Here and There

edited by Sharon Strzalkowski
 
The announcement of products and services in this column does not represent an endorsement by the American Council of the Blind, its officers, or staff. Listings are free of charge for the benefit of our readers. “The ACB Braille Forum” cannot be held responsible for the reliability of the products and services mentioned. To submit items for this column, send a message to slovering@acb.org, or phone the national office at 1-800-424-8666, and leave a message in Sharon Lovering’s mailbox. Information must be received at least two months ahead of publication date.
 
NLS Library of the Year
 
For the second time this decade, the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library has received top honors for its outstanding services to readers who are visually or physically impaired.
 
The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, part of the Library of Congress, presented WTBBL Director Danielle Miller with the Network Library of the Year Award in May in the Library of Congress’ Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C.
 
In 2016, WTBBL, comprised of 17 staff members and many volunteers who worked the equivalent of seven additional employees, hosted 8,320 visitors, served 9,349 active individual readers and 500 institutions, circulated 293,877 physical items and added 1,704 new patrons to its service. WTBBL patrons, who include anyone unable to read standard print material due to blindness, visual impairment, deaf-blindness, physical disability (cannot hold a book or turn pages), or reading disability, also used the online NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) service to download 106,669 books and periodicals.
 
WTBBL previously received the award in 2010.
 
Applying for SSI Disability Benefits Just Got Easier
 
Social Security is with you throughout life’s journey, and puts you in control with our online services. Now people applying for Social Security disability benefits online can apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at the same time, without having to call or visit a Social Security office.
 
To take advantage of this online service, applicants must meet the following criteria:
·        Be between the ages of 18 and 65;
·        Never married;
·        Not blind;
·        A U.S. citizen residing in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands; and
·        No prior application for or receipt of SSI benefits.
The Social Security Administration will evaluate the results of this online SSI service expansion to assess the possibility of further expansion.  For more information, visit http://tinyurl.com/y77jorkn.
 
Amazon Video Announces Support for Audio Description
 
ACB and ADP are pleased to announce with Amazon Video the availability of audio-described movies and TV shows — over 125 of them! The ADP website now lists 117 movies and 10 Amazon-produced TV shows, all with audio description tracks. Movie titles include:
·        Alice Through the Looking Glass
·        Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
·        Fences
·        Gravity
·        as well as multiple offerings of Harry Potter, Jack Reacher, Mission Impossible, and Paranormal Activity.
 
In addition to movies, Amazon is offering 10 TV shows, some with multiple seasons, including:
·        Bosch
·        Creative Galaxy
·        Just Add Magic
·        Man in the High Castle
 
Visit http://acb.org/adp/amazonad.html for a complete list of described titles, supported devices, and access links. At present, all of the TV series and some of the movies are free to Amazon Prime members. Amazon’s video page is www.amazon.com/video/audiodescription.
 
AMC Theaters, CCB and Lighthouse Reach Agreement
 
AMC Theaters (AMC) has reached an agreement with several blind individuals, the California Council of the Blind (CCB), and the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco (LightHouse) to ensure blind customers have reliable access to audio description services at AMC movie theaters nationwide.
 
Under the agreement, AMC will require the managers and staff who are responsible for programming and handing out audio description equipment to be trained on the equipment. AMC and the plaintiffs in the case have developed staff and customer information guides to facilitate better service. AMC also will require managers to check the equipment regularly. Additionally, AMC will offer audio description immediately before the feature movie begins, so customers can test the equipment before the movie begins. If a theater’s audio description equipment is out of service, AMC will update theater websites to remove the audio description designation from show times. AMC has agreed to implement these changes in theaters nationwide.
 
This agreement resolves a lawsuit brought by CCB, the LightHouse, and several individuals, represented by Disability Rights Advocates and Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP, in 2016, alleging that audio description equipment at AMC theaters frequently malfunctioned and that AMC staff did not properly check, program, or distribute the equipment to customers.
 
