Still passing notes after all these years: A love letter to my best friend


We met when I was just eleven, and he was twelve years old. He was sitting next to the window on the school bus that would be taking us on a school field trip to an ice skating rink. I sat down next to him, and asked his name. It was Dan. I excitedly told him that I used to ice skate when I was little, and that I wanted to be an Olympic ice skater when I grew up. He didn’t know how to skate, he said, he had never done it before. Proudly, I told him I would teach him, show him how to turn, and skate backwards, and everything.

Years later, Dan would tell me that he liked me because he liked the way I talked. “I liked the way you pronounced your ‘s’s,'” he said. “They were very…crisp. You talked like a grown-up.”

Dan has been my best friend ever since. There have been years when we were inseparable, and there have been years when we didn’t connect. There has never been another soul who has made me laugh as hard, as long, or as uncontrollably as Dan, and there has never been anyone less deserving of pancreatic cancer.

He was there for every first day of school. he was there at every lunch, every school assembly, every after school afternoon from 2:45 to 3:45, when we rehashed in gossipy, teenage detail on the phone about the day just concluded. When it turned out that my eye disease meant I would never drive, he drove me home from school in his green Honda Civic every day. He took me out on my first date, on my sixteenth birthday. When he couldn’t be there at various times over the years, he found a way to make his presence felt, like the day I moved from my lifelong home state to another, when an enormous box of housewarming gifts and supplies awaited my arrival, with a sign on it that read, “welcome home.” He flew two thousand miles and trekked through a forest trail of redwood trees, to stand with me on my wedding day. Then, he wrote me a letter after my husband passed away, less than six months later, a letter he had written for me as a journal on my wedding day, with all of his observations about all the little details he knew I would have missed for being busy and distracted with wedding day events. He read the journal to me, over the phone, and I recorded the call.

If a more misfit, oddly precocious, ugly little duckling ever needed a best friend, it was me. It is truly stunning what fully accepting another human being for exactly who they are, and loving them just the same, can bring about in the life of another. Because of Dan, I took chances, I ventured forth. I learned the meaning of quiet generosity and climbed to a new altitude so as to gain a better perspective. Because of Dan, I learned how to make a place for myself in a world where I didn’t believe I belonged. I laughed. At nothing. At everything. At what he said, at what I said, at the notes we passed in class, at what we thought of every stupid little thing, that laugh that is so out of control you can’t breathe, can’t even make a sound. I am who I am today because Dan’s influence has been so powerful, I have aspired to be like him.

Dan lost his father to pancreatic cancer when we were just teenagers. Dan lived in terror of the day it would be his turn, his entire life since. When I got the call two years ago this coming thanksgiving that Dan had been diagnosed with the same cancer, I was haunted by all of the times over the years Dan had expressed this fear. But now, it’s different, I thought. Now, treatments are better, health care is so much more sophisticated, surely, there’s something…something.

One might think that this sort of news would bring about a closeness and renewed bond between lifelong best friends, but sadly, it has not come to pass. Dan has been unable to see me, to say goodbye. he has chosen to speak with me only on a handful of occasions since the diagnosis. the only explanation that I have been comforted by is that he is trying to protect me from the pain. I can only cling to that, because nothing else makes any sense at all.

Today, I got the news that Dan has been placed with hospice. He is nearing the end of a process that has robbed him of absolutely everything that makes life worth living. If he can be loved more, I surely cannot imagine how. He is surrounded by his family, his mother and his sister and his partner, and they have taken one grueling step after another, walking in faith, and with hope that the son will not retrace the steps of the father. I am writing this now in hopes that he will be read the words here, and that he will take my love with him tonight, and every night for the rest of his life. I’ll have his love, his laughter, his joy of life in me for the rest of mine.

I love you, Dan.

Your Joybird,
Laura

Author’s note: Dan passed away on Sunday, September 21st, 2014. The world has become dimmer today, as the irrepressible spirit of a beautiful human being has moved on. My condolences to Dan’s family, Fran, Teresa, Philip, and all those he loved and made laugh.

Posted in Random Ramblings. 1 Comment »

It takes just 7 minutes to achieve better health with the Seven App


About 18 months ago, I decided it was time for me to get back into shape. Like many, keeping my weight in check has always been a challenge. While there have been times in my life I have been in better shape than others, most recently, the loss of my husband five years ago resulted in the understandable shrinking of my universe to a laser point of pain and grief. Then came a couple of years of icy numb, after which I awoke to find myself uncaring about my appearance or physical health. I had neglected myself for so long, I hadn’t even realized I had packed on pounds, and when I did, I simply didn’t care. Thinking of myself as patently unattractive seemed like a convenient means by which to keep people away from me. I wanted to be invisible to the world. Then, inevitably, I began to thaw.

There can be many things that motivate us to want to improve upon our overall health or to get into, or in my case, back into, shape. A desire to be around longer for our children, feelings of unworthiness or self-loathing, a wish to wear the latest styles and look great in them, or a medical wake-up call. for me, it was none of those. For me, the motivating factor was that I got hit on by a really hot 26-year-old. Very inspiring.

I began by taking a closer look at my diet, and making some changes. I am a vegetarian, and I do not eat fried foods, and the number of times I eat at a fast-food place can be counted on two fingers in a year, if that. For me, it must have been something else. So, I broke the starchy carb habit and switched to whole grains, I counted calories and generally consumed less. It worked for a while, I lost perhaps five pounds over several months, but that wasn’t going to be enough to enable me to reach my goal. So, almost a year ago, I took my shiny new iPhone5 in hand, and started slogging through the myriad fitness apps in the Apple app store. I had heard of a health study about fitness that claimed one could achieve the equivalent of many hours of moderate workouts by switching to what was called “interval training.” The study claimed that short bursts of vigorous exercise, followed by short rest intervals, could be as beneficial as hours in a gym. As a result of this study, a fitness trend was born, called “The 7 Minute Workout.”

