Access to Information
By Katherine Schneider
Information access is the biggest barrier I face as a blind bibliophile and active community member. As I limp along in the slow lane of the information superhighway, tweeting, posting blogs and Facebooking, and downloading more podcasts than I’ll ever get to, I glory in what’s out there nowadays in accessible information for blind people. Newsline provides access to hundreds of newspapers and magazines, although not my local paper.
NLS and Bookshare provide as many books as would be available in a small town’s public library. My iPhone’s voiceover allows me to check the weather, read news and play Trivia Crack. A screen reader on my desktop computer enables me to write and read documents and emails.
But as usual, the glass is half full and half empty.
Several years into a federally mandated provision of a few hours a week of described television programming, not much is happening. Even folks who live in the top 25 markets and where the network says the program is described are only occasionally reporting they can watch and get description.
The cable companies are saying it must be your equipment, or the network or somebody else. The latest version of Trivia Crack is almost entirely inaccessible because of a new opening screen that doesn’t work with voiceover. I’ve lobbied for meeting materials ahead of time, electronically, so many times that I usually get them, but not always.
Even with laws, technology and people of good will, we’re lucky if access happens.
A Fierce Desire for Independence
By Dan Sullivan
When it comes to life’s hurdles, those of us with vision loss can face more than our share. Whether it’s transportation, information access, or attitudinal barriers, one of the other inevitably garners a tedious challenge.
In my case, my greatest hurdle has always been me. As a natural introvert, I’ve fostered an ongoing need to be assertive. My striving to be fiercely independent sometimes translates into shying away from asking for such simple things as a ride or a helping hand. I‘ve reluctantly pushed myself in seeking accessibility. And as for those attitudinal barriers, becoming more forthcoming about my unique acuity is something I still struggle with. However, my evolution into growing older and wiser seems to help lessen these hurdles.
Then again, now that I am sort of a cantankerous curmudgeon, perhaps this simply makes me more annoying than the hurdles themselves.
Having to Explain Myself
By Annika Konrad
My biggest obstacle is that I don’t “look blind.” In order for people to know that I am visually impaired, I have to tell them.
I’ve learned over the years that my life is easier if people know that I’m visually impaired; if they know, they can offer help, understand why I do or don’t do certain things, and perceive my behavior as part of my disability, rather than perceive me as rude, aloof, or otherwise.
But it’s not easy to figure out how, when, where, and why to disclose or not disclose. It never feels right to introduce myself by saying, “Hello, I’m Annika and I’m visually impaired.” And of course it depends on the situation and who I’m interacting with—friends versus colleagues versus students versus acquaintances, etc. I’ve developed some strategies that work in certain situations, but it’s a constant effort. And sometimes it’s out of my control. As I move through the world meeting new people and encountering new situations, there are times when the opportunity passes by so quickly I lose my chance. And there are other times when I can’t find the right words for the specific time and place.
I understand that using a white cane or a guide dog would do the talking, but I don’t need either at the moment. Most of the time I’m happy to explain, but it’s a lot of extra work. I like to fantasize about a society where people are acculturated into asking others about their access needs and not assuming that everyone, unless they present visible markers of disability, is able-bodied.
Remembering Without Visual Reminders
By Theresa Sweeney Smith
I can’t drive, go to the grocery store myself, or purchase my undergarments alone. However, my biggest obstacle is my memory
My memory was visually triggered before I became low vision. For example, I could meet you one time and seeing your face connected me to your name and facts about our conversation.
People who have known me over the years, marvel at my memory. They say, “Ask Theresa what the phone number is, who that is, or where we last saw someone.
I still have a good memory and can tell you phone numbers, but I can not remember names of people I have met, do not know where I left my phone charger even if it is sitting on the desk. I do not remember the time of the shower that I was invited to and my husband read me the invitation at least twice.
I feel my biggest obstacle is retraining myself to remember all the details in my day without being able to rely on the visual reminders to help me.