thursday's performance will be in description...
by Niki White
If movies are a visual medium, I'm not sure how people can see any difference in theater, as the precursor to film. Of course the natural difference is that theater is live, but in terms of being a blind attendee this obvious fact is sometimes an extreme annoyance. If for some reason a person who is blind or visually impaired are unable to watch a movie with descriptive audio, they have the luxury of re-watching it after looking up the script, seeing it with a sighted friend, or simply making up their own reasons for the random moments of silence/movement/music--that last kept me very entertained as a child. However, while the plot remains unchanged and long stretches of music in a song will forever signify dancing, there's ALWAYS something that alters in every musical performance: an actor will emphasize something differently, or trip, or an understudy will make or break the emotional connection the audience has with a character. And of course, there's comic improv; that split second decision that brings the house down and gets mentioned at least three times in the lobby as people file out to their cars, and tends to leave blind theater goers feeling slightly left out and nettled that they could only appreciate said moment afterwards when someone clarified, instead of in their seat with everyone else.
The above factors make descriptive audio for musicals just as crucial as descriptive audio for movies, and with the start of its third season The Smith Center is now providing descriptive audio for the blind and visually impaired for its Broadway series, during their Thursday night performances. Even more wonderful is that they weren't shy about starting this new accessibility off with a bang: the traveling tour of Les Miserables served as this season's premier, and due to the fact that the only prerecorded description you'll find for this story is the 2012 film's, this meant that the describer was live for the three-hour production. Such ambition is not only a credit to how essential description is for performances, but on a personal note, said performance was particularly poignant for me.
In regards to the show's history and thus the center's ambition, there is the fact that even nonmusical theater fans know of "Les Mis"; it's 25 years old, there are at least four concert anniversary dvd's available to buy, YouTube has enough footage that in order to view it all you'd have to devote several weeks of your life to the computer screen, it's heading back to Broadway this year, and of course the recent film adaptation will deservedly draw in a whole new crop of fans. Had I known this going into The Smith Center's production, I would probably have been merely excited, but anxiety was a more prevalent emotion as I put in my earpiece. I was 9 years old when I saw my first musical, and have been in love with the genre ever since. All the big moments were conveyed auditorily; how could I, as a blind child, find any fault with the idea? While my praise has deepened over the years to a more complex appreciation, I cannot in good conscience recommend Les Miserables to parents of young children. Had my mom known anything about it beyond that there was a little girl in the story, I'm sure I could say otherwise, and my first taste of Vegas's old traveling Broadway would have been Beauty and the Beast (incidentally I think that was my 4th musical).
At 21, my feelings about that particular show have likewise evolved to a deeper appreciation: prior to the start of The Smith Center's 3rd Broadway season, I'd seen Les Miserables three more times (in the West End, Tuacahn's amphitheater, and on Broadway), bought and memorized the score soundtrack (there are some that only have the "musical numbers" and others that have the opera-like moments of sung dialogue as well), memorized deleted songs, and can be provoked far too easily into discussions about the characters actions and morality. Therefore, apart from explanations of the choreography and costumes (something that is always enlightening or fun) I could not see how the descriptive audio would add any new insight to something beloved and whose praises I could literally sing.
Thus I was delighted to leave the theater knowing that the solos I adored included subtle body language that detailed the character's feelings before they sang certain lyrics. Shocked to discover that for over a decade I had had no idea that there were far more props in the show then the ones referred to by the characters (there are some VERY meaningful candlesticks nobody ever mentions by name throughout the three-hour saga--I've checked). I also had no idea that certain set pieces existed, let alone were symbolic and methods of foreshadowing. Prior to that night I had had preconceived ideas of when characters entered and exited that I now know were completely wrong, and I can no longer give the movie credit for certain visual moments, only for embellishing them; i.e. a previously unsympathetic character's reaction to a child's fate. And I could laugh along with the rest of the audience at the improved moments, versus mentally saying: "she/he made some gesture"; I literally cannot articulate how gratifying that was!
