1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Interviews, TGIF, The Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge, TToT

TToT: For Those Rookies I Love and Remembering To Breathe #PeaSeason #JustBreathe #10Thankful

I spend a lot of time being attracted to songs with messages about remembering to breathe. I do it, of course, and I’m thankful I can. Still, I’m most thankful for music and reminders of such a thing.

Tough year so far, ups and downs, but if it weren’t for a few familiar favourites about this time of year, I would be totally lost.

I haven’t done one of these in months. It’s partly from the tough year and partially because the whole process of this
Ten Things of Thankful
thing is different now than it once was.

Yet, I am back and trying to fill out this middle of 2019 with a few items of gratitude and this is the place to do that.

I am thankful for July being the month for fresh peas.

They’re so fresh tasting, sweet yet healthy. I am thankful for the whole podding process that I am expert in after so many seasons of practice. It’s so sweet to me that my niece and nephew love peas too. I don’t even mind doing the podding for them, especially, and even the sharing of the final product. If I’m going to share my favourite fresh vegetable with anyone, it’d be those two. I try not to feel affronted when the two-year-old takes too many in a handful or one or two or a few more are dropped. (Common mistake for a rookie.)

I’m thankful for new experiences for those I love most. I can stand a difficult time of it for myself a little easier if I know someone else I care about is having a memorable time of a summer.

I’m thankful for the return to regular summer days amongst the really humid days.

There’s a big difference between when the sun is hot but the air is still fresh, with a lovely breeze and those days when it’s a sauna in the very air I need to breathe.

And, of course, I’m thankful for AC because, though I know I am spoiled in that, I am grateful I don’t have to tough it out.

Such heat and humidity is one of the main triggers I’ve so far discovered with my pain and headaches and I am glad I have another option.

I’m thankful we’re getting some more exposure for our show from a media source like
Accessible Media Inc.
with a feature on their TV network.

Check out Outlook on AMI This Week.

This was four months in the making.

The media are maddening in many instances, but some cases prove the opposite of that.

So, soon we say goodbye to July and summer half over. That may anger some, but I am looking forward to September.

I can’t say when I’ll be back here, but I’m thankful for my blog, always.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0r1AJMK79g

I need those reminders to breathe, between the other lyrics that get me through, especially with the headlines in places all over the world today.

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KETCHUP ON PANCAKES: Episode 17 – Lifelong, Long Life (on location at The Potters’) #Plethora #VIPs #Podcast #Pottercast #QuadrupleL

OH BOY! OH MAN!

Lifelong, Long Life (on location at The Potters’)

Almost July, but check out our plethora of moments in time, a review of our connective quadruple L, as June is Pottercast month on
Ketchup On Pancakes
and he remembers all.

Join us…as we gather around for a conversation about and filled with family, memories, creativity, and humour…lots of humour.

After all, what really makes a family anyway?

We, the VIP’s (visually impaired persons), get together to take a walk along memory lane and we do it, live from the Potter’s reck room.

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Two People and a Baby: On Accessibility and Literary Publishing

I’m glad to see this on Brevity and wanted to share it on my blog. This writer is correct. The literary community, though a community of words (which are written) are still a part of the artistic world, still writers come from a mostly visual place. I write to create a world with words, but inside my own head, I am seeing everything, as I am a visual person still too. The sight I once had just doesn’t vanish completely, but stays hidden somewhere in the recesses of my brain. As such, this goes on all while I am seeing nothing with my eyes and so I turned to words, words which are accessible with technology and braille. We just need to work together, with the sighted world of writing and everything else, to make things more equal and level for all.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

4293161316_4739d166fb_b Two People and a Baby

By Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter

My fingers manipulate keys, navigating Facebook. Arrowing down, the cursor lands on a picture, and I hear, “Two people and a Baby.” Great, I think, no context. I continue to arrow down, finding another picture. This time, the electronic buzz of my computer’s voice says, “Man in sunglasses.” Again, zero context for me.

Fifteen years ago, I became visually impaired. I transferred my visual understanding of the world into a non-visual medium. To use a computer, I now use a program called JAWS, which is a text-to-speech screenreader. It reads whatever the cursor highlights, allowing me to still do email, Google-search, write and, of course, shop! However, if pictures and graphics are not properly captioned, I have no clue what they are.

