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.

How to Create a Vision Board with No Vision

Editor’s Note: Since this is the first post of the New Year at CVI we thought it would be fitting to focus attention on vision, dreams, goals and resolutions. We hope that this post will help motivate and inspire you to create your own vision board. We want to encourage you to set goals and objectives for this year and to look beyond your visual disability to bigger and greater things in your life. This post was originally printed on the Fedora Outlier’s website in 2013.

Empish at ATMThe first time I heard of the idea of a vision board was after reading the book “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne. I had heard of people writing out their goals and dreams for their life in a private journal but actually displaying that on a board that you look at daily was a different concept. At first I just thought that was a very cool idea and dismissed it because I am blind and how would a “vision board” help me with pursuing my goals and dreams. “After all I can’t see the board,” my mind told me. But last year the vision board concept came up again. This time I was invited by some friends to a Women Aspiring Together To succeed Meeting (WATTS Atlanta) and they were creating vision boards for their January meeting. When I read the invite I again was thinking this is not for me. I am blind and can’t create a vision board. But since this was the second time it came up I decided to investigate the idea. I talked to a blind friend who really challenged me to go to the meeting and create a vision board too. She explained that I should not allow my disability to keep me from fully participating. I thought how will I do this? Then the idea came to me. It was like that little light bulb over the cartoon character’s head in a comic strip.

Empish writing a checkI would create a vision board but it would be a tactual one. Instead of drawings, pictures or written words I would use raised objects I could touch and feel. Before I got started creating my tactual vision board, I had to sit down and think about what my vision would be. Lose weight? Make Lots of money? Get married? Travel the world? Advance my career? All of those were great ideas but not exactly what I had in mind. Then it came to me – get out of credit card debt. I had one credit card that I needed to pay off and like a lot of people I was paying the bare minimum, which of course, will take forever! Next, I called an artistic friend and shared my idea. I told her I wanted to create a vision board that would show in one column my debt and in the next column would be a rain cloud with rain falling demonstrating a “rainy day” fund. I wanted to have arrows pointing from the debt column to the rainy day column to show that I would be moving my money from one place to the other. One thing I have learned about money is that if you don’t assign it to a specific area such as things like vacation, retirement, home repairs or savings you will waste it. So, I wanted to get out of debt and then use that money to create an emergency fund for things that might come up unexpectedly.

She agreed to help and so we headed to Target to pick up supplies. She was great with helping select tactual items from the scrapbook aisle in the store. I got raised self-adhesive letters and numbers to use for the words and dollar amounts. I got self-adhesive squares that I could use as credit cards. Who knew that scrapbook supplies could be also used to create and design my tactual vision board? Lastly she helped me select a colorful poster board to display everything on. As we chose items I got really excited and realized that I could do this. I was envisioning myself actually creating a vision board. What a concept for a person who is totally blind!

Picture of a wallet with money in it.When I got home, with all my supplies, I responded to the WATTS meeting invite and contacted the coordinators to let them know that I would need some help assembling my board. Both coordinators, Donna Satchel and Linda Hall, who have been doing vision boards for years, were more than happy to assist and were excited that I was coming. They both greeted me when I arrived to the meeting and had a table set up for me to use. I explained my vision for my board and Linda began to assemble the pieces on the board. Before permanently pasting and gluing the pieces down I told Linda I wanted to touch and feel everything to be sure that the board was correct. Once I did that we both worked together removing the self-adhesive strips and I pointed to the places on the board where I wanted them to be placed. While Linda was putting the pieces down I got cotton balls and pulled them apart to resemble clouds. We next glued them on the board above the tactual raised raindrops to resemble rain coming down. For the square pieces that looked like credit cards we placed raised letters that spelled out the words American Express, Master Card and VISA on top of the squares. We then placed raised arrows between the two columns to show money moving from one side of the board to another. After everything on my vision board was in place, I again touched and felt around to be sure it was exactly what I had envisioned in my mind and Donna took a picture of my completed vision board. After that I went to the front of the room and shared, with the 20 plus women assembled, my journey with creating this board. I told them how at the beginning I was not confident about creating a vision board since I had no physical vision. I told them how I decided to stretch myself and venture into doing something I had never done before. I explained the process of how I created my board and encouraged the women to come and check it out for themselves. The women were all encouraged and praised me for being creative and finding a way to do this.

