Category Archives: Daily Living

Row of Voting Booths

Multiple Problems I Had Voting in Georgia’s Primary

As you may well know there were multiple problems with Georgia’s primary on Tuesday, June 9th. So much so that it gathered not only local attention but national as well. There were problems not only with voting in person but the mail in process. People are still talking about it as we all try to figure out what in the world happen! And more importantly try to keep this from happening again during the upcoming Presidential election in November.

I had talked about the lack of accessibility being a major hindrance for me in a previous post so I won’t rehash that here but rather share about the multiple problems I had voting absentee. I am typically not a procrastinator but after a lot of thought I ultimately did decide to mail in my ballot verses going to the polls. I figured it would be the best thing to do with the Coronavirus virus and all that was happening. But as I read the news coverage of people who voted in person it seemed that it really didn’t matter because there were problems either way you voted. If you went in person there were people standing in long lines in the heat. Poll workers unfamiliar with the new machines. People trying to keep social distancing. Poll locations that had moved. People who didn’t get their ballot in the mail in the first place and on and on. So, I am scratching my head at the whole voting process and wondering what in the heck happened?! All I know is that things have got to change and quick. Now, I am taking a minute and reflecting on the problems I personally had voting.

First problem was the application process to get an absentee ballot. I got an application for my ballot in the mail and got a sighted friend to assist me. Although I had to get sighted help the real tricky thing was how you had to complete the application to mail it back. It had to be folded in a particular way, which meant cutting off part of the bottom, Scotch taping it back just right and placing a stamp. I found this process a bit strange as it was described to me. I also knew that it was something that I could not handle as a blind person. Why all the fuss for the application for an absentee ballot? Why make the process so complicated? Could there not have been an easier way?

Second problem was confusion about the candidates on the ballot. Since the primary had been moved from May to June there was confusion about what candidates would appear on the ballot. I had voted early in March for the Presidential primary so that part was not on my ballot but would  have been along with other candidates. This made the ballot very long. When my sighted friend tried to print out the online sample ballot it was several pages. My actual ballot was a long page both front and back. Also, I noticed a duplication. One candidate I had voted for in March also appeared on this ballot in June.

Third problem was trying to read the online sample ballot. I found the sample ballot in a PDF file somewhat accessible. I could read the information but because of the number of candidates for this election some of them would bleed into the wrong section/column. This led to my confusion and disorientation as to who was running for what. It took me several hours to decipher the candidates and clarify the information.

Fourth problem was the instruction for the absentee ballot. It indicated that you were supposed to place your ballot inside of an envelope then place in a larger envelope to mail. Well, my package contained no small envelope for me to place my ballot in. So, I called the DeKalb County Voter Registration Office and was told that I could still mail my ballot anyway. I had also participated in a voting conference call that talked about a sleeve to place your ballot in but I don’t remember seeing a sleeve in my package either.

Fifth problem was  difficulty verifying information about when to mail the ballot. I got a text message on Sunday, two days before voting day, asking me questions about whether I was going to vote or not. I responded saying that I was voting absentee and would mail my ballot. I was told not to do that but take to a drop box. Well, I had no transportation to a drop box due to my disability. I tried to look online to learn about the policy on when an absentee ballot should be received but had no luck. On Monday morning, I called the DeKalb County Voter Registration Office again and was told as long as it was postmarked by election day I was good. I later checked the Georgia My Voter Page website to track my absentee ballot and saw it was received.

The sixth problem was the inaccessibility of the absentee voting process; but of course, I already knew that. fortunately, I was able to get a sighted friend that I trusted to come over, mark my ballot and mail it for me. This whole process  was stressful and taxing. But because I believe in our democracy and the power of the vote I did and will continue to persevere.

