Blog Posts by Audrey Demmitt

Resilient People Live Well with Vision Loss

Editor's note: As we approach the New Year, it is time to pause and reflect on what it means to live well and take charge of one's life. VisionAware peer advisor Audrey Demmitt eloquently speaks to this in our year-end post. Recently, I attended an event in my community, and while I was milling around with my guide dog, a gentleman stopped me and said, Wow! I am so impressed that you are here. How do you do it, I meanI don’t think I could do it. I have had many similar encounters with people who fear blindness and don’t believe they could deal with it. My response is always the same: Oh yes, you could if you had to. You already have within you what it takes to adjust to something like this… you just don’t know it. <img


Understanding Vision and Perception Problems Associated with Alzheimer’s Disease

  November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness and Caregiver month. In this post, we alert you to information on how Alzheimer’s disease can alter vision and perception, what type of difficulties this can cause, and how to support and care for the person experiencing these disturbances. Even older adults with low vision or severe vision loss without the additional complications of Alzheimer's or cognitive problems need special support and accommodations to remain healthy, engaged, and


Where to Find Help When Your Loved One Is New to Vision Loss

Editor's Note: November is National Caregivers Month with a special day celebrated on November 1. We have had a large number of inquiries from family members seeking advice, so VisionAware's support group advisor has written a special blog post to help provide some answers and resources.   Vision Loss: A Distressing Experience Vision loss is a distressing experience for not only the person with the eye condition but also for their loved ones. When a family member begins to have difficulties with activities of daily living, can no longer drive, and cannot get around safely, it can affect their partner, children, and close friends. Suddenly,


During Older Americans Month, Meet the Challenges of Aging with Vision Loss

How Can We Add More "Life" to Our Life? Science and medicine have added more years to our life, but how can we add more "life" to our years? Growing older is not just about loss and decline, it can bring new opportunities and adventures. We all want to age gracefully and maintain our independence, but what is the secret to positive aging and satisfaction in this stage of life? A growing number of Americans are aging with disabilities which threaten their independence. According to the 2010 Census, almost 50 percent of respondents over age 64 reported some level of disability. Specifically, the prevalence of vision loss is growing


Are You at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes? Take the Test!

Editor's note: Audrey Demmitt, VisionAware peer advisor and R.N., reminds everyone of the risk of diabetes and what you should know. Could you be the one in three American adults who is at risk for developing type 2 diabetes? Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness among working age adults, and that’s why VisionAware is participating in American Diabetes Association Alert Day(r). On March 28, we encourage you to take a quick (and anonymous) one-minute Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test to


Senior Center Without Walls: Opportunities for Connection and Community from Your Home

As you go through the holidays and start thinking about the new year, I am sure that, like everyone else, you are considering what's ahead for you. Based on my own experiences this past year, I highly recommend that you consider involvement in the Senior Center Without Walls, as a volunteer and/or participant. Find out why! What is Senior Center Without Walls? Senior Center Without Walls (SCWW) is an innovative outreach program for seniors which offers activities, education, friendly conversation, and an assortment of classes, support groups, and presentations all done over the phone or computer. Each week, seniors can access over 70 groups or classes by phone or


The Bookshelf: The Challenge of Creating Blind Characters

Writers for centuries have created blind characters as literary devices, symbols, or simply for the challenge of it. Often they make these characters either extraordinary with special talents or helpless and tragic. In literature, the representation of blindness serves to illustrate cultural themes and values but rarely is it accurate or realistic. We end up with stereotypes and poor representations of what it is like to live as a blind person. We know the experience of blindness is as diverse as we are as individuals and it defies stereotyping. Can an author who is sighted create a believable blind character? Can blindness be depicted realistically by someone who is not


What Does It Take to Become a Guide Dog?