Princeton Opens New Center for Students with Disabilities
 
Princeton University opened its new AccessAbility Center on April 13th. The center is intended primarily as a student gathering space.
 
The name for the center was chosen because it embodies the Office of Disability Services’ two core philosophies: supporting universal access and emphasizing ability rather than disability. 
The new center includes physical access features, such as an automatic door opener, adjustable-height desks and chairs, and ergonomic computer equipment. It also includes sensory features, such as braille labels on equipment, computer workstations with visual impairment and hearing impairment access features, guidance for blind or visually impaired students in how to get around the center independently, and an American Sign Language alphabet display.  It also features cool and calming colors on the walls; four lighting options, including overhead and desktop and controlled brightness; and a white noise machine to cancel out general noise in the room, reduce distractions or provide a calming background of sounds. Also available are emoji emotion magnets, squishy balls, play dough, adult coloring books, and write ’n wipe doors to relieve stress.
 
New Tool for Deaf-Blind TV Viewers
 
For more information, read the article at https://www.rt.com/news/389254-deaf-blind-television-app/.
 
An innovative new tool has made it easier for deaf-blind people to enjoy television. The technology compiles subtitles and quickly transmits it to braille via an app. The software, PervasiveSUB, gathers subtitles from television programs and sends them to a central server. From there, the subtitles are forwarded to smartphones or tablets. Once the subtitles are received by a device, they are transmitted to the deaf-blind person in braille with the help of an app called GoAll. This device was presented at Spain’s Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M). The demonstration included deaf-blind people, who showed how the technology works.
 
The tool was developed by researchers at the university’s Pedro Juan de Lastanosa Institute of Technological Development and Promotion of Innovation and financed by Spanish telecommunications company, Telefonica. The technology has already been introduced on all national Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) channels and regional DTT channels in Madrid, and will soon be available in other regions of Spain.
 
Feingold Receives Award
 
Lainey Feingold recently received the J.W. Cooley Lawyer as Problem Solver Award at the American Bar Association’s annual conference.
 
This award is given to an individual member of the legal profession and/or institution who has exhibited extraordinary skill in either promoting the concept of the lawyer as problem-solver or resolving individual, institutional, community, state, national, or international problems. Award recipients will be acknowledged for their use or promotion of collaboration, negotiation, mediation, counseling, decision-making, and problem-solving skills to help parties resolve a problem in a creative and novel way.          
 
Lainey has used structured negotiation to reach comprehensive settlements with Major League Baseball, Wal-Mart, Bank of America, American Express, Radio Shack, CVS and many, many other corporations. Besides being a lawyer, she is an author who works primarily with the blind community on technology, digital, and information access issues. She is nationally recognized for negotiating landmark accessibility agreements without lawsuits and for pioneering the collaborative dispute resolution method known as structured negotiation.
 
Summer Reading from NBP
 
Are your kids chanting the dreaded summer refrain “I’m bored!” already? Check out the Great Expectations series of books. They bring popular picture books to life using a multi-sensory approach — songs, tactile play, picture descriptions, body movement, engaged listening — all designed to promote active reading experiences for children with visual impairments.
 
The books are now available as a six-pack bundle. Books included in the set are “Dragons Love Tacos,” “The Day the Crayons Quit,” “Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes,” “Iggy Peck, Architect,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Measuring Penny.” Visit www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/programs/gep/ge_index.html for free activities for each book in the series.
 
Does a youngster in your family have a loose tooth that just won’t come out? He or she may enjoy “Arthur’s Tooth” by Marc Brown. It’s available in contracted UEB for ages 5 to 9.
 
If you’re looking to sneak in a little bit of learning over summer vacation, check out “Out-of-Sight Science Experiments” and “100 Hungry Ants.” “Out-of-Sight Science Experiments” features 32 step-by-step experiments for blind youth to do at home, with ordinary household supplies. Explore the sciences by making balloon rockets, a solar finger heater, ice cream in a bag, Diet Coke volcanic eruptions, and much more. Tackle math with “100 Hungry Ants,” which comes with 100 snap cubes kids can count, sort, and even learn multiplication.
 
