Tag Archives: Braille

Our Burning Man Maps for the Blind are Back

Burning Man has ten tenets — perhaps the first and foremost being “radical inclusion”. On their website, the first principle reads, “Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.”

It’s a philosophy that we share at LightHouse, and one that led MAD Lab designer and longtime Burner Julie Sadlier to debut a one-of-a-kind tactile Burning Man map two years ago. In other words, a Burning Man map for blind people .

This year, we’ve updated and improved the hybrid tactile-visual map for Burning Man 2017. Thanks to the business loans we got, we were able to complete the maps without a problem. The maps, with updated art placement, will be available at several locations in Black Rock City, including the Playa Information Booth, Mobility Camp and the CBT Project (at 7 and Fire), and here at the LightHouse headquarters starting August 23. To pre-order a map, contact our Adaptations Store at 1-888-400-8933 or adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org.

Calling it “awesome, no matter your level of sight,” The Atlantic’s CityLab aptly pointed out that you don’t have to be blind to use our map. Complete with braille, visual, and tactile representations of the event’s streets, information booths, first aid tents, restrooms, bus stops, camping, parking, and notable attractions such as artwork, Mobility Camp, The Temple and of course, The Man, the map is a great tool for anybody getting to know the festival – and one that is equally accessible to those with no vision. Now that’s radical inclusivity.

The map’s creator Julie Sadlier, said the response at Black Rock City over the last two years has been incredible, so much so that the leader of Mobility Camp, “Rat Lady”, contacted her way back in February to make sure she would be designing an updated version of the map for 2017.

“I had multiple people coming to my camp, even when I wasn’t there people were dropping off brailled business cards so they could talk more about the map,” says Julie. “Someone at Playa Information dismantled one copy and hung it on the wall to spread the word.”

It’s this type of openness and inclusivity, we’ve found, that opens unexpected doors and embodies the spirit of the LightHouse for the Blind as well as Burning Man. We look forward to printing even more than last year and to hearing your stories when you get back from the playa!

To get a copy of our map, call the Adaptations Store (1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco) at 1-888-400-8933, or email adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org. If you or your organization would like to design a fully accessible, inclusive map of, well – anything – email madlab@lighthouse-sf.org.

A Blind Poet in the LightHouse Studio: Watch “Vision” by Leah Gardner

“I’m a woman who’s a blind, depressed lesbian,” says Leah Gardner, with a good-humored chuckle. “That’s who I am. That’s my reality and I’m okay with it.”

Leah is also a part-time tech trainer at LightHouse and a slam poet. She will be marching with our San Francisco Pride Contingent this Sunday, June 25 to #BeSeen.

Leah hasn’t participated in Pride in about 15 years — since she was a young poet in New Hampshire and Vermont — but when she heard about our blind and visually impaired contingent from our weekly newsletter, she decided it was time to march again. In her late 20s, marching in Pride offered her a lot of hope, along with a sense acceptance and celebration in who she was and what she offered to a community. After a tough couple of years, Leah is ready to feel that hope again.

“There’s a lot of excitement building for me, just in terms of being part of this,” she says. “Every time that I participated in the New Hampshire and Vermont marches, it was with wonderful friends but they were all sighted. It was not part of a visually impaired community, as key to me as that was in my life. This year carries this newness to it. It will be a completely original experience of sharing this day with people who are also blind and GLBTQ. So I’m really energized.”

We’re asking folks to use the hashtag #BeSeen and think about what that means in the context of Pride.

“I think a lot of people are very comfortable with talking about sexuality but the vision loss and the reality of that creates a lot of shame,” says Leah. “And in my case I also deal with severe depression, which adds some challenges in finding a way to form bonds with other people. We all have some shame about something, some facet of our personality. This ‘Being Seen’ concept to me has become about saying no to that shame.”

And Leah is no stranger to thinking about the intersection of blindness and sexuality. One of the poems she has performed most over the years is a poem called “Vision” about a gay friend who was losing his sight. The poem unpacks the shame and fear that often accompanies both sexuality and disability, and is a testament to the courage it takes to go through a world that isn’t always kind to people it deems outside of the norm. In advance of San Francisco Pride, we asked Leah to perform “Vision” in the LightHouse studio. Watch the video below.

Leah will present this poem live at our “All Eyes on Allies: Pride Training and Community Building” on June 22 where she also discuss what it means to show up to Pride as an ally for people with multiple marginalized identities. This training will also teach volunteers how to be effective human guides.

We hope you’ll volunteer to be part of our contingent. Sign up to march with us on June 25 at our Eventbrite page.