That was about a year ago and my vision board is still proudly displayed in the hallway of my home. Each time I walk by I can raise my hands up and touch the board helping me to not only remember my goal to get out of debt but my accomplishment in creating a vision board with no vision.

What visions or dreams do you have for yourself this year? Have you ever created a vision board? If so, what was the experience like? What about creating a tactual vision board? If not, has this post inspired you to do so? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Winter Travel Safety Tips for the Visually Impaired

Picture of thermostat with ice on itBurr, Burr its cold outside! Slippery ice, piles of snow, and blustering winds can be a challenge to travel especially if you are a novice winter traveler. December, January and February can be the coldest months of the year. So what is a visually impaired person to do that wants to travel in the chilly weather? Well, if you are ready to travel, looking for an outdoor adventure or want to enhance your mobility skills read on for some useful travel tips.

1. First get mentally prepared. Traveling in the winter with a white cane is often more time consuming and more physically and mentally tiring. Depending on where you are going it can also be more dangerous than traveling in good weather. The cold can be distracting making it difficult to concentrate. So get prepared by learning as much about the location you are traveling to, ask questions, check weather reports and give yourself plenty of time to get to where you want to go.

2. Stay warm by looking carefully at your wardrobe. Be sure to dress in layers so you can remove as needed when traveling in and outdoors. Sweaters, turtlenecks, flannel shirts, wool blazers and corduroy jeans are great clothing to wear under a coat or heavy jacket that can keep you warm and comfortable.

3. Next look at your hands. Mittens and gloves can keep your hands warm but can be difficult to use with a white cane. Some people cut off the tips of their gloves so they can feel the cane better. Others cut the glove part off but keep the lining in place for coverage without losing sensitivity. Or you can adapt your mittens for holding a cane by cutting a hole at the tip, inserting the cane into the hole, and putting your hand in the mitten to hold the cane.

4. Wear good winter boots with soles that have good traction. The soles should not be too thick, or else you will lose sensitivity from the ground surface. Also, be sure the boots fit properly to avoid discomfort and foot blisters. Consider using traction devices that you put on the bottom of your boots that grip the snow/ice and make walking easier and less slippery. Get good socks for boot wearing. Not all socks are alike. If you are unsure talk to a department store clerk or sporting goods salesperson.

5. Keep your head covered. The majority of a person’s body heat is lost if the head is not covered. Choose close-fitting hats. Or cover your head with a scarf and wrap the loose ends around the neck; tucking into the coat collar. Avoid hats with ear flaps, ear muffins or hoods because they can block your ability to hear important sounds necessary for travel.

6. Be Visible to drivers. Darkness can come faster during winter months and you want toPicture of two people crossing a snow covered street. One of the people has a white cane. be sure that drivers can see you on the street and sidewalks. Use a reflector or reflecting tape on your coat or jacket. Travel with a flashlight. Also, wear bright colored clothing like reds, oranges and yellows to stand out against the snow.

7. Pay more attention to your white cane. Since you are traveling on snow and ice you need to pay closer attention to the surfaces you are walking on. You might need to tap your cane harder on the ground to get to the concrete under a pile of snow or to break up ice patches. Also, when approaching a curb, the snow may be piled up at the edge making it difficult to find that curb cut. So test the ground carefully beforehand.

8. Keep track. Be sure that you travel with a charged cell phone so you can call for help if needed. Also, use an accessible compass or a handy app on your Smartphone to keep track of your directions and location.

So are you ready to travel in the cold winter weather? Or do you just want to stay home by the fire with a hot cup of eggnog or apple cider? Have you traveled in cold weather before? If so, how did you handle it? Share your thoughts and comments with us.

