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VIBES

VIBES Number 2: The Screenless Holiday Gift Guide

Introduction

Welcome to a special edition of VIBES! Since as of this writing, it is the holiday season, we would like to share some gift ideas that are both fun, and accessible to your friend, family member, or significant other who is blind or visually impaired. “Jose, you do realize everyone has different tastes in gifting, right?” Yes, I know! However, here’s a basic list of some non and high tech gifts you can give to someone on your list, if said person, like myself, is NOT a fan of clothing. I mean, we get that yearly! (well, at least the majority of people do) So, why clothing for Christmas? Okay, rant over. We will sort it into categories, starting at non-tech, and building up!

Non-tech Items

These gifts are if you do not want to spend a ton of money on a very expensive gift. Of course, the friend in question should understand that the most important part of a gift is the gesture, and not the gift itself.

Gift Cards

You can NEVER, go wrong with a gift card from practically any store of your choosing! They can go from five dollars, to practically one thousand dollars! If you decide to go for the thousand, and you have a significant other, you better hope they don’t break up with you right after! Keep in mind though, if you would like to make life easier for a visually impaired person, it is highly recommended you purchase this gift card online. There should be an option to email it to someone. Once you purchase and send it by email, all the person has to do is click on a “Redeem now,” or a “Redeem wizard” link on the email. They can then follow the instructions to add the funds to their account, which most places after clicking the link, and if they already are logged in, it will be done automatically. :After that, they can either save that towards that new piece of technology, or buy themselves a five pound bag of candy!

Braille Games And Cards

“Dude, it’s 2020! No one plays board games now a days! Why do you even bother?” Some people actually still enjoy playing board games and/or cards. We have a braille/large print equivalent of the most popular games out there! “But it’s all braille! How are we supposed to play that game with no braille! I ain’t learnin no new system of reading just for them blind folk to have fun!” No worries! These board games come with print as well. It’s just a braille overlay. Here is a great place where you can get a few selections! Want some accessible playing cards for different card games? Right this way!

Greeting Cards

This one may sound like, “Uh, they can’t read that.” True, but this is where you come in. Want to improve your description skills? Well, this is a good way to do it! Describe everything on it. Try getting one with pictures so you can have a bit more of a challenge. Now, if you want to be a little more advanced, you can get a talking card with a pre-recorded message, or, you can even record a personalized message on a blank greeting card! If a card may sound basic to you, you can replace that talking part with a bear! We all know where you can go buy said specialized teddy bear! Just make sure the message isn’t too tear jerking, because if you have a blind significant other, and they decide to leave you, that message is gonna hurt! Bad, especially if they keep that bear!

Food

You can NEVER, go wrong with food! It can range from cookies to full blown meals! If you are creative enough, you can even add braille or tactile markings to a cookie or cake! “What’s Tactile?” Seriously? How could anyone not… Sorry, got a little carried away. Someone at one point actually asked me this question. Just remember this, and you will be good! Tactile means touch. Whether it is raised lines or braille, that falls in that category!

Message In A Mug

Many people buy customized coffee mugs, or shirts with a certain quote or something funny written on it. As mentioned above, if you purchase this, ensure it is raised or written in braille. Most of us can read a bit of print to tell what it says, as long as it is raised properly. If you can feel it, chances are we will too. It is also a good idea to go ahead and read the message to the recipient, just in case.

Technology Related Items

Here it is! If you want to spend slightly more on a gift, here’s some ideas on items that are more technological!

Headphones And Speakers

If your gift recipient is an audio fan, like myself, you can get them a nice pair of headphones or speakers! Headphones and speakers now a days come in many different prices, shapes and sizes! It is all up to what you think they will like. Most of these also talk or make noise if they are bluetooth enabled devices, offering the ability for independent setup and connection.

Cables and Chargers

Has the recipient of the gift complained on how their charging cables to their smartphones or tablets have broken? You can never go wrong with purchasing them more of these said cables, that are more durable! Here is a good resource to purchasing some good tough cables! Of course, if you’d like to get them an accessible power bank to charge said devices, you can get them the Ennergrid VS 150 power bank, which we actually reviewed! If you would like to find out more about it, Click here!