The 9, 14, and 16 year old me had no idea what she was missing. No idea just how moving a classic musical about the French revolution really was, or precisely how "miserable" certain characters were at times (i.e. the visual moments in the songs "A little Fall of Rain" and "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" and the staging of the finale--if these statements mean nothing to you, I'm obligated to tell you to google with tissues at the ready). That night brought home to me just how vital audio description really is, and given that the scope of its detail never disappoints (something else I was reminded of that night), I couldn't be happier that such a defining moment of my childhood has been altered irrevocably!
As something of a sidenote and a deserving mention, the other superb thing about Les Mis that had nothing to do with the production itself was the word choice of the describer. While nothing stops you from appreciating the inflections and word usage a describer makes for movies, since the audio description was live (this is usually the case for shows) I could tell when pauses were made solely to keep up with the actor's shifts of expression or when they moved. Generally speaking, the describer is just as much a part of the show as the lead actor, and there is something humbling and satisfying about dimly registering while applauding the curtain call (relayed to you by the person that has been detailing the rest of the show) that the people involved with the audio description put just as much time and thought into their work as did the conductor. Plus, it's just as exciting and fun to bump into the describer on your way out as it is when that sort of thing occurs with the actors. The key difference regarding the visuals of theater, versus the visuals of film is that the former is live, providing an immersive experience. Whether that is perceived aurally or visually is incidental; I for one can't wait until the next Thursday night for another opportunity.
i dreamed a dream...
By Niki White
The past three movies I have seen at Red Rock’s Regal theatre have been preview acclaimed blockbusters, and Golden Globe winners: Lincoln, Les Miserables, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. All these films were amazing in their own right (plot, acting, soundtrack), but overall I am increasingly grateful to have seen them in descriptive audio. I can honestly say I would have been missing out otherwise, and would not hold these movies in such high acclaim.
Firstly, a thank you to the Regal team is in order. I have happily learned over the course of my visits that they have glasses for the visually impaired if all you require is some enhancement (fellow blind movie goers, be sure to clarify that you want the descriptive audio, not just the “device for the blind”); their descriptive audio service is available at any time, from opening day to when the movie leaves the theater –a lovely improvement from having to call or go online to know when or even if said service is available, or always having to go to the last theater because that was the only one equipped with the proper technology; thank you to anyone and everyone responsible for these adaptations!! Also, according to staff, you may bring your own headphones, as it’s the little box they plug into that is essential; I will be doing this from now on, and STRONGLY advise others to do the same (the right ear piece pinches).
As for the movies themselves, every review, professional or amateur, of Lincoln will note Golden Globe winner Daniel Day-Lewis’s facial expression and body language as a crucial element of his performance, particularly as he plays the former president with a very mild tone of voice. Half of the title character’s emotional journey is missed if viewers are unaware of a subtle quirk of the eyebrow or thinning of the lips; there are even visual exchanges between Lincoln’s staff during senate meetings which are never acknowledged by dialogue, yet advance the story. And unfortunately due to how they’re placed within the scenes, the only way a sighted person could inform the blind or visually impaired of these descriptions is if they watched the movie beforehand, and took notes. Even then, I doubt anyone would think to point out that the ends of a character’s handlebar mustache turn up when he smiles.
While a movie musical seems pretty straightforward, emotion is displayed just as much through action as through the voice. Anne Hathaway’s rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” is orally heartbreaking, but even more so when you hear that she runs her fingers through her now boyishly short hair (previously described as long, beautiful raven locks), clearly aware that it is a mark of just how much her life has changed from her imaginings; likewise on a happier note when two characters fall in love at first sight–all you can say about that moment without knowing exactly how they’re looking at each other is that the violins in the background are pretty. The city of Paris is also used to tell the story of Les Miserables, showing the differences between the poor and the rich; I loved knowing exactly what my family meant about a character climbing onto a ledge and the visual contrast above and below him making the moment so amazing. And no, I can’t describe it any better than that without giving the story away, and apologize, because I cannot count the number of times I was given such a vague explanation when wanting to know what my friends/family were going on about.
