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.

Toy Suggestions for Holiday Gift Giving

holiday toys under tree

Santa and his elves are currently working hard at the North Pole preparing gifts for all the good little boys and girls this year. But does Santa know what types of gifts to give those little ones with a visual impairment? Well, if he doesn’t, the staff at CVI’s BEGIN program is willing to help him out. And if you or someone you know is playing Santa this year to a visually impaired child, read on for toy suggestions and ideas to make their Christmas fun, happy and memorable.

One of the first things to consider when looking for toys for a visually impaired child is to not stress out. Many toys currently on the market for a sighted child can easily be adapted for a visually impaired one. With simple modifications such as adding sound, texture, color or vibration the toy becomes very accessible to a visually impaired child. In some cases the toy comes already accessible.

balloonsMany toys already have sounds, bold colors like red, blue, green and yellow, or rough and smooth textures. The goal is to think creatively and then the child can have plenty of fun. For example, for a newborn, a baby gym with interactive items hanging from the middle bar, deflated crinkly Mylar balloons or crinkly gift wrapping paper can be good toys. The bright, shiny color, plus the crispy, crinkly sound placed under a baby’s tummy can give them incentive to move around, therefore helping them to become more aware of their surroundings. Massage pillows are also a great gift and can serve the same purpose.

Every child whether sighted or blind can participate in old fashioned play with pots and pans. For a visually impaired child, this can be loads of fund as they use their hands, feet or wooden spoons to bang the afternoon away! Purchasing toy musical instruments such as ukuleles and harmonicas are good for older kids.

Sky balls from Toys R Us can also be a great gift. The balls are textured or have lights and bells which visually impaired children can touch, feel and hear. For children with low vision, the balls can have bright bold colors that can be seen more easily. These balls can also serve a dual purpose of providing great play time and helping a child to move around.

But of course, these noisy suggestions might not be the best gift for parents or family members! So let’s offer some toy suggestions that might be a bit quieter.

finger paintFor older children, finger paint can be a artistic gift idea. For a visually impaired child, BEGIN advises to add texture to the paint to provide better feel and definition. Items that can be use are grits, rice or glitter. Children can also use foam stickers, found in the scrapbook aisle at stores like Target. These stickers are raised and self-adhesive. They can be placed easily on construction paper or poster board to create a memorable arts and craft project.

The other ultimate quiet gift for children is books. Books that have texture or twin books, that have both Braille and print, are great gifts. Seedlings has superb choices for braille books, especially for little children. Upon request, BEGIN can Braille printed books too. There are also accessible playing cards such as Old Maid and Go Fish, that can be found at the VisAbility Store. All of these make great gifts that can provide hours of quiet play.

caterpillerFor little ones that are on the move, toys that can be pulled or pushed are a great idea. For example, a caterpillar pull toy that has light and sound makes an excellent toy. The child can pull the rope and the insect will move and roll around on the floor. Other examples are toy shopping carts, toy vacuum cleaners, slides or small trampolines.

With these toy suggestions Santa and his helpers are sure to be very successful in providing the best toy for a visually impaired child. And if Santa can’t find these toys in his workshop at the North Pole here is a listing of places to purchase toys and games:

1. CVI’s VisAbility Store has toys for visually impaired children of all age groups.
2. Atlanta Parent Magazine provides a toy guide that includes children with disabilities each year.
3. Local big box stores like Toys R us, Target and Wal-MART sell toys and games that can be adapted for a visually impaired child.

Atlanta Radio Theater Company Donates Portion of Proceeds to CVI

Atlanta Radio Theatre Company

Are 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 (ARTC) 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.

Atlanta RAdio Theatre photoThis classical Christmas production will be held on two days: Saturday, December 7th at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, December 8th at 2:30 p.m. There is no specific price for tickets. You can name your price but a suggested price is $10. 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.

