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Blind Author’s Diversity, Inclusion & Anti-Bullying Novel

Image is described in the body of the post.

Introduction

Advocacy is in my blood and fuels my spirit. So when my friend Donna Hill sent me an email asking for help to win a book cover competition I said YES! Since I’m always looking for opportunities to increase accessibility, inclusion, and representation this opportunity is a fun way to do this. Please join me in voting for Donna’s book cover HERE. Together let’s change how we perceive one another. Without further ado, it’s my pleasure to present Donna:

Now in Final Round of Book Cover Competition: Vote it into the Winners’ Circle!

By Donna W. Hill

Earlier this month, my educator-recommended, young adult novel, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, was chosen to compete in AllAuthor’s Cover of the Month Competition. I remember the first time I visited my special page and hearing JAWS, (Job Access With Speech) my screen reader, say “0 Votes Button.” It seemed like a hopeless case – not that I haven’t been there before.

I entered, and Jaws said, “1 Vote Button.” Since that first day, I’ve been working my butt off, following every lead and using social media in ways I would have never dreamed of only a month ago. Through blog posts, status updates, newsletters, emails to individuals, posts to my many Facebook and LinkedIn groups and requests to authors on the AllAuthor site, I’ve been doing everything I can to get the vote out.

Some of the procedures are complicated, but I’m doing them so much that it’s like my hands are dancing around the keyboard. I’m happy to announce that The Heart of Applebutter Hill is now in the fourth and final round! I’m using the opportunity to raise awareness about blindness, guide dogs and accessibility, & I would appreciate your help. If I’ve already convinced you, just go vote: https://allauthor.com/cover-of-the-month/5725/

Description of the Book Cover of The Heart of Applebutter Hill

Book cover for The Heart of Applebutter Hill by Donna W. Hill shows a cave scene - stalactites reflected in an underground lake, while a hand holds the Heartstone of Arden-Goth: photos, Rich Hill;, design, Lizza Studios.
Book Cover

The cover of The Heart of Applebutter Hill shows a cave scene – stalactites reflected in an underground lake. In the bottom right, a hand holds the blue, heart-shaped Heartstone of Arden-Goth. Photos by Rich Hill; cover design by Bob Lizza, Lizza Studios.

The idea for the book cover, however, came from yours truly. I have a beautiful blue glass, heart-shaped paperweight, which was given to me by my “secret sister” when I belonged to a women’s circle at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Glenside, Pennsylvania. The cave scene is a bit of a secret. I would like to find out if anyone recognizes it. I will say that my hubby Rich and I have been there twice, and without seeing it in the ordinary sense of the term, that cave formation dug a hole right into my imagination and provided one of the novel’s most exciting, scary and intriguing scenes.

Some Thoughts on the Big Picture

Pink breast-cancer-awareness afghan, designed and knit by Donna W. Hill,  features twining vine surrounded by butterflies and candle flames: photo by Rich Hill
Breast Cancer Awareness Afghan

Pink breast-cancer-awareness afghan, designed and knit by Donna W. Hill, features twining vine surrounded by butterflies and candle flames with “Buddy Check” in Braille: photo by Rich Hill.

Why is this so important to me? It’s October which makes it “Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” and a celebration for me of twenty-nine years as a breast cancer survivor. I am aware that life is short and that there is a reason each of us is here, a unique perspective on the human condition we hold in our hearts and share as a gift to Life.

It’s also “Meet the Blind Month.” I was born legally blind from Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative condition, and I feel an obligation to smooth the trail a bit for the next generation. People with vision loss are still dealing with the devastating impact of misguided, erroneous and cruel prejudices and low expectations about our potentials. These prejudices are held by people who have limited imaginations when it comes to their own impressions of what it must be like to not have eyesight.

Sighted Folks Need Our Help

The sighted world needs to learn about and embrace us for at least two reasons. First, many of us have developed survival, coping and innovation skills that are far less common in the general public. We know how to press on. We don’t have the luxury of giving up after a few tries. We endure humiliation and find ways of coping with it.

It was the news about how average Americans were reacting to the Great Recession that enlightened me. So many people have no clue how to deal with adversity. They’re devastated after applying for and not getting ten jobs. They are thunder-struck when their “friends” don’t want anything to do with them after they’ve lost their homes or jobs. The socioeconomic structure in which they place their trust is a mirage, and when they finally figure that out, they don’t know how to continue. It’s sad.

Secondly, there are people out there, from children to senior citizens, who are unknowingly living as temporarily sighted people. Most of the people in the world who are now blind lost their sight as adults. They grew up as sighted kids, soaking up the negative stereotypes about blindness, until they found themselves having to give up on life or transform their thinking about what it means to be blind. Too many give up.

Social Change Through Literature

Blooming Amarilis with a print copy of The Heart of Applebutter Hill by Donna W. Hill, a fantasy adventure featuring some awesome flowers: photo by Rich Hill.
Blooming red Amaryllis with book

Blooming red Amaryllis with a print copy of The Heart of Applebutter Hill, a fantasy featuring some awesome flowers: photo by Rich Hill.

