KABVI NEWS

Published quarterly by

Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired

An Affiliate of the American Council of the Blind

 

Vol. 64                 Winter 2020-2021       No. 1

 

Return to:     KABVI                        FREE MATTER

712 S. Kansas Ave., Ste. 410      FOR THE BLIND 

Topeka, KS 66603-308

 

 

 

KANSAS ASSOCIATION for the BLIND

and VISUALLY IMPAIRED

Corporate Office, 712 S. Kansas Ave. Suite 410

Topeka, KS 66603-3080

(785) 235-8990 - in Kansas 1-800-799-1499

E-mail kabvi@cox-internet.com

Web www.kabvi.com

 

Editor                                    Associate Editor

Michael Byington                           Ann Byington

KABVI@cox-internet.com      abyington@cox.net

 

President

Ann Byington

Phone:  (785) 233-3839

KABVIPresident@cox-internet.com

 

 

 

 

Send address changes to:

Membership Secretary, KABVI, 712 S. Kansas Ave. Suite 410, Topeka, KS 66603-3080

 

KABVI NEWS promotes the general welfare of blind and visually impaired persons in Kansas.  KABVI NEWS reflects the philosophy, and policies of the Association, reports the activities of its members, and includes pertinent articles pertaining to blindness and low vision. 

Send your news, views, articles, and features.  Materials in Braille, on disk (Microsoft Word), or typewritten (double-spaced, large print) are considered.  When quoting from other published materials, please include dates and sources.  Unsigned material is not accepted for publication.  Send a stamped, self-addressed envelope, and original materials will be returned.  Editorial staff reserves the right to edit submitted materials.

Articles for publication must reach the editor by January 22, April 22, July 22, and October 22!

Annual meeting notices and membership renewal letters are sent to all persons on KABVIís mailing list.  If notices are returned as undeliverable, those names are removed from the mailing list and their subscriptions to KABVI NEWS discontinued.  Membership is open to everyone interested but is not required for receipt of KABVI NEWS.  A membership renewal form on which to indicate your current information and format preference is included at the end of each issue of KABVI NEWS.  Thank you for helping us keep KABVIís records current.

 

 

Table of Contents

 

Gleanings From The President, CELEBRATING ONE HUNDRED YEARS AND MORE

By Ann Byington, page 6  

 

The Editor Ponders,

Stop Killing and hurting Blind People

By Michael Byington, page 8

 

KABVI Board of Directors Meeting 11/20/2020

By Nancy Johnson, Recording Secretary, page 10

 

2020 Convention  Highlights

By Nancy Johnson, page 12

Follow Up On Two Legislative Issues

By Michael Byington, page 14

 

Auto Insurance For Blind Car Owners

By Michael Byington, page 15

 

Accessible Vote By Mail: Another complex Issue

By Michael Byington, page 18

 

COVID-19 and blindness: Why The New Touchless, Physically-Distant World Sucks For People With Visual Impairment, Part Two

By Nicholas A. Giudice, Ph.D., page 20

 

Why Am I So Stupid?,

By Jenny Kennedy, page 30

 

TANTALIZING TIDBITS

Compiled by Ann Byington, 37

In Memoriam

Compiled by Michael Byington

with assistance from Kathy Dawson, page 40

 

Membership Application, page, 43

 

 

Gleanings From The President:

CELEBRATING ONE HUNDRED YEARS AND MORE

 

By Ann Byington, President

 

2020 has been a year of extremes:  A pandemic to shake the foundations of all our lives;  stay-at-home orders, social distancing and wearing masks;  school, church, work, fun and our convention online;  political polarization, debate, and participation with still unimagined results; and astoundingly sad death rates and unparalleled vaccine hope. Like every other organization, KABVI members have dealt with all these occurrences with strength, courage and optimism.  As President, I am thankful and grateful for all of you who uncomplainingly continue to assist with financial support, time spent keeping our organization thriving and even growing membership and shared emotional support.

The 2020 convention was an unqualified success.  We had seventy-three registrations, an almost one hundred percent increase.  Planning and accomplishing the convention caused me to learn a great many new things:  how to sign up for Zoom, schedule meetings, and host meetings.  I learned to use my cell phone and the Victor Stream to record interviews and then how to store those files in a format our ACB hosts could use during the convention.  I learned how to install the BARD application on my cell phone and read Talking Books, something which, until I experienced it, I thought was rather silly.  Iíve also learned to pair a variety of headsets to my cell phone using Bluetooth in order to listen privately.  Of course, Iíve had lots of help from very capable folks.

If you were unable to attend the convention live, we will have access to the recorded sessions in a few weeks and means for accessing them will appear in the next newsletter.  Also, Rachel Hiles, our videographer, has  completed editing of most of the videos made at the 2019 convention, and they will be on our website soon. KABVI now has a listserv allowing any member to post information of interest to be shared by all.  I was a bit to zealous in my initial postings and scared some folks away, but Iíve moderated my input a bit.  To join, email me at: abyington@cox.net.

Before the shut-down in March, Julie McCullough and I had begun cataloging our library, an ongoing project to which I will expend a few days a week in future.