Atlanta Radio Theatre Company photoThe 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:

Why I Shop for Groceries at Publix

Empish at Publix

As Thanksgiving and Hanukkah quickly approach cooking and preparing meals for friends and family is essential. There is so much to do with all the holiday hustle and bustle that the last thing I want to worry about is challenging or difficult grocery shopping experiences. This is why I shop at Publix.

Over my 15 years of being visually impaired, I have had a host of interesting, complicated and humorous shopping adventures. From being left alone in the aisle while a store clerk went on break, to wrong items being placed in my cart, to another visually impaired person offering to assist me - my experiences are unlimited. But when it comes to shopping at Publix, my experience has been much like their slogan: Publix - where shopping is a pleasure.

One of the first things I noticed when I began shopping at Publix is how all the store employees always speak to me. Whether I am in the aisle, the checkout line or in front of the store, they always stop to say hello and offer help. I have found that over the years, customer service is more important to me now more than ever before. Their simple acknowledgement shows me that they value me as a customer and want me to continue shopping with them.

Empish at check outOne example of this is when I got to the checkout line, several of my items were incorrect. I figured this out because I always have the sales clerk call out the item and price before I purchase everything, that way we can catch any errors before I leave the store. On that particular day, we caught several wrong items and I did not have time to go back and pick up the correct ones.

The next day, I called and spoke to the store manager and explained the situation. He apologized and told me he would correct it. When I came back to the store, he greeted me at the customer service counter and introduced me to a nice sales clerk who assisted me. We picked up the items that I needed and rang up everything. When she gave me my total, it was less than what was in my cart. At first I thought it was a slipup, but she told me that at Publix when they make a mistake - you get your groceries for free. Well, I was shocked! I had not heard of a policy like that. From that point on, you didn't have to guess where I went shopping! LOL!

Another thing that I have noticed is whenever I come to the customer service counter to get assistance, someone is always available. I might have to wait no more than 5-10 minutes. Everyone is pleasant and willing to help. As a blind person, this is extremely important to me. I need to know and feel that they want to assist me and that they will make themselves available.

But the biggest thing I enjoy about shopping at Publix is their accessible website. Since I am totally blind now, I can’t read the weekly sales ad in print, but I can online. Publix has accessible features on their website that speaks to the blind community.

For example, there is a section on the site that gives instructions using JAWS’s shortcut keys to navigate the site. JAWS is a screen reading program that allows people to listen to their computer through a speaker or headset. On the site, I can create my profile, read the weekly ad, add or remove items from my grocery list and print out my shopping list to take with me.

Once I complete my shopping the grocery list will not only list the items I want to purchase, but it will also list the store location and the aisle that the item is located on. This extra feature makes it very easy for me when I request a sales clerk to help me do my shopping. All the Publix clerk has to do is read down the list, go to the specific aisle and place the items in my cart. You can’t get any easier than that! Additionally, for low vision users there are buttons where you can magnify the screen and print out the grocery list in a larger font size. When I discovered this adaptation that Publix made for the blind community, I was excited and very impressed.

Empish at PharmacyNot only do I purchase groceries at Publix, but I get my prescriptions filled there too. The experience at the pharmacy is also stress free. There is seldom a long line or long wait time to pick up my medication. The pharmacist is always pleasant and offers to explain any information about my medication without having to be asked.

One time when I was picking up my prescription, the pharmacist alerted me that the shape of my medication pill had changed. It went from a round, circular shape to an oval almost diamond shape. She wanted to make me aware since I was blind, and to reassure me that I was not getting the wrong medicine. I thought, "How perceptive of her to understand my visual disability and to share that important information with me." I told her that I appreciated that because I know how easy it is for people to take the wrong medicine.

By now you know my thoughts about Publix, but how do you feel? Share with me your thoughts. Do you currently shop at Publix? Has your experience been a good one? What things do you like or dislike about shopping at Publix? I want to hear from you. Please make your comments in the section below.

CVI Hosts Support Group for Visually Impaired Diabetics

By Empish Thomas, Public Education Manager

Lynn Miller coordinates the CVI diabetes support group.

