Browse By Topic: Independence

Including Yourself in a Faith Community as a Person with a Visual Impairment

When you lose vision, at first it might feel like you are unable to participate fruitfully in a faith community. Whether you’re new or a long-term member, some aspects of congregation life that you’ve always taken for granted can suddenly feel uncomfortable as a worshipper with blindness or visual impairment. Who’s saying hello? What are the words we’re singing? How do they take the blessing or communion here? We’re sharing this information in hopes that you won’t give up attending your faith community of choice if you’re experiencing vision loss now, or that you’ll consider visiting a new one if you’re

You Cane Give: Making an Amazing Difference

Editor's Note: James Boehm, VisionAware Peer Advisor, recently participated in a special mission to give blind residents of Kenya and Africa independence, mobility training and a new hope. He wanted to share through VisionAware his personal experience with the White Cane Initiative's Team's work. Other team members included Paul Mugambi, Hilda Mulandi, Laureen Agola, Karen Nelson, and interpreter Florence Mithika. The post was edited by Maribel

Braille Awareness Month--The Starbucks Example of Relevance

Louis Braille's birthday was January 4th, and the month of January each year is Braille Awareness Month. There have been the usual discussions and articles about the relevancy of braille in the digital age. After all, what need is there for braille, when computers and other gadgets talk to us? Would those of us who regularly read print on paper, ask the same question? In the digital age, is print on paper relevant? <img src="" alt="A teacher

Finding Braille in Everyday Places: What Would Louis Braille Say If He Could See Us Now!

The VisionAware peer advisors are celebrating Louis Braille's birthday on January 4 with a compiliation of everyday places where you will be able to find and use braille. In case you don't know, Louis Braille was the creator of the braille code, which revolutionized reading and writing for blind people throughout the world. I compiled this post with much input from the other peer advisors. If you haven't learned braille already, these examples should give you some great reasons to learn it for use in your everyday life. <img

The Impact of Transportation Access on Health and Wellness

by Empish Thomas Medical Doctor Moves Away A few weeks ago I got some disappointing news from my neurologist. I was told that she was leaving the medical center she practiced at and moving across town. I was deeply saddened and in shock. I really enjoyed the rapport I had with this doctor. She understood my medical needs and was sensitive to my visual impairment and transportation challenges. Now, I would have to start all over again looking for a new neurologist closer to home. This situation and similar ones were discussed at a conference I attended this summer called Rides to Wellness. It was an all-day

Technology Has Become My New Best Friend

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks Thank goodness the old saying, You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, has been proven wrong by those of us who are past our prime. We need to keep up, or we’ll be left behind. We’d be saying, Where did everybody go? On the Go with Smart Glasses The biggest and brightest star in the technology world for people who are blind or visually impaired are the smart glasses, brought to the accessibility scene by a company known as

REV UP for National Disability Voter Registration Week July 16-20

Caption: REV UP Campaign Logo, Courtesy of the Association of People with Disabilities While many people are vacationing, attending summer camp, relaxing by the pool, and firing up the grill, others will be hitting the streets spending this July focused on a voter’s registration campaign. Although the next national election is not until November, this campaign is concentrating its efforts early and specifically targeting the disabled voter. The REV UP Campaign is coordinating National Disability Voter Registration Week (NDVRW) during the week of July 16-20, 2018. The

Pickup or Delivery, a Different Way to Grocery Shop

Editor's Note: With Independence Day just ahead, VisionAware peer Empish Thomas has written about a vital aspect of independence for people with vision lossgrocery shopping. Empish discusses some new ways that retailers are making it possible to shop more autonomously than ever before. Pickup or Delivery, a Different Way to Grocery Shop A couple of months ago I started a different way of grocery shopping. In the past, I would inventory my pantry and refrigerator to restock, make a list, and catch the bus to my favorite grocery store. Once there, I would venture over to the customer service counter, get assistance, and do my

Camping with Low Vision

Editor's note: As spring begins to blossom, our thoughts turn to enjoying the outdoors again after the winter months. Beckie Horter talks about the joys of camping, listening to the call of animals, and sitting by the campfire....Enjoy! Grab a lawn chair and come sit by the campfire a while. The night is cold, and the fire is warm. It’s only us here, unless you count the frogs by the pond or the geese honking overhead. On second thought, yes, let’s count them! Though I may not actually see them, they are an important part of the scenery up here on the hill. Their company is one of the reasons I love this spot.

Designing a Public Bathroom for Ease of Navigation

In this post, it's not necessary to provide one more frantic public restroom nightmare. We have included several examples in the post Tips on Navigating Public Bathrooms with a Vision Impairment. You probably sighed and said, Been there, done that, or just laughed out loud because you could identify completely with the situation. Even so, you have learned, no doubt, many good tips to try the next time you must venture into a public restroom.

Tips on Navigating Public Bathrooms with a Vision Impairment

By Peer Advisors Empish J. Thomas and Lynda Jones About a month ago VisionAware received an awkward but important question on the message boards. The person wanted to know about the best ways to access public bathrooms. Of course, going to the bathroom is something that we all must do but trying to figure out where everything is in a bathroom facility can be embarrassing, frustrating, and uncomfortable when you have a vision impairment. In an attempt to respond to the question, the VisionAware peers had a lively conversation about our own challenges when Mother Nature calls. We talked among ourselves about the lack of universal design and strategies we use

Cardelia Cunningham: She Keeps on Overcoming

Editor's note: In honor of Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Appreciation Week, we are publishing an article about Cardelia Cunningham, VRT, retired, and former employee of the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services. Ms. Cunningham epitomizes what the vision rehabilitation therapist is all about as a dedicated, hard-working individual who fulfilled her goals despite many adversities and who inspires others to take up the work. This article was originally published in the Summer 2017 issue of DIALOGUE Magazine, copyright 2017 by Blindskills Inc. Cardelia Cunningham: She Keeps On Overcoming by

Suggestions for Preparing Your Taxes as a Person with Vision Loss

It's that dreaded time of year again, April 17, the date that our income taxes are due, looming large on the horizon. We have asked VisionAware's peer advisors to comment on their strategies for managing their income taxes. We have also updated our tax guide with additional links and resources, thanks to peer advisor Elizabeth Sammons. Managing Income Tax as a Small Business Owner By Beckie Horter <img src="" alt="A

Lynda Lambert Shares Prologue to Her Book "Walking by Inner Vision"

Editor's Note: VisionAware Peer Advisor Mary Hiland recommended that VisionAware publish the prologue from Peer Advisor Lynda Lambert's book, Walking by Inner Vision, as a follow up to Lynda's excellent series on

Fashion Trends Surge Among Blind and Visually Impaired Community

Editor's Note: The week of March 11 is World Glaucoma Week. Peer advisor Steph McCoy, Founder and CEO of Bold Blind Beauty, has written eloquently about her journey with this eye condition. As a real fashionista, in this post, she shares her thoughts on fashion trends, an important topic as Spring approaches. Fashion Trends Surge Among Blind and Visually Impaired Community by Steph McCoy, VisionAware Peer Advisor Does Loss of

Visually Impaired Seniors Be Aware of Scams and Frauds

As a senior with vision loss, you have doubtless been encouraged to use computers, smartphones, and other access technologies to help regain and maintain your quality of life. With these devices, you can potentially recapture nearly all of the independence you once thought might be gone forever. But along with the advantages, come certain risks and responsibilities. Scams Old and New In days of yore, grifters and confidence men came knocking on your door to ply their scams. If you fell for their ploy, the nogoodnik would likely mark your fence or curb with chalka way of letting the next con man to arrive know, Here lives an easy

