Tag Archives: blind

Let Texas Know Your Needs

Every three years, Texas organizations and agencies gather with people who have disabilities to plan how to provide better services and supports so that Texans can live more independently.

Texas state flag waves
photo credit: The flag of Texas via photopin (license)

The Texas State Independent Living Council, or Texas SILC, asks for your input for the State Plan for Independent Living. The SILC  helps develop and monitor this plan.

According to a recent email by the Texas SILC, “By taking this short survey, you can help us create a framework for service delivery by including your feedback in the next State Plan for Independent Living. Take the Survey
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Advocacy to Avoid Disability Discrimination Lawsuits

When people with disabilities encounter disability discrimination, they may think the only option is to sue. Or, they may let the issue go, thinking hiring a lawyer may be too expensive or time consuming.

Litigation in court costs money, and matters are resolved over a period of time–sometimes years. That’s too long to wait for a pressing need.

Gavel rests on top of desk with court room participants in distance
The courtroom is a place to solve problems as a last resort. photo credit: CA Supreme Court – 11 via photopin (license)

Other options are available to get access and inclusion.

Many businesses, organizations, and agencies understand that they should respect the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)  and other federal laws that protect Americans with disabilities . One way to raise awareness is to share the law with them.

When agencies, organizations, and businesses know the laws and don’t want to make accommodations or include people with disabilities, there are other remedies.

According to the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities’ (CTD) Messenger e-Newsletter, a lawsuit should come after other efforts have been made to see if a solution can be reached.

The CTD newsletter suggests three actions before seeking a lawyer:

Wheelchair ramp leads up to steps
Here’s a situation businesses could understand better once someone pulled their wheelchair up to this ramp. photo credit: Ramp to No where via photopin (license)
  • Talk to the business directly CTD recommends asking for the manager or the property manager. A CTD example shows that calling attention to access for one disability can benefit others: “CTD was approached by a group of taxi drivers who were concerned that the drop-off area [for Austin City Limits] was far from the entrance gates and required people with mobility impairments to traverse a ditch. CTD staff met with Festival organizers … By the next year, vehicles transporting people with disabilities were allowed to pull right up to the entrance gate. Plus, the Festival added accommodations such as an accessibility station and free rental wheelchairs, and ASL interpreters became permanent.”
  • Put it in writing An example where this worked: “Austin resident Julie Maloukis sent Maudie’s Tex Mex written notice about their inaccessible parking. Several weeks later, Maudie’s contacted Julie, thanking her for letting them know about the situation and to tell her the parking spaces were fixed.”
  • File a complaint with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, “which might be able to require a business to comply with ADA regulations.” What does the Department of Licensing and Regulation do? According to the agency’s website, they “ensure public safety and customer protection, and provide a fair and efficient licensing and regulatory environment at the lowest possible cost.” The department has influence over businesses, particularly if the business requires a license. Complaints can be filed against businesses that are unlicensed too.

Another way to educate others is to ask to schedule a demonstration of the lack of access or inclusion. When staff at businesses learn how the problem affects others, they are more willing to help.

For example, if a ramp is too steep at the entrance to business, offer to demonstrate for them why. Have someone to spot the wheelchair as you attempt to travel up or down the ramp, and keep safe.

Captions on bottom of TV screen showing news about Oprah and Australia.
Watching TV without sound or captions is a quick way to teach why captions are important to those with hearing loss or deafness. photo credit: NICOLE CHETTLE via photopin (license)

If you need communication access, demonstrate how the experience would be without sound or words. For example, if you need a video captioned, have them watch the video with you without any sound. Have them read a paper with their eyes closed or in the dark if you are requesting Braille and they don’t understand why.

Be creative with teaching others to understand. Misunderstandings lead to discrimination continuing. Once everyone is on the same page, it’s easier to find a reasonable solution.

In many cases, these steps will work with solving  discrimination situations.

If not, another option before filing a lawsuit is to ask a lawyer to draft a letter discussing their obligations under the law, so that they are aware of the seriousness of the situation.

Whether the person chooses to take a matter to court is his or her right. Each person needs to evaluate how severe the situation is, and if a possible solution can be reached without deciding to sue.

Where to Connect to DeafBlind Resources

The Sign Shares’ blog has posted the past few articles relating to support people for individuals who are DeafBlind, or who have
both vision and hearing loss.