At CVI we are aware and understand that vision loss and diabetes can go hand in hand. As the number of people with diabetes grows in this country so does the possibility of losing vision to this disease. This month, the nation focuses on diabetes awareness, but at CVI the focus is daily. According to the American Diabetes Association, the number one cause of new vision loss cases in this country for people under 65 is diabetes. CVI recognizes this startling statistic and not only provides classes on diabetic management but a weekly support group as well. “I attend the support group to receive continuing motivation and support when battling my diabetes,” said one group member.

Since the late 90s, the group has assisted blind and visually impaired clients in managing their diabetes. "The support group was created to help form a social network for people with both diabetes and vision loss,” said Lynn Miller, CVI’s Diabetes Resource Coordinator and VRT. “There are very few of these groups around the nation, but they are catching on. Miller continues, "This group helps people cope with daily challenges of good diabetes self-management such as knowing the devices and skills necessary for blood glucose control, nutrition guidelines and meal planning, foot care, medication administration and how to independently dose and inject insulin.”

Additionally, CVI’s diabetes group focuses on exercise and attending diabetes conferences and expos. “Since exercise is medicine for blood glucose control, we have incorporated exercise classes for people who are blind or visually impaired,” said Miller. CVI has an exercise room that includes a treadmill, two exercise bikes, a stair climber, weight machines, dumbbells and exercise balls. All exercise equipment has been properly labeled so that a visually impaired person can use them independently.

The members have also participated in the ADA annual Step Out Walk for Diabetes at a local park. Members are given sighted guide assistance by a volunteer to walk and participate. Additionally, each year Miller and a group of sighted volunteers escort the support group members to local diabetes conferences. There the group members can peruse the exhibit tables gathering information and resources. They can also attend lectures, healthy cooking demonstrations and meet other diabetics. “The support group is a safe place to discuss diabetes with peers and attend local diabetes conferences and expos,” said one group member.

On occasion during their meetings, support group members will have guest speakers. Some of them come from the medical community discussing various advances in diabetic medications. Others come from social services discussing how Medicare/Medicaid impacts diabetics. “Some clients are uninsured and have no medical care when they first arrive in diabetes group,” said Miller. “The group provides a place where each member can share what works for them and how to find affordable services and devices.” There has even been a guest speaker that focused on proper foot care and gave pedicures, for a nominal fee, to clients. She instructed them on appropriate wound care, the importance of nail clipping and how valuable massaging your feet and toes can be to circulation.

All of these elements make for a powerful and supportive environment for those with vision loss. Members learn important strategies and techniques for diabetic management, get access to information and resources and build long-lasting relationships with others. When dealing with both diabetes and vision loss it is essential to have a place where you can get help, support and encouragement. CVI provides that and more in their diabetes support group. “I am glad the group exists because I receive new information and resources on diabetes,” said one group member. “I have learned proper meal preparation and how to use accessible diabetes supplies and devices.”

Are you visually impaired and dealing with diabetes? Do you want a supportive place to discuss diabetes management? If so, the group meets Mondays from 10:15 a.m. until 12:15 p.m. at CVI. For more information on the diabetes group go to CVI’s support group page on its website or call 404-875-9011.

GLASS: A Resource for the Music Lover


Georgia Libraries for Accessible Statewide Services (GLASS) distributes books in audio and in Braille to serve the needs of the blind and the physically impaired. GLASS is part of the National Library Service (NLS) network. You may have known that NLS has been producing and circulating audiobooks and Braille books for more than 80 years. But you may be surprised to learn that it also has the world’s largest collection of Braille music scores.

According to John Hanson, head of the NLS Music Section, “In the United States, there is no other source for a wide range of Braille music, whether one is considering variety of instruments, types of music, or extent of repertoire.”

But that’s not all that NLS offers music lovers. The collection includes more than 30,000 Braille, audio and large-print music scores, texts, and instructional materials, including some titles developed solely for NLS. Six music magazines also are available by subscription to library customers.

