Category Archives: Special Observations

Fireworks Display

Fireworks and Eye Safety During Covid-19

The Fourth of July is coming up this weekend. It is typically known as a time of fun, remembrance and celebration for many Americans. Friends and family gather together to enjoy early morning parades, backyard barbecues, and nighttime fireworks. But with the onset of Covid-19 what will this year’s July 4th observation really look like? I did a little  sleuthing around on the internet and got mix results. Some cities and states are going to proceed business as usual and have gatherings. Others are going to shut them down completely. But regardless of how you celebrate please stay safe and well. I am sharing what I will do this 4th and also some firework safety tips.

Audio Described Fireworks Presentation

Empish Holding Replica of the Capitol and Surrounding Buildings

as for me I have decided for the first time to participate in a virtual audio described fireworks event. The American Council of the Blind is hosting their annual convention via Zoom Videoconferencing this weekend. Part of this event will be an audio description of the 2019 firework display at the Capitol. When I was sighted, I would attend fireworks for the holidays but after losing my sight it was very difficult and I really didn’t see the point. No pun intended! But now that audio description is available, I am going to give it a try and I am pretty excited. Oh, and for those that are saying, “what is audio description?” Audio description is a feature available to us blind folks that uses words to describe what is being seen. It is usually used for TV, movies and live theatre to describe scenes between the dialogue. For example, facial expressions, body language, costumes, movement in a scene and also sub-titles. It enhances the entire experience for those of us who are blind and helps us have an inclusive time with our sighted peers.

Staying Safe from Firework Injuries

If you decide to celebrate the 4th with fireworks at home because of Covid-19 there are ways to stay safe. Fireworks are exciting, fun and spectacular, but don’t let an accident spoil your celebration. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 180 people end up in the emergency room everyday due to injuries from fireworks during the  months of June and July. Lots of those are children, especially teenagers. The typical victim is an unsupervised teen, at home, with a group of friends. They are playing with fireworks and chances are one of them will end up in the emergency room. Some of those injuries are eye-related. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says that fireworks can cause devastating and life-changing injuries that range from skin burns and thermal burns of the eye to bleeding in the eye, retinal detachment, and even a ruptured globe and blindness. In order to stay safe, the CPSC has provided some tips to avoid injury:

1.  Never allow young children to play with, or ignite, fireworks, including sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit—hot enough to melt some metals.

2.  Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy, in case of fire or other mishap.

3.  Light fireworks one at a time, then move away quickly.

4.  Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.

5.  Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Move to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.

6.  Never point or throw fireworks (including sparklers) at anyone.

7.  After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding the device to prevent a trash fire.

8.  Make sure fireworks are legal in your area, and only purchase fireworks that are labeled for consumer (not professional) use.

Fireworks and Eye Safety Tips

Prevent Blindness  provides useful info on eye safety and fireworks if you opt to use your own:

  1. If you suffer an injury due to fireworks, especially to your eyes, seek help immediately.
  2.  Do not rub or rinse the eyes. 
  3.  Do not apply pressure.
  4. Do not put on ointments or take any blood thinning pain medications like aspirin or ibuprofen.

I hope this post was helpful as you and your family prepare to enjoy the 4th of July. If you do decide to celebrate at home keep these things in mind about fireworks and eye safety.

Photo of Helen Keller

My Favorite Quotes from Helen Keller

Today is Helen Keller’s birthday. She was an icon in the blind, visually impaired and deafblind community. She was an American author, political activist, and lecturer. She was the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. The story of how Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan, broke through the isolation imposed by a near complete lack of language, allowing her to blossom as she learned to communicate, has become widely known through the dramatic depictions of the play and film The Miracle Worker. Her birthplace in West Tuscumbia, Alabama, is now a museum and sponsors an annual “Helen Keller Day”.

