jesse_the_k: Hands open print book with right side hollowed out to hole iPod (Alt format reader)
contents: outdated language, patronizing assumptions, great tech

A creative way to reuse an out-of-date Android 4.4 (or better) smartphone/tablet: transform to an MP3 audio player with the most direct UI I've ever seen.

Exact step-by-step details from the inventor, Marcin Simonides:

If you live in the United States and can't read regular print because of any impairment, NLS (National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped) provides thousands of books for free.
jesse_the_k: Callum Keith Rennie shouts "Fuck no!"  (Fuck no sez CKR!)
(cross-posted to [community profile] access_fandom)

I'm not going to provide a link, for reasons that will become clear.

That announcement pushed a whole row of my Assistive Technology Geek buttons, and I gotta rant. I'll use the LEGO braille printer "BRAIGO" to illustrate why I get so hot under the collar when I see this shit. (My cred: I've hung out with people who use assistive technology since 1982; I designed and sold braille translation software and embossers in the late eighties; and I've personally depended on assistive technology since 1991.) Based on thirty year's close attention to the development/PR/funding/purchasing/abandonment cycle for assistive technology, here's my take on the BRAIGO announcement.


DEVELOPMENT WITHOUT EXPERT ENDUSERS IS POINTLESS  ) That's why the BRAIGO can't create useful braille.

PR BECOMES DISINFORMATION ) A $350 embosser would be an amazing thing. Hundreds of well-intentioned editors and readers are willing to take the inventor's word for it. But this device is not a embosser.

EXPERTS ARE AVAILABLE on REQUEST! ) We live in a press release culture: what the company wants to say is what we hear. Or in this case, what a 12 year old (who mentions absolutely no contact with braille users) says gets broadcast.


Start from the first dot at the RNIB's Learning Braille site or pick an excellent start for adults at the Achayra firm in India. Teach more at the National Federation of the Blind's Braille is Beautiful resource for kids.

tl;dr Just because assistive technologies are tools for people with disabilities doesn't mean we must accept only good intentions. We want the best engineers working on our designs, the best marketers making them affordable, and the best politicians making them subsidized.
jesse_the_k: Photo of baby wearing huge black glasses  (eyeglasses baby)

This is a meta post. I have something to sell that's not the tiniest bit geographically related (thus no Craigslist). I'd love it if you could poke this link and tell me about any errors or confusing bits or questions you have.

Now, on to the thing I'm selling.

Know anyone who does close work? Beader, engraver, needlepointer, scrimshander, dentist, miniature terrazzo layer? I'm selling a set of CraftOptics telescopes with DreamBeam LED light. These enable great working comfort while saving eyestrain. $600US new, $375 shipped within US.

Full details here:


Movie Time!

Aug. 7th, 2013 07:45 pm
jesse_the_k: Well nourished white woman riding black Quantum 4400 powerchair off the right edge, chased by the word "powertool" (JK 56 powertool)
ETA: Forgot cut tags. Turns out they don't work the way I think they should anyway. Should I bother? Time for a poll.

There are amazing wonderful vids out there! I hear about some through political colleagues, and some through blogs, and some from just stumbling around. Feel free to drop links in comments (reminder: can't embed videos in DW comments).

Twenty seven summer 2013 interns at the American Association for People with Disabilities made a video meditating on the ADA's 23rd anniversary (open captions, audio description) )

POV, the documentary series for "films with a point of view" organized by the U.S. public broadcasting system, encouraged entrants to submit shorts a web-only contest. Two of these present nitty-gritty life with impairment
Grounded By Reality explores a day in the life of an artist and art teacher who has very little control over her body (closed captions, no audio description) )

Sound of Vision uses unusual film technique as it follows a blind man through his days. As is often the case when artists or developers create parallel accessible and non-accessible versions, the film submitted to the contest (where it won six prizes) diverged from the audio-described version. There's a lot of sudden black/white shift in the film, which was headache inducing, so here's the audio description track I preferred (although I think the description should be slightly softer than the film track):
Stream or download MP3 of Sound of Vision with audio description
In addition to those shorts, POV has broadcast many films related to disability. Check 'em out:

And of course when I think of people with disabilities I think about sex )
jesse_the_k: Perfectly circlular white brain-like fungus growing on oak tree (Default)
Kevin Gotkin, a Phd student in Disability Studies, made the half-hour film, "The Rupture Sometimes." Watch it on YouTube, with subtitles and audio description. He interviews half-a-dozen people at a disability studies conference on movement and inclusion. (Promoting the movie on a Disability Studies listerv, he referred to those interviewed as "planets in disability studies." That decentering of attention from the star to the planet is one of the film's themes.)

