Museum Survey

A year or so ago, Peanut and I went on a touch tour at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art–it was pretty neat, and I even discovered facets of some of the pieces that I’d entirely missed as a sighted person.  I would love for more museums to be more accessible for my son.  Help with research into making museums more accessible for B/VI folks by completing the survey below.

From the mailbag:

Museum Experience Survey

Cheryl Fogle-Hatch, Ph.D. (an independent archaeologist and museum professional) and Don Winiecki, Ed.D., Ph.D. (a professor at Boise State University) are conducting survey research to identify experiences of blind and visually-impaired individuals at museums.

If you choose to complete the survey it will take you about 15 to 20 minutes. More information about the survey and the research is included below.

Survey URL: https://boisestate.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_23HYlClohjBVQah

Eligibility
The survey is intended for individuals who are (a) 18-years old or older, (b) blind or visually-impaired, and (c) who have visited one or more museums in the past.

Possible Benefits
Results of this research will be reported at academic and professional conferences and in journal publications. Findings and conclusions of the research will enable the researchers to provide information and advice that can improve the experience of blind and visually-impaired persons in museums.

Risks and Discomforts
This study involves no foreseeable serious risks. We ask that you try to answer all questions; however, if there are any items that make you uncomfortable or that you would prefer to skip, please leave the answer blank.

Protection of Privacy and Confidentiality
The survey is designed so that your responses are anonymous. However, for this research project, the researchers are requesting demographic information. Due to the make-up of the population of blind and visually-impaired persons in certain areas, the combined answers to these questions may make a person identifiable. The researchers will make every effort to protect your confidentiality. However, if you are uncomfortable answering any of these questions, you should skip them.

Choosing to Be in the Study
You do not have to be in this study. Participation is voluntary. You may choose not to take part and you may choose to stop taking part at any time without penalty.

Contact Information
If you have any questions or concerns about this study or if any problems arise, please contact the researchers at the following points:

Cheryl Fogle-Hatch, Ph.D.
Archaeologist and Museum Professional
Email: c.k.fogle@gmail.com
Telephone: 4439398217

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Senior Retreat 2018

From the mailbag:

SENIOR RETREAT 2018

Learn to Live the Life You Want

Learn from experienced blind instructors techniques and skills of blindness to enhance your quality of life. Become empowered­ remain independent and actively engage in hobbies, work and social activities with confidence.  The Senior Division of the National Federation of the Blind is sponsoring our first Senior Retreat for legally blind seniors with a strong desire to learn nonvisual techniques to enhance and enrich their quality of life.

Where: Rocky Bottom, South Carolina This is a beautiful rural setting with great hiking and fishing opportunities.

When: October 14-20, 2018

Cost: $300.00 per attendee. Please note this is the cost of the training. The nearest airport is Greenville, South Carolina. Transportation from the airport to Rocky Bottom and again, back to the airport will be provided. Participants must make all other transportation arrangements and pay these expenses.

Classes Offered:
Cane Travel,
Cooking and Daily Living Skills,
Basic Computer Literacy and Technology Training,
Adjustment to Blindness Seminars,
Braille and Tactile Labeling Techniques,
Problem-Solving Strategies.

To Apply: Send an email to rsager78@gmail.com or call Ruth Sager at 410 602-9030 or write:
7634 Carla Road,
Pikesville, MD 21208 for a paper application.

Submit any questions or comments to the above addresses or phone number. All applications must be received by August 15, 2018. Money is due  by September 1, 2018 to:

NFB Senior Division
CstO Duncan Larsen
Colorado Center for the Blind,
2233 Shepperd Ave.
Littleton, CO 80120
Please note that all applicants will be interviewed by Board members of the Senior Division upon receiving a completed application. You will then be notified if you are a successful candidate.

Space is limited so do not delay in applying and filling out your application.

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Recent Changes to ABLE Accounts

This is from the IRS Newswire Issue IR-2018-139, so is a reliable source.