This incredible woman overcame and accomplished so much during the course of her life. So in celebration, I want to share some of her famous quotes  that I like from her book To Love This Life: Quotes by Helen Keller. To start my most favorite one is, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” I realized that shortly after losing my vision that I had to take “the bull by the horns” and jump into life. I realized my own mortality; that life was too short and that I might only get one chance to do the things that I wanted. It is amazing that a disability brought me to this decision. Looking at Keller’s life also inspired me as well. I first read about her when I was a little girl and was amazed that a woman who was deafblind could accomplish so much. She learned how to read and write. She graduated from college. She traveled all over the world. She met famous and important people. She fought for civil and human rights. She co-founded Helen Keller International, an organization initially for blinded WWI soldiers. She was outspoken and a feminist. She did not allow her disability to keep her from enjoying the fullness of life or participating in it. Her life was truly an adventure! I model my life the same. Continue reading for more of my favorite quotes.

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”

“I think the degree of a nation’s civilization may be measured by the degree of enlightenment of its women.”

“True teaching cannot be learned from text-books any more than a surgeon can acquire his skill by reading about surgery.”

“I cannot but say a word and look my disapproval when I hear that my country is spending millions for war and war engines—more, I have heard, than twice as much as the entire public school system costs the nation.”

“Personally I do not believe in a national agency devoted only to the Negro blind because in spirit and principle I am against all segregation, and the blind already have difficulties enough without being cramped and harassed by social barriers.”

“The woman who works for a dollar a day has as much right as any other human being to say what the conditions of her work should be.”

“I am younger today than I was at twenty-five. Of course the furrows of suffering have been dug deeper, but so have those of understanding sympathy and inner happiness. Whatever age may do to my earthly shell, I shall never grow cynical or indifferent—and one cannot measure the reserve power locked up in that assurance.”

“The chief handicap of the blind is not blindness, but the attitude of seeing people towards them.”

Now that you have read some of Helen Keller’s famous quotes are you motivated, inspired or encouraged by her life? Did you know about Keller before now? What do you think about her and her contributions to society? Share your thoughts and feelings about Keller in the comment section below.

Juneteenth Logo- Celebrating 155th Anniversary

Recognizing Juneteenth and Curious About Disabled Slaves

Today is Juneteenth;  the day slaves were freed in Texas. Although I live in Georgia, I am very familiar with this holiday because I am a native of the Lone Star State. I grew up hearing the story of how slaves were notified they were free two years after the fact. Each year there would be all kinds of activities, news stories and of course family barbecues at home or at the local park. It was and still is a time of celebration in the African American community. But since I have been living in Georgia for several years, I have not participated in the observation. Now with the recent conversations and protests around racism in this country and abroad, the idea of Juneteenth becoming an official national holiday has risen again.

Juneteenth not only marked the end of slavery in Texas but also in the United States. Here is the story from History.com. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War was over and slavery in the United States has ended. Despite the fact that President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was issued more than two years earlier on January 1, 1863, a lack of Union troops in the confederate state of Texas made the order difficult to enforce. Some historians believe the lapse in time on poor communication in that era especially during and after war time.  Others believe slave owners intentionally withheld the information to keep slaves working as long as possible.

Celebrants dressed to hear speeches during a 1900 Juneteenth celebration in Texas.
Celebrants dressed to hear speeches during a 1900 Juneteenth celebration in Texas.

Major Gen. Gordon Granger announced General Order No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

On that day, 250,000 enslaved people were freed, and despite the message to stay and work for their owners, many left the state immediately and headed north or to nearby states in search of family members they’d been ripped apart from. For many African Americans, June 19 is considered an Independence Day. Forty-seven states recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday, but efforts to make it a national holiday have so far stalled in Congress. Many corporations like Twitter, Nike, Target, Harvard and the National Football League have made Juneteenth a company holiday with paid time off.

