the other success stories that we have, there is a parent along with their child talking about , um, family connect and how family connect helped them navigate the system. Um, there’s information about how to work with your child’s medical professionals , um, how to adapt her home, where to find helpful products and toys , um, and you know, what , um , what the emotional impact can be on families, because sometimes you don’t realize how , um, how much having a child with a visual impairment or blindness can affect the family emotionally , um, because we’re trying to get through day by day. And , and it’s important to recognize that and, and try to find information on how to help navigate that. And of course, finding information out about your child’s eye condition that that’s really important to know for families and caregivers, because we want to know if the child’s eye condition is stable, is it, is it progressive? Does that mean that , um, over time they’re going to lose more of their vision. So then I need to know how I need to make adjustments for , um , for my child at home. And what does that mean for my child’s education? How is that going to be addressed? So there’s, all of those issues are , are talked about , um, and on family connect. And then , um, of course, one of the big things is, you know, an overview of the services for children who are blind or visually impaired, again, that goes back to the systems , um, you know, the being , uh, not being familiar with the special education system on family connect, we have some blogs and articles that help walk you through some of the services that are available, so that then you start learning about, about the system, and then you can learn about that, but , and that helps you figure out what questions you need to ask to help help in developing the educational plan for your child. Um, I think one of the other really big things that we, I really , um, am proud to have on our family connect website is this downloadable toolkit for parents about an overview of the service system for children, with blindness and visual impairments. So you can download that , um, that tool kit and have it with you, and that will help guide you a little bit and give you the, the, the knowledge that you need to be able to ask a question that you need to ask , um, that will show the IEP team , uh , and those working with your, with your child, that, you know , um, w what is, what is, what the system is about, what the system can offer, so that you’re familiar with it. You, you can show that you are educating yourself about this. So it’s not that things are happening to you or to your, your child, things are happening with you and with your child. That’s a big difference. So having the toolkit and having read it and, and having your , um, you know, your, your background knowledge in it, it will really, really help you advocate for your child. Um, and then one of the other things we have is a parent support group , um, that meets the first Wednesday of every month. Um, and this is done in partnership with the Chicago lighthouse for the blind. So if any listeners want to attend these meetings , um, you can email us at ConnectCenter@aph .org , or you can give us a call on our information and referral line at 1-800-232-5463. And when you , uh, give us a call or send us an email and just let us know that you want to be put on our email list, once you do that, then every month we send out an email blast with , um, the different events that are going to be happening at the APH ConnectCenter. And so when we do that, you’ll be able to see a registration link that you can click on and register to be a part of the parent support group. Um, and then we will send you a zoom link for you to either log on via computer or call in on your phone. Um, if you don’t have access to a computer or to the internet, you can still participate in the support group by using your phone. And so that , that’s another , uh, another benefit to , uh, what Family Connect offers to our families who are out there and trying to learn how to navigate , uh, the systems and how to navigate life with a child who is blind or visually impaired. So we’re really proud of having that support group, the one of the other good things about the support group. It is not a recorded meeting, so it’s not like anybody can just go and listen to the recording of, of the families who, who were on that call or in that meeting, talking about sensitive issues. Um, and because we don’t record these meetings because we want families to feel comfortable expressing their concerns, their frustrations , um, and we also have a psychologist who, a clinical psychologist who attends these meetings , um, to kind of help families who may be dealing with some emotional issues work through those issues during these meetings. Uh, and it’s also good for families to meet other families who are in the same situation that you’re in. And so we’re really proud to be able to offer that and partnership with the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind.

    Sara B.: 33:56

    And is there anything else you’d like to say about advocating or the ConnectCenter or FamilyConnect?

    Olaya L.: 34:04

    So I think one of the things that I’d like to end this width is , um, I’d like to end this by kind of going through these , um, these four things that parents feel are important , um, for families who have children who are visually impaired or blind. And one of the things that , uh, was listed in an article , um, in Scholastic , uh, in the, on the, I’m sorry, on the Scholastic website , um, was that other parents are your best resource. So when you walk away from this podcast, remember other parents are your best resource. They have been through what you’re going through. Um, some of them have actually created support groups that you can join. And , and, and like I mentioned earlier, the thriving blind , um, Facebook page, the national organization of parents, of blind children , um, and , uh , AC the American council for the blind has like as their , um, their parents group. And so there are all these different , uh, organizations that you can access when you are working through other parents. Because again, they’ve been there, they, they, they they’ve gone through, they have , uh, you know, made the mistakes and have , uh , and learn how to get over misteaks. And so you by going to other parents as a resource, you’re kind of there kind of helping you avoid the pitfalls that they had , that they had to endure. Um, you know, and also by doing that, you are expanding your, your social network , um, emotional and social network. And so that’s one of the things that a parent recommends. Um, and for number two, they talk about there’s no silver bullet. Um, you know, some parents, it, one thing works for one family or one child and even, and another doesn’t work for that same family or that child. Um, even you might have children who have the same type of visual impairment, but still are very unique in their own ways and have very unique needs. So remember there are, there’s no silver bullet, your child is individual. There’s no one way for something to, to happen or a system to work for your child. So you’ve got to make sure that you are looking at the end of your individual child, even if you are , um, getting assistance or advice from another family. Um, always make sure that, that, that information you take and look at it through the lens of what your situation is. And so that’s another piece of advice that came from a parent from the article that I’m, I’m referencing. Um, the third, the thing that this parent says , um , to other parents is don’t take no for an answer. So if you find yourself in a city situation where you , you need your, you know, your child needs a certain service or a certain , um, you know, activity or something that you feel is important for them, for their, for their developmental growth, for their educational growth or academic growth , um, don’t take no for an answer. You need to ask the experts, ask other parents , um, you know, do some homework and make sure that you can come to the table with solutions. If the , if you are getting know , then come to the table with, well, I see , I understand you said no, but here are some options that we may be able to try instead of St just taking no, getting angry, and then, you know, trying to go then through mediation and all these other systems, try to try to problem solve and come back with some positive information. Some, some solutions that maybe people didn’t think about. And so not taking no for an answer is , is another real big one, a big piece of advice that this parent has given. Um, and then the final and last important piece of advice , um, is you are your child’s biggest advocate. Um, nobody else is going to be able to advocate for your child like you will. Um, and so many ways you probably the most important member of your child’s IEP team of their educational team, because if somebody disagrees with, if somebody around the table on that team could be the speech therapist could be , um, it could be the TVI disagrees with anything, a one they can disagree and everybody else agrees. Then that plan goes well , we’ll move forward and go through. But if you disagree as a parent, that’s when, when the breaks are put on and we have to make sure that we are addressing your concerns and that you are being heard. And so you are your child’s biggest advocate. And so if you come to the table with, with knowledge, with , um, support and information that you have researched , um, from some of the resources that I’ve provided, that will really help you advocate for your child again, better than anyone else can. I mean, we really would like for parents and schools to work together to address the child’s learning needs, you know, and create , uh , a meaningful education plan for your, for your child and for the, or for the child. Um, but sometimes it , it, it, it doesn’t always work so smoothly. So you have to be the advocate. And so always remember you are your child’s biggest advocate. So please make sure that you visit our family connect, to get information about , um , tips for families of children who are blind or visually impaired , um, and six ways, six ways to help the school own your child, who is blind. That’s the, an article by Emily Coleman. Um, there are , um, lots of blogs and other articles that would be very helpful for you, for families, for caregivers of a child who is blind or visually impaired. So again, please make sure you visit family connect so we can help you , uh, learn how to learn, how to advocate for your child who is blind or visually impaired, because remember you are your child’s biggest,

    Sara B.: 40:54

    Thank you so much Olaya for joining us on Change Makers.

    Olaya L.: 40:58

    Thank you, you all for listening, and I hope that this was helpful for you. Um, and, you know, thank you for having me. I really appreciate you asking me to come on on the podcast and try to , um , help our parents learn about how to be, you know , the child’s advocate, because it’s really important. And I really appreciate the time. So thank you so much

    Sara B.: 41:22

    Up next. We’re talking to Leanne Grillott. We’ll provide some insight about what you can do to advocate for your child. All right, we have APH is National Director of Outreach Services, Leanne Grillott. Jello, Leanne , and welcome Change Makers. All right , glad to be here now, as a parent advocating for their child, what are some things a parent should keep in mind when their child has a new teacher, or is transitioning from one school to another?

    Leanne G.: 41:52

    Definitely parents should be involved in understanding if they’re new teachers understand their student has a, either an IEP or a 5 0 4, which , uh , tells what the student needs to be successful in included in the classroom, knowing that your teacher has that copy is really important. And it could be, yes, of course, it’s the school’s responsibility to hand it to those teachers, but there is nothing wrong with a parent saying, Hey, and by the way, I am just going to hand this piece of paper to you so that you really know what my student needs to be fully included in your classroom and successful.

    Sara B.: 42:31

    Now, what does advocating for your students look like you’ve been in this field for a long time, and every student is different,

    Leanne G.: 42:39

    Quite a few things. There tends to be more advocacy for students in the younger years. So you tend to see parents much more involved in your kindergarten through probably about six or seventh grade. They’re just more involved. Maybe it is cause they’re younger kids and all parents are a little bit more involved at that point anyway, but there , there does seem to be more of that. And there tends to be a little bit of a lessening at the high school years. Now, the difference is the more complex a student, often the more advocacy a parent feels the need to do so as a student with more complex needs. And on top of that, also a visual impairment. You might see more parents involved in making sure their students are receiving the instruction that they need in the way that they need it. So that is something that you tend to see. Now, advocacy could be something as simple as staying in contact with emails and saying, you know, how is this going? How can I help? And then maybe this isn’t working. Can we try something else? It could be phone calls. Parents have gotten good with texts. And even if texts aren’t allowed, there might be some other text system in the school district that allows them to communicate that method that way. Uh, yeah, it still could be handwritten notes that those are starting to go by the wayside. You don’t see as much of that. And it could be just walking into that school office and saying, you know what, my student needs this, can you help me get this? I have found that advocacy definitely works better. If it is proactive, it’s it’s acting before anything happens. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be reactive. Sometimes you have no choice because you didn’t know something was going on and you’re going to have to react and advocate. But anything that you can do ahead of time seems to curb that , um , frustration that you get as an advocate. Now, another way that I’ve seen advocacy is there some school districts that I’ve been in that actually have identified their paraprofessionals that might be assigned to a student or classroom and have renamed them as advocates, a student advocate or students advocate to be able to make sure accommodations are in place. And the student’s needs are being met.

    Sara B.: 44:51

    Many children will be introduced to their first piece of access technology this coming school year. So how do you know what device is right for a child?

    Leanne G.: 45:02

    Uh , well, this is kind of an interesting piece. There is a part in the individuals with disabilities education act that actually specifies what is assistive technology and assistive technology service, and it actually states any service. So we’re going to think about the assistive technology service piece, any service that , uh , directly assists a student with a disability in the selection acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. So whenever feasible, really the student is the selector of the assistive technology. Of course, they’re doing it in conjunction with the members of the IEP team , uh, parents , uh, some specialists that have a good knowledge on what’s available, but really working to include that student on those final decisions based on those evaluations is important. Yes, you want specialists. So it might not be a person that has typically been on that student’s IEP team coming together to think about what needs are being met. So it could be an occupational therapist that comes up with something. It could be an actual assistive technology specialist where they have focused truly their career on assistive technology, but that is what should be happening. So if you’re not sure if it’s right, ask for evaluations, asked for that data, ask what trials were done , uh , think about what was actually available and , and, and thought about, and really assistive technology needs to address the need of the student. So what was the student not able to do? Not able to do well or needed to be able to do in a different way to be successful because that assistive technology needs to address that need. And there are usually many options and it could be that you just needed to try something different. Okay . In children,

    Sara B.: 46:54

    They’re children and they’re growing like weeds. So how do you know when your child has outgrown their device or are there some signs?

    Leanne G.: 47:02

    Well, again, we want the student to be able to do whatever it is they couldn’t do. And that’s why we put the assistive technology in place. What you can actually find is that if the student is performing this skill more easily and efficiently, that means the assistive technology is working. If you’re starting to see this student not perform this skill easily and efficiently, and that’s actually becoming a barrier, it could be that you need to look at the other , uh , devices or updated devices to help that student again, do what they were unable to do because of their disability. So those are some of the key pieces. Now, another key piece though, is watch the student, a student who is not using their assistive technology often it’s because they were not involved in the assistive technology per , uh, idea, or they have aged to the point where they are more aware of differences often happening in middle school. And they do not want to look different

    Sara B.: 47:59

    Earlier this year, we talked about if braille is still relevant and just so you know it is, but one thing instructors are noticing is that children aren’t learning braille. They’re just listening. How is not learning braille, impacting the learning experience and why does it continue to be a vital thing to learn?

    Leanne G.: 48:20

    So when we talk about listening, instead of reading braille often, it’s because the student has been given only that option. It’s not because they didn’t want braille, but the listening tool was the only option or the quickest option. And they were going to have to wait for their braille. So that’s one of the things to think about is that what we provided. So they had access at the same time as their peers, but then we need to think about, is it the right access for them, or is it just something to get by until we get the braille in their hands, braille can take time to produce. And honestly, teachers sometimes had to think on the fly during this pandemic year and getting information to their students, lead time to get that information into braille. Uh , if we’re lucky, we would love a week, two weeks, but often it ends up one or two days. And if you told me as a teacher that morning, you needed it in braille, it might not be the fastest thing I could produce. And so therefore I’m kind of stuck giving my student and auditory version of the whatever. So I’d say that some of the problem actually kind of comes on us as opposed to the student, why are they just listening? Because that’s what you gave them. That’s why they’re just listening. So how does it impact? Well, most people who utilize sight as their way of learning information and reading are continually seeing words from their eyeballs over and over, whether that be the menu at the restaurant they went to, or the news article that they’re reading on their phone, or even the words that are inside your car, you see print over and over and over again. You see how words are formed. You see where a parenthesis belongs or a period should be. All of those pieces are exposure. So if we’re only resorting to listening, then all of that exposure is gone. It just doesn’t exist. And yet we’re asking people to produce words in writing form. They’re not going to always give their answer by talking. They’re going to be asked to produce writing. And there’s a connection between we read and what we’ve write and how boards are formed and shaped how punctuation is done. And so all of those things are needed for success. Most of the time, when I talk to people who just don’t understand why can’t they just listen? I say, I can’t imagine you just listening to something to gain that information. Nine times out of 10, if I’m telling you you’re going to read a complex news article about the physics of going to space, you’re going to want to read it in print, not just listen to it. And is

    Sara B.: 51:00

    There anything else you’d like to add to this conversation?

    Leanne G.: 51:04

    I think the best thing to say is we all are advocates for our children, whether they have a disability or not. It is something that as a parent is important that you are involved with your child’s educational career and that they see your children see you as someone who’s behind them to help figure out the issues with education. Doing so builds students who as they age become advocates for themselves. So they are able to self-advocate and which will apply when they get into the working world or getting college where really mom and dad shouldn’t be stepping in. And that being said, it doesn’t have to be mom and dad. There isn’t everyone that has a mom and dad. It could be your big sister. That’s your advocate, your aunt, your next door neighbor. It could actually be another teacher. Who’s your advocate, a guidance counselor, a church member who is just the person who stands behind you and speaks for you. So if this happens to be a student listening, you find your own advocate. It does not have to be your parent. And that would probably the big thing I would.

    Sara B.: 52:15

    Okay. Thank you so much, Leanne, for joining us today on Change Makers.

    Leanne G.: 52:20

    It was great. Have a great afternoon.

    Sara B.: 52:23

    And thank you so much for listening to this episode of change makers . We’ll be sure to put in links and websites mentioned in this podcast, in the show notes, and as always be sure to look for ways you can be a change maker this week.

  • Jack Fox: 0:00

    Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host. Hello, and

    Sara: 0:14

    Welcome to change makers. I’m BPH is public relations manager, Sarah Brown. And today we’re going to talk about how APH gets the funding to develop educational products for students who are blind or visually impaired. We’ll also going to talk about what you can do to provide your input to the leaders in Washington. After that we’ll have a check-in with partners with Paul here to talk about president Biden’s budget for the next fiscal year and how that impacts APH . We have APH Vice President Government and Community Affairs, Paul Schroeder. Hello, Paul, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Paul S. : 0:50

    Happy to be here.

    Sara: 0:51

    Paul, can you tell us how APH is included in the federal budget?

    Paul S. : 0:57

    Yeah , it has changed a little bit over the years, but for now, and for the last several years, APH has funded under something called Special Institutions for Persons with Disabilities under the Department of Education. And just for fun, I’ll tell you other organizations under that area would include Gallaudet the university that focuses on the needs of deaf students. Um, the Helen Keller national center serves deaf blind people, of course, and the national, oh, it’s NTID it’s National Technology Institute for the Deaf, maybe in Rochester. Um, all also receive funding under that part of the Department of Education. So it’s kind of interesting. We have a couple of post-secondary institutions in there, along with , with APH.

    Sara: 1:43

    Okay. Paul, the president recently proposed his budget request for the next fiscal year, which starts in October. So it is on the horizon and that expenditure is increasing by 3 million dollars in the coming year. What are the next steps and finalizing funding levels. And when will the decisions be finalized?

    Paul S. : 2:03

    Uh , when will the decisions be finalized is always a tricky question , uh , and has been for a while in Washington. Unfortunately it is very hard for Congress, but let me do a little one-on-one on how the budget works. Uh, and first say that we were very appreciative of the president and the, the Biden administration for , uh, recommending a $3 million increase for , for APH , uh, which as you pointed out will go directly into support for students in the form of quota and research and outreach , um, that we’re going to be able to do with that funding. But here’s how the process works. It has changed a bit over the years, the President recommends a budget , uh, and that usually happens in February. It is always delayed when there’s a new president, because as you know , you all know the president comes in January 20th and getting that Federal budget done in about 10 or 11 days , uh, that would be near impossible, you know, back in the old days, people might read it . Remember , um, presidents would talk about and put their hand on that budget. And I don’t know, it’s a book, it’s a series of books, that’s waist high or something. If you, if you were to print it out, it’s no longer printed out in paper, but if it were, so that happens usually in February this year, it happened in may, June, I guess, actually. So some of it may, and then a more detailed look in June so much later, of course, but here’s the , how the process goes. The president recommends a budget. The Congress then decides what it’s going to , um , what, what is the top line number they call it? What’s the big number that we’re going to spend? You know , how many trillion dollars, how many billion dollars are we going to spend this year? Totally. And federal money. What’s, what’s going to be our outlay. Then they start to allocate that across agencies. How much are we going to spend in education this year? How much are we going to spend in health and human services, et cetera. Um, this is how the process supposed to work. So the president makes a recommendation. Congress makes a decision about numbers , big numbers, overall numbers. And then they have subcommittees that get down to work in both the house and Senate they’re called the , the there’s a committee called the appropriations committee. And then on that committee or subcommittee, there are 12 of them and they have each subcommittee has a series of agencies that they focus on. Um, I believe defense is the only one that is one agency because defense occupies so much of our budget. Um, but , but for example, the American printing house for the blind, as we are in the department of education, we’re part of a subcommittee call the subcommittee on labor health and human services, education and related agencies. And didn’t true, Washington speak, we all call it the labor H subcommittee. Um, so it doesn’t even get education into that short name. So labor H um, but it is where education has found the, both the house and Senate do it the same way. They’ve got the large committee. Then they’ve got the sub committees that focus on particular agencies and those subcommittees that’s where the action is. Um , those sub committees , these will take the president’s request. I’ll also look at what the house or Senate told them. They could spend how much money they have available to them. Uh , it’s kind of like your allowance. And then they start putting it into jars and decide how much it’s going to go. And they get down into the details down to the American printing house for the blind , uh, and our , you know, 30, some odd million dollar appropriation, right ? You decide how much they will recommend through the subcommittee process to give us. Then it goes to the full committee. If it’s a good year , uh, both committees , get the, get the numbers. They decide, they make another decision. They might make another , uh, they might make some changes to , uh , if they need to cut spending to accommodate other priorities. And then it goes to each house it gets voted on. And then the two houses, I go into something called a conference committee where they decide what the ultimate appropriation will look like. If all of this were done the way it was supposed to do that would be done August or September, that would be completed. We’d sail into the fiscal year with a completed signed budget. Everyone would be cheering just like in school house , truck . The thing of it is it never worked. It hasn’t worked that way in a long time. And it most likely won’t this year. So what’s really going to happen is the house is doing it’s work right now. The subcommittee , by the time you hear this podcast might well have made its decisions and recommendations. And even the full house committee might’ve made this record foundations for spending in the labor age. Remember that’s the labor, HHS and education subcommittee , uh, or area of agencies. So they might, well, it made that decision. That’s supposed to be by mid July at this point, then the house will take up the bill and probably passed because , uh, the house tends to have an easier time of doing as long as there’s a, they have an easier time getting things like that done. So by the end of the summer, we might well know what the house says. Uh, APH and other federal programs are going to get this year. The Senate on the other hand will likely not agree , uh , because they can’t agree. It’s a 50, 50 Senate, even if it was , um, even if it were 55, 45, they still probably wouldn’t agree because the nature of the site and it’s very difficult body to get agreement, especially on stuff , pending issues. And so what’s probably going to happen is we’ll get close to October. Senate won’t have act , yeah. A house might have, and they’ll pass something called a continuing resolution, which means they keep spending at the same level of this year, which for APH 34 million, 430, 30 $1,000. Um , and they’ll just put that in again. So that’s what they’ll start spending on October 1st because they have to have something, some of you may remember that , uh, there have been times in the past when they couldn’t agree, even on the continuing resolution and we shut down the federal government. So we’ve had that happen October, a couple of times , uh , where there was not agreement, but likely there’ll be that agreement we’ll get to December and they might then be able to, to reach some kind of an agreement from the Senate with the numbers. So it’s hard to know , uh, when you say this finish, we don’t know , um, we will , I wish that it would finish in September the way it’s supposed to. It likely won’t, but I do feel good about the fact that the president has made a , a request for APH. Then it’s an increase. That’s the first time, I think in a little while that we’ve, that the president had made has made a request to increase APH . Usually Congress does, does that when we’ve been, when we’ve received increases in the past, and I’ll just close this by saying the president also requested a significant increase in funding overall for the individuals with disabilities education act for the funding that goes to states to support that law, which is great federal Republicans and Democrats, both agree that the federal government needs to pay more than it has for special education services. So it’s good to see , uh , the president putting that forward and hopefully that, you know, whatever that number will be, it will be a nice increase. And then they’ve also , uh , proposed a nice increase for heavily disadvantaged schools, which are part of the department of education and just another area to try to focus on , uh, creating better opportunities in education

    Sara: 9:25

    And what can listeners do if they want to support funding for APH or provide their own input.

    Paul S. : 9:32

    So believe it or not , uh, members of Congress, their staff, instead of , they really do want to know what their constituents care about and appropriations that the members who sit on the appropriations committee, and I should say that, you know, members of Congress choose to be on the committees that they think are going to be of most interest to them or most use . They don’t always get what they want. I mean, it’s a , you know, it’s a process like anywhere else in life where I want to be on this committee. Now there’s too many people you don’t get to be on that committee this year. Um, appropriations committee is definitely considered to be one of the committees you want to be on as a member because most members care about programs and they care about how things , uh, help people in their districts. And they want to know how those programs are work. They, they, they really do want to hear from people even on something that’s by federal budget numbers , fairly small, like the American printing house for the blind. I think members in their staff would be delighted to hear , uh, from people who have something to say about the program. Now, Paul hopes it’s positive, but truly , um, I think if people have things to say about how APH does its work, it would be important for Congress to hear that information. So a couple things to note the most important, there’s always, there’s always people that are more important than other people and that’s true in Congress. So the ones that matter the most are the ones that are on the subcommittee on appropriations that concerns our area. And that’s that labor age , labor, health, and human services and education subcommittee for house and Senate. The , the leaders of that committee, that subcommittee , for example, our Congresswoman Rosa, DeLauro from Connecticut and Congressman Tom Cole from Oklahoma. That’s on the house side and on the Senate side, it’s Senator Patty Murray. Who’s a Democrat from Washington and , uh, Roy blunt, who is a Republican from Missouri Senator. Those are, so those are the, these, those are the most, the most important , uh , because they’re the ones that share the sub committee or lead the sub committee . They have the most knowledge of the programs in their committee . So if you happen to be in Missouri, Oklahoma, Connecticut, or Washington state , uh, your views are really important and really of interest to those leaders on that subcommittee , the other members on those subcommittee . And I won’t walk through them all, and I can’t remember them at this point, but , um, there’s, you know, there’s several there’s there’s folks from California. And , uh, that I’ve said that I can’t remember all of a sudden blanking on where anyone else’s from. Uh , but there are members from different parts of the country on that subcommittee . And they would be very important to , uh , because they want to hear , uh , what you think, and then the appropriations full committee, which has those members plus others is also important. Um, not as important because they don’t focus on APH unless they’re on that subcommittee . But again, they are , they’re all about federal spending. So they do want to know if these federal programs are doing any good, are they helping? Are they really making a difference? And if they are, they’d like to know what that means. So, you know, we’ve had some of our , uh, ex-officio trustees tell some great stories to their members of Congress, about how much products or services have meant , uh, in , in their education and how much it is enabled students to pursue their opportunities. And we’ve had parents and individuals talk. So that’s the second thing I want to say. If you’re a parent or an individual who has received these services, or who was interested in these services, you are a very important part and a very important messenger. And I would strongly encourage you to contact your member of Congress to describe, and to talk a little bit about your experience, not only with APH, but any federal program , um, because they do need to hear this information. And finally, even if they’re not on the appropriations committee, look, a member of Congress is a member of Congress. They’re important. Uh they’re they make decisions about policy. They make decisions about spending. They ultimately are whoever they are, they’re ultimately gonna vote. Um, uh, what decisions are made for federal spending. So any member of Congress is an important member of Congress, and any member of Congress will want to hear from you about your experience with these programs. They really do care about these things. You might think you’re a member, oh, my members , these are so-and-so, or she’s a so-and-so doesn’t care about people, not true for one thing. Uh, and to , uh , they really do care about these issues. They might not speak out very much on special education or disability, but they do care. Uh, and some will, some will surprise you , uh, some people who you think aren’t going to be interested. I’ve I’m not going to mention names, but I’ve had some offices that I didn’t want to go into. Cause I , I thought they were just people that didn’t care about my issues. And it turned out that they were some of the, some of the better champions that we had. Uh, so people will surprise you at what they care about. You don’t know what family impact they might’ve had or where they might have an experience with disability. Um, so they might well be a supporter that you never thought would be. So don’t write anyone off you can’t, we can’t afford to, you can’t afford to. And , uh, as long as they’re going to be your representative, they should hear from you about what you care about.

    Sara: 14:44

    And is there anything else you’d like to share about federal spending?

    Paul S. : 14:49

    So, as I mentioned, yeah, the, the timing and the flow of things is a challenge. It is not easy to understand what’s happening. I’m always happy to help explain , uh, these issues to folks. Um, your, your member offices might be as well, but to simplify it as much as I possibly can. Um, there are these couple of these sub committees in the house and Senate that will make decisions about the programs that are most interesting to most of our listeners, education, rehabilitation, et cetera. It’s important for you to try as best you can to seek information about what’s going on. Uh , we’ll try to have some more of that on the APH website, so you can follow what’s happening. So as, as decisions get made in those subcommittees , as the president makes recommendations, we’ll try to make sure you stay on top of that, but if we’re not doing it, feel free to Google search and see where things are at as you start to get into the summertime, Congress every year should be starting to talk a lot more about appropriations. It’s a good opportunity for you, especially when a member’s home , uh, and holding a town meeting or holding a , uh , on the street corner type meeting, go up and talk to them or talk to their staff. You might be able to get to talk to the member, but you can surely talk to the staff, tell them your story. Talk about special education. If you’re a parent, talk about your child. My goodness. Um, I have never met a parent yet who can’t , uh, who can’t just get anybody interested in what’s going on with their child, because you’re the best advocate and, you know, well, and , and, and either you’re frustrated or you’re excited about opportunities either way, tell that story. So I can’t stress that enough. When, when you got a chance to get to a member, you don’t need to go to Washington, grab them when they’re home. That’s why they come home. They come home to hear from you. Um, so take that opportunity to tell your story. If you work as an ex-officio trustee and you, and you’ve been told by your state that you can’t talk to members of Congress, I understand that. Um, but I can certainly help you with that. I can take your stories and I can take them even without your name so that we know what’s happening in your state. And I can also encourage the members to reach out to you because you can respond to questions. That’s certainly appropriate. If a member of Congress wants to know about how special education or APH or something is working in the district, you can answer those questions. Um, so even if you can’t reach out yourself, there’s a lot of ways that that advocacy can happen. But in the end, advocacy is always about storytelling and it’s always about person to person. Um, because that’s, it doesn’t matter how many mass messages and media buys and all that stuff that pop politics flows on in the end. It’s the personal story that will make the difference. That’s what a member of Congress will remember because that’s what,

    Sara: 17:40

    Okay, Paul, thank you so much for joining us on Change Makers today.

    Paul S. : 17:45

    Happy to do it and happy to come back and update folks on where things are at, and maybe as we get into most

    Sara: 17:50

    Definitely we will invite you back, but you’re , you know, you’re welcome here anytime. And we will include any links in the show notes, so you can find them and send your messages and your stories to those in Washington. And up next, we’re going to check in with Partners with Paul.

    Paul F. : 18:12

    Welcome back to partners with Paul. I am pleased to have with me today, once again, Mike Wood from Vispero Strategic Accounts Manager Education. Welcome back, Mike.

    Mike: 18:22

    Hey Paul, thanks for having me always a pleasure joining you for these events.

    Paul F. : 18:26

    We’ll be talking about a different product, a new product today that APH and Sparrow have partnered with, and that is Juno. Mike, can you tell us about Juno?

    Mike: 18:37

    Sure thing? Yeah, I’m excited about the Juno. This is a really neat new product, and it was fun working with APH to develop this. Uh , it is a seven inch touchscreen video magnifier with some really cool features , uh, was created and designed to accommodate the needs of students and adults with low vision. So it kind of meets a wide range of individuals and has a lot of cool features in it.

    Paul F. : 19:00

    Well, that’s great. Let’s hear more about that. What makes Juneau especially unique

    Mike: 19:04

    Sure thing. So one of the things that I’ve found that really make it unique, or the fact that, you know, one it’s seven inch it’s really portable. Um, but it also have as, excuse me, a barrel camera on the top that actually can rotate. So you can do a little bit of distance , uh, close up. It gives you a lot of functionality for even self-facing , uh , but it’s also a touch screen . And then it adds in the capability of scanning and reading. So it’s a really powerful product for a seven inch, you know , portable unit. Uh , you can scan and read, you can add guidelines, masking , uh , it’s got an HTMI output, Jack, if you want to, you know, push it further to a larger display. And then it also has some really cool teacher settings . So for me, you know, in the education side of things , uh, you know, you have a exam mode where the teacher can lock out certain functionality of the Juno , you know, for when the students are taking the exam, I , you can save multiple pages of documents in there and then recall them at a later time. And there’s so many different features. It’s pretty cool.

    Paul F. : 20:07

    So sounds like we definitely packed in quite a number of features into this product. So how can I purchase it?

    Mike: 20:13

    Yeah. So the easiest thing to do would be to go to and search for the Juno . Uh , you’ve got a great website. If you search for Juno, it’ll pull up the page where you can learn more about it and purchase it. There there’s two options. So if you’re purchasing it with cash, it’s 1295, that’s one thousand, two hundred and ninety-five dollars. If you’re a quota customer it’s 1095 or One thousand, ninety-five dollars.

    Paul F. : 20:38

    And if I want to test drive it, is there a way for me to do that?

    Mike: 20:42

    There is what I would recommend you do is reach out to That’s, email them, tell them you’re interested in taking the Juno for a test drive and a member of the APH team will reply back to you and, you know, figure out the next step to go.

    Paul F. : 21:01

    Great. That sounds really good. Thanks so much for being on today, Mike.

    Mike: 21:04

    Hey, Paul, thanks for having me and look forward to the next one

    Paul F. : 21:08

    And check out the show notes. We’ve included that link to the Juno on a page on So you can get more information that way. Thanks for joining us today and back to you, Sara.

    Sara: 21:21

    Thanks so much, Paul, and thank you for listening to this episode of Change Makers. Be sure to look for ways you can be a change maker this week.

  • Jack Fox: 0:00

    Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host.

    Sara : 0:15

    Hello, and welcome to Change Makers. I’m APH’s Public Relations Manager Sara Brown and today we’re talking about the Americans with Disabilities Act, better known as the ADA. We’re going to talk briefly about how the ADA came about in what the ADA has accomplished. We’ll also learn what advances should still be made and how to advocate for yourself, or a loved one. For those not aware, the ADA is a Civil Rights Law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public individuals with a disability face challenges, finding employment, or even just entering a building or business, whether it was an employer, not wanting to hire someone in a wheelchair or not wanting to make simple accommodations for an individual with a visual impairment. Disability advocates began to demand equal treatment, equal access and equal opportunities for people with disabilities, which eventually led to the law. In addition to a slight increase in employment for individuals with a disability, some of the ADA’s accomplishments are some of the things we encounter in daily life. Have you ever walked on those nubbly bits of concrete near street corner? That’s called tactile paving. It helps visually impaired pedestrians detect when they’re about to leave the sidewalk and enter the street. Have you ever walked up a wheelchair ramp? Yep . That’s something that came about due to the ADA. And there are rules about the slope of the ramp that one must follow. Have you ever noticed that door handles to a building are most likely lever operated or U shaped? Those are the acceptable designs because they’re easier for people to grasp doors with public access must be able to be used with only one hand and can’t require the user to tightly grasp or pinch or twist their wrists to operate the handle. The ADA impacted restrooms as well. There’s always a restroom that’s large enough to accommodate a wheelchair and you’ll notice that the toilet might be a little bit higher and there might even be a pool bar, but despite all the physical changes, there’s still much work to be done as society grows and evolves. And there’s still a need for advances and improvements when it comes to the ABA. Now we’re talking to APH’s Vice President, Government and Community Affairs, Paul Schrader. Hello, Paul, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Paul: 2:40

    I Sarah , thanks for the invite.

    Sara : 2:42

    So, Paul, do you mind briefly to explain what you do as Vice President, Government and Community Affairs? \.

    Paul: 2:49

    Happy to and thanks for having me on, I joined , uh, the American Printing House back in December to take on this position. I’m excited about it. I’m actually following in the giant footsteps of Gary Mudd and I know he was on the podcast earlier , uh, talking about his experience in Washington and elsewhere. So there’s really two pieces to this job. One is to help look after the appropriation, the federal funding that comes to APH and has done so since 1879, 1880, the law passed in 1879. Of course, then we’ve got 140, 140, some odd years of history of federal funding to support education of blind students and they’re coming to APH . So, so a key part of the job is looking after that, making sure Congress knows what we do and understands the importance of it. Um, answer questions and be engaged as much as possible with helping to convey that message in Washington. I happen to live near Washington. Of course, Gary commuted here from Louisville when he would come for meetings. So I will be going the other way around because the second piece of my job , um , is related to , uh, various components of the American Printing House , uh, for example, helping to manage and support the museum, the prison braille program, the national instructional materials accessibility center , uh, and I’m forgetting some oh resource services of course, and a couple of others , um , that have been added tours as part of my area as well. So I have a really fun collection of cool programs , uh, that are based in Louisville that I get to work with as well. So I’ll be doing the reverse of what Gary did. I’ll be coming into Louisville periodically to talk with folks

    Sara : 4:38

    On July 26th, just a few weeks from now, it’ll be 31 years since the ADA was signed into law by George H. W. Bush. And I just talked about some of the successes that ADA has had, but almost 31 years later, some advocates and researchers believe the ADA has not achieved as much as hoped? What advances and improvements are needed in your point of view?

    Paul: 5:01

    You know, it’s interesting, there’s so much to talk about with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and I’ll just start by saying a little, a little plug for, for being an older person here. Um, I was actually on the lawn way at the edge , uh , but I was there when , uh, George H. W. Bush signed the law on July 26th, 1990 . And , uh , my older daughter , uh, was , uh, going to be born October of that year. So she, she came of age right under the stars of ADA, which is kind of cool. Um, so, and I had done a little bit of work advocating for , uh, the law in my position in Ohio at that time. So I knew something about the , the challenges and the efforts. And I’ll say a couple of things. The , the Americans with Disabilities act really stemmed from and came from a significant amount of advocacy on the part of people, primarily with physical disabilities, people who use wheelchairs in particular, because there was so much there , there were just extraordinary number of barriers, the things that we take for granted today, curb ramps and ramps into buildings, power doors, very little of that was true even 30 years ago. And so there was just an enormous amount of effort on the part of , of people who use wheelchairs to try to change and shift the way we think about accessibility in buildings and streets and the community, and even buses , um, putting lifts on buses or making buses that kneel, that people have probably run into come across some of those now, but I don’t want to say run into a bus . Uh, so buses that can accommodate people in wheelchairs. I mean, these were huge driving force issues in the, in the 1980s that led up to the ADA. Some of us might say that the issues tied to people who are blind or visually impaired while not truly an afterthought were not really the key pieces of ADA. Of course. Um, there were people who talked about the internet in the world, not so much the worldwide web, but the internet in 1990, but it was an academic program that was not well understood. People really didn’t see the value of what was going to happen with internet and certainly not mobile technologies. And so if we passed ADA today, there would be an extensive discussion of web internet, mobile, social media , uh , what to do with accessibility and all those terrains. But that wasn’t true in 1990, what we talked a lot about was physical structures, how to access them, how to use them, how to make them accessible. And so for those of us who are blind, the most important parts of ADA were for sure, the employment title that makes it a discrimination to deny an opportunity to somebody with a disability , uh , based on that disability and to not accommodate that disability and employment. So to not provide some kind of assistance that would be appropriate to allow that person to do the job even to not interview and not let that person go through the process. If they’re qualified, all of those things were really important, but some of the other titles speak much more to physical accessibility than they do to , uh , the kind of digital and information accessibility that we would have today. So to come back to your question, one piece that wasn’t done in, in 1990 and has been a bumpy road since is digital accessibility, internet, web, social, mobile. Okay . And there’ve been some provisions in other laws to try to deal with that. There’s been some regulatory effort to try to address that, but that’s one. And then I think the second one that people, I mentioned employment, I think people are dissatisfied that, that we haven’t achieved more. Um, I dunno , that was probably two negatives. So to put it the other way around, we should have, we should have achieved more than we have with the employment provisions of ADA. Um, some would say that the employment numbers are percentages are about where they were in 1990, that we haven’t really moved the line, or if we have, we haven’t moved it very far. I’m not sure because I think it’s hard to really research this , um, to , to get good strong numbers on who has been, who is employed, who has a disability, but in any case, it is easy to point out that we haven’t achieved as much as I think we’d like to see. We still have a very high unemployment rate compared to the general public and extraordinarily high lack of employment rate because they are different things. But either way, people with disabilities are not working anywhere near where I think all of us hoped we would do with the ADA. And there are reasons for that, that we can get into, but I’d say the two disappointing to two areas that people want to see work done in one would be the whole area of tech, accessibility, digital accessibility, and the other one being some meaningful, very much meaningful improvements in the employment numbers.

    Sara : 9:55

    You know, you mentioned the tech part and that was signed in an era where internet and mobile phones and all the technology that we have at our fingertips. It just wasn’t there. It was starting, it was, it was little pieces and it’s evolved into what it’s today. So that kind of feeds into this next question. So how does a broad law like the ADA change and adapt to new situations and circumstances just because, you know, it’s created in the eighties, you know, mobile technology, the iPhones and all these devices that are electronic, they weren’t around. It’s like, this is a whole new era.

    Paul: 10:31

    Yeah, absolutely. I think I went to a travel agent to get my airline or got them mailed to me to get my airline tickets , uh , younger listeners, just to have no idea what I’m talking about, but the July of 1990, it wasn’t on my phone, let alone something, I could print off on my own printer. I had to go, I had to either get travel tickets from a travel agent or, or , uh , have the mail to me anyway. Yes. Things have changed remarkably in that time. There’s the, the ADA is a fairly broad law, as you said, it’s, it’s written to be a Civil Rights law and it was intended to be broad. It was intended to send a very strong message of, we need to change society. We need society to, we need to push society to be its better self to adapt to the needs of people with disabilities, because we’re all going to be better. And I, you know, the trivial example that we always cite , but it’s true , uh, is the number of people who use curb ramps , uh , with strollers and , uh, other wheel devices, luggage, whatever, and find their life so much easier because they do. Um, if those curb ramps went away today, the people in wheelchairs would be the least , uh, loudest advocates, probably they would be loud, but there would be lots of louder ones, same thing for people who , um , watch sports or, or go to health clubs, captions on television , uh, came about after the ADA, but , um, hugely popular, not just for people who are deaf, but even more so for people who are trying to watch television in loud places. And so , um, these things have changed the world and they’ve changed the world for the better. Um, so how does an ally like ADA adapt? There’s two ways. One is, well, there’s really three ways. The first way is court cases. And so you started having cases filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act relatively quickly, as you can imagine , um, arguing about what is it, who does it actually apply to what is a public accommodation cause that’s what the law speaks to in terms of accessibility. And so lots of efforts around defining what’s in that what’s in that list of public accommodations. And one of the interesting challenges has been , um, it’s just geek out for just a second to bring this up. If you’re, if you want to shop at a Target store, that’s fine. It’s a public accommodation to get into that store. You have to be able to access , um, and all of the things that, that are required for a physical, but what about if you want to use the website? That’s not necessarily covered , uh, specific to public accommodation under ADA, but the courts have found, and it has been argued that the website is covered because it is an extension of that physical location. Now, what if , uh, what if a website doesn’t have a physical location? I mean, for example, like an eBay , um, there’s no eBay stores , at least I don’t think there are. Um, and so you get into interesting things like that. So one way an ADA evolves is through court cases and we’re still having them today. We just recently had a case , uh , involving Winn-Dixie in, in Florida that, that, you know , went to , uh , sort of against the interests of people with disabilities. The second way it evolves is through regulatory changes. Um, and that’s, you know, a lot of agencies, transportation department of justice and , uh, some other federal communications commission, all created regulations that were driven by the Americans with Disabilities Act. And some of them , uh , have updated regulations of things as things have changed as we’ve learned or as court cases have , uh, changed the way things are defined under the ADA. So that’s the second way. And then the third way is legislation that’s the toughest way of all. Um , but there was a, an amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act back in the sort of early to mid first decade of the 2000s , um , to , and it was to deal with definitions around employment in particular, but it also addressed a couple of other things. So let legislative amendments, or the third way a law, like this changes, it’s the hardest way because you have to get Congress to agree. And we all know from reading the papers or listening to the news that Congress agrees on very little today and, and, and that would be very tough to get. I think it would be tough to get ADA itself passed right now. Uh, but certainly amendments to it would be difficult.

    Sara : 14:48

    How can an organization like APH get involved in ADA related advocacy and support and is that even appropriate?

    Paul: 14:56

    I think for an organization like the American Printing House, we obviously want to be careful. We are a Federal Funds recipient. Uh, so we do have to be careful in terms of anything we do formally around advocacy, but we have a duty and a responsibility I think, to provide information to people , um, that is useful and usable. Obviously we do a ton of that around education and services related to education, but I think we also can and do provide information about things that are happening , uh, related to legislation, things that might be happening with respect that , that involved the Americans with disabilities act and changes to that, how to be , uh, how to use the ADA to your benefit, if you want to seek employment or how to ensure that you’re getting the transportation or other services that you’re due under the ADA. I think all of those things are perfectly fine and good and important for an organization like APH, even as a federal funds recipient for us to do. Um, it gets a little more tricky when we’re actually wanting , if we wanted to go and talk to Congress about specific changes to ADA. Um, but even there, I think as an organization that has substantial knowledge about the educational needs and the needs of , uh, people who are blind or visually impaired, we have something important to contribute to educating , uh, even members of Congress who might be looking at changes to laws. And I think it’s, it’s again, very permissible under the guise of, of actually providing education under that structure , uh, that we can be involved. But I think we, I think we definitely have a role to play in helping individuals to understand how to use these laws that have been passed to seize more opportunities.

    Sara : 16:41

    Would you like to see more institutions get involved with advocacy? If so, can you tell us how?

    Paul: 16:48

    I would love to see more? Yes. I think the simple answer is yes. I think, I think it’s important for all of us to be providing as much information as we can to help individuals be , uh, to, to, to, to pursue the opportunities that are available to them. Um , and I think, and that includes to exercise the rights that are provided under the Americans with disabilities act or under the individuals with disabilities education act , uh , or any numerous others, the rehabilitation act. I think even if , uh, if you’re an institution that provides services, if you’re a rehab agency or a school district, even if you might find yourself challenged from time to time, I think the world is better when people with disabilities know what their opportunities are and know how to exercise those opportunities. Yes, it can be frustrating sometimes if you’re on the receiving end of a lawsuit or a complaint, but for the most part, if people understand what their opportunities are and know how to act on those, they’re probably not looking to Sue. They’re looking to get something done. Very few of us really want to Sue it’s it’s a long and drawn out difficult process, rarely ever doesn’t really result in a , in an action that we like. And if it does, it often takes years. And by that point, we’ve either lost interest or we’ve moved on. I mean, classic example is a recent Supreme court case that said a school district was wrong to kick a girl off the cheerleading team , uh, because of some swearing that she did on a mobile chat thing, she’s already out of school. I mean, she’s, she’s graduated, she’s gone, right. It has nothing to do with her life today. Um , she gets the wind and the school gets slapped around a little, but it didn’t solve anything. You know, it creates a precedent. Okay. But, but I mean, for this individual, it didn’t solve anything. And so most of us don’t really want to go through that process. We’d like to get the , the opportunity that’s in front of us today, the opportunity to have a book that we can read in an accessible format, that chance to be able to have a , uh, individualized education program that actually meets our needs the same for our rehabilitation program that actually allows us to pursue a job. We want to do that, right. I mean, so I think the more that people understand what their rights are under these laws and how to work most effectively with , um, the, the institution that may be they’re seeking services from the better off we all are.

    Sara : 19:22

    And can you touch briefly on a few other major issues that advocates are working on right now that might be of interest to our audience?

    Paul: 19:30

    Absolutely. And there are some good issues that are taking place. So I’m going to , uh , probably hit three or four , uh, and I’ll try to do it as quickly as I can. One of the biggest challenges that older blind people particularly , uh, have faced is that Medicare does not cover services that are tied to vision loss for the most part and technologies that are tied to vision loss for the most part. Um, Medicare won’t cover magnification, for example, because it has a specific exemption to not cover eyeglasses and magnification while not really eyeglasses is swept into that. So it’s , it’s a quirk of the law, but it means a stunning amount of service and equipment is not provided to older people where if they had a different disability, they’d have no trouble getting wheelchairs, walkers , um, other kinds of apparatus and, and OT and other kinds of services to live independently. So that’s one that people are working on the American Council of the Blind has been doing a lot of work in that area. Uh, I think the second one is trying to get more services for older blind VisionServe Alliance has been working hard on that the private agency group. Um, third one is I mentioned digital accessibility before, and there’s been a bunch of work around that issue to try to ensure that mobile and web and other , uh , uh, uh, digital and technology is accessible, but there’s still work to be done. And in fact, there are some who are seeking , um, what would potentially be an amendment to the ADA to make clear that it does cover web and to describe , uh, in , in some ways that’s already clear, but to describe what that means, what does it, what does an accessible website, what standard does it have to meet to be considered accessible? Um, and then finally voting , uh, as much in the news today, lots of, lots of , uh, drama around voting and states and federal work on voting and people with disabilities . People who are blind are very concerned that our right to actually cast a private vote is very much in jeopardy. Um, it’s always been a challenge because we typically have not had voting technologies that were accessible. Um, you know, you can go back to the day when you filled in a cell on a paper and then later punched a , uh, a ballot maybe with a machine or whether even with a little hand device, but those things weren’t accessible for those of us who couldn’t see. And then we passed a law in the early 2000s to create technology. And so we have machines with audio and large print and magnified vision. And so , um, voting was accessible if you happen to have a polling place with those capabilities. Uh, and now that much, that that’s very much in jeopardy than a lot of struggle around what is it, what is it , what are the proper expectations for voting systems and voting technologies? And then there’s issues like absentee voting, which a lot of people with disabilities and people who are blind have used over the years and now states are starting to, some are loosening and some are cracking down. I mean, it’s a very strange world that we’re in right now, depending on where you live. So voting is a huge, scary thing for those of us with disabilities, as we feel like in some places, our rights are going to be eroded.

    Sara : 22:39

    All right , Paul, is there anything else you’d like to say about all of this advocacy?

    Paul: 22:44

    Well, I should say I gave a tip of the hat to the American Council of the Blind, and I want to give a tip of the hat to the National Federation of the Blind , um, which, I mean, all of all of the groups have been working on the voting issue that I just mentioned digital. And I forgot to mention the , um , Access Technology Affordability Act that NFP has been , uh , pushing, which is a very interesting concept of using the tax , uh , tax base, using taxes as a way to help provide , uh , people with some of the expensive accessible technology that we need, the braille devices and things of that nature that can cost, you know , several thousand dollars. And the idea would be to use the tax code so that if you’re eligible, if you’re a blind person or a parent , uh , and you buy one of these pieces of technology, you can get a tax credit of up to $2,000 in a three-year period , uh, for that technology. And yet it’s true, even if you don’t pay taxes. And so a lot of things use the tax code to kind of help , uh, uh, support, important objectives. And I think this one’s a good one. So I would say , uh , another one for people to take a look at is the access technology affordability act to see if you can get your member of Congress to support. They’ve got strong support, but both sides have Republican and Democrats out Senate and house. And , uh , I think that bill could go if it just finds , uh , finds a nice vehicle to ride through the system on it’s it’s , it’s unusually bi-partisan actually, I’d also like to mention and give a call out to the Cogswell Macy act. That’s the short name for it. It’s named for two strong longtime leaders, Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macey . Most of our listeners would re recognize Anne Sullivan. Macey is Helen’s teacher. Um , this bill would change the individuals with disabilities education act to update some provisions and add some provisions that would significantly improve , uh, education opportunities for students who are blind. So I also want to put that one out there. It’s a American council of the blind AER, and , uh , I’ve been working long and hard on that bill and some other organizations as well , uh , particularly from the deafness community , uh, who have been advocating. So that’s , that’s one that I would also throw out there in the education area as worthy of folks taking a look out .

    Sara : 24:54

    Thank you so much, Paul, for joining us on Change Makers.

    Paul: 25:00

    You bet, thank you.

    Sara : 25:00

    Now we’re going to learn how to advocate for yourself or loved one. Now we’re talking to APH is Director of Accessibility, Diversity and Inclusion Tai Tomasi about how to advocate for yourself or loved one. Hello, Tai, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Tai: 25:16

    Hi, thanks so much for having me.

    Sara : 25:19

    As the Director, Assessability Diversity and Inclusion advocating is pretty much your focus. Can you quickly tell us what it is that you do at APH?

    Tai: 25:30

    At APH I advocate on behalf of employees to improve the accessibility of all areas of our company. And also I do the same kind of work for all of our stakeholders. That would be our customers, all of the individuals in the field with whom we work teachers of the visually impaired. Um, there’s a list too numerous to mention, but in all respects, I’m advocating for increased accessibility for all of those individuals and , um , helping them to have access to everything that they need.

    Sara : 26:01

    Can you tell us how a person can advocate for themselves or a loved one and what tips or resources would you suggest?

