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

High Museum of Art Provides Engaging Experience for STARS Participants

By Kate McLeod - High Museum
Head of School and Teacher Services

“You mean an artist made this for us?” A child with a visual impairment is seeing a work of art for the first time at an art museum and had just been told that a visual artist recreated Native American on Horseback by Ronald Lockett for their group especially.

The group is part of a program called STARS (Social, Therapeutic, Academic and Recreational Services) at the Center for the Visually Impaired in Atlanta, Georgia. This year-round program is for school-aged children with visual impairments and helps them “gain the self-confidence and skills necessary to thrive.” The Center for the Visually Impaired (CVI) is located in Midtown, less than two miles from the High Museum of Art. CVI and the High officially began a partnership in 2016 through a Museum Access for Kids contract from the Kennedy Center VSA. One of the High’s overarching goals in the past few years is to grow and expand inclusive programming for all visitors, including students on the autism spectrum and students with visual impairments. And who better to partner with then our next-door neighbors, CVI?

Through this partnership and others, High Museum staff has received training on how to work with visitors with various abilities. For the program with the Center for the Visually Impaired, the High consulted with educators who have previous experience in working with students with visual impairments, including one High Museum docent who earned her doctorate in art education and wrote her dissertation on best practices around students with visual impairments in museum settings. Part of this museum educator’s dissertation was to provide replicas of four works of art from the High’s collection. She learned through her research that each replica should have large font text and Braille text about the art and the artist, a “visual legend” that went along with the replica, a visual reproduction of the work of art, and additional touch objects for students to experience. The docent then trained museum education staff on these best practices. Our path was also paved through generous support from CVI on training education staff on how to work with students with visual impairments, creating Braille text and providing additional best practices on working with all visitors with visual impairments.

From this starting place, the High collaborated with and commissioned four teaching artists to create replicas of four works of art from the High’s collection. The replicas were partnered with the appropriate text and visual legends. On the day of the STARS group’s first visit to the Museum, the objects were placed by the works of art and the tour allowed the STARS participants to see the objects and feel connected to the Museum in a way they had never experienced. Participants also worked with professional teaching artists to create wearable art, inspired by one of the works of art on the tour.

Photo of STARS student experiencing the specially made artwork through touch.

STARS students making artwork with beads and other materials with help from High Museum staff.

Group of STARS participants being guided through the High Museum galleries.

This initial program has been so successful, both CVI and the High Museum are committed to working together in upcoming years to provide access to museums, art, and artists for all children who are blind or visually impaired.

School's Out!

4 young BEGIN students wearing graduation gowns

The unofficial start of summer is here! In the past couple of weeks, CVI’s BEGIN and STARS students have all celebrated the end of the school year with a fun get together and brief ceremony. Many STARS students will join CVI for the Summer Enrichment Program throughout the month of June, and some BEGIN students will be moving up or “graduating” to the STARS program next school year and one will be moving from the Toddler Class that was new this year to the new Preschool Class that will start in the Fall, both in partnership with the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE), Division of State Schools along with the Georgia Parent Infant Network for Educational Services (Georgia PINES).

Participants in the STARS program experienced several new activities this year including learning about gardening from Master Gardener Kelly Spetalnick, art through a partnership with the High Museum of Art and theatre through a partnership with Alliance Theatre and The Shakespeare Tavern. The older STARS students even learned a Shakespeare play from members of the Shakespeare Tavern to perform at their end of year celebration. They also attended the annual Red and White Ball hosted by the Delta Gamma Atlanta Chapter, and a few of the older students participated in the Anthem/USABA National Fitness Challenge!

A photograph of Henry and Grace, the King and Queen of the Red & White Ball

In addition to participating in classes that focus on developing skills that will help each of them be successful in the classroom, the BEGIN students were treated to fun activities such as Trick or Treating, a Holiday Party and an Easter Egg Hunt at CVI. The parents of the BEGIN students also had the opportunity to learn through several educational sessions hosted at CVI. Topics included learning about the importance of learning Braille for them and their children from Jackie Anders, a teacher of the visually impaired, learning more about their child’s educational rights from Zelma Murray from the Department of Education, learning orientation and mobility techniques they can help their child with from Ernest Burton, a CVI staff member who teaches Orientation and Mobility, and they had the chance to ask Dr. Amy Hutchison from Emory University School of Medicine questions about their child’s diagnosis.

This year was full of exciting new things and we look forward to a great summer and exciting new things in the Fall of 2019!

CVI: Wine Stoppers

Stumbling on the Extraordinary

When a video production team goes on a shoot, there are certain expectations. They know their subjects, the location, the footage they need to capture, and the broad strokes of the story they’re trying to tell. But, as anyone in the video production industry will tell you, shoots have a way of surprising you, no matter how much you prepare.

