Browse By Topic: Social Life and Recreation

Many recreation and leisure activities can be adapted for people who are blind or have low vision, or for seniors who are losing their sight. Learn more about a wide range of recreational, social, and craft activities, including crafting, card and board games, cultural activities, camping, and sports and exercise. You can also find helpful tips and techniques for everyday living skills, safe indoor movement and outdoor travel, and everyday living products. Register to receive alerts and news relating to vision loss, including the latest updates in low vision and technology research.

Book Review: The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season

The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season is Alice Jane-Marie Massa’s first book. It’s a collection of holiday-themed memoirs, fanciful stories, and poems. Readers are immediately drawn into the book for two reasons. First, the book’s cover photo features a picture of a Christmas carriage on a snowy day. This photo by photographer Cindy Kennedy-Lesky reflects a nostalgic illustration of the winter season and holidays. The image holds in it the memories we all have of our own personal recollections of holidays and family gatherings. Second, when I opened the book, I began


Self-Publishing: My Great Learning Experience

Compiled by Maribel Steel How exciting would it be to be able to announce to the world, My first book has just been published! I’m delighted to say that this is how I first heard of my fellow peer and writer friend, Mary Hiland sharing the story of her long overdue struggle to have her book published. For anyone in this similar dilemma to publish or not to publish, let’s see how it turned out for Mary. The Bumpy Road to Self-Publishing By Mary Hiland <img src="http://www.afb.org/image.ashx?ImageID=7604" width="250px" alt="Mary Hiland standing on a bridge


Grandma’s Glory: Tips for a Successful Visit from Your Grandchildren

Editor's Note: In honor of Grandparent's Day (Sunday, September 10th), Mary Hiland, a VisionAware peer advisor with retinitis pigmentosa, has written a delightful post about a recent visit from her grandchildren. Read and enjoy! Grandma's Glory By Mary Hiland My daughter Kara and her family, husband and three children, were just here for a few days, and we had a wonderful time together. When they arrived, they had been in the car for many hours, so I was expecting


Accessibility for Individuals Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in NYC

As we approach the 16th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, blind and visually impaired families should consider taking a trip to New York City’s 9/11 Memorial & Museum. The memorial and the museum are located at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan at 180 Greenwich Street. Visitors can currently access the memorial at the intersection of Liberty Street and Greenwich Street, at the intersection of Liberty Street and West Street, and at the intersection of West Street and Fulton Street. The memorial features two cascading waterfalls and reflecting pools, set within the footprints of the twin


Dialogue in the Dark Melbourne: An Eye Opener in Total Darkness

Editor's note: Dialogue in the Dark is a worldwide social enterprise that has arrived in Melbourne, Australia. One of our peer advisors Maribel Steel has trained and is working as a tour guide for the inaugural group for the Melbourne exhibition. Here she shares how the experience is helping to open the eyes of the sighted community in Australia from her personal account as a tour guide. Impressions in the Darkness Picture this if you can: I am standing by a sliding door in the pitch black and hear a group of people walking towards me, although it sounds more like a


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


Review of "I Am Helen Keller" by Brad Meltzer

We can all be heroes! That’s the inspiring message of the New York Times best-selling picture book biography series, "Ordinary People Change the World" from author Brad Meltzer and illustrator Christopher Eliopoulos. In honor of Helen Keller’s birthday on June 27, Peer Advisor, Holly Bonner reviewed one of Meltzer’s books from the series, "I Am Helen Keller." Overview "I Am Helen Keller" "I Am Helen Keller" begins with the book describing how Helen contracted a rare disease causing her to become deaf and blind. Both the narrative and the comic book like illustrations help children to understand the fear and isolation Helen


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,


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


The KNFB Reader App Is a Print Reader I Can Easily Carry on the Go

Empish's Take on Using the KNFB Reader App Although the KNFB Reader App for the iPhone has been on the market since 2014, I just recently started using it. As I have been slowly migrating my life onto my iPhone, this app was one I had yet to try. I typically scan all printed materials, especially my mail, using my desktop computer with a flatbed scanner and software called Open Book. But I had been hearing such great things about the KNFB Reader app, launched by the National Federation of the Blind, that I had to try it out. Because the app is on my phone, I can easily carry it around in my


