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April 14, 2014 · 1:49 am

Nexus 7

I just bought a nexus 7 tablet. Yay. It will be here in two weeks…that’s what I get for getting it at a discounted price with free shipping.
Hey, I’m not made of money.
Also arriving:
A patriotic case.
Red folding headphones.
And hopefully,
some semi-descent warranty protection for two years. We all know I don’t have the best of luck with these things.

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Doing it Wrong.

In the living room with a blanket strew behind me.  My hair pushed up in frizzy, frustrated, clumps.  Papers in messy piles around me.  Little bits of receipts flying everywhere. Paul walks in.
“I can’t figure out these taxes!?  What the hell??? I don’t know how to do this!!”
“Yup.  That’s why I have a tax guy.”
“What is total w/h Pmts?  A carry over worksheet?  What in God’s name???”
“God has nothing to do with taxes”

God certainly doesn’t.  Finally finished filing today.  Cost me $60 to file with turbotax.  What the hell?  That’s so expensive.
I think I’m doing it wrong.

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Twenty-Four is hard.

My co-worker told me she went to the Dentist this week. The dentist asked her how old she is
“That’s a hard age” the dentist said.
“I mean I guess, I’m having a hard time…but I’ve had my life laid out for me.”
“That’s like saying people that go to Harvard can’t be sad, or have a tough time,” the dentist said.
“Yeah, I guess” the co-worker said.
Twenty-four is a hard age.  Overqualified for many jobs, but underqualified, unlicensed for so many more.  Bills are real.

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Ah! Don’t shove blind people!

I was waiting for the #71 bus.
The bus arrived, but it wasn’t the normal bus. 
The door was on the opposite side forcing the passengers to walk in front and around the bus and squeeze through a narrow passageway to board.  A blind woman was making her way and didn’t know the bus was different.  I was about to offer
 “Hey, the bus is different today. The door is on the other side.  Would you like me to be your sighted guide to the door?”
Before I could get the words out, a man had put his hand on her back and started pushing her along.  Forcing her in front.  Another hand pushed her.  This time a woman.  She had several hands on her on the way to the bus and before you know it she as been shoved onto the 71. 
Mission accomplished.  But I still cringed. 
I personally know that I don’t love being touched by strangers.  I also don’t love being pushed.  I’m guessing she doesn’t either.
Generally, when approaching a situation in where you want to help it’s best to ask
“How can I help you?”
This gives the person an opportunity to consent or not consent to the help, and, importantly to describe how they would like to be helped.  It is generally a safe bet to use sighted guide.  Sighted guide looks like this:

You are in front and the person you are directing is to be one pace behind you.  That way the individual can feel when you step up, turn right, left, go downhill, etc…a step before.
It’s always best to ask what kind of help, if any, the person would like!
I am going to copy and paste this really great post via Vision Australia

Guiding a person who is blind or has low vision

Sometimes people who are blind or have low vision find it useful to be guided by another person. One way to do this safely and efficiently is to use sighted guide techniques. Not all people with little or no sight will use these methods, so it is important to ask what (if any) specific assistance they require.

Use this link for the audio described version of the video guiding and communicating with a person who is blind or has low version

Screen reader users, to use the keyboard shortcuts, switch into forms mode. For JAWS press Insert + Z, for NVDA press Insert + Space for WindowEyes, press Ctrl + Shift + A and for VoiceOver press Left Arrow + Right Arrow

Player keyboard shortcuts

Control the player using keyboard:

Play/pause – space key.
Volume – up/down arrow keys.
Skip – left/right arrow keys.
Closed captions – c key.
Video Information – i key.

Close instructionsPlayer – use the keyboard shortcuts to control the player

Touching the back of a persons hand

Getting started

Ask the person if they need assistance. If they do need assistance, contact the back of their hand with the back of yours.

Holding the guide�s arm above the elbow

They can then hold your arm just above the elbow.

Walking together


When you start walking, make sure the person is half a step behind you and slightly to the side. Walk at a pace that is comfortable for both of you. Look ahead for obstacles at foot level, head height and to the side.

Moving arm toward the centre of your back

Narrow spaces

Tell the person you are guiding that a narrow space is ahead. Move your guiding arm towards the centre of your back to indicate that they need to walk behind you. The person should step in behind you while still holding your arm. When you have passed through the narrow space bring your arm back to its usual position by your side.

Changing sides

Changing sides

If you need to change sides with the person you are guiding it is important they do not lose contact with you. This is easiest to achieve if you remain stationary. Allow the person to hold your guiding arm with both of their hands. They can then move one hand to reach your other arm without losing contact.

