Is it time to transform the tone of advocacy?


The first entry posted on The Accessible Insights Blog, in its current iteration, is dated September, 2009. Previously, I had launched a blog effort on the WordPress.com hosted site, and prior to that, I had been writing about various aspects of disability and accessibility for other magazines, in both print and online publications. The re-launch of the blog coincided with my first foray into social media, as my @Accessible_Info Twitter account became active shortly thereafter.

When I first began writing, my purpose was to reach out to the non-disabled community, to whom I presented material on disability etiquette and best practices for effective communication. I never intended for the blog, or my social media efforts, to attract the notice of the disability community, nor had I ever intended to speak to the community directly. Since then, my readership seems to have consisted almost entirely of blind and visually impaired members of an online “tribe” that has seen its share of evolution over the years. From my early days of using Easy Chirp on Windows, to later firing off my tweets,, posting blog entries, recording podcast episodes and managing a business all from my iPhone, the tech landscape, along with my following, has grown.

As attitudes about disability and other marginalized groups have changed, so have the many ways in which to advocate for those groups. In-person protest, civil unrest, and petitioning has given way to online platforms that serve as a megaphone for anyone with a cause to conscript a willing constituency. It occurs to me, as I’ve struggled to come to terms with a lack of progress, and the speed of that progress, to achieve equality if it might be time to change the way we deliver our message.

Social media has certainly been convenient. In one sense, perhaps too convenient. It has become the lazy person’s way to communicate, in that it takes almost no effort, and less sacrifice, to blast out our thoughts about whomever holds political office, the latest celebrity gossip, a customer service snafu, or our complaints about how we are being discriminated against, tagging our tweets with clever subtext that serve as micro-aggressions. unfortunately, though, in the case of the blind community, we have enjoyed little improvement, as compared with other minority groups, on a variety of fronts, especially employment, despite the fact that technology has enabled us to accomplish more than ever. We may have reached a point at which our carefully crafted messages of inclusion have failed to manifest past the community echo chamber.

This has led me to wonder whether it might be time to undergo another evolution in the way we advocate. We have fallen into the trap that ensnares many in inward-facing, homogenous, and hide-bound coalition, which is that we fail to reach the escape velocity necessary to break the bonds of the gravity well of agreement.

This is not to say, certainly, that we all always agree. Anyone who has been witness to one of our Twitter based, flame-throwing, epic wars in 140 characters knows that. The blind community seems to be neatly divided on a few key issues, and one of those issues is what I am writing about now: How to teach the non-disabled community the most effective and respectful way to interact with a person who is blind. In general disability circles, the term ‘ablism” is used to characterize that state of ignorance achieved by the non-disabled who never spend a single second considering the day-to-day plight of people with disabilities. Whether that ablism is innocent or openly hostile, one of the frustrations I hear retold, and echoed throughout the land, pertains to the ongoing complaints as to how we are treated. Typically, that treatment is lacking in cognizance or consideration, and the result is a strongly worded blog post, and subsequent tweets and retweets, either in fervent agreement with, or else indignant opposition to, the person doing the complaining.

If our collective destination is equal opportunity and acceptance in the non-disabled world, then I wonder if it is time to consider taking a different route.

In marketing terms, the most successful campaigns utilize, among other things, two key components: Message consistency, and repetition. One of the most challenging aspects of marketing, is crafting a message, and then communicating that message in a particular voice that defines the company brand. No matter the means used…a tag line, musical jingle, famous face or clever campaign, if done right, a company or product can be easily identified without ever seeing the relevant name. Untold millions of dollars are spent in the communication of that message, which is why so many great corporations can seem omniscient. They’re everywhere…and we respond in the expected manner, in accordance with the ask. We buy, we consume, we try, we use, and we spread the word.

The message would fall back to Earth, though, if the only people who drank Coca-cola were on the corporate payroll, or if the only users of the iPhone were Apple employees. Presumably, they are all in agreement that their products are the best, of course, but the point of marketing is to launch the messaging beyond the company parking lot.

On the other hand, is it possible that the general public has had enough of awareness messages, and that ours has become lost in the white noise of political correctness? There has certainly been some backlash, thanks to the prevailing perception that “political correctness” has run amuck, and that it has ultimately failed to serve its purpose — that of fostering an environment of tolerance and respect, where all ideas are heard, and all people are accepted.

Is it time, then, for our message to be more than one of words? Is it time for our message to be one of achievement?

Years ago, I was privileged to hear an advocate give a presentation on disability awareness, and, at the end, he said a few words that have stayed with me, and have formulated the basis upon which I experience the non-disabled world. He said, “People with disabilities are my heroes. Not because they are disabled, but because they fly in the face of a society that holds them in contempt, simply by living their lives.”

Whether or not you agree with the contention that society holds people with disabilities in contempt is not the point. What these powerful words meant to me was that I can hardly expect a non-disabled society to believe a person who has a disability could live a full life, if I were not actually living one. thereafter, I resolved to live my life as an example to others, to take responsibility for my own happiness, to achieve to the best of my ability, and to never allow my disability to be used as an excuse for anything. As it turned out, I discovered that my attitude was the exception, not the rule, and as the age of social media gave rise to the plethora of bloggers and tweeters and online chatters, it soon became obvious that it was far easier for some to complain rather than to achieve.