So now next steps. November is right around the corner. What is my game plan to avoid all these problems for the next election; and in my opinion, the most important one, voting for the President of the United States. The medical experts say the Coronavirus virus will still be with us and might be worse as November will be in the fall and right during the flu season. So absentee voting will probably be my best option again. I have definitely learned some powerful lessons about this process. I am going to arm myself with more knowledge about absentee voting, share that info with friends and family, and continue to rely on trustworthy people. So, what’s your game plan for November? Do you plan on voting in person or by mail? Share your thoughts on the voting process with me as we prepare for the Presidential election.

iPhone Displaying Screen with Unfamiliar Number

Thank the Coronavirus Virus for a Drop in Robocalls

I never realized the magnitude of robocalls I got until I started working from home a couple of years ago. I would be sitting in my home office and the landline phone would ring constantly during the day announcing area codes I had never heard of. Even late in the evening and early on weekend mornings I would get these harassing robocalls. I would listen to my talking caller ID  announce strange and unfamiliar numbers. Or my answering machine would leave messages about credit card offers, vacation packages for sale, computer viruses, or my personal favorite the IRS and Social Security needs me to contact them immediately.

At first not understanding how scammy the whole process worked, I would pick up the phone and tell the person to stop calling and take my name and number off their call list.  When that didn’t work, I would press the number that offered a don’t call back option. I later learned that doing those things just made them call you more. The goal of robocalls was to find live numbers of real human beings. By engaging or pressing an option to don’t call me I was signaling that me and my number were real further increasing the opportunity for more calls and more harassment. Now I have stopped doing that but of course, like most people the calls still continued but not at the high volume as before.

I have noticed lately an even deeper decrease in volume of calls. And I can thank the Coronavirus Virus. According to YouMail, a technology company that tracks robocalls, during the month of March  there was a drop in calls with 4.1 billion compared to February’s number of 4.8 billion calls. Robocalls typically come from overseas call centers and they have had to close down due to the virus. A lot of these centers lack the infrastructure to protect their workers and practice social distancing. But like here in America, those companies will figure out work from home strategies and we might see an uptick in robocalls again.  If and when the onslaught resumes the calls will center around Coronavirus virus scams and debt collection as millions of Americans are out of work and unable to pay their bills.

The government has been paying attention and making stronger efforts to put things in place to combat the robocall problem. The TRACED  Act was passed last year  allowing people to identify calls to avoid  answering them. Also, in March the FCC said it was abandoning plans for US telecom companies to voluntarily implement methods for reducing robocalls and making it mandatory. They are giving the industry until June 30, 2021, to roll out “Shaken/Stir,” a system that allows companies to verify that a call is from who it says it’s from. This addresses the problem of “spoofing,” which is when a call appears to be legitimate when it isn’t.

The FCC also created a dedicated website  with consumer warnings and safety tips around the Coronavirus virus including info on robocall scams.

I know that these efforts will not completely rid all robocalls but I think it is a step in the right direction. I also know that responding to callers whose numbers you recognize is a good best practice. I am not sure if we will ever be fully rid of robocalls but I do appreciate the fact that my time at home during this pandemic has been a much quieter one.

Empish Working in Home Office

Working from Home Has Been My New Normal

In the last few months many people have had to transition from working in an office to working from home because of the pandemic.  Folks have had to make major adjustments to home and work life. They Have had to share space with family, increase WIFI bandwidth, find ways to stay active and deal with boredom. These are some of the dilemmas I have been reading about. But for me working from home has been my new normal for the last couple of years. Well, actually to be honest, I worked from home before around 2005 or so when I first started freelance writing.

so, when the virus came and businesses had to shut down and we had to shelter in place, staying at home was not entirely new to me. It was not a major adjustment. But I did empathize with the challenges that people were dealing with because I remember when I made that same transition too. I remember the first couple of months of walking around in a fog trying to figure out my next plan of action. I had quit my job without a new position to immediately jump into. It was a little scary but I was determined to make my new life work and I have done so.

First thing I did was give myself time to breathe and get my Barings. I remembered that first month or two I was running around like a chicken with the head cut off. Before I knew it, I was exhausted. I quickly realized that this type of schedule was not going to work in the long term. I needed to pace myself. I used this time to rest, reflect and rejuvenate. For the last 10 years I had been working very hard, sometimes 2 jobs, and making long commutes to work, about 3-4 hours daily, and I was tired. I knew I needed time to just pause before starting my next venture.