However, how do individuals seek DeafBlind Interpreters, Support Service Providers (SSPs), or Interveners? How do those who are DeafBlind pay for them?

One of the first stops for assistance is vocational rehabilitation. If an individual has a severe enough disability–and having both
vision and hearing loss qualifies–then most individuals can receive some assistance with services and/or equipment and training they need to maintain their independence from their state’s vocational rehabilitation program.

Here is a list of vocational rehabilitation agencies across America. It lists agencies by state.

Vocational rehabilitation may assist individuals who are going to school or work, as well as individuals who aren’t working and need support to live, work, and play independently.

Once an individual is a client of a vocational rehabilitation program, they may assist with the cost of DeafBlind Interpreters and potentially SSPs.

However, federal and state agencies, as well as cities, will provide these services if the individual requests them. They usually need some advanced notice so they have time to make an appointment for the individual to have services. Also, large businesses that serve the public are also required to provide these services as requested.

Schools provide Interveners as needed, and the request for one should be in a student’s education plan. The first step for this is for the student to be enrolled with special education or disability services programs at school or college/university. From there, they can request DeafBlind Interpreters and Interveners to assist with communication and/or learning, as is needed by the student.

While most services can be paid for through vocational rehabilitation, schools, colleges, and universities, as well as sometimes through government agencies and businesses, it
takes extra information to be prepared and learn what is needed for independence.

Joining organizations that have other individuals who have similar needs makes it easier to socialize and learn more about ways to adapt.

There are many organizations to choose from, based on the person’s needs and interests.

Here is a list of nationwide DeafBlind Organizations.

These supports are the beginning for a person who is DeafBlind getting assistance to have the services he or she needs to live the fullest life possible.

The Difference between DeafBlind Interpreters and Support Service Providers

Many supports are available to people who are DeafBlind. Yesterday, the Sign Shares’ blog discussed DeafBlind Interpreters. There are others who provide support besides interpreting, so that people who have vision and hearing loss can live independently.

According to the National Task Force on Deaf-Blind Interpreting, there are three types of support roles for people who are DeafBlind.

  • DeafBlind Interpreter
  • Support Service Provider (SSP)
  • Interveners

If their need regards formal communication, such as medical appointments, education, meetings, etc., they will need a certified professional, a DeafBlind Interpreter, according to the task force.

What happens if the individual’s need involves more than communication, such as transportation?

Person walks down street using cane and talking to another person.
Traveling and navigating around unfamiliar locations are one of the reasons a person who is DeafBlind might need the services of a Support Service Provider, or SSP. photo credit: Marchez sur le trottoir (Walk on Sidewalk) via photopin (license)

If the person who is DeafBlind needs transportation and support navigating an environment such as a conference, shopping, hobbies and sports, or informal settings, they may need a Support Service Provider, or SSP.

Friends and family members often take the role of Support Service Providers, according to a white paper by the American Association of the Deaf-Blind.

There are problems with people close to the person who is DeafBlind performing the SSP role, according to the white paper. They often lack formal training, may not provide reliable support, and the person requesting SSP support “may have feelings about infringing on others’ time. Often, this will lead the person who is deaf-blind to change their plans or not get out into the community…”

According to the paper, not getting out into the community “can lead to isolation, depression, low self-worth, and frustration…”

Hiring SSPs may offer greater independence for the individual with need because they are involved in their travel experiences.

According to the National Task Force on Deaf-Blind Interpreting, SSPs:

  • provide visual and environmental information,
  • assist with communication access, and
  • guide within the physical environment, generally in community-based or informal settings.

In a white paper, the American Association of the Deaf-Blind describes the SSPs main role as:

  • “Providing access to the community by making transportation available (by car, bus, or other conveyance), and serving as a human guide while walking,” and
  • Relaying “visual and environmental information that may not be heard or seen by the person who is deaf-blind. This is done in the person’s preferred language and communication mode.”

    Several cars drive through traffic and between many people trying to walk through a crosswalk.
    While an interpreter isn’t needed for communication during heavy traffic situations, an SSP could provide support. photo credit: Californian Crosswalk via photopin (license)

An important aspect of the relationship between the person who is DeafBlind and an SSP is that the person who is DeafBlind makes all decisions, according to the white paper.

Support Service Providers, according to the task force, might assist in the following locations:

  • airports,
  • train stations,
  • restaurants,
  • shopping,
  • recreation and leisure sites,
  • during health and fitness pursuits,
  • errands,
  • community activities,
  • at home reading mail,
  • social gatherings, and
  • other activities in private settings.