As I reflect on Juneteenth, I think about what happened to the disabled slaves? I have often wondered about slaves with disabilities in general. How they managed on the plantation. Since the existence of a slave is the ability to work and be abled bodied how does that actually look for a person who has limited abilities and functioning? As I have been and continue to do research, I have struggled to find a lot on the topic. I read the books on Blind Tom and wrote about it in a previous post. He was a famous musician that was never emancipated. But when he was born his master wanted to get rid of him. It was his mother who begged for his life. Later he discovered the piano and the rest is history. The intersectionality of slavery, labor and disability is something I find very interesting. Even to this day we value a human being based on his or her ability to produce. If you are not able to work and produce something of value you are not worth very much. The unemployment rate is sky high right now because of the pandemic  but the unemployment rate in the disability community has also been high  and even worse for disabled African Americans. This has been the case for decades and many don’t blink an eye. The assumption is that disabled people can’t produce and therefore are not very valuable.

African American Slavery and Disability Book Cover

The life of the disabled slave has got me wanting to learn more. In my research I have found one book so far at one of my favorite libraries, Bookshare.   The book is titled, African American Slavery and Disability: Bodies, Property, and Power in the Antebellum South, 1800–1860 by Dea H. Boster. The summary says that, disability is often mentioned in discussions of slave health, mistreatment and abuse, but constructs of how “able’ and “disabled” bodies influenced the institution of slavery has gone largely overlooked. This volume uncovers a history of disability in African American slavery from the primary record, analyzing how concepts of race, disability, and power converged in the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century. I am looking forward to reading this book and learning more about this somewhat unknown part of America’s history.

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.

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 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!

 

The 2020 Census is Totally Accessible

Census 2020
Census 2020

I found the 2020 Census totally accessible. In the past I would have to get a sighted person to read the questions and fill out the forms for me; but this time around I was able to handle the whole process independently. Historically people with disabilities have been under represented and so this year strong efforts are being made to make the census inclusive and accessible to everyone. A downloadable and printable Census Bureau fact sheet on accessibility is available to learn more about these efforts.

Once I got my census documents in the mail last week, I went on line to the census website. I use a screen reader called JAWS which stands for Job Access with Speech. This screen reader allows me to access the Windows operating system such as Word, Excel and Outlook. I can also access things like PDF files and get online with Google. I am even able to write this blog and manage this website in WordPress! It has allowed me to work, live and play as a blind person.

But back to the census. So, I went to the site and logged in with my census ID number. There was a series of questions I had to answer and it took me about 15-20 minutes or so. At the end they had the option to review your answers before submission. Strangely, for some reason that screen didn’t pop up and I could only press the submission button. Next, I got a confirmation screen with a confirmation number and the option to save and print; which I did. I called the census toll free number to alert them to the small hiccup I had with the verification screen and was told that others had had the same problem. They apologized and said they were working on that issue. Aside from that small glitch I found completing the 2020 census to be totally accessible. Additionally, I could have opted to call verses doing the census online. Now, that I am done I want to encourage you to do the same. If you haven’t already here are some reasons why.

Census results help determine how billions of dollars in federal funding flow into states and communities annually. That’s billions with a B! The results also determine how many seats in Congress each state receives. Community leaders and elected officials rely on accurate census data to make funding decisions about education, senior citizen and veteran supports, along with other community allocations. Therefore, it is important to have accurate numbers. Everyone must be counted including people with disabilities! The Centers for Disease Control  and Prevention (CDC) says nearly 1 in 4    people in the United States has a disability with nearly 5% having a visual impairment. This means that having some kind of a disability impacts all of us.

Census data plays a vital role in people’s everyday life Even though the census comes around once a decade. Specifically, census data determines allocations for real-life necessities like health care, public transportation, special education grants, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other benefits. In addition, the census helps advocates, community leaders and politicians address inequalities in housing, health care, employment and education.

Valid census data also helps ensure fair voting representation and enforcement of voting rights laws. Federal tax dollars cannot be distributed fairly and effectively without an accurate accounting of the population.

Lastly, when completing your census form you can feel confident that your information will be private. Your answers are kept anonymous. They are used only to produce statistics. The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your answers and keep them strictly confidential. The law ensures that your private information is never published and that your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court. Additionally, no identifiable information about you, your home or business, even to law enforcement agencies can be released.

So, when you get your census form complete it. Go online, call the toll-free number (1-844-330-2020) or get a sighted person to assist you. This year the 2020 census is accessible so there is no excuse to not do your part and be counted.