Going through a doorway


When passing through a doorway, ensure the person who is blind or vision impaired is on the hinged side of the door. As you get close to the door, explain which way it opens. Open the door and walk through, allowing the person you are guiding to close it behind you using their free hand.

Going down stairs

Steps and staircases

Stop at the first step and tell the person you are guiding whether the steps go up or down. Change sides if necessary to ensure the person you are guiding can use the handrail. Start walking when the person is ready, remaining one step ahead of them. Stop when you reach the end of the stairs and tell the person you are at the top or bottom.

Guiding to a seat


Explain which way the chair is facing and where it is placed in relation to the rest of the room. Then walk up and place your guiding arm on the chair and explain which part of the chair you are touching. The person you are guiding can then move their hand down your arm to locate the chair to seat themselves.

Hand on roof of car

Getting into a car

Tell the person you are guiding which way the car is facing and which door they will be getting into. Place your guiding arm onto the door handle and ask the person to move their hand down your arm.

Allow them to open the door and seat themselves. If the car is unfamiliar to them, place your arm inside on the roof so they can follow it and avoid bumping their head. Once seated, allow the person to close the car door.

Describe surroundings

When describing the person’s surroundings, try to be specific. Rather than saying, ‘there is a spare seat to your right’, it might be more helpful to say ‘the seat next to you, on your right, is occupied but the next seat along is vacant’.

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Sexual Harassment, Homlessness, and Canvassers

A lot of firsts for this article. The first time I bought spare change news was recently, and the first time I bought Ms. Magazine was recently. Browsing through Ms. I was happy to see a story featuring Tatyana Fazlalizadeh.  If you haven’t heard of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh I’m pleased to introduce her to you. And if you haven’t heard of spare change news, I’m also glad to introduce that publication to you.

Spare Change is a newspaper that covers issue of homelessness, and human rights in general. It is sold by homeless people on the street. The homeless person buys it for something like 35 cents then sells it for a dollar. They keep any profit they make from selling the newspaper. I really liked the articles in the issue I bought.
Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s has become famous for her art that boldly address street harassers and those who are harassed. She is quoted in the Ms. Article saying “I hope when women see [her art], they’ll feel less alone in the streets.” I certainly felt an immediate gravitation to her work when I first saw it. I felt that someone else “got it”. I was happy to have someone on my side, making art that is very public, in the street where a lot of harassment happens. Her art is also really smart in that it addresses the harassers directly. The art makes a statement that is not dependent on the harassed. It doesn’t make it their responsibility to speak up in the moment. I think that’s really important.
I even bought my boyfriend a T-shirt from her website, not because he harassers people (that I know of) but because it is really important for cis-gendered males to show people when they are conscious of problems like this, problems of sexual harassment. Just the act of him wearing the T-shirt makes a political statement within itself that is powerful because he can recognize his potential part in the problem. He can start conversations with other cis-gendered males when wearing that shirt that has a different effect than if I were to do it.

But what I really want to get to is how the issue of street harrasment relates to another article I read in Spare Change News. In an article titled Homeless Receive Foot Care at Clinic, Kelsie, a volunteer with a the clinic, tells of her conversations with homeless people. She says:
“In the streets, people will pass you by and sometimes people aren’t even nice. Most people will ignore you and pretend you don’t exist, and I think for some of them it kind of internalizes in a way that’s like ‘if no one cares about me why should I care about taking care of myself and my own health?’…”
After reading that quote. I immediately felt a pang of guilt. What do I do when I see a homeless person on the street? The answer is 9 times out of 10 I ignore them. I started to ask myself why.
1. That is how my mother taught me to deal with homeless people. Pretend they’re not there.
2. I don’t often carry cash so I don’t have anything to give them. Also, I know this seems unfair in comparison, but really, I don’t make a lot of money. I’m not homeless, but I’m struggling to make ends meet.

3. I see homeless people a lot. A lot. It takes a lot of my energy to interact with people when I’m going from point a to point b.

and finally

4. It reminds me of harassment. Really. I know it’s not the same but it often feels the same to me as when a man is in my face asking me to smile. Telling me nice ass, or whatever it is that a sexual harasser want to say- or do.
To quote Fazlalizadeh again “Street harassment isn’t always the construction worker shouting form across the street…street harassment is about a man forcing himself into a woman’s space.” The homeless man asking for change often feels reminiscent of this, of another man forcing himself into my physical space. Of course making this comparison might be ridiculous. The intention of this homeless person is wildly different from a harasser. And I know that. But I can’t help feeling them in similar ways sometimes. Not all the time, but sometimes. Have I become so accustomed to sexual harassment in public that my immediate response to most men on the street is that it is for reasons of sexual voilence towards me?