Guide dog schools everywhere are committed to the mission of producing, training, and matching skilled guide dogs with handlers who are visually impaired, to provide safe and independent mobility. The mission is multi-faceted and requires a huge investment of time, talent, and money. Transforming a little ball of fur into a responsible and disciplined working dog takes patience and commitment from many people along the way. And the people who do this work are driven by a special passion, both for the dogs and the people they will serve. They would say the reward of witnessing a successful guide dog team working together makes it all worth it. Guide


Stay Active and Keep Your Sense of Adventure Alive at Hull Park

Editor's note: It's Active Aging Week. The theme this year is Explore the possibilities. Audrey Demmitt explores a new possibility and writes about it in a post that is a great testimonial to the ways we can all keep active and explore our sense of adventure. The word recreation really is a very beautiful word. It is defined in the dictionary as the process of giving new life to something, of refreshing something, or restoring something. This something, of course, is the whole person. Hans Geba My Adventure at Hull Park The old adage


The Bookshelf: Reading Books on Blindness and Learning About the Experiences of Others

Reading Books on Blindness Reading is still a pleasure I enjoy every day. The beauty of talking books is that I can multi-task as I listen to my latest selection on BARD. In fact, I can carry around my iPhone filled with downloaded books from my ambitious reading list and listen as I fold clothes, cook, walk the dogs or work


New Series: The Bookshelf-- Summertime Is Reading Time!

There is nothing like diving in to a good book on a lazy summer day. Vision loss changes our reading habits but it does not have to stop us from reading for pleasure. Whether you are reading with your ears, on a Kindle or an iPad, books enrich our lives and expand our worlds. Once again, the Peer Advisors have assembled a booklist with memoirs, fiction and non-fiction titles about blindness. (see the list of books on blindness). We will be reading and reviewing books from our list


Back to Nature with Vision Loss: Adventure Awaits You at Hull Park!

"In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous." — Aristotle It is that time of year again when, like sleepy bears, we can emerge from our caves and enjoy the great outdoors. After vision loss, we tend to stay indoors and immobile, avoiding the discomforts of bright sun and unpredictable surroundings. Are you suffering from "nature-deficit- disorder?" Are you bored, craving fresh air and exercise? What you need is outdoor activity and perhaps a nature retreat. The good news is there are options for those with blindness and low vision! There are plenty of safe ways to get outside, stretch your legs and flex your


The Role My Disability Plays in My Identity

Editor's note: This is Audrey's response to the post that Elizabeth Sammons wrote on What Role Does Disability Play in Your Identity?. We hope that readers will read and comment with their own thoughts. Imagining a Bleak Future When I first began to lose my vision, my thoughts and fears about blindness were much worse than the reality. I imagined a bleak future of helplessness and isolation; a life where I would be left behind and left out, no longer able to manage a normal life. Nothing could


Good News and Resources from the Recent AFB Leadership Conference

I recently attended the American Foundation for the Blind’s Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. As a consumer and para professional who works with the visually impaired and blind community, I found it both informational and inspirational. I came away feeling very encouraged by all the efforts, research, product development and initiatives that are taking place on behalf of those who live with vision loss. Don’t get me wrong; I know we have a long way to go toward


March is National Eye Donor Awareness Month

Becoming an Eye Donor Have you ever thought of becoming an eye donor? March is National Eye Donor Awareness Month and a time to honor the work of the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA), corneal surgeons, and the donors and their families who give the gift of sight. Globally, corneal diseases result in blindness or visual impairment in over ten million people. Since 1961, more than 1,500,000 men, women and children have had their sight restored through the work of EBAA members. In the U.S. alone there were 76,431 corneal transplants


National Senior Independence Month Part 2

Additional Suggestions for Negotiating Aging with Vision Loss In Part 1 of this post, we discussed four suggestions to help you negotiate aging with vision loss. Here are the rest for you to consider: Consider Who You Want to Be Now that You Have Retired Redefine and reinvent yourself in retirement. It is a challenge to maintain your self-identity as you age with vision loss. When our career ends and family roles change, we may ask ourselves, "Who am I now?" "Am I useful to


National Senior Independence Month Part 1

National Senior Independence Month is a time to celebrate our retirement years and learn ways to make the most of them. Science and medicine have added more years to our life, but how can we add more "life" to our years? Growing older is not just about loss and decline…it can mean new opportunities and adventures. We all want to age gracefully and maintain our independence. But what is the secret to positive aging and satisfaction in this stage of life? A growing number of Americans are aging with disabilities which threaten their independence. According to the 2010 Census, almost 50 percent of respondents over age 64 reported some


