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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LL

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


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

Listen to our final podcast on AudioBoom here:

http://tinyurl.com/zf8mb56

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

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

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

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

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

LL

Freshen up your playlist with a new podcast on digital accessibility


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

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

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

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

http://www.lyndondunbar.com/podcast

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

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

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

Be sure to tune in on February 1st.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can learn more about the app at sayapps.com

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

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

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

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

See you in Orlando, everyone.

LL

The Fashionability Channel will soon be on the move!


Humbly, I come to you, hat in hand, to ask your forgiveness for my abysmal level of contribution to the Accessible Insights Blog. My dedication to my readers has not diminished one bit, rather, it is that very dedication that has me working hard to bring you content in a variety of formats. Since I know many of you are wondering where on Earth I’ve been, I’ll just say that there really isn’t a single platform on which you cannot find me, it’s simply a matter of where I am at any given point.

Lately, I’ve put in a great deal of focused effort on my latest project, the Fashionability Channel, of which I am a co-founder. If you need to catch up, the Fashionability Channel is an audio podcast pertaining to all things fashion and style, for both men and women, people of all abilities, and all walks of life. It’s your guide to accessible style information, delivered to you via the AudioBoom platform by myself and my partner, Emily Davison, a UK-based blogger.

The Fashionability Channel has been a spectacular success. Thanks to all of you, we have some impressive stats, based upon just 30 or so posted shows. We have plenty more planned, with no signs of slowing our creative energy. We have, however, come to realize that it is time to make a change, to accommodate our rapid growth. In just a couple of months, we will be moving the channel from AudioBoom to a self-hosted platform.

The domains have already been purchased, the blog content is being relocated, and the audio media will soon be transferred over to our own RSS feed. While we have enjoyed using the AudioBoom platform, and appreciate all they have done to provide us with a simple way to reach our audience, they have also made some changes to their platform and terms of service that are in conflict with our goals. Please watch this space for more announcements as to our timetable, where you can find the new home of the podcast, and how you can listen without missing an episode. At some point, we will be requesting that you unsubscribe from the AudioBoom channel feed, and resubscribe to our new feed. We may still post to AudioBoom, if we can do this without too much complication, but we will be doing so through a chain of technical custody that may be tricky. We’ll let you know, as the move gets closer, the easiest way to transition to our new content feed.

In the meantime, we thank you for making the Fashionability Channel a smash, and we promise to continue to bring you much more stylish content!

You can listen here:

http://www.audioboom.com/channel/fashionability

Or via iBlink Radio:

http://www.serotek.com/iblink

Or, you can subscribe to our podcast via iTunes, or by way of our blog at:

http://www.fashionabilitychannel.wordpress.com

Finally, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @InclusiveStyle

LL

New audio channel makes fashion accessible for people with disabilities


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Laura Legendary
Co-founder, Fashionability
USA: (509) 264-2588
l.legendary@elegantinsightsjewelry.com
Emily Davison
Co-founder, Fashionability
UK: (+44) 7541858610
UK: (020) 85164981
fashioneyesta@gmail.com

New audio channel makes fashion accessible for people with disabilities

September 19, 2014 – In a partnership dedicated to making information about fashion accessible to people who have disabilities, Emily Davison and Laura Legendary have created Fashionability, a social media franchise consisting of an audio channel on the Audioboo platform, a Facebook group and page, a Twitter account, and a blog and RSS feed. Davison, blogger on the Fashioneyesta.com blog based in the UK, and Legendary, designer and owner of Elegant Insights Braille Creations, based in the US, joined forces in a very stylish collaboration to create an audio guide to accessible style.

The Fashionability channel aims to cover many aspects of fashion and beauty, jewelry and accessories, health and fitness, to provide tips and education, as well as to raise awareness about representation of people with disabilities in the media. “I have been campaigning with a team of dedicated individuals with the organization Models of Diversity to target fashion brands to add models with disabilities to their advertising campaigns.” Says Davison. “there is the fundamental fact that people with disabilities are not equally represented in the fashion advertising industry. This immediately creates problems for people with disabilities as it shows society that disability is not considered to be relevant to fashion and thus all these unfair stereotypes occur.”

Content on the Fashionability channel will also be provided by guest contributors, people with disabilities who are subject matter experts in a variety of fashion-related topics. One such contributor is the organization Living Paintings, www.livingpaintings.org, based in the UK.