In regards to how description helps blind and visually impaired movie goers enjoy The Hobbit, I have two words: battle scenes. There are five of them in this movie of varying size and danger, all apart from the clashing of swords, sounds of running and panting, screams, words yelled in a fictional language requiring subtitles, and maybe the shouting of a name or two, are completely visual. Also, as we are dealing with fictional characters such as hobbits and dwarfs (I now know from the description there is a difference), facial expressions and posture are incredibly useful in having the audience relate to them. In fact, there are moments when it is the only way we can relate, either due to the director’s decision or plot; there is an utterly silent moment toward the beginning of the film during which a character makes a decision that affects the entire movie, and the changes in emotion are too amazingly subtle and beautifully acted to be described as, “he’s happy, now he’s kind of sad, he’s looking at the paper and thinking…” as would be the simplest way for a fellow sighted viewer to describe the revelations slowly dawning over the character’s face.
Movies are visual. There is no getting around this fact no matter how much we might want to. By being unaware of the visual elements, such as the ones stated above, the blind and visually impaired miss out on far more than even our community realizes without the technology Regal has invested in. If for some reason we did not have a descriptive movie theatre in Nevada, I am not saying that I would never have gone to these movies, would never have talked about them afterward, and would not have enjoyed the dialogue. However, since this thankfully isn’t the case, I can say I would have been EXTREMELY lost, and would not have found them nearly as enjoyable, on account of occasionally being very, VERY bored.
video description and cox cable
By: Niki White
The FCC required a pass through of ‘Video Description Service’ beginning July 1, 2012.
Video Description is audio-narrated descriptions of a television program’s key visual elements. Video Description makes TV programming more accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired by describing the non-audio events that take place between the program’s dialogue sections.
The key points about Cox and the Video Description Service:
Video Description will override a Spanish language audio track if a customer has their SAP configured. Once the show is over, Spanish language audio should automatically return to programs which include it, without any customer intervention.
- Beginning July 1, 2012 Cox Communications is supporting the FCC required pass through of ‘Video Description Service’ from networks that provide this customer option.
- Cox does not choose the programmers or the programming that will include the video descriptions. We will simply pass it through to our customers.
- Cox is 100% compliant from a product and technology perspective to support this audio option for our visually impaired customers.
parent to parent: raising a child who is blind
By: Lori Moroz-White
As a parent of an extremely perfect 20 year old who happens to be blind, (well maybe not so perfect in those teen years, but I am so very proud to be called her mother), I am amazed daily from what I have learned from being her mom. I am not a perfect parent and I continue to learn from my mistakes, just ask my daughter. We all have different parenting styles that work for our families and every family has to decide what works for them. But it is extremely important to give “our” children successful opportunities. Children who are blind need to be successful and as parents it is our job to give them the opportunities to do so, opportunities may “look” different, but that’s what makes our job as parents so exciting. Any parent knows raising a child is hard work. The first years of life brings on so many new things, rolling over, walking, exploring and talking. It’s an exciting time for both the parent and child. The uncertainty of the future and seemingly endless negative experiences are areas that all parents struggle with, not just parents of blind children. Yes life probably will be different than you expected; but it actually is just as wonderful and if possible more exciting. It will be hard at times, harder than most, but so worth the journey. My daughter has taught me so much over the years that I decided to write short blogs of lists of 10.
My first list of 10: The First Years
1. A child that is blind’s hearing is no better or more sensitive than that of sighted children. They may learn to listen better but that does not mean that their hearing is any better. Sometimes too much noise can be overwhelming.
2. Touch is very important for all babies, blind and sighted, and not touching may lead to a tactile defensive disorder. It is very important to play games like patty cake, counting fingers, itsy bitsy spider or even teaching sign language. Children benefit from learning sign, because receptive language is advanced developmentally when compared with expressive language.
3. Give your child time to explore their environment, don’t just make things appear, give your child the opportunities to locate objects such as toys, be careful not to develop the “Fairy Godmother Syndrome” (when things just magically appear and disappear).