In the coming year, I will be contacting you to help me complete some old projects and develop some new ones.  Hereís wishing you a healthy, happy and joyous holiday season and New Year!

 

 

The Editor Ponders:

Stop Killing and Hurting Blind People

 

By Michael Byington

 

I will use my space as Editor to discuss laws governing traffic behavior when drivers encounter blind pedestrians. The laws in Kansas are actually pretty good. Enforcement, however, is often sorely lacking.

Very sadly, this issue of our magazine features the obituary of a blind woman from Lawrence Kansas, an excellent traveler, and a KABVI Board member, who was killed in a vehicle-pedestrian accident even though she was crossing in a crosswalk and traveling competently. A little over a year ago, we also reported on another blind woman who was struck by a large truck while legally crossing a street in Eudora, Kansas.  Fortunately, that woman has survived her severe injuries, but it was a very close call.

For many years, from the 1980s through the early 2000s, KABVI took the lead in calling to the attention of the Governorís proclamation office each year, that KSA 39-1106 requires the Governor to publically sign and promote a proclamation on or around October 15th of each year commemorating White Cane Safety Day. 

Without this reminder, this legal obligation of the Governor has often been forgotten. KABVI continued this work until it became obvious that the event was not getting much press, and no one was listening.  We then dropped it for a while. A few years ago, a group of teachers of the visually impaired took the event under their wings, and requested the proclamation, particularly to commemorate blindness related education accommodations and the white cane as a symbol of independence.

In recent years, a few Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS), including myself, have become involved, or in my instance, involved again, in getting the proclamation signed. I felt that it was particularly important this year to emphasize the appropriate yielding behavior required of drivers when they see a person traveling in public with a white cane or guide dog in harness. 

This year, I had the honor of writing the wording for the proclamation, and I emphasized the traffic yielding requirement, noting specifically in the proclamation, the death and severe injuries which recently involved two capable, blind Kansans.

The joint involvement of the educators along with the COMS was a good mix in that the Kansas State School for the Blind agreed to circulate a press release, including a copy of the proclamation, to over 100 press outlets in Kansas. When KABVI was doing this work alone, we did not have nearly that many press outlets on the mailing list we used.

Hopefully, this joint effort among advocates and service providers for the blind will continue into future White Cane Safety Day commemorations. This year, it was not possible to have a personal signing meeting with the Governor due to Covid 19,  but there was a lot more press attention generated than has been the case in the past.

The bottom line, however, is that this effort will not do much good unless it continues. Enforcement of laws intended to protect blind travelers are on the books, but still not often enough enforced. We need to keep up the pressure on this issue. Our lives may depend on doing so.

 

KABVI Board of Directors Meeting 11/20/2020

By Nancy Johnson, Recording Secretary

The Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (KABVI) held its annual business meeting/convention November 20-21 2020 by Zoom video conference with 73 persons attending. Technical assistance was provided by the American Council of the Blind (ACB.)  

President Ann Byington called the convention

to order at 10:00 AM.  

 

Bob Chaffin provided the treasurerís report.  ,

After explanation of IRS Board voting requirements and Nominating committee report Election of officers was held. 

Nancy Johnson,  Bill Moore, Sharna Doll, and Carolyn Thomason were elected to an additional three-year term and were unopposed with no nominations from the floor. Because of the death of Tamara Kearney in a car/pedestrian accident, her vacant position was filled by Michael Byington

Officers recommended and accepted by the membership are:  President, Ann Byington; Vice president, Paul Berscheidt; Recording secretary, Nancy Johnson; Corresponding secretary, Michael Byington; and membership secretary, Carolyn Thomason. 

Ann and Michal Byington provided a legislative report discussing future possibilities.

President Byington closed the business meeting and convention activities were begun. 

 

2020 Convention  Highlights

By Nancy Johnson

               Deb Tegethoff Kansas  Assistance Dogs, Inc.,KSDS, , Lead Guide Dog Trainer and Puppy-Raiser Coordinator  provided an update on KSDS activities and services.

               To focus on KABVI member accomplishments, in 2019, at the Brown v. Topeka Board of Education National Park where we held the first day of our convention, we hired a videographer, Rachel Hiles, to record KABVI member videos describing jobs held and occurrences of discrimination and how they were resolved  Some of these videos were shared during the lunch break.

               Mandy Smith, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist and Independent Living Specialist with Kansasí Older Blind Program, Osage County, discussed the services she provides and the area she serves.   

               Kansas Talking Books program, Michael Lang, Director discussed whatís happening with Kansas Talking Books. 

               Telecommunications Assistance Program and Assistive Technology for Kansas were explained by Mikel McCary, Assistive Technology Specialist 

               John Harding, Superintendent, Kansas  State School for the Blind, explained activities and future activities of the school.

               Vince Cianfrone, vice president of NannoPac, Technology for Independence Since 1987,   discussed the L-Braille, Orcam, and other low vision products.  