    Tai: 26:10

    So it can be intimidating to advocate because you have to , um, you know, it does involve a little bit of conflict as far as giving, as far as letting people know what’s going on and how they can resolve the issues that you’re facing. Um, I do find that it can be a little bit more difficult to advocate for yourself than it can be to advocate for other people. So I just want everyone to know that feeling as normal because the stakes are high when it’s, you that’s involved and you’re feeling a little bit of conflict. Um, I always feel though that doing that work, even though it’s very difficult , um, is very necessary and it will improve your life. I’ve been advocating for myself from a very young age , um, in several different areas of my life. Um, one instance I can remember was when I wanted to be in a diving class and teacher said , um, I don’t know how to teach a blind person. So I had to advocate with her about how to do that. Um, and in my first job, I had to advocate for myself , um, because of discrimination and, and people’s myths about what it means to be blind or visually impaired as far as tips. I think there’s a lot out there on the internet. Um , there are a lot of resources I’m going to be putting together some advocacy resources for folks. Um, there are many consumer organizations out there that also provide advocacy advice. And , um, when it gets beyond your own level of advocacy, you can certainly contact some of these disability organizations and the disability rights network of , um, legal advocacy firms all across the country,

    Sara : 27:39

    Thinking big community wide impacts, what is the larger impact advocacy can have in the community?

    Tai: 27:46

    So we think of advocacy sometimes as being something that’s personal to us, but in reality , um , in addition to that, we’re also helping the entire community. So when we advocate for something that seems limited to a use of one kind or another such as a , uh , wheelchair accessible ramp, for example , um, that ramp is actually benefiting the whole society. And that’s the concept of universal access. Uh, when we implement accessibility improvements for perhaps , um, based on input from one segment of our population, we’re actually helping everyone. And the same is true for all different kinds of accommodations that , um , have become commonplace because of the Americans with disabilities act and the individuals with disabilities and education act to name just a couple of the laws that have really , um, helped the disability community.

    Sara : 28:38

    And is there anything else you’d like to mention about advocacy?

    Tai: 28:43

    Uh, I would encourage anyone to contact me if you have questions about advocacy, or if there are trainings that I can provide , um, for the community I can be reached at ttomasi@aph .org . Another easy way to get in touch with me is through our accessibility email address, which is And I look forward to speaking with many of you and I’m so glad to be here and to be featured on the podcast.

    Sara : 29:12

    Thank you so much, Tai for joining us today on Change Makers. Thank you. Just a reminder. Any links our websites mentioned in this podcast can be found in the show notes.

    Sara: 29:23

    Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Changemakers . We hope you have enjoyed yourself. Be sure to look for ways you can be a change maker . [inaudible] .

  • Jack Fox: 0:00

    Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host.

    Sara: 0:16

    Hello, and welcome to change makers. I’m APH’s Public Relations Manager, Sara Brown . And today we’re celebrating Helen Keller. Her birthday is Sunday, June 27th. And to celebrate this Change Maker, we’re going to talk to two experts who examine her work up close and personal on a regular basis. And we’ll also learn how refreshable braille devices have opened the world of communication for all and we’ll also have a special reading from an Ohio State School for the Blind senior. Up first, we’re talking to APH Museum Director, Michael Hudson, and AFBs Helen Keller Archivist. Justin Gardner. These two are THE go tos for any and all things Helen Keller. Hello, Michael. Hello, Justin, and thank you so much for joining me on Change Makers. Michael, Justin, can you tell me what you do at APH in regards to Helen Keller?

    Micheal: 1:09

    Well, I’m the museum director, so, you know, I was responsible for working with Justin , uh, to , uh, first negotiate , uh , this, this arrangement that we have with the American Foundation for the Blind, that allows us to bring the collection to Louisville and put it on exhibit. Um, and so my job was kind of creating exhibits, creating displays, writing labels, and , uh, and then just generally supervising the way we store and manage the collection.

    Justin: 1:38

    And this is Justin , um, I’m the AFB Helen Keller Archivist. I work in the archive physically. Um, right now I’m concentrating on going through the AFB part of the archive. It’s one of the things about this , this collection is that the AFB company archive came along with all of the Helen Keller materials, and that has not been , um, catalog and documented as thoroughly as the Helen Keller collection has. So I’m really doing right now, a very deep dive into that and organizing cataloging and getting a real mental picture of what’s in there. So we can find things because there is an entire history of the field of visual impairment in these boxes. And that’s what I’ve got to organize for people,

    Sara: 2:20

    Michael, I’m sure you’ve seen some amazing things in your position. Can you talk to us about some of the pieces that stick out for you in the Helen Keller archives?

    Micheal: 2:29

    Well, I think one of the things that I love, I mean, I love so much about this, Sara, you know, it’s every box you open up is a, is an incredible piece. But I think for me, one of the, one of the interesting things is all of the portraiture of, of Keller. And he comes in a lots of different ways. You know, obviously there’s tremendous photographic record. You know, this is a woman who traveled all over the United States and traveled all over the world. And so, you know, click, click, click, or wherever she goes, you know, photographers are, they’re taking pictures, but then a lot of artists found inspiration in Keller’s image. And so there are a lot of paintings. Uh, the , some of the ones I really love the most is the sculpture. Um, so , uh, for instance, there’s this guy, Joe Davidson, who is this amazing , uh, late 19th and early 20th century , uh, painter and sculptor. He was the son of Russian immigrants and , uh, live between 1883 and 1952. And some are rather , uh, the Keller and, and Anne Sullivan and their assistant Polly Thomson , uh, become friends with Joe Davidson and his wife Florence and Helen becomes one of Davidson’s favorite , uh, models. Uh, and so , uh, he, it looks like, I think the first, the earliest piece that’s in the collection is from 1942 and it’s just a, it’s in clay terracotta, and it’s just her head. Um, uh, and so it’s obviously a model for a larger piece, and of course he does two larger pieces, but I really love this, this clay , uh, head that, that, that Davidson does, it’s just her hair or face. Um, and he’s just obviously fascinated with Helen and you can see it in the, in the way he’s, he’s taken his time , uh, to, to, to sculp this thing out of clay. Um , and you know, it was sitting, there’s a lot of stories and , and research that still needs to be done about a lot of these images. Um, but that, that , uh, that head ends up being translated later , uh, into a full-sized piece that we also have in the collection that’s made out of bronze. Um, and it is a full bus with Helen’s hands. And a lot of times when you see artists do busts of , uh , famous historical figures, they don’t include their hands, but of course, what would Helen be without her magnificent hands? Right? So this is a , almost a full torso with her hands , uh, you know , uh , spelling out , uh, you know , in, in, in dramatic fashion, you know, when you ever, you see pictures or, or, or film of , of counter hands are moving. And so both of these two Davidson pieces, I think are two of my favorite pieces in the collection,

    Sara: 5:30

    Justin, the Helen Keller archives are vast. What documents have you encountered that gave you chills or that surreal feeling?

    Justin: 5:38

    Oh, yes, absolutely. Um, and you know, I’ll begin by saying, I am probably the least superstitious person you will ever meet, but my first day in the archive I walked in the first time I had ever been in here, as you said, it was vast. So I’m not sure exactly how my hand was guided to box, but I decided to open up a box, look to see what was in it. And it was a box that contained information on Marguerite Levine the first archivist of this archive , um, there was a 60 page interview and there was an autobiography. And , um, you know, it , it’s almost like she was here training me on my first day. And I really do mean that because this interview was so detailed , um , it started with her life and France before she even moved to the U S her husband was a us army officer. And in another interesting event , um, in June of 1952 in France, she actually saw Helen Keller. Helen Keller was there to receive the French Legion of Honor and to view , um, Louis Brailles reinternment , um , of the interment of his remains. And she saw this in France and later went on to be the archivist and that Legion of honor, and her acceptance documents for acceptance speech is here in the archive that Marguerite later put together. Um, but it’s very interesting because first she was hired by [inaudible] , who was the first to Miguel Librarian. And I used to be a Miguel librarian here too. So, you know, these are both of my predecessors and immediately that first day I walk in and I feel like I’m part of a family tree. So this was like really, really quite moving to me actually to find this document. Um, but it describes everything that she did. And she very, really did build the archive from this mass mass nothingness. Um, it was in four different buildings. It was an attics, it was in basements , it was in people’s desks. She put all of these documents together and it took 10 years. She did this from about 1960 to 1970, just to get things together, not even to really use them yet. Um, that’s how the AFB , the company archive developed. And also in that process, she found all of these Helen Keller materials. There was even a quote in her , uh , in her interview. She said, “how did I become the curator of her papers for the simple reason that the papers were there.” So she came upon a lot of these things and built both archives, and it took a decade for her just to put this together. So, you know,

    Micheal: 8:10

    Justin, I think that’s, that’s , uh , Sara he’s put his finger on it. I think both Justin and I feel this great sense of responsibility as if, you know, a series of hands from Helen herself and her parents handing these things down , uh, you know, through the American Foundation for the Blind. And now here in Louisville, Kentucky to Justin and myself here at the printing house, you know, w we’re we’re continuing this legacy of, of , uh, preserving these stories and , and sharing these stories. I, I know both of us feel Marguerite Levine and , uh, and Helga Linda looking over our shoulders and you can almost hear him , you know , uh , nodding their heads and approval. Absolutely.

    Sara: 8:53

    Michael, can you tell us about other artifacts or sculptures that left an impression on you?

    Micheal: 8:58

    Well, well , uh , another sculpture that , uh , when Justin and I brought it in , uh, just you’ll remember it , it was just wrapped up in a thick layers of a foam and didn’t appear to have been unwrapped and, you know, who knows how long, so were you in ? And you’re like, wow, what is this going to be? Right. And it wasn’t shaped, it wasn’t shaped, right. The best way to describe is just, it , it, I didn’t know what it was, right. So we , we take our scissors and we’re really careful. And we , we , we take the foam off and there is this gorgeous bronze sculpture of Hellen’s shoulders and head, and it wasn’t signed. Uh , so there was no indication of who the artist was. And it was literally glued to a painted wooden pedestal that looked like it had been cut off halfway down with a saw . So , uh, it was the marble base that the, the bronze bust was , uh , attached to was glued to this wooden thing. Right. So there’s no way to really use it in any way, shape or form. So we, so Justin and I started doing research on this thing and got it off of its wooden base. And it turns out that in , um, the 1930s, 1931, that Helen had posed for a German sculptor named Hans Albrecht von Harrach. Okay. I’m sure I’m butchering that German. Right. But hallmark was a well-known German sculptor. He had a studio in New York city, and that’s where , uh, you know, Helen lived right outside of New York city. And so she’d come in, she’d been , uh, she posed for him and this, this posing, this setting appears in all kinds of American newspapers of, of her in his studio and him working on the clave version of the sculptor and , uh, the , the, the marble, the marble version of this that he eventually sculpted was paid for by the American Foundation for the Blind. Okay. They had obviously commissioned von Harrach rock to create this sculpture. And , um, in 1952 AFB gave the original marble sculpture to Ivy Green, which was , uh, the historic site, the Helen Keller Birthplace. Right. So where does this bronze come from? Because it’s obviously a copy of the original marble, but we don’t, we don’t know. Now, if you crawl all over this thing, you find that there is a stamped in it somewhere where you can’t see as Cellini Bronze Works. Okay. So a little, you know, doing a little research, it turns out that the saline bronze works was a , uh , a foundry that, that, that cast artwork. And it had went out of business , uh, 19 40, 45, somewhere around that. So at some point somebody paid theCellini Bronze Works to make a bronze copy of , of the original marble. And then the marble was given away to Ivy Green. And then the connection between all this had all been lost. So w you know, despite all the hard work that , uh, that AFB has done over time and, and everything that you know , that we talked about about Marguerite Levine and Helga Lindy still, there are mysteries in the collection. And so, you know, the fact that we might be kind of reconnecting some things with our original history. I , that, that I really , uh , you know, I, I get a lot of joy out of that.

    Sara: 12:31

    Justin, Helen Keller Really resonated with schoolchildren . I got a chance to look at the letters to Helen Keller, from students, from Wrangell , Alaska. What can you tell us about them?

    Justin: 12:42

    There’s some interesting connections with this set of documents, too. So yes, in 1933 , um, a group of students in Wrangell , Alaska sent Helen Keller notes , um, and wrangle today has about 2000 people that live in it. So I think it was much fewer back then. It was mainly a fishing and cannery, the beautiful area. I looked it up. Beautiful . Yeah . Yeah . Um, so these students were in third and fourth grade, there were 16 of them. So that small, a number in two grades, I can kind of imagine them being in a one room schoolhouse or something. And they sent letters because their teacher noticed that during Christmas, they were all talking about what they wanted for Christmas and had totally forgotten about the spirit of giving. And she decided that they were going to send some letters to Helen Keller, because they had read about her in something called my weekly reader, which was a school reader that was published for virtual . I even read that when I was a kid in the eighties. So , um, they had read a story about Helen in their weekly reader. And they sent to her all of the money that they had earned from selling poetry pamphlets. They called it the Penny Press. They sold it for 2 cents a piece. And in total, they made $2.36. And they decided to send all of that money to Helen Keller, with notes, introducing themselves, and saying, please share this with blind children. And they’re very nice, wonderful letters to read. Um, they got a letter back from AFB and the letter says that Helen Keller sent an autographed picture to this school. And they said, you know, she read every letter. She really enjoyed them. And thank you very much. And each of these letters, that’s in the collection has been stamped with a stamp that has her signature on it. So I assume that must have meant that every time she went through a letter, they stamped her signature on it. And that it had been read by or to Helen. Um, so, and it was really, I’m going to say adorable to me. I just say that cause I’m a parent, I guess, because this article that they had read it’s in the Helen Keller Archive here, it’s about how Helen Keller had won $5,000 and they read this article and they sent her all of their $2.36. Anyway, I just thought that was wonderful. Um, so I I’d wanted to do a little bit more exploring, I don’t know exactly why I decided to do this, but I looked up Wrangell, Alaska and the Helen Keller Archive. There was a second set of letters from these children. Now, the first set that I found was in the AFB archive, in a folder, the second set was in the Helen Keller Archive. And there were letters updating Helen Keller on what they did with her picture. And a lot of other things like their pets and their , their cats, their dogs, things that were going on in Wrangell. I thought that was great. So there was that connection there. I looked a little further and there was a third set. So the second set was from 1934. Then in 1935, the same group of students sent letters actually this time to Anne Sullivan Macy. So them and their teacher got together and sent letters to Helen Keller’s teacher because they had read an article that she , um, had had surgery to improve her eyesight. So they decided to send letters saying, “we hope you feel better,” “we hope your , your eyesight is better.” Here are some pictures of Wrangell, Alaska and they had photographs of their town in it. And , uh, you know, the whole thing is I went further and further and found, found these connections within the archive that hadn’t quite been made yet. And also I felt like I got to know these kids who are very literally my daughter’s age, you know, it was just a really special experience to go through there. And again, making me me feel very close to Helen and to Anne and to the archive.

    Sara: 16:20

    APH Press offers a quote book “To Love This Life: Quotations by Helen Keller” for $14.95. Is there any favorite quote you have in this book or any other quote you have from Helen herself?

    Micheal: 16:32

    I don’t know about, I have a favorite quote from that book, but my favorite Helen Keller quote is life is an adventure or nothing at all. And that’s the way Helen lived her life. And I think we all can , uh , get some inspiration from that, that, you know, life is special, right. Every day is an opportunity to make a difference. And I think that’s the way Helen lived her life. You know, it was either going to be, she was either going to go or she was not right. Yeah.

    Sara: 17:02

    What about you Justin?

    Justin: 17:04

    Yeah, actually I do agree with that. I’ve always loved that quote. Um, there’s another one that I liked a lot that it’s from the book and it says, I believe that misfortunes are often the keys, which opened doors of higher truth for us. Um, you know, it’s short kind of short and sweet, but I think that the , the broad idea of that is , uh, is very true. Um, you know, we’ve all, we all have to face things. We all have to face difficulties, and sometimes you just have to see those , um, almost as exercises for your mind and for your soul, just like your body needs, exercise needs to lift heavy things and , and go through difficult cardiovascular work to get stronger. I think the same is true for your mind and for your soul and sometimes misfortunes that you face , um, and open up other doors for you. That is very true, very true.

    Sara: 17:55

    Michael, Justin, can you tell us where listeners can access all this wonderful information?

    Micheal: 18:00

    Well, as soon as we reopen on July 6th , uh, you will be able to come to the Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind, the , and see a number of these things that we’ve put out on display from the archive. Um, but really the American Foundation for Blind has an incredible website. Uh, and all you really have to do is type in “HK archive” or “Keller archive,” or “Helen Keller archive”, your Google search, and it’ll take you straight there and you can set for hours and browse through all of these things that AFB has spent a lot of time and money digitizing and getting online.

    Sara: 18:35

    And Michael, I know there’s one thing you’re really excited to talk about, and that’s the completely new redesigned APH museum website. Can you tell the listeners a little bit more?

    Micheal: 18:45

    Well, yeah, we’re launching that , uh, gosh , uh , this week and , um, uh, you know , you’re going to be able to search through our entire collection and , uh , look at , uh, hundreds of years of the history of education rehabilitation for people that are blind or visually impaired lot, you know, thousands of photographs and, and , uh, uh, just an amazing , uh , documentary collection. You’re also going to be able to do online exhibits. Uh, you’re going to be able to look at , um, uh, the history of , uh, uh, the first residential schools. Uh, you’re going to be able to look at kind of the whole history of printing and embossing , uh , and different machinery that we’ve used here at APH. And , and, and this is really just the beginning. We’re going to be launching all kinds of resources. You’re going to be able to schedule tours to the, to the printing house or to the museum from there. You’re going to be able to , um, find out about our educational events , uh , our programs. You’re going to be able to sign up for those, all of that’s going to be available to you from the new website.

    Sara: 19:45

    Is there anything else you’d like to add?

    Justin: 19:49

    I will say that we , we can have visiting researchers in the building to come and go through the archives with me. We’ve already had one who came from William and Mary to do some research on a book that she was writing. So I’m here to help if , uh, if anyone wants to take the trip to Louisville, she mentioned that among some of the people she’s researched with, they have actually said, I think the phrase was if it’s still exists, it’s in Louisville at this point, cause between the archive bay archive and the Helen Keller archive and the museum archive and the museum collection, we’re a very central location with a lot of information. And this researcher had told me that she was going to start sending her students here. So , um, it’s a good place to come with. Uh , you know, this, this AFP archive that she used had letters from all over the world, from these organizations who are headquartered in different parts of Europe. So instead of having to hop around to different countries, this is one location has, has things from everywhere.

    Sara: 20:50

    All right. Thank you so much, Michael and Justin for joining us on Change Makers today.

    Micheal and Justin: 20:54

    Thank you, Sara.

    Sara: 20:56

    We’ll be sure to include links and the website in the show notes of this podcast. Now we’ll shift our focus to products and communicating with individuals who are deaf blind. We have Kentucky School for the Blind Principal, Peggy Sinclair-Morris here to tell us a bit more, hello, Peggy, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Peggy: 21:17

    Hi, thank you so much for having me. I’m glad to be here.

    Speaker 2: 21:20

    Can you tell us how you’ve seen individuals who are deaf blind incorporate refreshable braille devices into their everyday life?

    Peggy: 21:28

    Yeah, sure. Um, so when I was a teacher of the visually impaired in public schools , um, I had a student who was deaf blind, and he was a fluent braille reader. And , this was 15 years ago. So the refreshable devices looked quite different, but , um , he did use one and he would type on his laptop and then somebody would type on his laptop. And he would read on the braille display what the person who was typing was saying, because he also communicated using ASL American sign language. And so not a lot of people could communicate with him. Um, he used what’s called Tactile Sign Language where his hands would be over the person signing over their hands. And so he could have a conversation with , um, an individual who didn’t know sign language or braille because they could just communicate using his laptop and the refreshable braille display. But you know, also other individuals with deaf-blindness, they may use it as a community communication tool, but also, you know , as a , a tool to do work, to do schoolwork , um, in a business. So they , they would use it the same way that , um, any individual that was blind or visually impaired would use it, but it has that little added bonus of it can be used as a communication device.

    Sara: 22:52

    And what would you want people to know when communicating with someone who is deaf-blind?

    Peggy: 22:59

    So when communicating with someone with deaf-blind, I think people automatically go to Helen Keller, which, I mean, I , I love Helen Keller , um, but you know, and she communicated using sign language and spelling in her hand. But , um, individuals with deaf-blindness are , are, have different levels of hearing loss, and different levels of vision loss. So some may use American Sign Language use tactile again to having their hands over another individual’s hands while they signed to them. They may use , um, objects , schedules, object calendars , um, many people with deaf-blindness use, auditory communication. They talk, they are able to hear enough different kinds of , um, you know, hearing aids, cochlear, implants, different devices. So there folks with deaf-blindness can really be multimodal. There’s not just, you have to kind of, sometimes you have to think outside of the box.

    Sara: 23:58

    Is there anything else you’d like to add?

    Peggy: 24:02

    Um, so one thing that I learned , uh , several years ago when I was taking some classes on deaf-blindness through , um , Utah State University , um, I really want people to understand that deaf blindness is a disability of access. And so you would say “access to what?”, And I would say access to communication. And the important thing is that people with deaf blindness, we need to provide that, that clear and consistent access to communication, whatever that communication mode is, whether again, it’s American Sign Language, or total communication talking and signing or pictures or tactile objects, just to really, like I said before, thinking outside of the box.

    Sara: 24:45

    Okay. Peggy, thank you so much for joining me today on Change Makers.

    Peggy: 24:49

    Oh, I’m so glad to be here. Thank you for having me

    Sara: 24:53

    And to expand a bit further on refreshable braille devices. APH offers multiple devices ranging from small, medium and large. The smallest one is the Braille Trail Reader, LE. The compact on-the-go 14 high-quality braille cells and eight dot braille input keys allow users to take notes, create, edit, and read texts and braille files. A medium sized refreshable braille device is the Chameleon 20. The Chameleon’s 20 cell refreshable braille display and Perkin style keyboard provide a comfortable reading and writing experience. A large size refreshable braille device is the Mantis Q40. The 40 cell refreshable braille display has a QWERTY keyboard and supports up to five Bluetooth connections at once. Along with one USB connection. Other products, aside from the braille devices include the Deaf Blind Pocket Communicator and the Sunu Band. The Deaf Blind Pocket Communicator is no tech and allows users to easily communicate on the, go with its raised lettering. The SUNY band uses radar and haptic feedback along with ultrasonic technology to detect and alert you to navigational obstacles up to 14 feet away. For more information and links on the refreshable brown devices, deaf blind pocket communicator and Sunu Band. Please check the show notes before we go. We have one more special segment in this podcast. This essay titled, “This I believe” was recorded by Jeremiah T. a graduating senior of the Ohio State School for the Blind.

    Jeremiah: 26:24

    I believe in the golden rule and direct communication. This is to treat others how you want to be treated and speak directly with those you have to interact with. I believe in the golden rule because I myself have been treated unfairly before I got in a conflict with my mother about me not answering my, but instead of talking to me, she told another person. She told me that that person told her I was being rude. I asked my mom, why do you only tell your side of the story? I feel that if you’re upset with someone, you should talk to them first. So you can understand their side of the story. I have also been in a situation where I have treated someone unfairly. One time a mom asks me what I wanted for dinner. I was really into what I was doing at the time. And then feel like responding to her question. I noticed she was mad when he changed the tone of voice. She said, I’m not going to buy you a suit for graduation or take you to it. At first, I didn’t know who was right or who was wrong, but after she explained why she was upset, I could see a point of view in regards to our communication issue. I ended up doing the right thing. I got my mind, right and I relaxed. I apologized, she accepted my apology. It looks like we both have problems with each other. We wouldn’t have these problems. If we use the Golden Rule in direct communication. Now I’m going to talk about someone who treats people, how they should be treated. While attending a school, living in a dorm. My first roommate was a very kind person. He was one of the first people I ever saw be nice to everyone. I have ataxia, which is a condition that affects my walking. So I have to use a wheelchair. He would always help me get to where I needed to go without complaining. He would actually volunteer to escort me. He would always greet people with a very nice voice and a smile. I remember the one time my roommate asked me for some advice on how to write a rap song. My mind went blank. I didn’t know how to write a rap song. I listened to a lot of music and may beat some times, but never written a song. I wanted to give him good advice, but I had no experience writing songs. So I had to think about my response for a second. I know that from a creative perspective, it’s best to create from within. So I just told him write what’s in your heart. He said, “okay” and then left the room. Even though my roommate never told me if he took my advice, I believe I communicated with my roommate effectively. I figured since my roommate asked for my assistance, I should do my best to provide quality suggestions. I believe you should give back to those who give to you. In conclusion, I believe that through my experiences, I’m constantly learning how to practice the Golden rule in direct communication.

    Speaker 2: 29:47

    We hope you have enjoyed today’s podcast links to the items mentioned in the show can be found in the show notes. Thank you again for listening and be sure to look for ways you can be a change maker this week.

  • Jack Fox: 0:00

    Welcome to Change Makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host.

    Sara: 0:14

    Hello, and welcome to Change Makers. I’m APH is Public Relations Manager, Sara, and today we’re talking to the flagship partners for the APH Transition Hub. That includes AERBVI, Compass Success @ Perkins program, and VisionServe Alliance. We’ll learn what’s being done to help transition age students, how these organizations support, transition in what they want to see in the future. Then we’ll check in with Partners with Paul and later hear a special essay from an Ohio State School for the Blind senior. Now I’m going to turn it over to APH’s Digital Content Strategist and Senior Researcher for the ConnectCenter, Dr. Kathryn Botsford. She’s going to talk to the panel of transition partners about what they’re doing to support the transition process and the brand new transition hub that’s coming soon to the APH ConnectCenter and CareerConnect.

    Kathryn : 1:05

    Hi everybody. Thank you for joining us. I am Kathryn Botsford . I am a guest here today and I work in the APH ConnectCenter and I have some friends here , um, who are going to enlighten us about the , the wonders and power of transition and transition services. So , um, just a quick introduction, we have , uh, Leslie Thatcher from Perkins and she’s actually from Perkins Compass, but she’s gonna represent , uh, Perkins for us today. Thank you, Leslie. We have Lee Nasehi, who’s the CEO at VisionServe Alliance, and she’s going to join us as well. And we have Mark Richert, who’s the executive director, the Interim Executive Director, for AERBVI or the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of People who are Blind and Visually Impaired. We also have Olaya Landa-Vialard who’s the Director of the ConnectCenter. So thank you all for joining us today to share your insights and wisdom about transition. So I guess my first question is going to go to Olaya. O laya can you tell us about the APH Transition Hub and what users can expect when that gets launched?

    Olaya: 2:42

    Hi, Kathryn. Yeah. Thanks. I’m sure I’d be happy to tell you about that. Um, well, the APH ConnectCenter Transition Hub. Um, it, it’s going to be a place where , um, college counselors, transition counselors can visit to get , um, an updated listing of transition services and entities from around the country , um, that may not be available. And not that we know of are not , is not available anywhere else out on the, on the internet. Um, where, when people come to the transition hub, they’re not only going to see , um, a list of entities around the country that provide transition services. Um, but they’re going to be able to interact with the pages that are set up for each of those separate entities, where they can see videos of the , um, individuals who are heading off those transition services. Um, they’ll get to see videos of students who have gone through those transition programs and hear how those programs have helped them make that transition from high school to college or vocational program or high school to work. Um, and so we’re really excited about that and that’s where it’s going to be a little different in that people will be able to actually hear the stories of individuals who have actually gone through those programs and , um, be able to actually see the individuals who are helping run those programs. And so it’s kind of putting the face to the name and , um, you know, and getting that firsthand experience from, from someone like themselves who will be going through some of these programs. So , um, they’ll that that’s gonna make it a little different from other areas that people might go to search for transition programs, where it’s just , uh , a stagnant list of, of different programs that are available out there. This is going to be a little more interactive and a little more , um , personalized for each of those transition programs.

    Kathryn : 4:56

    That sounds exciting. I can’t wait to see it. I follow up question to that. So why create a transition hub? I mean, when was it that you realize that something like this was , was needed? How did, how did this come about?

    Olaya: 5:11

    Well, I think, you know, we, with, with our CareerConnect site, which the Transition Hub has been to kind of live there , um, as part of the APH ConnectCenter , um, you know, and putting together or restarting this National Transition Conversation , um, which involves , um, leaders from the different transitions and agencies from around the country. Um, you know, we just noticed that there’s not a really good comprehensive , uh , location where we can find a list of all of these , um , transition programs where we could reach out to say, “Hey, we’re starting this national transition conversation. We want you to be involved in the discussions.” Um, so because of course transition agencies are different for different parts of the, there are different needs and, you know , different populations. Um, now, however we do have at the APH connect center, we do have the directory of services. So people can find information about a transition service that may be available in their area, but it’s not a comprehensive list in one place. Like you have to search for it , uh, either by your state or by location. So it’s a little different. And in that sense, there , again, it’s more like a stagnant list, where the Transition Hub will really give a bigger picture of what is available through those, through those particular transition programs that people can, you know, it’s almost like shopping for the Transition Program, right? It’s like a catalog where you’re going and you’re able to see what, you know, what one transition program is doing versus another transition program. So I think it it’s going to help , um, our students , um, and our counselors who are helping these students find a better fit than what they could find by just going to a directory and saying, okay, this, this place offers a transition service because you’re gonna actually be able to see the people who are involved in that transition program. You’re going to actually get to hear from the students who have participated in that transition program and how that helped them , during their transition period. So , I mean, that’s kind of what we, we noticed , um , when we were putting together, we’re all basically restarting the national transition conversation . So , um, I just think it was just a big piece of that, that we felt was missing , because there’s nothing like hearing from the actual people who are actually doing the program , you know, putting the programs on and nothing like hearing the experiences of individuals who have gone through those programs and how it has , um , affected their lives.

    Kathryn : 7:49

    We’re Going on with question number three. So we have our partners here , um, VisionServe Alliance, AERBVI and Perkins Compass , um, Mark, Leslie , and Lee, if each of you maybe could take a moment and tell us a little bit about your organizations. Um, do you want to start with Mark?

    Mark: 8:15

    Sure. No Problem. Mark Richert, here. Uh , Interim Exec for AER. I hope everyone within the sound of my voice knows about, AER, if you don’t , uh, you’ll get a little glimpse here in the next 20 seconds or so. Um, we are the professional membership organization in our blindness community, which means if you are a teacher of students with vision impairments and orientation, mobility experts, a vision rehab therapy person, a related services type, and the administrator working in the blindness biz. Uh, you are, or you should be one of our members. And that mostly means for, for this conversation, that a lot of the folks who are our members, do you spend a fair amount of their time working with transition age, young people, and I hope bringing a great deal to that table and helping that young person translate from the high school years on into college career.

    Kathryn : 9:17

    Thanks Mark. That’s great. As a proud AER member, myself and a teacher who has worked with transition age youth , um, I certainly recognize , uh, the tremendous resource that AER has been to me , uh, in supporting those kids. Um, speaking of, of resources. How about Lee ? And can you tell us a little bit about , um, how VSA or VisionServe Alliance supports transition?

    Lee: 9:49

    Yeah , sure . Thanks Kathryn. So VisionServe Alliance is actually a North American Association , uh , primarily of private nonprofit organizations, providing services to people of all ages who are blind, visually impaired. So, you know, we have dog guide schools and schools for the blind. Um, and a lot of our members are community-based organizations providing a comprehensive menu of vision rehabilitation services. Most of whom include transition services. Our organization is dedicated to training and providing resources to the leadership teams of those organizations so they can fulfill their missions. And so some of our conferences and our webinars are focused on the subject, but I’d say at least 60% of the 130 or so organizations that belong to visions or provide some type of transition service in different states across the country. And , um, we were very involved with the beginnings of , of this program and it’s wonderful to see it flourish. You know, I personally know students that they’re grown- ups now , um, but they were students going through transition and have blossomed into just really wonderful professionals. And I think many of them would credit the experiences. They were afforded through a transition program at one of these community-based organizations.

    Kathryn : 11:21

    Thanks for sharing that. Um, our final, our final guest, our final partner is Perkins. And , uh , Leslie, we have you here representing Perkins and I know Perkins is big and, and you are representing many hats today, but if you could maybe just tell us how Perkins is supporting transition, that would be awesome.

    Leslie: 11:44

    So , um, thank you so much for having me today. Um , like Lee , we’ve been part of different conversations with APH for a while . The value, the importance of transition and Perkins as an institution , um, has integrated it into its campus-based experiences. We have a whole Office of Transition, like most schools for the blind working with our students, age 14 to 22 to identify their next best steps , um, as they head into the future and graduate from high school. Um, but Perkins is also embracing transition as a more complex task for some of the students outside of Perkins who are in their homeschool environment and they , um , need additional support to have successful transitions into whatever their next step is. And so I represent, not just the Perkins program for students age 13, or age three all the way up to age 22, but our transition programs , um, under the Perkins umbrella also include programs such as Compass that Kathryn referred to, which is a virtual transition program for students aged , um, basically grade nine through grade 11 nationally, and it’s virtual using a coaching model to help students articulate goals and identify steps to move forward. Um , and then Perkins has also launched a career launch program, which is typically for older students, but it catches that transition age for , um , it works with students age 18 to 30. And so we are , um, innovating and taking the learning that we all have from the field and trying to integrate it to meet the needs. And I’m, I love that APH has identified the need to have a coherent resource for families and , um, practitioners out there in the field , um, so that we can go to a trusted source and look up information to find the best match for services for our different students. So I’m thrilled to be a part of this, and I know Perkins is thrilled to support it, and it’s going to make transitions better for all of our students across the country. So , um, we’re happy to be here today.

    Kathryn : 13:53

    We’re excited that you’re part of this program too. Thanks a lot. Um, back to back to you guys, the next question is what does trans , what does transition look like and how do you support it? Um, so you, you may have touched on that a little bit, but , uh, if not, this is your time to kind of , uh, to broaden your discussion. So , uh, Leslie, since we have you right here, let’s do it in the opposite, the opposite direction. Um, what does transition look like and how does your organization support it?

    Leslie: 14:36

    Boy, that’s a, that’s a chunky question. Um, I will , um, so transition looks very different for each student. Our students are very diverse. They bring different strengths and they bring different challenges to , to their transition age, right? When we think of the growth of a individual between the ages of 14 and 22, we know enormous growth happens. And so , um, from the Perkins perspective, we bring that individual and individualized attention to each individual student. Where at large, we know that transition is sometimes coordinated and sometimes would benefit from additional coordination. When we think of the services of a TVI of related service providers, orientation and mobility specialists, parents, teachers, maybe a college counselor, if a student’s lucky or, u m, some other vocational rehab counselor, u m, through a student’s state or other guidance that a student might have. U m, there’s a lot of different things to consider as students engage in the act of transition and, and it’s a big world out there. And, u m, I certainly know it can be confusing. So, u m, we work at Perkins and we work with folks like, u m, APH, AER VisionServe to help ease that transition, make it make more sense. U m, so the parents and students understand there’s a range of options and there’s a range of timelines that might improve the success of transition. U m, so we, we w ant t o empower people with knowledge so they can make better informed decisions over the l ongterm for greater success. I h ope that answers your question.

    Kathryn : 16:21

    That’s a great answer. That’s a great answer. Thank you, Lee . Same, same question to you. What does transition look like and how does your organization support it?

    Lee: 16:31

    Sure. So I’m gonna answer from the perspective , um , of, of having been a provider in a Florida agency, because I’m most familiar with their programs and , uh, Florida has a pretty robust network of private providers. I believe there are 18 organizations throughout the state of Florida that cover every County and all of them provide transition services. And so they’re community-based organizations and , uh, start working with children , um, as young as 14 and would offer afterschool on the weekends. Um, and the summertime , uh, over school breaks a variety of programming to fit that student’s schedule. Um, that it could be tutoring where they need in specific classes that they’re struggling with in school, always included work experience and paid work experience. By the way, I believe that’s required year round now. Um, field trips, overnights , in the summer times they would organize camps where the students would spend at least two weeks in the dorms on at colleges around the state of Florida. So they could start to experience what that would be like when they went to college , um, uh, learning , uh , how to create a resume, mock interviews. Uh, it was arranged with community employers , uh , and oftentimes that the Light Houses to have the HR directors themselves interview students in preparation for them pursuing jobs themselves. So , uh , a whole host of things just as Leslie said, to meet the individual needs of those students, but a pretty broad menu. And , and this is all working around them, going to school and many times, you know , participate , of course this is pre pandemic, that I’m thinking, but, you know, being involved in sports and band, how do you work around that? But that was the job of the community-based organizations to work around that and meet the needs of the student and that family.

    Kathryn : 18:51

    Great. Thanks . Thank you. That’s that’s that’s great information. Um, Mark, bring us home. What does transition look like and how does AER support it?

    Mark: 19:06

    Well, I guess I’ll do the second one first , uh , you know, AER is being a professional membership association. Our focus day-to-day, isn’t supporting the professionals , uh, who are our frontline advocates, conquerors , uh , go-getters to help , uh , particularly , uh, you know, young people on the education side, young people , uh , through the whole transition process of the extent to which AER can lay claim to helping with the transition process and helping kiddos directly. It’s really through supporting the professionals, making sure that they’re equipped with the most robust array of continuing education, professional development opportunities , uh , et cetera. And , uh , one can not , uh, oversell the need for , uh, networking and to have teachers who can support each other in creativity ideas for what to do so many of those teachers out there are , uh, you know, spending more time , uh , in , in cars, traveling from one site to another when we were allowed to travel. So you know, there’s a certain amount of isolation among professionals out there. So hopefully if AER is doing our job. We’re helping our blindness field , uh, with connecting individual professionals with each other. So I believe that contributes. So the mix, but I want to go back to fundamentals for a second. So transition often people hear this word and they assume that this is some other set of stuff that maybe you have to apply for, or that you have to beg for in terms of services for kids, but on a very fundamental level , uh, if you’re a special ed kid, then you have a right to transition services and the services that should be provided to you or to your child , we as a special ed child, if your child has an IEP, Lord knows that’s your ticket in to talking about what does my kiddo need? And as Leslie, so rightly points out that there is no, there is no such thing as you know, this transition package. There , there is an array of stuff in that toolbox and , uh, parents and educators and administrators sitting around those IEP tables, helping to decide the future of a child’s educational , uh, you know , specialized instruction, need to help map that out. And so every student is going to be a little different. The classic example I like to bring up here is I don’t , I can’t tell you how many times that I know the professionals on this call. I’ve heard this, or probably even have firsthand stories of your own to share of how many students who are blind or visually impaired may be in fact, pretty , uh, you know, rigorous academic performers who managed to accomplish great things in high school, and then go off to college. And six weeks later are just, you know, on a wreck because there are precious or little to no independent living skills , uh , travel skills, et cetera. So, you know, when, when, when you, whoever you are, when you’re thinking about transition , uh, think about that, it’s really that whole set of life skills. And I think we mean this, when we say this, it can be just about any set of skills training that your individual child may need. Yes, there are these programs out there. Some of our colleagues here on the call are sort of incarnations of the different structures that are available to help support, you know, nationally or regionally the delivery of specific kinds of transition services. Uh, but if you are parent of kiddo who says, in my particular case, you know , uh, my child may not necessarily be going off to college, or even if they are here are the things that are really needed. I think we need to explore X, Y, and Z options. All options are really on the table. And it’s important that you talk about them, document them so that kiddo gets those services that my concluding comment will be this. The, there is an expectation, u h, in the law and across the country, t hat that schools work cooperatively with your state vocational rehabilitation system. U h, this works better in some states than others. That’s the story of America, but, you know, there is an expectation that schools and state agencies work together. What does that mean as a practical matter for you? It means number one, no one can give you an excuse that there’s no money for it. B ut number two, it means that there are an array of professionals. If the educators are not necessarily equipped to provide a certain type of thing for your students, vocational rehabbers certainly should be. U h, a nd number three, there should be a, hopefully the goal is a seamless handoff from school to adulthood. If the services that your child growing up, you know, becoming an adult needs, u h, the system is supposed to work that way. If it doesn’t reach out to the rest of us on this podcast and other places in your network, and we’d love to help you make that happen or fix it.

    Kathryn : 24:28

    Thanks Mark. Olaya, we’re going to go back to you for a second. So can you tell us , um, how the Transition Hub works together with the supporting agencies to make all this happen?

    Olaya: 24:45

    Okay , sure . Um, so the, the way the Transition Hub is going to work with the supporting agencies, one is by maintaining communication with each of them. So it’s not like we’re gonna contact them this year and then forget about them for the next five years. So where it’s going to be this constant, not constant every day , but you know , more consistent communication , um , with these agencies to make sure one that their information is updated. Um, meaning they’re if leadership changes , um, different programs that are offered , um , because they don’t always stay the same. I mean, sometimes they change from year to year. Sometimes they changed from every six months to six months. Uh, it all depends on grant funding and, you know, state funding, different, different , um, things can affect what type of programs are offered. Um, so we want to be sure that we are keeping that up to date and so that communication is going to be there. Um, so that’s how one way that we would be working , um , with the agencies. And in addition to that, trying to keep the videos updated those interactive pieces, where , um, you know, we don’t want a video from this year of a student who went through a transition program and then leave it up there for five years, you know , uh , and we want to make sure that we are getting current experiences of students , uh , or individuals who are going through these programs to make sure that they’re on those websites. So that those who are going to these websites are , are seeing that this is new information. These are, these are new programs. These are kids who are actually going through this , um, at the same time that maybe my student or my child is going through this, so that working together, trying to make sure that we keep those things going , um, and current, right. Um, and then of course the other big piece of this, as we’d like to keep working with programs, to organize like webinars and panel discussions and round tables regularly, we already have the National Transition Conversation. So that’s one thing that we’re doing. But with the Transition Hub, we’d like to gather the , our partners who are part of the Transition Hub to plan for these webinars, these round table discussions, these panels , um, you know, regularly throughout the year and throughout the years , um, to give students and parents and teachers , um, field professionals and employers, the opportunity to not only visit the Hub and get this information, visit the Hub landing pages for all the different organizations, but to also be able to interact with those organizations in real time. So, because I think that that’s important too because people don’t know what questions to ask because, they don’t know what they don’t know. And so even looking at the web pages , the landing pages of each of these organizations, they get the information, but there’s something about being able to actually interact with the people who are talked about on those pages and questions come up and other people might have questions that they didn’t think about. And so having that ability to actually interact with our partners , um, and the transition hub, I think is another big way that we’re going to keep , uh, working together with the supporting agencies. This is not just like a one-off and we’re going to leave it alone. So that’s one of the biggest ways that I see that we’re going to continue this , um, this partnership and working together.

    Kathryn : 28:14

    That’s awesome. Very dynamic. And I’m definitely not going to just become a stagnant list on the website.

    Olaya: 28:21

    No, Nope. That’s not what we want. And we’re trying to fix that.

    Kathryn : 28:27

    So, an open question to all of you , um, as the transition hub evolves, where would you like to see it go?

    Olaya: 28:40

    Well, I can start real quick and then I’ll let , uh , then I’ll let our, our inaugural partners take over. Um, and I, I’m a very big pie in the sky person. So, you know, I just I’m, this is what I really, really, really would like. And this comes from my experience that I had with , uh, when I worked for the , um, uh, Illinois Deaf Blind Program, where we had regional transition , um, summits. And I would love to be able to see as this Transition Hub grows and more pages grow. And we start looking at the different transition programs and agencies and like certain regions of the country to come together and pull resources together. And of course, a sponsorship by APH, to then have these transition summits for kids in those regions. Um, I think that was, I grew so much as a professional in my life, going to these summits and seeing how these kids interacted with , um, the , the different agencies and the different resources that they brought together. Um , it was the most fun I’ve ever had and I’m an adult I wasn’t even in the transition program, but it was, it was, it was the most fun I’ve ever had because it was amazing how much you could see the change in the students and the families over a span of three days. It was amazing to see that. And so I would love to see this hub lend itself to eventually some regional partnerships where kids can take advantage of the fact that we have all the hub agencies cooperating together and getting to learn about each other, because right now everybody’s kind of out there, doing their own thing. But once we get together, people will start saying, Oh, I can help you with this. Or, Oh, we do that. And we can pull that together. And , and I think that’s going to make it so much better. And , uh, for the students who we are trying to help , um, through that transition process. So , um, that would be my, where I would like to see this go. Um, so , uh, and now I’ll hand it over to the others who, who are the ones who are out there doing the legwork. So don’t kill me. That’s what I love to be able to see, hopefully it’s not impossible. But , um, that , that’s where I would love to see this go. Just the opportunity where everybody’s here, we’re all going to be together. There’s no reason that we can’t pull together and help our kids even more.

    Leslie: 31:14

    This is Leslie. I, I love that idea Olaya we’ve, we’ve kind of batted that around from time to time. I, you know, and I’d love to see as a part of that. Some, whether it’s national standards or a more consistent sort of national approach that integrates current developmental psychology, current educational, psychology, current understanding of all of the elements of transition helping happening nationally. Anyhow, there’s, there’s so many layers occurring right now that are supporting students , um, taking different paths , um, think college and their approach , um, to creating college options for students with intellectual disabilities. I just read a fantastic article about , um, Florida’s community colleges offering a bachelor’s with very practical hands-on career directive training that really opens up the possibility , um , for students to take their time, not go broke and set themselves up for success. Um, but we, we need a national conversation about that. So I love that idea , Olaya, honestly .

    Lee: 32:25

    This is Lee and I guess my , my greatest hope is that , uh , students across the country , um, and families with students with visual impairment , uh , learn more about the services available and , and connect if they’re not already. Um, and so how we get this word out to families and students, and, and they, they see it as valuable and participate in it. Um, I just think it made such a difference in the lives of the kids I saw go through it. I, you know, and I would say, I am the parent of , um , four children and one of my children is blind and has multiple disabilities. And the rest are what’s known as typically developing. And I wished all of my kids could have gone through transition because I felt like my son who was blind, got a big leg up with the services that went through it. And I don’t know if families and students appreciate that, you know, with, until they experienced it. They, they may not understand just how valuable it can be. So if we got that word out, lots more would participate in this ,

    Mark: 33:37

    Uh, great. And I think , um, the only thing I can really contribute to here is to encourage all concerned, to always remember to , uh, you know, be big and bold and grow and all those good things while somehow keeping it simple and straightforward. Sometimes I know because I am, I’ve been blind all my life. So I am the son of a mom , uh , who has reported this many times. And I’ve heard this from other parents as well. Sometimes you can almost provide people too much information, or they’ll, they’ll find a resource and say, Oh my gosh, in other words, in order to really understand how to do what’s right by my kid, I have to master this mass of information. I have to be able to map out this whole network of stuff and people and organizations. It’s wonderful to have those resources to turn to, and if there’s a way to organize them, et cetera, et cetera. That’s wonderful. I do think that there is a crying need, not just in this area, but frankly just about everywhere in the , in the blindness system. Uh, those of us who are nerds and love to talk about all the little details about things and how big and vast and sometimes complicated it can be, can actually be a disservice. So whatever we do moving , moving forward, I hope that built into the plans is that constant sort of voice in the back of our heads saying, “keep it simple, keep it straightforward.” Let’s make sure that we have a robust set of resources, but that it is streamlined so that people are not overwhelmed when they encounter it. Thanks.

    Kathryn : 35:21

    “Keep it simple.” That is very wise Mark. Very wise. All right. Well, we’re, we’re getting we’re , we’re wrapping this up and we do have a couple more questions. Um, Olaya, if you have not already done. So how would you explain the Transition Hub to someone who’s curious about it?

    Olaya: 35:47

    Yeah. Um, well , um, I think the way I would explain it kind of like an elevator speech, you know, you’re just supposed to give it really quick. Um, I would just say the transition hub is , is the one-stop shop or curated up-to-date information about the different kinds of transition programs that are out there around the country. Um, and this can help students, families, teachers , uh , find that right fit for their particular student and their particular situation. That’s how I would explain it. Cause just like Mark mentioned before, not all kids are going to go to college, even though I know we push that college, college, college, it may not be the right fit for that particular student. The right fit might be a vocational training program or the right fit might be going straight to a job. And , and there’s , those are, those are all appropriate choices for our students. Um, but we can’t make those choices for them. They need to make that choice for themselves. But in order for them to be able to make that choice, they have to be able to go somewhere where they can get the information about all the different programs that are available so that they can make educated decisions, educated choices. So that’s how I would explain it.

    Kathryn : 36:59

    I like it. I like it. Our final question. Um, Olaya, Mark, Leslie, Lee. Is there anything that I missed or that you want to mention about , um, Transition Hub, transition your organizations? Um, just, this is, this is it. You can, you can share that last nugget.

    Mark: 37:25

    Well, I , I I’ll jump in only because thank you Olaya for stimulating a thought in my mind. So as I’ve mentioned, I’ve been blind all my life. I’m a lawyer I was very privileged growing up, thank God for amazing families and all of that. Uh, there are plenty of kiddos who don’t have any of those advantages. And on top of the privilege that I have, some of those students may actually have been dealing with lifelong blindness. And as someone might say, maybe blindness is the least of their issues and there may be other disability issues kicking around. So I guess one thing that’s on my mind is that as we all talk about transition, of course, we want to, you know , push high expectations and having high expectations is also a pretty relative concept because there may be students for whom that array of stuff that happens after school doesn’t include any of the options that Olaya mentioned. It may very well be that transition equals equipping a person to the extent that they can to have basic life skills. To potentially live maybe on their own. And the range of opportunities may be limited for that person because of other disabilities they may be living with. My only point is, I can tell you that what some years ago, when I spoke as the commencement speaker at one of the schools for the blind, the person who introduced me, introduced me to some kind of a role model for these students. And I learned after the fact to my embarrassment, that all of the students coming out of that particular school that year, all 13 graduates , uh , really were not students who were even sort of academic at all because of other disabling issues. But even those children, and I might even argue, especially those children deserved. I hope they got it , some kind of transition services to meet their needs. I don’t want anybody within the sound of our voice to think that we’re not caring about your kid , if that’s what your story is all about. So you may see a lot of stuff that looks highfalutin and job and career and college degrees. That’s all part of the spectrum. And we dare not forget folks on any part of that spectrum.

    Kathryn : 39:45

    I completely agree. Thank you. Thank you for bringing that out. Um, Lee or, or , uh, Leslie jump in, Leslie . I just want to add ,

    Leslie: 39:59

    I know I appreciate Mark’s comments and I , I, you know, I have a motto when I work with any student or a family, which is assume nothing. And , um , in my 30 plus years, working with students in transition in different types of educational environments, I think that that helps us to best hear where that student is coming from to assume that they want to grow and , and reach, and , um , that there may be other things outside their control, what be it , um , multiple disabilities or a home environment where there may be , um, a range of support available. We need to listen carefully and not assume , when we envision what our plan might be for that student , um, or why a student may or may not be working or leaning in on a particular project or task or enrichment activity that we think would be wicked awesome for them. Um, it’s complicated. And , um, and that, that’s, that’s the thing I think I would, I has been the greatest gift of my career understanding that, but , um, it’s also sometimes the hardest to listen to when we’re busy and moving fast through a lot of different things. And this Hub will help us create a broader range of options for students more quickly , um, rather than having families and practitioners have to Wade through a whole lot of different resources to find the best enrichment opportunity for an individual student.

    Lee: 41:36

    Amen. And just last word as a , as a parent of a child , um, and an administrator that we all want the same things for our kids, regardless of, of their circumstances or disabilities. We want them to be happy and to belong and transition services is just one way that can help you find that for your child.

    Olaya: 41:58

    Hi , um , I’d like to say thank you to the Gibney Family Foundation for their generous support of the APH ConnectCenter. Transition Hub. We couldn’t do it without them.

    Kathryn : 42:08

    Thank you all. Thank you all for taking time to , to share your perspectives and for your partnership with the , um, APH ConnectCenter Transition Hub, I’m super excited about this coming out. Olaya when can we expect to see a lunch ?

    Olaya: 42:25

    Um, the APH ConnectCenter Transition Hub is , um , planned for for launching , um, in the summer , um , July of 2021. So, you know, keep , uh, keep a lookout for that. And for some social media, letting everybody know when it’s going to be launched and ready to go.