Recently, a writer friend spoke about the aesthetic appeal of a literary journal she stumbled upon. It occurred to me…

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IF BRAILLE WERE PRINT #Braille #Literacy #Equality

If Braille Were Print by Erin Jepsen

Abi Jepsen uses a BrailleNote Apex.From the Editor: Erin Jepsen is a low-vision homeschooling mother of four elementary-age children, one blind, one low vision, and two sighted. She is passionate about education for all kids and about teaching Braille. She and her family live in Idaho.

Chatting with a friend today about a refreshable Braille display got me thinking again about the absurdities that I’ve seen firsthand in my daughter’s classes. I’ve seen a silly attitude about Braille in both a local public school and in a state virtual academy. I’ve also heard about it from friends around the country who support one another online.

This problem comes, I think, from society’s general perception that Braille is complicated, difficult, and specialized. My daughter’s TVIs work endlessly to provide peer enrichment, to normalize Braille, to minimize errors, and to add Braille in spaces within the school. I have tried to do the same at home. Still, in spite of our best efforts, misperceptions remain in attitudes about Braille and print.

To address some of these misperceptions for the non-Braille-reading public, I want to try an experiment. I want to reframe some of the things that students commonly hear when they are being taught Braille by imagining that they are being said to a sighted print reader. I’d like to say these things about the reading method that nearly everyone in my area uses: English print.

The Challenges of Print

Imagine a typical first- or second-grader of average intelligence who is learning to read. Keep in mind the material this learner will need to read in eighth grade. In twelfth grade. In college. On the job. Running a household.

1. It makes sense that you’re having a hard time with this. It is hard to learn print.

As your hypothetical classroom teacher, I don’t actually read this print stuff. Your aide took a two-week training course, and we have a reference chart here, but I really don’t know how print works. It just looks like a bunch of squiggles on the paper. It uses a round symbol for both a zero and the letter o, and I’m not sure how to tell you which one is which. There is also special shorthand stuff, like spelling with as w/, and I don’t know how to teach you all that.

Reading a book with writing on both sides of the page is hard for me. It doesn’t matter that it’s normal for you; I say it’s hard, because for me, it is.

You have a special print teacher, and you’ll see her for an hour or two per week. Surely that’s all the extra help you’ll need.

2. I’m not aware of any techniques for reading print at a usable speed.

As far as I know, print readers only read one letter at a time. I don’t know any adults who read printed books. I saw someone do it once on TV, and it looked like magic. I’ve heard that people who read print well are either geniuses or flukes.

3. I’m sorry, but your book is loaded with typos.

The books we’re giving you were transcribed by unqualified volunteers, so there are at least two typos or misprints or misspelled words for every thirty words. Just remember you’re lucky to have print books at all.

Every other kid in your class gets information from illustrations, but we’re going to skip those for you. They’re cute, but probably they’re not important.

4. Technology, schmechnology!

First of all, nobody like you uses computers or knows how to type at your age. You have plenty of time to learn that stuff later. Your job someday probably won’t require a computer. If it does, someone can give you a quick training course. For now, we’re going to print your books using a dot-matrix printer. The school bought it in 1989 for our last print reader, and they don’t want to buy anything new.

We’re going to get you a special display screen, though. It hooks up to an iPad. It displays three words per screen. To get to the next screen, you just press this little button over here. Cool, right?

5. Reading is overrated.

Nobody these days needs to read print or write with a pencil anyway. You can just listen to audiobooks. It’s a lot less work than reading, and you can dictate anything you want to write. Technology is amazing these days for people like you.

6. Nobody else reads the way you read.

In your school, no one besides you reads print. The teachers don’t read it. Your friends don’t read it. There is no print displayed around the halls, on the classroom walls, or in the lunchroom. Everybody reads, but nobody reads English print. Nobody here can read what you write, and nobody can write to you. Well, one of your friends learned to write to you. He thinks print is a cool secret code.

There’s a sign in print by the bathroom. You say it actually says “Aathroox?”

We keep reminding you to be grateful for your printed books. The other students have thousands of books in whatever they read, and no one tells them to be grateful. But you should be grateful for the twelve books that you have. Don’t forget, people went to a lot of trouble to get them for you.

You didn’t do very well on the reading test last week. Your special print teacher says it was written like this: %Bgoat %Bpig %Bhorse %Bduck. I don’t read print, so I don’t know how it looks to you. I just grade your test the best I can.

7. You will get your books late. Always.

The school ordered the wrong reading book from the supplier, so your book is the first-grade version, not the second-grade version. It’s double-spaced and uses easy vocabulary, but that’s okay for you. Your life is challenging enough already, just learning to read print. You have to learn all those curves and squiggles. The capital letters are different shapes, and there are different fonts, too. You have to learn five different shapes just for the letter A. That’s hard! You don’t need challenging vocabulary, too.

