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Monday, January 18, 2021

This Year's First Issue of Your Favorite Newsblog Has Arrived, January 2021


National Federation of the Blind of Colorado logo including the tagline Live the Life You Want


Writer, Aggregator: Kevan Worley 
Contributors: Dan Burke, Erin Daley
Here is what you need to know

 

BREAKING NEWS! BREAKING NEWS! Students Have Returned to the Building.

From the aggregator: As you know, dear reader, the chief program of the National Federation of the Blind is our Colorado Center for the Blind. We are excited – indeed, we are overjoyed – to report the following, which we have just received from our contributing editor, Dan Burke.

Table and a line of chairs set up outside. health officials wearing gloves, face shields, and paper gowns administer COVID-19 tests to CCB students.

We’ve never been so positive about being negative! Here’s a pic of public health personnel setting up Monday morning in the parking lot at our apartments in preparation for testing everyone at CCB. Meanwhile, students and staff begin queuing with proper social distance. By Tuesday morning, all 37 tests had come back negative for COVID-19.

Classes have been virtual since Thanksgiving. Students returned to our apartments on January 3rd, 4th, and 5th and remained quarantined after traveling for the two-week holiday break. With these negative results, we’re all positively ready to get back to in-person training at the center this week.

 

Mountain Time at 5, Wednesday, January 27. Know Your Rights! Know Your Responsibilities! Taking Full Advantage of Vocational Rehabilitation in Colorado.

The first Mountain Time at 5 for 2021 features a cast of experts to bring consumers and students important information about the scope of services available under our Colorado Blindness and Low Vision Services Unit. Look for more information on our Colorado Talk list serv and NFBCO social media.

Think of the vocational rehabilitation system as a tool or instrument of opportunity. Learn how to use the tool and play the instrument during this empowering Mountain Time at 5 Zoom call.

To learn more now! Email assistance@nfbco.org.

Join Zoom Meeting

https://zoom.us/j/97417562247

Meeting ID: 974 1756 2247

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+13462487799,,97417562247#

 Dial by your location

 +1 346 248 7799

Meeting ID: 974 1756 2247

 

Did You Know?

As we embrace the possibilities of a new year, we thought it would be a good time to remind everybody that NFB still has some dynamic special interest divisions.

  • Did you know that we have a growing Colorado Association of Blind Students?
  • Did you know that our Blind Parents’ Division is maturing into one of the most active blind parents’ division in the nation?
  • Did you know that Amira Lucas, parent of a 2-year-old blind child, is working with Michelle Chacon and our Parents of Blind Children Division to implement a series of online Zoom learning sessions for Colorado’s blind children? Michelle managed education programs for the blind in New Mexico. She is a teacher of blind students with Denver Public Schools. She is also the recipient of the National Federation of the Blind Teacher of Blind Students award.
  • Did you know that the National Federation of the Blind Sports and Rec Division is eager for your involvement and plans lots of sports and rec activities for blind people of all ages? They are seeking your stories of triumph and struggle, delicious and health recipes, or questions about anything related to weight loss, sports, nutrition, mindfulness, etc. Please e-mail Erin Daley at daleyem@gmail.com to submit any articles or questions.

All of these are opportunities meant for us. Learn more by calling our information line, 303-778-1130 ext. 219. Leave a message and we will get back to you. This is also the hotline for blind people who may need some advice or assistance during this difficult time of pandemic. You may also email assistance@nfbco.org. We enjoy receiving your comments and questions. Find your interest. Find your place. Find your joy in the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. Welcome!

 

Successful Learning Through LEGO® Play. Another Example of Braille is Beautiful, by Amy Gunning, TVI in the CSDB School for the Blind.

From the aggregator: When I was a child at schools for the blind, we always had Legos around the playroom. They had bumps and grooves and various smooth and rough surfaces to touch. For the non-blind, of course, there were also colors. Although I enjoyed putting the blocks together, I could never “build” anything. Legos were intriguing and fun. but for me they lost their luster very quickly. In recent years, the National Federation of the Blind has worked with toy and game companies, including LEGO®, to enhance playtime and learning time for the blind of all ages. This is why I was so excited to receive the following article by Amy Gunning. Amy is known as one of the most effective, imaginative, and understanding teachers at our Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. Here is what she says about braille Legos. Please share this post with the teachers and parents of blind children you know, because building and playing with braille Legos is fun!