Phones And Computers

Okay, you want more? Well, now we’re talking “I really love this person!” If you really love the person you are giving a gift to, and you have decided there is no budget, why not get them a computer or smartphone? Of course, you probably are going to skip this section because it is rare that a gift is this expensive. But for those that decided to read this far, here are some things to keep in mind when purchasing these kind of devices.

Smartphones

Now a days, the smartphone is the most common device found out there. You may have that person with a flip phone, but most of the time, it may be a senior citizen using these, or that blind person that refuses to use a smartphone because it is “Too complicated, and I refuse to upgrade!” Make sure you do your research on accessibility of said smartphones. I will go ahead and tell you right now, the iPhone from Apple, is the most accessible for someone who is totally blind, while an Android phone is more accessible to someone who has limited vision. Of course, there are cases where the iPhone has also helped a person with little vision. “How DARE YOU SAY THAT?” It is true! As someone who has tested both screen readers on both sides, I can say iOS has more powerful features, and the app store actually has more apps that are compatible with VoiceOver, the built-in screen reader on iOS devices. Android has a smaller app set, but TalkBack is not as up to date as iOS. Remember, you don’t have a budget if you decided to read this far. The iPad is also a great entry level tablet if you want a good modern device, but not as expensive as the iPhone. It will save you about $500 minimum, if you decide to go the iPad route. Fear not, blind seniors. There is also a phone out there for you! This phone has buttons and has a modified version of Android. Think of this phone as the, old fashioned smartphone, due to the internals being in 2020, but the physical body of the phone is still stuck in 2005. This is called the Blind Shell, and you can get it in a few different variants. Don’t worry, it works with all major carriers, just make sure you buy a sim card for it. You can find out more info on this phone right here.

Computers

This part is a bit different when choosing a computer. The main two things to remember when getting a computer for someone who is blind or visually impaired are to make sure they have enough storage and RAM. With most computers, they have built-in accessibility features that a blind person can use to set them up. For Windows computers, after setup, the recipient can install other programs to make them accessible. That being said, I recommend the computer has 4 gigabytes of RAM (used to load the programs when launched) and five hundred gigabytes of internal storage MINIMUM! If you intend to get a Windows tablet, the same RAM minimum applies, but in this situation, we highly recommend purchasing an external hard drive. Those have many different storage sizes, and can range from economical to, “Only my workplace purchases those because of price!”

Conclusion

Here we are! Here are just SOME, ideas on what kind of gifts you can give a blind or visually impaired person for any festive holiday. Of course, you can give them anything you would like, as long as they can enjoy it equally like their sighted peers. If you have any ideas, questions, or unique gifts you have given to a friend, feel free to email us! Happy shopping!

Categories
VIBES

VIBES Number 1: Hollywood Versus Reality

Introduction

Welcome to Hollywood! I mean, hang on a sec, let me rewind the tape a bit. Welcome to, Reality! Yes, we will be looking at a bit of common stereotype questions we blind and visually impaired people get! You’re probably asking yourself, “Jose, why are you even mentioning Hollywood?” Well, if you have seen movies or TV shows with a blind character in them, (which are actually quite a few of them out there) you know that they make them all cool, with interesting features. The only TV anything that really portrayed a blind person correctly, in my opinion, is “The Miracle Worker.” In this film, Helen Keller was not a superhero, and I commend the writers for portraying her correctly, even though she was also deaf. It was a two in one great comparison, based on her story.

DISCLAIMER

This article may be too sensitive for some readers. Please note that this is written by a blind person, and it discusses facts. So, before we get emails saying, “You don’t know heck about what we’re going through!” Reader discression is STRONGLY ADVISED!

A Quick Note Before We Begin

This post is going to be a little different in format. This is going to be a “Frequently Asked Questions” edition article of Screenless Allies, where I will put the most common question that matches a stereotype, followed by the answer. So, without any further delays, let’s dive in!

So, You’re Blind, Which Means You Ain’t Got No Eyeballs?

Uh, that question should NOT even come out of anyone’s mouth. You see, dear Reader, a lot of blind people are not comfortable with that question. Yes, you will find those, like the Screenless Allies team, that will answer the question with a bit of humor. But, the majority of blind people do not like talking about their blindness in general. Some will probably give you the very basics, if you’re lucky. Even if you become their close friend, you may not even get questions like that answered. So, let me enlighten you. Just because a person is blind, does not mean they do not have eyeballs. Some blind people have prosthetic eyeballs, which are fake eyes. Some reasons as to why they use those follow:

  • They like having those just to look cool.
  • They may have lost an eye.
  • They do not like showing their real eyes.

