Welcome to CVI's SightSeeing Blog! Here we discuss topics of interest and importance to the community.
Some of the information posted here includes personal stories from CVI clients, perspectives from CVI's expert staff, hot topic issues in government, the latest trends in technology for the visually impaired, and much more. Our desire is that this blog is a useful tool to enlighten, educate and provide needed information in a meaningful dialogue for both the blind and sighted communities. Join us as we invite you to share and discuss the topics with us.
Please note: Blog comments are not to be interpreted as a direct endorsement by the Center for the Visually Impaired. If you have any questions or comments regarding the blog posts, please send them to Empish Thomas at email@example.com.
Editor’s note: This article was reprinted with permission from the AFB AccessWorld Magazine August, 2015 issue. We have broken it down into a two part series because of Ingber’s thorough research on 5 restaurants. This is part one.
Many chain restaurants have websites that include their menus. This can be a great convenience if you'd like to know what they offer in advance of visiting, or if you want to order online or by phone. This article will review the online menu accessibility of the Applebee's, Denny's, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, and Red Lobster restaurant chains. Keep in mind that many local restaurants also have their menus online, not just large chains.
Of course, if you're at the actual restaurant and you have an OCR app such as KNFB Reader or Abbyy TextGrabber, you can photograph the menu and hope the app reads it comprehensibly. Another option is to have a person with you read the menu aloud.
Both Internet Explorer for Windows and Safari for Mac were used to evaluate website menus. Window-Eyes was the screen reader used for Internet Explorer and VoiceOver was used for Safari.
1. Applebee's Online Menu Accessibility for People with Visual Impairments
Applebee's is a chain of family restaurants serving a wide variety of foods including burgers, steaks, pasta, and chicken. The restaurants stay open late and offer a menu for kids.
Applebee's website did not have any clutter. Navigating the site with the headings, links, Tab key, or Arrows worked well in both Internet Explorer and Safari.
When I loaded applebees.com for the first time, the site loaded with a nearby Applebee's location on the homepage. It wasn't the closest Applebee's, but it wasn't very far. Activating the "Location" link near the top of the page presents a search box. Results are clearly displayed. With each result was a link for viewing the local menu.
When the menu page loads, use heading or link keys for navigation. The menu is broken down into categories, including Entrees & Main Dishes, New Apps & Bar Snacks, Handcrafted Burgers, Kids, and Lunch Combos.
Activating the "Handcrafted Burgers" link presented a new page with a list of the many types of burgers served at the Applebee's location I had selected. Individual burgers could be located with headings or link hot keys. Each entry contained the name of the burger, what was on it, and the price. Activating the name link loaded another page with information about social media.
A Nutritional Info link, which opens a PDF document, is provided on all pages of the Applebee's menu. The VoiceOver Find command or the Window-Eyes Find command made it easier to find specific items and information. The PDF document had headings at the top of the page rather than next to the number. For example, "calories" was a table heading, but the heading did not appear next to the number of calories for an item.
The Applebee's website worked well with both Safari and Internet Explorer. It was a bit cumbersome to read the nutrition PDF document, but using the screen reader's Find command helped.
2. Denny's Online Menu Accessibility for People with Visual Impairments
Denny's had a big online menu that includes categories such as Breakfasts, Sandwiches, and Dinner Entrees, along with an offering for kids. Links for these categories were located near the top of the page and were clearly labeled. There was also a link to download the full menu as a PDF file, but this feature did not work well with Safari or Internet Explorer.
Activating the "Breakfast" link loaded a page with many options. Navigating by headings was an easy way to review the choices. Above each breakfast item heading was a picture with a description. For example, the description for the Belgian Waffle Slam listed all the items that came with that option. Below the heading was a "View Details" link.
On the next page, nutrition information such as calories, fat, and protein was presented in a vertical format that was easier to read than a table presentation. For example, next to the word "calories" was the number of calories in the dish. It was inconvenient that the item's price was not listed.
It was possible to find an item on the Denny's online menu and review its nutrition information with either browser. Including prices would improve the experience. The inaccessibility of the menu's PDF file was a disappointment.