               Saturday began with a look back over 100 years of KABVI history reviewed through Recorded interviews with older blind members Genevieve Schreiner and Beulah Carrington and an in-person discussion by Nancy Johnson.  More member videos were shown during the lunch break. 

               Attendees heard  a fascinating report from the American Printing House for the Blind detailing  the recently acquired materials produced by Helen Keller as well as people with whom she lived and worked throughout her life.   The presentation, from ACB Radio 2020 Convention highlighted the Helen Keller Archive. 

               The Braille Literacy project, an effort to make Braille available to all who need it,  was discussed by Pat Tussing, Creator/Developer of the project, and Ann Byington. 

               Lori Kesinger, Outreach Coordinator/LISTENER LIAISON with Audio-Reader explained some of the changes and difficulties encountered because of Covid 19. 

               Ann Byington discussed the SmartVision2 cell phone and related products from Irie.

               Brent Harbolt, Owner of Harbolt Company, discussed the variety of cell phone accessories, computer-related accessories, and other Zoom interactive activities including shopping days with other vendors.  

               Door Prizes:  Throughout the two days of the convention a variety of door prizes were given with the aid of
Alexa, which provided a random number for each drawing.

 

Ann Byington must be commended for her many hours of work putting this program together and setting up the Zoom meeting.  She did an excellent job of keeping activities on schedule. 

 

Zoom is a step above a telephone conference.  Only one person may speak at a time, and the monitor lets people know whose turn it is.  Those with a little usable vision get a peak at folks in their homes. 

 

Some day, I hope, Iíll get comfortable with signing into all these computer meetings.  I learned to get to places on the bus.  In todayís world, Iím learning to go places by computer.  Life-long learning Ė good for us.  Right?

 

Follow Up On Two Legislative Issues

 

By Michael Byington

In her report of our recent State-wide convention, Nancy Johnson said that some legislative issues were discussed. The two articles that follow cover the two most major issues that we are working on.

Auto Insurance For Blind Car Owners

By Michael Byington

In the last issue of this magazine, we provided information on an insurance issue raised by a gentleman who contacted our KABVI office. It is an issue which does not apply to very many blind people, but it is certainly relevant to a specific group of blind automobile owners in Kansas.

The gentleman who contacted us is a legally blind professional auto mechanic who owns his own auto repair shop. He has not been able to see well enough to have a driversí license for many years. Yet, as a mechanic, he does own cars. Even though he has been blind for many years, it just recently came to the attention of his insurance agent that he no longer is a licensed driver and does not drive any of the cars he owns himself.  His auto insurance policies were thus cancelled.

It seems that the requirements in Kansas are that an auto owner wishing to insure their vehicle must provide the name of at least one licensed driver who is going to be the principal operator of the vehicle. The gentleman who brought this situation to our attention is a single gentleman who lives alone. He has no nearby close relatives. Often times, the people who drive his cars are customers who drive him to a parts store to purchase parts to fix their own cars. He may find that he needs a part that he does not have in stock once he has the customerís car already torn down and not drivable. There is truly no one who is the principal driver of his cars.

A similar issue arose for a longtime blind member of KABVI when his wife, who was sighted, died. He was told by a local official that he no longer had the right to own his automobiles. This information was inaccurate, There is nothing in Kansas Law that says that a blind person is unable to own a vehicle; such a person simply can not insure the vehicles to have them legally on the road, not unless they are willing to name a primary driver.

In the last article, I opined that we were probably going to have to introduce Legislation in the Kansas Legislature to attempt to address this issue. I published a response from the Kansas Insurance Office in our last issue, which was rather profoundly unhelpful, telling us that they do not assist with the crafting of Legislation to address specific insurance issues raised by Kansas citizens, but they assured us that they would be glad to submit comments and technical guidance on any such legislation once introduced. In other words, they were mot prepared to help us arrive at a solution to the problem, but they would be glad to evaluate any solution we wished to propose. They directed us back to the Kansas Legislature.

I discussed this situation at some length with Sarah Mack, my personal insurance agent. I have done business with her agency for around 35 years.

Sarah was not helpful in proposing a solution, but she confirmed that this is a legitimate problem, and she understood why blind people involved would find the situation perplexing and probably discriminatory. I reminded her that the insurance lobby was successful in getting insurance completely written out of the Americans With Disabilities Act when it was adopted in 1990, so, from a legal standpoint, there is no such thing as insurance discrimination. Sarah was very kind in taking time to go over a number of possible changes in law or regulation that could help address the problem.

The State does, by law, have to maintain an assigned risk pool where people who have a bad or incomplete driving record can purchase liability insurance so that they can legally drive, and maintain the legally required minimum coverage. This pool could be opened up to people who are not licensed drivers due to disability issues. The problem with this solution, however, is that the rates for assigned risk insurance are some of the highest in the State, and the only insurance available is the minimally required liability policies. Obviously, blind and otherwise disabled non-drivers, would object to this solution because they would be being asked to pay very high insurance rates specifically because they are not able to drive themselves. That is just not the same as being a driver with a bad safety record.

All other solutions involved having to designate a licensed driver on whose driving record the insurance costs could be based. This is likely what most blind car owners do, but it does not solve the problem for people for whom this solution is unacceptable.