Now, I must pause for a moment here, and explain that I am a person who detests exercise. I hate everything about exercise. I hate sweating. I hate flopping around like a fish on the deck of a boat. I hate the clothes. Seriously. Polyester never touches my body. Athletic shoes? Don’t even talk to me about strapping on a pair of rubber slabs that look like something a tire threw off. You know that feeling of euphoria you are supposed to experience after exercise? Give me a break. I’m miserable afterwards. Okay, and during. And, thinking about working out beforehand. Getting the picture? you won’t catch me pumping my fist and hooting some ridiculous rah-rah cheer while flopping around like a fish in my hideous polyester workout clothes. ugh.

Needless to say, devoting seven minutes to exercise sounded like a cause I could commit to. So, when I saw the Seven App in the app store, based upon the “7 minute workout” concept, I grabbed it.

There are many apps in the app store based upon the 7 minute workout idea, but the one that was best for me was the very first one I downloaded. The app is called the Seven App, and it is by perigee. here is the link to it in the app store:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/7-minute-workout-seven-high/id650276551?mt=8

Of all the similar apps I downloaded subsequent to the Seven App, this first was the most accessible. It wasn’t perfect, there were a few unlabelled buttons, but only inconsequential ones, and an email exchange with the developer proved to be very satisfying in that he was very responsive to my requests for accessibility improvements. There are still 2 unlabelled buttons, but they are the Twitter and Facebook share buttons, and I think you can easily self-label those, since they have not changed in any app update.

The Seven App offers a full-body workout as a starter, and a new workout is unlocked for every two months you stay in the program. Rewards are only one of the motivational tools offered. Achievements, tracking, and the aforementioned sharing of your progress with your Facebook friends and Twitter followers are all part of the training toolbox. The catch? You must use the app every day. Yes, you read that right. you must execute your 7 minute workout every single day. No days off…but remember, it takes only 7 minutes, literally.

The way the app works is based on the study, mentioned earlier, suggesting interval training is as effective as longer, less frequent workouts. You perform 12 exercises in 7 minutes, each lasting 30 seconds, with a rest interval of 10 seconds. Believe me, 10 seconds hardly feels like a rest period, since you must position yourself for the next exercise, which keeps your body in motion nearly continuously. The exercises require no more than a chair, the floor, and your own body weight. No gear needed. There is a learn mode that walks you through the exercises and describes the movements. Some of the descriptions are a bit vague, though, and when I asked of the developer why some of the wording was a bit sparse for some of the descriptions, he explained that he wanted the instructions to be easily understood in any language into which the app was translated. So, if you need better descriptions of an exercise, you can search the web, or check out YouTube for more complete explanations.

The results? Because I was able to devote 7 minutes to my daily exercise routine, I have achieved my weight and fitness goals. My goal was not to become a swimsuit model, my goal was to increase strength, endurance, balance, and muscle tone. Losing the extra pounds seemed easy, once I settled into what was, for me, a really brutal first few months with the app. Many of my Twitter followers read about my progress, replete with bitter complaints and vehement objection to the entire necessity of exercise. Not to mention a blistering indictment of workout wear in general. But the first time I slipped into a pair of jeans a full size smaller, I was hooked. Now, I have purchased a recumbent bicycle, and have sought ways to add more fitness minutes to my day. Hey…swimsuit season is just a month or two away. if that doesn’t do anything for you, I’ll have the 26-year-old give you a call.

LL

Accessible Insights blog to take a hiatus. See you on the other side, precious humans.


Another year, another of life’s paths down which to wander. Some we choose to explore, some we abandon, some are chosen for us. It’s time for me to take a break, to regroup and catch my breath.

Until further notice, I will not be available online. I will not post any articles to the blog, nor will I post to the corresponding Twitter accounts. It seems that taking a tech break and living in the so-called real world of my immediate is the best way to soothe my restless spirit.

While I’m away, I will be thinking of you. Thank you to my loyal readers and Twitter followers. I will miss my friends, and I’ll be wishing you well. Thank you for your understanding. Thank you for being the ray of sunshine that lights my every day.

Sometimes, we have to return to the beginning of everything, turn our face to the sun, and sail far enough out into the waters so that we cannot see either horizon. That is where I will remain, ever your Laura.

Posted in Random Ramblings. 1 Comment »

Experfy, Innovating at the Harvard Innovation Lab, partners with Project Starfish


For those of you who have seen me tweeting about Project Starfish, or for any of you who attended my presentation at the CSUN 2014 Conference on Disability, you may recall my mention of Harvard Innovations Lab. Here is a press release announcing the partnership about which I spoke.

Experfy, Innovating at the Harvard Innovation Lab, Launches a Consulting Marketplace to Address the Growing Big Data Talent Shortage

“Until today, no dedicated marketplace existed for companies to hire big data experts for their short-term projects. Experfy is here to fundamentally disrupt the dominance of large consulting firms by providing quick access to the most prestigious analytics talent. Our experts will transform big data problems, across industries, and turn them into solutions.”

—Harpreet Singh, PhD, Co-Founder, Experfy

March 31, 2014 08:30 AM Eastern Daylight Time
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Experfy, innovating at the Harvard Innovation Lab, announced today that it has launched a paradigm-changing, online marketplace that will allow industry leaders to solve their “big data” talent needs. Enterprises now have a central platform for on-demand hiring of vetted experts with algorithmic skills and domain knowledge, primarily for short-term projects related to data, analytics and business intelligence.