Second thing I did was get on a schedule. So, each day I woke up at a set time, did my morning routine of shower, breakfast and exercise. then I hit the computer to do my daily work. I would stop at about 3 p.m. and do something fun that I enjoyed for the rest of the day. This became my new normal and it really started to work well for me.

Third thing I did was stop feeling guilty for making this change in the first place. I had felt a little torn when I resigned but ultimately knew it was the best decision for my life. As time passed, I began to feel happier, whole and more complete. My sleeping got a bit better and my outlook on life got brighter. Before I knew it, the writing work I desired flowed in.

Today, I am doing the work I love from my home office. I learn something new every day and do work that stretches my skills and abilities. I no longer have long commutes to a stuffy office. I no longer perform task that didn’t maximize all my talents and skills. Today working from home is my new normal and I have no plans to change it for anything.

Empish with Fresh Hair Style at Salon

I’m Now Feeling Safe to Get Hair Styled After Georgia’s Reopening

On Monday, May 18th, while dawning a facemask and gloves, I safely and cautiously return to the hair salon. It had been since mid-February and like most people in America my hair was long overdue for some professional TLC. During all this time I have been sheltering in place and only going out for essential errands. I was maintaining my tresses to the best of my ability and saught  guidance over the phone from my hair stylist. Since I work from home my daily routine was just to comb and brush and place in a ponytail.  Then shampoo and deep condition biweekly.

On April 24th, Governor Brian Kemp allowed hair salons, barber shops, gyms, and tattoo parlors to reopen. the following week it was restaurants and movie theaters. When this announcement was made the number of Covid-19 cases were consistently rising and many people were concerned with this decision. It was all over the state, local and national news and everyone had a thought and/or opinion on if this was a good idea for the state of Georgia or not. Whether they would venture out or not. It is a month later and the conversation is still going strong and as of this writing  and reported in the Atlanta Journal Constitution the number of Covid-19 cases has not decreased. But with all that being said a list of procedures were assigned to the reopening of these businesses.

When I spoke to my hair stylist about all of this, she told me that her salon was not going to open right away. That they needed time to put in place the procedures issued by the Georgia State Board of Cosmetologists and Barbers to be sure that everyone would be safe in the salon. I agreed and totally understood. It was not until another week that she called me back and said that the salon was ready to open. She emailed the list of procedures to follow and how business would be conducted moving forward. In the email she listed things such as:

Temperature checks. Stylists and clients must check their temperature one hour before their service. If your temperature reading is 99°F or above you will have to reschedule your appointment. (Once the salon has a touchless thermometer all stylist and clients who enter the salon will be checked).   Any employee or client who has a temperature above 99°F should be sent home immediately and not allowed to return to the salon until they have no fever and no evidence of COVID-19 symptoms.

• Personal Protective Gear. All clients must wear a mask! This is mandatory to wear a mask.  The only time that a client will not have a mask is at the shampoo bowl. I will place a towel over your mouth and face.  When the shampoo is over you will be asked to put your mask back on. Also, all stylists are required to wear masks. Most of the time I will be wearing gloves.  You are welcome to bring your own personal towel for your face if you prefer.

 • Ask each client entering the shop the following questions:

Every client will be asked if they have had a cough? Ø  had a fever, Ø  or have you been around anyone exhibiting these symptoms within the past 14 days? Ø  Also, are you living with anyone who is sick or quarantined?

 • Limit people in the salon. I will limit the number of clients. I will only see clients by appointment. Since I am only taking appointments early in the morning, the number of clients in my waiting area will be limited. If a client arrives early, please call me on my phone and wait in your vehicle.

Maintain social distancing at all times! It has been recommended that clients not being serviced in the salon wait outside the salon until the stylist is done with the other clients. Also, spacing between persons in the salon should be at least six feet, except when I am servicing clients. I will move my chairs to the outside of my door so that only the client that I am working on is in the room with me. Each client will be draped with a clean cape.