Megabus: A Safe and Affordable Transportation Option for People Who Are Visually Impaired

I just came back from my first trip on Megabus and I am happy to report it was a great success. I went from Atlanta to Knoxville, a 3.5 hour bus ride, to visit my daughter. She recently got engaged and I wanted to go visit so we could work on wedding plans. Megabus made it possible for me to travel on my own with my guide dog in safety and comfort! And the best part was the round trip ticket cost $11.50, less than a tank of gas. Megabus has been operating


Depression During the Holidays and Beyond

The holiday season is tough on those who are struggling with depression, anxiety and stress. Let’s face it--for many of us the family gatherings, endless shopping, and chaotic parties can leave us feeling down and exhausted. It’s a time that may be particularly difficult for someone new to vision loss. Many people who are blind or visually impaired find it stressful to go shopping, attend social functions, navigate crowds and manage family relationships. And that is just what the holidays are all about. Vision loss will certainly change the experience and may even trigger depression. Loneliness and social Isolation Predict Depression Social isolation is one of the biggest


What to Do When the Holidays Are Not So Jolly

For children, the holiday season can be magical and full of special delights. But as adults, sometimes they are filled with stress, hassles, loneliness and fatigue. In a season that is supposed to be merry and bright, we may not feel like celebrating. There is so much pressure and expectation to pull off the perfect holiday with perfect gifts, perfect decorations, perfect meals…and all with a perfect smile on our face! The reality is that life marches on and sometimes the holidays arrive at difficult times in our lives. We all can relate to this, I am certain. We have all experienced a holiday season which was less than perfect. Perhaps you are alone or sick this holiday. Maybe


Our Readers Want to Know: Managing Diabetes Medications, Part 2 Tools for Dosing

Editor's note: Since the earliest days of VisionAware.org, questions about diabetes have consistently ranked high within the top information searches. Since November is Diabetes Awareness Month, we have been highlighting vision issues related to diabetes. One of those is taking ones medications properly. VisionAware has many resources that can help you. We have highlighted some critical information about taking insulin and other diabetes medications. Also, be sure to read Part 1 on Managing Medications. Dosing Tools <img src="http://www.afb.org/image.asp?ImageID=3509" alt="Count-A-Dose insulin measurement device


Our Readers Want to Know: Managing Diabetes Medications Part 1

Editor's note: One of the many benefits associated with an online information center and website, such as VisionAware, is the ability to track readers' search terms [i.e., information readers are seeking as they search the Internet]. Since the earliest days of VisionAware.org, questions about diabetes have consistently ranked high within the top information searches. Peer Advisor and diabetes educator Audrey Demmitt, R.N., provides this helpful two-part series on what readers want to know about managing medications. Since November is


Taking Your Disability to Work, Part 2: Peer Advisors Offer Advice

Author's note: We are continuing our posts on National Disability Employment Awareness Month. This post provides advice from our Peer advisors on working with a disability. Be sure to read Part 1 of Taking Your Disability to Work. Audrey Demmitt I had been working as a school nurse for some time before I disclosed my vision impairment. It


Taking Your Disability to Work: Part 1

Author's note: Most of the peer advisors at VisionAware are working or have worked with their disability. In talking about what we should write for National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we decided that a critical topic is what employers and fellow employees need to know about employees with disabilities. This post is divided into two sections: Part 1 sets the stage about the overall issues involved and in Part 2 we will share some of the peers' thoughts and strategies. October is a time to celebrate the contributions of America's workers with disabilities. The theme for this year is "My


Protect Your Independence: Create a Fall Prevention Plan

Editor's note: September is National Fall Prevention Month. The VisionAware peer advisors felt it important to bring to our readers the risk factors as well as what you can do to prevent falls. VisionAware has many resources to help you and many of these are included in this post. Being Pro-Active My vision loss has caused me to fall many times in the past. As I get older this concerns me because I realize the potential for serious injuries. So I decided to attend a workshop on Fall Prevention. I would like to share the highlights of what I learned since this is National Fall Prevention Month. Falls Are Not a "Normal" Part of the Aging Process Many