You may also see some blind people wearing sunglasses. No, this is not a weird habbit. Some blind people do get bothered by the sun, or may have a bit of light perception. So yes, we DO, have eyeballs. They just do not work.

Do Blind People Keep Their Eyes Closed All the Time?

No. While a lot of us have our eyes closed and cannot blink, there are some blind people that can open their eyes. They don’t work, but hey, at least they can be opened, which makes doctors and the blind person happier because there isn’t a need to pry the eye open with your hand to look inside it for check-ups.

So, You Have No Vision, Which Means You Have Powerful Senses Or A Sixth Sense, Right?

Absolutely not! Just because we don’t have vision doesn’t mean we easily become a superhero, who then turns into a lawyer, and then just wipes people out of the world because the hero can tell they’re lying! I’m looking at you, daredevil movie franchise! When a blind person is quite young, special teachers and therapists will come over to the blind baby’s house to train their other senses by playing with the baby. This typically consists of in depth training by either making the toys make noise, having the child touch different textures, or heck, even food can be used to train the senses of taste and smell! But training begins in the crib, encouraging the baby to explore their surroundings of toys and textures. The more training they get, the more they use and develop those senses. Since vision is not there, those senses are trained on heavily so we can rely on them even more as we get older. Heightened, not quite. Powerful, yes, through training, not naturally from out of the womb!

So All Yall Use That There Echo Location Thang Bats Use In Caves To Find Food?

Nope. While some blind people do use echo location, which is a routine consisting of making a sound that can bounce off of a wall to tell where we are, it’s not always the case. This is used a lot by bats. I don’t wish to go into scientific explanation to how it works, but here is an experiment you can try. Find a wall in your house. Step away from it a little, and click your tongue, talk, or do something that makes noise. Listen to the sound as it bounces back to you. Now, find an opening in your house, and do the same thing. Notice how the sound doesn’t bounce back? That indicates an opening. You may also hear more of a reverberation when doing this. Now, walk with the wall and opening beside you and do the same thing. You’ll notice the change if you listen hard enough. That, is Echo location. However, while some blind people rely on this tool exclusively, a lot of others will use a cane or guide dog to navigate. Echo location can be used a little when navigating with those navigation aids, but at the same time, we don’t have to make the sound to know where walls are. Remember I mentioned the training of the senses? Well, again, this is where your hearing should be trained enough to pick walls and openings up without making noise.

Ooooo! So Since You’re Blind, Does This Mean You’re Getting A Cute Little Dog To Help You So Then I can Actually Be Your Friend?

NO Way! Just because someone is totally blind, doesn’t mean we all have service dogs. Some of us, like yours truly, prefer the cane. Let’s face it, white canes are much, much cheaper. Plus, no vet visits, bathing, etcetera! Each blind person has their own preference on what they will use as their traveling companion, but it is not good to assume everyone has a guide dog. “Jose, why did you include the being your friend part?” Unfortunately, due to the weakness of humans with dogs, a lot of blind people that are guide dog users get a little bit more of a, “Special Treatment.” They are included in a lot of social gatherings, get special privileges, and just overall use that dog to their advantage. I’m not saying every dog user does this, but I know a few that have been through that. While as a cane user, we are practically ignored. Pair a guide dog user with a cane user, and you will see who gets more attention. I would like to ask that if that happens, please don’t do that! You are making yourself, and the service dog user look bad. You, for having a weak heart when looking at, “that cute puppy that I wanna take home with me!” and giving that blind person what they want because of that. It looks bad for the blind person, because some of them may realize, “Hey! If I use my dog as an excuse, I could rule the world! Wahahahaha!” Now, there are some blind people who will NOT, allow you to even get near the animal, which I heavily encourage, because they have their independence, and their dog is safe. We may cover service dogs in a future article, but for now, let’s move on!

Poor You!