Finding Love as a Person with Vision Loss

Finding Love By Kerry Kijewski I came home from a wedding shower one June day in 2008 and decided I was sick of hiding and being alone/lonely, that I was ready to take a step toward finding love. Love hadn’t found me. It wasn’t as simple as making eye contact with a guy from across a crowded bar and him asking me for my phone number. For me, there was no possibility of that whole eyes meeting from across the crowded room phenomenon, not without enough sight to make such a thing happen on my end. So I started to think

Calendars for People with Vision Loss

by Neva Fairchild and Empish Thomas It’s that time of year when we need a new calendar, resolve to get organized, and commit to keeping track of appointments independently. If you have a visual impairment, this can be easier said than done. None of the calendars at the store have large enough numbers or letters, and there’s not enough room to write even if you buy a desk-size calendar, which of course you cannot take with you. If you use a black permanent marker so that you can read what you write, it bleeds through to the next page. The letters and numbers are gray instead of black, and the spaces are too small to write what you need to know. Eventually, you leave the stationary aisle frustrated with nothing that meets your needs. Now what? Print

Two Blind Cooks in My Kitchen!

Food is the true universal language that breaks down barriers and brings us all togetherno matter who, where, or what we are. Penny Melville-Brown, Blind Baker and Holman Prize winner When I read a message on the VisionAware message board several months ago, I knew I had to reply. It was an announcement by a woman from England who had been selected as one of three Holman Prize winners, and she was coming to cook in my home city in Australia as part of her prize-winning Baking Blind Tour. Setting Off on a Blind Ambition When Penny was informed of a particular prize being offered to people with a visual disability, she decided to pitch her vision of the possible. The Lighthouse Foundation for the Blind and Visually

Renewing My Vision: A New Year's Resolve

The year 2017 was many things for me. I traveled on my own, attended a life-changing writing workshop, met some amazing people, and found somewhat of a groove in freelance writing. I also found a connection that has, and may in the future, contain all these things, helping me to develop the skills I choose to sharpen as a part of my vision for the future and this year to come. Halfway through the year, I found myself involved with a wonderful group of people here at VisionAware, the VisionAware peers. I saw myself having a voice and a say on things that really

What Does Braille Have to Do with Glaucoma? My Personal Experience

Editor's note: In January, we celebrate both National Braille Awareness and National Glaucoma Awareness months. Guest writer Jasmyn Polite shares her experience and advice as a person with glaucoma who has learned braille. Learning the Importance of Braille by Jasmyn Polite I have glaucoma and have progressively lost vision as I have grown older. When I was a young child, I thought that braille didn’t

Why I Resisted Learning Braille

Editor's note: To celebrate the life of Louis Braille (1809-1852), who made reading and writing possible for people who are blind, we’d like to acknowledge his young entrepreneurial skill that changed night writing into a code of dots we know today as braille. VisionAware peer advisor Maribel Steel, shares an excerpt from her unpublished memoir. She reflects on her teen years when her sight mysteriously worsened and how facing the question, to braille or not to braille, was met with personal uncertainty. Physical

Reflections on Colored Canes

I had the pleasure of interviewing James Boehm, a young entrepreneur who has his own custom cane business entitled Kustom Cane. This personal story is the third in a series of articles on colored canes. Part 1, The Impact of New Colors on the Long Mobility Cane gave a brief historical evolution of the white cane in the U.S. and Europe and explored the perspectives of users of the long white cane, professionals in the field of orientation and mobility, and product manufacturers.

A Tribute to Veterans with Disabilities

Editor's note: November 11 is Veterans Day, and VisionAware is honoring those who have served us with this special tribute from VisionAware Peer Advisor DeAnna Noriega. For further information, VisionAware has an entire section devoted to Veterans including services, resources, and personal

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,

Mike Robertson, Cross-Country Cyclist Who Is Visually Impaired, Challenges Blindness and Disability Employment Stereotypes

On June 26, 2017, Mike Robertson and Hans Breaux, team Shared Vision Quest, left Cape Flattery, WA, on the northwest corner of the country to ride their bicycles 4,000 miles, coast-to-coast, to West Quoddy Head Lighthouse in Lubec, Maine. Forty-nine days later, the pair arrived at their destination on August 8, 2017. Their adventure was different from many other treks across the country because Mike Robertson is legally blind. Mike rode independently on a lightweight Carver bicycle, following Hans Breaux,

White Cane Awareness: A History of White Cane Safety Day

Today, the white cane isn’t just a tool used by travelers with vision loss. It is a symbol for members of our community who are blind or visually impaired. White Cane Safety Day is observed annually on October 15 to recognize the many achievements of blind and visually impaired citizens and the white cane as a tool promoting independent travel. There are references of blind travelers using a stick, cane, or shepherd’s staff as a tool for independent travel since biblical times. It has only been during the last century that the white cane has served the dual role of both a tool for travel and symbol identifying the user as a blind traveler. As early as 1921, artist James Briggs, who lost his sight in an accident, claimed to have used the first white cane as a symbol when he

Why We Decided to Not Use a Guide Dog

Compiled by Empish Thomas September is National Guide Dog Month and is a celebration of guide dogs throughout North America. According to Wikipedia, National Guide Dog Month offers a way to raise awareness, appreciation, and support for guide dog schools across the United States. Since I lost my vision many years ago, a constant question always comes up, Empish, why don’t you use a guide dog? This is a very fair and valid question. As I was talking to my fellow VisionAware peer advisors about National Guide Dog Awareness

Four Lessons I Learned from Hurricane Irma

Editor's note: September is National Preparedness Month. The theme this year is Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can. With all of the weather emergencies taking place throughout the world during the past few weeks, Empish Thomas relates her recent experiences and lessons learned.   I must admit when Hurricane Irma hit, I was more focused on the Caribbean and the state of Florida than I was on myself. I live in the Atlanta-Metro area in Georgia, and I did not pay as much attention to the hurricane as I probably should have. Perhaps that was the first lesson learned

Dishwasher Users Beware: Check Twice Before Putting Soap in Your Machine

Editor's note: This is part of our ongoing series, Laughter Is Often the Best Medicine. The contributors to this series hope their vignettes provide a chuckle, an aha moment, or dispel myths about visual impairment for all readers. Am I in the Middle of a Soap Opera? I have used a dishwasher for many years. I can load and set up the machine in my sleep. I simply rinse off my dishes and silverware, placing them in the various compartments.

