Today is #WorldBrailleDay where we celebrate Braille Literacy and Learning!
We all know what Braille is....
We've seen it on just about every signage on doors, walls, and a multitude of other places.
While I was surfing Twitter I came across this tweet:
This made me sad, these teachers and counselors forget a major group that's usually dependent on Braille - the Deafblind.
Sure, there are some Deafblind individuals who can rely on their limited hearing for auditory input from audiobooks and screenreaders. Then there are some Deafblind who can read enlarged print (like myself). But that doesn't help those who don't have this capability.
Did you know that many Blind and Deafblind are lagging behind in school and colleges because their textbooks and materials aren't readily available in a Braille format? Thanks to technology like the refreshable braille display this problem is being remedied to a point.
These refreshable braille displays are not cheap - they range from $3,500 to $15,000, depending on the number of characters displayed. Some are complete "notetakers" with computing capabilities, while others plug into a USB port on your computer and acts as a keyboard/screenreader.
Thanks to an organization called iCanConnect - the National Deafblind Equipment Distribution Program - Deafblind individuals can obtain equipment and software to help "connect" with their family, friends and the world around them.
Deborah Kendrick summed up why we need Braille in her article in the Braille Monitor and I agree!
Can y'all help me out and support braille literacy through the Braille Institute?
In 2001, Dr Dean Shibata, section chief of neuroradiology at the University of Washington, presented his findings on how deaf people “hear” music.
According to his research results, deaf people have a similar experience in feeling as other people have in hearing the music. This is because of both groups of population process the music in the same part of the brain.
“The brain is incredibly adaptable. In someone who is deaf, the young brain takes advantage of valuable real estate in the brain by processing vibrations in the part of the brain that would otherwise be used to process sound,” Dr. Shibata said the same year at the 87th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).
Real life inspirations
Although this scientifically explained how deaf could hear music, the notion was familiar to most through the story of Beethoven. In 1796, he started losing his hearing and in 1801, he lost it completely. However, that didn’t stop him from composing and he created one of his most famous composition in that period the Moonlight Sonata and The Ninth Symphony.
Although Beethoven became an inspiration to musician since then and even today, in 1995 another person won people’s hearts. Heather Whitestone, a contestant at the Miss America Pageant danced and impressed the audience with her moves, and in tune with the music while being deaf.
Janine Roebuck, Britain’s opera mezzo-soprano, start losing her hearing while studying at the Royal Northern College of Music and then continued at the Paris Conservatoire and the National Opera Studio in London. She kept it a secret for 10 years and performed brilliantly because she was afraid she would lose the roles or get simple ones.
Tired of hiding her problem, she admitted it and left everyone in awe. Since that, she started working with the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) and became of the most vocal members of the deaf community.
How do they "hear"?
Dr Shabata said: "These findings suggest that the experience deaf people have when ‘feeling' music is similar to the experience other people have when hearing the music. The perception of the musical vibrations by the deaf is likely every bit as real as the equivalent sounds since they are ultimately processed in the same part of the brain."
The way these vibrations work is that they help deaf people feel the bass. Namely, in order for this to happen, deaf people have to turn the music extremely loud. This volume would be unbearable for those with intact hearing and they’d have to wear earplugs. The vibrations coming from the bass are giving the rhythm and deaf person can sense the tempo.
The study, conducted by Dr Shabata in 2001, included 10 people deaf from birth and 11 who had no hearing loss at all. The participants were asked to hold the vibration pipe and inform Shabata when they felt them. The Doctor used brain scans to detect the signals and their transmission in the brain. This method helped him find out that the deaf and non-hard-of-hearing processed the music signals in the same part of the brain.
Another important conclusion came out of this study, and it regards the loss of hearing or deafness in young children. Due to the same processing characteristics as the non-hard-of-hearing person, deaf children should be exposed to music as early as possible. Since their young brains are still in development, they may better adjust to the stimuli and later present improved sensation to musical themes and variations.