This is going to be a little strong to some people, but this is necessary. WE DO NOT, WANT YOUR PITY! All blind people get this all the time! “I’m crossing a street!” “No! Stop! Let me help you! I was crying so hard when I saw you lining up!” This unfortunately makes us look even more helpless. A lot of us have been fully trained to do a lot of things you can do like cooking, cleaning, crossing streets, etc. While I understand you are only trying to help, a lot of us, like yours truly, would rather us ask YOU for help if we need it. Unfortunately, some blind people use this to their advantage, going as far as to finding a way to get a product they found online or may have heard about that they would love to have! They will spin you a tale on how it is a great product, and ‘We can’t afford it.” That instance when you think, “Oh, poor thing! Let me see what I can do!” Then you call schools and other places to see if you can get donations or get a school or other organization to buy said piece of equipment. Then you get the equipment, knowing perfectly well they are capable of finding a job, and buying it themselves! The point to that scenario is, you just proved how pitiful they are, no matter if you are their friend. If they are capable of doing things like that themselves, let them do it! That, would be a TRUE friend in my book. I would unfriend that person who went out there and used me for pity like that. “Jose, you just don’t know about friendship!” It’s a question of pride and dignity for a very independent blind person, who wants to be as independent as possible. It just makes the people who are trying to “fit in” with the sighted world look bad because everyone will assume, “Oh, so, no blind person can afford a computer. Well, guess we’ll all have to call the CEO’s of big companies to see if they can donate money so we can get it for them,” even though we get a paycheck. Now, there are a few blind people that would just rather stay home, to either have pity for themselves, or be on a computer talking to other blind people who are the same way, and rely on either family or governmental assistance.

Religion and Disability

This topic will also sting a little more to some people. It has been a personal experience of mine, that people who are blind or are disabled in general, get the people that think they can “Pray for their healing.” I’m going to stop you right there and say, you will NOT get brownie points for praying for a disabled person. You may get critiqued pretty bad, or in some cases, you may get punched in the face. That is utterly disrespectful to that person. It may make you feel good, but not the other person. Sure, you may get that rare person that accepts prayers for healing, but I promise you, others are pretty sensitive. So when you ask for permission to pray like that, be prepared to either get yelled at, or have them walk away. No, being disabled is not a “curse from God because you did something bad.” Please keep that kind of prayer to yourself.

Conclusion

This is just a few of MANY, stereotypes on blindness. There are quite a few more, but these are the essentials to know. Maybe in a future installment, we can cover more of these. Of course, if you have any questions, feel free to email us if you have any questions about blindness in general! We are happy to answer any of them you may have, and who knows? Your question could be included in another installment of this style of frequently asked questions!

Categories
VIBES

Introduction to VIBES

Introduction

Welcome to another new section of Screenless Allies! This section, as the title says, is called, “VIBES.” This stands for “Visually Impaired/Blind Experiencing Success.” This is a section that we feel you will enjoy, because this will have a bit more variety than Atechability. This is the “Non-tech” section of the site. Here is what you will find in this section.

How Do You Do That?

How on earth does a blind or visually impaired person do this? It’s just so INSPIRING to me the fact they can do it, I’m gonna cry for five hours, then call the news and tell them about this! Oh, sorry, got a little carried away. One of the things you will find here are a lot of how-to’s for basic independent living skills. Things can go as basic as labeling items, to more advance topics such as cooking. This is primarily designed to inform, but if you are a teacher of the visually impaired or maybe a friend of a blind person, and you wish to get a blindness perspective about doing everyday life activities, this kind of article will tell you all about it!

I Didn’t Know Blind People Actually Have Eyes!

In this type of article, as the heading suggests, we will discuss misinformation about living with a visual impairment. There is so much stereotype floating around about a blind and visually impaired person, it is not even funny. While unfortunately, many people have tried addressing this, we feel like we can do it in a bit of an informative, with a touch of humor kind of way. I have seen that when I interact with people who have never been around a blind person, humor can get you quite far. I have made acquaintances that way. While this may work on some, others may not appreciate it, but I, with the rest of the team, would like to share, OUR, experiences.

What Else?

You will just have to find out and stay tuned to this section for other types of articles! You never know what we will publish here. We may even publish personal stories that we feel may educate others! We will not do audio books, sorry. We promise, this section will be just like the Atechability series in regards to information; detailed, but easy to understand. We thank you for reading this introduction, and we are looking forward to your feedback!