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The Fight For Equal Educational Access Continues

We are grateful for the support of NFB in our fight for equal educational access. Here is a link to the NFB article chronicling our experience: https://www.nfb.org/blog/equal-access-education-nfb-priority

Are you or a loved one utilizing a virtual educational platform for learning this year? If so, please complete the Educational Technical Survey by NFB here: https://www.nfb.org/programs-services/legal-program/education-technology-survey

We’d love to hear from you. Please give our post a like, leave a comment or complete our contact form to be featured.

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It Takes a Village: Doctors, Teachers, Coaches & Family

Navigating Blindness is thrilled to launch part 2 in our series “It Takes a Village.”  Today we will hear from Wendy Rankine as she describes who’s in – and who’s out – of her son’s village including doctors, teachers, coaches, and family.

We’d love to hear from you too. If you’d like to share your story, please reach out for specifications using our contact form. Thank you!

Guest post by Wendy Rankine

Our oldest son, William, was born with LCA.  We were VERY fortunate that he was diagnosed quickly.  At William’s 3-month check-up, our pediatrician immediately sent us over for William to be evaluated by an older Ophthalmologist. We are in Central Georgia, and this local Ophthalmologist listed 5 things on his referral note to a Pediatric Ophthalmologist at Emory in Atlanta that William could possibly have. LCA was one of those 5 things.  As soon as I read the description of LCA, I knew that is what William had.  At 5 months William was diagnosed by the Pediatric Ophthalmologist at Emory with LCA and by the time William was 13 months old genetic testing confirmed it.  William does not have any other issues developmentally. We didn’t need big-name hospitals, we just needed wise old doctors who had seen a lot in their careers that could quickly and easily guide us in the right direction. Continue reading “It Takes a Village: Doctors, Teachers, Coaches & Family”

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It Takes a Village: Even in a Pandemic.

As the pandemic throws curve ball after curve ball and families and schools struggle to  adapt we, at Navigating Blindness, are excited to launch our new series entitled “It Takes a Village.”  Today we will hear from Sarah Immerfall as she explains what her son’s village looks like in the midst of a pandemic.

We’d love to hear from you too. If you’d like to share your story, please reach out for specifications using our contact form. Thank you!

Guest Post by Sarah Immerfall

Hi! My name is Sarah and my son, Siah, was born completely blind. He has a condition called Oculoauriculovertebral Syndrome that caused microphthalmia and he wears bilateral scleral shells. He just turned 4 and is finally past a lot of medical treatment for issues unrelated to his vision, and we are so excited to focus solely on his progress! Continue reading “It Takes a Village: Even in a Pandemic.”

We Are Not Blind To Injustice. The 2020 College Board Experience.

July is braille literacy month on Navigating Blindness and we are excited to feature high school student Kaleigh Brendle who successfully advocated for Braille accommodations on the 2020 College Board exams — globally!

Guest post written by Kaleigh Brendle, high school student. 

My name is Kaleigh Brendle. I am 17 years old, and since birth, I’ve possessed a condition called Lebers Congenital Amaurosis, which left me visually impaired.

Four of the courses I was enrolled in this past school year are classified as Advanced Placement, or AP, courses. The course curriculums and final exams are created and administered by a corporation called the College Board. This corporation also presides over the PSAT and SAT exams, among others. Under normal circumstances, I receive all my College Board exams in Braille, and before the onset of the pandemic, the AP exams were going to be no different. If I performed well enough on these high-stakes tests, I may receive college credit for the completion of the course. Thus, these exams are extremely influential. Many blind and deaf-blind AP students had Braille specifically stated in their accommodation plans. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the College Board was forced to shorten and digitize their exams. In doing so, they communicated to us that Braille would not be provided this year. For exams that feature maps, coordinate planes, and other highly visual graphics, a “No-Braille” decision meant that these images would not be embossed. One of my courses, AP Biology, is extremely diagram-heavy, so I grew concerned about the prospect of not possessing the visuals in hard-copy format to tactilely navigate. According to the College Board’s website, 65% of my exam score would be dependent upon my ability to successfully interpret a single graphic. The solution that College Board provided was something called Alternative Text, a description coded into an image or graphic so that a student’s talking software will read the written text when their cursor encounters the image it describes. So when an image of, say, a phospholipid bilayer appears on my screen, my software will start speaking at me and reading the description. It became not so much how well I could interpret the image, but how much of that description I could memorize. If a graph appeared on the screen, it would read out every point on the graph, even spelling out the word “comma”. The given student would be inundated with details. We tried to explain to the College Board that providing us with a large block of text was not a substitute for the actual graph. We need that spatial information as anyone else would; the College Board executives were adding another cognitive burden to an already stressful situation. In addition, with the exams being administered through technological mediums, I sought to clarify what would transpire if a glitch were to occur with my accessible software. For instance, what if VoiceOver does not read the question? What if Jaws shorts out my computer during the exam? When posing this question, the response I received was troubling. I was informed that however long it took me to resolve a tech glitch in my exam, I would have that much less time to complete it. If it took me forty-five minutes to resolve an issue, and the exam was an hour in length, I would have fifteen minutes. The suggestion of both a representative and an executive that I spoke to about this was “use a device with less problems”. Unfortunately, in the world of accessible technology, it is impossible to anticipate what devices will pose complications on that given day. Continue reading “We Are Not Blind To Injustice. The 2020 College Board Experience.”

