Call to Action: Speak Up Regarding Special Wage Certificates

This is an enormous issue, and we need to make our voices heard.  Please, please, PLEASE, if you or someone you care about has a disability and thinks that the special wage certificates under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act are an enormous crock of sh!t designed to exploit workers with disabilities and keep them from earning a living wage, take a few moments to comment at the online dialog referenced below.

From the mailbag:

On May 28, 2019, the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) began a national online dialogue regarding the use of special wage certificates under section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards At. The Department of Labor will use the information gathered through this forum to “provide ODEP an overview of Section 14(c) at the state and national levels.”

As a result, those who are benefitting from the exploitation of workers with disabilities are attempting to overwhelm the online dialogue to over-represent national support for sub minimum wages. It is critical that our voices be heard to counteract this false narrative. Please visit and:

1.       Create an account

2.       Post your comment

3.       Share with other members of the Federation

Should you need technical assistance, please contact Melissa Kroeger <> at 410-659-9314, extension 2207. Thank you for all the work that you do.

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A Study on the Lived Experiences of Employees with Visual Impairments

From the mailbag:

Be part of an important research study…

A Study on the Lived Experiences of Employees with Visual Impairments

*         Do you have a visual impairment?
*         Are you actively working?
*         Have you experienced a negative attitude from your employer?

If you answered YES to these questions, you may be eligible to participate in this research.

The purpose of this study is to explore, understand, and describe how employees with visual impairments process and overcome perceived negative employer attitudes. For the purpose of this study, the term “negative employer attitude” will be described in terms of your perception of employers’ negative actions or interactions. You will have the opportunity to discuss your experiences. Your participation in this study, and any identifiable personal information you provide, will be kept confidential.

Interviews will be held over the phone or in person at:

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library – Beatties Ford Road Regional
2412 Beatties Ford Road
Charlotte, NC 28216

For more information about this study, please contact me at:

James F. McNeil, M.S., CRC (Ph.D. Candidate)
Department of Counseling, Psychology, and Special Education
Duquesne University
Phone: (828) 237-1281

I am Ph.D. Candidate under the direction of Dr. Lisa Lopez Levers in the Department of Counseling, Psychology, and Special Education at Duquesne University. If you have any questions concerning this research or your participation in the study, please contact me or Dr. Lisa Lopez Levers at (412) 396-1871 or at

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Learn UEB Online!

Note:  I haven’t tested this program myself, so I can’t vouch for it.  I’m also fairly sure Nemeth is the preferred braille format for mathematics in the US rather than UEB math (particularly if your student is going to do higher mathematics), so please keep that in mind and/or check with your TVI if you’re learning to help support your kiddo.

Also, Hadley offers correspondence courses in Braille for families of B/VI kiddos; this is how I learned Grade 1 braille.  I’ve blogged on that before here:

The Hadley School for the Blind’s Family Education Program

New Hadley Course: Braille and Your Baby or Toddler

From the mailbag:

The FREE online training programs in UEB braille literacy and UEB mathematics can be accessed at and offer both free courses and paid certification options.



May 2019

Australian innovation to make mathematics more accessible to blind students across the globe

In response to the growing need for STEM skills in Australia and overseas, RIDBC has today launched UEB Mathematics, an online course that enables teachers and parents to better support braille-using students.

UEB Mathematics, an addition to the UEB Online e-learning platform, enables professionals and parents to understand and connect language, literacy and mathematics development in children with vision impairment, and to plan learning experiences that are inclusive of those children who use the medium of braille.

An Australian innovation, UEB Online, the first e-learning braille course for professionals and parents, was launched in 2014 with a goal to increase braille literacy in Australia and globally. Since its inception, more than 18,000 people in 184 countries have taken part in the course.

Now, the team behind UEB Online hope that increasing access to braille for mathematics will open up more STEM career opportunities for people with vision impairment in Australia and across the globe.

Dr Frances Gentle, Lecturer at RIDBC Renwick who led the project to create UEB Online, says the new UEB mathematics training courses are designed to promote equitable access to STEM subjects for braille users. “Equitable educational opportunity for children who are blind requires teachers who understand the braille code and how to modify print-based activities in the classroom.”

“We want to enable students with blindness to continue studying mathematics into their senior school years and as a result, increase access to careers in STEM-related fields. Achieving this aspirational goal requires teachers and parents who understand Unified English Braille in literary and mathematical contexts.”

In her role as President of the International Council for English Braille, Dr Gentle says she has witnessed the positive educational impact when braille-using students have the support of people who understand their code. “It really helps when classroom teachers can read braille text but equally, when parents can use it,” she said.

“Knowledge of braille enables parents to share the joys of reading and writing with their child, whether it is assistance with homework, notes of encouragement or birthday cards  in braille.”

Dr Gentle also says that the ability to read braille amongst the sighted community is essential. “It’s critical that we increase the number of people who can use and read braille so that we can continue to teach it and ensure that children with blindness have equitable access to education and employment.”

