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RDPFS Resources for Partners May 19, 2023

“Advancing Access and Equity” Announced as Theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2023

Marking two major events, the U.S. Department of Labor has announced the theme established by its Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) to promote and honor both National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: “Advancing Access and Equity: Then, Now and Next.” Each year a theme is selected to lead up to and celebrate NDEAM in October, to underscore the importance of the vital contributions made by individuals with disabilities to the nation’s workforce. ODEP extends the celebration this year to recognize the passage of the Rehabilitation Act a half-century ago, the first legislation to deal with access and equity for individuals with disabilities. This landmark law prohibited discrimination based on disability in employment by federal agencies and contractors, those receiving federal funds, and in delivering “federally funded programs and activities.” To mark these occasions, Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy Taryn M. Williams explained that “from now through October, we will be exploring the act’s impact on everything from employment to community living to non-discrimination to accessible technology.’” For additional details, read the ODEP press release: US Department of Labor Announces 2023 Themes to Promote Importance of Advancing Disability Employment, Honor Landmark Legislation’s Anniversary. Learn more here about ODEP, including how organizations can participate in NDEAM.

Driving Success in Employment with Accessibility and Accommodations in the Federal Workplace: A Webinar on May 23, 2023

What are the most effective approaches when seeking to create an inclusive work environment? Are your agency’s accessibility efforts “siloed or wholistic?” These questions will be addressed during a webinar on “Accessibility and Accommodations in the Federal Workplace: Driving Success in Employment and Performance,” taking place on May 23, 2023 from 1 to 2:30 pm ET. This session can be beneficial for coordinators of Section 508 (part of the Rehabilitation Act, requiring federal agencies to ensure accessibility of information and communication technology) as well as IT Specialists, Reasonable Accommodations Specialists, and Disability Program Managers. Attendees can gain insights that can help to foster an accessible work environment that removes barriers to career advancement. Speakers include a senior manager and accessibility specialist with disabilities who will describe their experiences and how their careers benefited from coordination of their individual needs and system access. Best practices to achieve goals with cross collaboration will be covered, along with information about accessibility resources and strategies. Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) and real-time captioning will be provided. The program is sponsored by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) National Network. More information and a registration link are available on the Great Lakes ADA Center website here for Accessibility and Accommodations in the Federal Workplace: Driving Success in Employment and Performance.

Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

by Connor Courtien, RDPFS Intern

During May, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, “our Nation celebrates the diversity of cultures, breadth of achievement, and remarkable contributions of these communities,” as noted by President Biden in a recent presidential proclamation on the celebration. Originally signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in 1978 as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week, Congress expanded the observance to the full month of May in 1992. May was chosen to commemorate the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States on May 7, 1843, as well as the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The work for the railroad was largely done by Chinese immigrants, serving as the backbone of American transportation for nearly a century. You can read more about the commemoration on the website for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and be sure to read President Biden’s full proclamation here.

While this month celebrates people from a wide variety of nations, such as India, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Guam, and Samoa, one disease affecting eye health that has a higher prevalence among this entire population is Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada syndrome (VKH). The commemoration provides an opportunity to heighten awareness of the condition and the importance of early identification. An autoimmune disease, VKH can impact many parts of the body, including the skin, ears, meninges (tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord), as well as the eyes. It develops over the course of years, primarily causing damage to the retina, which can lead to retinal detachment. Fortunately, many individuals show improvement with treatment, and it can be caught early with regular visits to an eye doctor. To learn more about VKH, check out this entry on VKH on the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeWiki.

Photophobia: Protect Your Eyes Properly This Summer

by Connor Courtien, RDPFS Intern

With summer approaching, and as popular outdoor activities get into full swing, it’s important to remember to protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. When venturing outdoors, everyone should be sure to wear sunglasses that have 100 percent UVA and UVB protection. In excess, UV rays are harmful to the eyes, may cause cataracts, and are also linked with other eye conditions such as macular degeneration. This is especially relevant for those with conditions that include photophobia as a symptom, meaning that signals sent from the retina to the brain are interpreted as pain. With photophobia (also referred to as light sensitivity), the greater the level of light or UV rays, the more likely the individual is to experience discomfort or distorted vision. If you have an eye condition that renders you photophobic, consider visiting an eye doctor to discuss getting special photophobia glasses. These glasses differ from regular sunglasses by having wider arms and top panels to help block light from entering the eyes. In addition, while conventional tinted glasses usually have dark brown or grey lenses, photophobic glasses commonly have FL-41 (referring to the degree of fluorescence) lenses that are tinted pink or red, allowing for protection from blue-green light while maintaining greater visual clarity. You can learn more about photophobia in this article from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Photophobia: Looking for Causes and Solutions. Be sure to look at this article about photophobia glasses from Lensmart,  “How to find the right photophobia glasses?”, as well.

