Change Makers: A Podcast from APH

Acknowledging Bias

June 23, 2022 American Printing House Episode 55
Change Makers: A Podcast from APH
Acknowledging Bias
Show Notes Transcript

On this episode of Change Makers, learn what resources APH provides regarding bias and things you can do to be more aware.

Podcast Participants (In Order of Appearance)

  • Jeff Fox, Narrator
  • Sara Brown, APH Public Relations Manager
  • Alan Lovell, APH ConnectCenter Information and Referral Services Coordinator 
  • Tai Tomasi, APH ABIDE Director

Additional Links

Jeff Fox:

Welcome to Change Makers, a podcast from APH . We're talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or have low vision. Here's your host.

Sara Brown:

Hello, and welcome to Change Makers I'm APH' Public Relations Manager, Sara Brown . And today we're talking about acknowledging bias. We'll learn what resources APH provides, and then we'll learn about the things you can do to be aware of bias. Up first, we're talking to APH's ConnectCenter Information and Referral Services Coordinator, Alan Lovell. Hello, Alan , and welcome to Change Makers.

Alan Lovell:

Thanks, Sara. I appreciate you having me.

Sara Brown:

Can you talk about what the ConnectCenter is for those who aren't aware?

Alan Lovell:

Mm-hmm <affirmative> I sure can. Uh , actually the ConnectCenter , uh , in 2018 is when the ConnectCenter officially started with APH. It is a grant funded grouping of resources , uh , that come in the form of websites and, and an information referral hotline that folks can call , uh, to find answers to any questions relating to low vision or blindness. If, if a person goes to our , uh , main landing page, our website , uh , www. aphconnectcenter .org , that links to all of the properties that make up the ConnectCenter. Um, they are VisionAware that is a site , um , specifically curated around adults and seniors. Uh , Family Connect is , uh , information for families of visually impaired or blind children. And APH CareerConnect , uh , which is for job seekers, folks who are , uh , blind or low vision. And , um, so we , uh , and my team in the ConnectCenter, curate information, blog, posts, articles, webinars , uh, and, and host various different groups , um, for job seekers and parents of low vision children , um, to go up on those sites and keep them fresh , uh, with information about, you know, how to in life , uh , especially if you're a person who may be new to low vision.

Sara Brown:

Can you talk about the resources ConnectCenter provides regarding support groups for diversity and why they're so important?

Alan Lovell:

Well, yes. Um , you know, the ConnectCenter, what kind of powers the ConnectCenter , uh , and , and the resources that I just spoke about the website is a national directory of services. So any of the sites, if you perform a search on any of the sites, or if you're just sitting in the directory itself, you can search in your locale for, you know, any number of services , uh, like rehab services or, you know, information on your eye disease. Uh , but with that , um, you know, there , there are support groups that come in a lot of different forms. Uh , virtual, especially since COVID , um , the rehab , uh, the state services for the blind, usually host support groups. And what that does is brings folks together of all ages , um, you know, races , um, you know , any sort of specific to a person's , uh , personality in life that they have that one thing in common though, where they can share their experiences with low vision or blindness and learn , uh , amongst others who have that thing in common. Um, and, and so when we talk to a person who is new, or perhaps just dealing with their visual impairment for the first time. Uh , we do our diligence to find a group, whether it's local to them, or whether , um, you know, there are groups with specific , uh , specifics that meet , uh , this person's sort of needs , uh , when they ask about what they want to talk about. And , um, so we don't in many cases, host them ourselves, but we find them through our grouping of resources. You know, we reach out to our , uh , colleagues in the field , um, you know, search the web, scour the interwebs, if you will. Um , to , to find the appropriate group. And so that gives us a chance to , um, talk about what is weighing heavy on our minds as we deal with, with life, with issues with blindness. Um, and , and so we get confirmation almost on a daily basis. When we talk to folks who are , um, living their lives, they have no idea that there are resources available for them to, to learn skill sets that give them their independence back, that gives them outlets to , um, express themselves in the world. Whether it be through , um, work or education or their artistic outlets. It's, it's , it can be very freeing for folks to learn what is out there. So it , it's very important it's , especially these days that diversity is at the forefront of, of what we as an agency put out , uh, and, and how we serve those who need , um, who need us, who, who need the information that we're here to sort of tell them about.

