Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

RDPFS Resources for Partners August 4, 2023

Blind Soccer National Coaching Summit Begins Today

The U.S. Association for Blind Athletes (USABA) and Rutgers University’s Department of Kinesiology and Health and Center for Disability Sports, Health and Wellness, in partnership with Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation, is hosting a blind soccer coaching summit. Physical education teachers working with blind students and adaptive sports organizations from more than ten states as well as coaches and team members from the USA Blind Soccer Men’s National Team are attending. The event takes place today, August 4, and tomorrow, August 5, 2023. “’The goal of this groundbreaking summit is to introduce the sport, along with best practices for teaching basic blind soccer skills to youth and adult adaptive sports programs all over the country,’” stated USABA Blind Soccer Coordinator Katie Smith. “’We also want participants to leave this event feeling prepared to coach from a grassroots level and beyond.’” Blind soccer, an adaptation of soccer for athletes with a vision impairment, debuted at the Athens 2004 Paralympics. Also known as blind football, the sport has become the fastest-growing Paralympic sport worldwide, played in more than 60 countries. The U.S. has not yet played a blind soccer team at the Paralympics, but will join in the 2028 Games in Los Angeles, as noted in a previous issue of this Bulletin. In 2022, the first USA Blind Soccer Men’s National Team was named and began international play earlier this year. Read the article from endurance sportswire for additional details, including a list of participants, in the coverage entitled “Rutgers University to Host Blind Soccer National  Coaching Summit.” For more information about the growth of blind soccer, visit the USABA website. [...]

Read More... from Blind Soccer National Coaching Summit Begins Today

August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month

by B.E. Lewis, RDPFS Intern: To raise awareness of the importance of children’s eye health, August is commemorated as Children’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month. Eyesight plays a crucial role in a child’s development of physical, cognitive, and social skills. One in 20 preschool-age children has a serious eye problem, which, if not detected and treated in a timely way, could result in permanent vision impairment. Most preschoolers do not receive routine eye screening or eye exams which are crucial to identify vision problems early, when they are generally most treatable. Because children who have never experienced clear vision may not realize their eyesight is impaired, parents may need to be extra vigilant about observing any symptoms of possible problems. Common signs of concern are frequent rubbing of the eyes, squinting, tilting, or turning the head to look at objects. Refractive abnormalities, the most common types of eye problems in children, include myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism. Arrange for your child to have a professional eye examination from an eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) if they do not pass a vision screening or if they experience signs of possible vision problems. For more information, read the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s article on 10 Child Eye Problems Parents Should Never Ignore as well as the press release announcing that Prevent Blindness Declares August as Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month to Help Educate Families on the Importance of Healthy Vision and Early Access to Eye Care and the National Today piece here on Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month. Pointers for Children In addition to providing advice for parents to guard the health and safety of their child’s eyes, the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) hosts a website for kids to learn about ways to protect their eyes. They offer some questions and advice for kids: –Eat right. A well-balanced diet can help to keep your eyes healthy. Eat different fruits and vegetables, especially spinach, kale, collard greens, and other leafy greens. Salmon, tuna, halibut, and other fish can also help your eyes. –Speak up if your eyesight changes. If your vision is blurry, you squint a lot, or have trouble seeing things at school or elsewhere, let a parent or teacher know. –Wear your glasses. Glasses, if they are needed, help you see better, especially when they’re clean and not smudged. Speak with an adult about how to clean your glasses and how to store them when you’re not wearing them. For additional suggestions, visit the NEI Healthy Vision Tips webpage. NEI for Kids also hosts an “Ask a Scientist” video series for children, which includes video description. For instance, the “Eyes at Night” segment, where Dr. Cheri Wiggs explains what the eyes do when we sleep and why we can’t see colors well in the dark. Another example is Dr. Matt McMahon, who explains “What is an Optical Illusion?,” and describes this phenomenon and “how they play tricks on our eyes.” Read more here about the Ask a Scientist Video Series. For more information and resources for children, visit the NEI for Kids webpage. [...]