It is by no means my intention to trivialize those who find themselves in a precarious situation, where achieving anything beyond surviving the day is unthinkable. Also, I have done my share of complaining, so I make no pretense there. Further, one of the many wonderful things to be said about belonging to a community is just that…belonging. It can be affirming and comforting to know that when we need a place to go to commiserate with like-minded others, there is such a place, where we are heard and acknowledged. Of course, one downside of membership in a larger group is feeling excluded, or when you do not subscribe to the ideas of the thought leaders. Additionally, there are apologists and naysayers in every group, which, in our community, can be found in abundance. This can dilute our message and reduce our ability to be effective as advocates, if our interest is only one of self-interest. What I am suggesting is that we explore a new way to advocate for what we need from those outside the community…in a manner that is better understood by those who are not disabled…a message consisting not only of the language of awareness, but one of bridge-building and commonality.

One of the best examples of this type of advocacy is that which was used by the LGBTQ community that resulted in the sweeping legislation to legalize gay marriage. Watching the unabashed joy experienced by the beneficiaries of legal gay marriage, as the barriers toppled like dominoes around the country, made me realize just how much we are all alike. Theirs was a message that transcended the bitter and strident complaint of the victim, and instead built upon our commonalities. We all want the same things out of life, and the LGBTQ community did the best job I’ve seen of getting the “love is love” message across in a way that made me cheer for their success.

I am reminded of a quote by Simon Sinek: Fight against something and we focus on the thing we hate. Fight for something and we focus on the thing we love. While the content of our appeals need not change, perhaps the tone should. I cannot think of a single problem that has ever been fixed only by complaining about it. Too many blog writers have adopted a tone of entitlement, where post after post seems to consist of little more than the gripe of the day. There are many examples of bitter diatribes on a number of blog’s where I am left to conclude that there is one…common…denominator. Perhaps the repetitive volume of angry, derisive or demanding lectures is, in and of itself, indicative of the real problem…for some, there is scant satisfaction to be had. They seem to be saying that until the world gives them their due, there can truly be no equality. You know what they say about the definition of insanity…right? Is it fair to expect a different result if the only tools wielded are those of complaint, entitlement, and expectation?

What if we expanded the scope of our message to include achievement? What if we took responsibility for our own state of affairs and let our lives be the example about which we speak? What if we quit complaining about how we are being treated, and earn the right to a place at the table? Respect is commanded, not demanded. What if we invent a new kind of advocacy, where achievement speaks for itself? Where our messaging is that of the empowered, where we invite the non-disabled world to raise their game? A message that changes from, “don’t do this, and give me that,” to, “been there, done that, and you’re invited along for the ride?” In other words, instead of asking everyone else to be a hero, be the hero…simply by living your life…more than just a life of resigned malaise, or stubborn maladaption, but a life of self-determination and achievement. Instead of resenting those in the community who have achieved success, become one.

It is a gross mischaracterization to claim that successful people are somehow extraordinary. Maybe a few of them are, but there have been plenty of geniuses who have died penniless and unrecognized.

This quote makes my point better. It is generally credited to U. S. President Calvin Coolidge, although this is a matter of some dispute:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; un rewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

What I am suggesting is that we persist in our message, but also transform the words into demonstrable acts of consequence that serve as an example to the non-disabled community as to why they have it all wrong about people who are blind. We are resourceful. We are problem-solvers, we think differently because we have to. We have everything it takes to be the achievers, the leaders, and the agents of change who earn the place at the table, and have everything we want out of life. Let’s transform the advocacy of words into the advocacy of achievement.

LL

Legendary Insights radio program to feature Hartgen Consultancy


Considering all the time I spend marketing and promoting my various projects on social media, it would pain me to think you are unaware of my radio program on ACB Radio Mainstream, called Legendary Insights. However, if my outreach has fallen short, then I encourage you to tune in this evening to see what it’s all about.

A few months ago, I was invited to create and host a program on ACB Radio, an Internet radio station sponsored by the American Council of the Blind, ACB. The station has a number of channels, each emphasizing a different aspect of ACB business, blindness issues and legislation, access technology, and general information. The channel on which you can hear Legendary Insights is called Mainstream.

Legendary Insights is still something of a work in progress. I’m not entirely sure I’ve found my voice yet, so to speak, and I’m still not sure where I want to take the program. I’ve been given a wide latitude to flex my creative muscles, and so far, I haven’t felt as though I’ve been particularly creative. Yet, there is a theme to the show, based upon one of my favorite quotes.

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, whether here on my blog or on social media, then you know that I have a love of language. I enjoy the written word, thoughts beautifully expressed, and timeless words of wisdom. As to that last, I particularly love quotes, and I used one of my favorites as the basis for the radio program. As mentioned in prior posts, it’s attributed to a poet and playwright by the name of Neil Marcus, who said, in part: “Disability is not a ‘brave struggle,’ or ‘courage in the face of adversity.’ Disability is an art…It’s an ingenious way to live.”

Since I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment, the theme of Legendary Insights is “live your ingenious life.” Every other month, on even-numbered months, you can hear me share ways in which we can all live our best, most ingenious life. Whether that is by way of new ideas, new tips or tools, new products, or interviews with experts you may never have heard before, I hope I can help my listeners to enjoy a greater quality of life.

Tonight’s episode features Brian Hartgen of Hartgen Consultancy. Brian will share details of some of his most popular assistive technology products, such as J-Say, J-Dictate, and Leasey. Brian will also talk about his love of music and radio, and share his thoughts about helping others to live their own ingenious lives.

