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.

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.

Holiday Gift Ideas for Visually Impaired Individuals

Holiday shopping for your loved ones is never an easy task, and it can be even more of a challenge if they are visually impaired. Like with any gift, you want it to be meaningful, but for someone who is visually impaired, you also want to make sure it’s accessible. For adults, you might want to consider something that will enhance their everyday lives such as something for the kitchen or a nice new watch. CVI has lots of great options for this type of gift. When picking out a gift for a child, look for toys that are fun and appropriate for the child’s physical abilities and visual level.

Toys for visually impaired children can be tough to select, especially if you don’t know what to look for. All you really need is something that creates valuable playtime for the child. For example, a visually impaired child gets a lot more out of a toy that has an interesting texture than something with a lot of color to it. It’s also important to find something that’s easy to use, easy to clean and safe to play with!

We’ve got some great gift ideas for all ages listed below. Some of these items can be found at the VisAbility Hub located on the first floor of the Center for the Visually Impaired, and you will receive a 20% discount through December 21.

Infants

  • Touch and feel books to encourage tactile exploration. (This is in the store!)
  • Easily activated musical and light up toys to help with the understanding of cause and effect relationships.
  • Bell balls with continuous noises to encourage the child to crawl toward the sound and retrieve the ball.

Toddlers

  • Riding toys or push cart type toys such as a shopping cart to encourage pretend play and to help children pull up and eventually to act as an adapted mobility device when walking.
  • Braille blocks for exposure to braille and work on stacking. (This is in the store!)
  • Match & store shape sorter for the development of skills such as sorting, matching, putting in, and taking out. (This is in the store!)

Preschool Age (3-9)

  • Pretend play items such as a kitchen set or dress up clothes such as a doctor, firefighter, etc. to encourage self-help skills such as dressing, cooking, or feeding, and to create conversations about community helpers.
  • Baby dolls, action figures, cars, trains, etc. to encourage imaginative play, playing family roles, and social skills.
  • A Wooden Lacing Shoe, which teaches your child how to lace and tie their own shoes at a young age. (This is in the store!)

Older Kids (Middle School – High School)

  • Electronic devices are huge with this age group. These days, most smart phones are accessible through screen reading software. It could be helpful to consult your child’s teachers to see what products work better than others, and what could be useful in class.
  • This is also a great age to develop any musical talents. Starter packs for beginner musicians are typically pretty cost-efficient, and learning a musical instrument is great for teaching discipline and patience
  • Board games and cards are also great! We have decks of large print playing cards, UNO, accessible chess, Boggle, Scrabble, Racko, the Yahtzee “Hands Down!” card game and dominoes. (This is in the store!)

Adults

  • Practical, accessible, every-day items are great gifts for adults. Some items to consider are kitchen items such as a talking food scale or double nylon spatulas, bold-lined paper, bold-writing pens, talking clocks, talking watches and magnifiers. (These are in the store!)
  • Tech tools like key finders and the latest smart phone can be very useful items.
  • The holidays are a great time of year to update or replace any white canes that might be worse for wear. (These are in the store!).

Check out our stock online, or come to the store to test some our items for yourself. For items that you can’t find in our store, here are a few resources that might be helpful to you brailleworks.com, pathstoliteracy.org and familyconnect.org.

Christmas Activities for the Entire Family

An image of the braille apple cinnamon ornaments, in the shapes of stars and gingerbread men.

Photo via WonderBaby.org.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holiday season always stirs excitement in children, and it’s a great time to focus that energy and excitement by doing some craft projects with them. CVI has found a few activities that are perfect for the entire family to do together. You might even start a tradition or two!

Here’s one that can spruce up your tree, or you can give them away as gifts to family, friends and teachers! See the links below for a few more ideas.

Have fun and Happy Holidays!

Braille Apple Cinnamon Ornaments

Making your own tree ornaments can be a wonderful family tradition! This simple recipe for homemade ornaments is super simple and makes your kitchen smell great. Plus, the use of cloves as braille could be great for differentiating between names of your children, or the people that you’re making them for. These also make for great holiday gifts to any friends and family.

Mix together one cup of applesauce and one cup of cinnamon, until it matches the consistency of cookie dough. Sprinkle some cinnamon or wheat flour on a flat working surface, and lay out the dough for rolling. Once you’ve rolled the dough, use cookie cutters to cut the shapes out of the dough. This is a really great task for your child, with a little bit of supervision. Place all of your ornaments on a cookie sheet, and create the hole at the top of the ornaments with a straw. After that, use a toothpick to create the 6-dot Braille cell on each ornament. This makes the Braille work much easier! To create the Braille letters, stick the cloves in in the corresponding holes for each letter.

