Tag Archives: Holiday

Blindness and Disability are Popular Themes for October

The fall is my favorite season and time of the year. The weather is cooler. The autumn colors of brown, orange, golden yellow, dark red and green are on display. October is the month when all of this jumps off. But one other thing I recently noticed is the number of blind and disabled observations happening at this time too. Not sure why this is the case but I couldn’t let another day go by without pointing them out. Or at least the ones I know about.

Man Getting an Eye Exam

1.  World Sight Day is held on the second Thursday of October every year and aims to focus global attention on vision impairment and blindness. There is a different theme every year, with many of those who mark the Day taking the opportunity to both celebrate achievements to date and advocate for increasing attention towards eye care.  According to the World Health Organization 1 billion people around the world have a preventable vision impairment or one that has yet to be addressed.  Reduced or absent eyesight can have major and long-lasting effects on all aspects of life, including daily personal activities, interacting with the community, school and work opportunities and the ability to access public services.

2.  White Cane Safety Day is observed nationally on October 15th. It was a law passed to protect white cane pedestrians by giving them the right of way and recognizing that the white cane was a symbol of blindness. President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law in 1964.

3.  Blind Americans Equality Day. In 2011, White Cane Safety Day was also named Blind Americans Equality Day by President Barack Obama. The mission is to celebrate the continuing achievements of blind and visually impaired Americans and reaffirm the commitment to advancing their complete social and economic integration.

4.  Meet the Blind Month is hosted by the National Federation of the Blind every October. Throughout the month, members conduct a variety of outreach activities in their local communities. Many of these activities focus on White Cane Awareness Day, lived experiences with problem solving, self-confidence and intersectionality.

5.  National Disability Employment Awareness Month acknowledges the ingenuity people with disabilities bring to America’s workplaces. Each October NDEAM celebrates America’s workers with disabilities and reminds employers of the importance of inclusive hiring practices. In 1945, Congress declared the first week of October “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was dropped to include individuals with all types of disabilities. Congress expanded the week to a month in 1988, and changed the commemoration to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

6.  Blind Awareness Month  was created by The Little Rock Foundation in Voorhees, New Jersey to promote improving blind and visually impaired children’s lives. The goal is to educate the public about good eye health, and treatment of eye disorders.  Inspire people with stories of the blind and their accomplishments. Advocate for research, resources and laws that benefit the blind community.

After doing my research I would dare to say that October is the month of the blind. I would encourage you to take some time and learn more, volunteer or donate to an organization serving the blind community.

Its a White Cane Not a Stick

The white cane has enabled me to travel safely and confidently by detecting stairs, sidewalk curbs, doorways and obstacles. It gives me the added security and protection I need so that I don’t stumble, fall or run into things. It identifies me as a person with a vision impairment. When people see my cane, they have a better understanding of my situation and can respond accordingly.  Or at least I think they should. I have found that people want to refer to my cane as a stick. I get responses like, “Where is your stick, Empish?”, “My relative who is blind uses one of those sticks too.”  Or my favorite is, “Where can I get one of those sticks?” My emotions range from frustration, annoyance to amusement.

So, why is my mobility aid a cane and not a stick? Have you ever wondered why the white cane is white and not some other color?  Who made the decision for the color white in the first place?  When did the blind start using white canes anyway? Well, since today is National White Cane Safety Day I thought it would be fitting to do a little digging into the history and the safety law around traveling with it.

Little Black Girl Wearing Braids and Walking with White Cane

Prior to the use of the official white cane people who were blind and/or visually impaired used staffs, sticks and canes as instruments in their modes of travel.  These tools were use more to alert the blind person to obstacles in their path rather than for noting their blindness.  It was not until the 20th century that the “cane” was used for identification purposes.  During the times of the two World Wars canes began to be used by people with vision loss; first starting in Europe and then branching out into the United States. According to the American Council for the Blind, James Biggs of Bristol claimed to have invented the white cane in 1921. After an accident claimed his sight, the artist had to readjust to his environment.  Worried by the increased motor vehicle traffic around his home, Biggs decided to paint his walking stick white to make himself more visible to motorists

The White Cane Becomes White

It was not until ten years later the white cane established its presence in society. A national white stick movement for people in France was launched. The campaign was duplicated in England and was sponsored by Rotary clubs throughout the United Kingdom. Yet, in the United States it was the Lion’s Clubs International that helped introduced the white cane to the blind community. In 1930, a Lion’s Club member watched as a blind man attempted to cross a busy street using a black cane. Realizing that the black cane was barely visible to motorists, the Lion’s Club decided to paint the cane white to increase its visibility. In 1931, the Lion’s Club International began a national program promoting the use of white canes for persons who were blind.H-