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


"Walking by Inner Vision" Book Review

Celebrating our successes as visually impaired people is an essential step on the journey to healing. Peer advisor, Lynda McKinney Lambert knows this firsthand. Celebrating in a Memorable Way After profound vision loss in 2007 due to Ischemic Optic Neuropathy, Lynda did not use a computer for almost two years. When she finally did relearn her way around the computer with the help of adaptive technology, she decided to celebrate in a memorable way. She started a blog. <img src="http://www.afb.org/image.asp?ImageID=8333" alt="The cover of Lynda Lambert's book, Walking


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


How I Honor Earth Day Every Day As a Person Who Is Blind

Editor's note: April 22 is Earth Day. Each year, Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Growing out of the first Earth Day, the Earth Day Network is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement working with more than 50,000 partners in nearly 195 countries to build environmental democracy; 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day. In honor of this milestone, Earth Day Network is launching a set of goals to shape the future of 21st century environmentalism. "Waste Not, Want Not" From the time I was a little girl, I was aware of the importance of


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


How to Get the Most from the Bard in Your Book

Being blind or visually impaired doesn’t have to be a barrier to enjoying a good book. As we celebrate National Reading Month in March, peer advisor and visually impaired freelance writer, Maribel Steel, highlights some of the benefits we can all continue to enjoy either on our own or with our children when we want to get the most from the "bard" in our books. First Impressions The magical world of words that first excites a child’s imagination is often conjured up from fairy tales and fables of childhood. This is a time of wonderment where the bard and the book are one, where nothing can replace the drama of a character as beautifully as in the voice of a loved one. My own experience when I first heard the bard come alive in books were in the voices my


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


Blind Dating: Looking for Love in the Digital Age

“Yes, blind people do care about physical things, and yes, we are sexual beings. Very much so,” Nefertiti Matos says through a laugh in the opening scene of the documentary, Blind Date. She is one of three main characters in the film who shares her experience of dating in our digital age as someone who is visually impaired. The film, which was first released in 2015, follows Nefertiti and two men, Anthony Butler and Gus Chalkias. All three are living in New York and actively participating in the dating scene without their sense of sight. Navigating Online Dating There are over seven


Driving on the Horizon: One Story of Parenting a Teen As a Visually Impaired Mother

The reality any parent will tell you is this: as children become teens, their abilities grow along with their independence. We must be there to guide but also to accept and take pride in their accomplishments. I did not expect the bittersweet reality of my daughter’s driving to overwhelm me as it did, but perhaps this story will reassure others that what you are feeling is normal. Driving on the Horizon: One Story of Parenting a Teen “You can come with us, Mom, but don’t freak out, because if you do, so will I.” These grudging words pave our way to my daughter Sophia’s third driving experience. The sapphire dusk is


Creating a Poetic Outlook from Your Inner Viewpoint

Edited by Maribel Steel When we need an outlet to express our inner thoughts, especially when facing a life challenge like living with low vision, why not let your thoughts flow onto a page in the form of poetry? “It isn’t about rhyming, meter, or number of syllables,” says DeAnna Quietwater Noriega, “Really, anyone can write poetry.” Usually, when poets create poetry, there is a two-fold passion at play; they want to capture their feelings by observing their rich inner thoughts and hope their reflections truly touch the hearts and minds of a reader. Writing poetry, however, is completely up to


A Poem on Retinitis Pigmentosa to Shine On Valentine's Day

When Dave Steele learned that he was losing his sight to Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), he took to expressing his fears, thoughts, and experiences through writing poems, songs, and verses. Only two years on, Dave has produced many creative works in raising awareness of the challenges people face in a similar situation. His book, Stand by Me RP is a touching collection of poems reflecting on his journey. We couldn’t think of anything finer for Valentine’s Day than to highlight one of his love poems to his wife and thank Dave for giving VisionAware permission to feature a poem so close to his heart. "I have always believed that music and poetry can make an impact, touch the heart, and