From the mailbag:

Tax reform allows people with disabilities to put more money into ABLE accounts, expands eligibility for Saver’s Credit

WASHINGTON – People with disabilities can now put more money into their tax-favored Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts and may, for the first time, qualify for the Saver’s Credit for low- and moderate-income workers, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the tax reform legislation enacted in December, made major changes to the tax law for 2018 and future years, including increasing the standard deduction, removing personal exemptions, increasing the Child Tax Credit, limiting or discontinuing certain deductions and changing tax rates and brackets.

The new law also enables eligible individuals with disabilities to put more money into their ABLE accounts, qualify for the Saver’s Credit in many cases and roll money from their 529 plans — also known as qualified tuition programs — into their ABLE accounts.

States can offer specially designed ABLE accounts to people who become disabled before age 26. Recognizing the special financial burdens faced by families raising children with disabilities, ABLE accounts are designed to enable people with disabilities and their families to save for and pay for disability-related expenses. Though contributions are not deductible, distributions, including earnings, are tax-free to the designated beneficiary if used to pay qualified disability expenses. These expenses can include housing, education, transportation, health, prevention and wellness, employment training and support, assistive technology and personal support services and other disability-related expenses.

Normally, contributions totaling up to the annual gift tax exclusion amount, currently $15,000, may be made to an ABLE account each year for an eligible person with a disability, known as a designated beneficiary. But, starting in 2018, if the beneficiary works, the beneficiary can also contribute part or all of what they make to their ABLE account.

This additional contribution is limited to the poverty line amount for a one-person household. For 2018, this amount is $12,140 in the continental U.S., $13,960 in Hawaii and $15,180 in Alaska. However, the designated beneficiary is not eligible to make this additional contribution if their employer contributes to a workplace retirement plan on their behalf.

In addition, starting in 2018, ABLE account beneficiaries can qualify for the Saver’s Credit based on contributions they make to their ABLE accounts. Up to $2,000 of these contributions qualify for this special credit designed to help low- and moderate-income workers. Claimed on Form 8880, Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions, this credit can reduce the amount of tax a person owes or increase their refund. Like other IRS tax forms, Form 8880 will be revised later this year to reflect changes made by the new law.

In addition, some funds now may be rolled into an ABLE account from the designated beneficiary’s own 529 plan or from the 529 plan of certain family members.

Like other workers, ABLE account beneficiaries and other people with disabilities should make sure they are having the right amount of income tax withheld from their pay. Because of the far-reaching tax changes taking effect this year, the IRS urges all employees to perform a paycheck checkup now. Doing so now will help avoid an unexpected year-end tax bill and possibly a penalty. The easiest way to do that is to use the fully-accessible Withholding Calculator, available on IRS.gov.

For more information about ABLE accounts and the tax reform changes, visit IRS.gov/taxreform.

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Office for Civil Rights: Feedback Needed

From the mailbag:

Have you ever filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR)? If so, please complete our short survey by July 15 (https://nfb.org/doe-ocr-survey). We need your help as we fight to reinstate your rights to have more than one complaint investigated by OCR and to appeal OCR decisions. For more information about the NFB’s action against the Department of Education, please read President Riccobono’s recent blog (https://nfb.org/blog/article/3588) or contact Valerie Yingling, legal program coordinator, at vyingling@nfb.org.

 

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Down and Dirty

Location:  Kansas Children’s Discovery Center, 4400 SW 10th Avenue, Topeka, KS 66604

Cost:  Depends on when you register, ages of registrants, etc.  In 2018, it cost $81 for me, Sprout, and Peanut, and we signed up early enough to get t-shirts in our swag bags.

Web site:  https://kansasdiscovery.org/2018mudrun/

Through a curious series of events–largely consisting of my mother’s suggestion and my being a sucker for doing things with my kids–I ended up at the Serious Fun Mud Run on June 3rd.  It’s a short course–about 1/4 mile–and you can go through it up to three times.  We had so much fun we did it twice, and the only reason we didn’t go for the third time is that the fire department providing the hose-off at the end was on a schedule and would have to go before we were finished (and the hose-off is a must).

