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.

CVI Congratulates Staff Member Tierra Long

Occupational Therapist Tierra Long Earns Specialty Certificate in Low Vision

When people experience vision loss, doing things like cleaning, cooking, reading, and managing their finances becomes difficult. The good news is with guidance from an occupational therapist, they can learn about tools and tips to make doing those things easier.

At the Center for the Visually Impaired, clients meet with Occupational Therapist Tierra Long after their low vision evaluation to set goals and learn ways they can continue to live with independence and purpose. Tierra recently achieved an important goal of receiving a Specialty Certification in Low Vision through the American Occupational Therapy Association. This distinction has been accomplished by less than one percent of all occupational therapists nationally.

Tierra Long with female child client. Showing her how to use a magnification tool to read.

This Specialty Certification confirms that Tierra has advanced knowledge and understanding of low vision diagnoses, treatment options, intervention, and training to provide high quality intervention to clients with low vision through a holistic approach.

“Obtaining this specialty certificate in the area of low vision was a worthy endeavor,” said Tierra. “It means that CVI clients may find comfort in knowing that the person providing services to them has the expertise to determine the best intervention for their care.”

CVI congratulates Tierra on receiving this recognition from her peers. Her commitment to the profession, the practice area of low vision, and consumer care is commendable and means that clients coming to the Florence Maxwell Low Vision Clinic are receiving the best care available.

CVI Welcomes the Ellis Center

This Is the Start of a Beautiful Partnership…

Starting in August, the Center for the Visually Impaired welcomes our new neighbor and partner the Ellis Center to 739 W Peachtree. The Ellis Center is a nonprofit organization serving children with complex communication needs, vision impairments and multiple disabilities, and their community, focusing on what IS possible. We are excited to welcome their families and children, however they will not be new faces for us as many have started their journey in our BEGIN program.

One such example is the founders of Ellis Center, Alison and Tim Caputo, and their son Damian. Their journey began with the birth of Damian in 2006, where he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. At a young age Damian, like many of Ellis’ students and campers, participated in the BEGIN program, but at age 5 entered the public school system where he began to feel isolated and unheard. His needs were not being met and they knew something had to change. Alison gathered regional and national experts with the best practices and cutting-edge developments in the field of Special Education to innovate a model of education truly unique in Atlanta, and moreover in the South East. The Ellis School grew over the years into the Ellis Center, striving to unlock the potential of the most vulnerable and under-represented demographic of special needs children who are too often written off as not having potential to express themselves, the ability to communicate, or to develop their own unique personality, dreams, and ability to thrive.

Damian is now 13 and has definitely grown and thrived at Ellis like many that are served through their four programs including a full-time school, Camp ImpAACt, community education, and evaluation services. We are excited to welcome their families back to the Center for the Visually Impaired, and we look forward to a great partnership in the years to come.

You can check out more about their programs by visiting www.elliscenter.org or following them on Facebook and Instagram for regular updates and happenings.

Client Success Story: Laura Revan

CVI client Laura Revan has a reason to celebrate in the midst of so much uncertainty right now. She recently accepted a job working to help others with their unemployment claims. With so many people out of work, her role is a blessing to her and those she is helping.

For Laura, a 49-year-old with Degenerative Retinitis (Detached Retina), helping others has become a defining feature of her life in the midst of the current health and unemployment crisis. Laura accepted a job with Industries for the Blind working in their Unemployment Insurance department. As a customer service representative, she specializes in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). In describing the parameters of her new position, she said, "My responsibilities include but are not limited to assisting clients with their weekly claims, processing PUA applications, and advising clients of their current claims status." To people who have lost their source of income as a result of the pandemic, Laura is a lifeline, helping them navigate the system to secure the resources that they desperately need.

Laura began attending CVI in the summer of 2018 in the New View Adult Rehabilitation program with the goal of learning the skills she needed to find employment. The broad range of skills she gained such as learning to use JAWS (Job Application with Speech) software and braille along with job readiness training prepared her for success in the job market.

"Attending CVI was one of the best decisions I ever made," said Laura. "I learned so much from everyone. I am strong and confident in this world of uncertainty, and CVI has given me the skills I need to do my job and the knowledge to do so much more."

According to New View Program Director Rasheeda Wilkins, “Laura was always confident and poised, and was determined to be successful and obtain employment.” Participating in the New View program helped Laura reach her goal and we celebrate her new job along with her.

To learn more about CVI’s New View program, visit cviga.org.

It’s garden time!

Hands digging in the dirt with a spade.

