Visually Impaired: Now What?

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The Bookshelf: Review of "Follow Your Dog" by Ann Chiappetta

picture of dog standing on the edge of a body of water looking out

Book Presents View of Difficulties of Growing Up with Low Vision

Ann Chiappetta’s second book entitled "Follow Your Dog, A Story of Love and Trust," is a memoir about growing up with low vision and how becoming a guide dog handler changed her life. Ann took me on a journey through her world as she reflected on the loneliness of growing up visually impaired but not blind. There are passages that touch the heart describing her struggles with declining vision. I felt her pain at not measuring up to some nonexistent super blind person who does it all right with grace and aplomb. I wanted to hug her for her honesty.

Ann's first book was a book of poetry entitled "Upwelling" and there are elements of her poetic soul here too. She includes essays that capture how she meets the challenges of her life. She moves forward in the process of overcoming her disappointment over being told she has too much vision to have a guide dog. Her difficulty with changing from bright light to dimness causes her vertigo and too much light gives her severe pain. She wasn’t given cane instruction until she was 28 even though learning some verification techniques might have kept her safer earlier.

Being Accepted to Train with a Guide Dog

Finally, Ann moves into the world of the blind with the achievement of being accepted to train with a guide dog. she learns how to work as a team with her dog. She shares the joys and the sorrows as her dog first helps her travel with dignity and safety and then begins to show her that guiding has become too much for this gentle dog sooner than Ann expected. She explains transition, second dog issues and successfully moving on despite glitches like having to leave class early due to illness. This book will resonate with many people. It includes stories and photos of her most beloved dogs, past and present.

Reviewer's Recommendation

I have been a guide dog handler for fifty years and lifelong animal lover. However, I lost all of my vision in childhood. This gave me the best of both worlds. I didn’t have to struggle with low vision and learned my compensatory skills early and had the benefits of having had vision for 8 years. Anyone who wonders whether a guide dog might be the answer for them even though they have some vision will get a lot out of reading this book. For those who have never had vision, they will better understand how a person with some useable sight but insufficient for safe travel might benefit from a guide dog. Thank you Annie for your openness and willingness to tell your story.

How to Obtain the Book

"Follow Your Dog" is available as an e-book and in print from Amazon and other online sellers. For a free text preview, author bio, and links, visit

Ann Talks About Her Book

On December 11, 2017, at 7 p.m. eastern time, Ann will be the guest author on a telephone conference broadcast called Branco Broadcast. Go to Ann's website for the call-in information or links to the interview if you miss the broadcast.

Other Books You Might Enjoy

Check out the VisionAware Bookshelf

Getting Around

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. Part 2 of the White Cane Safety Debate examined the effect of color on driver recognition and the legal protection under the "white cane" law for the user of a colored cane.

black mobility cane with inlaid design  

James Boehm's story bypasses the facts and figures of history, research, and legal concerns and adds a name and a face with a personal story to the evolution of the mobility cane used by blind and visually impaired people all over the world. How ironic it is that the first reported white cane created as a mobility tool was created by the British artist James Biggs, who had to readjust to his environment after losing his vision in an accident. Feeling threatened by increased motor vehicle traffic around his home, Biggs decided to paint his black walking stick white to make himself more visible to motorists. Ninety years later, James Boehm transformed his white mobility cane into black with added features to make it an extension of his own personality and individualism. In their own ways, these two men turned an ordinary cane into a tool that has contributed to the independence, freedom, and vitality of blind and visually impaired people all over the world!


Check out James's personal story about how and why he started Kustom Cane. Continue below to read James' account of "You Cane Give," his international cane give-away initiative.

