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

What Would You Do If Someone Grabs Your Arm?

Empish Crossing intersectionI recently read a post by Crista Earl with the American Foundation for the Blind. The post was title “What Do You Do When Sighted People Grab Your Arm in Public?” As I read it I reflected back on my early days as a blind person when I was taking rehabilitation training here at CVI. I was standing at the corner of Peachtree and Third Street waiting patiently to cross. I remember what my mobility instructor had told me about the traffic signal and how to listen to the flow of traffic. But a man came up and asked me if I needed help to cross the street. I politely declined and said “no thank you.” But next thing I knew he was grabbing my arm and literally dragging me across Peachtree Street. I was in shock. I was angry. I felt humiliated. I felt embarrassed. Did I not tell this man that I didn’t need any help?! Yet he took it upon himself to “assist” me anyway. So, what do you do when a sighted person grabs your arm in public? Since I was fairly new to vision loss back then and had never had that happen to me I didn’t know how to handle the situation. By the time I got my mental Barings together the situation was over and the man was gone. But all of this is what Crista addresses in her blog post

So please read it and let’s discuss. How do you handle well-meaning and sometimes overly zealous people who want to help you? What tips or suggestions can you share to maintain your dignity and self-respect when people go overboard? Enter your comments in the section below and let’s talk about what to do when sighted people grab your arm in public.

The Community Base Domestic Violence Support Group Helps Those with Vision Loss Handle Abuse

Picture of AnnieI started The Community Base Domestic Violence Support Group (CBDVSG) in November 2011 out of my own need for support to heal from my past abusive relationships. I saw the same need for support for other blind and/or visually impaired men and women who are in an abusive relationship, or who have survived abuse.

In 2014 CBDVSG became a nonprofit organization, obtaining our 501(3c) status. The CBDVSG originally started our first support group meetings at the Atlanta-Fulton County Library at One Margaret Mitchell Square. After a year at the library, the meetings were moved to CVI. Currently, the group meets once a month on every second Wednesday.

The Group has started to support the many men and women who come through CVI who are not only dealing with vision lost but other issues, like financial problems and homelessness, many times due to fleeing abusive relationships. Numerous participants, who came through the doors of CVI, were homeless or living in homeless shelters with little or no support. The Support Group offers participants support, referrals and education about abuse and domestic violence. In our monthly meetings we provide participants with safety tips on how to be safe when leaving an abusive relationship and where to go for help. CBDVSG does not encourage participants to leave their abusers, but we provide them with the tools they need so if they choose to leave, they are empowered to make the right decision for their lives.

Statistics show that most individuals who are in an abusive relationship don’t know that they are being abused, so education is one of the key components of the program. We educate participants on the definition of abuse. In addition to the support group, CBDVSG brings in special guest speakers, from professions who are experts on the subjects of domestic violence from surrounding shelters, experts on legal issues from the Georgia Legal Aid, and Georgia Advocacy for People with Disabilities. These experts provide options and educate participants on the types of services in the community.

Now that CBDVSG is recognized as a nonprofit organization and registered with the state of Georgia, its goals are to continue to provide support to the group at CVI. Most importantly, the organization will continue to impress on the community and become visible as an added resource to people with disabilities in the Fulton and DeKalb county area. However, fundraising is one of the future activities to provide an accessible shelter for people with disabilities. The shelter would include staffing, amenities and safety that fit their needs while seeking permanent housing after fleeing an abusive relationship. Most shelters in the state of Georgia are not accessible to people with disabilities. CBDVSG wants to be the first in the state of Georgia.

For more information on CBDVSG contact Annie Obasih and Garnetta Jenkins at 678-489-2759 or 770-866-8418. Or you can reach us at 404-496-6368.

My Mission to Educate People on Optic Neuritis

Picture of man talking about optic neuritisThe Optic Neuritis Foundation, Inc. (ONF) is a 501-c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to: Increase public awareness about optic neuritis (ON) and other neuropathies, support research and patient-care efforts by donating to hospitals and/or eye centers, and support patients with the diagnosis of optic neuritis and other neuropathies by providing financial and/or resource assistance.