A Tool for Mobility

Black Man Wearing Shades and Walking with White Cane

Up to this time, blind people were using their white canes primarily as symbols of blindness not as a mobility aid. But when the blind veterans of World War II returned, the form and the use of the white cane changed. This was an attempt to get veterans active and involved in society again. Doctor Richard Hoover developed the “long cane” or “Hoover” method of cane travel. These white canes were designed to be used as mobility aids and returned the cane to its original role as a tool for mobility, while maintaining   the symbolism of blindness. This also ushered in the concept of orientation and mobility training; where a person with vision loss learned about their surroundings and how to travel safely and confidently.

Today, the white cane is a visible identifier that the person has some form of visual impairment.  Much like the wheelchair symbolizes a mobility impairment. People with vision loss travel with their white canes directly in front of their body so that others can see it clearly. This is especially critical when approaching a street intersection. To a motorist driving down the street or hovering at a street light; the white cane stands out because of its color and the red strips help deflect a vehicle’s headlights.

White Cane Safety Day Passes

Two White Blind Teens Holding canes and Sign Saying Celebrate White Cane Safety Day

The white cane began to move into the political scene and state legislation began to pass. The first two states to past safety ordnances were Illinois and Michigan. The ordnances protected white cane pedestrians by giving them the right of way and recognizing that the white cane was a symbol of blindness. In the early 1960’s, several state organizations and rehabilitation agencies serving the blind and visually impaired encouraged Congress to proclaim October 15th of each year to be White Cane Safety Day in all fifty states. This event marked an exciting moment in the long campaign to gain state and national recognition for the white cane. National White Cane Day was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Its designated October 15th as National White Cane Safety Day. Georgia went a step further and created a state law and protection for those pedestrians that use a white cane.

What the Law States

Here is a summary of the law:

1. Only people who are blind or visually impaired should travel with a white cane.

2. When a motorist comes in contact with a person traveling with a white cane at an intersection that driver should come to an immediate stop to avoid injury or harm to the white cane traveler.

3. Any person who is in violation of the above will be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Now you have learned some history on the white cane. Why it is no longer called a stick. You now know why the white cane is white, do you think that motorists stop for it? Do you think that people see the white cane as a mobility aid and symbol of visual impairment?  For those using a white cane, do you have to explain its usage a lot or barely at all? What things do you think can be done to make people more aware? Share your comments.

Strengthening My Body to Help Prevent Falls

Every since I lost my vision, I have become aware of my body and how it functions. When I went through my vision rehabilitation training program, I learned how to use my other senses to function and move in the world. As I have gotten older, I also recognized that the body breaks down and that I have to do more to stay healthy and strong. Adding to that a disability makes things even more interesting. So, with that in mind I work on myself all the time to improve and do better. Recently when I notice the arthritis in my right knee flaring up, I made an appointment with an orthopedic doctor. We had a telemedical appointment and discussed my daily activities, exercise regimen and scheduled an x-ray on that knee. A few weeks later we met again via another telemedical appointment and went over my x-rays. Yes, old Arthur was busy on my knee and causing all kind of trouble! That was nothing really new to me. But what my doctor suggested was-physical therapy.  I was pleasantly surprise at the thought and gladly accepted. We schedule for a therapist to come to my home twice a week to work specifically on strengthening my legs and reducing my arthritic pain. So, why am I sharing this? Why would you care about my knee hurting and what I am doing about it?  Well, September 21-25 is National Falls Prevention Awareness Week. I want to bring this to your attention for a couple of reasons using my life as an example.

First Reason is Fall Prevention is Not Just for Old People

 Whenever I am looking at articles, seminars, webinars or conferences on fall prevention they seem to always be geared toward seniors. They focus on those in the age group of 50 and up. But falls can happen to anyone at any age.  I know this to be true because I have had a couple of falls in the last few years and I am not a senior citizen. As a result, this has caused me to pay a little more attention to the way I live my life so that I can prevent more falls in my future. For example, I don’t talk on my cell phone while walking with my white cane. Talking on the phone while trying to navigate and use proper mobility can cause major distractions and possibly a nasty fall.