    Sara: 42:48

    Thank you so much Kathryn. The Transition hub is going to make a big difference for so many people. We’ve put links to the APH ConnectCenter, CareerConnect, the Transition Hub and all the other wonderful partners that were in this podcast. Just check in the show notes for additional information. Now we’re going to check in with Partners with Paul.

    Paul: 43:11

    Thanks, Sara. And welcome back to partners with Paul I’m delighted state to have Mandy Lau with me. She’s the creator and inventor of Reach and Match.

    Mandy: 43:20

    Thanks Paul.

    Paul: 43:20

    Mandy, welcome to the podcast. Can you tell us what Reach and Match is?

    Mandy: 43:26

    Sure. Um, the Reach and Match is an award winning, play-based, learning system with a research based program for children of all abilities. It enables children with vision impairment or other disabilities to play and learn brraille alongside with their peers. Um , and they can build their physical, cognitive, language and social emotional skills through all the play-based activities.

    Paul: 43:54

    Oh , that’s really great. Can you tell us what comes in the kit?

    Mandy: 43:58

    Yes. Um , the learning kits includes full large playmates . Each has a different color and pattern. It also includes 26 sprout and print the tiles , including rep circles, blue triangles , green squares, and yellow pentagons, and each shape has a different pattern as well. And the key , it also includes a round cushion, a portable bag and activity manual.

    Paul: 44:25

    Thank you for that. Can you tell us how reach and match works? Sure.

    Mandy: 44:31

    Um, Reach and Match is a double-sized sensory play. One side of each mat features a texture with a tactile pattern that matches the corresponding tiles. Therefore children can play with matching and shopping patterns, colors, shapes and sounds of the tiles and the other side of the mats with, Oh, we recessive white path and they are shakes that correspond to the same tiles. Therefore children can put the tiles into the alphabetical order and at the same time, they can learn about that Russian spatial concepts and develop motor skills and also the puzzle mats they can make into different horizontal and vertical configurations and that are expandable as well and allow many children to play together. And there are unlimited ways to play.

    Paul: 45:26

    Thank you. I appreciate that. Now I hear there’s another product that’s coming out in the fall that we’re going to be putting out that’s part of Reach and Match. It’s the, the Replacement Alphabet Tile Set. Can you tell us more about that?

    Mandy: 45:39

    Yes. Uh , this is very exciting because our customers have been requesting it. So it’s wonderful that we can offer it at APH now. Um , multiple tile sets would be very beneficial for both individual and classroom activities, for example, the spelling games and many other games that list inside our activity menu.

    Paul: 46:03

    And finally, can you tell us what makes this kit so unique and special?

    Mandy: 46:07

    Absolutely. Um, it is because , uh, Reach and Match is very accessible, fun and friendly to that. It’s able to support a range range of children with different ages and many needs. For example, is very tactile and sensory that help young blind children to support pre- braille and body skills. But the program also provides some challenging activities for older children to develop cognitive language and teamwork skills too . Therefore, I believe this creative application can support the children to reach their educational and five-year goals effectively.

    Paul: 46:45

    And Mandy, where can we learn more about Reach and Match?

    Mandy: 46:49

    Um, the activity manual has already included all the activities and games. Um, we recently also developed a series of program videos. So if you are interested, you can contact us directly. The email is Also we did two training webinars with APH that you can find from the Access Academy, which include many useful application share by the peers and educators. So if you are interested, I highly recommend you to check them out.

    Paul: 47:29

    It’s been really great talking to you, Mandy . Thank you very much for joining us today.

    Mandy: 47:33

    Thanks Paul.

    Paul: 47:39

    We’ve included in the show notes, a link to Mandy’s website, as well as her email address. The product page on and the links to the two Access Academy webinars on Reach and Match. Thank you for listening and let’s turn it back to Sara.

    Sara: 47:58

    Thanks so much, Paul. And before we let you go, we have one more special segment in this podcast. This essay titled “This I Believe” was recorded by Emily W., a graduating senior of the Ohio State School for the Blind.

    Emily: 48:12

    I believe that creativity and being creative can be a great coping skill. In today’s ever changing world. People feel that they have lost all fun in their lives or that they’ve lost all control of what happens next. Today’s busy world leaves little time for fun and relaxation. However, there is a way to relieve the stress of a busy day. The world of creativity. I believe that creativity is a great coping skill for anyone to have for a few reasons. First and foremost, it is an activity you can do almost anywhere, any time and any way. Creativity is such a broad term with many varieties grouped into it. The sky is truly the limit with what you can do. How does this tie into creativity, being a coping skill? Well with how open and limitless it is. You can be creative wherever you feel the need. And now with drawing , writing, and editing apps and desktop applications on the rise, you can take it with you. There really is no limit to when and where you can be creative. The second reason is that it’s a great tool for refocusing energy. Nervous energy can be hard to refocus and even harder to deal with a constant feeling of nervousness for an upcoming exam or worrying that maybe that presentation didn’t go quite like you’d hoped. It can be an awful feeling to deal with at times. And in times like these, I pull up a few videos to edit. It’s a repetitive process that once you start is easy to follow. A task like this is incredibly calming. If not because of the process then because of the fact that you’re focusing on something else. In some situations, focusing on a project that requires your full attention can help ease the nervousness you might have felt. And lastly, creativity is a world you can control. Everyone has felt helpless. And like they’re just being pulled around by fate. At least once in this fast paced world, it isn’t uncommon to want to do something. Not because you have to, but because you want to. Once again, the world of creativity provides a solution. If you enjoy writing, there is an entire world at your fingertips where you decide what happens next. Or if you’re drawing or editing. You make the decisions on what to make. No one is telling you how to create. No one is giving you any set deadline or criteria to follow and best of all, no one is telling you to be creative at a certain time or in a certain way. It’s all up to what you want to make. And when you want to make it, creativity is a skill. I believe everyone should learn as it can help in many ways. Some may think it’s exhausting, frustrating, or overall not worth the effort, but in the end, the struggle is what makes it worth it. Once a piece is done, you’ll know that it was you who made it. It was you who worked hard and that feeling is worth everything.

    Sara: 51:54

    We hope you enjoyed Emily’s essay, and we hope you enjoyed this podcast. Any links mentioned can be found in the show notes, take care and be sure to find ways you can be a change maker this week.

  • Jack Fox: 0:00

    Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host.

    Sara: 0:16

    Hello, and welcome to change makers. My name is Sara Brown and I’m APH is public relations manager. And this week we are celebrating teacher appreciation week and we’re talking to TV eyes to learn more about the field and the important work they do and the need for more. We’ll also have a check-in with partners with Paul and this podcast is going to be moderated by the superintendent of the Texas school for the Blind in Emily Coleman. Emily, I’m going to hand it over to you to do the introductions and get this podcast rolling.

    Emily: 0:51

    Hi, I’m Emily Coleman. I am the superintendent at the Texas school for the blind and visually impaired, and I am coming up on my 10th anniversary in the field as a professional. Um, I’m also a certified teacher of the visually impaired , um, but I’m also the parent of a child who is blind with multiple disabilities and he’s 16-years-old. So that’s how long I’ve really been in the field.

    Rachel: 1:15

    Um , well, my name is Rachel Bigum and I am a teacher of the Visually Impaired and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist in Zanesville City Schools in Zanesville, Ohio. And I am also the program manager for the Ohio State University program in Visual or an Orientation and Mobility , um, as well.

    Kristin: 1:36

    Hello, my name is Kristin Oien. I have been a licensed teacher of the blind and visually impaired and certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist. Uh , for over 30 years, I am currently the Specialist for the Blind and Visually Impaired within Minnesota Department of Education.

    Leanne: 1:54

    I I’m the National Director of Outreach Services with the American Printing House for the Blind, but I also am a Adjunct Professor at Florida State University teaching a variety of courses in the visual impairments program, as well as a doctoral student in the same program.

    Emily: 2:12

    All right. So the first question as , um , a TVI or a teacher of students with visual impairments provides direct or special education services related to vision loss, can any of you describe a typical day in the life of a TVI who wants to take that one?

    Rachel: 2:31

    Well, I guess since that’s my, my full-time gig , um, I will be glad to address that, but , um, I don’t have typical days. Um, every day is different , um, in the life of a TVI, some days I , um , am running to seven different buildings to see, you know, seven different students. Some days I am transcribing braille. Um, some days I’m teaching orientation mobility. Um, since I also have that certification , um, some days I am talking with teachers , um, to help adapt , um , materials for the classroom, help figure out maybe what devices or other , um, accommodative equipment might be helpful for that student. Um , some days I’m just helping my kids through a rough day. Um, it’s , it’s this full encompassing? Um, no, no two days the same type of environment and I absolutely love it. And , um, I, I love the variety in how , um, it constantly makes you be flexible and thinking. And so it’s really hard to get stagnant because you’re always having to be more creative and coming up with new ideas and new ways to , um, to better serve the students that you’re working with. So in a short version of this, that’s a typical day for me. It’s a pretty good summary.

    Emily: 3:50

    Kristin, is there anything else you’d like to add?

    Kristin: 3:54

    I, I agree , uh, being really flexible, lots of driving and dealing with all the nuances of , uh , individual schools , uh , procedures and staff and yeah, but there’s so much involved with being an itinerant teacher. Okay. So in our, oh, Leanne , did you want to add something about that?

    Leanne: 4:17

    I was just going to say I worked in three large states as a teacher of students with visual impairments and orientation mobility specialist. And I was often the lone wolf. I was the only one who knew what I was talking about. And so what’s great about technology today is that we get to lean on each other remotely much easier, but that typical day doesn’t exist. That’s the fun part. That’s the out about out of the box, thinking that we get to do.

    Emily: 4:46

    All right now, a TVI is only one acronym in our field where special education is buried in acronyms. So there’s a few more here that I’m wondering if any of you want to try to explain, which include TBVI, O&M and COMS. So what are those acronyms and what do they do?

    Leanne: 5:07

    I’ll jump in. A teacher of students with visual impairments, a teacher of the visually impaired, a teacher of the blind and the visually impaired. Those are some of the ways that someone might take TVI, TSVI or a variety. It really depends on where you are. And if you go to a different country, you’re going to hear something even more unique depending on where you are. We don’t typically enjoy blind teacher. Um, that’s that’s while it is a connection, it’s the reverse. Some of us might be blind, but not all of us. And then orientation and mobility that O&M you often when you just hear O&M, that is the work that’s learning how to travel , uh, with or without a cane , uh, orientation and mobility can involve both. And the COMS is the certification saying that you are a certified orientation and mobility specialist. So you can be an orientation and mobility specialist without the COMS. And every state is different. Some require this “C” getting certified by a specific body and some don’t, it really depends on where you are in the United States.

    Emily: 6:26

    How Rachel or Kristen , do you want to add what a COMS might do or an O&M provider?

    Kristin: 6:37

    Uh , mobility instructors, they provide specialized instruction , uh, and specialized techniques , uh, to teach , uh, students who are blind and visually impaired to know where they are in space and then , um, how to travel safely to places that they want to go.

    Rachel: 6:54

    And I would add that , um, you know, a lot of times instruction in orientation, mobility is not just , um, travel and movement, but also social appropriateness in public , um, that also gets addressed largely. Um, and that’s kind of a crossover area for teachers of the visually impaired and orientation mobility specialists, because it’s important to know, you know, when you’re out traveling, how can I seek assistance from a stranger , um , or for somebody in the public if I need to. Um, and so those things are also, you know, kind of part of the umbrella there.

    Emily: 7:28

    All right. What peaked your interest to become a TVI or what did you study in college and Rachel, since you were , you were just talking, you want to go first?

    Rachel: 7:38

    Sure. So I have a very , um, interesting journey to becoming a TVI. This is actually my second career in life. Um, and I started out , um, in psychology. That’s what my undergraduate degree was in. I wanted to do , um, marriage and family counseling. Um, and that kind of led once I got out of undergrad, I worked , um , at Help Me Grow, which is a early intervention program for birth to three year olds. And , um, through that program, I actually met a mom who was losing her sight. Um, and it was a progressive condition. And part of help me grow is that , um, the service coordinators will help connect parents to services that they need so that they can be the best parent they can be. And so this mom had asked me, you know, what services are out there for people who have lost their vision and what , what can I seek and who can I ask? And I didn’t know the answers to those questions. So I , um, I did some research and I asked some people that I knew that were kind of in the educational field, you know, what they, what they had , um , you know , to offer and found out that Ohio State University had a program in orientation and mobility. Um, because there , there weren’t a lot of providers in Ohio, like that was a huge , um , a huge issue. It was like, okay, I know what to look for, but now where do I find it? Um, and so once I learned about the program at OSU, I kind of decided like I’m going to help be a solution to this problem. Um , so I applied for the program and ended up getting my , um, Orientation and Mobility license first , um, and then worked as an O&M for about four years before going back to , um, the Ohio state university to get my master’s degree in visual impairments education. Um, so they could also have the TBI portion. Um, so, you know, for me, it all started with a parent who was losing her vision and wanting to find solutions for her and deciding that, you know, I can, I can help be one of the solutions and obviously you can’t solve the world’s problems, but if I can help this little Southeast corner of Ohio, I’m sure it’s going to do it.

    Emily: 9:46

    So that’s, that’s my story, Kristen , what about you?

    Kristin: 9:53

    I would like to just back up and kind of review what a teacher of the blind and visually impaired does. Um , just because I think it’s important for folks to understand , um , that students who are blind and visually impaired are , um , general education students first and , uh , general educators are responsible for teaching that general core curriculum and the TBVI. Um, uh , one of our main goal, our main roles is to ensure that the gen ed curriculum is accessible to our students. And so much is missed due to sensory loss that we provide those things through the expanded core curriculum or the ECC. And so our instruction , um, supports our students to be able to access the general, the general core curriculum and those , uh , nine expanded core curriculum areas are , um, assistive technology, career education, independent living skills, orientation, mobility, recreation, leisure, self-determination sensory efficiency and , uh , social interaction skills. And that’s , uh , that’s the amazing and fun part about being a teacher of the blind and visually impaired. We get to work on all those things. So anyway, what peaked my interest , um, I have a very unique story too. I , uh , graduated with a psychology and elementary , uh , degree and I , um, was going in. I wanted to teach , uh , second and third graders. That was my, my whole focus. Um, I could not get my foot in the door as a general education teacher. And I was hired as an emergency hire for a teacher of the blind who was on maternity leave. And I absolutely fell in love with the kids. So I learned braille on the fly. Um, I grew up in Hawaii, they didn’t have a program. They held my teaching position and I went back to San Francisco State. Um, and I got my master’s degree in VI. Um, and then about eight years later, I went back and got my orientation mobility degree. But , um, yeah, I just, I fell in love with , with these kiddos.

    Leanne: 12:09

    Mine is kind of a reverse of both of you. I read a book in the fourth grade, it was called “Follow My Leader” about a boy who’s 12 who loses his eyesight and very unrealistic. He goes and gets a guide dog at 12 . I want it to be the teacher that came to his house when he had first lost a sight and taught him that secret code and learned how to travel to his friend’s house. And I wanted to be that teacher. That’s the teacher I wanted . Now I grew up with educators by parents or educators. So that was not an unusual choice to be a teacher, but the teacher of the blind was very unique. So in fourth grade from then on, all you saw were my papers. And anything I wrote for school was digging into the field and learning about it at whatever age level I was at. And when I graduated high school, I had looked specifically for a college that had the program. I lived in Florida, Florida State University had the program. And I can tell you, I was a very young college student at 17. I started and I was knocking on Purvis Ponder’s door at 17 and saying, “when can I get in the program?” “When can I get in the program?” And he said, you’ve got to wait your two years. And, and so I did , uh, so I was out teaching it 21 , uh, students sometimes almost my age when I was teaching. And when I started in upstate New York to , I want, you have to continue your education and upstate New York, you have to get your master’s . And there wasn’t a program that didn’t make me leave my students. And there’s rarely something called a substitute teacher for your students. And so therefore what I did was get an elementary ed masters because that made the most sense for what I was working on and it was available and I didn’t have to leave my students, which was , uh , near and dear to my heart. And then when I moved around the United States and then came back to Florida, I was able to , uh , relocate and teach at FSU, but then pursue my doctorate. So it’s, it is a love area.

    Emily: 14:11

    I think you’re the first person I’ve ever talked to that has wanted to be one since they were a little kid that wasn’t, you know, our students often want to be grow up to be teachers like us, because we’re so great of course, but you know, to not have that personal connection with somebody and just want to go into the field. That’s great Leanne. So speaking of knocking on college doors , um, Leanne , can you tell us more about college prep programs and what colleges provide the programs needed for somebody looking to become a TVI ?

    Leanne: 14:42

    Well, of course I would always say my program is the best, but no there’s wonderful programs out there across the United States. Definitely not the, oh, you can find it at every corner you turn or in every state. So you do have to go searching for them. You can always reach out to the American Printing House for the Blind. You can reach out to me if you want to find different programs and know if there’s one in your area, I can help connect you because there are programs, hopefully near enough, there are programs also that are offered it with a virtual , uh , ability so that you can take courses, some require summers or weekends to come in, because this is a sort of hands-on field. So there is some experience that you really do benefit from being face-to-face in person to learn from. So the, there are, it’s usually a two year program. There are some that are three year at , if you’re looking for a bachelor’s and it allows you to go all the way through to your master’s , but do look, there are master’s programs. And of course there’s doctorate programs. The colleges often are looking for people who are just interested in doing something a little different. If you get this degree, you can get a job just about anywhere. You can go anywhere. If, if you are, if your spouse needs to move, don’t worry. There’s probably a job in that area too. So the flexibility is there and the flexibility is also there to either work independently, independent contractor, you like that feel , go for it, work for a school district, work for a cooperative work for an agency, work for a not-for-profit. So the flexibility is there. And so colleges are looking for people that are kind of out of the box. Now, Rachel and Kristen , both shared that they fell into the field and that’s not uncommon in the college environment. A trick FSU has, has utilized to encourage people, to look into our field and get into our program is the College of Nursing is right across the road. Literally you can walk right across the road. And the College of Nursing has 100 slots for students, but they usually have about 300 applicants. It’s a helping field helping field. This allows you to really think about what you’re doing. Nursing is a helping field as well. We have this wonderful course called anatomy of the eye. So those nursing students might be bought in. When we tell you, you actually get to dissect the cow’s eye. So, Hey, it’s a beginning. So that’s, that’s just one of the things that you are often looking for. You’re looking for people who might not know about the field, but want to fall into it. And once you fall in , you’re staying, this is, this is a career that it’s really hard to let go. You love it.

    Emily: 17:42

    Now , uh, you already mentioned anatomy of the eye. What are some other classes that , um, individuals might take , uh , as they’re learning to become a TVI?

    Leanne: 17:54

    Braille, of course is always one that you’re going to see it. Every college you’re going to learn braille. Now it’s not a majority of your students that are reading braille most of the time, but you need to have it in your back pocket to be able to pull out. As soon as you get that student who needs that code to access their education. So that’s one of those courses. And then Kristin mentioned that we help make sure the students can access that general curriculum. So you take courses about building, making and teaching those accommodations for those students, whether it be using an assistive technology device to make print really large, or maybe it’s a device that hooks up to your computer that allows braille to come and a refreshable braille display under your fingertips, or maybe it’s learning how to tie your shoes or make your bed in a way that works for you, because you can’t see if those corners were tucked in just right. So you’re going to have courses that are surrounding those accommodations, but as also as mentioned, that expanded core curriculum, how do you teach social skills for someone who can see those are in those courses? How do you teach, asserting yourself and stating you need something? That’s what we help you learn. You’re going to learn how to do assessments. We do these , we need to know what our students need. And so we learn to evaluate those students’ needs before we start teaching them. That’s kind of it in a nutshell, and just like most teaching programs, there’s some type of internship where you are providing instruction under the guidance of a certified teacher.

    Emily: 19:37

    Now , Rachel needs , no , you said you were a university instructor. Did you have anything you wanted to add?

    Rachel: 19:43

    Um , well I, so much of the program I teach in is actually Orientation and Mobility, but it is very much the same kind of setup. Um, in our particular area, we do have one year certification programs for , um , individuals who already have their teaching license. Um, and at times actually , um, in recent years, those programs have been grant funded, meaning that tuition is available , um , for students to be able to go. Um, there’s just some minor costs. So , um, we’re really trying to limit the number of reasons why people can’t do it. Um , because you know, a lot of times, especially since a lot of programs are at a graduate level , um, you know, those are people who are working adults. And so that can be really challenging. Sometimes you have a family, sometimes you have, you know , um , your full-time job that might be, you know, kind of competing for your time. And so , um , we’ve really been trying to work on ways that we can make this an accessible licensure , um, for people who are interested in her passionate. Um, I can’t tell you how many times there have been , um , teachers who’ve had in their class with a visual impairment and that’s what piques their interests . That’s what makes them want to, you know, know what they, what they can do, what they could do better, what they could do more of , um , to be able to assist those students and maybe any future students that they might have. So that’s where our , our really valuable , um, you know, students come from and , and it’s just , um , fantastic to see that transition happen. And in my personal life, to working with teachers , um , where my students have been in their class, I’ve had several teachers who have said, I want to do this and have actually gone in and done the program themselves. So, you know, there’s a little bit of pride in that. Um , being able to share your love and passion for the field and being able to see that carried out , um, through some of your friends and other fellow teachers.

    Emily: 21:33

    Now , uh , grant funding is huge. I’m glad you mentioned that. Um, Leanne , do you know of other special scholarships available for those studying to become a TVI?

    Leanne: 21:43

    Sure. First and foremost, similar to Rachel, reach out to those university programs. Many of them have applied for grants to assist students in those programs, both orientation, mobility, and teachers of students with visual impairments. So definitely reach out to the program you’re interested in, and don’t be afraid to look in a program that isn’t as close to your house. Sometimes those universities actually have one, so don’t, don’t stop at your own front door. Go, go and check it out. If you’re looking for funding to assist you other places, our , um , professional group, the , uh , AER, oh gosh, anyone else could Association of the Education and the Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. It’s really long. We shortened it to AER that ha often has scholarships. Many local chapters will have scholarships as well. Uh, you can sometimes find scholarships through the council for exceptional students , uh, there a program as well. So look around Lyons Clubs sometimes have scholarships. So there are scholarships around you want to poke the places that, that tend to support the visually impaired. Uh, I’ve even seen , uh , some sororities like Delta Gamma will have , uh , scholarships. They’re not necessarily huge scholarships, but boy, $500 will cover your books. So look around. They are there.

    Emily: 23:17

    Thank you. Uh , Kristin, you haven’t been up for awhile , so I’m going to throw the next question your way first. So during your time in the field, what challenges have you faced and how did you get through them?

    Kristin: 23:31

    Uh , I think one of, as a beginning teacher, I think one of the most difficult situations where the high case loads and , um, just having , um, multiple , um, learners , uh, that were learning braille , um, and just not having enough time in the day to , uh , you know, to do what you needed to do. Um, and the way we worked around that is , uh, created a workload analysis, which included a time spent for , um, the preparation and brailling and interlining of material. And also , um, it incorporated travel time and time spent in , um, IEP meetings or , uh , going to the eye doctors with a family. Um, so we really try to address , um, all of the responsibilities that they can better assist the students. And that helped a lot. We were able to , um, you know, show on paper. This is what we spend our time doing. And so, and that helped. Yeah . Uh , another, another big issue. Um, when I first started was not having accessible educational materials in a timely manner. Um, and , uh, the issue is when Gen Ed teachers had material that needed to be brailled , we need, you know, we’d need at least three days sometimes to braille all this material. Um, and the way we got around that was , um, we developed some , uh, persons centered, one pagers for students to, to show , uh, what their needs were and how teachers could best meet those needs. And we also created some empathy labs for , uh , school staff to experience what it was like , uh, to have a sensory loss , um, with the hopes that they would , um, be much more willing to accommodate and support the student , um, in the, in the ways that we were asking.

    Emily: 25:38

    I like that empathy labs. I haven’t heard that term before. Rachel, what about you?

    Rachel: 25:45

    Um , I would just say for me personally , um, there , there have been a lot of challenges in my career. Um, but I would, I would agree with Kristin , um, caseload has been huge , um, and in trying to manage that, and especially I , um, we are kind of at the tip of a very rural area , um, in, in Appalachia. Um, and the number of service providers available is very limited. Um, and also the number of schools that , um , recognize the need for service professionals. And , um, I think that it’s just, it’s challenging to try to , um, allow people to understand just everything that a TVI does. Um, cause it’s not just braille and it’s not just large print, there’s just so many pieces and parts to the puzzle that , um, that factor in that, that take time and they take dedication effort. And so , um, you know, I think that for me is one of the biggest challenges. And then, you know, another challenge is really like, you know, I often am the one consistent through my student’s entire school career because I’m with them from the minute they start preschool until they graduate. Um, and in some of my students, because of my O&M license, I actually work with in an , into adulthood through another program. Um, simply because, you know, when you, when you build that rapport and that relationship , um, you wanna watch them succeed. You want to see them , um, just flourish in life and have good quality of life and to see all the successes and celebrate with them. Um, and so, you know, being that close, you really become part of people’s family. And , um, I think, you know, sometimes that can be a blessing and a challenge all in one. Um, simply because, you know, you walk through the hard days with your families. Um, it can be an emotionally kind of a difficult journey sometimes, but it’s also like one of the greatest blessings. So it’s a twofold for sure.

    Emily: 27:49

    Leanne, did you want to share any other challenges?

    Leanne: 27:54

    What both of them said definitely resonates. I can think of the overloaded case loads and wishing I had a friend to help teach as well as those emotional bonds that you make with, with students and you walk through their life with them. So, you know, I can, I can, that resonates really, truly, I think my largest challenge was that a student who had a progressive , um, health issue and losing a student. So that was probably my most challenging as I, I watched that progression in health. And so was at the funeral and, and I’m still connected with the family. Uh , the that’s, the thing is I was a connection to their child. And so therefore I have stayed a connection to them, even though the child is no longer with us.

    Emily: 28:46

    Well, I think you point to an important thing to mention that a lot of people don’t know about our field, which is that most of our students have , um, additional diagnoses, complicated medical histories , um, which is what adds so much, very bit variability to our work as well. But what are some other things that you wish people knew about our field?

    Rachel: 29:09

    I, I wish people just knew. Um, first of all, who we are, that were here, that were, that were actual career, we were actual people. I wish that , um, you know, our eye doctors were , um, better educated to be able to share the knowledge of what’s available for students. You know, so when they get those initial diagnoses, that those conversations can start happening because a lot of times , um, that information, you know, parents don’t know to ask the school. Um, so, you know, students might fall between the cracks , um, simply because they don’t know. Um , so I w I wish that more people knew about that, and I wish that more people , um, just knew that the joy of working with students with visual impairments , um, it , it just truly is something that like, it, it has just become lifeblood. Um, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life. So I , if you’re somebody who loves helping and serving others, and if that’s what you want to do with your life, like, I would definitely encourage you to look more into becoming a teacher for the visually impaired or, or if you’re not like a teacher, teacher person even becoming an Orientation Mobility Specialist , um, and , and having a little bit more freedom, you know, of working even with adults. Um, if that’s something that you’re interested in. So , um, I would encourage you if that’s an area that you are passionate about and serving others, look into being a TVI .

    Kristin: 30:41

    I think , uh , students, people who have visual impairments, t here i s such a low incidence population. U m, many times you can go through your whole life without meeting, u h, someone who’s blind or visually impaired. U m, and so I think, u h, a great way to bring awareness, which this is sort of out of the box, but if we had like a national spot, a national ad on TV, very brief, u h, showing, u m, people who a re blind o r visually impaired doing everyday tasks, u m, and, and showing that they’re capable and, u m, you know, just like the rest of us. U m, and then, u m, you know, something like, you know, sharing with the general public and you could be the one to teach them how to do all these, u h, how to do and how to function, u m, and how to teach them how to succeed. U m, I just think that might bring i n awareness. You know, that’s not, that’s not around enough. U m, and also visiting, u m, having students or adults who are blind, u h, visit high schools, u m, to share stories and peak interest of students who are in high school. U m, if they’re, u h, unaware or not sure about a career focus, u m, just having that exposure may help them desire to become a teacher of the blind a nd visually impaired.

    Leanne: 32:18

    Things I wish people knew more about being a teacher of the visually impaired. You don’t have to be stuck in a classroom, and you can guess what as a TVI, if you want to be in the classroom, you can, there are schools for the blind where you can be in the classroom. So there , there are options for it, but you don’t have to be stuck in a classroom. So if people told you, you know, you’re really good at teaching, but you couldn’t even fathom the thought of being in a classroom. A teacher of the visually impaired might be what you are meant to be. If you liked the idea of helping similar to my nursing story, but can’t stand the sight of blood. This is a helping profession, not a lot of blood in our gate . So again, it’s thinking about some of those other careers that it might’ve put a damper on it, because there was a piece of that career. You couldn’t do. This is one that you might actually fit really well with. And again, you have that flexibility to travel and to move. You are not locked into one place. I will tell you, the students might lock you in. You do fall in love with your students, but you have that flexibility to move and grow where you want to. It is not a career that locks you down to, well, “if you could only fix airplanes, then you need to be a place where there are airplanes.” There’s, there’s a difference there. So just keep that in mind, there are teachers that fly in planes in Alaska to go see their students think that’s cool. Great. Be a TVI.

    Rachel: 33:53

    I was just thinking, as you were talking to Leanne , um, another thing that I do wish people knew more about is that visual impairments are more prevalent than we realize. Um, and the lack of proper identification is a big, big issue. Um, because a lot of times students might have other needs that kind of preemptively seem to trump , um, their visual access, where if we, if we took the time to make sure they’re accessing things appropriately, visually speaking, we might see better gains in some of those areas, other areas that we’re working on. And so , um, I kind of want to advocate for, for that too , to our school districts specifically, to make sure that we are doing proper assessment and evaluation and following through with making sure we have that I report , um, before we start the IEP process , um, just so that we’re not letting kids slip and fall in between the cracks, because , uh , from, from personal experience , um, you know, when I started at Zanesville, I had a caseload of 16 , um, and in the course of one year of being a full-time person here , um, that case load jumped to 30. So , um, and we’re not a big district, we’re about a little bit over 3,500 students here. So , um, you know, and that just comes, it comes with education and knowledge and understanding of what to look for. And so I would just encourage school districts to really seek this out as a priority for their students. Um , and for parents to advocate for your kids. Um, you know, if , if you’re concerned that they’re not able to visually access things in the classroom, ask the questions , um, because it’s just so important that they be successful.

    Emily: 35:36

    Do you all think there is a need for more TVI? And what do you think can be done to bring more awareness to our field?

    Leanne: 35:48

    Well, I’ll jump in really fast. I can tell you what I am working on with APH is actual training modules built for guidance counselors to learn more about the field, to be able to share with , uh , high school students looking to go into college. So working on that aspect of letting the people know before they even get to that college door about the field. So that’s something that I can tell you right away that we’re working on. And then the other thing that we’re working on is a, a webinar built for administrators to teach them what the expanded core curriculum is and what a teacher does a basic course in the hopes that those administrators might also encourage others, whether it’s already a teacher that’s teaching, that’s interested in going into it as a, as a continuing ed or some of those high school students that go wandering around their room.

    Kristin: 36:47

    Yeah. There is a national shortage of, of teachers and we definitely need teachers.

    Rachel: 36:55

    Um , so yeah, I agree a thousand percent , um, we, we need , um, the people who we need teachers, but we need teachers who really care. We need teachers who are really dedicated and who want to do their best for, for students. And , um, and so I , I definitely think that there is a need and , um, Leanne , that’s awesome that you guys are doing those fantastic things. Like I’m sitting over here, like so excited. Um, and I know that here locally in Ohio OCALI , um, which is the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence Disabilities , um, has also started working on , um, some educational videos to be able to address some of those questions about, you know, just like you guys are doing, what does a TVI do? What does an O&M do? And also within , um , the hearing impaired , um, uh , demographic as well. And also just like, how do I approach somebody? Um, in those, those situations, you know, as a teacher who might have a visually impaired student in their classroom for the first time, how do I approach them every day ? Do I wait for them to figure out that I’m standing next to them? Or do I say something? And , um, and I think these are all great things because introducing the topic and those small snippets and easy to handle amounts might show somebody, okay, this isn’t nearly as scary as I thought it was. And then might in turn, you know, encourage somebody to look more into it and see like, okay, this, this really is a great thing and something I can do.

    Emily: 38:22

    So , um, as a new TVI , I had no idea how , um, exciting it could be when we empowered our students to be independent and , um, take control of their lives. So as new TVIs yourselves , um, you know, what is something you wish you knew in the beginning, or what advice do you have for somebody pursuing a career in our field?

    Kristin: 38:47

    Rachel mentioned , um, good assessment. And I would, I would focus on that first is really determining some really good strengths and needs. And then , um, focus on a student’s immediate needs. And once the student is comfortable in the environment they’re at, then you can focus on, on, on future needs. But I think , um, it’s important for new TBVIs to be super flexible. Um, you know , don’t sweat, don’t sweat the small stuff , um , and also really communicate well , um, with the people that they’re, that they’re interacting with. Um, uh, when you’re a new TBVI, you’re learning how to create a schedule that’s most efficient. Um, so I , I would encourage new teachers to find mentors who have experienced and gone through what they’ve gone through , um, to really be able to connect with someone and just ask those quick questions, quick texts, you know, you know, for certain situations, I, I really think that support is necessary. So a new teachers don’t get too frustrated and burned out too quickly and also to take care of yourself , um, yeah , stay healthy and well rested. Um, so you can best support your , your students.

    Rachel: 40:13

    Um, my advice to a new TVI would , would simply be to don’t don’t think that you’re going to know all the answers , um, right out the gate. Um, in fact, most of the time you’re not going to know the right answer. Um, and it’s going to be a process of trial and error or seeking , um , advice and help from other TVIs and other teachers and other team members even , um, to just find what’s what’s the right answer. So you have to be a person who , um, you gotta, you gotta let go of not always knowing the right answer, but be always being willing to keep seeking, to find it. Um, and so I joke that, you know, people in the visual impairments field of , for education we’re lifelong learners, right? Cause we always have to, to be updated. There’s always changes in technology and there’s changes in the way that we approach instruction and there’s new information available. I know like just this year we have, we finally have a health manual to talk about the uncomfortable stuff , um, and for health class. And so it’s, we always have to be reaching out and learning and trying new things. Um, but always remembering that it’s okay if you don’t know, just as long as you keep trying to find out why

    Leanne: 41:23

    My advice is the advice that Purvis Ponder. My professor gave me. Buy a car you love. You will live in your car. If you’re an itinerary teacher and a majority of teachers of the visually impaired are itinerant, which means they travel from school to school, student to student, and you do spend a majority of time in your car, take care of your car. It is your lifeline. So that’s just really, truly, I have always bought a car. I loved yes, most of the time it had to have some sized trunk, so I could pit large braille books in it. But that was one of the things that , uh, has stuck with me throughout. So it does matter. Buy one you love.

    Sara: 42:07

    So much for participating in this conversation about the need for more TVIs and the important work that they do, we will include additional information in the show notes for anyone interested in pursuing a career as a TVI , or just wanting to learn a little bit more.

    Emily, Rachel, Leanne, Kristin: 42:23

    Thanks for having me. Thanks for having me . It’s been fun. Thank you. Yes . Thanks Sara.

    Sara: 42:31

    Now we’re going to check in with Partners with Paul.

    Paul: 42:35

    Thanks, Sara. And welcome to this edition of Partners with Paul. I’m excited to have two guests with me today. I have Joyce Lopez, product developer and Dr. Marty Fox, president of PlayAbility Toys. Welcome into the podcast today.

    Joyce, Dr. Fox: 42:49

    Thank you. Thank you.

    Paul: 42:51

    So Marty, can you tell us a little bit about PlayAbility Ttoys?

    Dr. Fox: 42:55

    Sure. Be happy to, so we make PlayAbility Toys makes highly specialized choice toys and games and other products for children with special needs and children while they’re in the hospital. Um, the company has been in existence for approximately 20 years and is currently based here in Tucson, Arizona. Uh, we’ve had a wonderful partnership with the American Printing House for the Blind for a number of years, and sell a number of products that we’ve developed specifically for children with visual impairment.

    Paul: 43:30

    Excellent. Joyce, I know one of the products that we sell that you make is the Rivet Ball. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

    Joyce: 43:36

    Yes, Bud Phrase, who was one of the founders of the company, met a woman who had a child born without eyes, and she gave him a wishlist. The ball had to be lightweight, easy to grab with , not roll away from the child was easy to , um, catch and grab and pass and had noise, but absolutely no batteries. So, but being an engineer, he was a rocket scientist, took this challenge to heart and he came up with the Rivet Ball, which is a simple , um, ball with , uh, an insert that you blow up. It’s a PVC type insert, almost like a beach ball. And it has six ribs around the ball. And inside the ribs is a simple pre-cal material. So when the ball is someone who does not have full vision can trap the ball, but was invited to the Helen Keller Institute with this ball. And the teacher threw the ball into a room with children who were blind or visually impaired and Bud’s heart melted because all the kids were able to track this ball. And we teamed up with American Printing House for the 14 inch size, which is a red and yellow red ball with yellow ribs, the 18 inch ball, which is blue with yellow ribs and a 30 inch ball, which does come with a foot pump to aid in the, in inflation. And it is , um , black and yellow. And these balls are fun for kids who are visually impaired and for kids who are not. So all kids can play together with this fall. Also, it’s great for kids with, for example, CP, who do not have full strength of their, their hands.

    Paul: 45:37

    Fantastic. And another one of our products that we have collaborated on also is the Paint Pot Pallet. Marty, tell us about that. If you would,

    Dr. Fox: 45:46

    The pink pop palette was born really after playability toys moved to Tucson, Arizona in 2009. One of the first things that Bob and I did when the company moved here was partner with some of the existing, special needs organizations here in Tucson, Arizona. And one of those was this Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind. I visited the school and observed one of the art classes and the teacher , uh , a wonderful art teacher by the name of Don Smitty , um, was using a paint kit or a paint organizing kit for students that included pots that included braille labeling brushing. She had everything organized. So the children could know exactly where everything was. And we were just fascinated by the process and her ability to convey and teach painting principles to our kids. Uh, so badass her , um, is this a product that we could commercialize and basically take your design? We put it on a commercial basis. Some more children could enjoy this. And that was the creation of the Paint Pot Palette , um, started the Paint Pot Palette, and it also led us down a whole series of additional products that we’ve created primarily with Joyce , uh, developing them , uh, with input from the printing house staff , um, but a whole line of painting products that follow the Paint Pot Palette.

    Paul: 47:15

    Excellent. And finally, there’s another brand that you all make called NurtureSmart. Can you tell folks about that brand and also how they can get in touch with you if they have any questions and want to know more?

    Dr. Fox: 47:26

    Sure. So our nurture smart brand actually is focused on children in the hospital. Um, but we’ve found that a number of homes want the same level of safety in developmental features that we put into our nurture smart products. We heard from hospital staff saying, we need toys. We need them specialize . And we need them to be able to be disinfected. We need them to have the superior level of safety features, superior level of developing features, and that was the birth of our nurture smart line. So you can find those products that, or you can find playability products through the APH website or and you can contact me or Joel . I said .

    Paul: 48:14

    Okay. Thank you very much for joining me today.

    Joyce, Dr. Fox: 48:17

    Thank you. Thank you for having us

    Paul: 48:20

    Check the show notes. We’ve included there links to the products you heard about the Rivet Ball and also the Paint Pot Palette, and one more the paint by numbers, safari series. So we’ve included those in the show notes, check those out and feel free to get in touch with PlayAbility Toys. If you have any questions for them. Thanks for listening and back to you, Sara.

    Sara: 48:41

    Thanks so much, Paul. We hope you have enjoyed today’s podcast and we encourage you to look for ways you can be a change maker this week.

  • Jack Fox: 0:00

    Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host.

    Sara: 0:16

    Hello, and welcome to change makers. My name is Sara Brown and I’m APH is public relations manager today, or learning about product development and what it all involves. We’re also going to learn about the importance of partnerships and a new dynamic, tactile device. That’s in the works at APH. Now we’re talking to APH is director of educational product innovation, Mark Renfrow. He knows everything about product development and what it all involves and is here to tell us more. Hello, Mark, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Mark: 0:48

    Oh, thank you so much for having me.

    Sara: 0:51

    So as a Director of Educational Product Innovation, can you tell us what it is that you do at APH?

    Mark: 1:00

    Well, I have the honor of overseeing all things related to the development and product management of educational products for the blind and visually impaired. We create a lot of different things, anything pretty much from , uh , computer applications to , um, very complex products.

    Sara: 1:19

    How long does the process for a new product to come to market?

    Mark: 1:23

    Excellent question. Actually it can be anywhere from about 18 months to sometimes over four years. And it totally depends on the complexity of the product and , uh, you know, whether or not it’s , um, uh, an application or, you know, something that that’s really involved with a lot of different pieces , uh, some products that say it’s , uh , it’s , it’s a product that comes in as an idea, and it’s pretty much already made and somebody just wants to sell their idea or to us, something like that is not going to take very long. We can, we can get that out and, you know , almost no time at all, but if we have an idea of come in and, you know, there’s a lot of documented need for this idea and, you know, we know it’s important, so we want to make it, but it’s, you know, it’s, it’s just an idea and it’s fairly complex. Uh , something like that can take, you know, from ideation all the way until product launch, that it can take four years of more. So we have , uh, right now we have about an average of two and a half years for products. And that, that takes into account some products that, you know, may only take a few months and some products that take years. And it totally depends on the products . Each one’s very, very unique, which we’re trying to get the overall average time down to about 18 months. And that’s what we’re striving for, but we want to make sure we maintain that quality. Uh, and then there we’re building products that truly meet the needs of the blind and visually impaired

    Sara: 2:44

    When developing a product. What’s the most important goal? Is it price, usability, the demographics? What is it?

    Mark: 2:53

    One of the most important things , um, in addition to quality and , and that’s , that’s something we strive for in each and every product that we produce, we want to make sure that it is of the highest quality and we run it through lots and lots of quality checks. And , and we , we have a process in a Stage-Gate process in place that we run everything through. And , uh , there are about six stages and Gates and , uh , theoretically we can kill the product. You know, let’s say for instance, if we find something wrong that could be potentially dangerous to a student, now we can kill it at any time in any one of those Gates. Uh, so that , that’s something that we build in to make sure that we are building , uh , the product that , that that’s truly needed out there, a product that’s safe and of the highest quality. So , um , as far as factors that are important, this really, truly depends on the type of product that it is. But , uh, just generally speaking, I think that universal design, you know, making sure that we we’re , we’re building products that can be used by, you know, more than just a very, very specific , um, uh, audience, but we w we build inclusivity into pretty much everything we do. We wanna make sure that kids aren’t, you know, just ostracized and sent into the corner to work on something we want to , we want their classmates working on things to , with them, so that that’s very important to us. So quality low cost . Uh , we want to make sure that quota dollars are being used wisely. So we, you know, we, we try to build what we can , um, with w you know , as much quality as possible with the lowest cost possible. And , and sometimes it’s challenging, but , uh, that’s what we do.

    Sara: 4:25

    What’s it like to improve upon current products? I know last year, the LED Mini Light Box had just come out with some new changes. What does that process look like? Improving current products?

    Mark: 4:38

    Improving a current product is , is very satisfying. Uh, it, you know, it would be easy to sort of get hung up on, Hey, we missed this the first go around, but sometimes things change , uh, and sometimes user needs change , uh , and this and that necessitates redoing the product or making it better, or, you know, making some specific tweak , uh, so that it can be more usable. Uh, you know , you know, maybe the first go around. We didn’t, it wasn’t quite as inclusive as it could have been. You know, that that’s something that we can go back and take a look at and what we try to do with each. And every product that we put out there is we try to get a user feedback as much as possible. And we are also trying to get the user involved , uh , as much as we can throughout the entire process, because we want to make sure that we get it as right as possible. Right out of the gate. We want to make sure that this, this is the most inclusive , um, you know , uh , full featured product that , that we can make. Uh, so what we do is, as far as modifications is we take that user feedback , uh, and it might be a survey, you know , it might just be a direct call that somebody has made. Uh, and we, we document that we , um, and , and , you know, say the product’s been out there for a couple of years and maybe, you know, maybe it’s time to redo that particular product. We’ve made sure that we incorporate those suggestions into that product. And of course we, we test and we test and we test some more, we work, we’re constantly testing our products and we’re constantly getting user feedback and incorporating that into the final product. So , um, as with pretty much everything in product development, it really, truly depends on the type of product that it is now, if it’s a , it’s an app , uh, that that’s something that we can fix pretty easily, you know, we can, you know , we can get that , uh , pretty much done on the flat , uh , and , and get it back out there to be used. But if it’s a more complex product, a more tangible product, that is something that would need to go back through the process. And then it’s a little bit more involved, but , uh, you know, we’re able to do that. And, you know, it , it , it would probably take a few months longer, but we get it out there and it just depends on the product. Uh, but we, we move as fast as we can. Uh, and we’re, we’re getting better and better at it all the time.

    Sara: 6:44

    What would you want people to know when it comes to product development ?

    Mark: 6:48

    One thing I would like people to know is it’s not…don’t have a sort a process that happens behind closed doors. It’s not a , it’s not a very private thing. It’s something that we would like to have as many people involved in as we possibly can. We want the field’s input , uh , throughout the entire process. And also of course, when the, when , when the products out there, we welcome that feedback. We, we truly want to work with the field and we are looking constantly for new ways to work with the field. And we would like to , you know, the field to be involved in the product from ideation all the way to launch and beyond , uh, we , we are , we’re constantly looking for that input. So I think that’s the most important thing , uh , that we can have is we want to , we want to be sure that we’re building the right products , uh, very early on and throughout the process.

    Sara: 7:36

    And the last question, is there anything else you’d like to mention?

    Mark: 7:40

    Well , uh, I , I truly love my job and , uh, I have the honor of working with some very dedicated people. Uh, pretty much everybody I’ve encountered at APH has just been unbelievably dedicated. And that’s the one thing on my team. Um, I worked with a bunch of smart people, and I’m very fortunate in that regard, but , uh , beyond, beyond that genius that they put into product development. They’re, they’re truly dedicated, you know, these, these are people that, you know , I , I wouldn’t trade for the world. These are, these are people that I know are going to get the job done in the , in the best way possible. So that’s very comforting to me, and it should be very comforting to the field as well.

    Sara: 8:20

    Okay. Thank you so much, Mark, for joining us today on Change Makers.

    Mark: 8:25

    Thank you so much for having me

    Sara: 8:28

    Up next. We’re going to learn the importance of partnerships when it comes to product development. If you’ve been listening to Change Makers for awhile , this next guest is someone who’s a regular, and he is so knowledgeable, and we love having him on just to tell us what’s in the pipeline at APH. We have Head of Global Innovation at APH Greg Stilson. Hello, Greg. And welcome back to Change Makers. Hey, Sara.

    Greg: 8:56

    Thanks for having me.

    Sara: 8:58

    So we’ve learned how a product comes to be at APH, but what can you tell us about any products that are in the works right now?

    Greg: 9:06

    Yeah, I’m sure that some of you have kind of already heard me talking about the work we’re doing on the dynamic tactical device. Um, this is a massive undertaking. Probably one of the biggest that we’re going to be involved in, in decades, I would say, but it’s a , the goal of this product or project is to create sort of a tactal e-reader , for blind and low-vision kids and , and people in general, quite honestly , the primary goal of this is to create a, a piece of technology that can produce tactical graphics and braille on the same tactile surface. Um, the number one goal here is to be able to create a, essentially like a Kindle type product for , uh, for blind people to be able to read books on, right? So to wirelessly be able to download the book, be able to access it , um, in braille, in the same fashion that they would essentially read a book on hard copy braille. Um, but our goal is to, to take it a lot further than that, to be able to enable this thing, to be connected to other devices, to show graphical content and really focus on the impromptu learning , uh, aspect that a lot of our students don’t get access to, because let’s just say that a classroom teacher forgets to make , uh , an image accessible or provide, you know, information ahead of time to get transcribed into braille. Um, something like this could really enhance that, that impromptu learning experience

    Sara: 10:38

    Partnerships are vital in any industry. Can you talk about the importance of partnerships to make a product successful?

    Greg: 10:46

    Yeah, absolutely. So APH, we we’ve been around a long, long time and we’ve, we’ve kind of gone through different methods of product creation. Um, and there’s been a time when APH would , would basically build everything from the ground up from the product ideation process to, you know, building prototypes, to building the hardware all internally here. Um, and then we, we we’ve pivoted, I would say over the last 10 years to really focusing on a partnership model where we involve partners from the assistive technology industry, from the mainstream industry , um, to really help us build the ideal products. Um, and APH has really changed its role from manufacturer to really product. I would say, you know, product concept, creator, customer experience, creator , um, we’ve really focused on the user experience and the specifications of the product, but we’ve turned the manufacturing and things like that over to those who really have that expertise , um, in, in high-tech manufacturing. Um, and , and in many cases also software development. We do have software developers here at APH, but we can’t do it all. So we partner with other companies to help us, you know, collaborate on software and creation like that as well, with something as big as the dynamic tackle device , um, partnership is going to be even more crucial than, than it normally is. And that’s because, you know, the part of the product , um, you know, the technology piece is going to be developed with a partner. Um, but then we also have to have the , uh , creation of an entirely new braille standard for braille textbooks that can be consumed in a , in a dynamic tactal , um, you know, electronic reading form. Um, and that just really doesn’t exist today. The , the most common standard that we have today is the BRF standard that’s created that was created to , to create impossible content on embossers, right. But, but today students are going to be able to need to jump to chapters. They’re going to need to need to jump to sections of a book, to jump to tables and graphics and all that kind of stuff that, you know, a sighted kid can do just by flipping the pages. Um, but with an , uh, an eText reader, you don’t, you don’t have that flexibility. So a new standards going to have to be created, and that’s going to require partnerships from all over the world. Um, because our hope here is that this standard and this, this type of product is going to be the next way that people really interact with braille and tactile content. And so , um, partnership, understanding how different languages utilize braille , how , um, what , what type of tactal , um, you know, tactile activities people are doing in different countries. Um, and most importantly, I would say evangelization and , and championing this new standard around the world so that it gains traction, because if it doesn’t gain traction, then the standard doesn’t really become a standard. So , um, so that’s a really long answer.

    Sara: 13:55

    Oh , that’s, that’s so cool that you all are creating you almost like you’re creating the playbook. That’s huge.

    Greg: 14:03

    Yeah. And like I said, we can’t create it alone. This is, this is one of those things where partnership is, is really the foundation of what has, when you look at products. You know, one good example is , the Mantis and Chameleon , products that we co-developed with HumanWare. Um, those, those were products that, that APH really created the specification, the vision for , um, but we worked with , with our partner HumanWare to create the hardware and, and basically use the , or work with their software engineers and our software engineers to bring that sort of customer experience to life. Um, so you know, that, that product , um, some other partnership products that we were coming out with shortly, the Juno FRA , uh , is a partnership with the Sparrow, the same type of experience, right? We we’ve sort of had the vision of what this product would do from a software experience perspective. Um, the Sparrow really is the hardware expertise. They, they, they have that hardware expertise and we collaborated with their software team to sort of bring that customer vision to life

    Sara: 15:10

    As head of global innovation. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of products that have come to market and some that just never materialized . What can you tell us about that whole process?