So, if you are interested in music enroll in GLASS and get access to the great materials available from NLS. Through GLASS you can learn music, learn about musicians and learn about musical composition. GLASS will make sure you get the materials that you need. Contact us at 404-248-6701 or via our website at

For an interesting video, “Braille- My Musical Language” on Braille musical notation go to

BEGIN Provides Tactile Quilts to Children

BEGIN QuiltOne of the wonderful aspects of my position for the BEGIN program at CVI is to present new families to the program with a tactile quilt. This tradition was created by Anne McComiskey, our former director, when she first started the BEGIN program in 1985. I am proud to carry on the tradition.

The quilts are hand-made by volunteers in the community and are made up of nine brightly colored squares of differing textures. These colors and textures help to develop tactile awareness in our little ones as well as help the family feel welcomed into the BEGIN program. One of our BEGIN parents said, “It is a special quilt for my son. He likes the different textures and everyone who comes over comments on it.”

We have several volunteers who have been making beautiful quilts and we appreciate all of their hard work. One of the volunteer groups is the residents of Sterling Estates of East Cobb, which is a gorgeous new assisted living facility. The seniors there eagerly piece, cut and sew quilts for baby girls and boys. They have in the past completed an adorable quilt for a baby boy. The Sterling Estates residents are proud of working on this service project and helping to serve their greater community.

If you enjoy quilting and are interested in volunteering to make a tactile quilt (they are pretty easy), please contact Nancy Jennings at 404-875-9011. Also, for more information on the BEGIN program visit our page on the CVI website or call at 404-875-9011.

Georgia Gives Day

Georgia Gives Day

As you know, CVI is making a difference every day by empowering people impacted by vision loss to live with independence and dignity. Our donor’s continuous generous support means the world to people who are visually impaired now more than ever.

On Wednesday, November 13th, people across the state will be participating in the annual Georgia Gives Day, a fundraising event to showcase non-profit agencies. Georgia Gives Day is a collaboration of the Georgia Center for Nonprofits (GCN) in partnership with participating nonprofits. It was created as an opportunity for Georgians to support local causes that are important to them and the Center for the Visually Impaired is participating this year. Donations can be, of course, given throughout the year, but Georgia Gives Day is like a “flashmob of giving” that is both impactful and meaningful.

Join us on November 13 for Georgia Gives Day and help us raise $8,000 for CVI. By making a donation to CVI on Georgia Gives Day, your $10, $25, $50 or $100 gift will help us continue our work in the community. Just visit to make a donation.

Or become a personal fundraiser and advocate for us. Just visit and click BECOME A FUNDRAISER. Determine how much you want to raise on CVI’s behalf and share with your friends through social media. Better yet, find out if the company you work for is interested in participating in a donation match program. The opportunities for you to make yet another impact on CVI are endless.

CVI participated for the first time last year and received over $3,000 in donations. Those donations have allowed us to enhance our services and programs for both visually impaired children and adults. Together, this year, we hope to raise more than $8,000 on Georgia Gives Day and we’re counting on your help!

Follow us on Facebook at and Twitter at so you can share in the excitement and remember to give on November 13.

Repurposing Adversity

Supporting All Causes Image

During this month of October, which is designated National Breast Cancer Awareness, Disability Employment Awareness and Domestic Violence Awareness, I offer my support to all three causes. Breast cancer runs in my family. Although not disabled, I’ve wrestled with varying degrees of visual challenges ranging from a detached retina to the onset of myopic macular degeneration in one eye which thankfully remains under control. I’m also a survivor of domestic violence that impacted my life as a married college student many years ago.

When adversity knocks at my door, I’ve learned the journey can lead to significant personal transformation if I choose to embrace the moment and partner with change. As such, how can we re-purpose adversity to our advantage? How can we learn to value these unwanted events that so painfully punctuate our lives? What’s your style when confronting adversity? How firm is your handshake when greeting it? How warmly do you welcome this stranger in your midst, or do you shun it and run the other way? Let me share three accounts of my own dealings with adversity, including the gifts it bestowed upon my life.

