Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

RDPFS Resources for Partners February 3, 2023

National Resources Addressing Eye Disease Among African Americans

by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern

During this first week of Black History Month 2023, we are recognizing some systemic issues relating to African Americans and vision loss. First in this coverage is an initiative from the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) called Write the Vision. According to NEI, “Write the Vision is a year-round, calendar-based initiative designed for African American audiences.” NEI has developed materials, including handouts, videos, and other resources, that can be shared each month in local communities across the nation to heighten public awareness about eye health, vision and aging, and eye diseases among African Americans. This program was developed in response to the high incidence of eye diseases in African American populations. Specifically, about 190,000 African-Americans have low vision, and 825,000 have diabetic retinopathy. Additionally, African Americans are at higher risk of glaucoma at a younger age. Glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and cataract, according to the NEI, “don’t have symptoms at first, and can cause vision loss or blindness if they’re not treated. African Americans have some of the highest rates of vision loss and blindness caused by eye disease — and these rates are getting higher. The good news is that comprehensive dilated eye exams can find many of these eye diseases early, when they’re often easier to treat. Our Write the Vision initiative can help you spread the word about healthy vision among African Americans in your community. You can help prevent vision loss and blindness!” You can find out more here about general eye health facts and Write the Vision.

February is American Heart Month: Heart Health and the Eyes

February marks the commemoration of American Heart Month, a time to focus on cardiovascular health by adopting healthy habits in diet, exercise, and managing cholesterol and blood pressure. It also serves to remind us of the connection between the eyes and heart disease. An article from UChicago Medicine asks What can your eyes tell you about heart disease?, affirming that “The eyes do more than allow us to see; they have something to say.” A comprehensive eye exam can reveal problems with the heart and blood vessels and signal a need for early treatment, often prior to any discernable symptoms. The condition of blood vessels in the retina in the back of the eye is related to the health of the heart. An eye specialist examining the blood vessels in the eye can detect signs of high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease,  or cardiovascular risk factors. Long-term high blood pressure can cause fluid build up under the retina, resulting in distorted vision or scarring that damages vision, as well as damage to the optic nerve from blocked blood flow that can bring on temporary or permanent vision loss. In addition to potential damage to the eye’s anatomy, high blood pressure can cause a stroke, which can harm the optic nerve, the area of the brain responsible for processing images. Read more from the American Heart Association about How High Blood Pressure Can Lead to Vision Loss. For additional details about the monthly commemoration, check the listing from National Today for American Heart Month. Resources for health care professionals and individuals, such as best practice guides, messages, journal articles, quizzes, videos, and other materials, are available from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) American Heart Month Toolkits 2023. This month the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention is expanding the Million Hearts® and CDC Foundation’s “Live to the Beat” campaign.  The initiative reaches out to “Black adults ages 35 to 54” to take steps to reduce their risks for cardiovascular disease (CVD). CVD has increased in working-age adults, with Black adults in the U.S. “bearing the highest burden of CVD and the related health consequences.”

“Organization-Wide Accessibility – Everyone Plays a Part:” A Webinar on February 15, 2023

Accessibility is key to an inclusive, supportive workplace. All aspects of accessibility, including physical and digital, are key to ensuring access for all employees. Hear from a panel of experts about effective strategies for making the workplace culture one that encourages employees to “embrace a holistic view of accessibility” during the webinar “Organization-Wide Accessibility: Everyone Plays a Part,” on Wednesday, February 15, 2023 from 2 to 3 pm ET. Sponsored by the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disabilities Employment Policy (ODEP), the session will cover how this approach results in many benefits, including increased productivity, retention of employees with disabilities, and stronger diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility initiatives. Find out more and register for "Organization-Wide Accessibility: Everyone Plays a Part."

Also on February 15, 2023: “The Science Behind Blind Toddlers Walking Well and Beyond Arm’s Reach before the Age of Two”

This webinar, beginning at 4 pm ET on February 15, 2023, will demonstrate the difference in achievement and non-achievement of “essential motor milestone performance measures” in children between the ages of one to two years who are born blind. Research has documented delayed motor skills development in learners who are visually impaired. New findings, to be discussed, demonstrate the need for vision in one-year-old children to gain balance and develop independent walking. The lack of vision for balance helps in explaining why children with vision loss rely on haptic, or tactile, feedback, such as via prolonged cruising, which indicates early delays in walking. Hosted by Dr. Grace Ambrose-Zaken, the webinar will show videos of toddlers who are blind utilizing haptic feedback to gain balance by wearing a pediatric belt cane (PBC) to avoid furniture and “achieve independent walking with safety.” Dr. Ambrose-Zaken, chief executive officer of Safe Toddles, conducted research resulting in the invention of the PBC to make it possible for toddlers who are visually impaired to walk independently. For additional information and to register for the program, visit the Zoom page on The Science Behind Blind Toddlers Walking Well and Beyond Arm's Reach before the Age of Two.