SSPs may work in together with DeafBlind Interpreters at events like conferences, where the interpreter supports workshop communication, and the SSP supports travel and navigating the event, according to the task force.

According to the American Association of the Deaf-Blind, SSPs and Interpreters share some traits:

  • precepts they share:
  • remaining impartial,
  • maintaining confidentiality,
  • and working in a variety of settings.

However, they differ in important ways, because Interpreters:

  • work with people who are deaf, hard of hearing, and also people deaf-blind;
  • Interpreter education is available from colleges/universities and can culminate in state/national certification;
  • Interpreters are paid based upon their certification and/or the rate established by the referring agency/community.

SSPs work only with people who are DeafBlind or have a combination of hearing and vision loss, according to the association.

Their training is less formal than interpreters, may be taught in workshops or through life experiences. Because of the less formal education and certification of SSPs, they may be volunteers, or receive less pay.

Review a detailed Interpreter/SSP/Intervener comparison chart here under What’s My Role? A Comparison of the Responsibilities of Interpreters, Interveners, and Support Service Providers.

Tomorrow, we’ll examine the role of Interveners.

If you’d like to request a Sign Shares’ interpreter, you may do so here.

 

DeafBlind Interpreters: When and How They are Used

There are many supports for people who are DeafBlind, those who experience both vision and hearing loss.

People who are DeafBlind may have any combination of hearing and vision loss. For example, they may be Blind and have some hearing loss, or Deaf and have some vision loss, or a combination of both at any degree. Because vision and hearing are two sensory needs, having a loss of both presents an additional challenge with communication and navigating their world.

Two fingers read Braille on a page.
Some people who are DeafBlind read Braille. Others don’t need it. Each person has their own specific needs. photo credit: Aprendiendo a leer via photopin (license)

The goal of providing supports for the individual who is DeafBlind is that the individual can make decisions and live independently.

According to the National Task Force on Deaf-Blind Interpreting, there are three types of support roles for people who are DeafBlind:

  • DeafBlind Interpreter
  • Support Service Provider (SSP)
  • Interveners

When a person might need assistance from one of the support roles above depends on their needs, level of disability, and  preferences.

If their need regards communication, such as at medical appointments, school or college, conference workshops, government or professional meetings, then they will need a certified professional, a DeafBlind Interpreter, according to the task force.

According to the task force, DeafBlind Interpreters are skilled with:

  • Tactile signing, a hand-over-hand method for people who receive signed information through touch;
  • Tracking, used by DeafBlind people who have some vision but rely on understanding signed information by touching the interpreter’s wrist or forearm to visually follow their hands;
  • Providing visual environmental information in addition to spoken or signed content;
  • Modifying the signing space, the distance between the consumer and interpreter;
  • Adjusting pacing; and
  • Delivering the content in a manner which is meaningful and understandable way for the individual.

A DeafBlind Interpreter may also offer other additional support, according to the task force, which may include:

  • Guiding the individual when walking from one place to another,
  • Sharing visual information,
  • Note-taking,
  • Translation of printed materials, or
  • Assisting with seating arrangements.

Tomorrow’s blog will discuss the difference between DeafBlind Interpreters and Support Service Providers.

Celebrating and Learning Braille

“We do not need pity, nor do we need to be reminded that we are vulnerable. We must be treated as equals – and communication is the way we can bring this about,” said Louis Braille, inventor of the raised print read by people who are blind or have low vision.

January celebrates the life and death of Braille. He was born on Jan. 4, 1809, and died on this date, Jan. 6, 1852 at 43. The importance of the inventor and teacher is shown by the move of his remains from his hometown in Coupvray to Paris–except for his hands, the same that read Braille and created it, which were separated from the body and remain in Coupvray.

Braille developed his method of raised letters from a military night-reading code of raised dots on cardboard that was submitted to the Institute for Blind Children in Paris by an officer in the French military. The military had rejected it, according to an article in History Today.

Large Braille makes a line across a full wall with some round tactile elements on the wall as well.
Braille elements add to tactile surroundings and become experiential art. photo credit: Blind message via photopin (license)

According to the article, Braille was a student who examined the officer’s code, later refined it when he was just 15, and as a teacher at the same school years later, published a book on it.

