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.

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

Customizing Your Closet When You Have Vision Loss

Picture of a walk-in closetOne of the major things I had to figure out when I went blind was how to keep my clothes organized. I remember several years ago standing at my closet thinking how would I pick out the right outfit for work. How would I be sure that my shoes matched? How would I know if I had stains or spots on my clothes? What would be the best method for labeling my clothes so I knew what colors I had? All these things were running through my mind.

Today, I have a very well organized clothing closet. I feel very confident about my wardrobe. I know that as a person with vision loss it might be easy to not think about how I am dressing; but I live in a sighted world. Appearance and first impressions are powerful and often very critical. I think having a well-organized closet and techniques on keeping your clothes maintained will not only preserve a healthy self-esteem but help with interactions and socializing. So, let me share some of my tips and strategies that I have learned. Feel free to share your ideas too. There is no right or wrong approach to organizing your closet. The most important thing is to access and maintain your clothing in a way that feels comfortable for you.

When I started thinking about how to better organize my clothes I decided to arrange my clothes in a different way. Before I just had blouses, shirts, tops and pants hanging throughout the closet. But now I keep all my short sleeve tops and blouses together. Next are my long sleeves, then skirts and pants. Last suits and evening wear. I have found that arranging my clothes this way allows me to get to items faster. Some people will even take it a step further and organize by color too. For example, all red tops in one place or all dark colored pants and skirts in another.

But when it comes to items I wear that match well, I place them together as one outfit. For example, I have a dark purple top that goes with a dark purple skirt. I place them both on the same hanger. Additionally for scarfs, I hang them around the hanger with the top, skirt or suit that matches. For men, ties can be done the same way.

While organizing your clothes an important thing to do is determine the type of labeling you will use. I personally use braille clothing labels. They come in a variety of colors and I sew each one in the label of the garment. Some people will use large print on 3X5 cards or brass safety pins. One of my friends who can’t use large print or braille uses small wooden symbols that are sewed on the tag. She designates them with a color. For example all circles are assigned the color white. Other friends use talking color identifiers or apps on their smartphones.

When it comes to shoes I have two methods. The first is a cardboard shoe organizer thatPicture of Empish with shoe boxes labeled has shelves for each pair. If you have one of these you can either memorize which shelve has what or you can use large print/braille labels. The second method I just started using is taking raised, self-adhesive letters and sticking them to the shoe boxes. So for example, I have a label that says “bk” which is for black. I found these labels at Target on the scrapbook aisle and they work well for a lot of things I need to label at home.

Other ideas around shoes can be to limit your shoe purchases to basic colors or styles. You can also place rubber bands on the shoes of one color and not on the other. For example a rubber band can be on all your brown shoes. Some shoe styles and textures are distinctive enough to tell differences. For example a heel is different from a flat, or suede material is different from canvas.

Now that the clothes are labeled and organized in your closet the next thing to think about is how to maintain your clothes. I have a trusted and honest sighted person check for spots and stains. I keep a bottle of spray and wash on my dresser for easy access. Once I wear a garment that I think might be stained I put it to the side to be checked later. I also have care labels read to me. Some clothes are dry clean only or wash on delicate cycle. Just recently, a friend came over and went through my clothes to take out old and outdated ones. Ones that did not look well on my body anymore or that had faded and looked worn. It is important to go through your closet from time to time with a sighted friend.

It is also important to find a person that has a good fashion sense to help you pick out clothes to purchase. Whether you are going to a physical store or shopping on-line get a sighted person to help you figure out styles, trends and colors that look good on you. If you don’t have a person to help, some stores have personal shoppers who can assist.

These are just a few of my organizing tips and I hope they were helpful. But at the end of the day it is about personal preference and what works well for you. So, I encourage you to share your thoughts and suggestions in the comment section below.