Gotkin says at one point:
begin quote Disability is, in some sense, a useless term, because it fails to make meaningful distinctions between types of experience. the world economy is as likely to be disabled as someone who uses a wheelchair. So it's odd, then, when we talk about disability, we often swing between extremes, where disability is often profound and total or widespread and infinitely regressed. quote ends

After two times through I understood most of the ideas. I was struck by the glaring Whiteness of those interviewed. Here's the video — click to start.

jesse_the_k: White tea cup with "queer pride" rainbow of sugar cubes in saucer (rainbow)
Having worked, lived & played with blind people, it's obvious to me that blindness doesn't on its own interfere with cooking, or exercise, or picking up dogshit.

This review of a K-Cup coffee maker (alert: autoplay audio)
doesn't answer the crucial question: why spend many bucks on this magic machine instead of a $3 Melitta filter cone, but it's an excellent demonstration of an equipment overview and review.

jesse_the_k: Finding Nemo's Dory, the adventurous fish with a brain injury (dain bramage)
The recent RadioLab program on "Lost and Found" taught me interesting things about how my brain does and doesn't work. The last item introduced me to Emilie Gossiaux, a young artist who was crushed under a semi-truck. Because she was in a coma and not responding in ways the doctors saw as "real," they were getting ready to harvest her organs. From middle school, she had a hearing impairment. Her boyfriend printed out "I LOVE YOU" on her palm and she was finally willing to accept the discomfort of her hearing aids (there were many broken bones in her skull and much swelling). Once she could hear enough to perceive that she was alive, she came "all the way back." Heartbreaking and funny and puzzling and wonderful and infuriating and well y'all know I'm a RadioLab cheerleader, yeah?

You can stream or download the 20 minute piece at this link: Finding Emilie
jesse_the_k: Perfectly circlular white brain-like fungus growing on oak tree (Default)
I'm glad WisCon introduced me to Haddayr Copley-Woods, who writes fiction and copy, mothers a couple of energetic kids, makes eloquent commentaries on Minn Public Radio, and bicycles through the winter in the Twin Cities. The last is made a little more unusual because she's got MS, and when walking lurches with crutches — she's fashioned a crutch holder from PVC pipe to tote her walking tools while she's biking. for stories! blog! more info!

Haddyr's bike hack particularly delights me because it's functional and it blows up common assumptions. "How can a crutch user ride a two-wheel bicycle?" The answer illuminates why the USA disability rights movement has advocated "person first" language. Haddyr isn't a generic "crutch user";' she's specifically Haddyr, who uses crutches. She's got strong muscles in her legs and and she can balance a bike.

So I was thrilled when I clicked the first number of Disability Studies Quarterly and read about a blind person who rides her bike all around the planet during daylight when she can see enough.

Black Bike, White Cane: Nonstandard Deviations Of A Special Self
Catherine Kudlick
Department Of History
University Of California, Davis

begin quote Ever since I chose to use a white cane in selected situations, I've collided head-on with society's (undiagnosed) case of "cryptophobia" - my term for everyone's panic in the face of ambiguity. It might be the same angst many feel when they can't immediately determine someone's gender; as they search their data banks for clues - expected behaviors, dress, voice, gait, facial expression, body space - they overload if some detail doesn't come to the rescue in fixing the mysterious identity. quote ends

Cryptophobia is an excellent term for the perplexity many people display around disability. I suspect cryptophobia is the source of much "disability policing," when people feel the need to make sure those people on disability benefits are not "scroungers," that this woman taking strong narcotics for chronic pain isn't "abusing"; that this person with a learning disability isn't getting an "unfair advantage" from longer time to finish tests.