After we discussed these new procedures, I felt safe to return and made my appointment. She specifically scheduled the appointment for Monday, which in the salon world is their off day and are closed for business. She knew this would be a good time because the salon would virtually be empty lessoning the opportunity to interact with other people keeping both of us safe. When I arrived, I was the only one sitting in the waiting area and I kept my facemask on the entire time until it was my turn. While waiting, I listened to podcasts on my smartphone. When she called me to the chair, I removed my mask and place the towel over my nose and mouth as she worked on my hair. I did the same at the shampoo bowl.  During the time I was there another stylist came into the salon but was stationed in the front while we were in the back. So, we were able to keep social distancing with no problems.

Empish Wearing Facemask and Gloves with White Cane

I am not sure if this will become the new normal of hair styling but I have a funny feeling that it will. Until we can create a treatment plan and vaccine, we will have to wear facemask and practice social distancing at the hair salon. I found the experience not much different than in the past but just a little mentally exhausting because of wearing a facemask. Also adjusting to the quiet is something I will have to learn to deal with. Salons are not just places to get your hair styled but also to chat and gossip. To talk, laugh and share but that is hard to do with a mask or towel over your face.  they are also places to congregate as people come in and out all day. Yet in order to be safe this all might have to change.

celebrating -gaad-2020 Logo

GAAD and My Daily Access to the Internet

Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). According to their website, every person that accesses the Internet deserves a first-rate digital experience. Someone with a disability must be able to experience web-based services, content and other digital products with the same successful outcome as those without disabilities. This awareness and commitment to inclusion is the goal of GAAD.  This event was launched 9 years ago based on a single blog post that challenged web developers and designers to dig deeper on the accessibility of their web content. Unfortunately, equal access to the Internet is not always available.   This year one million webpages were analyzed for accessibility and came up lacking.  Some of the issues were low contrast, no alt text for images, empty links, and missing form input labels. These issues and more all impact the ability  of those with disabilities to access information on the Internet.

Every day I spend the bulk of my time online. As a result, I come across inaccessible websites on a regular basis.  Just this week I was trying to register my all in one printer with the manufacturer and portions of that process were not accessible with my screen reader. When I called customer service, I was told that they could not assist me and that I had to complete the process on my own; but yet the website is not accessible. I have heard this all the time for many years. I have used sighted friends to help me from time to time. Yet it has been somewhat frustrating and annoying when there are probably simple fixes in the web coding that could be done to remedy the problem.  Additionally, I bump up on accessibility with mobile apps. I hear all the time about wonderful apps that can do this or that. But my question is, “Is it accessible?” If not, I don’t even bother with downloading it because it’s not going to work for me no matter how wonderful.

I have learned that I have to continue being an advocate and speak up about this issue. Many people still don’t realize that people that are blind and visually impaired are actively online. That we use adaptive technology to access the internet. Not only do I use the internet to post this blog I am writing but I live my life like everyone else. Here are some examples:

1.  Download books to read for my book club.

2.  Stream movies to watch on Netflix.

3.  Participate in Zoom videoconferencing meetings on my desktop computer.

4.  Completed my 2020 census online.

5.  order groceries  and other goods online.

Now we are in the midst of a global pandemic and it is even more critical that everyone have access to the internet. More and more people are working from home. Shopping, banking and other daily activities have increased online. School students are taking classes on their computers or tablets. Various entertainment venues are looking at moving some of their content online. So, web designers and developers need to know and understand that people with disabilities, which add up to about a billion worldwide, are online too and need equal access.

Empish at Paper Voting Machine Demo

Voting with the New Paper Ballot Machine Inaccessible

Editor’s Note:  the picture used for this post is from a voting machine demo not an actual election.