I started this foundation in 2009 when I was diagnosed with Optic Neuritis. I had 20/20 vision and never had issues with my vision; however one day I was working and found myself bumping into things that were right in front of me. I felt like I had something in my eye that I couldn’t remove and pain with the movement of my eye. I went to an ophthalmologist and couldn’t see to finish the exam in my right eye. After seeing several doctors I was finally afforded the opportunity to go to Emory Eye Center in Atlanta. I was hospitalized for a week with steroids to regain my sight back. However, today I have no center vision and poor peripheral in my right eye. The diagnosis was Optic Neuritis. Optic Neuritis might have destroyed my sight but it didn’t take my vision. I learned through my pain that it could be others out there that may be going through the same thing and my assignment became clear, Serve.

I wanted to share with you some information on Optic Neuritis. It is an inflammation of the optic nerve. Here are some interesting stats on this onset:

  • For 15 to 20% of people diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, Optic Neuritis is their first sign.
  • 3% of patients go blind from Optic Neuritis, most patients regain their sight back
  • Some studies show that 19% of patients will have a reoccurrence of optic neuritis in the affected eye and 17% of patients will develop Optic Neuritis in the other eye in 10 years

So what causes this onset, one might ask? That is a great question. Multiple Sclerosis from what we have found is the dominant cause but here are just a few other causes:

  • Cat Scratch
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Myambutol (drug to treat tuberculosis)
  • Lyme Disease
  • STD’s (e.g., syphilis, herpes)

One of our vision doctors Dr. Robert Spector, MD said it best, “You don’t have to have MS, to have Optic Neuritis, and you don’t have to have Optic Neuritis to have MS.”

Picture of two cars, one on the left is blurred out and the one on the right is not.From our research we have found that young adults from the ages of 18 to 45 mostly will be affected and an estimated 115 out of 100,000 people have ON. Women are mostly likely to get this onset also. This image shows a clear picture of what a patient that has this onset will see.

I am thankful that my vision is stable and I wanted to inform and encourage others and let them know that optic neuritis isn’t fatal but it’s definitely not fair. I am healthy and stable and I can do anything I choose to do and I choose to serve. ONF has board members that care as much as I do about the vision health of others. ONF has many opportunities for the public to learn more about what we do and the onset itself. We are on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. We have worked so far with two board certified Neuro Ophthalmologist to help us create educational videos on Optic Neuritis and the Multiple Sclerosis Center of Atlanta to have great educational seminars on MS and vision health. We are growing this year in 2016 into more optic neuropathies so that everyone can learn. I invite you to our website and to continue to check out our YouTube page for more education and to get your questions answered if you have been affected by this onset.

I wanted to write this blog post for it to be informative on Optic Neuritis. Share a little hope for those that haven’t heard about this onset to know that only 3% of persons go blind and many regain their sight back. I know… I know already what you are going to say, “Well, yours didn’t come back all the way?” You are right but I didn’t know and I waited before I acted. That is why if I can do anything, I would love to encourage you to know your body and if something isn’t right please go and see an ophthalmologist. Share your vision history with them and share your concerns. Take action today!

Changes Coming to the Literary Braille Code

Picture of braille alphabet in braille classroomSince January is the month we honor and observe Louis Braille’s birthday, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the changes taking place in the Braille code as we knew it. The new Braille code is not something that individuals should be afraid of. An A is still dot 1, an R is still dots 1-2-3-5, and the word right is still dot 5, 1-2-3-5. The changes in the Braille code mainly focus around eliminating some contractions, spacing modifications, and new punctuation symbols. In this blog, I will give short descriptions of what the changes are in the Braille code, what old and new Braille readers should look forward to in future Braille; and ways to get assistance in learning the changes in the Braille code.