    Greg: 15:20

    Sure. Um, so, you know, part of in, in innovation I’ve , I’ve had mentors and , and even my current boss has told me, you know, it’s okay to fail as long as you fail quickly and move on to something else, right? Say you just don’t want to , you don’t want to get hung up on something. That’s going to be a failure. And then , uh , you know , invest tons of resources and time into it , um, you know, fail fast and move on. Um, and I would say that here at APH, our product development process is, is really thorough. Um, and one, one example of a way that, you know, an idea on surface may sound really, really good. Um, but because of our processes, it gets sort of filtered out due to us needing to do a needs assessment. So part of what we need to ensure that we’re doing , um, because of the federal quota system is we need to ensure before we invest resources into a product, that there is a need in the field for that product. And so, you know, we get hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of product ideas submitted to APH. Some of them are really awesome and then some of them are kind of off the wall, right. And , um, but we look at each and every one of them and we run through our filtering process , uh, that we do. But one of the things that is involved if it gets to this stage is what’s called a needs assessment. And what that is is oftentimes a survey. I’m sure many of you have received a survey request from APH. Um, and the reason you get these surveys oftentimes is for a needs assessment of whether there is a need in the field for an idea that we’re considering. Right. And so we may think , uh, and I, you know, I’m a blind person myself. I’ve seen these ideas right, where I’m like, man, that would be really cool. Right. But then after we get a survey of, let’s say 500 to a thousand people that respond , um, maybe that, that survey, the data shows us that actually the field isn’t looking for something like this, there are our assumptions of what is happening in the classroom or in the market may not be exactly right. And so for us, I think that that’s probably the most common place that you will see an idea , um, you know, dissolve at that point and we’ll move on to another project. And I think that that’s a really good way for us to ensure that we’re devoting our resources, the right things. Um, so I would say that’s a great spot in our process where, where we’re ensuring that we’re, we’re putting our resources in the right places.

    Sara: 18:00

    Wow. That’s really interesting. And I mean, that’s, I mean, that makes sense. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel in no need to spend all that time and energy effort and money when there’s not a market out there, or, you know, it’s not going to be well-received

    Greg: 18:16

    Right. And I, and I think that, you know, we, we only have so many resources , um, and we only have so many, so many developers and product managers and things like that here that can, can be devoted to something. Right. And so , um, ensuring that what we’re doing actually has a need in the market is, is part of really APH is lifeblood. Um, oftentimes I’ll come to a meeting and I’ll be like, guys, what do you think of this idea? And like, everybody’s like, Oh, that’s a great idea. That’s awesome. And then we’ll do a needs assessment or we’ll do a survey and, and, you know, my assumptions aren’t aren’t right. And , and I think that that’s part of , um, as, as I’ve grown, as being a product manager, but also being a blind individual myself, right. Is I’m not building products for Greg I’m building products for the field and for people who are blind or low vision, and everybody has different needs, everybody has different requirements. And so part of, I think, where this is really valuable, right, is it kind of takes your internal bias out of it. And now you’re using data , uh , which really never lies to, to make your decisions.

    Sara: 19:21

    Wow. That’s true. The data , the data never lies. Okay. So the last question I have for you, is there anything else you want to talk about or mention when it comes to product development?

    Greg: 19:34

    I, I think that, as I mentioned, those surveys that we send out, I know that we, we probably can ping you guys with a lot of surveys. Um, and you get a lot of requests and things like that. I hope that this sort of needs assessment , um, explanation and things like that , um, make sense, and that you have a little bit more understanding of why you’re getting those surveys , um, because those surveys , uh, do determine what, you know, what things will move forward. It really does , um, make an impact and what products we spend time on and what products could, could come to market. So , um, I just, I wanna say thank you in advance for the time that you invest into those surveys. Um, we do read every single one of those. We look at every data point , um, to determine really what we’re going to be doing. So , um, just in advance, thank you for taking the time to do those surveys, to be looking at those needs assessments that we’re working on. Um, and giving you honest feedback because , um, it, it is really what makes or breaks a product from happening.

    Sara: 20:38

    That’s very true. All right, Greg, thank you so much for joining us today on Change Makers. Thanks so much for having me. We hope you have today’s podcast. Be sure to look for ways you can be a change maker this week.

  • Jack Fox: 0:00

    Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host.

    Sara: 0:15

    Hello and welcome to Changemakers. I’m APH’s is Public Relations Manager, Sara Brown. And today we are previewing the upcoming 2021 National Coding Symposium. The virtual free event will take place Tuesday, May 11 through Friday, May 14. We’ll learn why this event is so important and what participants can expect during the event. After that, we’ll check in with Partners with Paul to tell us more about the coding symposium we have, APH’s ConnectCenter Director, Olaya Landa-Vialard and Director of the California Education Resource Center for the California School for the Blind Adrian Amandi and Low Vision Clinic and Classroom Coordinator at Vanessa Herndon. Hello Olaya, Adrian and Vanessa, and welcome to ChangeMakers. Hi, thanks for having us. Great. So for the first question, can somebody tell us what is the Coding Symposium? Just give us an overview as to what it is.

    Olaya: 1:14

    I think, well , the Coding Symposium is really a chance for students , um, who are blind or visually impaired or who, who don’t have a visual impairment , um, to hear from individuals who are blind, visually impaired, and those who are not , um, about their jobs and careers in the it field , um, students will learn how these successful individuals navigated their way through school, through searching for jobs, what they did when they landed their jobs and how they maintain their employment.

    Adrian: 1:43

    I think, I think you’re getting it right on the head. We’re really about motivating these kids who are considering this career path and getting them excited and making them aware that the door is open to them. And it might be challenging to get excited about it. It might be challenging to learn code, but , um, there are others have done it before them, and we want to share those success stories with them and let them know the pathway to success themselves. I do also want to say that it, it can also be for TBIs. We want to kind of demystify coding for TBIs and show that just like any subject, you know, a TVI can take something and accessible and make it accessible, um, and, and show how that’s been done. Um , and kind of reinvigorate the importance of that for TBIs parents too , right? This is a good career path. So parents learn about the options and opportunities as a positive, positive space to come visit and learn more about it at this year’s symposium.

    Sara: 2:44

    Good. Now, who is this geared to and why , why that age?

    Vanessa: 2:49

    Well, the targeted audience for, for this quoting symposium are students who are blind or visually impaired ages, 11 to 17, who are interested in STEM careers. Um, and that’s typically the age range is important because that’s when we want our students to really be starting to focus on or think about what they’re going to want to do when they, when they get out of school. Um, because then they want to start, we want to start training them and getting them interested and learning about that particular field so that they’re not just getting ready for it at 17 or 18, when they , you know, 1920, when they’re getting ready to move on to either a job or job training or college. So it , it’s a really critical time in their , um, in their lives for us to get in there and catch them early , um, and get them started on that path.

    Adrian: 3:46

    Isn’t that true? And I think , uh, I mean, Vanessa has such direct teaching experience recently, and I think , um, it sure is working with her obvious to know that coding, getting into coding and opening up , uh, those opportunities in your mind , um, take a reflection and responsibility that you have to be really into your computer. You have to really know the technology, whether you’re using a windows or Mac or iOS, you have to know your screen access software, your screen readers, and your screen magnifiers. And you have to do a deep dive into your regular computer usage. If you’re going to consider this as an employment track. And this is a great opportunity to hit them early in high school and middle school and make these kids recognize. Yeah, that is an exciting career path. I’ve got to step up my game a little bit and I’ve got a , I’ve got to quit, just responding and quit answering homework homely, and I’ve got to get more engaged with my tech itself.

    Sara: 4:41

    Okay. Now tell us, you just mentioned getting familiar with the operating systems and screen readers . Tell me why is coding so important for students?

    Vanessa: 4:52

    Yeah, you know, I think that there are an endless amount of reasons like I could go on, but I , I wanted to try and stick to three. Um, and one is that coding has, and computer science has become basically part of literacy as technology enters our lives. It’s becoming more like a standard. Another is that it has several ties to curriculum and student learning goals. And third and most important maybe is that, especially for blind and visually impaired students, it can be empowering. It can make them advocates of accessibility as we move to a more tech based world. And I do want to expand on those three points. So when I talk about , uh , coding as basic literacy, like we know that coding is the language of computers, right? Like a set of instructions that a computer understands in order to perform a task. And this can be really simple to the most complex thing. But the most important thing to note here is that it permeates our day-to-day lives and is a part of almost every injury industry. We use it all the time. So coding or at least understanding code is becoming more and more and more a part of our lives at a basic necessity. Um, just to understand what the things we’re interacting with, how they’re working. Another one, I also mentioned that coding has several ties to learning development goals. Um, so I think coding can be kind of intimidating when we think about it as these incredible algorithms that like geniuses come up with. Right. Um, but it’s really based in finding a problem and breaking down the steps to solve it. It’s a relatively simple skill, but it can also touch on so much. Like it’s a great way for students to develop their logic or from the very basic, basic , um , coding concepts can teach cause and effect or sequencing or accounting . Um, it can be a way for students to experiment, work together, to make friends, to like meet failures and like try again. Um, it can also be a really fun way to , to trick kids into like reinforcing their braille skills because there’s a lot of editing that goes into it. You know, like you might have to debug a code and in pages of braille or pages of like listening to your voiceover screen reader need to find that one quotation Mark that’s out of place. So I think that it can reinforce a lot. It can be really simple and it can be really complicated, but you can use it to reinforce a lot of concepts in student learning, but finally, and maybe what I’m most excited about , um, is that it’s more like a call to action for TV eyes , because the impact that this can have on student lives is huge students who are blind, visually impaired need to learn how to code just like everybody else, of course. But it’s important to understand that code is text-based and therefore it’s inherently accessible. It’s just the format that it’s being taught in. It’s the user interface of apps is the web pages and the drag and drop content. That’s not accessible, but just like any subject, a TVI without being an expert can adapt those course materials. And, um, since these students are users of assistive technology and rely on these things to access information in the world, understanding the technology they’re interacting with like why a screen reader is working or why CPU matters when they’re running their accessibility softwares, this can make them better users of their own 80 . They can become better advocates for themselves and for accessibility by developing this knowledge. And they can evaluate shortcomings of technology, whether it be their assistive tech software programs, websites, or apps, they’ll have the language to provide valuable and not only valuable, but actionable feedback to developers and people creating content for them,

    Sara: 8:50

    The FA the area of computer science and coding. Is that an area that has room grow?

    Vanessa: 8:57

    Yeah. I mean, I think most people have observed like an exponential increase in the amount of tech in our daily lives. I heard this crazy thing , um, the other day. And I, I , um, I don’t know, like the exact calculation, but like basically the iPhone in your pocket or the Android in your pocket or in your purse. The amount of calculations that can do is millions of times more powerful than like what they use to get Apollo 11 to the moon. Like technology is like everywhere and it’s growing all the time and it’s super powerful. Um, but I think that also goes to show that it’s not just technology companies or NASA using technology. Like we have access to this everywhere and it’s developing rapidly. Um, there was a statistic , um, published by the Bureau of labor statistics in 2020 stating that employment of computer and information research scientists is projected to grow 15% between 2019 and 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Um, also this is kind of an old statistics or ensure that it’s a lot more now, but in 2016 they found that an average for the last like five years was , um, 20% more students per year were taking computer science exams . So like between 2015 and 2016, there was a jump 20%. Um, and that was on top of the jump between 2014 and 2015. So yeah, I mean, it’s expected to grow and these statistic points are really specifically for computer science, but , uh, I mean, I think it’s increasingly difficult to draw the line between computer science principles and other sectors of industry, computer sciences, and just growing as a singular industry, right. Like it’s also becoming more and more in meshed and relevant in our daily lives. So if you want to be like a doctor or a musician or a race car tech , like these industries have all been turned upside down by software, so it’s becoming, yeah, it’s expanding, like not only in itself, but also like permeating everything we’re doing very,

    Sara: 11:11

    Very, very true. Okay. So Olaya, Vanessa and Adrian, what can participants expect during the course of this event? Can you give us just an overview or just an idea of what the different groups attendees will interact with?

    Olaya: 11:27

    Well, I mean, I can just say real quick, like a quick overview, and then I’ll leave it to Vanessa and Adrian to get a little more detailed and give you more of the specifics. But overall , um, you know, there will be panels that include professionals, educators, advocates, and others who are blind, visually impaired or sighted. So that is like the, kind of the overview that there will be those individuals there to you motivate providing information , um, to those attending, but then Vanessa and Adrian probably have , um, more of the detailed list of what all is going to be going on. Okay.

    Adrian: 12:06

    Yeah, I think , uh , thank you ally for the quick overview. I think we, one of the things we did in putting this together is recognize that this is a school year activity with classes going on. And so when we’re trying to attract school-aged kids, we are trying to respect their schedule. And so we have a Tuesday through Friday format that we’re excited that kids will be able to engage with and participate in all aspects of what we’re offering throughout the week. Um, and I think most of all our goal is that we, we think that a student attending is going to be inspired. We think they’re going to , um, have this access of professionals, as Elias said , currently working in this field and they’re going to be relatable. We’ve taken a lot of care to pick , uh, professionals that are inspiring , uh, on , uh , on a variety of ways. We think we have a diverse group of people , uh, in our panels and in our keynotes and our presentations , um, that shed a wide variety of experiences that our kids can relate to and be inspired by , um, specifically , uh, each day we’ll have two sessions. Um, we’ll have , uh , it depends on if you’re a West coaster or an East coaster, but we’ll have an am PM session for the West coasters. Um , and for our East coast timeframe, we’ll have an , uh , after lunch and after school , uh , session , um, and we’ll kick off each one of those with an inspirational keynote. Um, and those keynote speakers , uh, have done something fantastic with their life and career path. Um, and they’re going to share with us some of what they have , uh, made it through some of the challenges they’ve overcome. Um, and they’re going to try to gear up our excitement to want, to want to be in this space. Um, and then we actually have a set of eight presentations following those keynotes, and there’ll be in each , uh, in each block of presentation. Um, and those presentations, uh, don’t have to be accessed in a row. They don’t have to be access one through eight. Um, but they are designed to give a little bit of a footing and education to this space and to really be able to be utilized by TBIs and students , um, during the symposium or, or beyond it , um, as an educational space to learn more about the coding field and learn more about why coding is accessible and how to overcome, um, some of the challenges. And then as Elia said, we have the specific panels , um, our panels , specifically our programmers, um, a panel of, uh, we’re calling them non-programmers, but people who work with coders, but did not necessarily code themselves, uh, it’s a hard, uh , hard to put a title on that group. But , um, we also have hiring managers. We want to try to demystify some, these, uh, ideas that circulate around us in California and Silicon Valley of what does it take to get one of these jobs? What , uh, what do you need to do? What is your resume need to look like? What is your skillset need to look like? Um, we’re going to have transition and career centers , uh , present during the symposium. So we’re going to have agencies that work with blind and visually impaired students beyond the school age , um , and during the school age. And they’re going to talk about some of the resources that they bring to the table and some of the strategies that they have for students advancing and looking for careers. Um, we also have a panel of university , uh, leads and teachers. Um, we definitely recognize that the more coding and software permeates society as Vanessa was mentioning earlier, that colleges are taking the responsibility on making sure our students that further develop their skills and , um, advanced programming and software. And so we’re going to hear directly from universities that have taken very seriously, the involvement of blind and low vision kids, and make sure that universal design and accessibility are part of their programs. Um, and, and talk to students who might not be on their universities to, uh , talk to students about what, what skills and tricks they’ve done that can work at any, any college or space. Um, and finally, we’re going to have a panel of entrepreneurs , um , people who have really taken the lead in saying, Hey, you know what I can do with code? I can, I can create a business. I can create a new app. I can create a new space. Um, and this is, this is what we’re we’re excited about is this , um, all of these are going to encourage our kids to create change and be change makers themselves.

    Sara: 16:32

    Now I understand there’s going to be a question and answer session. Why is it so important for students to get that opportunity to ask panelists questions?

    Adrian: 16:45

    Yeah, we’re working on, on the Friday of the session. The last day of the symposium is going to be direct access to , uh , some of our panelists, keynotes and presenters. Um, and , uh, we, we’re going to set this up so that our student participants , um, have the opportunity to ask a direct question from their mind to a panelist. And we , uh, we’re doing this for a variety of reasons, one to make it tangible and make these successful professionals , uh, very, very right there , accessible and tangible to our students. Um, but we’re also respecting that , uh, these kids attending this symposium, they students , uh, attending the symposium. Um, they’re the leaders of tomorrow , um, that are currently right now effective , um, and impactful thinkers. Uh, we recognize and respect that. Um, and we want to give them this opportunity , uh , to make a difference just with their questions. Um, it’s not just important for our students to have the opportunity to ask question so that they can be inspired and get their answer. Uh , but it’s really important that our panelists that are the leaders right now, and in many coding fields and coding spaces, here are these questions that our students will ask. Um, and any field, uh, especially working with blind and visually impaired kids, we who are currently working in the field, need the , hear the aspirations and the questions that come from our students so that we can change and direct the way that we present, uh, our programs, um, the way that we can present , uh, our successes and , and change in this particular space. Sometimes we’re going to have entrepreneurs and coders themselves that are going to hear a question and say, Hey, you know what , uh , we need the, we need to adapt. We need to rethink the way we code. We need to rethink the way we think about accessibility. Um, for those of us who are educators, we need to rethink the way we teach and plan our programs. I think the Q and a not only is going to be impactful for students, but I think it’s going to be eyeopening for teachers and parents alike , um, to be able to really see where our kids are coming from.

    Sara: 18:59

    There are plenty of people with visual impairments who have secured employment with coding or computer science. Can you tell me more about the opportunities that are out there that you want listeners to know?

    Adrian: 19:11

    Vanessa, that in the first question she answers so well that , um, you don’t have to be a programmer for coding to benefit your career choice in your path. Uh, software has permeated almost every single job anymore. Um, and it’s not just working with that software , uh, on the backend and being able to change it or input data into it. It’s understanding what’s in front of the screen period. It’s just engaging with a website or engaging with a new software that you have to input into , um, and knowing what that software is up to and what the person who created that piece of software and technology was intending is going to make you a better user of that software. Um, and I think our kids kind of have a leg up on their sided companions because they’re using screen readers and screen magnifiers, and they, they have to have a thorough comprehension of how the system works. They have to really understand how to navigate the menus , uh, to navigate and control where the cursor moves on a screen and how it engages and interacts. They’re starting with a leg up when they, when they learn how to code on top of that, they’re able to put themselves into the head of the person who made the app, who made the software program, who made the website. And I think that knowledge and experience coupled with the , uh, expertise of being a screen access user, whether it’s a magnifier or a reader , um, I think what we’re doing is we’re , um, we’re just, we’re this opportunity expand well beyond coding and programming. And I’m saying this knowledge that you’re going to have coming out as a blind or low vision high schooler into the job field or college student into the job market , um, is you’re going to be successful working with technology. You’re going to be able to utilize your screen in a way different than your peers. And you’re going to be able to have a discussion on the back end , uh, also with people who’ve created these software tools.

    Vanessa: 21:16

    Um, I think that you kind of, you did hit the nail on the head there, Adrian. Like it’s not just that, you know, learning to code or being interested in coding lens and opportunity , like a specific opportunity. Um, I think that it’s a Jew . It can be a general skill that opens up more opportunities, you know, just because you can maybe even understand the use of your own screen reader better and become a better like problem solver when you’re trying to access a website, et cetera, like you can become more efficient , um, in your own, right. And using assistive technology just as a tool. And you can also generalize that skill into more areas of technology, whether it be like Adrian said to like have a window into how developers since systems work or just, um, be a, a fluent tech user, um, those types of things open a lot of doors for students

    Adrian: 22:19

    And that true and are students learning more about coding can really start to change what accessibility means and accessibility. It does not always translate to usability. Uh , and we see this again and again, in the school space, we hear about a new product and it’s completely accessible. And we hear about some new website that got made completely accessible, and we put our students on it and we’re like, Holy cow, it’s time to bust out of how to guide, let us spend the next two and a half weeks writing out a how to guide so we can teach our students how to step-by-step use this quote unquote accessible piece of software or website. And I think as we get our students to become leaders in this space, and I mean the space, not just accessibility, but technology as a whole software and , and programming , uh, when our students become more leads in this space, I think we’re going to see websites become more usable to the screen reader and screen magnifier users. And with that in place, I think we see time and time again, that websites and programs will become more usable for everybody.

    Vanessa: 23:28

    I do . I want to jump on that actually, because what you said about like accessibility versus usability is so important. Um, and in terms of design and usability, having our students be in the room when that’s happening, like you look at somebody like Steve jobs, who’s whole idea is to create something that’s like plug and play easy to use, intuitive to use for the, for that person. And, you know, these developers are creating with an idea of the general user in mind, and the general user is not often most users and the general user is not often a blind user. So to be in that room when they’re like, how do we make this really, really impactful to the world? Like all of the accessibility features that would benefit a blind or visually impaired person can also benefit the general public, but how do you, how do you not just make those available? How do you make them useful? Um, so I think that’s really exciting. Okay.

    Sara: 24:27

    So this event, it is done in partnership with the California School, for the Blind. Olaya, how has it been working with them?

    Olaya: 24:34

    Well, the Coding Symposium is made possible by support from Fox Family Foundation. Uh , it’s also sponsored by the connect center specifically career connect. Um, it’s been great working with everyone at the California School for the Blind , um, and just the collaboration that we all , um, you know, that we’re all involved in , uh, working with such skilled individuals, Vanessa is so knowledgeable and just knows her stuff. Uh, I’ve worked with Adrian in the past. And so, you know, it’s just like working with old friends is awesome to do. Um, and so, yeah, it has been really a , uh , an awesome, really positive experience. And I think that’ll come across , um, when we are actually involved in putting on the coding symposium, I think you’ll see that dynamic workout. It, it , it is just exciting. And, and I love collaborating. I love working with people because again, one person can’t know everything, but being a part of the connect center and working with CSB , um, I think it , it’s , it’s a really powerful partnership in a lot of ways. Cause we look to CSB in the field itself, we look to CSB for a lot of our , um, guidance and what we’re doing with our, with our kiddos and helping prepare them. And , um, you know, California School for the Blind in, in so many ways is , is a leader , um , in our field.

    Adrian: 25:57

    I think what, one of the neat things about working with APH as a state school for the blind is yes , we take advantage of the fact we’re next to the Silicon Valley, but I don’t think that’s what motivates our tech lab to get excited about tech. I think it’s recognizing and having that near to us that inspires us to level the playing field as often as possible with as much technology as possible. Um, utilizing , uh, APH has the American Printing House for the Blind and this national presence allows us to share some of what we are able to engage with in a different way than other schools for the blind and other States. We are thrilled to be able to share that content out nationally. Um, and as, as agencies, as a school for the blind and they, and another public and the APH , um, we are so gifted by the Fox Foundation of being able to give this money to us, to get this project off the ground. Um, cause it’s really hard for our agencies to put together big events like this without that additional funding. So I’m a percent of all the way around , uh, from how we got this from an idea a few years ago , uh, through coronavirus and the pandemic , um , to a different format or no longer than in-person event, we thought we were going to host, but , uh , I’m just real thankful that we’re able to bring this out on a national level.

    Sara: 27:20

    So is it too late to sign up and where can listeners go for more information?

    Olaya: 27:24

    Well , um, registration is free and will remain open throughout the event. So now , you know , not too late , um, you can register online through the APH connect center website. Um, there is a webpage with all the symposium information such as agenda speakers and registration

    Adrian: 27:47

    And we’ve set up this symposium so that you can join at any time. You’re not missing out content. If you register on the last day, we still think it’ll be an empowering experience for students. And if your schedule is such that you can only join for one part of the coding symposium, we still strongly encourage you to attend. Uh , we think that that moment will be impactful and we have it designed so that year you’re able to join in any fashion

    Sara: 28:14

    And we will include links to registration and more information for the coding symposium in the show notes. So please be sure to take a look and register today, Olaya, Vanessa, Adrian, is there anything else that you want listeners to know?

    Olaya: 28:30

    I think from , from my end from the ConnectCenter and , um, I just would like to reiterate, to be sure to visit the APH connect center and career connect , um, not only the register and get more information about the coding symposium, but for information and guidance about careers, jobs, watch videos made by and about people who are successful in all kinds of different jobs and career fields who are also blind or visually impaired , um, learn about programs that you can participate in to help you prepare for life after high school, whether it be a job vocational training or college. And so , um, you know, beyond the , the coding symposium, you know , APH career connect has so much information.

    Vanessa: 29:10

    I did want to say that like, you know, I think that it can be kind of a, an intimidating subject sometimes for, for students, for teachers, for parents, you know , um, I’ll say for myself, like I didn’t get into teaching students with visual impairments because I wanted to be in computer science. Like by any means, never took a computer science class in my life, but I would say that it, it can be really simple and it can be really complicated, but there are many ways jump in and I encourage everybody to just check it out because it might not be what you think it is. It might be more than you think it is. It might be less. But , um, I think that there’s something there for everybody.

    Adrian: 29:54

    I agree. Um , I want a heck of that. Coding can be easy. It can be something that we can set up and design ahead of time for a student. We can create a lesson that’s pretty straightforward and we’ll give them a tangible reward and success depending on the code we choose. Um, but what excites me most about coding is that it can be really hard and it can be hard in the most , uh , uncanny ways. It can be as simple, a simple thing that you did incorrectly that causes it not to work the way you anticipated. There’s a lot of problem solving and coding. And I think that teachers, if you wrap your head around that initial bump in the road of difficulty of learning it , and if you learn the basics of coding, you’ll discover that a lesson about coding hits a lot of the aspects of what we’re trying to do and , and educating our students , um , and teach them to become problem solvers. And we can use this space, not just to beef up their technology skills and increase their in segment about programming, but we can use coding as a pure lesson in teaching problem solving , um, and that , uh, and teach our students that , um, we’ve got to overcome tough moments. We’ve got to overcome difficulties and challenges. Um, and coding is an opportunity where when you do overcome something that was hard, you get a very concrete success moment. You get a yep . Now it works. Um, and that that’s exciting and it, and it makes the, it gives you a payoff for the difficulty you encountered and we’re helping to encourage more of those moments through this symposium.

    Olaya: 31:30

    One other really big thing is we’d really like to thank the , um , Fox Family Foundation for helping make the Coding Symposium possible. Um, if we, if we really couldn’t have done it without their support. So thank you very much.

    Sara: 31:47

    Okay. Olaya, Vanessa and Adrian. Thank you all so much for joining me today on Change Makers. Thank you . It sounds like it’s going to be a great event. Now let’s check in with Partners with Paul.

    Paul: 32:06

    Thanks Sara. It’s great to be back with another episode of Partners with Paul and I’m delighted to have with me today, Diego Mendoza , Head of Commercialization from Sunu. How are you Diego?

    Diego: 32:17

    Thank you, Paul. I’m doing excellent. Beautiful day. I hope that you all are, that you’re doing excellent as well. The Sunu band is a product. We sell a non- quota product. The price is $299. Diego. Can you tell us a little bit about what the Sunu new band is? Absolutely. Yes. Thank you. So in a nutshell, I would say that the Sunu Band is a sonar sensing bracelet that allows people with visual impairments to detect obstacles and their surroundings. So you have, let’s say a camera on your car and the closer you get to another car, the more it beeps, right? Well, with the sooner band, you get that experience, but with vibrations on your wrist, meaning the more you, the closer you get to an object, the more it’ll vibrate.

    Paul: 33:11

    That’s great, but there’s also an app that goes along with it. Can you tell us about that app and whether or not you can use it just with the band or if it has some independent functions as well?

    Diego: 33:22

    Yes, of course the band and the app are both independent from each other, but we’re of course working towards a very , um, interesting and a very useful conjunction there. So the app is a navigation app is a fully inclusive navigation app. We connect to Google maps. So of course, everything that you see listed on Google maps will be listed on the, on the Sunu app. And the Sunu app allows you of course, to explore places around you within a walkable distance. And the best part is you have full understanding of what surrounds you. So there are very interesting features that , uh , we can, we can talk about more in detail in a few moments, but eh , that’s what the Sunu Band and the Sunu app is , um , both independent, but also they work in conjunction with each other.

    Paul: 34:19

    That’s great to hear that they work together, but they also have their own independent functions. Now I understand that there are some new updates to the app. Can you tell us about those? Absolutely. What , uh , newest features and updates. Uh, first I would like to mention the, my Sunu Band tab and that tab basically allows you to control everything from that , uh, tab of course , uh, anything from customizing the range of the band , uh, personalizing the experience as far as , uh, new features or old features. So you can customize everything and you can set up the levels of detection that you, that you want to get. So that’s one part on the under on the, my new band, but you also have independent features such as the street pointer, which as, as, as the name says, you take your phone out or you take your sooner band and you pointed into any direction, and it’s going to give you a list of streets , um , of course, listed by distance. So the , uh , the nearest street that you’re pointing at is going to be all the way to the top.

    Diego: 35:35

    That’s say you’re pointing at Main Street, and now you move a little to the left and now you’re pointing at second street. The new app will be listing those streets , uh , again, by distance. That’s one of the features. We also have a place pointer. So just like the street point of works, the place pointer will tell you exactly the places that you’re pointing at. Let’s say that you’re in a crowded place. I don’t know an airport or a shopping mall, for example. And you want to know where the ATM is or where the cafe is. You simply point your hand or your sooner abandoned , I’m sorry, your hand, or your band in any direction. And you will get that feedback again, listed by distance and exactly what you are pointing. Those are some of the newest features.

    Paul: 36:27

    And finally, Diego, there are some new features that are just come out. Can you tell us about those?

    Diego: 36:34

    Absolutely. One of the most appealing features, and that is basically upgrading and doing a lot of updates. As far as the obstacle detection part is the sonar 2.0. So this feature is taking the obstacle detection of the Sunu Band and adding bunch of steroids to it. So with the obstacle detection, you know, that there’s something or that you are detecting the presence of something, but with the sonar 2.0, you will now be able to understand the difference between a wall or a person, a car , uh , a tree branch, for example. So you’re basically leveling up with , uh , sonar features. Uh, this is of course for more advanced users, but this has so far, this has been receiving a lot of good feedback. And you’ll find this on the app. Yes. The app let’s remember that both the app and the band are periodically upgraded. So as long as you have the band connected to the app, and of course the app is updated from the app store, you will always get the newest features, the newest firmware or software version of the Sunu Band and , and that’s how you will get it . Yes. All right .

    Paul: 38:05

    So it sounds like a lot of great things coming up. Thank you very much for joining us today, Diego.

    Diego: 38:09

    Thank you for having me call the sooner band is available for $299 from APH. Check the show notes. We’re going to provide the link to the soon new product page. If you want to order it, you can do so from that page, or you can contact APH customer service. Now back to you, Sara.

    Sara: 38:33

    Thanks so much, Paul. And just a reminder, we’ll put in the show notes, the link to register and more information about the Coding Symposium. Thank you very much for joining me today on Change Makers. We hope you enjoy today’s podcast. Be sure to look for ways you can be a Change Maker.

  • Jack Fox: 0:01

    Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host.

    Sara: 0:16

    Hello, and welcome to Change Makers. I’m APH is Public Relations Manager, Sara Brown and today we are learning about a new APH Press book, title , the Babies with CVI: Nurturing Visual Abilities and Development in Early Childhood. We’ll hear from the author Anne McComiskey other books from APH that discuss CVI and the author of the CVI Companion Guide, Amanda Lueck. After that, we’ll check in with Partners with Paul. Now let’s talk to Babies with CVI author Anne McComiskey. Hello, Anne . And welcome to Change Makers.

    Anne: 0:48

    Hi Sara. Thank you for inviting me. I’m very excited for this opportunity to talk about Babies with CVI. Great.
    Sara: 0:56

    Now tell me this. What makes this book appropriate for use with babies up to 36 months old?

    Anne: 1:04

    Well, that’s a loaded question and I let’s talk about instead of appropriate. Let’s talk about very, very, very important for working with babies. That the issue with CVI is that it’s a brain-related visual impairment. And what’s wonderful about us as human beings is that we have brain plasticity and it is particularly wonderful for babies. So if a baby has a brain issue, there are things that can be done to help mend some of the areas or bypass them so that a baby was CVI can actually start to develop. Many times can start to develop vision. So the plasticity of the baby is what makes this really important because it’s all related in the brain. But , um, the window we have plasticity through our elder years, I’m here to tell you about elder years. Okay . Um, but it’s so essential and it’s so hot when they’re little in those first few years of life. So there are issues, and I think we’ll probably get into them with some of your other questions, but they’re there issues for parents where they have so much going on with a baby with difficulties, and they may not know about this really important time that could generate some visual use, if not a little, a lot.

    Sara: 2:46

    Okay. Now, how does this book help parents?

    Anne: 2:51

    Well, I hope it helps them a lot. Um, over my 50, some of working with parents when I realized is for several reasons, they don’t really understand what’s going on. One of them is their grieving process and the book talks about that a lot. So parents may not understand what is being said, not because they’re not smart, but just because they’re grieving processes, protecting them from too much trauma. Um, there are, the book is written so that I could understand it, which means it’s in very clear, no doublespeak , um, and the wonderful editors. And I worked hard to make it so that it was very, almost palatable, not just for parents, but for new teachers into the field where CVI is kind of still a stranger, this whole diagnosis.

    Sara: 3:58

    How is CVI diagnosed in babies and around what age is it typically diagnosed?

    Anne: 4:05

    Well, it isn’t typically diagnosed because it’s, it’s a hider . So according to Christine Roman-Lantzy, and many of us, there are probably three really , um, reliable ways to get near it. Um, one is a visual eye exam, but because kids with CVI frequently don’t have any ocular eye difficulties that may not tell you anything. So then you want to have some kind of a medical exam that’s going to , um, get in and see what the brain is telling you, but with new babies and that may not be it. So what teachers of the visually impaired are relying on in addition to the other pieces of information are characteristic behaviors that tell you the brain is not getting that visual information. It’s not digesting it and sorting it and then reacting to it. And that tells you that it’s brain centered, not eyes centered. The other thing is the history of the baby. So depending on what the birth was like, what the pre-birth was like any traumas, afterbirth , things that could typically affect the brain. Um, those are a tip-off if vision isn’t looking just right, that there’s a CVI issue involved.

    Sara: 5:42

    Okay. Now this book Babies with CVI, it introduces the Early Visual Development Guide. Can you tell us more about that?

    Anne: 5:50

    I can. I can. And it’s , um, specific to these little, little babies , um , not necessarily to older kids, which is another reason why we want to get parents and teachers reacting to the CVI early on, instead of saying, well , we can, we can wait for a few years and that , um, the visual development guide looks at it , three areas of visual development that really need to get Hotwired somehow in order for the child to then go ahead with vision in more integrated and complex ways. So there’s a checklist which once upon a time, when the book started was a chart , um, and it starts out with just visual alerting because one of the characteristics that parents may notice is my baby doesn’t seem to look at me or my baby doesn’t respond to me. So there are some very specific things parents and teachers can do and not just teachers, but um, other people, other professionals are working with them maybe can do to start the baby to have some visual stimulation. And hopefully what’s going on inside that sweet little brain is what is that? What , what just happened there? Um, years and years and years ago, literally we used a flashlight and introduced it to the child. Now, these early years, when I was , I worked with kids that did have brain-related visual difficulty , um, that was what we did. And nobody knew what they were doing. This was back in the late sixties. And we were just going by the seat of our pants. But what we’re finding is by introducing a direct light filtered, most of the time that could get into the brain. And pretty soon the kids were annoyed or confused and then interested. So the visual development guide starts from just alerting that vision. And there are several steps to do with the alerting their actual activities to do for , um, and then it goes to visual engagement. So you’re not just saying, Hmm, what is that? But you’re saying, Oh, what can I do with this? I couldn’t look at my mommy and now when I look at her, she just radiates. So the second step in this visual development guide is visual engagement. And then what happened as we all know with our own development, like when you’re first starting to learn to play tennis, you may be able to, you hit the ball, but can you hit the ball and move sideways at the same time? Well , that comes a little later. So with all of development, but in visual development, the third part is the visual integration so that I can crawl and use my vision to avoid that table. So the Visual Development Guide is really , um, a recipe to help parents Hotwire this vision. And that’s it. What else,

    Sara: 9:19

    Other, what tips does this book have for parents that you would suggest or like to share with us ?

    Anne: 9:26

    Um, well, it has lots, but it has tips for teachers who are supporting and advocating for the parents. And it has tips for the parents. So that , um, to me, one of the most important things for all of us to understand is what happens to these parents when they get slammed with this news, that there is something really different going on with their baby. So there’s a whole section about grieving and what we can do about it. So a parent might think , um, I’m losing my brain, or I knew that I had an illness of depression and my reading this, they can think, Oh, wait a minute. I’m normal. I am having a normal reaction. I am a good parent. I’m just having a reaction to grief the teachers at the same time. Instead of saying, Mrs. Jones is stuck in grieving, can understand grieving a little bit better, that it is a process. And, you know , you can have trouble with it, for sure. We can have trouble with everything, but the parents take their time and parents and the supporters of those parents, whether it be the teachers or the grandparents or other professionals can support them in their grieving instead of trying to push them through it. So those tips to me are very important. And then parents wonder, well, what do I do to get some of these things happening? So there’s a whole list of different activities that are just kind of step-by-step activities, because being overwhelmed can be the definition for these parents. They have grief going on. They have a new baby most importantly, and it may be their first baby. So they’re still figuring out how to put that diaper on. Then they’ve got their family members who are also grieving on different levels and trying to help. Then they’ve got the doctors, then they’ve got the other professionals, they have total. And the other children that have very special needs for dealing with this. I don’t mean disabilities necessarily. So parents are overwhelmed. And in my experience, what they love is having somebody come in and say, there’s a lot going on here. Let’s organize it. There’s a lot that we want to do to teach this baby, to hold her head up. How can we do that? Instead of parents feeling like they’ve got to create the whole universe. So I think the step by step activities, suggestions and guidance is really has proved to be really wonderful for parents.

    Sara: 12:30

    Okay. And how does this book help prepare the parents or the professionals as the babies get older?

    Anne: 12:39

    Well, I , I think that’s such an interesting question because of course that’s exactly what we’re doing with all of our children, whether they have something unique going on or whether they don’t is we’re trying to give them a foundation, a basis to build more complex, more exciting, broader pieces of development and information. So by giving them this foundation, that’ll support their vision and then use that vision to support their early development. That’s going to help them as they get older. I have worked with older children now for me, older would be six. Um , and you have to back up a little bit, but because the brain is so magic, it has already done some of this work, but it may have been kind of haphazard. And so you have to go figure out where the gaps are and try and work with those. Um, but basically what we’re doing is we’re helping teachers understand how to build that foundation and the well, the importance of the foundation, because a lot of the teachers haven’t worked with babies. They may have babies, but babies without difficulties just do it naturally. They, they grow, they develop. So they may not really understand how they can best help someone from newborn up to three.

    Sara: 14:32

    And one final question for you. Is there anything else you want listeners to know about this book?

    Anne: 14:40

    I had a ball writing it. It was also a root canal several times over, but , um, I want to say the editors are they walk on water? I think they’re fabulous, but for professionals and for parents, my wish, my intention was that this would be something that would be a welcome guide would take some of the anchor just from the new teachers or newer teachers or teachers and professionals unfamiliar with CVI and would be a boon to parents. So they would feel understood. Um, when they come out, for example, of a early appointment with their doctor who has said your child has CVI, whether they said Cerebral Visual Impairment or Cortical Visual Impairment, or Neurological Visual Impairment, lots of words to define what’s going on with vision that’s affected from the brain. So what the Dr. May say is, well , your baby has CVI and they’ll use one of those other words probably. And he’s , he’s going to be blind. Now, if you’re not familiar, what blindness means in its broad scope, your child has darkness as an experience. Well, that’s not the case at all. So if you get a chance to read like the Girl Scout Handbook, which is what I kind of hope this is going to be for the Boy Scout Handbook , um, you know, that when your doctor tells you your child is going to be blind, what he means is , or she means is that they’re going to have some difficult vision, but they’re going to have vision. And then what we’re saying is not only are they going to have vision, but we can cultivate it and help them. So they might have a lot of vision. I’m old enough in the field that some of my kids already graduated college. So there’s so much, there’s so much hope for these babies because the brain is so magnificent.

    Sara: 17:05

    It really is. It it truly is. All right . And thank you so much for joining us today on change makers.

    Anne: 17:12

    It was my pleasure, Sara, thank you so much for your time and your sweet questions. They were right on the money.

    Sara: 17:19

    Great, great. And always a pleasure. You are welcome anytime to come back and up next, we’re learning other books that also have a CVI focus. As we continue our conversation about CVI , it’s important to know what other books are available for parents and educators and professionals. We have APH press director, Heather Spence. Hello, Heather. And thank you so much for joining us today on Change Makers.

    Heather: 17:47

    Hi Sara. Thanks for having me.

    Sara: 17:49

    What other APH books are out there for babies diagnosed with CVI?

    Heather: 17:55

    Well, that’s, what’s so unique about this book. It really is the first one we have that focuses solely on babies. Um, it provides an in-depth look at approaches for working with children from birth to 36 months. Um, while we do have several other books related to children with CVI, this is really the first one to focus primarily on babies. It is so important to start interventions early. So I think this book is going to be a great resource for teachers and for parents as well , um, in providing some approaches and some activities that they can do with babies. Um, why they’re so young to start building their visual skills.

    Sara: 18:43

    Okay. And what are some APH books that are good for parents of children with CVI?

    Heather: 18:50

    Well, we have two books by Dr. Christine Roman-Lantzy. Um, the first one is the second edition of her book , um, Cortical Visual Impairment and Approach to Assessment and Intervention. And that one really , uh , provides an understanding of the condition. And I guess you would call it a framework , um, for assessment and intervention. And then we have a companion guide that goes along with that one, and it is Cortical Visual Impairment, Advanced Principles. And in that book , um, Dr. Roman-Lantzy really dives deeper into some of the topics that are discussed in the first book. And she really , um, looks at the whole day of a student with CVI and so addresses some of the tasks that they have to perform and some of the interactions that they might have throughout the day that can be adapted to help them build their visual skills. Um, and then in addition to that , um , we also have Vision in the Brain Understanding Cerebral Visual Impairment in children , uh, by Amanda Hall, Lueck and Gordon Denton . And that book , um, really provides information on current research and the thinking on CVI with perspectives on what’s happening in the field internationally. Um, there are several authors involved in that book from several different countries. So it also provides readers with approaches to assessment and intervention as well.

    Sara: 20:29

    And all these books you just mentioned, where can they be purchased?

    Heather: 20:34

    All of our APH press books can be purchased through our store Um, and you can search by the book title, or just search for CVI. And it’s going to give you a whole list of all the books as well as multiple products that we have , um, such as the mini Lightbox overlays. We have a CVI book builder kit , um , which can all be found on the website at You can also reach out to customer service at 1 800-223-1839. And we have customer service representatives that are available Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM Eastern standard time.

    Sara: 21:20

    And we’ll be sure to put all the links to the books and the products and the customer service department that Heather just mentioned in the show notes. Okay. How there , thank you so much for joining us today on Change Makers.

    Heather: 21:33

    Thanks for having me, Sara, it’s always a pleasure

    Sara: 21:36

    Up next. We’re going to check in with Partners with Paul. Thank you, Sara.

    Paul: 21:42

    Welcome to this episode of Partners with Paul this time. I’m happy to bring on Dan Gardner from View Plus he’s the CEO welcome. And Dan, thank you very much. So for the audience who might not know, can you tell us a little bit more about View Plus?

    Dan: 21:59

    Sure. We are celebrating our 25th anniversary this year of building designing manufacturing, braille embossers. So we started really actually started back when I was in college in 1988, when my father , uh, professor John Gardner was a physics professor at Oregon state and he went blind suddenly. And one of the key doing science and was told he couldn’t do it. So he doesn’t like no right answer. So he created this , uh , concept of in Boston, tactile graphics and ended up forming a company and bringing a product to market. In 2020 in the summer, APH started selling the pics blaster for $39.95 on quota.

    Paul: 22:43

    Can you tell us a little bit more about that embosser?

    Dan: 22:45

    Yeah, the , the PixBlaster is really a culmination of many years of working with APH on a variety of different projects. And it really brings together our transition from a tactical graphics company into a braille and tactile graphics company. So with the pics blaster, you’re getting our brand new power, not braille. So you’d get with , uh , so you get great book, quality rail along with hand catching, tactile graphics, all in one printer. So it does the standard wide format, real paper double-sided , you know , uh , braille as well as then you have the ability to do the tactile graphics portions. So with that, right, is you could use, you know , braille blaster Duxbury , uh, for the braille part, but then also with all of you, plus embossers we include our tiger software suite. So that includes a word and Excel braille translation plug-in as well as the tiger designer for a , like a windows paint for tactical graphics type program. So there’s a lot of materials out there on the web , uh, in , on both the , uh , APH tactical graphics image library, as well as the view plus website where you can download examples and tweak them to your needs,

    Paul: 24:03

    Hand catching graphics. I love that concept. Can you talk to us about connectivity of the printer?

    Dan: 24:08

    Yeah. The conductivity of the Pixel Lasker . It includes the pixie. So that is a wifi device to lie to connect it up to your network , uh, and use it as a wifi printer as well as it will connect up to your mobile device. Uh, so your phone or your tablet and allows you to do then braille on the fly. So text a braille conversion on the fly, as well as print, even tactile graphics from your phone.

    Paul: 24:34

    Great. And how can folks find resources on how to learn to use the PixBlaster?

    Dan: 24:39

    Well, yeah, again, this was a great partnership with APH, as we put together some great training videos that you can get to from the website. So pixblaster, and that’s PixBlaster. And you’ll find a link on there to the training tutorial videos. Yeah. There’s another really handy way to get to those resources on your picks blaster itself. Next to the tackle button, they’ll feel a raised square, which has a QR code on it, which your phone will take you right to all of these technical resources.

    Paul: 25:14

    Great. Thanks for joining us today, Dan. Great to be here in the show notes. We’ve also included the link to the research page for pics blaster, and don’t forget that on April 9th, we’re going to have an Access Academy webinar with Dan and APH William Freeman to talk about braille math and the PixBlaster. Now back to you, Sara.

    Sara: 25:37

    Thank you, Paul. Now we’re going to talk to an author who’s APH Quota book CVI Companion Guide is another great resource for parents and professionals. We have Amanda Lueck . Hello, Amanda, and welcome to Change Makers.

    Amanda: 25:51

    Thank you.

    Sara: 25:53

    Who is the target audience for this book?

    Amanda: 25:58

    Well, the book is designed for children who have Cerebral Visual Impairment, Cortical Visual, and it’s for young children. So the target audience would of course include parents and also TV and , uh , professionals who deliver services to that population. And , um , this would be anybody who does social, emotional communication, cognitive fine, motor gross motor orientation, mobility, and functional vision. So it would have a wide audience. In addition to parents and teachers of the visually impaired, it would include early, early childhood teachers, early child , um , early childhood special education teachers, speech, language pathologist, OTs, PTs , um, ONM , um, all professionals who would work with those children and their siblings in their settings, researchers, psychologists, and probably medical personnel might be interested in some of the information in the book.

    Sara: 27:12

    Okay. And can the information found in the book also be applied to children over three years of age?

    Amanda: 27:20

    It can. Um, there is in the book, a CBI profile where we reviewed all the research to date from the writing of the book on the manifestations of CVI. And those manifestations would apply to people across the lifespan. So that portion of the book can be used across the lifespan. Um, there’s an interview guide that is appropriate just for younger children, but people can look at the CBI manifestations across the lifespan . And then , um, the book , uh , looks at all of the research that was done , um, with children, with CVI, with children, with BI and , um, applies it to intervention strategies. So the intervention strategies that are discussed in the book are written for very young children, but if people use age appropriate tasks that are meaningful and functional for children, when , um, applied into their daily routines, if these children are over three, it could work for them, particularly for children who have additional challenges who are over three.

    Sara: 28:43

    Okay. Now it’s the book is titled CVI Companion Guide. Can you explain where that title came from?

    Amanda: 28:52

    Well , um, I wrote this book with Dr. Debra Chan and Dr. Liz Hartman . And this book is an expansion of earlier work that we did for APH. We wrote one book called the developmental guidelines for infants, with visual impairments, a manual with, for early intervention with Dr. Linda Kelis . And that was published around 1997 and we revised it in 2008. And that looks at all the things that , um , can affect young children with visual impairments in those domains that I mentioned earlier, what we did was we expanded this and how to be , um, a companion to that early book. So the early book would still apply, but we added a lot more research and a lot more intervention strategies for children with CVI in this book. And that’s why it’s called a companion guide.

    Sara: 30:03

    Wow . All right. Well that , well, that explains that , um, Amanda Lueck, is there anything else you’d like to add?

    Amanda: 30:10

    Well, we are currently doing an efficacy study for the program with early intervention and preschool staff at the New Mexico School for the Blind. And this study will be to is to pinpoint and how best to learn about and use the materials in it because there’s a lot of stuff to learn. We learned so much when we were researching the book and writing it, and we want to ensure that people can digest and integrate this information and use it for the children and families who are out there.

    Sara: 30:54

    All right. Amanda Lueck, thank you so much for joining us today on Change Makers.

    Amanda: 30:59

    You’re most welcome. And thank you for interviewing me and your interest for your interest in this book.

    Sara: 31:05

    Be sure to check the show notes for any additional links or information that’s mentioned in this podcast. And that’s it for today’s episode of Change Makers. Be sure to look for ways you can be a change maker this week.

  • Jack Fox: 0:01

    Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host.

    Sara: 0:15

    Hello, and welcome to change makers. My name is Sara and we have hit a milestone that I’m sure no one wants one full year of the Coronavirus. If you think back one year ago, news of COVID-19 was just starting to dominate the news coverage, thinking about it. We all went through this together and we’re still going through it from being told to wear masks, to stocking up on food and toiletries, to working from home. There wasn’t one aspect of daily life that wasn’t impacted. So one year later we’re looking back and reflecting on how APH was impacted by COVID and how it adapted to the new normal plus what’s in store for the future, as COVID slowly relegates itself to a memory that one won’t soon forget. And who better to talk about all of this than none other than APH President Dr. Craig Meador. Dr. Meador, thank you so much for joining us today on Change Makers.

    Dr. Meador: 1:12

    Oh, thanks, Sara. Pleasure to be here.

    Sara: 1:14

    Thank you. So it’s been one year and what a year it has been. How was APH watching the COVID situation this time last year?