4. Explain everything. Tell your child about the color, texture, taste, temperature.
5. Use your GPS in your car for every trip, even when you know the route. Explain the environment every chance you get. Better yet be a human GPS for walks, while making dinner, etc…
6. Music and dance is important for all children. Don’t forget to twirl!
7. Your child is a child first, then blind. So many parents of children who are blind let them get away with everything, lower their expectations, and are lax with discipline, which only results in inept, social retarded people who are blind that no one wants to be around, blind or sighted.
8. It’s never too early to learn to read. Have braille and texture books available. Remember that braille is a code, not a language and the same skills for pre reading apply, like holding a book, turning the pages, following lines of braille or finding the textures on a page. Let your child “see” you reading, children learn a lot from imitation. Learning sounds and numbers are equally as important.
9. Rocking is not normal, nor is pushing in one’s eye. PLEASE discourage at a very early age, the older the child the more difficult it will be as body language is important. It won’t matter how bright your child is when they try to make friends or go into a job interview and is staring at the floor with their head down or rocking back and forth.
10. A positive attitude is very important. Always find a way!
it's beginning to look a lot like christmas...
By: Toni Spilsbury, parent advocate
The elves are busy planning this year’s festivities for the kids at Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation. Our “elves” are volunteers from the local community, and along with foundation directors, Lori Moroz-White and Linda Maneen we have many needs when it comes to putting together this important annual event.
Our Annual Holiday Party is a day-long event for children who are blind with planned activities like Snow Play, Christmas Caroling, Games, Descriptive Christmas Movie and… the best part- decorating homemade gingerbread men. Why is this the best part? Okay, it could be because I bake them fresh each year and enjoy helping the kids place gumdrop buttons, cinnamon candy eyes and coconut hair on their gingerbread man.
Parents would tell you they look forward to the annual party for different reasons. The party gives parents a day of respite to do Christmas shopping or whatever else they need or want to do, and this is plenty of reason to rejoice. Where many parents may take for granted the ease of finding someone to watch their child for a day, parents of children who are blind or handicapped may find it exceptionally more difficult.
Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation creates an exciting and fun-filled day for children who may otherwise not be included in any holiday events. These children look forward to this event all year long; I know my Connor does. As a parent of a child who is blind, I can’t describe the feeling when your child has a place and event specially for him. All year long it’s a struggle to modify activities and events to meet Connor’s needs, and this is one event where I don’t have to worry about that.
where's the plunger?
by Richard Holloway, parent advocate
It is often said that 80 percent of all learning is visual. For a totally blind child, however, 100 percent of learning occurs nonvisually. Given plenty of opportunities for hands-on exploration, a blind child can acquire most of the information about the world that sighted children possess. In this article, Richard Holloway describes how he helped his blind daughter, Kendra, fill in some important information gaps.
“Dad, do we have a plunger?” my daughter asked one afternoon. “Where’s the plunger?”
I was a little concerned. Why would my eight-year-old daughter possibly need a plunger, after all? This just couldn’t be good!
“I want to know what a plunger feels like!” she explained.
Wow! I had done it again. I pride myself on describing the visual world to my blind daughter, but there it was–another little hole in her understanding. Did we have a plunger? Sure. Was I going to let her explore it with her hands? Well, no, that didn’t seem the best plan. You might find ours to be as well-washed as any slightly used plunger anywhere, but I’m not going to put it into a child’s hands for tactile exploration. “I’m sorry,” I said, “we don’t have a plunger that you can touch. It isn’t clean enough. But what if I take you to the store and let you explore a new, clean plunger?”
Kendra was delighted with the idea. That’s how I came to take her on her first Home Depot expedition.
There was nothing I needed to buy. This was an outing of exploration, a true quest for knowledge. We made our way to Home Depot’s plumbing aisle. Not only did Kendra get to look at a plunger. She soon learned that there are different styles of plungers, made from different materials, and that they come in various sizes. She was fascinated and full of questions.