Blind people come from every race, religion, ethnic, social, age and economic group. From genius to developmentally challenged, straight to gay, we are a cross-section of humanity. To open the minds of the next generation, we need to get our young adult novels & autobiographies into the classroom, where books can open young minds about the abilities and common humanity of visually impaired people.

I have been working on this issue all my adult life, using music, classroom visits, school assemblies and now literature. The prejudices – yeah, there’s that word again – are deeply entrenched in the human mindset. Whether due to unfamiliarity or something else, these roots need some serious tugging at to break free.

Yes, we can open minds about blindness through literature. A book can give sighted people a safe place to get to know a blind person. It’s also important that young blind people get to see themselves in an exciting adventure fantasy. I believe it can help bridge the gap between the sighted public and the blind community and help kids who are losing their sight realize they are not alone.

Blind Authors & the Publishing Industry: a Locked Door

The publishing industry, while occasionally willing to take on the nonfiction stories of blind people who make it into the public arena, has been more reluctant to embrace fictional portrayals of blind people by blind authors. The disability community has a saying, “Nothing about us without us.” So far, however, the industry is more open to fictional portrayals of blind people by sighted authors.

Some blind writers have been told that their portrayals of blind girls and women are “unrealistic.” Others were told that the public wants their fictional blind females to be demure, spiritual and in need of rescue. Despite the obstacles, more excellent blind authors than ever are establishing themselves as career authors.

Blind Authors Find Ways Around Those Locked Doors

Whether through self-publishing or by working with small publishing houses, their work is getting out there. Some of my favorite blind women authors include Deborah Kent Stein, Amy Krout-Horn, Kristen Witucki, Meredith Burton, Phyllis Campbell, Jo Elizabeth Pinto, Patty Fletcher, and Lynda Lambert. As for blind men, there’s Jerry Whittle and Justin Oldham for starters.

Fiction by blind authors, however, is not on the bestseller’s lists. Several years ago, I ran across a report by the diversity watchdog group “Diversity in YA.” They track the Publishers Weekly bestsellers for young adult novels with main characters and authors with minority status, including disabilities. In 2013, there were no blind main characters. There were also no black main characters. Only the gay community even came close to having a percentage of books in line with population.

This is evidence of the rejection of diversity by the publishing industry and in my opinion something we need to change to create an atmosphere of inclusion in the general population. Here’s a link to the report: http://www.diversityinya.com/2014/03/diversity-in-publishers-weeklys-2013-young-adult-bestsellers/#more-3170

Voting Instructions for Jaws Users

Go on over to: https://allauthor.com/cover-of-the-month/5725/

  1. The page title is “Vote for The Heart of Applebutter Hill
  2. From the top of the page, use ‘h to next heading which is the book title The Heart of Applebutter Hill.
  3. Down-arrow past author & genre till you hear a number followed by “Vote button.” At this writing, I have 258 votes, so it should say, “258 Sign-in Vote Button.”
  4. Enter.
  5. You will be prompted to sign up to the site; choose ‘author or ‘reader. You can establish a nice profile, but you don’t have to.
  6. Give your email, password and sign up. Thanks, bunches, you’ve just voted.

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Why We Need AIR: Accessibility Inclusion Representation

AIR is vital to sustaining all life. For people with disabilities, AIR is equally important to our survival. AIR, in this case, symbolizes Accessibility, Inclusion, and Representation 3 key elements required to break down barriers.

Why We Need AIR: Accessibility Inclusion Representation

Capitol Crawl

July is Disability Pride Month and today is National Disability Independence Day. On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law.

Accessibility, Inclusion, and Representation matters. As a person of color, over 50, female, and living with an acquired disability, I know how exclusion feels. Exclusion is one of the reasons social justice has always been important to me.

When you’re born into several marginalized groups there’s a certain amount of uncomfortable familiarity where discrimination and exclusion is concerned. There is a whole other level of discrimination when becoming a member of the disability community that makes day-to-day living a bit more uncertain. Well-meaning friends and family try their best to understand our experience and we try to help them by inviting them into our world. Living with a disability is a uniquely personalized experience for every. single. person. None of us, even those who share the exact same disability will live with it in the exact same way.

Many people aren’t aware that the disability community is the largest minority group in the United States. What makes our minority group different from others is anyone, at any time can become a member. Our community doesn’t care about your social status, education, sexual orientation, age, etc. ANYONE can acquire a disability during their lifespan. As we get older the likelihood of acquiring a disability increases significantly.

While we’ve made strides towards increasing accessibility, inclusion, and representation we still have a long way to go. The fight for equal rights in housing, education, employment, transportation, and more continues as we still face many barriers.

The Fight For Disability Rights

“The “Capitol Crawl” protest for disability rights on March 12, 1990, might have been the single most important catalyst for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 25 29 years ago. The law aimed to end segregation of physically and mentally disabled persons and promised them equal opportunity to participate in society, live independently and achieve economic self-sufficiency.