    Dr. Meador: 1:24

    Wow. Um, so we had, well for those who, who don’t know APH, APH is a seasonal institution. It’s our agency. So what happens is we live our lives and seasons and every January is the start of conference season. So it’s almost like it’s almost every week. We have a team bouncing all across the country. Uh, one week we’re in Nevada, the next week we are in California. So it just is like that. So we were well into the way of our conference season. We had gone to CES where we have received some awards and CES was well attended. And at that, so that was first week of January. So you’re just starting to hear the rumbles out of China. And so we were like going, okay, well, that’s right now, let’s keep an eye on it. We don’t think it’s going to affect us. So we came off that and we were onto another, a workshop. And then pretty soon we were at CEC, which was the first or end of January. 1st of February, that place was packed full crowd. We did our gig, uh, had a good sh good turnout . There did very well. And you’re hearing more about it. We move into February 1st week of February, we’re at CEC out in Portland, Oregon. I’m starting to hear that, you know, some, some things are happening. Somebody got diagnosed in the States . First person got diagnosed with it. And of course everyone’s saying, well, you know, it’s kinda like the flu. It’s kinda like this. Then we had a few smaller shows and next thing you know, the big one was CSUN, which was, uh, second week of March in Los Angeles. And by then the world was on, started the freakout . Um, you know, so a lot of places were shutting down. Uh, we’d seen that through, uh, most of the, uh, the East. Uh, you’re starting to see that happen in European countries. And you’re like going, Holy Crow, this is serious. And I remember that leading up to a few weeks before CSUN thinking, are they going to cancel the show? Are we going to go, uh, by now COVID was well-established in the United States. There were no cases in Kentucky at that time. Um, but a lot of the other Washington, of course, California, New York, a lot of those States had seen COVID and we were just starting to realize the seriousness of COVID. And I remember meeting with the team saying, what are we the teams going, what are we going to do? And we’re like, well, you know, we’re pushing all our chips into the center of the table and we are headed to CSUN at that time. We w we really had no idea how big this thing was going to get, but, you know, there, there was no cases in Kentucky. So we were like going, we don’t want to be the first, uh, we had some staff who were super concerned and they were the smart ones. They were the smart ones. I think at the time I was thinking, Oh, they’re, they’re just being a little overcautious . Uh, but some people said, I don’t feel comforted well going . We said, that’s fine. Stay back here. We don’t want you to be anywhere where you’re not comfortable. And so we took a smaller than normal team, and we got out there and only to find out that half of CSUN is, for those who don’t know. And haven’t had the opportunity to go CSUN, uh, is the biggest Assistive Technology Conference for blind, visually impaired, I believe in the world. Uh, there’s another one that happens in Frankfurt, Germany, that, that builds itself as the largest. But I think CSUN is larger. So you have everyone from cross country, Canada, uh, Latin America, and a lot of, uh, companies from, uh, Korea and Japan and China and all these. So it is a big, big deal. And everybody who’s, anybody is there and everybody wants to be there. And it is just an amazing time fun show. So we’re there, we’re like, huh, half the half the vendors didn’t show up. And then half the people who signed up didn’t show up and, and we knew some of that going in, but when you got there to became very apparent, uh, you know, when you start to do and every day, it was like “the following sessions have been canceled.. Session one session two, and session 99 session, 105.” And, and, uh, every day that got a little worse. And, and, uh, I always say America, uh, one of the things I, I love Americas is so passionate about sports, but you knew. Um, so with this conference, by the way, and this is sorry for my rambling was situated in Anaheim at the conference center, which is right across the street from Disneyland. So, you know, we had heard the stories of in Washington and California, or in New York, some of the places that stores were being ransacked and nothing left on the shelf. And I went into the, uh, the, the local market there across to get some yogurt. Um, and shelves were fine. You know, there’s toilet paper. There, there was Windex, there were hand wipes. There were all this stuff that was, is flying off the shelf. Supposedly in some cities, I’m going “well, nothing’s happening in LA.” So this was on a Monday. I went over there and got some yogurt for the week and, and, uh, got some coffee and Disneyland is right next door. And the crowds, they were at capacity because it’s spring break time for a lot of states. And they were having to shut Disneyland down every day because they had too many people in Disneyland. So you’re just thinking, okay, maybe this is a big thing. Maybe people are overreacting. And then that Wednesday, um, I think it was Wednesday. Yeah. Uh, I got a call from my son who works at one of these, uh, bougie hotels in New York City. And he says, dad, I said, what? He says, I’ve been quarantined. I said, well, what’s going on? He says, well, two players from the, uh, uh, the Nets were here and they tested positive for COVID. And I was the one I had interaction with them. I checked them into their rooms. And so they put me on quarantine for two weeks. And a day later, the NBA says “season suspended.” Disneyland within six hours, says “Saturday, we’re shutting down the park.” And it’s like, on that Wednesday, someone flipped a switch. And that same, uh, CVS, where I went and got my yogurt. People had cleaned it out of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. And it was just like all crazy, easy broke, loose. And that was Wednesday. And the conference was supposed to go, go to Friday and they got on and they finally said, “hey, we’re shutting down the conference.” We’re supposed to go to Saturday. “They said, we’re shutting down the conference early. We got to shut this thing down early. Everyone’s leaving. There’s no point we’re going to refund some of your money. If you need to leave early, we understand they’re offering everybody free meals”. And I remember on a Thursday morning, I was having breakfast. And the waitress who had been working at that Marriott for 35 years had just been in front of that day, that she’d be losing her job. And they didn’t know if they would bring her back or when they would bring her back. She’d been that same restaurant for 35 years working for Marriott. And, uh, and that’s when it hit me. It’s like this thing is, this thing is huge. This thing is going to be really huge. So I pulled team together. I said, “get on the next plane, shut her down. Let’s get outta here.” So I think we got everybody out of there by Friday. We, everybody quarantine, uh, for two weeks had nobody come into the building for two weeks. And by then, uh, when I got back, of course I was meeting with the executive team. Um, and I, I just asked the team. I said, what do you think? And they’re saying, we, we, we’ve gotta, we gotta be super cautious and everybody gave their recommendation. And so I said, okay. So I called the board and I said, uh, we’re pulling the plug. We’re sending everybody home. Uh, those who can work from home, we’ll work from home. And those, um, who can’t work from home, we’re going to send them home and pay them anyhow. Um, we’re, we’re just going to take care of everybody. And the board said, “absolutely, it’s the right thing to do.” So this was before, uh, so I was kinda scared about that. Cause I’m thinking, Oh my gosh, this is gonna, this could really kill us financially as a, as a company, but it’s the right thing to do. And very few other companies were doing this right now. And then a week later, I think it was Wednesday following Wednesday when Ford announced they were shutting down, I thought I was like, “Oh great. I’m not in this all by myself.”

    Sara: 10:06

    Safety in numbers.

    Dr. Meador: 10:08

    Yes. I know if Ford thought it was the right thing to do to shut it down and send everybody home. We feel like we’re in a good spot. We’re, we’re in a really good decisions. We made the right decisions. And to me, that was just a, uh, kind of a verification that we made the right decision and thus began our life of COVID and the big pivot in turn and the facing uncertainty head-on and what this was going to do for APH and what this was going to do for, um, you know, we had a lot of questions at the time because there was no directions coming out of Washington at that time. Um, we, it was, we really thought, um, and we prepared, we prepared an austerity plan and, uh, but we really thought that there’s a strong possibility that the Federal government was going to suspend payments to APH. And we, we thought that they might just say, well, since no one can operate we’re and we’re funded for those who don’t know, APH gets a large Federal grant every year to operate and produce products for students who are blind or visually impaired and to get these products out to students. And, uh, and that all goes out in the form of, uh, the quota accounts that are set up with each state. So, but we, we didn’t know, we didn’t know if the government would pull that back. We didn’t know if the government would say, we’re suspending your, so you won’t receive your third and fourth quarter payments. Now we have contingency plans. Uh, our, our predecessors at APH were incredibly wise people and they set up a nice rainy day account for just sort of thing. But at the same time, you still, you know, it’s all those things that you’re worried. What if we never are able to come back? You know, how long would we not be able to operate? Um, those were all the questions is like, are we going to be shut down for a month, two months, the rest of the year there until there’s a vaccine, you know, it really was a lot of questions and just a lot of operating off intuition and just, uh, leaning into it. I mean, I don’t know how else to describe it, and I know that’s overused, but I think everybody, every school district, every business was in the same spot. You just have to, sometimes when you don’t know when the unknown is the largest thing in front of you, I, the best advice I can always tell people is that’s when you just got to lean in, you just gotta lean in because it, it, uh, the undiscoverable will never be known until you try to wrap your arms around it. So it’s, it’s that, that opportunity to lean in to the unknown, it’s scary as all get out. But, uh, um, we did it, we did it. And, uh, we had some good fortune. Now, some of the things that we did though, is we had a strong strategic plan. In two years previous, we had decided as a leadership team, that where we wanted APH to go in the future, um, was to be stronger in the area as a collaborator and a deliverer of services. APH two years was 70%, 75%, I’ll say 75, 75% of all our output was intangible products, whether that be braille or science kits or math kits. And we had decided as a leadership team is we want to get a balance, 50, 50, 50% of our products. We’re not going to slow down on the product. So keep products up here, but we’re going to bring services from this 25% up to 50 or up to whatever that number is. So that 50% of what we do is the intangible it’s it’s lessons. It is service to people. It’s connecting people to information. It is providing a platform for learning. It is. So this was our grand scheme. So we, we knew that we wanted to, um, not that we wanted to create, because there are, um, uh, one of the things I say all the time at APH, we recognize that brilliance is everywhere. It’s everywhere. Yeah . You don’t have to come to APH to find that you can find it all over the country. Brilliant and minds, incredible leaders, educators, developers, curriculum makers of teachers, rehab, counselors, they’re everywhere. And so our goal was part of that two years ago is let’s create a platform and let’s go find those people. And rather than duplicate, or try to reinvent the wheel, as they say, let’s just invite them to share their knowledge and expertise on this platform. So the wheels had already started turning that . Um, so we’re in this new unknown, we had a plan, okay, we’re gonna go, we’re going to get back together. And we’re just gonna figure out what to do next. Um, and what, what happened next was not just an APH thing, but it was, uh, um, the field of blindness and rehab thing, which is one of the reasons why I’ve, I’ve been in this field since 1984. And it’s one of these reasons. I, I think people stay in this field. Most people who come into this field are lifers. They don’t leave. Um, and this was, I think one of those reasons why is because in a time of crisis, um, the, the people in this field pull together, they just like, yeah . And it’s almost like if you’re gonna bake this, this giant cake and you’re like, I don’t have flour. And someone says, I got flour, I’ll bring eggs. I got sugar. Everyone comes together and throws their energy, their financial resources, uh, their expertise, their, they had lessons already prepared that they had done at a conference. But what we saw as a field, all come together and say, we’re all in trouble here. We need each other. We have to rely on each other. Who’s got what, who can help and what you saw all across the country. Yeah . Um, uh, NFB did this ASA ACB did this AFB, um, Perkins, the Texas school, South Dakota North . I mean, it’s just like when, across the board. And I hate to mention every school cause I’m going to leave one out. But every school for the blind, all these education agencies, rehab centers basically came to the table saying, this is what I have and whether they banded together in teams or whether they went alone, but they all made sure that learning continued for their kids that were stuck at home. And we have a very brilliant person on the APH staff and that’s, that’s, uh, Leanne grill it. And, uh, she is the national director of outreach for APH. And we had been building this high, what we call the high, which will be our new learning platform. And she basically just decided we’re going to launch this thing. And we’re like, is it built? Is it ready? No, but we’re going to launch it. So she just jumped in, um, and did a lot. This started pulling people together, reaching out. And then she partnered with, uh, uh, the team in Dot Six. And, and then all our partners in the for-profit world, HumanWare, Vesparo, Zoomex, all these companies said, Hey, we can do a training on this. And we won’t charge for it. We’ll do a training here, free of charge. And then other people came in and said, Hey, we, and then, then we started just putting the call out to teachers in the field saying who would like to do a training? What would you like to train on? And, and before, you know, we had this network of incredible training opportunity that was happening. Um, and I’m getting ahead of myself. So let me, let me back up a little bit, but right before we launched the hive and went out and did this, um, uh, Sheryl, Camille Hannon out of, uh, university, California. Um, I think she, I don’t think she’s UC Davis, uh, but, uh, she’s at one of the universities there. Forgive me, Cheryl for forgetting that, um, and, uh, Perkins school, Perkins school for the blind, um, up there connected with Leanne and said, why not the three of us partnered together, get this thing off the ground. So the three of them partnered to get this thing off the ground. And that ran from April through mid may. And that allowed us to a little more time to pull additional resources together. So when that program ended, it was the pathways to literacy program through Perkins. When that program ended for the, because Perkins was kind of folding its school year to a close and releasing kids to the summer, the demand was still there. So we continued on and that’s when we brought in all these additional partners. So on average, we are offering, um, most weeks, three learning three to four learning opportunities on a daily basis. And we didn’t know who would take advantage of, we had parents showing up. We had teachers showing up. We had students showing up. We had professionals when all was said and done from the time this started, to the time this ended, we had done, I think, 93, different virtual learnings. 93. You know, I, I, math wise, I I’m, I mean, that’s, so that was an average of three a week or three or four a week for a gazillion weeks, whatever the math is on that, the largest one we had over 900 participants then,

    Sara: 20:16

    Oh my gosh.

    Dr. Meador: 20:18

    900 participants showed up. We had, I think it was 18 or 19 different kinds countries participate. Saudi Arabia to China to, uh, I mean, it was just UK, all over the board. People coming from all over the world to participate. You’re from experts here from people who all have the same passion. Uh, everybody was in the same situation, everybody. Uh, I, you know, it’s kind of this whole idea of going back to this idea of leaning in everybody was just leaning in and then supporting each other. And that was the most beautiful thing. And that’s what I say. It’s why I love this field is you see that kind of response there, there, I mean, we all pulled together, but there wasn’t one agency sending out a Clarion call, you know, and, and, uh, everybody assembling all at once. And, and, but it was just, it was like, um, it was just this great organization, everybody different in their own creative way, but, you know, bringing, uh, sharing the same mind almost and producing the same sort of thing. And you hear all these heroic, heroic stories going on all across the country. You have teachers who are setting up their garages as braille shops, and they’re, they’re, brailling up lessons, uh, late into the evening and then getting into their car, first thing next morning, and driving that stuff 30 or 50 and sometimes a hundred miles to make sure kids have lessons and leaving them in the mailbox or putting them inside the screen door. You had teachers who needed to do one-on-one with kids and doing lessons between a screen door, you know, glass door, but the student on the other side, in cases where students didn’t have internet access or getting on the phone. And, and, um, so it really, um, you know, I I’m glad for the most part, those days are done. I mean, we’re still working with some difficulties and, but a lot of schools have returned or we have, uh, delivered or created better delivery systems for less since, but overall, just amazing to have witnessed this and to look back on what the field has accomplished over the last six, seven months, and also, you know, quite proudly what APH has been able to do, what our staff was able to do in being a part of that was really, really exciting. And the beauty of that is we’re now on the other side of that somewhat, I mean, you know, everyone’s back, everyone’s back to work, whether it be in a home setting or back in the building production, um, is back up operational. All our fears never were realized the government kept funding. Us sales were actually up our productivity. Our production team did an amazing job. Um, I’m, I’m knocking wood right now. You know, we’ve had very few cases of people who have been infected and, but more importantly of those people who are infected, there was no spread at APH, which is amazing, but I contribute that to everyone just doing what they were supposed to do, spacing the mass good sanitation the whole bit. So we had been very fortunate in during this process. Um, it’s, I’m so glad we had a good plan. Um, we were prepared for a disaster before the disaster hits. What came out of it has just been, I think, because we had to enact our plan a year and a half earlier. Our, originally we weren’t going to launch The Hive until spring of this year, late spring. So we actually launched it a year in advance. Um, and I think overall some of the direction and ground we wanted to cover, which we had given ourselves a five-year runway to do, we have covered about half that ground. So we, we basically are about two years ahead of plan because of the pandemic. Now I don’t want to go through it again. Um, and I am looking for us to get back to a return to normalcy as quick as possible. Uh, I want to see people, um, I want to be able to give people a handshake and, and I, I swear once I get vaccinated, I am going to go up and down Frankfort Avenue, hugging people, um, whether they want it or not. Uh, but, uh, looking forward to that day, you know, it’s a, and we’re really hoping that next year, as we get closer to Annual Meeting, that our plan right now is we’re doing annual meeting in person, putting it out there to the universe and to the powers to be that we are, we are thinking very positively and we are, uh, I’m a man of faith. So in prayer that this will be our reality and, and, uh, uh, that we will be able to see people and greet people and meet people and gather the family back together here in Louisville, Kentucky, come October,

    Sara: 25:36

    You talked about the COVID vaccine and the shot. So how is APH looking toward the future once we’re allowed to be together again, you mentioned the annual meeting, but what else does, what else is APH looking forward to?

    Dr. Meador: 25:49

    You know, the other, the other real benefit that came out of this, um, APH and I don’t, I don’t think we’re much different than any other business, any other brick and mortar business. Um, we’ve always had some employees that have been home assignment or not. Their workstation was not assigned at APH. We’ve always had a few of those, but I think out of fairness, if you were to go back and ask all our supervisors before all this happened, saying, would you ever have people who work from home and not within your department? And I think if people were honest and most of them would be, they would say, you know, I, I don’t know how to manage somebody. If they don’t come in every day, I would not know how to manage them. Their productivity they’re successful if they’re successful or not, or whether this was a healthy thing or not. If, Unless they were coming in every day, you know, and that idea of, I want to have my team close because I feel like we can move faster for closer together and in better communication. And I’m a believer in that, but I’m also a believer into that. Um, and that had long been an APH directive, um, way before I got there. The idea is that if you worked for APH, you lived in Louisville and you came into the office every day. That was the thing expectation. But the problem is as the world, changes is really funny. As the world has gotten smaller with technology and the ability to travel and the ability to, to connect on many different levels, the world has also, um, become more restrictive. And I’ll tell you what that, what I mean by that. People are less likely in, this is just my hunch. I’ve got no science to pack back this up. Although I bet I could back it up with a research article or two if I spent a little time, but my feeling is a lot of people would love to work for you BPH, but they didn’t all find themselves in a situation of, um, you know, I have an aging parent, I have to take it . I’d love to come work. I’d love to make that move to Louisville, come work for you guys. But I have an aging parent. I live in Michigan. I live in the Moines, Iowa. I live in, uh, the San Fernando Valley, wherever it is, but I have re I have family responsibilities. I have a aging parent. Um, you know, we have a, um, a split household and, and it would be too difficult on our kids trying to move them back and forth between States. It’s hard enough trying to do it across city. Um, and we’ve lost out on a lot of good people because of that. You know, we’ve hired a lot of them as consultants and have been able to rely on their expertise, but we haven’t had them as a full fledged member of the team because of our, our previous philosophy. So I think what COVID taught all our managers in a very quick crash courses, you are an effective manager and given the opportunity to manage people from the distance, you’ll figure it out. And what we’ve seen for the most part is most people who are at home have become, huh, highly. I mean, they’ve been every bit as effective at home as they have been at APH. And I think in a few cases, maybe even more affective because there are people who don’t do well with interruption. And so when they’re able to, to their own workspace and work on uninterrupted, they are just covering miles and miles and miles. And so for them, it has been a godsend . So when we look at it as a company, you know, one of the questions that was asked the other day in the COVID meeting, I wasn’t there for it, but I was relayed to me is will we be everybody back all at once? And of course the answer is, it depends. It depends on what the need of the department is. It depends on the employee. We, I know we have out of the, uh, currently 312 employees at APH, three 12, three 15, give or take a few. Um, we have about a third who come into APH every day to work, uh, HR, finance production. They’re in shipping, they’re in every single day. Um, and then we have different people who come in one day or two days a week, but on any given day, only a third of our staff are on site. If we were able to tomorrow, we were at vaccinate everybody today and say, starting tomorrow, anyone didn’t come back would come back. I imagine we would get another third that are just ready to bust down the door to come back saying, I got to see people. I want to share a coffee pot. I want to steal somebody’s lunch from the fridge. You know, they just want to be back amongst people and have a routine and have that interaction. Yeah . And then we have a handful of people who say, I really liked this working from home thing, but there are days when the kids are driving me nuts. And I would like to go to the office or the dog’s driving me nuts, or I just need that routine. And so they’re looking to do a split schedule, you know, Monday, Wednesday, I’m in the office, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, I met home or Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, I’m at home. And all that will be worked out within the departments. But I think what we have proven to ourselves and our, and our employees have demonstrated is that we’re capable and competent people. Um, we can work across a myriad of environments. And from a, from a company perspective, I think the more flexibility we can allow our employees the better off we’ll be. Long-term I think if, if, uh, that’s, uh, if that’s a perk and I’m always, um, I was raised with a philosophy why wasn’t raised with it because my mom always said no, but I learned as a dad early on, uh, uh, from some wise mentors, they said say, yes, when you can. Say no, when you must, it’s, it’s kind of that idea of, you know, it’s like, uh, you know, can I have cake before bed? Can say no, when you must it’s . And sometimes you get yourself in some trouble as a parent, but I think it’s the same way too, as, as a, as an employer. It’s like, if someone’s saying, you know, I really have, you know, my washing machines on the Fritz and I’ve got to stay at home and wait for the repairman to come. Can I work for them ? Why not? Yeah. Why not? “You know, I got a sick dog, I got a sick dog who needs round the clock attention and, and I’ll be here. And then my partner will be at home at two. So I can be in the office from two to five. Is that okay?” “Work from home, the front half work from the office, the last half?” Why not? Why not say yes when you can? Um, because, you know, I, I think that’s just, it just makes for a better work environment when you can give people that kind of freedom. Now, there are some jobs, obviously, if you’re running the braille punch, I’m sorry, unless you just punch in your garage, come in and run the braille punch here. There’s some jobs that, that just don’t allow you to. And I think, um, and it also comes down to preference. Sometimes it comes down to preference. I am I’m a creature of routine. Uh, lucky for me, I live about a quarter of a mile from APA . And, um, working from home is hard for me today. This is, I decided that I, you know, I’ve had Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting, after Zoom meeting, I did take a about 45 minutes and shovel out the car. Um, but for the most part, I’ve been attached to this computer in front of me, but I would much rather be in my office. I would much rather be, I’ve got a, I’ve got a pace, I’ve got a momentum. I come in and turn on the computer. I start the coffee pot. I love my routine. And so I miss it when I’m home. Um, so for me, you know, the, probably the worst thing you can do is say, you need to work from home. That’s just me. Um, so I think when, when we get back, we, when we have that opportunity, departments will make that decision. Um, but I, I will say the longer we are apart from each other, the, one of the things that does concern me, that, that we are a little bit about is at APH. Um, we, he worked very hard to break down silos and, and when I referenced silos, what I’m talking about is APH really is one big company, but there’s like six companies under APH. You got six companies that are in communication, but are producing different products, different outcomes. And so they basically used to run like six different companies. And we have worked very hard over the last few years to get these companies interrelated, connected, communicating the one downside I had seen the longer that COVID has gone on. And we have been separate from each other is those silos has started to come back up. We’re seeing communication breakdown between departments. Um, we are seeing where we’re starting to lose a little bit of our empathy for each other . Um, there are times when we, we, you know, and we get a little snarky, snarky can be fun, but it also can be hurtful. So we have to, you know, it has to be delicious delivered out to, and snarky never plays well over email. It just, it just doesn’t, you can say something snarky in person and then laugh and everyone laughs and uh, uh, but it, it never plays well over email. And we’ve seen some of that creep back in and we’ve seen people just losing patients. And I think a lot of this is just the fatigue of not being together. It’s the fatigue of zoom meetings. It’s the fatigue of, of, uh, just feeling connected to, to the bigger whole . So I think when we are able to bring people back in, um, I know in talking with some department and people, some of them have said, we’re going to make it mandatory. That one or two days a week, at least the start we’re getting everybody back in under the same roof so we can learn how to behave again. We can learn to value each other again and start to rely on each other and rebuild that communication, which I think is very smart. I think that’s, We’ve been isolated so long, we’ve forgotten how to interact properly and how to do it professionally. And, you know, over email any email or texts can take on its own tone. However, you interpret it, you know, you can’t, you say it, you know, you say something sarcastically, you know, you, you, you, you can sort of elaborate in person, but you do that over email. It does, it, it, it takes on its own tone. So we are going to have to sort of, you know, learn relearn how to interact. And yeah, we’re coming out of this kind of traumatized, You know, you, you say that and, and, uh, there’s a lot of truth there. This is this, um, you know, you’re starting to see some, some, I don’t know if they’re full studies, but definitely some, some papers being written on the idea of this site, uh, COVID has created PTSD for some folks. So there will be some PTSD, uh, related to, to when this is all said and done. And, and I think people, some people are experiencing that and, uh, and it won’t be until after they’re out of it that they’ll be able to come to terms with it. And then you’ll start to see, uh, what happens a lot of times with post-traumatic is right now, um, until it’s over, we don’t know how that will manifest, but you, you might see people start having anxiety issues. You might see people have other issues. So we’ll just have to wait to see, you know, we’re tired, we’re fatigued. We have a lot of work to do. Um, we’re in the middle of conference season with some of the biggest conference to come. And the problem is, is they’re all virtual. And, um, and this is not a knock on presenters because the presenters are doing amazing jobs, but, Oh my gosh, a virtual conference, um, it’s tough. I, I’m not a fan. It’s hard. I love the learnings, but I, you know, for sitting in front of a computer eight hours a day watching, you know, part of the, part of the nice thing about a conference is you get up and you move and you buy conversations in the hall and it’s, uh, the dinners afterward, or cup of coffee and a chance to sit down and dream big with, uh, colleagues from the field, the chance to catch up. And that’s, what’s missing from all these virtual conferences. And, and so, um, I would say right now, I, I’m not a fan. They have their place, but the day that we can put the end to the virtual conference, um, and w I think everything that we do at APH, like annual meeting the show will be a hybrid. We will be showing a lot of that because we did our conference last year, virtual. Yes, we had almost triple the number of people that normally would show up for annual meeting. Normally on a good year, we’ll have about 500 people show up for annual meeting. I think we had like 1200, 1300 people, at least one session at annual meeting. So we’ll continue to do virtual for those who can’t come to Louisville, but I’m going to be down at the Hyatt. I’m going to be down and I will be dressed up. Um, and I will, I will be treating, I will be buying people, coffee or whatever, and looking for conversations and having conversations and, and just welcoming everyone to Louisville, to APH meetings . Can’t wait for that. And then normal, normal,

    Sara: 40:05

    Like the “olden” days, you know, know like, Oh my goodness. So that’s exciting. That’s exciting. And, you know, I feel like this is something that we truly are all in together. And I feel confident to say that we all are looking forward to the end of this, this whole situation. All right . Thank you so much, Dr. Mehta for joining us on Change Makers, right .

    Dr. Meador: 40:27

    Take care.

    Sara: 40:31

    In an effort to find out how those with visual impairments were impacted educationally during the height of COVID APH and AFB were two of 19 organizations, companies, and universities that collaborated on a project to find out how children learning from home received a quality education. We have AFP’s Director of Research, Dr. L Penny Rosenblum here to talk about what they found and what changes were made to ensure quality education continued. Hello, Dr. Rosenblum and welcome to Change Makers. Well, thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here to talk to you about how COVID-19 has impacted education of our students with visual impairments in the last year. Good. Okay. Well, let’s see. Can you share with us the work you and your colleagues have done in the last year related to COVID-19 in the education of visually impaired children? Absolutely. So when we first started to see a shift from students, um, in brick and mortar.

    Dr. Rosenblum: 41:34

    Building, so to speak, to being educated online, it was a very, very quick change back in March and April of 2020. And so a group of us joined together and very quickly put out the access and engagement survey that opened on April 22nd of 2020. We ended up with data for 455 students and 1028 professionals. Um, and these folks were in the U.S . and Canada. So we had really good representation. And part of what we really found was people had very little time to make the shift. So we had gaps and that included professionals who themselves were not comfortable with technology. And first learned, had to learn how to do things like use zoom themselves before they could start supporting their students. We had, um, families who knew that their child used, um, screen reader software, for example, but had no idea how to support their child and actually using that software. So when the student would get into a situation where they weren’t sure what to do, there wasn’t somebody there who, who knew how to use jaws for example, and can support them. We also had a lot of issues, um, that we saw around accessibility, whether that was the classroom teachers video, um, wasn’t accessible. So the teacher of visually impaired students was having to, um, meet with the visually impaired student to go over that video with them. So the student could get the content, whether that was the teacher, visually impaired students didn’t have an embosser available to them cause they had no warning that they were leaving the school. So therefore they didn’t have a way to prepare braille materials for the student. Our ONM folks, of course, are very hands-on often, you know, as we all know, pounding the pavement and how do you do that virtually? So that was a huge shift on some level, some of these things have changed, but many of these things have not changed. And we know that from 663 individuals who completed a survey during November of 2020, so that we could start to look at well, where are we? Nine months later?

    Sara: 43:40

    Okay. I understand that AFB is taking the lead for the work on understanding how COVID-19 impacts education, but the list of authors for the report published in October is quite large. How did you all come together to look at how COVID-19 has been impacting children?

    Dr. Rosenblum: 43:58

    So in, um, early April of 2020, a group of 20 organizations and companies started the flattened in accessibility survey, and that examined how COVID 19 was impacting 1,921 adults with visual impairments. When that survey posted, um, Dr. Tina Hertzberg from the university of South Carolina, upstate contacted me and said, penny, we need to do this for kids. And I said, absolutely. Um, the next day, Dr. Tiffany Wilde from Ohio state university contacted me and said, Hey, are we going to do anything for kids and how our group grew? Um, I think the group of professionals who were part of the, um, team that analyzed the data and deciphered it and found meaning in it are individuals who are very committed to our profession. And most of these folks that you see on the first access and engagement report are on the team for our second access and engagement report. And that data is currently being analyzed from our 663 participants. I think the fact that we have such a strong and diverse team for both access and engagement one and our current study that we’re analyzing access and engagement two with 663 participants demonstrates how so many of us in the field of visual impairment are collaborating how we are vested in the education of our students with visual impairments.

    Sara: 45:30

    Okay. And now tell me this, what is the difference between the first and the second surveys?

    Dr. Rosenblum: 45:38

    So let’s talk a little bit about the first access and engagement survey, and that report is available, um, at And that report is based on data, um, from 1,432 individuals, very early on in the pandemic. So we collected that data between April 22nd and May 13th. We were all struggling, whether we’re talking about children with disabilities or typically, um, sighted children, whether we were talking about children in earlier intervention or children transitioning out of high school, we were all struggling to figure out how do we make this work during a pandemic, our data set from the fall, the second access and engagement is a much smaller data set. And we have a couple of theories on why that is. Um, we opened that survey just as the presidential election was occurring. Um, so it was a very challenging time in our country. And I think by November, a lot of us were on survey overload. So we have a smaller sample of 663 individuals. So we, um, have a very small group of families who were receiving early intervention. So that’s 16 families, 22 families of preschool children. And then we have 168 school aged children that are represented. Actually we had 166, um, family members who completed on that school survey. Two of two families did it twice because they had more than one children, but we really see some commonalities between the first and the second dataset . And the one that really jumps out at me immediately is that our number of children or our percentage of children with additional disabilities and both the first access engagement and in the second access and engagement report was the same 56%. Um, so that really tells us something. Um, one thing we saw in our second data set that really, um, sat well with our team, is it 92% of our school age students had up-to-date IEP. However, remember these are the families who took time to do a pretty involved survey. So we’re not sure if these data are really representative. Um, but we were happy to see that 95% of the families who had school aged children told us their child was participating in education. Um, we also learned that 77% of the professionals were going into school buildings. Um, many of them were also doing online instruction. So in the spring, almost everybody was online, but now we’re seeing the shift to both families and professionals telling us that many of our students are being educated and buildings.

    Sara: 48:34

    Now tell me this, how, how are you and the other sharing, what has been learned from the surveys and is that information any of us can use?

    Dr. Rosenblum: 48:45

    Absolutely. So we’ve got a couple of ways that you can get information. The first access and engagement report has been published. It’s available It’s a downloadable PDF, both the full report and an executive summary or it’s, um, by section. So HTML, um, you know, a website type of thing where you can move through the sections. We also have a blog post that I wrote about how you can share the access and engagement report. And that could be by sharing it with school administrators, writing a letter to the editor, contacting technology companies, um, for products that your, your child or your, um, or your students are experiencing challenges with. So we give you some ideas. The second access and engagement report will also be posted on And we anticipate that will be late April early may. Um, I know folks are like, well, you collected the data in November. Um, but keep in mind, it was a very complicated survey and it also takes us time to do what we call clean the data, and then we need to analyze the data. And then we need to interpret the data into a written report that makes sense to folks, I’ve done several blog posts and I’ve done several podcasts where I’ve shared the results. Um, our team is going to be presenting two sessions at the California transcribers and educators of the blind and visually impaired conference. In April. We’re putting into present at the, getting in touch with literacy conference. That’s going to be held hopefully for all of us in person in Tampa, in December. We are having folks in our policy area at AFB share information with administrators, legislators, and others, to get the word out. And we also did a town hall back in the fall where we shared information about education across the lifespan, and that is recorded and it transcripts available on the AFP website as well. So we’re doing our best to get the word out, but honestly we need everybody to use the report to share with those who they want to reach out to, to help affect change for students with visual impairment, AFB, APH, any of the other organizations or companies. We can’t do it alone. We really need folks who are out there working with kids, our parents of kids, and our young high school age students, themselves sharing the information. So Sarah folks could go to the AFP website to find the blog posts, the report, the town hall that I’m talking to you about, or I know that you’re going to go ahead and put them in the show notes for today’s podcast, so that they’re easily reached by your listeners. And we encourage everybody to check those out.

    Sara: 51:47

    What do you think the long-term impact of COVID-19 is going to be on children and families, TBIs O&M specialists and others?

    Dr. Rosenblum: 51:57

    You know, I think that’s the million dollar question for all of us, Sarah, but I think there’s a couple things that have definitely shown through in our data and that reflect both systemic issues that we’ve had in the field of visual impairment and COVID related issues. The number one is about technology. I have really come to learn from my own personal experiences as a person with a visual impairment, as an educator of children with visual impairments and as a researcher that we talk about accessibility, a lot in this field, but we also need to really focus on usability. And so we have had in both studies, family members and professionals share with us that the tools that students are using for learning, um, whether those are our more common tools like canvas or Google classroom or zoom or, or Microsoft, um, Microsoft teams are technically pretty accessible, but may not be usable. And some of that is because of the way things are set up often it’s because of the knowledge base or, um, the fact that the student hasn’t gotten those skills yet, or the family or the professional doesn’t know how to teach those skills or what skills need to be taught so that the student can be more, um, effective using those tools. And every time something updates, we have changes that we need to make sure that assistive technology like jaws or NBDA or voiceover, and that tool get connected and that the changes work on both ends so that when jaws updates, it works with all the tools out there. When any of the tools out there get updated, they work with jaws . So we have a big disconnect there, and I hope, um, that one thing that will come out of our research is that we will have a better synergy between technology companies and educators. And we will be able to build the technology companies awareness that they need to be thinking about, um, usability and accessibility from the ground up, not as an afterthought. So I think that’s one issue. Um, another thing that we’ve seen is in the comments that many of the family members and professionals have made this deeper understanding of the role of educators in the lives of children and, um, on the part of families and a deeper understanding on the part of educators about how families function and how, when, when things work well, when there’s good communication, when there’s, um, commitment on both sides, the professional side and the family side, that we can really focus more on those educational needs of the student. You know, we had families who now really understand some of the things that their child has on their IEP, that they see once a year, and they, they know that learning’s happening. They’re not questioning that, but now they’re really seeing the details. And we have educators who are really starting to see what’s happening in the home and what, what they can do to really support that student in developing their expanded core curriculum skills and, and in a natural way. So I hope that will continue. And then the third thing is we are a digital society. You know, Sarah you’re interviewing me from Louisville, Kentucky, and I’m sitting in Tucson, Arizona, and we’re having a conversation technology to connect people at a distance is not going to go away when the pandemic is over online learning tools are not going to go away. When the pandemic is over. I use technology all day, every day in my work, our students are going to need to be efficient with lots of different technology tools in the mainstream to be successful in post-secondary education and employment. Um, one of my favorite quotes from a family member of a five to seven year old child, and the false are in I’m sorry, in the study we conducted in the spring and reported on in the fall was that child was learning to be independent with technology and that this was going to serve this child well for the future. So a family of, uh, of a little person, you know, somewhere between kindergarten and second grade, and that realization on the part of the family member of the role of technology and her child or his child’s future, um, really has resonated with me. So those are some of the, I think the lessons

    Sara: 56:46

    Takeaways for us, are there any more plans to examine how education has changed or continues to change for our students?

    Dr. Rosenblum: 56:55

    I am really excited to publicly share with you that our team and it’s many of the original folks who started this in the spring of 2020 are looking at telling the story of one year out. Now, I know some of you have done surveys for us and you’re going, no, not another survey in the spring. Good news. Um, we’re primarily doing focus groups. And let me share with you how we’re going to do that. We’re going to actually divide into four smaller teams. So Dr. Tiffany wild at Ohio state university is going to be doing focus groups for families . So some of you may be asked to participate or to help us find families of elementary academic students mid on high school, um, family members, families of, uh, students who have additional disabilities. Those families who have children that are engaged in hybrid and online learning families who are homeschooling their children. And then Dr. Wilde’s group also wants to talk to ONM specialists . I’m going to be leading a focus group study, where I’m going to be doing focus groups for several different, um, groups that we haven’t had. Good representation in our survey from a monolingual, Spanish families, family members of children, and early intervention and preschool, all someone to talk to folks providing early intervention who are not TVI or O&M specialists. We’re going to talk to some state special ed directors. For example, my colleague, Kenny Anthony in Colorado, is somebody we hope to invite. We want to talk to administrators at schools for the blind, special ed and regular ed teachers to get their perspective and special ed directors. We are going to have a study that’s going to be led by Dr. Tina Hertzberg and that it’s going to focus on teens. So Dr. Hertzberg is going to do several teen focus groups. And then also a brief 20 questions we’ve been working on that co uh, survey for teens. And then finally, Dr. Carly Rhodes, who joined AFB earlier this year as our research specialist is going to put together a very short survey that will target vision professionals. So eyes and OEMs, but also professionals who are early intervention providers, paraprofessionals general ed and special ed teachers. Um, and it will be brief to get their perspective on how COVID-19 has impacted our students over the last year. So we’re excited to be these studies in April and may of 2021.

    Sara: 59:26

    And looking back at these surveys and studies, what are your biggest takeaways from all of this work?

    Dr. Rosenblum: 59:34

    You know, my personal biggest takeaways, um, really tie to how amazed I am at the commitment of our professionals in this field. And many of the things that we’ve seen that have been positive, there is so much more professional development and opportunities for people to collaborate now. And I think about the Excel Academy started by Dr . Um, Cheryl, um, Camille Hannon, um, and colleagues, I think about the TSBVI Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired coffee hours. I think about how use of websites such as paths to literacy and paths to technology have increased. So I I’m one big takeaway for me is, is the collaborative nature. And I hear about groups that are meeting regularly. Um, a second takeaway for me, really ties to that, that systemic issue around accessibility and usability and how, if we’re ever going to see more individuals with visual impairments successfully employed. Um, and we get over that hump of, you know, depending on what data you want to use, that, you know, 60 to 70% of working age adults with visual impairment are unemployed or underemployed for going to get over that hump. We have got to deal with this technology stuff. We have to ensure that our students have access and leave school with a very, very robust technology toolbox. Um, and I think then for me, that the last issue is, is our students who, um, have additional learning challenges and how we can ensure because they’re often, you know, just a very small number in a school district, how we can ensure that they’re not falling through the cracks that they are getting of very individualized, but very robust education that is truly preparing them for what comes next, when school ends, um, because sitting and listening to a video of somebody reading you a story, um, when you don’t have the concepts behind that story, when that video is not accessible to you, when your motivation or your ability to attend for that long is not, there is not education. So we really need to look at how can we more effectively serve, um, our students with complex needs. And I think the pandemic has helped bring that awareness even more to the front, hopefully for those outside of our field. So those are just some of my takeaways.

    Sara: 1:02:07

    Okay. And can you give us an idea as to when the second reports results will be published?

    Dr. Rosenblum: 1:02:14

    Sure. Um, so we anticipate that the second access and engagement, um, on that 663, um, person sample will be published at the end of April or the beginning of may. And then we’ll be conducting our third study, so to speak with these focus groups and short surveys and, and in April and may. So I think we’ll be well into probably September before we’re able to share a report of those findings with folks.

    Sara: 1:02:46

    All right, Dr. Rosenblum, thank you so much for joining us on Change Makers today.

    Dr. Rosenblum: 1:02:51

    It was a real pleasure, and I’d like to encourage anybody who wants to brainstorm on how you can use the findings of these studies to really affect change for students with visual impairments in your, in your community to reach out to me. So we’ll make sure that my email address and telephone number are also in today’s session notes. So thank you so much for inviting me. I look forward to coming back maybe in about six months and sharing with you what we learned through our focus groups and our interactions with teams.

    Sara: 1:03:27

    Most definitely. All right. Thank you so much, Dr. Rosenblum. That’s it for today’s episode of change makers, all of the information discussed today will be in the show notes. Be sure to find ways you can be a change maker this week.

  • Jack Fox: 0:01

    Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host.

    Sara: 0:16

    Hello, and welcome to change makers. My name is Sara and today APH is celebrating Women’s History Month. And before we get into the interviews, let’s talk about women’s history. Overall Women’s History Month is a celebration of the often overlooked contributions women have made to history, culture, and society. It initially began as a national week-long celebration in 1981 and expanded to a month long celebration in 1987. So today, we’re talking about the pioneers and today’s leaders in the field of blindness, and we will also have a check-in with Partners with Paul. First up, let’s talk about the pioneers who paved the way, we have APH Museum Director and expert of all things, historical Mike Hudson. Hello, Mike, and welcome back to Change Makers. So we are celebrating all things, women. And before we celebrate today’s trailblazers, we need to honor the pioneers that came before. So tell me who are the women that made an impact in the community of blindness and visual impact?

    Mike: 1:24

    I don’t even know where to start, from the very beginning. Uh, this has just been a field where, uh, in, uh, women have been such a crucial part and I have a list that goes a mile long. Okay. So let’s start back in the, in the 18th century. Okay. And Austria with a lady name, Maria Theresia von Paradis. Have you ever heard of her?

    Sara: 1:58

    No, that one’s new to me.

    Mike: 1:59

    Okay. So, uh, uh, Maria Teresa, uh, she’s born in, uh, in Austria, in Europe, of course, around 1759. She loses her vision when she’s a child. She is the daughter of very wealthy parents, uh, nobility. In fact, they are in Austria. And so she’s raised with all of the advantages that, you know, wealth gives you. So she had the, uh, the, uh, good fortune, unlike so many other people who are blind and visually impaired in the 18th century, that her parents believed her and gave her all the, you know, uh, a quality quality education. So she grows up to be quite an accomplished opera singer. And at the age of 16, she sets out on a tour of Europe performing for all of the, uh, the Royal courts. She’s a smash hit in Paris, France. She goes over to England. She sings for King George, III, which we here in America know from the American Revolution. And, then, as her fame starts to fade a little bit, she returns to Austria becomes a well-known composer, and spends the next 20 or 30 years or so, as a very successful composer. Composing, a concertas and operas and that sort of thing. And then, uh, in her fifties, she, uh, opens a music school in Vienna and spends the last years of her life, uh, teaching music. So why is that important in the 19th, 18th, 19, before that if you were visually impaired, you were generally considered to be cursed by God. So Maria Theresia von Paradis is a great example of a young lady who is blind, who demonstrates to everybody that with a few advantages, a few accommodations, a few extra tools that you could accomplish, great things. Um, now let’s, let’s stay in Europe. Uh, actually it’s come into, into the 20th century. Uh, there’s a lady named Elisabeth Freund who, is a college trained, economists and political scientists . She also happens to be Jewish and she lives in Germany during the time of the Nazis. Her husband is a well-known industrialist, but because he’s Jewish in the 1930s, he and his wife, Elizabeth have their jobs are stripped away from them. Uh, Elizabeth has to, work as at a laundromat, as menial labor because that’s all that folks that were Jewish could get in Germany at the time. They managed to get their kids out to the United States in, 1941, but they themselves are not allowed to leave. Eventually, uh, they get on one of the last ships that leaves Germany before the war really swings into full force. She gets away to Cuba by 1944. She and her husband have rejoined her children in America by strange coincidence. Elisabeth Freund has a great-grandfather, whose brother is a guy named Julius Reinhold Friedlander, he’s the guy who founded the school in Philadelphia that we now call Overbrook. So using this tenuous connection, Elisabeth Freund, uh, shows up at the, uh, school for the blind in Philadelphia and asked for a job. Now, bear in mind, she has no background whatsoever in teaching kids that are visually impaired, but she totally reteaches herself becomes a very well-known, uh, teacher of the blind and visually impaired. She actually developed a product at APH school back in the 1950s called theFreund longhand writing kit. It was a kit she developed to help kids learn how to write and published a number of other things, but just an amazing lady. Uh, just another amazingly who had to overcome incredible obstacles to, uh, to try and make an impact. Then, uh, Sara, we’ve got all the amazing talking book narrators that have worked at APH, starting with a lady named Terry Hayes Sales, who was a contract singer. First in Chicago and then, for WHAS here in Louisville in the 1930s. In 1938, she became the first woman to record talking books for the American Printing House for the Blind, and went on to read for the next 50 plus years, recording over 800 titles. Then of course there’s Mitzi Friedlander, who was the first young lady to graduate from the UFL, College of Theater or School of Theater School with a theater degree. She joined APH in the mid 1960s. Mitzi would go on to read more talking books than any other narrator in the history of the national library service, um, and Mitzi, just an amazing lady. If, if she looked out, uh, when we would give tours, if Mitzi was down in her studio and she looked out and she saw that somebody on the tour was blind or visually impaired Mitzi would come out, she would drop everything, stopped her recording, and she would come out and personally greet the person Mitzi, just an amazing lady. Madelyn Buzzard has been down for 30 there for 30 or 40 years reading, still producing, just the most amazing, uh, talking books down there. And you probably don’t know this, Sara, but if you, you have to be an Alto . If you’re a young lady to read in the Talking Book Studio, because of strange things happens to our ears as we get older. And of course, lots of people that listen to talking books are older, but their ability to hear higher frequencies starts to go away. And so the only women that we’ve ever hired to read talking books are all beautiful Alto voices. That lower register that the Alto voice is just, it’s just great. That’s why all the dudes are all mostly basis. Then let’s talk about Susan B. Merwin. Let’s stay in Kentucky a little bit. Susan B. Merwin was a teacher at the Kentucky School for the Blind, which is right next door to us. And in 1912, we had had a president, a superintendent at both the Kentucky School for the Blind and the American Printing House named B. B. Hunton and Hunton had gotten exhausted with teaching and leading APH. In 1912, he gave up his job as principal at KSP . And so Susan B. Merwin, she was his lead teacher anyways, steps into that role as principal at KSB becoming only the second woman to ever head one of the historic residential schools. The first was a lady in Wisconsin. Susan B. Merwin becomes the Assistant Superintendent at APH during this incredibly critical time where we were moving from a New York Point at Modified American Braille to a Standard English Braille code. That code was adopted in 1918. Uh, we called it Braille Grade one-and-a-half. And that’s another story we can talk about later, but, B. B. Hunton, by this time was, he’d been in the job for almost 40 years. He was tired. He was old, he was suffering from a number of ailments and he just didn’t have that oomph that it took to handle this change. And so Susan B. Merwin from her position as the assistant superintendent, pretty much is running the place. And one of the critical things that happens is that, APH, uh, has been living on essentially a $10,000 appropriation since the act to Promote the Education of the Blind was passed him 1879. So Susan B. Merwin and a number of members of our Board of Directors go to Washington. This was before women have the right to vote. Okay. And she has to stand up in front of the committee, uh, there, uh, in the House of Representatives and, uh, talk about our purpose, what we do, why we need this extra money. And it was Susan B. Merwin’s elegant presentation for the committee that got the fellas, they were all men of course, to approve a $25,000 expansion in our budget. That money was critical to come back to produce the primers, braille cards, the key cards, all of them, the new materials that we’re going to need to go out to the schools to introduce this new code . Um, and, the printing press was under a lot of pressure from the historic schools for the blind. We weren’t getting it done. Uh, and it’s, so Susan B. Merwin comes on at just the right time. B. B. Hunton dies in 1919, who is going to be the first superintendent. Okay, who’s the person they’re going to hire is Susan B. Merwin. So Merwin then becomes our first, uh, the first woman to be head the, uh, the, uh, American Printing House for the Blind and she makes all of changes, uh, new equipment. Um, she’s the one that realizes that, uh, that the building really ends up make-over . I don’t want to be stereotypical about, you know, women and what they’re, you know, that sort of thing. But, you know, she comes in and takes this building. That’s really fallen into disrepair and just starts a whole program of repairs and paint, and just refreshes everything up and, and instills us with a lot of new life. And she died of influenza, unfortunately in 1923 or, or her story would be a lot longer. And we would, we would know a lot more about her and what she was able to accomplish. Um, yeah . Now one more, one more story. Uh, and so, uh, there’s a young lady named Martha Louise Morrow Foxx . She’s born in, uh, North Carolina, uh, in the early 20th century. She, uh, loses her vision as a young lady. And at first she goes to the Governor Morehead School, uh, which is a segregated school because Martha is African-American and in North Carolina in that day, in all the Southern States. In fact, if you were black, you went to the colored department, right? If you were white, you went to the white department course the colored departments were underfunded and they were neglected. They got the second choice of the books and the materials, uh, when, uh, in 1917 Martha’s family moves to Philadelphia. The school in Philadelphia, as we’ve already mentioned was the Overbrook School for the Blind. It was not a segregated school. And so that’s where Martha actually graduated. She graduated from there in 1925. She aspired to, as a career, as a teacher, she went to Temple University there in Philadelphia and in, 1927, I think it was, she got a job offer from The Piney Woods School down in Rankin County, Mississippi. Mississippi was one of the only Southern States that did not have any school for kids that were black, who were also blind and visually impaired, they didn’t even have a colored department at their school. Uh, and so the Piney Woods School down there, which was t he school for A frican-American kids, decided they wanted to create a program for blind students. And they hired Martha Louise Morrow Foxx to come in first to be the teacher. Then she was the principal and i t was Martha Louise Morrow Foxx down in Mississippi that just broke through so many barriers, u h, blind herself, u h, you know, proving to the people, the good people of Mississippi that, u h, kids that were African-American deserved a right, u h, to get an education, whether they were white or s ighted. U h, a nd, and Susan B. Merwin just was an innovator and a trailblazer. U h, and in 2000 she became the first woman of color to be inducted into Hall of Fame for Leaders a nd Legends of people in the blindness field. U h, and so we remember Martha with a great deal of fondness for her courage and her leadership, and I could go on and on.

    Sara: 15:09

    Wow, my gosh, it’s just amazing. There are so many stories. There are so many trailblazers whose stories have not been told, and when you scratch the surface, it, you just, you’re just stunned, you know, what they had to go through and what they faced and what the circumstances of the time.

    Mike: 15:28

    Yes. Well, whether you were blind or visually impaired and people thought you were cursed by God, or you were a woman and people didn’t think that, you know, you should be trusted with responsibility or in our own time, uh, people of color, uh, even immigrants, often their, their abilities. They’re not allowed to, uh, have not been allowed necessarily always to, uh, show their abilities. So all of these people had had barriers overcome. Um, and sometimes it, wasn’t just your gender, all kinds of other prejudices that society has about what people are capable of. And so, you know, our whole goal is to change attitudes. I think about what is possible for people and, uh, remove those barriers and then let them fly.

    Sara: 16:19

    Okay. So you just talked about a couple of wonderful, phenomenal, amazing women. Is there anything that they all have in common? Was it the drive? Is it the determination? I don’t,

    Mike: 16:33

    I don’t think, I don’t think I know that any of them had, I mean, you know, I have 40 other stories Sara, that can tell you about other women. And so it’s not like we’re looking at four or five, we’re looking at all kinds of women who, uh, who, who saw a problem and had skills and set out to do it set out to accomplish, to solve that problem. Um, in some cases, you know, it might be that they started out just looking for a job, right? They, they, they needed a job or in some cases, uh, in like in Maria Theresia von Paradis’ case, she had a talent, she had a God-given talent and, uh, and she wanted to share it with the world. And so in order to do that, she was going to have to adapt, uh, you know, she, she had a specialized composition board that, that some people helped her develop so that she could compose music. Uh, there, there are obstacles to that and she had to figure out ways around those. Um, so I don’t think there’s anything that I necessarily have in common, other than their gender, uh, that they lived in different times. And so the challenges that they faced based on the way that society thought of them changed from time to time to time, certainly it’s much easier today, uh, before a woman to, uh, follow her star. Uh, there were, there were, there were times of course, in our, in our history where women were expected to stay at home and take care of the family. And that’s, that was the expected societal role. So how about this? I’ll go with this, these people, these, these women, every one of them was not willing to accept the role that society had had chosen for them, but, but being a teacher was an easier, uh, that, that was easier, uh, for psych society to accept, right. They, they, weren’t trying to be a rocket scientist, right. So being a teacher, taking care of children, nurturing children, these are all, all roles, but, you know, there’s another way I didn’t mention. Who’s also in the Hall of Fame, the lady named Mary E. Switzer, who spent her entire career in government, uh, and, uh, rising all the way to be the head of what we call H.E.W. Health, Education and Welfare. And what was really important in this, in the 1950 1960s, in moving forward, a lot of the path breaking legislation that gave, uh, kids who are blind or vision impaired and adults, uh, the tools that they needed to, to, to overcome, uh, uh, prejudice.