“Tech Talk:” New Monthly Online Workshop Series

A new online workshop series from Lighthouse Guild, “Tech Talk” premieres on February 21, 2023 at 3 pm ET with a session covering an Introduction to iPhone Accessibility. Workshops will be held the third Tuesday of every month, with technology and vision experts providing demonstrations and strategies and responding to questions to help people with vision loss reach their goals. Topics will include high and low-tech devices, accessible features on devices, apps for activities of daily living, talking books, smart speakers, and more. Participants in this first session will learn about basic accessibility features on the iPhone and how to access them. To learn more about the series, visit the Lighthouse Guild webpage on Tech Talks. To register for the first session, go to the registration form for the Tech Talk "Introduction to IPhone Accessibility."

Announcing Recipients of the Helen Keller Achievement Awards

by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) has announced the recipients of its Helen Keller Achievement Awards, given annually since 1994. The presentation ceremony will take place as a special event immediately prior to their leadership conference in Arlington, Virginia on April 19, 2023. The first of two recipients, the Honorable Tony Coelho, former California Congressman and champion for disability rights, led the efforts to introduce the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). More than 30 years after he left Congress, Coelho still serves the community, including through his Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy and Innovation at Loyola Marymount University School of Law. Speaking about the award, he stated that “’For sixty years, serving this remarkable community has been my ministry and so I am incredibly honored to receive the Hellen Keller Achievement Award and all that it represents… I am also deeply humbled to consider the role I've played in improving the lives of individuals with a disability aligns with the vision of the icon that is Hellen Keller.’” The second awardee, Charter Communications, is being honored for its achievements in expanding inclusive media for audiences with vision loss. Concentrating on making film and television more accessible to people with low vision, products like their free Spectrum Access app make it possible to get audio description for visual media from anywhere. Steve Raymond, the company’s Vice-President of Accessibility, explained that “’Charter is dedicated to inclusivity across the communities we serve. Our commitment to accessibility, both in the workplace and in the products and services we provide to millions of customers, is fundamental to how we operate as a business. We are honored to be recognized with the Helen Keller Achievement Award…’” AFB Board Chair Debbie Dennis summed up: “’Both of our honorees this year embody the heart and passion of Helen Keller in their efforts to create a more inclusive and just world for people with disabilities. Their contributions to society not only expanded equal access for people who are blind and low vision, but they continue to remind us all that the desire to dream something new is alive and well in the age of digital inclusion.’” You can learn more in this press release about the 2023 Helen Keller Achievement Award recipients.

A Beginner’s Checklist for Inclusive AI

As organizations increasingly rely on AI (artificial intelligence), a Beginner’s Checklist for Inclusive AI is now available to help ensure that AI is used in inclusive ways. Following are a few of the recommended “Elements of Procuring and Tailoring AI Systems to Reduce Bias:”

- Ask Before You Buy: Be sure to get full information from vendors about how the potential purchase makes AI decisions; request an Explainable AI statement before buying technology;

- Always Include Humans: AI technology should help recruiters and hiring managers, not replace them;

- Focus on Accessibility:  Technology used every step of the way needs to be accessible to create an inclusive experience for job candidates.

Created by The Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT), Checklist questions were developed following discussions with innovators with disabilities who have worked with AI extensively. They are a companion piece to PEAT’s recently released Disability-Led Innovation Report. Learn more and read the full Beginner’s Checklist for Inclusive AI.

The World Glaucoma Congress Film Festival: Call for Submissions by February 6, 2023

The World Glaucoma Association has announced that there is still time to submit a glaucoma video for the WGC (World Glaucoma Congress)-2023 Film Festival by February 6, 2023. This Film Festival seeks to place the power of storytelling “into the hands of glaucoma experts” and showcases the contributions of individuals and communities to glaucoma prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Featured films explore and highlight the disease locally and worldwide, screening productions that educate, inspire, and “encourage a change, to eliminate blindness and visual disability due to glaucoma around the world.” All films selected will be showcased during the 10th World Glaucoma Congress in Rome, Italy, which will be held from June 28 to July 1, 2023. For details, check out the WGC webpage announcing Film festival submissions now open! The page includes a link to the form that can be used for Film Festival submission.

Valentine’s Day Ideas 2023

by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern

Valentine’s Day is coming up in less than two weeks, and including the people with vision loss in your life in your gifts is a great way to show your affection and support. As usual, the Internet is chock-full of ideas, and here are just a few. Many people suggest braille or tactile cards, which can be found in places like Amazon, Etsy, and the Braille Superstore. In addition to these, Paths To Literacy provides information about other creative products, such as tactile and large print books with hearts, “tangible valentines,” cards, and more. The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)’s Family Connect has a list of broader ideas, which, in addition to cards and books, include making sweet valentines and doing crafts with Wikki Stix, Puffy Paint and scented markers. Finally, this post on the Bureau of Internet Accessibility (BOIA) blog takes a different approach, listing many practical gifts ideas for children or adults, such as accessible cooking equipment, magnifiers, audiobooks, technology, and office products. However you choose to honor your loved ones with vision loss, Happy Valentine’s Day!

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