Archives for posts with tag: accessibility

Every year near the end of July, you’ll notice news pieces about the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and how far we’ve come toward access for  and inclusion of the one out of five Americans who has a disability. Please consider how you can turn the spotlight on advances in your community this month.

I’d like to highlight three things in the Chippewa Valley that give me hope for the good life being open to all.

  • A year ago, Lake Street United Methodist Church hosted the first monthly Ecumenical Inclusive Ministry (IM) Church for people with cognitive disabilities, their friends and families. Each month a different church or ecumenical team organizes and delivers a Sunday school/craft activity, a worship service and a fellowship meal. The attendance is about fifty when you count participants and the team in charge that month. I notice singing and the fellowship supper are the most popular parts of the event. The service occurs the third Sunday each month from 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM. For more info, or to request a ride or sign language interpreter at IM church, contact Ellen at Lake Street United Methodist Church at 715-832-6603.
  • The L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library has purchased a braille printer. This printer is the first of its kind in a Wisconsin public library. Some uses for the printer include: printing legal documents, letters, greeting cards, recipes, directions for appliances, games, projects, magazine and newspaper articles, as well as public meeting agendas and minutes, just to name a few.  Customers wanting to have a document printed can email their document in either Word or PDF format to: There is a 10 page limit per document and customers are limited to one request per week.
  • Erickson Park at Glen Lock in Chippewa Falls opened an accessible area recently. Erickson Park has new accessible fishing docks, kayak launch, bathrooms, pavilions, walk ways and picnic areas and will connect to Irvin Park via an accessible foot bridge.

Have fun finding and highlighting things to celebrate in your community!


In addition to it being the first day of summer, June 21st was national selfie day. For a little summer fun, I challenged my Facebook friends to add in comments an accessible selfie. I’m defining that as no visual picture, but a word picture of what your regular selfie would show. Bonus: the skill in describing the selfie will translate (if you remember to post a description) to making every day accessible selfie day.
To get you started, here’s mine:
I’m sitting at a table with a friend eating strawberries. A thought balloon says: “I wonder when I’ll get the first local berries”.

Some of what was posted follows. It’s interesting to me how much people describe what they look like:

Michael G.: Sitting in a hotel conference room at the corner of a big square table. Decent hair day, but longer than in the past. Blue button-down Brooks Brothers shirt (small logo over left breast – reversed view in selfies!). Name badge from ALA conference barely visible.

Alex S.: I’m sitting at my computer. I’m wearing blue and white plaid pajamas. Retirement is good!

Linda H.: I’m sitting in a recliner with a blanket on the first night of summer. Fell asleep reading a Richard Russo book & just woke up at bedtime. Wondering what I’m going to do tomorrow with the 6 pounds of local strawberries I found today.

Ann K.: I have a big smile on my face, I’m wearing a Leinenkugel’s hat, there is a campfire behind me and it’s dusk. Thought balloon says, no better way to spend the longest day of the year!

Patty M.: I’m driving, hair swept up, and glasses resting on my nose. My grandson is in the back seat and hears an ambulance siren.. The balloon says, “Nana, maybe someone is hurt. We better say a Hail Mary.”

Beverly K.: I’m sitting in an orange, red and blue striped sand chair with a baby golden puppy resting quietly on my lap and my iPad balanced precariously on the arm of the chair so not to disturb her. Thought balloon over the puppy’s head: “Maybe this won’t be a bad gig after all.” Oops, rest time is over. Puppy slid off my lap.

Blind people like to game too, but most mainstream games like Tetris and words with friends are inaccessible. Four years ago a developer Marty Schultz started developing Blindfold Games and now has over 80 games at the Apple store. 8,000 copies of Blindfold Bowling have been downloaded, for example.

This week he was told by the Apple store he couldn’t market these games anymore but must crunch them down into a few apps. This would take a lot of work for very little profit. Blind people would lose the fun of gaming like their sighted peers enjoy and teachers of the blind would lose a fun way to teach their students how to use their iPads and iPhones.

As the developer’s blog made the blindness community aware of this horrible situation, advocacy efforts sprouted like mushrooms. Many posted their dismay on social media. An unknown number emailed or called Apple’s accessibility line. I contacted several reporters on the tech beat hoping to get the story out to the sighted world, but none responded.

But somewhere, somehow, something got to Apple and they changed their minds! In addition to celebrating the win by playing a few rounds of blindfold bowling, I’m wondering how to get Apple to give this developer an award. There are many more lucrative venues he could be marketing to, but I think he should be publicly thanked for making sure blind people can enjoy the fun of gaming too. If you have ideas, please let me know.