Tune in tonight at 8 pm Eastern, 5 pm Pacific time on http://www.acbradio.org/mainstream/ to hear the show. You can also listen on the fantastic ACB Link iOS app, available in the Apple App Store.

As I mentioned above, the show airs every other month, so the next episode will drop the first Thursday in December. I’m thinking about sharing some ideas for holiday home decorating, and if you have any favorite holiday tips or recipes, family traditions or creative party ideas, feel free to send me an email at laura@acbradio.org.

You can find me live tweeting during the programs on @LLOnAir and use the hashtag #LLonAir when tweeting about the program. Don’t worry if you miss an episode. The program is also available as a podcast onn iTunes.

So, don’t forget to tune in tonight. Also, there’s lots to explore on the Hartgen Consultancy web site, so go here to check it out:

http://www.hartgen.org/

Follow Brian on Twitter: @brianhartgen
Thanks for reading…and for listening!

LL

I’m sorry and other judgements


“I’m sorry,” is one of those phrases that can mean many things, and is often used as a catch-all for everything from, “what did you say?” when you misheard something, to “excuse me,” when you bump into someone, to “drop dead,” when you have been accused of something for which you should be apologetic, and are anything but. Seldom do the words “I’m sorry” express genuine contrition. Sometimes, the words “I’m sorry” are used as a way to pass a subtle judgement about the quality of our lives.

How many times have you needed to disclose your blindness in the context of facilitating assistance, only to hear: “Oh…I’m sorry.” For me, it’s been countless times. If, when explaining to a customer service representative over the phone that I cannot read them the product serial number because I am blind, they will respond with an embarrassed, “Oh, I’m sorry.” If I explain to the technical support person that I’m unable to click the green button at the bottom of the page because I cannot see the green button, I’m answered by, “Oh, I’m sorry.” When the counter clerk in a retail establishment, who hasn’t bothered to look at me when I ask for help finding something, waves a hand and says, “it’s over there,” and I must explain I need additional details because I’m blind, they will look up, and awkwardly mutter, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

Of course, some of these apologies may be a sincere mea culpa for inconsideration, but often I find it’s an automatic response from people who otherwise do not know what to say. When speaking to someone over the phone, for example, and getting the “I’m sorry” response after disclosing my blindness, I often say, “why are you sorry? How were you supposed to know I’m blind.” After all, it’s not as though they can see me, either. Why is an apology necessary? They are not clairvoyant. Apologizing in this context makes about as much sense as saying to a caller, “Oh, I’m sorry you’re six foot two.”

Then there are those who take it one step further, even when in person. When I ask, “why are you sorry?” some have actually responded by saying they were sorry I am blind. Or, they’ll say something like, “it’s just such a shame. You’re so pretty.” or, “it’s just such a shame. It must be awful. I feel sorry for you.” Or, they’ll resort to the inevitable stories of known others with my “affliction,” or they ply me with flattery for what amounts to misplaced inspiration and undeserved admiration.

In an effort to give most people the benefit of the doubt, I recognize that often there is no intent of harm, and in my experience, I think most people really want to do the right thing, they just don’t know how. On the days I feel like crowning myself the poster child for blindness, I gently and patiently educate. On the days when I’m feeling no such patience, I’ll pop off with something like, “I suggest you save your energy.”

As I have lived my entire life with vision loss, to a greater or lesser degree, thanks to the degenerative nature of Retinitis Pigmentosa, the words, “I’m sorry” in the context of blindness has, at times, felt more like a judgement than anything else. It is possible to be well-meaning, but demeaning. It’s another way of saying, “How can you live like that? I sure couldn’t. I’d rather be dead than disabled.” Whether it’s said in a flip and dismissive way, such as, “Whatever…it’s your drama, your trauma,” or it is said as a way to express true sorrow for my so-called plight, I am presumed to be living a substandard quality of life.

We assess judgements on others in many ways, and in many contexts. The disability community certainly doesn’t have the market cornered on prejudgement, the soft bigotry of low expectations, or edicts as to what we should or should not find acceptable.

Years ago, before mandatory vehicle shoulder harnesses and passenger air bags, Susan was in a devastating car wreck. She and some girlfriends were to go out for a celebratory evening, and the designated driver, who apparently decided earlier that night to abdicate her responsibility, was already impaired when she picked up Sue and her friends. Sue got into the car, unaware that the driver had already been bar-hopping. Under the influence of alcohol, and at speed, the driver lost control of the vehicle, left the road, and plowed into a building. Buckled up, and in the back seat, Susan, who was wearing a seat belt which was still considered optional back then, was partly ejected, but still held in by the lap belt that nearly tore her abdomen in half. Along with a broken back and neck, many other internal injuries that necessitated the removal of part of her intestine, Susan found herself in full body traction and a skull halo for many long months. “My God,” her hospital bedside visitors would marvel, “You’re lucky to be alive.”

“Lucky?” Susan recalled to me. “there were many days I didn’t feel so lucky. But it was drilled into me by almost everyone who saw me that I should feel grateful. There were days when I was in such excruciating pain that I did not feel grateful about much of anything.” Sue went on to tell me how much she resented the way many well-intentioned, but thoughtless people would attempt to dictate to her how she was supposed to feel. She should be grateful her husband didn’t leave her. She should be grateful her children had not been taken from her while she was incapacitated. She should be grateful it wasn’t worse.

Schooling someone as to how they should feel about something is tantamount to saying, you’ll eat it, and like it. Can you imagine going out to dinner, and the server judging you for not liking a menu item? The conversation might go something like this:

You: “Would it be possible to have green beans instead of broccoli?”

Server: “What? You don’t like broccoli? What’s the matter with you? This is the best broccoli on the planet.”

You: “No, really, I don’t care much for broccoli. I’d really appreciate it if I could have something else instead.”

Server: “Do you know how long it took to grow that broccoli? How hard we worked to make it for you? It’s good enough for everyone else. No one else has claimed they dislike it. What’s wrong with you that you don’t? Are you crazy? You’d rather have green beans? Isn’t that asking a bit much? I don’t have green beans to give you. Broccoli should be good enough, and if it isn’t, that’s just too bad. Do you think you’re something special, that you think you should have green beans? You have no right to want green beans. What do you think this is, the Ritz Carlton? People like you are never satisfied. let me list the innumerable things we’ve done to serve you this broccoli. You’ll eat the broccoli, and like it.”

Well,. I doubt that scene would ever play itself out for real, but it is not all that uncommmon in relationships. How many times have you been told that you can’t have what you want, because you ask for too much, want more than the other person can give, and should feel grateful for the way you are being treated, and if not, then there is either something wrong with you, or that you shouldn’t want what you want? Look at all the other person has done for you. You should be satisfied with how things are, good enough should be good enough. After all, are yu sure you are really qualified to decide what constitutes a satisfying quality of life?

Who are you to decide? You are the only one who CAN decide. No one else has the right to judge what should be good enough for you. No one else has the right to dictate to you what you should be willing to accept, whether that’s the choice to use “ghetto” assistive technology, being treated as a priority, or a serving of green beans instead of broccoli.

Recently, I saw a news story about a lifelong relationship between two friends who met as young boys, a friendship that had lasted through trials and tribulations, including the accidental paralysis of one of the young men, who then spent his days using a wheelchair. The story lauded the non-disabled man as a hero for not only continuing the friendship, but for later becoming his disabled buddy’s caregiver. Why was it that the non-disabled friend was held up as the hero? Because he was making some sort of sacrifice? Because he wanted to remain friends, even though the guy’s wheelchair…what? Cramped his style? Why wasn’t there any mention of what the non-disabled friend was getting from the relationship? How do we know that the non-disabled friend wasn’t some kind of supreme ass hat who had no other friends, and it was the guy in the wheelchair who was the hero for being the only person in his life willing to put up with his crap? For that matter, why would the guy in the wheelchair be a hero, either? Why would one or the other, and not both, be a hero? Why not consider both men as heroes for being stellar humans?

Because there is an implied judgement that someone in a wheelchair lives a reduced quality of life, and anyone who is non-disabled, who extends a friendship, or provides care, is doing them a favor. After all, who would willingly compromise the awesomeness that is able–bodied life, complete with better quality, able-bodied friends, unless they were magnanimous and self-sacrificing? Ridiculous. For all we know, it was a paid gig. But the audience is left ignorant, manipulated by the producers who were really working that hero angle hard.

There are certain responses that I can always count on when interacting with most non-disabled people. Some are borne out of curiosity: “So, have you always been this way?” Others stem from a desire to find commmon ground: “My sister-in-law has a co-worker who has a cousin who knows a blind guy.” Still others are offensive, in an effort to be ingratiating: “Hey, would it be okay if I told you a joke? A blind guy and a dog walked into a bar…” Hint: If you have to ask if it’s okay, it probably isn’t. Of all of these not so endearing, tried-andtrue conversations starters, one of my least favorites is, “I’m sorry,” because I’m sorry, and other judgements, place me in an imaginary hierarchy on which I do not belong.

Once, when interacting with someone who uttered the inevitable “I’m sorry,” after learning I am blind, I responded with, “that’s all right. I’m sorry you’re a brunette.” There was a few long seconds of silence, then she said, “I’m not a brunette.” “Oh,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

I don’t think she got it.

LL

The Value of Gratuitous Controversy


Based upon the barrage of upsetting, demoralizing, or downright horrifying news to which we are subjected these days, it is no wonder why some people avoid daily news. With the ubiquity of social media, and the insistence that we pay attention, by way of tech device alerts and notifications, a purposeful, thorough ignorance of all current events may be hard to achieve. Sometimes, it seems as though there is simply no good news anymore. Sometimes, it seems as though the entire world has collectively gone mad.

With the many ways in which we are confronted by calamitous events and other generally bad news, it is understandable that we might want to take refuge in a world of our own creation, where we are surrounded, even virtually, by friends and like-minded others, and that it would be disadvantageous to invite sources of negativity into that world. Yet, it seems like a losing battle to bar the virtual door of any and all aggravating things. So, I wonder, why is it that some people seem to revel in controversy, to deliberately agitate, irritate, or inflame?

While I cannot pretend to know the answer, I can only opine based upon my observations. There seems to be two types of people who incite controversy for controversy’s sake: Those who genuinely enjoy the sport of it, and those who pretend they don’t.

Shock jocks,, radio personalities, and editorial writers are paid to create controversy so as to attract an audience. Some of these media dwellers have openly claimed that, if they have not made everyone on every side of an issue angry, then they simply have not done their job. There are others, however, not bound by lucrative contracts with multinational media corporations, who engage in this practice for a far less enriching payoff. Some of these people are part of our own community.

Before I continue, I will digress long enough to acknowledge that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and it goes without saying that we are governed by our first amendment rights as to free speech. Say what you will, and let the chips fall where they may, as I am exercising my right to free speech here. What I question, sometimes, is the mind-set of those who seek to create controversy under the guise of “opening up a dialogue,” or, “inviting discussion,” or “information gathering.” I question the value of controversy for controversy’s sake.

I am acquainted with a small handful of people who genuinely enjoy putting a spin on the ball and then walking away. They love to sit back and watch the reaction they get, they welcome the opportunity to engage in heated exchanges where they relish any excuse to let fly savage retorts, vicious name-calling, or poisonous epithets. They hold most others in low regard, believing that others are mentally or philosophically inferior. Creating controversy flexes their rhetorical muscles. It maintains their intellectual superiority. It sharpens their edge. They are validation-addicted adrenaline junkies who find satisfaction in knowing they have the power to elicit reactions in others. It’s a twisted version of a Pavlovian type conditioned response to stimulus, where the antagonistic “scientist” rings a bell, the audience “rats” repeatedly depress the lever, but it is the scientist who gets the reward pellet.

The question I find myself asking, when I become aware of such an instance, which seems almost constantly, is, “is this really necessary?”

Again, let me reiterate, because some of you may be thinking that I am veering dangerously close to advocating for forfeiture of our right to express an opinion, that there is a difference between the soliciting of alternate views with the desire for rational social discourse, and stirring up trouble for one’s own amusement.

Some of the weightiest issues debated upon by our founding fathers were done so with infinite regard for opposing views, butt with no less passion. In reading some of the writings of our nation’s builders, I have found myself in awe of the inner turmoil, moral conflict, and penetrating consideration paid to the most profound of human experiences, that of freedom and self-determination. Yet I couldn’t help but be moved by the eloquence and artfulness with which the founders painted their perspectives on a canvas of conviction.

Here I go again, about to express my own opinion: We are either contributing to the well-being, education, or advancement of others, or we are poisoning the well. While I agree that there is a certain amount of interpretation as to when, if, or to what degree this occurs, I think it is generally recognizable when one is being gratuitously controversial, with no greater purpose other than to fan the embers of dissatisfaction. In my opinion, it is a conceit. It is self-important. In most cases, I find it unnecessary.

My name is Laura Legendary, and I approve this message.

LL


Every once in a while, some great meme or catchphrase turns up on social media, and it becomes the newest way to express a complex concept or sentiment in the shortest possible number of characters. I enjoy them all, since I have always loved slang, jargon, quotes, and words in general. So, I love it when the catchiest new hashtag perfectly represents a feeling or frustration. One that I use often on twitter is #KillMeNow, or #DroneMeCoffee, or its variations, #DroneMeWine, #DroneMeChocolate, or just #DroneMe if I want something. One that comes to mind right off is, busy much? That one certainly describes me of late.

If I haven’t driven my followers insane with my crowdfunding campaign, which, you’ll note, I’ve wasted no time in mentioning, please go to IndieGoGo pagehttps://igg.me/at/ElegantInsights to contribute, campaign ends April 10th, then you may also be aware that I have been promoting another new project.

A few months ago, the assistant managing director of ACB Radio Mainstream, Debbie Hazelton [@DebbieHazelton], invited me to host a program on the network. She and the staff of acbradio.org offered me a wide latitude as to what topics I might explore on the show, and since Debbie is the type of person that you adore instantly and find yourself saying yes to before you know it, I agreed to give it a try.

Skipping right over all of my angst-ridden questions about audience interest and show themes, we came up with a half-hour program that will air every other month, alternating with another show. Beginning Thursday, April 7, 2016, at 8 p.m. Eastern time, 5 p.m. Pacific, you can tune in to Legendary Insights. We will discuss issues of the moment, at least to the degree that they can be discussed every other month. the show will alternate with Larry Turnbull’s show, “Handy Around the House.”

On occasion, I may talk about an upcoming event, such as the summer convention for ACB National, or I might offer up a show on home decor or interview skills. Maybe the tag line for the show should be, “Legendary Insights is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’ll get.” Or, not.

Still, I plan to listen to feedback, and if you have any show suggestions, feel free to send them my way. You can follow me now at @LLOnAir for relevant tweets during the first airing in each program cycle, which will be the first Thursday of the month, again, alternating with Larry’s show. If you send me comments during replays, I may not respond in real time, because the show may be airing…I don’t know…at 2:00 am.

You will also be able to drop me an email at laura@acbradio.org, and I look forward to hearing from you.

So, between ,my crowdfunding campaign, which ends April 10th, don’t forget, running my business, Elegant Insights, posting content for this blog and for The Fashionability Channel, and doing an occasional radio show, all I can say is, busy much?

LL

New show to debut on ACB Radio Mainstream: Legendary Insights


Every once in a while, some great meme or catchphrase turns up on social media, and it becomes the newest way to express a complex concept or sentiment in the shortest possible number of characters. I enjoy them all, since I have always loved slang, jargon, quotes, and words in general. So, I love it when the catchiest new hashtag perfectly represents a feeling or frustration. One that I use often on twitter is #KillMeNow, or #DroneMeCoffee, or its variations, #DroneMeWine, #DroneMeChocolate, or just #DroneMe if I want something. One that comes to mind right off is, busy much? That one certainly describes me of late.

If I haven’t driven my followers insane with my crowdfunding campaign, which, you’ll note, I’ve wasted no time in mentioning, please go to IndieGoGo pagehttps://igg.me/at/ElegantInsights to contribute, campaign ends April 10th, then you may also be aware that I have been promoting another new project.

A few months ago, the assistant managing director of ACB Radio Mainstream, Debbie Hazelton (@DebbieHazelton), invited me to host a program on the network. She and the staff of acbradio.org offered me a wide latitude as to what topics I might explore on the show, and since Debbie is the type of person that you adore instantly and find yourself saying yes to before you know it, I agreed to give it a try.

Skipping right over all of my angst-ridden questions about audience interest and show themes, we came up with a half-hour program that will air every other month, alternating with another show. Beginning Thursday, April 7, 2016, at 8 p.m. Eastern time, 5 p.m. Pacific, you can tune in to Legendary Insights. We will discuss issues of the moment, at least to the degree that they can be discussed every other month. the show will alternate with Larry Turnbull’s show, “Handy Around the House.”

On occasion, I may talk about an upcoming event, such as the summer convention for ACB National, or I might offer up a show on home decor or interview skills. Maybe the tag line for the show should be, “Legendary Insights is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’ll get.” Or, not.

Still, I plan to listen to feedback, and if you have any show suggestions, feel free to send them my way. You can follow me now at @LLOnAir for relevant tweets during the first airing in each program cycle, which will be the first Thursday of the month, again, alternating with Larry’s show. If you send me comments during replays, I may not respond in real time, because the show may be airing…I don’t know…at 2:00 am.

You will also be able to drop me an email at laura@acbradio.org, and I look forward to hearing from you.

So, between ,my crowdfunding campaign, which ends April 10th, don’t forget, running my business, Elegant Insights, posting content for this blog and for The Fashionability Channel, and doing an occasional radio show, all I can say is, busy much?

LL

A crowdfunding campaign you can get behind: Help make it happen for a blind entrepreneur


Since Accessible Insights is a blog devoted to advocacy, accessibility, and assistive technology, I get a little squishy whenever I post something unrelated to those topics. However, to paraphrase an old song, it’s my blog, and I’ll write what I want to, write what I want to, write what I want to…

This post will consist of a short explanation and a call to action. I need your help.

My little enterprise, Elegant Insights Braille Creations, has enjoyed a five-year run as your source for all things beautiful Braille embossed jewelry and accessories. Now, I have a bit of a problem, and, as they say in entrepreneurial parlance, it’s a good problem to have. My business is expanding, thanks to an invitation I received to showcase my products on the new Amazon Handmade platform. Amazon is seeking to aggressively compete with Etsy, which, in case you don’t know, is an enormous online destination for all things handcrafted. There you can find everything from woodwork to knitted pet blankets to scrapbook supplies. There’s plenty of handmade jewelry there, too. You will not find me there, instead, I chose to go my own way, and set up shop on my own domain, http://elegantinsightsjewelry.com/.

Etsy does billions per year in business. That’s right. I said billions. Amazon wants a piece of that very sweet pie, so they solicited artisans from a variety of sources to showcase their items on the Amazon platform. I applied, and was accepted. I think I may have read the congratulations letter about a hundred times. I was very excited.

My excitement was quickly quelled, though, by the realization that I was somewhat unprepared for the task. I needed to buy a whole lot of jewelry making supplies, sheet metal, findings and components, tools and other assorted parts and pieces. Not to mention the extra hands I would need to hire in order to put it all together in sufficient quantity to meet demand. I realized that I needed to raise some money.

To that end, I’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indie GoGo. Wow, has that been a learning experience. As is the case with many other adventures in life, there’s more to crowdfunding successfully than one might think, given the many startup victory dances that seem to be going on everywhere. Just when I think my head is about to explode from learning yet another new skill, I find out I have a lot to learn. My head may explode anyway.

I’m raising a relatively modest amount of money, just enough to get the ball rolling on my plans. The campaign period is 30 days, and I’m just over halfway through it now. Here’s where you come in. Remember that call to action? Here it comes.

Crowdfunding is, to some degree, part advanced planning, part momentum, part luck, and part numbers game. It’s also a ton of work. the more traffic you can drive to your campaign page, the more likely you are to attract a stranger who thinks what you’re trying to accomplish is cool, investment worthy, and they may decide to back your campaign by throwing some coin your way. In exchange, you offer perks, or thank you gifts, as a way of showing your appreciation for said stranger’s contribution. Hopefully, your family and close friends have already contributed, so by the time said stranger hits your page, you are already a small percentage of the way there.

I’m about 35 percent of the way there, and with just under two weeks to go, I feel the distance between me and success is a long one. I have worked tirelessly to this point, and have abandoned just about everything else in an effort to shepherd my campaign to the finish. Please take a look at my page, read my story, and contribute. If making a direct financial contribution is not an option for you, please let me leverage your network. Please tweet, blog, share, and nudge your friends on my behalf. Let them know that there is a video, photos, explanatory text, and a one-woman army driving the campaign. I appreciate any and all support, even if that support is in the form of an interview on your podcast, a guest post on your blog, or a link on your Facebook page. Please help me spread the word about my efforts, and help me make it happen.

Here’s the link: https://igg.me/at/ElegantInsights

If you need a gift for an upcoming birthday, or for Mother’s Day, which is right around the corner, I’m offering some great perks in exchange for your contribution, so check it out. I’ll keep you posted on my progress, which is another way of saying I’ll be promoting the ever loving daylights out of this. It’s been pretty hard to get away from me recently, I’m all about this right now. Thank you for your help, and for your patience.

LL

The Fashionability Channel waves goodbye to the old home, and invites you to the new!


Happy New Year! A long break has resulted in a big announcement about Fashionability…we’ve moved! In addition to setting up shop on our own web site, we have now established our own podcast feed. This means we will be discontinuing Fashionability on the AudioBoom platform, as well as the old iTunes feed. After you listen to our farewell episode, linked below, follow the instructions to unsubscribe from the channel on AudioBoom, and resubscribe to the new feed, either via our new web site, or through our new iTunes link.

Listen to our final podcast on AudioBoom here:

http://tinyurl.com/zf8mb56

Unfamiliar with Fashionability? The Fashionability Channel is your guide to accessible style. Finally, style within reach…of everyone!

Join Emily, Laura, and channel contributors…the innovators, influencers, and inspirational people who love to talk all things fashion. Topics include style and trends, beauty, skin care, hair care, health and fitness, jewelry and accessories, and much more, in an audio podcast that is inclusive of everyone. Fashion can be fun, a creative outlet, a shared experience, and a form of self-expression. No matter your gender, body type, age or ability, you’ll learn ways to make a spectacular style statement all your own. You’ll hear interviews with industry professionals, tips, tutorials, and discussion topics on everything from attitudes about disability, barriers to shopping, inaccessible product packaging, and how the needs of people who have disabilities are addressed in the fashion industry. We will also be covering different organizations an charities who specifically develop services, resources and products for people with disabilities to access fashion, style and cosmetics. We want to create a forum where we can encourage listeners to develop their own sense of style, and to break away from the misconceptions surrounding disability.

Founded by UK fashion blogger Emily Davison [@DavisonEm] writer of fashioneyesta.com and US Entrepreneur Laura Legendary, owner and designer of Elegant Insights Braille Creations [@ElegantInsights[, our mission is to empower consumers with relevant fashion information, and to provide creative tools and useful advice for listeners from all walks of life. We want to bridge the gap between the fashion industry and people with disabilities, and to affect change so that people with disabilities are better represented in print and digital media. Welcome to The Fashionability Channel!

New web site: http://www.fashionabilitychannel.com
New podcast feed URL: http://www.fashionabilitychannel.com/feed/podcast/
New iTunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-fashionability-channel/id1076782532
Write to us! fashionabilitychannel@gmail.com

There is already a post awaiting you at the new location, so please resubscribe soon! We can’t wait to welcome you!

LL

Freshen up your playlist with a new podcast on digital accessibility


The world of podcasting has undergone a couple of boom-and-bust cycles, thanks to changes in technology and the ways in which we consume information. Remember Juice? Now, with most of us using smartphones and “iThings” to either consume or create content, and watch or listen to that content anywhere, it seems that podcasting is enjoying a resurgence.

If you love listening to podcasts, then you probably fall into one of two camps. One is the information overload camp, where you subscribe to so many podcasts that you cannot possibly listen to them all, and you find yourself culling through the ones that have downloaded and taken up space on your device, madly deleting or quickly skimming through that which you missed, in an effort to catch up and make more storage space available. Or, perhaps you fall into the second camp, where you have become bored by the rehash of similar content across a particular category, and the mind-numbing chit-chat of the hosts, who seem to enjoy listening to the sound of their own voice more than imparting useful information. Either way, you are about to become a happy podcast camper, thanks to a new offering called Digital Accessibility Made Simple.

Digital Accessibility Made Simple with Lyndon Dunbar is a weekly podcast dedicated to digital accessibility. The goal is to bridge the gap between technology and digital accessibility so that persons with disabilities can engage in fulfilling work and lead a life of independence with confidence. The podcast will be co-hosted by Desiree Reed, a writer and speaking coach. The DAMS podcast will be posted on Mondays, with each new episode featuring tips on digital accessibility, or a featured guest. For example, episode 2 is entitled, “Getting Started with Digital Accessibility,” and episode 4 will offer “Three Simple Tips to an Accessible Website.” The first guest will be yours truly, appearing on episode 3, called “Small Business Accessibility with Laura Legendary,” set to post the third week of February. The DAMS podcast will cover multiple platforms, so unlike other podcasts on the subject, you can expect to hear timely and relevant content pertaining to a variety of devices and operating systems.

Digital Accessibility Made Simple will launch on Monday, February 1st, 2016, and you can listen via the link below.

http://www.lyndondunbar.com/podcast

About Lyndon Dunbar:
Lyndon Dunbar is the CEO at Dunbar Accessibility Group, LLC which provides digital accessibility services to technology companies in order to ensure their websites, mobile apps and documents are accessible to all people with disabilities. Lyndon is also the co-host and creator of the Digital Accessibility Made Simple Podcast with his co-host Desiree Reed. In 2014, Lyndon received his master’s degree in assistive technology from California State University, Northridge. Lyndon also regularly attends and presents at the annual CSUN Conference in San Diego, CA. You can contact Lyndon either by phone at 678-775-8234 or by email at lyndon@lyndondunbar.com

About Desiree Reed:
Desiree is the owner and founder of 5 Seconds to Impress LLC, a copywriting and ghostwriting agency. Desiree is also the co-host of the Digital Accessibility Made Simple Podcast. She works with professional speakers, coaches, consultants, and small business owners by using words to help them get visible, provide value, and get paid. She’s strong where many entrepreneurs are weak. Her unique relationship with words enables her to clearly communicate the message and brand that many business owners struggle to express. You can contact Desiree either by phone at 678-201-1027 or by email at desiree@5secondstoimpress.com

Social Media Info:
Lyndon on Twitter: Lyndon Dunbar (@LyndonDunbar)

Be sure to tune in on February 1st.