The Fashionability channel is set to launch on September 19, 2014, and will be available via RSS feed and in the Lifestyles category on Audioboo, www.audioboo.fm. Plans are also in the works for text transcripts of the audio programming, which will be made available on the Fashionability blog. “The Fashionability brand will focus on accessibility and inclusion,” says Legendary. “When most people think of fashion, or more broadly, style, they may think of it only in terms of a visual medium. The lack of accessible information suggests that people with disabilities are somehow less interested in looking and feeling their best. I hope that, with the help of Emily and our contributors, we can create a resource inclusive of all walks of life, all ages, all socio-economic strata, all body types and all abilities. I want to provide sensible, approachable, fashion and style information that is within reach…of everyone.” For more information, send email to fashionabilitychannel@gmail.com. Visit the Fashionability Channel at http://www.audioboo.fm/channel/fashionability

###

About Emily Davison: Emily Davison is a UK based writer, disability campaigner, and journalist who currently writes about fashion on her blog fashioneyesta.com which she founded in July 2012-a blog created to enable people with sight loss to access fashion and cosmetics.

About Laura Legendary: Laura Legendary is a speaker, author, and educator, specializing in disability awareness, advocacy, accessibility, and assistive technology. She is also the owner and designer of Elegant Insights Braille Creations, a distinctive collection of jewelry and accessories, made in the USA, and embossed in Braille. Visit www.elegantinsightsjewelry.com. To read Laura’s blog, go to Accessible Insights Blog at www.accessibleinsights.info/blog.

A collaboration spanning two continents: An interview with the fashionable Emily Davison


After posting the news about my newest venture, the Fashionability Channel, on which I am collaborating with Emily Davison of Fashioneyesta.com, I thought I would tell you a bit more about her. I asked Emily to answer some questions about her current work and her background in the fashion industry. Emily, in turn, will post an interview with me on her own blog, the link to which I will add at the end of this post. If you think you, or someone you know, might be interested in the content offered on the Fashionability Channel, please read on so as to get to know my partner a bit better. She is smart, funny, full of life and a strong advocate for people with disabilities.

LL: Please share a bit about your current projects, and what you spend the most time working on.

Emily: I have been involved in many different projects, many of which are related to fashion and cosmetics for people with sight loss.

Some are still currently in preparation and therefore I cannot say too much about them. But, I am doing a lot of work around campaigning for braille on cosmetics products and have worked closely with one particular company who will be launching braille on their products in the future.

I have been working very closely alongside the charity Living Paintings, a charity that produces tactile, audio guides on different aspects of the visual world. From fashion, science, nature, art to cookery they are all included. The fashion guide is what I have predominantly been working on and have been advising the charity on how to best explain fashion concepts to visually impaired people.

I have also been campaigning with a team of dedicated individuals with the organization Models of Diversity to target fashion brands to add models with disabilities to their advertising campaigns.

I am an avid writer and spend a lot of time writing blogs and articles around fashion, identity and disability. I cross network with other websites and blogs and am passionate about changing stereotypes surrounding disability.

LL: How was Fashioneyesta born? What was your inspiration, and what are you most proud of?

Emily: Fashioneyesta was born from a concept to make fashion and beauty more accessible for people with sight loss. One day when going about my business I encountered my first ever comment of someone remarking that I ‘didn’t look blind.” So, this got me thinking about creating a space that I could spread ideas, positivity and hopefully break down this stereotype that surrounds not just sight loss but disability in general. I didn’t want people with sight loss to be considered as being unfashionable, nor did I want people with visual impairments to not have access to information and ideas about how they can develop their own sense of style.

Fashioneyesta has grown in the last two years and I am extremely proud of how far it has come. It has enabled me to meet so many wonderful inspirational people, charities and fashion professionals. On a regular basis I get people emailing me to tell me how it has helped them to develop their own sense of style and in turn their confidence. But, I suppose my biggest achievement that it has helped me accomplish is that this year I am due to be featured in Pick Me Up Magazine here in the UK and I have also been shortlisted for the Young Persons Achievers Award by Guide Dogs UK.

LL Tell me a bit about your background and interest in fashion. How did you get into the business?

Emily: Fashion was always something that I had a deep passion for, I grew up in a very fashion orientated household. My mother worked for a cosmetics company, my aunt worked on the stage in her younger years and my nan is an avid buyer of clothes, cosmetics and jewelry. My early memories are of my mum when I would see her curling her hair and adorning makeup for work. Fashion was something I grew up with. By the time I was 15 I was writing fashion articles for my school magazine. When I was 18 I had obtained a scholarship to study English Literature and my passion for writing intertwined with my flare for fashion and so I started my blog and the rest is history.

LL: How would you describe your personal sense of style?

Emily: I would describe it as both classic and adventurous, my style is essentially feminine but with different twists depending on my mood. One day I may choose to go down the 1950s route with a full circle skirt, but updated with a statement necklace and brightly colored sweater. On another day I may choose to opt for something a little more oriental, wearing a kimono and jeans. My style embraces classic cuts and styles like the 60s dress, but incorporates aspects of modernity into them.

