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 Starts Pilot Program for Young Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Image of CVI teacher working with preschooler

On October 1st, CVI launched a full day, five-day-a-week Toddler Class for young children as an addition to the services provided through the BEGIN Program. This class has been specifically designed through a private-public partnership with the Georgia Department of Education Division of State Schools and the Georgia Parent Infant Network for Education Services (Georgia PINES). This is a first-of-its-kind instructional setting in the state, putting CVI at the forefront of meeting the unique learning needs for children and families who are impacted by vision loss.

Early learning is vital to the success of all young children, assisting them with developing social, emotional, physical, and cognitive skills. The ultimate goal in offering a specialized educational setting for young children with a visual impairment is to prepare them to transition to Kindergarten, while using the same early instructional standards found in traditional early learning programs.

CVI teacher working with preschoolers on assistive technology

The BEGIN-PINES Toddler Class has been developed to meet the specific learning needs of young children who have a medically diagnosed visual impairment. The specialized instruction and support from highly certified staff allows for experiential learning that is not available anywhere else. The instruction provided to students on a daily basis helps to begin to equip and empower them to be successful throughout their lives.

“There are not enough words to describe how truly proud we are to be able to offer this pilot class to young children and their families. Early intervention for children with vision loss is extremely important, as vision is the primary sense used for learning,” said Stephanie Pizza, director of children and youth services. “When that sense is severely distorted or absent, we must implement best-practice strategies and individualized accommodations to meet the unique learning needs of each and every student we are fortunate to work with. The earlier, the better. The Center for the Visually Impaired is beyond grateful for the collaboration and dedication of our partners at the Georgia Department of Education Division of State Schools and Georgia PINES to make this opportunity happen.”

CVI teacher walking across the street with preschoolers using canes and walkers

Currently, the class has five students enrolled. We anxiously anticipate increasing the number of students in the near future. Additionally, this Program offers guidance, support, and essential tools to the families in order to help them be their child’s best advocate outside of the classroom. Offering comprehensive services to young children and their families supports the creation of a strong educational foundation – which will have an overall positive impact on quality of life.

To learn more about CVI and the services we provide, visit cviga.org/services.

Night Visions 2018

On April 26, the Center for the Visually Impaired hosted our annual Night Visions fundraising event, where we raise money to support CVI’s efforts to provide care and support for people with visual impairments. With the support of generous donations from our sponsors, we were able to raise over $95,000 for CVI!

George Acey and his family at Night Visions

Imperial OPA, a local Atlanta circus, provided carnival-themed entertainment, while guests enjoyed playing carnival style games blindfolded or using simulation goggles - for a unique CVI mission twist. The evening also featured great food and drinks, silent and live auctions and other fundraising activities. One such fundraising opportunity is our Fund-the-Mission, where donations can range from introducing visually impaired elementary students to wildlife at a nature center to empowerment training for adults on how to independently navigate city streets and public transportation.

Performer at Night Visions

This year, we had the privilege to feature George Acey as our Honoree. George has had a long history with CVI. In 1979, George was blinded in an accident, which led him to seek out the services that CVI offers. He completed training with the CVI and went on to become an entrepreneur specializing in small engine repair. Since then, he’s gone on to serve the CVI as a mentor for an adult group for 30 years, as well as a three-term board trustee. His guiding philosophy is that blindness is definitely a life-altering experience, you have to find ways to move on.

2018 Honoree George Acey

Funds raised at Night Visions empower people impacted by vision loss to live with independence and dignity. CVI is the only nonprofit organization in Georgia that provides vision rehabilitation services and support to people of all ages and with all degrees of vision loss – from low vision to total blindness. At CVI, services are never based on a client’s ability to pay. As such, funds raised at Night Visions are crucial to ensure that CVI can help all those in need.

Thank you to all who attended and donated, and if you’d like to still make an impact, you can give here at whichever level is right for you.

Guests at Night Visions

What I Learned About Visual Impairments When My Sister-In-Law Moved In

Picture of a kitchenMy husband’s sister has had a visual impairment since childhood, and though I’ve known her for years I had no idea the level of impact it has on her daily life. She recently moved in with my family, and while I tried to prepare our home ahead of her arrival, it ended up being a learning process. Here are a few of the things my husband and I learned from the experience.

1. The basics matter
​My husband took care of the general modifications like getting rid of our area rugs and fixing broken floor tiles in the kitchen. I realized that my muscle memory had always helped me remember to avoid that spot in the kitchen, and how it would have been a constant hazard to my sister-in-law. Even tucking away our normally messy cable cords made a world of difference, not only to the appearance of our home but to the ease of access for us all. Don’t underestimate the seemingly small modifications, because they’re the ones that can matter most.