Six Tips for Your Out-of-the-Box Museum Visit

Editor's note: Just in time for planning for Valentine's Day, we bring you this post by Lynda Lambert. Lynda suggests that you might consider a similar trip to a museum or art gallery as a fun Valentine's outing. Read and enjoy! Visiting the Andy Warhol Museum Recently, I invited my daughter and great-granddaughter to help me celebrate my birthday with a visit to the Andy Warhol Museum which is located about 40 miles from our home. Since my great-granddaughter was celebrating her birthday that month, it was perfect timing for us. This could be a great idea for a Valentine’s Day excursion with a friend or family member too. I wanted to take photographs in the museum, so I asked at the entrance desk for permission. My only restriction was to not use a flash


Chaperoning a Field Trip with My Sighted Child

Editor's Note: This post is part of the Blind Parenting series created to provide visually impaired parents with first-hand accounts of how you can raise a child safely and independently. Today's post from Beckie Horter relates her experiences in taking her child on a field trip. Being a Normal Mom I wanted to be a normal mom, and of course, that proved to be a problem. If, by "normal," I thought seeing 20/20 was the measure. Because I didn't see 20/20, that is. I was


Keeping Your Balance Through Outdoor Bike Riding

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." Albert Einstein Editor's note: In the New Year we all make promises to ourselves about coming up with a new weight loss plan or exercising more. Beckie Horter, new VisionAware peer advisor, describes her joy in bike riding and how she does it. Feeling Out of Balance To keep moving is not always an easy thing for people with vision loss to do. While we may want to stay active, and may even seek it out, our vision oftentimes interferes and spoils our best-laid plans. I discovered this firsthand after central vision loss left me legally blind in my mid-thirties. Along with


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


Listen with the Lights Out: 19 Podcasts About Blindness

Editor's note: This blog post by Susan Kennedy was originally posted on The Bello Collective, a newsletter and publication about audio storytelling and the podcast industry. Listen with the Lights Off: 19 Podcasts About Blindness Ever since I loaded my beloved orange iPod mini with Fresh Air episodes, I’ve enjoyed podcasts. Gaining a disability a few years ago didn’t end my love of the audible word, it enhanced it. Currently,


Television on the Internet

Editor's note: The information in this post has been updated in this article, Television on the Internet. For additional information on watching TV, check out Enjoying Television with Vision Loss. TV on the Net by Steve Kelley, CVRT Cut the cord! Television viewing has


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


An Anthology of Holiday Picks for 2016 and from Yesteryears

Over the years, the VisionAware peer advisors and contributors have come up with an awesome list of gift suggestions, and this year is no exception. Enjoy their ideas from yesteryear and peruse their latest gift list before your holiday shopping. So sit back and relax, sip a holiday cocktail (compliments of Maureen Duffy), and review this list before Black Friday. Also check out our gift ideas article. <img src="http://www.afb.org/image.asp?ImageID=7947" alt="Happy


A Day at the Races with No Horses

Editor's note: This is part of our ongoing series on 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. Enjoying Horse Races Since Childhood Whenever I think of the Kentucky Derby, I am reminded of those wonderful summer afternoons when my mother took me to River Downs near Cincinnati. Certainly, I was too young to bet, but my mother and I would each choose a horse, mostly based on their


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 Value of Senior Centers for People Who Are Visually Impaired

Editor's note: This month is National Senior Center Month. We would like to invite you to take a survey on your experience with Senior Centers. Meanwhile, enjoy this post and consider trying out your local center! SiteWise Super Suggestions for Community Centers flyer My Visit to a Senior Center "Bingo! I won!" squeals an elderly woman from somewhere in the back of the room. She waves her arm back and forth in case the caller doesn’t see her hand. "Wait to clear your cards until we find


Determining the Livability of Communities for People with Vision Loss

Editor's note: Finding a livable community for people who are visually impaired can be very challenging. In 2003, the American Foundation for the Blind did a study to determine the key criteria for livable communities for people who are blind or visually impaired. VisionAware recently followed up on this study to determine if the criteria identified years ago was still viable and if the cities named in the study still made the list. Although not just for seniors, we are bringing you this post just in time for Healthy Aging Month. Developing Criteria on the


