Sightseeing. A periodic tour of CVI news, views and events.

CVI's SightSeeing Blog

Welcome to CVI's SightSeeing Blog! Here we discuss topics of interest and importance to the community.

Some of the information posted here includes personal stories from CVI clients, perspectives from CVI's expert staff, hot topic issues in government, the latest trends in technology for the visually impaired, and much more. Our desire is that this blog is a useful tool to enlighten, educate and provide needed information in a meaningful dialogue for both the blind and sighted communities. Join us as we invite you to share and discuss the topics with us.

Please note: Blog comments are not to be interpreted as a direct endorsement by the Center for the Visually Impaired. If you have any questions or comments regarding the blog posts, please send them to Lara Tillery at

BlindAlive Helps You Work Out From the Comfort of Your Home

Picture of someone tying their tennis shoesSummer is approaching. This is the time that we switch from the winter wardrobe of long sleeves, sweaters and jackets to shorts, tank tops and swimsuits. But if you have gained a little weight over the winter months or have struggled with your exercise routine then you might not feel so comfortable donning that summer attire. So, here is a possible solution. You don’t need to join a gym. You don’t have to hire a personal trainer. You don’t have to have fancy or expensive workout equipment at home. And the best thing of all, you don’t have to have vision to do the workout routine! All you need is some motivation and a desire to be healthy and stay in shape. BlindAlive is a website I recently discovered that provides a wealth of resources for the blind or visually impaired person who wants to exercise and keep moving. ON the site you will find workout routines from beginner to intermediate to advance. You will also find daily e-mail alerts that motivate you to workout. There are also podcasts available on topics about health and fitness on your smartphone for easy access on the go.

Mel Scott, who is blind, got tired of not having fitness choices in her life. She struggled, like many blind and visually impaired people with inaccessible workout videos and DVDs. She wanted to lose weight after her pregnancies, and regain strength after enduring cancer surgery. So she created BlindAlive.

According to the website, at BlindAlive, we are proud to have created a user-friendly, completely accessible solution to exercise and fitness that you can do with confidence in your own home. Now, with resources you can use, you do not have to take charge of your health and fitness alone. All of our exercise products have been tested by blind and low vision individuals to ensure that they are completely accessible to members of this community.

Picture of person lifting weightsAs you click through the website you will find accessible exercise descriptions on yoga, Pilates, sculpting with weights and cardio. There are programs for beginners, intermediate and advance. There are also programs where you will use a floor mat, stability ball and weights. Prices for these Eye-Free Programs start a little under twenty bucks; and come in a download or physical CD. To check out a sample listen to this mini workout on YouTube.

So, what are you waiting for? BlindAlive offers an accessible option for people with vision loss. Now you can work out from the comfort of your home. Now you have an option to help you get healthy, fit and get ready for the summer.

Seven Graduation Gift Ideas for the Visually Impaired Student

All term papers are written, turned in and graded. Final exams are over. School has let out and summer is right around the corner. But before we go on vacation and head to the beach or camp; we have to celebrate graduation! Now, what do you get a visually impaired or blind student who is graduating? Need some suggestions? If so, check out the list below for some cool gift ideas.