Children's bowl with Braille and upraised letters.
This tactile bowl shows the Braille alphabet with upraised letters as well. photo credit: Braille Seeing Eye Dog Ashtray via photopin (license)

Pierre Focault, another ex-student from Braille’s school, eventually developed the first typewriter for the blind,  according to the article. By that time, Braille had died from tuberculosis.

The American Foundation for the Blind has developed 16 Braille resources to celebrate the life of its creator. The resources include a link to a video of Helen Keller’s speech about Braille, games, parent and teacher resources, an online museum about Braille, and links to more resources.

According to the foundation’s website, January 2016 marks an important date in the American community of people who use Braille.

“The U.S. members of the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) voted to adopt Unified English Braille (UEB) to replace English Braille American Edition in the U.S., which means that all new transcriptions will be produced in UEB and educators will teach the code,” according to the website.

The website recommends a resource to learn the Unified English Braille, Beginning with Braille.

Two fingers read Braille on a page.
Most people possess the sensitivity needed in their fingers to read Braille. photo credit: Aprendiendo a leer via photopin (license)

There are several types of Braille. Click here to learn more or if Braille could benefit you or someone you know.

Click here if you’d like to learn more about organizations for people who are blind or have low vision.

 

 

 

The Need for Star Wars Access for All Abilities, Signing May the Force Be with You

Children dress up as Jedi masters from the Dark Side with red lightsabers.
People of all abilities want to put on a costume and share the Star Wars’ experience. Credit: Christina Goebel, Star Wars: The Force Awakens Dec. 17 premiere at Disney Springs in Kissimmee, Florida

While premieres for the latest Star Wars movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, were last night, the film opens in nationwide theaters today. Almost everyone who wants to can view one of the coolest movies in the galaxy–but not quite. For one blogger who uses a wheelchair, leaving home to view the movie with a damaged wheelchair could endanger his life. Another young man may be attending the film because of director J.J. Abram’s and others’ contributions.

Access to movies for people of all abilities will take a community effort.

Star The Force Awakens Wars lit up on the ground.
This Star Wars: The Force Awakens step and repeat on the ground at Disney Springs in Kissimmee, Florida makes it easy for everyone to snap their picture, even if they use a wheelchair. Credit: Christina Goebel

Movies have been a stress point for many people with a disability. For some, they need captions or amplification to hear, others need descriptive voice, and others need physical access to parking, the building, and accessible seating and bathrooms. Many theaters now provide this access and indicate next to the movie listing if it’s accessible.

A lot of work is still needed for ensuring access, as you can tell from viewing this “official” trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens that has no captions or this one, with 22 million views–but no captions for people who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Deafblind. As for descriptive voice for people who are blind, also not there.

Star The Force Awakens Wars light display on side of a Disney building.
This Star Wars: The Force Awakens building wall projection provides another accessible backdrop for people with many abilities. Credit: Christina Goebel, at Disney Springs

Here is how theaters accommodate disability, but visit your theater’s website or call to verify and if necessary, reserve access:

  • Descriptive voice: actions described by voice, supplied for those with low vision or blindness and available over a theater-provided headset
  • Closed-captioning: viewed by theater-provided Sony glasses, a captioning device, or shield (View a captioned video of how captioned glasses work here.)
  • Open captioning: scheduled less frequently, captions are shown on the film itself for all to see
  • Assistive Listening Device: a theater-provided amplification device for those with mild to moderate hearing loss
  • Accessible Parking, Seating, and Bathrooms: those spaces with no seats allow someone using a wheelchair to sit–and may run out temporarily during Star Wars’ showings
  • Showings for People with Cognitive Disabilities: usually scheduled later for showings, allow viewers to walk around or talk as they desire, sound may be lower for those with Autism, reduces stress about “proper behavior” for viewing films
  • Showings for with Sign Language for People who are Deaf: usually scheduled later with sign language interpreters

Watching films with sign language is a truer form of communication for those who are culturally Deaf and use sign as their primary method of communication.

To see how different sign language is from captions, learn how Deaf Star signs, “May the Force be With You!”

Seats in a theater with open space next to them to accommodate a wheelchair.
Seats with open spaces next to them are for wheelchairs. Don’t occupy these areas unless you or family members need them. photo credit: Riverview Theater [006/366] via photopin (license)
If you need accommodations, call early for theater access, especially when seats will be full, to know if there will be enough accessible seating, if captions will be available for the 3D version of the movie, if the film will have descriptive voice, if an open captioned film will be shown, or if there will be enough amplification devices on hand.

