by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
While it’s still the middle of winter, the time is coming to sign up for summer camps and other seasonal experiences. In the coming weeks, this Bulletin will be covering camps, internships, and scholarships that specialize in programs focusing on youth with vision loss.
The various Camp Abilities in many locations are gearing up for their seasons, especially those offered between May and August. Camp Abilities is a network of independent educational sports camps for youth who are blind, have low vision, or are deaf-blind. You can read more about them in coverage in a previous Bulletin. Although the large number of virtual camps from the last few years does not seem to be materializing in 2023, a few such as the National Federation of the Blind (NFB)’s BELL Academy, which teaches braille and other independent living skills to children ages four to twelve, retain a virtual option along with their in-person camps at various locations. There are several online listings of adaptive summer camps. This list of programs has 141 camps, filterable by state, and another has 15 from all across the country. In addition, National Camps for Blind Children (NCBC) partners with camps nationwide, maintains a list of these, and may sponsor one camp per camper in a season. The resources linked above can help you choose the best camp for the needs of your child or student.
In addition to increasing awareness of low vision in general this month, February also marks the annual recognition of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Awareness Month. The incidence of AMD, a leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 50, rises dramatically as individuals age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vision and Eye Health Surveillance System, approximately19 million Americans were living with the condition in 2019, up from about 11 million previously estimated. In terms of age, the incidence of AMD rises to approximately three in ten people ages 80 and over, and about one in ten with the “late, vision-threatening form.” Individuals who have been diagnosed recently with AMD can utilize the Prevent Blindness “AMD Learning Center” and the free GuideMe app. These resources provide fact sheets, information about symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, treatment, and more. Find out more from the Prevent Blindness press release about their Free Resources on AMD and Low Vision Including Dedicated Webpages, Fact Sheets, New Spanish-language Graphics, An Interactive Patient Guide, and More.
Films Premiering on AMD This Month
Three new films featuring the topic of living well with AMD are being premiered by the American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF) during February, AMD Awareness and Low Vision Awareness Month. These premieres are part of numerous awareness-related activities occurring throughout the month. New website content and social media will also be released to raise awareness regarding disease risk and prevention, including symptoms to observe. According to AMDF spokesperson Matthew Levine, “’Our films offer hope and inspiration to those already living with AMD, that yes, a full life is still possible with vision loss.’” In addition, AMDF recently launched a four-part cooking series, "Eat Right for Your Sight," intended to help people with AMD to select foods that protect their vision while learning to cook safely with reduced vision. For more information about AMD and the Foundation’s resources, visit the home page of the AMDF website. For updates on new content during the month, subscribe to the AMDF YouTube channel, their Facebook page, or sign up on the AMDF home page for email updates. Additional details are available in the press release entitled The American Macular Degeneration Foundation Premieres New Films During AMD Awareness Month 2023.
Virtual Discussion on Clinical Trials
On February 21, 2023 at 4 pm ET, a discussion via Zoom on The Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Clinical Trial Landscape will be provided by Fighting Blindness Canada (FBC). Part of their “View Point” series, the webinar will cover therapies for dry and wet AMD and is part of FBC’s commemoration of AMD Awareness Month.
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
Researchers at the University of Waterloo (Canada) and the Rochester Institute of Technology (United States) have announced the prototype of a new authentication method that can be used by people who are blind or visually impaired to unlock mobile devices. This method takes the form of an app called OneButtonPIN which allows the user to enter their passcode via a series of haptic vibrations that only they can detect. The user initiates it by pressing a large virtual button on the screen. OneButtonPIN responds by emitting pulsing vibrations. At that point the individual enters a number simply by releasing the button once the desired number of vibrations is felt and then presses the button again to enter the next number, and so on. When studying its effectiveness, the scientists found individuals who are blind and have low vision were five percent more accurate authenticating this way than with more traditional methods like entering passcodes, fingerprints, or face scans. In addtition, when sighted people were asked to guess PINs from watching videos of blind people entering them, they were able to guess some passcodes entered traditionally, but none could guess the code from watching a person using OneButtonPIN. Dr. Stacey Watson from the University of Waterloo commented on the idea that this app might even find use among the sighted, stating that: “‘While OneButtonPIN was designed for [blind and low-vision] people, many users will appreciate the added security. When we make things more accessible, we make things more usable for the average user as well.’” The app is not yet available, with no confirmation about a final release date as of this writing. Here is an announcement about it from NFCW Expo, and another article from the University of Waterloo.