“The business relationship with Harvard i-Lab start-up Experfy stands as a model of corporate social responsibility that should be adopted worldwide.”
“What was missing from the big data consulting industry was a bidding platform like Experfy, that is driven by a fair and balanced approach, where both sides—clients and providers—are winners in the end. Whether a company has a short-term project need or is looking to augment its existing team, Experfy, with its fully-vetted experts, enables companies to hire on-demand, thereby giving them unparalleled value for their money,” said Sarabjot Kaur, Co-Founder, Experfy. “Our data experts have the ability to deploy advanced analytical skills coupled with deep domain knowledge to solve complex business problems. Whether it is minimizing risk, simplifying supply chains or identifying new channels of growth, Experfy will be the trusted intermediary for hiring data, analytics and business intelligence talent.”

Along with individual experts, Experfy has also signed up smaller companies to provide reliable and cost-effective consulting for data, analytics and business intelligence projects. Experfy’s enterprise-ready dashboard provides collaboration tools to manage agreements, team members, project milestones, timesheets, payments and expert ratings.
Gordon Jones, Managing Director of the Harvard Innovation Lab said, “Experfy is just one example of the many cutting-edge technology ventures that incubate at the Harvard Innovation Lab. It is exciting to see this team launching an innovative marketplace for experts with deep technical skills and insights to tackle complex business challenges put forward by companies eager to gain an information advantage.”

Experfy has also partnered with Project Starfish, an international business development group with a learning and opportunity platform for talented, unemployed blind individuals, to help with lead generation, data mining, market research and social media promotion. Subhashish Acharya, founder of Project Starfish, said “The business relationship with Harvard i-Lab start-up Experfy stands as a model of corporate social responsibility that should be adopted worldwide.”

About Experfy
Experfy is a consulting marketplace where enterprises hire big data experts and vendors for their data, analytics and business intelligence projects on-demand. Experfy brings together the world’s most prestigious data and analytics talent that not only possesses technical skills but also deep domain expertise. Experfy is based in the Harvard Innovation Lab.
About Harvard Innovation Lab
The Harvard Innovation Lab (i-lab) is a Harvard University initiative fostering team-based and entrepreneurial activities among Harvard students, faculty, entrepreneurs, and members of the Allston and Greater Boston community. The i-lab encourages entrepreneurship and innovation across the University, bringing together many cross-curricular interests, including students from Harvard Business School, Harvard College, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and Harvard School of Public Health.
About Project Starfish
Project Starfish is an international business development group with a learning and opportunity platform for talented blind individuals. Project Starfish seeks to lower the unemployment (above 70%) rate among the adult blind population. Its “shared service” model allows emerging and start-up companies to share talented resources from an amazing talent pool of blind individuals who are virtually available and work on-demand, to help grow their business. Project Starfish offers support in marketing, sales, social media, business research, customer support, content writing and operations.
Contacts
Experfy
Harpreet Singh, PhD, 617-642-5833
Co-Founder
or
Sarabjot Kaur, 617-642-5769
Co-Founder
http://www.experfy.com/

###

To read more about Project Starfish, go here:

A Creative Approach to Help Bridge the Employment Gap:

http://accessibleinsights.info/blog/2014/03/07/a-creative-approach-to-help-bridge-the-employment-gap-project-starfish/

LL

The CVAA Advanced Communications Implementation Best Practices to be presented at CSUN 2014


During the week of the CSUN Conference on Disability and Assistive Technology held from March 17 – 22, 2014, Pratik Patel will be very busy indeed. he will be presenting information on a number of topics that will surely elevate his visibility throughout the week, as well as ensure the edification of all who attend his sessions. Patel’s speaking lineup offers something for just about anyone, as he is fluent and knowledgeable in a number of industry topic areas.

When Pratik agreed to an interview with me, I had no idea that I would find one of his presentation topics so compelling that I plied him with questions for over an hour. He was gracious and forthcoming, and shared a great deal as to developments in an area of communication that directly affects those of us in the blind community. Since this post is merely a promotional piece which can only provide the briefest of overviews in an effort to garner interest in his session, I must say that I cannot do our interview justice. Here, I will focus on our conversation regarding his presentation entitled, “CVAA Advanced Communications.” I encourage you to attend this session, and if time does not permit all of your questions can be answered, contact mr. Patel via the details at the end of this post. I’m certain you will find the subject matter as interesting as I did.

Patel began the interview by explaining that his goal was to set out best practices for implementing accessibility in telecommunications with users in mind. On October 8, 2010, President Obama signed a comprehensive law enabling people with disabilities to access communications of all forms including televisions, DVRs, telephones and other forms of communications. Two of the requirements of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), require that manufacturers of devices, cable and television service providers, and other telecommunication firms make changes to their services, programs, and devices to ensure that people with disabilities will have full access.

Patel says, “Now that the CVAA is in effect, and many of the parts of the CVAA are being implemented, little by little, we need to talk about what the best practices are so that these features are implemented in such a way as to keep all users in mind.”

I asked Patel to give me an example of accessibility features that were implemented without users in mind, as I found this assertion to be confusing at first. he explained that the way television and other content is distributed now, the major carriers are intermediaries, and there are a number of factors that can be barriers to users with disabilities.

“The mechanism for delivering video description became very complicated with different televisions and digital technology,” comments Patel. “For example, televisions requiring that a user navigate menus and turn on certain features, or DVR and set-top boxes that can be inaccessible, because these devices may have their own menuing system, where a person once was able to press a button on their remote control to get access to descriptive services. The original way to deliver description was to use the Secondary Audio Channel (SAP) functionality.”

I was frankly incredulous that accessibility had been an afterthought to such a degree, and Patel assured me that it was. “One of the things I want to do is not only to suggest guidelines, but to highlight manufacturers who are doing it right.” Says Patel.

He plans to outline ways in which manufacturers can standardize access to descriptive services, not only in general principle, but in specific technical terms. Additionally, Patel will reveal how you can be a part of the process. He plans a call to action that I know many will find compelling. Attend his session to learn more.

