Interview on the Low Vision Bureau Podcast

We, the Blinkie Chicks, would like to thank Alvaro Gutierrez for interviewing us for the Low Vision Bureau podcast. We had a blast chatting with, and getting to know Alvaro, and as our projects are similar, we look forward to possible future collaborations.

Alvaro Gutierrez, the founder of Low Vision Bureau, created the site to build a community of blind and visually impaired people and to hopefully improve the status of blind and low vision individuals in societies worldwide. Alvaro lives in Columbia, but hopes to find a job in the United States helping blind and low vision individuals. He is constantly seeking new individuals to interview on his podcast, as well as to collaborate with on the goals of Low Vision Bureau.

Check out the Low Vision Bureau website, and interact with Alvaro on Twitter.

If you haven’t heard our interview yet, please click here to hear our interview on the Low Vision Bureau Podcast. Additionally, you may check out the blog post Alvaro wrote to accompany the interview.

We appreciate all the support; thanks for reading!

The Story of Ashley and Landon

Hello everyone! The following blog post was written by Ashley about her experience training for a guide dog at Guiding Eyes for the Blind, and how getting him changed her life. If you have any questions, feel free to comment or chat with Ashley on Twitter. You may contact her via our Twitter account: @BlinkieChicks, or via her personal account: @AshleyColeman51.

Photo of Ashley, and her guide dog Landon

My name is Ashley Coleman, and I’d like to tell you about my experiences applying for, training with, and then working with my guide dog.

I applied to Guiding Eyes in February of 2010, determined that they would have my paperwork as soon as I could possibly get it to them. In the middle of March, I completed all of my paperwork, and the admissions office had it in my file. I was contacted by a field rep, and we scheduled my home interview in early April. We met at my house on a day I did not have classes; I was asked many questions about my lifestyle, and about what I wanted to do in the future. After the field rep had asked me some of these questions, we went to my community college where I was videotaped walking a route through a normal day of classes for me. I was taken on a Juno walk where the field rep found out how fast I walked, what kind of pull I would like to have in a dog, and how I gave corrections.

After the home interview, the field rep gave the admissions committee my information, which included the video of my walks.

In late April/early May, I received a call from someone in admissions; she told me that I had been accepted. I called them several times between my home interview and finding out about being accepted.

When I was asked to attend the June or July classes that summer, I was surprised. I decided to go to the June class, and I gave the person at admissions the information about my nearest airport. A few days later, I received my E-ticket, and started shopping for the things that I would need while at Guiding Eyes; one of the things on my list was a second pair of good walking shoes. (They were difficult for me to find).

On June 7, 2010, I boarded my first plane. It took me to New York where I was met by Guiding Eyes staff. Several students were coming in at the same time I was, so I was able to talk to them on the car ride to Guiding Eyes. Once at Guiding Eyes, I was Oriented to the building and was left to unpack. Later that day, all of the students that were there–which were most of us–had a meeting with many of the Guiding Eyes staff, and we were warmly welcomed.

After supper we had our first lecture with our trainers, and they introduced us to the equipment we would be using to train with our dogs. Harness, collars, and leashes were passed around for all of us to see, and we learned how they were to be used. We were allowed to keep our leashes; this made all of us very happy.

On Tuesday, we went to White Planes to go on Juno walks with our trainers. They talk to us about what we looked for in a dog, and they also looked at how fast we gave corrections. They taught us how to give the dogs commands, verbal and leash corrections, and praise.

Later on Tuesday night, we had a lecture on what was going to happen the next day. This happened every night, along with a lecture about how to care for our dogs. Some nights we would have lectures on how to groom our dogs, brush their teeth, leave them by themselves in case of an emergency, or you needed to go to a place that the dog did not need to go.

After breakfast Wednesday morning, we had a little down time while the staff were in a meeting. When we were finished, we went to practice putting on and taking off the dogs equipment on a couple of stuffed dogs. We also practiced heeling Juno, and bringing Juno in and out of all kinds of doors. Those that hadn’t explored their outside door were shown that area because it is the relieving area,.

After lunch, we were all brought into a meeting; several people spoke , and then our Class supervisor read the list of people matched with dogs. After this we went back to our rooms to wait for our dogs. At about 2:15, my trainer came in with my dog. I handed her my leash, and she clipped it to my dogs collar and left us alone until it was time to feed the dogs. Since it would be our first time feeding our dogs, the trainers came around to help us feed them. Once I received my dog, I felt like I had four extra left feet; however, I felt exhilarated, like I could take on the world.

Later, we would heel our dogs to the cafeteria to have supper with our dogs by our sides for the first time. We also attended our first lecture with the dogs that night.
On Thursday, we loaded up the vans and went to White Planes. We took our dogs for our first walks in harness. On my first walk with my dog in harness, I was intimidated in putting trust in my dog, but I did, and we had several awesome walks together.

