Sightseeing. A periodic tour of CVI news, views and events.

CVI's SightSeeing Blog

Welcome to CVI's SightSeeing Blog! Here we discuss topics of interest and importance to the community.

Some of the information posted here includes personal stories from CVI clients, perspectives from CVI's expert staff, hot topic issues in government, the latest trends in technology for the visually impaired, and much more. Our desire is that this blog is a useful tool to enlighten, educate and provide needed information in a meaningful dialogue for both the blind and sighted communities. Join us as we invite you to share and discuss the topics with us.

Please note: Blog comments are not to be interpreted as a direct endorsement by the Center for the Visually Impaired. If you have any questions or comments regarding the blog posts, please send them to Angie Clawson at aclawson@cviga.org.

Fitness Challenge Participants Tackled Adaptive Rock Wall Climb

It’s been just over four months since CVI kicked off the Anthem/USABA Fitness Challenge and CVI’s participants are definitely becoming more active and challenging themselves to try new things. A great example of this was the recent “Try It” event we hosted in partnership with Catalyst Sports. Participants came out for an adaptive rock wall climb at Stone Summit Climbing & Fitness. None of them had ever done anything like it before. For a few, it seemed to come easily while others had to overcome some fear of heights, but they tried and that was the most important part. Everyone had such a good time that they’ve asked when we can do it again! Below are some of the photos from participants going to new heights for their health.

A group of CVI participants holding the USABA National Fitness Challenge banner

Lee climbing a rock wall

Anna, about to climb the rock wall, standing with an instructor

Miguel climbing a rock wall

Shelby climbing a rock wall

Valentine’s Day Activity for Kids

Submitted by Emily Pack, TVI, CVI Children & Youth Services

This week your kids are probably thinking about making Valentine’s Day cards for their classmates and a box to collect the ones they are given. If your child is blind or visually impaired, you may be thinking how can I make something with them that they and their sighted classmates will both enjoy? Well, we have a couple of suggestions that are fairly easy and will be fun to make.

Card:

The first is a card that any child will love from the website thinkingiq.com called “You Make My Heart Pop.” You can even attach a lollipop if you want for an extra “Pop.”

See below for the link to print the cards out and for the instructions. You may want to translate the cards to Braille as well!

https://thinkingiq.com/you-make-my-heart-pop-valentines-day-cards/

Directions:

Image of free Valentine's Day card

Print the Free Cards. [You Make My Heart Pop Valentine's Day Printable Cards]

Cut and attach bubble wrap with tape or glue.

Pass out and let kids pop away!

Valentine’s Collection Box

On the website for Paths to Literacy, we found a great Valentine’s Day Box you can make with your kids with instructions for making it both visually fun as well as tactilely fun! Below is the list of materials you’ll need plus the link to the directions.

Materials:

  • Box with a hole cut on top for their classmates to put the Valentine in. You can use a small cardboard mailing box or a shoe box – whatever you have around the house.
  • Tactile stickers: They can be found at the Dollar Store, Hobby Lobby, Michaels, etc.
  • Emoji’s: You print them off the computer or you can make them using stickers for the eyes and black foam pieces for the mouths so a visually impaired child can feel them.
  • Glue – liquid and stick both work.
  • Braille label paper.
  • Construction paper hearts.
  • Container/bowl.

http://www.pathstoliteracy.org/strategies/creating-accessible-valentines-day-post-box

Happy Valentine’s Day from CVI!

February is Low Vision Awareness Month

A CVI client getting a low vision exam

Have you ever wondered what it means when someone says they have low vision? Many of us probably think of an elderly family member who has a hard time reading or watching TV. It is true that most people with vision loss are age 65 or older, and with the population living longer, this age group is at an increased risk of experiencing eye diseases and age-related conditions like macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, dry eye, glaucoma and low vision. But, low vision can affect anyone at any age.

Low vision is a visual impairment that cannot be corrected by standard eyeglasses, contact lenses, medication or surgery. What are some of the questions you should ask yourself or a loved one to determine if they are experiencing low vision?

  1. Do you have trouble reading the paper or watching TV?
  2. Is it a struggle to recognize faces?
  3. Are you having problems accomplishing daily tasks?

If you or your loved one answered yes to any of these, it might be time to learn about living with vision loss.

Rehabilitation services help people adapt to vision loss and maintain their quality of life through teaching them a wide range of skills. Individuals experiencing low vision begin the rehabilitation process through an evaluation. An optometrist performs an examination and outlines the current state of the person’s vision as it relates to visual field, visual acuity, contrast sensitivity and general ocular health as well as several other areas.