After a while we moved on. I had blocked several hours of the day for this outing, just in case. Where should we head next? Toilet seats! There was an entire wall of them only a few feet away. Standard length, elongated, with lids, without lids, plastic, wooden, hard, padded, even some with a cutout in front–which prompted another whole discussion! The greatest fascination for my daughter was why the seats were arranged vertically on the wall that way. I began to realize how much information she was missing, information that most kids pick up without any special effort on anyone’s part.
What about whole toilets? We have never encouraged Kendra to explore toilets with her hands, but brand-new ones are as clean as anything else in a store. We checked out the toilets, then moved on to tubs and showers. Next we found sinks for both the bathroom and the kitchen.
Before long, we had examined all the plumbing supplies we could find. We began to roam the store’s other aisles. Appliances, Carpet and Flooring, Lumber, Fencing, Landscape. Kendra hates the noise of lawnmowers and other loud machines. In the store she understood that they were turned off and would make no frightening sounds, so she explored them freely.
Kendra seemed to enjoy hardware a lot, too. She was fascinated to learn how small and how large nuts and bolts can be. Tools were also fun. The many shapes and sizes of hand tools and power tools were quite new to her.
The Home Depot outing left me exhausted. It involved several hours of intense describing and explaining, but the effort was well worthwhile. Not long after that Kendra had a question about shoes for sports. The concept of cleats seemed bizarre to her. We headed to Sports Authority and went straight to the shoe racks. I showed her baseball cleats, soccer cleats, football cleats, turf shoes, golf shoes, and any other unusual shoes I could find. I also let her explore more conventional tennis shoes so she could compare them to basketball shoes and running shoes.
Many questions followed, and ideas started popping into my head. Did Kendra have any idea that a baseball glove is a giant oversized thing nothing like the gloves she’d seen before? Did she know that there are different kinds of gloves for baseball and softball? Had she ever heard of a catcher’s mitt? Did she know what a wooden bat was like compared to an aluminum bat?
We explored baseballs, softballs, and footballs. Kendra was surprised to learn that some balls aren’t even round! She wondered why some balls have laces or seams. How many kinds of balls were there? We found tennis balls, soccer balls, golf balls, and bowling balls. We compared inline skates with roller skates. We noticed that skateboard wheels felt a lot like skate wheels. We compared different kinds of life preservers and various wet suits. We found the weights department and felt weights from one pound up to twenty pounds or more, one pound at a time. We compared the shapes of the weights and how hard they were to lift. We examined barbells, dumbbells, ankle weights, and free weights. Who knew there were so many kinds of weights to choose from? I could sense the wheels turning in Kendra’s mind. Pieces were coming together for her about a lot of things.
Since then, we’ve made trips to a lot of different stores. Bass Pro Shops was especially interesting, with row after row of boating and camping supplies. In the boating area Kendra learned what an anchor is like. She discovered that anchors come in assorted designs and sizes. Outboard motors, too, come in a wide range of sizes. We examined little electric motors and gas engines from two horsepower up to 350. My five-year-old son could just about lift the smallest engines, but the big ones are over seven feet tall and weigh over 800 pounds. Fortunately, the store had a rack with at least a dozen engines of various sizes for Kendra to touch and compare. I took her to the back of a boat with a 350-HP engine. She studied it from the ground up. It was taller than she could reach, so I lifted her on my shoulders until she could touch the very top.
We’ve searched the auto parts store for all things automotive. We’ve compared many wheels and tires at a tire store. They come in lots of sizes, but the different tread patterns on tires seem to be the most interesting feature. We’ve explored all sorts of electronics at stores such as Best Buy and Fry’s, though feeling the internal parts of an old junk computer at home seemed to be more interesting than exploring new machines on display.
It may be easier and faster to get through the supermarket if we don’t discuss every item on each shelf. However, when time allows, grocery shopping certainly can be a fascinating opportunity. We’ve found a lot to explore in the produce section–that’s one part of the store where most of the products are out in the open, not encased in plastic wrappings or cardboard boxes.