Do check out the rest of the Disability Studies Quarterlies. Each issue includes some creative non-fiction and fiction, book and other media reviews, and peer-reviewed articles. I can always understand at least one of the articles, and at least one leaves me scratch my ears, perplexed. All for free in HTML!
jesse_the_k: Perfectly circlular white brain-like fungus growing on oak tree (Default)
Sally French makes the case that assistive technology can get in our way. Her brief paper is well worth reading in its entirety
 begin quote  On various occasions when, as a student, I have struggled to read something on the blackboard with a small personal telescope, lecturers have enthusiastically remarked "You're doing really well with that little gadget"--a conclusion reached more through wishful thinking than knowledge (French, (10)). A. T. Sutherland believes that this type of response is very convenient to non-disabled people because it means they do not have to help or adapt. quote ends 

She also addresses the "independence double-bind": how disabled people must sometimes spend more effort doing things ourselves than simply asking for help. The North American ideal of being able to do it all myself is deeply rooted. Unless it's in the hands of one of my intimate friends, I'm very uncomfortable with people holding open doors. I think this is partly due to second-wave feminism's rejection of formulaic male chivalry, but at heart I feel I must upend nondisabled people's expectations of what I can and can't do.
jesse_the_k: Perfectly circlular white brain-like fungus growing on oak tree (Default)
The Wisconsin Film Festival was a lot of fun. Fascinating movies; stunning web site; helpful volunteers. (Access at some theaters was sub-optimal.)

In order of viewing:
On a tightrope rating 4 out of 5 )

Jumate/Jumate rating 5 out of 5 )
In a Dream rating 4 out of 5 )
Blind Loves rating 1 out of 5 )
Vincent: A Life in Color rating 3.5 out of 5 )
Youssou NDour: I Bring What I Love rating 5 out of 5 )
Sita Sings the Blues rating 4 out of 5 )
And then the bus, and good night, and several days to recuperate from all the sitting still and head tilting.
jesse_the_k: Slings & Arrows' Anna sez: "I'll smack you so hard your cousin will fall down!" (Anna smacks hard)
I've now heard and tried the talking Kindle 2. It's basic, but it's there. Folding assistive tech into mainstream products is Universal Design, one of my holy grails. That the Author's Guild is claiming this will cut into sales of audiobooks is evidence that they've not sat down and just listened to the Kindle. The TTS is nice, but it's nowhere near as good as the current top-of-the-line technology, much less a human narrator. People without print impairments read audio books while exercising and on the road; neither of those activities lend themselves to audio Kindle reading.

So I'm delighted to report that the Reading Rights Coalition plans an April 4th demonstration against the Author's Guild (as well as the on 24-25 April at the LA Festival of Books). Participants include both organizations of & for the blind (NFB and ACB); AHEAD representing folks providing disability services in secondary education; AAPD, a cross-disability lobbying group; DAISY the standards organization which has guided the creation of structured, random-access audio with parallel text; and many more.

Out Loud

Feb. 28th, 2009 08:07 pm
jesse_the_k: Perfectly circlular white brain-like fungus growing on oak tree (Default)
[ profile] kestrell has a wonderful post about reading out loud (Reading Allowed)
The truth is, we do not live in a culture which gives people a lot of opportunities to read aloud, that is, to practise freely using their voices (or perhaps that should be, to free their voices through practice).

Radiolab is a witty, rigorous and beautifully produced radio show. It's an intersection between "This American Life" and SCIENCE magazine (and better than either).

The December 2008 episode Diagnosis tells five stories where things are not exactly what they seem. Along the way, Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich play around with soundscapes and blew my little brain.

They explore the social construction of both disability and disease. A father home-schools his son because he's ruthlessly teased in school because of his "oddness." He gets a diagnosis at age 28, late enough to escape the no-expectations non-education he might have received via sped. Doctors believe they're seeing pictures of moods on fMRIs. But in the 1920s, they were absolutely sure they knew the cause of SIDS, and confidently provided treatment that caused disease in healthy people and did nothing to prevent cot death.