Guess What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Sharing Your Summer Vacation It’s back to school time and do you remember when you were a kid and you shared what you did on your summer vacation? As you gathered with your classmates and friends, you would share about your summer adventures and compare who had the best time. Sometimes your school teacher would give a class assignment on the topic or have you share during show and tell time. Now fast forward to adulthood and sharing those summer vacation moments are still there. So before the summer comes to a close, the peer advisors want to share our vacation travels with you. A Bubble of Americana by Mary Hiland <img


Summer Vacation in Colorado Fulfills Bucket List

Traveling to Central City in Colorado Growing up, my family always took a summer vacation. Sometimes it wasn't to any place in particular. We might head off north, south, east, or west with a vague plan, but, with the intention of stopping for a few hours or even a few days when we came to an interesting place we'd never been before. Some of those trips are my most memorable. This summer was different—destination Central City, Colorado. If you aren't familiar with this little town, it's off I70, west of Denver, and 3000 feet higher. Central City is virtually uphill or down, three blocks wide and possibly five or six miles long. It has no industry except Casinos and a population of only 800 in the winter. So why travel almost 1000 miles to this little town? For two reasons:


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 2

In Part 1 of this series I talked about the National Library Service (NLS) player and its many uses. In this part, I will cover how to download an application for NLS and the books they offer. I will also cover other sources of downloadable books. Getting Started First check out VisionAware's article on Audio Players and Talking Books. This article explains in detail the National Library Service and other audio book services. In a nutshell, to become a patron of NLS and


Summertime Fun: The Arts Festival

The Arts Festival Is for Everyone One of the highlights of summer in Columbus, Ohio, is the annual arts festival, held on the first weekend in June. I went today and had a wonderful time. Hundreds of booths and tents line the two main bridges downtown and the streets that connect them. In this photo, I am leaning over the railing of the bridge, admiring the sparkling Scioto River along with my new "deer" friend. He’s a life-size statue of a deer, and it looks like he’s smiling as he looks over the River. Choose the Right Friend to Take You My friend Eve has been a guide for me when


Vacationing with Vision Loss: Tips and Strategies

Terms associated with the word "vacation" include words like "travel" and "fun." Just imagine a time of rest and relaxation away from the routines of daily chores and responsibilities. For those who are visually impaired or blind, going on a trip to an unfamiliar vacation spot can be anything but relaxing or enjoyable without much planning and organizing. If you or a loved one are visually impaired and thinking about going on vacation, consider the following questions. Where do I start? Taking into consideration your personal finances, it is a good idea to start with determining how much money you have


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


Taking a Cruise Is No Longer an Item on My Bucket List

Editor's note: With summer just around the corner, it is time to think about your vacation dreams and plans. Amy Bovaird had a dream of going on a cruise, one that she got to fulfill a few weeks ago. Find out about her experiences. Wanting to Travel Again One of my bucket list goals for this year was to travel again. My life of teaching English overseas had kept me traveling globally for half my life. The death of my father brought me back home and they stopped abruptly. I longed to travel internationally again. Out of the blue, my high school


Get in the Swim for Memorial Day

Editor's note: Just in time for Memorial Day and the opening of swimming pools across America, Mary Hiland writes about the joys of swimming! So read up and enjoy the holiday with a dip in the pool! Discovering the Joy of Sports I have never thought of myself as an athlete. As a little girl, I studied dance and wanted nothing to do with any game involving a ball. then I discovered individual sports, starting with cross country skiing back in 1986. After learning to ski at Ski for Light, I was inspired to try other athletic endeavors, such as bike riding, hiking, ice skating, jogging, and even swimming. Afraid of the Water I


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


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 Amazon.com 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


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 Personal Benefits of Volunteering: My Experience with 4-H

National Volunteer Appreciation week April 10-16 made me think about how much I get from volunteering and I wanted to share my thoughts. It is great to devote a special time to let volunteers know how much they are appreciated, but I think I get as much benefit from volunteering as I give. Volunteering for 4-H I’m a project leader for 4-H which is a national organization offering youth development and mentoring programs. They consider it "Preparing young people to make a positive impact in their communities and the world." These young people are doing hands-on learning in the areas of science, citizenship and healthy living


