Some Can See What We Can’t Touch: Working With Touch Screen Technology

What screens do you use when you order breakfast at the coffee shop? pay for groceries at Walmart? buy tickets at your local train station? More and more, these screens have few if any tacticle buttons on them. Unlike the ATM’s of a couple decades back, today’s are largely smooth glass panels like on your smart phone. This is a worldwide dilemma as this article from Australia shows. In the U.S., advocates from both the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind have encouraged Congress to enact the Websites and Applications Accessibility Act which would tell the Department of Justice to enforce compliance with the ADA’s standards of computer accessibility. This bill would update the standards that weren’t even thought of when the ADA was signed into law by Pres. George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990.

One of the biggest barriers we who are blind or low-vision face is the ability for our software developers to keep pace with the ever-changing world of technology and artificial intelligence. Private industry, which is the backbone of the American economy, has a habit of running the race while we who make needed accommodations walk a careful gait. We must ask: Are the program developers behind touch screens even aware of the difficulties that people with sight difficulties have in operating their technology? Certainly, some developers of touch screens for ordering groceries, checking out at a restaurant, or making online money transfers have gained some awareness of our plight.

Thanks to Apple and Google, the developers of smart phones have built in accessibility options. To read across a screen on your IPhone XVI, you drag your finger across the panel and listen to the icons being read by Voiceover. Tap twice on an icon that you would like to open and learn the various sweeps, slides and other finger movements to perform other functions. An imperative put forth by the American Council of the Blind

Thanks to Apple and Google, the developers of smart phones have built in accessibility options. To read across a screen on your IPhone XVI, you drag your finger across the panel and listen to the icons being read by Voiceover. Tap twice on an icon that you would like to open and learn the various sweeps, slides and other finger movements to perform other functions. An imperative put forth by the American Council of the Blind seeks Congress to direct the DOJ’s enforcement of The Exercise And Fitness For All Act which directs manufacturers of digital screens for treadmills and other exercise equipment to include similar programming in place. After all, there isn’t much difference between the screen of a treadmill and that which displays icons on a smart phone. Changing speeds takes tapping the image noted for going faster or slower; clicking on the phone app to bring up a num-pad on your IPhone also takes pressing a button you can’t easily feel.


In short, the difficulty that touch screens pose for making the world more accessible stymies many of our efforts at making everyday transactions without assistance. Perhaps, the solution will be multifaceted. For now, when using touch screens at the gym when running, I kick it old school by labeling each button with a single-letter abbreviations with Dymotape so as to manipulate my speed, turn the treadmill on or off and change my running incline. The iPhone is a great tool that many of us in the blindness community are learning to use. Time will tell how software developers will work with companies to build accessibility functions into other touch screens that people use every day.

USA Goalball Selects Team For IBSA Youth World Championships

It’s a great thing when our youth are groomed early to take that step in being boldly blind! And, fueled on by their team’s victory in the youth nationals, three Florida State School for the Blind goalballers headline the roster of players heading to Sao Paulo, Brazil in July.

You can read the USABA’s press release linked here. You’ve got to love these guys’ dedication and enthusiasm for the game played by the blind with only sound and tactile orientation to guide them. Here’s hoping we’ll get a YouTube feed to pass along to you for following the competition. Like all the goalball tournaments so far in 2023, this one should be packed with excitement. So let the goalballs roll! Go, USA! USA! USA!

Celebrating Everest! Now What’s Your Everest?Today marks one of my favorite achievements we in the blindness community celebrate. On April 25, 2001, Erik Weihenmeier, a blind mountain climber, reched the summit of Mount Everest. The feat is a huge goal for many who get into hiking and mountain climbing and a dream for many of us who don’t.

Weihenmeier instantly gained even more publicity than his adventures and determination had already garnered. He was teaching at the time in a public school in Arizona. He’d climbed several of the world’s tallest peaks including Mount Denali (then Mount McKinley). So with the sponsorship of the National Federation of the Blind giving him the financial boost, he and his team composed of people having various disabilities met their goal.

Today’s post for us who follow his blog and subscribe to his No Barriers outlook on life reflects on his summiting the world’s tallest peak. You see, he wants us all to reach our goals. He seeks a world that will not set us aside because supposed inclusion or diversity budgets are met by sponsoring only one, another, person who is blind.

You can read Erik’s post here. So, let’s celebrate his accomplishments that put the boldly in being boldly blind!

Of course, not every one of us will reach the world’s tallest peak. What we have are various goals. Some deal with employment. Others have to do with reaching a proficiency in our favorite hobby. Mine is chess. I have always wanted to reach the goal of being an expert, a rating of 2000 or higher. While I’m only halfway there and perhaps living on a prayer, I want to prepare and practice for each match, each tournament like I’m determined to achieve that goal someday.