LL What do you hope to achieve with the new project, Fashionability?

Emily: So much, I really want to use Fashionability as a place to spread positivity and ideas throughout the disability community in engaging fashion. I want to create a space that opens up a whole new world to people and is a place of inclusion. I want this space to be something that causes change in the fashion industry and convinces brands that disability is not something to be considered as external to fashion.

I want to use all of my knowledge, contacts and resources to make this a project that gives all people with varying disabilities the confidence to use fashion to create their own sense of style and with it there own identity. That is the crux of it I suppose, style gives people their own unique identity and that is what I want people to have and not to be characterized by what society believes them to be.

LL: What do you see as problematic for men and women who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise disabled in fashion? What do you think are the most significant barriers, if any?

Emily: I think there are barriers that people with sight loss and other disabilities have to overcome. To begin with there is the fundamental fact that people with disabilities are not equally represented in the fashion advertising industry. This immediately creates problems for people with disabilities as it shows society that disability is not considered to be relevant to fashion and thus all these unfair stereotypes occur.

There are others surrounding accessibility and whether a shop or online store are made accessible to their visually impaired and disabled clientele. Many companies in the cosmetics industry do not incorporate braille onto their products which causes further inconvenience to visually impaired people when trying to access products. What’s more I also thing that in general companies need to provide better disability awareness training and need to provide further resources such as braille, audio and large print catalogues to their visually impaired customers to make it easier for visually impaired people to access fashion.

LL: What are the ongoing plans for Fashionability? How do you hope to reach an audience?

Emily: Fashionability is currently being planned and organized by Laura Legendary and myself. We are currently working on content, schedules, ideas and ways of interacting with our audience. We hope to engage with our target audience by promoting what we do via social media sights such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs. What’s more, I hope to use all of my media contacts and charity contacts to spread the word about what we are doing. I want to cross link with disability charities such as Scope, as well as working with organization’s such as Models of Diversity to promote what we are doing.

What’s more, I hope to feature Fashionability on media publications and websites that I have or am currently partnered with. In particular I aim to showcase the channel on the Royal National institute for the Blinds Insight Radio. Which is a UK based radio station created by the Royal National Institute for the Blind for people with sight loss. It is the first channel in Europe to be dedicated to people with sight loss and covers a range of topics from lifestyle, technology, music and health.

LL: What else would you like my readers to know about you?

Emily: Aside from fashion and literature, what many people don’t know is that I am an avid astronomer and was the first visually impaired person to qualify with a GCSE (General Certification of Education) in Astronomy from the Greenwich Royal Observatory in the UK. I also do a lot of volunteer work for Guide Dogs UK and am very keen to help charities. I am also a journalist having written for the Guardian and Huffington Post and I am also an avid disability campaigner.

I am a real animal lover and an advocate of animal rights, I am against Animal Testing for cosmetics and regularly advocate this on my blog. I am a huge fan of companies such as Lush who promote the welfare of small charities and make wonderful fair trade, cruelty free beauty products. I am a self acclaimed spend thrift and I enjoy treating myself after lots of hard work.

My thesis on life as a Classical Liberalist is to allow people to experiment with their life and unless they are hurting anyone else, to allow them to make their own choices free from control. I am a strong believer in the power of autonomy and free will and one of my pet peeves is when people try to convince others to their way of thinking. One thing I will never do on my blog is to try and persuade people to my way of thinking about style. I give them advice on different looks and how to recreate their own. But, I love creativity and that is something that fashioneyesta.com thrives on.

I hope to finish my degree in English Literature and move on to study for a Master’s degree in children’s literature. After that my goal is to write children’s books and to continue writing about fashion, style and cosmetics for people with disabilities. The one thing I want to do in life is to make others happy and to give people the chance to feel the same way I do. Many people forget that happiness is something they have to right to feel and I want to remind people of that.

Here are Emily’s social links:
Blog: fashioneyesta.com
Email: fashioneyesta@gmail.com
Twitter: @DavisonEm
Skype: fashioneyesta
Instagram: fashioneyesta2012
Audioboo: ?http://audioboo.fm/fashioneyestaInstagram: ?http://instagram.com/fashioneyesta2012
Facebook Page: ?https://www.facebook.com/Fashioneyesta
Facebook group: ?https://m.facebook.com/groups/5494521…eBayStore: ?http://myworld.ebay.co.uk/emilykd94?_…
Pinterest: ?https://pinterest.com/emilykd94/Tumblr: ?http://davisonem.tumblr.com
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/fashioneyesta
Second YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCX-t0TXzskGxFvNlzPT1DaA
Tumblur: http://davisonem.tumblr.com
Emily appears on RNIB’s Insight radio at 2.15 pm every Friday.