As Lainey Feingold pointed out in her post “Today is the 6th annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). It’s a day to recognize that everyone uses technology — including those of us who can’t see a screen, hear a video, or hold a mouse. Accessibility means we can ALL participate fully in the digital world no matter how we use our computers, our iPhones, and the other technologies we all increasingly rely on. GAAD is a day to honor the tens of thousands of people across the globe working to make technology available to everyone.”

I celebrated early this week by Facetiming with three groups of students from the Florida School for the Blind. They were attentive, involved and asked good questions. One of my favorites was a ten year-old who asked: “Before electronics was there anything you could do for fun?” I reassured him there indeed was; reading books, listening to birds, playing cards and Scrabble, etc. But I also agreed there were lots more fun time wasters now with iPhones, etc. I just happened to mention Trivia Crack and there was a roar of approval from these tech savvy blind kids.

Later in the week when I was awakened at 1:00 AM by an owl making a racket for about twenty minutes I used the bird identification app on my iPhone to figure out it was probably a Barred Owl. I don’t know what it was so excited about, but at least I know who was excited.

On the actual day I’ll read and respond to a hundred emails, scroll through several hundred Facebook posts, skim eight newspapers, and check my Twitter feed a couple times. Then I’ll lie in bed and download the next book for one of my book clubs March by Geraldine Brooks and dive into it—all thanks to tech access.

Celebrate with me by Facebooking a picture that you describe or send a nasty-gram to a website that makes you do a CAPTCHA!

At the upcoming Inauguration and at various marches, 30,000 free copies of Resist will be distributed. I lobbied for this ‘zine about today’s political situation to be made accessible for blind people. I sent an email to “I’m not submitting a comic but asking you to post descriptions of images online so those of us who are blind can enjoy Resist as well. If you feel you don’t know how to do this, please contact me and I’ll coach you through it. My community needs this ‘zine too!”

When I heard nothing, I contacted the listserv Disability Studies in the Humanities and asked them to join me. At least one person did and even suggested websites with good image descriptions on them for Resist to use as a model.

We both heard back that they were swamped trying to get the comic out in time and getting all the good images they’d received online, so no accessible copy at the moment. I offered to get five images described so they could have something for us blind Resisters, but they said no thanks but they’ll get to it in a few weeks. Stay tuned!

Ouch! Here we have good and righteous people doing great volunteer work, but for them accessibility is nice, not necessary. For me, accessibility is necessary and nice!

Thank you to those of you who provide access of varying kinds. Whether it’s a ride to church for someone who can’t drive anymore, or carpentry work putting in a ramp so a new wheelchair user can stay in their home, it helps. For digital access, sending emails to inaccessible websites or lobbying your library board to only consider accessible e-book providers, more voices than the one person who has identified the need are very welcome. It takes a village to make access happen, just like it takes a village to raise a child.

As a person who needs access, I’ve moved from only asking if I NEED it to live to asking for it if I think it will give me better quality of life. Do I NEED access to a comic book like Resist? No, but nobody else NEEDS it either! What I continue to work on is not getting discouraged when access doesn’t happen. This week I’m at one for two which is a batting average of .500. I got a ride to a meeting (it’s below zero here in Wisconsin), but didn’t get anywhere with Resist.

Here’s to those who keep requesting access and to those who stand with us.

Banned Books Week always reminds me of the privilege of reading freely that I treasure. Whether books are banned or not available in accessible format, they’re unavailable. The growth in my lifetime of books available to me to read has been phenomenal. So I’ve celebrated this week and every week by reading widely and voraciously. On this week’s list:

  • Several chapters from Altruism by Matthieu Ricard for a study group at church
  • The Peach Keeper by Sarah Allen—a family saga with a bit of romance and some mystery—for a book club
  • A couple thrillers—too junky to admit publicly
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton—a young adult story of friendship and belonging that I didn’t get to read when young
  • Stone Fox by John Gardiner—dog story for kids of all ages
  • Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper—young adult novel with a protagonist with a disability and plenty of grit
  • The House on Mango Street by S.Cisneros—a Latina girl’s growing up in tough circumstances novel—required in some schools but good reading whatever age you are
  • All Things Strange and Wonderful by Dr. Reb—veterinarian’s saga of time in Peace Corps in Malawi

Clearly I lean toward animal stories and tales of people overcoming obstacles, with a dash of thrillers to keep my heart pounding. Nowadays if all my other sources of books in alternate format fail me, I can scan the book like I did with the veterinarian’s story.

Here’s to no banned and no unavailable books!

What makes a perfect birthday for you? I think it depends partly on one’s age. Recently I hit one in the mid ‘60’s, not a milestone, just a day—but it turned out perfect. Perfect for me means lasts a long time and includes friends, fun and fecundity/productivity. (Hard to find that last “F” that meant what I wanted to say!