3. Olive Garden Online Menu Accessibility for People with Visual Impairments
Olive Garden serves moderately priced Italian food and includes a menu for kids.
The Olive Garden homepage presented a lot of information, but it was not cluttered. There were some headings. Links were clearly labeled. The Find hot key was a useful navigation option.
When the home page loaded, I was immediately asked to allow Olive Garden to access my location. I chose to not allow access. With both Internet browsers, this made it impossible to get to the list of items within each menu category without first manually providing location information. Every page has an edit box plus instructions to put in a city or zip code before navigating. Once that information was provided, a list of the closest restaurants was presented. Each listing contained the restaurant name, address, phone number, and a "View Menu" link. Once a restaurant was selected and that link was activated, the menu could be accessed.
The menu for the selected restaurant could be viewed as a grid (default) or a list. The Dinner menu contained many items including appetizers and main courses. Just above the selection for grid or list view is a link to show more categories. When this link was activated, the entire Olive Garden menu was displayed in specific categories including Appetizers, Lighter Italian Fare, Traditional Favorites, and Create your Own Lunch Combination.
Selecting the Lighter Italian Fare link loaded several options. Each option included the price and a link to more information. Selecting an option loaded a page with a description of the dish. Below the description was a heading labeled Nutrition Facts and a link labeled Expand. The information can be read without activating the Expand link, but for VoiceOver, the table was easier to read when expanded. All the column headings were listed first and then the numbers were displayed. This made it a bit difficult to read, but it was certainly decipherable.
The site works well with both Internet Explorer and Safari. Letting Olive Garden know your location will save you extra work. Unfortunately, the nutrition information was presented in an awkward way.
Stay tuned for the next installment where Ingber will continue her review of the accessibility of two more menus at chain restaurants. But in the meantime, do you dine at any of the above chain restaurants? If so have you use the on-line menu? If you are visually impaired have you found accessing the menu easy or hard? Do you use any type of assistive technology or low vision aid to read menus when dining out? Share your thoughts and comments with us.
Have you ever wondered why the white cane is white and not some other color? Who made the decision for the color white and not black, blue, red or even orange or yellow? When did the blind start using white canes anyway? Well, since today is National White Cane Safety Day I thought it would be fitting to do a little digging into the history of the white cane and the safety law around traveling with it.
Prior to the use of the official white cane people who were blind and/or visually impaired used staffs, sticks and canes as instruments in their modes of travel. These tools were use more to alert the blind person to obstacles in their path rather than for identification purposes. It was not until the 20th century that the “cane” was use to identify if the person had a visual impairment. During the times of the two World Wars canes began to be used by people with vision loss; first starting in Europe and then branching out into the United States. According to the American Council for the Blind’s website James Biggs of Bristol claimed to have invented the white cane in 1921. After an accident claimed his sight, the artist had to readjust to his environment. Worried by the increased motor vehicle traffic around his home, Biggs decided to paint his walking stick white to make himself more visible to motorists.
But it was not until ten years later that the white cane established its presence in society. A national white stick movement for blind people in France was launched. The campaign was duplicated in England and was sponsored by Rotary clubs throughout the United Kingdom.
But in the United States it was the Lion's Clubs International that helped introduced the white cane to the blind community. It was said that in 1930, a Lion's Club member watched as a blind man attempted to make his way across a busy street using a black cane. Realizing that the black cane was barely visible to motorists, the Lion's Club decided to paint the cane white to increase its visibility. In 1931, the Lion's Club International began a national program promoting the use of white canes for persons who were blind Throughout the 1920s and 1930s.
Up to this time, blind people were using their white canes primarily as symbols of blindness not as a mobility aid. But when the blind veterans of World War II returned, the form and the use of the white cane changed. This was an attempt to get veterans active and involved in society again. Doctor Richard Hoover developed the "long cane" or "Hoover" method of cane travel. These white canes were designed to be used as mobility aids and returned the cane to its original role as a tool for mobility, while maintaining the symbolism of blindness.