In conclusion, KABVI will probably not be introducing legislation to address this issue this year.  This is because we do not yet have an acceptable solution to propose. If readers are aware of other possible legislative remedies, or wish to propose other solutions, please contact us. By the 2022 Session of the Kansas Legislature, we hope to be able to put a legislative remedy on the table and try to make it fly.

 

Accessible Vote By Mail: Another complex Issue

By Michael Byington

In our last issue, we reported that voting at the polls is supposed to be accessible to all people with disabilities, including those who are blind or who have low vision, to vote privately. Independently, and verifiably. We also reported that, although Kansas has done a good job of implementing accessible voting options at all polling places where voters vote in person, vote by mail in Kansas is NOT accessible. If a person who is blind votes by mail, it is necessary to have some other human assist with the marking of the ballot, thus negating the otherwise assured private vote and ballot.

The spirit of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) adopted by Congress, and signed into law after the 2000 Bush v. Gore fiasco, would seem to guarantee confidential and independent voting whether done in person or by mail, but only provisions for accessible in-person voting have been adopted Nationwide.

Current Kansas Secretary of State, Scott Schwab, who is in charge of elections for the State of Kansas, has declined to implement any private and accessible vote by mail options in Kansas. He continues to contend that these are not sufficiently secure, even though they have already been successfully implemented in some other States.

KABVI continues to dialogue with the Secretary of Stateís office concerning this issue. Although accessible vote by mail will not likely be implemented in Kansas without directive action from the Legislature,  we are trying to work cooperatively to come up with a solution that the Secretary of State will support. This will undoubtedly involve providing a lot more information on some of the solutions being used by States that are ahead of us in this process. With this issue as well as the one covered in the previous article, it is likely that Legislation will not be formally introduced until the 2022 Session of the Kansas Legislature. 

 

COVID-19 and blindness: Why The New Touchless, Physically-Distant World Sucks For People With Visual Impairment, Part Two

By Nicholas A. Giudice, Ph.D.

 

(Editorís note: Nicholas A. Giudice, Ph.D.   is Professor, School of Computing and Information Science and Founder / Chief Research Scientist, VEMI Lab at the University of Maine; Co-founder Unar Labs. This is a long piece. We are thus running it in two parts. Part One was in the fall issue of this magazine. Even with dividing it in this manner, this is a little longer than what we are usually able to run. Dealing with Covid 19 and blindness, however,  is an extremely important and controversial issue. It thus seems to deserve the space. After all, we have a lot of KABVI members and associates who are in the high risks category if they would happen to contract covid 19. This may be a life or death issue for some readers. If you want to read the entire article all at once, unedited and in full, it is on the Internet at: https://medium.com/@nicholas.giudice/covid-19-and-blindness-why-the-new-touchless-physically-distant-world-sucks-for-people-with-2c8dbd21de63?sk=9c81fbc6d5f29d0cc600b4d5b5f06dbe. Dr. Giudice can be reached by e-mail at: nicholas.giudice@maine.edu.) This section of the article starts with Dr. Giudiceís thoughts on social distancing.)

3. Social Distancing:

Beyond direct physical contact, the key safeguard for avoiding COVID-19 infection is to maintain good social distancing behavior. Following these guidelines, which involve keeping a 6-foot radius between yourself and anybody around you, is trivial when performed using sight but if you try doing so with eyes closed, you will quickly find it is extremely difficult.

I generally only become aware of another person in my vicinity when I hear them talk, when I touch them with my hand, or perhaps if close enough, when I smell their presence (yes, most people have a distinct ďsmellĒ which is agnostic to being bad or good but that most people immediately assume is bad). The breadth and depth of what can be perceived from these nonvisual modalities is much less than vision and as a consequence, the experience of the perceived world for BVI folks occurs at closer range than for their sighted peers.

Touch occurs within armís length, which can be extended out a yard or more if using a cane but still violates the magic 6-foot corona bubble. Hearing can occur at much greater distances but in reality, recognizing someoneís voice and talking to them at normal conversational levels also occurs within a 6-foot radius. Importantly, if anybody in the surrounding environment is silent, they essentially do not exist to a BVI person.

The challenge of maintaining appropriate social distancing behavior without vision is two-fold: (1) difficulty in gauging the distance of nearby people (assuming they are detected at all) and (2) challenges in maintaining this distance during movement.

I find myself frequently violating the 6-foot corona bubble as I have no easy means to monitor its boundary, which is elastic and constantly changes in real-time with my movement and the movement of those around me. While I can imagine technological solutions for addressing this social distancing problem, the standard tools of long canes and guide dogs are not up to the task as canes are too short and guide dog training is not consistent with following social distancing procedures.

For instance, my dog guide, Bernie, was trained in New York and as was normal until the pandemic, was taught to operate in crowded situations by maximizing use of any available space. This includes going through any gap big enough for him and me to fit through, meaning that we often get very close to people as we navigate. Although I am trying to re-train him to Ďappreciateí accepted social distancing behavior, maintaining lots of empty space around us makes little sense to Bernie and he is loath to do so.

