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

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

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

29th Annual CSUN Conference on Disability news and info


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured Presentations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accommodations:

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

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

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

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

Transportation:

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

Navigation:

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

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

I look forward to seeing you in San Diego!

LL

Blogging Against Disablism 2013: The Adversity of Anything


I was sitting across the desk from my high-school advisor, who was officiously scrutinizing the completed applications I intended to submit to the universities of my choice. She sat back, and, peering at me over her horn-rimmed, half glasses, she announced, “You may as well go to the local community college, and not bother with this. From where I sit, Miss…uh,.” she paused, distractedly shuffling through papers, trying to find my name, then continued: “Laura, is it? Because I doubt you’ll ever amount to…anything.”

Later, while attending the four-year university of my choice, and thinking ahead as to my career, I aggressively sought full-time, gainful employment. Overcoming the barriers imposed by small minds required a patience I didn’t know I possessed. Sitting in the office of a potential employer, I was asked, “Come on, now. What can you people really do? if you can’t see, how can you really do…anything?”

After being invited to speak at my City Hall to a group of officials conducting a workshop on community access, the meeting facilitator briefly interviewed each speaker as to their credentials, for the benefit of the attendees. As the only speaker on the panel who was disabled, I was advocating for reasonable accommodations as per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Each speaker was asked about their vocation and qualifications. Upon turning to me, she said, “And what is it that you like to do with your time, dear? What is it that you do for work? Or, do you do anything?”

Sometimes, when we hear stories of people who have overcome adversity, we hear tales of epic struggles, like those we see in movies. Much of the time, though, what stands in our way can be subtler, not so much a battle as a series of slights, or the persistent pressure we might experience through chronic adverse circumstances, such as poverty or isolation. To overcome the adversity of anything, you need to know your strengths, identify allies, seek out heroes and be open to the idea that you are your best advocate.

Identify your strongest supporters. you may be disheartened to realize that this may not include family, or even close friends. While this can be devastating to anyone seeking self-sufficiency, keep in mind that your loved one’s lack of support may be due to reasons that have less to do with you or your decision to become independent. Sometimes, we become so deeply entrenched in our expected roles, especially in families or close relationships, that when we make changes, this can inadvertently cause the role of the other person to become redefined. If, for example, your spouse or loved one has become accustomed to managing certain aspects of your life, she may feel she is fulfilling a purpose. One friend confided in me, after deciding to move from the East coast to the West coast that his mother wailed, “Now, what am I supposed to do?” Sometimes, we find out the hard way that our families are not our best support system. If this is the case for you, then find support elsewhere. Seek out friends, peer counseling, outreach services, a like-minded online social network.

Find the people who are doing what you want to do, and contact them directly to learn how they overcame barriers. Don’t be intimidated. If you are rejected or dismissed, realize that is not the kind of person you want to emulate, and any advice they would offer would only be tainted by their ego, and not offered generously in the spirit of elevating others. Try to keep in mind, though, that not everyone wants to be the “poster child” for disability, and that their non-responsiveness may be due to the fact that they, too, are still finding their own way forward. Once, I wrote to a high profile entrepreneur who dominated his industry, and who shared my particular form of vision loss. Since I admired this person a great deal, I not only wrote to him, but attempted to meet with him in hope of learning how he had conquered the attitudinal barriers I knew he faced everyday, and a further hope that he might offer some sage advice. Unfortunately, I never heard a word from him, and I was deeply disappointed. Later, I learned that he carefully guarded his public persona, to the degree that he micro-managed the means by which he interacted with people, to the point that he insisted he never be seen using a white cane, and that he was always seated or situated in place first in any meeting conditions, so that he should never appear weak or disadvantaged in any way.

Consider disability-specific education or retraining. When it became necessary for me to begin using a white cane, my department of services for the blind vocational rehabilitation counselor insisted I attend a school for blind adults. at first, I refused. I was strongly independent, and in my opinion, attending a school for the blind would only define me as a person who was blind, a label I desperately wished to avoid. It took quite a bit of convincing before I agreed to go. I won’t go so far as to say I arrived kicking and screaming, but I was not exactly willing to embrace the situation. My attendance at the school for the blind completely changed my life. It is where I learned my love of advocacy, it was the genesis of my passion for educating others. It is where I learned the meaning of dignity and what it means to ascend to meet your circumstances. I expected to learn Braille, independent living and cane mobility skills. but it was what I had not expected to learn, from which I benefited the most.

Overcoming adversity doesn’t always mean that the barriers are external. Sometimes, it is the inner conflict, our personal narrative, playing on the endless loop of our subconscious, that holds us back. Those private, negative messages may have begun early in childhood, through social conditioning, parental expectations, or catalytic events. If it were true that time heals all wounds, then psychologists’ offices wouldn’t be filled with adults seeking to heal childhood hurts. Our jails wouldn’t be filled with precious human beings who couldn’t find a productive way to cope with their circumstances and manage their lives. Social media wouldn’t be a labyrinth of nonexistent personas desperately seeking to manifest the celebrity, excitement, success, or attention that is missing from their real lives. It is when we permit ourselves to be defined by the external that we are weakened, because we are then vulnerable to the vicissitudes of opinion. It is perhaps the greatest struggle in our lives that we must find out who we are, and live our lives on our own terms, with our own sense of purpose. It is only then that you will be able to overcome the adversity of anything.

About the author: Laura Legendary is a speaker, author, and educator specializing in disability awareness, accessibility, advocacy, and assistive technology. Learn more at her flagship site, Eloquent Insights, www.eloquentinsights.com. More recently, Laura has been working on a start-up enterprise, Elegant Insights Braille Creations. To read product descriptions and sign up on the mailing list, go to www.elegantinsightsjewelry.com, or find the Elegant Insights page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Elegant.Insights.