Chris Rehn, Chief Executive at RIDBC, says that keeping Australia at the global forefront of service and technological innovation is an important goal for the organisation. “We are committed to providing the highest quality services and level of care for Australians with vision and hearing impairment, and innovations such as UEB Mathematics play a critical role in this.

With mathematics identified as a vital skill for the future, ensuring students with vision impairment have equal access to education is crucial.”

The online training programs in braille literacy and mathematics can be accessed at and offer both free courses and paid certification options.



RIDBC is Australia’s largest non-government provider of therapy, education, cochlear implant and diagnostic services for people with hearing or vision loss, supporting thousands of adults, children and their families, each year. Services are provided from 18 sites across Australia and through an outreach service that supports clients living in regional areas.

RIDBC is a charity and relies heavily on fundraising and community support to be able to continue to make a difference in the lives of children and adults with vision or hearing loss.


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Study on Employment Experiences of B/VI Folks

From the mailbag:

Invitation to Participate in Research on Employment Experiences of BVI Individuals

Are you legally blind and age 18 or older?  Are you comfortable verbalizing your thoughts in English?  Have you at some point in the last five years been employed?  If your response is yes to all these questions, you can earn a $25 VISA gift card for participating in a research study.

A research team comprising of blind and sighted scholars at the Envision Research Institute is investigating the experiences of blind and visually impaired individuals at different stages of the employment cycle as these relate to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The goal is to understand hiring and retention policies that are effective for including blind and visually impaired people in the workforce.

Volunteers selected as study participants will be instructed to complete a questionnaire. The complete study might take about 45 minutes. A follow-up interview may be necessary to clarify some responses on the questionnaire. Upon completion of the study, the participant will receive a $25 gift card as a token of appreciation.

If you are interested in participating, or have a question about the study, please contact Marco Tarantino (email:; phone: 316-440-1524). Please reference project title: “Experiences of Blind and Low Vision Individuals at Different Stages of the Employment Cycle as These Relate to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 Regulations Implemented in 2014” (IRB#: 4424) in the subject line of the email.

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Coelho Center Disability Law Fellowship

If you are B/VI and wish to be an attorney, this could be a fabulous opportunity.

From the mail bag:

The Coelho Center Law Fellowship Program is launching this Summer 2019. Central to the mission of The Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy and Innovation is bringing together and fostering the development of leaders from our disability community. In particular, we believe in creating a strong pipeline of law students with disabilities who will go on to serve as attorneys, judges, public policy professionals, and politicians. Our ultimate goal is to increase representation in policy spaces where decisions are being made.

As the disability rights slogan goes, “Nothing About Us Without Us!” or more aptly “Nothing Without Us!” because people with disabilities belong in every sector of society, including the legal profession. We need disabled voices in law schools, in law firms, in the courts, on the bench, in the Congress, in legal academia and beyond!

In order to do so, we need to strengthen the pathway into law school for students with disabilities. Too often, students with disabilities are discouraged from attaining higher education. Educational barriers, along with negative assumptions and attitudes, dissuade our community from reaching careers in law and policy.

This has to change. Our program targets early-year college students with disabilities to intervene and provide encouragement, support and mentorship that is crucial to success.
Currently, there is no program like The Coelho Center Law Fellowship Program whose specific mission is to train and mentor college students with disabilities to think about a path toward law school.

Our program offers:
a one-week summer intensive course at Loyola Law School; an academic-year-long virtual course; a mentoring program between the fellows and law students and attorneys with disabilities; academic planning and support through the law school application process; and, a $1,000 stipend to be used for school supplies.

Deadline to apply: Monday, May 27, 2019 at 11:59 pm PST
Download your application here to apply:

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A Resounding Easter Success

A few weeks ago, I wrote about our attempts to make Easter egg hunting accessible for Peanut:  Easter’s a-comin’.  I am delighted to say that our efforts were a resounding success.

P &amp; S at Easter

Peanut and Sprout open their eggs.

The Easter Bunny (EB) set baskets for the kids at their seats at the table.  Each basket had chocolate (of course!), clothing (Peanut is wearing his new leopard t-shirt and Sprout her new unicorn leggings in the photo to the left), and, in Peanut’s case, a remote key finder.

At a friend’s suggestion, the EB had written Sprout’s name on top of each of her eggs and explained that her eggs had her name on them.  This was our first time trying this egg-hunting method, so Peanut’s eggs were in relatively obvious spaces:  my sighted child could see them easily.  Thus, it was important that her eggs be labeled so she didn’t pre-find all of her brother’s.

I explained to Sprout about her eggs, then clued Peanut in to the key finder:  they each had five eggs, and Peanut’s would beep when he pushed buttons on his key finder.  He had a BLAST.  This was, hands down, the most effective egg hunt we’ve had with our kids.  Peanut’s whole face lit up when he heard the first egg beep, and he was excited to be able to find them all by himself.  He even commented that the eggs were too easy for him to find!

Best yet, for the first time ever, the kids kept playing with the eggs.  Like my father and I did when I was a kid, they took turns hiding the eggs and re-finding them.  My daughter even enjoyed hunting for eggs with her ears more than hunting for them with her eyes.  It was awesome, and inclusive, and fantastic, and I wish we’d done it sooner but so glad that we did it now.