The Unified English Braille Code (UEB) took effect in the United states on January 4, 2016. This date is a very memorable date because it is the official birthday of Louis Braille.

The decision to adopt the code was made by Braille Authority of North America (BANA); which is a board made up of members of organizations who focus on Braille literacy. There are a lot of questions and concerns about the new Braille code. Why would they change something that millions of people have grown accustom to? What are the benefits of the new Braille code? Will veteran Braille readers successfully transition to UEB? Well, I have some answers that can put peoples’ minds to rest. Although there are changes to the new Braille code, these changes are very subtle.

Student reading braille signOne of the changes includes elimination of nine contractions. For example, instead of using contractions for to, ble, or com; Braille users have to write the words in their entirety. Dot 6 Y and dot 6 N were also eliminated due to BANA believing that this would cause ambiguity for Braille readers. They believe that dot 6 Y and dot 6 N could be read as a capital Y and a capital N instead of ally and ation at the end of a word. Another change that is taking place in the UEB code involves spacing. In the former Braille code the Braille signs and, for, of, with, and the were flushed next to each other in sentences. In the UEB code, each word stands alone. The reasoning for the change in spacing is due to wanting Braille to mirror print. There aren’t any words joined together in print so BANA feels the same should go for Braille.

The UEB code is introducing new symbols for punctuation; but don’t worry, they are easy to grasp. There is some punctuation that won’t change in the transition; but, there are a few that have. For example to write a plus sign, Braille users will type dot 5 followed by dots 2-3-5; to write a minus sign, users will write dot 5 followed by dots 3-6; and to write a equals sign, users will write dot 5 followed by dots 2-3-5-6. This is a slight change from the old plus sign (Dots 3-4-6), the minus sign (dots 3-6), and the equals sign (Dots 4-6-1-3). Some other signs that have changed in the UEB code include the parentheses, brackets, and the dollar sign. All of the new signs are easy to grasp and will take no time to grow accustom to.

Adult client reading braille in classIn conclusion, the two Braille codes are similar in more ways than not. The main changes take place when readers begin to move in to contracted Braille. Even though there is a change, they are simple to master and perfect. There is always uneasiness when it comes to change; but I am happy to tell you that there shall be no fear! There is a large support system available for Braille users to access. Before the adoption of the UEB code, many organizations have reached out a helping hand for veteran Braille users. CVI is one such organization. Through our New View Adult Rehab Program, we can assist with teaching you the UEB code and the alphabet braille code too. We also have a braille club for extra support, instruction and lots of fun in advancing your braille skills. But here are several other outlets for seasoned Braille users that will offer guidance during the transition. Listed below are a few websites to visit when you feel the pressure of something new.

Hadley School For The Blind
National Federation of the Blind
National Braille Press

Glaucoma: The Sneak Thief of Sight

Picture of an eyeAccording to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, Glaucoma, which is the second largest cause of preventable vision loss in this country, is called the sneak thief of sight because it has no symptoms and progresses slowly over time. By the time a person is aware they have Glaucoma about 40% of their vision is permanently loss. January has been designated as National Glaucoma Awareness Month in order to educate the general public, people who are at high risk and medical professionals about this sneaky eye disease. Additionally, we at CVI want to share this information with you so that you can be aware as well.

What causes Glaucoma?

Glaucoma occurs when the normal fluid pressure inside the eyes slowly rises, leading to vision loss or even blindness. There is clear fluid that flows in and out of small spaces at the front of the eye called the anterior chamber. This fluid bathes and nourishes nearby tissues. If this fluid drains too slowly, pressure builds up and damages the optic nerve.

Who is at risk?

African Americans over age 40, everyone over age 60, especially Mexican Americans, and people with a family history of glaucoma.

What are the signs?

At first there are no symptoms; vision is normal and there is no pain.

But over time peripheral vision gradually fails. That means objects in front can be seen but objects to the side cannot. As the disease progresses the field of vision narrows and blindness results.

What can be done?