Why I Use the White Cane

Empish crossing street with white caneAs a blind person I use a mobility aid called the white cane. Initially I did not use a white cane because my vision was still very good; but over time I lost depth perception and peripheral vision. This meant that I could not see on the sides of me, only straight ahead. Also looking down became fuzzy and blurry, so stairs and sidewalk curbs were difficult to navigate. I got training on the use of the white cane, right here at CVI. A certified orientation and mobility instructor met with me one-on-one and taught me how to properly use the cane. Over the years I have found this device to not only be beneficial but essential to my mobility and travel. Each day before I leave the house I grab my house keys and my white cane, which I always have propped up on the wall by the front door. My white cane has enabled me to travel safely and confidently by detecting stairs, sidewalk curbs, doorways and obstacles along the way. It gives me the added security and protection I need so that I don’t stumble, fall or run into things. My white cane also identifies me as being a person with a vision impairment. When people see my white cane they have a better understanding of my situation and can respond accordingly.

When I first started using my white cane I learned how to cross busy streets and intersections. I learned how important it was to have my white cane directly in front of my body so that motorist could see it clearly. To a motorist driving down the street or hovering at a street light; the white cane stands out because of its color and the red strips help deflect a vehicle’s headlights.

Today is White Cane Safety Day and through my years of travel, I have learned how important it is to know and be aware of the laws that protect white cane travelers. The first national White Cane Day was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. It designated October 15th as National White Cane Safety Day. Georgia went a step further and created a state law and protection for those pedestrians that use a white cane.

Here is a summary of the law:

  1. Only people who are blind or visually impaired should travel with a white cane.
  2. When a motorist comes in contact with a person traveling with a white cane at an intersection that driver should come to an immediate stop to avoid injury or harm to the white cane traveler.
  3. Any person who is in violation of the above will be guilty of a misdemeanor.

It is important that motorist know and obey the rules of the road, including posted speeds. For those of you who drive, please be a courteous and cautious driver. Please remember to observe the White Cane Law so that we all can travel safely to our destinations.

So, do you use a white cane? How has your white cane assisted you with traveling around Atlanta? Are you familiar with the White Cane Safety law? Share your thoughts and comments and let’s discuss the use of the white cane.

The Three E's of Employing the Visually Impaired

Picture of Angela DavisThis year’s theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month is “Expect. Employ. Empower." The Center for the Visually Impaired thoroughly supports these 3 E’s. The job readiness program at CVI empowers individuals to expect successful attainment of employment goals. We understand that these 3 E’s are the core of independence and we work every day to help more Georgians who are blind or visually impaired enter or return to the workforce.

As the new employment specialist at CVI, I am glad to champion these 3 E’s by facilitating vocational support to our clients. I believe in the mission of CVI, and have been at the center in several capacities. In the spring of 2010, I attended the center to refresh my braille and computer skills. While I was a graduate student at Georgia State University in 2011/2012, I served as an intern in career services. As a new staff member, I am especially excited about the center’s presence as a central voice and resource, and know, first hand, what a difference vocational rehabilitation makes in the employment lifespan of the blind or visually impaired.

CVI has been making a difference for over 50 years. Our mission is to empower people impacted by vision loss to live with independence and dignity. The fulfillment of that mission is centered within the attainment of competitive employment. CVI’s internship and job placement programs make it possible for our clients to explore vocational opportunities that can lead to such employment. We help individuals ready themselves for such opportunities by offering a job readiness program that is centered upon some of the following:

1. Disclosure of Disability

I often tell clients that the difference between being competent or clumsy lies in the acceptance of one’s vision impairment and the successful execution of learned skills. I have known several individuals who were uncomfortable disclosing their vision impairment, and refused to use tools like a white cane. Sadly, these individuals came off as clumsy employees which caused them to lose their jobs. They would have been competent, valued employees had they felt comfortable with their disability and requested the necessary accommodations to help them complete their work duties.

2. Professional Presentation and Behavior

We stress the importance of having an impressive presence, both physical and virtual. In other words, it is just as important to know what appropriate job attire is as it is to have a well-written profile online at various social networking and job websites. One’s presence is also revealed in a voicemail greeting and the name chosen for an email address. A grammatically incorrect message or an inappropriate username can send up red flags for a potential employer. It is also important to exercise professional behavior such as making sure one is on time for work, having a solid attendance record, being mindful of meeting deadlines, and maintaining a positive attitude on the job.

