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Gifts for the Holidays for People Who are Blind or Visually Impaired

A shiny red gift bow on a white background with

With the holidays growing ever closer, it's time to think about shopping for that special gift. Over the years, VisionAware has offered many suggestions that can help you in your decision making for just the right present for friends or family with vision loss.

Recommendations for Holiday Shopping

Be sure to check out the following posts and resources to guide you in your decision making:

Gifts wrapped with different color paper and ribbons

Happy Holidays from APH!

All of us at APH hope you enjoy your holidays and can use these helpful suggestions to find just the right gift for that special person in your life.

November is National Diabetes Month

chart showing steps to protect your vision if you have diabetes photo credit to the National Eye Institute

VisionAware Is Full of Information and Resources On Diabetes and Vision Loss

infographic showing use of glucometer to test blood sugar

Read Personal Stories About Living with Diabetes and Vision Loss>

In addition to these suggestions, remember healthy eating and exercise are also important elements of maintaining control of your diabetes. Be sure to consult a physician before getting started with any exercise program.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

black and white photo of a woman looking down

National Domestic Violence Awareness Month is an annual designation observed in October. The first National Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed in 1987; in 1989 Congress passed Public Law 101-112, officially designating October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.


  • The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) estimates that 10 million U.S. men and women experience domestic violence each year.
  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States
  • 1 in 4 men are victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.

Women with Disabilities Are More Vulnerable to Domestic Violence

Leslie Malkin, Project Coordinator, New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence, writing for VisionAware, states that "Research indicates that women with disabilities are more likely to suffer domestic violence." She gives the following definition: "Domestic violence is a pattern of intimidation, coercion, and violence. It includes everything the abuser has done in the past and the threat of what he’ll do in the future. The entire goal of domestic violence is to obtain and maintain power and control over the victim."

In her article, Malkin points out that "Violence against women with disabilities happens because of attitudes towards women together with vulnerability from the conditions that result from the disability itself." Further she shares that "Domestic and sexual assault, stalking, and neglect are never the fault of the victim."

A Personal Story about Domestic Violence

Dr. Linda Fugate, VisionAware peer advisor, shares her own story about domestic abuse and advises victims to find a way out, "As someone who has been there, been in the depths of fear, of pain, and of isolation, I know when you are there, the way out is often invisible even if you can see." In her post, she lists resources that can help victims.

Get Help Today

If you are experiencing domestic abuse or violence, please take heed. Don't become a victim. Get help. There are a number of resources and hot lines that provide help for victims of domestic violence. A main resource is the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Check out the other hotlines and information listed in Malkin's article.

White Cane Safety Day October 15

October 15 is White Cane Safety Day. White Cane Safety Day is observed annually to recognize the achievements of people who are blind or visually and as a tool promoting independent travel. White Cane Safety Day was first officially observed in 1964 when President Lyndon Johnson first proclaimed the day.

picture of person walking with long white cane extended

Many people believe each state's White Cane Law contains a provision that requires drivers to stop for, and/or yield to, pedestrians who are carrying white canes. This is not correct. The laws in each state vary widely and drivers do not always reliably stop for pedestrians who carry white canes. Read more about the laws in Maureen Duffy's post on celebrating white cane day.

For more about the history of the white cane, Steve Kelley has posted about its history. Audrey Demmitt has written about where you can obtain training on using the white cane. Training is vitally important to using the cane safely and efficiently.

For some interesting new takes on the white cane, Lynda Jones has written about the evolution of the cane, including the use of colored canes. In these posts, she featured perspectives from VisionAware peers as well as professionals on using a colored cane.

display of mobility canes in several colors

Here is an excerpt from the above-mentioned post about using colored canes versus white ones: "Although several of the experts said they would not discourage someone from using a colored cane, they did think that the user should consider the potential risk when choosing to use a color other than white. Even so, all the professionals believe that color is an issue primarily because it’s been the symbol of independent travel for blind people for decades. Needless to say, they all agreed, that good O&M techniques--detecting drop-offs and objects in one’s path, knowing what’s ahead and on either side--really makes the user a safe traveler. The majority were less concerned about cane color than how many people in the public make the connection between a white cane and someone with a visual impairment."

White cane celebrations are held across the nation on October 15. Lenore Dillon has posted about the benefits of white cane and the celebration in her community. Check out what is going on in your community and join in the celebration.

Learn More About the White Cane

What Type of Cane Should I Use?

How Do I Learn to Use a White Cane?

American Council of the Blind (ACB) White Cane Laws for States

5 Lessons from a Blind Pioneer: Fanny Crosby's Story

Fanny Crosby woman in Victorian dress with text 5 Lessons from a Blind Pioneer

While you are probably familiar with Helen Keller and some of her achievements, do you know about Fanny Crosby?