Emoti-Chair and the vibes of music
Prior to ‘70s, deaf people didn’t have many options when it came to hearing aid technology. However, today there are many available devices and others still in development.
In 2009, a demonstration in a small Toronto club left quite an impression on the world. News all over the globe reported the unbelievable devices called Emoti-Chairs which allowed deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in the audience to experience the performance on stage. Since then, twelve of these chairs were used during the symphonic performance in 2013, and today they’re commercially available.
The Emoti-Chair translates audio signals into vibrotactile ones. Namely, it uses music, digital patching and speakers in the process of turning the sound into a sensation for deaf people. There are even performances specifically intended for deaf persons which use these chairs.
Visualization of the beat
Deaf people don’t shy away from music. They’ve been an inspiration to all when it comes to this type of art. They sing, play instruments, compose and even sing through sign language. Instead of deciding to give up, they started listening by feeling the beat. For example, drums are can be felt because they’re loud and give off great vibrations.
However, what helps them better identify the music is the visual aids. Many performances use lights and video representations which can help deaf people understand the music. This visualization is using lines and colors to highlights the tempo and bass which is mostly enough to garner music. There is also the BW Dance app which helps deaf and hard-of-hearing to feel and dance to music.
Liron Gino, a graduate of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, has come up with the Vibeat jewellery for the deaf and hard-of-hearing people. Actually, a device, this set of jewellery helps them feel music through vibrations. It consists of a necklace, bracelet and pin with round disk-like units. They jointly create an "alternative sensory system" used to convert music to vibrations.
“Music is one of the deepest and most primal forms of human communication, and its ability to convey emotion and expression make it into an invaluable tool,” said Gino.
In the end
The technological advancements have come a long and amazing way in the recent years. This is because of the remarkable individuals who provided inspiration and were pioneers. The perception of how the brain works and sensibility with which deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals feel the sound have helped shape the innovation process. More importantly, scientific achievements will certainly bring new and exciting ways for music to be heard even where the silence rules.
Everyone enjoys a good homemade meal, but before you can dig in, you have to prepare it first. Cooking can be a hard task, especially if you have vision or hearing loss. However, if you only make a few adjustments to your kitchen and get a few aids, you’ll be preparing delicious meals in no time.
Here’s what you can do to create a functional kitchen for people with vision and hearing loss.
If you want to make cooking and navigating your kitchen even easier, you might consider removing all sharp edges and opt for rounded tables and countertops. These will cause less painful bumps and fewer spills caused by bumping into something.
Also, pay attention to how you orient your pot and pan handles on the stove, since knocking them can cause severe burns. Additionally, make sure you don’t have any wires and cables over the floor because they can be serious trip hazards.
Smooth and shiny surfaces for countertops, flooring and appliances easily reflect light and create glare. Additionally, glass cabinet doors and clear glasses can also cause glare, but more importantly, they are completely invisible which makes them a hazard unless you mark them clearly.
Adjust the lighting
When you have vision loss, every space needs ample and appropriate lighting, especially a kitchen with all those knives and appliances. Increased illumination makes it easier for people with low vision to navigate their kitchen and prepare food.
On the other hand, poor lighting increases the risk of falls, bumps and even more serious accidents. So, your best bet is to invest in good lighting for your kitchen. Fluorescent strip lights with diffusers offer great distribution of light while spotlights direct ample light in all directions.
Also, bringing light closer to the task at hand is a great way to improve visibility. For instance, installing strip lighting under the kitchen cabinets will provide good lighting in the countertop area. You can also install some lighting in your cupboards and on the shelves for easier food identification. If you combine these lighting fixtures with some standard lamps and hanging pendants, you’ll get a well-illuminated space ready for meal prep.
Another way to make food preparation easier for people with vision loss is to create contrasts. Painting doors, cabinets and walls in contrasting colors with respect to the rest of the room will make them stand out more and make the space easier to navigate.
