In addition to celebrating all things related to the white cane; including safety, usage, personalization, this monthly series also shares broad perspectives from those in the field, parents of B&VI children, advocates, and exciting news on the technology front. Cane EnAbled is published on the fourth Monday of each month.
At various points in my sight loss journey, I volleyed between acceptance and denial which are totally human and natural responses to trauma. Today’s post while written for GAAD (Global Accessibility Awareness Day), deeply touched me and is one of the reasons I created Bold Blind Beauty. When we talk about awareness a huge part of it is simply seeing us and respecting us as part of humanity. Awareness for anyone with a disability is not a trend, it’s our lives. The tools we use to live our lives represent strength, resilience, and independence.
The young woman you are about to meet today, Mady Amirah, has used her white cane for several years. What makes her post monumental is that this is the very first photo of her posing with her cane. She is a Boss! ~Steph
Monumental Moment: The Passage To Acceptance
For Global Accessibility Awareness Day, I’m posting my very first white cane picture. For those of you who don’t know, I’m visually impaired and was born with a genetic condition called retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Without this white cane, I would be royally screwed after sunset, in any dimly lit area, or in novel environments. Although I don’t like to admit it, I am an independent woman because of devices such as this. I definitely hope this opens up a door for more accessibility posts in the future.
Global Accessibility Awareness Day always gets me reflecting on how I am able to be the boss I am. It’s days like these when we are reminded of the importance of raising awareness, and it’s my goal to raise awareness for visual impairment every day of my life. I’m applying for my MA in special education to do just that. I’m starting a blog to use my experiences to inspire others.
P.S. This whole outfit is a Ross & Marshall’s mash up.
Can you remember your monumental (literal or metaphorical) white cane moment?
Header: The Beyond Sight Magazine cover has a gray/white marbled background. The date & edition numbers are in the upper right corner in black ink. Mady’s photo is aligned on the right margin with the background appearing on the top, bottom, and left margin. In this photo, Mady is smiling, sunglasses atop her head, and holding her white cane while sitting on a cement wall. She is wearing a white tank top with blue jean shorts, sandals, and a mauve sweater exposing one shoulder. “Beyond Sight” is in large black text and a teal-colored circle with Mady’s name is in yellow text.
As we continue practicing physical distancing, I hope you and your loved ones are well. I couldn’t quite sum up how I’ve beenfeeling lately until I saw the word “melancholy” earlier today. What’s been helping me deal with the pandemic, is being present and truly appreciating each moment as it happens. My life has been so much more than I ever anticipated and I embrace it all; the ups, downs, mistakes, heartbreaks, everything. Who knows how different my life would be had I not endured my experiences? I’ll never know the answer to this question and it’s alright because today I choose to be better than I was yesterday.
Even during a pandemic life presses onward and we can always learn new lessons to enrich our lives. In today’s post, you’ll hear from Catherine Harrison about accepting help no matter how far we’ve come. I’m also happy to announce that Catherine will be an ongoing contributor to Bold Blind Beauty. ~Steph
Stopping Traffic…With My Pride
I’ll bet many women have imagined looking so fabulous in an outfit that heads turn and traffic stops just to watch them walk past. So, I guess it counts that in downtown Austin, Texas I brought traffic to a dead standstill at the intersection of 6th Street and North Lamar. Unfortunately, it was not because I was wearing a fabulous Oscar de La Renta dress or looked particularly on point…it was because of my white cane and my location.
With the progressive loss of my eyesight, due to RP (Retinitis Pigmentosa), I attended a school for blind adults in Austin, Tx to get the skills I needed to navigate life visually impaired. One of the daily classes I attended was mobility training. Blindfolded for 8 hours a day I learned to travel about totally independent using only my wits, a cell phone, my four other senses, and my white cane.
Near the end of my 4 months of training, I was sent downtown on an errand. Feeling very confident in my skillset I navigated public transportation like it was my job, maintained my sense of direction like a Navy SEAL, and even stood in line at the bank to complete the task. On my return, I had to cross the intersection of 6th street and North Lamar.