Living with Blindness Before the ADA: Review of "Planet of the Blind"

Overview of Planet of the Blind Stephen Kuusisto's fantastic book, Planet of the Blind, details his life as someone living with blindness before the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. He describes what it was like growing up, how he was ostracized throughout his education, and how he struggled to deal with his own thoughts on being disabled. In the beginning of the book, Kuusisto details the cause of his blindness and the diagnosis of retinopathy of prematurity. He also explains his visual impairment through the use of metaphors in descriptive detail. Despite being

Thumbs Up on the ADA and Audio-Described Movies & TV

I am not a film critic like Gene Siskel or Roger Ebert, but I want to give a thumbs up to the increased availability of audio-described movies and television. If you are not familiar, an audio-described movie provides extra verbal narration of visual elements happening in the film. It could be hand gestures, facial expressions, physical movements, a description of clothing, or action happening in the movie. It describes things that a person with vision loss might not notice or realize. There have been several recent developments that have

The Knowledge of Touch: How I Learned Braille

Editor's Note: Today's blog is from Jasmyn Polite, an aspiring teacher who is visually impaired. Born with bilateral cataracts and diagnosed with glaucoma as a child, Jasmyn has worked diligently to learn to read braille in order to pursue her goals. To learn more about Jasmyn, read her story, "Jasmyn Polite: Shining a Light on Living with Glaucoma As an Aspiring Teacher." Empish reading a braille sign for the restroom Imagine you are a person who is completely blind who is in an

Shared Vision Quest Coast-to-Coast Ride: Interview with Mike Robertson

"Dream Big or Go Home!" Mike Robertson Mike Robertson has a big dream that nearly got lost. "I always loved the freedom and exhilaration I got from riding my bicycle, and I wanted to go across the country. That all changed 20 years agomy vision got worse, a crash on my bike shook my confidence, and I lost my driver’s license. I climbed into a deep depression." Photo courtesy of Hans Breaux Shared Vision Quest is the resurrection of Robertson’s dream, as a coast-to-coast bicycle ride he started June 25th with his cycling partner and co-visionary,

Reasons Accidents Happen and How to Minimize Them As an Individual with Vision Loss

"Would you believe that I’ve been punched in the nose by a refrigerator, a closet door ajar, and even a wall? It’s all been caused by my hurrying frantically to get just one more task done, just one more e-mail answered, just one more load in the washer before my ride comes." Do these scenarios by a very competent, independent blind woman sound familiar? Whether blind or sighted, no matter how careful, we are to make our home environments safe, accidents are going to happen, but we can minimize them by reminding ourselves to slow down, focus on the current moment, and consistently use the safety techniques we often ignore because of our

Making Square Foot Gardening More Accessible with the Seeding Square

In a recent VisionAware article, I described how transitioning my vegetable garden from flat row to raised beds has made me a more productive "Out of Sight Gardener." To summarize, a raised bed garden is a plot framed with wood or blocks or some other material formed into raised growing spaces no wider than four feet and as long and as high as you have the desire, space, and garden soil to accommodate. There are

Being Invisible

Editor's Note: Today's post by DeAnna Quietwater Noriega is from the new series on disability. This personal story highlights the stigmas, stereotypes, marginalization, and lowered expectations people with disabilities are exposed to everyday. Read DeAnna's story and poem about how the attitudes of others have made her feel invisible and how she has chosen to make her life so much more than a stereotype. Being Invisible by DeAnna Quietwater Noriega When you are blind or visually impaired, it is easy to feel invisible. Many things are invisible to you: a stain on your favorite shirt, a dropped object that has skittered across the floor, the expression on a person’s face, or the number of gray hairs among those on your own head. Sometimes, you can begin to feel

Maintaining Independent Living with a Visual Impairment

Editor's Note: Today's post is from guest blogger, Jackie Waters. Jackie is a mother of four boys and lives on a farm in Oregon. She is passionate about providing a healthy and happy home for her family and aims to provide advice for others on how to do the same through her own website. She has recently had an older relative come live with her and, together, they worked on needed changes in the home to make it safe and easy to access. We are sharing this for Older Americans Month to help caregivers and their loved ones who are encountering similar situations. A Stranger in Your Own Home If you’re dealing with some sort of visual impairmentwhether it be from injury,

Understanding Models of Disability

Editor's Note: In honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, VisionAware is happy to share the inaugural post of a new series on disability led by Steven Wilson. Steven was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome at the age of 41. (Usher Syndrome is an inherited condition that causes partial or total hearing loss accompanied by gradual vision loss resulting from retinitis pigmentosa.) He is enrolled at the University of Arizona and plans to get his master's degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. <img src="" alt="Steven sitting at a desk with a laptop using CART"

Reviewing Books on Blindness: Harnessing Courage and Moving Forward As an Individual with Vision Loss

Editor's note: These book reviews by Peer Advisor, Amy Bovaird are part of the VisionAware Bookshelf Series. Each book shares a message of facing vision loss straight on and finding the courage and will power to move forward with life as someone living with a visual impairment. Harnessing Courage: Overcoming Adversity Through Grit and Gratitude by Laura Bratton By

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

During National Autism Month, Think About Employment Opportunities for Adults Who Are Blind and Have Autism Spectrum Disorder

April is National Autism Awareness month. The purpose of this post is to increase awareness of autism and to encourage you to think outside of the rehabilitation box! When I was studying for my degree in vision rehabilitation for adults, I learned about self-stimulating behaviors often called "blindisms." Behaviors such as repetitive speech or echolalia, constant rocking whether

Four Things I Learned from the 1Touch Self-Defense Project

In March, I attended the AFB Leadership Conference in Alexandria, Virginia. One of the numerous workshop sessions on the agenda that I found interesting was on the 1Touch Self-Defense Project. I had taken a self-defense class for people with visual impairments, but it was many years ago, and I have to admit I was pretty rusty on the topic and even more on the physical techniques. So, I decided to attend the class to get a refresher and update my skills and knowledge. The session was only for about an hour, but I learned a wealth of information that I want to share with you in this post. <img

Out of Sight Gardening: Tips on Raised Bed Gardening for Individuals with Vision Loss

Out of Sight Gardening By Bill Holton, VisionAware Contributor As the snow melts and the days grow longer, it’s only natural for our thoughts to turn to springtime gardening. I do a lot of vegetable gardening, and last spring, I offered several tips for gardening with vision loss. Some of these included using bamboo stakes to mark row ends and kebab skewers to mark where you have planted seeds, so you’ll be able to

Many Different Hats: An Audio Short Story

Editor's note: In honor of National Reading Month, today's post features an audio recording of Maribel Steel's story, "Many Different Hats." Whether you enjoy reading large print, braille, or following along with audiobooks, the VisionAware peers encourage you to continue to enjoy reading. Click the link below to listen to Maribel's story. Listen to "Many Different Hats" Transcript (Soft music plays then fades out as the narrator begins to speak) Narrator:"Many Different Hats," written by Maribel Steel and read by Carol Middleton. Playing Time: 7:51 minutes.

Friendship on International Women's Day

As women from every corner of the globe come together to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th, VisionAware peer advisor, Maribel Steel, acknowledges the feminine spirit that nurtures, supports, and uplifts through the sisterhood of friendship. Women in Collaboration A few years ago, I was the project coordinator for a World Premiere music event in Melbourne, Australia called, "Precious Music, Precious Water." I mention it here because it was a project commissioned by The Victorian Womens’ Trustit was an insightful experience to be at the

Guide Dog or White Cane? Mobility Tools for Individuals with Vision Loss

Editor's note: February is low vision awareness month, and we are highlighting the importance of being safe when walking around, even in a known area. VisionAware peer advisor, DeAnna Noriega, gives sound advice about what you should think about when making a decision about a dog or cane. Questions to Consider If you have low vision, your lack of depth perception may make it hard to judge changes in the elevation of the ground where you are walking. Other questions to consider: Do you have trouble adjusting to differences in lighting when you go outside or come into a building? Are blind spots in

The 1Touch Project™: Personal Safety for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Editor's note: With this post, VisionAware is rolling out a new series on "Dealing with Crime or Domestic Violence As a Person with a Disability." In this series, you will find articles on the disturbing statistics on crimes against people with disabilities, information and resources on domestic abuse, and personal stories that two peer advisors have written about their own experiences. We are also offering information on self-defense techniques that have been adapted or developed for people with vision loss, including the 1Touch

Just One Word, Please!