Tidbits of advice that jumped out at me from emails, Twitter and Facebook that day:

  • Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.
  • Stay true to yourself and don’t be invisible after sixty!
  • Everyone dies, but not everyone really lives!
  • Being holy means being whole.
  • Two things define you: Your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything.
  • “Only one page is left in the book of my life. His name fills that page, His everlasting kingdom.”—Rumi
  • “I encourage you to bear witness to Christ in your personal life and families: a witness of gratuitousness, solidarity, spirit of service.”—Pope Francis
  • “I wish faith wrapped you in a bubble, but it doesn’t, not for long.”—Anne Lamott
  • Recognize the good in your life.
  • Live every day as if it’s your last, embracing each experience as if it’s your first.

And a great question: “What is on your happiness list?”

The birthday started a couple weeks early with a lunch with a friend who was going on an extended vacation.  The actual day started at 3:15am when my trusty guide dog announced she needed to go out.  It was so still out at that time it was almost beautiful and it wasn’t precipitating.  Luckily we could both sleep in a bit. Work for the day included advocating for Freading to be made usable with Voiceover. The company had blown me off with “thanks for your idea”, so I got the library’s accessibility officer to contact them. I wonder if he’ll be blown off as quickly since it’s libraries that purchase Freading so their customers can download electronic books on demand.  Then I did some work on an upcoming talk for student members of the Society for Human Resource Management.  Many of them have heard my basic talk in a business diversity class, so I’ll call it Disability 2.0 and hit some of the same core points but do it differently.  Basic points:

  • Go out of your comfort zone.
  • Treat those of us with disabilities as equal to you but not the same.
  • Ask “how can I help?”
  • Enjoy figuring out what needs to be different like solving a puzzle, not like a chore.

Then lunch with a friend, a nap, two hours of reading (to get bills tended to, birthday cards read and inaccessible chores on the computer completed). I emailed the inaccessible sites about what they need to do to become more accessible (basically get rid of CAPTCHAS).  The day wrapped up with supper with friends and settling down to finish The Martian. I even got to start a book for next Tuesday’s book club: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. Maybe it’ll inspire me to strive to be 100!

The birthday month will rock along with a few more meals with friends already on the schedule and other unknown blessings. Savor the joy when your birth day/month comes along!

This blog post from the American Foundation for the Blind: “Big News: Twitter Is Adding Alt Text for Images” got me really excited. The post can be found on the web at: Now you can tweet me pictures that you have described in an alt text tag.

It’s a five minute process to do this the first time, even if you’re as technologically unsophisticated as I am. Follow these steps:

  1. Power down and power up your phone to be sure the latest version of Twitter is installed.
  2. Open the Twitter app and go to settings and accessibility within settings.
  3. Check the spot that says add descriptions (or words to that effect) and you’re ready to go.

When you next tweet a picture, the app will automatically ask you if you want to describe it, which of course you do because you want all of your followers to know what the pic is even if they can’t see it. The first person I follow on Twitter who does this can choose between my publicly thanking you or my silent gratitude. Those of you who maintain a Twitter account for a nonprofit or public organization, please lead the pack! Not just because it’s the law, but because it will let Facebook and others know they could do likewise.

Cheers to Twitter and to you when you use this labeling process.

March 8 was International Women’s Day. I celebrated by leading a discussion of two memoirs My Beloved World and Prison Baby and memoirs in general for a book club. Then I sent the following email to about fifty awesome women I know.

“Because it’s International Women’s Day, I wanted to celebrate the awesome women I know, like you. Here are some Maya Angelou quotes for you:

  1. “If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.”
  2. “My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry…to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.”
  3. “While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creations.”
  4. “It may be necessary to encounter the defeats so you can know who you are, what you can rise from and how you can still come out of it.” Thanks for being you.”

Another day I participated in a state hearing on the redesign of long-term care in Wisconsin and in the evening spoke at city council about a street project in my neighborhood. I was moved by these two experiences to write the following letter to the editor of the local paper:

“There is Hope for Democracy!

Like many, I’m discouraged about national and state politics and find myself saying “surely we can do better.” Monday I was privileged to participate in two examples of democracy that reassured me that we really can.

I went to a hearing on long-term care in Wisconsin, specifically Family Care/IRIS 2.0. About 150 people gathered to give feedback to state officials about their concept paper. The audience was composed of parents of adults with complex and major disabilities, advocates for the elderly and disabled, a few people with disabilities and professionals in the fields of service to the elderly and disabled. Parents and other caregivers shared passionately about struggles and joys of caregiving and trying to put food on their tables at the same time. Major and minor changes to the plan were suggested. State officials and our two state representatives listened respectfully.  Afterwards many people hung around to greet old friends and network.  Whether any or all of the changes suggested will be enacted remains to be seen, but people felt heard.

