Sunday, August 25, 2019

Parent. Educator. Abled & Disabled. Read @HabenGirma 's Book

The book cover shows Haben Girma in profile, confidently facing forward in a blue dress. The background is a warm red, and white text over the bottom half of the image says, Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law. Haben Girma."  

Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law

Five Star Review! 

I was blown by the wisdom, fearlessness, and insights of Haben Girma. After hearing her speak, then meeting her at an Accessibility Expo hosted by the New York City Department of Education, I couldn't wait to read her book.

After spending a day devouring this book, my advice as a seasoned educator and administrator to every educator, parent, abled person, and person with (or knows someone with) a disability is this: 

Read this book! I've learned more from this one book than any class I took in all my years of education. Since reading it, I have continuously drawn from the important, first-hand advice and insights that will benefit educators and the students and parents they serve.

This book is is eye-opening, enlightening, and incredibly innovative. The way Haben figures out ways to use technology for learning, connecting, and communicating is fascinating and creative. Parents and educators will be inspired to empower the youth they work with and/or raise and love, to do the same.

Get this book and get smarter with insights and wisdom from Haben Girma.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Email Is Dead. Here's the Future of Communication

Forget inbox zero. For most, that's not practical these days. Unfortunately, today, much of what gets to email is junk, other, clutter, and/or spam. With hundreds or thousands of emails piling in, they're also, frankly difficult to keep track of. Also, more and more email providers are starting to charge you for email once your accounts begin to bloat with all this junk you will be asked to fork over a monthly fee. What's more, email is on the road to being considered personally identified information. That means email directories or lists may be a problem because they are, or could be, violating general protection data regulations. 

So what is the future of communication?

Online communities

Logos for Slack, Teams, Workplace and Facebook

Personal communication

It's not texting. By design, texting often doesn't work well across platforms. It's also not the best format for organizing, sharing, planning and more. The other issue is that you must have the phone number of the others you are communicating with. Another personally identifiable information issue. While there are some text platforms people can join with an invite code, these still are not the most popular. 

While platforms can and will change, love it or hate it, for personal life, right now, Facebook is winning. Groups partnered with messaging beats the alternative.  Phone, email, or other sharing is not required. Instead just tell someone to connect with you in the group. 

Professional communication

For professional communication you've got Facebook Workplace, Slack, and Teams. No more need to share your email or phone.  Instead you just share with others how to link up with you in the appropriate platform. 

Once you're in platform, you don't have to worry about the email related issues. Most have the ability to phone or video conference. What's best is that the junk/spam is generally handled well by moderators and community members.

The Death of Email

It is becoming harder and harder to track, keep up with, sort, and stay on top of the few priority emails that come through. Email is evolving toward the point of extinction and that's okay. Change is hard, but the time has come for us all to evolve towards the newer and more effective online community method of communication.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Treating Workplace Attachment Disorder

email attachment image with the "no" sign over it.

We all work with someone suffering from an attachment disorder. You know that person. Despite the fact that you've sent them a link to a perfectly good collaborative document, they've taken the liberty to disconnect from the original document. They’ve copied and pasted your document into Word. Tracked changes. Then, they've arrogantly sent it back to the group as an attachment. Meanwhile, by the time they've done this, the original, collaborative document already had oodles of updates and edits from other team members.

Lack of understanding

However, people with attachment disorders don't understand this. They may not even care. They just tell you to look at their version and integrate any changes. They don't get that their version is like so ten versions ago. They missed all the comments, updates, and banter on the collaborative version. They've just made a lot more work for you, and, it is quite likely that they aren't the only one with attachment disorder.

It’s not unusual for another old-school colleague to also have attachment disorder. They did the same thing sending their new version to you as well.  

Now you have three versions of the document, even though you intentionally were using a collaborative document to avoid version control issues and thus extra work for everyone.

You’re just wasting your time if you try pleading with those suffering from attachment disorder to go to update the original collaborative document. Without an intervention and extensive treatment, they just can't. Attachment issues are serious to the person who has an aversion to connecting and collaborating with others. 

Attachment issues

People with attachment disorder often have control issues. Version control that is. Their version is the version everyone must be beholden to. There is no regard for the desire to have one version. They may have anger problems. They sent you their version. Take it or leave it. They just feel more comfortable working the way they do, so deal with it. They may have difficulty showing genuine care for other people's time. Working this way is easier for them, so everyone else must accommodate that. They also may have an underdeveloped conscience, failing to show guilt, regret, or remorse about not collaborating and making more work for others. It’s not their problem. It’s yours. So get over it.