Go to the CSUN sessions page to indicate your interest in “CVAA advanced communications,” and be sure to save yourself a seat. http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/sessions/index.php/public/presentations/view/393

Patel is also planning to co-present with Sina Bahram (@SinaBahram) on API comparisons between iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. Check it out here:
http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/sessions/index.php/public/presentations/view/394

He will again partner with Sina Bahram, along with Billy Gregory (@thebillygregory), and Sarah Outwater (@SassyOutwater) to present:
Crowd sourcing the accessibility problem:
http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/sessions/index.php/public/presentations/view/383

More about Pratik Patel:
Mr. Pratik Patel is the Founder and CEO of EZFire, a firm dedicated to bringing new enterprise, mobile and individualized solutions to a rapidly-changing technological landscape. Since the company’s founding in 2006, Mr. Patel has worked with such clients as Columbia University, Boston University, Amtrak and The Major League Baseball to develop innovative technology solutions as well as develop policies and procedures to provide accessible technology solutions for millions of consumers with disabilities. Focusing on consulting work such as accessible, usable website, equipment interface design for the commercial sector, and usability to variety of interfaces, integration of accessibility into information technology in the higher education sector, as well as nonprofit management and development, Mr. Patel has led his company to a success. In 2014, Mr. Patel stands ready to introduce several new projects that will allow him to use his experience and expertise on interface design as his passion for knowledge and learning.

Over the last few years, Mr. Patel has served as the Executive Director of Society for Disability Studies, a nonprofit that promotes increased use of disability studies in academic and in general life. Since 2006, MR. Patel has also focused on variety of projects to ensure access to vital technologies for students with disabilities at the City University of New York. Through this work, Mr. Patel’s primary focus has been policies and procedures to improve university-wide responses to information technology access.

Until 2006, Mr. Patel served as the Director of the Assistive Technology Services Project for the City University of New York. His seven years of work with the Project enabled Mr. Patel to successfully develop and deploy assistive technology solutions for faculty, students and staff at CUNY. Through his work, the CUNY Assistive Technology Services Project was named as one of the top 100 best practices in the nation. Mr. Patel’s collaborative work with the City University’s centers that promote excellence led to a four-year PeopleTech Project by the U.S. Department of Education to bring access technologies into CUNY’s classrooms and allow the university to conduct vital research on providing access to science and mathematics material for students with sensory disabilities.

Mr. Patel has served as the East Coast Vice President for the Access Technologists in Higher Education Network (ATHEN), a professional group dedicated to ensuring IT access throughout America’s colleges and universities. Mr. Patel also serves on the New York state Governor’s advisory Council to the Department of Education to implement the requirements of the higher education e-text legislation. In that capacity, Mr. Patel has worked closely with institutions of higher learning and top publishers of classroom material to ensure access to curricular material for students with disabilities. Serving on the New York State Independent Living Council as well as on the board of Directors of the Queens Independent Living Center, Mr. Patel has focused on the use of technology among people with disabilities. Serving as the chair person for the Information Access Committee as well as the Advocacy Services Committee for the American Council of the Blind, Mr. Patel has focused on information access and advocacy needs for blind Americans. As the President of American Council of the blind of New York, Mr. Patel works on a variety of nonprofit development and advocacy issues facing blind New York residents.

Pratik Patel’s contact info:

Telephone: 888-320-2921
Email: ppatel@ezfire.net (or pratikp1@gmail.com)
Follow on Twitter: @ppatel
Follow on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/pratik-patel/9/985/882
Skype: Patel.pratik

Be sure to head to the main CSUN sessions page to make your session choices, and don’t forget to use hashtag #CSUN14 when tweeting about the event.

See you soon.

LL

Two must-attend CSUN COD sessions presented by Lainey Feingold


This year at the CSUN 2014 Conference on Disability, some of the people presenting educational sessions will be busier than others. Lainey Feingold will be among the busier ones, as she is giving more than one talk at the CSUN Conference. Lainey does some incredible advocacy work on behalf of people with disabilities, and I encourage you to attend both of her sessions. This award-winning legal eagle will be offering key information on a couple of important topics.

First, Lainey will be co presenting with her colleague, Linda Dardarian. The session is her Annual Legal Update on Digital Accessibility. To indicate your interest in this session, and to get location information, go to the CSUN COD page:
http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/sessions/index.php/public/presentations/view/119

Lainey described her sessions this way: “The legal update session will be an overview of everything that’s happening with digital accessibility law suits, settlements, regulations and laws. The focus will be on the U.S., but we’ll touch briefly on other countries. We will present the legal issues in a straight-forward way designed for non-lawyers. The session is for anyone who cares about digital access and usability for everyone regardless of disability and is curious about the role of the law in making tech and information more accessible.”

The second session (Friday morning at 8:00) is called Structured Negotiations: the Book! Lainey says, “this session is conceived as a give and take. Structured Negotiations is a collaborative process that aims for a win-win solution to information and tech access issues. It can be used to resolve other issues as well.”

“I’m in the middle of writing a book about the process and the advocates who have made the work possible.” Says Feingold. “I’ve negotiated, along with Linda, close to 50 agreements using this method without filing a single lawsuit. In the session I want to share what I’ve learned about the process, it’s potential for other issues, and what I’m learning in writing the book.”

Feingold continues, “Most of all I hope to hear from the audience their experiences with the issues we’ve worked on. Those issues include Talking ATMs, web and mobile access with MLB, Bank of America, Weight Watchers, and many other companies, accessible pedestrian signals, tactile point of sale issues, video description in movie theaters, and more.”

Go to the Structured Negotiations: the Book! (page on the CSUN site: http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/sessions/index.php/public/presentations/view/343

Lainey was kind enough to take time from her busy schedule to answer a few of my questions about her presentations. After reading more about her, I concluded that the disability community couldn’t ask for a better advocate. After you finish reading, I’m sure you’ll agree.