Earlier this school year, the School for the Blind received a new, highly anticipated, fun braille-learning tool: LEGO® Braille Bricks, from the LEGO Foundation. As described on the LEGO Foundation’s website:

The LEGO® Braille Bricks concept is a play-based methodology that teaches braille to children who are blind or have a visual impairment. Each brick in the LEGO® Braille Bricks toolkit retains its iconic form, but unlike a regular LEGO® brick, the studs are arranged to correspond to numbers and letters in the Braille alphabet. Each brick shows the printed version of the symbol or letter, allowing sighted and blind children to play and learn together on equal terms. This ingenious combination of features opens up a whole new world of playful learning that teaches children Braille in an enjoyable and tactile environment. The LEGO Foundation and LEGO Group are behind this pioneering project that will help children with blindness or visual impairment learn Braille in a playful and engaging way using moderated LEGO bricks. We have teamed up with blind associations to develop, test and launch the concept known as LEGO® Braille Bricks (https://www.LEGOFoundation.com).

Students learning print are surrounded by vast amounts of toys, games, puzzles, books and many other materials that make learning print very fun, engaging, and meaningful. The equivalent types of materials for students learning braille have not always been so readily available. One of the reasons these LEGO Braille Bricks have been so highly anticipated is because of their “learning through play” benefit. Each LEGO Braille Brick kit contains braille bricks with letters, basic punctuation symbols, number signs for creating numbers, and signs of operation math symbols so these LEGOS can be used across a variety of subject areas.

What makes these LEGO Braille Bricks so exciting is that they are designed to support tactile learning skills while being fun, interesting, motivating, engaging, and meaningful materials students can use to build and play. When learning visually, we receive whole-picture information instantaneously; learning tactually initially takes more time to explore/figure out individual pieces of information and then to put all those pieces together to form the whole-picture concept. Braille is an amazing literacy code based on a set of six dots presented in individual braille cells or in combination with two or more braille cells, but learning it can be tricky. What makes learning braille tricky is figuring out which dots of each braille cell are there, which dots are not there, and where each dot is located within each braille cell and in relation to the adjoining braille cells. Developing the tactile perception skills to figure this all out is often challenging and time-consuming. These braille LEGOS have very enlarged braille dots that provide more tactually distinct patterns, which in turn provide more tactual information for figuring out each braille symbol.   

Students of various ages, abilities, and stages of braille-learning in the School for the Blind have been enjoying playing with the LEGOS since being introduced to them earlier in the school year. Students have given us positive feedback about how much easier it is for them to figure out the braille on the LEGOS. Students who have had a hard time with learning braille despite being provided with a wide variety of braille-learning activities, strategies, and techniques are already showing more success with using these braille LEGOS and are expressing more interest in and excitement about learning braille. We have a whole lot more playing and learning to do, but for now these initial successes are sure making our teacher hearts smile!

 

Artistic Expression, Powerful Perspective, and Heightening Dimension Through Arts and Advocacy, by Rishika Kartik.

From the aggregator: This is possibly the longest piece we have ever posted in the Blind Coloradan. I think you will agree we made the right decision. Rishika, a high school student, and her father attended our 2020 Washington Seminar, which is where I met her. I was immediately struck by her kindness, energy, and intelligence. Here is what she says about her engagement with arts, advocacy, and the National Federation of the Blind Colorado Center.

headshot of Rishika Kartik, background is green foilage

It was a cool autumn night in 2008 when the specks of color on my canvas ignited sparks of passion within me. Painting the self-portrait in my home, I was enthralled by the sleek lines on my canvas, the subtle fusing of hues, and the carefree whimsy of the brush in my hand. Blank pages became a sea of possibility, and, with every stroke, I became liberated to create a world of my own. Since then, art has become how I connect with others, express myself, and make sense of the world. 