3. Career Exploration and Navigation

Recently, I was reading an online article on career transitions for baby boomers. One of the headlines on the page read, “Hope is not a Plan” A good plan for vocational success entails exploration and navigation.” A good sense of where one has been in the past helps to chart a promising future, even if it is one of great transition. It is not sufficient to hope that life will change without establishing a framework upon which one can build career skills and explore opportunities. The way forward is marked by how well we create those frameworks and use them as landmarks along the career journey.

4. Interview and Networking Strategies

It is said that within the first eight seconds of an interview the interviewer has already created his or her impression of the job applicant. This is certainly true, but the impression is actually created well before the applicant sits in front of a potential boss. The formulation of impressions actually begins at the initiation of the interview process by the hiring party. A jobseeker gets off to a good start when professionalism is exhibited in all pre-interview phone conversations and email correspondence. It is also important for our JR clients to understand that interview opportunities can emerge out of contact with individuals who are within their social and professional network. Often a jobseeker overlooks these contacts. She should make sure that all individuals within her network know her desire to be employed. In addition, she should work on establishing an even greater network of business and community contacts that can be mined for employment opportunities. It is not unusual for a job to arise out of a casual conversation with someone in one’s network who is connected to an immediate opportunity.

The successful completion of the JR program at CVI will make it possible for clients to add a fourth “E”, “excellence”, to the theme of Expect, Employ, and Empower. It is a privilege to work each day with individuals who are seeking employment opportunities which will support their independence. This month please remember to celebrate with us as we continue to support the investment of skilled people with disabilities being a part of the workforce.

Tips on Dining Out When You are Visually Impaired

Dining out is a major part of American culture and social life. Whether you are dining out alone or with family and friends, it can be relaxing, enjoyable and entertaining. But I know that with a visual impairment it might be stressful and frustrating. Not being able to see the table setting, flagging down the waiter, reading the menus clearly or determining the food items on your plate can create anxiety and annoyance. But here are a few tips to make the overall experience pleasant and fun.

When you first enter a restaurant, ask your sighted companion or a restaurant staff person to describe the layout so that you can decide where you would like to sit. Keep in mind things such as table/booth arrangements, windows (to avoid glare), steps and restroom locations. You can also just request where you want to sit whether it be at a table for four or a large booth. Also indicate whether you want to sit close to the front door of the restaurant or toward the rear. Letting the sighted staff or your companion know will help insure you sit in a place that is comfortable for you.

Picture of a place settingOnce you arrive at your table, ask your guide to place your hand on the back of the chair where you are going to sit. This will help you know the position of the chair and table. Also ask about table settings. For example, ask about the location of the silverware, condiments and menus. You can also explore your table setting by gently placing your hands on the table top and sliding them around the table to locate these items.

When it comes to reading the menu there are a couple of things you can do. One is have the menu read to you at the table. For best results, have an idea of what type of food you want to eat; like fish, steak, hamburgers, veggie plate, salad, etc. This will help the person reading the menu to target specific areas verses trying to read the entire menu of items. Second you can read the menu in advance on the restaurant’s website. Today, many restaurants place their menus directly on their websites, and some even include prices. This way you know earlier on what types of food the restaurant serves and what you want to order. A third way is to read the menu at the table on your own. Many restaurants have large print and Braille copies of their menus. If the waiter does not offer it, simply ask for this menu.

If this is your first time dining out since you have lost your vision, you might want to order simple foods that you know you can eat with confidence. You might want to practice eating more difficult foods like soups or spaghetti at home. This way you can master the techniques and then feel better about eating in a public setting. For meats such as chicken, lamb or steak, have the cook cut it up in small bit-size portions before bringing to the table. You can also make special request with the wait staff to help your eating experience be more pleasurable. For example you can request that your salad be cut up in small pieces and served in a bowl instead of on a plate.

Empish picking up drinking glassPay attention to when your beverage and food are served. You might want to ask if everyone at your table has received their meal before you begin eating. Request that verbal information be given to you when the food arrives so that you know where things are on the table. For example, asking where the bread basket, drink glasses, extra napkins, or the butter tray is located. Also, during this same time, you can ask for how the food is arranged on your plate.

After enjoying your meal; it is time to pay the bill. When the wait staff brings the receipt have them red the whole thing to you. This will help insure that you know exactly what you are paying for and that the prices are quoted correctly. Using a signature guide can help you sign credit card slips a lot easier. If you don’t have a guide, you can use the edges of your credit card. Have the sighted person place the edge directly above the signature line and sign there.

