Archives for posts with tag: Access

I was emailing with another blogger about what picture to use to represent a blog we were writing together. Somehow she (who is partially sighted) challenged me to come up with a picture that could represent a nonvisual example of perspective.  I suggested “a picture of someone in Wisconsin wearing shorts and someone in Florida wearing a winter coat with a sign saying “Fifty degrees F; it’s a matter of perspective.” I began to notice situations where a blind person’s perspective on a situation was radically different from a sighted person’s perspective. Examples follow.

This week, with a good bit of fanfare, Facebook announced that they were automatically captioning pictures that people post, so they’d be accessible to those of us who are blind. I eagerly checked my Facebook feed, which I’d swear is about 70% pictures. The automatic captions were like the following: “May be a picture of a person indoors”. “May be a picture of outdoors”. Now that is amazing, I agree that a computer can recognize pictures of objects and decide if it’s inside or outside, but it’s not a real game changer for me. I will still bug my friends to caption their own Facebook offerings with “beautiful sunset on Lake Superior” rather than their usual “Wow, look at this.” It’s all a matter of perspective, Facebook is quite pleased with themselves; I’d give them one star out of four.

Second example of perspective: Freading got back to me about their app not working with voiceover. They said thanks for the idea and we consider your case closed.  They’d heard my idea, probably passed it on to somebody in charge of keeping a list of good ideas and considered it settled. I want to read a Freading book and can’t using voiceover on my phone. For me, it won’t be done until I can read that book.  So I contacted the library access person who will contact Freading and see if as a purchaser of the software, the library gets further in requesting access. Another one star out of four from my perspective.

Frequent discussions in the disability communities where I hang out electronically involve what to do about able-bodied people calling us “inspirational” for all the wrong reasons: like how well someone uses a power wheelchair, instead of how qualified they’d be for the job they’re interviewing for. Disabled community reaction of irritation-rage; able-bodied community reaction of awe at the little things and hurt if irritation is expressed. This week I had this experience when I read a prayer out loud from a braille copy of a book and someone asked me to do it again next meeting because it was “so powerful” that I could read.  My irritation was aroused but I knew her well enough to know she meant no harm. Since I’d asked her to read several times, I just said “I guess it’s fair for you to ask me to read.”

Note to self after all these ruminations about perspective: next time someone pisses me off, perhaps I should put a lock on my mouth until I put myself in their shoes for at least ten seconds. Could be a lifesaver as the political season drones on!




I just got back from a fabulous volunteer vacation in Phoenix. Somebody has to go to Phoenix where it’s always sunny and the temperature during the day was in the sixties, right?

My volunteering was not building a house for Habitat or restoring habitats for cactus wrens. It involved doing what I know how to do, guest lecture university students. I lectured four classes and gave two interviews about journalism about people with disabilities. At the end of the day I got to present the award for excellence in disability journalism to Heather Vogell of Pro Publica for a piece she wrote about the over 267,000 per year uses of restraints and seclusion for children with disabilities in U.S. schools. This was the third year of the award and it received over sixty entries by all sorts of news media. It’s run by the National Center on Disability Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. They have a great website complete with a style guide on language about disabilities, sources of information on disability issues and examples of well done stories including Heather’s.

When I was talking about disability journalism with students I talked about the poor stories that treat people with disabilities as objects of charity, people to be cured or put them up on a pedestal in stories that activists call “inspiration porn” where they’re noble, saintly creatures who climb mountains in their wheelchairs on a daily basis. I asked these young journalists to ask themselves three questions about the pieces they write, record or video:

  • If it was about you, would you like it or be ready to gag?
  • How would any event you wish to report on be different if you were blind, deaf, a wheelchair user or had any disability?
  • If this story talks about a problem, does it also talk about possible solutions?

Then of course I had to talk about accessibility of the story, be it captioned for the Deaf, audio described for people who are blind and pictures alt text tagged with a short description for blind users of the Internet.

The students were attentive and asked great questions. Every time I do this I learn about the world of journalists. One class was trying to write five word headlines that are both inviting and represent the content of the story. We threw around should they call me a “blind psychologist” or not and we ended up concluding it depended on the point of the story whether my blindness was relevant or not.

I was treated very well, accompanied from place to place by a friendly staff member, fed well and made to feel I was making a valuable contribution with my day of service. Of course Luna made numerous friends and said it was worth it to endure two ten hour days of travel. The university housed us in a very nice hotel with beautiful green grass within ten feet of our room door for her pooping pleasure—not an easy thing to find in Phoenix! The fact Luna considered herself on vacation was shown by her stretching out luxuriously on the king-sized bed, something she never does at home.

We came back to Eau Claire on Giving Tuesday. One friend met us at the van from Minneapolis and gave us a ride home and another had tuna noodle casserole hanging on the door for my dinner. While I was in Phoenix I saw a woman who had read to me (as a volunteer) when I was in grad school forty years ago. We’d stayed in touch occasionally and it was a highlight of the visit to see her in person. We both commented on how you never know where volunteering will take you.

September 27 starts “Banned Books Week” this year, sponsored by the American Library Association.

“The ALA promotes the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those viewpoints to all who wish to read them. A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.”

Choice and availability of information are close to my heart. When books are not available in alternate format, my choice to read them is severely restricted.

But I also understand the urge to ban, or at least strongly recommend others not read a book. When I don’t like the way a blind character is portrayed, as in All the Light We Cannot See or others don’t like Atticus Finch being portrayed as a racist in Go Set a Watchman it’d be easy to say “Ban it!” It takes more time and energy to articulate why we don’t like it and what we’d recommend instead. But that approach can lead to some fruitful discussions when others push back.

Just in case you’re wondering, here’s the 2014 list from the ALA’s website:

  1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    • Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence.
    • Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”.
  2. Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
    • Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint.
    • Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”.
  3. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
    • Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group.
    • Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”.
  4. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
    • Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group.
    • Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”.
  5. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
    • Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.
    • Additional reasons: “alleges it child pornography”.
  6. Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
    • Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  7. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
    • Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence.
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    • Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group.
    • Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”.
  9. A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard
    • Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  10. Drama, by Raina Telgemeier
    • Reasons: sexually explicit.

I’ve only read two of them; guess I’d better get busy!