Second Reason Strength Training is Not Aerobic Exercise

When I started meeting with the physical therapists, she demonstrated several leg exercises she wanted me to perform. We worked on various leg lifts, hamstring curls, squats, and heel raises. Initially I was over confident because I do these all the time as part of my aerobic workout  for health and fall prevention. But she quickly informed me of the differences between  the two. Your focus is on strengthening   not sweating, fast movements or increasing your heart rate. You want slow and control movements. You want time for execution and recovery of the muscle group. It reminded me of when I took yoga classes. We would get into these poses and hold for a minute or two monitoring our breathing. When I worked on my leg lifts, I had to hold each leg for a count, alternating and only holding on to a surface with one hand. The point was to strengthen both legs and work on balancing. The ultimate goal is to stand and not hold onto anything while preforming these exercises or at least hold with two fingers.

I soon realized how weak my legs were and how much work I needed to do. But I was not discouraged; only determined because I wanted to get rid of my knee pain. I was amazed that in a short amount of time I began to feel results and that motivated me to keep going. So did my physical therapist. She started adding2 pound leg weights and having me ride my recumbent bike. I had been walking and doing floor exercises mostly; and had neglected my bike. Now I have started to ride it again adding resistance levels to making biking harder.

Empish on Recumbent Bike

In just a month’s time I have noticed a drastic improvement and virtually no knee pain. Sitting, standing, squatting, bending, and going up and down my stairs have all become easier to perform. I am so grateful and excited and my therapy is not even done yet! WooHoo! But I want to circle back to fall prevention. This is the thing. At some point in time we will probably all experience a fall or two. Let’s just be real about it. The question is how do you prepare and how do you recover? In the preparation you do the best you can by taking care of your body.  Exercise that includes strengthening and balancing. For the recovery, you educate yourself and learn the proper things to do. Here’s how to get up from a fall:

Third Reason is Learning How to Recover From a Fall

Empish Crawling to Chair

Note: don’t get up if you are in severe pain or unsure you can get up by yourself

1. Roll onto your side. Bend the leg on top and lift yourself onto your elbows or hands. Then on hands and knees crawl to a steady chair or table. If this is hard to do roll or crawl.

2. Hold onto the chair or table and move yourself onto both knees.

3.  Keep weaker knee or leg on the floor. Lift the foot of the stronger leg and put flat on the floor under you.

4.  Hold to the chair and lift your body up from the floor.

5.  Using your arms for support slowly turn your body moving your buttocks onto the chair.

6.  Once on the chair move back securely onto the seat. Sit there for a few minutes to assess whether you can get up.

There is a lot more info on fall prevention. Way too much for me to write and blog about here in this post because I will be here all day!  I encourage you to use this week to learn as much about it as you can. The more you know the better prepared you will be and the better your recovery will be if you fall.

Preparing and Planning for an Emergency During COVID-19

Empish Putting Battery in Flashlight

Every day When I turn on the news it seems that a natural disaster like a hurricane, flood or tornado is happening. The latest are the devastating wild fires in California. I remember when Hurricane Irma in 2017 hit and how I was caught a little unprepared. It wasn’t the hurricane itself but rather the after affects that caused major power outages in my community. I had to figure out how to maneuver without electricity for a couple of days. I even think back to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Again, I was not directly affected because I live in Atlanta but   I ended up working directly with disabled evacuees. As I took their phone calls for emergency assistance I had to reflect on my own situation and ask some hard questions about my preparedness. Now that we are in the midst of a pandemic, I have thought seriously about how to handle a medical emergency and do I have things in place if I get sick and need to be hospitalized. I know that preparing for any  emergency during COVID-19  will help me to stay save and survive. September is recognized as National Preparedness Month  to promote family and community disaster planning now and throughout the year. The 2020 NPM theme is: “Disasters Don’t Wait. Make Your Plan Today.”

Over the years I have put simple things in place such as keeping extra water and  batteries on hand for my flashlights. I also created an emergency contact list including family, friends, and medical information such as insurance companies and medical doctors. Initially I had it displayed on my kitchen corkboard but today it is stored in my smartphone.  I have my family labeled in my contacts and I have a medical app for this purpose so that medical personnel can reach out to my contacts if I am incapacitated.

Empish Touching Fire Extinguisher Mounted on Wall

‘When I purchased my home 17 years ago, one of the first things I did was go to a home improvement store and buy 2 fire extinguishers. I have one in the kitchen and the other is in the hallway upstairs. According to the National Fire Protection Association it is best to have a fire extinguisher on each level of your home, in the kitchen, the garage and near exit doors. You never know when you might need to put out a small fire and you will lose precious time running around the house to get an extinguisher. Two things to remember though–be sure to check the agent class. They come in A, B, C or a combination. I purchased one for all fires so I don’t have to worry about if the extinguisher will work properly. Also, I try to keep track of the agent levels in the extinguisher. Over time the agent strength level decreases and the worse thing is to have a fire, grab the extinguisher, aim and spray and nothing comes out!