Also, during this time the white cane began to move into the political scene and state legislation around the white cane began to be passed. The first two states to past safety ordnances were Illinois and Michigan. The ordnances protected white cane pedestrians by giving them the right of way and recognizing that the white cane was a symbol of blindness. In the early 1960's, several state organizations and rehabilitation agencies serving the blind and visually impaired encouraged Congress to proclaim October 15th of each year to be White Cane Safety Day in all fifty states. This event marked an exciting moment in the long campaign to gain state as well as national recognition for the white cane.
So, National White Cane Day was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. It designated October 15th as National White Cane Safety Day. Georgia went a step further and created a state law and protection for those pedestrians that use a white cane.
Here is a summary of the law:
Now that you know why the white cane is white, do you find that motorists stop for it? Do you think that people see the white cane as a mobility aid and symbol of visual impairment? For those that aare reading this post and use a white cane, do you have to explain its useage a lot or barely at all? What things do you think can be done to make peple more aware of the use of the white cane? Share your thoughts and ideas with us.
My Disability is one part of Who I Am is this year’s theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month. This year marks the 70th anniversary celebrating and observing the contributions that people with disabilities continuously make in the workplace. Additionally, this past July marked the 25th anniversary of the ADA. So there are some great things to celebrate in the disability community.
Held annually, National Disability Employment Awareness Month is led by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, but its true spirit lies in the many observances held at the grassroots level across the nation every year. Employers of all sizes and in all industries are encouraged to participate in NDEAM. The history of National Disability Employment Awareness Month traces back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year "National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week." In 1962, the word "physically" was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
"This year's theme encapsulates the important message that people with disabilities are just that — people," said Jennifer Sheehy, acting assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy. "And like all people, we are the sum of many parts, including our work experiences. Disability is an important perspective we bring to the table, but, of course, it's not the only one."
Here at CVI, this theme is reflective this month and every month of the year. Through our New View Adult Rehabilitation Program we offer job readiness and career development for our clients with vision loss. We assist them in returning back to work and finding the jobs and careers they desire. Some clients work on polishing their resume and cover letters. Others work on their interviewing skills. While still others hone their computer knowledge by learning how to use assistive technology. Along with other training classes, such as orientation and mobility, daily living skills and Braille, our clients are equipped to enter the workforce once their training is complete. They know full well that their blindness or vision impairment is just one part of who they are.
So, what do you think about this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness theme? How would you communicate to an employer that your disability is only one part of who you are? Share your thoughts and suggestions about disability employment in the comment section.
Editor’s Note: As we end the month of September and National Guide Dog Awareness Month, we have one more post to share about guide dogs. Earlier this month, Gail Handler a visually impaired writer and blogger, shared excerpts from her training at guide dog school. Now Audrey Demmitt, a seasoned guide dog user, will share about how her years of using a guide dog have assisted her with having a more independent life.
As the birthday of my guide dog, Sophie, approaches next month, I reflect on the numerous ways that she has assisted me over the nearly 5 years I have had her. I came up with a list of the top ten ways to share with you.
10. My guide dog helps me to live a healthy walking lifestyle.
9. With my Guide dog, I am more engaged in my community with organizations like Lions Clubs and local school groups.
8. My Guide dog helps break the ice and start conversations socially.
7. I feel confident and eager to go places with my Guide dog.
6. My Guide dog gets me from here to there with style, grace, and efficiency.
5. My Guide dog keeps me on a schedule and encourages me to play.
4. My Guide dog helps me walk in a straight line, maintaining my balance, pace, and route.
3. My Guide dog assists me to stay safe while walking, avoiding obstacles like curbs, signs, and people.
2. With my Guide dog, I am able to walk with my head up and enjoy my surroundings.
…and the #1 way my guide dog assists me is she provides unlimited love, adoration and devotion which lifts my spirit and enriches my life…what is not great about being adored?!
So, for you who are guide dog handlers, what ways has your dog enriched your life? How has your independence increased? For those who don’t have a guide dog, would you consider getting one? Why or why not. Do you think a guide dog would benefit your life and help you with your independence as a blind or visually impaired person? Share your thoughts and comments.