Getting an eye exam every year is the best way to fight Glaucoma. Be sure that it is comprehensive and that your eyes are dilated. During the exam the doctor will do an eye pressure check to see if you have Glaucoma.

How can Glaucoma be treated?

There is currently no cure for Glaucoma but it can be treated and controlled with regular medication and/or surgery. Medication usually comes in the form of eye drops that will reduce the pressure by slowing the flow of fluid in the eye so that it does not build up. Sometimes laser surgery is offered where laser beams are focused on specific parts of the eye to reduce pressure and allows fluid to exit the eye.

For more information on Glaucoma check out the websites below:

The Glaucoma Research Foundation

National Eye Institute-Facts About Glaucoma

VisionAware-section on Glaucoma

Focus on the Hospitality Industry What's on the Menu: a Review of Menu Accessibility on Chain Restaurant Websites Part II

Editor’s note: This article was reprinted with permission from the AFB AccessWorld Magazine August, 2015 issue. We have broken it down into a two part series because of Ingber’s thorough research on 5 restaurants. This is part two which list the last two restaurants. Part one was posted in October that reviewed Applebee’s, Denny’s and Olive Garden. Are you looking for dining options during the holidays as an alternative to cooking at home? Exhausted from all the holiday shopping and too tired to cook? Well continue to read on.

4.Outback Steakhouse Online Menu Accessibility for People with Visual Impairments

Outback Steakhouse is known for its steaks, but they also offer seafood and other main dishes.

When the website loaded, I was presented with several options regarding location access. If you allow location access, the closest restaurant's address, phone number, and hours of operation appear at the top of the page. Selections and prices may vary from one restaurant to another.

Picture of a black board menuThe website was uncluttered and was clearly labeled. A "Menu" link was near the top of the page. The next page presented category links including "Aussie-Tizers," "Signature Steaks," "Bold Combinations," and "Irresistible Desserts." Below the category lists were links to some of Outback's most popular items. Selecting a category link loaded a new page with items in that specific category.

The specific item links had one link labeled with an image and the other labeled with just the name of the item. In Safari, VoiceOver distinguished between the links, but with Internet Explorer, Window-Eyes read both links the same.

I selected the link for Outback Special Sirloin. Although it initially appeared that result was quickly located with the headings hot key, the first part of the result was about social media. Menu information followed and included a description of the steak and how it was prepared. No price was given.

For each menu item's description, there was a Nutrition Facts link. When the link was activated, the resulting page was labeled "Outback Steakhouse Nutrition Information By Item." However, in Safari there wasn't any accessible nutrition information. In Internet Explorer, there were combo boxes broken down by menu categories, rather than one combo box for the item. Each selected result was displayed in a table with the category heading and then the nutritional value.

In order to get a price for an item, the "Order Now" link, below the description, needed to be selected. When the Order Now link was activated, the first page indicated that before downloading a menu it was necessary to choose a particular Outback. This is the advantage of letting Outback know your location. There is a search form where a zip code or city can be entered. After restaurant information was presented, there were links to download various menus such as dinner, lunch, and drinks. Menus could be read with Internet Explorer but not with Safari.


Outback's website performed better with Internet Explorer. Safari was a frustrating experience beyond reading an item's description.

5. Red Lobster Online Menu Accessibility for People with Visual Impairments

Red Lobster serves mostly seafood, but they also offer some beef and chicken options.

Near the top of the homepage was a search box to find a restaurant. Results were difficult to read since the beginning of the result was a graphic. The restaurant's name, address, and a link to view the specific restaurant's menu appeared below the graphic.

Picture of a plate with lobsterWhen the new page loaded, I used the headings hot key to get to the very top of the menu. The first part of the menu listed Red Lobster's featured dishes. In this case, it was their "Island Escape" specials. Further down are other menu categories including Specials, Dinner, Fresh Fish, and a kid's menu.

