A Gathering to Remember: Recapping the Biennial Conference for Professionals
By Anisio Correia, M.Ed., Vision Rehabilitation Consultant
After a long four-year break, the 2022 AER (Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired) International Conference took place in person at the historic Union Station Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri from July 20 to 24, 2022. The 611 registered attendees enjoyed the return of real hugs and in-person networking instead of the Zoom meetings and virtual hugs experienced during the peak of the pandemic.
This year’s program offered a variety of workshops on topics of interest, including the latest on services for children and students, teens, and adults seeking employment, and those involved in the provision of services to older people who wish to age in place with independence and dignity.
During the business meeting held among AER members, a number of resolutions were approved to advance the wellbeing of those who receive services. Approved resolutions included calls for improved mental health services; safety of clients enrolled in rehabilitation programs; and a call for AER to establish a taskforce to study the challenges and opportunities of incorporating Occupational Therapists into the continuum of vision rehabilitation services.
The membership also honored and recognized those individuals and groups who made an impact in the field of vision rehabilitation and education. The 2022 AER Award Winners are as follows:
Ambrose M. Shotwell Award: Recognizing outstanding contributions to the rehabilitation of adults who are blind or visually impaired: Dr. Priscilla Rogers
Mary K. Bauman Award: For outstanding contributions to the education of children who are blind or visually impaired: Susan A. Osterhaus
Alfred Allen Award: Recognizing a career in providing direct services to individuals with visual impairment: Jennifer Coy
Warren Bledsoe Award: Recognizing noteworthy contributions to literature in the field of blindness and visual impairment: Rachel Rosenbaum
Douglas C. MacFarland Award: In honor of “leadership in the field of blindness and visual impairment and contributions to the education and rehabilitation of people who are visually impaired:” Mary Nelle McLennan
John H. McAulay Award: In honor of outstanding achievement leading to the placement of individuals with visual impairments in employment: Dr. Ian Shadrick
Richard L. Welsh Chapter Leadership Award: “For outstanding efforts in AER chapter leadership:” Vincent McVeigh
Outstanding AER Chapter Award: Honoring “outstanding efforts in providing services to its members:” AER Dakotas Chapter
For additional information about the conference and about AER, visit the AER website here.
New Guide Issued on How Employers Can Support Employees with Long COVID
Since spring 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact people in countless ways, millions of Americans have experienced lingering, prolonged symptoms, according to U.S. government reports. A new resource from the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) and Job Accommodation Network (JAN) addresses issues related to these symptoms, known as Long COVID, including the connection with mental health. This manual, entitled “Supporting Employees with Long COVID: A Guide for Employers,” details supports at the workplace that can help businesses help and retain employees who are experiencing symptoms. It covers potential legal obligations for employers to provide accommodations and answers questions related to remote work and leave. EARN and JAN are funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). Click here to read the full document on Supporting Employers with Long COVID: A Guide for Employers. To review the announcement from ODEP, read the ODEP News Brief from July 29, 2022 and scroll down to the fourth item.
Virtual Summer Classes
As we enter the “dog days of summer,” you may want to brush up on or learn some new skills with these upcoming virtual courses from the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Books Library of The New York Public Library:
On August 15 at 7 pm ET (Eastern Time), the High and Low-tech Organization and Labeling Tips workshop will offer resources and methods for “labeling as a blind person.” The session will cover strategies that can be used without sight to identify documents, file folders, clothing, books, and more around the home or office. For more information and to register, visit the webpage for High and Low-Tech Organization Tips.
On August 22, 2022 at 7 pm ET, the program on Using Braille Displays with iOs will go over how a Braille display can be a powerful complement to an iPhone or iPad. This session will cover such topics as common Braille display commands, settings, how to customize, and apps that work well with Braille. For additional details and to sign up, visit the Meeting Registration page here for Using Braille Displays with IOS.