The exam is followed by training with the occupational therapist (OT) who reviews the recommended assistive devices with the client and generates a plan of care specific to the individual’s needs. The plan facilitates independent use of each device to perform daily activities of life most effectively and as independently as possible. Devices such as large closed captioning televisions, small pocket magnifiers or audio equipment can all be used to assist someone with low vision needs.

In addition to a low vision evaluation and OT services, individuals who come to the Center for the Visually Impaired also receive assistance with vocational rehabilitation like orientation and mobility, computer training, and job placement support. It is our hope that each client departs the Low Vision Clinic with a wealth of information, assistive devices and a restored faith in their independence and quality of life.

In honor of Low Vision Awareness month, the Low Vision Clinic will be offering demonstrations by the Occupational Therapist on February 6 and 11 from 9 a.m. to Noon in the lobby of the Clinic. Stop by to learn more about living with low vision or services offered by the Low Vision Clinic. If you can’t make it by, learn more by clicking here or call us at 404-875-9011.

Donor Spotlight: Alannah Edwards

Alannah Edwards and her mom

At just 14 years old Alannah Edwards understands the importance of giving back. Throughout her young life she has asked her friends to give donations instead of gifts for her birthday so she can help others who are less fortunate than she is. What an inspiring young lady she is, and CVI is grateful that she chose to support the work we do this year in honor of her friend. Hear from Alannah directly about why she gives back.

Alannah Edwards

Inman Middle School

Birthday: September 13

What gave you the idea of asking for donations instead of birthday gifts this year?

It was something that I have done every year. I thought that this year, in honor of my friend Devon, who recently passed away, I would donate to an organization that I felt could help others who suffered from the same conditions she did. I told my friends about the organization and they all thought it was a cool idea and some of their parents wanted them to do the same thing on their birthdays!

I want a lot of things that I don’t need, so my parents encouraged me to find a new perspective. And maybe instead of getting new presents, like a pair of shoes I don’t need, I can get someone something that they need, not just want.

What inspired you to give those donations to the Center for the Visually Impaired?

I did some research and I looked at a couple of organizations and came across CVI. Something about the way they served people with limited vision caught my eye. I was inspired by their programs and the photos and images on their website were meaningful to me.

How much were you able to collect?

My friends contributed $100 as a group and my parents made a larger contribution in honor of my friend, Devon Lengel.

Why do you feel it’s important to give back?

Because if you grow up in a world where you don’t have to worry about your health, your eyesight or having a disability, or where your next meal will come from, then you are living a dream that many people don’t get to experience. I think it is important to give back to people who don’t have as much as you do.

Little things made my friend Devon happy that I would not have recognized and it made me feel grateful to have someone who showed me the importance of the small moments. So even donating something little to someone can make a difference and not only would it make them happier but it will make you happier.

What would you tell others about why it’s important to support an organization like CVI?

Nonprofits like CVI rely on people to support their work. And donating what you think may be a little amount can make a large impact on someone’s experience. The money we gave helped purchase 11 walking canes, which was more than I ever expected, which means 11 people benefitted from something that I would have used to buy something I didn’t need.

The Evolution of Braille

A man sitting at a table reading Braille.

Written by Meredith Snellings, Early Intervention Specialist in CVI's BEGIN Program

January is Braille Awareness month, a perfect opportunity to learn a little more about the history of braille, how it is used today and what the future may hold for this form of adapted literacy. Braille serves to minimize the barriers that individuals who have visual impairment and blindness face when gaining access to literacy; it is a foundation of literacy and independence as it opens doors to the vast quantity of literature available for those who cannot access regular print materials. Braille materials are produced by a number of organizations such as the American Printing House for the Blind, National Braille Press, and can be accessed by individuals and educational specialists.

Braille is a tactual code that was invented by Louis Braille, a French man, in 1829. The Braille code was adapted from a night reading system that had been implemented during the late 1700’s battles for soldiers to safely read correspondence at night time without turning on a lantern and thus compromising their safety. The earliest attempts to emboss letters and create tactual reading systems contained some flaws described by French philosopher, Pierre Villes as, “talking to the fingertips with the language of the eyes” (Mellor, 1998). Written language is designed in a manner that is conducive to visual processing, but tactual reading is more efficient in a cell by cell linear progression of movement. Louis Braille simplified the night reading system to the six-dot braille cell, assigning a letter to each combination of filled in dots as an answer to his frustrations about lack of access to literacy as a young adult after he had been blinded at the age of five in his father’s workshop. The resulting braille reading code has been a system that evolved over the following 20 years after Louis Braille introduced it, but was not recognized officially by France until 1852, after Braille’s death.

