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!

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.

Moving in the Right Direction: Disabilities in Media and the Need for Audio Description

We recently read a blog post, entitled Sex, Blinks and Video Tape, about the way people with disabilities are portrayed in media. The person who wrote the blog post surveyed some people and did some research to see how many disabled characters they could find in films and television shows. Although the number of disabled roles is very limited, it continues to grow in recent years. With that said, the roles of these characters often reinforce negative stereotypes about people with disabilities. Disabled characters are viewed as either perfect angels are as a threat to society. Not only are these roles played by able-bodied actors, but the roles themselves are often inaccurate representations of the lives of disabled people. Additionally, the fictional characters in movies and television shows who have disabilities are usually disabled at a later age, due to some sort of injury. While this is the case for many disabled individuals, this depiction of disabled people leaves out a large chunk of the disabled population. With this said, we’d like to introduce you to three fictional characters, who portray disability in a relatively accurate light. None of the actors who play these roles has the disability they portray, and none of the characters is disabled from birth, but the disabled characters in these shows are portrayed as being human;one continues to pursue his passions, the second works for the CIA, and the last disabled character is able to make mistakes and have a social life. This is a definite step in the right direction, and these shows deserve recognition for their efforts.

Degrassi is a Canadian teen drama that covers a range of issues, including: gang violence, poor self image, peer pressure, drug use, teenage pregnancy, child abuse, self-injury, and even death. This show features a few characters with disabilities, including some with learning disabilities, forms of Autism, and some physical disabilities. Jimmy Brooks was the school’s basketball star, until a school shooting left him in a wheelchair. Although he remains frustrated by his disability, he refuses to let it define him. He is allowed to have a series of relationships, including one that becomes serious, and he continues to pursue his other passions, despite being in a wheelchair. Not only does he continue to play basketball, by coaching the team, but he also pursues his passions and art through music and painting. Eventually, he goes to college to pursue a law degree.

Covert Affairs is a show on the USA network that follows Annie Walker, a young CIA trainee who works in the Domestic Protection Division where she serves as a field agent. Auggie Anderson is a blond tech operative, who is Annie’s guide in her new life. He is a CIA military intelligence/special ops officer who was blinded while on a mission in Iraq. Unlike the depictions of many other disabled people on television, Auggie works at a highly-skilled job, is still very independant and masculine, as he is able to hold his own in the field, and he is allowed to engage in intimacy and even long term relationships. Part of this may be due to the fact that, like many other disabled characters on television, he was wounded later in life, not blind from birth.

Switched at Birth is an ABC Family television series that revolves around two teenage girls who are switched at birth, and who live two very different lives. Daphne grows up in a poor neighborhood with Regina, her single mom. Bay, on the other hand, grows up well-off, with both her parents and a brother. Daphne and Regina move into the Kennish’s family’s guest house to save money, and to be close by; this way both families are able to get to know their long lost child. Daphne becomes deaf at the age of three, due to meningitis, and she attends a local school for the deaf. This is a shock to the Kennish’s, but after coming to terms with Daphne’s hearing impairment, they become supportive of her, often stepping on the toes of the less well off Regina.

This show is great, because it has many deaf and hard of hearing regulars, and many scenes are shot entirely in American Sign Language. (Degrassi and Covert Affairs do not have any actors who are actually disabled). It shows deaf and hearing impaired youth living their lives, just like the other teens on the show. Daphne gets into trouble, has a series of relationships, some of which become intimate, is very independant and capable, and she doesn’t take crap from the people around her.

