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.

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

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.