To help ease my mind about COVID-19, medical emergencies,  and hospitalization I do  a little reading. Emory Healthcare sends out a routine newsletter with updates and details on COVID-19 Procedures. I have learned that emergency rooms and hospitals follow strict guidelines for protecting people during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the following: universal masking, screening at all entrances, separate waiting areas for people who have or may have COVID-19, frequent cleaning and disinfecting,  and social distancing.

In case of a home emergency I have some supplies organized and ready. I can quickly grab a standard first aid kit, OTC medications, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and cotton balls. I also have an ice pack in the freezer and a   talking thermometer . When the pandemic started, I realized that I need to stock food supplies for illness. So now I have chicken noodle soup, crackers, bottled water, Sprite and Gatorade.

Empish Taking Temperature with Talking Ear Thermometer

Remembering my time working with Katrina evacuees, a thing I noticed in particular was the lack of access to important documents such as social security cards, birth records and government IDs. So, what I did was purchase a waterproof and fire safe storage unit. Since those days I have moved a lot of my life online and need to do the same with these documents. I can scan them into my computer and store and save in Dropbox to   easily access later from the cloud.

Another task is writing an advance medical directive. This document states what to do medically if I become unable to direct my own care. It would give who to contact to make medical decisions on my behalf and whether I want to be resuscitated or not. This is something I have never done before but need to take seriously because the wrong medical care could be administered without my knowledge or approval. During this time of COVID-19 a medical directive is even more important than ever before.

If and when a medical emergency happens, I want to be ready.  I know that being clear headed and focused will help me get the best medical assistance during an emergency. I have done my best to plan and prepare for a crisis. I can have peace of mind that I have taken the initiative. So, are you prepared for an emergency? What things can you start putting in place today to prepare yourself?

Display of NLS Player Cartridges and Earbuds

Every Day is Book Lover’s Day for Me

Today is National Book Lover’s Day but every day is book lover’s day in my world. If you have been reading my blog or know me personally you know full well how much I enjoy reading and I couldn’t let this day pass without saying something, right? Of course not. And it being the weekend makes it even sweeter because I can truly relax and get into a good book or two. Honestly, I usually am reading at least one or two at the same time. One on my NLS talking book player and the other on my iPhone.

I have loved reading books since I was a child. My enjoyment began with my parents reading to me bedtime stories from the Golden Book series, which were short stories printed in a hard-bound book with gold trim on the binding. During my middle school years, it was Classics by Charles Dickens and contemporary fiction by Judy Blume. Once in high school and college I was introduced to African-American novels by Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and Richard Wright. Even after losing my vision I didn’t quit reading. I did try reading braille for a while but found the process stressful and laborious. So, I stopped with just the rudimentary skills learning my numbers and letters. Today I dig into a good read in audio format.

The ability to escape to another place or time, learn something new or improve my life comes from reading books. Another benefit is the soothing effect and stress relief I gain from reading. Life can get busy and there is lots to do and many things to distract but sitting still and reading a good book slows me down, gives me some peace and helps me to be calm. I encourage you reading this blog to take time today and every day to read a book.

Man Getting an Eye Exam

Eye Health is My Health During Healthy Vision Month 2020

This year The National Eye Institute is hosting healthy vision month in July.  Usually it is held every year in May but because of COVID-19 it was moved down a couple of months. It’s the perfect opportunity to encourage you to make your eye health a priority — and to highlight the importance of preventing vision loss and blindness. This year’s theme is Eye Health Is My Health. NEI is putting a spotlight on the connection between eye health and overall health. You can be part of Healthy Vision Month 2020 by learning how protecting your overall health helps keep your eyes healthy. NEI has listed 8 things you can do right now to protect your vision and set yourself up for a lifetime of seeing your best.

1. Find an eye doctor you trust. Many eye diseases don’t have any early symptoms, so you could have a problem and not know it. The good news is that an eye doctor can help you stay on top of your eye health! Find an eye doctor by asking friends and family for a referral. Also check with your health insurance plan for suggested doctors.

2. Ask how often you need a dilated eye exam. Getting a dilated eye exam is the best thing you can do for your eye health. It’s the only way to find eye diseases early, when they’re easier to treat and before they cause vision loss. Your eye doctor will decide how often you need an exam based on your risk for eye diseases. Ask your eye doctor what’s right for you.

3. Add more movement to your day. Physical activity can lower your risk for health conditions that can affect your vision, like diabetes and high blood pressure. Plus help you feel your best. If you have trouble finding time for physical activity build it into other activities. Walk around while you’re on the phone, do push-ups or stretch while you watch TV, dance while you’re doing chores. Anything that gets your heart pumping counts.