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

This is the time of year that people get outside and feed their bodies and souls by planting gardens. Gardening has become even more popular throughout the past few months as people look for ways to stay active, reduce stress, and think about providing their own supply of produce while staying at home due to COVID-19. Anyone can create a garden with the right guidance.

Although gardening can present some challenges for people living with visual impairment, it is definitely something they can do with limited assistance.

Here are a few tips from a website called Carry on Gardening to help you get started:

Top tips for getting ready

  • If you are just starting to garden with sight loss, you might find it useful to get to know your garden better by walking around it at different times of day until you are familiar with it.
  • Always manage your part of the garden yourself. If you need some help, ask for it for that job, then carry on working alone. This way, you’ll become a much more confident gardener.
  • Visually impaired people can sometimes find it difficult to find their way back to where they were in the garden. One idea is to use an RNIB sound beacon or take a small radio with you and leave it on while you are working.
  • A washing line can also provide a point of reference in the garden and you can use it as a guide to help you know where you are.
  • Think about the job you’re going to do and plan what will make it easier for you. It might be as simple as making sure you have a kneeler with you to save your knees, or a stool or seat to work from or take rests.
  • Get all the tools you’ll need together to save trips back and forth to the shed or garage. Try and keep your storage area tidy and you’ll be able to find your tools more easily.

To review these tips and more, visit www.carryongardening.org.

Success Story: Lisa Sims

Photo of girl with red, mid-length, curly hair wearing glasses and a pink and black top.

“Although I am visually impaired, I try my best to not let it handicap me.” Lisa Marie Sims has lived with congenital motor nystagmus, a vision condition in which the eyes make repetitive, uncontrolled movements, her entire life.

Now 19 years old, Lisa recently began to feel unsafe as she traveled to and from her job at Publix. In early April, she began orientation and mobility (O&M) training with CVI.

“Working with Mr. Ernest helped me learn how to travel safely and Independently,” said Lisa. “I was taking the bus to and from work before training, but he taught me how to feel more confident and safe doing that. He also suggested I begin using a white cane to help me navigate my surroundings and introduced me to a telescope that clips on my glasses helping me to see much further away more clearly. Thank you very much Mr. Ernest and CVI!”

When asked what being able to receive training during this challenging time meant to her, Lisa said, “It means so much to me that words can’t begin to even explain. I am so thankful, and it has given me a great reminder of hope, that even with my disability I can travel safe and independently. I am just one person. There are many other people with disabilities worse than mine, and me personally working with CVI has brought tears of joy to my eyes. I love you CVI, thank you!”

CVI is participating in #GivingTuesdayNow next Tuesday, May 5. You can change someone’s life with your gift on Tuesday or any day. Click here to make your gift.

Tactile Quilts are Great for Babies Who Are Visually Impaired

Tactile quilts are a great gift idea for babies who have a visual impairment. CVI gives one to families that are new to the BEGIN program. Tactile quilts teach babies to explore a variety of textures, and when appropriate, colors and sounds. The quilts can be made with different textures in the squares on the front including lace, fringe, tulle, rickrack, elastic, and anything that is interesting and is washable. Some quilters will also add pockets on the quilt for a searching activity as the child gets older.

CVI recently received a donation of 21 tactile quilts from the Chamblee Star Quilt Guild. Members of the Guild make quilts to donate as part of their community outreach according to Shirley Dobson, a guild member. “We use everything on our quilts including items that make noise like a squeaky toy,” said Dobson.

Here are a few of the ones guild members made this year.

This quilt is for helping a child learn to count in Braille. Has the number and the braille version that they can touch. Colors are browns, yellows and orange.

This quilt has square with a theme of homes. There is a house boat, a castle and other types of homes with many colors including blue, pink, yellow, red and more with flowers, plaids and some strips.

This quilt includes a mitten and socks with fluffy cuffs that the child can feel. There is also a bear face with a raised purple bow. Other items include a square with a moon and a star, and x and o, a sail boat and fish under water.

Are you interested in making a quilt for a BEGIN baby? Below are a few instructions, and for the beginner, here’s a link to quilt making 101 https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-sew-a-quilt-Quilting-101/ that might be helpful.

Instructions:

The quilt is made of nine 12 ½ inch squares set 3 by 3 to give a finished quilt approximately 36 inches square. A 12 ½ inch square could be made of joined smaller squares of different fabrics or colors. You can also make themed quilts, with each square having a tactual picture of things associated with the beach, clowns, airplanes, camping, food, animals, flowers, balloons, etc. The top batting and back are then all put together, stitched and turned right side out. You can finish the inner seams with stitching or ties.

