Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

RDPFS Resources for Partners January 7, 2022

January is Braille Literacy Month

In honor of Louis Braille’s legacy and his birthday on January 4, 1809, the month of January each year is commemorated as Braille Literacy Month. This month-long celebration heightens awareness and understanding of braille in today’s world. For example:

Did you know that Louis Braille was15-years-old when he invented braille? And that it is “not a language,” but a tactile code? Many languages, in fact, can be read and written in braille. Braille benefits many people with vision impairment, including individuals with “dual sensory loss and/or multiple disabilities. These are among the facts included in “6 things you didn’t know about braille,” from Perkins School for the Blind in Celebrating Braille Literacy Month.

Whether or not braille is still relevant, given this “High Tech World,” is a question considered in an article from Paths to Literacy: Celebrate Braille Literacy Month! For the answer, they suggest thinking about the sighted world: Would we “get rid of pencils and pens, now that computers and digital devices are available?” Braille is, in fact, frequently used in conjunction with audio and is also used by individuals of all ages. To help introduce young children to braille, they provide offerings such as ideas for creating tactile books, story boxes, lessons for beginning braille readers. Websites and activities are also included to introduce children who are sighted to braille basics, such as Braille Bug®  (APH), and a Braille Chart for Sighted Classmates Learning Braille Visually (from Jessica McDowell, TVI). Check out some resources for parents in this article as well to Celebrate Braille Literacy Month!

January is Also Glaucoma Awareness Month

People at higher risk of developing glaucoma are encouraged to make eye health a new year’s resolution during January, Glaucoma Awareness Month, by the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) of the National Eye Institute, NIH (National Institutes of Health). A leading cause of blindness, glaucoma can occur in anyone, but individuals at higher risk include “Everyone over age 60, especially Hispanics/Latinos; African Americans over age 40 and people with a family history of glaucoma.” Glaucoma can be detected through a comprehensive, dilated eye exam. Learn more about glaucoma and check out NEHEP resources, including videos and webinars, articles and fact sheets, and other information available for Glaucoma Awareness Month.

Tips for Travelers with Vision Loss

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

For people who have vision loss from glaucoma, as well as any type of vision loss, traveling can seem like an indomitable task as one’s vision changes. In recognizing Glaucoma Awareness Month, some travel tips, offered by Lighthouse Guild’s Orientation and Mobility Instructors, can be helpful to overcome challenges to getting around safely, such as overcoming obstacles like the inability to see uneven terrain or objects in one’s path, or traveling an unfamiliar route. Prior to venturing on an unfamiliar route, travelers who are visually impaired can research the intended destination and become familiar with the best methods to get there. It can also be helpful to seek out customer service representatives for assistance with public transportation at airports, and bus and train terminals. And travelers can call airports up to 48 hours in advance of their trip to arrange assistance with their bags, checking in, and boarding. While traveling in unfamiliar locales, technology can be a great ally for the independent traveler. There are apps to assist you in reading text, identifying money or objects in your area, and assisting you in navigating your environment safely. Travelers may also consider seeking mobility training for new, unfamiliar routes and locations to assist them in their travels. For more detailed tips, read the full article in Able News: Travel Tips for People with Eye Disorders.

Winter Weather Tips

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

Winter weather conditions often create difficult and potentially hazardous conditions for people with visual impairments. Inclement weather can create many obstacles such as inaccessible sidewalks and crosswalks. And cold weather can be dangerous to one’s health as well. Here are some winter weather tips to get you through the winter safe and warm.

During the winter it can get really cold outside. When venturing outdoors, consider your wardrobe choices to ensure that you're dressed appropriately for the weather. Wear a coat that is suitable for your location. A hat with earflaps or a jacket with a hood makes it easier for those who rely on listening to their surroundings to orient themselves. Wear high-quality snow boots with appropriate insulation and tread to keep warm and prevent slips and falls. Protect your feet with thick socks and your hands with a quality pair of gloves or mittens that have thin material at the tips for easier identification of tactile objects like doorknobs or handles, keyholes, and buttons. And always make sure to dress in layers so that you can adjust your personal temperature by removing layers. Read more winter weather tips from Second-Sense here.

When navigating in snow, it can inhibit the use of mobility devices, such as a white cane, for individuals with vision loss. To ensure safety while walking in snowy conditions, the Chicago Lighthouse suggests that people who utilize white canes, which are generally good at detecting icy spots in and under snow, walk more slowly to avoid slips and falls. And if you use a service dog, keep in mind that the rock salt used to melt snow can injure your dog’s paws. To prevent damage and ensure their comfort and safety:
Apply paw wax to your dog’s pads each time you go outside. You can purchase a 7-ounce jar of Musher's Secret Paw Protection Natural Dog Wax here for $24.99.
Put boots on your dog. You can purchase a set of 4 booties here for $34.95. The sizes range from petite to extra large so make sure to select the correct size for your dog.
When you’re going out into your community, be sure to bundle up and check the local weather, research your route, and allow for extra travel time. Read more winter weather tips from Chicago Lighthouse here.