A Mountaintop View of the World in Spring

As spring moves swiftly into her delightful season of wild flowers and longer sunny days, I am reminded how touch allows me to see as my world goes out of focus with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). But my desire to see through blind eyes is kept alive by traveling to foreign shores…or in this case, a mountain top! Climbing That Mountain Driving through the villages of the Auvergne region of southern France, vague splashes of colour whirl past my view. The Top Gear team are on a mission – we have a mountain to climb. My partner, Harry pulls up in the car park at the


Love, Belonging, and Commitment: Not Just for Your Valentine

Editor's note: This blog post was originally published on Second Sense’s Second Opinions blog. I have a small confession. Valentine’s Day has been a favorite holiday of mine since grade school. Once January hits, I am already planning a party that somehow never gets thrown. Wrapped up amongst thoughts of pink-iced heart-shaped sugar cookies with cinnamon heart candies on them is an appreciation for the less silly and more intangible idea of a day when it is expected that you demonstrate your feelings to honor the lasting relationships in your life (a perfect time for said cookie). This year I have been thinking a lot about vision loss support


Valentine's Day Is On the Horizon: Make It Sensory

There are many ways to give that involve your senses. Using all of our senses can maximize our experiences. "Chime" in with your ideas! Here are some suggestions from some of the VisionAware peer advisors. "The day itself is a multisensory kind of experience and can be made complete with many textures, fragrances and sounds and tastes," Elizabeth Sammons. Gifts that Involve the Sense of Smell


Finding My Voice: Overcoming My Fears of Singing in a Cantata, as a Blind Person

Editor's note: This past week's posts have covered many aspects of dealing with loneliness and depression during the holidays in a positive way. In this in-between week between Christmas and New Year's, many of us start to think about what "resolutions" we should make. In this post, Mary Hiland discusses what she did to make her holidays brighter and more meaningful to her. But it takes preparation and planning ahead. Find out how she did it and get inspired! And, by the way, next week is Louis Braille's birthday and the start of Braille Literacy Awareness month. (Louis Braille was the creator of the braille code) We will be honoring that event with


Visit Guggenheim New York Without Having to Get out of Your PJ's

Take a Tour With a Difference For those of you who enjoy wandering through art galleries, going on audio described tours and keeping in touch with the art world, guess what you can do over the holiday season without even having to get out of your comfy warm PJ's? Take an online audio described tour at the Guggenheim in New York! An Experience


A Is for Ability on International Persons with a Disability Day

The United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities is annually held on December 3 to focus on issues that affect people with disabilities worldwide. At VisionAware, our peer advisors share how having a disability is more about what we can do with a so called ‘disability’ when we focus on all our talents and abilities. Celebrating this special day, we share the Abilities we are most grateful for. Living with ABILITY By Mary Hiland The word "disabled" does a great disservice to those of us who have vision loss. It sounds like we’re broken, like a disabled car. While we may be able


Volunteering with the CNIB

Editor's note: CNIB is VisionAware's featured agency in August. One of our peer advisors carries out numerous volunteer activities for the agency. In this post she highlights the importance of volunteers to the agency's mission as well as what volunteering has meant to her. A Way of Giving Back Volunteering with the CNIB has been something I have been passionate about for a while. I feel like it is my way to give back to an organization that has been a part of my life for the last 25 years.


Firing Up the Gas Grill When You Are Visually Impaired

Firing Up the Grill With the summer upon us, it is time to get out those hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, fish, and veggies. It is time to get cooking and fire up the grill! The summer months are a prime time for picnics, backyard barbecues, and grilling out with friends and family. For some of us, this cooking ritual has been a big part of our lives and having a visual impairment shouldn't keep you away from the grill! Hadley Webinar on Grilling When I lost my vision, I stopped barbecuing because I felt it was too dangerous using charcoal, lighter fluid, and wood chips. However, after listening to a webinar from the Hadley School for the


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


My Anti–Aging Exercise Routine

Getting in Shape Editor's note": this is the last of our posts for National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. You may want to read the first two: Make Physical Activity and Exercise a Way of Life and Ways You Can Exercise. The soreness in my abdominals this morning told me that I must have done something good yesterday for my body. Let’s see. I got back on my jogging trampoline, and I did a couple of