You can opt for neutral colors and go with dark colors against bright colors (black and white contrast, for instance) but combining darker and lighter shades of the same color can also work, it all depends on your vision level and your personal preference. You can also invest in appliances that have contrasting surfaces such as colorful Viking refrigerators that come in icy white, black, gray, red, blue and beige. Additionally, get contrasting cooking utensils, such as chopping boards, bowls and knives, which will also make it much easier to locate and handle them.
When choosing appliances, make sure they have some sort of contrast on controls to make setting the dials and pressing the buttons simpler. You can also use tactile markers, such as bump-ons or Velcro dots, and apply them to the controls.
Adapting the kitchen for hearing loss
People with limited or no hearing can also benefit from some easy kitchen adaptations. The main issue in the kitchen is the fire alarm. However, there are gadgets that will send visual signals instead of audio ones if there is a fire situation in the kitchen.
People who are deafblind can find vibrating pagers that will alert them of any kitchen happenings, from fire alarms to oven timers. All of these easy fixes will make cooking a much easier, safer and less stressful experience for people with hearing loss.
Don’t be afraid to venture into cooking waters. These kitchen safety tips will keep you safe, so all you need is some inspiration and a good appetite.
Please Note: This is entirely my opinion and may not reflect others who are Deafblind.
There was a recent court case where a Deafblind man, Paul McGann, demanded that Cinemark Theaters provide him with a Tactile Interpreter so he can attend "Gone Girl".
Now I'm wondering how this would work.....
There'll be two interpreters to take turns - not just the dialogue, but screen actions, descriptions of people, places and so on and so forth.
Some of you have seen Captioning - print descriptions of every sound happening:
[dog barks in distance]
[paper rustling on desk]
Then there's audio description for people with vision loss - describing nonverbal happenings on screen, scenery, etc:
Now a Tactile interpreter would have to do BOTH these jobs and the two switch turns (usually every 20 - 30 minutes).
It's just my opinion that this guy is asking for a lot and expecting a lot.
Maybe he can't get access to TASL for movies at home, so he goes after the "big guy" with the money? I don't know his reasoning and I don't care.
I'm sorry, but just be like many other Deaf and Deafblind person who don't want, or can't access, the standard captioning service at the theater and wait for it to come out on DVD and watch it at home.
Pretty soon there'll be technology for Captioning to Braille for television watching available, and then probably adapted for movie theaters as well.
Now I'm all for equal accessibility and everything, but right now, this Deafblind woman is baffled and bothered by this lawsuit. In the current state of things it is an "undue burden" on the owner of that particular theater - not the Parent Company. Sure, the lawsuit names Cinemark, but they'lll just pass it off onto the small business owner of the Pennsylvania theater. If they don't pass it off and absorb the costs themselves, and other DB folks request it - the costs are going to be passed off to the consumers. Moviegoers already pay a ridiculous amount to get into a movie, how would they feel with another price hike?
So, have patience grasshopper.....technology will improve to where we all can enjoy movies without any waiting, without any requests, without any barriers.
.I’ve recently been asked by Sonic Alert to review two of their products.
I was given the Sonic Boom Travel Alarm clock and their NEW Bluetooth Sonic Boom Super Shaker Alarm.
Sonic Alert is a company that specializes in alerting systems for people with hearing loss and for those who are hard to wake up. They sell alarm clocks that have extra-loud ringers and "bed shakers" which are small pods that vibrate for you to feel. They also sell amplified telephones and home alerting systems (visual alerts to important sounds).
Now the products:
The Sonic Boom Travel Alarm Clock
The picture shows the clock portion upright, but it actually can fold flat.
I tried the alarm in several scenarios:
- Tucked under two pillows.
- Between the mattress and boxspring.
- Clipped to the fitted sheet in between the pillows (on a queen bed).
- Clipped to the fitted sheet, but dangling over the side (in case you knocked it off)
- Clipped to the end of the bed in the middle (by my feet).