According to MyGuy, who spent 18 years trying to work with doctors on quality issues, the med student's motto is: Sometimes wrong, never in doubt.

I know I'm particularly bitter on this topic.

My mother had difficulty carrying a pregnancy to term, and her OBGYN gave her DES, because he thought it would prevent miscarriage. It didn't, but it does make me more vulnerable to vaginal cancer (and more prone to infertility, which never bothered child-free me). At least Mummy was informed; thousands of women in the midwest were told they were getting prenatal vitamins when they were actually taking part in a drug study without consent.
jesse_the_k: Fully unclothed dorsal Paul Gross from Slings & Arrows (naked & proud)
According to the NYTimes:
After his victory in a judo match, the athlete thrust his arms into the air in an elated V — the universal symbol of triumph, something he had seen other athletes do thousands of times. Except for one thing: he couldn’t see.

Yet again, the meaning of "normal" behaviors is defined by the action of the atypical. This is one of the reasons I find disability studies so intriguing.

(Yes, the icon is Paul Gross & his arms, but more T than \o/)

BADD 2008

May. 1st, 2008 08:09 am
jesse_the_k: Perfectly circlular white brain-like fungus growing on oak tree (insane smarty)
May 1st is Blogging Against Disablism Day. I'm at a loss for words, but others are full of great ones. I hope many people read Wheelchair Dancer's and Mandolin's examination of the disabilist language permeating the rhetoric in the important recent discussions in/on feminism and women of color.

I'd like to suggest that society as a whole has not paid the same kind of attention to disabled people's concerns about language. By not paying attention to the literal value, the very real substantive, physical, psychological, sensory, and emotional experiences that come with these linguistic moves, we have created a negative rhetorical climate. In this world, it is too easy for feminists and people of colour to base their claims on argumentative strategies that depend, as their signature moves, on marginalizing the experience of disabled people and on disparaging their appearance and bodies.

I've posted about this before, and I'm thrilled that WCD has made such a comprehensive and thoughtful case. And in that comments thread, I came across the best. analogy. ever. "Mathtitis": or why & how disability, just like femininity, is a social construction. If you've ever thought, "but surely being disabled is bad, it's different than being female or Black or gay" for the love of Lucy go read that thread!

So, say you have a characteristic that society sees as less than. Oh, what is a good example? Say you aren't good at math, for whatever reason. (Many people aren't good at math, but it isn't considered a disability. People just work around it.) Say all the sudden, your deficiency in math (which, I guess isn't as "good as" someone who is good at math) is visible to the naked eye and seen as a disability. Say every where you go, people treat you with pity, and they don't let you handle money because you aren't good at math. And you aren't allowed to drive a car or hold down a job because you aren't good in math, even if a simple calculator or a talking pedometer would accommodate you. And whenever anyone makes a mistake mathmatically, they are teased and said to have Mathitis, like you do. They must just be a mathtard. And the implication is that they are less than and can't do anything for themselves. And perhaps when you went to the doctor, they didn't treat your cancer as aggressively as they would someone without mathitis, because your quality of life isn't as good as others and so you would just be wasting resources. And say people asked you all the time, even on the streets, if you have checked into this cure or that cure for your problem, or if you've ever thought of killing yourself because of your problem.

If that seems extreme, it's useful to remember that up until the middle of the 18th century, long division was an arcane art that not even Oxbridge scholars were expected to master. (That from Georges Ifrah's The Universal History of Numbers, definitive proof that independent scholars rock the world.)
jesse_the_k: Perfectly circlular white brain-like fungus growing on oak tree (on guard)
This WIRED commentary introduces an open-source community project that enables sighted people to provide audio descriptions of divers porn clips on the net.

Not only a good idea in itself, but a possible resource for the wonderful slashers who are populating General Jinjur's podfic archive.

Let's reappropiate our cultural products as people with disabilities! To the barricades!