Your Cane Counts

"Wondering what to do with that old cane you no longer use in the closet? Is that drawer of used canes collecting dust and taking up space? Donate your old canes to our new "You Cane Give" program. Kustom Cane is collecting donated canes to refurbish and send to individuals who are blind and visually impaired around the world."

man holding mobility cane with several colors

"Let’s face it, we have it good in America. With the click of a button, we can order almost anything we need, including a cane. In countries like Mexico, China, India, and South Africa, people do not have access to the proper tools to empower independence and success. Do not let your canes go to waste! "You Cane Give" allows you to help us give your used cane to a person far away who needs it! Kustom Cane will give you a $15 credit towards the purchase of a cane or accessory if you donate a cane to "You Cane Give." We are in need of canes in all sizes. We have contacts in Peru, Nigeria, and South Africa wishing for a cane of their own. Kustom Cane is collaborating with Global Cane Outreach to put canes in the hands of people abroad."

Thank Yous Received About the "You Can Give" Initiative

"We are very thankful for the generosity that you, Jimmy, Wendy, and Shep have shown us. With these canes, we will show everyone around us that blindness never hinders anyone’s goal to be a responsible citizen who is willing to live the life we dream of. We will continue to be productive like the typical human being in our daily endeavors. We also would like to extend our gratitude to the people who donated their canes. We cannot thank you enough for the love you have shared with us."

A special education teacher at the Laguna Resettlement Community School in San Pedro said, "I can now put my old cane to rest and look forward on serving the school every day with the new cane."

A woman who actively participates in the National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation week in the province of Bicol says she is very excited to use the new cane. She says that,"My only problem now is that I do not know which outfit to wear matching my very stylish cane."

Contact Kustom Cane at 901-483-1515 or at for more information. Put a cane in a hand and empower a blind person today.

Be sure to read James Boehm's personal story.

Also read his bio

Getting Around
Helpful Products
Low Vision
Personal Reflections
Social Life and Recreation

Understanding Vision and Perception Problems Associated with Alzheimer’s Disease

Older woman using sighted guide  

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

Quick Facts About Alzheimer’s Disease

There are many forms of dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of the cases. According to the Alzheimer’s Association 2017 Fact Sheet, one in 10 people in the U.S., age 65 and older, has Alzheimer's dementia and almost two-thirds are women. It has risen to the fifth-leading cause of death among those age 65 and older and a leading cause of disability and poor health. The numbers are growing fast, and there still is no cure.

The Impact on Caregivers

Alzheimer's dementia is a complex disease and presents a wide variety of challenges for caregivers. It takes a devastating toll on families. Twice as many caregivers of people with dementia report substantial emotional, financial, and physical difficulties compared with caregivers of those without dementia. It is essential for caregivers to seek support and resources when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.

Related Articles

Read my articles on how Alzheimer's disease affects vision and perception and tips on what caregivers can do to reduce visuoperceptual difficulties and support the person experiencing them.

I have also written Ten Tips for Caregivers and put together a resource list that contains helpful websites and tips to help caregivers.

You might also be interested in my blog post Where to Find Help When Your Loved One Is New to Vision Loss.

Also here is a Resource List for Caregivers.

Low Vision

Holiday Picks and Black Friday Deals for People with Vision Loss

Looking for holiday gifts for friends or family with vision loss? Here are some great deals and recommendations!

Happy Holidays written in white on red background with snowflakes, streamers and red ball ornaments

black and white mobility cane with musical keyboard motif

Caption: Black and White Mobility Cane with Keyboard Motif

Black Friday

The KNFB Reader app is on sale for $49.99 from November 24-30, 2017! Get it for yourself or give it as a gift at this low price. KNFB Reader is a mobile app that converts printed text into high quality speech to provide accurate, fast, and efficient access to both single and multiple-page documents with the tap of a button. The app is available for iOS, Android and Windows 10 devices, and Window 10 laptops and PCs. Find out more about this deal. And read about using the app in this post by Empish Thomas, VisionAware peer advisor.

Tell a friend or family members about NFB-NEWSLINE, or better yet, help them sign up by calling (866) 504-7300 or visiting NFBNewsline. Give the gift of print through access to news and information with NFB-NEWSLINE. It is free to use and free to sign up!

Humanware is having Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals on popular products, including audio book players, braille displays, electronic magnifiers and more.