Before we turn over that final page of the 2016 calendar, let’s think about doing something different or new in 2017. Like most people, at the beginning of December, I begin to contemplate the upcoming year. Do you also begin to have dreams and personal plans for the year ahead? Have you ever wondered what would happen if you could choose only one word to reflect and define the person you want to become in the upcoming year? Does any particular word come to mind as we begin to talk about it? What word would you choose? I am going to share a few examples of my own experiences with choosing one word. It all began near the end of 2014 as I was starting to think about the beginning of the next year. My cousin who lives in

A Time of Joy and a Time of Sorrow: Grandmothering Without Sight

Editor's note: This post is part of the Blind Parenting series created to provide visually impaired parents and grandparents with first-hand accounts of how you can raise a child safely and independently. In today's post, Sheila Rousey shares her experience of becoming a grandmother with vision loss. A Time of Joy and a Time of Sorrow: Grandmothering Without Sight by Sheila Rousey

Travel Around the World this Holiday Season: A Postcard from Melbourne

Editor's note: Are you thinking about traveling this holiday season? Utilize your orientation and mobility skills to experience the holidays around the world. VisionAware peer advisor, Maribel, shares the festivities in her city in this excerpt from The City on Top in the Land Down Under. This blog was originally posted on Maribel's travel blog, Touching Landscapes. A Postcard from Melbourne By Maribel Steel The continent of Australia may be

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

International Perspectives: Living and Working in Siberia As a Person with a Disability

Editor's note: This is the 3rd part of our series on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Be sure to read Part 1 on useful tips when you meet a person with vision loss and Part 2, "Speak to Me.". And stay tuned next week for Maribel Steel's post on "accepting life as it comes." by Elizabeth Sammons, Peer Advisor "Relax every muscle right now, or you’ll break some bones," the voice in my head bounced through my body as I started

Speak to Me

Editor's note: In this second part of our theme in recognition of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Mary Hiland and Sandra Burgess use real life experiences to illustrate more effective ways sighted people can interact with individuals who are blind or visually impaired. In the first part, Sandra talked about useful tips when you meet a person who is blind or visually impaired. In the third part of our series we will hear from Elizabeth Sammons on a glimpse of life in Siberia for men and women living with disabilities.

International Day of Disabilities Celebrated December 3

On December 3rd, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities will be observed worldwide. Started in 1992 with support from the United Nations, this day seeks to foster inclusion for all who live with disabilities by promoting dignity, respect, and community inclusion. The theme for 2016 is "Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want." In keeping with the celebration of this day, we will focus on disability etiquette as it applies to people who are blind or visually impaired. Be sure to read, "Speak to Me," Part 2 of this post. A

A New Home? Choosing a Retirement Living Community When You Have Vision Loss

Packing up the home where you have lived for years, leaving the familiar neighborhood and moving some place new is stressful enough for any senior. When vision loss is part of the picture, it can add another layer of anxiety. Are you wondering: How will I find my way around a large new building? How will I make friends when I can’t recognize anyone’s face? How will I get out to do my errands when I don’t drive and don’t have my friends nearby to help out? Choosing Your New Home When you are choosing your new home, be proactive. Ask questions. Explore the facility including the living area and the common areas. This is

Feel the Power of the Disability Vote By Using the Accessible Voting Machine

As an African-American who grew up with parents who lived under segregation, I have known and understood the importance and power of the right to vote. My dad, who was born in Birmingham, Alabama, would constantly tell me that when I grew up to always have handy a copy of my government ID, library card, and voter’s registration card. He always stressed the importance of having those three things in my purse. Today, I am a 45-year-old living in Atlanta with vision loss, and guess what I have in my purse? You got it; my government ID, my library card, and my voter’s registration card. All with

Voting Early, A Great Idea

Yesterday, I voted, and it gave me a kind of high. I did it. I got it done. No more indecision, although there was none for me, where the presidency is concerned. But now I can skip any newspaper articles suggesting to me which way I should vote. I no longer have to sit through televised arguments. I don’t care what they are saying about any of the candidates. It’s a done deal, so leave me alone. Voting Privately The ADA voting

Overcoming Assumptions: A Blind Mobility Specialist's Perspective

By Sanho Steele-Louchart Editor's note: Today's post is about overcoming assumptions people with vision loss face. Our new peer advisor, Sanho Steele-Louchart shares his experience as a blind mobility specialist. Overcoming Assumptions: A Blind Mobility Specialist's Perspective Blindness is a quality of our being. It's as integral to our identities as our nationality, language, and personality. In fact, it's often so fundamental to us that we begin to forget that we're blind. Blindness is simply a part of who we are. To the sighted, however, or to those transitioning from sightedness to blindness, blindness is often understood to mean a lack

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

The Reserve Bank of Australia Hits the Jackpot with an Accessible Banknote

Editor's note: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a celebration of a diverse workforce and the contributions of workers with disabilities. This year's theme is Inclusion Works. Maribel Steel describes what Australia is doing with their currency to make inclusion work in this post about the new accessible $5 AUD banknote. The Reserve Bank of Australia recently put a new, accessible banknote into circulation, the first of its kind in Australia. The new banknote has unique security features and allows easy recognition for people who are blind or visually impaired. More Than Meets the

Fall Prevention Is Not Just for Seniors

When I search for articles, seminars, webinars or conferences on fall prevention they always seem to be geared toward seniors. They focus on those in the age group of 50 and up. But falls can happen to anyone at any age. I know this is true because I have had a couple of falls in the last few years and I am in my forties. As a result, I have become much more aware of the way I live my life so that I can prevent more falls in my future. For example, I don’t talk on my cell phone while walking with my white cane. Talking on the phone while trying to navigate and use proper mobility can cause major distractions and possibly a nasty fall. Ten Tips and Suggestions To Prevent Falls <img src="" alt="woman

Memoir of a Guide Dog: It's Off to Work We Go

Editor's note: September is National Guide Dog Month. The VisionAware Peer Advisors have put together a few posts about their experiences with guide dogs, how much their dog improves their mobility and independence, and how they work with their four-legged friends. Today's post takes on the voice of Maribel's guide dog, Nev. Stay tuned for more posts later this month. Memoir of a Guide Dog: It's Off to Work We Go By Maribel Steel Our guide dogs have the most amazing personalities. Loyal, focused, protective, loving, and at times they can be highly entertaining. For Guide Dog Appreciation Month, I’m sharing a tale about my golden Labrador who was a real

8 Things I Wish People Knew About Going Blind From a Degenerative Eye Condition

Today's blog is from Joy Thomas of Double Vision Blog. Joy and Jenelle are identical twin sisters with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) who hope to share their perspectives, experiences, and challenges with vision loss. 8 Things I Wish People Knew About Going Blind From a Degenerative Eye Condition It usually occurs slowly. While there are some people who go blind overnight or in a matter of days, such as with detached retinas, following eye surgeries, or with

Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?