Picture of a light bulb2. Lighting is crucial
​Because my sister-in-law does not have total blindness, she is perceptive to some light, and the more, the better. I had assumed that because our house gets so much natural light, we’d only need to add a few extra lamps. But the hall lighting was a problem from day one, and the small nightlights I’d put at each end were not nearly sufficient. We ended up installing LED track lighting along the edges, and it makes the hall easier to navigate for us all.

3. Don’t underestimate organization
My sister-in-law is certainly the chef of her family, but when she arrived at our house she seemed to enjoy it less. I realized that although I was used to grabbing the sugar from the cabinet over the fridge and the mixing bowl from the bottom drawer, it was practically chaos for someone else. I had her help me figure out an organization that made sense to both of us, like putting all the baking supplies in one section. She’s back to indulging in her passion, and my own cooking time has improved too!

Picture of 3 green pillows on couch4. Bright pops of color are a good thing
When I first prepared my home for my sister-in-law’s arrival, I wanted to eliminate as much clutter as possible. I put away a few of my brightly-colored decorative touches, like a purple blanket on the couch and the green pillow on the recliner. She not only noticed the changes almost immediately, but she asked if I’d put them back. In her past visits, she’d gotten used to focusing on the green pillow to get into her favorite chair, and even the absence of the purple blanket from the back of the sofa threw off her perception of the room. Eliminating clutter is good, but bright markers throughout the room can be quite useful.

5. Creating pathways just makes sense
When my husband and I first moved in, I’d arranged the furniture in what I deemed to be the most aesthetically-pleasing. Over the years, we just left it that way. But when it was time for his sister to move in, my husband and I got to work rearranging our couches, tables, and other furniture to make clear, open pathways. We had to walk her through the new pathways and help her adjust to the changes, but quicker than we expected she was breezing through the house as though she’d been here for years. And so did we! I realized I was much more at ease without constantly having to weave through my own stuff.

One of the best parts about my sister-in-law coming to live with us is that she was able to improve on systems from her old house. She even figured out a better way to arrange her bedroom. It was a learning experience for us all, and one that has made our family more complete.

Tech Resources: Transitioning to Windows 10 for Screen Access Users

Picture of a laptopSince I started teaching Assistive Technology at CVI back at the end of June, many clients have requested resources to help them transition from Windows 7 to Windows 10. They know how to use their screen access software but the Windows 10 interface is just different enough to cause frustration. As I prepared to update the New View Assistive Technology classroom to Windows 10, I found myself on a similar quest for resources.

As I made the transition to Windows 10, I was delighted to learn that for screen reader users, the vast majority of keyboard commands are the same. Some items have been rearranged but the search box in the Start menu makes finding settings and programs quick and easy. Overall, I have been very pleased with the Windows 10 experience. Microsoft has made an effort to improve accessibility in the latest version of Windows 10, which is good news for users who are blind or visually impaired. The resources listed below helped me get started in my transition to Windows 10. Hopefully you will find them as helpful as I did.

  1. Windows 10 Basics with JAWS and MAGic Free Webinar from Freedom Scientific:
    This webinar moves quickly through the different parts of Windows 10, including the start menu. Some features may look different on your computers now because of the Anniversary update to Windows 10 in August. Most of the info is still accurate though and this is a great place to get started. While you are on the free webinars page fromFreedom Scientific, you should have a look around. There are several relevant webinars including one on Office 2016 with JAWS and MAGic.
  2. Stepping Over the Threshold: Windows 10 in 10,000 Words, Thoroughly Reviewed This comprehensive (lengthy) post from Cool Blind Tech from 2015 outlines many of the major changes a blind or visually impaired computer user may encounter when transitioning to Windows 10. It is a long read but well worth it.
  3. Polishing Windows 10, Microsoft Solidifies Plans with Anniversary Update
    A follow up to the previous article, the author outlines changes in Windows 10 Anniversary Update (released in August) from a screen access perspective.
  4. Here is a master list of all of the Windows Shortcut keys in Windows 10. These do not include any screen reader commands but will work for any computer user. There were several I did not know about.

Windows iconI know the transition to a new operating system can seem daunting to some. I hope that the resources listed above will help you as you consider upgrading. Remember, Microsoft has extended its free upgrade to Windows 10 for assistive technology users, should you choose to upgrade from an older version of Windows. Best of luck as you make the transition!