It didn't work in only 2 scenarios - dangling off the bed and clipped to the sheet in the middle between the pillows. I figured out why - there was no resistance to the vibrations, meaning there was nothing on top to enhance the vibrating. If it bounced freely, the vibrations are lost - so using a blanket or pillow helps.
In all the other situations - Man did it ever work! You could be in a coma and still wake up on time. That's why the name "Sonic Boom" fits it perfectly.
It was very easy to set up, Just install the batteries, one look at the diagram bof where buttons are and I was done setting the time, the alarm & the vibrate alert. It also has a snooze button, night light and options such as vibrate only, buzzer only, and both vibrate and buzzer.
The only suggestion I have for improving this product is having a pocket in the storage case for the batteries, (as they advise removing the batteries while not in use).
Sonic Bomb Bluetooth Super Shaker Alarm
So whenever you receive a new phone call, text, a new e-mail on your smartphone - it sends an alert to the sonic boom.
The vibrations can be adjusted - short bursts, long vibrate, and so on. Sadly it cannot be set to different vibrations to different alerts. (short bursts for texts and long vibration for email). I don't really care for that option but thought some users might.
I really thought this would be AWESOME for Deafblind people like myself! Why? We often lack peripheral vision and miss seeing the visual alert flasher or the smartphone's own light. Sure, we could just have the phone vibrate in our pocket - but that gets uncomfortable when you're in a chair or on the couch watching TV, reading, or other activities. Stick the Sonic Bomb alert in your couch or chair cushion and you'll never miss anything else.
Another bonus I liked - the Sonic Boom alerter can either be plugged into a wall socket (with included plug adapter) or a USB port. The bonus is that the USB adapter has another USB port for you to plug in your smartphone or tablet into. So only one plug outlet is needed for the vibrating alert and to charge your phone How cool is that?
Both of these great products and Sonic Alert's other products, can be found on their website, on Amazon, and in my Store.
So never be late for anything while away from home, or miss any more notifications with Sonic Alert.
Whether it’s partial or complete deafblindness, when they’re home people with hearing and sight difficulties need to feel comfortable, safe and completely in charge of their surroundings.
Acquired deafblindness can be frustrating and scary. It forces people to rethink their habits, their needs, and their environment.
To help deafblind people gain their independence, we’ve hand-selected 7 ways to adapt your house in order to accommodate them.
1. Lighting Changes
Whether they live in a studio, apartment or house, one of the first and most important changes for a deafblind person’s environment should be lighting.
Changing the placement of light fixtures can also help better illuminate dark spaces:
• Choose the brightest light bulbs. These will come in handy in darker spaces where accidents tend to happen such as the bathroom or on the stairway. Invest in fluorescent bulbs – they emit a more powerful light and they last longer.
• Be generous with the light fixtures. Illuminate the house entirely, including the hallways, closets, and outside.
2. Interior Design Adjustments
The home of a deafblind person should be a safe haven. Here are some tips to help you create exactly that.
Electrical items can be tricky to get used to. But it’s not impossible for deafblind people to use them.
Here’s how you can make it go smoother for them.
4. Bathroom Adaptations
This type of adjustment is essential for safety.
Here’s how to adapt a bathroom for deafblind people:
5. Hallway Adaptations
Hallways shouldn’t be overlooked when you are working on adapting a home for a deafblind person.
Here’s what you should know about corridor adaptations:
6. Outdoor Adaptations
To make it easier to deafblind people to go out or access the garden, here’s what you should keep in mind about outdoor adaptations:
7. Security Adaptations
There are special alerting systems designed for people with hearing and sight difficulties that keep them informed about what is happing: phone ringing, smoke alarm going off or someone at the door.
About the Author:
John Stuart works on behalf of raisedfloor.co.ukin outreach and content creation. He creates engaging content that help businesses connect with their audience and stand out from the crowd