En-Vision America is featuring 50% off the Quest i.d. Mate talking bar code scanner from black Friday through cyber Monday.

Stocking Stuffers

How about some stocking stuffers? Lynda Jones, VisionAware peer advisor, recommends a blush stick, saying "I roll it around over the apple of each cheek, applying the same amount of pressure and going around the same number of times. I then spread it out following the top and bottom of my cheek bones. It’s working great!" Amazon has several brands available. Kitchen timers are a good choice and can be used for all kinds of tasks that don't include cooking!

More Gift Ideas from AFB and Giving Tuesday

Finally, check out AFB's round up of gifts including the opportunity to make a matched gift on #GivingTuesday, November 28. Follow AFB's Facebook page to find out more.


Thanksgiving Made Easy for a Single Visually Impaired Hostess

Thanksgiving dinner. Roasted turkey on holiday table with pumpkins, candles, and fruit

Most Interesting Thanksgiving Memory

No smoking and no football. Those were the ground rules I had laid down for my Thanksgiving dinner in 1992. Everybody has a favorite Thanksgiving memory and a worst Thanksgiving memory, but here’s my most interesting one, and well, maybe the most fun. Newly divorced, I decided to host a Thanksgiving dinner for my single friends who had no other plans for the day. There were 11 of us that first year. No two people knew each other because I invited friends from different parts of my life. One was a coworker. One was a bicycling friend. One was my massage therapist. You get the idea.

Setting the Menu

After each invitation, I asked, "What is it that you have to have to make it a Thanksgiving dinner?" "Pumpkin pie? Good. You bring the pumpkin pie. Sweet potatoes? Okay. You bring the sweet potatoes. Collard greens? Seriously? Okay, then you bring the collard greens." I cooked the turkey, only because it made sense to use my oven.

It’s Not About the Food

I am one of the very few Americans who doesn’t like Thanksgiving food. I can eat a little bit of turkey on the day, but then that’s it for a year. I have never learned to like sweet potatoes or pumpkin pie, so it’s not about the food for me. What I do like is gathering around a table with family and friends and spending the rest of the afternoon playing games, going for a walk, and playing music together. Notice I did not mention taking a nap on the couch or watching a football game on TV. I had had enough of scheduling dinner for half time, ever since I was a little girl, so the last thing I wanted was the background noise of men bashing into each other and beer commercials. Two of the people I invited were smokers, but they observed my no smoking rule by going outside to smoke. They only went out for a cigarette twice that day because it happened to be extremely cold. I like to think I helped their lungs a little with my no smoking rule.

The Cleanup

After dinner, four or five of us went for a walk around the neighborhood while the rest of them cleaned up the kitchen. What a deal! One of the women loved to make turkey soup with the turkey bones, so I showed her where the aluminum foil was and happily handed the carcass over to her. Then we carried the disposable pan out to the garbage and voila. The messiest part of the cleanup was over. I wanted no leftovers, so everybody was instructed to take their dishes home. The next biggest hassle was over. I had set up the patio table in the living room for the extra five people who couldn’t fit around my small kitchen table, so the guys carried it back out onto the patio. The living room was cleared. We spent the rest of the day with two of my favorite games, Encore, a singing game, and Scrabble. A few days later, I received a thank-you note from one of the smokers. "I wasn’t sure about coming since you said no smoking and no football," he wrote, "because I didn’t think I could get through the day without either one, but it was the nicest Thanksgiving I’ve ever had."

Now for Your Invitation

If I were to invite you to my house for Thanksgiving, dear peers, what would you bring? It’s okay if you duplicate what I’ve already mentioned. This imaginary group is going to be pretty big, so we’ll need a lot of food. We might have to set some dishes on top of the piano and the stereo. And some of us might have to sit outside because my house is small. But we won’t mind. It’s not about the eating, but the camaraderie and the feelings of fellowship and sharing. Now, don’t just stand there at the door. Come on in. What’s that you brought? Oh yum yum. My favorites. Check out what the other peer advisors brought along with the recipes for them!

Social Life and Recreation

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