Is there a future chef in the household? Take a look at “Stir It Up! Recipes & Techniques for Young Blind Cooks.” Available as a print-braille book, it was created especially for young blind children to get started in the kitchen. Everyone loves to eat, and we all need to know how to prepare food. The left side of the page includes adaptive cooking techniques, and the right side contains simple instructions for young blind cooks. The print-braille format allows everyone in the family to cook from the same book.
 
Did you get an Apple computer recently? Do you need some help mastering it? “Mac Basics for the Beginning User” by Janet Ingber is available in braille, BRF, Word, and DAISY. She created this guide specifically for people learning how to use a Mac. The book covers what you need to know to get started with VoiceOver; to interact with your dock; to understand the structure of files and folders; and to work with the trackpad or Touch Bar. It also covers email, iCloud, Quick Nav, Safari, iTunes, TextEdit, and the App Store in order to give you a robust overview of your computer and its capabilities.
 
For more information, contact National Braille Press at 1-800-548-7323, or online at
www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/publications/index.html.
 
New Music for the Blind Website
 
Ever want to start lessons on the piano, guitar, ukulele, banjo, bass guitar, or another instrument? Check out www.MusicForTheBlind.com. Their courses and song lessons are taught completely by ear, so there is no print, video or braille to mess with. Lessons and songs can be purchased in either CD or MP3 format, which makes them easy to use and travel with.
 
If you’re looking for a specific instrument that isn’t listed above, contact Bill and Debra Brown at (229) 249-0628, or via email, billdebb@bellsouth.net.
 
Paciello Group Joins VFO
 
VFO™ has acquired The Paciello Group (TPG), a marquee software accessibility firm providing website and application compliance solutions to enterprises throughout the world. This acquisition advances both companies’ strategy to offer the most innovative end-to-end enterprise compliance and employee accommodation solutions for people with disabilities, including the visually impaired.
 
Retinal Prosthesis Tested in Rats
 
Researchers at Okayama University report in the “Journal of Artificial Organs” the promising performance of a retinal prosthesis material when implanted in rats.  The material can convert external light stimuli into electric potentials that are picked up by neurons.  The results signify an important step toward curing certain hereditary eye diseases.
 
A potential remedy for patients diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa is prostheses replacing the non-functioning photoreceptor cells with artificial sensors, and making use of the functioning of the remaining, living neurons.  A team of researchers from Okayama University, led by Toshihiko Matsuo and Tetsuya Uchida, has tested the response of a promising type of prosthesis, when implanted in rats, to external light flashes.
 
The prosthesis was developed earlier at Okayama University, and is known as Okayama University-type retinal prosthesis (OUReP™).  The main component of OUReP is a photoelectric dye: an organic molecule capable of converting light into electric potentials.  Uchida and colleagues attached the dye molecules to a thin film of polyethylene and implanted the dye-coupled film in the eyes of 10 young male rats.  Cranial electrodes for registering potentials were attached a few weeks later.  The researchers also implanted plain, polyethylene films in 10 other rats for comparison purposes.
 
The scientists tested the response of the implanted OUReP sensors to flashing white light-emitting diodes placed on the surface of the rats’ corneas for different background-light conditions.  The experiments were done with the rats anesthetized, and after appropriate periods of adaptation to dark or light conditions.  Comparisons between results obtained with dye-coupled films and plain polyethylene films showed that the former led to visually evoked potentials — confirming the potential of OUReP as a retinal prosthesis for treating diseases like retinitis pigmentosa.
 
The use of OUReP poses no toxicity issues and offers a high spatial resolution. Matsuo and colleagues noted that human clinical trials would be planned in consultation with Japan’s Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency.