Your holiday guide to holiday gift guides

Recursive as it may be,, consider this your holiday guide to holiday gift guides. At this time of year, gift guides are plentiful, as every retailer is vying for your gift-buying dollars. this guide, though, is a bit different, in that these businesses offer fantastic products that are inclusive of everyone, and in some cases, are even offered by resellers with disabilities. Some are also connected to charitable organizations, and your gifts can be a “two-fer,” as it benefits the charity as well as your gift recipient. So, please check out the list of gift guides below, and shop til you drop this holiday season!

Patti and Ricky:

This is a one-stop shop for all things fashion, apparel, and accessories for people with disabilities. Here you’ll find clever ideas disguised as hot fashion. From kids to adults, you’ll discover great gifts you won’t find anywhere else.

This is the link to Patti and Ricky

Holiday gift guide by Emily Ladau:

Emily is one of my favorite disability advocates. Each year for the past few years, she has created a holiday gift guide featuring entrepreneurs with disabilities. You can find it at:

Go here for Words I Wheel By

Love that Max:

This gift guide is specifically for teens and tweens with disabilities. You’ll find some great items sure to please any young person, with or without a disability.

This is the link for Love That Max

Gifts for the guys by Luke Sam Sowden:

Luke is a visually impaired luxury and lifestyle blogger who reviews tons of products from fabulous food to posh scented candles to bath and body products. This year, he posted a gift guide for gentlemen.

Get to Luke’s site here

Elegant Insights:

No holiday gift guide would be complete without my mention of my own enterprise, Elegant Insights. And, since this is my blog, if I can’t shill for my own business, what’s the point? Anyway, if you have struggled to find a gift for a loved one with vision loss, you’ll find great gifts of braille jewelry and accessories at Elegant Insights. Sure, tech gadgets and daily living aids are nice, but when you want a gift that’s beautiful, fashionable, personal, or romantic, you’ll find the perfect present at Elegant Insights Braille Creations. We have items from stocking-stuffers to full jewelry suites for that “wow” gift.

Find my Elegant Insights Jewelry and Accessories here!

The Fashionability Channel podcast:

While I’m at it, I may as well remind you about the podcast that I co-founded with UK fashion blogger, Emily Davison. This holiday season, Emily, our contributors and I are posting a non-stop series of style programs that will take you from desk to dinner to holiday office party to rocking in the New Year. Subscribe via itunes, Google Play, listen on Tune In Radio, or enable the AnyPod skill on your amazon Echo and tell Alexa to ask AnyPod to play the Fashionability Channel. We’re your guide to accessible style!

Please subscribe to the Fashionability Channel podcast here

Need more ideas? On December 7, I hosted my own holiday gift ideas program on my radio show, Legendary Insights, which airs on ACB Radio Mainstream. the show focused mainly on monthly subscription boxes, and I had several guests on the program who shared their experiences with their own subscriptions. Want to know whether or not a subscription box would make a great gift? Check out the show, and get the scoop on FabFitFun, GlossyBox, Play by Sephora, Love With Food, Degusta Box, and Stitch Fix.

Here is how you get to the ACB Radio Mainstream channel

Here are links to the boxes mentioned during the show:

Glossy Box
Here’s a referral link for GlossyBox

Use this referral link for FabFitFun

Play by Sephora
This link gets you to the Sephora main page

Love with Food:
Get yummy Love with Food snacks by going here

This is the link for the Degusta Box site in the US

Stitch Fix:
Get your Stitch Fix by heading here

In addition to those mentioned during the show, listed above, here are a few more that my guest Caitlin recommended. I didn’t hyperlink these because they are not US-based sites, and for safety, I thought you might prefer to cut and paste the URL’s into your browser:

Japan Crate
Types of Crates:
A care package of 15 full-size Japanese candy & snacks, collectible bonus item, a Japan-exclusive drink, and a custom manga-zine with translations, contests
and more.


Bring more cuteness to your month with a crate full of kawaii goodies you can use everyday, plus plushies, exclusive wearables, household items and more.

Explore the world of Japanese beauty through 6-8 full size items from cosmetics to daily care and more.

Your monthly supply of rare & delicious instant noodles from ramen to udon. Try 7-8 premium quality noodles + a collectible bonus item.

Tokyo Treat
Types of Crates:
Premium for $31.50
Classic: $22.50
Ships free worldwide.

Wishing you happy shopping, joyful holidays, and your heart’s desire this season. As always, thank you for your readership, your kind words, and your support and encouragement throughout the year as we persevere together.


Blogging Against Disablism 2017: Sight, Light, and Language

There have been many articles written on the subject of the “language of awareness,” one or two of such articles may even have been written by yours truly. there has also been some controversy in the disability community about the appropriate or accurate use of that language, as some have insisted that “people first” language is the only way to respectfully, effectively, interact with an individual who has a disability, because it places the emphasis on the human being, rather than the disability. In other words, the person being referred to is not defined by their disability, they are a person, first. There have been others, though, who have vehemently disagreed with this notion, feeling that they are, in fact, defined by their disability, and further, are proud of it.

Over the years, I’ve read so many thoughtful articles written about disability awareness and etiquette, advising any number of “do’s and don’ts” on everything from best practices for communicating with the neuro atypical to humorous missives on the importance of speaking directly to a guide dog user, rather than to the guide dog. These articles, for the most part, have done a great job tearing down stereotypes and facilitating interactions between disabled and non-disabled persons. Much of that which appears here on the Accessible Insights Blog has emphasized blindness, since I am blind as the result of a congenital, degenerative disease of the retina, called Retinitis Pigmentosa.

One of the topics I’ve always wanted to write about is the intriguing connection in the English language between eyesight and understanding. Some of my own work has explored the concepts of the soft bigotry of low expectations, the treatment of people who are blind as intellectually inferior, when, for example, a blind individual is spoken to loudly or slowly, or where there is a presumption of incompetence. Of course, it is not factually accurate to say that a person who cannot see also cannot understand, yet this myth is perpetuated, thanks in part, it seems, to the idiosyncratic nature of English. It also occurred to me that there are words related to “light,” that are associated with knowledge, cognition, and discernment.

The first such instance is the direct link between two simple words that explicitly convey comprehension: “I see.” Another example is “I saw the light.” When we ask for an explanation, we might say, “enlighten me.” When we express appreciation for gaining that knowledge, we might say, “that was quite illuminating.” When we want to impart knowledge, we might say, “let me shed some light on that subject.” If we want to expose a falsehood, we offer to “shine the bright light of truth” on something. Finally, even the rising sun can take credit for the sudden remembrance, acknowledgement, or grasp of an idea…as when we say, “it dawned on me.” Word nerd that I am, I consulted my favorite reference books pertaining to the use of language, and I discovered some interesting linguistic connections between having eyesight, and possessing understanding.

Here are more specific examples, where the word being defined can be explained by phrases analogous to eyesight:

The word perceive, as a verb, means to become aware of, or to comprehend via our senses. Often it is inferred that the perception is by sight or to have the power to perceive by sight. In another example, perceive is used with an inference to an idea, such as, “Oh, now I see.” Or, “I don’t see your point.”

To be contemporaneous with, as in, “you’ll soon see the value here.”

To imagine, or conceive of, as in, “I can see it in my mind’s eye,” or, “I don’t see him doing such a thing.”

To think about something in a particular way, to regard or consider, as in, “sorry, I just don’t see things as you do.” Or, “I don’t see the situation as being all that bad.” Or, “we just don’t see eye-to-eye.”

To make a determination, to find out something, for example, “I want to see if this works.” Or, “I think we should see if she knows how to change a tire.”

To make certain of something, such as, “see to it the door is closed,” or “see that the lights are off when you go.”

To consult with a professional, “I need to see a dentist.”

To take charge, such as, “I saw to it that the project was completed on time.”

To understand detail, as in, “he has a good eye.”

To deliberate or decide, for example, “See whether you can come tomorrow”;

To experience, as in, “he saw action in Iraq.”

To make sense of, or interpret, as in, “what’s the messaging you’re seeing here?”

Here are even more examples:

When you’re really mad, you’re “seeing red.” when you are accompanying someone to the airport, you are “seeing him off.” And, when you are sure someone is being untruthful, you might say, “I saw right through her.” Some of these examples are simply colloquial, but in the context of blindness, greater accuracy in communication can get a bit tricky, not to mention awkward.

Based on these examples, it isn’t hard to see (yikes!) how it may be possible that so much of the passive prejudice or soft bigotry we face may be unintentional, in part due to an inherent language bias that can make disablism that much easier, simply because of the words we use every day.

So, now that you’ve read to the end of my submission for BADD 2017 on the many ways in which the concept of understanding can be transmogrified by language, you can now say you’ve seen the light!


Previous Blogging Against Disablism Day submissions:

You Don’t Look Blind


It’s On Aisle 5


Your Ingenious Life

Blogging Against Disablism Day 2017

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2017

If you love to write, or read, about the experience of disability, then you will love this day. For over ten years, this global event has attracted activists, advocates, parents, and people from all walks of life, disabled or non-disabled, who blog about life from their point of view. You will read about overcoming adversity, triumph over tragedy, practical coping strategies, and learn more effective ways to interact with people who have disabilities of all sorts. It can be a little emotional, reading about the day-to-day experiences of individuals who live in places that do not have the equivalent of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or, who do, yet suffer discrimination,, disrespect, or indignity anyway. Some of what you read may be discouraging,, depressing, or even infuriating. But you will also read stories that are heartwarming, uplifting, and even funny,, as bloggers around the world share their lives. You can read all about Blogging Against Disablism Day here, along with archives of past year’s posts:

Blogging Against Disablism Day

Use hash tag #BADD2017 when tweeting about the event. Don’t forget to go to the site to link to your own post, if you plan to participate.


Zoom in on this follow-up: Keyboard shortcuts

After sharing my experience with the Zoom video conferencing platform in a blog post last week, many of my readers had questions. So, I will continue to post on the subject with what I hope will be helpful tips and updates. The first of these follow-ups is to post the list of keyboard shortcuts that are useful when using Zoom with keyboard navigation for Windows or Mac. The list is not hidden by any means, but it isn’t in a really obvious spot in the control panel, either. Just clip out the list below and stash it someplace it will be easy for you to find and refer to later. After all, unless you plan to conduct video conferences or screen sharing on a daily basis, most of us won’t use Zoom often enough to memorize the list of hotkey’s, and interrupting your workflow while you search for the keyboard shortcut list will be frustrating. Please also note the prerequisites:

• Must be running Zoom version 3.5.19869.0701 or higher on Windows.
• Must be running Zoom version 3.5.19877.0701 or higher on Mac.

• F6: Navigate among popped up panels
• Ctrl+Alt+Shift: Move focus to Zoom’s meeting controls
• ESC: Exit full-screen whenever available
• PageUP/PageDown: View next or previous 25 video stream in gallery view
• Alt: Turn on/off the option ‘Always show meeting control toolbar’ in “Settings”>>”Accessibility”
• Alt+F1: Switch to active speaker view in video meeting
• Alt+F2: Switch to gallery video view in video meeting
• Alt+V: Turn on/off Video
• Alt+A: Mute/unmute audio
• Alt+M: Mute/unmute audio for everyone except host Note: For the meeting host only
• Alt+S: Launch share screen window and stop screen share. Note: Will only work when meeting control toolbar has focus
• Alt+Shift+S: Start/stop new screen share Note: Will only work when meeting control toolbar has focus
• Alt+T: Pause or resume screen share Note: Will only work when meeting control toolbar has focus
• Alt+R: Start local recording
• Alt+C: Start cloud recording
• Alt+P: Pause or resume recording
• Alt+N: Switch camera
• Alt+F: Enter or exit full screen
• Alt+H: Toggle In-Meeting Chat panel
• Alt+U: Toggle Participants panel
• Alt+I: Open Invite window

