Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

RDPFS Resources for Partners May 12, 2023

Soundscapes of 1920s America: Musical Concert Via Livestream and In Person on May 19, 2023

Join with musicians from The Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg Music School (“The Fil”) when they return to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 19, 2023 from 7 to 8:30  pm ET for “a showcase of inter-disciplinary performances.” This year’s concert is titled “Panorama of Sound,” with artwork from Thomas Hart Benton’s 1930 mural “America Today” selected for inspiration. Offered free of charge online as well as in-person in New York City with Museum admission, the performance includes verbal description. The Fil is a community school dedicated to helping people of all ages who have vision loss pursue their interests and study music. To watch the livestream, go to either of these links, to YouTube or Facebook. No registration or log in is required. For more information, visit “The Fil at The Met Concert: Panorama” webpages for The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The FMDG Music School.

Mental Health Awareness Month

by Connor Courtien, RDPFS Intern

Being part of the blind and low vision community often means having to be vigilant when it comes to health concerns. Many eye disorders share comorbidities with other illnesses, worsen with neglect, and can render it more difficult to detect symptoms of other health problems that are frequently observed visually, such as Lyme disease and cirrhosis. Most notable among the health issues that often remain overlooked regardless of one’s degree of sight, however, are those related to mental health. It’s significant to raise the issue during May, Mental Health Awareness Month, which according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) seeks to “fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for policies that support the millions of people in the U.S. affected by mental illness.” Mental health issues are especially relevant in relation to vision loss. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that one in four adults with visual impairments experience symptoms of anxiety or depression, compared to about one in six in the general population. This study also found that adults with a visual impairment under the age of 65 were five times as likely to report symptoms of anxiety or depression than those over the age of 65, potentially due to a lack of effective coping and self-management skills. These statistics, while concerning, imply that many mental health symptoms related to visual impairment can be helped through understanding and managing one’s eye condition. To ameliorate these issues, it’s best to learn as much as you can about your condition, meet with a therapeutic counselor, and explore how assistive devices can help maintain your quality of life. Read more about vision impairment and mental health in this CDC article, Vision Loss and Mental Health. Additional information on Mental Health Awareness Month can be found on the NAMI website, including the social media #MoreThanEnough campaign.

Peer Support Program for Vision Loss: Building Resilience Through Peer Connection

Losing vision, whether suddenly or gradually, can be highly stressful and sometimes traumatic, with many unknowns and new challenges to navigate. The process and accompanying emotions affect not only those facing vision loss, but also families and other loved ones who have their own adjustment needs. Although the need for emotional support services to help individuals and their families adjust to vision loss is substantial, relatively few such targeted services exist. Eye2Eye, a free, phone-based peer support program for individuals and families coping with vision loss, was developed in response to this pressing gap in services. The program currently resides within the Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Professions at Rutgers University School of Health Professions. Since first taking peer-to-peer calls in October 2019, the program has served nearly 500 clients from 40 states across the country and is growing steadily. Eye2Eye focuses on the shared experience of vision loss as a powerful tool for connection, coping, and personal growth. Callers are paired with partners who have varied backgrounds and degrees of vision loss. The program provides critical emotional support, key information and referrals, and helpful community linkages. Eye2Eye also offers virtual peer support groups, a workshop for individuals new to vision loss, and a new group for spouses and partners. Anyone interested in Eye2Eye’s peer support services can call (833) 932-3931 or email [email protected]. More information about the program can also be found on the website for the Eye2Eye Peer Support Program for Vision Loss.

Inherited Retinal Diseases Genetic Testing Week: May 15 to 21, 2023

To call attention to Inherited Retinal Diseases (IRDs) and genetic testing, Prevent Blindness has declared May 15 to 21, 2023 as the fourth annual IRD Genetic Testing Week. IRDs are a group of genetic conditions caused by a change, or mutation, in a gene that can result in severe vision loss or blindness. These conditions include Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), Choroideremia, Stargardt Disease, Cone-rod dystrophy, and Leber Congenital Amaurosis. Many gene variants that cause IRDs can now be identified with genetic testing. “Early detection and treatment can help to prevent significant vision loss.” Prevent Blindness offers a web resource on Inherited Retinal Diseases to increase awareness and educate people about IRDs and genetic testing, with educational videos, social media graphics, and fact sheets in English and Spanish.

Webinar on May 16, 2023: “Inherited Retinal Diseases and Children’s Eye Health: What You Need to Know”

A free webinar on May 16, 2023 at 3 pm ET will be held for parents and families, support organizations, school nurses, Head Start and other children’s program staff, early intervention and special education professionals, teachers of students with visual impairments, and primary and eye care providers. The forum is hosted by the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health at Prevent Blindness. Panelists include professionals in ophthalmology, optometry, research, vision rehabilitation, and pharmaceutical professionals as well as a patient and parent of children with IRDs. Register here for “Inherited Retinal Diseases and Children’s Vision and Eye Health: What You Need to Know.”

For more information about IRD Week and related resources, read the announcement entitled National nonprofit organization Prevent Blindness provides patients, care partners, and healthcare professionals with information and materials on IRDs and genetic testing.