A six-session session program focusing on Google Apps with Accessibility in Mind begins on August 24, 2022 at 4:30 pm ET and runs every Wednesday at that time through September 28, 2022. Participants will explore popular tools that are free to use on the web or with mobile apps to “manage your time, share your work and collaborate.” The first three sessions cover Drive and Docs, including basics and formatting, organization, editing, commenting, track changes, sharing permissions, and more. Subsequent weeks focus on calendars, sheets, and slides. To learn more and sign up, preferably for all sessions, visit the webpage on Google Apps with Accessibility in Mind.
Blind Baseball International Cup to Premiere in the Netherlands
The first WBSC (World Baseball Softball Confederation) Blind Baseball International Cup will be held from August 20-21, 2022 in Beek, Netherlands. During this event, “the first-ever blind baseball event sanctioned by the WBSC,” six national teams will participate in two groups, representing France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, and the USA. Top finishers from each group will advance to the semifinals and winners from that round will compete for the title. Baseball for the Blind, known as B4B, an adapted version of the sport, was developed in Italy by Alfredo Meli, a former Italian Baseball National Team player. It is relatively popular there and in other countries, “but still emerging in the U.S.” B4B is distinct from Beep Baseball. The sport does use audible sounds, like bells inside the ball, beeper sounds to mark location, and a coach clapping plastic or wooden paddles to guide the runner. Unlike Beep Baseball, the game does not include a pitcher or catcher. The batter holds the ball in one hand, releasing it while swinging the bat with the other hand. Each team is made up of five blind players, one sighted player, and four or five sighted assistants. International events such as this one aim to advance the goal of WBSC to have the sport recognized by the International Paralympic Committee. WBSC, headquartered in Pully, Switzerland, is “the international governing body for baseball and softball.” The Confederation has 193 National Federations Members and 14 Associate Members from 137 countries and territories, representing a movement “that encompasses over 65 million athletes and attracts approximately 150 million fans to stadiums worldwide” each year. Read more here about the First WBSC Blind Baseball International Cup to be held on 20-21 August in Beek, Netherlands. Additional information about B4B is included in an article reporting on a game held in Franklin, Connecticut between teams from Connecticut and New York in October 2021. Check out the write up, entitled Baseball for the Blind comes to Connecticut in game Saturday. And to learn more about the WBSC, check out the Organisational Profile here.
Updated Fitness App Features Audio Guidance and Other Accessibility Options
A new update to the ErgData app is now available from the Apple App Store for iOS and from the Google Play Store for Android. Sports and fitness manufacturer Concept2 released the app, developed after working with the American Council for the Blind (ACB) to ensure its accessibility to people who are blind or have low vision. It features audio guidance for both versions to boost accessibility as well as the ability to create workouts and store them as favorites, additional display options, and more. ErgData, a free app, connects to Concept2’s Performance Monitor and is called a “personal training partner, serving as your connection to the Concept2 community.” Concept2’s products include activities related to rowing, skiing, and bicycling. Read more on the ACB website on how the App Update from Concept2 Includes New Accessibility Features. To learn more about and download the app, click on Concept2's ErgData page here. For background information on the manufacturer, visit the website and read About Concept2.
More Resources for Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month
In recognition of the national health observance (NHO) of Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) calls attention to a variety of resources that help to highlight the importance of protecting children’s eye health and vision. NEI for Kids provides children with an array of kid-friendly educational materials, tips, and fun activities. The section “All About Vision” includes a page “About the Eye” that provides explanations of the various parts of the eye and their function, such as the macula for central vision, lens to focus, and iris to regulate how much light enters the eye. A series of videos with audio description, “Ask a Scientist,” covers such topics as eyes at night, underwater eyes, and eye myths and facts. Tips for eye health and safety include “First Aid Tips,” “Sports and Your Eyes,” “Protective Eyewear,” and more. “Fun Stuff” presents such treats as “Cool Eye Tricks” and “Optical Illusions.” These are only a few of the offerings highlighted by NEI on their webpage for Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month. For the full list of resources, click here on the link for NEI for Kids.
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