Editor’s Note: This week is National Fall Prevention Week. Many times when people have accidents or falls in their homes it is not due to weakness or frailty but more so to vision loss. At CVI we teach our clients techniques and strategies on how to be safe in their home. One of our instructors, Ernest Burton, gives some helpful but humorous tips below on how to stay on your feet and prevent falls.
Here are a few safety tips I found from the Center for Disease Control, the Mayo Clinic, and the National Safety Council on fall prevention; but with my own added humor. Always remember that safety is serious and a very important factor of independence.
If you did not laugh that’s ok since safety is a serious matter, however maybe you might consider organizing your home in a safer manner so that you become or remain independent while living there. Did you find my safety tips helpful? What things can you do at home to prevent a fall? Share your comments and let’s talk about fall prevention this week.
Fashioneyesta is an online Fashion and Lifestyle blog for people with sight loss aiming to bridge the gap between fashion and disability. It seeks to change people’s perceptions towards disability.
Allow me to tell you a little about myself. I am currently studying for a Master’s Degree in Children’s Literature at Goldsmiths University. I have lived in South East London my entire life. Naturally, I have been cultivated to know my way around markets, vintage shops, and where to find the best places on my home turf. I am currently working as a Journalist on the Huffington Post UK and working at my University as a Student Ambassador.
Fashion has always been a huge element of my life. Growing up, I was inspired by old Hollywood films and their captivating style icons such as Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. The fashion houses, vintage stores and many delightful chic-lists inspired me to become more involved in the history and the beauty of fashion. By the time I was fourteen, my mother had bought me my first designer bag and then the rest is History. I would describe my style as feminine, with exotic flares, vintage twists and a lot of costume jewelry. I change my look depending on my mood, one day I may step out in an Oriental inspired outfit. Or another day I may wish to go full out vintage with Victory Rolls and a 1940s inspired tea dress.
Of course, you may be wondering why I set up the blog for Visually Impaired people? For one, I myself am Visually Impaired, I have a condition known as Septo Optic Dysplasia. The condition has disabled my Optic Nerves, leaving me with no sight in my right eye and ten percent central vision in my left. However, in the course of my life I never allowed my disability to hinder my love for fashion. Now, with my beautiful Guide Dog, Unity, in toe, I am out exploring the wide world and expanding my blog. A blog that I hope will inspire other visually impaired people to explore fashion, old and new, to find their own unique style.
The media has hypodermically projected an image that Visually Impaired people are aloof characters, sporting an anorak and dark glasses. This is a grossly unfair characterization and must be combated. Fashioneyesta.com serves to present visually impaired people with the tools, the skills and the knowledge of fashion, beauty and style to enable them to use their remaining senses to gage the world of fashion and to create their own unique style.
Fashion can be daunting for any person regardless of vision. Clothing and personal appearance are key psychological factors to a person’s well-being. In the 1940s it was believed that a person must look their best to feel confidence, their confidence transmits itself to others around you and thus you are noticed. Whether you are dressing for a special occasion, are seeking fashion advice, or want to socialize, Fashioneyesta.com is there to help you in whatever way possible. Fashioneyesta has many social networking forums such as a Facebook page, Twitter, Audioboo, YouTube, and many more. I offer my readers a wider variety of activities and things to see, read and do on Fashioneyesta. You can take part in polls, ask questions, or interact with others.
I conduct interviews with people in the fashion business on my blog, to give my readers a fresh perspective to fashion. My most recent interview was with Laura Legendary who is my co-founder of the podcast channel I run called Fashionability.
At Fashioneyesta we have three people on board the venture, alongside several friends who act as my trusty allies. Myself, Emily Davison: Founder and female writer. Then there is Emma Davison, who is in charge of photography and filming for the blogs images and videos. For the males there is Thomas Ankin. Thomas is the male contributor for the blog, who reviews male products and writes features for the boys. Finally, we have a group of willing testers, who serve as the panelists on Fashioneyesta’s Product Testing Days. Where we receive a bundle of products and review them on accessibility, ease of application, value for money and overall quality.