Fanny, whose formal name was Frances Jane van Alstyne (nee Crosby), preceded Helen Keller by about 60 years, living between 1820 and 1915. Like Helen, Fanny was well-known during her lifetime. Similarly, she left a lasting legacy worth remembering. Both women were blind pioneers with much to teach us.

By looking back, we can gain inspiration and insights from Fanny, who proved to be a powerful and positive role model. In retrospect, we can see five aspects that contributed to her success. They are: the power of attitude; the power of faith; the power of education; the power of missions and advocacy, and the power of legacy.

The Power of Attitude

Fanny is best known as America's most prolific hymn writer, having composed over 8,000 hymns! She also established herself as a poet, mission worker, teacher, and lyricist. One of her first recorded poems, composed at age 8, shows her determination to keep a positive attitude despite the vision loss she suffered as an infant.

"Oh, what a happy soul I am, Although I cannot see! I am resolved that in this world Contented I will be."

Fanny’s father died early in her life, forcing her mother to work as a maid in order to provide for them.

Fanny’s grandmother, who raised her, was a major influence in her life. Her grandmother encouraged her to work to the best of her abilities and not to view herself as limited. Fanny carried that resourceful attitude throughout her 94 years of living.

As was common practice in her time, Fanny's grandmother taught from the Bible. The child demonstrated a remarkable memory and was said to have memorized five chapters of Scripture per week. She could recite the gospels, as well as many of the psalms and proverbs, chapter and verse. Obviously, the practice not only strengthened her mind and attitude, but also her faith.

The Power of Faith

The Christian faith was central to Fanny’s life and work. She poured out her heart writing hymns, many of which are still sung today, nearly 200 years after her birth. Songs such as “Blessed Assurance” and “To God be the Glory” are treasured classics in many denominations.

As a Christian, Fanny understood the importance of looking forward. When a preacher once remarked that it was a pity Fanny could not see because she had been given so many other gifts, Fanny responded:

“Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind? Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.”

What an outlook! By seeing the larger view of life, Fanny did not become bogged down by her physical challenges. She lived with purpose, anticipating what was to come.

In time, a formal education would be added to the foundation laid by Fanny’s grandmother. Fanny made a life-changing move at age 14.

The Power of Education

In 1835, Fanny was accepted as a student to the recently established New York Institute for the Education for the Blind. (The school is still in existence today, but has changed its name to the New York Institute for Special Education.)

Fanny spent 35 years at the school, first as a student and then as a teacher. She often entertained guests with her poetry and songs. Fanny, who played several instruments, represented the school as she traveled around the country performing and raising awareness of education for the blind.

Fanny’s role at the school gave her the chance to make important connections. United States President Grover Cleveland taught at the school before his political career. He and Fanny became friends, and Fanny proved to be very patriotic. She composed songs in support of the Union cause during the Civil War. Even schoolchildren knew Fanny’s name, because they sang her songs during the national conflict.

Fanny’s influence spread far and wide. Closer to home, she reached out to those in poverty in the nearby Bowery district of New York City.

The Power of Missions and Advocacy

The slum conditions of New York City in Fanny’s lifetime were abysmal. Fanny herself lived in a poor area of town, and although she was a well-known songwriter and speaker, she chose to dedicate her later years to helping the poor.

Her passion became one of assisting immigrants by donating the proceeds from her writing and speaking to ministry organizations in New York City. She and her husband, Alexander van Alstyne, Jr., organized concerts and created new music and poetry to mark special occasions.

As an advocate for education of the blind, Fanny spoke before Congress in 1846 as part of a delegation from existing institutions in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. Fanny demonstrated to the lawmakers that educating the blind was a useful and worthwhile undertaking. The delegation’s goal was to establish institutions for educating the blind in every state.

The Power of Legacy

Fanny’s earliest poem was a mere inkling of the extensive writing to come. She left behind thousands of poems and songs, which impacted countless lives. Fanny lived long and lived well. One biographer, Bernard Ruffin, had this to say about Fanny’s positive attitude:

“Fanny’s lifetime had spanned many changes in America. She had seen the invention of the telephone as well as the telegraph, steam engine, phonograph, motion picture, bicycle, typewriter, x-ray, elevator, sewing machine, anesthetics, mower, submarine, automobile, airplane and radio. She did not belong to that class of people who looking back over the years think the old days were better than our own. She watched with wonder and great interest the developments of a lifetime and had no great criticism for modern inventions.”

And while watching life all around her, Fanny contributed her own special talents. She furthered the cause of blind education, championed her faith, advocated for the poor, and paved the way for many of us today.

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