LL
Author’s note: The launch date for the DAMS podcast has been updated to Monday, February 8th, 2016.

Now, online shopping is as easy as chatting with a friend. Introducing Say Shopping.


If you are a screen reader or other assistive technology user, and have ever felt overwhelmed navigating an online shopping destination, then you may have turned to a smartphone app instead. Often, the main retail shopping sites are visually cluttered and can lack some useful markup that allows for screen reader users to quickly identify and navigate to necessary links and buttons. Many smartphone apps provided by retailers offer a user experience that is more streamlined, and therefore more efficient, due to the limited number of options available as compared to their huge web sites. Unfortunately, some of these same retailers have app’s that can be as confusing as their full site counterparts, since the limits imposed by app size and scope can leave little room for ubiquitous help, thereby reducing intuitive functionality.

Now, thanks to a new technology developed by Conversant Labs, using your smartphone to shop online is as easy as chatting with a friend. Say Shopping is an iOS app that enables users to interact with a retail establishment, in this case, Target Stores, by using natural language. Chris Maury, founder of Conversant Labs, sat down with me for a fascinating discussion of the Say Shopping app, algorithms, and natural language processing technology. Be sure to click on the link at the end of the article to listen to the audio interview with Chris that I posted for the Fashionability Channel.

LL: What is meant by “natural language processing,” and how have you furthered this technology in the Say Shopping app?
CM: Natural Language Processing or NLP allows a computer to understand the meaning behind the words people use. NLP has a wide range of uses from understanding whether someone is happy or sad or understanding that when they say “I ran out of toilet paper” they’re probably looking to buy more.
With Say Shopping we’ve taken NLP and applied it to the realm of shopping, and by doing so made it really easy for people to shop using their voice (something that’s never been possible before).

LL: Your technology will allow eyes-free, and eventually, hands-free interaction with other apps and devices. Where do you see the future of the technology headed?
CM: In the next year or so, we are finally going to see voice interaction move beyond simple virtual assistants like Siri and Google Now. With new products and services like Apple’s Carplay and the Amazon Echo, we are finally seeing devices where it is much easier to interact with them using voice than it is using touch. With these new products we’ll start to see more exciting features for voice-based services; Say Shopping and being able to shop online is just one example. Soon we’ll be able to read and follow recipes while we cook, order an Uber, and manage our email all from a voice client. And we’re building the tools that developers are going to need to create these new, voice-driven experiences.

LL: What can users expect from this first release of Say Shopping? Will there eventually be other retailers or use cases for your technology?
CM: You can search through Target’s entire product catalog, hear about product details and customer reviews, and order any products that Target will deliver to your house. We’re working to add the ability to order for in-store pickup as well which will open up shopping for groceries as well.
We want to make the best shopping experience possible for our users, so we want to make sure they have options in what they are shopping for and where they are buying from. We also want to bring Say Shopping to as many people as possible, so we are looking at supporting other platforms besides the iPhone such as Apple’s Carplay.

LL: How can other developers or potential licensees get involved in creating new platforms for the technology?
CM: We are finishing up work on our Say Kit Software Development Kit (SDK) which we used to build Say Shopping. We want as many people as possible building voice based experiences into their apps. We will be releasing the first version of the SDK in the coming months, but if developers are interested in getting early access they can reach me at chris@conversantlabs.com.

LL: Is Say Shopping available now? Where can readers find it?
CM: Say Shopping is available now from the Apple App Store. Download the app by following this link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sayshopping/id969106932?ls=1&mt=8

You can learn more about the app at sayapps.com

LL: Anything else you’d like Accessible Insights readers to know?
CM: Say Shopping is still early in it’s development. We wanted to get it out there as soon as we could while providing something that people would find useful. There is still a lot we want to do with the app, and there is still a lot we can do to make it better. So if you have any ideas on how to make the app better, please let us know.

LL: I also want readers to know that Chris will be attending the National Federation of the Blind 75th annual convention the week of July 6th, 2015. You can find him bouncing between the booth for Target Stores, B43-44, and the Elegant Insights Braille Creations booth C6. You can try out the app, ask questions, and learn more about the technology. To hear a demo of the Say Shopping app, check out the interview I conducted with Chris for the Fashionability Channel podcast at http://fashionabilitychannel.wordpress.com/.

More about Chris Maury:
Chris was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Macular Degeneration in 2011 and has been working in the accessibility community ever since. He is also the
co-organizer of the Pittsburgh Accessibility Meetup a group with 200
members discusses how to make the world around us more accessible to people across disabilities. This group has met monthly since it’s founding in 2013 and covers topics from accessible sports to emerging accessibly technologies from universities and companies alike.

Get in touch with Chris:
Website: Sayapps.com
Twitter: twitter.com/@cmaury
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Conversant-Labs/438191096263041

See you in Orlando, everyone.

LL