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


Attending the Big 12 Basketball Tournament March 2015

by guest blogger Judy Scott, Director, AFB Center on Vision Loss As a person who is blind and enjoys basketball immensely, I must share with you one of the most fun and exciting activities I participated in a few days ago. Does the term "March Madness" sound familiar? It begins with basketball tournaments for each of the NCAA conferences throughout the country and culminates with the "Final 4 Tournament” then the “championship” game. Opportunity to Attend Women's "Big


Snowboarding: An Amazing Adventure for A Person Who is Visually Impaired

Editor's note: It may be March but snowy weather is ever present! So take a tip from Ashley and enjoy! Snowboarding even with vision impairment can be an amazing adventure! You do not have to give up the things you love to do because of vision loss, or think that you are not able to try new things. When Did I Begin Snowboarding? At the age of 11, I tried skiing with my siblings and hated it, but one of the staff members at the hill we were skiing at suggested I try snowboarding. I gave it a try and was hooked. I have


Scrabble: Staying in the Game

This post is part of our Caregiving series. My 98-year-old mother can’t remember what she had for lunch, but she knows the rules of Scrabble, comes up with obscure words that only avid crossword puzzlers know, and grabs those triple word scores with glee. Sometimes, she struggles to make a play, when the tiles in her rack don’t include a consonant, but anybody would. Last night, at one point during our


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


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


Things to Do When You Retire and Have Vision Loss

Enjoy this post for September's theme of Healthy Aging. Keeping Up with the Days of Week “What is today, Wednesday? Or is it Thursday?” This is what I find myself thinking as I wake up in the morning. Since my retirement two and a half years ago, I’ve marked the days of the week in my mind with activities other than work-related events. Almost every day in my calendar has something written in it, to set it apart from the other days and to give it a central purpose. When I was working, the purpose of each day was already filled in for me. Now, I have choices, and therein lies the difference. Redefinition of Retirement Retirement can be like a full time vacation, or it can be the “R” word, something to be dreaded or feared, or it can be a time to


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


Tandem Biking, An Integral Part of My Workout

Editors Note: This post was contributed by Lynne Tatum, peer advisor. Tandem Biking-The Perfect Mix of Exercise and Socializing With fall in the air, Tandem bike riding has become an integral part of my workout. For me, it provides the perfect mix of exercise and socializing. While whizzing around new York’s Central park or five boroughs, I’ve disclosed bits of my life as well as learned interesting tidbits about the lives of my various Captains. As I never know what Captain I’ll be riding with, I’ve become more assertive as it relates to how fast we’ll go. The Captains are volunteers and are providing a marvelous service but I need to feel safe while riding through the congested


Ski for Light, A Thrilling Experience

Editor's note: You may wonder why this post is going up in August. After all, you may be sweltering! But just thinking about the cool air on your face may help those summer doldrums. At any rate, you need to get in line now if you are going to be able to enjoy the experience of skiing that Mary describes in this post. Skiing slots go fast! Are You a Winter-Lover Are you a winter-lover? I used to hate winter, until I learned to cross-country ski. And when I learned, at age 37, I was totally blind. I had been physically active all my life, so when I heard about a program called Ski for Light, where skiers who are blind or visually impaired ski along side sighted guides, I was intrigued.


How I Enjoy Hiking With Vision Loss

Hiking is a Pastime I Love The birds chirping. The sound of the breeze in the leaves of the trees. Frogs and the other creatures. All these things make it a great experience to get out and go for a little hike. It doesn't need to be some elaborate trail just a rarely used gravel road out at my in-laws farm, or some walking paths down by the lake and around our campsite will do. This is a pastime that I love and began to love when I was very young and we would go camping as a family. We would go on little hikes around the acreage I grew up on. Hiking Helps Me to Relax


Take Me Out to the Ball Game! Beep Baseball and the Atlanta Eclipse Team

Written by guest blogger Judy Byrd, Manager of Atlanta Eclipse Beep Baseball Team, and Volunteer with the Georgia Blind Sports Association and the Beep Kickball Association The Beginning of the Atlanta Team In March of 2010, the first practice of the Atlanta Eclipse Beep Baseball Team took place with about 15 players and 8 volunteers, most of whom knew little to nothing about beep baseball. We all joke about it today, recalling that it was definitely the "blind leading the blind" since neither the players who were blind nor sighted knew what they were doing! What Is Beep Baseball? Beep baseball is an adapted sport for people who are