This year the process to vote changed in Georgia. For years I have voted independently by physically going into my local precinct and casting my ballot. I accomplished this by using the accessible voting machine. While sitting at the machine, I would use a headset and listen to my ballot and select my candidate with a large raised button keypad. I would confirm those selections and then give the plastic voter card to a poll worker and leave. I perform this task year after year at each election. But decisions were made that said this method of our voting system was not safe and secure because there was no paper ballot to track our votes. We needed a better system to ensure our democracy. Efforts began  and a contract was signed to select new machines; ones that would print out a paper ballot.

Research Consulting on Accessible Paper Ballot Machines

Last year in May I participated in a research project at Georgia Tech on accessible paper voting machines. I tested two different models and gave feedback on the audio quality, keypad functionality and overall ease and use of the machine. Additionally, I was told that these paper ballot machines would print the ballot but store inside for safety and security.

Now fast forward to this year. Unfortunately, the machine that I recommended along with other disabled consultants was not selected.  The new paper ballot machine that we are using to vote is not completely accessible. I am feeling some distress because my ability to remain independent and keep my vote private have been removed.

Attended New Paper Ballot Machine Demo

In February I attended a voting machine demo to educate myself on how to use this new machine. I was glad because there are a couple of steps that are different than before. The representative explained the steps one by one and then allowed us to come up and practice with a dummy ballot. The first step was having to get help with the touch screen to sign in. In the past I would give my Georgia ID to a poll worker who would fill out a paper form for me to sign. Next, I sat in front of the machine, which was much larger in size, and began to vote. The keypad was very different and it took a few minutes for my fingers to get adjusted to the buttons. The audio quality, which I have complained about to the Secretary of State’s office before, was somewhat better. But I was annoyed and distracted by the constant reminder of the color of the buttons. For example, “press the green left arrow or press the blue down arrow, etc. I was confused by the insistence of telling me the color of the buttons when I am blind and can’t see them. I just found this very distracting and, in some ways, it hindered my ability to vote. But I pushed through and continued on with the process.

Once I got to the end, I confirmed my selections and press the option to print my ballot. Now this is where the accessibility issue crops up. The machine printed out a large piece of heavy stock paper that I couldn’t see. I was not able to confirm that this paper had the candidate that I selected. All the other people in the room were sighted and could stand there and confirm their selection on their paper ballot but I was not able to do so. I was told by a poll worker that they could do it for me or I could bring someone with me on election day. I inwardly frowned and bristled at both of those options because for years I have always voted independently. Also, my privacy is now gone if I allow another person to see and read my marked ballot. Those of us in the blind community have fought for so long on this issue and now it seems we are right back where we started. Yet I wasn’t finished voting. The poll worker walked me over to another machine where we placed my ballot face down and inserted it inside. Once we heard the click sound my ballot was truly cast. I left this demo with mixed feelings. On one hand I was glad for the instruction but on the other I now realized some of my independence was gone.

The Actual Voting Day

During the March presidential primary, I decided to early vote. I was anticipating all kinds of issues with the new voting machine and I wanted to avoid them as much as possible. The Coronavirus virus was just hitting Georgia and we had not started sheltering in place or practicing social distancing yet. No facemask or gloves either. I walked in, got set up and started the voting process. I told the poll worker I was already familiar with the new machine and knew what to do. Once I finished voting the paper ballot printed out and the poll worker came over to ask if I needed help. I had been told that I could use accessible scanning apps on my smartphone but declined that option. I barely use those apps on a regular basis and would be fumbling around trying to do that. Since the ballot was a short one with few candidates, I opted for the poll worker to confirm my selections. She did and walked me over to the other machine to actually cast my ballot.

Now it’s time to vote again. The Coronavirus virus has caused the elections for the general primary and presidential preference primary that was to be in May to now be moved to June. I am wondering do I go to the polls again or do an absentee ballot. Both options look rather bleak and inaccessible for me.  If I go to the polls, I will have to wear a facemask and gloves and risk possible exposure to the virus. Also, I will have to deal with the inaccessible paper ballot machine situation. If I do absentee ballot, I can stay at home but have to get a sighted person to read my ballot; losing my privacy and independence there as well. It seems either way I really don’t win completely when it comes to voting and accessibility.

