Thought Wheel

From the mind of Ann Chiappetta

Maybe a Sign Would Help?

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Writing Life

Today was the monthly meeting for the Westchester Council of the Blind of New York. We hold it at a house of worship, and we are very fortunate to be getting our space for free. While we were setting up and listening for members to come down the steps to our meeting room, a man appeared,
“Are you having a meeting for blind people?” he asked, sounding a little annoyed.
Yes, we said, this is where our meeting is.
“Oh,” he replied, “There are some people coming here, and they don’t seem like they know where to go, maybe you should put up a sign,”

Yup, folks, after he left, my colleague and I broke up laughing, then shook our heads, feeling quite sorry for the ignorant sighted person. We went to find our wayward members and led them to the room.

We could have felt angry, or upset, but this is nothing unusual for us. We did not allow this man and his inadequacies or annoyances to negatively affect us.
Furthermore, I don’t know how I can state this eloquently , but, well, a sign really won’t help the blind folks, only folks like this man, who came in, did not greet us or even introduce himself; by the way he sounded, he felt somehow threatened by the “blind people”, or he would have brought them with him instead of coming to the room to complain.

If you are still reading, this is more or less an average example of what we encounter from day to day. Sometimes we fair better, some days, the ignorance and uncaring attitudes seem to be everywhere. It’s no wonder 70% of employable blind people are not working; that people who lose vision and are over 50 struggle to remain independent; why guide dog users who are blind are denied ride share services 1 of 3 times despite policies adhering to the Americans with Disabilities Act laws.

We are a powerful group and yet we are a minority still grabbing and pulling ourselves up the wall of equal access and opportunity. We must help one another so we can be the change-makers, in our communities, Nationally, and worldwide.

Most importantly, don’t be like this man who did not say his name and was so off-putting with an attitude of annoyance; after reading this example, if you encounter someone who is blind, lost or looking for directions, work with them, ask how best to help, and go with it.

Are Those French Fries?

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs

Being a guide dog handler is probably the best choice I’ve made since going blind. It gives me much more than just a canine partner and increased safety. Sometimes it even brings comic relief.

A few months ago, I left work and walked around the corner to relieve my guide dog, Bailey. We began the usual routine, and then he started to do something odd, he lay down. I bent to try to make sure he wasn’t eating anything, and, being a Labrador, he sure was munching on something. I pulled him away and made him spit it out but he’d already swallowed it. I needed to know what was all over the sidewalk, so I got out my phone and called AIRA. The agent identified the scattered items through the camera on my mobile phone as French fries, to my relief. If Bailey was going to be corrected for temptation, I needed to know what had done the tempting. The agent’s quick and accurate scan of the area confirmed it was something that would not cause Bailey any harm. This helped me breathe a sigh of relief; it was only a few French fries. We could deal with it.

This is also a reminder that while Bailey has an advanced canine degree as a guide dog, he is still a dog and will give into temptation. The counterbalance to this is knowing that when he does his job, when he pulls us from a driver turning right on red as we try to cross a street, or when he shoves me away from the speeding bicyclist hurtling down the sidewalk, a few French fries is acceptable.

On the Road and Radio

| Filed under Uncategorized

SAVE THE DATE! When? September 26, 2019. 6 PM Central.
What? Annie Chiappetta will be discussing her new book, Words of Life: Poems and Essays.
Where? On Disability and Progress, heard at KFAI 90.3
disability
Can’t make it for the live show? No worries. Catch the archived broadcast at: http:www.kfai.org/disabilityandprogress

For the local literary-minded, come listen to a reading followed by a book signing.
October 8 at 7 p.m. I will be performing poetry from my latest book, Words of Life: Poems and Essays at the White Plains Public Library. All three books will be for sale, cash only. To find out more, click the link:
https://whiteplainslibrary.org/2019/09/meet-author-ann-chiappetta/This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add 
alt text or mark the image as decorative.

Nary a Backward Glance

| Filed under blindness Writing Life

The urge to take everything and leave was hard to fight after receiving the first letter, a two-week notice without it being labeled as such. Packing my belongings into shopping totes and cleaning my office of personal items was the only action I could take while awaiting the final letter and day. I was being removed, a most ironic clinically sterilizing verb, as if being diagnosed a malignancy. Treating me like a diagnosis rather than a person probably insulated the District team from feeling any remorse.

While I struggled to keep myself from crying, I sat while the director read the final decision letter to me. It was only two pages. The rest, he said, would be coming in the mail to my home. I wasn’t given time to take it in, maybe that was a good thing, because I left without telling anyone. I was able to call my husband and with only one extra trip to the truck, I dropped my keys, I.D. and agency mobile on my desk and left.

Catch me on this ACB Radio podcast

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Writing Life

Ann Chiapetta Update – Wednesday August 7th 10:30PM Eastern/7:30PM Pacific (and replays every two hours throughout the next day)

ACB member and author Ann Chiapetta rejoins us. She’s going to tell us about one of her brand spanking new publications and give our listeners who want to be authors some guidance.