I currently work with a number of different charities and organizations to raise awareness of Fashioneyesta and what we do, as well as to help Visually Impaired people with fashion. At present, I work as a fashion correspondent alongside the RNIB’s Insight Radio and in the past for Able Radio. Fashioneyesta has also been showcased on the BBC4’s In Touch radio and BBC Ouch Disability. I currently am working with charities on their fashion related projects one of which is the Living Paintings Trust.
At Fashioneyesta we also offer a support service where you can e mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any queries you may have in relation to fashion and lifestyle.
I welcome you to Fashioneyesta and hope that you enjoy reading and exploring everything it has to offer.
The blog is written in a friendly, talkative style in order to give people the advice they need and make them feel as if they were right alongside a shop assistant or a trustworthy friend. The main thing that I aim to do is to aid people with the right tools in order for visually impaired people not to feel as if society perceives them as being frumpy or stereotypically unfashionable due to their sight loss. I run the sight writing blog posts, recording audio boos and updating all my social links including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. For more information check out my website at: http://fashioneyesta.com/.
Always remember to be daring and don’t conform to what society expects you to be!
Editor’s Note: September is National Guide Dog Awareness Month. This month is a celebration of the work of guide dogs in the United States as a way to raise awareness, appreciation and support for guide dog schools across the United States. It was established in 2008, as a fundraising drive to benefit non-profit guide dog organizations accredited by the International Guide Dog Federation. It is observed during the month of September. Gail Handler a visually impaired writer and blogger shares excerpts from her training at the Guiding Eyes For the Blind in Yorktown Heights, New York. Later this month Audrey Demmitt, another guide dog user, will share about how her years of using a guide dog have assisted her with having a more independent life.
I applied to guide dog school the end of January, 2014, and was accepted in April, 2014. My first class was on October 26, 2014. Below are excerpts of my blogging journal from school.
There IS something worse than going outside at 6:00 AM. That would be going outside in the drizzly, cold, windy morning at 6 AM!
Even with crappy weather, we had a stellar walk. I handled turns, curbs, and distractions almost like a pro until we came to a curb with a huge puddle that I didn't see, but Pippi caught. I gave the Forward command and she refused to go. I gave a leash cue, didn't budge. Asked my instructor what was up and she said, "Miss Prissy pants doesn't want to get wet and she can't find an option to go around!" With instructor assistance, Pippi skimmed the edge of the puddle. Her job was to get me safely across the street. That doesn’t mean she has to keep ME out of the puddles! The dog has a rebellious side...we are so well matched.
Sunday is a down day. I decided to watch some TV. I sat cross-legged on the floor. Pippi immediately plopped her 50ish lbs. on my lap. There was a doggie butt on one thigh and a doggie head on the other. Last week, if you told me I'd be sitting with a dog, and kissing her head I would have said, "Yeah, when h*all freezes over." All I can say is you better get out your winter coat, folks!
I am amazed how much I have learned in 2 weeks. I believe I will have the tools I need to continue learning. We simulated traffic checks where your dog slows down or stops and backs up due to an on-coming car. On Saturday, we went to White Plains and an instructors drove a real car toward us. She appeared out of nowhere. Pip hit her breaks and did a backward shuffle. I was supposed to shuffle back as she did but I took a couple of giant steps backward instead of the baby steps needed. That threw her off.
Later, we all worked on different things with instructors, to fit training to our environmental needs back home. I worked on targeting bus stops.
Coming to New York City is a cacophony of sound, smell, movement and a mass of people who always seem to be walking the opposite direction.
We took the commuter rail into the city and arrived at Grand Central Station, a cavernous, bustling, overwhelming place for the sighted, let alone the sightless. Next we took a subway a few stops. We walked from 42nd Street to the 60s. Grabbed a bus, rode to 90th Street then walked over 4 blocks 94th to a restaurant.
Watch words to remember: Be in the Moment. Focus on Pippi as she weaves in and out around people, poles, construction, roadwork that requires slowing down and smaller steps to not overstep her lead. It means being aware of her movements and discerning distractions that take her focus off working. I need to be aware of my body language which Pippi constantly reads. Can you say 'multi-tasking?'