I’m fairly sure the course and obstacles will change year-over-year.  This year went roughly as follows:

  • Starting line with a drip hose so you can start out nice and soaked.
  • “Woodland tunnel” on a trail through the woods.  This was not terribly muddy (a plus!), but did involve obstacles that were more challenging for Peanut–roots, branches, etc.  He and I were slow on this part as we went sighted guide and the path was narrow.
  • Volunteers with super soakers spraying you as you run by the tree house.
  • Mud pit number 1:  you’re supposed to either pencil roll or low crawl.  They’re ok with it if you walk.  Both Peanut and Sprout lost their shoes here.
  • Mud pit number 2:  I think this one’s deeper.  Definitely crawl.
  • Get-your-friends-dirty:  A spot with plates, bowls, etc. to scoop muddy water and dump it on your friends.  Peanut took this as an opportunity to hug volunteers.  They were down with it.
  • Jump over hay bales (about 5 with spaces–like hurdles)
  • A tire walk like you see in Army videos–one foot in the left tube and one in the right.  These were made out of pool noodles.
  • Carrying a tub of muddy water on your head down to a big kiddie pool.
  • Dump your tub of water in the kiddie pool, and jump in it if you like.
  • Repeat run up to three times, then head outside to dance in water from a fire hose to clean off.

Short version:  Can your B/VI child do this race?  YES, ABSOLUTELY!  There is, however, a caveat:  you’re going to have to go along.  There are two kid-only runs for different age groups, then the final run is the Family Run.  You’re going to want to sign up for that one.  It’s a super-sensory experience, and it’s not even remotely accessible if you need mobility devices.  Leave your cane with a friend who’s not running–sighted guide is the way to go here.  You, your child, and anything you’re wearing will have mud in places you weren’t entirely aware you had.

Long version:  Thoughts and observations:

  • Peanut and I went sighted guide.  This made us slow in the first part of the race and created a little bit of a bottleneck, especially our first time through.  Think a typical woodland trail (narrow, overgrown in places, with tree roots and branches), with two people trying to navigate it.  I didn’t want him to wipe out in the woods.  The rest of the race, I basically told him what was coming up and gave him directions, and he was fine.
  • Shoes.  Shoes are complicated.  I wore army boots:  these are perfect.  My feet were warm and dry until the fire hose at the end.  Sprout wore sneakers.  These got sucked off of her feet in the first mud obstacle, which she originally tried to walk through.  Peanut wore clogs with heel straps.  These also got sucked off in the first mud obstacle, leaving three adults feeling through the mud until we found his second shoe.  Both kids went barefoot the second time through.  There’s wood mulch and hot concrete, so I’m not sure I recommend that.  If you don’t have army boots, maybe old sneakers that tie tightly would work?  Also, crawl through the obstacles rather than walking–the point is to get dirty, anyway, and it’ll make it less likely that your shoes come off.
  • As I said before, this is not an accessible race if you’re using mobility devices.  It’s definitely not wheelchair accessible, and I think a stability-cane would be exceptionally challenging.  The obstacles aren’t wide enough for a walker or a gait trainer, and I don’t think you’d want to take one anyway given the amount of dirt you’d have to clean off of it.  If you and your kiddo are able to navigate without devices, it could be a lot of fun.
  • Sensory play!  This is an excuse for kids to get muddy.  My kids LOVE GETTING MUDDY.  They also LOVED GETTING ME MUDDY.  There were all sorts of textures and ground to feel and different consistencies of mud to squish all over.  If your kiddo is texture-avoidant or doesn’t like to be messy–definitely skip this one.
  • The Topeka Fire Department were at the end with a fire truck with a roof-mounted hose that they sprayed over a field for people to get de-mudded.  Some people were able to get almost entirely clean.  Us, not so much.
  • Bring towels to cover your car seats.  Bring towels to dry off.  Bring a plastic bag for your shoes.  If you’re female, consider wearing a sports bra so you can take your shirt off at the end (I saw a woman do this and was envious).  The kiddos were cold after getting sprayed off, so be prepared for that.
  • There was a Kona Ice truck at the end.  We skipped it, but bring some $ if you’d like to indulge.
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Animals on Airplanes: Be Heard

I’m sure everyone, by now, has heard of the ongoing saga of “service animals” such as peacocks, hamsters, and ill-behaved dogs on flights.  The U.S. Department of Transportation is looking for feedback on proposed amendments to regulations regarding service animals on airplanes; the amendments are, in part, intended to deter people who fraudulently claim their animals are service animals just to be able to have the animals with them on the plane.