 

I started volunteering with the blind and visually impaired (BVI) community in 2018 because I was searching for a way to broaden my perspective and interact with diverse individuals. Immediately, I fell in love with the sense of community at Anchor Center for the Blind, Colorado Center for the Blind, and Colorado Center for the Deaf and the Blind. I will proudly say that each blind individual I’ve been fortunate to meet over the last two years has given me my vision and illuminated insights I would have never considered, one of the most notable being the importance of Tactile Art and accessible creative outlets.  Art is such an essential part of my life, yet I saw so many individuals consistently being deprived of it. As a sighted artist, I realized that public perception of art is unfortunately unidimensional. It became evident that tactile art is just as important as visual self-expression. Visual art is ingrained within every aspect of modern culture, from coloring books in early education and murals on street corners, to museum visits and household paintings. Therefore, making art more accessible spearheads inclusivity, fostering community, therapeutic development, creativity, and holistic wellbeing. When I started incorporating tactile art into my volunteer work, the impact was ubiquitous across cultures, age groups, and backgrounds. This revelation has changed my life and has empowered every aspect of my allyship. 

 

I am profoundly grateful to Colorado Center for the Blind and my inspiring mentor, Ann Cunningham, for giving me the opportunity to become the president of the Tactile Art Club in January. Running the Tactile Art Club completely revolutionized the way I perceive art and allowed me to look at creativity in a nuanced multi-sensory way. What started as a small group of about five enthusiastic artists soon grew exponentially in participation, with teachers of students with visual impairment, students, and allies of all ages coming together to explore new artistic possibilities. At the end of February, the club was averaging around 15 dynamic participants and focused on providing an enriching experience to interact with ceramics, accessible tools, and textures.

 

However, the entire structure of the club changed in March. Continuing to spread positivity through tactile art remotely proved to be a previously unaddressed challenge, but that certainly did not stop the club from flourishing! The online format eventually broadened participation from Colorado to all parts of the country and the world. We were thrilled to have 28 participants join our December Tactile Art Club meeting. The international community that the virtual club enabled soon became vital to the experience, as club members learned just as much from the diverse perspectives as they did from the mediums. While we were physically distanced, we became more socially connected than ever. 

 

Artists hands over clay working on self portraits

 

Witnessing an international community develop, I realized that art not only had aesthetic or practical functions, but also socio-emotional and cognitive benefits, as well. Having the opportunity to teach online also changed what I considered “works of art.” In order to address learning inequities and to ensure an affordable, equitable, and convenient experience for everyone, we shifted from traditional mediums to household objects This development allowed us to experiment with a variety of intriguing materials-- paper, tinfoil, pipe cleaners, etc.-- and made me appreciate the beauty of “ordinary” items in a new way. I am so appreciative of the dedicated members of this club who have deeply impacted my view of accessibility, creativity, and, broadly speaking, the way I interact with my world. 

 

Meeting inspiring individuals through Tactile Art Club reiterated the importance of this cause, impacting the virtual execution of my project, Vision of the Artist’s Soul. I am so thankful to Arts In Society for giving me a generous grant to create a comprehensive Tactile Arts education program for blind and visually impaired youth, and Tactile Art Club has given me the confidence and experience to create holistic education and artistic outlets virtually.

 

These experiences have also motivated me to expand my work to other facets of accessibility. The National Federation of the Blind has graciously allowed me to start a Museum Accessibility committee with blind and sighted industry leaders. During these meetings, we discussed best practices for accessible museums and inclusive public spaces. I began reaching out to local museums such as Denver Art Museum, Museo De Las Américas, and the Museum of Contemporary Arts, Denver to partner with them and implement the insightful information that I learned from the NFB committee. Subsequently, I founded Touch and Create Studios, a program that works one-on-one with museums to improve inclusivity and conducts workshops for students with diverse ability levels. The Museum of Contemporary Arts generously gave me the chance to conduct my first workshop for blind and visually impaired youth, which featured the practice of phenomenal blind artists such as Marguerite Woods and Emilie Goussiaux. The workshops were an uplifting success, and I am looking forward to implementing similarly inclusive programs with the other museums and organizations. 