Our egg hunt was indoors, but the key finder was loud enough that I think you could do it in an outdoor space as well.  This was easy, re-usable, and affordable–it cost about $20 for the key finder set, and $1 each for the giant eggs.  (The EB could’ve used smaller eggs, but we weren’t sure how big the fobs would be when the eggs were purchased.)  10/10 will absolutely do again.


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Easter’s a-comin’

As Peanut’s visual acuity declines, Easter becomes more of a challenge.  He’s not really able to see things on the ground, even if they’re high-contrast, so the color of the eggs doesn’t matter.  The commercial beeping eggs I’d tried a few years ago didn’t work well–they weren’t loud enough, and the kids frankly destroyed them shortly after their use (for the cost, I wanted to be able to use them year-after-year).  My daughter’s sighted, so my going out with Peanut and snapping my fingers by eggs (essentially being a human beeper) wasn’t the best, either–she’d get all of the eggs before he got one.  I’ve heard of tying helium balloons to the eggs so he can ‘find’ them by essentially running into them, but logistically–that’s difficult if I’m trying to continue the illusion of the bunny bringing the treats (I mean, where do I hide the balloons?  Will they stay up overnight?)

So, here’s what I’m trying this year:  I bought five large eggs from Dollar Tree for each kid.  They’re plastic that’s clear on the top and colored on the bottom, and I’m hoping to be able to re-use them.  I then bought an electronic key finder from Amazon for about $20; it has five receivers and a remote that lets you start each receiver with a different color-coded button.   I tried it out when I arrived, and I’m delighted to say it’s LOUD.  My plan is to stick a key finder in each of Peanut’s eggs, then put the remote in his Easter basket and tell him it’s so he can find his eggs.

I’m still working on how best to keep Sprout from finding Peanut’s eggs–there’s a fair chance that hers will be up high and his lower to the ground, or I’ll stash these eggs in their rooms.  I may just put their initials on the eggs so she knows which ones to leave alone.  Either way, I’ll post an update after Easter to let you know how well it worked.  Fingers crossed it works well and we’ve found a solution to the annual egg hunt.

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Time to grow a reader with Seedlings

Seedlings Book Angel program is open for 2019!  B/VI kiddos in the United States and Canada up to age 21 can receive three free books by registering here:  Aside from the awesomeness of getting books, Seedlings is extra awesome because you can choose the books you get (you list your top choices and they send you three of them).  Seedlings has been a major source of books for Peanut’s library–I truly cannot recommend them enough.

Seedlings also offers the Rose Project, where they’ll transcribe World Book Encyclopedia articles for B/VI kids grades 1-12 for free.  You can order an article or articles here:

They are now also offering a TVIP program where TVIs in the United States can get four FREE one-volume braille books each calendar year.  As explained on their Web site:

Teachers of the Visually Impaired in the U.S. may order 4 free 1-volume braille books from Seedlings each calendar year! Order here and use the code TVIP19 as your Purchase Order Number.

In the Check Out Information, please include your school name & address for our records. You may enter a different address in the ‘Send to’ information if you wish.
Please be patient. We are very excited to send you these free books, but we will need to produce & pack them when we are not busy with paid orders.

And please understand that by ordering these free books, you are agreeing to be on our email list for our quarterly newsletters & other updates. Happy Reading!


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Online Research Study Regarding Autonomous Vehicles

From the mailbag:

Transportation is seeing all kinds of disruptive transformation. Ridesharing, electric cars and automated vehicles are only a few examples.  While all these innovative technological advances will hopefully have a positive impact within our communities, the needs of pedestrians who are blind must not be left to chance.

The CNIB Foundation in partnership with a leading Canadian university and a long serving researcher in the field of blindness, with partial funding from the Government of Canada – Transport Canada – , is undertaking a study to identify possible mitigation strategies so that connected autonomous vehicles do not further marginalize pedestrians who are blind.

We are inviting our colleagues throughout the world to share their views via an online survey. The survey can be accessed here<>, along with an overview of the project.
The survey will close at the end of April 2019.

Please share widely and encourage anyone with sight loss or who is blind to take a few minutes to complete the survey. The final report which will consolidate our findings will be available mid to late July 2019.

Thank you in advance for taking time to share your views via the survey. If you have any questions, please contact Lui Greco at

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BELL is coming to Kansas!

The National Federation of the Blind’s Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academy is coming to Kansas City!  The Kansas session will be held from Monday, June 10, through Friday, June 21 at KSSB; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

As described on their Web site, BELL

is a nationwide summer program offered by the National Federation of the Blind that prepares blind and low-vision children, ages four through twelve, to grow into confident and independent blind people who live the lives they want.

Activities are provided in a day program or residential setting, depending on location. In addition to Braille crafts, games, and other engaging projects, children learn vital independent living skills, interact with blind adult mentors, and enjoy field trips to sites related to the NFB BELL Academy curriculum. Through these activities and interactions, the children learn that blindness or low vision does not define them or their future.

Information on the Kansas session is available here:

And you can learn about BELL in general and sign up for the Kansas session here:

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