For ECG Productions’ joint producers-and-directors from ECG Productions, Sebastian Chamaca and Alessandro Graci, their shoot at the Center for the Visually Impaired offered the best kind of surprise: A chance to help tell a genuinely inspiring story about some remarkable people.

An Unexpected Calling

CVI performs an important task, creating initiatives to help people navigate living with blindness, whether they became blind, or were born that way. For ECG, the gig was pro-bono, unpaid and for charity. The focus was on a project called Woodworking for the Blind. Specifically, the focus of the piece was on spinning pins and making wine stoppers. Sebastian and Alessando were happy to help out, but they didn’t know exactly what to expect. As it turned out, it was the context of this seemingly innocuous activity that made it so special. When Sebastian and Alessandro met with volunteer coordinator and woodworker, Steve Pritchard, and CVI client, Laurie Cannon, they were immediately drawn into this story. It was a mission to inspire visually impaired people through woodworking.

Originally started in Tampa, Florida, the Woodworking for the Blind project has helped blind individuals and volunteers like Steve find fulfillment. In addition, it’s actually proved to be a conduit for more than one visually impaired person to start a woodworking business themselves. In her interview, Laurie describes a hobby that’s not only productive, but also healthy, as it improves her dexterity and spatial awareness.

That’s where the wine stoppers come in. This program has driven Laurie and others to hone their skills. Laurie, who started woodworking about a month before the video was made, hopes to expand her repertoire to include other products, too. Items like bottle openers, candlesticks, and peppermills. She’s donated several items back to CVI, and sold many others to a growing clientele.

Spreading Inspiration

The story of the Woodworking for the Blind project is a remarkable example of determination being rewarded. It’s a great reminder to never count anyone out. We can all learn new things, get involved in unique activities, and contribute to our communities in unexpected ways.

From the program’s humble beginnings, it has changed lives, allowing people to gain new skills and foster new relationships, like that between Steve and the Cannon family. It might seem like a lot to stem from something so simple as a pin, but, as Steve says in the video, “If they could make a pin, they could do anything.”

Perseverance brought the program to life. It’s helped draw awareness to CVI, and bring joy to the people involved. For the ECG team, the message was clear: We shouldn’t let our limitations define us. “Something that really stuck with us,” said Sebastian, “was how they put it. They said, ‘Just because you’ve lost your sight, it doesn’t mean you lose your vision.’”

As a result of their time on this project, Seb and Alesso (as they’re known around the office) have become the chief advocates for ECG’s involvement in more charity projects. As if there was any doubt as to the effect that making this video had on the pair, they’ve now got a plan of their own back at ECG Productions headquarters. The goal? Granting future interns the opportunity to seek out worthy causes and choose to make mini-documentaries themselves. It’s an opportunity for them to refine their real-world skills and find fulfillment in their work at the same time. Sound familiar?

About ECG Productions

ECG Productions is a script-to-screen production house located in Atlanta, GA. From music videos, to corporate explainers, to documentaries and narrative film, they do it all. Dynamic, engaging video content is the name of the game, and there’s nothing they love more than bringing great stories (like this one) to light. To see more of their work, or contact the team, check out their website!

Parents Learn Value of Braille Literacy

Parents Learn the Value of Braille Literacy
by Jazmine Wilson, Children & Youth Services Support Coordinator

Mother reading Braille with daughter

During the month of April, CVI hosted a two-part series called Braille & Dual Media Workshop. Led by Jackie Anderson, a Teacher for the Blind and Visually Impaired, this program was hosted by the Children and Youth Services Department at CVI as a part of the regular parent group activities.

Ms. Anderson is a member of the National Federation of the Blind and works with the Georgia Organization of Parents of Blind Children. For years Ms. Anderson has served as an educator in the school system working with parents and children with vision impairments and is committed to working with families to understand the value of pre-braille literacy.

“Braille is a vital literacy tool for blind or visually impaired individuals,” said Anderson. “Parents are the first and primary teachers for their young children. A parent who knows Braille will be able to introduce and reinforce in the home Braille skills learned at school. Based on research, we know the positive impact that early exposure to print plays in life long literacy skill development of children and it is the same for children who are blind or visually impaired.”

Ms. Anderson’s passion for her work shines through her ability to present information in a way that is practical but also engaging. Her presentation stresses the fact that not only is Braille important for children to learn so they can live an independent life, but also for parents to learn so they can support their children in their independence.

One of the parents who attend the workshop said “Everything Ms. Anderson covered during the workshop was so valuable. I have been working to learn Braille and trying to teach my daughter and I now feel more confident and have the skills to do so.”

Parent classes are provided to parents of children who are blind or visually impaired and are enrolled in the Thursday class. The parent group meets every Thursday at CVI from 10: 30 am to 1:00 pm. Topics for parents include information on their child’s visual diagnosis and possible effects on access to the environment, IEP information, early childhood development, technology, advocacy, and resources for parenting a child who is blind or visually impaired.