One last tip for dining out when visually impaired is getting help to your transportation after eating your meal. If you are dining alone, this suggestion can be even more helpful. Ask the wait staff to let you know when your transportation arrives. You can let them know that you are taking a cab, someone pick you up, or using specialized transportation for the disabled. They can look out for you, and even help you to the door to meet your ride.

So, are you ready to go out for a meal? Were these tips helpful in knowing how to dine at restaurants? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share that work for you? Post your comments below and let’s discuss our dining out experiences.

The MAIA Microperimeter is here at the Low Vision Clinic

Picture of Natasha using MAIAThe Center for the Visually Impaired’s Florence Maxwell Low Vision Clinic is pleased to announce the arrival of the MAIA microperimeter, a tool that is helpful in detecting and monitoring retinal functional changes. Microperimetry delivers important information to eye care specialists, providing a precise understanding of the functionality of the macula. This translates into an enhanced focus on function by both the doctor and the therapist, and also allows for improved patient education and training.

The MAIA, obtained through a generous grant from the Dobbs Foundation, is not like other tests you are taking at your eye doctor’s office. What differentiates this test from others is the MAIA assesses how your vision functions. For example, the MAIA is not looking at your visual acuity, assessing retinal tissues or eye health. But rather it is looking at how a patient uses their eye to see at their best.

What information does the MAIA provide?

  • It provides information on the focusing performance of your eye. If you think of a camera, you need to get the picture into focus in order to get a clear image. It is the same for an eye. Identifying how a person focuses their eye provides greater understanding of the underlying functional problem.
  • It provides information on Threshold. This is a measurement of the minimum amount of light that can be detected from your eye. The MAIA allows us to get a sense of how much light you need to function at your best. This information is then incorporated into the training you receive at the clinic.
  • It provides information on where you are having trouble seeing. If you have macular degeneration the MAIA provides beautiful images of where your blind spot(s) is located. This allows the eye care professional to teach how to best move your eye in order to obtain optimal function.Picture of an eye map that is generated from the MAIA Microperimeter

How does this information help me? The results provide a deeper level of understanding into how your eye is seeing functionally. It also provides a greater level of objective information on how your eye disease impacts how you see. Finally, it allows for a deeper level of training and education by your eye care professional, based on the findings of the MAIA.

At CVI we believe that education is critical. Empowering our clients with knowledge allows for greater understanding of why your vision functions as it does. The MAIA helps provide an objective functional assessment and allows for an improved quality of treatment. The MAIA allows us to provide a superior functional treatment focus that is not available elsewhere in the Atlanta low vision community. At CVI, our goal is to increase our client’s independence and help them to achieve a greater quality of life. Providing education, training and tools, like the MAIA, help to enhance our assessment and treatment allowing our clients an enhanced quality of life.

For more information on the MAIA or a low vision appointment contact: Florence Maxwell Low Vision Clinic at 404-875-9011

Accessing BARD Talking Books or Braille on your Apple mobile device

Did you know that persons who are enrolled in the National Library Service (NLS) program for talking books and braille can download books onto an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad? BARD Mobile is the latest service offered by NLS. The NLS program in Georgia is called GLASS, which stands for Georgia Library for Accessible Statewide Services.

BARD Mobile provides convenient access to books and magazines any time, 24/7. It is very easy to use. You start by going to Apple’s app store on your Apple mobile device and downloading the free BARD Mobile app. Anyone can download the app, but only eligible and enrolled NLS patrons can actually use it. You will be prompted to agree to terms of service and enter your BARD login information. After that, it’s all fun!

Picture of BARD mobile with VanessaYou will want to build your personal bookshelf by browsing for recently added audio and/or braille books and magazines. The other option is to browse BARD, which gives you full access to the online catalog. If you are browsing BARD, you will want to “add to Wish List” to prepare a title for download. If you are browsing recently added titles, you simply select the title from the display list. To download from your Wish List of titles, you select the title you want to download from your Wish List option. The menu will prompt you to see if you intend to download a selected title. Select OK, and then wait for the chime to let you know you have successfully downloaded a title. It’s that simple!