Holiday Gift Ideas for the Visually Impaired

‘Tis the season to be jolly and to shop too! Are you wondering what gift to get that friend or family member who is visually impaired? Are you unsure of what things they would like or where to purchase them? Well, don’t distress because the staff at CVI has compiled a list of great gift ideas for that special person on your list. And to make it even better the majority of these items can be purchased right here at CVI’s VisAbility Store. So sit back, grab a cup of your favorite hot cider or cocoa and read the gift suggestions below.

  1. For cooks--an Ove Glove, made from silicone and great for protecting fingers, or a long arm hand mitten. Accessible cooking supplies such as low vision cutting boards, talking food scales, low vision and talking measuring cups, double sided spatulas and metal spice measuring spoons.
  2. For those that like smell goods--Scentsy Candles that give a scent without aLarge button remote flame. Or perfumes, colognes or bath and body products.
  3. For entertainment--a large button universal TV remote or MaxTV Glasses. Adaptive games such as checkers, large print playing cards and Bingo boards, or accessible Scrabble and Monopoly board games.
  4. For the veracious reader--a subscription to Bookshare or Audible for audio books. Or a Victor Reader Stream to listen to digital talking books.
  5. For the fashion conscious--a color identifier or Braille clothing labels for keeping clothes organized and color coordinated.
  6. For reading and writing--low vision office supplies such as large print calendars, dark lined paper, 20/20 pens, signature or check writing guides and large print address books and computer keyboards.Large print playing cards
  7. For those that want to stay physically fit--a talking pedometer or talking jump rope. Additionally there are medication organizers, talking blood pressure monitors, eye drop guides and talking thermometers to help maintain health and well-being.
  8. For the person that is on the go--a new white cane or dark sunglasses for those jaunts around town.
  9. For personal assistance--a personalized Coupon to help with running errands, reading mail, organizing closets or doing household repairs and cleaning.
  10. For extra lighting—adjustable desktop or floor lamps.
  11. And for those who have everything! A gift card to the VisAbility Store makes a perfect gift.

So, was this list helpful? If you are blind or visually impaired what other items could you add to the list? What things are on your wish list for the holidays? Share your gift ideas in the comment section below and let’s go shopping!

Comcast Announces Audio TV Guide


Picture of a flat screen TV with a picture of the mountains on the screenI just recently upgraded my Comcast package to include cable TV. In the past I was using a converter box and only able to access my local TV channels. But with cable I not only get more channels to watch but more access to audio description. For those that might not be aware audio descriptions are short verbal explanations of action or scenes in the program. For example the description might give information on facial expressions, body movements or the actor’s clothing. These Descriptions are inserted between pauses in the dialogue and give context to what is happening in the program.

Audio description on TV has greatly enhanced my viewing pleasure because I can keep up with what is happening without having to guess or ask a sighted person what is going on. But, the downside was that I had to get sighted help to set up the initial audio description because the settings options show up on the screen which I can’t see. Now that I have that done I can access the programming independently. In addition, since I have so many cable channels now, I had my favorite shows placed in the favorites section so then I just scroll through that instead of the numerous stations available.

Comcast remote controlToday, Comcast has taken my viewing pleasure a notch higher by offering an audio TV guide. According to a recent press release “Comcast announced the industry’s first voice-enabled television user interface, a solution that will revolutionize the way its Xfinity TV customers, especially those who are blind or visually impaired, navigate the X1 platform. The "talking guide" features a female voice that reads aloud selections like program titles, network names and time slots as well as DVR and On Demand settings.” This new feature is available now and I can’t wait to access it.

I was happy to hear that Comcast is setting an even higher bar with this new feature. Comcast has been responding to requirements in a law known as the Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). Since the requirements for accessible set-top boxes don't start until December 2016, Comcast is way ahead of the game.

For more information on this new feature or just about audio description in general contact Comcast Accessibility Center for Excellence at 855-270-0379. You can also read an article about Comcast accessibility features in the American Foundation for the Blind’s Access World Magazine.