Now Available: The Windows Screen Reader Primer: Second Edition: All the Basics and More

The second edition of The Windows Screen Reader Primer: All the Basics and More has been published by the Carroll Center for the Blind. Available free of charge in Word and ePub formats and authored by David Kingsbury, Assistive Technology Instructor at the Carroll Center, the book aims to help JAWS, NVDA, and Windows Narrator users to work more effectively with the most important PC applications. These include the Windows operating system, the four primary Office Suite applications (Word, Outlook, Excel and PowerPoint), and the three most commonly used web browsers (Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Mozilla Firefox). Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive for Desktop, the three most popular cloud-based file-sharing programs, are covered as well as Adobe Acrobat Reader for accessing PDF files. A new chapter on participating in, scheduling, and hosting Zoom meetings is included, along with an appendix on using academic style guides for formatting Word documents and a glossary with definitions of computer-related terms and practice exercises. The book is intended for beginners and intermediate users and those who train them. Experienced users of screen reader programs in the Windows environment can also find useful tools and techniques to enhance their skills. You can download the book and make a voluntary donation, if desired, to the Carroll Center at: Download The Windows Screen Reader Primer from the Carroll Center Store. Bookshare subscribers can download the book to their computer or smartphone. To access it from a computer, subscribers can go to: The Windows Screen Reader Primer on Bookshare and sign into their account. Or using the Bookshare Reader smartphone app, search for “Windows Screen Reader Primer,” and download it there.

A Smart Phone Built for Those Who Are Visually Impaired

by Connor Courtien, RDPFS Intern

Using a modern smart phone as a person with visual impairments can be a mixed experience. While they can help to facilitate independence in one’s daily life, particularly in travel and communication, applications aren’t consistent in their degree of accessibility. The mobile phone company BlindShell USA seeks to close this gap with their BlindShell Classic 2 product. Lighthouse Guild in New York City recently held a workshop in their technology center with representatives from BlindShell USA to go over how to use the phone and to demonstrate its features. The phone is rectangular, with a 2.83-inch large-print display and a physical keyboard, which includes textured buttons to help distinguish one from another. Above the keyboard are physical buttons for menu navigation, as well as a confirm and cancel button, which allow the user to operate the device with text-to-speech feedback every step of the way. Alternatively, the user can operate the device through voice commands, doing everything from navigation, opening a particular application, or texting and calling a contact. Central to the phone is the BlindShell App Catalog, which offers popular applications that have been engineered with visual accessibility in mind, taking apps such as Spotify, WhatsApp and Zoom and making them fully accessible. More apps are constantly being released over-the-air by BlindShell USA, with some recent additions including BARD and Google Lookout, which allows the user to use the phone’s 13-megapixel camera to read text and identify objects. The phone is unlocked, and is currently compatible with any carrier that uses T-Mobile’s network, including Mint Mobile, Boost Mobile, and of course, T-Mobile themselves. It’s available for purchase on the BlindShell USA website for $489, or for a discounted $439 for those who qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program. To purchase the phone or learn more about its features, check out the listings above.

Accessible Graduation Gift Ideas

by Connor Courtien, RDPFS Intern

Graduations mark the culmination of years of effort in a person’s life, concluding one chapter and beginning the next. For this reason, they are significant milestones worth celebrating. As we head into graduation season, here are some ideas for accessible cards and gifts to recognize the achievements of students in your life:

Tactile Vision Graphics offers several braille greeting cards, including those to commemorate a graduation. These cards include both braille and raised large print text for the cover, as well as for the message on the inside. One example has a cover image of a cap with a tassel, as well as a diploma, with text stating “Congratulations on your Graduation!” The message inside says “Wishing you success and happiness in your future endeavors.” Another option for an accessible card for graduation is a talking greeting card available from Talking Products, which allows you to record a 40-second voice message that plays when the card is opened. It comes with an on-off switch to conserve the battery, which can also be replaced, allowing the recipient to preserve the message forever.

As for gift ideas, there are many options depending on interest. For someone who enjoys playing games, consider getting them an accessible board game, such as Braille Deluxe Scrabble or Braille and Low Vision Monopoly. If they’re interested in tech, a digital assistant device such as an Amazon Echo or Apple HomePod can be a great gift. These devices offer a lot of utility, allowing the user to do multiple tasks, such as getting the news and weather, making purchases, and listening to music, to name a few. All of these actions are voice-operated, making them excellent options for those with visual impairments.

For more graduation card and gift ideas, check out these articles from VisionAware, Gift Ideas for People Who Are Blind or Low Vision, and the American Council of the Blind, Accessible Cards and Gifts.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day is May 18, 2023

Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), now in its 12th year, aims to “get everyone talking, thinking and learning” about the need to make accessibility and digital inclusion a core requirement on websites worldwide. More than one billion people around the world have disabilities, yet accessibility remains limited. Read more about the issues, this occasion, planned events, and learn about the GAAD Foundation and its efforts on the webpage about Harnessing the energy of Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

Honoring Mothers Who Have Vision Loss

In preparing for this weekend’s Mother’s Day celebrations, here are additional resources that might be of interest:

Blind Motherhood

After becoming legally blind more than a decade ago, Holly Bonner created the online resource Blind Motherhood to share her experiences and insights to help other mothers with vision loss parent safely and independently. Her site offers tangible tips and inspiration for all mothers, blind or sighted. Read more in the previous Bulletin article “Recognizing Moms Living with Vision Loss”.

Celebrating Mother’s Day as a Parent Who is Blind or Visually Impaired

A number of mothers with vision loss have also shared their thoughts about Mother’s Day with others through VisionAware. One of these, from Deanna Noriega, covers Jo Elizabeth Pinto’s book Daddy Won’t Let Mom Drive the Car. Pinto covers many aspects of her experiences as a blind mother, “capturing the joys and challenges of being a mother, the techniques she uses and the adventures she has raising Sarah.” Noreiga also recalls her experiences on motherhood with vision loss, which began when she was in the Peace Corps. Another post highlights the Fun and Joy of Motherhood, part of the “Laughter is the Best Medicine” series, offering “hilarious vignettes about eating out and shopping with kids.” For additional details about these and other stories, visit the webpage on Celebrating Mother's Day as a Blind or Visually Impaired Parent.

Happy Mother’s Day to All Who Celebrate!

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