Do you want to reach some distinguished status and have the backing/ Maybe, your motivation will impel you and your family to budget the finances, devote those hours to honing in on your goals. Perhaps, that could even be planning to move out of your parents’ home, getting an advanced academic degreee, or being a proficient guide dog handler.

One look at Erik Weihenmeir’s accomplishments in the world of mountain climbing can give us a blueprint of sorts as to how we can reach our Everest. Our goals take planning, consideration, setting aside time, resources, and other matters to prioritize our aims. Maybe, that means connecting with people involved in our hobby of choice, a chosen work goal, or at the college where we want to attend. People can help us the path to take, tap that hiker’s stick on thinner ice or dirt overpass so we don’t slip or tuble into an unseen cravass in our journey.

In any case, having goals, setting out plans will help us keep motivated as we encourage each other who are blind and bring awareness of our dignity and capabilities to those who aren’t.

Braille Institute’s Teacher Of The Year

The end of each school year brings a time to reflect on those teachers who have made a big impact on our children. We often hear organizations like the National Education Association recognize their teacher of the year. Candidates usually demonstrate some quality that matches the trendy concerns in education like having a welcoming, inclusive environment in which to learn. Those who follow such things read of students’ appraisals and previous students’ glowing appreciation.

As much as having a diverse classroom gets a lot of press today, especially in the public school environs, many teachers of skills which benefit students with disabilities goes unnoticed. That’s a big reason behind Braill Institute’s recognition of its teacher of the year. Often candidates have built relationships with their students that go beyond just subject matter since the skills they teach benefit them regardless of what’s learned in class. Example: The itinerant teacher who meets with parents of a totally blind first grader. She teaches this child braille while helping the parents understand the places in which braille is in use, not just at school but all over restroom doors and elevator buttons, museum signage and displays, and so much more. She helps run the meeting where the child’s individual education plan (IEP) gets hashed out each year. And, oh, by the way, she helps the child strengthen his hands to read pages of those bumps in six dot cells that make literacy tactile.

This year’s Braille Institute teacher of the year is April Makley from Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can read about her in Braille Institute’s blog post. To be sure she was also recognized for her efforts by her own school district as making a difference for students who are blind. Check out Fox 17, WXMI’s coverage in the Grand Rapids, MI area as they featured a segment commending Ms. Makley’s influence on her students, helping them be boldly blind.

The Disability Opportunity Fund, A Resource We Can Boldly Use

How quickly the entrepreneurial spirit rises in all of us, especially when we have a disability! We may have a dream, a vision, a desire….but we lack the financial means or employment ethos with which to get it off the ground. Our inner doubter crops up and tells us to fear receiving an offer for help with getting on our feet. So we let our self-driven desires drift on the winds of might-have been.

Now, this post is no endorsement of the pyramid scheming get-rich-quick offers that ride like a wooden horse into Troy full of promises that are too good to be true. The best thing we can do with such lures is push the delete key, no matter how desperate we may feel.

There are, however, times when receiving that financial support can make a real difference, especially for those of us who have an entrepreneurial bug buzzing around our brain. Maybe, we want to get into a vocational training opportunity but, for whatever reason, our local Vocational Rehabilitation office will not approve of picking up the tab. Maybe, Voc. Rehab. has the funding but you’ve been stymied by previous fears. You’ve been told in the most ablist terms that you can’t manage or run a business and those cries ring louder than the helpful offers to come alongside you.

I know. I’ve been there, too, and often have to refrain from shaking my head when some opportunity comes along. I’ve also been the gullible victim of the DIY get-rich-quick scheme that comes in a box.

The trick I’ve found in the last few years is to look for those opportunities that don’t promise certain or big money but give you the tools to succeed as an entrepreneur. It’s a misperception about such training schools as World Services For The Blind or Visually Impaired Advancement that being certified in their programs will set you good for that dream job carte blanche. I’ve seen fellow trainees/students enter their programs, complete them and then get discouraged if they don’t find work within a few weeks.

The reality of the schools I mentioned and others is that they provide their patrons skills that will aid them in looking for work. They give behind-the-scenes encouragement through helping to complete resumes or hone your soft skills. You will no doubt gain a huge leg-up on others by learning a lot about adaptive technology. And instructors will constantly remind you that the effort for getting and maintaining work remains in your court.

There, such schools do not and do not claim to provide the get-rich scheme or the easiest path to your betterment. Yet, as someone who is blind or low-vision, you want, or should I say, crave the opportunity to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with others who want the same position or career you do.