This is increasingly problematic. As I approached an intersection on a recent walk, I heard this obviously freaked out person start yelling at me to ďwatch outĒ and ďto not get any closer or Iíll kick your assĒ. Besides the logical incongruity of inviting a blind guy to watch out for who is around them, their threat to physically attack me would seem to be a blatant violation of the Ďno contactí rule of social distancing that they so vehemently want to uphold.

I understand that this incident, like so much associated with COVID-19 responses, is based on fear rather than logic butÖit doesnít make dealing with the problem any easier. However, I have found that people exhibit less concern if bubble violations occur when I am verbally instructing the dog.

So, if I am aware of people around me when walking I tell Bernie to ďstay left/rightĒ as I pass. This doesnít generally result in any actual change in his behavior or creation of additional distance, but it seems to put people at ease. It can backfire though, as sometimes people dart one way or another to pre-emptively create space and Bernie interprets this odd, fast moving behavior as encouraging of play, which sometimes induces him to veer toward the person, causing additional angst (and renewed hurling of invective).

With respect to touch, two things strike me when thinking back over the past three months of living in the COVID-19 world. First, although I knew that I relied heavily on touch, I didnít realize its true magnitude in supporting my own self-monitoring behaviors, its role in how I interact with others and engage with the surrounding environment, and its impact on my emotional and social wellbeing until these interactions became associated with negative consequences.

Second, while I appreciate the value of the safety guidance being advocated, and understand peopleís concerns around physical contact, I cannot comprehend why people are not more troubled about the growing fear and distrust of one of our primary sensory channels ó that of touch. If the sensory tables were turned and the primary safety precaution from the CDC involved significant limitations on use of visual perception; for instance, use of blindfolds in public, the result would be very different.

Rather than apathy, as is the case with touch, there would be an outcry about the Ďcure being worse than the problemí. The majority of people would inevitably ignore this guidance, preferring to risk infection over safety.

The reality is that most people have a deep-seated, visceral fear of losing their vision but as is obvious from the gee-wiz response to COVID-19, they possess little concern about giving up their access to the richness of touch. As a blind guy, I do not share this fear of vision loss, but Iím petrified about losing any of my other senses. The realization that touch, the closest sense to vision and a primary means of how I perceive the world, is now something to be feared and distrusted, is existentially disturbing to me.

What has been lost in the pandemic panic is that following good safety practices and appreciating touch are not mutually exclusive. This seems obvious to me but at the end of the day, logic has very little to do with peopleís responses to the coronavirus.

Unlike the standard flu, there is currently no vaccination and there is a much higher risk of dying. However, what I argue is most threatening, we are under attack via an invisible disease vector that may be on anything we touch or that could emanate from anybody around us. The issue is of classic transference. We cannot see the COVID-19 coronavirus, but we can certainly see people who may have it. We have been told (and have internalized) that our greatest risk of contracting the virus is through close proximity or physical contact with these people, so our fear is erroneously transferred from being afraid of COVID-19 to being afraid of touch.

This transference is dangerous as rather than focusing on virus risk mitigation, peopleís attention is misdirected toward castigating a sensory modality as a proxy for disease. The outcome, albeit unintended, is stigmatization of an entire sensory modality and fear of anybody who still dares to use it rather than simply adopting healthy practices around touch.

Touch is not the culprit here. Physical contact should not be villainized; the virus is the problem but unless we figure out a better way to disentangle the two, I worry that touch as we know it will be the first candidate for inclusion on the Endangered Senses list.

Given the transmission characteristics of COVID-19, there is no simple fix for saving touch in the court of public opinion. I do believe there is a solution, but it is more about changing our mindset than our behavior.

Put most simply, we need to stop conflating touch with disease. Doing so is not only inaccurate, it perpetuates an irrational fear of a general method of perceiving the world rather than a healthy concern for avoiding contracting a specific virus.

Touch may be a path of conveyance but as with many other correlated action/response pairings, the result is contingent on many factors, most of which are imminently under our control. We donít villainize the sun because it can give us skin cancer (we simply put on sun block) or distrust welding because the bright flashes can damage our eyes (we wear protective glasses), or avoid rock concerts because they can damage our hearing (we don ear plugs), or fear skiing in winter as we might get frost bite (we put on gloves). There is no need to throw the baby out with the bath water regarding our sense of touch and COVID-19 protection. As with our use of sun block, protective glasses, ear plugs, and gloves, we can best protect ourselves by understanding the real risks associated with this pandemic and not becoming blinded by perceived proxy threats.

The best approach is to be mindful of minimizing touching of people (especially those we do not know or feel safe around) and to limit contact with public surfaces. When these physical interactions occur, there is no surrogate for prudent use of sanitizer, thorough disinfection of frequently touched areas, and assiduous hand washing (braille reading and literacy be damned).