Top Ten Ways My Dog Guide Assists Me

Editor's note: We continue to celebrate National Service Dog Month. This post is Audrey's tribute to her dog guide Sophie and completes our series. Perfect for Each Other My guide dog Sophie is amazing. As we trained together to become a team, she wowed and captivated me with her sharp skills, attentive gaze, and beautiful face. I was certain she was the right dog for me from the very start. And I was so excited to begin my life with her. I had no idea


Cataract Surgery Can Be Beneficial for People with Retinitis Pigmentosa: My Experience

Editor's note: This month is Cataract Awareness Month. Be sure to read this post and all the other important information mentioned in this post about cataract surgery and what you need to know. The Diagnosis I have Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and two years ago my retinal specialist noted on a regular checkup that I had developed cataracts on both eyes. The cataracts were sitting right in the center of my only remaining window of vision. They were the type of cataracts that are commonly found in RP patients. About 50% of patients with RP develop them. My doctor explained that


On the Way to A Concert--Instead of Stealing the Show!

Editor's Note: This is part of our ongoing series on Laughter is Often the Best Medicine, which is a series that encourages people who are blind or visually impaired to laugh at blunders and celebrate victories. Hopefully, these personal experiences will give you potential solutions for coping with your vision loss. The Great Golf Cart Caper I live in a unique community that has golf cart paths all throughout the city. Most families own a golf cart as a fun way to travel and to get around town easily. Recently, a friend invited me to go


Ways You Can Exercise If you are Blind or Visually Impaired

We are continuing our theme of National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. Even though there may be a few added challenges for people who are visually impaired to get exercise, we need to make it a part of our daily lives. This can be done with the right information, creativity and motivation. VisionAware Peer Advisors share their routines and ideas in hopes of inspiring others to pursue greater levels of physical activity and achieve the associated health benefits. Let’s make fitness a priority, together. Audrey Demmitt, Georgia <img src="http://www.afb.org/image.asp?ImageID=5496"


Make Physical Activity and Fitness a Way of Life

"If exercise could be purchased in a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation." – Robert H. Butler May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month and a great time to commit to an exercise plan and explore new ways to get moving. You may think that with visual impairment this isn't possible anymore, but there are powerful health benefits to physical activity and no matter our age, size, and physical condition, we need it. Exercise and healthy eating are the most effective means of protecting your body against chronic diseases, building a strong body, and ensuring a long active life. As a nurse, I know the


A Spring Chorus of Twitters and Tweets

Ahhh, I welcome the crisp morning air and bright warming sun on a spring day. I wander the yard with my guide dog Sophie and we are both feeling the freshness in the breeze and have a renewed spring in our step. Sophie pauses, closes her eyes and lifts her twitching nose high in the air to inhale the kaleidoscope of scents. There is a definite smell to the color green. And rain has a distinct and lingering fragrance. Just as humans see the world in varying shades of color, dogs experience it in layers of exquisite smells. <img


Ski for Light Focuses on Abilities Not Disabilities

I just returned from the 2015 International Ski for Light event in Granby Colorado. It was an amazing week of cross-country skiing under big, blue skies in the Rocky Mountains. We enjoyed well-groomed trails, sunny days, beautiful snow, and crisp mountain air. The best part though was connecting with a group of inspiring people. About Ski for Light Ski for Light is a non-profit organization run by all volunteers, which enables visually impaired and mobility impaired individuals to enjoy a week of skiing with a personal guide. There were 100 skiers with disabilities including blindness, visual


My Experience with Using the Be My Eyes App

I am visually impaired and recently tried this app on the recommendation of my optometrist John Henahan, who has written a post about his experience. I recommend that you read what he has written as well as a recent review. History of Be My Eyes The idea behind Be My Eyes originates from the Danish 50 year old furniture craftsman Hans Jørgen Wiberg, who started losing his vision