I activated the "dinner" link. The next page had various categories including Soups, Salads & More, Crab & Seafood Bakes, and Lobster & Steak Combos, followed by an Accompaniments section that provided information about what can be added to a meal and which side dishes come with entrees. The "Crab & Seafood Bakes" link displayed a variety of dishes that could be located with the headings hot key. Each item was well described and included the price. However, nutrition information was not provided in this part of the site.

Appearing on all Red Lobster pages was a link labeled "Health Benefits of Seafood." When that link was activated, the next page had a link labeled "Nutrition Facts." This link loaded a PDF document. VoiceOver could read the numbers, but could not read column headings. Window-Eyes could not read the file. I kept getting the message that the document was being processed.


Except for nutrition information, this website worked very well. Both VoiceOver and Window-Eyes did a good job of reading content in their respective browsers.


Each of these websites had some kind of accessibility issue, some minor and some not. It is unfortunate that these big restaurant chains still do not have websites that are completely accessible.

This was the last installment of Ingber’s review of the accessibility of menus at chain restaurants. After reading her reviews do you dine at any of the five chain restaurants? If so have you use the on-line menu? If you are visually impaired have you found accessing the menu easy or hard? Do you use any type of assistive technology or low vision aid to read menus when dining out? Share your thoughts and comments with us.

Atlanta Radio Theater Company Hosts Classical Christmas Presentation to Benefit CVI

Picture of individuals performing at the radio theatreAre you ready for some holiday cheer? Want an activity you can enjoy with friends and family? Want to contribute to CVI? Then look no further. The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company is proud to host once again its presentation of An Atlanta Christmas at the Academy Theatre. In a season awash with Marley’s Ghost from London and Sugarplum Fairies from Germany, the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company brings you back home to the Deep South with a series of stories told in audio to inspire the imagination. Poignant and funny, it will bring back precious memories of Christmas past and our city’s past.

This classical Christmas production will be held on two days: Saturday, December 12th at 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday, December 13th at 2:30 p.m. Tickets for all seats are $10. But you can get guarantee seating through presale on their website. In the spirit of giving, ARTC has once again named the Center for the Visually Impaired as their Partner in this Christmas production and will be donating 25% of total ticket sales to their effort.

Performers at the radio theatreThe Atlanta Radio Theatre Company has been bringing quality audio drama to listeners around the world since 1984. Their unique, immersive and dramatic technique will feed your imagination and inspire your senses with realistic sound effects and stirring musical scores.

One of dozens, if not hundreds, of small-press audio publishers worldwide, ARTC is one of the few to perform live as well as in the studio. With no sets, costumes, or makeup to set up or apply, our pre-show time is spent transforming the space into an immersive sonic habitat suitable for the most creative imaginations. There is Adventure in Sound!

For more information or to order tickets contact the Academy Theatre, 146 Burke Street, Stockbridge, Georgia 30281. Box office telephone: 404-474-8332. Website:

Photos by Caran Wilbanks

Kitchen Aides for Successful Holiday Cooking

It is that time of year when family and friends gather for warm cups of cider or hot chocolate, friendly conversation, laughter and of course lots of delicious things to eat. For those of us who are blind and visually impaired there is no reason that our vision loss should keep us from joining in on the fun and festivities. People with vision loss can cook and prepare dishes for office potlucks, holiday brunches or family dinners. With a little help from some assistive aides and devices found at CVI’s VisAbility Store, you can enjoy holiday cooking too. So get ready to rattle those pots and pans!

Picture of Sili SlingEver had problems removing a hot turkey from the pan to the serving platter? This really useful item can remedy this problem. It is called the Sili Sling and can be used to transfer a whole turkey. You place the sling under your raw turkey prior to cooking. The sling is made from silicone material that will not burn or melt and stays in place while your poultry cooks. It comes in the color red and has holes in the bottom for draining the hot juices from the meat. When your turkey is ready just use the grips on both sides to hoist that golden bird out and place on your platter.