I feel the same way about canvasers, or whatever they are called. You know, people who stand on the streets with clipboards asking for money for a good cause shouting
“Do you care about children?”
“Do you care about LGBT rights. If you do you’ll stop and talk to me.”
“Don’t walk past me if care about women’s rights?”
Of course the answer is yes. I do care about human rights, in general.
But again the feeling is there. The feeling of “Am I about to get harassed?”
There are a particular bunch of canvasers that live outside of my house. I literally see them 70% of the time I enter or leave me house.
With them I feel this same reminiscent intrusion of my space as when I am sexually harassed on the street.
I think to myself, Just because I’m in public doesn’t mean I need to interact with you, and it doesn’t mean I don’t care about human rights.
Their tactics of yelling at me as I pass feel too similar to how I experience street harassment. I want to scream back “If you care about women you’d find another way to get attention for the cause.”
Even today walking to my next destination I feel someone creeping behind me, following. Quietly a male voice says “You dropped something.” Unsure if I’m paranoid or if I did hear something, I just keep walking. I can feel a person still following me- creeping after. I hear it again, twice this time“you dropped something. You dropped something.”
I realize it’s not my paranoia, it really is a man following after me, telling me I dropped something. I turn around and am face to face with a man, a canvaser, “You dropped your smile.”
Disgusted because he tries to get my attention for a good cause by following me down the street, forcing himself into my space with a line that comments on my appearance and how it needs to change- for him. I wave him off an mutter “uuugh” and quickly scoot away feeling icky.

I hope to get some insight from you dear readers. Why has my brain combined sexual harassment, homelessness, and canvasers? Is it wrong for me to automatically cross-link homeless men begging for money with street harassment? (Probably, how do I stop it from happening though??) With canvassers? Have I become so accustomed to sexual harassment that any man getting my attention on the street has now become automatically associated with sexual violence?
Your thoughts please.


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Proprietary Software Keeps Blind People from Getting Jobs

Yesterday I began delving into another of Robert Branco’s1 books. Only six pages in I was struck with the a few troublesome problems I keep encountering over and over again when I read about issues of blindness.  The most reoccurring is the problem of un(and under)employment2 amongst the blind.  This has been a serious issue for the blind for a very, very, long time.
The other is adaptive technology.  How many people that are designing these adaptive devices are also using it? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I’m guessing it’s few and far in between.
As far as I’ve encountered, many adaptive devices are made using proprietary software. This is preposterous because a lot of the devices need to be customized to very specific needs of the individual who is using them.  It’s not an issue of customizing in a superficial sense like I want a pink phone or a red phone.  It’s fundamentally different.  This technology is stuff that people actually depend on for basic communication.  For mobility.  For basic functions of life.  This technology needs to be highly customizable to suit its users complex and varying needs.  People, no matter what their class, or ability, or nationality, need to be given the same access to technology particularly if they depend on it for basic functioning.  Free software helps in the customizable front, and often, in many ways the affordability front.

Consider the importance of being able to know the technology that one uses works in the case of trying to get a job. Only six pages into Branco’s book A Blind Man’s Perspective he writes:

“I’ve been unemployed several times in my life and have been on many job interviews. I believe I have a lot of confidence when being interviewed, and I’m sure I can answer the perspective boss’s questions well. However, with blind employees comes adaptive technology which helps them be as productive as their sighted coworkers. I have used such equipment during some of my jobs, but I don’t know how it is manufactured or programmed. I am a consumer, not the computer engineer who invented it. Many times I am asked how the adaptive technology works, but I can only answer the question to a point. Therefore, I can safely say that not only does blind person have to work twice as hard to find a job, but he also has to pretend to be a computer engineer in order to satisfy employer curiosity about this equipment.”