  1. Large Print keyboardTechnology is one of the many things that graduates like for a gift. Computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc. These are all great ideas for that high school or college graduate. But to take it a step farther for the blind or visually impaired it is important to be sure that the various pieces of technology are accessible and easy for them to use independently. So, look at purchasing JAWS or Majic software packages. They are made by Freedom Scientific and come in student editions. Both programs make a Windows operating system accessible to a person with a visual impairment.
  2. Once you got the computer and accessible software set up a good gift idea for a low vision graduate is a desk lamp. Some people with low vision need extra lighting and adjustable desk lamps like the Tulip found at CVI’s VisAbility Store meet that need. The neck of the lamp pivots and maneuvers to aim the light exactly where needed for maximum effect.
  3. Talking, low vision, or braille watches and clocks are a great gift for graduates to be more independent as they enter the adult world. No more mom and dad having to constantly nag them to get up and get going.
  4. If you have a graduate that is college bound, items for notetaking are an excellent gift idea. When taking notes in class or doing assignments it is important to have the proper writing tools. Low vision students can take notes with dark-lined paper and 20/20 pens. Blind students can use a slate and stylus with Braille paper.
  5. Some graduates can have a busy social life during the summer. Participating in camp, going to see accessible movies, and socializing are all a part of being active. So a great gift idea is getting large print or braille playing cards and accessible board games. These games can be played with sighted and blind friends. Additionally, graduates can take them to college for continuing socialization.
  6. Of course, graduates must remain stylish during the summer and also in preparation for college or the workforce. So items like talking clothing identifiers, tactual clothing tape, and the Pen Friend will help those fashion-conscious stay trendy.
  7. moneyAnd the ultimate graduation gift, in my opinion, is one that never goes out of style. One that graduates like year after year. That is cold hard cash! It can be given in denominations of your choosing. Along with the cash you can provide an accessible leather wallet to help with organizing. Or the graduate can sign up for a free money identifier through GLASS. These small palm size devices are handy ways to audibly identify paper currency.

So, whether a graduate is visually impaired or blind, these are just a few items that are excellent for graduation gifts. But many more can be found at CVI’s VisAbility Store. The Store is currently having a 75% off sale during the month of June so even more reason to stop by for extra savings. The store is located on the main floor of CVI and is opened Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. For more information call 404-875-9011 or visit

GLASS Summer Reading Program Begins Today

“On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!” Public libraries all over the state of Georgia are preparing summer reading programs for children in their communities. Likewise, GLASS is preparing summer reading activities for our young readers. The program will run June 1 -July 30, 2016.

Student reading a braille bookThis is the third year that GLASS has offered a summer reading program where we encourage students to read every day of their summer vacation. This year's theme is wellness, fitness and sports. A suggested reading list is available on the GLASS website. The goal is to have students read a minimum of ten books to be eligible for a grand prize drawing. Students may read large print or braille, listen to audio books, and being read to also counts. Here is a sampling of the books available:

  1. Rockwell, Lizzy. The Busy Body Book: A Kid’s Guide to Fitness
  2. Uhlberg, Myron. Dad, Jackie, and Me
  3. Blume, Judy. Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing
  4. Stabler, David. Kid Athletes: True Tales of Childhood Sports Legends
  5. Patterson, James. Middle School, the Worst Years of My Life
  6. Yousafzai, Malala. I am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World
  7. Dashner, James: The Maze Runner
  8. Hill, Chelsie: Push Girl

GLASS summer reading program kick off activities are on June 1st from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. If you are in the Atlanta area stop by the Atlanta-Fulton County Central Library, One Margret Mitchell Square, Atlanta, and join in the activities.

GLASS Dramatic Story Time on July 12th at 10:30 a.m. at Atlanta-Fulton County Central Library auditorium. Come hear our amazing storyteller bring sporting legends and games alive through drama, music and play.

Students can expect their packets in the mail inviting them to sign up for the GLASS summer reading program. Call 800-248-6701 if you have any questions, or to reserve books to get you to your goal. “Get In the Game: Read!”

Low Vision Clinic Travels to Jonesboro for Living with Low Vision Presentation

Picture of person getting eye examCVI’s Florence Maxwell Low Vision Clinic is hitting the road again this year and traveling around the state of Georgia conducting Living with Low Vision presentations. This time they are stopping in Jonesboro. On Wednesday, June 1st CVI staff members will be at the First Baptist Church of Jonesboro. Living with Low Vision is a two-part, no-cost program. The first part includes Vision 101; featuring an overview of vision loss, a discussion of adaptive techniques and devices, and a demonstration of Orientation and Mobility techniques for safe travel, inside and outside the home. A social worker will be present to meet with individuals. Featured optical devices from CVI's VisAbility Store will be available for hands-on trials and purchase. For the second part of the presentation, 5 low vision candidates will be selected for the low vision clinic component. An optometrist who is a low vision specialist will perform a thorough low vision exam. A low vision specialist will conduct an evaluation of all aspects of daily living activities, an assessment to determine if optical aids would be beneficial, and training on devices. Orientation and Mobility training and information about community services will be provided

This entire presentation is for:

  • Individuals experiencing vision loss including difficulty reading mail and medication labels, using a computer or walking safely.
  • Family members and caregivers
  • Healthcare and social service providers
  • Staff at senior centers and retirement communities

CVI is able to host this life-changing presentation through a grant from Georgia’s Drive for Sight program. This Program is based on voluntary donations. Georgia drivers may choose to donate one dollar at the time of their initial or renewal application for motor vehicle drivers’ licenses.