Healthy Eating Tips for Diabetics During Thanksgiving


Picture of food for thanksgivingEvery year our nation celebrates Thanksgiving Day this month. But another important observation is National Diabetes Awareness Month too. Thanksgiving is next week and everyone knows what that means: friends, family, and lots of food. Trying to celebrate one of the largest eating holidays in the US and also being a diabetic can be a challenge. With that being said, this is not the time to forget about your diabetes and meal plans, but it still should be pleasurable. The key is to not let your diabetes control you. So, instead consider some of these tips to help manage your diabetes while still enjoying Thanksgiving and all of that good food!

  1. Remember the reason for celebration. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on things you are thankful for and spending time with people you love; the eating and food is secondary to the celebration.
  2. If you are eating at a friend or family’s house ask questions about the meal. What will be served? How will the food be cooked and prepared? Finding out as much as you can beforehand can help you strategize better. Also, offer to bring a nutritious dish to share. This way you know at least one item will help you stay on track if there are a lot of unhealthy options. When you arrive, Look at all of the food options first and plan what you will eat and how they fit into your meal plan
  3. If you are hosting the Thanksgiving Day meal, you have more control and can prepare healthy foods that everyone can savor including yourself. Bake, broil and grill your meats. Increase fiber by serving whole grain breads, peas and beans. Have plenty of veggies on hand especially ones that are not cooked with excessive butter or sauces. Serve fresh or canned fruits in pure juice or water instead of sweet, high calorie desserts.
  4. Check your blood sugar before eating. Knowing your numbers will help empower you so that you can make wise and healthy decisions around what you will be eating on Thanksgiving Day. Visually impaired diabetics can use an accessible glucose reading machine as shown in this instructional video.
  5. Once the food has been served, eat slowly. Try to eat small portions of food, and the same amount of carbohydrates you eat at a normal meal. Drink plenty of water and choose low-calorie drinks. Once the meal is over get up from the table and go into another room. Do not sit and socialize at the table where the food was served to avoid grazing and overeating.
  6. IT can be tempting to “store up your calories” for the main big meal; but continue to eat your normal meals throughout the day. Do not skip meals in preparation for a holiday feast. This will keep you from overeating and keep your blood sugar under control
  7. Don’t become a couch potato after eating. Make time for physical activity. That could be taking a brisk walk with friends and family around the neighborhood. Or even helping with the clean up afterward. Washing dishes, sweeping, vacuuming and even taking out the trash can all burn some calories.
  8. Lastly, don’t take a to-go-plate. If you are eating at a friend or family’s home pass on taking leftovers with you. It can be tempting but your body and your blood sugar will appreciate it later!

So, I hope these tips for diabetics were helpful. Thanksgiving can be a great time with a little planning and preparation. Did any of these tips resonate with you? If you are a diabetic, how do you manage your diabetes during holiday meals? Share your thoughts and comments and let’s all get ready to spend time with friends and family this coming Thanksgiving Day.

Donate to CVI Through Georgia Gives Day

Picture of STARS students holding up donate to CVI signAs you know, CVI is making a difference every day by empowering people impacted by vision loss to live with independence and dignity. Your generous support means the world to people who are visually impaired now more than ever.

Join us tomorrow, November 13th, for Georgia Gives Day and help us raise $5,000. CVI has been selected to participate in the SunTrust Foundation Financial Wellness Challenge. We are one of 50 organizations across the state competing for an incentive grant ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 - but we need to raise at least $2,500 in order to be eligible for the match.

GA Gives Day LogoBy making a donation to CVI specifically on Georgia Gives Day, your $10, $25, $50 or $100 gift will help us continue our work in the community and help us to reach our goal! (Don't forget - you can also find out if the company you work for will match your donation.)

It’s quick, easy and simple. Just visit the CVI page on the Georgia Gives Day website to make a donation. Select the donation amount, how often you want to give and click on the donation button. That is all you have to do to make a big difference in the lives of people experiencing vision loss!

CVI Host Monthly Tech Talks

Picture of John assisting a clientLast month CVI began an exciting and well-attended series called Tech Talks. The purpose is to provide an open forum to discuss assistive technology solutions for people with vision loss. With the large variety of technology and devices currently on the market it can be thrilling, frustrating and overwhelming all at the same time. This is even more so for a person with a visual impairment who has to determine what to use, when to use it and why to use it. "CVI’s Tech Talks objective is to provide our clients, staff, and other community representatives resources and information to make a more informed decision on assistive technology solutions,” said John Rempel, CVI’s Assistive Technology Instructor.