To listen to this week’s “Speaking Out for the Blind,” go to: http://acbradio.org/mainstream, and choose one of the links under the headings “Listen to ACB Radio Mainstream” and “Now Playing;” or call 1-641-793-0756, and when prompted, press “1” for ACB Radio Mainstream. You may also listen to the program live on the ACB Link mobile app. For more information, go to http://link.acb.org.

Victory for Web Access for the Blind

| Filed under blindness Uncategorized

From: Disability Rights Advocates
Sent: Tuesday, April 30, 2019 2:14 PM
Subject: County of Westchester Agrees to Make Website Accessible to People who are Blind and Low Vision

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contacts:
Maria Samuels: (914) 260-5837
[email protected]

Monica Porter: (510) 665-8644
[email protected]

Torie Atkinson: (212) 644-8644
[email protected]
County of Westchester Agrees to Make Website Accessible to People who are Blind and Low Vision
Redesigned site will be compatible with screen reader software used by blind and low vision visitors
April 30, 2019 – White Plains, NY –As a result of advocacy by the Westchester Council of the Blind of New York (“WCBNY”) and Disability Rights Advocates (“DRA”), the County of Westchester has agreed to make its website fully accessible to blind and low vision users by the end of 2019. These users will soon have equal access to information and functions such as signing up for emergency alerts, accessing resources in the event of severe weather storms and flooding, reviewing election results, and reserving ParaTransit,
People who are blind and low vision use software called “screen readers” that converts the text displayed graphically on a screen into audible synthesized speech or outputs that same information on a digital Braille display. Counties are required by law to ensure their websites or applications are compatible with screen readers and accessible to people who are blind or low vision, pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and guidelines established in the Web Accessibility Initiative’s Web Content Access Guidelines, available at https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/.
Today, accessibility barriers prevent a blind user from orienting herself on the County’s website, using keyboard navigation, skipping to the content of a particular page, or gleaning any useful information from untagged and unformatted PDF documents. WCBNY members have encountered numerous obstacles when attempting to access information and complete functions online, such as making ParaTransit reservations and learning about upcoming community events.
Maria Samuels, President of the Westchester Council of the Blind of New York, said: “This is a joint victory for Westchester Council of the Blind and the Westchester County Government. Together we achieved a significant step in the right direction for the inclusion of people who are blind. People with disabilities must have an equal opportunity to use all the programs and services available in this great County of ours, including the websites. We are delighted to find that the County Executive’s office agrees with us. Website accessibility is a process that must be vigilantly maintained but it is the law and, equally important, it is the right thing to do.”
WCBNY has long advocated for the ability of blind and low vision residents and visitors to have equal access to the County’s website, and they are pleased that the County has publicly committed to making its website accessible to screen reader software by the end of this year.
“Website accessibility guidelines and disability laws exist to ensure that people with vision disabilities have the same access to information and services as sighted people,” said Stuart Seaborn, Managing Director, Litigation, at Disability Rights Advocates. “DRA is pleased that the County has agreed to comply with the law and we hope that other public entities will follow suit as websites increasingly become go-to resources for critical public information.”
About Westchester Council of the Blind of New York
WCBNY consists of blind and visually impaired volunteer members. Through a network of advocacy and support, WCBNY focuses on the needs of people living with visual impairment. We strive to be a voice for all people who struggle with physical and attitudinal barriers resulting from others who don’t understand blindness. Our members volunteer and take part in important initiatives concerning people with disabilities in Westchester County like emergency preparedness, transportation, and accessible and safe streets. For more information, visit www.wcbny.org.
About Disability Rights Advocates
Founded in 1993, Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) is the leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. As part of that mission, DRA has advanced multiple precedent-setting cases related to website access for persons who are blind or low vision; including securing the most comprehensive settlement ever to make online voter registration and election information accessible to millions of blind voters in New York, ensuring that blind voters in Alameda County, California had access to accessible, private voting machines on Election Day, and obtaining a settlement agreement requiring accessibility improvements to all of the roughly 4,000 Redbox video-rental kiosks in California. DRA is proud to have upheld the promise of the ADA since our inception. Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically improved access to websites and web applications, disaster preparedness planning, voting, transportation, health care, employment, education, and housing. For more information, visit www.dralegal.org.

This email was

A Great Way to Wrap-up 2018

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

Thanks to Kim Charlson and the Perkins Library for the Blind, the memoir I wrote is now an audio book for listening through the National Library Service, or NLS. Expressing how it felt to listen to my words for the first time was emotional. It was immensely gratifying and powerful. A few weeks prior to the email notifying me the book was in the final editing stage I listened to the introduction I penned for GDUI’s A HANDBOOK FOR THE PROSPECTIVE GUIDE DOG HANDLER (4th Edition), also recently released as a free digital book available via the NLS talking book and braille library.
Follow Your Dog: A Story of Love and Trust DBC11582
Chiappetta, Ann. Reading time: 4 hours, 27 minutes. Read by Ana Maria Quintana. A production of Perkins Library, Perkins School for the Blind. Animals and Wildlife. Drawing on her skills as a poet and a therapist, the author of this candid memoir explores her life-changing relationship with her guide dog. The book is also available on Bookshare and all eBook sellers as a digital book and print soft cover. Go to www.dldbooks.com/annchiappetta/

The GDUI Handbook’s catalog number is DB92557 and it is also available from Bookshare.