Later in the day about forty neighbors and I gathered at City Council’s Monday night open session to give feedback on a proposed street project at the corner of Park and Summit Avenues.  Again, many opinions about which plan was best were expressed. People were civil and discussion was good.  Afterwards small groups talked and neighbors were neighborly no matter which plan they had espoused.

Surely these open, respectful discussions of issues are not unique to Eau Claire. Can I hope that we can find candidates who will do likewise in Madison and Washington?”

As I thought about the lack of handouts in accessible format at the state hearing, I sent the following email to the agency’s general mailbox:

“When I went to the Family Care/IRIS 2.0 hearing in Eau Claire, I noticed we met in an accessible facility and there was a sign language interpreter. Good job! Now as we round the corner to the second 25 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act, there’s another kind of accessibility you need to cover, access to materials for the blind and visually-impaired. Whenever you provide handouts in print (as you did at this hearing), you need to have several copies in large print and at least a couple in braille. You didn’t. I’m sure this is just an oversight, but if you don’t know where to get braille copies made, let me know and I’ll tell you. Please also pass this on to other Wisconsin governmental units that have public hearings.  Thanks for helping provide access.”

I then sent the note to two listservs of blind people in Wisconsin for their ideas of how to get some traction for this idea.

When I looked at Twitter, lo and behold, an inaccessible spelling challenge from the New York Public Library. I sent an email to a specialized librarians’ listserv, hoping they’ll educate their colleagues as follows:

“Today the New York Public Library had a spelling quiz they tweeted about. I’m a sucker for games so of course I clicked on the link. Before my screen reader had read the first question, I was told that it had timed me out. I understand they don’t want people to look the words up, but it’s just a game! If you must have a timed version of something on your website, also have an untimed version for those of us in the slow lane!”

I even ventured onto the NYPL site and virtual chatted with a librarian who said they’d submit my suggestion to the right place. I do wonder with all these suggestions out there, will anything be more accessible a year from now?

 Late Breaking News:

Somebody from a listserv knew somebody from the NYPL and within two days this link for an untimed version of the spelling bee is up: YES!

At the end of the week I’m looking forward to watching a movie with friends and playing bridge with another group.  Not “inspirational”, just an ordinary week!



My wrestling match with Lent began a couple weeks before Lent. I wanted to use the same devotional booklet as the other folks in my parish, but of course it wasn’t available from Bookshare or Xavier Society in accessible format. Our director of religious education gave me the link to order it from the publisher in Kindle format. So I groused for a few days to myself about how I had to put money and time into getting something other people were handed free and with no effort on their parts.  Finally I realized if I want it, I needed to suck it up and spend a buck and some time. The “some time” turned into a couple hours trying to get Liturgical Press’s shopping cart on their website to play nice with my screen reader, but I prevailed! Then there was the struggle, aided by my twenty-something reader to get the Kindle book to download on my iPhone instead of my desktop. In case you ever want to do this, you have to use the iPhone to get it; you can’t just sync it with your desktop, I think. Another hour down the drain.

Lenten lessons so far: fasting from resentments is out of the question, but letting them go a little quicker would be nice! Asking for help can make things go more smoothly; pray for strength to ask!

So Lent begins, hopefully forty days of spiritual transformation to get ready for Easter. Sister Joan Chittister writes: “Lent is the opportunity to change what we ought to change but have not…Lent is about becoming, doing and changing whatever it is that is blocking the fullness of life in us right now… Lent is a summons to live anew…Lent is the time to let life in again, to rebuild the worlds we’ve allowed to go sterile, to ‘fast and weep and mourn’ for the goods we’ve foregone. If our own lives are not to die from lack of nourishment, we must sacrifice the pride or the sloth or the listlessness that blocks us from beginning again.”

Instead of focusing on giving up something, this year I feel a strong call to focus on being kind. Prayer, fasting and works of mercy are good ways to help remove the blocks to kindness, but need to be done in a spirit of kindness, not as a forty day marathon.

So far I’ve had the chance to be kinder than I usually would have been to someone who messed up helping me and take a few minutes to reach out on Valentine’s Day to folks who need a little TLC.

Reading the daily Mass readings and the Lenten booklet helps; so do taking a few deep breaths, listening to music and feeding my soul in nature. In case you’re looking for a good Lenten booklet, I do recommend the one our parish is using, Not by Bread Alone by Mary Poust.  Hope your wrestling with Lent is productive.