For us who have that an entrepreneurial spirit, foundations like The Disability Opportunity Fund exist for the purpose of giving us the financial tools and we need not have any shame in turning to them for the loans or grants they provide. Such financial assistance is no hand-out but an investment like that which takes place through developing a bank loan with which to open and fund a business upstart. The difference is that the fund provides money that has been garnered through private and public charitable donations.

I believe three important components make for success in working with said organizations:

  1. The recognition that paperwork and processing time are part of the deal. I know that filling out forms, waiting for that acceptance phone call or email, or multiple meetings with your rehabilitation counselor may seem overwhelming. Approval processes for participating in a study program or receiving a given allotment of funds

may seem glacial in its movement. Then again, spend time overhearing lunchtime conversations at a local diner, listen in on someone venting while getting their hair cut or as they begin working with a trainer at your local gym. You’ll find out that people everywhere endure the routine of hurry-up and wait. Automated and even paper forms are normal for anyone doing intake at a job or getting some vocational assistance. In other words, going through said processes means that we become like anyone else while being accommodated.

Maybe, taking advantage of these opportunities will not only narrow the acceptance gap between the mainstream society and many in the blindness community, it will give us further avenues to be contributing members of society through self-employment.

2. When your application or inquiry for services is answered in the affirmative, it means that a foundation or fund sees something in you that deserves their investment. Maybe, that long process of paperwork and forms along with some vocational testing has revealed your spirit of leadership. Maybe, you show an aptitude for organization. In either case, take encouragement from that. Of course, it’s not time to suddenly go gung ho by either overloading someone’s inbox or playing the “undeserving” recipient card. From the response you’ve been given, you may have an understanding of the potentially employable skills you have. Use them in the process.

3. Gratitude and a forward-looking posture is key. You don’t have to have that answer to the question: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” But you have the impetus to begin building your idea and planning to get your desire off the ground. You have time to start asking others who are blind questions about their experiences of breaking into the job market or pursuing self-employment.

In any case, embrace the financial, vocational and personal opportunities that come to your attention with healthy discernment. Inquire, calculate, and keep a clear head so that putting that goal in front of you will drive you to the ends you long for.

Just Ask

Shortly after beginning this blog, I posted a few articles on how someone who’s sighted can best interact with someone who is low-vision. Using the acronym, SALE, I discussed the steps of stopping, asking, listening, and evaluating.

Here now is an article by Ed Henkler at The Blind Guide taking a slightly different but just as doable perspective. Just Ask.

It’s so easy for someone to let words stick in their throat tarred by uncertainty when meeting someone who is blind, deaf, or paraplegic. With the social confusion created by every interest groups pet faux pas, we aren’t always sure if we’ll offend someone. Still the bold thing for someone to do when meeting one of us is Just Ask.

Dealing With The Loneliness Epidemic

We who are blind or low-vision know well what it’s like to feel out of the societal loop. For many of us, isolation is a part of our daily bread. . Yes, we are glad to have computers and platforms to chat, smartphones and other resources with which to search for jobs and socialize. Yet, that cloud of loneliness is very real for many of us.

So when the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world and shelter in place became the norm for everyone, isolation took on a heightened reality for the vast majority of people. But what changed for us? We already had our social networks online, food delivery services and other measures for doing life daily. Maybe, our consumer organization conventions and meetings went more online from which now many have now adopted hybrid options for attendance. We had to rely more on Uber Eats and Walmart’s drop-off service for getting our groceries while masking up when they came to our door.

It’s not always that we find a study or article discussing a major societal trend not mentioning but squarely applying to us who are physically or cognitively disabled. But here’s an article from National Review Online that puts the loneliness epidemic in clear perspective. You will find no mention of people with disabilities in it. But the circumstances described are all too real for many of us. Even now, after the pandemic has largely passed us by, we still wrestle with feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Being boldly blind, we seek ways of curbing this trend. How many of us get to a gym, make opportunities to meet with others we know for coffee or a dinner out? Have you begun meeting with others who are blind or low-vision at the center of independent living or in informal places like a local park? And how about our athletes? It’s awesome to see those playing goalball, swimming, track and field competing. Guide dog schools are in full swing again with classes and fund raising opportunities as we’ve discussed on here in the previous months.

In other words, while we love our chat sessions online, our tweeting and posting the stuff of life on social media, we have every reason to curtail our own feelings of loneliness while encouraging others we know going through theirs. Of course, none of our individual ways of handling our loneliness will look the same. Each of us has our own sensitivities and bouts of anxiety. Maybe, one outcome of the pandemic era is that our mental well-being has received more attention in the news. Along with vets returning from combat, people recovering from addictions, and the overworked and frustrated, we are not alone in handling the social quandery we may feel ourselves in.