Here’s to a book-filled 2019.

The Traveling Bed

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Relationships Uncategorized Writing Life

Inspired by Yellow Lab Bailey.

Bailey on round dog bed

yellow lab Bailey curled up on new round dog bed

It began in 2015, after Annie met Bailey and the two became a team. Bailey was making the transition to his new partner, a new home, and a new routine, all of which probably contributed to Bailey’s attitude about the dog bed in the office.

After the destruction of dog bed one, Annie tried a new mat, professed by the company to be “chew proof”. It was not Bailey proof, but durable. Annie thought reinforced steel mesh corners would be an improvement, but did not share this with the manufacturer, thinking it might insult them.

The next bed was almost too big for the office, but after the dutiful corner-chewing, along with numerous patch work and generous bitter apple spritzes, it survived, tattered but useful.

After hearing a few remarks from office mates asking when Bailey was going to get a new dog bed, Annie decided it was time for a change, plus she was tired of sewing and hot gluing up the corners a third time. Annie shops online, and the decision to try a round bed is like a canine-inspired epiphany.
chewing won’t occur, because, well, round beds don’t have corners.

A 40-inch polyester-filled bed is ordered. It is delivered and schlepped to the office three days later. The paratransit bus driver smiles when Annie says it is her guide dog’s new bed.

The transition does not go well; Bailey applies passive resistance, unwilling to get off the old bed; Annie must wrestle the old bed from under Bailey’s large Labrador butt, and afterward, convince Bailey the new fleece-topped cuddly bed is not a huge toy. Bailey ignores Annie’s professions and verbal coaxing, like, “You will be warmer, right Buddy?” and so on. He paws at it, finds the fabric handle and drags it from one side of the office to the other and eventually, with a few treats, and the “place” command, he takes a nap upon it. Day two is much the same: enter the office, paw at it, fling the bed around like it is a hover craft, and afterwards, decides he will take a nap under the desk instead. Okay, thinks Annie, he will go to the bed when he wants to curl up into a doggie-ball.

Day three is much like day two with one exception: he tries to drag the bed while Annie and the computer tech are troubleshooting. Annie has to take charge and put an end to the shenanigans. Luckily for Bailey, the tech is a pet lover and he approve of the tough love modality.

It is now the weekend, and Annie anticipates the traveling dog bed shenanigans will continue. Annie wonders what is going on inside Bailey’s peanut, tries and fails to think like a dog. Is he confused? Maybe he really does see the bed as a huge fluffy, dog toy? It is a sobering thought and might be a little unfair for Annie to think this about her sweet and loyal guide dog who is also a dog possessing intelligent disobedience skills.

12 Years Young

| Filed under blindness Guide dogs Poem Writing Life

Birthday Wishes for our Verona who is 12 years young. We have known her since 2009, when she was two years old. She guided me with focus and precision until age seven, at which time decided to let us know she didn’t want the job anymore. She comforted my clients during times of emotional pain, eased the physical pain of adults and children with pet-assisted therapy, and while she worked, was by my side for presentations and workshops.

Now she enjoys her retirement being a cherished pet and we couldn’t have chosen a more loving and intelligent dog. We love you, sweet Verona.

Verona
By Ann Chiappetta

I wait for the knock
Once it comes my life will change forever

Since I arrived
For two days and nights

For my entire life until now –

I’ve waited
Unprepared
Searching

I sit on the bed
Wondering how it will feel an hour from now
And go numb with nerves

Question scroll across the marquee of my mind
What will she be like?
Will she like me, learn to love me?

The hot red letters of doubt scroll past
Can she guide me?
Will I be able to trust her?

Then the knock comes and my heart jumps
“Come in.” I say
Hoping I can open my heart with as much ease as the door.

I hear her nails click on the floor
I put out a hand, touch her head
She licks me, tail wagging
“Ann, this is Verona.” the trainer says

I don’t really know what to say or how to feel
But her presence soothes me

“Aren’t you a beautiful girl?” I coo as the trainer leaves
We sit on the floor together

The marquee of doubts vanishes
The blocky, red letters fade
Replaced by a message of calm, canine acceptance
Dressed in ebony

She settles her head in my lap
Each stroke of my hand
Strengthens the hope, quiets the fear
The questions dissipate with the knowledge
— Stroke by stroke —
That she is the one who will lead me

January 2009

This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blankEither add alt text or mark the image as decorative. Black lab Verona’s face with snow on her nose.