Phyllis Walker photoFirst account: The onset of near blindness and creation of a photography business. Following long-ago eye surgery to repair a massive detached retina that was dangling by a thread. I began to worry about my future ability to make a living. The retina in the other eye was quite weak and I was cautioned to prepare for the worst. From early childhood, I loved photography and had been entranced by the colorful images in Audubon and National Geographic magazines. I had often entertained the idea of becoming a photographer but lacked the confidence to pursue it. Although my resulting vision was not perfect, I was good to go!

Using a 35 mm camera and macro lens I embraced photography as a medium of self-empowerment in overcoming additional adversities. As a self-taught photographer, I discovered that my prints sold nicely at various expos and events. I decided to create an online gallery, naming it Hummingbird Studios for the spiritual significance of hummingbirds in my life. Had it not been for an unpleasant brush with blindness, I might not have followed my dream! Instead of dwelling in fear of the future, I chose to approach my situation with optimism and perseverance.

Second account: Surviving domestic violence and helping abused women. In direct response to domestic violence that impacted my life as a young, married college student, I became active in domestic violence awareness and prevention activities throughout the state. My personal experiences, coupled with stories of women who had barely escaped with their lives, influenced me to establish Esperanza! A Woman’s Hope, which is a 501c3 charitable and educational non-profit organization providing scholarships for job skills.

For those of you who may not be aware, Esperanza means hope. This word conveys the very heart, the soul, and the inner voice of Hope that every abused woman carries within her spirit! At Esperanza! A Woman’s Hope, our goal is to celebrate the journey toward success! When survivors move forward, they sparkle and soar!

I observed that once free from abusive environments, women were primarily confined to minimum-waged jobs and thus unable to generate income sufficient to guarantee timely bill payments and quality child-care services. Financial vulnerability quickly led to emotional compromise.

Many women were returning to the same situations that had threatened their safety and the well being of their children. When women return to abusive environments as a last recourse, situations can escalate into matters of life and death. Physical disabilities including blindness, hearing loss, spinal injuries, brain damage, and paralysis from battering are not uncommon. Although I hail from a family that emphasizes community outreach, had it not been for these life-threatening experiences in my life, I would not have established a non-profit to help abused women.

Third account: Find a place to stand and move the world. As I continued to experience economic adversity in the midst of a deep recession, I found myself intuitively ordering Chinese takeout during a strategy session. When the message in my Chinese Fortune Cookie beckoned me to “Find a Place to Stand and Move the World”, I acknowledged the imperative as serendipity! From that point, I decided to merge my various skills and talents to embark upon a speaking career!

The mission of Courageous Women Who Dare is to provide a series of personal and professional development workshops, including a series of inspirational and motivational talks directed toward the general public, while offering speaking services and programs to help women from all cultures and walks of life to confront adversity and overcome fear. Women especially need to freely express themselves while living lives grounded in heart-felt purpose. My university studies in anthropology and an ongoing interest in Women’s Spirituality in Cross-Cultural Perspectives have created an understanding of the crucial importance of connecting, sharing, and forming trusting relationships in a world that has become highly diverse and multicultural in its scope. And so, a serendipitous moment in the mist of economic adversity led to a viable economic solution.

In conclusion, each of us needs to live with hope, joy and courage amidst adversity. We need to honor the gifts and lessons it bestows. We carry within us a unique song and dance that weaves the tapestry of our lives. Adversity adds substance to the mix! If we apply wisdom when addressing it, the gifts can be multifold. When approached with an open mind and flexibility, adversity can navigate us toward our greatest success!

CVI also recognizes the impact of domestic violence and hosts a community support group specifically for visually impaired people who have experienced abuse. The support group meets every second Wednesday from 3 p.m. until 4 p.m. For more information, contact Annie Obasih at 678-489-2759 or 678-763-1220. You can also contact Theresa Watkins at 770-238-9989.