Now, that you’ve got that turkey cooking, how do you know when it is done? Well, just use the talking meat thermometer and no more confusion or half cooked meats. The thermometer has a removable cover and pressing only one simple button will give a verbal temperature reading along with a large visual digital display. The top has a clip to hang for easy storage.

Picture of Voice Zone thermometerIn addition to the talking meat thermometer, use the Voice Zone Talking Timer to avoid burning your turkey or under cooking that squash soufflé. This timer has a clock feature. By pressing the side lever you can switch between modes of count-up, and count-down. The clock counts down the minutes and hours to help your dishes come out perfectly from the oven. Or you can use a low vision tactile timer. It is about the size of a small wall clock with large numbers in a black/white contrast. Just turn the dial to the amount of time you want and the timer will ding when the time is up.

When you get ready to remove your turkey from the oven use the long arm mittens. They are about 17-inches long and go up to the elbow protecting not only your hands, but wrist and arm. They are flame retardant. Great item when removing that hot bubbly macaroni and cheese, cornbread, green bean casserole or my favorite-sweet potato pie!

Now that you got your turkey out of the way, let’s look at some devices that can help with sides and yummy desserts. Measuring for recipes can call for precision and accuracy; and too much or two little of an ingredient can ruin a favorite dish. Need just a pinch of salt? Or what about a quarter teaspoon of pepper? Low Vision Easy Measure Salt and Pepper Shakers are exactly what you need. They come in two colors; white for salt and black for pepper with measurements written at the top of the shaker in opposite contrasting color.

Picture of talking scaleThe My Weigh Talking Food Scale is an excellent measuring device. It is battery operated and comes with a plastic round container to sit on top of its flat surface. Just place your item you need to weigh, such as meats, vegetables or fruits and the scale will verbally read the measurements either in grams or ounces. The talking measuring cup is another great device that gives a verbal read out. The measuring cup sits inside a removable base with a flip lid. Just pour your ingredients such as flour or sugar for those favorite chocolate chip cookies or oil for brownies and the measuring cup will verbally indicate the amount by cup, ounces, milliliters, and grams. The measuring cup is dishwasher and microwaveable safe. One last item for measuring is the Metal spice spoons. These spoons are excellent for those dishes that require spices or herbs. They have high sides that help avoid spills and are attached together to keep from misplacing.

For cutting up fruits and vegetables use the low vision cutting board. One side is black while the other is white. This cutting board provides great contrast on the black side when slicing white onions, cauliflower or white potatoes. Use the white site of the cutting board for green peppers, yellow squash, red apples or orange pumpkins and carrots.

Whether you jus want to cook a simple holiday meal or a five course dinner party these low vision and blind kitchen aids will help any meal you prepare be a great success. Now let’s sit down and eat!

For more information on purchasing these kitchen aids and many more visit the CVI’s VisAbility Store in person or online. To make your holiday cooking even better the VisAbility Store is offering special discount promotion codes that are all good through December 31, 2015!

  • Get $15.00 off a purchase of $100.00 (Use coupon code HOL1515)
  • Get $35.00 off a purchase of $250.00 (Use coupon code HOL1535)
  • Get $100.00 off a purchase of $750.00 (Use coupon code HOL15100)
  • Get $200.00 off a purchase of $1,500.00 (Use coupon code HOL15200)
  • Get $300.00 off a purchase of $2,750.00 (Use coupon code HOL15300)

VisAbility LogoVisAbility is located on the first floor of CVI at 739 West Peachtree Street, NW. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. But for special holiday shopping the store will change its hours this month. December 14-December23rd, the store will open one hour early from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. On Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24th, the store will be open from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. Additionally, the store will be open one Saturday--December 12th from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

For two days in December there will be a Holiday Super Sale! In addition to offering extended holiday hours throughout the month of December, the store will be hosting a special savings event on Friday, December 11 and Saturday, December 12. On these two days customers who visit the store in person can enjoy savings of up to 40% on selected items, as well as refreshments and other special offers. Of course, the VisAbility Store is always open 24/7 online at For more information call 404-602-4358.