You’re falling behind your class? Don’t worry. You have a lot on your plate.

Your math book is still at the translator’s shop. They say it will be here in seven months. Everyone else is going to use a math book during the next seven months, but I’ll just read your math out loud to you.

Don’t worry about learning to read numbers! When you get your math book, you can read the numbers all you want! Be grateful you’re getting a math book in print.

8. Of course you’re behind.

Kids like you, print readers of average intelligence, are always behind.

Always.

In fact, you’ll likely graduate from high school with about a fourth-grade reading level. It can’t be helped. It’s okay, though, because kids like you don’t usually want to have a career. People who read print usually get jobs sorting stuff at places like Goodwill. They pay you about $2 an hour, but you won’t notice that because of the math thing.

9. Print is just so cool!!

Print looks cool! I see it here and there, like on elevators, and it’s just so neat. It’s all swoopy and round, and I like to look at it. People like you must be really special to read it. I can’t believe you can just walk up to a sign with words printed on it and boom! read what it says.

Kids who read print are so beautiful and special. They open their printed books and just go for it. Unbelievable!

10. I love the way you write print, too.

I’ve watched you write print. You make these marks on paper, and you actually know what they say. That special tool you use, what’s it called? A pencil? It’s so neat! It writes print, just like that!

I’ve seen you type on a special keyboard. It makes print, too, but it disturbs the class with the clicking noise, so I wish you wouldn’t use it. You can use it someday when you’re grown up, but not in class, okay? Just tell one of the adults what you want to write, and we’ll do it for you. We’ll even spell it right for you. You can practice spelling words on your special spelling tests in your special writing room on Fridays.

The Print Reader’s Experience

Dear Reader, what do you think? Do you think a kid is going to learn to read in that atmosphere, with those expectations and that sort of encouragement? With that amount of support and practice?

Any TVI or homeschool mom who has tried to even things out for a Braille reader knows exactly what I’m talking about.

What do print-reading kids typically experience in school? Let’s take a look.

1. Your teacher knows English.

If you are an English speaker, your teacher knows the language in which you’re reading and writing. She or he may even know Spanish or Chinese or Dutch. She can use all the tools you are expected to use. If she can’t, she is not deemed qualified to teach.

2. Your teacher has books.

Books in print arrive in the classroom on time before the school year begins. In nearly every school in the country, there are books for every kid in the class. The books don’t come late. The teacher reads them and shows you how to read them. You have your own copy of each book you need. The teacher sends books home with you for practice. If your parents know English, they can read with you.

If there is a quote you want to read at the school assembly, you don’t have to write it out for yourself first because nobody else knows how.

Your mom can read the story you wrote.

There might be one typo in your whole book. Maybe. And everyone complains about that one.

3. Everyone around you reads.

Your parents read. Your teacher reads. Your lunch lady reads. Your big sister reads. They read the same way you read.

You are expected to learn to read.

You’re told that it’s normal to learn to read.

4. You get help when you need it.

If you’re having trouble reading, adults act as if this is a problem. You are expected to take extra classes, to practice, and to get help until you can read well.

If you can’t read, you are called illiterate. You are not given audiobooks. You are taught to read (one hopes). If you don’t know how to write, you are expected to practice and learn to write correctly.

To get a good job that pays a decent wage, you have to be able to read well, write well, and use computers. None of that is considered weird.

5. You learn current technology.

Your school has computers, and you learn to use them. You are taught to type, and you are taught to read on a screen that displays thousands of words at a time. You learn to scan for information, because your class moves quickly.

6. You don’t get a pass.

You are expected to keep up with the class. You don’t get a free pass not to keep up. You don’t get to be lazy just because you’re a print reader. After all, reading print is normal. Everyone knows it’s completely doable, so why should you get to slough off?

You have all the materials you need and all the tools you need. You can’t make excuses, because you have the book you need for the assignment and the pencil or the keyboard you need for your work. The teacher loaded and set up the software your class uses, and he knows how to use it.

7. You know you’ll use print all your life.

You fully expect that you will grow up, get a job, pay bills, and become a contributing member of society. You know you will read and write print as you do all of these things.

8. You read math.

If your teachers did not teach you to read and write the language of printed math in school, your parents would throw a holy, hell-raising, fire-breathing, sue-the-school-for-a-zillion-dollars tantrum. And the community would support them. The school would be put up for review by the state.

If the teachers did not write math code, they would be fired. Period, the end.