You are welcome to leave a comment or link to your own BADD 2013 submission in the comments section. Please use the accessible contact form on the blog home page if you would like to write to me directly.

Previous BADD posts:

2010: You Don’t Look Blind

http://tinyurl.com/26dam92

2011: It’s on Aisle 5

http://tinyurl.com/d5m9egg

2012: Your Ingenius Life

http://tinyurl.com/cyp36wg

Thanks for reading, and fight on.

LL

Blogging Against Disablism Day is May 1st, 2013


It’s time to start thinking about your contribution to the annual, international, “Blogging Against Disablism” day. Each year for the past several years, I’ve submitted an article associated with this event. Blogging Against Disablism Day, or BADD for short, is a way bloggers from around the world raise their voices in a concert of commentary about discrimination, disability, ability, inclusion, employment, trials, triumphs, and what it means to experience life with a disability from a singularly profound point of view…your own.

Write an essay, post it on your blog or web site, and on May 1st, read posts from other bloggers from all over the world who are sharing their stories. First, though, go to the BADD 2013 page and make a comment that you intend to participate. Your article will be linked to, and also tweeted, throughout the day. You can follow @BADDtweets for news and info about the event, and be sure to use hashtag #BADD2013 when you tweet about your post, or RT that of others. Come back here to the Accessible Insights Blog to read my offering, and feel free to link to your own post in the comments section here, too.

Read more about the event here:
http://blobolobolob.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/blogging-against-disablism-day-2013.html

See you May 1st!

LL

Author’s note: As an update to the above, I urge you to go to the BADD page and read the entry. As a result of a Twitter conversation that involved the use of the word “disablism,” I must point out that, in the post describing the event, there is a well-written explanation of the need for ‘linguistic amnesty.” The author makes the point that everyone brings to the table differing values as to effective and inclusive language, some of which may be off-putting or offensive to others. I almost asked permission to quote the text in it’s entirety, because I found it to be so valuable, but I’d rather you go to the BADD post and read it for yourself. it’s important that we do not allow ourselves to get bogged down by one another’s choice of words. I’m not saying it’s trivial, I just think we need to allow for a wide latitude on a day involving submissions from around the world, from places where use of what we might consider to be arcane terms may still be the norm. ~ LL

Help build an inclusive Twittersphere with Easy Chirp 2


For those of you who follow these things, you already know that Twitter (www.twitter.com), the social media micro-blogging platform, is making changes to its Application Programming Interface (API). For those of you who have no idea what that means, or why it’s significant, allow me to get you up to speed.

According to Wikipedia, An application programming interface (API) is a “protocol intended to be used as an interface by software components to communicate with each other. An API is a library that may include specification for routines, data structures, object classes, and variables.” If you want to read more, go here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Application_programming_interface

Twitter has only had a single version of the API in its entire history. Now, they want to make changes, and update to version 1.1. They have announced new developer “rules of the road,” and have outlined the proposed changes here:

https://dev.twitter.com/blog/changes-coming-to-twitter-api

The changes will affect all third-party applications that interact with Twitter, such as those you might use as an accessible alternative to the main Twitter web site. Some of these third-party Twitter clients have already completed the necessary adjustments, while others may not even bother, and may simply disappear. Time is running short, however, because Twitter has announced the “sunset” of version 1.0 of the API here:

https://dev.twitter.com/blog/api-v1-retirement-final-dates

Ever since I first discovered Twitter, I’ve been using the accessible alternative created by Dennis Lembree. Originally called Accessible Twitter, the web-based version now goes by the name Easy Chirp. Due to the changes made by Twitter to the API, Dennis has been forced to reinvent Easy Chirp, soon to be Easy Chirp 2. Dennis needs your help. He has started a kickstarter profile, and needs your pledges. The money raised will be used to compensate the experts Dennis has hired to assist with the project. As usual, when making a contribution to a Kickstarter project, you will receive a thank-you gift commensurate with the amount of your donation. See more info here:

Help build an inclusive Twittersphere: http://tinyurl.com/c9fsj5v

“I created Easy Chirp over four years ago and am touched by the support it’s received from the community. Now it must be rebuilt due to the Twitter API change, and I hope to collaborate this time with a few other developers.” Lembree says.

Dennis plans some new features and additional streamlining to make Easy Chirp 2 even faster and more accessible. It will continue to support keyboard-only users, will work without Javascript, and will be better optimized for mobile devices. Of course, it will still feature the user-friendly interface you’ve come to expect, useable by people who have a variety of disabilities, and who use a variety of assistive technologies.

Says Lembree: “To me, Easy Chirp exemplifies what a web app should be: platform agnostic, accessible, and simple. It provides a unique and necessary service in the social media space.”

There is no shortage of Twitter clients in the market, which can be used with different operating systems and device types. I use Easy Chirp for my own reasons, not the least of which is that I know Dennis, like him, trust him, and appreciate his work. If you have used Easy Chirp in the past, but have never clicked on that “donate” button just below the sign-in link on the Easy Chirp home page, then scrape a few coins out from between the sofa cushions and send them Dennis’s way. We’ll be tweeting at one another again before it’s time to fly south for the winter.

Pledge to the Easy Chirp 2 Kickstarter here:

Http://www.kickstarter.com and perform a search, or go directly to the Easy Chirp 2 project page here: http://tinyurl.com/c9fsj5v

For all things Twitter API, go here:

https://dev.twitter.com/docs/api

You can follow Easy Chirp: @EasyChirp for updates, or you can follow me @Accessible_Info on Twitter as well.

LL