I listened for the flow of traffic then set off walking confidently behind my cane to what I thought was the opposite corner. After walking a bit, I stopped and waited, listening for the traffic pattern to confirm I had reached the other side.
Nothing…all around me I heard nothing. No roar of cars speeding past me, only the sound of idling engines. Several minutes passed and I heard a car door close, then a woman touched my arm and asked me if I needed help. “No, I said…I am doing great thanks”. Well clearly, I was not doing great but I was the last one to figure that out. The cars were not moving because I was standing smack dab in the middle of this busy intersection. No one was honking or yelling at me…they were just waiting as if holding their breath and cheering me on.
Yes, I did eventually make my way out of the intersection and I could almost hear the collective clapping from those who wanted me to succeed. I learned a big lesson that day, not to let my pride get in the way of accepting help from others. I also discovered that when I let others see me fail it encourages them to know that if I can rise strong and navigate the hard times then so can they!
The header image of the Beyond Sight Magazine cover has a gray/white marbled background. The date & edition number are in the upper right corner in black ink. Catherine’s photo is aligned on the right margin with the background appearing on the top, bottom and left margin. With short blonde hair, Catherine is on the cover wearing a white shirt. She’s sitting with her arm on a sofa and her eyes are downcast.“Beyond Sight” is in large black text and a teal-colored circle on the lower left corner of the photo has yellow text that says “Catherine Harrison.”
In this image of Catherine relaxed in a chair we can see her full outfit; white shirt with blue jeans and gold jewelry.
A device in the works will bring to life the much sought-after tactile display offering both a full-page of Braille and touchable multi-level, full-color illustrations. The TouchPad Pro (TouchPadPro.org) will change the entire landscape of assistive technology for the blind and low-vision community. It may take time and a great deal of funding for research and development, but according to Daniel Lubiner and Boston Engineering, it is now a matter of when not if.
The TouchPad Pro will offer something that only six months ago seemed inconceivable.
Provide the world’s largest visual and tactile display (with over 2400 moving pins!)
Offer a user-friendly and accessible interface, recreating the recognizable platform of Apple or Android.
To be as affordable as possible with increasing affordability over time.
Increase the ability to navigate through 3D maps displaying labeled buildings and streets; a map in motion will show location and movement when linked to GPS
Allow its users to view/feel the contours, and zoom in on full-color illustrations, photographs, and graphs.
Provide a specialized stylus to instantly create, touch, and save tactile drawings.
Have a built-in port for the stylus for easy charging and storage.
Feature a front-facing and a rear-facing 3D camera with a myriad of possibilities, including photographs and selfies that “rise from the surface.”
Help lower the unacceptable unemployment numbers of roughly 75% by providing more accessibility to a world increasingly dependant on technology.
Daniel Lubiner, inventor of the TouchPad Pro, is an Art Teacher for students ages five through 21 who are blind or have low vision. He is also a father, an artist, and a drama enthusiast. For over ten years, Daniel has taught at the New York Institute for Special Education in the Bronx. At nearly 190 years of service, NYISE (nyise.org) is one of the oldest schools for the blind in the United States. On over 17 acres of pristinely maintained grounds, NYISE is home to three dormitories, three classroom buildings, a vast library, an indoor pool, a bowling alley, an air-conditioned gym, an accessible playground, and a modern auditorium.
Accessibility description of the Video:
The video is a fast-moving visual tour of the TouchPad Pro, its features and some of the technology currently available to demonstrate feasibility. The video was created by working closely with a talented 3-D artist. Although the video is geared to people with vision or with some vision, everything in the video regarding the TouchPad Pro is also described on this website. The video also demonstrates current advances in this area in The Graphiti, by APH and Orbit described at this link,http://www.orbitresearch.com/product/tactile-products/graphiti/ and a haptic display developed be EPFL described here: https://lmts.epfl.ch/cms/site/lmts/lang/en/haptics_EM.