 

Finally, I am thankful to have learned more about how to best be an ally to this community and challenge my notions as a sighted person. I am so lucky to gain more knowledge and grow with every experience. I attended the 2020 National Federation of the Blind National Convention virtually, and met a diverse group of people, with such solidarity, independence, and optimism. At the NFBCO State Convention, I was fortunate to conduct a pumpkin carving art studio with Ann Cunningham. My time at both the National Convention and the State Convention made me so grateful to be a part of this community, and I cannot thank NFBCO and Colorado Center for the Blind enough for welcoming me with open arms and making me feel like a part of the federation family. I also got the opportunity to attend the Washington Seminar with the federation to advocate for legislative initiatives, which inspired me to pursue advocacy by creating the design for the 2020 White Cane Day celebration and starting the social media campaign #MyCaneMyIndependence. The mission of #MyCaneMyIndependence is to raise awareness for White Cane day and to advocate for the right of individuals who are blind and visually impaired to travel independently. It also aims to celebrate the achievements of blind individuals and advocate for policies and infrastructure for a more accessible and inclusive society.

 

Ultimately, this year has taught me to approach my interactions through an abundance mindset, which aims to enrich pre-existing assets of a community instead of acting as a “savior”. I now know that solutions must be human-centric and work directly with the population that they are trying to benefit. I truly believe the blind and visually impaired community has given me so much more than I could ever give them, and I am thankful for the ability to see service and advocacy in a new way.

 

Note from the aggregator: As we go to post, we find that Rishika’s article will soon be published in Future Reflections. Future Reflections is a publication of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, NOPBC. Congratulations, Rishika!

 

What is Lidar?

Merely a generation ago, only those who write and read science fiction would be thinking about some of the life-changing technologies we have today. The exciting thing is that technology for travel, gaining access to information, enjoying entertainment, and more are continuing to develop at a more rapid rate than most would have thought possible only a few years ago. Now we think about 3-D printing, Aira, Be My Eyes, and so much more. The other day, I was reading about Lidar technology. These new technologies will continue to change the landscape for everyone, but the implications for blind people are significant and amazing. Technologists are spending time on the research and development of some truly revolutionary applications for these emerging technologies. For example, here is what Wikipedia says about Lidar technology, “Lidar is a method for measuring distances by illuminating the target with laser light and measuring the reflection with a sensor. Differences in laser return times and wavelengths can then be used to make digital 3-D representations of the target. It has terrestrial, airborne, and mobile applications.”

And this is just one area of research – research that will change the way we live in the world. 

 

From the Grandpa Files, by Kevan Worley.

I haven't had a haircut in almost a year (back in the before times and just prior to Washington Seminar). And that is very strange. Here you have a bald grandpa with hair that will grow on the sides and in the back. I keep it very short. Now it is shoulder length. As I work or read, I find myself playing with my new long and lustrous hair. I don't know about visually, but it is lustrous to the touch. I know – odd; but it feels good! It keeps me from putting my fingers in my eyes. I know many congenitally blind folks who frequently place their fingers in their eyes. No matter how many times I have tried to break the habit, no matter how many parents, teachers, loved ones, or authoritarians have exhorted me not to engage in such a horrible habit, I would get yelled at. Sometimes I would get my fingers slapped. I would be advised that I would never date if a young gal saw me with fingers in eyes and hand covering face. I was told, rightfully so, how anti-social the behavior was. Nevertheless, I have never been able to, nor have I known any other congenitally blind children, who have been able to completely stop. I have often been asked by parents how to get children to stop. My belief is this: we should teach and role model the times when hands in eyes and rocking, which I also do, is unacceptable and harmful to your educational, professional, and social integration. In Grandpa's mind, forcing kiddos with certain disabilities to completely eliminate such behavior is unreasonably restrictive. If I need to rock and roll in private or ease my eye strain or gain some level of comfort with my fingers lightly resting in my eyes when not in public, in my own space, so be it; but this is just Grandpa's opinion.

 

That’s It for This Edition of the Blind Coloradan.

Forward, always Forward!