On crowded days, those using wheelchairs might want to call ahead to arrange for assistance carrying their food and drinks while navigating thick crowds in hallways.

Those needing additional access should show up early to the film to ensure their space or equipment is available. Accessible seating and equipment take extra time to arrange.

While many people with disabilities will experience Star Wars: The Force Awakens in theaters, some will not.

Darth Vader kneels on ground. He has painted the words Epic Fail on the wall.
Technology exists to improve people’s lives, but many can’t receive access to it. In some cases, when equipment fails, people with disabilities may have to wait years for a replacement. photo credit: Weston Super Mare – Epic Fail via photopin (license)

For actor, blogger, and activist Dominick Evans, Dec. 17 was a reminder of the downside of the lack of access. Evans said in his blog, “Not only can I not go see [Star Wars: The Force Awakens], but I probably won’t be able to see it until it comes to streaming or television. The reason is because I lack access to the things I need to not only get out of my house, but also out of my bed. I have been trapped in bed before, and it sucks, but today it is my reality…not because I’m disabled, but because any type of equipment and services I (and others) need, are 10 times more expensive. ”

Wheelchair foot rest is alone on floor, broken off the wheelchair.
Something as simple as a broken wheelchair foot rest can contribute to broken bones for the user because the wheelchair can roll over his or her foot. photo credit: Broken leg via photopin (license)

Evans has had a broken wheelchair for three years. He said that if insurance comes through, he may have a new wheelchair next spring. In the meantime, Evans’ wheelchair is painful and dangerous to use.

Not having a wheelchair is one of Evans’ access problems. Another is needing a new Hoyer lift, equipment used to move Evans into his wheelchair and out of it.

Evans said, “Due to something called contractures in my legs, which can be very painful, my legs hang around the bar of the kind of lift I use. My feet snag on it, and I have recently experienced multiple sprained feet and broken toes.”

The new lift that won’t break Evans’ bones costs $5,000 and may not be covered by insurance.

For people like Evans, not having appropriate technology is life-threatening and deprives him of choices many of have that we take for granted.

“This is the part of having a disability that stinks the most … knowing you could have your freedom back, but lacking that access to get the things you need, to make it happen. Today I wish I could go to the movies. I have long been a Star Wars fan,” Evans said.

Evans asks us to think of him when we experience the film at theaters. He said, “So today, if you get to go enjoy Star Wars…have some popcorn for me, and think about ways you can help support the disability community, so those of us currently unable to go see this film, or any other film franchise we happen to love, due to lack of access, have a greater chance of not facing these barriers, in the future.”

J.J. Abrams standing a podium next to microphone.
J.J. Abrams, director of the new Star Wars movie, has contributed to the access of those with disabilities. Have you? photo credit: J. J. Abrams via photopin (license)

J.J. Adams, the director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, contributed $50,000 this year to the family of 10-year-old Michael Keating, a young man who has Cerebral Palsy and whose family needed an accessible van to transport him. They needed more equipment too, since his mother had two hernia surgeries related to moving her 70-pound son.

According to a Washington Post report, Abrams said, “Katie and I made the donation. Likely for the same reason others did: we were moved by the Keating family’s grace, strength and commitment to each other.”

Picture of Yoda's head. It reads, "Try not. Do or do not. There is no try."
Abrams lives Yoda’s mantra by taking action to ensure greater access for others. It’s probable that a young man whose family he helped was able to see his movie because of Abrams’ contribution. photo credit: Yoda wisdom via photopin (license)

Sign Shares staff realizes the need to advocate for access and inclusion so that everyone can live, work, and play in the least restrictive environment. Sign Shares has contributed to disability events across the state and nation to support disability education, awareness, inclusion, and advocacy for people of all abilities.

If you need a sign language interpreter, CART live captioning, or similar resources, you can request services here or call: Local (Houston): 713.869.4373 • Toll Free: 866.787.4154, or at the Videophone numbers for callers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Videophone 1: 832.431.3854 • Videophone 2: 832. 431.4889.

The Sign Shares’ advocacy team can provide resources to those who need technology, access, or advocacy information. Contact us here or by calling the numbers above, at  or at the Videophone numbers for callers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Videophone 1: 832.431.3854 • Videophone 2: 832.431.4889.

May the Force Be with You!