    Sara: 19:20

    Wow. Oh my goodness. Okay. So you’re with the APH museum. So, and you have so much knowledge, tell us, does the APH museum have any artifacts from any of these women?

    Mike: 19:34

    Yes, but if I’m going to talk about artifacts, I have to talk about the collection that we got last January, which was, and also talking about two women, we, haven’t talked about kind of, kind of like the elephants in the room when you talk about women. So, so in January we brought the American Foundation for the Blind Helen Keller Archive to APH, and we are now cataloging it and inventorying it. And it’s just full of amazing things that deal with the lives of these two incredible women, Helen Keller, social activist, author fundraiser, champion of the disabled champion of people with disabilities champion of people of color champion of civil rights and, and, and human rights. And then her teacher and Anne Sullivan, uh, an equally fascinating woman who a lot of people don’t know was blind herself and, uh, went to the Perkins School and came from just desperately poor background. And one of my favorite things in the collection, the collection is full of amazing things. But one of my favorite things is a, a bronze casting of, and Sullivan’s hands made in 1936. And it thrills me to know that if, if we ever need just a little spark of inspiration, that you can reach out and class pants with and Sullivan, uh, through the decades. But yeah, the collections will have their letters, uh, their photographs, all these gifts that they got when they traveled all over the world, which they did, they became peace ambassadors and, uh, went to every continent except Antarctica and, uh, just amazing collection. And, uh, it’s, uh, it’s, it’s, uh, it’s humbling to be trusted with these amazing artifacts.

    Sara: 21:41

    These amazing artifacts, can they be viewed online and how so if they can?

    Mike: 21:46

    Sure. So, uh, the American Foundation for the Blind before they, uh, sent their, uh, Helen Keller archive to us, they did this amazing project where they photographed and described every one of these things that’s in the collection. And so you can go to, if you just in your, in Google, if you just Google Helen Keller archive, that will take you to a search engine, you can read all of these incredible artifacts. You can read the telegram that Helen sent to Adolf Hitler in 1938, when they were burning her books. You can see all these artifacts that we’re talking about also on our website. First, you have the Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends website, and there are a number of women, including Mary Switzer and, Martha Louise Morrow Foxx who are in the, Hall of Fame website and then our website,, the American Printing House for the Blind’s museum’s website, which you can find at, has a collections search engine. And you can search through most of our collections and learn a lot more about many of these amazing and impressive women, uh, role models for us all .

    Sara: 23:03

    Oh my goodness. Mike, thank you so much for all that information. That is just truly amazing. I mean, it’s always interesting and kind of just surreal to think about the trailblazers that came before us in the obstacles they faced and the times that, you know, the way the mentality was back then, and then we have artifacts. So you can see, you could see, you know, the telegrams and see their hands and, you know, and then to in today’s world, it’s just amazing. Mike, thank you so much for joining us today on Change Makers.

    Mike: 23:37

    Thank you, Sarah. I enjoyed it,

    Sara: 23:40

    You got so much awesome information, awesome information. We really appreciate it Up next. We’re going to be learning more about today’s trailblazers. As we continue our conversation about what’s happening today. We have Florida State University’s Professor and Former Coordinator of the Visual Disabilities Program in the School of Teaching Education, Dr. Sandra Lewis. Hello, Dr. Lewis, and thank you so much for joining us on Change Makers today.

    Dr. Lewis: 24:14

    Thank you, Sara. I’m delighted to be here. I’m very humble that I’m considering Change Maker.

    Sara: 24:21

    That’s right. You are, and it’s Women’s History Month. So this is going to be a good one. So tell me, how long have you been in this field?

    Dr. Lewis: 24:30

    I actually started this field in 1977. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act had just been signed or the regulations had just come out. And it was an exciting time in this field when school districts and parents and agencies that provided services to people who were blind were redefining what their role was going to be based on this new legislation that promised so much in the way of opportunities for children with disabilities.

    Sara: 25:10

    And when figuring out what you wanted to do, what made you want to go in this field?

    Dr. Lewis: 25:18

    So, so that’s a really, to me, that’s an interesting question because I just, I have a paper that I wrote when I was in probably ninth grade, uh, when you were, when we were studying careers in the school where I was going to, where I was attending and, and I have a paper that I wrote that says you know, one of the careers I was interested in was being a teacher of the deaf or the blind, and it was all I have, I still have it, all of the outlines of, you know, what, what was the pay? What was this? Now this, I would have written this, like in the, um, gosh early, I would have written this in the 60’s sometimes. And, uh, so it’s been something on my mind for a long time, or it had been something on my mind for a long time. I had worked, I had worked for my father and he lived close to the courthouse where, where we were in Tacoma, Washington. And so when I wasn’t busy with, at his, at the jobs he had for me, I would go to the courthouse and, and, uh, was amazed at the blind, uh, vendors who were working there as part of the business enterprise program. And I was really, like a lot of people, like totally enthralled at how they manage the job that they did. And so, as I was looking at career options, the idea of, um, working with these people who I presumed were all competent adults, I mean, would be all competent folks, just really, um, uh, interested me. And so I, I, um, I continued that interest for a long time, uh, and was kind of surprised when I got into the field to discover that to become a competent adult, requires a, a lot of hard work in advance of that. And, uh, so I was, I was a little, um, at first I, I didn’t, you know, I didn’t want to work with the entire range of children who were visually impaired and then discovered that in fact, uh, they all presented really interesting challenges and that that’s what made this teaching really, really special. It wasn’t the end result. It was working towards that end result. That was, uh, that particularly fascinated me.

    Sara: 27:50

    Where have seen some of your impacts come to life and how do you feel about making such a huge difference?

    Dr. Lewis: 28:02

    Okay. So I might argue with the premise of your question, but I’m not going to, it’s been I’m I’m at the end of my career right now. I’ve been in the field, like I said, for nearly 40 years. And it’s been a little discouraging to see that people and teachers are still dealing with a lot of the same problems that they were before. Employment of people with visual impairments is still low, uh, children with visual impairments still often don’t have their needs met, uh, parents still struggle to, to get quality services for their children. And so it’s been, um, that’s been a little it’s I look back and I say, maybe there hasn’t been that much difference. And then I recall that, that, uh, there has been, there have been… Like all change it’s it’s slow, but over time it makes there are, there are significant differences that have occurred. Obviously a lot of there are a great many people today who are blind, who are, who are adults who hold good jobs and have good skills and participate in their communities. And I think that there are more and more teachers who, who believe that that’s a possibility for most of the folks with whom we work as teachers of young children of children. I think a lot of that has to do with our recognition or the recognition of the people who came before me that, that they, these children, weren’t just exactly like sighted kids who were blind. They were in fact learners with very specific needs that could not be met, um, through the typical kinds of education that we provide to sighted children. And so, so early in my career, well, when I was still a student in school, uh, Phil Hatland would talk about, you know, all the needs of children with visual impairment. And we would, we would make lists of them on the board and we would have to write about them and everything. And I left there totally convinced of that. If we wanted to make a difference in this, in the education of children who are blind and have low vision, that what we would need to do would be to not necessarily just focus on their academic instruction, but looking at the whole child. And so in almost all of the jobs that I’ve had, I’ve been able, I’ve made it possible to do that. So one of an early job, I had a mid-career job I had was working at the California School for the Blind in the Assessment Center there. And as we developed protocols for assessment, I was the TVI who was doing assessments of children. I decided that I would focus on each one of what has turned out to be the ECC, each one of those areas. And so kids just didn’t get assessed in their math and reading and science knowledge, but across all nine areas of what, of the ECC. And so assessment reports that were written focused on each one of those areas. And it seemed, it seemed at the time it seemed, that’s my part of creating some kind of change in the way other school districts were, were working teachers in school, local school districts were working with students and what parents knew about what children needed. And it was like a one child at a time, one teacher at a time kind of progress. But I would tell parents, you can’t have an IEP that doesn’t address all seven, all nine areas of the ECC, because if you’re ignoring one area or delaying instruction in that area, then you’re reducing the possibility that your child is going to be is going be the kind of adult you want them to be. While working at the California School for the Blind and Assessment Center, I first was able to kind of say, focus on the ECC. And then when I went to Florida State University, where I’ve been since 1993, I started to design the preparation of teachers around each one of these areas. And so when I started there, there were like five classes. People took to become TVI’s. Now there are about 13 classes that they take, because you need to know how to teach compensatory skills. You need to know how to teach recreation and leisure skills. You need to know, not just that they need social skills instruction, but how do you facilitate the development of social interaction skills across the lifespan? Well, eight from birth to 22 among the children you’ll be working. Students at FSU since the early 90’s have known about the ECC and have directed their instruction as they can, as students around that. And I think a good, many of them have gone out and continued that as a TVI on this and O and M specialists working with children. So if, if I were going to say what impact have I had it would be in kind of spreading that word, that these children, yes. They’re just like other kids. They, they feel pain. They need love. They have to, um, have what other children need, but they learn differently. And because they learn differently, their teachers need to use different approaches and, and teach them and, and directly teach much of what we want people to know as grownups.

    Sara: 34:47

    So it’s not a one size fits all.

    Dr. Lewis: 34:51

    Oh, it is definitely not that . And of course that’s what makes people in this field love it is that is that today is not going to be what you expect. It’s going to be, it’s certainly not going to be like yesterday or tomorrow . There’s not a lot of boredom in this job at all.

    Sara: 35:08

    Okay. So you say you’ve been in this field for almost 40 years. So who are some of today’s trailblazers that you see?

    Dr. Lewis: 35:20

    That’s a, that’s a really hard question to answer because there are, I mean, there are so many of them there . Um, would you say, when did she think that many of the parents who are out there dealing with the day to day challenges faced by their children, trying to get them in these days, try to get any kind of, you know, education given our current COVID crisis? Um, I would say that they continue as they were in the 1960’s when, uh, or 1970 1960’s and 1970’s when 94, one, when idea was being passed. Um, the, uh, they still remain to me a really impressive group of trailblazers. And of course, right now we’ve got this whole group of parents who are trying to affect change in, in the prep preparation of teachers. And, um, to deal with youngsters who have more, more severe kinds of, uh, or complex visual impairments, like cortical or cerebral visual impairment. So I still think that parents are, are, have the potential anyway, well, each one in their own individual way as a trailblazer, but united, they have an incredible potential to change the field. Um, there are a great many recent graduates of university programs who are doing some incredible research and teaching in the field. I’m not going to name them because, because, you know, you would, I would forget there’s a lot of them out there. Oh yes . And, and so I see them as, as have, I mean, obviously they’re the ones that will likely be remembered over time. But also I know of folks who were doing TVIs and O & M Specialists who are just doing some really incredible work, uh, as they, again, and of course, this is my own bias as they are working with, uh, children after school and on weekends and over the summer to make sure that those youngsters have opportunities to experience the world in a way that makes sense to them that those youngsters are, uh, uh, not just getting to go to the football stadium and to know what a football stadium is like, but actually are getting to get down on the ground and move the football around, you know, who are out there, who are out there learning what it’s like to work in a cafe, uh, cafeteria, people who are out there, making sure that students can set goals and achieve work towards them and achieve them. And to me, those people, I, I can’t, I can’t, I just can’t tell you how impressed I am, that they have so many interesting novel ideas that are changing the lives of children. Again, just a few at a time. But, uh, it, for each one of those youngsters, those teachers, those O & M specialists, they’re trailblazers, you know,

    Sara: 38:55

    The the teacher’s the O & M specialists and the parents, especially the parents, because I feel like the parents are the ones advocating from their child from day one day one .

    Dr. Lewis: 39:06

    The parents…. they’re the ones who didn’t, didn’t choose for themselves.

    Sara: 39:25

    So my last question, what would you say to students thinking about going into this field?

    Dr. Lewis: 39:34

    Well, this is I ask, I give this spiel a lot as people call me, or as I talk to people in grocery store lines and say, they asked me what I do. And I say, Oh my gosh, I have the best job in the whole wide world. People who are thinking about going into this field need to know that in fact, it is the best job in all of education. It is the best job because you get to work with children, a small number of children. Usually I’m not talking about teachers who have case loads of 30 and 40 in general. A lot of our, our, our best teachers keep their caseload small because they know that they have an incredible responsibility to the children on their caseload to make sure that, um, their needs are met in order to keep them on the trajectory of success in life. And so our teachers, um, if people, for people thinking about this job, these teachers get to know families and children really well often working with the same, uh, family unit and child, uh, for several years, they, they get to teach the most interesting things. They aren’t tied to a classroom or with a Blackboard, if you realize that children with visual impairment need to know everything, then y our, the world is your classroom. All you need to do is spend time walking down the street, exploring things that you encounter. You need to, you, you can go to a grocery store and, and talk about, I mean, you could spend days just teaching children about and fruits in one part of the grocery store. And you still would have a curriculum that is, you know, years long. And it’s through those kinds of experiences where children are touching things, doing things, making things that they learn, not only about things in the world, but about themselves and about their strengths and weaknesses. And so the teacher gets to have this incredible, it’s like the TVI and the O & M Specialist. And I’m sure this is true for people who work with adults, you have the key, the magic key that opens the door to learning for these kiddos that nobody else really gets. And so, and so, um, uh, the jobs are, um, they’re challenging. They’re, um, uh, sometimes frustrating, but most days people who are in this field go home feeling like they’ve made a difference in some child’s life. And, and there’s a lot to be said about feeling good about your job at the end of the day. And so, um, it’s, it’s, uh, you’re always going to have a job you’re always going to be, uh, uh, for most days you’re going to feel satisfied at what you’re at, what you’re doing. And to me, that’s, for a lot of folks that’s more important than, than, um, big promotions. Yeah . Teachers don’t do too badly in the pay department.

    Sara: 43:11

    So thank you so much, Dr. Lewis for joining us on Change Makers today.

    Dr. Lewis: 43:16

    Thank you, Sara. It was my pleasure.

    Sara: 43:19

    Up next. We’re talking to more trailblazers, but first let’s hear from our special segment Partners with Paul.

    Paul: 43:27

    Thanks, Sara. And welcome to another edition of Partners with Paul. I’m thrilled this time to have Mike Wood from Vispero who’s the Accounts Manager, Education, with us today. Thanks for joining us, Mike. Hey Paul, thanks for having me super excited to be here. Most of you probably know that APH partners with Vispero and we offer student licenses for jaws, ZoomText, and fusion. Mike is going to talk to us about those licenses today and how they work. Tell us why should people buy ZoomText or jaws from APH?

    Mike: 44:01

    So, first off, the big thing is the support that APH offers. Uh, the other thing is you offer a special license. That’s a portal based license. So it’s an annual license of jaws and Zoom Text. So jaws is $90 a year. And Zoom Text is $80 a year. And you’re able to purchase that via quota funds or purchase order or credit card directly from the American printing house for the blind.

    Mike Wood: 44:23

    They are one year licenses that are renewable upon expiration, and you can easily manage them through our freedom scientific licensing portal using just your email address, which makes it really easy. You don’t have to remember a long, you know, authorization code or serial number. It’s just linked right to your email address.

    Paul: 44:43

    Great. So how are these licenses different from the ones we offered previously?

    Mike: 44:48

    Yeah. So previously you had a suite license. So the suite license was $300 a year, and that was for four years. So you pay $300 every year for four years. And at the end of that fourth year, we then gave the student a home annual license. Um, you know, it was difficult to manage, keep track of how many years you were doing it and so on and so forth. So the portal license really makes it easy because like I mentioned, it’s linked to the email address and you can easily move this license around. So with the suite license, it was difficult to move it to a different computer. So the nice thing with the portal is if, for example, the students in class, uh, they’re using it on their school computer there, but then maybe they go home and they want to move it to a computer at home, especially during COVID right now, this has been a huge help. Uh, they could easily just log into the portal and activate that machine, that they’re then on and easily then deactivate that machine and activate a separate machine a little bit later using that same email address and password for the portal.

    Paul: 45:45

    Sounds very convenient. Now you’ve talked about managing these licenses a couple of times. How exactly do you go about doing that?

    Mike: 45:51

    Yeah, sure thing. So when you purchase the license, you’ll receive an email from APH and in that email, you’ll have a link to click. You can either forward that license out to the end user, or you can manage it yourself. So a lot of schools I’ve found are actually having their it department, uh, you know, their techies kind of manage the licenses for the students. So you’re just going to log in using an email address. And then once you’re logged in there, you’ll see the license code. Um, and you can activate that on any machine that you’re on at that time. And you can also easily go in and check and see when that license is going to expire. So say you bought it on January one. You know, it’s going to come up for renewal on January one in a year. So you’ll also receive an email from APH saying, or from freedom scientific letting you know that that license is coming up. But if you want to know at any time, you can just log into the portal and check for yourself.

    Paul: 46:47

    Great. Thanks very much for joining us, Mike. Yeah, thanks for having me. I appreciate it very much. Thanks to Vispero. We have a one-year license of your choosing jaws, Zoom Text, or fusion that we’re going to be giving away, check the show notes, and you’ll find a link go to that link, fill out the form. And one lucky participant is going to win that license. Thanks for listening to partners with Paul. And now back to you .

    Sara: 47:17

    Thanks so much, Paul. Right now, we’re talking to one woman in the field who changed her career plans. After a chance encounter, we have Nabiha Mujahid who is the assistive technology specialist for VI and AIM Well as an APH Scholar. Hello, Nabiha welcome to change makers.

    Nabiha: 47:34

    Hello, Sarah. Thank you so much for having me.

    Sara: 47:38

    Okay. Now tell me this, looking at your background, you were a biochemistry major at Louisiana State University. So I’m going to assume you were planning to go into something different. What made you change your course?

    Nabiha: 47:51

    Yes. So at the time my brothers were already in college and they were doing biochem. So there was a sort of familiarity with the material, combine that with the fact that I had an interest in it myself, and it’s essentially became the path of least resistance. So during my sophomore year, I started tutoring at Louisiana School for the Blind. Initially it was just a fascination about hot, about how I could teach very visual concepts to students who couldn’t see, but really what made me stay was just the culture of the community and the challenges. It has its own language and unique art forms. And I just felt mesmerized by it. I mean, working with the visual impairment, trying to talk a little bit challenges and learning braille all helped me gradually change my course and looking back it’s, it’s funny how one small choice, like taking a new job can have such a consequential impact on your future plan. It, it certainly did for me.

    Sara: 49:06

    Wow. What a chance encounter. So you are the regional support specialist for the Louisiana instructional materials center. So what is it that you do there?

    Nabiha: 49:20

    I, um, there are many things, uh, that I do. I I’m the lead BI consultant in all things that’s regarding assessable materials and trainings and technologies for all the staff and sports staff and families in the state and add LSPI as well. And in addition, I’m a transcriber. So I create braille books and our, our department is responsible for creating accessible materials for students across the state. And that was just a verbose way of saying that our department is the ultimate source of materials for our students. And, um, so when a teacher or a family member, anywhere in the state of Louisiana has any questions about how to create a, about how to teach a student who’s blind or visually impaired, or they need access to a special tool, we step in and provide assistance. And also we, um, we’ve recently partnered with the Department of Corrections and our state APH Trustee, Bobby King . And I have been trying to build a successful Braille Prison Program, which could increase our state’s capacity to produce bail books. So currently we only have two people in the state of Louisiana that have the certification to transcribe books, that’s King, and I, and this program will allow for more people to become efficient.

    Sara: 50:49

    Wow. That’s huge to get more people to do the braille transcription. So what does that like teaching braille transcription lessons?

    Nabiha: 50:58

    Well, um, in the present? Well, uh, in the beginning it was very intimidating. I mean, we went through a week of training at Angola Prison, just so that we could understand how to approach people who had been incarcerated for years and then create an environment of learning in the face of the challenges that they already faced. So we had to change the way we think and teach because of our demographic was completely different. We had to take something as fundamental as learning and teaching from, from the school and then shifted into a different setting, which presented many challenges in itself. But there, the commitment to learning and embracing braille is refreshing and they’re so excited to be a part of the program and understand the importance of braille, it’s, it’s their way to give back to the community. I mean, what, what started as intimidating is now inspiring.

    Sara: 52:01

    Wow. Right. That’s right. That’s very true. So where have you seen your work make an impact and what does that feel like?

    Nabiha: 52:09

    Well, you know, this job is so different from, from traditional jobs where, when, where you can directly see the impact you’re having. So when I was, when I was a teacher, I could see the growth and the progress of a student at the end of the day semester, an educational you’re like I could see it. And that was my validation, you know, but sometimes you don’t, you don’t get to see the impact directly since our team is helping educate educators, get the tools necessary and making sure that they are ready to teach their students without a glitch. So sometimes we have to be content. When we see our students with the right tools. Sometimes we do work with students on an individual basis. So for example, just one quick example, two years ago, we had a student who was not getting any real instructions and someone got in touch with us. So we went down to Louisiana, that’s where she was located and just provide the teacher with all the necessary materials. And, um, just talk to her. We had a game plan, we’ve been helping her out. And we recently, I recently talked to this student a couple of months ago and she’s doing wonderfully she’s. She is, she has become proficient reading braille. And we have also partnered with the state library where we build from this book and they have the reading program and we just bring all the books out for summer. And I feel, I feel elated about the generational impact we have when we provide the parents as well, who are blind with materials that help them raise their side of children. So for example, what I mean is we have parents who are blind, but they have sighted children. So when we give them the braille books, they are able to read to their site to children at night. So, so that they don’t miss out on something many children experienced growing up, like, like I did.

    Sara: 54:13

    All right . So this podcast is focusing on the trailblazers for women’s history month. And are there any trailblazers out there that you admire?

    Nabiha: 54:23

    Well, there are, there are many, a few that I don’t know personally, like having grandma who’s, who’s a deaf blind advocate. She’s also a Harvard Law graduate. She’s a leading example that anything is achievable in life, despite your disabilities and Helen Keller, who was also a deaf blind advocate and an activist. And if you, if you look into her story, you would realize that it was her teacher who helped her reach her highest academic potential and her independency, but on a more personal level, mine students are the person that I admire and just like many TBIs and the parents across the state of Louisiana is Robin King. She’s the APH Trustee and the Director of AIM. Um, she is just a beacon of hope and, and she is just, she’s able to show great fortunate when our department is facing pushback and challenges. And we had, we had so many this year. And so she and I, we are working well. She is the lead, she’s the lead influencer. She working on the braille standards for our state. She’s also the founder of the braille prison program for Louisiana. And she, she’s also trying to get the babies count for the blind. So we can, we can try to get, we can identify our kids as young as possible, and he’s just so efficient and so steadfast, um, I’m greatly influenced by her.

    Sara: 55:56

    Okay. In what areas would you want to see more trailblazers?

    Nabiha: 56:01

    As far as the visual impairment community goes, we need more TVIs period. I mean, there’s a shortage of teachers in America, and there’s also a problem with burnout and both of these issues are greatly amplified in blindness field. So with more visual impaired students, all instructors are put under even more pressure. This has an adverse impact on the students’ learning experience, as well as the teacher’s health and ability to efficiently teach. There is definitely a need for trailblazers in this area.

    Sara: 56:38

    Looking back at your younger self, what would you tell yourself when you were thinking about going into this field? Or what would you tell some of the students today who are thinking about going into this field, but just are unsure or how, what would you say to somebody that’s just, you know, curious about possibly focusing a career in this field?

    Nabiha: 57:02

    It’s a field that is going to challenge you, and, but it is very rewarding. You providing a service that many, many people really need who otherwise would be completely cut off from having the opportunity to receive a quality education.

    Sara: 57:20

    All right. Well, Nabiha thank you so much for joining us today on Change Makers. We really enjoy talking to you.

    Nabiha: 57:27

    Thank you so much for having me. Thank you.

    Sara: 57:35

    We’re talking to another woman who is making an impact right here at APH, and that is our brand new director of accessibility, diversity and inclusion, Tai Tomasi. Hello, Tai. And thank you so much for joining us on Change Makers.

    Tai: 57:49

    Thanks so much for having me. I’m grateful to be here.

    Sara: 57:53

    Now tell me, tell me, what does it feel like to be the first woman in your position?

    Tai: 57:59

    Well, I want to acknowledge the great work of those who came before me, my predecessors. Um, there hasn’t been someone in my exact position, but, uh, Maria, Doug got out, did a lot of great work on accessibility and as did the accessibility committee here at APH as well. So I want to acknowledge their, their wonderful work. Um, it is an honor to be in this position and to be a champion for accessibility, diversity, and inclusion internally at APH, as well as through our community outreach work that we’ll be doing. Um, so we will position ourselves as accessibility, diversity, and inclusion leaders in the field of blindness and visual impairment.

    Sara: 58:39

    So tell me what obstacles have you faced during your career and how did you get through them?

    Tai: 58:45

    So, a lot of my obstacles have been because of community misperceptions about blindness and visual impairment. There is a stigma in the world just because people don’t understand what blindness and visual impairment are about. And so that did cause problems in my career, as far as getting jobs and helping people understand my capabilities. And so I think what, what really helped me was resilience and also finding mentors and mentorship, uh, finding those blind, visually impaired people who have been there before and how they worked through those situations was very, um, influential in my career.

    Sara: 59:23

    Looking back, is there anyone that you look to as a mentor or credit where you are today?

    Tai: 59:31

    There are a couple people. Actually, my mother is an amazing person. She adopted 27 children from all over the world. She’s a single woman and then it has never been married and she did that on her own. So she was my first influence as far as resiliency and just doing what you want to do with your life, no matter what people say, she encountered a lot of obstacles in doing that because people thought, Oh, a single woman can’t take care of all of these children and all of that kind of thing. And she did, um, adopt a culturally diverse family. And so she really encouraged me to embrace my identity and she did the same for all of my siblings. Uh, and then also I learned of Cara Dunne-Yates as a child. Uh, she was a blind attorney athlete, Paralympic athlete, and, uh, just an advocate, an overall amazing person. She was the first president of a college class as a female blind person. And she just did a lot of amazing things in her life and she was a great inspiration to me.

    Sara: 1:00:36

    Wow. Now think, think back, what advice would you give your, your younger self or to the younger ones out there listening?

    Tai: 1:00:46

    I think it’s really important to live an authentic life and to accept yourself. I know that I lived, I had difficulty in my childhood because I wasn’t able to embrace my blindness and I had varying levels of vision, but I still felt very isolated. And I think it helped me so much when I could just accept that. Even though I’m different, these are my identities. I have multiple different identities and it’s okay to be myself. And along with that, you know, it’s okay to not feel okay, but also to find people to support you because you’re not alone. And I definitely was fearful of embracing my intersectional identities, but embracing those actually led to a much happier life, even though I was very afraid of embracing those and living authentically,

    Sara: 1:01:39

    That is so true. And especially in today’s world, especially with the younger ones, the younger ones need, you know, I it’s, it’s a hard, it’s hard as a, as a young person in today’s world with all the social media. And I feel like people are trying to be something they’re not, but when you just say, you know what, I’m going to be, who I am. And you finally reached that happiness that’s been alluding you. So

    Tai: 1:02:03

    Yeah, it truly was a much happier existence after I had just decided I was gonna be me,

    Sara: 1:02:08

    There you go. Just be yourself . Be yourself. You younger ones out there listening, be yourself. You’re the only one who can be yourself. Nobody else can be you. So Ty, thank you so much for joining me today on change makers.

    Tai: 1:02:24

    Thank you so much for having me.

    Sara: 1:02:26

    And we hope you have enjoyed today’s podcast. It was full of historical change makers and current change makers . And hopefully this podcast inspired you to be a future change makers. So be sure to look for ways you can be a change maker this week.

  • Jack Fox: 0:00

    Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host.

    Sara: 0:15

    Hello, and welcome to change makers today. We’re talking to the developers of GoodMaps. Explore the popular, accessible indoor outdoor navigation app. I’m your host, Sarah. And as Low Vision Awareness month comes to a close we will learn more about the GoodMaps app, their recent award, and what else the company is working on. Then we’ll learn more about AudioJack with Partners with Paul and celebrate Black History Month with our final interview with our special guest Mr. Lewis Tutt first, I’m going to turn it over to APH’s Head of Global Innovation, Mr. Greg Stilson.

    Greg: 0:48

    Hey, thank you, Sarah . I’m Greg Stilson Head of Global Innovation here at the American Printing House for the Blind, and I am lucky enough to sit here and talk to two of my good friends, GoodMaps CEO, Jose Gaztambide (Gaz-am-bi-day) and Chief Evangelist, Mike May. How are you guys doing

    Jose: 1:05

    Excellent. Thanks for having us, Greg. Awesome.

    Greg: 1:08

    Awesome. Well, I am super fired up to talk to you guys today about good maps. Um, and why don’t we just get into kind of the crux of the, what is GoodMaps, uh, and, and how is it funded Jose? You want to take that?

    Jose: 1:24

    Yeah. Thanks Greg. So good maps is a social enterprise that would spun out from the American printing house for the blind and our focuses on digital mapping and accessible navigation and ultimately universal navigation. In other words, we want anybody to be able to enter any building and feel like they can navigate independently. Uh, our initial funding came from APH, uh, and since that time we have raised additional funds from, from other investors, uh, in addition to revenue from, from selling the products into our customers.

    Greg: 1:54

    Got it. Okay. And like when you, I know on, uh, on my phone, I’m sure on Mike’s phone, I’ve got like 13 different maps applications and GPS, navigation applications and things like that. What, what makes good maps different? Like, what’s your, what’s your guys’s kind of claim to fame?

    Jose: 2:13

    Yeah, absolutely. So for us, it is all about the indoor navigation experience. Um, for, for a long time. Uh, the, our spaces has really struggled to get enough indoor menu, uh, venues mapped to, to the point where, uh, you know, it’s a significant enough, uh, footprint to, to where you feel like it really has value. Uh, and number two, making sure that you have confidence when we tell you that you’re in a certain location that you’re actually there. Uh, and so we really revolutionizing indoor mapping by creating a platform and a process that significantly slows down or significantly decreases the time to map in the costume app . And simultaneously we’ve developed indoor positioning technology that that’s accurate, and that doesn’t rely on any kind of infrastructure whatsoever. So, so no beacons, uh, which is a really big deal for the, the actual, uh, venues and buildings that we’re selling into. So as good maps grows, we, we expect to have the most indoor maps locations for accessible navigation, in addition to, uh, the, the best accuracy, which translates into probably the best user experience that the people can count.

    Greg: 3:24

    Gotcha. So this is, this is entirely, you know, not, not specific to having, uh, beacons or wifi mesh systems or anything like that. This is specific to you guys creating the map itself.

    Jose: 3:39

    Well, it’s creating the map and creating the positioning technology that’s utilized within the buildings that we support.

    Greg: 3:46

    Gotcha. A question to you, Mike, as, as a blind traveler yourself and somebody who’s got quite a bit of experience with these types of things. Uh, what, what is the experience like when, when using good maps? I, I, I know that it does some outdoor navigation, but then specifically indoors. What does that feel like?

    Mike: 4:07

    Well, it’s important to me because I have so many apps on my phone and I don’t want to be switching around that the experience be integrated. So the good maps explore app outdoors takes me to the building. It’s a simple interface and it doesn’t have all the features that one might accumulate over many years of, of building a product, but it has to an important one. It gets me to the building and then I get a prompt that says APH or the library or whatever building it is as indoor maps. I click on that. It loads that building data. And now I started having the experience of navigating indoors. That experience is similar to outdoors in terms of giving me directions left right ahead and distances. What’s different indoors is that hallways are not named. So you have to do a little bit different kinds of directions to deal with that versus streets outside where you can say go down main street here. You just, you have to tell people 42 feet straight ahead, turn left. Um, you do have points of interest indoors, which are announced in much the same way as outdoors reception desk lobby, atrium, elevator bathrooms, and so forth. But if you want to hear how it works, here’s the recording actually using it out on the street.

    GoodMaps App: 5:58

    Break room 17 feet Southwest West stairwell to 45 feet wet Northeast wonder room 24 feet water fountain 2016 copier slash North Southwest. Now library forty-five feet button Miguel library heading 45 feet, South options heading directions button.

    Greg: 6:19

    Looking at the apps that exist. One of the apps that has been developed by APH and is available on the Apple and Google play store was, was nearby Explorer. Um, since then, since you guys released your app, the, the transfer sort over the, the, the development has shifted over to good maps. Have you guys engaged the community? Have you learned much from that community and what features have you sort of adopted from, from the nearby kind of, uh, experience?

    Mike: 6:54

    Well, we, we definitely have put the word out that we want feedback from nearby users, and that’s a very mature app that has a lot of configuration choices, and those are things that we, we may add over time, but we really wanted to focus on what are the most important features so that we do keep it simple. And I think that’s still a work in process, but as the, some of the older foundations for nearby the map data and the map engine that were timing out and could no longer be used, this was the golden opportunity to have new technology, not only indoors, but also outdoors.

    Greg: 7:40

    Yeah. And having that seamless transition from outdoor to indoor using the same sort of user experiences is key. Right. You don’t want to go into an indoor situation and have to do entirely new interaction techniques and things like that. So I, I totally hear that. Um, what what’s been the app journey, like, I mean, uh, you, you guys, um, I know you, you, Jose mentioned that the origin of the company is indoor mapping and navigation. Um, what brought you to outdoor and, and, you know, have you added features recently or are you, are you, what’s kind of on the what’s on the docket for, for, you know, next next changes for both outdoor and indoor?

    Mike: 8:23

    Well, I think it was important that we have an integrated app, so that’s why we decided, well, we we’d be remiss in not including that. Um, we don’t want to try to beat out all the other apps, but we do want to have the opportunity. And these days, a lot of people use multiple apps outdoors. Anyway, you might be running Apple maps for routing and, uh, another app for intersections. So you can definitely do that. If you have a preferred app for a specific application, you can run multiple at the same time and explore does run in the background nicely. So we’ve, we’ve accomplished that. I think the big change over time, really in, in the evolution of the app was going from beacon oriented, indoor navigation for positioning the camera based positioning and LIDAR that we’re doing. Uh, I think that’s, that’s a huge advancement that I guess we’re fortunate that the timing of technology was such with the iPhone adding the AR kit and the, the good cameras and LIDAR and everything that we’re in the perfect position to start embracing a new technology that gives us better precision indoors than the old beacon systems.

    Greg: 9:38

    Absolutely. Gotcha. Um, if I, if I turn back to Jose A. Little bit about kind of the, the app, um, not just the app, but the, the mapping platform and things like that, that you’re using. Can you tell me a little bit more about, um, the value add for businesses and things like that, and then where, where are businesses kind of adopting this?

    Jose: 10:04

    Yeah, thanks. Great. Great question. So the, the value add for businesses, uh, at the moment really revolves around a combination of accessible navigation and universal navigation. So by becoming a good maps venue and a good maps building, you’re, you’re making your space more accessible and you’re making your space just easier to navigate, to make that really real. About a year ago, we welcomed my son into the world and we were in the hospital for five days and every single one of those five days I got lost, uh, and I would have loved to have had a map available to me to get back to my wife’s hotel room, or sorry, a hospital room, or to get to the cafeteria and figure out if the cafeteria was even open. There’s just so many, uh, incredibly complicated venues, uh, that really have not cracked the nut on making that experience more and more seamless and more joyful for the user. And that’s really where our value proposition comes in in the medium term, in the long-term . There’s so many things that we can do with the maps and with the positioning system that we’ve developed, uh, that I think are really exciting from a, from a venues perspective. So for example, uh, we’ve been doing some work on mobile asset tracking, the ability to visualize where hospital equipment on wheels is, for example, which is a massive area of spend and of waste for hospitals, with the technology that we’ve developed, you can, you can really track at an extremely granular level where all of your equipment is in real time, uh, to a level of accuracy that, uh, nobody’s really providing in the market right now. Uh, and with very, very, very minimal need to install infrastructure, which is a big pain point for some of these healthcare operators. So part of our hypothesis is that a map in and of itself is not, uh, the end, it’s a means to an end. And there’s all kinds of value proposition that you can stack on those maps to make it worth it for somebody. And we focus on those things because we want to increase, uh, the odds and increase the reasons for people to say yes to good maps. Ultimately, our heart is an accessible navigation, but sometimes you’ve got to give people more than just accessibility for them to say yes, and let you into their space.

    Greg: 12:12

    No, a hundred percent. Absolutely. And being able to, to show that there’s, there’s, you know, unfortunately for, for many of the mainstream companies, right. They, they don’t know what they don’t know with regard to our community and, and blind and low-vision travelers and things like that. They may not know that there’s blind and low vision people, even in their space. Right. And so, um, having this become more of a universal, uh, navigation mission is something that I think probably resonates with them. And with that you make it more accessible for everybody. Um, so looking at that, where, where are you ? Are you guys, uh, in certain buildings or are you, you know, only here in the United States or what do you, what, what’s your plan there?

    Jose: 12:57

    Yeah. So at the moment, we’re, we’re primarily in the United States, uh, and primarily in the Louisville area and within driving distance, we launched in the middle of COVID. And so you can imagine that there is some logistical constraints that have prevented us from, from going to some of the geographies that we want to be in. Uh, but there has been a lot of demand, uh, kind of throughout the country. Uh, we’ve got some projects coming up on the East coast, the West coast, we’ll be doing some schools for the blind throughout the entire country, uh, over the course of time. Uh, and so I think you’re going to see our footprint really explode. And in 2021, we’ve also partnered with the Canadian national Institute for the blind. They, they carry, uh, good maps. We’ve armed them with one of our LIDAR mapping devices. Uh, and so they like us are trying to navigate through COVID, but, but we’ll have a number of exciting buildings to announce. Uh, once some of these restrictions are lifted, we’re also looking to expand into other English speaking countries. Uh, it’s probably a little bit too early for me to announce, uh, precisely which countries and when, but that isn’t the work. So we look forward to announcing at least one of those countries in 2021.

    Greg: 14:04

    Very cool. You’ve made a couple references to the technology and the accuracy and the way that LIDAR is used and things like that. Can you talk a little bit about kind of how your, your magic happens and what a business owner or somebody who adopts good maps goes through to get their space mapped ?

    Jose: 14:23

    Yeah, absolutely. So I’m going to, I’m going to break up this answer into two. The first part is the mapping component. And then the second one is the positioning component. Um, so if you, if you go backwards even two years ago, a lot of indoor mapping was an extremely manual process. And so you would go in, you would measure walls, you would take pictures and eventually you would go in front of a computer and spend a couple of weeks just drawing that map out, which by the way, is not terribly accurate efficient. So enter LIDAR and LIDAR is a technology that stands for light detection and ranging it’s been around for about six decades, but it’s really of the last handful of years that it’s become really popular and really powerful and has had a whole lot of venture capital money poured into it. Uh, and so our, our timing was really incredible because we were asking this question, uh, around how can we make a dent on indoor mapping at exactly the right time that the necessary technology was becoming more available? And so now we have our mappers and they’d go into, uh, a building that we’re mapping with. What’s effectively a Ghostbusters backpack. Uh, and they’ve got a little wand. And at the tip of that wand is the LIDAR device. And it is shooting out hundreds of thousands of points of light per second, and then measuring where that light, uh, hits something, hits resistance and sending that information back to the backpack. And so we’re able to put together what we call a LIDAR point cloud, which is a representation of that physical space using all of those little dots that, that, that hit something. And then we’re able to cobble together a 2d in a 3d map of that space using that output. We’re able to do that process, the walkthrough process, and effectively the same amount of time. It would take you to walk through the building. So it’s very, very fast and very, very efficient. And that allows us to number one, increase the accuracy of the mapping process. And number two, really drastically decrease the amount of time that it takes to map, which has been one of the big hurdles than mapping. So, so that’s the magic behind the, the mapping component positioning, which is how we figure out where you are within that building is, is related. So when we go through with that Ghostbusters backpack, we have a handful of high definition cameras that are mounted on top of that LIDAR device. And they are taking five pictures per second for each one of those cameras. Those images are geo-referenced. In other words, it’s not just a picture, but it’s a picture with an XYZ coordinate when somebody who’s using good maps explore is walking through one of the buildings that we have mapped. Uh, they’ve got their phone out in the AR kit that Mike was referencing earlier is sending the images that their phone is seeing to, uh, effectively an algorithm that is comparing those pictures to the pictures that were taken during the scan. And it all happens extremely fast. It’s a, it’s about a quarter of a second, uh, and that allows us to get, you know, it depends a little bit on conditions in the, in the building, but if you’re standing still a fraction of a meter, if you’re moving about a meter, uh, maybe a little bit more, a little bit less, depending on the venue, but we’re able to do that without installing any kind of hardware whatsoever. So it’s a major differentiator for the, for the business. You asked the question, what’s the experience like for the building? It’s, it’s really straightforward. You, you let us in, you walk around with us for, you know, anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour and 30 minutes, depending on the size and complexity of the building, answer a couple of questions for us in terms of how things are named and what the important points of interest are. And then our team goes and does their magic and turns that data into a map. We confirm with you that the information that we gathered is accurate, and then we publish it and somebody walking into your venue can use good maps, explore to navigate independently.

    Greg: 18:03

    Wow. So you employ a bunch of Ghostbusters is basically what I got out of that . Yeah . Okay. All right, cool. That, that is, that is fantastic. And what I’m on, correct me if I’m wrong. So for most of the audience that are listening to this, they probably have heard about the latest iPhone launching with LIDAR, the LIDAR sensors that you guys use, I’m guessing do what the iPhone LIDAR sensor does probably at a much higher scale. Is that accurate? Yeah .

    Jose: 18:35

    Yeah, that’s exactly right. There’s a lot of really exciting things about, uh, the, the iPhone and the, and the LIDAR chip within the iPhone. Uh, but the reality is that the iPhone itself is just not set up to handle the amount of data that’s being generated, uh, throughout the, the mapping process. We’ve done testing. And once you exit a single room that the iPhone really doesn’t know what to do. So it’s not really a good scalable technology and the accuracy isn’t really there. It doesn’t have the quality of sensors that you need to have confidence. So from a mapping perspective, I think we’re a couple of generations away from being able to use the iPhones and the iPads in order to actually do the mapping. But there’s some really interesting things that the LIDAR chip allows you to do in terms of positioning and objects, identification, and the, and some other really, really, really interesting things. And unfortunately, I’m not a replacement for mapping, uh, but could drive a really fascinating user experience.

    Greg: 19:30

    Speaking of the user experience, you know, one of the, one of the things that I want to clarify here is, you know, I think Mike confirmed with me. I, I, when I use a GPS app, for example, I’ll have my Bluetooth headphones in, and I’m just listening to the feedback that I get my phone remains in my pocket, which you guys are outlining is a different use case, right? The, the phone needs a visual view of your surroundings to give you that reference to the, to the point cloud and understanding where you are. Is that, is that correct? Am I interpreting that right?

    Mike: 20:00

    Yeah. Right. It’s as you know, Greg, with, with all access technology, maybe all technology period, there’s always, trade-offs, you gain some things and you lose some things. Um, so the, the, the nuance of camera based position is you have to have the camera exposed to see the environment. If you’re going to get the mapping and positioning that we’ve been talking about. And the good thing is that there’s other apps that have introduced the blind community to using the camera while walking around, or while in a pocket or in a lanyard or in a pouch, such as IRA, be my allies and super sense. And some of the others, uh, I even walked down some nights with seeing AI, to find my Gates and there’s big gate signs at the airport, and that phone’s poking out of my shirt pocket. You can pick up those Gates signs and announce them to me. So, uh, hopefully that’s training people to the fact that you do have, do you have your phone out in order to use other technology we’re talking about?

    Greg: 21:01

    Got it. And you guys are on both Android and iOS o r just iOS?

    Mike: 21:05


    Greg: 21:05

    So, and it’s not just, you know, this community, that’s starting to recognize the potential here. You guys, uh, won an award at CES. Jose. Tell me a little bit about what that award was and, and what, what that meant?

    Jose: 21:22

    Yeah, we, we won the, uh, the Innovation Award from, from CES, uh, this last year, actually for the, for the second consecutive year. And it was really a recognition of all the incredible hard work that the team has done. I mean, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s hard to believe, but it’s only been about two years since we’ve been on this journey. And we looked around and said, there are three issues in this space. Uh, number one, there’s no good mapping platform and mapping process. Uh, number two, we’ve got to get our accuracy much better. And number three, we’ve got to get that accuracy. Would that relying on any infrastructure whatsoever? And here we are less than two years later at three for three and, and meeting those objectives and responding to what we were hearing from the field. And so that CES award, I think, is really a recognition of that progress, uh, and of those issues that, that we have overcome, uh, in the hard work that the, the team has put in to, to solving those issues. And we just could not be prouder.

    Greg: 22:16

    Yeah, that is, that is so cool. Um, when I, when I look at, you know, where this fits in, one of the initiatives that APH has is the Smart and Accessible Cities Initiative, where does good maps fall into that? And can you kind of give our audience an understanding of what that is, uh, with the Smart and Accessible Cities Initiative?

    Jose: 22:36

    Yeah, absolutely. So the smart and accessible cities initiative is something that APH is involved in to, to bring the latest and greatest in technology, uh, on a, on a city level. Uh, so that folks feel supported and feel like they can, uh, uh, have access to the, to the latest accessible technology that takes a wide range of forms. And then, so you can imagine ours is really on the, on the mapping and navigation aspect. So we work with some of APH’s partners to bring some of that technology into their cities. Right now, we are primarily focused on Louisville and Huntington, West Virginia. Although we expect that to expand over time, uh, in Louisville, we’re working with a range of partners from government to museum to transportation, uh, to bring some of the technology to bear and some of the most important venues in the city and in Huntington, where we’re partnering with some, some local partners to bring this technology again, to the most critical venues and most critical buildings that folks need access to and, and, and, uh, access the services.

    Greg: 23:39

    Very cool. I can tell you, as a, as a, as a blind traveler myself, somebody who’s traveled the majority, their career, actually, this being the longest stretch of my career, where I have not gotten on a plane, um, I cannot tell you how excited I am to see, you know, a day where I could potentially walk through an airport with a completely autonomous solution like this, and be able to know exactly where say I need to go to [inaudible] nine in O’Hare and, you know, find out where the nearest restroom is just by, you know, looking, looking within an app like that, um, interacting with nothing, but just my phone. That’s a, it’s a really awesome initiative you guys are doing. And I think, you know, post COVID when people are out and about and traveling again and experiencing this, it’s going to be an entirely new travel experience for them. So, uh, I really appreciate you coming on and, and, and speaking was, is there anything else that you wanted to add either of you that we didn’t touch on?

    Mike: 24:34

    No, Greg, thanks for having us. And I think there, there’s lots of things that are happening in the future that we can work with in terms of smart cities, uh, intersections, transit, uh, there’s so many different companies, large and small working on making that a better experience for everybody. And the fact that we can do something that’s dual purpose. It’s not just for accessibility, it’s for everybody, makes it much more likely that it’s going to happen. So I’m excited to see what’s coming down the pike and, and the near term, um, hope people get out and use a GoodMaps, Explore and give us some feedback.

    Greg: 25:11

    And how do people get in touch with you, uh, with that feedback, uh, if they’re using it and they say, Oh, this didn’t work well, or this would be a really cool feature. What’s the best way to get in touch with your team?

    Mike: 25:22

    I think probably works well. If you want to install the free app, you go to GoodMaps, Explorer on the stores and should be able to download it and check it out.

    Jose: 25:36

    And for any users that need technical help, uh, is monitored by our team for, for folks that are having, uh, that needs support help. You know, there’s, there’s one message that I’d love to send to the audience about GoodMaps and Nearby Explorer. We know that there are a lot of folks who were very loyal, nearby Explorer users, uh, and we, we wanted to provide a little bit of clarity, um, how we made the, the changes that we made from the nearby Explorer product into the GoodMaps, because we use Nearby Explorer as a, as a motivator and as a template, but, but not as something that we were looking to copy and paste, uh, and we took that decision and that process very seriously. One of the very first things that we did is we were forming the team was, was reaching out to users, uh, across the, the technological comfort spectrum, uh, to, to get feedback on navigation applications in general, but on nearby as well. And, you know, the nearby team created what I think is a, is a really incredible technical tool, but we also found through feedback that had had a really steep learning curve, uh, and that users who were more in that, uh, middle range of, of technical comfort, uh, found it a little bit overwhelming and a little bit daunting, which really held back some usage. And so, as we were designing good maps explore, we really wanted to, to, to make sure that it was a tool that could be used by as many people as possible. Uh, and that required a, a decision to maybe not, uh, bring in at least on the original launch, all of the features and all of the complexity, uh, that was featured in the original Nearby Explorer. Uh, we understand that for some folks that that’s hard to hear, uh, and that you’re losing a tool, uh, and certain features of a tool that, that means a lot to you, but, uh, it really was done with the intent of providing a tool that is as useful as possible to as many people as possible. And that was really our North Star in developing GoodMaps Explorer . I would also mention that the version that we first released on the version that is out there now is, is nowhere near the final version. Uh, we’re discussing a number of additional features, some of which are, are kind of Greenfield that are new, but many of which were also present in nearby Explorer. And we, we really do our very best to, uh, take in feedback and to respond to feedback and to engage our users. As we develop our roadmap, prioritize our roadmap and launch new features. So I really encourage folks to reach out to our team. We think you’ll find them very, very responsive and very knowledgeable. Uh, and, and we look forward to going down this, this journey together.

    Greg: 28:15

    Yeah. And as a, as a product manager myself, I can, I can a hundred percent echo that that user feedback is the, the single point of, of, you know, our, our directional methodology. Right. If we don’t hear it from users, if we don’t hear that this is a problem, or this is something that’s necessary, then it oftentimes doesn’t get into the roadmap of the product. And so, uh, if, if there’s addition, as Jose said, please reach out and get in touch with them.

    Jose: 28:45

    And the more creative the better, I mean, I think some of the problems that get us the most excited are nobody has figured out how to get around this or provide this. What do you guys think you can do that ? That’s going to get.

    Greg: 28:58

    Great. Jose, Mike, thank you so much for joining change makers. I am super excited to see what, uh, what comes up next from good man . Thank you. Thanks. Thank you so much, Greg, for talking to the good maps team, they’ve got a lot of exciting things coming in the pipeline. Now let’s learn more about AudioJack with Partners with Paul.

    Paul: 29:19

    Thanks, Sara. I’m Paul for our communications accessibility editor for APH. Welcome to this episode of partners with Paul. Save tuned to the end, to find out how you can win a prize from our featured partner. And this happens to be one of our newest partners from APH. Welcome in David Tobin, founder and CEO of AudioJack. Welcome David, how are you today

    David: 29:43

    Doing well, Paul, thanks for having me here.

    Paul: 29:46

    All right . Great. So tell us first, what is an audio Jack?

    David: 29:50

    Sure. An audio Jack is an audio based movie. So you listened to it. There’s no video, there’s no words. And there’s no music. It’s hundreds of sounds that are edited together to tell a story for your imagination. So you’ll be listening and you might hear the wind and trees blowing, then some footsteps creeping along and then they stop. And the door opens and your imagination creates a narrative based on what you’re hearing. And it’s all done through sound designed to give you a movie essentially for your mind.

    Paul: 30:19

    Sounds good. So who is using audio Jack now? And what sort of things are they doing with it?