Let’s address the free software problem first. It seems to be an unfortunate standard that software made for the blind is generally made proprietary3. This means that when a person wants to tailor the technology they are using to their specific needs they may not be allowed to because they are not given access to the source code 5.  As a result in situation like a job interview, like when Robert Branco is asked how the technology he uses works, he literally cannot answer because he is prevented from knowing by the manufacturer.
It is important to think about access to the source code through a frame of social justice.  Not knowing how a technology works, prevents Branco in this case, from getting a job because he can’t answer the perspective boss’s questions adequately.  He had trouble getting the job not because a lack of skills or qualifications, but because the answer to the questions about his adaptive technology (that he needs to be as “productive as his sighted coworkers”) are ironically not accessible to him.  Not only that, but if he needed to make adjustments to suit his particular needs with this piece of adaptive software he is not allowed to make them because he is not permitted edit how it is programmed.
People and especially people who literally depend on technology for mobility and many forms of communication, should absolutely and unquestioningly be given full access to this technology. Unfortunately, because many pieces of adaptive technology are proprietary, this is not the case. It’s a “you get what you get” attitude.
On the bright side, there are some who know propriety software is a problem and are working to correct this. Jonathan Nadeau is working on a promoting a free software screen reader called ORCA. Not only will this be free software, respecting persons freedoms, but it will be free as in price as well.  Donate here if you’d like- they’re far behind their goal in fundraising and are badly needing money.

Under and unemployment for the blind is in skyrocketing high percentages. Of course my inflammatory headline of the article doesn’t contain the complete truth, it’s not just that proprietary software prevents blind persons from getting jobs, this is an age old problem. One that many, many, advocates have tried and continue to address.  In Greame McCreath’s book The Politics of Blindness writes he that would like government intervention with the issue of unemployment to promote positive blind role models. I quite like his idea.  Role models should not be underestimated. The importance of being able to see that a blind person is qualified to do various different jobs will break down many prejudices and stigmatizations surrounding the disability.  Many sighted (and blind) people don’t believe it can be done until a role model comes along.   This is why Helen Keller and Laura Bridgman were so famous after all. They represented the fact that many persons who are deafblind have the capabilities to have language and become “educated.”  Their achievements were so famous because it took the world by storm as it went contrary to very deeply held social belief that if you are deaf and blind you are dumb and mute.  Much has been inspired by these role models in the way of deafblind advocacy.  Positive blind role models are important- and not just people who are so extraordinary it’s hard for anyone to reach their achievements like Bridgman and Keller.  But people just going about their days, who are blind, but are not destitute or lonely. Productive members of society (I leave it up to you to define productive).
Condsider James H. Omvig
“When I became nearly totally blind at eighteen years of age, neither my family nor I knew of role models, successful and competent blind people who could provide valuable guidance or who could give us the slightest amount of hope to which to cling. In the Iowa of the late 1940s and early 1950s, bind beggars with dark glasses and tin cups or blind rug weavers were the order of the day.” (Page 24).

People can begin to see a representation of the blind that is not only negative, extremely important for building self-esteem especially if one is blind. A positive role model in the work force will do wonders of breaking down the stereotype that because a person is blind they cannot work as productively as sighted persons.
I still love McCreath’s idea of some government intervention.  Blind role models in abundance isn’t going to happen on its own.  Given no incentives, employers will continue to hold these unfortunate prejudices that the blind are not as qualified as the sighted, and blind role models in the work force will continue to be sparse.  Providing employers with incentives to hire blind employees will allow for more role models and do something to (sort of kind of) level the playing field so to speak.
Though, with this said, I do want to qualify this by saying decreasing the percentage of unemployment amongst the blind is not the only answer to many problems of stigmitization and oppression facing the blind.
The answer to oppression is not simply to enter the workforce as Betty Friedan found out in the case of “women”4. This push to have blind persons in the work force as a means to find self-fulfillment and purpose rings echoes of Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique in in the 60′s calling “women” to the workforce.  As the feminist movements of the late 60s and 70s found out there must come a societal change in attitudes about sex and gender, and so there must come societal changes in attitudes about blindness and disability in general. I hope the feminist movement will continue to have a (better) dialogue with those doing disability rights activism and that in calling for more blind persons in the workforce we can learn from some feminist mistakes.  I hope that also these issues can be thought of intersectionaly in relation to the oppression often discussed in feminist theory.

Anyway, let me know what you think. Of course, I’m a just another sighted person with my own prejudices and misconceptions. Please set me right if you see something that needs to be corrected. I can’t learn unless you help! Thank you!

1 You may read my previous post here where I mention the Perkins School for the Blind Alumni.

2 “As America enters the twenty-first century, statistics show that between seventy and eighty percent of her working-age blind people are unemployed….Of those who are employed, far too many are severely underemployed or are destined to be locked in at entry-level jobs for a lifetime” Page 12 in Freedom for the Blind by James H. Omvig

3 Proprietary meaning the user of the software is not permitted to access the source code, or the way the technology functions.

4 Whatever that means.
5 Source code meaning the access point where one can see how the software is made or programmed.

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