LL: Who is the target audience for your presentation?
For the “Legal Update” session, anyone working on technology and information accessibility. Advocates need to understand how the law can help convince entities of the importance of access. Champions inside even the largest corporation need the legal developments at their finger tips. There are legal digital accessibility developments this year across a wide spectrum of issues — education, travel, retail, voting, news consumption, employment, government, and more. Our goal is to demystify the legal issues and focus on the civil rights foundation — the right of people with disabilities to access information and technology so they can fully participate in all aspects of society.

For “Structured Negotiations,” the Book session: The target audience is anyone interested in resolving access problems collaboratively. For anyone who would like to know how the blind community was able to get some of the largest companies in the United States to the negotiating table and end up with positive national results. Also, anyone who would like to share their experience with any of the issues we’ve worked on is especially welcomed to come. (A list of all the settlements is here: http://lflegal.com/negotiations )

LL: What do you hope your audience takes away from your talk?
In the Legal Update session, a way to talk about the law in human terms. A way to use the law not to frighten people into compliance, but to make people understand why we have laws protecting access to digital information. People will also get an understanding of different legal strategies being used to improve digital accessibility and how to use the law most effectively.

In the Structured Negotiations session, an understanding of a different way to use the law without filing lawsuits. An understanding of how the blind community has used Structured Negotiations over the past twenty years and what the results have been, and how the method could be used for other disability civil rights issues, and other issues generally.

LL: What has been your motivation to continue your work as an advocate?
I am motivated by the ongoing need for a digital world that is available to everyone regardless of disability. The feeling that if we don’t do this work now, today, we will miss the opportunity to create the digital environment as it should be: open and available to everyone. There are many, many people who share this vision and are working hard to make it a reality. I am lucky that as a lawyer I can have a role to play and I am motivated by the work being done by everyone else in their roles. I’m motivated by the blind people who have trusted me with their legal claims and who teach me every day about what true access and usability means. I’m motivated by the amazing flood of friendship and community that the accessibility world constantly brings me. I’m motivated by everyone’s generosity in helping me and teaching me about issues that I need to do the lawyer part effectively.

LL: What are your long-term goals for your firm, and for advocating for people who are blind or otherwise disabled?
Short and long term, I hope to finish my book, find a publisher, and spread the stories of blind advocates and how they used structured negotiations to make information and technology more accessible. I hope to be able to mentor younger lawyers who want to practice law in a more collaborative way and have a commitment to disability justice. I would like to find audiences outside of the accessibility world to “spread the gospel” of accessibility. I would like to keep doing the work I’m doing, but I also have a fierce desire for the world to be so accessible that there will be no business for lawyers like me!

LL: Some of my readers may already know you won the California Lawyer of the Year award. Where can we learn more about it?
Linda and I won this together. The post about it is here: http://lflegal.com/2014/02/clay-award/

More about Lainey Feingold:
Lainey Feingold is a disability rights lawyer who has worked with the blind and visually impaired community on technology and information access issues for the past twenty years. She is nationally recognized for negotiating landmark accessibility agreements and for pioneering the collaborative advocacy and dispute resolution method known as Structured Negotiations. Along with her colleague Linda Dardarian she has negotiating digital accessibility agreements with entities as diverse as Major League Baseball, Bank of America, the American Cancer Society and Safeway Grocery Delivery. A full list of her settlements is available at http:lflegal.com/negotiations

To contact Lainey Feingold:
Email: LF@LFLegal.com
website: http://lflegal.com
Twitter: @LFLegal
Phone: 510.548.5062

About Linda Dardarian:
Linda is a partner in the Oakland California civil rights firm of Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian and Ho. http://gbdhlegal.com. Linda does the structured negotiations work with me and others, and also litigates disability rights cases, including the CNN captioning case which is one of the biggest development in digital accessibility law this year. Her email is LDardarian@gbdhlegal.com

Head to the CSUN conference main sessions page to read more about these two must-attend sessions at the 29th annual CSUN International Conference on Disability. Don’t forget to use hashtag #CSUN14 when tweeting about the event.

See you there.

LL

A creative approach to help bridge the employment gap: Project Starfish


On Wednesday, march 19th, 2014, at 1:50 PM, I will be presenting a session at the CSUN Conference on Disability entitled, “A Creative Approach to Help Bridge the Employment Gap: Project Starfish.” As a business advisor and the Director of Recruitment for the program, I have acted as a face of the organization since its inception. I invite you to attend the session, and learn how you can share my passion for facilitating employment opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired. If you’d like to indicate your interest in the session and save a seat, go here:

http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/sessions/index.php/public/presentations/view/361

The founder of Project Starfish, Subhashish Acharya, or “Subs,” as he is called, sat for an interview with me to introduce the program to anyone who might have a desire to gain entry to, or to re-enter, the workforce. If you have a business, and find the idea of helping to build a platform by which people with disabilities can learn, earn, and grow, read on, then join us.

LL: Please tell my blog readers about the inspiration behind Project Starfish.
Subs: The straight answer is the high unemployment rate. Seventy to eighty percent is too high a number, which is exceptionally concerning to a person like me who has been in the industry for nearly 16 years. Imagine what the unemployment rate is in other countries like India, China etc.

The biggest inspiration has been to try and use my own talent in business that I have acquired over the years, and find out if possibilities exist. Can we find a solution, has been the inspiration. I have come across many, many blind people, and everyone has some kind of talent. It will be a waste not to leverage that for someone who needs it. To put the talent to use, provide the right training and creating a unique model that creates social impact and business impact together, and bringing hope in businesses and the blind community has been my inspiration. Humanity is always under evolution. There are choices we all make, every day, whether we believe it or not. While earning a paycheck from a good job and keeping the self happy is really important, it is also critical for all of us to reach out and create opportunities for those who need it. Over the years, I’ve realized compassion, charity, sympathy do work sometimes, but doesn’t provide a solution. The only thing that provides a solution to problems , I believe is, cooperation. We can all work together, can’t we? The only thing we need to do is devote time and have a purpose. Creating a model where businesses, business leaders, and people who are blind work together in a cooperative environment is the pilot of human evolution. A model that creates an example of cooperation has been my inspiration. I am proud of my members, businesses and teachers who have walked the talk and made it possible. Truly, you can look up to humanity again and say, “yes, Possibilities exist, if we work together.” Isn’t that quite an inspiration for everyone, not just me alone.