Editor's note: As we approach Labor Day, a day that is a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country, it is important to remember, that people who are blind or visually impaired need and want employment. This post brings up important issues to consider about blindness as a disability that impact every aspect of life, including employment. A Response on Becoming Disabled On August 19, I read a very interesting article

A Recipe for Kitchen Success this Summer: Three Parts Vision Rehab Strategy to One Part Planning

Most people would like to eat a healthy, made from scratch, natural diet, wouldn’t you say? However, vision loss in the kitchen can feel like it is adding extra layers of difficulty to the 7-layer bean salad you wanted to make. Have You Experienced Any of the Following Behaviors or Reactions? Get frustrated spending 20 minutes looking for ingredients and kitchen tools in your own kitchen? Maybe you can’t find everything you need and decide to reach for the phone for take-out instead? Have every intention of eating the vegetables and fruit you bought, but have to throw some of them out because "out of sight, out of mind" caused you to forget you had them until you smell them rotting? Get nervous about trying to measure tablespoon and

Finding a New Home: Bucket List Sequel Four, Part 2

Sue Martin--Unexpected Surprises This wasn’t on my bucket list, at least for this year, but…we’ve found our home in Maine. It’s under contract with a closing date in October. Our house in Alabama is on the market with strong interest. The house in Maine is a geodesic dome on 18 acres and it’s on a lake. It has a windmill and solar panels and we’ll be able to be off the grid. The property contains mixed woodland with open ground that’s a combination of grass and blueberries. It has a huge greenhouse and raised beds for growing vegetables. The Biggest News Here’s the biggest news. A member of he Senior Executive Service at Veterans

Summertime and the Living Is Easy

Sue with guide dog So a song by the American artist, Ella Fitzgerald, begins. I grew up in the American south. As a child the heat never really bothered me. We spent the summers outside, usually at summer camp. When not at camp, we were outside riding our ponies or playing physically demanding games. It’s quite different now! My day job is with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. I spend my days before a computer. It’s a fun job, and I enjoy my team and the work we do. But it’s a pretty sedentary job. Last February, I trained with my fifth

Getting Your Feet Wet in the Access Technology Wading Pool Part 1

Editor's note: Just in time for school to start in some parts of the world, we bring you Part 1 of "Getting Your Feet Wet in the Access Technology Wading Pool." Stay tuned for Part 2 on downloading books and how you can play them your talking book player and Part 3 on taking the next step and using a computer. How Reading Can Get You Started into Using

Getting Selected for the 2016 Amtrak Writers in Residency Program

Earlier this year I was frustrated with the way my business was going. I didn't have any ride sales pending. I wasn't getting hired for coaching or being booked for speaking. Heck, I wasn't even sure I could get from here to there if someone did invite me to come share my story with their group. I live in a suburb of Houston where there is very little in the way of public transportation. We don't have a

Sensible Solutions: An Introduction

Editor's note: Just in time for Independence Day, the VisionAware Peers introduce a new message board topic: Sensible Solutions for Everyday Living with Vision Loss. These tips and solutions to managing life with vision loss are being posted in a message board format so that you can respond and ask questions. We encourage you to browse through suggestions and strategies that can help you, or a family member, successfully accomplish those daily chores that can make living with vision loss a challenge. We also recommend that you read the topics in Skills You Need for Everyday Living. Life Isn't Limited by the

How Independent Do You Want to Be?

Editor's note: Peer advisor DeAnna Noriega writes about independence and the full range of options you have as a person with visual impairment. You may also want to go back and read the first of our series on independence with a post by peer advisor Audrey Demmitt, RN, Independence versus Interdependence. Do you handle your own finances? Do you arrange your own

Peer Advisors Update Bucket Lists-Sequel Three

My Outrageous Bucket List in Review by Maribel Steel At the beginning of the year, some of the peer advisors shared their dreams and aspirations on our individual bucket lists in the hope of keeping each other accountable to fulfilling our goals. So far, so good. The rewarding aspect in sharing these lists has been in knowing that my fellow peers have already begun to tick some things off their list. For me, there is nothing like a deadline that helps me to stretch for a goal and sometimes, I really do feel stretched. So, if I happen to get anything ticked off my

Physical Fitness: Move More, Sit Less

You may have heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking,” but what does this mean exactly? How does it affect me and what can I do about it? Impact of Increasingly Sedentary Lifestyles Researchers have been studying our increasingly sedentary lifestyles for years to determine the impact on our health and mortality. With advancements in technology, people are sitting more and moving less. From sitting during our daily commute, sitting in the office or on our computers, sitting to watch television…you get the picture. It is actually making us sick and killing us. The World Health Organization has determined physical inactivity is the 4th leading

On Being a Blind Mother

Editor's note: This is second in our series for Mother's Day. We hope you will read and comment. Just Like Any Other Parent How do you explain blindness to a two-year-old? You don’t. You don’t need to. As a mother of a son and a daughter and a grandmother of five granddaughters, I have some memories pertaining to my blindness I’d like to share with you. I don’t recall explaining why I couldn’t see to either of my children. Because they grew up with a mother with very limited sight(as a result of retinitis pigmentosa), that was the normal for them. One parent couldn’t see so well,

Motherhood with Vision Loss

Editor's note: This post is the first in a short series on Mother's Day. My First Child Was Born When I Was a Peace Corps Volunteer My eldest daughter was born near the end of my tour of duty as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Western Samoa. Due to a tragic mistake at the hospital in country just before my daughter's birth, a healthy new born baby boy had died. Thus, the country Peace Corps director insisted that all three of the pregnant Peace Corps volunteers be sent eighty miles to give birth at the L.B.J. Tropical Medical Center in Pagopago American Samoa. The wife of the village chief where I lived asked me if I wanted her help

Nurses with Disabilities Have Great Abilities, Part Two

Imagine after years of preparing to enter the workforce and finally landing your dream job, you begin to lose your vision. You feel defeated and everyone around you thinks you won’t be able to find gainful employment or continue to work. Despite the critics and those who doubt your ability, you must always remember that you are capable. Detra Bannister took those words to heart yesterday in her story, “Nurses with Disabilities Have Great Abilities, Part One” on the CareerConnect Blog. Read how Detra overcame her vision loss and championed her skills into a successful career in today’s story. Nurses with Disabilities Have Great

Out of Sight Vegetable Gardening

Vegetable Gardening Can be Fun Vegetable gardening can be fun, and all the fresh produce is an added bonus. Here at Vision Aware we have offered a number of tips to enhance the blind gardening experience. But there are also some resources and relatively inexpensive products that can help. Most are available from or at your local home and garden store. Below are a sampling of these products: List of Inexpensive Gardening Products Bricks, lumber and fences are great for marking borders of the garden, but they can be a toe-stub and tripping

Respond to the Challenge: Embrace the Magic of Vision Rehabilitation Therapy

Blindness Perceived as Devestating Disability Blindness has long been perceived as the most devastating disability. Society holds that vision loss leaves a person helpless and hopeless. As a direct result of this opinion, many who are diagnosed with a vision loss think they have no hope for the future. Many people who have gone through the experience of a vision loss know the opposite is true. Anyone who possesses any degree of vision loss can return to an active and independent lifestyle. Some individuals report that they have a more productive life after a vision loss! Steps to Return to Active Life Caption: Certified Vision

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

The Five Top Ways I Use Uber

Why I Use Uber The past year Uber has revolutionized my life. It has been an excellent alternative to public transportation, cabs, hiring personal drivers and asking for rides from friends. I have used Uber for all kinds of commuting around the Atlanta Metro area. Doctor appointments, work-related meetings, grocery shopping, and outings with friends and movie nights. You name it and Uber has pretty much taken me there. But with all of this traveling around Uber can be quite addictive. I mean, with the ability to call up a driver in about 5-10 minutes with the swipe of a finger on your smartphone just about any time you want? That is just hard

Using Uber As an Alternative Transportation Service for People with Vision Loss

What is Uber Nearly a year ago I started trying out a new transportation service that hit my city called Uber. I had been hearing about it all over the place from both sighted and blind friends. I had not tried it yet because I had no smartphone and I also was not sure of its effectiveness. But after purchasing my iPhone and having to wait longer than I wanted at a doctor’s office, I decided to try Uber. It was a funny situation that you can read about in VisionAware’s

Blindness Brings Kindness: The Win Win of a Visual Impairment

After reading peer advisor Sheila Rousey’s post for Random Acts of Kindness week, and the rewards that come from being open to the act of giving and receiving, I am reminded of how being visually-impaired is an unexpected gift we give to ourselves and to others. Attracting Attention As a person with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), I accept that

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

Wardrobe Combos: Time-Saving Tips for People Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision

Getting the Jump on the Morning Routine You’re probably aware of the saying: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." I can think of many areas in life where this saying could be applicable, but none more than the daily morning routine. You know the one where you’ve just overslept and you jump up in automatic panic mode wondering how in the world you’re going to be able to get yourself together in time to get to work. This issue is irritating to just about anyone but if you are blind or visually impaired it’s especially annoying. If the above scenario has happened to you, take heart and know that you are not

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

Are You Afraid to Take Up New Smart Phone and Other iDevice?

