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RDPFS Resources for Partners March 11, 2022

Musical Performathon on March 26, 2022

The 16th Annual All-School Performathon of the Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg Music School takes place on Saturday, March 26, 2022 from 1:30 to 4:30 pm Eastern Time (ET). This hybrid event – live and live streamed – will feature adult and youth students in solo, accompanied, and ensemble performances. You can join in the celebration free of charge, although it is also a fundraiser. To sign up for the Performathon, RSVP to [email protected]. Please indicate whether you would like a link to the live stream or wish to attend in person (in New York City). Learn more about the Performathon here.

Li Duan of China Becomes the First Torchbearer with Blindness to Light the Paralympic Flame

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

As the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing began on March 4, 2022 and the Torchbearer placed the torch in the snowflake-shaped cauldron at the opening ceremony, he made history. Li Duan of China became the first Paralympic Torchbearer with blindness to light the Paralympic Flame. Shen Chen, the opening ceremony’s director, said that he felt like Li was touching and feeling the entire world because "’He lit us with the flame of his heart.’” Prior to the ceremony, staff worried about Li potentially getting burnt. He reassured them that while he couldn’t see the flame, he could feel its heat on his face. When asked why he was participating, Li said, "’I want more people to look at us and see our spirit of working hard and making unceasing efforts to improve ourselves.’" After Li lost his vision in 1996 due to the explosion of a fire extinguisher, he persevered, learning how to train and compete despite blindness. He went on to win four gold, two silver, and two bronze medals across four Paralympic games between 2002 and 2012. And even though Li didn’t know how he’d light the flame, he trained for it, just as he practiced for his long jump competitions, stating that "’Although I can't see, I want to show the world how we, people with disability, strive for our better selves.’" On Friday night, in front of viewers and athletes from around the globe, he did just that. Read the CGTN article about Li Duan’s historic moment: Li Duan becomes world's first blind athlete to light Paralympic flame.

Preventing Vision Loss from Glaucoma: Notes on Those at Higher Risk

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

As World Glaucoma Week, March 6 -12, 2022, comes to a close, we reaffirm the importance of protecting sight from this leading cause of blindness. The number of people diagnosed with glaucoma is increasing steadily, affecting more than three million Americans age 40 and older, with estimates that this number will reach four million by 2030. Data analyzed in 2012 showed that open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of glaucoma in the U.S., is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in African Americans. This data corroborated the results of the earlier Baltimore Eye Survey, which indicated that Black people were far more susceptible to developing glaucoma than the rest of the population. More recently, the African Descent And Glaucoma Evaluation Study (ADAGES) found that the vision and optic nerve structure were larger in healthy eyes in people of African lineage. The size of the optic nerve “can sometimes confuse the diagnosis of glaucoma, since larger nerves can give a false impression of glaucoma.” The Los Angeles Latino Eye Study (LALES) found increased risk of open angle glaucoma among Latinos as well. LALES also indicated that blood pressure affects eye pressure, and that both high and low blood pressure can cause optic nerve damage causing vision loss from glaucoma. Another study revealed that the highest number of people with open angle glaucoma are “those aged to 79 years, women and non-Hispanic whites.” Early detection and treatment are critical to preventing vision loss from glaucoma. It is “important to consider whether you have other risk factors for open-angle glaucoma, including increasing age over 40, high eye pressure, a family history of glaucoma, very high or very low blood pressures, extreme nearsightedness, or diabetes.” This underscores the need for regular, comprehensive dilated eye exams, which detect changes in your vision. To find out more about glaucoma and how to protect your eyes, visit the website of the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health (NEI) here. For more information about glaucoma in the Black and Hispanic communities, read the Bright Focus Foundation article, “Glaucoma in the African American and Hispanic Communities”.

Trial of New “Goggles” Uses Electrical Pulses to Halt Progression of Glaucoma

A device that resembles “virtual-reality goggles” is being used in a research trial to explore its effectiveness in halting the progress of glaucoma. The goggles work by sending pulses of electricity to the optic nerve. This new form of treatment, which is backed by previous successful studies, “uses low-level electrical stimulation to promote nerve regeneration,” similar to how the body heals wounds, and triggers growth in the optic nerve. The trial is taking place at Konkuk University, South Korea among patients with glaucoma who will wear the goggles for 30 minutes daily for 16 weeks, with doctors monitoring changes in eye pressure and the thickness of nerve fibers. The goggles were developed by South Korea-based Nu Eyne. For more information about this technology and its use in medical treatment, read the piece from Cool Blind TechThese goggles deliver pulses of electricity to stop glaucoma.