4. Get your family talking about eye health history. Some eye diseases like glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration can run in families. While it may not be the most exciting topic of conversation, talking about your family health history can help everyone stay healthy. The next time you’re chatting with relatives, ask if anyone knows about eye problems in your family. Share what you learn with your eye doctor to see if you need to take steps to lower your risk.

5. Step up your healthy eating game. Eating healthy foods helps prevent health conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure that can put you at risk for eye problems. Eat right for your sight by adding more eye-healthy foods to your plate. Try dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens. And pick up some fish high in omega-3 fatty acids like halibut, salmon, and tuna.

6. Make a habit of wearing your sunglasses even on cloudy days. You know the sun’s UV rays can harm your skin, but did you know the same goes for your eyes? It’s true. But wearing sunglasses that block 99 to 100% of both UVA and UVB radiation can protect your eyes and lower your risk for cataracts. So be sure to bring your sunglasses before leaving the house.

7. Stay on top of long-term health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. Diabetes and high blood pressure can increase your risk for some eye diseases, like glaucoma. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, ask your doctor about steps you can take to manage your condition and lower your risk of vision loss.

8. If you smoke, make a quit plan. Quitting smoking is good for almost every part of your body, including your eyes. That’s right kicking the habit will help lower your risk for eye diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts. Stop smoking is hard, but it’s possible — and a quit plan can help. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free support.

So, what’s your game plan this month and every month to protect your eyes and maintain their health? What things can you do to improve your overall health? I encourage you to take time to implement some simple things you can do to help ensure that your eye health is your health.

ADA 30th Anniversary Logo

Four Reasons I’m Thankful for the ADA

July 26th will mark the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It was in 1990 when I was a freshman in college that Former President George H. W. Bush signed this powerful piece of civil rights legislation into law. On that day, with  disability advocates and policy makers present, the door was  opened wider to more opportunities and access. People with disabilities have struggled with full inclusion into mainstream society for many years and the ADA was passed to help remedy this problem. The ADA has four principals: equality of opportunity, full participation in society, independent living and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities. Additionally, there are five titles:  employment, transportation, state and local government, public accommodations and telecommunications. I lost my vision many years after the ADA was passed so didn’t know much about this law or feel its full impact. It wasn’t until the late-90s when I was dealing with employment and transportation that I began to completely understand its authority and be grateful for its existence.

First Reason is Employment

When I went blind, I was young and entering the workforce. My employer was familiar with the ADA and provided work accommodations. I was given magnification devices, low vision aids and later when my vision worsen screen reading software for my computer. Since that time at every job I have received the necessary work accommodations. using these tools have not only helped me to work, but continue working, boost my self-esteem and enhance my quality of life.

Second Reason is Voting

I have been voting since I was eligible, but when I went blind the process changed. Thanks to the ADA I can now vote with accommodations. State and local governments must provide assistance to a blind person whether it is to offer an absentee ballot, read voting information and/or have an accessible voting machine. I have shared about my recent challenges voting in Georgia’s primary elections but it is because of the ADA that I can speak up and advocate for myself.

Third Reason is Website Accessibility

Since I work from home and use the internet constantly, I interact with inaccessible websites daily. Graphics with no alt text, edit boxes that don’t work, check boxes that don’t check and on and on. I also struggle with inaccessible mobile apps on my iPhone. But the ADA says that websites must be made accessible to people with visual impairments. Some folks say that the ADA does not specifically address the internet and was written prior its creation but the world wide web is considered a public accommodation and is covered by this law. A recent lawsuit against Domino’s Pizza demonstrates this point.

Fourth Reason is Entertainment

Empish at Concession Stand Purchasing Popcorn

One of my favorite forms of entertainment is watching a movie. A fast-pace action, suspense thriller, a funny comedy, a classic animation, a gory horror or a sappy romcom—I love them all! But the funny thing is that I didn’t really get into movies until I went blind and couldn’t see the screen! Go figure?! Then I really, really didn’t get into movies until audio description became readily available. The ADA requires that movie theaters provide audio description to blind and visually impaired people so now I can watch the latest blockbuster.

If you are a person with a disability or know someone who is what ways are you thankful for the ADA? There are a lot of things we still have to work on when it comes to equal access and full inclusion. As I shared before, I still struggle daily with website accessibility and mobile apps. I also have challenges with attitudinal barriers because of the intersectionality of my disability, race and gender that I contend with often. However I celebrate the numerous achievements we have made in these past 30 years and look forward to more success.

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.

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.

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.