And no one would be surprised.

9. Nobody gushes over your reading ability.

Nobody tells you they saw some print on a box of Band-Aids and how cool that is. Nobody tells you that you literally deserve a medal for learning how to read.

Because everybody reads!

You don’t give yourself pats on the back for using a computer at the age of seventeen.

Everyone uses a computer at age seventeen!

Technology is normal for you.

10. You get all the information in class if you bother to pay attention.

A print reader of typical ability and average intelligence can get all the information presented in the classroom. All the stuff on the overhead. All the stuff in every book. All the stuff on the wall. All the lunch menus. All the recess schedules. All the toy names.

And for all that, nobody thinks to be grateful.

A Few Last Comments about Braille

1. Reading Braille is normal for blind kids.

For blind and low-vision kids, Braille is the normal way to read. The tools they use are normal. Reading is normal.

Having Braille on the elevator is normal.

2. Reading Braille is not hard.

Reading Braille by touch is not hard.

READING BRAILLE BY TOUCH IS NOT HARD.

Reading Braille is NOT HARD.

NOT HARD.

Many Braille readers are slow because of all the things listed above that happened when they were learning it.

BRAILLE IS NOT HARD.

3. You can read Braille fast.

Good Braille readers can match print readers for speed.

(Not many do … see above.)

A good Braille reader can read ten thousand pages in a couple of weeks. (Not many do … see above.)

4. Braille is not becoming obsolete.

There are Braille displays for computers. There are Braille embossers. There are Braille transcribers looking for work. There are more Braille books than ever before. There are computers that transcribe books more accurately than ever before.

There are blind people who need to be able to read.

There are people who need to read pill bottles. And bills. And recipes. And blog posts. And books. And textbooks. And math books. And elevator signs. And hallway signs. And foreign languages. And CD covers. And they need to see how names are spelled.

There are deaf-blind people who use Braille to communicate everything!

Since the early 1800s when Louis Braille brought the idea of a quick, dot-based tactile method of reading and writing to his school in France, there have been naysayers. In the beginning people said that Braille wouldn’t work. A separate code that sighted people couldn’t read would never be widely used.

Blind people used Braille anyway, because for the first time, they could write for themselves. Braille gave them voices. They could read what they wrote.

When Braille came to America, it had naysayers. People said it was too expensive to produce. They said there would never be enough books.

Blind people used Braille anyway. They made their own books. They hired people to learn Braille and transcribe it. They raised funds.

As Braille enters the modern century, it has its naysayers. They say it’s becoming obsolete because of technology. They say it’s clunky and outdated.

Blind people keep using it anyway. We use Braille with technology. We use it to learn to spell, and we use it to jot notes. We delight in the thrill of opening a real, paper book and feeling the magical constellations under our fingers as words and stories come to life.

5. Then what is the problem?

See if you can figure it out.

I can hear what you’re thinking: “But Braille is different from print.”

Obviously Braille and print aren’t the same, but they’re not as different as they seem to non-Braille readers. I read both. I read Braille by touch. I read print (sometimes, under the right conditions).

“But I’m a blind person, and I don’t read Braille well. I hardly read it at all.”

Why not? Is it lack of desire, lack of support, lack of encouragement? (I’m not talking about people with multiple disabilities, cognitive impairments, or nerve damage in their fingers.) If it’s lack of desire, I accept that. You may prefer to use audio, magnification, or other reading methods. But if you dig deep into your reasons, and it’s due only to shame or lack of good instruction, I feel that those reasons should not exist. We shouldn’t be ashamed to read! We should not be left unsupported when the rest of our peers have a way to read that fits their needs and frees them for a life full of options.

“But I teach Braille, and what you describe is impossible.”

Is it?

See if you can do something about it.

Please.

Because if blind and low-vision kids got the support their average sighted counterparts get in learning to read, they would not face a 70 percent unemployment rate. There might still be workplace discrimination, but I’d be willing to bet there would be more employed blind folks than there are today!

I wanted to write “That would be amazing,” but I realized that isn’t quite accurate. Amazing implies something above and beyond the norm. It implies something unexpected. It implies something to be marveled at. Reading isn’t something to be marveled at; it’s something that should be expected, that should be normal. It’s basic, like adequate clothing or nutrition. It’s the foundation of every other form of education.

So, instead of “amazing,” I write: “It would finally be what kids deserve. It would be just. It wouldn’t level the playing field, but it would be a start.”

***Reprinted From Facebook

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What Happened to Holly Bartlett?