Livaughn Chapman, Jr., wrote an article, “U.S. Department of Transportation Seeks Comment on Amending Regulations Concerning Service Animals on Flights” for the Summer 2018 (Vol. 61.2) of the KABVI News.  I am pasting a copy of Chapman’s article below:


U.S. Department of Transportation Seeks Comment on Amending Regulations Concerning Service Animals on Flights

By Livaughn Chapman, Jr.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (Department) today announced that it is seeking public comment on amending its Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulation on transportation of service animals.  The Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on Traveling By Air with Service Animals provides the public with 45 days during which to offer comments.

This ANPRM is intended to address the significant concerns raised by individuals with disabilities, other members of the public, airlines, flight attendants, airports and other stakeholders regarding service animals on aircraft.  The Department recognizes the integral role that service animals play in the lives of many individuals with disabilities and wants to ensure seamless access to air transportation for individuals with disabilities while also helping to deter the fraudulent use of animals not qualified as service animals.

In this ANPRM, the Department solicits comment on:

  • (1) treating psychiatric service animals similar to other service animals;
  • (2) distinguishing between emotional support animals and other service animals;
  • (3) requiring emotional support animals to travel in pet carriers for the duration of the flight;
  • (4) limiting the species of service animals and emotional support animals that airlines are required to transport;
  • (5) limiting the number of service animals/emotional support animals required to be transported per passenger;
  • (6) requiring service animal and emotional support animal users confirm that their animal has been trained to behave in a public setting;
  • (7) requiring service animals and emotional support animals have a harness, leash, or other tether with narrow exceptions;
  • (8) limiting the size of emotional support animals or other service animals that travel in the cabin and the potential impact of such a limitation;
  • (9) prohibiting airlines from requiring a veterinary health form or immunization record from service animal users without an individualized assessment that the animal would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others or would cause a significant disruption in the aircraft cabin; and
  • (10) no longer holding U.S. airlines responsible if a passenger traveling under the U.S. carrier’s code is only allowed to travel with a service dog on a flight operated by its foreign code share partner.

Comments on the ANPRM must be received within 45 days of the date the notice is published.  The ANPRM can be found at regulations.gov, docket number DOT-OST-2018-0068.

Today, the Department also issued an Interim Statement of Enforcement Priorities Regarding Service Animals to inform the public of its intended enforcement focus with respect to transportation of service animals in the cabin.  Given that the service animal issue is currently the subject of an open rulemaking, DOT’s Enforcement Office will focus its enforcement on clear violations of the current rule that have the potential to adversely impact the largest number of persons.

The Department seeks comment on this interim statement, and intends to issue a final statement after the close of the comment period.  Comments on this interim statement must be received within 15 days of the date the statement is published.  The statement can be found at regulations.gov, docket number DOT-OST-2018-0067.


It’s important for us to speak up and give feedback to the DOT regarding these regulations.  For your convenience, I’ve provided a link to the Comments for DOT-OST-2018-0068 here:  https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=DOT-OST-2018-0068-1157.  The Proposed Rule itself is available here:  https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOT-OST-2018-0068-1157.  Comments are due no later than July 9, 2018; please take time to read the ANPRM and provide feedback today.

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Coding Camp for B/VI Kiddos

From the mailbag:

This is a program developed and run by blind professionals for youth who are blind or low vision.

OSOP Coding Camp

Learn Today – Prepare for Your Future

Date: July 9 – July 13, 2018

Time: 10:00 AM – 2:30 PM

Place: Microsoft Office, Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 02142

Are you interested in coding? Do you want to learn this new skill? Through our Coding Camp middle and high school-aged youth who are blind get an introduction to coding.

In this program you?ll:

*  Learn what makes a computer work

*  Build your own website

*  Meet coders, video game developers, and other tech professionals

*  Explore career options in high-tech fields

To participate, you must be a very good user of the assistive technology you use to access a computer.

