Recommended Reading for November 23

There was no recommended reading on Friday because I forgot I hadn’t done one for the day after the Carnival. Oops!

Changing the Perception of Braille

I recently watched a Ted talk that focuses on the idea that how we feel about something is totally based on our perception. It seems to me that in ore for us to improve braille literacy, we are going to have to change people’s perceptions. Organizations like the NFB and ACB are already doing things to help change people’s attitudes towards braille, but I think we can go even further.

Many people are choosing to learn sign language because they think it’s cool. So the question is how do we make braille cool? I think we have to start with children and teens. When we’re younger, we tend to me more likely to accept change and set trends. With this in mind, I have a few ideas of how we can make braille cool in the eyes of our children, and if we can do that, then maybe that will translate to the adults in their life.

Blind Need More Access To the Written Word

I love to read, and I’ve been doing it ever since I was able. My wife is also an avid reader. But we are blind, and so are many of our friends. The organization I lead, the National Federation of the Blind of New York, is made up of blind people. Although many of us read everything we can get our hands on, we can’t get our hands on very much to read.

There are services for us, of course. Government entities and nonprofit organizations convert books into Braille, audio or digital form for our use. But only about 5 percent of all books published undergo such a conversion. The largest collection of books in Braille and audio form in the United States has, perhaps, 70,000 circulating titles in its collection. A few more selections are available as commercial audio books, but these are up to three times as expensive as print books.

Service Dog Etiquette Part 1:

I’m sure you’re thinking, how does my petting a service dog undermine his relationship with his person?

Well, it works in two ways. First off, my service dog works for me because he believes I am the most awesome person in the world and that all good things come from me. All petting, all praise, all toys, all games, his soft fluffy bed, all food, all treats – that all comes from me. Secondly, if someone other than me pets him, he starts thinking…oh, people will pet me. If people will pet me, it’s worth paying attention to people rather than my partner. If he pays attention to people rather than to me, I could have a nasty fall (among other things) – one that could injure both of us. Keep in mind when you read this that the average person who works with a service dog is more likely to be hurt, and hurt badly, by a fall. We tend to have service dogs because there is some kind of physical fragility or injury to us already, after all. When you’re dealing with guide dogs, I think the risk is even greater – a distracted guide dog might walk his person into traffic!

When People Say Stupid Shit

I. Cannot. Afford. A. Place. Alone.

My maths are simple. I have an income, which I get from the state until they figure out what sort of job I can handle with my disability. That income is all I have. Anything I might earn by teaching two hours a week (which I do) is subtracted from that income. That means that I cannot raise my income in any way. Unless, of course, I do so illegally, which would be pretty stupid considering the risk of discovery. My income is what it is and cannot be adjusted upwards. At all. Not until I get some help for my disability.

In the news:
Study Unravels Mystery of Dyslexia

New research may provide an answer as to why children with dyslexia often have difficulty hearing someone talk in a noisy room.

Dyslexia is a common, language-based learning disability that makes it difficult to read, spell, and write. It is unrelated to a person’s intelligence. Studies have also shown that patients with dyslexia can have a hard time hearing when there is a lot of background noise, but the reasons for this haven’t been exactly clear.

Now, scientists at Northwestern University say that in dyslexia, the part of the brain that helps perceive speech in a noisy environment is unable to fine-tune or sharpen the incoming signals.

13 thoughts on “Recommended Reading for November 23

  1. On the dyslexia thing… it’s actually quite interesting. I have auditory processing disorder and have always had the auditory discrimination issue mentioned in that article. (It’s the reason I don’t enjoy socializing at crowded bars or parties— there’s too much noise to distinguish what anyone in particular is saying!) And yet, my reading and spelling have always been above par (though oddly, I do have trouble keeping numbers straight when reading them).

  2. Auditory discrimination and dyspraxia here. I suspect there are many more links going on than the news makes clear, because most people have at least a vague idea what dyslexia is but the others are a mystery.

  3. I don’t think they have to do much to make braille cool for children. I went to school with a girl who was losing her eyesight due to a genetic condition, and we actually did spend a week of school learning how to read and type braille, among other related things. Unfortunately, I forgot most of it, but at the time, I thought it was really cool and sort of like a secret language.

    Also: I have problems distinguishing between speech and background noise. I always look at people’s lips and not into their eyes for a reason. I hear everything, my brain just can’t sort through it. Not sure if it’s severe enough to be compared to what these tests test for, but as far as I know I’m not autistic, dyslexic or something similar. My mum was actually surprised when I told her that there are people who don’t have these problems, and she has trouble even in relatively non-noisy environments.

  4. The problems of getting books in an accessible format continue to exist despite the increasingly widespread availability of e-books which should, in theory, be making a real difference to people with visual impairments and other disabilities that affect a person’s ability to read conventional print books. The e-book readers like Kindle seem very reluctant to make adaptations that could help solve this problem and if anyone suggests that audio books should be sold at the same price as print books accusations of ‘wanting special treatment’ are always aimed at the PWD or ally who raises it. It makes me very sad. As for the braille article, I think it is a good idea to destigmatise braille and hope it might encourage more children with sight loss to be taught it earlier as a back-up. There seems to be a real reluctance to teaching children with sight loss to read braille because they’re not ‘blind’, but surely having a back-up method of reading for when their eyes are tired or for if their sight deteriorates is surely a positive thing, I think as long as braille is seen as adesperate last resort it’s always going to be seen as a really negative thing.

  5. Well, the Kindle really isn’t at fault for the lack of TTS beyond the fact that Amazon gave in. It’s the book publishers who whined that no one would buy Audio books if the the Kindle had TTS.

  6. Well, it is also that Amazon did not make the menu system accessible either. A TTS engine isn’t much good if you can’t get it to start without assistance.

  7. When my school was introduced to Braille in 5th grade, we thought it was awesome. Of course, it was like a weeklong “special project”, never to be brought out again.

    I took for granted that every place would stock Braille menus and things like that, until I worked at a restaurant/hotel that hosted a convention for the National Federation for the Blind. We were trying to be fully accessible to guests with vision impairment and willing to learn what we needed to do to meet that goal, and we met with the local chapter president, who taught us the proper way to serve blind guests in our restaurant. I was shocked by how many people told us that this was the first “nice” place that they were welcomed at and catered to in our college town.

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