Foibles with Food

Editor's note: This is the 2nd in a series on our theme of Laughter is Often the Best Medicine. We often find it difficult to laugh at situations when we blunder if we are struggling to find our equilibrium of adjusting to life's demands along with vision loss. In time, we realize one of the best therapies for learning to accept and value our visually impaired selves is to laugh at our faux pas. Read, enjoy, share.... Baby Claire’s Night Out! By Maribel


Cruising with My Family

Imagine how thrilled I was when my daughter and her husband invited me to go on a 10-day cruise with them. And it wasn’t to baby-sit their two kids. They invited me, because they knew I wanted to try a relaxing cruise. I would be able to sit on the deck and listen to books or soak in the hot tub, I could swim in the pool, enjoy the live music and shows, dine like a queen three times a day, or have an ice cream cone whenever I felt like it. I could even attend the educational lectures, get a massage, and in general, pamper myself for 10 days, with the convenience and security of having my family nearby. I am not part of a couple or a group of single friends my age, so going with my family was


Joining a Book Club Provides Great Reads and Socialization

Reading From an Early Age I have enjoyed reading books since I was a small child. My enjoyment began with my parents reading me bedtime stories from the Golden Book series, which were short stories printed in a hard-bound book with gold trim on the binding. During my middle school years it was Classics by Charles Dickens and contemporary fiction by Judy Blume. Once in high school and college I was introduced to African-American stories by Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and Richard Wright. Today as a visually impaired adult I can still dig into a good read because books have always been a large part of my life. But it was not until a couple of years ago that I took my enjoyment of


Vacationing in our Nation's Capital

Vacationing in D.C. As a Person Who is Blind I have been to Washington, D.C. on several occasions, but those trips were always work-related. It was always coming in for a meeting, workshop or conference and quickly leaving out. I rarely visited any of the historic sites or toured the Capitol and surrounding Mall. So when the opportunity to travel with a tour group presented itself I took advantage. I flew out of Atlanta to meet my group in Alexandria for a 3-day historical walk through our nation’s Capital. I decided to take my vacation with a tour group instead of traveling by myself or with friends and


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


Trying Art Again After Vision Loss

Trying Art again A few months ago I decided to try a new venture by delving into the art world of ceramic clay. I had purchased a coupon that allowed me to take a 2-hour individual ceramic clay class on a discount. Since losing my vision15 years ago, I had not done anything artistic and decided it was time to try again. Before losing my sight I was on the path of a new career in the fashion industry. I was taking fashion design and merchandising classes at a local college after work. I was working with paints and drawing with charcoal and


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


Tips For Dating for People New to Visual Impairment

Getting Back Into the Dating Game When I lost my vision I was already single and unattached. I had been going out on dates and was very interested in marriage. But my top priorities were getting some vision rehabilitation training so that I could live more independently. I also was laser focused on getting back to work and getting my overall health back to normal. Once all of those things were successfully in place and I was feeling good about life again I wanted to return to the dating game. But that is when the challenge began. No


Dating My Sweetheart Again After Losing Vision

Editor's note: Guest blogger Kevin Dunn talks about losing his vision, how it affected his relationship with his wife, and the steps they had to take to stay together as a couple. Dating from a Blind Man's Point of View With Cupid's holiday just around the corner and his arrows poised to meet their target, I was graciously asked to offer my two cents on the subject of dating from a blind man's point of view. Though it may not be worth the two cents, I agreed to give it a shot. Relationship Future Uncertain Truth is, when I lost my sight in 2001 (due to retinal detachment and optic nerve damage as a result of


Dating When Blind or Visually Impaired – From Single and Ready to Mingle to Off the Market

Editors note: Guest blogger Joe Strechay is the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) CareerConnect Program Manager and is a prolific and well-known blogger for AFB. Joe: I have written on the American Foundation for the Blind’s Blog about online dating and how I met my wife. Prior to all of that, I wrote this piece but never published it. I have been asked many times for tips on dating as a person with vision loss. So, I thought I would bring this piece to you as a


