Blogging Against Disablism Day 2017


Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2017

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

Blogging Against Disablism Day

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

LL

Is it time to transform the tone of advocacy?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LL

I’m sorry and other judgements


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t think she got it.

LL

The Value of Gratuitous Controversy


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LL


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LL

New show to debut on ACB Radio Mainstream: Legendary Insights


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LL

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.

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