International Day of Disabilities and Impact of Talking Books

Editor's note: Did you know December 3 was the International Day of Disabilities? This year's theme is: Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology. The United Nations is honoring this day and, in its press release, states, "Throughout human history, technology has shaped the way people live. Today information and communications technologies in particular have impacted a lot of people’s daily lives. However, not all people have access to technology and the higher standards of living it allows. With an estimated one billion people worldwide living with a disability, and 80% of them living in developing countries, access to technology is key to help realise the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities." (http://www.un.org/en/events/disabilitiesday/)


Managing Diabetes from Head to Toe

Diabetes Requires Self-Care What a person with diabetic retinopathy sees Diabetes is a serious disease and affects all parts of the body. It demands constant monitoring and a disciplined routine of self-care. There is no taking a break from this chronic condition. Many people who have diabetes become “burned-out” on taking care of it. Some lack the


How I Accepted the White Cane

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series this week of posts on the white cane. Be sure to stay tuned for the rest of this series. Accepting the White Cane There comes a time when it just makes sense to use a white cane when you are losing your vision. Most of us resist this rite of passage, fearing the stigmas, myths, and images associated with the “dreaded white cane.” Something Awful Had to Happen In my case, something awful


Creating Rugs From Rags, My Retirement Hobby

Aging Successfully Author's Note: This is the last on our series this month on Healthy Aging. You may want to check out a great audio presentation about successful aging on the International Macular Degeneration Support Group website. Colleen O'Donnell and Mary Ellen Daniel, the presenters, point out that there are several components to aging well: maintaining physical activity, maintaining cognitive functioning, engaging in a variety of activities, and engaging with others socially. Many creative pursuits involve all of these. The presenters state that creative expression fosters personal, social and spiritual growth. It encourages self expression, risk taking, and continued learning. Creating


My Dog Guide Sophie and I

This post is in honor of National Dog Guide Month. Sophie Is Amazing My dog guide Sophie is amazing. As we trained together to become a team, she wowed and captivated me with her sharp skills, attentive gaze, and beautiful face. I was certain she was the right dog for me from the very start. And I was so excited to begin my life with her. I had no idea what it took to become a good team. As I learned the intricacies of being a dog handler from Sophie and the instructors, I began to realize the complexities of this new relationship. Sophie was born to be a


Exploring Ways to Stay Fit in Retirement

It’s Active Aging Week and peer advisor Audrey Demmitt shares her secrets on keeping physically active. Exploring Ways to Be Physically Active In my retirement, I have been exploring new ways to be physically active. I have always walked for exercise with my guide dog. We mapped out several routes in my neighborhood and enjoy this special time together. But walking just didn’t seem like enough and I was experiencing changes in my balance, muscle strength, range of motion, and stamina. As a visually impaired person with retinitis pigmentosa I had become less physically active and I didn't like


What Do You See?

A Question That is Difficult to Answer As a person with a visual impairment, I am asked this question many times and it is difficult to answer. Often, I do not know what I see…for what I am looking at does not declare itself readily. The world through my eyes is a shadowy, ill-defined place with uncertain shapes and colors. I am losing the ability to detect light and color in increments as if the world around me is a watercolor scene fading into the canvas. At times, I see nothing, only darkness and danger; other times the world is brilliantly washed in diffuse light and a soft blurriness which is almost beautiful… like a Monet…


Playing Goalball, A Team Sport Designed for People Who Are Visually Impaired

Editor's note: Amanda Dennis is a twenty year old senior undergraduate student at the University of Georgia studying Sports Management and Exercise and Sport Science. She was born with aniridia and nystagmus. As a child with a visual impairment, her parents exposed her to adapted sports. She became a serious competitor in goalball, a sport designed specifically for the visually impaired. Amanda advanced through the levels to eventually compete in the Paralympic Games in London in 2012. Currently, she is training for the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Here, she


The Transportation Problem: Finding Rides When You Can’t Drive

Editor's Note: The information in this post has been updated in this article, The Transportation Problem: Finding Rides When You Can't Drive As an Individual with Vision Loss. For additional tips and transportation alternatives, check out the Transportation section on VisionAware. The Transportation Problem One of the most difficult challenges for people with vision loss is finding reliable and affordable transportation. Whether