When Kendra was six years old, we took her with us to pick out a Christmas tree. Kendra helped us make our selection, so she knew what the tree looked like. As we drove home, Kendra wondered aloud where we had put the tree; she knew there was no room for it inside our van. Where did the tree go? How did it fit?
“We put the tree on the roof of the van,” I explained. I showed her the roof from the inside and said the tree was on top of that.
My answer didn’t seem to help much. “How can it be outside the car?” Kendra asked.
As soon as we got home, I grabbed a ladder. I invited Kendra to climb up as I stood behind her. Standing on the top rung didn’t help a lot either. A sighted person can easily see the entire roof of a van from a ladder, but only a small portion was within Kendra’s reach.
Finally I guided Kendra to move from the ladder onto the roof of the van. She sat and explored all she wanted. The tree was still tied to the roof rack, so she could find out how it stayed on in the wind. I remembered the little pocket camera on my belt and snapped a quick photo. I still smile when I see that picture, thinking of that day and that moment of learning.
Perhaps my daughter is not quite old enough yet, but I think we’re not far from a walk on the roof of our house. A model of a house would be a great learning tool, of course. But if she can explore the roof safely, there’s nothing like firsthand experience!
Closer to the ground, we’ve examined a lot of plants over the years. As a gardening enthusiast, I’ve maintained a sensory garden with interesting plants that have distinctive textures and scents. When she was quite young, Kendra enjoyed having a number of interesting (and relatively safe) plants to explore. They were all within reach from one location that she thought of as hers.
Since Kendra came into our lives, Santa seems to bring us more things to explore, such as extra musical instruments. We have acquired a variety of ukuleles, guitars, keyboards, synthesizers, a small harp, and even a drum set. We also have some unusual pieces, such as a Native American flute; a jaw harp; and a kalimba, or African thumb piano. We even have a Theremin, the only electronic instrument you play without touching it. You vary the sounds by moving your hands closer or further from a pair of antennae.
I’ve bought these instruments because nothing beats unlimited exploration time. We’ve also taken quite a few trips to large music stores such as Guitar Center, where we can roam the aisles for free. In a music store you can explore hundreds of instruments under one roof. They also have plenty of recording gear and PA equipment, always a great fascination to my child. She especially loves all the faders and knobs on audio consoles.
Last summer, on the way to the NFB convention in Dallas, we stopped overnight in Vicksburg, Mississippi. As we headed out in the morning, I saw some Civil War cannons in front of the hotel. Kendra was curious. We didn’t hesitate to delay our departure. She got out of the car and felt all the parts of a cannon or two.
Chances to supply missing information are almost everywhere. We’ve found many of them close to home. Not long ago Kendra’s cane bumped into a guy wire at the edge of our front yard. We had passed within inches of that wire hundreds of times. Actually, we made a pointed effort to avoid it. It was a trip hazard, after all. Kendra had no idea that the wire was there, but one day she found it with her cane. What was it for? “It helps hold up the phone pole,” I explained. I anticipated the next question, “What’s a phone pole?” There it was again, information that Kendra’s sighted peers took for granted. My explanation led to details about how electricity and cable TV, phone service and the Internet get into our home. “What about water?” No, water comes through pipes underground. In some places, power and phone lines also run underground, and there are no poles.
On a drive soon after this discussion, I spent several minutes telling Kendra every time we passed a phone pole. She couldn’t believe there were so many of them. I realized how many other things we passed while she was unaware. From time to time I’d pick something else to tell her about in quantity as well as specific detail–houses and traffic lights, for example.
Some things, such as traffic lights, are hard to explore hands-on. I’ve bought some decommissioned traffic lights for a playhouse I built, so they were available for Kendra to touch. As parents we’ve had to be creative and proactive to provide Kendra with opportunities to examine things tactilely. Still, hands-on exploration is so valuable that it is truly worth the effort. We have learned a lot together, but a great deal remains for us to explore. This learning process is never really finished.