• Command(?)+`: Navigate among popped up panels
• Control+P: View next or previous 25 video stream in gallery view
• Control+N: View next or previous 25 video stream in gallery view
• Command(?)+Shift+M: Switch to thumbnail view
• Command(?)+Shift+W: Switch to active speaker view
• Command(?)+Shift+W: Switch to gallery video view
• Command(?)+Shift+V: Turn on/off video
• Command(?)+Shift+A: Mute/unmute audio
• Command(?)+Control+M: Mute audio for everyone except host Note: For the meeting host only
• Command(?)+Control+U: Unmute audio for everyone except host Note: For the meeting host only
• Command(?)+Shift+S: Start/stop screen share
• Command(?)+Shift+T: Pause or resume screen share
• Command(?)+Shift+R: Start local recording
• Command(?)+Shift+C: Start cloud recording
• Command(?)+Shift+P: Pause or resume recording
• Command(?)+Shift+N: Switch camera
• Command(?)+Shift+F: Enter or exit full screen
• Command(?)+Shift+H: Toggle In-Meeting Chat Panel
• Command(?)+U: Toggle Participants panel
• Command(?)+I: Open invite window

I tweeted out the direct link to the help center page on the Zoom web site, and I’ll keep it in my Twitter likes/favorites list [@Accessible_Info] so you can find it should you misplace this post.

More soon…


At long last, an accessible screen sharing solution: Zoom

By the time you read to the end of this post, if you are a screen reader user, your employability potential could be vastly improved. At long last, there is an accessible screen sharing platform that can make the difference between participating in mainstream work, running a remote demonstration independently, leading a video conference, or giving an online presentation, without sighted assistance. What’s more, this is not a work-around. It’s cutting edge, elegant, and best of all…mainstream technology.

One of the most frustrating aspects of the pervasive unemployment situation in the blindness community has been the inability to access some of the most commonly used technology that is standard in many businesses around the world: Screen sharing. the most widely-used platforms, referred to by names such as Go To My PC, along with Go To Webinar and Go To Meeting iterations, Web X, Log Me In, and others, have long been inaccessible for screen reader users. If you have ever found yourself forced to reject a job opportunity, or being forcibly excluded from one, simply because you cannot use this type of technology, you are not alone. Years ago, I had to leave a lucrative position because the job duties included the implementation of a screen sharing program, and I was no longer able to do the work. There was no accessible solution, and at the time, no amount of plying the development team with requests for accessibility support proved fruitful. this heartbreaking situation is no doubt repeated throughout the community, as the technology landscape seems to widen the so-called digital divide.

Recently, I found myself in a similar position. I was presented with a remote teaching opportunity that, seemingly, I would be unable to accept, thanks to the inaccessibility of the platform being used, one of those mentioned above.

The job requirements included that I not only teach my content, but that I also interact with the students, fielding questions, taking a regular roll call, keeping tabs on who was focused on the presentation screen, as opposed to surfing the web, launching video, using on-screen handouts, and reporting on student activity statistics. As the “host,” or moderator of the class, content producer and presenter, I would be required to manage all these tasks while teaching extended continuing education courses lasting several hours. Aware that the platform already in use by the company with which I was contracted was inaccessible, I hired a consultant to assist me in finding an alternative. I was told that if I could find such an alternative, the job was mine. Otherwise, the job would go to a sighted educator.