Braille remained relatively unchanged from 1932 to the 1990’s when the braille community began to recognize the changing needs of braille users and efforts to adapt the code began. The need for a unified braille code was founded to address the need to produce braille in a more cost-effective manner and create a system of code that is more compatible with a greater variety of resources and audiences from countries that began to use slightly different versions of the code. The results produced the Unified English Braille code (UEB), one that is easier to translate, faster to learn, and easier to teach. Changes were made over a series of years to convert materials and education to the new system and was finalized around 2007.

Braille code has proved to be a dynamic means of literacy that signifies independence for a population of individuals who might otherwise struggle for access to employment and economic dependence as well as everyday living enhancements that visual print readers can readily access. To some, braille may seem like an outdated form of literacy; but in terms of modes of communication, for those who use keyboards and technology have not abandoned the pen and paper entirely in favor of more technological outlets. Braille remains relevant and is complementary to newer forms of literacy that are also used in conjunction with the code. Braille is in essence a foundation and bedrock to literacy and can continue to support the growth and access of individuals who rely on it for communication and independence.

There are a number of resources for obtaining braille resources and compilations of these resources can be found at http://www.aph.org. Organizations housing materials for the blind include the American Printing House for the Blind, AFB- American Federation for the Blind, and NIMAC, an independent project funded by the US Department of Education. With the important efforts to unify Braille code and legislation that supports the production of materials to students whose primary mode of literacy is braille, there is greater access in a timelier fashion to the materials needed. Trained specialists and teachers of the Visually Impaired remain a scarce resource, and the field of visual impairment has also made concentrated efforts to recruit and train new professionals to assume the important literacy work that these specialists do.

References:

Mellor C.M., (2006), Louis Braille: A touch of genius, National Braille Press, Boston.

https://brailleworks.com/braille-resources/history-of-braille/

http://www.iceb.org/ICEVI2006_UEB_Paper_Jolley.htm

Atlanta City Council Adopts Electronic Scooter Ordinance

Photograph of scooters propped up on a telephone pole

On Monday, January 7, Atlanta took the first step in a likely multistep process to issue regulations on the popular e-scooter industry in the city. Council adopted Ordinance 18-0-1322 13-1, and the measure now sits on Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ desk for consideration. This legislation mainly impacts scooter companies operating in the city with permitting fees and possible fines for non-compliance, but does direct riders on where to ride and how to park the scooters, but with no fines to the user for violation of the ordinance. Hopefully, the new regulations directed at riders will make sidewalks safer for all pedestrians.

Highlights of the legislation include:

  • An annual operating permit of $12,000 for each scooter company operating a maximum of 500 scooters. After 500 units, each additional scooter will cost $50. Companies must also carry liability insurance.
  • Scooters must be parked upright allowing at least five feet of clearance on sidewalks and cannot block building entrances, driveways, transit stops, ADA curb ramps, or be placed in vegetation.
  • A maximum speed limit of 15 mph (24.14 km/h) and no riding of scooters on sidewalks is required.
  • Operators must educate riders on safety measures and local laws such as the wearing of helmets and riding in the street rather than on the sidewalk.
  • Company violators face daily fines of $1,000 and possible revocation of their operating permit in addition to having scooters impounded by the Department of Public Works at their own expense.
  • Each company must take measures to ensure equal scooter distribution around Atlanta’s neighborhoods and business districts and offer a form of payment and access that does not require a credit card or smart phone for access.

As reported recently in Sightseeing, this ordinance could offer some assurance to Atlanta pedestrians with vision loss, as the scooters pose an extra hazard because of their lack of noise and close proximity to people using white canes who may not always walk in a straight line requiring sudden stops or course corrections from scooter operators on sidewalks in addition to tripping hazards posed by fallen scooters, sometimes piles of them, blocking entrances, curbs, or even the entire sidewalk path itself. With no penalties assigned to scooter riders, time will tell if possible fines alone assessed to scooter companies will be enough to curb riding on sidewalks, especially in light of Atlanta’s heavy auto traffic and limited bike lane network which poses serious dangers to scooter riders themselves.

If the Mayor signs the legislation, it will go into effect immediately. The ordinance requires Atlanta’s Office of Planning to monitor usage data and report back to the City Council before next January to see if any alterations should be made to the ordinance.