What, you may ask, does Kendra consider the most meaningful of all these adventures? Home Depot, she will say, without a doubt. At the end of that first adventure she talked me into buying her - you guessed it! - her very own plunger! It is a joy to watch our daughter discover the world in her own unique style!
summer camp lets kids be kids...
By: Jan Hogan, writer from the Las Vegas Review-Journal
Summer camp includes the fun stuff for children — games such as pingpong and activities such as yoga — and it’s no different at this camp, except changing rooms for the next activity means white canes coming out and hands reaching for assistance from sighted helpers.
The Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation offers the summer camp to any of the 350 visually impaired children it services in Southern Nevada. This year, 11 attended. Some are totally blind, and some have visual impairments.
Idyll Bishop, 11, is one of the latter.
“I didn’t think it would be this fun,” he said. “I thought they’d treat me like a little baby, but they don’t.”
Siblings are encouraged to attend the camp and act as helpers. Brooke Schultz, 11, assisted her sister Breya, 8, who lost her vision at 6 months old.
“Camp is fun for us both,” Brooke said. “It’s a chance to do stuff that’s made for her to do.”
Megan Bolton, 15, is totally blind. She sat at a pottery wheel, hands covered in gray clay, grinning as she worked to shape it.
Pottery instructor Valarie McKenzie warned her of a loud sound coming up, which was the clay being thrown on the wheel.
That done, she took Megan’s hands and guided them until, together, they had formed a bowl. McKenzie said the children might need a little bit more instruction than sighted children but that the fun factor was just as high.
“They’re hungry to learn new things,” she said. “Just touching it and working with it is a new experience.”
What would Megan be doing if not at the camp? Her shoulders dropped.
“I’d be home being bored,” she said.
In another room, yoga was being taught. Like McKenzie, instructor Aileen Epstein-Ignadiou donates her time and talent to the four-day camp. She asked what pets the children owned, then had them do poses such as downward dog. Epstein coached them with verbal cues on where to place their feet or hands, going from child to child to help them out. One pose had the children bending at the waist.
“Like you’re going to vomit?” one asked, giggling.
There also were computer games and Braille Twister to play, movies to “watch” and lessons in speaking Chinese. They also learned a bit of history behind Braille writing — it was created during the French Revolutionary wars to avoid becoming an easy target in candlelight.
“So it really is a secret code,” Lori Moroz-White, executive director of the foundation, told the children.
Another activity was Power Showdown, a sort of pingpong-meets-air hockey game. The game was donated by a company that came to Las Vegas for a convention. It donated the $3,000 apparatus after it learned Nevada is one of only four states without a school for the blind.
The foundation owes much of its programming to donations. The camp, for example, was offered to the children free.
The Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation was formed in 2006 and soon will begin a capital campaign to build a school. It’s estimated the school will cost $4 million to build and include way-finding features such as a trail rail, angled walls to enable sound location, textured materials to help delineate areas and resonating wood floors.
The following day, the children were set to be bused to Opportunity Village, where the activities room would become a goalball court. Goalball is a Paralympic sport where the ball has a bell.
Moroz-White said other summer camps for the blind taught cooking, sewing and skills for self-sufficiency. She purposely did not include such things on the curriculum.
“These are kids,” she said. “They need to have fun.”
patrons gain access through the cloud...
By Michael Kelley
An innovative project is under way that may help librarians who struggle to provide and understand the assistive technologies that disabled patrons are entitled to by law.
The Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII) would, essentially, move everything to the cloud.
Right now, the burden lies on a disabled person to figure out his own needs-and to fulfill those requirements on an office computer, home computer, school computer, or library computer.
“Whether it’s a computer, or a smartphone, the burden is also on the individual library to figure out how to meet what often are vague legal requirements,” said Jane Berliss-Vincent, a computer access specialist for the Center for Accessible Technology in Berkeley, CA, who presented the project Saturday at ALA’s annual conference in New Orleans. “The burden is also on the individual library to figure out how best to meet what can often be vague legal requirements, to figure out what assistive technology to purchase that would best fit the needs of the largest number of patrons, and to do this within a tight budget and extremely limited staff time.”