Seedlings Braille Books for Children: A Small Non-profit Making a HUGE Difference

We, at Navigating Blindness, are strong believers in the power of braille! For the entire month of July, we will be featuring a variety of braille literacy resources for students, teachers, transcribers, and families. Please check out our Instagram and Facebook pages for additional features and posts. Today, we are excited to learn more about Seedlings Braille Books for Children!

Guest post, written by Katelynn Lucas
Community Outreach, Seedlings Braille Books

Have you heard of Seedlings Braille Books for Children? If not, get ready to learn all about this small non-profit in Metro Detroit that produces free and low-cost braille books for children with vision loss. Seedlings’ mission is to increase the opportunity for literacy by providing high-quality free and low-cost braille books for children. They produce three types of books: Print-Braille-and-Picture books for toddlers and preschoolers, Print-and-Braille Easy Readers for beginning readers, and braille books as big as The Hunger Games for ages 6-21. By offering these different types of books, Seedlings is opening up the possibilities for children with vision loss to read together with their sighted family members and peers. The best part about Seedlings’ books is that, thanks to generous grants and donations, they cost an average of just $10 per book! Continue reading “Seedlings Braille Books for Children: A Small Non-profit Making a HUGE Difference”

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The Courage to Share: Blogs by Moms of Blind/VI kids

In the early days of Kai’s diagnosis I scoured the web for blogs written by sighted parents of kids who were losing their vision. I could not find any.  Sure, I could find advocacy and awareness web sites and consumer groups, but I craved emotional honesty from another mom. I wanted to read her feelings, understand her struggles, and celebrate her wins. I wanted to know her feelings about her child’s inclusion (or lack thereof) and understand the anger and frustration behind her educational accessibility battles. And, most importantly, I wanted to know what it felt like to be on the other side: to have raised a child who became a strong self-advocate, who is highly-educated and employed. I wanted to know my child could beat the grim statistics. Now, 7 years later, I have found 6 moms (+ me) who are blogging about their experiences and I am so excited to share them with you!

Each of these blogs is written by a sighted mom of a blind or VI child(ren). Our kids range in age from 1-20, they have different diagnoses, and our philosophies, cultures, and religious backgrounds vary, but what we all have in common is the courage to share. Continue reading “The Courage to Share: Blogs by Moms of Blind/VI kids”

A Journey Back To 2014: What We’ve Learned About Advocacy

While sheltering-in-place I’ve had the opportunity to read through some of my old journals written when Kai was first diagnosed and I’d love to share one with you.  I’m struck by major developments in my thinking and beliefs, so I will make some comments from my 2020 self, at the end of this post that I wrote in 2014.

Originally Written by Kim Owens & Published on Caring Bridge (7.14.14)

What a week we’ve had! Our trip from rural, coastal GA to DC was AMAZING! Thanks to our Congressman John Barrow and his wonderful staff the trip was filled with surprises beyond our wildest dreams! Continue reading “A Journey Back To 2014: What We’ve Learned About Advocacy”

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Legally Blind Teen Shares Comfort Items while Encouraging Peers to Step Outside Their Comfort Zones.

When Kai was 10 and first diagnosed with degenerative sight loss, he was scared. He began to have trouble seeing at night and his first reaction was to build a nest on his bed out of blankets and pillows. One night as mom was tucking him into his nest, he said that he felt bad for all the kids around the world who do not have comfortable places to sleep. Mom had no idea how to tackle that issue on a global scale while also helping her son deal with sight loss, but after many conversations together: Kai’s Comforts was born.  Kai decided to collect new, soft, highly tactile pillows and blankets from his community to deliver to his peers who are living at schools for the blind. At first, it started out as a great way for us to do something positive, and connect Kai to peers dealing with sight loss. His first collection was delivered to kids at the Georgia Academy for the Blind. a school for children who are blind and visually impaired about 3 hours from Kai’s mainstream school. The first delivery was a huge success the kids were thrilled to receive their comfort items, and Kai got to meet lots of kids who were “like him.”

Kai is 17 now, and he’s just completed his 4th delivery. This year, in addition to delivering comfort, he had a message to share: Comfort is important, but he now believes it’s even more important to push himself outside of his comfort zone. Continue reading “Legally Blind Teen Shares Comfort Items while Encouraging Peers to Step Outside Their Comfort Zones.”

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go! How Do You Keep Your Blind/VI Child Active & Safe?

by Kim Owens & Hilda Dunford (@OurBlindSide)

Many parents of children who are visually impaired or blind find it difficult to keep their children engaged in physical activities and sports. Hilda and I are often asked: How do you keep your child active and safe? Continue reading “On Your Mark, Get Set, Go! How Do You Keep Your Blind/VI Child Active & Safe?”

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When Drivers & Mobility Canes Intersect

This post was written by Kai Owens.

Hi, I’m Kai Owens. I am a 16-year-old athlete, drummer, and mainstream high school student. I’m also legally blind from Retinitis Pigmentosa. I’ve done a lot of Orientation & Mobility training locally, and I’ve also traveled extensively in the US and Vancouver, BC. I use my mobility cane at all times and I’ve recently been approved for a guide dog. I’d like to share a few of my observations about when drivers and mobility canes intersect.

At some point, most sighted people have been driving and seen a blind person and panicked.  Some of the encounters are full of mistakes that really do not make any sense. I’m going to walk you through a few common mistakes drivers make in hopes of raising awareness. Continue reading “When Drivers & Mobility Canes Intersect”