The fact that an art teacher conceived the TouchPad Pro would explain its focus on the making and the experiencing of art. While teaching art to students with many different levels of sight loss, Daniel says that he discovered something: there is little in the field of assistive technology other than electronic magnifiers to meet the needs of people with limited vision. With this in mind, he began to make sketches. The goal was to create a tactile experience that would allow those with low vision to experience drawing in a multi-sensory way. From there, the ideas kept expanding.
Daniel explains, “My students always like to touch what they are looking at, no matter where they fall on the spectrum of being ‘legally blind.’ The TouchPad Pro was conceived to benefit this entire spectrum, from those who are blind to those who can see relatively well with corrective lenses. For example, when drawing, the user can use an electronically-connected stylus in one hand and simultaneously feel the lines and shapes appear with the other.”
This is an exciting time for the newly formed TouchPad Pro Assistive Technology LLC. A renowned company, Boston Engineering (boston-engineering.com), is now dedicated to the success of the project. This is an engineering company that has designed medical devices and underwater drones; it is currently working on military exoskeletons for the Department of Defense. Boston Engineering has demonstrated its commitment to the project through the many hours it has invested in research, the study of available technology, and meetings with engineering and programming specialists.
The TouchPad Pro has sparked the interest of LVStek.com and its Low Vision Shop, a cutting-edge company in the area of assistive technology for the blind and low vision community. “The only shop of its kind in the world, we have created a place where people can explore life-changing vision aids, curated by a team of specialists with 45 years of experience in the low vision field.”
Daniel sums up his thoughts: “Working with these diverse and wonderful students has given me pause to reconsider all that I think I know about art, and what many of us take for granted. Helping my students create a tactile version of Starry Night, for example, inspired me to create the TouchPad Pro. The way they overcome obstacles in everyday life motivated me to expand on the invention. It is my hope someday to provide a TouchPad Pro to each of my students and someday to those who can’t afford such devices.”
Daniel Lubiner lives in Westchester, NY. with his wife, Moira, a high school English Teacher, and step-daughter, Ella, a Community Outreach Coordinator at a non-profit. He has two sons. Max who is 21 has helped assist his father greatly with TPPAT LLC and is training to be a pilot. Harry, 18, is a rock-n-roll guitarist, artist, and honor roll student at SUNY New Paltz. Daniel has been into the arts since he was a child. Drama, music, and art have always played a big part in his life. He began teaching special education 23 years ago. He hopes to touch many people with the gifts God has given him and remain a good father and husband.
The header image of the B3 Magazine cover has a gray/white marbled background. The date & edition number are in the upper right corner in black ink. The TouchPad Pro photo is aligned on the right margin with the background appearing on the top, bottom and left margin. “B3” is in large teal text and a teal-colored circle on the lower left corner of the photo has yellow text that says “TouchPad Pro.” There is 3-lines of teal text on the photo that reads “Assistive Technology Reimagined.” The tablet resembles a large iPad turned on its side horizontally. The majority of the surface is made up of over 2000 pins that raise and lower to different heights to form tactile images, multiple lines of braille, or a touch-sensitive Braille keyboard. It is called a tactile and visual display because the pins contain characteristics that make them light up in various colors. Pictured drawing a bright blue line on the display is an electronically connected stylus, resembling a fat pen. Buttons on the stylus allow it to change instantly from drawing to erasing and may have other functions like shape-making. Above the display is a full line of refreshable braille cells like that of a BrailleNote. To either side of the line of braille cells are stereo speakers. Above the tactile display and line of braille, at 12 o’clock, is a front-facing multi-Lens 3D camera and microphone. At 6 o’clock, below the display is a home button and power button. In the left-hand corner is a scrolling and selecting device. To the left side of the display are nine buttons with refreshable Braille indicators that can serve different functions.
Image with specs: Along the left edge of the TouchPad Pro are 2 USB ports, a mini-USB port, and a headphone jack. On the top edge is a stylus storage place, and a power Jack. On the right edge, there are three rocking buttons, including a brightness adjustment, a contrast adjustment, a saturation adjustment so people with visual impairments can adjust the screen to best suit their needs. Centered on the back of the device are an LED Flash, a front-facing multi-lens 3D camera, and a microphone. The TouchPad Pro will be able to take stills or moving images and change them into tactile images on the screen. Please feel free to contact us with questions or suggestions! firstname.lastname@example.org
Biography Photo: Pictured here is a photograph of Daniel smiling with a small colorful parrot named Trixie on his shoulder. They are a local park with many people around.
