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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

disabled voices online

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Braille means a lot to me. I love it very dearly and it makes
much of what I do considerably easier. But for this week's
Disabled Voices Online participant, it is her main method of
communication and
 without it she very literally wouldn't be able to run her blog.
Angela is an American Deafblind blogger who shares her
experiences of the world through her blog Deaf Blind and
Determined. You can find her blog at:
What inspired you to start your blog?

 I had a powerful story to tell, in terms of leaving my abusive
husband and winning sole custody of my young son. I wrote a long
article that was chopped to bits and published in a DeafBlind
related newsletter. Later, the entire article was included in a
Deaf e-zine. I was surprised by the strong, positive reaction. My
husband had made me feel stupid, as if I could do nothing right.
But people were moved by my writing and wanted to know more about
my life, not just the big, sensational court story, but about
everyday things. Many people were encouraging me. One day I
decided to just go ahead and start blogging.

How did you find the accessibility of the initial set up of the

 I couldn't do it. I picked BlogSpot because another Deafblind
writer used it. She was Deaf with low vision and used enlarged
print. I'm fully deaf and blind and read using braille. Setup was
not accessible to my technology. I had a friend do it for me.

How do you find the accessibility of regularly running the blog?

I still have issues with accessing the website and managing the
blog. Some parts aren't accessible. Others are partially
accessible. I can't do what I want on my own. I always have to
ask my friend for help, and I feel guilty. I want to be in charge
of my own page.

What I like about Blogspot, however, is that I can write my blogs
offline and then upload via email. If it wasn't for the post
through email feature, I would be unable to have this blog.

How do you promote the blog?

It's in my signature file for email. When I post a new blog, I
put up a notice on both my private and public Facebook pages.

What assistive technology do you use to help you run your blog?

I use an old device called a BrailleNote Apex. It is a note taker
made by Humanware. I am most comfortable writing and revising on
that device, plus setting up the layout. The downside is that the
web program is very limited. This is why my friend helps as

What do you feel your blog has achieved?

My blog has reached out to other people who are DeafBlind and
shows them that they are not alone. Others have the same problems
and the same issues. People with other types of disabilities and
even non-disabled people have told me they relate to my stories.

At the same time, my blog demonstrates that, yes, I have severe
disabilities, but I'm still a typical person with the same kinds
of fears, dreams, love and experiences. My way might be
different, but it's not wrong.

What problems have you faced with the blog and how have you
overcome them?

The first problem, after set up, was that I was afraid my
ex-husband would find my blog and use things against me in court.
I was afraid of him knowing anything about my life. For the first
few years, my blog was anonymous and I used fake names. Later, I
realized there was nothing wrong with what I was posting, that I
had nothing to be afraid of, so I finally added my name to the
page. I still use fake names for my ex-husband and some other

Another problem was that I couldn't read full comments and needed
my friend to approve them for me. She also has to remove spam.

For a while, I also blogged for Kent Patch. There were a few
flamers there who insisted I didn't exist or that my story
couldn't be real. I mostly let my friends and family write
comments to set them straight. The controversy seemed to get more
people reading my blog and only a few were nasty. Patch closed
down around five years ago. I have not experienced that kind of
conflict on BlogSpot.

Which of your posts is your favourite and why?

My favourites are the different versions of "Meaning of
Disability" and the more recent "Deaf, Blind and Determined:
Meaning of Disability." These are "scripts" I write to prepare
for an annual presentation for medical students at the Cleveland
Clinic Foundation. The new one was for a presentation for
students at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine.

I answer the questions in writing and then practice reading out
loud. As I do that, I find ways to improve my answers. I work on
the writing and reading aloud together. The end result is a
well-written, inclusive story of many aspects of my life. Each
year that I do this, I improve what I wrote and make changes as
needed. The blogs represent much growth in both writing and my
life as a whole.

What advice would you give to other Deafblind people who want to
start a blog?

 Write from the heart and tell your experiences as they happen,
as if you are telling a story. Add dialogue, humour and
characteristics that make it about you. People want to be engaged
and learn, but they don't want to read a bland lecture. Make it
lively and fun, but also emotional and real.

How do you think the internet helps Deafblind people?

The internet brings us together and gives us a voice that wasn't
available long ago. Through the web, I've made many friends who
are DeafBlind, first through email lists and now on Facebook. We
have a way to get involved with the world because of the
internet. In a lot of ways, disabilities don't matter, unless
it's an accessibility issue.

The internet provides a way to access information, whether you
are looking for job information or shopping or seeking support or
looking for something to read. I lived an entire year of my life,
in 2002, fully DeafBlind and unable to feel my hands. People
communicated by printing letters on my face. I knew absolutely no
idea what was going on in the world. My husband used strange
words like SARS, blog and MOAB, and I didn't have a clue what he
was talking about.

My hands finally healed and I learned braille, but there aren't
many braille resources out there today. It's mostly audio for
hearing blind people. Once I got on the internet with my first
BrailleNote product, I felt my life return to me. I could read
books, write emails to friends and read newspapers. I wrote an
essay about this that won first prize in an international braille
writing contest.

How do you think the internet could be improved for Deafblind

There's always room for improvement. For example, people who are
Deaf with low vision can read print or enlarged print. Colour
contrast is an important issue. On many websites, they can't
control the size of text or the colours.

My issue is braille accessibility. Just because a company
announces that their site is "Jaws accessible," does not mean
it's braille accessible. Most people who are blind listen to
voice. Voice is more accessible than braille. BlackBoard is a
popular software system used by universities for online classes.
It's supposed to be accessible to people who are blind. I went
through grad school and never could access it.

Also, braille technology is super expensive. Maybe I can't afford
the top technology, so I'm using out-of-date tech which makes
much of the internet inaccessible. It's fantastic what technology
can do today, but with the price of braille equipment, I can't
keep up. More and more doors are being shut to me.

 There are so few DeafBlind individuals. It's not cost-efficient
for a company to think of us when developing their website or
product. They still claim they are accessible and maybe they are
for hearing blind. It's totally different for braille readers.

Do you do anything else online? If so, where else can we find you

 I'm most active on Facebook. I run several groups and pages on
Facebook that I invite people to join or like.

 ** Angie C. Orlando: DeafBlind and Determined (public page)

** Northeast Ohio DeafBlind Association (public page for the

 ** Deaf-Blind Parents (closed group for individuals who are DB
and have children. Parents of DB children are also welcome)

 ** PHARC Support (closed group)

** Kent RHS Band Geeks (Now and Forever) (closed group relating
to anyone involved in band, orchestra, flags, etc. at Theodore
Roosevelt High School)

 ** Deaf Night Out: Northeast Ohio (public group related to deaf
social night at Summit Mall)

Thanks to Angela for taking part. You can visit her blog here:

Angie C. Orlando

March 2018

Permission is granted to share.

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