Like many of you who still use those good old flip phones for your communication needs, I also resisted giving up my flip phone until one day when I accidentally took it swimming with me. It fell into salt water and had a massive seizure. My little flip phone was dead. So my daughter insisted that I get my first smart phone. Learning About My First Smart Phone When I got it, it did take me some time to get used to swiping tapping, flicking, and touching a smooth screen but I finally got the hang of it. I use the Siri feature all of the time now. She can do almost everything except drive me around and cook a meal. (smile) <img src="" alt="Maribel holding 'old faithful' to her ear and

Be A Bucket List Buddy

Here’s a twist on making a New Year’s Resolution. Oh sure, we can still make those promises to ourselves to lose weight, exercise more, eat more veggies, and engage in any number of self-improvement projects. But what if we added a goal to be accomplished by the end of 2016? It might be something practical like getting a job, but what if we made it more fun, like taking a trip, learning to do the tango, or winning a contest? What’s a Bucket List? In case you didn’t see the movie where the expression "bucket list" was made famous, it’s a list of things you want to do before your life is over. Depending on how long

Unified English Braille Is Here with the New Year

Change Can Be Uncomfortable It always seems that, just when we have learned how to do a task with a great deal of confidence, there is someone out there in the world who comes up with the bright idea in order to make changes and improvements to how we are successfully doing things. We are creatures of habit by nature. So learning to do something in a new way seems to be uncomfortable or even unwelcome. If you have been using a personal computer for several years now, you will recall that every time software developers update their products, there is always going to be a new learning curve in order to accomplish those things that you already feel comfortable in doing. So why upgrade to the latest software development? You know that you can wait on the upgrade for the newer

A Three-Step Process for Setting Goals for the New Year

Editor's note: Sheila Rousey is just joining the VisionAware peer advisor group and has written the first post out of the box for the new year! Read her take on setting goals, something all of us think about doing when January 1 rolls around. The Three Step Process In the educational setting, instructors are taught that goals must be observable and measureable. A more simplified explanation of setting or reaching goals include: identifying a specific goal to be reached, observing or looking for changes in understanding or behaviors, and lastly measuring the

Say “Hello!” to Alexa the Digital Assistant Within the Amazon Echo

Editor's note: For you last minute shoppers, here is a gift you might want to check out. But be sure to read our other gift ideas. A Multi-Purpose Assistant Imagine having a digital assistant in the house that doesn't require using a keyboard or learning to use a tablet, computer, or smartphonean attentive digital assistant within earshot that could open and read a book, provide a

Teaching Courage on International Day for People with a Disability

Editor's note: What can we write using the letters of the word "ABILITY" on this special day celebrating our talents and skills on International Day of Persons with Disabilities? The answer is two posts! This is the second post in the series offering encouragement to focus on how we help teach courage by being our capable-selves. Be sure to read the first post, A is for Ability, by Mary Hiland.

Crafts and Gifts You Can Make for the Holidays - Part 2

Editor's note: We continue with crafty ideas that people who are visually impaired can make as the holiday season approaches. One of the nicest things to receive from a friend is a hand-made craft or gift. Check out Part 1. Part 3 covers food items you can make as gifts. Read Tips for Setting Up a Craft Area to get you started. Festive Gifts in a Jar by

Part 2 of the White Cane Safety Day Debate: The Impact of New Colors on the Long Mobility Cane

Happy White Cane Safety Day!! Author's note: In Part 1, we reviewed the history of the white cane. In Part 2, we will explore the perspectives of users of the long white cane, professionals in the field of orientation and mobility, and product manufacturers. For newcomers to the field of vision rehabilitation,

Part 1 of the White Cane Safety Day Debate: The Impact of New Colors on the Long Mobility Cane

Author's note: The nation celebrates White Cane Safety Day on October 15. As this celebration occurs, the historic white color of this "visible symbol of a blind person's ability to come and go on his own," as President Johnson stated in the original proclamation, is competing with a growing interest in choice of colors by users for their canes. This post is part one of a two-part series that will (1) give a brief historical evolution of the white cane in the U.S. and Europe; (2) explore the perspectives of users of the long white cane, professionals in the field of orientation and mobility, and product manufacturers;

My Emergency Preparedness Bag

Planning Ahead When Visually Impaired One of the complications we experience as people who are visually impaired is that we have to do a lot of planning ahead. Gone are the days when we could impulsively meet a friend for lunch, run out to pick up that missing ingredient we need for dinner etc. When you have to figure out the logistics of getting where you want to go and how you will get there in advance, it means being organized and creative. This extends to making plans for emergencies. Having a network of support is important. During a city wide

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

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

Lessons My Dog Guides Have Taught Me: Part Three

Editor's Note: We continue to celebrate National Service Dog Guide Month. This post is Part Three of Deanna's tribute to her nine dog guides and the lessons they have taught her. Be sure to read Part One and Part Two. Olsen--Getting

Lessons My Dog Guides Have Taught Me: Part Two

Editor's Note: We continue to celebrate National Service Dog Guide Month. This post is Part Two of Deanna's tribute to her nine dog guides and the lessons they have taught her. Be sure to read Part One. Irish: Make Time to Smell the Roses Irish was my smallest black lab. She weighed in at about sixty pounds. While walking through town on a quiet Sunday, I paused at an intersection with Irish and my five year-old daughter Kassia. Since no traffic was moving at all, I instructed "Irish,

Lessons My Dog Guides Have Taught Me: Part One

Editor's Note: We continue to celebrate National Service Dog Guide Month. This post is Part One of Deanna's tribute to her nine dog guides and the lessons they have taught her. Author's note: I am currently working with my ninth dog guide from The Seeing Eye Inc. Each of my lovely dogs has taught me lessons I could apply to other aspects of my life. Excuse me if I have gotten carried away writing about my journey through the world

RunMelbourne: A Walk in the Park with Our Guide Dogs

Editor's note: September is National Service Dog Guide Month (originally National Dog Guide Month). To start our coverage of this annual occurance, Maribel Steel, VisionAware's International Correspondent, shares her story of a "Walk in the Park" event in Melbourne, Australia. Stay tuned for more. Gathering of the Team The team had come prepared. Dozens of orange caps and water-proof ponchos packed by the staff of Guide Dogs Victoria (GDV) to be handed out to their clients – the rain was not going to dampen our fun-loving spirit for this year’s RunMelbourne event. The sun came out in a burst of support while the hive of volunteers buzzed about helping clients who are visually impaired to attach name badges to orange t-shirts and time tags to the inside of

Lessons Learned in the School of Life: Going to School and Leaving Behind the Dinosaurs

Editor's note, as part of our Lessons Learned in the School of Life series, Mary Hiland has written her personal experiences as a sequel to the Going to School with the Dinosaurs post by Lynda Jones. Also check out the other "Lessons Learned in the School of Life" starting with Part One. Deanna Noriega's Swimming up the Mainstream post was published on

