Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

RDPFS Resources for Partners July 28, 2023

Getting Ready to go Back to School

by B.E. Lewis, RDPFS Intern: As children and parents prepare for the school year, taking some practical steps can ease the transition. Whether students are attending elementary school, middle school, high school, or college, advance planning may quell some of the jitters students feel, especially those with visual disabilities, on the first day and beyond. Nearly three percent of children younger than 18 years are blind or have low vision, defined as having trouble seeing even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These figures indicate that significant numbers of children in classrooms have trouble with their vision. Following are some pointers that can help students with vision challenges succeed this school year. The Early School Years Because the percentage of children with blindness or visual impairment is low, few teachers may be trained to accommodate their needs. “Visual disabilities are considered a low incidence condition. This may be the first time a teacher has ever had an individual in their class with an eye condition.” As a result, it is incumbent on parents to become early advocates for their child. Here are suggestions for parents to help prepare children for the first day of school, provided by Wendy Devitt, a teacher of the visually impaired in the New York City Public Schools, and Margaret Walters, director of Outreach and Support Programs at Lighthouse Guild in an article in Able News: -Meet with a teacher either alone or with the child before the school year begins, especially if there are orientation issues; -Share a child’s strengths. It will help empower teachers to let them know some strengths, such as what compensatory skills they have. -Be specific about the child’s needs, such as what lighting conditions, seating arrangements, and modifications are beneficial. Communication with the teacher and staff is key. -Ask the teacher to say the child’s name when addressing him or her rather than pointing and asking the student. To read the complete article, visit the website for the Able News September 2022 edition here or the reprint of the piece in Our Town here on Back to School for Visually-Impaired Children. Additional recommendations, from Paths to Literacy, help to ensure that a child benefits from resources available to them. For example, be sure that your child has been referred for vision services, as appropriate. This can include the involvement of Early Intervention Specialists, Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments (TVIs), and Orientation and Mobility Specialists.  Contact your state agency for the blind to find out what services are available in your area. The engagement of a team of professionals can provide information and resources, as well as support to you and your family. These recommendations and additional information are included in a Paths to Literacy article on 10 Tips for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments. [...]

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Back to School for Middle School and High School Students

by B.E. Lewis, RDPFS intern Middle school introduces not only new subject matter, but an entirely new process of learning. These changes, which can be demanding for all pupils, can pose additional challenges for those with visual impairment. Most students have spent the early school years primarily with one teacher in a single classroom. In secondary school the campus and structure can change radically. The following tips, from the Family Connect website, may make the move easier for you and your child: -Visit the school in advance. If your child has an orientation and mobility instructor, this will likely be a priority. It’s often best to do this more than once to ensure your child knows how to get around. -Review the class schedule and meet the teachers. Then, drop by the school at the open house or simply before school starts so that the child can put an identity to teacher’s names. This will take away an uncomfortable first day of introductions amid the pandemonium of all the other students. In the upper grades, schoolwork becomes increasingly complicated, with classes in different subject areas and most likely a different teacher for each subject.  Reading and other materials are lengthier and more complex. In addition, subjects often contain more math and science symbols, graphs, and charts with strictly visual components that need to be adapted for someone who is blind or has low vision. Although teachers need to teach the concepts, your child’s TVI needs to work closely with them to make sure your child will have access to the same materials, classroom activities, and information their classmates do at the same time. It may be helpful for the TVI to introduce the child to the materials and concepts that may be presented visually. For more details, read the Family Connect pieces on 5 Tips to Help Your Child Who Is Visually Impaired Move Up to Middle or High School and Accessing Academic Classes for Teenagers. Additional Resources Available to Parents and Children Among the resources that can be accessed throughout the school year are: – Bookshare®, a free, federally funded library of ebooks designed to empower students to read in ways that work for them with specialized ebooks in audio, audio with highlighted text, large font, and braille. Paired with popular reading tools, reading is easier. – Learning Ally, an organization that provides books and services for people who are blind and visually impaired among other disabilities. – Tele-Support Groups from Lighthouse Guild, offer a national network and support services for parents who are helping their children with visual impairments, along with teenagers who are becoming independent. – The Perkins School for the Blind offers Quick study tips for students with visual impairments, which can be downloaded, to help students prepare for college. -Education information from Wonder Baby, an interactive website for families with children who are visually impaired. [...]

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Reducing Eye Strain from Screens on Mainstream Devices

Excessive use of screens on computers, tablets, smart phones, and other devices can result in eye strain. Veronica Lewis, also known as “Veronica With Four Eyes,” has configured technology devices with a number of apps and settings to minimize the strain. In a recently updated post on the Perkins School for the Blind website, Lewis offers some tips written from the perspective of a college student with low vision, such as using: -A blue light filter guard for Google Chrome: Blue light “can cause fatigue, eye strain, and blurry vision.” The guard places a “warm tint” over the page to allow the user to view it for long periods of time; -Computer glasses: In Lewis’ case, these glasses have a “special progressive bifocal” to prevent bending the head when viewing the screen; -Tinted glasses: A yellow tint, for example, can reduce eye strain. -An anti-glare screen filter: A glass filter hanging over the computer’s monitor can filter out glare and make text easier to see. Lewis also provides detailed information and a number of tips about how to change settings on both Android and iOS devices to make them more accessible, such as reducing the “white point,” using color filters, and more. For additional information, and a “Summary of ten ways to reduce eye strain with technology,” read the piece on How to reduce eye strain from screens. [...]