    David: 30:25

    We have a lot of people using audio Jack in a variety of areas of education, and especially in the visually impaired for literacy and language learning activities. A lot of instructors are having students listen to an audio Jack and even parents at home are doing this. And you listened to the audio Jack and then create a narrative afterward there’s activities inside the app that allow you to engage with the product in different ways. But essentially you listen once, listen a second time and brainstorm. And then after that, create your narrative, your creation, whatever, or just share out loud with other people and see how you can connect over something like this.

    Paul: 31:00

    Can you tell us more about some of the experiences you’ve had or, heard about with students or others who are blind and visually impaired? Who’ve used audio Jack?

    David: 31:08

    I’ve been hearing from a lot of teachers individually impaired space is two major things. One is that audio Jack is allowing people to work on their language skills by being able to have a rich prompt, to engage their imagination and allowed them to have the freedom to explore and also pull from real world sounds and experiences in the moment. Um, and this has led to a lot of use in the classroom. And we, as I mentioned with literacy, but also with orientation and mobility. So students, people of all ages can get more familiar with surroundings that they’re in by being a little desensitized and become more familiar with it. But also we’ve heard a lot of, um, parents who are cited or other people that have blind, uh, folks in their life that this gives them an equal playing field. So both people can listen and engage at the exact same level, whether you can see or not.

    Paul: 31:57

    Sounds incredible. So tell us, how can our audience acquire AudioJack?

    David: 32:03

    Your audience? Can I get AudioJack, everyone out there listening, you guys can head to APH and hits the website and look up the audio Jack product and right there in the search bar, it’s audio Jack, it’s all one word AudioJack and it’ll pull up and you can get a, uh, there’s a link on the page that will take you over to our website and you can subscribe, um, in different forms of either a monthly or annually. And you can also for bigger programs, you can always get bulk accounts to get them for all your students.

    Paul: 32:33

    All right . Appreciate that, David. Thanks very much for being on today.

    David: 32:36

    Yeah. Thanks for having me here. It’s been a pleasure

    Paul: 32:40

    In the included show notes. There is a link to a blog post and as part of that blog post we’ve included the survey monkey. We’d like you to fill that out. Courtesy of audio Jack one lucky participant is going to win a one-year subscription to audio Jack. Thanks for listening and back to you, Sara. Thank you so much, Paul,

    Sara: 33:04

    In honor of black history month, we have the final part of our interview with Mr. Tutt, a former EOT. He’s also been a teacher and assistant principal superintendent. He’s been everything and thoroughly immersed in the world of visual impairment in schools for the blind. So Mr. Tutt, you were, you were an adult working on integrating schools for the blind. Can you tell us some more about that experience?

    Mr. Tutt: 33:30

    Uh, yes, I certainly can. Um, my, uh, uh, first, uh, introduction, uh, to the blind is field, uh, and schools for the blind was in 1970 when I was a graduate student at Michigan state university. And, uh, as a result of having visited the Michigan school for the blind, uh, I became interested in the education of blind and visually impaired children. And as a result of that and to make a long story short, when I finished my degree in special education with an emphasis on visual disabilities, I, uh, got a teaching job at the Michigan school for the blind. And, um, that job was, uh, motives fields, teacher of children who were deaf and blind. Now, uh, these children were rubella children and their mothers had contracted rubella in the middle to late sixties, uh, German measles. And so, uh, upon their birth, they had the dual sensory deficits, blindness and deafness. So when I didn’t return to Gloucester County to teach, uh, the Michigan school for the blind, uh, recruited me to come out and teach these deaf blind children and I accepted. And that’s where I got to know more about the schools for the blind blind children, children with deaf-blindness and just loved it. And as a result of having my first teaching experience at the Michigan school, Uh, in 1974, uh, I was asked to apply for assistant principal by the new superintendent and I did. And, uh, I was appointed assistant principal at the Michigan school for the blind in 1974. And that’s where I began to learn more about schools for the blind, because I was traveling, uh, to different schools. But also because the school knew I had coached, uh, track and field, uh, with sighted kids. They wanted me to coach track and field with blind kids. I thought, what? Well, I certainly did wrestle in wrestling, wrestling. Wasn’t being a sport in schools by big because it’s touch, touch, but track, it feels a little different. Yes. So you, you know, blind case blank has had enough visual vision, you know, to be in Iran. And we have God wires on the truck for, for straightaway events . And for old events, blind students ran with a sighted runner where, uh, he or she held the elbow, the arm of the student, they had enough vision to see the lions on the track. And so I also coached, uh, uh, wrestling and track and field at the Michigan school for the blind, which was a wonderful experience too . And because who’s for the blind, we’re in different States, I got to travel to other schools for the blind in the Midwest. Uh, and there were 12 schools, I believe in the Midwest where I traveled, uh, to, uh, these schools, you see other blind kids and coaches and teachers at those schools. Um, so it was then, you know, that I learned more about, uh, the integration of blind kids, all these campuses up North Midwest, West and down South, where it was more prolific that they had separate schools for the blind, uh, uh, black and blind kids and deaf kids as well. So I learned a lot more about that and then being the first, uh, you know, black coach in a school for the blind, uh, that was integrated their first black principal at a school with a blouse that was integrated and the first black superintendent and the Missouri who was blind that was integrating, I started delving into, you know, the history of schools for the blind. And that’s when I learned more that even schools for the blind in the South primarily were also segregated. And I just found that, uh, so terrible I did, but it was our history and, uh, that all changed and good. It did, uh, because it, it, uh, provided, you know, white and blind kids to come together and to know more about what they were doing in integrating schools of the blind and deaf, like maybe their sisters and brothers were doing in public schools integrating, you know, white and black students. So Sarah, so yes, it was appalling to, to hear that, but it was real, but it is no more, yeah. As late as, as in the eighties, when I applied for a super did a job at the Louisiana school for the, for the blind that they had, we had integrated there in Louisiana in the eighties, I was a man that happened wow . In the eighties that’s age, Sarah .

    Sara: 40:03

    And, um, that was May 17th, 1954.

    Mr. Tutt: 40:09

    That was the clarity . And now we’re in the age . That’s right. Yeah. So, you know, uh, it was, you know, education departments tried their best to keep no school separate until the may . They said, you have to now, uh, I, I didn’t go to Louisiana. I got an offer, but at the same time, I got an offer to go to Missouri too . So I went there and, uh, and that was, you know, uh, very good for me to have done that, but I was appalled that the school was right for the blind where we’re separate also during those those years. Wow. Yeah .

    Sara: 40:54

    Looking back over everything that we’ve discussed, I have one final question for you. How do you feel about everything you’ve done? You’ve created a leave, you eat, you created a legacy. How do you, how, what are your feelings on looking back on everything that you’ve done with the, with integrating schools and going to schools to integrate, you know, just all of that, everything you’ve done. How does, how does that make you feel?

    Mr. Tutt: 41:22

    Yes. Well, uh, uh, Sara, I don’t know. Have you ever seen a jet magazine? Well, I, I was in Jet magazine when I became a first assistant principal at the Michigan School for the Blind. Now my catcher wasn’t in there, but there was an article about, uh, my being the first black assistant principal at the Michigan School for the Blind still. When I think about that and in answer to your question, I think about those who were before me, you know, Martin Luther King and so many others that paved the way for me to do what I did and without them and what they did and all they went through, uh, before Brown vs board of education, what they were doing, uh, I just came on their shoulders. They opened the doors I’d walked through because of what they did. They provided that opportunity for me to do what I did, not only in the blindness field. After helping integrate the schools in Gloucester County, but that too, with regards to, u h, what I was able to achieve, not myself only, but others who gave me the support to go in there, be your best and treat everyone, u h, as individuals, regardless of race, creed, or color, treat them that way. And I must say, u h, you know, that only experience about the white student w ho said, we’re going to get blue cross. Can I add on you? Is the only experience, bad experience I had over these many years with regards to, u h, my education, my teaching, my superintendency, and my being the first black director of the association for the education of the blind and visually impaired air out o f Alexandra, Virginia, w here I retired in, u h, 2019. So my name got out there. People knew me, they knew what I was like. And, u h, and you know, my, my credentials spoke for me. And, u m, I a m, I guess, appreciative of the opportunities that I had to do, what I did and to be where I am today. I owe so many people so much Sarah for opening doors, for me, people in the, in, in the education field, the special education field in particular, the field of blindness and visual impairment. Yes, it’s been, u h, u h, a nd, and, and enjoyed experience o f meeting the folks that I’ve met over the years. So wonderful people.

    Sara: 45:05

    Wow. What a story. So you were a change-maker and you were just every day, you were just going, just doing what you do . You’re just doing your job. Didn’t even realize you were a G U R H fruit to Baker . Didn’t realize it. Just do, you know, you were just doing your job and then looking back. Yeah. You are a true change where the good, this is what a change maker sounds like,

    Mr. Tutt: 45:29

    Sarah, I don’t know if you know, but I was honored in 2014 by APH with their top award, the wings of freedom award in 2014. I, my goodness. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. Yes. APH lanes or freedom 19. And that awards not given out every year conferences. Yes. 2014. I was honored by APH. Yes. Yes.

    Sara: 46:13

    I would like to try to do, if I can, is put a, find that photo of that and put that in our show notes so people can see, so people can go into the show notes if I am able to do so. If the system allows me, I will try my best to put that in the show notes. So people can see you and you’re accepting your award.

    Speaker 9: 46:34

    Yes, there’s, there’s, there’s some, there’s some video on that somewhere. I will start working on it and see if I can get that out.

    Mr. Tutt: 46:42

    Yeah. Here, I’ll tell you this. There’s some video on that because when I, when I did my acceptance speech on the wings of freedom, I had, uh, uh, one of the audio visual persons at APH, uh, to play the last part of a song by Patti LaBell. I believe I can fly. I can believe I can touch this sky…

    Sara: 47:16

    I’m going to try to find that it put that in the show notes. Please let me be able to find it if I, for any, but for those listening out there, I’m going to start working on that and get that in the show notes, Mr. Tutt. Thank you. Thank You. Thank you. And hopefully you will out there listening. I’ve enjoyed hearing his story. It’s it’s, it’s, uh, it’s such an interesting detail in depth and it’s historical. It’s such, it’s such an interesting story. Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart, for coming in and change makers, we hope you have enjoyed spending time with me and our listeners, and we share to find ways you can be a change maker this week. Just find ways to be like Mr. Lou Tutt this week. Thank you so much for joining us.

  • Jack Fox: 0:01

    Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host

    Sara: 0:16

    Magnifiers come in all shapes and sizes for all ages and needs. I’m your host, Sara. And as part of low vision awareness month, we’ll talk to experts about a brand new magnifier on the way. Speak with an expert tester and learn more about APH is low vision strategy. Then we’ll celebrate black history month with our special guest Mr. Lewis tie. First up, let’s learn about a brand new magnifier that’s on the way we have APHS low-vision product manager, Justin Taylor here to tell us more. Hello, Justine. Thank you so much for joining us on Changemakers.

    Justine: 0:47

    Thank you for having me.

    Sara: 0:49

    Okay. Well as a product manager, I’m sure you’ve seen countless devices that do so many things. Tell us a little bit more about this Juno device. What makes it so different than previous magnifiers ?

    Justine: 1:01

    Well, uh, do you know, performs like larger desktop magnifiers, but comes in a very compact, portable size. Do you know is a handheld video magnifier with a seven inch matte LCD screen with a built-in stands. It has physical buttons and a touch screen to navigate through menus. There are magnification buttons to zoom in and out color mode, buttons to cycle through contrast colors, a power button and a capture button. The three main features that make, you know, unique is the OCR feature, the file storage and the rotating camera. It has all of the features that a handheld video magnifier offer with the addition of optical character recognition. This allows the user to capture texts and have it read aloud. It can perform full page OCR and OCR multi-page documents. You can capture multiple pages and use the OCR changed the magnification levels and color contrast the speech rate and navigate to specific pages. There is a zone feature which will highlight and numbered the sections of a document to make it easier to navigate within a document or article. The OCR feature is great for students that have [inaudible] that need additional text to speech to read lengthy documents. There is a headphone Jack to plug in headphones and a mini HTMI port to use Juno with a TV or monitor and a USB port. As far as the file storage, you can store up to 600 images on Juneau, and there is an audio tag feature that allows you to record file names for say documents. You can use a USBC flash drive to transfer files to and from the computer. Did you know some files that are supported are doc X PDF, a text RTF, JPEG, and others. This helps teachers save assignments on Juneau for students to use in the classroom. And finally, do you now has a rotating camera for near magnification up to 30 X distance view magnification with 15 feets handwriting view? Uh, so a student can fill out a worksheet, sign their name, or do other short writing tasks or hobbies and a self-view to perform, uh, grooming tasks. So Juno does a lot of things.

    Sara: 4:23

    Great. Okay. And I know there’s some additional information, right? So we will put those in the show notes. So all the listeners can go and see all of the features that you know has to offer. So Justine, can you tell me the ways that people with varying levels of low vision can still use this product?

    Justine: 4:42

    Sure. This product was designed to work with individuals with a wide variety of visual acuity levels. Do you know, has an adjustable texts size at talk menus to make it easy for any student with low vision or more limited vision to use the buttons or spoken aloud to tell the user the function of the button, the talking menu feature can be turned on or off, but it is very useful to have this on until the student becomes familiar with Juno’s interface or if they need more audio feedback.

    Sara: 5:28

    Okay. Is, is Juno, is it available on quota or non quota? Do you know if this is a quote, a product? Okay. And then the last in most important question, do you know when Juno will be available for purchase?

    Justine: 5:46

    It should be available by the summer. We are working to get this release sooner, but it can take some time to go through the federal quota process.

    Sara: 5:58

    Okay. Well, all right. Thank you so much, Justine for joining us on change-makers. We appreciate you taking time to talk to us. Thank you for having me and letting me talk to you a little bit about Juno. And now we continue our conversation about Juno. We have outreach director with the Kentucky school for the blind Martin Munson Martin. Thank you so much for joining us today on makers.

    Martin: 6:22

    Sure. Well, thanks for inviting me. Happy to be here.

    Sara: 6:25

    Yeah. Great. Well, do you know, there’s a lot of excitement about it. How do you think Juno will be received by your students?

    Martin: 6:33

    Uh, um, from what I’ve seen of it, they’re all gonna love it. And they’re all, you know, all of our low vision students are going to want one that’s for sure.

    Sara: 6:41

    Okay. And right now you’re in the middle of expert testing. Tell us what, what do you think about Juno ?

    Martin: 6:49

    Uh, so, um, as part of that testing, I, I get some of the demonstration models before they hit the market, um, to try to look for, um, any improvements that might need to be made note all the great features, um, things of that nature. Um, and I’m going to tell you right out of the box, it’s, it’s intuitive to use, um, very easy to use. Uh, uh, it’s got a very, um, very nice profile. It’s going to be attractive to school aged kids because of some of the coloring and some of the features it has. So, um, again, straight, straight out of the box it’s, um, you can pick it up and start using it with very little instruction. Um, but yet it has enough enough features where that it’s really going to meet a lot of needs of a lot of students in the, uh, education settings.

    Sara: 7:46

    That’s so good to hear and you’re right. You know, the color and it looks pretty sturdy. So you have to think, you have to keep that in mind for especially young children, the sturdiness and the color. All right. Well, well, as an expert tester, I’m sure you’ve worked with countless magnifiers. So tell me how does Juno compare to the others?

    Martin: 8:05

    Uh, you know, it stacks up well against all the other ones I’ve tested. Um, and it has some features that kind of make it stand out a little bit. Um, again, ease of use, I think is one of the features that, that make it stand out and probably the best feature on here that helps differentiate it a bit from some of the others is, um, is the fact that it has the, uh, some of the other, um, handheld units effect fact that it has, uh, the, uh, camera that you can scroll up to capture information in a distance as well as, um, information near. So, uh, quite an accomplishment in a, uh, in a smaller portable CCTV. Yup.

    Sara: 8:51

    Yes. Yes. All right. So talking about magnifiers, what should one look for when selecting a magnifier for their student or child?

    Martin: 9:00

    I think probably the, well, the first thing you need to do is kind of know what the needs are of your student and know the environments that they’re going to be using that magnifier in, and then, um, start shopping around for the magnifier that can meet those needs in those various environments. So, um, you know, if you’re, if your student needed to do a lot of writing under an, in a magnified motor with a video magnifier, this may not be the model for them, but if they need to do, um, just a lot of access to information both near and far and have something portable, this is probably the best one that they could use. So matching the student’s needs to what the, um, what the video magnifiers can do for them, I think is the most important thing to look at it. Yeah,

    Sara: 9:53

    That is, that is okay. Well, thank you so much, Martin, for joining us on Changemakers. Sure. Great. And it sounds like, you know, it’s going to be a big hit,

    Martin: 10:02

    You know, again, happy to happy to offer my opinion. And thanks for having me on

    Sara: 10:08

    The future is big and bright as each device evolves and improves with the latest technology. The possibilities are truly endless here to talk about the future of low vision devices is APH is kind of global innovation, Greg Stilson hello, Greg. And welcome back to makers. Hey Sarah, thanks for having me again. There’s a lot of excitement about Juno right now. How does Juno fit into APHS new low vision strategy?

    Greg: 10:35

    So, you know, there is for, for magnifiers. And the, the interesting thing is as myself as, as a blind individual, right? I I’ve been developing products for, for folks who are braille readers or, or blind. Um, and I’ve done a little bit in the low vision space. What’s interesting about the low vision space is that there is almost no two products that worked for the same two people, right? So, um, Oh, I’m sorry. There’s no, there’s no one product that works always for the same two, two people. And I say that because low vision can be so different, right? Like certain people may have sensitivity to light in a certain fashion. Some people may have, um, you know, issues with different colors or have different regions that they can see. Right. Um, so creating a one size fits all approach is really, really difficult. And I will, I will say that, you know, for APH our strategy isn’t to create these one size fits all products, but really to develop a portfolio of products that can, can work for a range of people with a range of visual conditions. Right. Um, and whether they’re different sizes, different functionalities and things like that. Our biggest focus here is to, to not just make them tremendously basic products. Right. I understand that there may be basic features in them, but we always want to really push the boundaries of what we can do. Um, and that, you know, that that includes, you know, connected devices and things like that. But really for, for our strategy, it’s, it’s creating this, this wider portfolio of sort of next generation products.

    Sara: 12:11

    Wow. That’s so cool. So as the Senior Director of Global Innovation and Strategy, you’re developing ideas and products with an eye on the future. So what can you tell us about is low vision portfolio?

    Greg: 12:24

    So we’ve got, you know, right now we have, we have the video mag HD, which is a sort of a smaller, really basic magnifier. Um, but it’s super rugged, then Juno is going to be there and then we’ll have products like Jupiter and MackConnect. Um, but you know, when you look at say MackConnect, right, MackConnect’s been around for a while and we, we always are looking at what’s going to come next. And what are the, what are the features of these next products? But one of the things that we don’t have are, you know, larger desktop style, uh, devices with, with larger screens, right. And APH, yes, we are an education first company. Um, and we really focus on the classroom, what we can do, but, you know, we are expanding, you know, with things like the, the, the connect center and really trying to bring our products global and things like that. We do have an eye on helping people at all stages of their life. So, you know, for us, I would say we’re looking at products with different sizes, different functionalities, but most importantly, different, uh, or making sure that every, every device is connected to today’s modern technology. And that means say moderate, uh, connected to the cloud, um, ensuring that they can all be wirelessly updated, can, you know, connect people, um, at the same time that they need to, you know, read different things and, and, um, access different things in the classroom or at work. You know, as we know, our life is not just all work, right. There’s so much entertainment, there’s so much social media. There’s so many photos that people want to see and things like that. So making sure that the devices don’t just focus on work, but almost every aspect of somebody’s life.

    Sara: 14:00

    Wow. So this next question, you, you pretty much just kind of answered it, but I want you to elaborate a little bit more. What do you see for the future of magnifiers?

    Greg: 14:11

    Well, I think we’re all waiting for that dream magnifier that is, you know, put in a pair of glasses just on our face. Right? We’ve got this, um, we’ve got these really small handheld magnifier as we have larger magnifiers, we have connected magnifiers. Um, I think we’re all watching, um, the mainstream, uh, world, because the, the concept of VR and AR augmented reality and virtual reality, um, is really going to bring forth the technology and bring down the price so that organizations like ours can take advantage of these, these upcoming products and, and, and miniature realizations. I would say, be able to, um, essentially, I mean, I have this, this vision that someday somebody is going to be able to just put on a pair of glasses, touch a touch pad on the side, or a sensor or something like that, and put it immediately to the magnification, the color, if they need to read something, um, be able to just look at something and have it immediately in the color contrast that they like. Right. But until we get there, um, because we’ve, we’ve still got a ways to go there. Like I said, I think that, um, our, our vision is connected devices and having a portfolio there, but taking advantage of a lot of the AI work, that’s gone on a lot of the, um, you know, the, the, the photo optimizations, the, um, optical character recognition being able to do on the fly character translation and being able to, to combine, um, text to speech with magnification. And that’s something that we brought forth in Juneau is, um, as Justine had mentioned early on, is that, you know, this is one of those things where you can snap a photo and if your eyes get tired of trying to read, um, you can press a button and have it read to you. And I think that having that multimodal approach of reading and learning, um, will really benefit a lot of users.

    Sara: 16:12

    Wow. Wow. Well, I’m excited for the glasses with the magnifier. That sounds so good. I’m waiting on it. Oh my gosh.

    Greg: 16:24

    So I’ll call out to any vendors who are working into this, um, magical glasses space, uh, APH is super interested. So let us know

    Sara: 16:36

    That’s right. That’s right. Let us know. That will be such a such a game changer. Oh my gosh. I’m excited for that day. I am. That’s going to be such a cool thing to see that is all right, Greg. Well, thank you so much for joining us on makers. We, as you can tell, we’re all excited. I’m excited for Juno to come out and all the other wonderful products you have coming. That’s going to be, it’s going to be a fun time.

    Greg: 17:01

    We are, we are super fired up and, you know, it’s, it’s this product vision that we have here at APH, but it’s also the vendors that we work with. You know, we work with companies like vis Pharaoh for products like Jr, or excuse me, like, uh, like Juno and Jupiter. I mean, we work with product or companies like Humanware for, for products like the Matt connect. Um, and I, I forgot that we, uh, that, um, that the video mag HD is also a, uh, a Sparrow product too. So, you know, as we, as we focus on the user experience here at APH and really pushing these products, um, limits in the classroom and being able to really optimize them for students, um, it’s our vendors that we, we really, um, appreciate and love working with and, um, really allow us to push envelope on what we can do with these products. So kudos to the vendors. And we are, we are always looking for new partners. I, in this, in this roadmap that we’re working on, so super excited about it.

    Sara: 18:02

    Well, thank you so much, Greg, for joining us on Change Makers. We are very excited for all the products you have coming and next up on Change Makers. We’ll continue our conversation with Mr. Tutt in honor of black history.

    Greg: 18:14

    Thanks so much, Sara.

    Sara: 18:18

    All right. We’re back with Mr. Lou Tutt, a former EOT who has represented three different schools for the blind and on the previous podcast, Mr. Todd talked about his childhood and his education, especially during the time of the Brown V board of education decision, which was historic, which is when they declared that segregated schools were unconstitutional. So we have Mr. Tuck back and tell us about as a teacher, as an adult, we, you were a teacher in some of the schools that you taught were segregated as an educator. What was that like you teaching at a segregated school and now you’re helping integrate. How, how was that? What was that like?

    Mr. Tutt: 18:59

    Well, it was, uh, it wasn’t a surprise at first when, when the TC walking up school principal, uh, call me to his office near the end of the 1967 68 school year to say, Mr. Todd, uh, the school superintendent of Gloucester County now most integrate teachers into the segregated schools, namely longer high school. And you have been recruited to go down the Gloucester high school as a phys ed teacher and coach. And so there, I sat in Mr. Johnson’s office and thought, Oh my, wow, this is going to be different. And, uh, so, uh, I mean, I couldn’t say no. I mean, I could resign and move on somewhere else, but I was one who believed that the integration of schools, since the Brown vs board of education decision came down, if I could play a small part in that, then you do it. And along with me were two other teachers from TC Walker that were going down an English teacher and a history teacher. So there were three of us, you know, go on down to, uh, Gloucester high school com uh, the, the fall of 1968. And so, uh, so I went down and as I being a coach, uh, I got to know a lot of the white kids early on in August when football practice began and they got to know me. And so, uh, the first day of school, when the principal introduced the new staff, you know, there I was with my two other colleagues from TC Walker. We stood up and said, uh, who we were. And there we were, you know, in a school with, with a great majority of white teachers, white students, although there were, you know, black students came down to the school at that time, too. So for the black students who came down, they had three of us with whom they could relate if they have issues or problems in the school. Uh, and so that was good. And being, being a coach, you know, you get to know students, uh, uh, maybe a lot better than maybe an English teacher or a history teacher might because you’re you involved, uh, uh, with them not only academically, but athletically as well. So, uh, it, it, it went well, it went well. Uh, but I knew that during that year that I was going to need more education, uh, if I was going to stay there and I needed to pursue, you know, a master’s degree in the field now, uh, my experiences there were, were, were very good. I had one bad experience there at the school. Uh, in one of my classes, I ask a white student to perform these exercises with the class. And that student said, no, I’m not. And I sit in my class. Yes, you will. Wow. And he said, well, I won’t. And I had the KU Klux Klan at your house tonight. Wow. I said, okay, bring them on, bring them on. And so I had friends in Gloucester, so I went to my friends and glossy and said, I got threatened that the KKK is, will come to my house tonight. They said, don’t worry, we’ll be there too. So at my house at, at night, there were those who were supporting me. And we had an arsenal there ready for any outcome that the KKK, my truck.

    Sara: 23:32

    And what year again was this?

    Mr. Tutt: 23:35

    1968. Wow. So we were all there waiting, waiting for them to burn crosses or do whatever. Cause we had an arsenal and we’re going to do we have to do well. It never happened. They never came through, it was a veil threat, but it wasn’t a threat. But, uh, all in all, uh, I got along well with the white students, uh, at the school. And, uh, there’s one white student who works for NASA now in Alabama, who comes up to DC every year. And he and I get together. And he was just a young 15 year old when I met him. And now we get together. We talk about our times at integrating Gloucester high school, such a wonderful experience. Well, this past year, 50 years later, gosh, it had a high school, had a reunion of the class of 1969 in Gloucester. And I went to the reunion and here were these old white teachers, old black teachers, and all these students who had gone to school there in this one place together. That’s like the crowning experience here. We were struggling in 1968 in 1960 and 19 in 2019, here we are all together thinking about what it was to make the integration of the schools in Gloucester County successful. We did, but, but Sara always stayed there a year because I didn’t believe I get grandfathered in like some of the white teachers. So I thought I need a master’s degree. Then I’ll come back with a master’s degree. There was no question. You have to keep me. So I went to graduate school. I never came back. I didn’t honor my legal absence because I got involved in the blind and deaf and then it was blind all the way from 1970, 1971 to 2019. One thing I might say Sara, that when I was a senior at Norfolk State University, uh, I got to visit the, uh, Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind in Hampton, Virginia. So I went over there to see how they taught blind and deaf kids. I never saw the blind kids because the school had more deaf kids and blind kids. And all I saw was deaf kids, all right. At the school and many, you know, there, there were about a dozen deaf blind in America. And so the one I got to work at was Colorado. And that wasn’t till 2003. And I went there as principal, but I always wanted to know what it was like to work at a combines who are dual school, deaf and blind students. And certainly, you know, there’s more deaf folks in blind folks. And so at those schools, more deaf students than blind students in a number of deaf teachers as well. So that was a good experience for me going there. But what I didn’t realize Sarah, when I went over to the school for the deaf, the blind, a Hampton, that there was another School for deaf and blind up in Staunton, Virginia, which was a white school for the deaf and blind. So many States, especially in the South, had two different schools, a black school for the deaf and the white blind or deaf and blind. And if the school wasn’t combined, if there were black students on the campus, they were separated from the white students on the campus. They were separated in the dorms. Wow. Yes they were. And so there were several schools like that that were also segregated in terms of blended should definitely Sara. Yes. Now, uh, so many of those schools in most rare in the South, uh, had a big decision to make because it was too costly for the state to run two different schools. So one of those schools in those States, black or white have to close and integrate all the students on one of those campuses. And of course, Sara, what happened was that the black school was closed and the black kids went to the white schools. So the blind and deaf, and that’s how that all, uh, occurred. So today, uh, if a state, not all States have a school for the blind school of the deaf and many States have dual schools, those schools now certainly obviously are, are integrated, uh, Sara. But, uh, she was, [inaudible] not only did it include education, uh, you know, general, but these schools are deaf and blind were segregated as well. They were so interesting. Yes, absolutely. Very much so. Um, I, um, had presented at different conferences around the country, in the field of blindness and on motor skills. And, uh, it’s been, it’s been a real good experience, uh, doing that. And I went to a conference in Mississippi a few years ago and Mississippi had two schools and they just integrated the schools the last 10 years. Wow. In Mississippi. And so, uh, I knew folks from that school, from the black Mississippi school and the white Mississippi school. And they had a tough time integrating because you know, the whites didn’t want to do that and they want to be involved with, uh, you know, the black blind students. And you would think blindness, you know, blindness, you can’t even see what color, well, let me tell you the attitudes from Y blind kids, parents and family certainly made it known, uh, terrible names that blacks were called by white segregated parents and students. So it was, it was awful, but we’d got through it. And now today there are no more segregated schools for the blind in schools. There’s either one school in that state and they all go to that school regardless. You know what it took. I remember Sarah, a few years ago, I came down to APH and did a black history thing there at APH. And I don’t know, I probably burned boy your diabetes before you came there. You know, that name Burt Boyer. And I do not. Okay. Burt Boyer, uh, worked at APH, but he also, he also was blind, uh, white with albinism and Burt, uh, uh, went to the, uh, school for the body in West Virginia. I mean, in Virginia and in Louisville. And there, those in Louisville who remember, uh, the integration of the Kentucky school for the blind there in Louisville was one of the segregated schools as well. And so Bert and some of my friends who became superintendents who were blind, they remember the integration of the Kentucky two for the ride way back when and what it was like. Yeah. So, so it wasn’t very different from what it was like for, for quote, regular black and white kids didn’t make their schools as it was for blind black and white kids to integrate their schools. But it was a little bit more because they hadn’t had the dormitories that may be living together in the dorms as well. And how was that going to work out? So it was huge now at the Maryland School for the Blind where I was for 13 years, that school doing segregation, they did integrate, but they had on the, on the same grounds, but they had separate schools on the same grounds. So it wasn’t really a school for the blind, but they had a white campus and a little black campus at that school. And then schools for the blind years ago, Sarah, the head of the schools lived on the campus. Okay. All right. So I live on the campus at the Missouri school. I live on the campus at the middle of the school. Of course they were integrated by that time that I came. But you can imagine what it was like for these kids to live in the same dorms with, you know, white parents. And she didn’t want those blind black kids, you know, sleeping in the same room with my white blind kid. So it was all a bunch of terrible that we had to go through to get to where we are today. And so, but that’s, that’s, that’s the history, Sarah, that’s the history. And, uh, and we must remember that that many, many whites were certainly pro integration and we’re on the front line, you know, helping that happen. They start losing their lives as a result of that. So we don’t want, we don’t want to just dismiss the fact that there were whites too, who joined this, uh, uh, pursuit of integration of schools are blind as well, uh, during the fifties, sixties and seventies. Uh, so I was a small part of that. Yes.

    Sara: 34:48

    Okay. And be sure to check out our next podcast. We’ll hear Mr. Tutt talk about teaching in integrated schools. Um, Mr. Tutt, thank you so much for joining us on change makers and we look forward to having you back.

    Mr. Tutt: 35:02

    Okay. Well, thank you, Sarah. It’s so good to meet you. You are an outstanding interviewer.

    Sara: 35:11

    Thank you. Thank you. And we will talk to you soon.

    Mr. Tutt: 35:16

    Ok. All right.

    Sara: 35:18

    Thank you very much for listening to this episode of Changemakers. We hope you enjoyed yourself. Be sure to find ways you can be a change maker this week.

  • Jack Fox: 0:01

    Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host.

    Sara: 0:16

    Welcome to change makers. I’m your host, Sara. And we are just days away from February, which is low vision awareness month and black history month. So today this podcast we’ll talk about low vision resources that help those who are experiencing vision loss with experts will discuss the most common eye diseases that impact older adults and what books and online resources are available. After that we’ll celebrate black history month. First up let’s learn about eye diseases, what they are, how they should be treated and what people should know about age-related vision loss. We have Dr. Emily Gorski, Assistant clinical professor at UC Berkeley school of optometry here to tell us more, Dr. Gorski, thank you so much for joining us today on Change Makers.

    Dr. Gorski: 0:58

    Thank you so much for having me great. So,

    Sara: 1:03

    Uh, a couple of different age-related vision loss, eye diseases. Can you tell us more about them? There’s macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy. What can you tell us what they are and how would one know if they think they have them?

    Dr. Gorski: 1:18

    Yeah, absolutely. So I’ll try to keep it simple. I could talk for, you know, an hour on each of these, but I promise I won’t. Um, so age-related macular degeneration. Usually we abbreviate it and we just say, AMD, um, is the number one vision cause of visual impairment in this country for older adults. So it’s very common. Usually we break it down into two forms. There’s most people would call it the dry and the wet. So a lot of times, if you ask somebody about AMD, they’ll say, Oh, I have the dry form. Oh, my doctor says I have the wet form. Uh, most people start off with the dry and that’s basically just damaging changes that happen in an area of the eye called the macula. So if we think about the eye as like an old timey camera, I have to say old timey now. So not a digital camera, but like, you know, a film camera we can think about the retina as the film in the camera. So light comes in, it’s focused and the image gets focused onto the film or the retina. The macula is the central part of the retina. So it gives us our central vision. So with macular degeneration, that’s damaged to that area of central vision. So in the dry form, it’s usually little deposits of waste products that build up or atrophy or thinning of that tissue. And if somebody converts to the wet form, they have leaking of blood or fluid that causes vision loss in the eye. Oh, okay. So that’s AMD, uh, symptoms of that, you know, with many of these diseases, what I really want to stress is that in early stages, you may not have any symptoms. So it’s really important to get your eyes examined or have your loved ones, get a regular eye exam, because you may not know that this is starting to develop, but early symptoms of AMD can be blurred central vision. Things can look distorted. So something that’s like a straight line could look kind of wavy in one eye, uh, loss of color vision, or in more extreme cases, people can start to develop blind spots. So kind of dark areas of their central vision. Oh yeah. So,

    Sara: 3:19

    Oh, go ahead. No, I was going to ask, so what about glaucoma and cataract ?

    Dr. Gorski: 3:24

    Yeah. So glaucoma is a real sneaky disease and it can be confusing for people because it actually describes a couple of different disorders that are all sort of labeled as a type of glaucoma, but all of those have to do with damage to the optic nerve. So the optic nerve basically is the cable that connects the eye to the brain. It’s what sends the vision information from your eye to your brain. So it knows what you’re seeing. So with glaucoma, you’ve got damage to that optic nerve. It starts to become thinner, more damaged, and that causes this loss of peripheral vision or side vision. And ultimately that’s not controlled. Glaucoma can cause somebody to lose all of their vision, unfortunately, but it’s very sneaky because the most common form of glaucoma, when it first starts, no symptoms, no pain, nothing. You don’t notice the changes until it’s much more advanced. There are other forms of glaucoma where one can have really acute symptoms. So a sudden red, painful eye, headache, nausea, sometimes vomiting. You can see halos around lights, blurry, vision. You know, that’s the form of glaucoma that most people will come in. They know they have a problem. Uh, but the most common form is called primary open angle glaucoma. And that is this very slow, sneaky, progressing disease that, like I said, it doesn’t cause any changes until it’s too late.

    Sara: 4:48

    Wow. And how are those issues treated ?

    Dr. Gorski: 4:54

    So age-related macular degeneration. Unfortunately there’s no cure for the disease and there’s really no treatment for the dry form. But if somebody converts to the wet form and has more sudden changes from fluid linkage, they can get injections in the eyes to help reduce that vision loss.

    Sara: 5:11

    Now, is there anything that can be done to prevent the macular degeneration? The glaucoma, the diabetic retinopathy?

    Dr. Gorski: 5:19

    Yeah. So yeah, I guess I’ll focus on AMD first. So, you know, well, what I tell all my patients is what’s good for the body is good for the eyes they’re connected to your, your body. They’re Hey, they’re inside your body. Yeah. So eating a good diet, exercise, controlling any medical conditions you have, like diabetes or even high blood pressure. All of that is going to be good for your eye health as well as just your overall wellbeing. Not smoking is huge. There’s a huge connection between smoking and progression of AMD. So if you’re a smoker, one more reason to quit. You know, it’s been shown that a good diet is beneficial for all of your eye health, but specifically with AMD, the, uh, nutrients found in leafy greens like spinach, kale, collard greens have been shown to kind of bolster the pigment of that macula area. So eat your spinach salads, make a cow smoothie. It will be good for your eyes. And lastly, using sunglasses, it sounds really simple, but UV light, well progress diseases like AMD cataracts, all those kinds of things. So it doesn’t have to be a super fancy Ray-Ban, you know, it can be anything that blocks UV light is good to wear when you’re outside.

    Sara: 6:34

    Wow. Okay. Last question. What do you want people to know about age-related vision loss?

    Dr. Gorski: 6:42

    So if you are somebody who has good vision and you don’t need glasses and you’re not going to your eye doctor regularly, make sure you’re going to your eye doctor still for a comprehensive eye health exam. I really want to stress that a lot of these conditions don’t have symptoms early on. So it’s super important that we detect them early so we can try to prevent them. Uh, and if you’re somebody who is new to vision loss or newly diagnosed with one of these diseases know that you’re not alone. This affects so many people in this country. And there are so many people who are ready and willing to help you, not just your retinal doctor or your glaucoma doctor, but seeing somebody who is a low vision specialist, who can actually examine the functional vision, this type of eye exam looks at how you’re using and maximizing the vision that you do have. And so often it can be, we can prescribe magnifiers or other kinds of devices to help you use the vision that you have. And we can direct you to other resources, other trainings, even support groups, you know, vision loss is scary and there’s a lot of really complex emotions with it. And it really helps to connect with other people and talk about it.

    Sara: 7:50

    Dr. Gorski, thank you so much for joining us today on Change Makers. Next we’ll turn our attention to books, but first let’s hear from our special segment partners with Paul.

    Paul: 8:02

    Hello everyone. My name is Paul Ferrara communications accessibility editor for APH. And this is Partners with Paul partners. As Paul is a segment that’s going to highlight products and services from APH partners. Stay tuned at the end. We’re going to tell you how you can win a copy of Yue-Ting Siu’s book on Access Technology for Blind and Low Vision Accessibility. With us today, Peter Tucic, brand ambassador for blindness products with HumanWare. How are you doing today, Peter and living the dream. Paul, thank you so much for the opportunity. And I’m glad to be the very first guest. And we’re going to talk today about the braille trail reader. So I’ve got a few questions for you about it. Can you tell us a little bit about the braille trail reader, some of the specs and general features? Absolutely. So the braille reader is a very small device that has 14 braille cells. Um, it also has very basic scratch pad on the device. Has your typical braille input keyboard. Uh, it does have cursor routing ability. So there are cursor routing sensor buttons that exist on the device and the Braille Trail Reader. Ellie also has the ability to synchronize with the notes app on your iOS device. So there is a specific application that allows you to do that and we can connect to five simultaneous Bluetooth connections. The braille trail reader also has HumanWare signature thumb keys. So across the front of the device, you have four thumb keys. Great. What about features that are especially helpful for emerging braille readers?

    Peter: 9:32

    Sure. So for a young, as a young Brill learners, if you will, or those who are being introduced to the device, it’s a perfect starting device because we will use it to reinforce that braille sort of reinforcement for what we’re getting from audio. Uh, we’ll use the device to read what our screen reader is saying. So if we’re connected to an iOS device, if we’re connected to a screen reader, we’re going to be able to read what is spoken. And we’re also going to use the device to practice and work on cursor placement, uh, panning and editing. So being able again, to familiarize yourself with those basic concepts, that can be a challenge for somebody who is coming from a manual braille writer. And what about braille tables? Uh, I almost forgot braille table supported. So we will support UVB for those of you that have students learning the UVB braille code that is both contracted and uncontracted braille

    Paul: 10:26

    And what tasks can be performed by middle and high school students that are going to help them as they transition to college or career.

    Peter: 10:34

    We think about that school environment. We think a lot about note-taking. Um, we oftentimes will be quickly writing notes. We want to do that in a kind of a silent way. We’re going to be able to take notes in a basic scratch pad sort of form. Those notes can be synchronized with iOS or with a windows device. If you’re using something like exchange through outlook, but you’re able to synchronize notes for future you’re referring to them in the future. Alternatively, you can also use the device for reading books or text files, so you can use, there is a transfer application available on windows that will allow you to send files to your braille trail reader. Ellie, it will let you take those files, whether they are BRF or TXT. So a great use case would be to take something like a, a news article, save it in HTML on your computer, use braille blaster to convert that to BRF or, you know, a braille document, and then use that file transfer application to get it right over to the device. So it can be a great workflow again, getting that reading going. And then also of course, pairing with your preferred screen reader, be it voiceover, be it jaws or NBDA, and use that to, to work with and kind of read what is going on on your screen as well.

    Paul: 11:46

    And finally, what makes this device especially useful for adults?

    Peter: 11:51

    For adults? We really focus a lot on portability. Um, it’s a, it’s a wonderful device in terms of its size will easily fit in your purse can fit in your jacket pockets. Uh, I definitely have one with me at all times sort of floating around in my bag. It will allow you to also keep it in your phone in your pocket because you’re able to wake up your iOS device with the Braille Trail Reader. So you’re able to use it to get the device going. Uh, you, you know, are going to have that note synchronization and the where that comes in handy as you can synchronize notes for future reference, but also you can use multiple accounts. So if you have a Gmail account, if you’re using exchange, you can synchronize those notes. Cross-platform if you will, and take notes in a meeting and later refer to them on your tablet or computer. So we’re again, it’s also perfect for spot reading, quickly, responding to text messages, sort of working with that two way communication side of things, instant messaging, text message, uh, being able to efficiently and effectively move through that. So from that adult or working professional side, it’s a perfect device and will allow you to sort of move through your day, uh, with that braille literacy that we always promote.

    Paul: 13:04

    Fantastic. Thanks for joining us today on this episode, Peter Paul,

    Peter: 13:08

    Thank you so much. I’m happy to come back any time.

    Paul: 13:10

    Thank you for joining us. Check the show description and you’ll see a link for a survey. Please take that survey. Someone who does is going to win a copy of a book on excess technology for blind and low vision accessibility.

    Sara: 13:28

    Thanks Paul. Now we have APH press director, Heather spins here to tell us what resources are available for those experiencing age-related vision loss or know someone experiencing this condition. Heather, thanks so much for joining us today on Change Makers. Thank you for having me. So what books are available to the public that discuss and explain age-related vision loss? APH press has several titles pertaining to age-related vision loss. We have aging and vision loss, a handbook for families which offers reassuring and helpful information on meeting the needs of a family member who is losing their vision. And it also includes supports and resources for family caregivers. We also have making life more livable, simple adaptations for living at home after vision loss that provides practical tips and modifications that improve the safety and security of the home and gives older adults with vision loss solutions to continue living independent and productive lives. We also have some personal narratives out of sight, out of mind, personal and professional perspectives on age-related macular degeneration is a personal narrative by Lindy Bergman that illustrates the ways in which life with vision loss can be lived with dignity and personal satisfaction. And then finally out of the corner of my eye, living with macular degeneration is another personal account of a person living successfully with macular degeneration and it discusses ways to cope effectively. Okay. So with aging and vision loss, a handbook for families from APH press, that gives information on meeting the needs of someone who is losing their vision. What are some of the ways the book suggests ? Yes, well the book emphasizes that vision loss does not have to result in a loss of independence, productivity, or activity. Although many people believe just the opposite with the help of specialized devices designed for people who have vision loss, special vision rehabilitation services, such as training and accomplishing everyday tasks and using remaining vision and a few simple tips for rearranging the house and its appliances. Someone experiencing vision loss can live as before without assistance. The book discusses certain basic techniques that are fundamental when adapting tasks in the everyday environment for a person with vision loss. Some of those discussed in the book include organizing, labeling using tactile markers and devices using contrast in color and creating environmental cues. One specific example is using tactile markers, such as high Mark to create raised dots on a stove or a washing machine so that the controls are recognizable. The book also provides safety tips for the home and includes a home survey checklist, which is very helpful. It discusses eight key elements in the home environment that can be utilized and adjusted to enhance the functioning of people with vision loss. And these are lighting glare, color, contrast labels, lettering, and marking organization, use of texture and touch environmental cues and techniques such as sound and smell. And finally safety issues. The book offers tips such as using dark bathroom towels as a contrast to white or lightly colored bathroom walls and installing door knobs that contrast in color with the door. Okay. It’s related macular degeneration, that is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over 60 the book you mentioned out of sight, not out of mind, personal and professionals perspectives on age-related macular degeneration, which is also from APH press. That is a personal account of living successfully with age-related macular degeneration. What are some of the ways that the book says people can live successfully? Well in this book, Lindy Bergman tells a very compelling story about her experience with age-related macular degeneration, even at 93, Lindy was still living a successful and highly satisfying life. Um, in the book, Lindy recognizes that dealing with macular degeneration is not easy, but at some point you have to come to terms with it and try to learn how to make the best of it. Some tips that she offers are if you find that you’re avoiding doing things that are too stressful for you, as you react to the news of your diagnosis, it’s okay not to do them for now. Just don’t forget to do them later when you’re better adjusted and acclimated. She says to go ahead and vent frustration when you feel it, but then consider finding new activities to replace the ones you no longer do. For example, if you can still read, take advantage of online networks and helpful organizations on the internet, don’t become socially isolated, join a support group. Um, there are a lot of support groups available. Some tips that Lindy offers, uh, for your home are to have appropriate lighting in the home, adjust the lights so that you can see reevaluate what you have on the floor, around your house. Eliminate things such as throw rugs, um, be careful about furniture with sharp corners. Your home needs to be comfortable for you. So you don’t have to worry about falling in your house or getting injured, and finally try to continue doing everything that you possibly can. You might need to have someone, you know, help you, but if you enjoy doing something and it makes you happy, try to continue doing it. But one thing Lindy really emphasizes is that trying to maintain hope in a positive outlook can be the most helpful things you can do for yourself. Now, we just talked about resources for, you know, people that are going through this or knowing that are, or knowing someone who is going through this, what resources are there for professionals? Well, we also have several books for PR professionals, such as vision loss and an aging society, a multidisciplinary perspective, which is an overview that integrates practice and policy issues relating to aging and visual impairment and O&M for independent living strategies for teaching orientation and mobility to older adults is an important guide for orientation and mobility, instructors, rehabilitation, specialist, occupation therapy, therapist, and other professionals who work with adults who may be new to vision loss. All right, well, thank you so much, Heather, for sharing all that information with us. And if you’re interested in learning more about those resources, we just discussed, the information can be found in the show notes below again, Heather, thank you so much for joining us today on Change Makers. Thank you, Sandra. From books to services, special advisor on aging and vision loss, Pris Rogers is here to discuss what’s available online press. Thank you so much for joining us today on Change Makers. Well, thanks so much for inviting me to come great. So we know the connect center offers a world of information for all walks of life. What services does the connect center provide for adults and seniors with age-related vision loss?

    Pris: 21:16

    The connect center has wonderful services. Um, one of the things that’s been going on through the pandemic of course, is it’s been hard for people to reach direct services. And so the connect center is providing that lifeline that people need to be able to find out about what help and services are available to them. Uh, the connect center has an 800 number that’s available Monday through Friday, uh, all day long and into the evening until 8:00 PM Eastern time. Uh, the number there is (800) 232-5463 again, (800) 232-5463. And they have people advisors who know about services and can direct people who need the kind of help that people have when they’re calling that line. Also, uh, the connect center has an email address and it’s connect a as in Apple, P as in Paul, H as in, So if you can’t, um, if you need answers and you can’t call, you can always email as well. In addition to these types of direct types of services, uh, the connect center houses, the APH directory of services, where people can find, uh, information about services in their own hometown and in their own state. Um, so they can look up their state and then look for the services they want in their state. So it’s a wonderful, uh, directory it’s been around for many, many years and is the most complete directory that there is that I’m aware of in the, in the whole country of refining services. In addition, the connect center houses, the websites that help people with vision loss, um, family connect for parents of kids who have vision loss, uh, Greer connect for, uh, young adults and people seeking employment and Vision Aware, which is the site that I’m affiliated with, which is for adults who are basically new to vision loss and especially seniors who need to know about, uh, help and support and how to live with vision loss, um, and often are, are really needing emotional support and so forth. Okay.

    Sara: 23:35

    So vision aware covers everything from diagnosis to emotional and mental impacts to how to adjust to the new normal with vision loss. What would be the first place on the website? You would suggest someone go after a diagnosis.

    Pris: 23:50

    There are actually two places on Vision Aware that are good places to start. Um, first of all, we, uh, wrote a roadmap to living with vision loss. That includes just a page or two about the kinds of services that people will need to maintain their independence and, um, and their way of life. And that that section can be found in everyday living section. Um, and it actually, uh, is kind of an outline of another book that APH offers, uh, which is called making life more livable. And it, that book was written for people new to vision loss. So, like I said, that’s a good place to start a shortened short and sweet, uh, piece of information on a roadmap. And it includes, you know, what types of services will you need when you lose vision? Then another wonderful place to go is the getting started guide, uh, four people need a vision loss and this guide, um, it is, uh, several pages about 20 pages long. It starts out with what you need to know about your eye condition. It goes into where you can find services. It talks about, uh, tips, uh, that of things that you can do around your home to be able to make your, uh, your home accessible, uh, and able to, so that you can get around easily and safely, for example, what can you do in your bathroom? And what can you do in your kitchen? Uh, also talks about assistive technology and also about reading and things that are important to people when they first lose their vision. You know, when you lose your vision, what do you do? Uh, how can you continue to do the things that you used to do such as reading also talks about transportation and how, if you cannot drive what kinds of services are available? So it’s a really good, quick and dirty guide for people, uh, it’s available in English and in Spanish. And, uh, it can, like I said before, can be slash getting started, or you can go to that to the place where the getting started kit is, and actually request a free large print copy to be sent to you, free of charge. So we can get a print copy. You can get a downloaded version. Also, my understanding is that pretty soon it’ll be available in an audio format for people as well. So, like I said, I would actually really recommend that above anything else, because it will tell you, uh, pretty much all you needed to know in a very quick and dirty way to really help you to get started with dealing with vision loss.

    Sara: 26:30

    Okay. And you just spoke of resources. Can you just briefly touch on some of the resources and services that are available for those with age-related vision loss? I mean, this is going from medical to day-to-day services and well, of course,

    Pris: 26:44

    When you first start to experience vision loss, you need to find out what’s going on. And it’s really good to go to an ophthalmologist who is an eye care professional. He can look at, uh, look behind your eye and diagnose and make sure what kind of medical condition that you might have, if any. Um, also if you are diagnosed with an, uh, with vision loss, for example, you have glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy, and you have some remaining vision, which most of the time you will. Um, there are services called low vision services that optometrist and certain ophthalmologists offer, uh, to help a person make the best of the revision that they have left. So they will do an exam and determine if you can, um, benefit from magnification or what kind of lighting might help you because sometimes lighting makes all the difference in the world, uh, to a person who’s losing vision. Uh, then, uh, there are services called vision rehabilitation services that are available through state agencies for the blind and also local agencies. And like I mentioned earlier, there’s a directory on vision awaring and the connect center to help you find those services. But basically what they do is they have vision rehabilitation professionals and teachers who will help a person who’s just lost a vision, know what to do, how can they cook? How can they read, how can they do all the tasks? How can they identify their medications and so forth? Um, so all of this information is available, um, on vision aware in terms of what you can do, and the types of services are available. Another wonderful service that is really helpful to people when they lose vision is orientation and mobility. And, um, most of the listeners are probably aware of people using white canes. Well, uh, people who are orientation and mobility instructors teach people how to use those white canes effectively so they can get around in their neighborhood or wherever they need to go and do it safely. So vision aware covers all of these types of services. Um, and another, a really important service is, uh, support groups. And we cover, uh, information about support groups on Vision Aware as well.