The consultant evaluated a half-dozen screen sharing products, from well-known tech brands to blindness-specific conference room chat platforms. If one of the options suited the technical specifications of the company I would be working with, such as attendee size, real-time uptime support, or audio/video quality, it failed on the access piece. If accessibility to any degree was supported, then it seemed to favor the attendee, rather than the presenter. If a platform proved to be usable with a screen reader, it failed to meet my audience management or interactivity requirements. Frustrated beyond belief, I interrogated my consultant friend, demanding to know why there was no accessible platform available. None of his answers were satisfactory on any level. This was not, however, for lack of trying. Accounts were opened, or, borrowed. Developers were contacted. Support tickets and bug reports were submitted. Mock presentations were crafted. Apps were downloaded, remote screen reader control was used, calls to colleagues were made. Finally, he concluded, there was just no accessible solution to be had.

I was livid. I ranted and raved and paced the room while I had him on the phone, railing at the injustice of it all. It was maddening to me that but for an inaccessible video player/launcher, or some such triviality, I would be denied meaningful work. this was totally unacceptable to me. My consultant offered to create a work-around, something that would enable screen sharing that re-routed the audio from my screen reader and video in such a way that the audience could hear one, but not the other. Something about a mixer…a second sound card…I don’t know…I was in a rage fog. “It may be too complicated,” he warned me. “You’ll have to manage all this on the fly. And if it goes down, there’s no one to get you up and running.”

In a fit of fury, I pounded three words into a search engine: Accessible video conferencing. Insert clouds parting, glittering golden rays of sunshine pouring forth while the angels sing an alleluia here.

Enter Zoom. Zoom is the first mainstream accessible screen sharing platform that is robust, mainstream, feature-rich, mainstream, and accessible to both presenter/content originator and attendees. Did I mention it’s mainstream?

This is the solution you’ve been waiting for… this is the answer to the interview question, we use X Y Z product here, and the job requires you give presentations…or demos…or consultations…or product training…or teach classes…or collaborate with team members in a satellite location…does that sound like something you can do?”

Now, with Zoom, the answer can be yes.

The Zoom web site is loaded with lots of what you would expect with regard to features and benefits, but this is what jumped out at me right away: The Accessibility page. I only have three words for you…compliance, compliance, compliance. Zoom is not new, but their accessibility improvements are. From the Zoom web site:

“Zoom is committed to ensuring universal access to our products and services, so that all meeting hosts and participants can have the best experience possible. Zoom’s accessibility features enable users with disabilities to schedule, attend, and participate in Zoom meetings and webinars, view recordings, and access administrative features across our supported devices.”

Here’s the link to the Zoom home page:

Click here to go to Zoom home

Zoom actually has a dedicated accessibility team, and the update notes are logged as recently as February in some cases, and last week in others. Zoom services are compatible with standard screen readers such as VoiceOver on iOS and OSX platforms, TalkBack on Android devices, and NVDA for Windows platforms. Check it out on the Zoom accessibility page:

Click here to go to the Zoom accessibility page

Apologizing in advance for my use of hyperbole here, this product is revolutionary. For me, it is going to make the difference between being able to do work or not. As with many similar platforms, there are several levels of feature sets, all with tiered pricing, but there is also a free basic level that is better than just a trial version or a limited-time demo. For those of you who have been trying to solve the problem of interviewing multiple people in different locations while recording everyone for a podcast without sounding like one or more of you is talking from the bottom of a trash dumpster, this is your solution. Want to start up a speaking business? Offer classes? Show off your work product without compatibility concerns? The free, basic level lets you interview or screen share/chat with one person with no time limit, or more than one person for 40 minutes. You can record directly from the dashboard. Need to present to 100 attendees? 1000? 5000? You can…for any number of competitive pricing models.

I don’t know who I could contact on the Zoom team to thank them for what amounts to a technological miracle for me, but I am thrilled. And did I mention it’s mainstream?

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I did apologize to my consultant for yelling.


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 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.


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 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

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:

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


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.


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.


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 page 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 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, 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?