Rather than letting ourselves get swallowed up in a pessimism that grips us, we have every reason to take courage as we navigate this reality. Consider those times when dining out an opportunity to teach a waitress or host a best practice or two when serving someone who’s disabled. If you use a guide dog, share your training story with the paratransit or Uber driver taking you across town. If you’ve got a hobby like reading novels, make yourself known at a book club at your local library.

And when you have questions about your own best practices for interacting with sighted friends or employees, share them on any number of Facebook groups who are full of others like yourself. Share your experiences with others in your own area person to person who are blind, deaf, or quadriplegic.

Yes, the loneliness epidemic is very real for people blind or sighted. We all feel lonely and left out of the social loop from time to time. It’s i those moments you can take courage through daily devotions, inspirational quotes or stories, and the gifts you have been given with which you can reach out to help others you know.

Cinco De Goalball Tournament This weekend!

Coming off their roll through the Northeast Regionals, the Manticores are ready to win another goalball tournament. Waiting for them this weekend are the NY Knights, The Fuego from San Antonio, the Rattle Snakes and the DC Corruption.

Here’s a great preview of the tournament first reported on Texas Adaptive Play Initiative Facebook page. You’ll be able to catch the tournament live game by game, too.

Yes, I know that ParaOlympian Tyler Merren says that goalball’s the best sport you’ve never heard of. And that’s very true. But, being boldly blind, supporting blind and low-vision athletes, let’s make goalball that much more well-known!

Team rosters for the weekend:

Cinco De Goalball Rosters

We’re excited to share the team rosters for the upcoming Cinco De Goalball tournament! Check out the list below to see who will be competing.

Austin Goalball:

Libby Daugherty

Miriam Larson

Brittany Breen

Coach- Nicki Larson

DC Corruption:

Lori Pierce

Karla Gilbride

Rosemary Martin

Texas Goal Getters:

Faith Penn

Sarai Hernandez

Yatziri Castillo

Idahni Barrera

Grace LNU

Texas Goal Diggers:

Demetria Ober

Talia Woodard

Makalia Lama


David Smith


Hector Lara

Daniel Brock

Jason Lubin


Joe Hamilton

Alex Williams

John Kusku

Shawn ransom

Texas Rattlesnakes

Jim Debus

Zach Arambula

Will Lopez

Ali G

The Knights:

Lamar Brown

Jahron Black

Dev Bullock


Josh Welborn

Davion P.

Jordan Main

With a whole new class of officials being certified this weekend as well!

JAWS Coming To A Kiosk Near You…Soon?

Imagine this for a moment: You stroll into your local Kroger or other local supermarket, get some assistance shopping for what food you need and then announcing to your guide they don’t need to help you with navigating the self-service checkout. Sounds far-fetched? It may not be so out of the possibility realms for long. Thanks to Vispero’s inovative JAWS For Kiosk, this scenario may become a reality over the next few years.

Or perhaps you are riding shotgun while your spouse or coworker has been driving for several hours on a trip. They’re tired and need to catch some shut-eye when you stop off at some truck stop like Flying Jay. With cane in hand or dog by your side you step from the car, stroll inside, order a burger, fries, and drink before sidling up to pay for it yourself. That’s when the same voice on your laptop comes through the speakers of the kiosk where you pay for the meals you just ordered.

You can learn more about these kind of possibilities at the press release here.

Of course, the technology to make kiosks accessible is only half the battle. The other will be distributing the software, encouraging store managers to keep it updated, and raising the awareness among us who are blind of how we can learn to use equipment like this ourselves. I am sure students of orientation and mobility certifications will have several units in their training on how to remove the misgivings we who are blind may have about implementing this technology into our daily lives. After all, every kiosk will be different. Managers of supermarkets and restaurants won’t know the ins and outs of the technology right away after its installation. There will need to be some social give and take just like there has been with many other public accommodations.

Still, as this press release discusses, JAWS For Kiosks is bound to open up a new avenue for us who are blind to take in all that our world has to offer on an equal footing with everyone else.

Let’s Go With OKO!

I heard about this neat app yesterday on ACB Radio’s replay of Sunday Edition and had to do some digging. Yes, the OKO App is what everyone’s talking about. Lights, traffic camera, action! It’s supposed to detect them all. Just check out the website and take in the features including sound that might keep us on point when crossing busy intersections!

Of course, all of us to some degree or other, have a veer when crossing roads. Mobility instructors work with us to keep this veer to a minimum. Now, with the OKO app, we can stay within those boundaries of a crosswalk ourselves. I’d love to hear what you all think of this neat device. Being someone who’s considered himself the type that crosses roads only when I have to, maybe, this app will give me more confidence as I navigate street crossings and life’s contours boldly blind.

Oh, and for a video demonstration of this app, go here.