During the rest of the training, we went to different places like Malls, grocery stores, and such to experience working with our dogs in all kinds of settings. Near the end of training, the trainers took us to Manhattan for a half day to walk around the area, experience their public transportation, and to have lunch in one of the small restaurants there. Here I experienced riding on a train and a subway for the first time in my life. I was scared I would get lost in the big city, but I learned that my dog and I can handle anything that was thrown at us.

On the last Saturday in class was Graduation. Most of the puppy raisers came, and there was a ceremony where the graduates spoke and sang, and the puppy raisers were given a picture of the new team and the person’s contact information.

After the ceremony, the person, the dog, and the raiser had time to sit down and talk for a while. I was very excited to meet my boys puppy raiser. One of the things that I was afraid of was that she would not think that I handled my dog the way she would have expected or wanted.

Class ended on the 2nd of July, and I took a plane home. Shortly after that, I returned to school for my last year of school. My pup and I walked across the stage at my community college in May, 2011.

During this time, I was learning how to handle my dog without the trainers being around to help me. we both were continuing to learn how to trust and work with each other. I was worried that I would mess up my dog’s training or behavior in general, but we managed to keep it together, and to remain a solid team.

We went on to spend a few months at the North Carolina Rehabilitation Center for the Blind, where I brushed up on some of my daily living skills before I moved to college. I was allowed to work with one of the Orientation and Mobility Instructors to work on some college campuses like the one I would be going to the following year. The instructor also taught me routes on the GMS campus where the Rehabilitation Center is located. We also traveled out in the city of Raleigh, where I finally got to use an audible signal.

I have had a guide dog for three years now. since he’s pranced into my life, my dog has improved it so much.

My dog has made me a more independent and safe traveler; I know that with him by my side, we can conquer anything. My dog is my eyes, and I depend on him to tell me what I can’t see. He leads me around obstacles and things in my path. When he sees traffic coming at us, he has been taught to disobey me. He gets me out of the way.

He has been with me everywhere, from hotels, to restaurants, and to ball games all around my college campuses. He has remembered where my room is, and he has learned the way to all of my classes. He has become the light of my life; I am glad I went to get a guide dog.

The Accessible Netflix Project

Netflix is a service that offers a variety of movies and television shows for subscribers to order for delivery by mail, and watch instantly on a computer, cell phone or tablet, smart TV, gaming device, or media streaming device. Many people enjoy Netflix with no problems, but those with disabilities have struggled to access content and services provided by Netflix since its launch, due to inaccessible web and application interfaces. Having used other streaming services, we know that it is possible for Netflix to make their website and applications accessible. The problem is they don’t want to.

The situation with Netflix isn’t all bad; the iOS app and website have become slightly more usable with some screen readers over time, and thanks to the work of advocates for the deaf community, Netflix has agreed to add closed captions to all content by 2014. Unfortunately, Netflix is still unusable by many individuals with disabilities, and there is no audio described content available for blind and visually impaired customers.

The inaccessibility of the Netflix website and applications prompted the American Council of the Blind (ACB) to pass resolution 2011-17, which requests Netflix make their products accessible for blind and low vision customers and add audio described content. The ACB wishes to work with Netflix on this endeavor, but there has been little change regarding these issues since.

In hopes of making Netflix more accessible and raising awareness for the issues we, as people with disabilities, face when attempting to use Netflix, Robert Kingett has created The Accessible Netflix Project. We, the Blinkie Chicks, are supporting this campaign for a more accessible Netflix, and you can, too! Check out the website for information on ways you can help, including how you can make donations, provide feedback regarding your experiences with Netflix, and much more. This project has already caught the attention of some big names in media, but we still need more exposure and support. So, please share the website and/or this blog post with everyone you know, and provide your feedback on the website.

We appreciate your support; thank you for reading!

Introducing @soundsofdreams: Our New Webmaster!

Hello everyone, we have exciting news! The very talented Ania, @soundsofdreams on twitter, has joined the Blinkie Chicks as our new webmaster! She is going to redesign this site to make it more functional, and look better. With Ania’s help, this website will be where you can learn about and gain access to anything the Blinkie Chicks do. So stay tuned, everyone, and welcome Ania!

Our #AccessChat Interview

Hey everyone, it’s Jessica. I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Fedora Outlier on Tuesday for their weekly #AccessChat on twitter. Those who know me know I am a twitter addict, so this type of interview was perfect for me. I tweeted from the @BlinkieChicks account, and answered questions about what we do, and the technology we use. If you missed Tuesday’s chat, but still want to read the basic questions we were asked, you can read the questions and our answers below. Enjoy!

1. Who are you? Which Twitter client are you chatting with? And, which Apple devices do you own?

I’m Jessica: a student majoring in Sociology. I own an iPhone 5, an iPad 2, and a Macbook Pro. I use YoruFukurou, Twitterrific and TweetList Pro. Ashley is a student majoring in Special Ed. She owns an iPhone 3GS & a 4th generation iPod Touch, and she uses The Qube and TweetList for twitter. Daria is a college grad who majored in English; she owns an iPod Touch 3rd generation, and she mainly uses The Qube for twitter.