March is National Women’s History Month

The theme of this year’s Women's History Month, “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope,” highlights the key role of caregivers and other frontline workers during the pandemic. It also recognizes how women throughout history have given both hope and healing, as explained by the National Women’s History Alliance. Following are two notable examples of women who are visually impaired:

Disability rights advocate Haben Girma works to “change attitudes about disability around the world, including the development of accessible digital services.” The first deaf-blind graduate of Harvard Law School, Girma has noted that part of the reason she became a lawyer was to increase access for individuals with disabilities to books and other digital materials. Named a “White House Champion of Change” by President Obama, Girma has received the “Helen Keller Achievement Award,” and a place on the Forbes “30 under 30” list, to name a few of her honors. She also published a book about her experiences, Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law. Girma began her career working with Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) in Berkeley, California and currently provides consulting and public speaking presentations on accessibility, diversity, and leadership, reaching major corporations across the nation. For more information, read the Wikipedia piece on Haben Girma or visit the website on her work: About Haben.

Sabriye Tenberken, co-founder of the international organization Braille Without Borders, lost her sight due to retinal disease, becoming totally blind by age 12. While at Bonn University in Germany, Tenberken studied Mongolian, modern Chinese, and modern and classical Tibetan, along with Sociology and Philosophy. She devised her own methods of studying, since “no blind student had ever before ventured to enroll in these kinds of studies.” Tenberken later expanded on her work to benefit others, developing Tibetan Braille, which became the official reading and writing system in Tibet for people who are blind. She also founded the Centre for the Blind in that nation and, in 2002, established Braille Without Borders, an organization that seeks to provide practical skills and teach braille to people in developing countries who are blind. To learn more about Tenberken’s work, check out the Wikipedia articles on Sabriye Tenberken and Braille Without Borders.

Scholarships for the Upcoming Year

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

As we continue to report on scholarship opportunities, here are two notable awards available for students with vision loss for the coming academic year:

The “Fred Scheigert Scholarship Program” from the Council of Citizens with Low Vision International (CCLVI), will grant three awards worth $3,000 each. To be eligible, students must be or plan to be full-time college or graduate students and have low vision, with 20/70 in the better eye with best possible correction, or a field no greater than 30 degrees. Applicants need to maintain at least a 3.2 GPA and be involved in school or local community activities. Applications must be submitted online and include a copy of transcripts from the school most recently attended, the CCLVI Eye Report Form completed by a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist, as well as two academic or professional letters of recommendation. It must also include a letter of acceptance from the school or the date the student expects to be notified of acceptance if attending a new school. The deadline to apply is March 29, 2022. Winners will be announced within 30 days. The students who receive the scholarships are expected to attend the ACB (American Council of the Blind) National Conference and Convention during the year in which the scholarship is applied. For more information, read the “2022 Scheigert Scholarship” page, here. If you are interested in this scholarship opportunity, check out the “Freshman Application Form”, here, or the “Undergraduate and Graduate Application Form”, here.

The “Disability Advocacy Scholarship” from the American Baby & Child Law Centers will award one student a $1,000 prize. To be eligible, students must be or plan to be full-time college students, graduate, or law students, who are planning to pursue career in law or public policy focused on disability advocacy. All applicants must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA. The deadline to apply online is 5:00 pm EDT (Eastern Daylight Time) on July 31, 2022. Applications must include the completed application form, a copy of academic transcripts, and an essay or creative project responding to a written prompt. A Gmail account is required to apply. The winning applicant will be notified and the $1,000 check will be sent directly to their school. The award recipient will be asked to include a short bio about themself, their university, and submit a photo for a press release regarding the scholarship. And if given permission by the winner, the ABC Law Centers will publish their essay along with the press release. Please be advised that this scholarship is not available to present or future clients of ABC Law Centers, owned by Reiter & Walsh, P.C. For more information regarding the full requirements and specifications for this scholarship, read the “ABC Law Centers Disability Advocacy Scholarship” page, here. If you are interested in this scholarship opportunity, fill out the application form, here.

“All the Light We Cannot See” Series Casts Student Who is Blind in Starring Role

When the casting call came for the Netflix series “All the Light We Cannot See,” being adapted from the book of the same name, the producers announced that actresses who are blind or have low vision are “especially encouraged to apply,” as reported in the RDPFS Resources for Partners Bulletin in September 2021. When the selection of Mia Loberti was announced, it was “welcomed by disabilities rights activists.” Loberti, who has a rare genetic eye condition called achromatopsia, reports that she is completely blind in some environments and has minimal vision in others. A student with no formal training in acting, Loberti is currently pursuing a PhD in Rhetoric at Penn State University after receiving her master’s degree Royal Holloway, University of London as a US-UK Fulbright Scholar. All the Light We Cannot See told the story of a blind teenager, Marie-Laure, in occupied France during World War II.  Shooting for the four-part adaptation of this Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling novel is slated to take place in Europe later this year. This casting decision has been cited by Lauren Appelbaum of Respectability, a nonprofit advocacy organization for people with disabilities, for its importance in changing “’stigmas surrounding what it means to be blind. Just because you’re blind doesn’t mean you can’t be an actress in a major role…It’s not overcoming blindness or in spite of being blind. She just happens to be blind and is going to play this role.’” For more information about Mia Loberti and this production, read the article in The Guardian: Untrained blind student lands starring role in Netflix second world war epic. And for more news about the full cast, check out the Town and Country piece:  Netflix's "All the Light We Cannot See" Adaptation Has Announced Its Cast.

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