Now Available at Adaptations: Next Generation Braille Apple Manuals

The LightHouse Media and Accessible Design Lab (MAD Lab) is the sole translator for authorized braille versions of a variety of Apple User’s Guides. Earlier this year, Apple commissioned the MAD Lab to translate a few of their new manuals into braille. This week, as the culmination of several months of work, free Braille Ready Files (BRFs) are available online. You may also purchase embossed versions of these manuals in our Adaptations Store.

Call 1-888-400-8933 today to order one of the following manuals in braille at the standard braille embossing rate of $0.50 a page. Click on the any of the links below and scroll down to ‘User Guides’ to access free BRFs to print from your own embosser.

For blind braille readers who use Apple products, this is a huge step towards tech literacy. The iOS manuals provide detailed insight into optimizing these products and leveraging the accessible features for personal and professional use. The embossed manuals offer a complete set of directions on how to use each Apple operating system, intelligently organized into multiple volumes of interpoint Braille.

Adaptations also carries a wide variety of low-vision and blindness products, including talking watches and alarm clocks, games, kitchen products, braille supplies and much, much more. Get in touch with us at (415) 694-7301 or adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org, or stop by our store between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Get even more familiar with your Apple products by attending a FREE weekly Access Tech Training at our headquarters on Tuesdays between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. and Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. To make an appointment, contact Access Technology Coordinator Shen Kuan at skuan@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7312.

Student Spotlight: Ruth Hartman

Ruth Hartman has distinct memories of her ‘Grandma Pearl’ using a Perkins brailler. She can picture her hands passing over the pages of braille she transcribed for Dr. Abraham Nemeth, who developed the Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics in the 1960s. Pearl Hartman, who was sighted, was Nemeth’s personal braille transcriber. She never would have guessed at that time that her granddaughter Ruth would go blind, many years later.

So when Ruth sat down to a brailler at a Changing Vision Changing Life Immersion retreat at Enchanted Hills Camp in February 2016, she was enthralled.

“When I sat down and tried to type a few words on the brailler, or felt braille for the first time, it brought back wonderful memories and connections to my grandmother,” she says, nostalgia coloring her voice. “I’ve always loved words. I like math. There was something about solving the puzzle of braille that I found really enthralling. I’m a busy person but I’ve carved out hundreds of hours to learn braille in the last year.”

And it’s true—Ruth is a busy person. She runs her own marketing and communications business, called Wordcraft. She’s a leader at her synagogue, teaches peer counseling, and dedicates her time to vegetarian cooking and bread baking. She’s an avid reader, follows politics and baseball, and raised two daughters who are now in their 20s. She’s done all of this as her vision declined due to a progressive condition over the last 30 years. But two years ago, she felt like she needed to make a change.

“I was feeling more the loss and grief and fear and the feelings of panic were getting more difficult to manage as my central vision was deteriorating more,” she says. “I needed to make some kind of mental breakthrough—but I didn’t know what it was.”

And in fall of 2015, Ruth heard an interview on KQED that piqued her interest. It was LightHouse Executive Director Bryan Bashin speaking about the Donald Sirkin bequest, his philosophies on blindness and his plans for the future of LightHouse.

His bold perspective on blindness lit a fire under Ruth, and without hesitating she signed up for the Immersion Retreat at Enchanted Hills Camp in February 2016. She found the immersion excruciatingly difficult, but she stuck it out. And after a week navigating on her own and hearing stories from other students, she had the change of heart she was searching for.

“The breakthrough was a shift from ‘I’m a sighted person who is slowly and inexorably and tragically losing my eyesight’, to ‘I’m a blind person, just like all these other blind people here, who is living a pretty good life as a blind person’,” she says. “That might sound obvious or not like a big deal, but for me it was very profound. It made me feel like blind people are my people. That was a big thing — and I still think about each of the people there and what their stories were.”

“We were all in it together and there were all these resources that were being offered. I start thinking, ‘What do I need to shift to live my life really understanding that I’m a blind person and there are resources available and I can find my way from A to B, even if I don’t have someone there by my elbow’. So that was kind of the mindset that led me from one LightHouse service to the next.”

CVCL led her on a long path with LightHouse, from orientation and mobility classes with Katt Jones, counseling with Rachel Longan, braille instruction with Divina Carlson, and access tech instruction with Shen Kuan. Ruth also enthusiastically marched in the 1155 Market Street Grand Opening parade in June 2015, bringing her full-circle from her initial introduction to the organization.

“There’s no feeling of tragedy in the air at LightHouse,” she says. “A lot of sighted people say things to a blind person, like oh I can’t imagine. And there’s nobody at LightHouse who can’t imagine. Everyone understands.”

