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.

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

The VisAbility Hub - CVI's Best Kept Secret

An image of a magnifying glass over a book, enlarging the print

Of all the services we offer at the Center for the Visually Impaired, our best kept secret is the VisAbility Hub. Established at the end of 2007, the VisAbility Hub is a vital part of what we do. As the only store like this in the state of Georgia, and the rest of the southeast, we have access to over 1,000 products to make living independently a viable option for the visually impaired. The products we sell range from the simplicity of a clock that reads time aloud for you, to the complexity of an IrisVision device.

On the simpler side of things, we have a full range of cooking utensils specifically geared towards helping the visually impaired cook for themselves. A lot of these items are things that any sighted person could take for granted, but they are essential to making life easier in the kitchen as well as keeping the user safe. For instance, we have a double sided cutting board that can create visual contrast to make cutting certain vegetables easier with some items that require cutting in the kitchen. There is also a finger guard to protect one’s fingers while food prepping. We also have simplified magnifiers, with or without LED lights attached, an array of glasses and even large playing cards that are perfect for a round of spades.

Image of a video magnifier, and some magnified text from a newspaper

The assistive technology CVI sells is some of the more complex product offerings. We have numerous video magnifiers that not only magnify the words on a page, but can also contrast the colors to make reading easier. We also carry IrisVision products, which are low vision aid glasses that recycle VR-gaming goggles. Through those, the glasses project video of your surroundings where you can magnify, color contrast, read and watch television. You can even try these on in the store for a little test run!

An image of the IrisVision device

CVI’s VisAbility Hub provides support and the equipment for people with vision loss to live independently. That doesn’t come easy for everyone, but with the help of the tools and products we offer, it can make the prospect less scary. Bill Epperson, the VisAbility Hub Director, and the rest of his friendly team are more than happy to help you find what you or a loved one need. You can search the store’s inventory online, or visit the Hub on the first floor at the Center for the Visually Impaired.

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!