To learn more about the BEGIN program and the Parent Support Group, click here.

Q&A with USABA/Anthem Fitness Challenge Participant Shlisha Gillins

A photograph of Shlisha Gillins walking on a treadmill

Now that we are more than half way through the USABA/Anthem Fitness Challenge, we thought it would be great to get an update from one of the participants.

What motivated you to commit to a fitness challenge?

I have an 11-year-old daughter, who is very active. So in order to keep up with her, I needed to increase my energy level and lose weight, and so far I’ve lost 21 pounds!

How have your exercise and food habits changed since joining the USABA Fitness Challenge?

Every day I try to move as much as I can. The challenges with my friends definitely helps to keep me motivated. When the weather is good, I walk and other times I get on the treadmill. While exercising is great, I am also learning how to make better food choices. For example, I do meal prep, I make sure that I have a snack in my bag when I go out and I drink plenty of water.

What has been your favorite part about participating in the fitness challenge?

My favorite is the sports activities CVI has offered, because it has allowed me to explore different kinds of sports that I can do while being visually impaired.

Upcoming Fitness Challenge Event:

Don’t miss our last big fitness related event on April 27! CVI will host a Field Day at Coan Park for anyone who is interested in learning more about and trying their hand at adaptive sports. We’ll even have two medal-winning Paralympians there to share their stories and host a demo of Goalball.

Register here by April 19.

Tips for Gardening with a Visual Impairment

A photograph of fresh produce including carrots, raspberries, spinach, tomatoes and rosemary

Spring is officially here, which means it’s time to plant your garden! If you are living with vision loss, you might think gardening is something you won’t be able to do, but as with most things, you can do it with a few adjustments. The below tips come from an experienced gardener who is visually impaired.

Use Containers
Containers are a great way to store and grow herbs and vegetables without planting a traditional garden. This will make it easier for those with visual impairments, because of the inherent advantages that come with containers. For example:

  • They make identifying plants and seed locations easy.
  • They let you garden anywhere without digging garden beds.
  • They allow you to have the best soil, moisture, and growing conditions for a particular plant.
  • They make changing a plant's location easier.

Your container size will depend on what you want to grow. Large containers (five-gallon buckets, recycled trash cans, etc.) are great for things like tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, peppers, carrot and potatoes. Smaller containers (recycled cottage cheese containers, plastic take-out containers, etc.) are great for things like spinach and lettuce as well as herbs like basil, mint, oregano, parsley and chives.

Label Your Containers

  • If you use a notetaking system to help you remember what you planted and when, you can include the location as well.
  • Use labels in large print or braille to mark containers. The labels can be placed on the containers themselves or on markers made of wood or metal which can be bought from garden stores or made from popsicle sticks. Waterproof tape and markers can be used to create your own large print labels.
  • Marker plants can help you identify the contents of each container. Plants with a distinctive shape (like broccoli), scent (like basil), or supporting trellis (like tomatoes) can make good marker plants.

Choosing Plants

  • Explore new plant varieties and focus on each plant's sensory qualities.
  • For example, in addition to planting geraniums, also consider mint, lemon, lavender, a variety of roses, and plants with different textures and scents.

Sources: For more gardening tips, visit these two links below.

How to Set Goals with a Nutrition App

Photograph of a scale, apple and measuring tape.

Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay.

In March, Emory medical students continued their nutrition course series at CVI with a class on individual nutrition goals and plans. Emory students sat down with clients to register and begin working with MyFitnessPal. MyFitnessPal is a great (FREE) app that will help keep a record of the food you eat and the activity you do in order to keep you on track with your weight goals. Follow their steps below to get started:

  1. First, input your height, weight, sex, and age into MyFitnessPal to understand your individual calorie needs (this varies based on sex, age, weight, and general activity level). For example, a 50-year-old male weighing 150 lbs at 5’7” needs about 1800 calories to maintain a constant weight with a sedentary lifestyle. A 50-year-old female weighing 120 lbs at 5’3” needs only 1350 calories.
  2. Next, establish your weight goals. If you’re trying to gain or lose weight, experts recommend a goal of /- 1 pound per week. 1 pound is equivalent to about 3500 calories, or about 500 calories per day. In other words, if you’re trying to lose a pound per week, eat 500 fewer calories than you burn per day.
  3. Next, enter in the foods you eat. MyFitnessPal will calculate how many calories (and major nutrients) you get from these foods. Remember to be as specific as possible! 1 bowl of dry cereal is not the same as 1 bowl of dry cereal with a cup of whole milk and strawberries.
  4. If you exercise that day, MyFitnessPal will keep track of that too! It will estimate and subtract the calories you burn from activity from your daily goal.

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 According to, 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.