2. Tell us: What happened to form the @BlinkieChicks? What brought you three together?

We wanted to make a difference, & be a resource for others, so we began doing presentations, creating media, and tweeting.

3. What were some of the challenges you all faced in college—and how did you overcome them?

Some things we’ve struggled with at times include: making friends with able-bodied students, getting help/dealing with unwanted help, & inaccessible events on campus. We educate those we speak to, advocate for accessibility, and do presentations to raise awareness.

4. What were some resources and tech that helped you make it through college?

Our Disability Support Services is amazing! For awhile, I didn’t have much tech, so I used a computer with a JAWS demo. I saved & bought what I have. That + learning to effectively communicate with professors made college life much easier. A computer with JAWS, understanding professors, and Disability Support Services helped Daria get through college. Ashley uses an iPod Touch, and a laptop with NVDA.

5. What’s the goal behind the content and resources the Blinkie Chicks are creating? Who are they aimed at reaching—and why?

We’re dedicated to bridging the gap between the sighted and blind communities. Our content is targeted at a range of people. Many of our presentations educate sighted people, whereas our blog & a lot of the links we share are useful for the blind.

6. If folks were to follow your social media updates and blog—what can they expect to see?

We share our blog posts & presentations as well as links to news, stories, information, and issues relating to blindness.

7. What’s one word of wisdom (about life, accessibility, etc etc) each of you would share?

I say, “Advocate”. The world isn’t designed for us & society excludes us. We must speak up for better access & inclusion. Daria says “Educate”. We’re treated differently because many don’t know better. We must educate to make life better for all. Ashley says “confidence”. Confident & capable people change the perceptions others have about visually impaired people.

Join Us for Today’s #AccessChat!

Hello everyone! We have some exciting news! We have been asked to be one of this week’s guests for Fedora Outlier’s #AccessChat! We are so honored and excited to be considered for such a thing, so we hope y’all will come join in on the fun!

To participate, do a search for “#AccessChat” with your twitter client of choice. When you wish to contribute, add the “#AccessChat” hashtag to your tweet! Remember not to include the quotes when searching or tweeting using the #AccessChat hashtag.

For more information about the event and the other guest, feel free to check out the official press release from Fedora Outlier!

We hope to see you on twitter tonight at 8:00 PM Eastern! If you need additional assistance prior to the chat, feel free to mention the @BlinkieChicks on twitter, and we’ll help in any way we can.

As always, thanks for reading, and we appreciate your support!

Our Position on the Issue of Goodwill Paying Workers with Disabilities Sub-Minimum Wages, and How You Can Help

Goodwill is a thrift store; People can donate clothes and other items they no longer use to benefit others who may need them. This is a charitable act , and Goodwill is one the most respected charities in this space. What they do is commendable; however, what is not commendable is that workers with disabilities are being paid sub-minimum wages (as low as twenty-two cents an hour), while able-bodied workers get paid minimum wage. This is beyond wrong. No one can live off of twenty-two cents an hour, so it is not a good thing when workers with disabilities are expected to live off of so little money.

Here’s the kicker: paying workers with disabilities sub-minimum wage is totally legal. By law, this can be done by those who pride themselves on helping other people. Ironically, Goodwill employers are failing to help workers with disabilities.

In December’s issue of The Braille Monitor, Marc Maurer wrote an article that explains the National Federation of the Blind’s (NFB’s) policy, which is to change the law so that employers cannot pay workers who are blind and other workers with disabilities sub-minimum wage. He is also specific about the type of law that allows this ridiculousness to continue. This is section 14 © of the Fair Labor Standards Act. If you wish to learn more about this issue, feel free to read the article we’re referring to: Minimum Wage, Backlash, Shame, and Determination.

Last Friday at 10:00 P.m, NBC aired a news broadcast about Goodwill paying disabled workers sub-minimum wage.Feel free to listen to NBC’s broadcast on sub-minimum wages
Alternatively, you may read Disabled Workers Paid Just Pennies an Hour, and it’s Legal

Of Course, the employers who allow this to happen justify what they are doing by claiming that they are providing us with the opportunity to have meaningful employment, that we would have no other options without their help. However, this is false. People want to feel as if they are worth something when they have jobs, including us. Employers allowing us to be paid sub-minimum wage is like telling us that we should be grateful they are even paying us at all, but we aren’t. If you feel the same way, sign the petition telling Goodwill to provide fair wages.

What is your opinion on this issue? Share this entry with your friends, family, etc. Help us let Goodwill–and other places of employment—know that paying workers with disabilities sub-minimum wage is not fair, that this does not represent meaningful employment. Thank you so much for your support.