However, it is important to keep these things in perspective. Simply touching your face to scratch an itch, shaking hands with a colleague, hugging a family member, or coming within six feet of a friend is not synonymous with contracting the coronavirus. If you interact with a BVI person, donít freak out if there is physical contact, accidental or deliberate, donít avoid assisting an older person who has tripped and needs a stabilizing arm, or shy away from helping a child up who has fallen. These actions are what makes us human and what supports a civilized society.

Such behaviors should not be conflated with disease or increased health risks. Touch is not bad, being physically close to others is not bad. Experiencing these things and being safe are not mutually exclusive and can absolutely exist harmoniously in our COVID-19 culture when we follow appropriate safety procedures. Fear-driven responses and mindless adherence to guidelines is neither healthy for oneís psyche nor for promoting meaningful social interactions.

While I can make this point until the cows come home, the reality is that the best practices for reducing the risk of COVID-19 contamination are contrary to many of the ways that BVI people experience and interact with their world. If you cannot see, you touch, but if you cannot see and you cannot touch, the world quickly becomes impoverished and wanting (the current situation is even more dire for my deaf-blind friends).

This is not to say that specific COVID-19 accommodations should be made for BVI people but since this demographic is not going to stop touching their world, it does raise the specter of their potential alienation living as part of the new touchless normal. I know I am not alone in increasingly feeling like a pariah when in public, keenly aware that my way of experiencing the world is now fundamentally at odds with the majority of those around me.

I usually embrace the notion of being unique, of diversity through difference, and of opposing points of view. ButÖthe growing aversion to touch is very different than if I were to be disliked for having contrary political views than somebody else, or were judged for what I am wearing.

It is unrelated to my conscious decisions; the fears and avoidance I am experiencing are based on my fundamental method of perceiving and interacting with my surroundings, which I cannot change. In some ways, and this is admittedly irrational, the growing societal rejection of touch feels like an aggregate rejection of Me.

At the end of the day, it doesnít really matter if the negative touch response (or its impact on me/others) is an unintended consequence, or due to transference, or over reaction ó the COVID-19-induced backlash against touch is real. Troublingly, this response is likely to escalate as the economy starts to open, more people go outside, and social interactions (planned or otherwise) become the norm as people return to living their lives, albeit in a socially distanced, touch-minimized manner. The result for BVI people is that many of the issues discussed here will persist and even increase, meaning that the new touchless normal is going to continue as the awkward abnormal for the BVI community.

I am accustomed to a world that minimizes the role of touch, as it will always be the underappreciated younger sibling to vision, but a touchless future where we no longer shake hands, hug, or express physical affection is not a future I feel excited about. Unfortunately, I worry this trajectory will continue unless we accept the mindset that safe and healthy behavior is possible without catastrophizing physical contact and bastardizing the sense of touch by equating it with disease. Until then, I mourn the loss of the worldís feel around me.

 

Why Am I So Stupid?

By Jenny Kennedy

(Editorís Note: Jenny is a legally blind, single parent raising two very active teen agers. She lives in Wichita, Kansas. She published this article originally on Facebook, and many respondents told her that, no, she is not stupid, but that she expresses some of the frustrations of many congenitally blind people in terms of their differing learning styles and processing. These issues are important for those who are blind or who are working with people who are blind, to understand, and that is why I obtained Jennyís permission to print this piece.)

Why am I so stupid? This is aggravatingÖ

Iíve always had a very difficult time with certain things such as figuring out what size something is. I donít mean clothing sizes. I mean things such as food sizes. If something says its net weight is however many ounces, that might sound really big to me, but when you get it itís not as big as you thought, or completely the other way around.

Itís hard to visualize something; say somebody is giving me instructions on how to do something. Good case and point, a couple of weeks ago our big stand up deep freeze started to freak out and make a beeping noise. It does this if you leave the door open too long or if you didnít close the door tight enough and itís come open again, or if the temperature gets to a certain point. We couldnít figure out what is going on. It turns out that the rubber gasket all around the inner edge of the door has a giant split down one side which might let cold air out. It might also explain why all of the sudden we were developing snow in our freezer and various icicles. Anyway, my mom tried to tell us, or rather tell me, to get a rag and put it into the door to block up the breach in the rubber gasket. I couldnít even begin to picture what she was saying in a way that it would make sense. Was I supposed to poke the rag through the busted section of gasket? Or was I supposed to just shut the rag so part of it was inside, and part of it outside, with the door holding it in place

I love my mom she does not have patience sometimes and I know Iím a great source of aggravation to her so Iím not attempting to be harsh about her. Itís just sometimes the way she explains things isnít compatible with the way I need to have it explained.

Another way that my stupid mind is exasperating, I cannot figure out very easily how to get someplace if somebody just gives me a whole bunch of directions.  I canít place things in my head on a little map and attempt to visualize. By the time we get to the end of the instructions, my poor little street map looks as though a tornado got mad and just kept going back-and-forth over it all day; all Iím left with is a tangle of lines equivocating streets and busted up letters equivocating street names. I have to write the instructions downÖ I didnít have to go and look at Google maps or something to get an idea of what any of this means.