Left unresolved, attachment disorders can interfere with workplace productivity. It is important to provide treatment. Unfortunately, those with attachment issues may be resistant. Treatment usually involves many people on a team or project taking a stand together and refusing to accept attachments. It will take training and explaining to get those suffering from attachment disorder to understand the benefits of collaboration, a single source of truth, and the value of one version only. It may be confusing to this person at first, but with consistency and a commitment to collaboration, colleagues usually will start to see progress. The key is not to back down. Standing firm in your rejection of attachments will ultimately result in a more efficient and effective workplace for everyone. 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Making Art Accessible

Amanda Guest works with teenage art enthusiasts who are a part of ArtsConnection. The organization provides students with engaging and authentic art experiences such as exhibiting their work in fancy New York City offices. 

I had the opportunity to meet Amanda's students as they were planning an exhibit to be displayed where I work. We discussed some ideas for displaying art in a way that is accessible. This was an exciting concept for them. As I began speaking, they pulled out their notepads and started taking down ideas about how people with disabilities might access the art they displayed. Below are some of the ideas we discussed and more.

Office wall with three paintings from students.
Art work of ArtsConnection students displayed on an office wall. 

Ideas for making art more accessible

QR Codes

QR Codes are a simple way to begin making art accessible. The QR code can link to a digital space where the piece can be more accessible in a variety of ways. The artist may describe her piece. Others may describe the art. People can respond to questions about the art. A QR code makes the art accessible to those with disabilities and also adds another useful layer for any aesthete.

Tactile Art

Having the option to listen to an audio description of art is quite useful for anyone who wants it. However, someone experiencing a piece of art may want to interpret it for themselves.
Unfortunately, too often the mantra when it comes to art is: Look, but don’t touch. 

Fortunately, more and more artists are realizing there is more to art than what meets the eye. What meets the hands and fingers, can add a whole other experience to art that might be crucial for those with visual needs and helpful for everyone.
  • Textured Paint:  You can take existing art or create new art by layering paint to make it a more tactile experience. John Bramblitt is an artist who uses and has popularized this technique. He lost his eyesight due to complications with epilepsy and Lyme disease. Painting by touch is the way he can create art that appeals to the touch and the sight of fans who appreciate his work. Using texture is a low-tech way to give a vision of an art piece to a person who is blind.
  • 3 Dimensional Art:  A company called 3DPhotoWorks makes tactile printing that delivers visual information to the blind, promotes independence, improves self-confidence and enhances learning. Tactile fine art printing converts any 2-dimensional image to a 3-dimensional, tactile fine art print.

    You don’t have to go to 3DPhotoWorks for 3 dimensional art though. Now that more and more schools have access to 3D printers, students can use their creativity to make 3D printed art. 
  • Multi-Sensory Objects:  Art with multi-sensory objects invites art lovers to interact with and touch the art. You can use objects to create new art or add to existing art. Here’s a fun sticky collage art project.  

Olfactory Art

How about adding the sense of smell to your art? Olfactory art is a technique used by some artists. Be creative and near that art have a jar of goodies that give the art a taste too. Perhaps the aromatic scent comes from a perfume or an essential oil. You could provide a coupon or coupon code to where fans could purchase that which provides the featured scent.

Your Turn

What do you think? Are these some ideas you can see your students incorporating into their projects? Which do you like best? Are there other ways you have seen or can think of making art accessible?

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Everyone Has Special Needs

The book cover shows Haben Girma in profile, confidently facing forward in a blue dress. The background is a warm red, and white text over the bottom half of the image says, Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law. Haben Girma.Haben Girma, author of Haben: The DeafBlind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law spoke to educators at an Accessibility Expo in New York City. She explained why we should avoid phrases like special needs.

Why we should avoid the term special needs

Girma explained the reason terms like "special needs" or "differently abled" should not be used is because every child (and every person) has special needs. It is not necessary to classify these needs differently when we are speaking about someone with a disability.

All student needs are special

To create a more inclusive classroom environment, the teacher may want to explain that all her students are special to her. That she wants to meet all their needs. Then, instead of only acknowledging the needs of those with disabilities, a teacher might ask all students to share their special needs. These needs could be placed on post its anonymously, displayed on a board, and the class can discuss what their special needs are for learning most effectively.