While we’re glad these characters exist on television, and demonstrate to the viewers that disabled people live normal lives, we are still frustrated with the lack of audio description. This is especially true for Switched at Birth. Covert Affairs can be found described, which is good, considering the amount of action packed scenes in the show. It can be very fast paced, and dialog isn’t always present when something important is happening. Degrassi doesn’t feature too many silent scenes, making it pretty easy for visually impaired viewers to easily follow the show. However, the same cannot be said for Switched at Birth. Not only can it not be found in a described version, but there are numerous scenes that feature dialog that is entirely in ASL. This is great, because it enlightens sighted viewers about sign language and interactions in the deaf community in a very realistic way. However, for those of us who are visually impaired or have difficulty reading subtitles, the show is extremely difficult to follow. Each time something is said in ASL, Yessie, who is visually impaired, must pause the show to read it. Others must wait until a sighted person is present to watch the show, so that the subtitles can be read to them. Even still, some viewers watch the show without the ability to read the subtitles or have them read at all. This means that these viewers have to piece together what is happening on the show, based on clues in spoken dialog. This is extremely difficult, and the people who have to do this are missing out on a large chunk of what happens on the show. If you don’t believe us, try watching an episode of Switched at Birth with your eyes closed. We deserve to enjoy what happens with as much ease as those who don’t have to struggle to watch this show. This is why we, the blinkie chicks, would like Switched at Birth to be made available with audio description.

This is where you, our readers, come into play. Our hope is that this entry will educate people who are unaware of the portrayal of disabled people in the media, as well as the need for audio description. Maybe, just maybe, someone who can actually do something about the lack of audio description will see this. So, please pass this along. Share it on social media sites, email, or even just tell people about it. Thank you for reading.

Leave GMS Alone, Already!

Good afternoon! I wrote the following entry in collaboration with a good friend of mine, Kristin Miller, who also attended GMS. This entry has been adapted, with permission, for this blog. Feel free to read the original entry, as well as her other posts on Kristin’s blog. 🙂

For many years now, the fate of The Governor Morehead School for the Blind (GMS) has been unknown, due to financial concerns, a decline in the number of students, and the beauty and location of the campus. It’s prime real-estate, so people are constantly trying to find ways to shut down the school, or even to just snatch the land from those who rely on it. Not only does the GMS campus house the k-12 program, but there is also a pre-school, and a rehabilitation center. Division of Services for the Blind is also housed on the campus, making obtaining services much easier for students and those who attend the rehabilitation center. None of this seems to matter to those who wish to close the school, and it also doesn’t seem to matter that the campus is historic. Those who are involved, and are letting greed get the best of them, aught to be ashamed of themselves.

People will note that there has been a decline in the number of students at GMS, and they will note that more and more students prefer to stay in public school. However, what they’re not telling you is that students who meet the qualifications to attend GMS have been being turned away for many years. Combine this with the instability of the school, and the fact that most parents would rather have their children with them anyway, and you have a recipe for disaster. It’s about time blind students in North Carolina feel they have a reliable place to go if they aren’t receiving a decent education in public school, and for those who do attend not to have to worry whether or not their school will exist next year, after break, or even next month.

By law, schools are supposed to provide materials and resources for all students, regardless of whether or not they have a disability. Unfortunately, visually impaired students rarely receive a good education in public schools, due to lack of resources, and funding. In many cases, students are denied access to braille instruction, computer and mobility training, and access to printed materials. I have first-hand knowledge of this; I attended a public elementary school. I was lucky if I had the right books, and very few teachers seemed to care if I kept up with the class and understood the material. I wasn’t taught braille or mobility skills, but I still had to attend a school located on the other side of town to receive even minimal services. This is no way for a child to get an education.

I’m proud to say, I graduated from GMS knowing I received the education I deserved. Not only was I surrounded by students who were just like me, the teachers and other staff members were dedicated to providing the best education possible for all students. All of my teachers knew braille, which meant that I could learn and submit assignments in the way that worked for me. Every student had access to braille, large print materials, and accessible computers. Everyone was able to learn in the way that suited them. Not to mention, the school’s location allowed for valuable mobility training, which, as an independent woman, I rely on everyday.

People need to take a step back, and focus on the purpose of GMS, instead of how much value the land holds and other plans for the land. It’s already being put to a very good use, and I believe doing anything else with the land would be a disgrace. I’m thankful my parents sent me to GMS, because without the help of The staff at GMS, I wouldn’t have received the education I deserved. I wouldn’t be the independent person I am today, and life wouldn’t hold quite as much for me. I really hope the school is able to remain open, and to continue to serve the disabled students of NC. It truly would be a shame if such a good thing was shut down.