See Capitol Crawl Image Description

PBS did a moving documentary in 2011 on the Disability Rights Movement called “Lives Worth Living.” The first time I saw it I felt sadness, anger, and the need to act. People with disabilities share many of the characteristics of our non-disabled counterparts, we simply do things a little differently.

In “Observing 25 Years of the ADA” I found this bit which I’ve edited: Our lack of understanding, fear, and inhumanity towards people with disabilities I believe, promotes continuing injustices. It’s no wonder when a life-altering event occurs and we acquire a disability, we have a difficult time adjusting. Coming face to face with our prejudices, then navigating a still-flawed system to protect our new status, can be a difficult transition.  

Sadly, some of us take the stance that disability rights are ‘not our problem,’ that is until we are disabled. However, being ‘temporarily abled’ as the majority of us are, makes it our problem.

Air is free yet there are some who believe not everyone is deserving of AIR. Disabled lives are human lives and all human lives matter.

We’ve come a long way since the ADA became law however the fight for Accessibility, Inclusion, and Representation continues.

Why We Need Air: Accessibility Inclusion Representation Featured Image Description:

A bright blue sky with puffy white clouds is in the background. In the foreground is a big red sign with white capital letters that says “No Problem.”

Capitol Crawl Image:

A group of handicapped people led by 8-year-old Jennifer Keelan, left, crawl up the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, March 12, 1990, to draw support for a key bill now pending in the House that would extend civil rights to disabled persons. The group of about 1,000 people or rode in wheelchairs down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the Capitol. (AP Photo/Jeff Markowitz)

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Accessibility Meets Fashion In Clothing Identification Solutions

Accessibility Meets Fashion Featured image description is in the body of the post.

Accessibility Meets Fashion In Clothing Identification Solutions

Improving accessibility for blind and visually impaired (B&VI) people is a critical and ongoing process. Thanks to my role in Bold Blind Beauty, I have participated in many research projects on the topic of accessibility. The most recent ‘creating accessible makeup packaging for (B&VI) people’ was so exciting I could barely contain myself. Exchanging ideas and coming up with novel approaches to creating more accessible makeup is huge. What this means, in a nutshell, is we are moving in the right direction.

So a few days ago, I was thrilled when Faye, contacted me. Faye, a recent fashion and textile designer graduate, working on her Master’s dissertation asked if I could put feelers out in my network. She needs to collect anonymous data to move forward with the project.

What was interesting to me is Faye’s reason behind her research. I found out her passion for her work was borne as a result of her mom’s chronic illness. Her mom wanted to look beautiful even when she was at her worst.
What influenced Faye to make a difference was her mom’s clothes didn’t last long because of her disability.

Faye’s Message

Hi, my name is Faye and I’m a mature Masters student from the University of Portsmouth. I am writing a paper to identify areas that need improvement in the clothing identification of (B&VI) people. Creating digital labeling solutions will follow. I am looking for participants to complete my survey or just to comment. This will help me understand the processes and what people actually want to know about their clothes for easier identification. The data will be transferred into the labels.

Here is the link to the survey https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/Z8TLZ/

Thanks for all your help!

Accessibility Meets Fashion In Clothing Identification Featured Image Description:

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay. Striking black and white photo of a silver key in mid-air aimed at a keyhole.

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Finding Fashion With Bumps & Bars

Finding Fashion With Bumps & Bars Featured Image description is in the body of the post.

Finding Fashion With Bumps & Bars

Hello everyone – Abby here!

Have you ever heard of Seiichi Miyake? No, this isn’t a new fashion trend or makeup line, it’s the name of the Japanese inventor of truncated domes. Also called braille blocks, tactile paving, or detectable warning surfaces these unique patterns are identifiable with our canes.

Located on the ground at intersections or on the edges of train platforms they let us know where we are. I love these bumps because it’s another way for me to get to where I want to go. Which of course, is usually to find a cute new outfit, maybe matching shoes, or possibly a whole new makeover!

So I was thrilled to find that today’s Google Doodle—the daily animation of Google’s logo— is honoring cane accessibility. As a long time cane user, accessibility and inclusion are always near and dear to my heart.

Celebrating Accessibility

Google is celebrating the introduction of truncated domes by honoring its inventor Seiichi Miyake. 52 years ago
Seiichi wanted to help a blind friend navigate better in big cities, railways, and parks.

The animation shows a white cane and sneaker-clad feet walking on the yellow raised bars towards the bumps. ‘Google’ is spelled out in upper case letters with different colors in the bumps on the ground. An animation of this type on a global search engine is another way to showcase our independence. We walk boldly in confidence with our white canes eradicating misconceptions about blindness and sight loss.

To learn more about how the truncated domes were developed, and how we use them to navigate click the Google logo. And of course, while you’re online you might as well take advantage of some retail therapy. Find some fun fashion or bling to add to your collections!

Finding Fashion With Bumps & Bars Featured Image Description:

Image of Google’s looped 20-second animation. The image shows a person with a white cane wearing black and white sneakers. The cane detects the word ‘Google’ spelled out in different colors on the truncated domes on the ground.