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.

Emory Medical Students Kick Off Wellness Project at CVI

In February, CVI kicked off a partnership with Emory Medical Students Tim Arleo, Priya Brito, Mia Callahan and Anjali Om to teach CVI’s adult clients about healthy living. They will be hosting a class once a month and teach class participants about general nutrition, how to grown their own vegetables and understand the importance of eating local, host a “Walk with a Future Doc” for clients to learn ways to stay active with visual impairment and lastly, they will end with a class on how to cook balanced meals and host a potluck for clients to showcase what they’ve learned!

The initial class in February focused on teaching the participants about general nutrition, including how to read food labels, calculate daily nutrient goals and navigate fast food. The first thing the Emory team recommended class participants do is figure out what their caloric needs are based on their height, weight, sex and activity level. Then, they suggested that the participants find a nutrition lifestyle that they can sustain. One helpful tip the Emory students provided is to follow the guidelines of MyPlate.gov. According to MyPlate.gov, a “healthy plate” should be filled with half fruits and vegetables, a quarter grains and a quarter protein and include lean meats, whole grains and leafy vegetables with high fiber. They also recommend opting for unsaturated fats like olive oil instead of saturated fats like butter and to limit portions to match calorie needs.

Finally, the students offered some tips on navigating eating out. They suggested making some healthy food swaps such as ordering grilled chicken instead of fried, asking for a whole wheat bun and cutting back on the amount of dressing used on a salad. These are examples of things we can all do to make healthier choices while eating out.

Next month, the Emory team will host a “Walk with a Future Doc” Event to help clients to meet their 10,000-step goal and talk about exercises available to the visually impaired.

St. Patrick’s Day Activity

March is here, which means spring is around the corner! Everything is turning green, especially for St. Patrick’s Day. Celebrate the luck of the Irish this year with a fun accessible activity for your little ones! Here we have instructions on how to make a shamrock scrapbook, courtesy of Paths to Literacy. For the scrapbook, you will need the following:

  • green card stock/scrapbook paper (enough for the cover and a few pages on the inside)
  • brailler
  • braille labels
  • St. Patrick's Day images
  • St. Patrick's Day stickers
  • system to bind (or a hole puncher and some string)

Cut the green paper into the shape of a shamrock. Using a glue stick, add some green glitter to the shamrock for some textile diversity. Allow the glue to dry. Cut the rest of your paper into the shamrock shape as well.

Make a list of words related to the day in braille (e.g. shamrock, green, March). Have them do the braille or provide support, as necessary.

Support the student to add braille labels to the pictures that relate to the day.

Create a collage using stickers or tactile materials, depending on the needs of your child.

Bind the book with a comb binding.

For more ideas, visit our friends at http://www.pathstoliteracy.org/topic/st-patricks-day. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Client Spotlight: Aracely Finds Her Confidence and Independence

Aracely speaking at CVI's Henderson Society Dinner 2019

At the age of three, retinal cancer claimed Aracely Rosillo’s eyesight. Her parents, who did not speak English, learned about the Center for the Visually Impaired’s BEGIN early intervention program and enrolled their shy toddler. Through the support and training from CVI’s highly trained staff, Aracely learned to walk, read and play and her parents learned to how to help her thrive in a sighted world.

Aracely continued with CVI’s programs through her teen years. She was active in STARS, a program for students in K-12 grades, where she learned independent living and social skills along with assistive technology, music and art. The once timid toddler grew into a self-assured teenager who loved swimming, talking on the phone and hanging out with her friends. Aracely credits STARS with helping her come out of her shell.

Aracely instructing a CVI client on how to operate an iron

“STARS has taught me to be active,” says Aracely. “I never wanted to sit in my room every day after school. Being social and having friends is much more fun than being the blind girl.”

Aracely has, literally, grown up with technology. Lessons in the STARS Technology Training Lab gave her the skills to efficiently and effectively use an array of technology tools at school and at work. She reads textbooks and takes notes using a refreshable braille display wirelessly connected to her smartphone. That same smartphone connects her to friends and family via social media, email and telephone and has apps that enable her to navigate and travel, shop, manage money and accomplish a wide range of other daily tasks independently.

Sadly, high schools students who are blind are twice as likely as their sighted peers to drop out of school. Even more troubling, only 9% of high school students with disabilities attend college. Because of CVI, Aracely’s story is different. Today, she is a sophomore at Georgia State University and works part-time in the STARS program and as an instructor of Activities of Daily Living for both the STARS students and adult clients. Her positive, outgoing attitude is contagious as she guides her students to live active and independent lives.

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