From here, stick your ornaments in the oven at 200° for an hour, which will fill your home with the lovely scent of apples, cinnamon and cloves. After your ornaments have cooled, string some twine or ribbon through the hole at the top. If you wanted to go a little further for your kids with low vision, you could cover the cloves with a little glob of white paint on each of the cloves to create a bit of contrast.

Additional Ideas:

Story Box Ideas for Holiday Stories

Christmas Tree Project

Holiday Gift Tags

Diabetes Awareness Month

Image of the pieces of a Prodigy Voice Blood Glucose test displayed on a table

Do you know someone who is living with diabetes? It’s likely you do since according to the American Diabetes Association, more than 30 million Americans are living with diabetes and 84 million are at risk, totaling nearly half of the U.S. adult population. Unfortunately, diabetes can lead to other health complications. Diabetic retinopathy, a complication from diabetes, is one of those complications and is the number one cause of new blindness in adults.

In honor of Diabetes Awareness Month, CVI wants to make sure you know the facts about diabetic retinopathy and the risk factors.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy? It is when diabetes damages the blood vessels in the retina, the light sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. There are four stages of retinopathy:

  1. Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy
  2. Moderate Nonproliferative Retinopathy
  3. Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy, and
  4. Proliferative Retinopathy.

The first three stages require no treatment, other than the typical diabetic control over blood sugar, blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. Proliferative retinopathy, the most advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy where fragile blood vessels grow in response to the blocked vessels, is treated with a scatter laser treatment which will help shrink the abnormal blood vessels that occur at this stage. This treatment works better before these abnormal, fragile vessels have started to bleed. If the bleeding is severe, you may need a vitrectomy, a procedure where the blood is removed from the center of your eye.

What are the factors that influence whether someone gets retinopathy?

  • Blood Sugar Control
  • Blood Pressure Levels
  • How long you have had diabetes
  • Your genes

Because diabetic retinopathy often has no early warning signs, the best thing you can do to catch it early is to have a dilated eye exam each year. Those who have already been diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy may need an eye exam more often. Studies show that better control of blood sugar levels slows the progression of retinopathy and decreases other diabetes-related health risks as well. Also, people with proliferative retinopathy can reduce the risk of blindness by 95% with timely treatment and appropriate care.

The most important thing to know about any visual impairment diagnosis is that there are always options for support and rehabilitation. In 2017, eight percent of clients served by CVI were diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy and were able to continue to live independently through skills learned in our programs and with the assistance of accessible diabetes supplies and devices, which are available to purchase in the VisAbility Hub located on the first floor at CVI.

If you want more information on diabetes, diabetic retinopathy or Diabetes Awareness Month, visit the American Diabetes Association.

CVI Gets Healthy

Anna Trotman and Miguel Eugenio walking across the street, using white canes

In October, the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) kicked off its sixth annual National Fitness Challenge with a grant from the Anthem Foundation, and CVI joined 16 other organizations across the U.S. in this effort to encourage kids and adults who are blind and visually impaired to increase their physical fitness levels and live healthier, more active lives. The Fitness Challenge is supported locally by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia Foundation and the Amerigroup Foundation.

Research has consistently shown that individuals who participate in regular physical activity have higher energy levels, a lower risk of health-related diseases, improved psychological health and lower rates of depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, many people who are blind or visually impaired in the U.S. don’t participate in even limited physical activity due to barriers and misconceptions about their abilities. CVI hopes that this program will help change that for some of our clients and it seems to be working. Two of our participants are already seeing the benefit of moving more.

Twenty-three year old Miguel Eugenio joined the National Fitness Challenge to be more active. “I play a sport called Goalball, an adaptive sport for the blind and the visually impaired and before joining the Fitness Challenge, I never did any exercise outside of my weekly Goalball practice,” says Miguel. “I came to the conclusion that if I was an athlete I should act like one. After joining the challenge I feel more active and my energy levels are higher than ever before. So far my body has seen minor changes, but I do feel absolutely comfortable within my own body which is a really good feeling. I am more motivated to go outside and run a mile or at the minimum just wiggle my toes to make sure my body is awake and in motion.”

CVI Client Shlisha Gillins, 41, says that being part of the Fitness Challenge has motivated her to be a better version of herself. “It has encouraged me to be more active and to eat healthier. I like that you can set goals for yourself and work hard to reach them. I feel a huge difference in my energy levels.”

The National Fitness Challenge runs through the end of May 2019. CVI participants will be taking part in a 5k or 10k event, trying adaptive climbing and being part of CVI’s Paralympic Day in April. The community is invited to join us for all of these activities so be watching for more details about each event.