Tips for Healthier Habits in the New Year

A photograph of fruits and vegetables in paper bags

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

Happy New Year! As we begin 2019, you may be looking to hit the refresh button to start the year off with renewed focus on certain goals. And we all know that one of the most popular resolutions is to eat healthier and exercise more.

At CVI, we also know that obesity rates are oftentimes higher among people with visual impairments due to the barriers and misconceptions about their abilities. More than half of the people who are blind and visually impaired in the United States do not participate in even a limited physical fitness routine, but research has shown when those individuals become active with the goal of improving their health, they have higher energy levels, a lower risk of health-related diseases, improved psychological health, and lower rates of depression and anxiety.

This is why CVI is participating in the Anthem/USABA National Fitness Challenge. It's our way of encouraging clients to be more active. One of our local partners in the Fitness Challenge, Amerigroup, has shared some great tips with us on healthy eating and how to be more active that everyone can use.

Nutrition Tips

The USDA recommends choosing from the following food groups daily:

Fresh Vegetables and Fruits – helps reduce risk of heart disease, certain types of cancer and obesity

Whole Grains – helps reduce risk of Type 2 diabetes and can help maintain or lower body weight

Dairy – helps reduce risk of osteoporosis and can lower blood pressure

Protein – helps with the formation of red blood cells and builds muscle

The amount you need may be different based on your age, sex and physical activity level.

Tips for Getting Active

Leading an active lifestyle can help strengthen your heart, increase flexibility and lower cholesterol. It can also help prevent chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure and even some types of cancer. You can make small changes, which can often make it easier to stick with it, and planning ahead makes it easier to include more activity in your day.

  • Walk during your lunch break
  • Play a sport with family or friends
  • Find an exercise buddy to help make it more fun
  • Do some stretching or sit-ups on the floor while enjoying your TV shows
  • Go dancing with a friend

Atlanta Exploring Electric Scooter Regulations

An image of some electric scooters propped up on a telephone pole.

In recent months, Atlantans have found a new way to get around the chronically congested city by means of a sleek, lightweight scooter that can literally be picked up and dropped off anywhere, is cheap and easy to use, and is a realistic alternative to completing short trips without the need for a car, but still a bit too far for walking. You see them everywhere from the tree-lined streets of Inman Park to the busy sidewalks of Peachtree itself, and here lies the potential for serious injury or worse, critics say. Now, the Atlanta city council is looking at measures intended to ensure public safety without stifling a burgeoning mode of transport that has become very popular with city dwellers. These proposed regulations could also impact Atlanta pedestrians with vision loss as well, as the scooters pose an extra hazard because of their lack of noise and close proximity to people using white canes who may not always walk in a straight line requiring sudden stops or course corrections from scooter operators on sidewalks.

On November 13, the city council’s Public Safety Committee met downtown to seek public comment on a proposed ordinance that outlines where, when, and how these new scooters can legally operate. The event drew several citizens concerned about scooter operator and pedestrian safety as well as representatives from the two largest scooter companies operating in Atlanta, Bird and Lime, who expressed concerns about the permitting process and the cap of vehicles allowed under the ordinance they feel would nip expansion in the bud of a blossoming industry. The committee decided to hold the legislation and study it further before moving it on. The work session will take place sometime in December, and the public will again be invited to speak on any proposed changes. The current draft of the ordinance would prohibit scooter operations while on sidewalks throughout the city and would also prohibit parking near building entrances, transit stops, or where they may block pedestrian access along the sidewalk.

The struggle Atlanta faces is not unique in how to regulate this rapidly evolving form of transportation that in many cases has far outpaced current rules and regulations. Cities across America have either outright banned the vehicles or have put in place a temporary moratorium until the completion of a pilot program involving a single company and set number of scooters for study. Atlanta seems to be taking a wait and see approach as the city continues studying how these small vehicles impact the urban environment. Critics worry that the scooters traveling up to 15 mph on crowded sidewalks pose a threat to pedestrians and are a serious danger to scooter operators when riding on streets with other vehicles, in addition to riders simply leaving them on sidewalks and in building entrances once a trip is complete.

For now, these scooters will be a common sight on Atlanta streets and sidewalks. Atlanta hopes to ensure pedestrian safety while not hindering a new industry that has become an overnight transportation sensation. Electric scooters mark the latest flashpoint in the ongoing saga of technology rapidly outpacing government regulation, as has been seen with other forms of sharable transportation options like taxis and bicycles.