When I was training with my first guide dog, we had a complicated route working from the bus that the school operate it to some other points in a random neighborhood.  I had to sit down with Gerardís trainer after lunch so we could sketch out on a paper with a dark marker what the route would be, l how the streets are situated in relation to where we would be parking, etc. Once I saw it drawn out and explained clearly, I didnít have any trouble at all with that particular Destination

When I was at the Colorado Center for the Blind, I found it a lot easier to plan out somewhere I was going and then to write down all of the instructions in braille, for example, go three blocks eastÖ Cross three streets and then turn to which ever direction east would be. I mean, obviously, east is east but you know what I mean; cross over three streets with the busy street to your left and then turn and cross a busy street or whatever. I would put all of my Destination cards in my left pocket and then once we accomplished that portion of the card, (or route) I would take the card and transfer it to my right pocket. Iíve also done similarly by putting dog kibble in my left pocket for each street crossing, and then once that street is crossed, transferring it to the other pocket. At the end of our travel, Heather, my current guide dog, gets to eat all the kibble like a Prize. So basically, if we are headed out somewhere and weíve got X number of street crossings, I will put X number of dog kibble in my left pocket and then transfer it to my right pocket.  Then coming back at the end, I would take it from my right pocket and put it into the left pocket. Then Heather would get it once we got home.

Anyway, Iím attempting to write an email to our school district superintendent in regards to the exclusionary zones for where the school bus will be sent and where it will not, even though I submitted my questions to the Together For Tomorrow school reentry team on Friday. I was hoping I would get an answer back, or at least, have issues explained in the called Board meeting yesterday, but even though we talked about it yesterday, Iím still not clear at all as to where the school buses will go and where they will not.

My sister-in-law told my mom last night, by way of a text message, that due to where we are located, we probably would be eligible for a school bus, but Iím not entirely sure about this which is why I am writing to the superintendent.

According to Siri, the middle school my kids go to is 2.4 miles away from our home, or some such. The boundaries seem to be that, if you live 2.5 miles or closer to your childís assigned building no bus for you. I think this is the rule, unless there would be a rather difficult street crossing. I think that is why we  are eligible for a school busÖ

I cannot remember what street is directly to our east, if itís 21st or if itís Tyler. Iím thinking itís 21st, but I have miss placed Tyler, so I cannot say where that is in conjunction to where we are

I feel stupid, and discuss it with myself, because I grew up in this part of town, and I know where stuff is located. I can walk to it, but I might be confused at trying to tell other people how to walk to it

I donít know what is wrong with my mind; itís just dumb sometimes and has trouble visualizing stuff. Itís annoying. I wonder if itís some sort of thing associated with retrolental fibroplasia and or being a very small premature baby. Maybe an old age, formally very small premature babies just lose it after age 40. I canít remember stuff or canít imagine how things fit together unless they actually physically touch, or are in some other way, interacting with each other.  I have to have these little reminders, the dog kibble, the notecards, or whatever. Eventually though if itís somewhere we go a whole lot, I donít need all of those things after a while. When Iím initially trying to learn something though, it is what it is. When I was in middle school and high school our orientation and mobility teacher had this neat little thing. It was like a folded up board game, and one side of it would have all of this soft portions of Velcro; then there were these bright yellow shapes, like long skinny rectangles, circles, squares etc. that would have the Velcro on them; you could assemble them onto the map and get an idea of whatever you were trying to figure out. I wish they had that for grown folks. Also I think they went and changed Google earth because I used to be able to just look at that stuff on Google earth and sort of figure it out, but now itís all fancy and weird, and I canít really make heads or tails of it. I hate being so dumb

Iíve even managed to get into several disagreements with Siri and Alexa because I have asked them, ďwhat is the name of the busy street east of you?Ē They have no clue. I think I know what that street is, but, as I said, I have to have the other street to get the whole picture, and I keep misplacing it in my brain. Itís starting to get annoying.

(Editorís Note: I asked Jennyís permission to run this because I think it summarizes very well some of the frustrations that many blind and severely visually impaired people have about orientation. Jenny is in no way stupid or dumb as she opines in this article, which was originally written as a Facebook post. Her posts are very articulate, and she has an expansive vocabulary.

There is no doubt that the brain of a person who is congenitally blind or severely visually impaired develops a little differently than the brain aided by sight. Some people with these types of congenital issues will develop excellent mapping skills and cardinal direction sense. Others will find directions, and the physical shape of routes to be a great challenge all of their lives. The key to success, however, is not whether one can do mental mapping, or picture routes in their mind. It is rather the ability to find ways to get where they want to go anyway. Some of Jennyís alternate methods suggest that she is brilliant in figuring out ways to compensate for her different manner of mapping.

This brings me to a concept that people may not think about in evaluating their own skills. Most of us, at some point in educational theory classes, learn that there are visual learners, auditory learners and tactile learners. These terms explain what processes work best for an individual in synthesizing information. It is possible, however, for a blind person to nonetheless be a visual learner, or for a deaf person to be an auditory learner. In such instances, the individual is learning through image or language, but they must substitute the methods of input.)