GPII is a software and service enhancement to our broadband infrastructure that allows users to use the access features they need anywhere, anytime, on any device-and the hope is it will help disabled patrons, said Berliss-Vincent.
“What if instead the burden was on the technology itself? What if someone were able to set up their assistive technology preferences once, and then be able to go to any piece of equipment, type in a code number and have their technology with their preferences already in place automatically and efficiently come up. The good news is that this is under way,” she added.
GPII, which began development about a year ago, would use the cloud to create a secure personalized interface for each patron (a one-time only, Wizard guided process). Accessibility software and information about a patron’s devices would be a part of that profile. This would allow any person to access assistive technologies and extended-usability features on any device connected to the Internet.
“It provides accessibility where, when, and how it’s needed,” Berliss-Vincent said. “GPII will take the right user profile and features, check the device, and guide the device to meet the users need. You pick up any device anywhere, and it would adapt to you.”
The project, which has a five-year timeline, has about $4 million in funding from a variety of U.S., Canadian, and European Union sources, and there’s a request for $10 million before Congress for FY12. It’s the brainchild Geneva-based international consortium, Raising the Floor, which is comprised of a wide range of assistive technology consumers, developers, researchers, and manufacturers. Raising the Floor is funded through a U.S. Department of Education grant and the Adobe Foundation.
“A lot of powerful minds in the assistive technology field have come up with this,” Berliss-Vincent said. “The hope is that GPII will be recognized as “an acceptable level of compliance for legal purposes,” which would reduce some of the burdens on librarians, although a library could choose to get more involved, like for example, becoming the place where patrons would go to create their profiles.
“It’s a new approach to accessibility that meshes with your professional and organizational culture,” she said. “It’s a way to serve more people on any of your technologies.”
The group is inviting feedback and ideas on its website from the librarian community as part of its development stage.
“The faster they bring it on, the better,” said Elizabeth Ridler, Brooklyn Public Library’s manager of library services, who attended the presentation.
let it be...
Paul McCartney is arguably the most famous and beloved musician in the world, and just as arguably a really nice guy.
Blind and visually impaired children, ranging from ages 5 to 25, enjoyed the experience as well as their companions as Sir Paul McCartney sponsored 40 amazing seats to the last stop on his Up And Coming tour at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on June 10th, 2011.
The generosity of Paul McCartney began with parking at the entrance of the arena with an escort to our seats, an extremely delightful experience. Paul’s tour director took time to tell us how delighted he was that we were there and that Paul himself was to be credited for the experience. During the performance our contact from AEG made sure that members were accommodated and notified on the big explosions during Live and Let Die.
Paul’s set list: “Magical Mystery Tour,” “Juniors Farm,” “All My Loving,” “Jet,” “Got to Get You Into My Life,” “Sing the Changes,” “Let Me Roll With It,” “Long and Winding Road,” “1985,” “Let Em In,” “I’m Looking Through You,” “And I Love Her,” “Blackbird,” “Here Today,” “Dance Tonight,” “Mrs. Vanderbilt,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Something,” “Band on the Run,” “Obla Di Obla Da,” “Back in the USSR,” “I Gotta Feeling,” “Paperback Writer,” “A Day in the Life,” “Let It Be,” “Live and Let Die,” “Hey Jude,” “Day Tripper,” “Get Back,” “Yesterday,” “Helter Skelter” and “Sgt. Pepper.”
the wave of the future...
The world has come a long way since Helen Keller used her fingers and a palm to communicate her thoughts. And as our society becomes more technology-driven, everyone stands to benefit – even the blind. Recent developments bring high tech to the visually-impaired, with seemingly space-age products being introduced into the market.
Among these are 3D pictures of sound that converts spatial information into acoustic maps and actually help the blind to see. Then there’s the Haptic Reader – a device placed onto a book that converts the text to Braille.
And speaking of Braille, Samsung has introduced a concept for a Braille phone, enabling calling and text messaging, while B-Touch now has a touch screen display for Braille which doubles as a book reader and object recognizer.