Blind iPhone Empowerment

I bought my first iPhone 4S only after downloading the first of NBP’s great books on the subject in 2011. Just three weeks ago, I was visiting my youngest son, Getting Started with the iPhone and iOS for Blind Users book coverDavid, in New York City and we decided to trek to the big Apple store in Grand Central Station so I could finally consider an upgrade to the iPhone 5S. I really wasn’t sure I wanted to upgrade just yet, but having a really experienced user with me to perhaps interpret anything that the salesperson was doing would be a help.

Upon entering the store, David says “There’s a blind guy with a guide dog working the sales counter.” NYC Apple storeSo naturally, we walked up to him and I began talking to him about the pros and cons of upgrading my phone. After a minute, he stops me and asks “What’s your first name?” When I tell him, he grabs my hand, “It’s Kyle Street from last summer’s ACB convention.”

My partner Kae and I had gone out with them for a great dinner last summer in Columbus; I had never met Kyle or his wife Chevonne before. He had been working at the Apple store in Raleigh – Durham at the time and transferred up to the New York City store the first of the year.

Finding Kyle at work ready to knowledgeably upgrade my phone made the decision really easy. For the next 45 minutes, we talked about the most useful blind friendly apps, what we liked and didn’t, and he gave me some pointers on using the 5S from our shared unique perspective. Kyle’s boss came over to listen and watch and get educated. Apparently, she had never seen him interact with a blind customer. We talked about NBP’s books and the braille screen protector guide on my phone, resources with which she was not familiar.

Nothing really unusual, right? Just a customer and a knowledgeable salesperson engaging in a transaction. Or, a great example of blind empowerment.

Be Mine, Xander

I know everyone has a Facebook page, even NBP, but I have not been tempted. Ever. Not once. Not for friends or family. Until this moment.

I want to friend Xander.

My son showed me Xander’s Facebook page and I’m completely done in. Xander, a squeezable, fawn-colored pug, suffered a head injury when he was two months old and had both of his eyes removed. At ten months of age, his owners put him in a car and dropped him at an animal shelter. Xander snuggles with a young childBut then two people, Marcie and Rodney Beedy, saw what Xander had to offer the world. They not only adopted Xander, they gave him his own Facebook page. Taking advantage of his new online audience, Xander explains what happened next: “I began using my other senses, the love in my heart and my many blessings to brighten the days of everyone I met.”

Marcie took him to school, where Xander passed his Pet Partners exam and officially became a therapy dog.  Because of who he is—who he was born to be—Xander works with victims of child abuse and spousal abuse. Rodney describes Xander’s unique style: “A lot of times he’ll hear a child crying at an event and he’s bolted several times, at least 500 feet over to this child to comfort them.”

Listen, Xander, I’m right now reading How to Add Friends on Facebook (with pictures). I should have something up by Valentine’s Day.Valentine Bone with braille letters that say "Be Mine" Until then, maybe we can tweet. Send me your hashtag. I’ll send Valentine biscuits that say BE MINE.

Filling An Empty Hollow With Braille

A letter arrived from Geraldine Lawhorn of Chicago, Illinois, with a sizeable check to renew her braille subscription to Syndicated Columnists Weekly and a request to “donate the rest to your wonderful work for children and all braille readers.”

GeraldineLawhornI never met Geraldine Lawhorn, but I have never forgotten her story, which she told in the Epilogue to Louis Braille: A Touch of Genius: “I was seven years old when my mother and teachers noticed I had an eye condition. Despite medical treatment, my eyesight deteriorated, and I was finally introduced to braille reading. Admittedly, I shunned reading braille as much as I could. I was satisfied having my mother read books to me, and I memorized facts readily.

“But, more and more, I was aware of a hearing loss. My mother had to read louder; I had to move closer and closer to the radio. For me, a teenage girl with exciting daydreams, the future looked hollow, just a hole out there in front of me.

“Then the director of the Braille Department at the Chicago public school sent a note to my mother, saying, ‘Send Geraldine back to school. We want her to graduate with her classmates. We will transcribe all her textbooks and assignments into braille.’

“Rapidly, braille filled the empty hollow with possibilities. I turned to braille for learning, for employment with the Hadley School, and for entertainment. For many deafblind people, social life is confined to braille-land. Our most welcome visitor is the mail carrier, bringing braille letters, library books, and magazines—these are our favorite things!

“Computer technology has opened new doors: I now join my hearing and sighted friends by sending and receiving email messages and chatting over the phone—all because we have electronic devices with braille displays.”

Geraldine Lawhorn closed her letter with one more unforgettable detail of her life:  “I enjoy all your selections in Syndicated Columnists Weekly. In December, I read your article on aging. It was my 97th birthday!”