Read More... from August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month

Art Therapy Program Available Free of Charge for People with Thyroid Eye Disease

The Prevent Blindness Art Therapy Program for people with Thyroid Disease (TED) and their “care partners” will be held from September 22 to November 14, 2023. Participants will join in eight weekly, two-hour virtual sessions. This program is offered free of charge, including art materials needed, for individuals with TED and their family, friends, loved ones, and others involved in their care. Applications must be submitted by August 22, 2023. The sessions use art therapy as a way to cope with feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression. Also known as Graves’ Eye Disease, TED is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system attacks the thyroid. The main symptom is bulging eyes. Other symptoms include dry eyes, puffy eyelids, double vision, or eyelids that pull back more than usual. The art therapy program will build community and connections with other people who are affected by TED. Prior experience is not necessary. Capacity is limited and will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. “Individuals who are not artists or do not consider themselves creative can still benefit and should consider participating.” Art therapy has been shown to help people improve their mental, emotional, and even physical wellness. For additional information or to apply, please visit the webpage for the 2023 Prevent Blindness Art Therapy Program for People with Thyroid Disease (TED). And visit the National Eye Institute webpage here for more information about TED (Graves’ Eye Disease). [...]

Read More... from Art Therapy Program Available Free of Charge for People with Thyroid Eye Disease

Updated Resource Provides Guidance About Individuals with Visual Disabilities at Work

Visual Disabilities in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an updated “technical assistance document,” explains how the ADA applies to applicants for jobs and employees with visual disabilities. Released by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on July 26, 2023, the 33rd anniversary of the passage of the ADA, the document provides guidance to employers related to hiring, onboarding, and the ongoing workplace experience. Items covered include when an employer may ask a job applicant or employee about their vision, how employers should handle voluntary disclosures about vision impairment, and what types of reasonable accommodations employees with visual disabilities may need at work. This document also highlights new technologies for accommodations, including many available free of charge or for a low cost. The impact of using artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithms on applicants with vision impairment in employment decisions is covered as well. Other sections address handling safety concerns about employees with visual disabilities and “how an employer can ensure that no employee is harassed because of a visual disability.” EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows explained that “’Providing reasonable accommodations is an employer’s responsibility. Workers who have vision impairments, including limited or low vision, should be provided with the resources needed to succeed. This document will provide employers the guidance to do so.’” More details can be found in the EEOC press release announcing the issuing of the Updated EEOC Resource About the ADA and Individuals with Visual Disabilities at Work. In addition to comprehensive guidance about accommodations and safety, the full technical assistance document includes background and explanations about vision impairments, who is protected under the ADA, and how to obtain, use, and disclose medical information. Visit the EEOC webpage here to read the full document on Visual Disabilities in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act. [...]

Read More... from Updated Resource Provides Guidance About Individuals with Visual Disabilities at Work

Input Sought for Proposed Updates to Older Americans Act Regulations

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) is seeking public comments, needed by August 15, 2023, on proposed updates to Older Americans Act (OAA) programs. The last substantial changes to OAA were made in 1988. Since that time, the world “has changed dramatically” and the population of older adults has nearly doubled and is increasingly diverse. Originally passed in 1965 in response to concerns about the lack of community services for older adults, the OAA authorized grants to states community planning and social services, research and development initiatives, and personnel training in the field of aging. It also established the ACL to administer grant activity and to “serve as the focal point on matters concerning older persons.” The legislation makes no mention of blindness or vision rehabilitation, as noted in an item on the ACL in VisionServe Alliance’s enews, stating that, with people living longer, with expectations of maintaining independence and aging in place, “consideration of Aging and Vision Loss must be addressed.” A formal response from VisionServe Alliance and the Aging and Vision Loss National Coalition is being developed to the proposed updates and they “encourage (others) to make your voice heard as well.” The ACL’s proposed rule change process acknowledges issues that have emerged and aims to include updates that are needed “to align regulations to…reflect the needs of today’s older adults.” In the “Notice of Proposed Rule Making,” the ACL indicated that “Increased understanding of the social determinants of health is reshaping health care, as non-medical services that help people avoid hospitalization and institutional care–like those provided through OAA programs—are increasingly being incorporated into health care service delivery models.” For more details about the proposed regulation changes, including its key provisions, read the ACL’s Notice of Proposed Rule Making or the request for Input needed: Proposed Update to Older Americans Act Regulations. The links also include information about how to submit comments, either online or by mail. [...]