To register or get more information (including transportation options)
contact Our Space Our Place.

Call: (617) 459-4084

Email:  <mailto:president@ourspaceourplace.org>
president@ourspaceourplace.org

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A Disney Dream–Part Two

This past fall, we headed out to Halloween on the High Seas aboard the Disney Dream.  It was an absolutely magical experience that was surprisingly accessible for all of us.  For this trip, we had a VI child, Peanut, and a mobility-impaired adult, Peanut’s grandfather.  Everyone had an amazing time.

There is SO MUCH to do on a Disney cruise that we weren’t able to even come close to doing it all.  For that reason, I’m just going to highlight the activities we participated in here.

A few weeks ago, I covered the first part of our adventure:  A Disney Dream–Part One  I’m covering the rest of our magical trip below:

Castaway Cay

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Peanut, wearing a bright yellow life jacket over green and white swim trunks and holding a cane in his left hand, stands on one of the wide walkways on Castaway Cay.

Castaway Cay may actually be my favorite place on earth.  It has wide walkways that are super-easy to navigate with a cane, self-serve soft-serve ice cream, soft sand beaches, free life-jacket-style flotation devices for kids (which also make said kids easy to spot in the water!), clear water, and accessibility.  The best part?  I saw wheelchairs designed for use on the sand.  This is clearly a place that’s designed to be accessible.

Note:  If you’re looking to send postcards from Castaway Cay, don’t count on the post office being open.  Rather, go to the front desk on the main level of the ship and have them post your post cards for you–they’ll make sure they’re stamped and mailed from Castaway Cay the next time the ship docks there and the post office is available.

 

Pelican Plunge

One of Peanut’s favorite parts of Castaway Cay was the Pelican Plunge.  This is a swim-to floating water park off of the family beach.  It features a small spray-ground, three water cannons that you can use to hit targets in the cove (all away from other people), and two water slides–one open, and one tubular.  It is QUITE DEEP by the plunge, so I highly recommend having your kiddo in a life jacket if s/he isn’t a STRONG swimmer.  This also made it easier for me to grab Peanut and haul him to the platform.  The line’s usually fairly long, but it wasn’t too bad, and Peanut was an enormous fan.

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Castaway Ray’s Stingray Adventure

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Our guide hands out food at our floating table in the stingray area.

While on Castaway Cay, we went to Castaway Ray’s Stingray Adventure.  If you’re looking for a shore excursion that’s tactile, this is a great choice.  First, you have a brief orientation with a guide who teaches you some about the rays and explains what’s going to happen.  Then, you head down the beach to the water.  There are white ‘tables’ for the rays to swim through.  You get to hold a piece of food, and the rays swim past you on the table to eat the food.  While the rays are swimming past, you get to feel them.  They’re soft, and surprisingly rough along their spines.  Plus, given that rays are fairly dark-skinned and the tables are white, they’re also nicely high-contrast for VI kids.

After you feed the rays, you get to snorkel for an hour.  This was awesome–and, surprisingly, Peanut’s favorite part.  You get to swim around and look at the rays–floating is advised, because they’ll swim away if they feel/hear/see you come too close.

NOTE:  Castaway Ray’s is very tactile-friendly, but it’s not super mobility-friendly, at least if you’re not using one of the special wheelchairs (those may make a difference).  Efrit had to help Grandfather get back out of the ocean–the ground where the sand meets the surf is not remotely stable and was very challenging to get out of.

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Peanut snorkels in the stingray area.

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Peanut, Efrit, and Sprout pet a ray as it swims by on the feeding table.

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Sprout holds a piece of food on the Mickey-Mouse-head-shaped target on the stingray feeding table.

 

 

 

The Family Beach

Along with the Pelican Plunge, my kids adored the family beach.  As Kansans, this was Peanut and Sprout’s first time at a sea-side beach.  They loved the white sand, and they adored swimming in the clear water.  There are clear inner tubes for rent–these end up being passed around quite a bit, so we ended up getting to use one without having to rent it ourselves–and these were enormously popular.  The kids loved swimming and floating in the ocean.  This is, of course, entirely accessible no matter how well you see–and with their handy flotation devices, was entirely comfortable for me as a parent.