    Sara: 29:09

    Okay. So say you just got a diagnosis and getting a diagnosis for anything you’re going to be really, you’re going to be emotional. You’re going to be shocked. How would you suggest a person prepare after they get diagnosed with macular degeneration?

    Pris: 29:26

    Well, first of all, they need to know that they’ve been still have a life and they need to understand that they’re really going to be upset. And so it would be helpful to get a support group going on to find out about what’s available right now, of course, with a coronavirus situation is not as easy to go to a support group, uh, personally, but there are a lot of online support groups and also telephone support groups that are available. And as I mentioned, uh, we have some information, uh, on vision aware about those types of groups. It’s important that you talk to your family member about your vision loss and help them understand because sometimes they’re just as scared as you are. And so we have a section on vision aware to help family members understand that. But the most important thing is to know that there are people out there just like you who have lost their vision and have gotten through it. And, uh, the, by getting the, uh, the support and the types of rehabilitation services that I just mentioned, you just have to be open to the fact that you can get help and that life is not over and you can go on with your life.

    Sara: 30:36

    Okay. Okay. Is there anything else that you want listeners to know?

    Pris: 30:42

    Well, I’m vision aware. Uh, we have a great blog. Um, it’s written by what we call our peer advisors. And these are people who are, who’ve had vision loss, some of them all their lives, some of them just recently diagnosed and they write about how they do things with vision loss, how they get by what kinds of things do they can they do on their own and how do they get transportation and how do they vote and how do they read all of these types of things they talk about on the blog? So I would encourage people to go on a vision aware and read through that blog and get some ideas and, and get some encouragement. I think that’s the most important piece is to get the encouragement. We also have some personal stories about people who have lost vision and how they’ve gone on with their lives. And these are all on vision aware as well. So you can look up your eye condition and see about someone who might have glaucoma and how they’re functioning and the same for the other types of eye conditions. Also, um, I think it’s important that people find out more about low vision and the national eye health education program through the national eye Institute has a great deal of information on low vision. And we will, we’ll be providing a link for that information as well. So there are other resources out there that can help you to live with vision loss and vision aware. We’ll help you find those resources. And so we, we hope that this information will be helpful to you, but please, please do not hesitate to either call or email the connect center. If you have any questions as all at all, because that’s what we’re here to do is to help you with dealing with your new vision loss, do not despair, do not get up there, give up there is hope, help and connection for you.

    Sara: 32:35

    That’s right. Okay. Well, thank you so much for joining today on Changemakers, And we will have links to the connect center, the national iHealth education program, and vision aware in the show notes. And up next, we celebrate black history month. Thank you, Sarah. Appreciate it. It’s been fun doing this today. Thank you. And in honor of black history month, we’re going to turn to our special guest, Mr. Lee Tut, who is a former EOT, who has represented three different schools for the blind. Mr. Tech, thank you so much for joining us today on Changemakers.

    Mr. Tutt: 33:10

    Well, thank you very much. I’m happy to be on the program with you. And, uh, if I’m a change maker, I’m happy about that as well.

    Sara: 33:19

    You, are you certain your career? Yes, you are. So tell us a little bit about your background history, where you went to school, where you’re from, what you, what your career was like.

    Mr. Tutt: 33:30

    Okay, well, uh, I’m from, uh, Lou Ray, Virginia was born there and, uh, five years from the data, my birth, my parents moved to Washington DC. So, um, I had all of the, my, uh, elementary and middle or junior and senior, uh, or high education in the city of Washington DC. And so, uh, graduated from, uh, public schools, uh, in 1960. And, uh, I’m a product of, uh, segregated schools even in Washington DC during that time. And so, uh, once I graduated high school, I took a year off and worked. And, uh, then I, um, enrolled at Norfolk state university in Norfolk, Virginia, and, uh, went to school there from, uh, 1961 to 1965, uh, graduated from, from, uh, from Norfolk state university. And of course at that time, it wasn’t normal state university. It was Norfolk division of Virginia state college. It was, uh, a smaller school and hadn’t received that credential to be a university, uh, yet, but later on, after I graduated years later, it became, uh, a state university, uh, in Norfolk, Virginia. But anyway, after I left, uh, Norfolk state, I, uh, got a teaching job over in Gloucester, Virginia. And, uh, that was at a, uh, an all black school K through 12, uh, TC Walker, not TC Williams, which is famous, you know, for the Denzel movie, uh, some years ago, but that was at TC Walker, uh, as a teacher and a coach of football and track and field. And, uh, of course it was a segregated education there. So it wasn’t new to me since I had had, uh, had, uh, been educated in segregated schools in Washington DC and very good schools, I might say as well. Uh, and so I was over in Gloucester for, uh, 1965 and 1969. Now in 1968, uh, in Gloucester, uh, the school superintendent of Gloucester County school board, uh, believe that schools needed to be fully integrated. And so in order to do that, and that meant that the black teachers, some of the black teachers that at TC Walker had to be transferred into the all white schools in Gloucester, Virginia. And I was one of three African-American teachers who was transferred to the all white high school, uh, in Gloucester. And that was 1968. So I went down as a phys ed teacher, driver, ed teacher, a football coach and track coach. And, um, it, wasn’t a very good experience. Uh, I must say that, uh, for, for all concerned, not that it was easy, uh, but, uh, uh, the, the staff at the school, the superintendent, uh, the students, you know, all try to make it work. And I think for me having been a coach, uh, at TC Walker and, uh, was a coach at gosh, a high coming in before school started for football practices. You got to meet some of the teachers and some of the white students, you know, before school started, but, uh, that year went well for me, uh, as teacher and coach, but I realized after, uh, going down the Gloucester high and, uh, that year there, that I needed more education. So, uh, I wrote to several, uh, universities in the Midwest and, uh, about going to graduate school and was accepted, uh, with, uh, uh, a graduate assistantship at Michigan state university. So 1969, I enrolled as a graduate student at Michigan state university. So here I was, uh, a graduate of Norfolk state, uh, 4,000 students, all black to a university with 40,000 students, black, white, and you name it. So there I was, and miss big university, and for the first time was sitting in classes with white students. So an experience, it was, but certainly a very good experience. So, um, I, I did my master’s degree there. I had, um, determined, uh, when I left Gloucester to just go away and get my degree and come back to Lockton high. But during my matriculation, uh, as a master’s student, I, uh, had to, uh, visit, uh, three sort of status Michigan as part of a prerequisite for this, this master’s degree in education, but I was, uh, matriculating. And so one of the, uh, institutions that I went to, uh, what was the Michigan school for the blind? And when I went there, I was just appalled at how these blind kids learn to read, write and do physical, uh, exercises. So I thought my, maybe I ought to look into doing a second master’s in, in, uh, the education of blind and visually impaired children. And my major professor, uh, who, uh, was very, very, uh, pleased with my work, uh, thought, uh, maybe we ought to have you look into doing work with deaf blind children, children whose mothers had rubella back in the sixties and back in the sixties, about 3000 bursts of deaf blind students were born and in the state of Michigan, uh, they had the third highest burst of rubella babies. Wow. And so here are these rubella babies, these well, they’re not babies, they’re, they’re, uh, uh, elementary children now at the school who needed to know more about locomotion movement. And so I did a second degree, uh, and in the end visual impairment with emphasis on motor skills for young, deaf, blind children. And so at the end of the day study, uh, I was offered a position to come back to Norfolk state, to be on staff there and coach, but I wanted to continue working with, uh, uh, these blind and deaf blind children. So the school had three other physio teachers, but they didn’t work with the deaf blind children, the deaf blind children come into the gymnasium. Uh, you know, because they couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk, couldn’t see, couldn’t hear. And they were used to working with blind kids who could hear, you know, who had, uh, intellectual skills, uh, that, uh, provided them, you know, opportunity to, to, to learn, to do the physical education. So, because of my study that press went to school, uh, recruited me to come down as a phys ed teacher and work with deaf blind kids on me. And so I did that now, my classroom was hallways, bedrooms, and basements as the physical ed teacher, I got to the swimming pool only on Fridays, but those 35 deaf blind kids at the Michigan school of the blind, put me on the map. They put me on the map. And as result of that, uh, I coauthored my first book with a professor from bowling green university with regard to motor skills for deaf blind children. And sooner or later, I was tapped to be an assistant principal, the first black assistant principal, and later on principal at the Michigan school for the blind. So those deaf blind kids, uh, put me on the map. So I spent 10 years at the Michigan school for the blind as a teacher assistant principal and principal. Well, if you wanted to, uh, aspire to a higher leadership position at schools for the blind, uh, that would it be superintendent. So in 1981, I applied to several schools. One was the Missouri school for the mine, and, uh, lo and behold, after my interviews there in St. Louis and coming back to Lansing, Michigan, where I live, I got invited to be the new superintendent at the Missouri school for the blind in 1981. Wow. So 81 is key for you because 81 would have been, uh, I would have become an EOT, uh, because I was superintendent. And then in October of 81, my first venture, uh, to APH. So, uh, that’s the history now, all of that leading up to that point, you know, was, uh, a segregated education. Uh, but, but, uh, you know, things were beginning to change. And so I was one of those change agents at the, at Glossier in high school when I became one of three black teachers to go to that school. And, uh, that worked out very well. So from, from an elementary student, myself in DC to, uh, being a change maker and Gloucester, uh, I look back with fondness on this as to my educational history. Uh, I had some of the best African-American teachers and teachers, uh, in elementary, junior and high school. And at normal state university, I had some of the best African American professors, uh, there. And so all of that created for me this next step out of education, into special education, with an emphasis emphasis on blindness and visual impairment. And so that’s how I wound up from 1981 to 2019 in the field of blindness and divisional impairment. Uh, Sarah.

    Sara: 45:20

    Wow. Wow. What a career? What a story. Okay. May 17th, 1954. That was, that’ll be that 66 years ago. Yes. That was when the us Supreme court declared that segregated schools were unconstitutional. The Brown beat, the Brown V board of education decision was historic. And those who were students then are now your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents today. What, what do you remember? I’m not trying to get your age or anything, but where, where were you at around that time?

    Mr. Tutt: 46:01

    Well, see, 1954, I would have been in junior high school in Washington, DC. I would have begun my high school education in 1957. So I was out of, uh, 13 years old, of course, you know, I’m now 78 years old. And I’m one of those grandparents that you’ve mentioned today after the Brown vs board of education. So, uh, I was in segregated schools during that decision. And from that time on, uh, until, you know, going to Norfolk state university, graduating, going to Gloucester, uh, to teach, uh, and then to be a part of integrating the schools in the Gloucester in, um, you know, 1968.

    Sara: 46:52

    What was that like when this decision is handed down, you’re 13, you have some sort of idea as to what’s going on. What was that like when that decision was handed down? What was w what was that like? Like does, because change doesn’t happen overnight? No, it does. So what was that like going to school the next day?

    Mr. Tutt: 47:16

    Well, in Washington, DC, uh, which, uh, during those years was probably 30% black and 70% white. So, uh, the DC public schools were slow to integrate black kids in the white schools. Therefore, uh, I was in a junior high school that was segregated black, uh, and, you know, graduated from there in 1957 and then went to spinning garden highest school in 57, which was black segregated. So the schools, uh, in DC really didn’t begin to, to integrate fully until after I had graduated high school in 1960. And then, you know, the issues began to flourish because the mandate had to be, uh, exercised. And so at that time, I was at Norfolk state university and saw all of the turmoil across the country, especially the Southern States about integration of, of schools and colleges. So, uh, how was in the midst of that, uh, during that time, but as, as, as, uh, a student junior high high school. And then of course, uh, after graduating novice state and went over to Gloucester, how was the part as late as 1968, integrating the schools in Gloucester? Wow. From 1954 to 68, it’s took all that time, you know, for schools to do that. And there was a lot of terrible health, obviously around the country, mostly in the South, uh, as a result of that. But, uh, uh, I, I was not too young to realize what had happened, but I wasn’t involved in, in my, I wasn’t transferred to, uh, uh, of white junior high or high school in DC. So thus my elementary and secondary education was all certain that it, now, I believe if I remember correctly as been gone high school, there may have been a white teacher who came to that school if I’m remembering correctly, I’m not sure, but I think so, but that was a white teacher coming into a black school, not a black teacher going to a white school. And of course, DC had a lot of excellent black high schools in DC Dunbar, Armstrong Cardoza. Oh my goodness. Spin gone. What’s the newest films. Oh, wow. I tell you, they see had the best public schools and many, many, you know, athletes were being recruited out of DC to go major colleges around the country. Uh, so I had an excellent DC segregated education center and I did.

    Sara: 50:38

    Wow. Thanks so much and be sure to check out our next podcast where Mr. Tutt will talk about his experience as a teacher in an integrated school. Thank you so much for joining us today on Change Makers. We look forward to hearing about that and everything else. You’ve got to say, Mr. Tutt, it’s been wonderful.

    Mr. Tutt: 50:56

    Well, thank you very much. It’s been an honor to be your guest, uh, on this black history month for APH. It really has. I mean that with all sincerity and also please give my, uh, friends and colleagues, APH, my sincere regards and well wishes for a happy 2021,

    Sara: 51:18

    I sure will. Thank you. Thank you so much. Yes. That’s it. For today’s episode of Change Makers, all of the information discussed today will be in the show notes. Be sure to find ways you can be a change maker this week.

  • Introduction: 0:01

    Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We’re talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here’s your host.

    Sara: 0:16

    The almost 200-year-old six dot system, we know as braille has helped those with visual impairments thrive and succeed in everyday life. But the rise of electronics has changed and enhanced the quality of life for everyone with talking books, audio books, and other devices that speak and listen to you. One might wonder if braille is still relevant. I’m your host, Sara, and today on Change Makers I’ll talk to four experts to learn the history of braille, their thoughts about braille assessable tech to help individuals learn braille in the national transition conversation. First off, let’s talk about the history of braille with APH museum director, Mike Hudson. All right, Mike, thanks so much for joining us today on Change Makers.

    Mike H.: 1:00

    Thank you, Sara.

    Sara: 1:02

    So we’re talking about braille and if it’s becoming irrelevant, but first and foremost, let’s talk about the history of braille. What exactly is braille for those who might not know?

    Mike H.: 1:13

    So braille is a code. If you want to think about it, that way, raise dots that you can feel with your fingers and the patterns of the dots. Tell you what the, what the letter is. So a has a particular pattern B as a particular pattern and so forth.

    Sara: 1:32

    Okay. How did, how did they come to be, where did it, where was it developed? How did it, how did it braille become to exist?

    Mike H.: 1:39

    So it all starts in France, uh, 1784, a guy named Valentina. We found the first school for blind kids in Paris. And he quickly realized as he’s working with one of his students names, France, Wallace sewer, that they need a way to teach the kids how to read. And so they come up with this idea called raised letters where you emboss the same letters that sighted people use into the paper, and you teach the kids to trace the letters with their hands. And that’s how they learn to read. So fast forward then a few years, uh, to 1809, a little boy is born outside of Paris called Louis braille. And Louis has an accident one day in his father’s leather working shop his eyes. He damages his eyes. They get infected by the time he’s five or six, he’s lost most of his vision. And then, uh, when he’s about 10, he gets to go to that school, uh, that, that, uh, we had founded in Paris, uh, 18, 19. He starts there. And so he becomes one of the prize students there. He’s a brilliant young boy, 1821, uh, another French guy named Charles Barbier. Uh, who’s an inventor since a code that he has come up with over to the school for the blind, for it to experimented with, by the students there, Barbie doesn’t know how his code is going to be used. He thinks it might be used or, uh, diplomatic communications. It might be useful for the military on the battlefield and in dark, you know, not situations, uh, or it might be useful for blind people. And, uh, so Louis is one of the kids who get selected to test this code out and he loves it because the, one of the big problems with, uh, Valentines always raised letters was it, you couldn’t write it. So imagine, you know, you can read a book, but you can’t write it. You can’t take notes in class or anything like that. But with Barbies code, although it’s clunky, it actually uses 12 well dots. You know, the, the modern a braille character just uses six dots. Um, but, uh, and, uh, Barbie has code is based on phonics, the way we pronounce words rather than on the alphabet. And so Louie takes Barbie’s code, reduces it down to six dots that fit right underneath your fingertip. And instead of it being based on phonics, it’s based on the alphabet. So with Louis code, you can quickly read and write and you can spell, and you can learn really. You can learn to read and write the same way that sighted kids smart. You’re just using an alternative form of a character of something that you read, read with your fingers rather than with your eyes. But other than that, it’s pretty much the same. So, uh, w uh, Louie publishes his code for the first time, teen 29 in a book that we call the [inaudible] the method, and it introduces the whole concept of, of braille to the wide world. And, uh, really the next big interview you mentioned in braille is, um, is the idea of contractions. This is the idea that, uh, you use a character for more than one letter at a time like TA inter ch or she kind of letter forms that we use all the time. Uh, that was only Louie had only experiment with that idea, but really that becomes, uh, built into the cooked into the system when braille is adopted in great Britain in the 1860s, 1870s. And, uh, uh, that idea comes to the United States, uh, with, uh, with braille, when it, when it’s introduced in the United States. Another big, uh, development in braille is in 1892 when Frank Hall, who is the head of the Illinois school for the blind comes up with his haul braille writer. It’s the first successful mechanical braille writer. And now you can quickly type, uh, notes or a letter or a book, uh, on this machine. And all then quickly also comes up with what we call the hall stereographs machine, which embosses braille on two brass plates, brass plates that can be put into a printing press. And now places like the American printing house for the blind can rapidly mass produce braille books and distribute them all over the world.

    Sara: 6:08

    Now, what are your thoughts? Do you feel that braille is becoming irrelevant?

    Mike H.: 6:12

    Not at all, not at all that the thing is that people who are blind or visually impaired use all kinds of different reading methods and some are better for some folks and some are better for others. If you are, uh, an academic, if you are in the business world, um, you’re going to need braille at some point, but, you know, you can read with braille, you can read with audio, uh, you know, you could have your computer read to it. There’s, there’s, uh, electronic devices that make braille rapidly. So, uh, you know, we all, we need a whole range of different tools for all kinds of different people, but, uh, braille continues to be an effective tool for lots of people who are blind or visually impaired.

    Sara: 7:05

    Is there anything else you’d like to add about the history?

    Mike H.: 7:10

    I think braille is one of those things that comes along at the right time, and it was going to have to be developed by someone who was blind themselves, like Louis braille. Uh, he owned, he developed a tool that worked perfectly for people who were blind and, uh, and, uh, you know, that’s the way, the fascinating thing about history is that these things come along just at the right time, right. When society is ready for them, it’s all about timing.

    Sara: 7:40

    That’s so cool. All right. Well, Mike, thank you so much for joining us today on change-makers and we hope to have you back soon. Thank you, Sarah. So now we’re going to talk to Associate Vice President of Programs and services for the Braille Institute, Sergio Oliva, Sergio is braille still relevant. That’s the name of this podcast? That’s the goal of this podcast to find out? Is it still relevant? Is it still needed? What do you think?

    Sergio O.: 8:10

    Braille is absolutely, uh, so relevant. I think that braille is not dying. It is a code used to teach people with visual impairments, how to read and write. And so I think it’s important to mention that, uh, because it’s not going to like die and it is very much relevant to how we actually communicate, uh, people with visual impairments communicate with the rest of the world. So it is definitely, uh, relevant in this time and age.

    Sara: 8:41

    Now, why do some say it is on its way out?

    Sergio O.: 8:45

    You know, I, I was thinking about this too, and you know, what’s interesting. I think that even in 2020, we have to demystify the concept of braille literacy. I’m not sure if people in our field would say that answer. Yes. I think perhaps it’s a refocus of bringing awareness to the individuals outside of this field, what braille means. Um, if some people outside of our field do not see the importance, I can see how they may think that it is a dying, but especially with what the rest of the cider world and what society is putting out with the audio books. I can maybe get us how, um, I’m assuming here that this is one of the reasons why people, um, say that braille may be dying. I can share with you that you don’t understand how many times when I tell people, not that not in this field, that I, uh, where I work and what I do. And the first question oftentimes is, Oh, so, you know, sign language. And at first I used to think, wait, are they being funny with me? Like, are they pulling my leg here? But in reality, that’s really a very much, it’s still alive. And I still get asked that question of those people, not in the field. And so I think that there’s a lot of demystification that needs to take place and I can see perhaps why some people may think that braille is dying.

    Sara: 10:04

    Okay. So you mentioned, you just mentioned braille literacy programs. Are there any programs that help promote braille literacy?

    Sergio O.: 10:14

    Absolutely. There’s a couple of different, uh, programs. I think a lot of the larger organizations and even those that are maybe not so large, aren’t doing an excellent job in really fostering the sort of community of promoting braille via a lot of different hands-on products take American Printing House. Like you guys are just blowing like things out of the park when it comes to making sure that a lot of the products are actually being utilized and that they, um, are being utilized efficiently and appropriately in the classroom. And so talk about, you know, your federal quarter funds and you talk about even, um, uh, code jumper, like all these sort of like products that are very colorful and are very, uh, fun for students. That’s what we need. We need a lot more of those programs. So, yes. Um, there’s a couple of organizations for us here at braille Institute. We have two signature national programs that are free of charge. One of them, I think a lot of people may have heard it’s the a, it’s an academic competition to really test the braille in writing skills of students in grades K through 12. And so if you go to the website,, that’s one word. Uh, we do have options during the pandemic as well. So I know that a lot of people sort of turn to bring a challenge to see, like, what are we going to do this last year? We had over 1200 students across North America that actually took our braille challenge contest. And the program continues to grow because braille literacy is now sort of like even, um, we’re starting as early as like, you know, zero age working the parents. So that’s one program that I would say, definitely check out for us here at brew Institute. We also have another free program, but I know individuals like seedlings also provide free braille books, uh, for children, our special collection program. And if you go to the website, you’ll find a lot of information there free. We have two catalogs a year, but they’re aimed at children and families from zero to six years old. So we take board books and we actually add Brill impossibles on top. And, uh, we also send them manipulative to really build on that concept. What does this really do? Um, you may be asking it does two things. One, it allows for the parents to actually be able to read to their children. A lot of parents, they don’t know braille. Um, some of them, you know, it’s a whole sort of, um, experience like when their child or they find out that their child has some sort of visual impairment. And so this program really just puts these board books into the hands of families so that they can have that sort of a same experience if you will, as their sighted counter peers, when it comes to babies. But also the manipulative that I send out it’s really to build on concepts, to prepare a lot of the children and the families for what’s to come. One of the titles that I’ll share with you is we had a book, I forget who the author was, but it was something about going to the doctor early on. A lot of toddlers have a lot of doctor’s appointments, and we had this whole doctor kit and we sent out a curriculum suggestion suggesting a lot of different activities. And so that’s another sort of program that promotes braille literacy early on. Um, there’s a few, but like I said, a lot of the organizations and even the schools for the blind, um, really are just, just doing such a great job at continuing to promote braille literacy

    Sara: 13:41

    Now to promote promoting braille literacy is one thing, but what’s the biggest challenge in teaching braille to children because they have to be taught before they can know. So what’s the challenges there.

    Sergio O.: 13:53

    Yeah, absolutely. So I think that, you know, one of the things that when we have sort of parent conversations, we have youth programs and their enrichment programs that follow, uh, the ACC, uh, different the nine areas. And so one of the things that I realized that parents when they come to us is, and I’m starting from the beginning here, parents want their children to grow into their kids to grow up and, you know, contribute positively to society. We know that part of this being an adult is being a working adult. What are some of the things that we know, we know that the unemployment rate among the visually impaired it’s pretty high. I don’t know what exactly it is right now, but for the past eight years it’s been at like low seventies. One of the things we do know in this field is that over 90% of those that are employed are braille readers. And so I think that we have to sort of, um, talk about that and be aware of that and why it’s important to start teaching, um, you know, braille literacy early on or promoting braille literacy. But one of the biggest challenges that I sort of like have seen in my experience is access to adequate resources. One of the things that I keep, we keep stressing, and I’ve heard this at different workshops also at different conferences is operative word being, uh, we gotta repeat repetition is so key. So you have to start early on building on these concepts and building on braille literacy and also one of the things so that that’s one really working with the parents. I think that we need to get them more involved early on. And that’s, I think like a challenge, but the other sort of thing that I do, uh, have noted is that what kind of assistive technology resources do the children have in school? I still hear a crazy story, Sara, of how some kids, like it takes them like months to get access to like books or to even have the right sort of like technology, uh, whether, you know, they have low vision and they need some sort of magnet, a magnifier, or they need to sort of like sit in the, uh, at the closer to the, to the, to the, what is it, the board. And so there’s a very, there’s a bunch of things. There’s a lot of different variables, um, that are challenging with teaching braille, but I will summarize it in three parts, one, as I said, really making sure that we’re doing our work teaching early on as early as when the kid is born, those board books, just educating the parents and second making sure that people realize like their advocacy, uh, skills that they need to hone so that when you are, if you have your child that’s in the mainstream, uh, is mainstream, meaning that they’re at a regular school district, not at a school for the blind, you have to be like a great advocate to really get the resources. And so I would say that access to a lot of the key resources is probably one of the largest and biggest challenges that I have identified over there.

    Sara: 16:54

    What do you see for the future of braille?

    Sergio O.: 16:58

    Oh my goodness. Um, I say so many things, but, um, one of the things that I feel that we can get very creative, but this is what I really do believe the future of real literacy is, uh, marrying digital literacy with braille literacy. We talk about, uh, refreshable braille displays, they’re the new sort of like it thing. And we have to start teaching as early as we can. How do you even pair a refreshable braille display with, um, you know, like your smart devices? And so that is the future braille literacy married, combined with digital literacy. I know that there’s a couple of different options that are, uh, or projects that are taking place. I know that we are still working, um, in transitioning the braille challenge to utilizing a lot more refreshable displays digital refreshable displays. So one of the things is how do you have access to those? So this is where this sort of collective agenda to promoting braille literacy among all the different key players in the field, not just from like the schools for the blind organizations like APH, like braille Institute, but also a lot of our outside vendors and partners like the Sparrow or Humanware, or I can go on, you know, like a lot of the different companies that are building a lot of the refreshable braille displays. We have to be on the same page where they collective agenda to promote real literacy, um, so that we can incorporate technology because guess what technology is not going away. And the sighted world keeps running at a hundred miles an hour with all these different gadgets and all kinds of things. And we need to stay on top of not like really try to just catch up. And so that’s what I think, uh, one of the, I think the biggest thing of, of braille literacy, uh, is going to be when I think about the future of braille literacy, it’s that digital component.

    Sara: 18:51

    And with that digital component, do you think rail can survive in an electronic digital world?

    Sergio O.: 18:59

    I, uh, will always say yes, braille literacy is here to stay. Uh, it is just a matter of us again, coming together and realizing that we’re all in this together in sort of like making sure that individuals with visual impairment are able to read and write, and this is sort of the, that’s the code that we are using. And so, um, braille literacy is here to stay and I think we just need to keep at it.

    Sara: 19:27

    All right, Sergio, thank you so much for joining us today on change.

    Sergio O.: 19:31

    Thank you, Sarah. And thank you to the entire, uh, APH team. We’re always so grateful for the partnership that we have, uh, with all of you guys, especially through our signature, uh, program here in North America called Braille challenge. So, uh, hi to everyone at APH. I hope we have our annual meeting in person soon because I miss everyone at APH and I miss the hospitality. So thank you so much.

    Sara: 19:58

    It sounds like the feature of braille is secure, whether it’s electronics for children to learn about braille and educational settings or a high-tech refreshable braille device, Brill has been and will continue to be incorporated not only in the products that APH and leading access technology companies produce, but also in everyday products and here to talk accessible. Tech is APH is head of global innovation at Greg Stilson. Greg, thanks so much for joining us today. Thanks Sara for having me. All right. So we’re talking to accessible tech with the topic of braille. Is it important for children to learn braille first, then incorporate electronic devices or electronic devices first then braille or just whatever you can get?

    Greg S.: 20:44

    You know, so I think there’s, There’s always this debate today because of all the accessibility that’s there with, with text-to-speech engines, everywhere that, you know, your phone talks, your TV talks, everything talks, right? And so you always have the question of is braille still relevant? And I’m going to start by saying that absolutely 100% it does because it is important because students and young children and people who learn braille learn so much more than just the written word, right? They learn, they learn sentence structure, they learn, they learned, um, layouts of pages. They learn, learn grammar, they learn spelling. They, you know, all of these things unfortunately cannot be learned by listening to a, um, a text to speech, um, audio device. Having said that in, in my opinion, and this is, this is strictly my opinion. And from the time that I’ve, uh, I’m a blind reader of braille myself, I learned braille at, uh, in kindergarten, but just speaking to several teachers of the visually impaired, from what I understand and the way that I’ve, I’ve heard the most success come from, it is usually it starting a student with, uh, a full page of braille, right? So a, usually a, um, a textbook or, you know, a physical piece of paper, right? What that teaches them is it teaches them the spatial layout of things. Right? So when you’re, when you’re going through a, uh, a book, when you’re reading a story, um, chapter titles or things like that are centered, and just that understanding that a chapter title is centered in the middle of the page, in today’s, um, single line braille displays and things like that, that can’t really be represented adequately when you’re reading in a, uh, a single line display, everything is done linear in a linear fashion. Um, so the sentence structure, the, um, the, the, the, the layout of the page, things like that are really not represented in the same way that they’re represented on a, on a full page of braille or a full multiline, um, experience like that. So to summarize, I would say, starting the student, if you have the capability of, uh, you know, the physical pages of braille or a, a full, full page of braille, um, to teach them those really fundamental, um, concepts, and then as time progresses and, you know, incorporating a lot of times, teachers have told me they use, uh, the electronic braille devices as sort of a reward for the student, uh, doing well with their, their written braille or they’re, they’re reading the physical pages of braille to then slowly transition them into electronic braille.

    Sara: 23:28

    Okay. So speaking of devices, what devices can help children learn braille? So there’s, I would say there’s three,

    Greg S.: 23:36

    The categories of electronic braille devices today. Um, when you look at actual refreshable braille tools that are there, you, you, I would categorize categorize them as sort of in what are traditionally classified as like note takers and note takers are very intelligent. Refreshable braille devices that often run on modern platforms, things like Android and things like that, um, that do a lot, right? So you can, you can create full essays on these docs on these devices. And they, they center around, uh, the braille language reading and writing in braille, um, and you can use modern apps and things like that. The second category is really where APH is starting to focus, and that’s what we call the intelligent braille display. And the intelligent braille display is, uh, it’s it’s number one purpose is to be a braille display for input and output for other devices. But if you’re not using those other devices, like a smartphone or a computer, uh, you can still do some things on these devices. They, they still have functions that are internal to them. So, uh, two devices that I would look at here for APH would be the, the mantis or three devices would be the mantis, the chameleon, and the braille trail reader. Um, all of those devices can function great and can control and, and receive output from, uh, connected tools like computers and smartphones. Um, but if you’re just looking to take notes, if you’re looking to do a quick calculation or things like that, um, they all have internal apps that allow you to, to, to use them, um, without having a connection. And then the last category is what I would call your traditional braille display. And that that’s a, just a braille display whose only function is to connect to other tools, um, to provide braille output and input, uh, for those devices. So, um, those were the, really the three categories that, that I would look at there’s there’s younger student devices. I would say that kind of introduce the concept of, of electronic braille. Um, so things like the smart Brailler or, um, one of the, my favorite devices that we have here is the braille buzz. That’s not a braille output device, but it does have a braille input keyboard that does some phonics things and, and really introduces the concept of typing an electronic keyboard, braille keyboard.

    Sara: 26:03

    Okay. And, you know, what’s interesting. I, my, my iWatch just had an update and I was reading what it did and it’s like health stuff, but nonetheless, it also says it now, can I guess pair with a real keyboard? Yeah, yeah, yeah.

    Greg S.: 26:21

    The, the Apple watch in, uh, I think it’s watch a seven, um, allows you to connect a refreshable braille display to your, to your Apple watch and where that’s really exciting is, you know, myself personally, I don’t, I don’t see a scenario where I’m probably going to connect my braille display to my Apple watch, but for, for people who have hearing impairments right along with their impairments, braille is the only way that they can interact with these devices efficiently. Right. So in the past, somebody who was using an Apple watch may have had very limited to no use or function, um, with that device, but being able to pair refreshable braille display to a device like the Apple watch, um, you know, today countless numbers of folks who are deaf blind use refreshable braille displays with their smartphones. It opens up that entirely new world for them. Um, that was previously not available.

    Sara: 27:14

    Yeah. I thought it was awesome to see that. And, you know, I’m always looking now for, you know, assessability and is this something that, you know, could work? And I was just really excited, and that was just one thing that stood out of all the things that it listed, and I never read them, but

    Greg S.: 27:32

    The one time that you read the release notes, I love it.

    Sara: 27:37

    All right. So speaking of, you know, awesome devices and feature braille, what do you think is coming for the future of braille?

    Greg S.: 27:46

    So, um, I think there’s, there’s a couple things that we’ll see. And one of them I’m really excited to be leading here at, at APH. And so right now, the, the, the traditional way that somebody uses refreshable braille display as a single line braille display and braille displays come in, you know, the way that they’re varied is the number of cells on that line. Right? So that the number of cells generally has gone from anywhere from 12 cell lines, all the way up to 80 cell lines. Um, and, but, but the number one restriction that’s been put on these is that they’re single line displays and that’s, that’s done for a number of reasons, cost being a significant, um, inhibitor there. Um, but the other side is also footprint, right? The more lines of braille that you create, the, the larger, the deeper the device gets. And, uh, and so there, there’s a new design problem to solve. Um, and what we’re working on here at the printing house is, um, a project that we’re calling the dynamic tactile device. And we put out a request for information, uh, earlier this year to receive info from, uh, vendors and companies who have been working on technology to enable, um, multiple lines of braille along with tactile graphics representation. Our dream is to be able to provide a tool that can, in many ways, replicate the experience of reading a tactal textbook on a device. And we want to do this for a number of reasons. Number one is, you know, you see in the mainstream world, um, you know, E readers, the Kindles, the things like that, um, electronic textbooks, even being tied to learning management systems like canvas or Google classroom and things like that, um, being available without having a physical textbook anymore. And unfortunately our, our blind and students don’t really have adequate access to that. Um, second of all, is that the cost of producing textbooks today is exorbitantly high, um, especially for, for STEM textbooks. And so, um, our goal with this project is to hopefully reduce the costs of braille transcription and production of these textbooks. And lastly, to be able to bring these textbooks to a student’s fingertips, um, exponentially faster than, than we’ve been able to do so far. Um, so, you know, our dream is that a textbook can get transcribed, modified whatever we need to do, um, from the, the, the manual side, but then be in the students, you know, digital library, you know, as quickly as possible so that they can just simply download it, right. They don’t have to get it mailed. They don’t have to any of that. Right. So it, to answer your question, I believe the next frontier of braille devices is going to be a multiline full screen type of experience, where you’re able to actually obtain that, that foundational information that I was speaking about before, where you’re able to get not only the content, but actually understand the layout of a page in this spatial understandings that, that goes along with that. But then, you know, I would say in addition, being able to do a lot of impromptu learning, um, you know, a device like this also opens up the world of, um, you know, one of the dreams that I have here is that if a biology teacher says that, Hey, I have a, uh, a picture of a neuron or something like that. Um, they could cast it to the, the dynamic tactful device and the student could see a, a version of that graphic that was filtered so that it looks decent, uh, in a, in a, uh, a tactile representation, right. And it’s never going to look as great as if you use, you know, if you have a, uh, uh, tactical graphic designer doing it for a blind person, but, you know, in this case, if I look at that same scenario that happens today without a device like this, if the biology teacher says, Hey, I’ve got a picture of a neuron here, and there’s nobody there to transcribe that into a consumable format, the students just without that information entirely. Right. And so I see this, a device of this nature really changing the game of the concept of impromptu learning. Um, and, and to me, that’s a piece of learning that, that blind and low vision students they’re just missing out on entirely right now.

    Sara: 32:19

    Wow. Okay. So something, tell me, tell me what you’re thinking. Am I thinking something like, like in the shape of like an iPad that with the refreshable braille and yeah, I think the CA image, or if I need to see it, um, uh, uh, an image display it’ll create image on there. Yeah.

    Greg S.: 32:41

    You got it. I mean, think of, think of like a, uh, uh, a tactal like array of, of pins or, or, you know, things that can pop up to form both graphics, um, and, and braille. Right. And I think that that’s our Holy grail, there is to be able to represent graphics and braille in the same device, because, you know, let’s be honest, we, we don’t have endless amounts of funds here. So you can’t have two, really two separate devices that can achieve separate things. Unfortunately, the kid doesn’t have room in their backpack for that, and in our wallet for that either. So, um, so for this, and, and, you know, for, you know, APH, this is a huge endeavor because we, we do a significant amount of braille book production. Um, but we also, um, you know, work with the federal quota system and, and can, can, can get feedback from teachers and things like that to really make this device, um, a valuable tool in the toolbox. Right. And hopefully change the way that textbooks are produced down the road. Right. Um, you know, right now there’s really no, uh, braille standard that allows for simple navigation. Um, you think about like the way that textbooks are produced today, um, they’re embossed on paper, right? And so students are literally turning pages to go to chapters. Well, when you, when you take those braille books and you try to put them on a digital device, you now have to create a new mechanism to navigate two chapters, right. Or navigate two pages, because eventually you’re going to run into the situation where the student is told by the teacher, all right, turn to print page 137. And the student is going to have to quickly be able to go there and, you know, on a Kindle device or an audio book, you can say, go to page two 37, or one 37 or whatever it is. Um, in a braille book, we don’t have that flexibility because it’s just a giant stream of braille right now. And so the other endeavor that we’re working on is, is really, um, reclassifying or creating a new standard that is, you know, hopefully going to be based off of the existing standards like EPUB and Daisy and things like that, where a student can, can take a braille book and use it in the same fashion that you would be able to use a digital book on any other device.

    Sara: 35:04

    Okay. Well, this leads into my next question, but I think I already know the answer. Do you see real incorporated any electronics? If so, how? I think he just went all over that you want to tell us a little bit more.

    Greg S.: 35:18

    So I think that you’re going to see braille and we already see braille, um, incorporated in many mainstream places, thanks to the ADA and, you know, having braille room numbers and you see braille on things like, uh ATM’s and things like that. Um, but I’m starting to see braille also incorporated into, um, other devices. I just bought a new TV at home. My, my ten-year-old TV, finally bit the dust. And so we had to replace it. And when I did, we replaced it with an LGTV and I looked at the remote and I didn’t catch my, I didn’t not catch my eye, but I didn’t feel the braille initially. But then as I’m looking, I found that on the remote, um, there is braille next to the volume, the channel and the power buttons that actually says VC and P um, on the, on the remote itself. And I was surprised to see that I hadn’t seen it before. Um, but I did notice that, you know, in mainstream devices like this, um, like a TV, for example, they, they are starting to put braille on remotes and things like that night. I’ll be honest with you. I do believe that as we see braille technology, um, reduce in price and increase in functionality, being more dynamic, being able to render more information. Um, and, and to be robust, because if you think about like you think of things like signage, or you think of things like a map or a representation in a, in a museum or something like that, right. When, when braille is touched, it’s going to be touched by a lot of people. Right. And so it has to be super robust as well. Um, but you know, as we look at the mainstream world, um, you know, everything is going towards, uh, you know, virtual reality, augmented reality, um, gaming is a huge space today and the next frontier in gaming is going to be tactile sensations, right? So really broadening that virtual reality experience and things like that. And so providing tactile experiences will be the next foundation or the next frontier, I would say in gaming. And I think in our world, in the assistive technology world, we can really benefit from the brainpower. That’s going to be invested into that frontier because, you know, you look at braille and, and things like that. I think braille is one piece of the puzzle, but, you know, tactile representation of shapes of, um, of, of images or graphics or things like that, understanding what it feels like to hold a hexagon or to feel the sides of a, an octagon or, or things like that, that you, you need physical models to show, um, you know, to be able to do that in a virtual reality type of space, um, you know, could really, I think be sort of the next frontier, not just with braille, but with, with tactile graphics and tactile understanding as well.

    Sara: 38:21

    Okay. So how braille is obviously going to be incorporated in a whole lot of electronics, just in the future, braille is going to be, braille is going, it sounds like braille is going to be there. So let me ask you this last question, is braille still relevant?

    Greg S.: 38:37

    Oh, a hundred percent. Absolutely. Braille is still relevant and it’s going to be relevant for a long, long time. Um, I think, uh, you know, as a blind person myself, I, I do a lot with audio on a daily basis. I’m not using my braille display 24 seven, but one thing that I can tell you is especially being a blind father. Um, I think it’s easy to go through your day and, and, and, you know, do your work and, and use braille during my work day when I, when I do. Um, but one, one reality check that I recently had, um, is I’ve got a four year old and a seven month old at home. And I realized as my wife is blind as well. And we, every night we read our kids stories using braille board books, right. And without braille, uh, we wouldn’t be able to do that nearly as effectively as, as we can today. Um, even to the point where we’ve, we’ve labeled, um, you know, we’ve got a book that’s baby’s first words, for example, and, uh, we’ve labeled, we had somebody help us label, um, items where it has, you know, instruments and vehicles and things like that. We put the braille labels directly on these, these items. So that is we’re teaching our children who are both sided. Um, what these items are. We can touch the braille label to understand what they are on the, on the page. I can’t see them, my wife can’t see them, but if we have the braille label for a piano, for example, and my daughter points at the piano and or when she was younger and could tell us that it was the piano, we could verify that yes, your finger is on the piano. And so, so, you know, I, I look at small things like that. And, and, you know, from a literacy perspective, I was, I was privileged enough to have been taught braille at a very young age and, and, you know, built that foundational skill, but it really, you know, and tell being a parent, I don’t think I really dawned on me how valuable that skill is. Um, because now I’m able to teach my kids how to read and understand the world around them. Thanks to braille. Right. And so, um, braille is one, 100, 1000% relevant in my view. And I here at the printing house, we, uh, we are huge braille advocates and always will be

    Sara: 40:57

    That’s. Right. Okay. Well, thank you so much for joining us, Greg. We are looking forward to everything that’s coming out of your, your department. It’s going to be some exciting things. It’s going to be a busy few years. They’re a busy few years. Oh man. Well, thank you so much, Greg. And we’ll talk to you later. Sounds great. Thanks for having me on now. We’re going to talk to APHS ConnectCenter Director Olaya Landa Vialard about the National Transition Conversation. Hi Olaya, thanks so much for joining us. Hi, Sara. Thanks for having me today. Great. So tell us what is the national conversation?

    Olaya L.: 41:35

    Well, um, the National Transition Conversation, um, was originally started by Joe Strechay when he was with the American Foundation for the Blind. Uh, the National Transition Conversation is a centralized forum offered through APA inches connect center and career connect for practitioners whose primary goal is working with transition age populations of students who are blind and low vision, um, and students meaning teens and young adults. So that, that 14 year old transition age to about 22 years old, sometimes extending into 24. Uh, but officially when you’re looking at the definition of transition, when we’re looking at, um, the individuals with disabilities education act or Ida, um, we’re looking at that, that transition age between 14 and 22. Um, and so the national transition conversation or NTC is both a forum within APA career connect. Um, that also provides a series of quarterly webinars that are hosted on the connect center, uh, APH career connect platform, arm, we’re focused presentations on, uh, the implementation or delivery, creativity and outcomes and achievements of residential and day long transition and employment programs are facilitated. Uh, excuse me. Um, there’s also a national discussion listserv for rehabilitation counselors, transition program managers and related support staff promoting the sharing of program information, goals, and outcomes. Um, and then also resources that are specific to preemployment transition services or pre ETS is something you might be, might hear more often people referring to, but you know, this, this field is always such full, a full of alphabet soup. Uh, it’s always nice to have somebody explain or spell out what all these acronyms mean. And so, uh, but, uh, yeah, and I will also provide some, um, links and information to how people can connect to career connect to get more information about these pre employment transition services and, uh, more information about that as we go on. So, but that right there is, is kind of like the, the summary version of what the national transition conversation is.

    Sara: 43:53

    So it sounds like it does a lot, obviously it’s important, but can you do a little bit further explanation as to why it is so important?

    Olaya L.: 44:01

    Well, I mean, you’re, when you’re looking at transition, right, as, as a National Transition Conversation, it is a form for that gathering and sharing out of best practices in the field of transition services. So that’s why it’s really important. We need to make sure that we’re getting people together to talk about these best practices that, that are, that we have been that guide us right through what we need to be doing to help prepare our students so that when they’re going to college or entering the world of work, they are prepared and ready to sustain that employment and be successful, uh, and independent in their life. So, you know, it could become, and this national transition conversation, it has definitely become and continues definitely to be an influential part of the APH career connect offerings, uh, for both expert and seasoned professionals where they can share out their ideas. And then of course, trusted practices with new print practitioners and even some seasoned practitioners who, when you’ve been in the field a long time, sometimes you get in the, in the habit of doing it like this is how we’ve always done it, but when you’re part of a, of, of, of this transition conversation and you’re dealing with new new practitioners and, you know, new professionals coming into the field that are working on, um, working on transition practices, even seasoned professionals, um, tend to learn a lot more, uh, and keep up with the times, right, and keep up with like the new ways of doing things so that because times change, you know, things change and technology has changed and technology is such a huge part of, of, of employment. Now that you’re, we want to make sure that that information is, is new and timely and continues to move forward so that our students who were preparing for transition can move forward and be successful in their careers. Um, and of course, there’s the forum itself. The national transition form is becoming the trusted source for timely and accurate information from peer practitioners, but that’s who are that’s, who runs the national transition conversation. I mean, we, we organize it, but the people who are actually talking and presenting and giving ideas are people who are actually in the field. So it’s not theoretical. It is actually practice-based information. Um, a central offering and component of the, of the national transition conversation includes sharing and better understanding the workforce innovation and opportunity act. Um, and the, uh, acronym for that is w I O a and just as a side note, um, the w I O people used to say it like a word, but apparently, um, saying w Iowa as a word, putting it together as the word is, uh, it is offensive to native American populations. So we, we don’t pronounce the acronym as a word. We just, we spell out the acronym. W I O a. So I think that’s really important for the audience to, to recognize also, and we talk about, um, including that preemployment transition service or that pre ETS service. So part of the national transition conversation is to make sure that we are addressing how best to, um, use and take advantage of that workforce innovation and opportunity act. Cause there’s, there’s funding tied to that. And of course, including that information about preemployment transition services. So to kind of a brief description of what creates pre ETS is it’s basically job exploration counseling, right? Cause this is before you’re getting employed. We, we want to provide some information about, um, what jobs are out there, you know, counseling, our transition age, students about that, uh, work-based learning so internships possibly, and, um, counseling about opportunities for enrollment in comprehensive transition or post-secondary education programs at institutions of higher learning. So that’s also part of that pre ETS, uh, and workplace readiness training, uh, excuse me, to develop social skills and independent living. So those social skills, those soft skills are something that we feel is, is, is really important, um, to make sure that we are, uh, counseling our students on and helping provide training because so many of those soft skills are dependent on, um, incidental learning that, that we get from being able to see how people react to what we’re saying or what we’re doing. And if you’re blind or have low vision, you may miss those kinds of, um, nonverbal type cues. And so you, we, we have to be very, uh, upfront and very deliberate with how we are addressing, um, those social skills so that those soft skills can be developed and, uh, will then help contribute to successful employment, um, and independence it’s throughout their life. And then of course, part of that pre ETS is advocacy skills. So understanding how to explain to your, uh, potential employer that you have a visual impairment or are blind, and here are the types of accommodations that you require in order to be successful in the job that you’re being hired to do. Uh, but also if you are losing your vision and explaining to your, uh, to your future employer, that right now you have low vision and that you can see a screen as long as it’s enlarged, uh, or what have you, but also that over time, you’re going to probably need, uh, additional accommodations to accommodate for the, the, your vision loss as it’s progressive. And so being able to explain that to your employer, that’s that part of that self-advocacy, that is really important so that you don’t get into a job. And then, then you tell your employer, Oh, by the way, I can’t see this. And, and then that can cause issues down the line. Uh, so being able to stand behind your, uh, you know, your visual impairment, being able to explain it and being able to explain, even though I have this visual impairment airmen, I’m, I’m just as employable and capable as anyone else, I just need a bigger screen, or I need a screen reader or magnifier those kinds of things. So that falls into that, um, pre ETS. Yeah. So there you go. That’s why it’s important. Yeah.

    Sara: 50:39

    That’s very important. All right. So you’re with the connect center, tell us more on what the connect center does to help with the transition.

    Olaya L.: 50:47

    Okay. Well, the connect center, you know, the career connect APH career connect that org site, uh, does provide information for students there who are interested in careers, uh, provides blogs on topics, including how to interview, right? How do you, how do you act in an interview? How do you go dress for an interview, uh, and how, you know, how you get your first job, uh, as well as information on how to succeed in college, uh, in the near future, um, our, uh, Richard [inaudible], who is our content lead for APH career connect will be publishing video blogs on our website, uh, APH career connect that org. And through these video blogs, students will be able to access 15 to 20 minute videos of short presentations hearing from successful working professionals who are blind or visually impaired at their place of work. Uh, this will offer up some curriculum for teachers, uh, providing career education and career exploration and class activities, as well as for blind and low vision job seekers, who are eager to hear more about how blind people do their job. And so that’s really what our APH connect center at right now with a transition focus. That’s what we are doing right now to help individuals get that information that they are looking for so that they can be successful when it comes to looking for their job. How do you interview, you know, how do you dress again, kind of going back to those soft skills. Um, and so that’s really where we’re focusing right now when we’re talking about transition.

    Sara: 52:26

    Yeah. And those skills are so important dressing for an interview. How do you, how you carry yourself and hold yourself in an interview important and, you know, so yeah, that’ll be really helpful. And where else can, where can people go for more information? So, um,

    Olaya L.: 52:44

    The National Transition Conversation listserv, um, that of course connects, you know, interested practitioners in the field of transition to rehabilitation and education professionals in the field. So you can subscribe to the national transition conversation listserv. You can email, um, National Transition Conversation, uh, plus like the plus sign, not the word, subscribe at groups dot I O you can also visit, um, the, uh, HTTPS colon, double backslash groups dot I O backslash G backslash national transition conversation. One word, uh, additionally, you can also visit the APH career, connect our website for information on transition and preemployment transition services that pre ETS, uh, and that that’s a really good starting point as well. Our connect centers INR line can also be helpful. Um, we have, uh, the phone number for our connect centers, uh, INR line, which is information and referral line. The phone number is +1 800-232-5463. Um, and our ConnectCenter email, if you want to email us with any questions you have, if you, uh, want to email us about, you know, getting the, how to join the national transition conversation listserv, you can email us at connectcenter So that’s one way that you can also get some more information about the transition initiatives that we are working on.

    Sara: 54:24

    Thank you so much Elia for joining us. We’re glad to have you on the show and we hope to have you on in the future. Great. Thanks.

    Olaya L.: 54:31

    Thank you so much, Sarah. I’m, I’m always happy to be on and, and, you know, let everybody know how and help them.

    Sara: 54:37

    So in this podcast, we set out to answer the question is braille still relevant? And the four experts we spoke to made it very clear that it is the rise of technology. Hasn’t signaled the end of print for those with sight. Why would it signal the end of braille for those with visual impairments? That’s it for today’s episode of Changemakers, be sure to look for ways you can be a change maker this week.