Please join us for the launch of our new project, the Fashionability channel! I’ll post the official press release in a few days.

If you would like to read Emily’s interview of me, you can find it here:

http://is.gd/nb5Su7

LL

A very stylish partnership to launch a guide to accessible style


At the end of last year, I began working on my marketing plan for 2014, intent on growing my small business, Elegant Insights Braille Creations, (@ElegantInsights). I had a long list of ideas I hoped to execute, and one of them was a plan to offer some sort of adjunct to the current web site, providing greater access to information about fashion and style for consumers who have a disability. My original thought was to expand the Elegant Insights Audioboo account by creating a channel on the Audioboo platform, not unlike that of the Blind Abilities channel. My hope was to invite contributors to add their expertise in other areas of fashion, such as hair care, cosmetics, career wear, skin care, and tips on fitness and nutrition, shopping, grooming, and how-to-wear new styles and trends. Of course, I am not a subject matter expert here, but I know others who are, and I thought about a list of possible content contributors I wanted to invite to join the channel.

Unfortunately, I lacked the cooperation of an important player, Audioboo. They wanted what I considered to be a prohibitive fee per month to establish the channel, and unless I was able to find a sponsor, I wasn’t sure if I could pull this off. Further, I wanted to do some additional market research, to learn what potential listeners of my channel might feel was missing from the accessible fashion landscape.

To that end, I created a survey, which I just called the “accessibility of style,” and began to send it around to people on my various Twitter lists. Then, I expanded the survey to include other followers on Facebook, then sent it around to a variety of mail list servs and newsletters.

The response was amazing. The number of respondents quickly overwhelmed the limits imposed by my no-cost plan with Survey Monkey, so a half-dozen different surveys were circulated at once, until one hit the respondent limit and another link had to be generated.

No statistician or marketing guru I, the survey was a simple, unscientific, ten-question affair for the purpose of helping me to determine how I might better serve the blind and otherwise disabled communities. The survey consisted of a few demographics questions, a few general questions about personal style, and a few questions about some of the barriers that may prevent access to current style and fashion information. The final question was an essay-style question, and I was very surprised by the length, depth, and scope of the responses. Almost to a person, an outpouring of relevant data was generously supplied as to what a respondent wanted to see to improve access to fashion and style, for both men and women. I was floored.

It has taken some months, but I am delighted to announce the launch of my latest project, a very stylish collaboration with Emily Davison, (@DavisonEm). Davison is the founder of a blog entitled Fashioneyesta, at www.fashioneyesta.com. For my screen reader users, that is spelled with an e y e s t a, instead of the typical spelling, fashionista. I had been following Emily on Audioboo for some time, and was impressed by her approachability, her passion for her topic, her experience in the fashion industry, her connections to fashion and style-related charities, and her work ethic. I approached Emily with the idea, and she was extremely enthusiastic.

Our first order of business was to decide what sort of audio offering to create. We both wanted to explore setting up an Audioboo channel, as a large blind community was already using the platform. However, we did not relish paying the $50 per month premium. We believed so strongly in the idea of serving the disability community, and creating a community channel, that we decided to campaign Audioboo for assistance. Audioboo permitted us a free regular account, providing some extra recording time, as a way to establish our brand and to build an audience. Reluctantly, we agreed to this compromise, although we really wanted a full-blown channel. Persistence paid off. Just a few days ago, we were notified that we had been granted a full channel.

Our new venture is called Fashionability. Think of it as a guide to accessible style. We plan to cover a great deal of ground as we explore many aspects of the fashion world, all with an eye on inclusion. We have some fabulous contributors lined up for interviews and special information segments, topics suitable for people of all shapes and sizes, the trendsetters and the clueless, from all walks of life, inclusive of all disabilities, and for both men and women. We hope you join Emily and I in this exciting new venture. We plan to launch next week, as London Fashion Week begins. Coming in the next few days, I will post an interview with Emily, as well as a post that will include the official press release.

Here are all the requisite social links:

The Fashionability Channel: Your guide to accessible style.

https://audioboo.fm/channel/fashionability

Follow us on Twitter @InclusiveStyle

Find us on Facebook at:

https://www.facebook.com/fashionabilitychannel

Check out Emily’s Fashioneyesta posts on Audioboo:

http://audioboo.fm/fashioneyesta

Don’t forget about the Elegant Insights “audioboo-tique” at:

http://www.audioboo.fm/ElegantInsights

Finally, thank you so much for your response to my survey on accessible style, if you submitted one. Your thoughts were such an inspiration, and I hope that we can provide some much needed access to information for a better quality of life for everyone. Please tell your friends about Fashionability, and stay tuned for more news and launch updates.

As ever, your servant, LL

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