There were lounge chairs with beach umbrellas set out on the sand.  Dad picked out a likely spot and read a book in the sun while Efrit, the kids, and I played in the surf.  It was a wonderful day.

Note:  WEAR SUNSCREEN.  LOTS OF SUNSCREEN.  REAPPLY!  Efrit did not realize that the sun closer to the equator would be stronger than the sun here in Kansas City, so ended up looking like a cooked lobster.  The rest of us, who wore our sunscreen, were lightly toasted but otherwise OK.  You have been warned.

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Sprout tries out an inner tube in the ocean while I hold it steady.

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Clear inner tubes on the beach.

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Grandfather, Peanut, and Sprout share a moment in the shade.  The bright yellow life jackets they’re wearing are free of charge and easy to locate.

The Disney Dream

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Peanut and Sprout meet Mickey Mouse.

I was impressed with how well the Disney Dream’s crew, particularly character actors, worked with Peanut to make sure he could appreciate and enjoy the experience.  When we met Mickey, resplendent in his captain’s outfit, he was kind enough to let Peanut take his time to get a ‘feel’ for him–the character was patient and let Peanut feel him so he would know what Mickey ‘looked’ like.  There was a huge line–there’s a huge line for almost all character encounters–but Mickey acted like there was no rush at all and let Peanut take his time.  It was absolutely magical.

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Donald Duck, dressed as a super hero, turns to greet Peanut at a Meet-and-Greet.  Peanut is wearing a Cheshire Cat costume with the hood pushed back and a bright yellow Donald Duck hat.

Generally speaking, the characters don’t talk (aside from Princesses, of course).  They gesture widely–which is great if you can see, but not as much if you’re B/VI.  I can personally vouch that, in my experience, they were incredibly patient with my son and incredibly good with making sure that he got the same amazing, accessible experience with Disney characters that every other typical child on that ship did.

The Oceaneer’s Club

There is a (generally) kids-only area on the Disney Dream called the Oceaneer’s Club.  We did indeed check the kiddos in while we were there, and they both loved it.  It has huge tactile areas–there’s Andy’s Room from Toy Story, sized as though you’re on Woody’s scale, the deck of the Millenium Falcon, a Pixie Forest with tons of iPads to play Disney games on, and a Disney Infinity area that includes a set where you get to be the Disney Infinity Figure and play.  There’s also a big dance floor where the kids can play games and meet some of the Disney characters–there was a dance-along with Pluto while we were there.

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Peanut and Sprout at the controls of the Millenium Falcon.

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Peanut and Sprout as life-sized Infinity characters.

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Grandfather takes a turn driving the Millenium Falcon.

Both of my kids did fine in the Oceaneeer’s Club:  we only got a call once because one kiddo was tired and ready to hit the sack.  Peanut did mislay his cane and we had to ask for help finding it–he’s a major cane-tosser when he finds something he’s interested in (i.e. he will toss the cane on the ground and run off), so this was to be expected.  The floor of the Oceaneer’s Club is level, and I think it’s fairly accessible.  I’m not sure how the staff would handle a severely impacted child in a wheelchair, for example, but they did well with my kiddos with vision issues and speech impediments.

NOTE:  Keep track of those red arm bands!  You have to turn them in, or there’s a $15 charge each!

All in all, our cruise aboard the Disney Dream was an absolute dream come true.  I cannot recommend it enough.

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B/VI Folks: Help a PhD Candidate by Taking a Survey

From the mailbag:

I am currently finishing my dissertation on various challenges and negative experiences that people who are severely visually impaired or blind experience in the workplace.
Below is a link to a 10 to 15 minute survey inquiring about a recent negative event.  Several questions will also ask you about yourself.
Anyone can participate as long you work either part-time or full-time, are over the age of 18, and have a visual acuity of 20/100 or worse.  Even if you work from home or work for a few hours per week you can participate as long as you meet the other criteria as well.
What: Survey on a recent negative experience and how you felt about it.
Who: 18 years or older, employed full-time or part-time, with a visual acuity of 20/100 or worse.
How long: 10-15 minutes.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WFQ98M3

I greatly appreciate any help or participation.
Sincerely,
Mike Knott (mak026@latech.edu)
Doctoral Candidate, I-O Psychology
Louisiana Tech University

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A Disney Dream–Part One

This past fall, we headed out to Halloween on the High Seas aboard the Disney Dream.  It was an absolutely magical experience that was surprisingly accessible for all of us.  For this trip, we had a VI child, Peanut, and a mobility-impaired adult, Peanut’s grandfather.  Everyone had an amazing time.