Client Spotlight - Tamiah Warren

A photograph of CVI client Tamiah Warren sitting at a computer desk, using the computer

“CVI was definitely life-changing for me. I feel like I’m in a new era of my life,” said Tamiah Warren, a client at the Center for the Visually Impaired (CVI) who has big plans for the future despite her vision loss. Tamiah was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary eye disorder, at the age of 16. For a lot of people, this would be devastating news, but for Tamiah, it was a relief. For years, people didn’t believe that her sight was limited, so the diagnosis was a much needed validation. Now the 24 year old is learning the skills she needs to become a successful entrepreneur through a program specifically designed for individuals with vision loss, but in the meantime, she has accepted a position with JCPenney for the next several months.

Tamiah began working with CVI in April of 2018, and she’s learned many valuable skills during her training. “The main purpose of me coming here, the skill that I wanted the most, was how to use a computer,” said Tamiah. “I struggled with that all throughout my school years. The typing class that CVI provides is excellent. Now, I can use a keyboard without having to look at it and type with one finger at a time, looking up and down to make sure what’s on the screen is matching what I typed.”

In addition to learning computer skills, Tamiah has also spent a lot of time working on her mobility. In her new position with JCPenney, Tamiah will be working in recovery operations, which includes recovering and returning articles of clothing from the fitting rooms, so being adept at using a white cane to move around the store and as a way alert customers to her visual impairment will be vital to her success on the job.

According to Tamiah, she barely used a cane before coming to CVI. “I’ve learned to utilize my cane, which I will be using at JCPenney,” said Tamiah. “There are a lot of people like me with low vision who don’t like the cane. But the thing that comes with being low vision, especially with retinitis pigmentosa, is that it’s a very invisible disease. So if I don’t have my cane, people don’t know that I’m blind. People will signal you a lot in customer service, especially retail, if they need your help. I’m not going to see their hand, which can cause an issue. So the cane is a mobility tool, but it’s also a symbol. It makes things much easier to have one.”

At the Center for the Visually Impaired, we are committed to equipping people with the tools they need to succeed. Our classes help adult clients achieve greater independence at home and work, just like Tamiah. If you know someone who could benefit from these services, call us at 404.875.9011 to learn more or visit the Services section of our website.

How to Vote If You're Visually Impaired

Image of an American flag in front of a government-type building

(Photo by Brandon Mowinkel on Unsplash)

Election Day is next week! If you’re visually impaired, you might think this is a difficult process. That couldn’t be further from the truth! For disabled Georgia voters, there are options available!

What are the polls like for the visually impaired? These days, it’s easier and easier to provide access to disabled voters. Depending on your vision, there are a couple of choices when it comes to voting.

In Person Voting Assistance

  • Allowed for voters are unable to sign their name
  • The individual assisting the voter must record their name on the disabled voter’s certificate
  • In federal elections, the individual can be anyone, except an employer or an employer/union representative
  • In any other elections, the voter can receive assistance from any other voter, except a poll work or a poll watcher

In Person Voting Assistive Devices

  • Visually impaired voters have the option of using an accessible touch screen voting unit, designed to provide an independent and private voting experience
  • With the audio ballot, voters are given a pair of headphones and numerical keypad. The options are read through the headphones, and choices are made with the keypad.
  • A magnifying feature is available on every touch screen voting unit

Additionally, if you show up to the polling place between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., disabled voters are able to move to the front of the line. If you’re looking for more information, it can be found here!

The important thing to note is that there are options! Have you voted yet? Let your voice be heard!

Happy Halloween from CVI!

Image of the BEGIN class and teachers after trick-or-treating

Halloween is officially here, which means that it’s time to get spooky! At the Center for the Visually Impaired, we’re not only committed to teaching young kids who are visually impaired how to live independently, but we also encourage them to experience the same things as their sighted peers and family members might experience. That’s why we are sharing this fun, silly activity that the entire family can enjoy together.

Check out this great sensory activity, just in time for Halloween! NOTE: This activitiy is best for school age kids.

Sensory Haunted House: This is a great way to celebrate the spookiness of Halloween, while also engaging the other senses your child has. The idea is from the blog at howstuffworks.com and uses different stations to simulate the gross and macabre through food, like peeled grapes for eyeballs, cold spaghetti noodles for a plate of guts or even surgical gloves filled with cooked oatmeal! As you go through each station, have your child feel what’s in the bowls with their hands. You can even set up some store-bought spider webs, play some fun spooky music and even have trick-or-treat stations set up at the end. While this could be fun with one or two kids of your own, why not make this a Halloween party with some of your child’s friends? Sighted kids can participate too! Just have a few blindfolds on hand and enough adults to guide them through the stations. For more ideas of how to use food to make it really creepy, click here!

Last week, we had some cute costumed visitors from the BEGIN program go trick-or-treating through the office. Take a look at some of the pictures below! Happy Halloween!

A BEGIN student dressed as a Transformer and trick-or-treating with Fontaine Huey, CVI President

A BEGIN student sitting on the floor after trick-or-treating

A BEGIN student dressed as a character from Dragon Ball Z trick-or-treating with Stephanie Pizza, Director of Children and Youth Services