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“Are We There Yet?”: Travel tips for Families With Children Who Are Visually Impaired

by B.E. Lewis, RDPFS Intern: As summer’s scorching days linger, you may still be planning vacations and trips. When traveling with children with visual impairment, taking a few steps ahead of time can make the trip go more smoothly. The key is preparation. Road Trip How do you keep children interested during a long road trip? Here are a few suggestions: – Create a tactile map, which can help to describe the trip. – Develop a story book about an activity you will do on your trip, using tactile graphics, braille, and large print, depending on what works for the child. – Bring along portable and accessible activities, puzzles, and toys to keep your children occupied. – Share the plan: Keep the whole family involved in travel planning. Children who know where they’re going and what to expect are more willing travelers, especially if they have the opportunity to help pick out fun activities. For additional suggestions and other details, read Paths to Literacy’s “5 Tips to Keep Your Child with Visual Impairment Busy and Happy on a Road Trip.” and, in an article in NY Metro Parents, Travel Tips for Families with a Visually Impaired Child from Hadley. A Virtual Travel Chat Hadley also provides a chat on travel the first Wednesday of every month. The next segment, on August 2, 2023 at 4 pm, covers train travel. Learn more here about Travel Talk. Amusement Parks Here are some tips if a visit to an amusement park is part of the route: – Check out park accessibility guides. Many amusement parks have accessibility guides available on their websites for guests with disabilities, including vision impairment. Guides may also be available in accessible formats at the park. – Download a high-resolution copy of the park map from their website or other source. It can be helpful to zoom in to find things. – Request descriptive audio for shows. Descriptive audio devices, which should be available at guest services, are about the size of a cell phone and narrate the movement on the stage. -Before going on a ride, read all safety information to determine if it is right for you. Many ride descriptions are available online and can be read using a magnifier or screen reader. For more information, visit the Perkins School for the Blind webpage on Going to Amusement Parks with Low Vision Wherever your travel takes you, have a safe and enjoyable adventure! [...]

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Support for Children with Glaucoma

Childhood glaucoma is a rare eye condition that may be inherited. Caused by incorrect development of the eye’s drainage system prior to birth, this condition leads to heightened intraocular pressure, which damages the eye and can lead to vision loss. It occurs in babies and young children. Symptoms include “enlarged eyes, cloudiness of the cornea, and photosensitivity (sensitivity to light).” With the right support, children with glaucoma can make best use of the vision they have. The Glaucoma Research Foundation has prepared a reference guide to help parents and professionals support children with glaucoma effectively. Readers will learn about the symptoms, treatment, management, and what to expect. Download the guide on Childhood Glaucoma here. Additional basic information is also available on the Glaucoma Research Foundation’s webpage on Childhood Glaucoma here. [...]

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Registration Open for Virtual Blind Health Expo 2023

Exhibitors and attendees may now register free of charge for the second annual Blind Health Expo, taking place on December 1 and 2, 2023. Hosted by Accessible Pharmacy, this free, virtual event features information, products, services, and medication resources for individuals in the “blind, low vision, and disability community.”  Participants will have the opportunity to network with organizations as well as companies across the nation. Attendees can browse virtual exhibit booths and learn about services and products available in the healthcare and disability communities. Exhibitors will be able to host a virtual booth, interact live with those attending, and showcase their products and/or services. Visit the Accessible Pharmacy website to learn more about Blind Health Expo 2023. Click here to register as an attendee and click here to register as an exhibitor. [...]

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Advanced Version of Chatbot can Analyze Images; Concerns Expressed About Facial Recognition Features“

“An advanced version of ChatGPT can analyze images and is already helping the blind. But its ability to put a name on a face is one reason the public doesn’t have access to it.” So states an article in The New York Times expressing “OpenAI Worries About What Its Chatbot Will Say About People’s Faces.” Until recently, ChatGPT, an artificial-intelligence-powered tool from OpenAI, has been used to write term papers, computer code, fairy tales, and more. It can also analyze images, describing their contents, answering questions about the visuals, and “even recognizing faces.” The intention is that, in time, an individual could, for example, upload a photo of a car’s malfunctioning engine or an unusual rash, with ChatGBT recommending a fix. A select group of people have access to an advanced version that analyzes images. Jonathan Mosen, an employment agency chief executive who is blind, used this feature to detect which dispensers in a hotel room contained shampoo, conditioner, or shower gel. This went beyond the capabilities of image analysis software he previously used. “’It told me the capacity of each bottle…’” as well as “’the tiles in the shower,’” Mosen noted. “’It described all of this in a way that a blind person needs to hear it.’” ChatGPT made it possible to ask follow up questions as well, such as requesting additional details within an image. Most users have only conversed with the bot in words.  Mosen gained “early access to the visual analysis” via Be My Eyes, a start up that connects users with vision loss to sighted volunteers and “provides accessible customer service to corporate customers.” Be My Eyes and OpenAI worked together to test the chatbot’s “’sight.’” Recently the app stopped providing information about people’s faces, obscured “for privacy reasons.” OpenAI’s concerns are that its potential use for facial recognition “would push the boundaries of what was generally considered acceptable practice by U.S. technology companies.” The tool might say things about people’s faces, such as determining their gender or emotional state. OpenAI is working to address these and other concerns prior to making image analysis widely available, seeking input from Be My Eyes users and other members of the public. Read more in the article entitled “OpenAI Worries About What Its Chatbot Will Say About People’s Faces.” [...]

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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. [...]

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