Here is additional information on the Living with Vision Presentation in Jonesboro:

WHERE: First Baptist Church of Jonesboro

Recreation Outreach Center

148 Church Street

Jonesboro, Georgia 30236

WHEN: Wednesday, June 1, 2016

TIME: 9:30 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. until 3:00 p.m.

CONTACT: Diane Lumpkin, Low Vision Coordinator, at 704-236-7444 or

For more information on CVI’s Florence Maxwell Low Vision Clinic call 404-875-9011 or log on to

The STARS Mentoring Program Empowers Visually Impaired Youth

Picture of a chalkboard with the word mentorThe STARS Mentoring Program at CVI is the brainchild of Annie Maxwell, former Director of STARS. In 2000, STARS Students were paired with visually impaired adults during a weekend retreat. Feedback on the retreat and the pairings were incredibly positive; as a result, Ms. Maxwell decided to establish a program in which students were paired with a Mentor on a long term basis. Many positive one-on-one mentoring relationships have been established through STARS. The mission of the STARS Mentoring Program is to empower visually impaired youth to make positive life choices that enable them to maximize their potential and promote independence with dignity.

Under the current STARS director, Heather Dicks, mentoring has been expanded to include group mentoring for students under 10 years of age with specific eye conditions. One such group is the Albinism Support Group which meets about every other month. The purpose of the group is to offer support, resources, and information to parents who have children with albinism.

The STARS Mentor serves as a positive role model by sharing life experiences and developing a long-term, supportive and encouraging relationship with a young person. Expected outcomes for the Mentee are:

  • Increased self-confidence
  • Increased self-efficacy
  • Increased ability to set realistic goals
  • Improved interpersonal skills
  • Improved preparation for successful employment and continued learning

One of the success stories is the pairing of LaKeisha Holmes and Aquila Semper. LaKeisha is a former STARS student and now a CVI Braille Instructor and mentor to current STARS student Aquila. Of their mentor-mentee relationship LaKeisha says, “I have been mentoring Aquila for about 5 years. It has been a great experience. I have had the opportunity to watch her grow in to the wonderful young lady that she is today. I have known Aquila since she was 7 and it has been amazing to watch her form in to who she is today,” she shares. ” With me knowing her for so long, she has seen me go through different stages of life as well. Seeing me finish high school, go through college, and finally graduate from college showed her that she can do it too. She has also taught me a lot about life. She shows me daily that no matter what your visual impairment is, you can do anything. She is a very active member in her band, and she also finds time to work two jobs. I am very blessed and honored to have her as a mentee.” Aquila will graduate in May of this year and plans to attend college!

Picture of mentor, Carrie with STARS student, McClainMentoring is a proven strategy for improving young people’s self-esteem, emotional development, and academic performance, while also reducing the likelihood of participating in high-risk behavior. You can get involved and make a difference. If you are a visually impaired independent adult and would like to become a mentor, you may contact Calvin Lee, Family Support Coordinator at 404-602-4373 or email at

Cruising as a Senior with a Visual Impairment

I recently read an article in AFB’s AccessWorld Magazine titled “Cruising as a Senior with a Visual Impairment: How to Get the Most Out of Your Adventure” by Jamie Pauls. Although I am not a senior I agreed with the article as I have been on two cruises before. Additionally, this month is National Senior Awareness Month and thought it would be a great idea to share some of the information with the readers of this blog.