The Tech Talks are held once a month on the second Tuesday. They are also held in the early evening so that people who are working or in school have an opportunity to attend, share and discuss technology. “Additionally Tech Talks are a means by which CVI can reach out to individuals and organizations,“ said Rempel. ”it is our way of actively engaging with our local community and providing an opportunity to look closely at assistive technology.”

This month’s Tech Talks will focus on available solutions for blind and visually impairedPicture of tablet people to access printed materials using smartphones and tablets. This includes access to books, magazines, menus, business cards, and more. We encourage you to come out and add to the discussion with solutions that work for you, or with pressing questions you may have about technology.

DATE: Tuesday, November 11, 2014
TIME: 5:00 p.m. until 6:30 p.m.
LOCATION: 4th Floor –BellSouth Conference Room
The Center for the Visually Impaired, 739 West Peachtree Street, NW (Corner of West Peachtree & 4th Street)

Safety Tips for Visually Impaired Trick or Treaters

On Friday, people will be participating in the scariest night of the year-Halloween. This is the time of the year for creepy costumes, lots of sticky sweets and tricks and treats. To best prepare for this fun-filled activity here are a few safety tips with a visual impairment in mind.

Picture of STARS student Waleed dressed as Captain AmericaCreative costumes are a key element. From furry animals, princesses or your favorite super hero, costumes are essential for a howling Halloween. But whether you design and create your own child’s costume or purchase one already made keep these things in mind. Be sure to have a costume that fits the child well; one that is not too big or too long that might trip. Additionally avoid costumes with masks, wigs, hats or eye patches that can block the eyes and decrease usable vision. If using makeup with the costume. Use easy-on-the-face makeup and use products that won’t run or become itchy further decreasing VisAbility.

Now that you’re costume is ready to go let’s look at having additional lighting. Halloween activities are typically done around dark settings and at night which could be a challenge for a visually impaired child. So, carry a flashlight, wear glow bracelets and place reflective tape on clothing, shoes and of course that large bag of treats that will be collected during the evening!

Additionally, using a white cane can serve a dual purpose. A cane not only provides assistance with safe mobility but has some reflective properties. The red tape on the cane can be seen by cars or other trick-n-treaters while traveling down dark sidewalks and across streets. But, if you are escorting a small child that does not use a white cane, hold their hands to avoid trips and falls, especially walking around dim places and navigating stairs. You can even use the tandem method of holding on to a string, rope or the trick-n-treat bag, so that everyone stays close and together.

Halloween night is not the time to be too adventurous. Trick-n-treat in neighborhoods that you are already familiar with or go to house parties of people you already know. Be sure to verbally communicate plans and activities with everyone involved. It is important to listen carefully and pay attention to avoid and even scarier fright like getting lost.

STARS students dressed as Despicable Me, a zombie cheerleader and a catKeep hands free. Serious trick-n-treaters need hands available to grab up all that candy and goodies. A suggestion would be to carry a backpack or messenger bag to store treats. Using a headlamp flashlight can free hands as well. Avoid carrying additional items with your costume like spears, wands, swords or other pointy objects. Not only will this keep hands free but also avoid eye injuries.

The last and final tip for a fun and safe Halloween is to have a sighted person check candy and other treats. Especially since a child is visually impaired it is even more important to carefully inspect candy. A sighted person should go through all the candy before eating and throw away anything that looks suspicious, has been opened or is damage.

Don’t let a vision impairment frighten you away from enjoying Halloween. With some pre-planning and adhering to the above safety tips you and your child are sure to have a ghostly good time! Here are some additional resources for creative and safe ways to participate in Halloween and go trick-n-treating:

1. American Foundation for the Blind’s Blog on Happy Halloween

2. Prevent Blindness’ Halloween Safety Tips for Children

3. Mayo Clinic’s Halloween Safety Tips

4. Halloween Safety Tips Website