CVI Brings Attention to Low Vision During Low Vision Awareness Month

Female senior citizen using a handheld magnifier to read something while the doctor looks on.

Early Diagnosis and Rehab Services are Key to Living with Low Vision

Millions of Americans, including many older adults in metro Atlanta, are affected by low vision. Low vision can make it hard to do everyday things like reading, shopping, cooking, or writing. And it can’t be fixed with eyeglasses, contact lenses, medications, or surgery. But there’s good news! Vision rehabilitation can help people with low vision stay independent and make the most of their sight.

Low Vision Awareness Month, which is recognized each February, is the perfect time to raise awareness about low vision and vision rehabilitation services here at the Center for the Visually Impaired.

First, let’s talk about what some of the early signs of low vision are. You might be dealing with low vision if you are having difficulty with the following activities even when wearing your glasses or contact lens:

  • Recognizing the faces of family and friends

  • Reading, cooking, sewing or fixing things around the house

  • Selecting and matching the color of your clothes

  • Seeing clearly with the lights on or feeling like they are dimmer than normal
  • Reading traffic signs or the names of stores

According to the National Eye Institute, these could all be early warning signs of vision loss or eye disease. They say the sooner vision loss or eye disease is detected by an eye care professional, the greater your chances of keeping your remaining vision.

What can you do if you are diagnosed with low vision? Start by reaching out to a vision rehabilitation organization like the Center for the Visually Impaired (CVI). At CVI’s Florence Maxwell Low Vision Clinic clients receive a thorough exam to assess their vision challenges. The doctors conduct an evaluation of all aspects of daily living to learn more about a client’s specific vision challenges and assess if glasses, magnifiers or other optical aids would be beneficial to improve their visual function. Devices such as large closed captioning televisions, small pocket magnifiers or audio equipment can all be used to assist someone with low vision needs.

The exam is followed by a visit with the low vision occupational therapist who will work with the client to develop a plan to support the goals of the individual through education and training of devices, non-optical aids and simple strategies to maximum vision. In addition, they are provided information about community services and resources available to people with low vision including support groups and other services provided by CVI that may help them continue to get back to work as well as live independently.

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 staff will set up an information table outside CVI on February 17 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. so stop by to learn more about the services we provide. You can also check out the devices and products that we carry in the VisAbility Store that can make life easier for you or your loved one living with vision loss. If you can’t make it by, you can also call 404-875-9011 for more information.

Making New Year's Resolutions Stick

The end of one year and the beginning of a new one is always a time to reflect on what we accomplished during the year that is ending and begin setting goals for the new one. If you are like so many others, you struggle to keep your New Year’s Resolutions past the first few months despite your best intentions. If this sounds like you, these tips below from the American Psychological Association (APA) might just help you make this year’s resolutions stick.

By making your resolutions realistic, there is a greater chance that you will keep them throughout the year, incorporating healthy behavior into your everyday life. APA offers these tips when thinking about a News Year’s resolution:

Start small

Make resolutions that you think you can keep. If, for example, your aim is to exercise more frequently, schedule three or four days a week at the gym instead of seven. If you would like to eat healthier, try replacing dessert with something else you enjoy, like fruit or yogurt, instead of seeing your diet as a form of punishment.

Change one behavior at a time

Unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of time. Thus, replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones requires time. Don’t get overwhelmed and think that you have to reassess everything in your life. Instead, work toward changing one thing at a time.

Talk about it

Share your experiences with family and friends. Consider joining a support group to reach your goals, such as a workout class at your gym or a group of coworkers quitting smoking. Having someone to share your struggles and successes with makes your journey to a healthier lifestyle that much easier and less intimidating.

Don’t beat yourself up

Perfection is unattainable. Remember that minor missteps when reaching your goals are completely normal and OK. Don’t give up completely because you ate a brownie and broke your diet or skipped the gym for a week because you were busy. Everyone has ups and downs; resolve to recover from your mistakes and get back on track.

Ask for support

Accepting help from those who care about you and will listen strengthens your resilience and ability to manage stress caused by your resolution. If you feel overwhelmed or unable to meet your goals on your own, consider seeking professional help. Psychologists are uniquely trained to understand the connection between the mind and body. They can offer strategies as to how to adjust your goals so that they are attainable, as well as help you change unhealthy behaviors and address emotional issues.

And if you are looking for some New Year’s resolution ideas that are not the usual, check out this list at https://parade.com/969195/megangrant/new-years-resolutions-ideas/.