LL: Please explain the origin of the Project Starfish name.
Subs: The answer is going to quite surprise you. Just like many, I was always inspired by the story of a young boy in the Starfish story. In brief , here it is for those who haven’t read about it:

An old man is walking along the ocean and
sees a beach on which thousands and thousands
of starfish have washed ashore. Further along
he sees a young man, walking slowly and
stooping often, picking up one starfish after
another and tossing each one gently into the
ocean.

“Why are you throwing starfish into the
ocean?” He asks.

“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out
and if I don’t throw them further in they will
die,” replies the boy.

The old man counters, “But, young man, don’t you realize there are miles
and miles of beach and starfish all along it?
You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even
save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you
work all day, your efforts won’t make any
difference at all.”

The young man listened calmly and then bent
down to pick up another starfish and threw it
into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”

You see, eighty-three percent of small businesses or startups die every 5 years because of the lack of talent. Imagine when these businesses die it brings demise to the product, the inspiration, sometimes their livelihood as well. Imagine what a devastating impact it can create to people, their families, business and the economy of a country. They need a lot of hands to help, and sixty percent of the country’s economy depends upon them.

On the other side, eighty percent of the adult blind population are looking for opportunities to learn, earn, and prove themselves. Why cant we simply create a workforce that will help these businesses out, grow them, and earn their employment just by working together? The only thing we need is training, creation of opportunities and cooperation. The workforce of participants who are blind helping the businesses is exactly the Starfish story. Imagine the workforce of blind team members worldwide helping each starfish(business) get back to the ocean. While this makes a difference to the business, it also makes a difference to the worker who is blind, where they experience real mainstream work, learn, earn grow and become employable. The key is to make both sides work together. A social and business camaraderie.

That’s the reason we named the initiative Project Starfish. Project defines the exactness of the purpose to work together and get as many starfish back to the sea, resulting in millions of jobs, happier families, income for all involved and a better economy, where business impact creates social impact as well.

LL: Tell us about your short term goals for Project Starfish.
Subs: We are 6 months into the journey. Our goal at the start was 10 blind professionals working with 10 businesses, at least fifty percent of whom were earning an income. Currently we have 25 people, working with 22 businesses, 20% of the businesses are international. It seems we can now be a little ambitious, I guess. Our short term goal by the end of 2014 is to have 100 blind professionals, 60% in the USA and 40% in India, Australia and UK. We will work with 100 companies, eighty percent of our professionals making an income. We have already started in Australia. Now we are looking to hire blind veterans as well.

LL: What do you see for the program five years from now?
Subs: We see 1000 blind professionals, becoming a huge change maker in helping startups across the world, and Project Starfish becoming a business research powerhouse for just-in-time, information as a service platform for corporations and small businesses.

LL: Can anyone join the team, or is it strictly for people who are blind?
Subs: We welcome anyone to interview with us, if they have a passion to succeed, ambition and want to make money. Seventy percent of those we interview have joined us and we put a lot of labor into revamping their skills so as to be relevant to businesses. Currently, we are focused on professionals who are blind, and we will slowly lead with people in different categories of disability.

You can follow Project Starfish via @ProjectSTARF1SH on Twitter.

More about the Project Starfish founders:
Founders Soumita and Subhashish ( a.k.a. Subs are a husband and wife team. Soumita is a filmmaker and owns 3 accessible films. Subs is a Director at Oracle America, managing the worlds largest management consulting company. Subs has over 15 years of business experience with technology and business. Subs was a programmer, a design artist, a multimedia expert at a different lifetime. He has phenomenal experience with business, processes, six sigma, sales, business development, innovative business strategies, management consulting, business operations and is an avid networker. They are passionate about serving the blind community, and both are advocates for people with disabilities.

During my presentation at the CSUN Conference on Disability, I will be speaking to two different audiences simultaneously. My aim is to attract both potential candidates for employment as well as the businesses that might employ them. Please plan to attend my session, and I will be available all week during the conference to answer questions and further elaborate on Project Starfish details.

About Laura Legendary:
Laura Legendary is a speaker, author, educator and entrepreneur, specializing in disability awareness, advocacy, accessibility, and assistive technology. She has developed and delivered curricula for the State of Washington Aging and Disability services for use in the continuing education program for independent in-home health care providers. To book Laura for your next corporate, community, or caregiver training, go to her flagship site, Eloquent Insights (www.eloquentinsights.com), or email l.legendary@eloquentinsights.com. Laura’s latest venture, Elegant Insights Braille Creations, showcases her distinctive collection of Braille embossed jewelry and accessories. Follow Laura @Accessible_Info or @ElegantInsights on Twitter, or for information about job opportunities for accessible web development, testing, accessible mobile, and other access and assistive technology professionals, follow @Accessible_Jobs on Twitter.

To indicate your interest in attending the session, go to:

http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/sessions/index.php/public/presentations/view/361

I look forward to seeing you. Don’t forget to use hashtag #CSUN14 when tweeting about the event.