Lessons Learned in the School of Life: Going to School with the Dinosaurs as a Visually Impaired Student

Contemplating my twenty-two and a half years of school as a visually impaired student, I can divide the time into three periods: pre-technology, some technology, and the beginning of assistive technology. Kindergarten The half year I alluded to was kindergarten. For me, it was very disappointing. As I told my mother when I came home the first day, “I did not learn to read!” Reading was the bottom line for me. I did learn to climb the monkey bars and could even pass another student as we scooted along on the top. This was a definite achievement for a five-year-old with ten degrees of visual field. So…I dropped out and waited for first

Lessons Learned in the School of Life by People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired: Part Two

Edited by Maribel Steel Editor's note: As families and students old and young prepare to go back to school, VisionAware peer advisors share their insights on what they have learned when enrolled in the "school of life" as blind or visually impaired life-students. Vision Loss Teaches Faith and Humor by Amy Bovaird As I go through the "School of Life," I’ve learned to fall back on two principal strengths—which have never failed me. The

Just in Time for School: Shopping Online Made Easier for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Back to School Shopping Online Fleets of bright yellow school buses, children toting backpacks and lunch boxes are all signs of one thing-school time. And yes, if you are a visually impaired parent or a visually impaired adult student the months of August and September is the time of year that you are preparing for a return to that old school house. Now, you don’t’ have to take that long list of school supplies and rush off to the local office supply or big box store; you can shop easily and hassle-free from the comfort of your home. How is this possible? Through accessible online shopping. Next to the Christmas holiday season, back-to-school shopping is the largest shopping time

My First Adventure with Uber

Editor's Note: This is part of our ongoing series on Laughter is Often the Best Medicine, a series that encourages people who are blind or visually impaired to laugh at themselves and celebrate victories. An Accidental Adventure Early this week I tried Uber for the very first time. It was more by accident than anything else. I had finished up at the doctor’s office and had booked my trip with my local PARA-transit service. But when the appointment was over I had over an hour to wait for them to come and pick me up. I quickly realized that I did not want to wait that

Independence Walk

Editor's note: Continuing with our independence and advocacy themes in celebration of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), VisionAware peer advisors Mary Hiland, and Elizabeth Sammons were co-winners of the ADA25 Celebration Essay Contest in Columbus, Ohio. Mary wrote Crosswalks to Civil Rights. And below is Elizabeth's winning essay. My True Independence Day by Elizabeth Sammons My true

Crosswalks to Civil Rights

Editor's note: Continuing with our independence and advocacy themes in celebration of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), VisionAware peer advisors Mary Hiland, and Elizabeth Sammons were co-winners of the ADA25 Celebration Essay Contest in Columbus, Ohio. Below is Mary's essay. Here is a link to Elizabeth's post Independence Walk. Life Before ADA In 1963, Crossing the street was a terrifying event. Unsure if the light had changed, as a blind student, I waited on the curb, drew a deep breath, and took my chances.

Stand Up! Advocacy Comes in Many Forms

Disability Rights Disability rights for people who are blind in this country started with actions that most states took decades before the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) passed. According to the National Association of Dog Guide Users, "The United States of America was the first country to pass laws protecting the right of blind individuals to enter public establishments, and to travel on all modes of public transportation accompanied by a guide dog. The first of these were passed in the middle part of the 20th Century." Over the years with federal legislation such as the ADA, whose 25th

July Is A Powerful Month of Independence

In the U.S.A., July is a powerful month of Independence. We started the month with Independence Day- the day we commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence on the 4th, which represented the end of the control, authority and jurisdiction of Britain over the colonies, and, this year, we end the month with the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) on the 26th, which marks the legal prohibition of discrimination and exclusion of people with disabilities (dubbed the "civil rights act for people with disabilities"). My question for you, have you signed your own personal Declaration of Independence in your

Choices We Make: Independence We Celebrate, Part Two

Coordinated by Maribel Steel Editor’s note: To celebrate independence in this month of many independence-related events, our peer advisors share their perspectives when it comes to choosing a white cane or dog guide to maintain personal independence. Be sure to read Part One on Choosing a White Cane. Why Choose a Dog Guide? by Mary Hiland

Choices We Make: Independence We Celebrate, Part One

Coordinated by Maribel Steel Editor’s note: To celebrate July as "Independence Month," for all of its independence-related celebrations, the peer advisors initiated this topic of "independence" last July and have a lengthy series of posts to peruse. Be sure to read Part Two on Choosing a Dog Guide. The White Cane: A Useful Tool That Opens Up Your World <img src="" alt="picture of person walking with long

Practice Good Eye Safety Around Fireworks This Fourth of July

Happy Safe Fourth of July! The Fourth of July is a time of fun, remembrance and celebration for many Americans. Friends and family gather together to enjoy early morning parades, backyard barbecues, and nighttime fireworks. Fireworks are exciting, fun and spectacular, but don’t let an accident spoil your celebration. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), each year thousands of people are injured by fireworks during the months of June and July. Almost half of those injured are children and especially teenagers. The typical victim is an unsupervised teen, at home, with a group of friends, playing with fireworks. The chances are

What Helen Keller Means to Me

Peer Advisors Share About Helen Keller Helen Keller's Birthday Today, June 27th, is Helen Keller’s birthday. This incredible woman became deaf and blind at the age of nineteen months. Few could have imagined the leading role she would grow up to play in many of the significant political, social, and cultural movements of the 20th century. She worked for the American Foundation for the Blind for forty years, and until her passing in 1968, she worked unceasingly to improve the lives of people with disabilities. So in celebration, some of the peer advisors want to share how Keller has

A Father's Day Gift to Your Children or Grandchildren: Quality Time In the Woodshop-Not the Woodshed!

Gil Johnson in his workshop Editor's note: We reached out to Gil Johnson to write this article as a gift for readers who are fathers and sons. Gil is a life-long woodworker and is blind from glaucoma. In his own words, "When I was 10 or 11 years old, I began to acquire my own power and hand woodworking tools (after receiving training in woodworking at the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind) and experimented in designing and building various projects in the basement at home. When I was 16 or so, I built a nine-drawer desk out of birch wood, which we use to this day." by

How to Make Your "Home Sweet Home" Safe

Home Safety Month There is nothing so comforting as our "home sweet home" to return to after being away for a few hours, a day or a vacation. But often, it is our homes that can pose the greatest risks to our safety especially if you are blind or visually impaired. At home, we take off our emotional armor to relax, our dog guides are off duty. Our sighted family can even forget we can’t see and are in relax mode too. Distractions abound and before you know it, a dining chair was left out from the table, a cupboard door left ajar and a glass of water was perched right where you could knock it from the bench to smash on the floor. Accidents do happen – but why not eliminate

Coping with Life Changes as We Grow Older

Unexpected Changes in Vision As We Age Bring Unexpected Solutions With age there are many changes in life, some good and others that are more difficult. Some we expect, becoming grandparents, retiring, even arthritis and gray hair, but then we have the unexpected changes. At times we lose friends and loved ones, some struggle with the effects of a stroke, heart attack, and we even see friends and their families battle Alzheimer’s disease and the declines. Another loss many face is their vision. Age-related Vision Loss Can Affect All Areas of Life The loss can include simple everyday tasks such as

What to Do When Saying Thanks Seems Like Not Enough

Editor's note: Here is our third post related to volunteering and National Volunteer Week. She addresses how people who are blind or visually impaired can thank those who volunteer to help them with everyday life. Finding Creative Ways to Say Thank You Is Challenging Those of us who are a part of the blind and visually impaired community sometimes have to ask for help from others on a regular basis. Finding creative ways to show gratitude and appreciation for the help extended to us can be challenging because just saying thank-you never seems to be enough. But I have found some inventive ways that I would like to share, that go beyond the basic thank-you

I Finally Got an iPhone!