LightHouse helped show her a path forward, but it was Ruth who stayed highly motivated and kept coming back for more. Along with seeking braille instruction at LightHouse, Ruth took three classes at Hadley School for the Blind and practiced consistently on her own. She’s also starting to make the transition from magnification to using a screen reader, which will allow her to extend her work life for several years.

Now, she’s in the midst of reading her very first braille book: Carol by Patricia Highsmith.

“There’s something about holding a book in your hands, something about hearing the words in your head instead of in your ears,” she says. “I don’t have a lot of speed at braille, but I think I will enjoy braille for the rest of my life.”

To sign up for a Changing Vision Changing Life retreat, contact Debbie Bacon, Rehabilitation Counselor at dbacon@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7357. The next CVCL sessions take place June 12 through 16 at Enchanted Hills Camp in Napa and July 17 through 21 at LightHouse Headquarters in downtown San Francisco.

To sign up for Braille Instruction, contact Braille Instructor Divina Carlson at dcarlson@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7367.

See California Like Never Before: MAD Lab creates its largest low vision and tactile map yet

Photo: A close up shows the raised tactile features and brights blues and greens of this accessible map of California.

In the era of Google, reading a map can be deceptively simple. The 664 miles from say, Redding to San Diego, can seem like a simple calculation of hours, minutes, or transit stops – but truly understanding a place’s geography is not so straightforward. That’s why our state’s most reputable sources for accessible education tapped LightHouse to create a map worthy of the institution: encompassing the mountains, rivers, desert expanses and the varied, beautiful patterns of California.

Maps give us the bigger picture, show us how the earth unfolds and inform us how to traverse it – all opportunities blind people crave equally with their sighted peers. Unfortunately, most maps are not accessible. But after months of work, LightHouse’s MAD Lab is proud to present a three-foot large print, braille and tactile map of the entire state of California. It is their biggest tactile map yet.

Commissioned by the State Braille and Talking Book Library in Sacramento, the map will be part of a temporary display at the California State Capitol Building in January. It will later be moved to its permanent home at the Braille and Talking Book Library in Sacramento.

The map is 40 inches tall and 34 inches wide and was printed in six individual sections that make up the completed map. It was printed on the LightHouse’s new UV flatbed printer. High contrast coloration and large print facilitate viewing for people with low vision, and a selection of tactile symbols and fill textures denote cities, rivers, lakes, mountains, forests and deserts.

The whole map of California.
The whole map of California.

The state map went through many iterations in the design process, partially because the MAD Lab designers were met with the challenge of creating background fill textures for lakes and forests that, when touched, didn’t compete with symbols for specific landmarks.

“We had to figure out how to create varied textures, so you can tell there are different features, but also fade into the background enough so mountains and rivers could be felt on top as distinct landforms,” says Designer and Accessible Media Specialist Julie Sadlier.

By scaling down the size of the texture, Julie says they were able to achieve this. The first full draft of the map was printed in early December. The LightHouse’st Frank Welte was the first blind person to see the map after it was assembled.

A close-up shot demonstrates some of the fill textures Julie speaks of, like the circular green texture indicating a forest.
A close-up shot demonstrates some of the fill textures Julie speaks of, like the circular green texture indicating a forest.

“I’m a California Native, so I’ve seen some tactile maps of the state before but this one was probably the biggest tactile map of California I’ve ever seen,” says Frank. “It was fun to explore parts of California with which I’m not familiar, like the Northeastern part.”

And though exploring California is a perk, the overarching goal of the display is to raise awareness about the work of the Braille and Talking Book Library and its role in braille literacy and services for the blind and low vision community.

“One of the hardest things in the network of libraries serving the blind is getting the word out about our work,” says Director of the library Mike Marlin. “We provide a free service, so this display is a really helpful outreach tool. It gets our work in front of legislators and the public.”

Frank too, hopes the map encourages more institutions and organizations to make tactile maps and other material available to their communities.

“I think it is wonderful for tactile graphics to be given high visibility, so that the general public can appreciate their value as we in the blind community already do,” he says.

MAD Lab is an important resource in collaborating with organizations to make these kinds of accessible tactile tools available. The MAD Lab has earned a reputation for producing fabulous tactile media of all kinds, including raised line drawings, tactile graphics and tactile maps like this one for Alcatraz, and other GGRNA maps – for everything from Burning Man to BART.

For a rate sheet or an informal quote on a business project, contact MADLab@lighthouse-sf.org or call 415-694-7349.

High School Students Collaborate to Create First-Known Braille Yearbook for their Blind Classmate

Photo: A smiling brunette Maycie reads one volume of the yearbook stacked on top of its three additional volumes. CREDIT John Burgess/The Press Democrat

A school yearbook is a contradictory bit of nostalgia, a time capsule of days you either yearn to forget or wish you could relive. Regardless, it’s a trip down memory lane that everyone should have a chance to take.