Sara Brown:

So someone's coming to you all, that might be transgendered and, and have low vision, you know, what resources... So that's you all putting out sort of like the call to find resources for that person?

Alan Lovell:

Yes. And I can think of a specific , um, phone call that I got not that long ago from a , uh , transgender female who was also blind now. And , um, she called to find , uh , of resources that sort of were in-line with what many of our callers need relating to their, their blindness. But the questions then ran to, well, I'm a trans female . Um, I'm running into trouble with how I present myself. Uh, not only am I a blind person having to sell myself , um, in a way that overpowers the negativity that comes with a , you know, preconceived notions over blindness , um, being, being a trans woman is, is another challenge. And in that type of case , um, it's more about the conversation that we had because at , at that point, I couldn't find a support group for trans women who are blind, right? Like that's not something that has formed yet . So we had conversations about what, in what way are we going to present ourselves when we're going to look for jobs, for example , um, and should the fact that you're a trans woman come first, or should that be in the background and not so important? Should you know, what skill sets are we putting out there first? Um, so we had a long conversation about that and, and , and , and we were seeing more and more situations like that where we're , we're so diverse , uh, and people really want to express themselves. But , um, in these conversations, it's more about, what's, "what's most important with what you're trying to achieve?" Um, you know, it does. "Do you come with a challenge?" Do , do I, as a gay white male, do I come with , um, a , a challenge for you, or am I selling myself based on my skill sets and my personality and things like that? Um, so it's a , it's we have, we have conversations like that, that that can run in any different direction, but thankfully, APH , the company we both work for and now is 164-years-old is , uh , such a forward thinking organization. You know, our, our slogan now is "Welcome Everyone". It's on our t-shirts, it's on our banners. U h, it's in the way we think the way we produce products, the way we, u m, serve the people who need us, u h, everyone, no matter what or where you are in life. U h, and how lucky are we to have an organization that is i t's, i t's just wonderful. It's just a wonderful feeling, knowing that, t hat, t hat they've got our back like that.

Sara Brown:

No, that's, you are 100% correct. And, you know, the "Welcome Everyone," when we say "everyone," we mean "everyone," and that's so important. And I've felt that throughout the halls at APH , for my past two years that I've been there. A while ago, you wrote an article called "Blind, Dating While Gay," and it provided some tips for dating in this modern world. Can you talk a bit about that,

Alan Lovell:

That article, which is on VisionAware. Um, I don't know if it's also featured on all the platforms or not, but you can locate it on VisionAware just by searching for dating.

Sara Brown:

We'll be sure to put a link in this podcast to it.

Alan Lovell:

Great. Um, I mentioned earlier, I've been with APH for 26 years and it wasn't, you know, I started when I was 21 and I, you know, I , I have gray hair with a white beard now. That was not the case back then. <laugh> , but , um, it wasn't until I was 29 where I really sort of came out of the closet. I lived on both side of the fence and, and, and , uh , I went through this discovery at a midpoint in my life before I, you know, came to terms with who I really am. Um, but as I mentioned earlier, my lifestyle didn't come with , um, a challenge for anyone. It was just more or less a fact, and I sort of systematically came out and, and now at the age of 48, I've, I've been married to my husband for 19 years. Um, but I wrote this article because while there are a couple of older articles on dating out there specifically , uh , for those of us, but those of us who are low vision or blind, we come with a unique challenge. Um, when you are sort of a nontraditional person , uh , when you wanna find a, a partner in life, you have to sort of come up with techniques that are going to work for you. Um, and thankfully technology is on our side. Some people, you know, you know , might find a, you might find yourself in a situation where you, where you do find a partner in a traditional way, which is always great, you know, enough about a person to know that, oh, well, that person's gay too . Or, you know, the , the specifics that are important are in line with, with what you're looking for. But when I was searching , um , to find a, a partner, this was before I was out of the closet to anyone and I, I was kind of coming to terms with it myself. Um, I used technology , uh, online dating. It gave platforms that I could access with my assistive technology, even back then , uh , a computer with JAWS software on it was enough for me to create a profile and , uh, an online presence on a specific dating site where I was able to either read other people's profiles or they could read mine. Um, and as technology has advanced, you know, our smartphone give us the ability to post photos , uh , of ourselves and, you know, put ourselves out there. That's sort of on-par with what a sighted person might do. Um, but since we , we are all different, we all have different experiences with low vision or blindness and technology. Uh, I wanted to put information out there that might help someone else. Um , because when you can't see what you're doing with your phone , um, you, you don't wanna put a picture out there that is unflattering or put yourself in a space where you might have clutter behind you that tells a story , uh , that may, you know, not put, paint you in the best light. Um, so I put tips in that article about, you know, making a good photo. And then I spoke about this is again, how are you going to present yourself to some , uh , unknowing person who lands on your profile? Are you a blind person right up front , or you , as I wrote the article, I kind of used a pseudonym. I didn't , uh , at that point know for sure if I was gonna put my name on it, but there it is. I wrote it. So I used the name, "Jake." Um, are you a blind person named Jake, or are you "Jake?" A person who has all of these interests in life, like, oh, walks on the beach, for example , um , you know , dinner, dining , um, hiking, biking, and then you happen to be a low vision or blind person, you know, how are you gonna put that out there? And then that's a personal decision. It might, you know, it , it , if you put something like that out there, it , it could potentially , um, turn some people off because they don't have, they've never had a blind person in their life and they think, oh, I, well , I don't want that. <laugh> in my life in , in my situation. And I'm not saying this is the right way or not, but , uh , I chose to leave that out. I chose to present myself as Alan , "Jake <laugh> whomever. Yeah . The person who , uh , has all of these interests in life. And that's, that's how we bonded. And it wasn't until we actually wound up on the telephone. We , uh, rose to the level of in person conversation. And , uh, it wasn't until we talked, he could hear my voice. He had seen pictures of me , um, where I said it , you know, I better go ahead and tell you this, cuz it seems as though we might actually meet and anybody who's ever done online dating before knows that you might wind up in a bunch of different conversations with different people that don't go anywhere. And, you know, constantly explaining myself I'm leisure , I'm low vision . I'm blind. That may not even be important because the conversation may not ever go anywhere. Um, so I put that kind of information in the article just to give somebody , uh , who's interested something to think about when, when they put themselves out there.

Sara Brown:

Is there anything else you'd like to say about acknowledging bias or resources the ConnectCenter provides or dating?

Alan Lovell:

Well, the ConnectCenter is here because we , uh, can empathize those of us who make up the staff of the ConnectCenter have worked in the field for many years. There are 12 of us on staff. Now, two of us on the phone , uh, both of us who are on the phone are, are blind as well and have worked in the field for many years and have , uh , sort of built a , um , a level of, of knowledge where we're able to, you know , like I said, empathize with a person who maybe do new to this and who you are as a person. Um, you know, if you have questions about your life as it pertains to low vision, you know, I , I , I think we're on the same level as you, because we've been there. Prejudice and bias aside, you know, we're here to talk about blindness and provide you with the tools that you can use to, to thrive in life, no matter what your situation is. And you know, if you have , um, additional circumstances to who you are, we're here to help. We're here to find you resources. We're here to find you groups of people to talk with so that , uh, you know, you're in , in spite of your challenges , uh , you're going to be able to thrive in life. And, and that goes along with the reason APH exists, the products that are manufactured by APH , the services that we provide it's it's so that you can rise above your challenges no matter who you are and , uh, and thrive.

Sara Brown:

Okay, Alan , thank you so much for joining me today on Change Makers.

Alan Lovell:

Thank you so much for having me. It's been a , it's been a pleasure.

Sara Brown:

We'll be sure to put links to the ConnectCenter and Alan's article in the show notes up now is Tai Tomasi. She's here to talk about the different types of bias and why recognizing they exist is so important. Hello, Tai, and welcome to Change Makers.

Tai Tomasi:

Hi, thanks so much for having me today .

Sara Brown:

Can you talk about ABIDE for those who aren't aware?

Tai Tomasi:

Sure. Abide stands for Accessibility, Belonging, Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity. And we are a resource for internal stakeholders within American Printing House for the Blind. We are also a resource for the field of education of the blind and low vision community. So we provide trainings for anyone who's interested and also to the community at large here in Louisville, Kentucky. Um, so we are definitely interested in assisting with development of trainings on all of the areas encompassed in abide.