I Got an iPhone About two years ago I wrote a post for VisionAware on why I don't use an iPhone. In the post, I vividly described how I was totally unconcerned about the fancy bells and whistles of this growing technology. I shared how an old fashion flip phone suited me just fine. I explained how I was uninterested in downloading books, reading my stock portfolio, or listening to music on my phone; how I just wanted to make a simple phone call and hang up. Well, this past December I turned over a new leaf and purchased an iPhone.

Reevaluating the Best Way to Do My Shopping As a Person Who Is Blind

By guest blogger Chelsea Munoz I have been blind since birth, and I currently live in San Antonio, TX. My goal is to become as independent as possible. I am constantly looking to learn new things. I enjoy writing and getting feedback. I enjoy rock climbing, horseback riding, and anything that allows me to push myself to greater heights, build my confidence, and have a great time! To me, variety truly is the spice of life! Grocery Shopping, a Huge Challenge A huge challenge that people who are blind face is going to the grocery store independently. There are things that make blind people’s shopping adventures more of an inconvenience than they would be for sighted people. There are also things that could make shopping experiences for people who are

Reading My Own Phone Bills Empowers Me as a Person Who Is Blind

Editor's note: This week the 30th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference is underway. We will be hearing much more about it from AFB staff who are attending as they report on the latest and greatest technology coming down the pike. To get us started, Mary Hiland reports on how the invention of a flatbed scanner and optical character recognition in 1975 by Ray Kurzweil has transformed lives and continues to do so, in many different and exciting ways! Being in Control of My Personal Business Who would ever think that being able to read my

My Medication Education and Self Advocacy

New Customer at Walgreens At the beginning of the year two medical things changed for me: my insurance switched and I started taking a new medication. On the surface both events were not traumatic or life-shattering just life adjustments that needed to be made. Changing my insurance and taking a new medication both required me to switch my pharmacy. I had originally purchased my medications at my local grocery store pharmacy but since they were not a national chain my insurance would not accept them as a provider. When I called my insurance company they gave me a list of pharmacies in my neighborhood and Walgreens was on the list. So I decided to make that my pharmacy from now on.

How I Keep My Hands on My Money

Editor's note: With tax season upon us, the filing deadline of April 15 is not so far away so the topic of this post takes on even more meaning. Identifying Printed paper Money As a person who is blind, I’m often asked, “How do you know that’s a five-dollar bill?” It’s a good question, because in this country, all our bills feel the same. You can feel the difference between a quarter and a nickle, a dime and a penny, but it is impossible to detect the difference between a one-dollar bill and a one-hundred-dollar bill. There are 180 other countries

How Can I Be Fashionable in the New Year If I Am a Blind or Visually Impaired Woman?

Fashion versus Style? To answer this question we need to understand fashion. Fashion unlike style is ever-changing and dependent on current trends. A trend that looks nice on one person may not necessarily agree with someone else. Style on the other hand, like art, is a form of self-expression and communication which encompasses the whole person. An extension of oneself, style begins on the inside with our personality, lifestyle, values, likes, dislikes, mannerisms and it permeates all areas of our life. Since fashion and cosmetics are multi-billion dollar industries, the process of finding professionals to tailor a personalized style program for you can be relatively

Technology Success Brings Renewed Self-Confidence

With the beginning of the new year, the peer advisors are enhancing the theme of independence on VisionAware. Be sure to read Audrey Demmitt's overview for the independence section, From Personal Loss to Personal Growth, the Road to Independence. I’ve had a really tough few months. When in the midst of it all I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what it was. And it was only when I began my emergence from what turned out to be a minor depressive episode that I could see clearly what had happened. Technology is a big part of my

All About Braille: Six Dots, Four Perspectives

January is Braille Literacy Awareness Month, in honor of Louis Braille who originally developed the braille code. Braille has been a major contributor to the independence of people who are blind and visually impaired and we are honoring the month with personal stories about its importance. Bumps On A Page By Mary Hiland How do you make sense of all those bumps on the page? Do blind

The White Cane: Symbol of Dependence Or Independence

Editor's note:This is last in our series of posts in honor of White Cane Day. Our guest blogger, Kendra Farrow, CVRT, graduated from Western Michigan University with her Master’s degree in blind rehabilitation. She worked as a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist for fourteen years. Her experiences included organizing transition programming, leading activity and support groups, conducting community education on blindness and low vision, and providing one on one instruction with consumers in their homes.

My First Mobility Lessons Learning to Use A White Cane

Editor's note: This is our third post this week in our series celebrating White Cane Day and what it means. Be sure to go back and read Using a White Cane Gives Me Confidence and Safety and How I Accepted the White Cane. Tomorrow we will have one more post from a guest blogger to honor this important day. My Life with Blindness My life with blindness began in my mid-twenties. I had no idea what to expect. I had been blind for about a month when my orientation and mobility (O&M), instructor,

To Help or Not to Help

Editor's Note: As we approach White Cane Safety Day next week and honor National Disability Employment Month, this post is a an excellent reminder us all about asking for help. It was originally published on Mary's blog Seeing It My Way The Art of Offering and Declining Help Have you ever offered help to a child, only to have your hands virtually slapped away? “I can do it myself!” Have you ever offered help to a person with a disability, only to have the same thing happen? Have you ever thought about offering help and then thought better of it, because you didn’t want to get your head bitten off? There’s an art to offering help, just as there is an art to declining it. Needing Help Twice, in the last

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

24 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Anniversary of the ADA: What is the Law and How Does It Apply to Those with Vision Loss. July 26 will mark the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA was created to bring about "equality of opportunity, full participation in society, independent living and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities." For too long people with disabilities have struggled with full inclusion into mainstream society and the ADA was passed to even the playing field and provide more opportunity and access. The ADA concentrates its efforts in five major areas: employment, transportation, state and local government, public

My Road to Independence

Editor's note: Amy Bovaird is a new peer advisor. In 1988, I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a progressive genetic disease that typically results in blindness. I chose to continue a new career in Teaching English as a Second Language abroad. To my surprise, nothing much changed with my vision. I noticed gradual differences but I could retain my independence over two and a half decades of teaching English in different countries. In 2006, I returned home from the

Wearing Many Hats For Independence: Traveling Safely

Editor's note: This post has been updated to include an audio recording of Maribel Steel's short story, "Many Different Hats." Listen to her story. Traveling Through a Battle Zone Editor's Note: In the wake of Independence Day, we bring you this 3rd in a series on independence. When a blind person ventures out from their home, it can feel like going into a battle zone. Navigating a safe path around obstacles and unpredictable barriers and maintaining one’s dignity is like taking a merry waltz through a mine-field. At

My Favorite 4th of July

Editor's note: This story was written by Mary Hiland, a new peer advisor for VisionAware My Story Do you have a story about your favorite 4th of July? Let me tell you mine. Training for My First Dog Guide It was 1982, and I was in training for my first dog guide at the Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ. I was in my late 30’s and had two young children. It was the first time I had been away from home on a holiday. I would be missing the Little League tournament game, the annual parade in my home town, the traditional cook-out, and the fireworks to follow. I could have been sad for missing

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

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