Continue reading Voting with the New Paper Ballot Machine Inaccessible
Spray of White Funeral Flowers

How Do You Grieve During a Pandemic

This blog post is one I never thought I would write but feel compelled to share. I have recently dealt with two deaths. One a friend and one a relative. One I was close to and one I barely knew. One lived near me while the other lived in another state. One was disabled while the other was not. But the feeling of sorrow and not being able to grieve in the traditional way is felt all the same. Grieving during a pandemic is something I would have never thought I would experience but yet here I am.

My friend was an active member in the blind community and died in March. She lost her vision to diabetes and was a fierce advocate when it came to health, fitness and diabetes education. We would talk about that quite often. For years she ran a support group that helped other blind folks who had diabetes and was very supportive of eating healthy and exercise. We use to take exercise classes together years ago at the Center for the Visually Impaired. We would also have occasional Saturday lunches with other blind friends in the community. I remember one of our last lunches we talked about life and family as we munched on salads at California Pizza Kitchen. We both were huge salad lovers! We also enjoyed reading and were members of a blind book club at GLASS Atlanta. When I got the call that she had passed in her sleep I was deeply sadden and in shock. The Corona virus was just hitting us here in Atlanta. Sheltering in place and practicing social distancing was launching., So, no large or traditional funeral gatherings. As I talked to mutual friends all we could do is just talk and share stories over the phone. We could not gather and commiserate in person. No humming to old favorite funeral songs and hymns. No eulogy. No crisp or glossy paper program to keep in your Bible or photo album. No passing out extra tissue to wipe tears. No hugs or embraces given to her family or other friends who also were grieving. No repass. This type of grieving was weird and strange and new. It was like she died but didn’t because we weren’t really allowed to get closure in the traditional way. You had to kind of figure it out on your own. And so, I did.

Then a few weeks ago I got a call from my aunt that my Paternal grandmother died of natural causes. Again, I am sad and in shock. But my grieving is different as I was estranged from my grandmother and this side of the family. Due to no fault of my own she decided to not have a relationship with me. I grew up not really knowing her. When trying to reach out she rebuffed me and now any chances for a relationship are permanently gone. That is a big part of my grief   and what I feel the saddest about. When I got the call the grave side funeral was the next day in Alabama. So, there was no opportunity for me to attend. I had to absorb the news and grieve at home in my house. Not sure how to think or what to feel for a blood relative that I had no relationship with for most if not all of my life. I was told by a relative that attended the funeral that social distancing was practiced and that people had on facemasks and gloves. Obituaries and programs were mailed to me. Again, I had phone conversations with friends and family but all of this is from a distance. I must figure out how to deal with this death as well.

During this time of a health epidemic we are not able to participate in the traditional funeral ceremonies and rituals of our culture. It is hard and we must find new ways to find closure and celebrate the lives of the people we love and cherish. whether we were close friends or complete strangers as we move through these days of the pandemic and figuring out our new normal, we will all have to find our way through the grieving process.

Empish on Treadmill

Celebrating National Fitness Day by Exercising at Home

Today is National Fitness Day and the goal is to inspire others through the power of fitness. Fitness is more than just staying in shape, losing weight or completing exercise goals it is about being good to yourself and celebrating what your body can do. It is about finding joy and confidence as you support others. So, as I was reading the website about National Fitness Day I was thinking about my years of exercise and now what that looks like under Covid-19. I have not been impacted too much with sheltering in place and practicing social distancing when it comes to getting in a good workout because I had stop going to gyms long ago when I lost my vision. I created a home gym back in 2003.

All my equipment is placed right in front of my entertainment center so I can either watch TV or listen to my music CDs while I work out. I have even placed one of my audio book players nearby to listen while I exercise. On a typical week I work out about 3-4times alternating between my treadmill, exercise bike, floor mat and hand weights. I am still making efforts to lose weight but I feel so much better that I created my own home gym to exercise. Whether it rains, snows or is sunny outside it does not matter. Whether a friend comes to workout with me it does not matter. I have everything I need set up in my home so I can do it independently and when I want.