Independence Versus Interdependence

Independence May Be Overrated Editor's note: this is the first in a series of posts on independence. We are launching this post the week of July 4, a date which has special significance to people in the U.S. who are celebrating Independence Day. I used to be a fiercely independent type. When I received my diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa and the possibility of blindness registered, I panicked. What would life be like if I could not do "my own thing" on "my own schedule" in "my own way"? Lessons on Independence Little did I know at the time. Gradually, as my vision receded, so did my confidence, my out-going spirit, my freedom and my independence. There is so


Traveling Blind: A Sensory Experience

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." Saint Augustine My husband and I just returned from a trip to California. We visited Yosemite National Park, San Francisco, Muir Woods, Carmel, and Sonoma Valley. He is an excellent vacation planner and travel companion! This was one of my favorite trips with such a variety of experiences and adventures: hiking among the giant Sequoia, picnicking and wine-tasting in lush wine country, riding the rickety trolley car, shopping in the “hippie” district in the city, lunching on dim sum in colorful China Town, sipping tea in the peaceful Japanese gardens, meandering in the serenity of Cathedral Grove among the regal Redwoods, walking the dog-friendly beaches with my dog guide Sophie, breathing in


There’s No Place Like Home: Planning to Age in Place

Growing Old Gracefully at Home The saying goes that "growing old is not for the faint hearted." Most of us want to grow old in our own homes surrounded by the familiar artifacts that tell our life story and supported by our families and communities. We want to grow old gracefully and with dignity. We worry about becoming a burden to our loved ones. The process of aging presents challenges and changes in physical, mental, financial and social well-being. Many of us may lack awareness about the support services available in our communities which make aging in place possible. According to the Center for Disease Control(CDC), "Aging in


Musings of a Visually Impaired Mother

If My Mom Can Do This, I Can Do It Too I come from a long line of mothers. Women have been birthing babies since the beginning of time. You know that excruciating moment during childbirth when you are screaming “I can’t do this!" and then you dig deep and discover you can after all? I told myself in that moment "If my mom could do this seven times (yes, seven!), then I can too!" And then when the nurse placed my squalling, slimy, bundle of joy in my arms for the first time, I suddenly realized the labor was not even the hard part of being a mother. Learning I Was Expecting My First Child I learned that I was expecting my first child from a neurologist, who was working me up for some unknown vision problem. The news was dulled by the uncertainty of my


More Women Than Men Have Vision Loss

April is Women’s Eye Health Month We all know men are from Mars and women are from Venus. But you may be surprised to learn there are gender differences when it comes to eye health. As a nurse and a woman with a visual impairment, I was surprised to learn there are more women than men who are blind or visually impaired. Women’s Eye Health Task Force reports that nearly two-thirds of all visually impaired and blind people in the


Enjoying the Miracle of Seeds with Vision Loss

Miracle of Seeds Do you remember the sheer delight of planting a bean in a handful of dirt in a Styrofoam cup and watching it grow as a child? There is nothing quite as wonderful as a cup of seeds. The variety of color, shape, fragrance and flavor contained within that tiny package is a miracle. It is spring now and miracles await to delight, inspire and calm the soul. “In every gardener there is a child who believes in The Seed Fairy.” ~Robert Brault. I remember the first time I planted my own vegetable garden. Enthralled with the simplicity of the seeds, I lavished them upon the


Adjusting My Career to Vision Loss

Editor's note: Welcome Audrey Demmitt, new VisionAware Peer Advisor. A Career I Dreamed Of The day I graduated from the University of Arizona in 1983 with a nursing degree was a personal triumph. I looked forward to a career I dreamed of since childhood. I was certain I had found my life’s passion in nursing. My future was full of promise and excitement. Then at age 25, a vision exam turned everything upside down. The diagnosis was retinitis pigmentosa and my future became uncertain. Continued to Work After Diagnosis A long journey followed as I struggled to


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