Sara Brown:

There are two kinds of biases, conscious bias and unconscious implicit bias. Can you explain the difference?

Tai Tomasi:

Um, sure. Conscious bias is where your brain is aware of the bias that you're holding. It's being processed by your brain. Uh , whereas unconscious bias is based on some background work that your brain is doing very quickly. Um, and it's analyzing patterns and past information, but you're not aware of the bias that you're holding. So you may not be aware of the things that are coming into play , uh , with that unconscious bias. So it's basically , um, your processing of affinity and other patterns that you may have been aware of from the past, whether that's from media or other sources , um , that are kind of driving some unconscious stereotyoes that you hold

Sara Brown:

Bias is not limited to just one demographic. It can be found in medical settings, race, gender, sexual preference, politics. Just about any topic. Can you talk about how ABIDE educates individuals regarding bias?

Tai Tomasi:

Yeah . So ABIDE is constantly educating others about how to overcome and work on bias , um, overcoming implicit bias. And what we want to do is , um, work with that automatic human function and actively take steps to understand and resist those unconscious biases. So that requires developing new inclusive patterns and habits that kind of overcome that part of your brand. That's working in a , in a very , um , unknown fashion behind the scenes. So making sure you're questioning you're listening , um, you're actively listening with humility. And so abide is here to train people on how to listen with humility, how to , uh , listen without judgment , um, how to be more aware of your biases and how to check those biases. Um, and one major way that we work with people to check those biases is to encourage them to suspend the need to be right about your opinion. Um, often our opinions are based in , uh , unconscious bias. And so we need to suspend our , our wish to, to , um, be right about those things and to listen to others with humility.

Sara Brown:

What are some ways a person can assess if they do have bias?

Tai Tomasi:

There are a lot of tests online that you can take. Unfortunately, some of those tests are not very accessible. A lot of them rely on visual cues. Um, I'm still working to find a good accessible test on implicit bias because many of them rely on visual indicators. So what they might do is , um , show you a picture and then you're supposed to pick the thing that comes to mind and click on the next thing that comes to mind in , in a list of things and that , and that test will evaluate your implicit bias. Um, so as people who are blind or low vision, we need to be more aware of doing this work on our own because we don't have, we don't necessarily have accessible means to do those kinds of tests.

Sara Brown:

How does acknowledging unconscious bias, advance diversity and inclusion?

Tai Tomasi:

We all need to be more accepting and more understanding of everyone. And we need to work on developing empathy and challenging. Our biases are good ways to do that. And that's why we need to listen with humility and really think about how we're reacting to various situations in our life. Things that we encounter. Um, those reactions are problematic, and we need to think about how we react so that we can build a better inclusive and diverse environment.

Sara Brown:

What do , do you have any tools one could use to sort of see if they do have an unconscious bias?

Tai Tomasi:

Yes. I have a couple of links that I can share in the show notes that talk a little bit about implicit bias and how to challenge it. I think those are very useful tools. There's also a lot of great things on the internet that , um , that you can find by searching, but I will provide a few links to those.

Sara Brown:

Are there any other organizations that offer special interest groups for bias or bias?

Tai Tomasi:

Yeah, I think there are a lot of consumer groups, whether it's for people with disabilities. Um, there are also subsets of those consumer groups. Um, for example, in the blind and low vision community, the American Council of the blind and the National Federation of the Blind all have , um, various special interest groups , um, that address a lot of issues of implicit bias. Um, for example, around the LGBTQ+ community and other communities , um , there are quite a few groups there that , um , that can address some of those topics.

Sara Brown:

And is there anything else you would like to add?

Tai Tomasi:

ABIDE will be happy to work with you on ways that you can challenge your implicit bias in ways that your organizations can challenge them. And we would be happy to work with you on some trainings and some content around that, that topic.

Sara Brown:

All right , Tai, thanks so much for joining me today on change makers .

Tai Tomasi:

Thanks again for having me.

Sara Brown:

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of change makers . We hope you have enjoyed this episode. I've put links to the resources Tai mentioned, and Alan's links are also in the show notes as always be sure to look for ways you can be a change maker this week.