Each morning, we were awoken to a bit of music then 'good morning.’ On this last morning, we were serenaded by "Leaving on a Jet Plane." Boarding the plane with a dog in tow actually was rather exhilarating. Everyone acts like you're the Next Big Thing. Or maybe it's just the dog. Pippi lay down and curled up like a little ball of fur.
Currently, Pippi and I are approaching our one year anniversary! In the 11 months we've worked together, I can say that it's been a learning experience and an adventure. I compare it to my first year as a teacher; I had all the training, the basic skills I needed, enough information to get started, but you aren't really a true teacher until you have some experience under your belt. Same is true as a guide dog teammate. Pippi and I have been learning what to do and how to do it together. We have our ups and downs but keep on going. Instructors told us that the bond between person and guide dog takes about a year to solidify. I think it happens when you each learn to trust the other one. I can honestly say I can't imagine a day without her.
So, for you who are visually impaired and reading this post have you ever considered a guide dog? Why or why not. Do you think a guide dog would benefit your life and help you with your independence as a blind or visually impaired person? Share your thoughts and comments in the section below as we discuss guide dog awareness this month.
World Services for the Blind staff is always delighted to hear about the successes and career journeys of former clients, because ultimately, it’s the reason that we are all here doing what we do. Recently, one of our alumni, Desmond West, wrote a letter to our case manager Terry Stevenson about what he’s been doing since graduating from the Assistive Technology Instructor program at WSB, and he’s been very successful. But before we share his letter of success some background on Desmond’s journey to WSB is needed.
At the end of his training in March 2013 at CVI, Desmond’s Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor along with other VR Counselors agreed he needed additional training and recommended WSB. There was some hesitation about traveling to an unknown city with a visual impairment, but after talking it over with some of the staff members of New View, Desmond decided to attend and enter the ATI Program. He was excited but this is when the real challenges began. He was given 48 hours to leave for Little Rock for the next 9-months. Then Greyhound lost his luggage with all his clothes except what he was currently wearing at the time. He also lost all his medications that were inside the lost luggage and no pharmacy took his insurance. While taking classes at WSB he struggled with his diet and as a result his vision fluctuated; causing him to switch technology from screen magnification to screen readers. If that wasn’t enough he spent a week in the hospital suffering from mini strokes which was occurring about 6 times a day. He believes that thanks to God’s grace and mercy he was able to finish the program at WSB.
Towards the end of the ATI program he learned through networking there was a position open at CVI for an Assistive Technology Assistant Instructor. He submitted his resume and contacted his Vocational Rehab Counselor to enquire about the possibility of working as an intern. The first of January 2015 he was hired on as an intern and became full time 2 months later.
Now that you have the background on Desmond’s journey, here’s his letter that he sent to Terry, published with his permission:
“It's been 4 1/2 months now [since graduating] and I'm still here at CVI as the Assistive Technology Assistant Instructor. Things are going really well. On average I have about 7 students in PC at a time. It can be challenging at times, but the training I gained from WSB really prepared me for the position I am currently working in. In the classroom, the students are taught the basics of MS Word, Excel, Outlook, Internet and File management. The courses taught by Rachel, Rebecca, Alice and later Dean were the key to a smooth transition from the classroom setting into my position. The most important part of the training I received was learning how to teach others. That lesson has played a very important role in my field. I am so grateful that I hung in there and finished the race. Not only am I the PC assistant instructor, I am also the head IOS training instructor. The class consists of a small group of IPhone or iPad user numbering from 1 to 4 students at a time. I am really enjoying what I am doing and looking forward to returning to college for a degree to further my opportunities. I will be going to a senior citizens facility in a few weeks to give a presentation on the use of the IPhone/IPad.”
We are so happy for Desmond and wish him all the best as he continues to pursue his passion for teaching blind and visually impaired clients. The Mission of World Services for the Blind is empowering adults who are blind or visually impaired in the United States and around the world to achieve sustainable independence.
Editor’s note: a portion of this blog post was reprinted with permission from the WSB Insider Newsletter August 10, 2015 edition.