Read More... from Input Sought for Proposed Updates to Older Americans Act Regulations

New Study Shows Cones in Retinal Degeneration May Retain Visual Function

by B. E. Lewis, RDPFS Intern New research from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) suggests that cone photoreceptors in the degenerating retina of the eye considered “’dormant’” actually “continue to function, producing responses to light and driving retinal activity for vision.” The study’s authors state that their findings indicate that “therapeutic interventions to protect these cells…have the capability to preserve nearly normal daytime vision.” Their work focused on retinitis pigmentosa, a group of inherited diseases that cause photoreceptors to die, resulting in vision loss and eventual blindness. Rods and cones are the cells in the eye’s retina that are “responsible for the visual experience.”  Cones are active in daylight, rods in dim light. Mutations in rods causing them to die trigger most inherited retinal degeneration. Cones can remain alive after nearly all the rods die, but they retract key parts of the cells and appear “dormant.” Past literature suggested that dormant cells were not functional. “We showed that they were remarkably still active, although a lot less sensitive than normal,’” said senior author Alapakkam Sampath, the Grace and Walter Lantz Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology at the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute and professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “’These important results may suggest a future path forward for patients with conditions thought to be causing irreversible retinal blindness…’” stated Dr. Steven Schwartz, Ahmanson chair in ophthalmology at the Geffen School and professor and Retina Division Chief at the Jules Stein Eye Institute. The next step in research is to determine to what extent the enhancement of the dormant cones will permit the revival of vision in various forms of blindness. To read the full report, visit the Science Direct/Current Biology webpage entitled “Cones and cone pathways remain functional in advanced retinal degeneration.” Additional details are available in the UCLA news release announcing that this “Early study shows cones in retinal degeneration, thought to be  dormant, may retain visual function” as well as coverage of the study in Medical News and Ophthalmology Times. [...]

Read More... from New Study Shows Cones in Retinal Degeneration May Retain Visual Function

Major Airline Adding Tactile Signage to Aircraft Cabin Interiors

Braille markings added by United Airlines to their aircraft will help people with vision impairment “better identify row numbers, seat assignments and lavatory locations independently.” With this action, United has become the first U.S. airline to offer braille markings within its aircraft interiors. Currently about a dozen of their planes are equipped with braille signage for individual rows and seat numbers as well as inside and outside of lavatories. The airline expects to include braille throughout its entire fleet by the end of 2026. United is also working with the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and other advocacy groups to explore introducing other tactile aids for navigation throughout their cabins, such as raised letters, numbers, and arrows. “’We applaud United for taking an important step toward making its aircraft more accessible to blind passengers,’” stated NFB President Mark Roccobono. He explained that flying can be frustrating for numerous reasons, “’one of which is the amount of information available exclusively through printed signs and other visual indicators. We hope to continue working with United to explore additional ways to make flying more accessible and less stressful for blind passengers.’” ACB’s Interim Executive Director Dan Spoone acknowledged the addition of braille signage in creating “’an accessible airline passenger experience…’” adding that “’We appreciate the airline’s continued exploration of additional in-flight navigational aids like large print and tactile interiors, and we encourage all airlines to follow United’s lead in making air travel more inclusive for the blind and low vision community.’” Read more in the press release featured on the ACB website announcing that United Becomes First U.S. Airline to Add Braille to Aircraft Cabin Interiors. [...]

Read More... from Major Airline Adding Tactile Signage to Aircraft Cabin Interiors

Having Trouble Reading Standard Print? Enjoy today’s bestsellers in easy-to-read large print: Select Editions Large Type Books

Enjoy the best in current fiction, romance, mystery, biography, adventure, and more. Reader’s Digest Select Editions Large Type features expertly edited best-selling books in every volume. You get a full year of exciting reading (five volumes in all), for the low nonprofit price of $25. Indulge your love of great reading in a format that is comfortable and pleasurable to read. A portion of the proceeds from each subscription supports Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation’s work and dedication to fostering the independence of people who are blind and visually impaired. Each subscriber also receives a large-print calendar free of charge. Subscribe to Reader’s Digest Select Editions Large Type today or give a gift subscription. To order your subscription by phone, call 1-800-877-5293. [...]

Read More... from Having Trouble Reading Standard Print? Enjoy today’s bestsellers in easy-to-read large print: Select Editions Large Type Books