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Navigating My Blindness by Kerry Kijewski

We love featuring stories of people making a difference in the blindness community. Kerry and her brother Brian are making waves – radio waves – on their show Outlook. We hope you enjoy Kerry’s post about growing up with sight loss and finding her voice in advocacy.

Guest post by Kerry Kijewski

In disability activist Judy Heumann’s book Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Activist, she says she believes she was meant to have a mother who would not give up on her daughter who was born with a physical disability. I don’t know about that in my case, but I do know I am lucky to have been given the advantages and foundation from my parents. I recognize my privilege, having them firmly in my corner.
This doesn’t mean I have it all figured out (no matter how much I wish I did), even as I am staring down forty in a few short years. I am further along because of the support I grew up with and still count on today. Continue reading “Navigating My Blindness by Kerry Kijewski”

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Aille Design: Clothing that Speaks

July is braille literacy month on Navigating Blindness and today we are excited to feature Alexa Jovanovic, founder of Aille Design!

By Alexa Jovanovic, Founder of Aille Design

Braille is much more than a communication tool. It enables freedom of expression, provides independence and increases literacy. When combined with mainstream fashion, it symbolizes the importance of inclusive representation in the fashion industry and empowers communities to advocate for social justice. Continue reading “Aille Design: Clothing that Speaks”

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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.”

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The Courage to Share: 11 Blogs About Living with Sight Loss

Kai & I are very excited to share these eleven blogs that are written by individuals who are living with sight loss.

The bloggers have different diagnoses, and their philosophies, cultures, and religious backgrounds vary, but what they all have in common is the courage to share. They are organized by year of diagnosis. Continue reading “The Courage to Share: 11 Blogs About Living with Sight Loss”

Thriving Blind & Navigating Blindness: Acceptance & So Much More

From perceptions to prom to college — and everything in between — Kristin & Kim cover multiple topics about raising kids who are blind. Click here or on the image below to listen in on the chat/rant that follows no outline or schedule!

Please give us a like, share, follow or comment. Related links are included at the end of the post.

ps. This is my first video experience so please be kind. Yes, I know I blinked A LOT! lol. — Kim

Image is a link to the video along with headshots of Kristin & Kim.

Continue reading “Thriving Blind & Navigating Blindness: Acceptance & So Much More”

Kai’s Comforts 2019 Collection to Benefit the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in NC

Hi friends, we are so excited to kick off our 4th year of Kai’s Comforts!  This year’s collection of new, soft, highly textured blankets and pillows will benefit the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in North Carolina.

Kai is a 17-year-old with a rare, progressive, eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). RP and other retinal diseases cause blindness. Night blindness is one of the first symptoms that many children experience and it can cause severe anxiety. Kai collects new, highly textured, soft, pillows and blankets to help comfort other kids facing blindness. Your donation will comfort a child experiencing vision loss.

Drop Bins bins are located in Statesboro & Brooklet at Pladd Dot Music, SE Tire & Service, and SEB high school’s front desk. Collection Dates Nov. 1-30, 2019.

Here are a few great articles about previous deliveries. Please get in on the fun! Continue reading “Kai’s Comforts 2019 Collection to Benefit the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in NC”

Hindsight 20/20 Featuring Mary Woodyard

Hi friends, I’m super excited to share another Hindsight 20/20 article.  This article was written by Mary Woodyard about raising her son, Tommy, who is currently a senior at the University of Georgia. Tommy also happens to be legally blind. I’m so grateful that Mary took the time to share her wisdom with us parents who are still in the thick of advocating for our children’s accessibility needs in school.

Each 20/20 interview will be unique because blindness is a spectrum and each child, parent, and family has different circumstances, goals, and expectations.  As parents, we need to educate ourselves and consider advice from reliable sources — foundations, doctors, teachers, and so on (the list seems endless) — but ultimately, we are our children’s greatest advocates. I strongly believe that other parents who have “been there, done that” are our best resources. So, let’s navigate blindness together!

Alright parents, grab a cup of coffee or your beverage of choice, get comfy and enjoy.

Meet Mary
Contact via Facebook

1. What was the first symptom you noticed and what was your child’s age?
He was born at 26 weeks during what I thought was a normal pregnancy. He had contracted an infection which made him very sick; but, it did not impact me at all. When he was born, there was confusion as to his gestational age. The doctors were not sure if he was 25 weeks or 26 weeks. There was no consensus until he was a month old. Doctors warned me his brain was underdeveloped and felt that he would have GI issues. In addition, he had: a hernia, a hole in his heart and a pound of fluid in his body that was not supposed to be there. They were worried that his brain was not developing. He was 1.9 pounds when he was born. They told me not to worry about his eyes – they would be fine. Continue reading “Hindsight 20/20 Featuring Mary Woodyard”

Managing Money as a Person Who is Blind or Low Vision, Featuring Joe Strechay

A few months ago my oldest, typically-sighted son, Cash, called to say that he and his girlfriend were out hiking and found a beautiful log bridge over a stream. As they were crossing the log bridge, they decided to sit down and relax a bit. After getting comfortable they found themselves free-falling into the water below. The log broke! After air-drying in the sun he realized that his wallet was no longer in his pocket. (I later found out that he’d also lost his passport! But that’s a different story.)

Knowing that he was away from home without a wallet stressed me out and I immediately spun into full-blown-problem-solving-mom-mode. But in the midst of lecturing him and outlining all the steps that would be required to replace his items, I realized that this is his problem to solve and he can handle it. I relaxed, took a deep breath and offered suggestions while feeling a wee bit of satisfaction knowing he was about to embark on a total pain-in-the-butt journey and learn a lot of valuable lessons along the way.

So when my husband found our missing credit card laying on the floor in the van, I’m sure he felt a twinkle of justice knowing that I had been feeling the stress of my disorganized money management methods. Typically, I pay for my purchase then drop my payment method or change into my cavernous disorganized pocketbook. And, sometimes, when I hit the brakes just right the disorganized contents spill out of my unzipped purse onto the floor of the van.

When the hubs pays for something, no matter how long the line is behind him, he painstakingly places his change, payment method, and receipt into the proper spot in his wallet. It. Drives. Me. Nuts.

Now that my youngest, legally blind son, Kai, is spending money away from home without parental supervision, I catch myself wondering: Will he pay too much? Will he get proper change? Will unauthorized charges be placed on his bill? Will he drop his money? Continue reading “Managing Money as a Person Who is Blind or Low Vision, Featuring Joe Strechay”

From A Mother’s Perspective – Part 3 Featuring Victoria Claire

Hi, this is Kim and I want to warn you that as a parent of a child who is losing sight, this is an emotionally tough read. However, I feel it’s important for us to deeply listen to adults who are adapting to blindness. I’d like to thank Victoria for her vulnerability in sharing.

Part 3 in a special series with www.victoriaclaire-beyondvision.com
Written by: Victoria Claire

A Rejection Of Motherhood

Here is the 3rd part to the “From A Mothers Perspective” blog series. So you have had the perspective of my mum about how she felt when I was diagnosed with RP, you’ve also heard about Kim Owens feelings with her son Kai, so now I give you a completely different perspective…. from the mother that never was. Continue reading “From A Mother’s Perspective – Part 3 Featuring Victoria Claire”