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
The United States Department of Labor (DOL) has selected ten states and the District of Columbia to “participate as core states” in its National Expansion of Employment Opportunities Network (NEON) initiative, which launched in 2019. Government agencies in these areas will be connected to “consulting, capacity-building support and ongoing mentoring” as they look to expand competitive employment outcomes for workers with disabilities. The ten states are California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, New York, Rhode Island, and Tennessee. The DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), which administers NEON, hopes that the initiative underway in these ten states will expand NEON’s focus to “state-level policies and systems,” in conjunction with its existing contracts with national provider organizations and subject matter experts, to increase employment on a national scale. Taren Williams, Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy, explained that, “‘The addition of 10 core states and the District of Columbia to the National Expansion of Employment Opportunities Network will help support policymaking and other efforts to make Competitive Integrated Employment a reality for more people with disabilities. Now, effective practices used by service providers can support strategies such as blending, braiding and sequencing of funding, strategic planning, benefits counseling, and effective data collection and analysis to promote greater workplace equity.’” You can read more in this press release from ODEP.
Meeting the access needs of employees is a key element in building an inclusive workplace. However, needs can vary and some requests for accessibility practices by individuals with disabilities may seem to conflict with each other. Addressing “competing requests” can pose a challenge, and “a perfect solution is not always clear.” An article from the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT) shares examples of varying needs to explain how organizations can foster a culture that advances inclusion, presenting suggestions for reshaping accessibility as a continuous practice staff members can achieve together. In one scenario, an employee with vision loss may choose to turn off their camera during a virtual meeting to prevent “screen fatigue,” while a deaf colleague may depend on lip reading to supplement automatic captioning, which may be inaccurate. One possible solution is for the employee with vision loss to keep their camera on but reduce fatigue by minimizing their video square so that it does not take up space on the screen. For the coworker with hearing loss, the employer can provide live captioning to ensure accuracy and decreased reliance on lip reading. A few steps employers can take to address access needs on an ongoing basis are to:
- Promote Accommodations and a Culture of Inclusion: Employees are often reluctant to disclose their disabilities and may be unaware about what accommodations will help. So that employees can feel safe about revealing their needs, employers can invite staff members to explore options available, including The Job Accommodation Network.
- Procure Flexible Technologies: Any new technology should have accessibility features, work with assistive devices, and, preferably, be flexible and allow for customization. Allowing employees to chose how they use technology can overcome some barriers without special accommodations.
- Support Creativity and Open Dialogue: Employees may not know that their needs compete with those of others until a situation arises. Managers can foster an inclusive environment by encouraging open discussion and by working with both parties to find ways to address concerns and welcome creative solutions. Learn more from PEAT about How to Address Different Access Needs.
The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) has announced that nominations are being accepted now through April 30, 2023 for induction into the Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field. Candidates are individuals who have made “transformative contributions to improve the lives of those who are blind or low vision” in areas such as program, curriculum, or technology development; published writing; education; leadership; advocacy; and professional practice. Previous winners of this honor, awarded since 2002, include “a fascinating cross-section of heroes and pioneers who not only shaped our rich history, philosophy, knowledge and skills, but also give us insights into current and future challenges.” The induction ceremonies will take place on October, during the Annual Meeting of the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky. Learn more here about How to Nominate a Leader to the Hall of Fame and download nomination form.
Eye health and vision care are important elements of overall well being for everyone and eye problems can impact people from all backgrounds, including those serving in the nation’s highest elected office. As we celebrate President’s Day 2023, we remember a few of those individuals who experienced challenges. The American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, the 25th president, experienced partial vision loss in his right eye, resulting from an injury. Woodrow Wilson suffered a hemorrhage in his retina, that caused severe vision loss in his right eye, seven years before he became 27th president. The nation’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln “couldn’t look a person straight in the eye” due to strabismus (crossed eyes). Reports of his campaign debates in 1860 reported his eye as “’rolling wildly’ as he spoke.” He also experienced double vision at times. And numerous presidents have had problems like eye “’twitches,’” “’spasms,’” or “’rapid blinking,’” conditions that can occur in conjunction with stress or insufficient sleep. Read more from the AAO website on The History of Presidential Eye Problems and from Ophthalmology Times on Presidential eyes eyed at Museum of Vision.
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