Adventures in Low Vision

Podcast artwork shows a headshot photo of a smiling Holly with short blond hair in the upper right with the silhouette of the bridge on the left and title centered low in black text over white background. Word-of-mouth is a great way to receive recommendations. And it’s how I heard of the AMI podcast, What Happened to Holly Bartlett, narrated and written by Canadian journalist Maggie Rahr and produced by Ocean Entertainment. Recently, Toby Ball of the Crime Writers On… podcast mentioned it. I was interested when he said Holly Bartlett was a young woman who was blind and lived independently. Her friends don’t believe she would have ended up unconscious under a bridge near her home without foul play. When Toby said the investigation was affected by opinions of blindness, I knew I needed to hear Holly’s story.

On a night I couldn’t sleep, I subscribed to the show and started listening. I was happy to hear a Scarlett Johansson quality voice–the local investigative reporter Rahr–not a hype-man amateur bumbling around. She wasn’t creating episodes for ad revenue, entertainment, or to take undeserved credit for…

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TToT: March Breaks and Time Straddlers – Design and Procurement #10Thankful

I can’t get the image of all that plastic in that whale’s stomach out of my head. Or the gorilla who was shot and blinded. Or fifty human lives lost in New Zealand last week.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yks0RggaluY

But then, I am reminded, we live in a world with rainbows.

SxxjN4m.jpg

“Watch the rain drop.”

I’m thankful for new Cranberries music. She’s dead, and that’s still unbelievably sad, but this song just released is powerful, even more because of how things are.

I am thankful for a good
classic Irish memoir
to read on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. (All twelve braille volumes of it.)

I’m thankful that another news network put a spotlight on the disability issues radio talk show I do with my brother.

Radio Show About Blindness Promotes Accessibility – CTV London

I’m thankful an interesting documentarian/filmmaker was generous enough to give me a few hours of his time, to ask me several thoughtful questions, to get to know my story a little better. I’m discovering, life’s all in the connections that you make.

I’m thankful for an upcoming Niagara Falls weekend trip with my family to celebrate the start of spring.

I’m thankful for my recent weekend away in New York City with my friend and travel agent extraordinaire, just in time for International Women’s Day festivities.

I’m thankful for rooftops, bars/restaurants/nothing but the roof.

hHvl0iH.jpg

I stand on one, on a cold International Women’s Day in New York City, with my friend Anita.

I’m thankful for fear that I keep facing.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to share my fears and not feel so alone. On the stage, the presenter (my “writing mentor” was the presenter) spoke about fear in her talk and then called me up, along with two other ladies, to share what we’re afraid of.

I’m thankful for lovely songs and their singers.

Though I don’t mind winter like some do, I am thankful for this first day of spring.

“Everything is new in the spring,” said Anne. “Springs themselves are always so new, too. No spring is ever just like any other spring. It always has something of its own to be its own peculiar sweetness. See how green the grass is around that little pond, and how the willow buds are bursting.”-
L.M Montgomery, Anne of the Island

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TToT: Back in March and Farewell to Luke – GoGo Go #10Thankful

I have been packing for New York City while still in disbelief about the death of Luke Perry, who played Dylan McKay on Beverly Hills 90210, my favourite teen drama of the 90’s.

I’m thankful for all the television he gave me over the years on that show.

I’m thankful I had a memorable time with a house guest back in February.

I’m thankful to be getting ready to travel for an unforgettable weekend in NYC.

I’m thankful Brian and I were featured on the CBC here in London, Ontario.

We did our show (six month anniversary episode) while a video reporter captured us, on film and camera. Then he interviewed us and published the video and the written piece on the CBC website:

Blind brother and sister help others ‘see’ their world – CBC London

I’m thankful the morning show interviewed us about Outlook then too.

Outlook on London Morning

I’m thankful for Canadian healthcare, for the x-ray I received of my knees and big toes. I’ve had pain in both places for a few years now. I wonder if there’s anything to see in those pictures. I’m just glad I didn’t receive a bill for that medical test.

I’m thankful for a delightful salad of fruits and vegetables.

I’m thankful for the snow, while it’s still around, and for the sound it makes when it’s freshly fallen and powdery underfoot.

I’m thankful
Kristi
is willing to help me still be able to take part in the TToT, even though the accessibility has become an issue.

I’m thankful for February’s birthday celebrations and for the last two years, with many more to come, with my niece in our lives.

I’m thankful for March and for lions and lambs.

“Mad, bad, and dangerous to know.”

RIP Luke.

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