Picture of a cruise shipCruises are a great vacation option for seniors as they enter their retirement years because everything is all included. For example, on a cruise ship you have 24-hour room service, various entertainment options, exercise facilities, classes, workshops and seminars, opportunities to meet interesting people, and of course the ability to travel to exciting locations. Cruise liners have become more accessible over the years and can be great options for the visually impaired traveler. In the article Pauls interviews Bill Kociaba, an experienced cruise taker who is visually impaired. He is very familiar with cruises because his family took numerous trips at sea when he was young. Additionally, Kociaba sold cruises for a living for about five years and has been on about 50 cruises in his lifetime. In the interview he gives some sage advice on how to cruise with a visual impairment. I will give the highlights below but to read the full article read the February 2016 issue of AccessWorld Magazine.

First, check out what type of ship you want to be on. What type of experience do you want to have? Each cruise line offers a different kind of experience. For example for the party life, Kociaba recommended Carnival. If you want to be pampered, try Celebrity Cruises while Holland America specializes in meeting the needs of seniors.

Next look at cost. This can vary from hundreds to thousands of dollars. It depends on the cabin, number of days, ports of call, shore excursions, etc. But the one great thing is that the majority of your cost can all be paid for up front in a variety of cruise packages. So by the time you take your cruise your cost is pretty much covered and you can really enjoy your vacation.

When planning for your cruise pay attention to details. It might be a good idea to have a travel agent or someone who is very familiar with booking cruises to assist you. When I took my last cruise I went through Mindseye Travel, a company that specializes in group tour packages for people with visual impairments. They put the whole package together for me including my shore excursions; even offering to help with flight arrangements.

Some people might be concerned about how accessible a cruise ship might be since they are so large and vast. More ships are becoming more accommodating to the blind and visually impaired. Ships have braille on cabin doors these days. I even got a braille bingo board for the ship’s bingo night so that I could actively participate with everyone else. I also got another larger book in braille that outlined other information about the cruise that was in my cabin when I arrived. Staff on the ship was overall very friendly and helpful as well. One last thing I noticed, on the ship and this might not have been for the disabled, but was very helpful. There were metal rails in the hallways near the cabins. So as I walked along the narrow corridors I was able to walk independently by trailing with my white cane with one hand and holding on to the metal rail with the other.

Picture of flippers and snorkleTwo things to think about when planning a cruise are what you will do on and off the ship. Cruise liners have plenty of activities to keep you busy. There are classes, workshops or seminars you can attend on a variety of topics. I went to one on Microsoft and acupuncture. There was also an exercise room to workout in and a spa for massages. People sat by the pool or in the hot tub and read a book or listen to music. Some went to the library and use WIFI or played board games. Off the ship you have a list of shore excursions to choose from as well. You could swim with dolphins, feed stingrays, or tour the landmarks of Europe or a Caribbean Island; there is plenty to do if you leave the boat for the day. While on my cruise I took a walking tour of Old San Juan in Porta Rico. It was a beautiful walking tour and the weather was very nice. Then we stopped at a nearby café for food and drinks before heading back to the ship.

If you are a senior who wishes to enjoy your golden years by traveling to exciting locations, the time on a cruise ship might just be what you are looking for.

Why Should I come to the Low Vision Clinic?

Picture of an eyeEverything that we do during the day is sight related. From the moment we wake until we go to bed, we are dependent on our vision. We look at the clock when we wake, put toothpaste on our toothbrush, read the newspaper, prepare meals, pay bills, manage medication, drive, shop, visit friends and family, watch TV at night. So what happens when those daily activities become a major challenge? How do you handle your life, your family, your job?

If you are experiencing these challenges then you might have what is called low vision. Low vision can be compared to an invisible disease. It is often hard for friends and family members to appreciate the difficulties that are related to low vision, as they can’t see the problem. Often times in order to try and explain vision loss; a person will say they are blind. However, they may have usable vision but don’t have the language to inform others. People with decreased hearing are not deaf, just hard of hearing. But have you ever heard anyone say they were hard of seeing? At CVI’s Florence Maxwell Low Vision Clinic our goal is to help those people who are “hard of seeing”, develop the skills, education and tools to remain as independent as possible to gain an improved quality of life.

What defines low vision? According to Medicare, there are three ways to determine if a person has low vision.

