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 Empish Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since 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.
One 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.
In 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.
According 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:
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.
The 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.
When 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.
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 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.
The 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: http://www.artc.org/.
Photos by Caran Wilbanks
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!
Ever 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.
In 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.
The 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!
VisAbility 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 www.visabilitystore.org. For more information call 404-602-4358.
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 goes on to say, “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 physical fitness for people who are blind or visually impaired,” said Miller. Inside of CVI’s building there is an exercise room that includes 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. In past years, the members have also participated in the ADA annual Step out Walk for Diabetes at a local park. Members were given sighted guide assistance by a volunteer to walk and participate.
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 call 404-875-9011.
The 2015 Georgia Gives Day will take place tomorrow, Thursday, November 12th. Georgia Gives Day is sponsored by the Georgia Center for Nonprofits and allows the local community to pick a nonprofit to support and help them raise as much money as possible within a 24-hour period.
Last year, CVI raised over $8,000. This year, we want to raise at least $5,000 and hopefully, a lot more! But we need your help to reach our goal. CVI has once again been selected to participate in the SunTrust Foundation Financial Wellness Challenge on Georgia Gives Day. We are one of 50 organizations across the state competing for an incentive grant ranging from $1,000 to $2,500. We need to raise at least $2,500 in order to be eligible for the match.
A $10, $25, $50 or $100 gift will help us continue our work in the community. So what does that donation actually look like, you might ask? Here is a breakdown of how your gift, no matter how big or small, can help someone with vision loss.
You can donate anytime, but tomorrow is the BIG DAY. Please help us spread the word to your family, friends and colleagues. Ask them to support and give to CVI on Thursday, November 12th.
To make a donation, visit https://www.gagivesday.org/c/GGD/a/cviga.
You can even become a personal fundraiser and advocate for us. Visit https://www.gagivesday.org/c/GGD/a/cviga and click BECOME A FUNDRAISER. Determine how much you want to raise on our behalf and share with your friends through social media.
Remember, you can donate anytime, but tomorrow is the BIG DAY! Thank you in advance for your support of CVI on Georgia Gives Day 2015!
Editor’s note: Veterans Day is quickly approaching and will be here next week. As we get ready to honor and commemorate the men and women that have served our country, let’s think about those with disabilities as well. This blog post brings a different perspective to serving in the military for the disabled community.
For over twenty years, I have had a desire to help upgrade the standard of living for all people with disabilities by getting the people of our country to see how our military has been, and still is, discriminating against us in one very specific way. Since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 and the more recent incredible advances in technology, there is absolutely no reason why the military couldn’t allow intelligent, enthusiastic and responsible people with disabilities to join the armed forces in noncombat positions, and have the opportunity to serve our country. However, at this moment it is not possible because in order to enlist you must pass a physical exam and be clear of certain medical conditions that people with disabilities can’t possibly meet. But a great example of non-combat jobs are all computer related positions, which today is likely to be more than half the jobs done in the military. These positions, with some accommodations, could be done by disabled people. So why can’t we serve?
Part of the reason I am passionate about this is that I lost my sight while serving in the Air Force. I was discharged in 1970 as my vision was getting worse. I was listed as totally blind in November of 1971. I had originally gone into the military because I wasn’t happy in college. So, I enlisted, and that way I thought that I wouldn’t have to be drafted and sent to fight in Vietnam. It was 1967 and the war in Vietnam was intensifying. But after losing my vision the next seven years or so were incredibly difficult. But through it all I found a way to navigate this challenge and today I am actively involved in my community in Woodstock, New York, do yoga every day, sing and play music with friends. I also have written 3 books and 2 screen plays, started a holistic learning center in Tallahassee, Florida years ago called Southern Springs, and created a yoga program called “Beginning Yoga for the Blind and Visually Impaired.” You can learn more about it at www.blindyoga.net.
Over the years, I have become a strong advocate for empowering people with disabilities. In the mid-1990s, I started the Disable Social Hour, a monthly gathering for people with disabilities in Tallahassee, Florida. Later I created a website called Blind Spots which gave movie reviews for blind and visually impaired people information about the ease or difficulty of watching a movie with sighted assistance. So, now seems to be the perfect time for me to combine my skills with those of others and bring this important issue into the light.
I’m also deeply saddened by the daily acts of suicide committed by our veterans, many who have returned from combat with permanent disabilities. I’d like to see wounded soldiers who return from combat to have the option of staying in the military, if they choose, with a chance to make a career out of it.
I’m sure this would help reduce the rate of suicides and boost the morale among vets. Right now, this also is not possible.
I believe a full-length documentary about this whole subject would, at the very least, expose the inequity and start a national conversation, and at best, could cause sweeping changes in how the public views people with disabilities. In addition, the documentary may very well be a catalyst that helps raise the consciousness regarding disabled vets, as well as raising the standard of living for all disabled people. I have contracted with a wonderful filmmaker, and together we plan to combine my life story, as an inspirational model of what is possible, with images of past American heroes who were disabled. Additionally we want to interview senators and congressmen who would like to support this issue.
To learn more about my public awareness campaign please visit the website Why can’t We Serve.com