After downloading, you can listen to your audio book or read your braille with a synced, refreshable braille display. You will not have to worry about returning the materials. You have the convenience of selecting and reading materials whenever it is convenient to you. There are no limits on the number of items you can have digitally checked out. The BARD app makes it easy to navigate within a digital book, using commands very much like the commands on the NLS digital talking book machines. The app also provides you with menu options to delete items that you have already read or no longer want stored on your device.

Lots of people ask, “Why Apple and not for Android devices?” Apple has proven to be a much easier platform for the software developers to work with. NLS engineers are working to create an Android app, but they are not quite there yet. We promise to keep you posted when that app is released.

For more information on BARD, read the online BARD Mobile User Guide. If you are not currently enrolled in the NLS program, contact your local GLASS library. Our statewide toll-free number is 800-248-6701. A Readers Advisor will be happy to help you become enrolled in GLASS and get you reading again.

Seven Tips on Preparing for an emergency

Tornados, hurricanes, snowstorms, fires, floods. These are all events that can catch anyone off guard. This month the nation focuses on emergency preparedness and there are things that you can do to get ready. Here are seven tips.

1. Create an emergency contact list. This list includes family, friends and medical information such as your insurance company and how to contact your primary care physician. You can post your list in a visible location like on the refrigerator or kitchen corkboard. Also give a copy to the friends and family on the list so that if an emergency happens they could contact each other to help you. You can create your list in print and/or braille so that you as well as sighted people in your life have access. You can also keep a list on your cell phone or smartphone.

2. Purchasing an accessible emergency and/or first aid kit. Grab Pak is a company that provides fully accessible emergency preparedness kits to the blind and visually impaired. The company offers six different kits that are accessible to both large print and braille readers. The first-aid kits come with standard items such as bandages, gloves, tweezers, and gauze pads. The emergency preparedness kits come with items such as water pouches, a crank mobile device charger, a solar blanket, a folding white cane, and much more. For more information and to purchase a kit go to

Empish putting batteries in flashlight3. Keep extra drinking water on hand. Several gallons can come in handy just in case there is a water main break and you can’t quickly get to the grocery to purchase water. Also keep canned or packaged food on hand that does not require cooking and can be eaten on the go. Don’t forget to also have a manual can opener just in case of a power outage.

4. Have extra batteries available. You can place them in a drawer for quick access. The batteries can be used for radios or flash lights; but do not place the batteries inside because they could corrode and not work when you need them. So, just place them nearby and you can grab when needed.

5. Purchase hand-held fire extinguishers. According to the National Fire Protection Association it is best to have a fire extinguisher on each level of your home, in the kitchen, the garage and near exit doors. You never know when you might need to putEmpish with fire extinguisher out a small fire and you will lose precious time running around the house to get an extinguisher. Two things to remember though--be sure to check the agent class. They come in A, B, C or a combination. If you have questions about this talk to one of the sales clerks at the home improvement store or your local fire department. Also, keep track of the agent levels in the extinguisher. Over time the agent strength level decreases and the worse thing is to have a fire, grab your extinguisher, aim, spray and nothing comes out! Unfortunately this information is not very accessible so you will have to get a sighted person to check the levels.

Empish with fire resistant security box6. Accessing important documents such as social security cards and birth records. These documents can be hard to replace if they are lost or damaged during an emergency or natural disaster. To avoid this, purchase a security box that is both water proof and fire safe. In the security box you can keep your birth records, passport, insurance information, previous tax returns and other important sensitive documents. Another thing you can do is scan these documents on the computer and save copies on a secure Internet storage site like Dropbox. Drop Box and similar sites can be accessed anywhere there is an Internet connection and on smartphones.

7. Create an advance medical directive. This document states what to do medically if you become unable to direct your own care. It would give who to contact to make medical decisions on your behalf and whether you want to be resuscitated or not. This is something that needs to be taken seriously because the wrong medical care could be administered without your knowledge or approval.

The tips listed above to prepare for an emergency are not exhaustive. But it can be a great start. Do any of the tips listed resonate with you? What things are you doing to prepare for an emergency? Do you have suggestions or tips that you would like to share? Please do so in the comment section so that we can help each other be prepared for an emergency.