If the teacher and students feel it will be beneficial, they might want to acknowledge who has which needs and put their name next to the post it. This enables us to acknowledge the needs each of us has to learn most effectively.

The way this would be set up is in a grid with the needs along the left column and student names across the top (or the reverse).  A student can put an “X” in the boxes under his name indicating the special needs he would like met in this class.

If the teacher wanted to do this anonymously, she could assign aliases to her students.

Teachers have special needs too

The teacher could start out by naming some of her needs. For example, here are some of mine:
To learn most effectively, I need to…
  • have access to a computer
  • have access to high-speed internet
  • be involved with content that matters to me
  • be able to move from sitting to standing to moving
  • have a clear role
  • be given slides and transcripts of presentations in advance
  • have a quiet place to work without the distraction of others
It is important that we don’t view the special needs of each of our students as something that is lazy or cheating. If we can provide access, to one learner, we should provide it to all whom feel it would support their ability to learn as effectively as possible.

You can learn more from Haben by reading her brief guide on producing positive disability stories.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

6 Tips for A More Accessible Classroom. Advice from @HabenGirma. The First DeafBlind Graduate of @Harvard_Law

Haben Girma speaking to an audience of educators. Sign language interpreter. Guide dog laying down next to her.
Haben Girma speaking to an audience of educators
at an Accessibility Expo in Brooklyn, NY.
View the video of her speaking.

Are you doing everything possible to create an inclusive environment for your students?

Haben Girma, author of Haben: The DeafBlind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law spoke to educators at an Accessibility Expo in New York City. She shared advice for making schools more accessible for students.

Check out her six tips and consider how you can integrate them into your classroom this year.

6 tips for creating a more accessible and inclusive classroom

Multiple Formats

Use as many formats as possible to help students learn. The more formats you use; the more students you will reach.


Don’t make assumptions. Girma had teachers who assumed because she was blind she could not use computers or do art. She loves computers and they support accessibility. She also enjoys creating art. Rather than assume what a student can or can’t do, and before excusing them from an activity, start by trying to figure out how a topic can be made accessible. Speak to the student, other students, colleagues, and experts.

Role Models

Hire teachers with disabilities. Bring in speakers with disabilities. Have students with disabilities share ways they learn and live in this world.

Accessible Digital Content

All content you share with students should follow the web content accessibility guidelines. This enables students with disabilities, those who are not fluent in English, and everyone else, access content more effectively.

Teach Inclusion

Commit to teaching inclusively. If you’re not sure how to start, there are endless free resources online to help you get started.

Remove Barriers

Look around your school community. Identify barriers. Work to remove the barriers. Invite students to help.

Girma asks educators to just commit to doing one thing to make their school more accessible to students with disabilities. What could you commit to?

Thursday, August 1, 2019

#NYCSchoolsTech Chat: Summit Learning - Today at 7 p.m. est

#NYCSchoolsTechChat logo - Thursday, Aug 1st at 7pmDuring this month's #NYCSchoolsTechChat we will discuss how what we learned at this summer’s #NYCSchoolsTech Summit.

#NYCSchoolTech teacher Eileen Lennon moderates with me (Lisa) throwing in my two cents. 

You can prepare for the conversation by thinking about answers to these questions:

Q1-Did you get there early enough to hear the amazing @jasontoddgreen, @NYCCalise from @NYCDisabilities and @DOEChancellor speak? What is your one take away from what they shared with us? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q2-Tag one session you attended and how it will help you in the upcoming school year. #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q3-What track (i.e. accessibility & inclusion, gaming, digital literacy) did you most closely follow and how did you find what you learned helpful? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q4-What was your favorite swag item? Share a photo of it. What do you suggest vendors give away? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q5-What vendor was the most helpful for you to connect with? Why? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q6-The day is all about connections. Who did you connect with and how did it make your day better? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Chat details are below:
Date: Thursday, Aug 1
Time: 7:00 pm
Topic: #NYCSchoolsTech Summit
Your Host: @eileen_lennon (@NYCSchools)
Co-Host: @InnovativeEdu (@NYCSchools)

Remember to respond using the hashtag #NYCSchoolsTechChat and include the number of the question you are answering in your response i.e. A1 and your answer.