LL

Advantages and disadvantages of automated web accessibility testing tools: Chetan Bakhru at CSUN 2014


Whether you are an independent web developer or you work for a consulting firm interested in web accessibility, a veteran in the accessibility industry, a tester or a novice, you’ll want to be sure to attend Chetan Bakhru’s presentation outlining the advantages and disadvantages of automated web site accessibility testing tools. Use of these tools, while thought by some to be a labor saving shortcut, when used by someone without thorough knowledge of accessibility, can paint a misleading picture of web access compliance. For example, an automated tool cannot make a determination as to how descriptive alt text may or may not be, as it cannot interpret what is contextually relevant or considered to be descriptive enough. Chetan generously granted my request for an interview, and explained for my readers what they can expect when they attend his session at the CSUN Conference on Disability.

LL: Please describe for the readers of the AI Blog the goals for your presentation.
CB: The goal of my presentation is to educate individuals and organizations on what the advantages and disadvantages of using automated accessibility testing tools to verify the accessibility of websites are, what the characteristics of good automated testing tools are, and why the use of other methods of testing for accessibility is essential.

LL: Who is the target audience for your talk?
CB: The target audience includes testers, developers, QA engineers, and/or anyone else interested in learning more about how to properly test for accessibility.

LL: What do you hope attendees take away from your presentation?
CB: The takeaway from this presentation is that automated testing has an important place in a tester’s toolset. The use of a good automated accessibility testing tool can result in increased productivity, efficiency and in the accuracy of results. However, there are many issues that these tools are unable to check for, and users of such tools must not rely on the tool to be the final determining factor in whether their site is accessible. Anyone using these tools should be well trained on their use, how to interpret their results, and have a good knowledge of accessibility.

More about Chetan Bakhru:
Chetan Bakhru is an IT consultant, web developer, technology trainer and accessibility advocate. He obtained his Bachelor’s of Science degree in Information Technology specializing in Software Engineering from the University of Phoenix in 2009, and his Master’s degree in Software Engineering from Penn State University in 2013. Over the past several years, Chetan has worked for many organizations providing technical support to customers, training users on the use of computers and assistive technology, developing websites, and helping make existing websites, desktop applications, and mobile apps accessible to people with disabilities. He is originally from southern California, currently works in the DC metro area as an Assistive Technology Tester at SSB Bart Group, and intends to relocate back to the west coast sometime soon. On the side, he also runs a website called Blind Planet (http://blind-planet.com), a site which labels itself as “Your one-stop resource for anything blindness related” and which contains a wealth of technology-related material. Blind Planet also provides web development, assistive technology, and general computer training services to those who are blind or low vision at a nominal cost. Some of the websites Chetan has either developed or helped make accessible include http://www.nib.org, http://www.worldaccessfortheblind.org, http://www.nonvisualdevelopment.org, and http://www.colorfascination.com

To learn more about Chetan, or to follow his work, here are his contact details:
Twitter Handle: @cbakhru
Twitter Page: https://twitter.com/cbakhru
LinkedIn Page: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/chetan-bakhru-pmp/2a/663/15a
Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/chetan.bakhru
Google+ Profile: https://plus.google.com/112898281638210974817
Website: http://blind-planet.com
Email: chetan@bakhru.net or webmaster@blind-planet.com
Phone: 714-816-4105

Don’t forget to click on the link to indicate your interest in this session, and save yourself a seat. Go to the CSUN Conference session details page:

http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/sessions/index.php/public/presentations/view/173

Be sure to use hashtag CSUN14 when tweeting about the event.

See you there!

LL

29th Annual CSUN Conference on Disability news and info


It’s time to roll out my annual series of posts pertaining to the CSUN Conference on Disability. Each year I post news and information about the conference, showcase a few of the conference presenters, provide notes about special events and write a post-conference wrap-up. If you would like to add your own information as to your presentation, exhibitor booth number, or other relevant info about the conference, feel free to add your comments.

Registration is open for the 29th Annual CSUN Conference on Disability. Go to the main conference web site page:

http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/sessions/index.php/public/website_pages/view/1

You can either register as an attendee for the educational sessions as well as the exhibit hall, or you can register for the exhibit hall only. Both links are available on the main registration page, above. There is no cost to be admitted into the exhibit hall if you register for the exhibit hall only. To see a directory of vendors who will be showing their latest products and services at the conference, go here:

https://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/rebooking/index.php/public/exhibitors/

Check out the roster of presenters and topics that the Center on Disabilities at CSUN is offering this year. Add a Pre-Conference Workshop to your registration to enrich your knowledge and conference experience.

There are numerous special events to attend each year. I pulled this list right from the special events page on the conference web site:

The Fred Strache Leadership Award:
Location
Harbor Ballroom, 2nd Floor
Date
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Time
5:30 PM to 7:00 PM at Keynote Address.

Featured Presentations:

Kathleen Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy
Location
Harbor Ballroom C, 2nd Floor
Date
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Time
12:00 pm

Copyrights and Third Party Captioning: Challenges and Solutions
Location
Harbor Ballroom C, 2nd Floor
Date
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Time
4:20 pm
Presenter and Author of the Report:
Blake Reid, Assistant Clinical Professor, Samuelson-Glushko Technology Law & Policy Clinic, Colorado Law
Moderator:
Axel Leblois, President & Executive Director, Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ict)
The proliferation of inaccessible video contents of the Internet creates the need for third party captioning via automated or human processes, including via crowd sourced solutions. However, while those solutions provide the required accessibility to videos for deaf persons or those living with hearing loss, they can infringe on the copyrights of the owners of audio-visual contents, creating a conflict between disability and copyright laws. After conducting an in depth research on this topic with legal experts, industry and disability advocates, G3ict will publicly release at CSUN 2014 the report which will serve as the foundation for a global dialogue on solutions that could be adopted in the U.S. and internationally to solve those issues. The presentation will include perspectives from stakeholders. Audience participation (questions and answers) will be welcomed if time permits.

Exhibit Hall Opening & Reception:
Location
Grand Hall, 1st Floor
Date
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Time
12:00 PM to 7:00 PM
The Exhibit Hall in the Grand Hall will open on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 from 12:00 – 7:00 PM. There will be an opening reception at 12:30 pm. This will be your preview into the latest and greatest array of AT products and services that will keep you coming back over the next 3 days!