There is SO MUCH to do on a Disney cruise that we weren’t able to even come close to doing it all.  For that reason, I’m just going to highlight the activities we participated in here.

Convenience

If you’re able to stay at a resort before/after your cruise, I highly recommend it simply for the convenience.  We checked our bags here in Kansas City before we boarded our flight; Disney took care of everything else until the bags arrived at our door.  We left our bags out the next morning before we left for Port Canaveral; the bags appeared in front of our state rooms later that day.

We stayed at the resort the day we came back from our cruise as well.  We were able to check our bags at the resort, then head to the airport.  We didn’t have to worry about checked luggage until we got back to KC.  Even if you’re not travelling with someone with a disability, this was a HUGE CONVENIENCE.  We didn’t have to shuffle bags and kids.  I cannot recommend it enough.

The Art of Animation Resort

The Art of Animation Resort is absolutely amazing–you can get more information about it here:  https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/art-of-animation-resort/.  The best part from the perspective of a parent of a blind child?  Enormous, tactile statues of Disney characters.  If you’re looking for a place to get a feel for Disney, this is it.

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Peanut and Sprout climb on a life-sized Lightning McQueen while Efrit and Grandfather look on at the Wheel Well Motel.

The best characters, as far as my kids were concerned, were the ones from Cars.  There are life-sized statues of all of the characters from the first Cars movie, most of them in front of life-sized “sets” that also appeared in Radiator Springs.  Peanut and Sprout climbed on every single character, and Peanut got a good ‘feel’ for what each car looks like.  It was a major hit.

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The Coral Reef playground by the Big Blue Pool.

If you go to the main pool, you’ll find a Finding Nemo theme; the playground behind the pool continues the theme as a large coral reef.  There are also areas designed after The Lion King and The Little Mermaid, all featuring large tactile creatures.  You can feel the statue of Prince Eric and play in the elephant graveyard.

There’s a video arcade in the main building that the kids fell in love with.  It has massage chairs that my father and I enjoyed, and a whack-a-mole game that both kids took a thwack at.

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Peanut and Sprout at the appropriately-titled Pac-Man game.

What ensorcelled them both, however, was the World’s Largest Pac-Man.  I can honestly say it was large enough that my VI son was able to play.

The paths here are nice and wide, so are fairly easy to navigate.  Depending on the part of the hotel you’re in, be prepared for some serious walking–it was quite a ways to the Little Mermaid rooms where we stayed.

Graycliff Chocolatier–The Art of Chocolate Making and Factory Tour

For our shore excursion in Nassau, we went to Graycliff Chocolatier.  It’s a fairly affordable excursion ($60-$68 a person when I last checked), and you get to make your own chocolate!

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Peanut, Sprout, and Grandfather walk through the chocolate factory.

Although this tour worked well for us, I would not recommend it for people with mobility issues.  There are narrow stone steps to get into the facility, and the bulk of the tour is through an artisan factory:  think a large meeting room full of tables and chocolate equipment.  We were able to guide Peanut fairly well, but I don’t think it’s a space that’s made for independent VI travel–it’s narrow and cluttered, and you’re going to hit a LOT of stuff with your cane.

There were elements that were fantastic for our VI kid, however, if you’ve got a friend to go sighted guide with you:

  • We got to feel and taste raw cocoa beans (WOW are they bitter!).
  • We got to sample all sorts of in-process chocolate straight from the mixers.
  • We got to make our own chocolate:  we made a chocolate bar, dipped fruit, and a few other items.  It’s hands-on and delicious.

 

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