ETA: Yet another audio porn site. While these supplementary sites are lovely examples of free-will cooperation, it's a step backward in the accommodation arena. As long as our access depends on charity (no matter how sincerely or enjoyably proffered) instead of on civil rights, our participation is "special," marginalized, and totally fragile.
jesse_the_k: Perfectly circlular white brain-like fungus growing on oak tree (on guard)
Thanks to [ profile] kestrell's recommendation, I rewatched the movie SNEAKERS recently. A lovely film, with sound design as virtuoso as its cinematography, lots of fun geek jokes, and a thrilling plot constructed as elegantly as a 19th century watch.

One of the ethical wacky hacker ensemble is Whistler, a blind technowhiz, played by David Straitharn.

Here's the Boston Globe obituary for Joybubble, a real-life phone phreaker with the mad skills the movie's Whistler demonstrates.
jesse_the_k: Perfectly circlular white brain-like fungus growing on oak tree (Default)
The I'm not colorblind, I'm TOTALLY BLIND! thread at [ profile] coffeeandink's journal pushed my "frustration with disability-as-metaphor" button. (Let me open my jacket, you'll see it's the large bright red target that covers my entire belly.) I rudely hijacked that thread, and so have moved the discussion here.

I think Micole is right in her analysis of "color-blindness": its metaphorical strength depends on two stereotypes: "blind people are unable to discriminate because they can't see someone's skin color" and "blind people are inherently noble because they're living a fate worse than death."

The antiracist critique says that's crap because American 'race' consciousness is not about physical appearance; one can't "unsee" 'race'. Happily this has been recently addressed in the abundance of IBARW posts.

A gaspingly awful instance of literal blindness as racial acceptance is the 1965 Oscar-winner A Patch of Blue, where the white 18-year-old sexual innocent Elizabeth Hartman makes friends with a "gentle Negro" in the person of Sidney Poitier. She falls in love with him because "love is blind." He helps her break free of the abusive, controlling relationship with her drunk mean mom, Shelley Winters. This movie strongly imprinted me at age 10. I'm afraid to rewatch it forty years later given all I've learned since.

The disability-rights critique is that when blindness is equated with ignorance or defiant refusal, then people who are actually blind are similarly devalued. First off, we know that race isn't about skin color. It's not hard to find White people who "talk black" as well as African American people who must learn to "talk white" (if only to get a chance to see the apartment). Actual blind people can perceive racial identities.

People with disabilities end up dealing with positive and negative stereotypes. Blindness doesn't endow one with greater spiritual insight nor better hearing than sighted people and (just like African-Americans) they're not all musical, neither. In fact, the meaning of blindness is culturally determined.

Micole ponders whether it's possible for humans, who experience life in bodies, to eliminate any somatic metaphor.

And I'm not sure I *want* to undo that metaphorical link--I think (and you may correct me on this) that all English (I suspect all human) words for thought, understanding, recognition, and knowledge contain some sensory, tactile, or motion metaphor in their geneaology, because our thoughts are based on and shaped by our physical experiences.
I believe it depends on the use to which the metaphor is put. To overlap what I said the starter thread, I agree that countless words for understanding and knowledge reference all the physical senses people typically come with. They are deeply embedded in our language and literature. That's why the blind people I know use "see" freely: I see your point, she spied an error in your logic, he looked on my resume with great enthusiasm.

I object when blindness, or any impairment, becomes an epithet unto itself. Perhaps the metaphor entanglements might be easier to spot in another area of power relationships. I find all these similarly offensive:

  • He's not ill-informed, he's Polish.

  • She's reluctant to buy a new car, but then, she's Jewish.

  • Of course you crashed, you let your wife drive!

  • He's not colorblind, he's totally blind

Here blindness is synonymous with someone who's stubbornly racist and proud of it. Both these sorts of negative metaphors and the positive stereotypes create a barrier between us when we meet. Not only does this suck, but, as I've discovered, it's even true of people who acquire an impairment like blindness later in life. Unlike 'race', but definitely like queer folks, people can change from "normal" to "outcast" overnight. It was very challenging for me to unlearn all the normative values I'd grown up with. One of my life projects is helping people avoid that pain.

Nine fifteen! That's bed time for me! Those interested in disability studies from the front lines, please check out the monthly Disability Blog Carnivals listed at this site (scan the 22 so far at the "Past Posts" tab). If you read just one disability-related blog, make it Ballastexistenz by A M Baggs

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