 

Now that the corona virus has hit us, I am even more aware of the importance of exercise.  I need to stay active to fin off medical and health problems. I want to stay strong both mentally and physically especially if I have to combat this virus. When I heard about Angel Eyes Fitness, a non-profit program that helps blind people stay in shape, I added that to my repertoire.  For April and May the class meets via Zoom videoconferencing each Saturday for an hour. We do a combination of aerobic type exercises. I am really loving the change in my routine plus the connection to others in my community. It has been a long time since I have been in an exercise class and I enjoy the camaraderie and working with an instructor.

So, what do you do to stay fit and active? What game plan have you created to exercise at home during this pandemic? Share your exercise regimen in the comment section below and let’s inspire each other to stay fit.

Empish Writing a Check

Annoyance Leads to Advocacy in Accessing Mobile Banking Apps

in January I decided to start depositing my checks from my freelance work through mobile banking. Up to this point I was going into my local branch and making those deposits bimonthly. But it was time for change, to stretch myself and learn something new. In the past I did very little financial transactions on my smartphone and was not familiar with mobile banking. Flicking, swiping and tapping on apps is just not my thing especially when it comes to dealing with money. But after downloading the bank’s app, I found it rather simple and straightforward. I got excited thinking this was going to be easy and that I should have done this a long time ago but I soon realized I was wrong.

After logging in, I went to my account and selected the “deposit a check” option. I had already written that information on the back of the check and got it ready for the camera. This is when the challenges began. The first problem was that the part where you type in the deposit amount did not speak with Voiceover Command. Voiceover is the accessible feature in my iPhone that allows me to use my phone since I am blind. As a result, I had no idea of what amount I was typing in the box until I went to the next screen only to discover that I typed the amount in wrong. I went back to the screen and typed in the correct amount. This is a major problem because you need to know if you are depositing one dollar or multiple dollars. Once I got that corrected, I tapped the button to take a picture of the front of my check and tried to position the camera. But I kept getting errors telling me to place the check on a dark background and/or add light.

Feeling very annoyed and frustrated  with this I called the bank on my landline and worked with a representative in the mobile banking department. She gave some tips for the scanning of the check which I followed but it still didn’t work. I told her I would have a sighted friend to assist me and follow up. When my sighted friend came to help, she saw the issues that I was having and agreed with me that the app had some accessibility problems. She told me that there was enough light and the check was laying on a dark background so she was perplexed about the errors. We both finally gave up and I turned off Voiceover and let her deposit the check on my behalf.

 

 

Empish Using an iPhone

 

The next time I got paid I tried again and got the same error messages. But this time we are deep in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic and my bank has closed the lobby except for appointments only and drive thru.  So, I made an appointment and saw the branch manager who watched me try yet again to deposit this check. He observed the inability to hear the dollar amount and agreed with me. He also saw how the error messages kept popping up about the dark background and lack of light. He reassured me that there was plenty of light in his office and that his desk was dark. so, he was puzzled why the app was giving that kind of message. After several attempts I gave up and had him deposit my check.

When this problem occurred in January, I filed a complaint immediately with the mobile banking department. They responded too fast to tell me that the app was accessible. I was very annoyed and irritated because I knew that was not true. After 20 years of blindness I have gotten replies like this before where people quickly tell me that things are accessible to the blind when they are not. I have learned to push back and use my advocacy skills. I explained to the mobile banking department that I couldn’t hear the dollar amount and there were problems with scanning the check. I also shared that there are buttons on the scanning screen that don’t respond when Voiceover is turned on. I told them that I even went into a branch and worked with a bank employee who saw me try and use the app and saw that it wasn’t working properly. I even went as far to ask did they ever have blind or visually impaired people help test the app before they launched it?