For people with RP, there is a significant chance that they will eventually lose most of their vision. Vision is worse at night, often resulting in night blindness before losing their peripheral fields.
As we sat facing one another in the principal’s conference room, I asked him what he envisioned for his future. His once jolly smile turned into a saddened face. He looked down and suddenly began avoiding eye contact.
“I don’t know, I think I will always be with somebody”, he said. Describing what he thought his night-time travel needs might look like in 10 years.
“Even as an adult?”, I probed.
Here I was, a stranger without a visual impairment, trying desperately to casually bring up the forbidden “C” word; CANE.
There have been many of these instances in my career. I’m a person who doesn’t have a visual impairment, and yet I am pushing boundaries. Their boundaries. The boundaries of what they think they can do; the boundaries of what their family members think they can do. Sometimes I even push the boundaries of the perceptions of what their community members think they can do.
It’s my job to push the boundaries of my students’ independence level and get them out of their comfort zone. That does not come without its own fair share of push-back.
Stradling the Fence of Independence & Pushing Boundaries
Supporting the independence of people with visual impairments when you are not blind yourself is a delicate balance. A balance between knowing when to push those boundaries, and knowing when to sit quietly. When we are new to our students we are still outsiders who have not yet earned their trust.
President Roosevelt once said, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care”.
When we aren’t blind ourselves, we must remember a few things when supporting the independence of people with visual impairments:
We must remember everybody goes through cycles where they’re dealing with the stages of grief. Even those who have been blind since birth.
We also must remember the student and their loved ones may be on different parts of this cycle at any given time.
We must remember that building relationships and trust can take a long time.
When we only see a student once a month, this can take a lot of persistence to overcome. We are outsiders coming into their inner circle. Sometimes the pushback we receive is simply because we haven’t yet proven our worthiness.
Most of all, we must remember while we’re both cheerleaders and coaches to our students’ independence, we’re NOT the quarterbacks. We cannot do the work for them.
We can teach them the skills. We can coach them to make that big play. We can cheer them on from the sidelines. We can even get their water-filled after the game.
BUT, we cannot make the moves for them. Ultimately, this is THEIR independence; not ours.
Reminders For Students & Clients
To our students and clients reading this, there are things for you to remember, too:
Remember that we care.
Each and every O&M Specialist in this field care about each and every one of you. We may be pushy. We may be bold in our attempts. And we may step on your toes.
But overall, it is out of a deep sense of caring for you and your independence.
For most of us, the privilege of sight is actually a burden in our careers. We know that even though we have no pity for anyone, our sympathy is not empathy. We don’t actually know what it is like to live with a visual impairment every single moment of the day.
It is our joy to help support the independence of people with visual impairments. And it’s our passion to see every person with a visual impairment live their most independent, successful, and fulfilled lives.
I hope this gives some insight into how we try to support the independence of people with visual impairments. Leave a comment and share your story.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject!
Featured Image: The B3 Magazine cover has a gray/white marbled background. The date & edition number are in the upper right corner in black ink. Kassy’s photo is aligned on the right margin with the background appearing on the top, bottom and left margin. In the photo, Kassy is smiling while sitting in a chair with her left arm casually propped against the chair’s back. She is wearing a black cami with a rose-colored skirt and gold medallion around her neck. “B3” is in large teal text and a teal-colored circle with Kassy’s name is in white text. There is a 4-line of black text on the image that reads “creating an inclusive society that values all of our abilities”
Kassy during an O&M session is walking behind her student who is learning to navigate with the white cane. Both brunettes with shoulder-length hair are casually dressed in jeans and flats. Kassy is wearing a black tank top and her student is wearing a green top. Some green foliage and city buildings can be seen in the background. It looks like they just came down a set of cement stairs.