Have a Visual Impairment? Think Exercising Is Out of the Question? Learn How I Created My Workout Game Plan

Participating in Exercise Rituals Editor's note: Going along with Angela's New's Year's Resolution post, it's the time of year to think about getting and staying in shape. Empish, who is blind and is a VisionAware peer advisor, offers readers her "game plan." Even though Olivia Newton John sang her song “Let's Get Physical" back in the 80s; the concepts still rings true in 2014. Aerobics, fitness gyms, workout videos, and those 80s spandex exercise outfits with leg warmers were the craze that we are still embracing today. Well, maybe not the leg warmers! We have upgraded to the grueling


How to Avoid Those Holiday Blues

Those Holiday Blues When Elvis sings "I'll have a Blue, Blue Christmas," most of us know just what he means. All during the holiday season music and ads tell us we should be happy and spending time with people we love. Sometimes, that just doesn't happen. During those "blue times" when we are alone, we must dig deep into our experience and find many little ways to enjoy our lives. I grew up in a Christian culture and so I use Christmas as the name of the key holiday in my life. The same strategies I will share for avoiding the "blues" apply, of course, to the key holidays of other world religions. Most of them apply to people who have no religion,


Travel Tips For People Who Are Visually Impaired

Traveling with a Visual Impairment Editor's note: with the holidays just around the corner, the peer advisors thought it would be good to share some travel tips. This guest blog post was written by Sue Bramhall: Sue Bramhall I’m a lifelong traveler who has Retinitis Pigmentosa, or RP, and I also run a travel agency for the visually impaired. So, if you have vision loss, I’d like to share several useful travel tips. And for those of you not affected, you may find at least a few of them useful as well. Ask for Help When Needed


Peer Advisors Offer Their Favorite Holiday Gift Ideas

'Tis the Season to Shop! The VisionAware peer advisors, Maureen Duffy, Social Media Specialist,VisionAware, and Neva Fairchild, National Independent Living Associate, AFB, have all contributed to this post. Also be sure to read our new holiday gift guide for people who are blind or visually impaired. Neva's Suggestions A music box An electric razor along with tips for shaving Craft kits such as leather or


Getting Started: Responding Proactively To the Challenge Of Losing Your Vision

Challenges Everyone has been presented with many challenges throughout their lifetime. Some more than others, but we all have challenges. When presented with any type of challenge it is natural that our behaviors change initially. For example, often when we hear any discouraging news, our knee jerk behavior is to react. We ask "Why me?" or "What did I do to deserve this?" That is a "reaction" and it is normal, but reactions are not productive. Another behavior is to "respond," to ask thoughtful questions, to be proactive in finding solutions. When we respond, we are taking a positive step towards rising to the challenge


The Rewards of Grandparenting with Vision Loss

Parenting and Grandparenting Adventures Parenthood was one of the greatest adventures of my life. It was filled with highs and lows, many firsts from sleeping through the night to walking down the aisle at a child's wedding. There were sticky kisses, scraped knees and broken hearts. For my children there was also Grandma. They all have wonderful memories of the time they spent with her, so for me, being a grandparent meant sharing adventures, stories, teas and ballgames. How do you play catch or read stories when the world is a blur? How do pass on a tradition, whether that is knitting or stamp collecting, camping or music when you cannot


Summer Travel Adventures with Vision Loss

Traveling is My Passion Traveling is my passion. There is nothing more exciting to me than stepping onto an airplane and flying off to a new and unexplored destination. I’ve had the love of travel ever since I was a very young child. At age five I traveled with my family across the United States to the coast of Washington state in a motor home that we rented. Twice again during my growing up years my family drove across the United States, visiting famous landmarks and spending time with my relatives who live in Arizona. I had seen much of the United States as a child, so as a college student I yearned to see more of the


My Perspective on Educating the Public on Your Vision Loss

We have all seen the image of that typical blind person, a person with dark sunglasses swinging a white cane back and forth or walking with a dog guide. We can tend to wrongly assume that all people with vision loss only read braille, or have an extraordinary sense of smell, taste, touch, and


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