 

TANTALIZING TIDBITS

Compiled by Ann Byington

 

Meet one of our newest convention exhibitors:  Brent Harbolt, of the Harbolt Company. ďWe at the Harbolt Company love what we do, and can't wait for you to share in our passion for all things cool and accessible. Whether you're looking for some serious high end audio equipment, searching for the perfect accessory for your smartphone or mobile device, shopping for that elusive gift for the person who has everything, trying to locate that hard to find rare and unusual item, or just wanting something for yourself or for that special someone, weíve got you covered. You've found the perfect place for fun, excitement, and accessibility. Most importantly, a place to feel right at home. We offer audio and  written descriptions of all our products, so you'll always know what you are  getting. So, come join us in our unfailing love of all things unique or unusual, whether it be high tech, low tech, or no tech. If it's cool and fun, you will find it here! We love what we do, and so will you!Ē  As well as a daily email newsletter, Brent, and his friend, Linda,  host a number of Zoom activities including a book group, a trade and sell opportunity, a ďLetís Go ShoppingĒ event featuring other blind vendors, and some fun times like ďThe Battle of the SexesĒ.  For more informatnoi,

Email: sales@harboltcompany.com

Phone: 405-633-2572

 

** Whatís New at NanoPac: ClearView video magnifier: available in 15″ and 17″

ClearView GO offers the same reading comfort, ease of use, and functionality as a desktop video magnifier, but in a compact and foldable design. It is the ideal solution for people who need magnification at different locations. With ClearView GO, you can comfortably read text and view objects, at home, office, classroom, or on the go. Its foldable design makes it extremely easy to take the ClearView GO with you or to store it when you do not need it.

With ClearView GO, you will enjoy a crisp, clear, full HD image on the 15.6Ē or 17.3″ screen. The monitor can be fully adjusted in height, so you will always have the right reading angle and height. The ClearView GO has a convenient 3-in-1 rotatable camera that allows you to magnify text and objects up close, in the distance, and even to look at yourself. Simply point the camera to what you want to see and adjust the settings according to your personal preference.

ClearView GO is the latest addition to the ClearView product line and the first desktop video magnifier by Optelec that is fully foldable and features a 3-in-1 rotatable camera.

Specifications

 

 

 

In Memoriam

 

Compiled by Michael Byington

with assistance from Kathy Dawson

 

Tamara Kearney: 62, passed away on Saturday August 8, 2020 from injuries sustained in a pedestrian/car accident in Lawrence, Kansas. She was born October 5, 1958 in Rock Island, Illinois to Sandra Schmacht and Raymond Johnson. She was a 1976 graduate of Lawrence High School, and a graduate of the Challenger Institute of Technology in Fremantle, Western Australia.

Tamara was an active and engaged member of the community, employed by the Lawrence Recreation Department as a Yoga instructor and by San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind as a Braille proof reader. She also ran her own business as a clinical massage therapist. Tamara was active in both the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind where she served as state president in Wyoming. During that time, she acted as a lobbyist for those organizations in Washington, DC. Upon returning to Kansas a few years ago, she became a member of KABVI, and was elected to its Board of Directors as of our 2019 convention.

For several years she was the Childrenís Library Officer for the Association for the Blind of Western Australia in Perth where she helped develop tactile early learning materials for blind children.

Tamara loved to travel and live in new and interesting places, and was an avid cyclist. She was always willing to help other blind and disabled people to better their lives.

Tamara is survived by her husband, Gregory Kearney of Lawrence and by her three children, Shawn and Laura Kearny of Minneapolis, MN, Shannon and Aaron Kuluk of Nashville, TN and Nathaniel Kearney of Lawrence as well as five grandchildren. She is also survived by her father, Raymond Johnson and step- mother, Jan Johnson of Yuma, Arizona and a step-father, Courtney Hanson of Perry, Kansas. In addition, she is survived by her beloved guide dog Rex, her faithful companion and guide for eight years. She was preceded in death by her mother.

Tamara met every challenge in this life with grace, good humor and courage. She never once let her blindness define or limit her but rather used it to enlarge and improve the lives of all she came in contact with.

The family request that in lieu of flowers donations may be made to:

Tamara Kearney Technology Fund
Lawrence Lions Foundation
2101 E 29th St
Lawrence, KS 66046

 

Walter Stephen ďSteveĒ Naff: 72, passed away March 4th, 2020 at Labette Health, Parsons, Kansas.

 

Steve was born January 2, 1948 at Erie, Kansas to Walter Lewis Naff and Susan Pauline (Tolbert) Naff

 

Steve attended grade school through the second grade in Humboldt, Kansas. He then transferred to the Kansas State School for the Blind, Kansas City, Kansas. After high school, he was employed for many years at Kansas Industries for the Blind, Topeka, Kansas.

 

Steve was a well known member of the blindness community around Topeka. He resided many years at Puffís Boarding Home, where a number of other blind Topekans also chose to reside. He had a strong interest in current events, and made a hobby of following Canadian politics as well as those in this country.

 

Graveside services took place on March 9, 2020 at Mount Hope Cemetery, Humboldt. Steveís family has named Ambassador Christian Church of Chanute for memorials.

 

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