For better or worse, 18-year-old Maycie Vorreiter ordered a yearbook every year. And yet, for the Enchanted Hills Camp veteran, receiving the standard print yearbook was never very useful seeing as Maycie, now a graduate of Windsor High School, has been blind since birth.

But early this year, the yearbook’s Editor-in-Chief Charlie Sparacio decided is was time Maycie received a yearbook she could really use. After winning $500 at a 2015 summer yearbook camp, the 18-year-old editor cooked up the idea of surprising Maycie with a 2015-16 yearbook printed entirely in braille. Advocates for the blind say this may be the first-ever braille yearbook.

What does a braille yearbook look like?

“I was so surprised. Honestly, it was the last thing I was expecting,” says Maycie. “What would it look like? I had this picture in my head of it being 10 to 15 volumes.”

The entire Windsor High School yearbook fit neatly into four volumes and, though it ended up costing more than $500 to source, could easily be printed by an agency like LightHouse at an affordable rate. There’s no traditional writing or design on the cover or inside the yearbook, just heavy white paper with a black spiral binding and a small label on the cover. Photographs were omitted from the braille version, but photo captions were included with lists of the students pictured in each photograph, allowing Maycie to have the same knowledge as her friends of who made it into the pages of high school history.

Maycie has enjoyed many summers meeting other blind students at Enchanted Hills Camp – in fact, she met her best friend there when she was 7 – but in a mainstream school setting, it’s important to be able to talk about the same stuff as the other students.

Though every school creating an annual braille yearbook is (quite literally) a tall order, Maycie thinks it’s a gesture that should be extended to each blind or visually impaired student in his or her senior year of high school.

“It was one of those really awesome moments that I would want to relive again, because it was done in braille and it has never been done before,” says Maycie, recalling the moment she received the yearbook in October. “My hope is that in the future other visually impaired students will get a braille yearbook for their senior year, too.”

After graduating from Windsor High, Maycie enrolled at the Orientation Center for the Blind in Albany, CA. Though she says mobility can be particularly challenging in the East Bay’s busy streets, she says she’s starting to get familiar with the city and learn the tricks of navigating on her own.

Braille equals literacy

Maycie is part of the less than 10 percent of the blind population that use braille – a number that LightHouse has long worked to increase. She has been reading and writing braille since she was 3 years old and used Perkins braillers and Braille note taking devices throughout high school. Braille, she reminds us, is an invaluable skill for blind students.

“I’ve used braille pretty much forever,” says Maycie. “I don’t ever want to give up braille. Braille is my way of reading and writing, and I don’t ever want to lose it.”

The LightHouse’s MAD Lab specializes in making materials like Maycie’s yearbook accessible – for clients small and large. Any media that facilitates independent education, communication and navigation for the blind community is fair game in our book.

We offer braille translation, audio recording and large print production, including conversion to DAISY formats for audio, in addition to the many forms of embossed and 3D graphics that we create on contract for consumers around the world. Recent big hits include the Apple iOS9 braille manual (available at our store), which consists of five volumes measuring 6 ½ inches high when stacked and weighing close to 10 pounds. The MAD Lab is currently translating the iOS 10 braille manual, which, at 82,164 words, will be larger yet. It may seem like a lot of weight, but that’s how important literacy is to the blindness community.

The MAD Lab produces a wide range of tactile media, including raised line drawings, tactile graphics and tactile maps like this one for Alcatraz, and other GGRNA maps – for everything from Burning Man to BART.

For a rate sheet or an informal quote on a business project, contact MADLab@lighthouse-sf.org.

Let Transit Agencies Know what Bay Area Blind People Think

Here at the LightHouse, we’ve become well-known for our tactile and talking maps, transit system strip maps, and other forms of accessible wayfinding tools that go above and beyond what the ADA mandates for the public. We have amassed lots of data about transit and traveler preferences, but we always need more — which is why we need your help.

We are conducting an online survey regarding your experience and ability to travel independently as a person who is blind or low vision. Your answers, together with the responses of other blind and visually-impaired travelers, will help us understand real-world challenges and solutions for orientation and mobility across a wide variety of individual abilities. Your answers will be completely private, and will only be published in our grant report to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

TAKE THE SURVEY

Please answer all of the questions to the best of your ability. This survey should take approximately twenty minutes to complete. If you prefer to take the survey by phone please do not hesitate to contact us by e-mail at ais@lighthouse-sf.org or by phone at 415-694-7349.

Thank you very much in advance for your help with this project!

To take the survey on the web, follow the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XV9ZP79