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”

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.”

Featured

Feel the Facts by Kai Owens (17)

To wrap up our month of braille literacy guest blogs, I’ve asked Kai to share his thoughts about braille literacy. Kai has helped several families, with children who are losing their sight, to understand how braille is helpful & relevant in 2020. Kai is now a college-bound senior in a mainstream, public high school and he is at the top of his class. Here’s what he wants you to know about braille.

Feel the Facts by Kai Owens

30% of all blind people are employed, which means 70% are not. 90% of the employed are braille readers. This means that if you do not read braille then there is only a 3% chance that you will be employed in your lifetime. THREE PERCENT!

So, for every 100 blind people who do not read braille there will be only 3 who are employed. 

Continue reading “Feel the Facts by Kai Owens (17)”

Becoming a Certified Braille Transcriber by Elizabeth Symington, Founder UEB Study Group

July is braille literacy month on Navigating Blindness and we are honored to feature a blog post by Elizabeth Symington, CBT. She is a fearless leader in the Braille Community and a dear friend.

My Story of Becoming a Certified Braille Transcriber
By Elizabeth Symington

I was introduced to braille while attending art school in San Francisco, CA. One day while at the library, I discovered a picture book for children who are blind. At this point, I’d never met a blind person, nor did I even know there were picture books for the blind. I was instantly captivated.

The braille picture book is one of my childhood favorites, “A Color of His Own,” by Leo Lionni. The pictures looked like a wall fresco; they rose off the page. Instead of using color, different textures were utilized to describe the pictures. It was also a fun decoding game since the story was in braille and in print. Continue reading “Becoming a Certified Braille Transcriber by Elizabeth Symington, Founder UEB Study Group”

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”

A Step Forward & Other Hijinks!

Below is a link to an episode of one of my favorite podcasts called A Step Forward by Kassy Maloney. In this episode, Kassy hosts a panel of 4 adults who are blind or low-vision and encourages them to share openly about their Orientation and Mobility skills and history.  I could relate to so many of the stories shared and the episode sparked memories of one of Kai’s epic hijinks.

No Fear Kai

One lazy Saturday, there was a knock at my door. I opened the door to find an intimidating, bulky, 6’4″ tall police officer.  I could tell by the look on his face that something was wrong.  It turns out that he had just had an altercation with Kai and his friends. They were all 12-14 at the time, and up at the school playground. This is a regular occurrence in our small town — kids meet up at the school to play on the playground, ride scooters and skateboards. However, on this particular day, one of Kai’s friends pointed out that there was a built-in metal ladder to the roof which hung about 6 feet from the ground. The boys thought it would be a good idea to climb up and check out the roof (and post IG pics from the tip-top! what!?)  A passer-by called the police saying that there were 3 kids on the roof and one was wearing a neon yellow jersey.

Continue reading “A Step Forward & Other Hijinks!”

See, Strechay & Momoa

Hi everyone!  This post was written by our boys — Kai who is 17 and legally blind and Cash who is 21 and typically sighted — about their recent travel to Canada to visit the set of the Apple TV+ original See! That’s right, they even got to meet Jason Momoa and watch a fight scene in a cave, as it was being filmed. (Season 1, Episode 6 – which aired this past weekend.) The post is wrapped up with comments from both dad and mom. Enjoy!

From Kai’s Perspective:

My brother Cash and I’s trip to Canada taught me so much and it was a great experience. We traveled to Vancouver to meet my mentor Joe Strechay, who is the blindness consultant on a new Apple+ TV show called See. Joe is an awesome guy who has helped me learn how to thrive with a visual impairment, so I was super excited about the trip. Continue reading “See, Strechay & Momoa”