When it’s cold outside and you’re at home, safe and warm, you can take precautions to ensure you and your family’s safety indoors. Check your carbon dioxide detectors and smoke alarms to make sure they’re functional and have fresh batteries. Create an emergency plan with your family so that all members know what to do in case the power goes out. Ahead of an imminent storm, refill your prescriptions and stock up on bottled water and nonperishable goods. And don’t forget about your pets or service dog’s needs as well. Stay safe and warm everyone! Read more winter weather tips from Easterseals here.

Upcoming Events of Note

Tune in tomorrow, January 8, 2022, at 12:45 pm to the monthly meeting of the Delaware Valley Council of Citizens with Low Vision to learn about NFB-NEWSLINE®. Guest speaker Jesse Shirek, operations specialist with NFB-NEWSLINE®, will speak about “this rich resource of accessible audio, Braille and electronic information.” He will cover how to access it through a phone, the internet, an app, and other means. For more information about the meeting, including the Zoom link, visit the website of The Delaware Valley Council of Citizens With Low Vision on Such A Site. NFB-NEWSLINE®, a program of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), is an audio news service, offered free of charge, for people who are blind, have low vision, those who are deafblind, or others with print disabilities.

On February 25, 2022, A Breast Cancer Webinar for Women Who Are Blind will be held by Accessible Pharmacy Services for the Blind. Presenters will discuss accessible information about breast cancer as well as for detection and prevention. Among the topics to be covered are how to do self-exams, accessible resources from the American Cancer Society, medications, and the impact of chemotherapy. To find out more about the presenters and program, or to register for free, check out the listing: Breast Cancer Webinar for Women Who Are Blind.

Recognizing Martin Luther King Day: Some Resources

Each year, on January 15, the anniversary of the birth of clergyman, activist, and civil rights visionary Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1929 is commemorated as a national holiday. Many resources are available about MLK, including some in Braille or audio for people with vision impairment. Here are a few:

Perkins School for the Blind provides a number of books in audio and Braille formats through the Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library. Their collection includes such titles as A knock at midnight: Inspiration from the great sermons of Reverent Martin Luther King, Jr., a talking book that can be downloaded; the historic I have a dream speech in Braille; and The trumpet of conscience, written by Martin Luther King, also a downloadable talking book.

For children:
Children ages 8 – 12 can read the book Martin Luther King, Jr.—Man of Peace in Contracted UEB (Unified English Braille), available for purchase for $9 from Seedlings Braille Books for Children.
YouTube features a number of books read aloud. Titles include A Picture Book of Martin Luther King,Jr., I am Martin Luther King, Jr., Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr., and Martin's Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. In some cases, the narrator is the author; in each, the narration is very expressive for audio users.

New York City is Becoming More Accessible

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

In late December a federal judge ordered New York City officials to put in place more than 9,000 accessible pedestrian crossing signals at intersections throughout the city. The case, filed in 2018, accused the city's Department of Transportation and former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to install accessible pedestrian signals at city intersections. Since 1957 when the first accessible pedestrian signal was introduced, implementation of the technology at other crossings has been slow, with fewer than 1,000 devices installed citywide. Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, who made the ruling, stated that the lack of accessible crossings has impeded the independence of people who are blind or visually impaired, making it difficult to cross city streets safely in a well-timed manner. Although no set timeline has been given for the implementation of new accessible pedestrian signals across the city, there is hope that within the next decade, the city will be more accessible to everyone and that people who are blind and visually impaired who live in or visit New York City will be able to travel more independently and safely. Read the details in The New York Times article:  Why New York City May Soon Be More Walkable for Blind People.

Talking Prescription Labels Now Available From Midwestern Pharmacy Chain

Through a partnership between En-Vision America and Hy-Vee, Inc., free talking prescription labels can now be accessed in 26 languages by patients who have visual or print impairments in Hy-Vee’s more than 275 pharmacy locations in eight Midwestern states. En-Vision America’s ScripTalk talking label system makes it possible for  pharmacists to program and put a small electronic tag on prescription packaging, usually on the bottom of the bottle. The tag includes all the information that would be on a prescription label. Customers will use a ScripTalk reader, provided at no cost to them, or the free ScripTalk Mobile App to have all the information read aloud. For more details, read the announcement from HY-Vee: Hy-Vee Pharmacies Now Offer Talking Prescription Labels in 26 Languages to Assist Visually- and Print-Impaired Patients. Editor’s Note: This offering is similar to the CVS “Spoken Rx,” announced in the December 17, 2021 RDPFS Resources for Partners Bulletin.

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