  1. An individual who has a visual acuity less than 20/60 in their better corrected eye.
  2. An individual who has a blind spot, central scotoma, in their eye. This is common with macular degeneration.
  3. An individual who has a reduced field of view, better known as peripheral vision.

Picture of low vision client with doctorIf a person fits into any of these three categories, our hope is your doctor will recommend you for low vision services. However, when a person is ready to be seen in a low vision clinic should be based more on difficulties with activities of daily living. Ask yourself are there one or more activities that you do during the day that are more difficult because of your vision loss? For example, are you having challenges with reading small print, seeing the dials on household appliances, or pouring your coffee without spilling it? If the answer is yes, then you are a good candidate for low vision services. People will often say, “I am not that bad”. Yet, how bad does one have to be? It has been documented in research that the earlier a person receives low vision services, the better the outcomes, and the less chance of onset of depression and the easier it is to resume a good quality of life.

If someone has a hip or knee replacement, they would naturally see a therapist to regain strength, learn exercises and obtain tools to resume independence. It is the same process with decreased vision. It is important that you see a low vision specialist, a low vision Optometrist, Certified Low Vision Therapist or an Occupational Therapist as well as a social worker; so that they provide the help you need to resume independence.

You may have tried magnifiers before, had special glasses made and nothing worked. Yet, without proper education it may be the tools weren’t correct for your vision or that they weren’t being used the proper way. Let us use our unlimited expertise in helping you to achieve your goals, enhance your independence and improve your quality of life.

For more information on CVI’s Florence Maxwell Low Vision clinic or to schedule an appointment please call 404-875-9011.

Learn Why Women Are More Prone to Vision Loss Than Men

Picture of eye glassesWe all know how important it is to take care of our eyes; but for women it is even more important. Surprisingly, women are more susceptible to vision loss than men. The Women’s Eye Health website reports that nearly two-thirds of all visually impaired and blind people in the world are women. Eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration are diagnosed more in women than in men. As we end the observation of Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month and as a woman who is visually impaired, I want to encourage any woman who is reading this blog post to take good care of her eyes.

The first step to healthy eye care is to educate yourself and know the facts. To assist women in this, Prevent Blindness has a program called See Jane See: Women’s Healthy Eyes Now to inform women on their unique eye health needs. In addition, I have listed below some reasons specifically as to why women lose their vision.

Women typically live longer than men. There are eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration that are specific to the aging process.
Additionally, there are eye conditions that are more prevalent in women such as dry eye syndrome which can be caused by hormonal changes. Since women go through various hormonal ups and downs throughout their lives, from menstruation, pregnancy and menopause, their vision can be impacted. Also, women are diagnosed more often with autoimmune diseases like lupus and multiple sclerosis which can greatly affect vision.

Lastly, social and economic situations can impact women more than men. Getting access to affordable healthcare and taking time to go to the doctor can sometimes be more difficult for women than men. Women are typically the caregivers in families and can neglect their own health while caring for others.

Eye chartNow that you know some of the reasons why women are more prone to have vision problems than men, let’s look at some things that women can do to take care of their eyes. First, get a comprehensive eye exam from your eye doctor. An eye exam cannot only determine the health of your eyes, but can quickly track any changes especially if you have family history of eye disease. Next, watch your weight and your diet. Being overweight or obese and not eating healthy foods can affect vision and cause medical conditions such as diabetes, strokes and high blood pressure. All of these conditions can greatly impact vision. Specifically for women, monitor eye makeup usage. Replace old makeup every three months or so. Also, do not share cosmetics with other women as bacteria and germs can be easily spread. Wear sunglasses when outside. Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and also from air-born pollutants that can blow into your eyes such as dust and pollen.

For additional information on women’s eye health check out these resources:

See Jane See Program

Women’s Eye Health

Vision Problems in the U.S.

VisionAware-Women’s eye Health Section

Now that you got the facts on women’s eye health let's talk about it. If you are a woman have you had an eye exam recently? Are you practicing good self-care? What things have you put into place to take care of your eyes? If you are a guy, have you encouraged the women in your life to take care of their eyes? Share your thoughts and comments in the section below.