Sponsor News & Events:
Comcast
Location
Harbor Ballroom C, 2nd Floor
Date
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Time
6:00 PM
With your input, Comcast Accessibility is working hard to enable all customers to easily access and fully experience a range of products. Attend an evening of cocktails, light fare and demos of the latest accessible Comcast products, such as the talking TV interface. Discover the improved self-help and customer support resources and learn about their inclusive hiring practices and how to apply.

Amazon Kindle
Location
Cortez Hills A
Date
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Time
8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Amazon Kindle invites you to “Play with Kindle Fire”. Come by the Cortez Hill A session room anytime between 8 am-5 pm on Thursday on March 20 to get hands-on with the all-new Kindle Fire tablets. Representatives from the Kindle Accessibility team will be on hand to listen to your feedback and answer questions about Kindle Fire’s new and improved accessibility tools. Short demonstrations will be given throughout the day and start times correspond with conference general sessions.

CSUN Cyber Café
Location
2nd floor, near Registration
The CSUN Cyber Café, sponsored by The Paciello Group, is located on the 2nd floor adjacent to Registration. It’s the perfect place to check your e-mail, follow conference sponsors and presenters on Facebook & Twitter, review the website for session changes or just surf to see what else is happening at the Conference.

CSUN Tweet-Up 2014
Location
Harbor Ballroom, 2nd Floor
Date
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Time
6:30 PM to 8:30 PM
The 6th Annual CSUN Tweet-Up is taking place Thursday, March 20 from 6:30-8:30 pm in the Harbor Ballroom. Join the group and spread the word about your conference experience. Visit the web site, http://csuntweetup.com/ to RSVP and make sure you’re connected to the other plans and participation options the tweet-up sponsors have in store for you!

WebAble TV
WebAble TV is the official conference webcaster. The WebAble TV team will be conducting interviews with sponsors, exhibitors and featured presenters, as well as recording several general sessions. For more information please visit the WebAble TV website.
Student Poster Session
Several groups of graduate students will be presenting their work on assistive technology projects on Friday at noon in a student poster session outside the Exhibit Hall in the Grand Hall Foyer. This year the poster session will feature student projects from San Diego State University, St. Augustine University’s Occupational Therapy Program and Grossmont College’s Occupational Therapy Assistant Program.

SS12 Code for a Cause Finals – Project:Possibility
Location
Harbor Ballroom, 2nd Floor
Date
Saturday, March 22, 2014
Time
9:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Once again the Final Competition for Project:Possibility’s SS12 Code for a Cause will be held at this year’s conference. This exciting event will host the innovative open source projects the top teams from CSUN, UCLA and USC have created. A continental breakfast will be served following the presentations and judging, prior to the announcement of the First Place Team. We encourage you to mark your calendars for this important occasion to support the student teams and the time and work they have invested. Saturday, March 2 from 9-11 am in the Harbor Ballroom.

Accommodations:

While the conference group rate has now expired, you can still reserve a room at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego. For more information, go to:

http://www.manchestergrand.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html

You can also follow the Manchester Grand Hyatt on twitter: @ManchGrandHyatt

There are a number of other hotels near the conference venue, many of which are easily accessible, as well as affordable. If you have stayed at one of the other nearby hotels, please feel free to add a comment as to the best way to navigate to the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

Transportation:

As I recall, cab fare from the airport to the Manchester Grand Hyatt was around $15. There is also a Super Shuttle Service you can reserve in advance for airport to hotel transit. Follow: @SuperShuttle on Twitter. They often tweet out discount codes and relevant info in advance of the conference.

Navigation:

Don’t let your concerns about ease of navigation keep you from participating in the events. The staff at the Manchester Grand Hyatt has been hosting the CSUN Conference for a few years now, and they are well staffed and trained to assist anyone who needs it. There are also many volunteers, some of whom lend their time to the CSUN conference every year, who will ensure your safe and comfortable travels from point A to B throughout the week. I have found that I am seldom able to wander too far afield before someone is at my side, asking if they may be of assistance. There is also an orientation and mobility lesson available for anyone who wishes to familiarize themselves with the vast hotel property. The lesson will be Wednesday morning, march 19th, and you will be asked to express your interest in attending the training during the registration process. You will be in good hands, thanks to the excellent customer service provided by the team at the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

Finally, follow @CSUNCOD on Twitter for the latest announcements, and use hashtag #CSUN14 when tweeting about the event. Please return here to the Accessible Insights Blog for more information about a few presenters I’ll be featuring in an effort to showcase their work. If you haven’t already, make plans now to attend the 29th annual CSUN conference on Disability.

I look forward to seeing you in San Diego!

LL

The Day We Fight Back: Protest NSA Surveillance on Your Blog


Want to know more about today’s protest against NSA surveillance? Read this note from Word Press:

The Day We Fight Back: Protest NSA Surveillance on Your Blog
by Paul Sieminski
Today, a broad coalition of interest groups, websites, and people around the world are joining together to fight back against government surveillance. We’re supporting the “Day We Fight Back” on WordPress.com and have created a banner that you can easily add to your WordPress.com blog to get involved, too.
The “Stop NSA Surveillance” banner shows support for this important cause and provides a link to a page of resources to help visitors to contact members of the US Congress and encourage them to support much needed anti-surveillance legislation. For more information, please visit thedaywefightback.org.
How to add the banner to your site
Here’s how to add the banner to your site in three steps:
1. In your WordPress.com dashboard, go to Settings → Protest NSA Surveillance.
2. Click on the checkbox labelled Protest Enabled.
3. Click on the Save Changes button for the change to take effect.
The banner will remain on your site until midnight on your blog’s time zone.

LL