Not to be outdone, I even tried my credit union’s mobile app and had similar problems too. I was able to hear the dollar amount but again the scanning process for the check didn’t work. After all of this you might be thinking, “Maybe something is wrong with your iPhone?” Well, I thought that too. But my iPhone is only a year old. It is a fairly new model and has the latest software downloaded on it. I also reached out to Apple disability tech support and did a screen share to look at my camera settings. I explained to them the problems I was having with mobile banking and they reassured me that the issue was not with my phone.

So, what happens now? Good question. It is the end of April and I am still working on my complaint with the bank but in the meantime, I am using Lyft to ride and go through the drive thru. Just this week I left my home wearing a facemask and gloves riding in a Lyft car to the bank.  I am also continuing to talk with my freelance client about electronic payment alternatives. As a contract employee I have shared my struggles with getting to the bank and my concerns especially that we are in the midst of a pandemic. They have heard me and other freelancers and are working on a better solution.

I believe in advocacy and speaking up for myself. Even if I don’t get an immediate resolution to my problem my voice has been heard. It can be frustrating, annoying and exhausting but there is power in speaking up and speaking out.

 

Empish Rinsing Containers in Sink

Observing Earth Day Everyday

Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. This annual observance marks the beginning of the modern environmental movement and was created to mobilize people for greater protections for our planet. I have understood the importance of not being wasteful and recycling from the time I was a little girl. My parents and grandparents would reuse old household items. Things like jelly jars would easily substitute as drinking glasses. Old brown paper grocery bags would be reused to cover my school paperback books to keep them from damage.  My parents would also take bags of old clothes and furniture to donate them to non-profits like Goodwill and the Salvation Army. Earth Day is an opportunity for me to continue these practices and more. But instead of observing one day annually, I honor Earth Day every day. I feel it is important that I do what I can to protect the planet that I live on. I know that I can’t do everything but I can do something.

I don’t allow my visual disability to stop me from participating in this significant event. How can a visually impaired person participate in the mission of Earth Day? You have asked the right question to the right person. Check out the list of things I do every day as part of my life routine.

1.  I use cloth earth bags for grocery shopping.  These bags work better than the plastic ones in the store. Plastic bags are filling our landfills and don’t decompose well. When I use my cloth, earth bags I have a lot more room for my purchases and I can use them over and over again. I even have a couple with insulation for refrigerated or frozen foods and it keeps the food cold until I get it home. I keep them handy by hanging them on the pantry doorknob in my kitchen.

2.  I take old electronics to a recycle center. I don’t place these items in the trash. Taking items like this to a recycle center is better because they will be properly disposed of. For computer equipment I give to my IT guy for disposal or reuse. I have given him old monitors, printers and keyboards that don’t work anymore.

3.  I use a white cane for travel and they can break and fall  apart after  extensive usage. So, I give  them to a local orientation & mobility instructor. She takes the cane and cane parts to make new canes. My donation is used for people who can’t afford a white cane.

4.  When it comes to old clothes, I have a couple of non-profits I donate to. Professional clothes such as blouses, skirts, slacks and suits I donate to Dress for Success because they help low income women get on their feet and return to work. They have even worked with blind and visually impaired women. I also donate clothes and household items to the American Kidney Fund because they will come to my home to pick up items. Furniture I donate to the Salvation Army and Friends of Disabled Adults and Children. I like donating items to non-profits that have been around for a long time and who also assist people with disabilities in my local community.

5.  I use to participate in my county’s recycling program. Last year they made some changes that made it difficult and complicated for me to participate.  But what I have done is suspend paper statements. I now get virtually all my statements electronically. That means my bank statements, credit cards and household bills no longer come in the mail. I don’t have to shred them anymore and try and recycle that paper. Additionally, I have cut down the junk mail too. When I get unsolicited catalogs, I called the company and immediately ask to be removed off the list. All of these measures have helped decrease the volume of mail coming to my home.

My list is short, and there are probably tons of more things that can be done. But my list is a great way to get started in helping our planet and others too.  I am sure after reading it you might realize you are already doing some of these things. Or you might realize maybe you can add some of my habits to your life too. But regardless there are ways to observe earth Day every day!