Resources for Parents of Children with Cortical Visual Impairments

by Connor Courtien, RDPFS Intern

With Mother’s Day observed this past Sunday and Father’s Day approaching, this is a good opportunity to recognize those parents whose children have a Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) by sharing some resources that describe how they manage the challenges they face in what can ultimately be a rewarding experience. Having CVI means a child can’t properly interpret the visual information sent to their brain, though their eyes might be without impairment. Since there are no distinguishable features of the eyes, it can be hard to diagnose, and children can have difficulty communicating to parents how their impairment manifests. Children can become frustrated and upset with this experience, and parents, feeling unequipped to help, may blame themselves. Parents also have to act as the primary advocates for their child’s needs, and this can lead to additional self-doubt when working with educational and medical professionals. However, in an article from Perkins School for the Blind, titled “CVI parenting with self-compassion,” Jessica Marquardt, a CVI mother and creator of Kaleidoscope: The CVI Podcast, suggests parents treat themselves with more compassion and empathy, describing her own efforts in doing so. “Ongoing adversity has contributed to my overreactions to stress. It’s taken me a decade to realize I need to do something about it. I’m turning to self-compassion with limited success — due to user error.” She writes how this is important not only for the parent, but also to model positive coping mechanisms for their child. “We need self-compassion, and our children need it too. They will have many challenges to overcome and a model of self-compassion will be essential.” Some tips for self-compassion and self-care are found in another Perkins article, “The essential self-care guide for CVI parents,” including scheduling time for yourself to exercise, talking to a therapist, or having a night out with friends. Another important tip is to remember that children with CVI can get fatigued and overwhelmed easily as they struggle to process their environment. While it’s essential to help them cope, the child's reactions don’t reflect your ability as a parent. You can read more about the experience of being the parent of a CVI child, and tips for navigating it in the articles above.

Blindness and Glaucoma Webinar: June 16, 2023

Join Accessible Pharmacy Services for the Blind for this free, upcoming webinar on June 16, 2023 at 12 pm ET. Expert presenters will be Elena Sturman, president and chief executive officer of The Glaucoma Foundation; and Aakriti Shukla, MD, assistant professor of Ophthalmology at Columbia University Medical Center. More information is available here for the Blindness and Glaucoma Webinar. And register here for the program.

More About Accessible Pharmacy Services

Accessible Pharmacy Services provides medication via home delivery and specializes in serving individuals with disabilities. They are “the largest blind-owned healthcare company in the country and the only provider of its kind.” Anyone interested in learning more or signing up can call them at 1-888-633-7007 and speak with a Care Coordinator who can arrange for the service. Prospective patients can also connect through the Be My Eyes Specialized Help section or by contacting [email protected].

Podcasts Now Available Via Phone

Podcasts from Hadley, providing audio talk shows free of charge on a wide range of topics related to vision loss, can now be enjoyed on the telephone, in addition to online. Hadley Presents covers such topics as “Bioptics for Driving and More,” “Birding with Vision Loss,” “ScripTalk: Text to Speech for Medication Labels.” With Insights & Sound Bites, individuals with vision loss share what has helped them cope and adjust, from “It’s Okay to Ask for Help,” to “I Rebuilt My Skills,” “I Chose to Educate Myself,” to name a few. To listen to these podcasts via phone, call 847-558-1317.

A Webinar on Accessible Exterior Routes and Surfaces: Recording Available

People who use mobility devices and canes can more readily navigate pathways to buildings that have accessible route and ground surfaces from the site arrival to the entrance. These areas need to comply with technical requirements in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) Standards. A recent webinar from the U.S. Access Board, which was recorded, addressed the ADA and ABA Accessibility Standards for exterior routes and surfaces, including the differences in requirements for building sites, outdoor recreation areas, trails, and beaches. Accessibility Specialists participating in the session also shared information on thoughts related to stable, firm, and slip-resistant surfaces in the outdoor environment, including playground surfaces. They highlighted specific instances regarding the implementation of legislation. For example, accessible entryways to buildings now must be located near the building entrance, rather than around the corner or rear, which had often been the case previously. The program provided video remote interpreting (VRI) and real-time captioning. This series of webinars, held each month, is hosted by the ADA National Network in cooperation with the Board. More background information and a link to the full webinar are available here for Accessible Exterior Routes and Surfaces.

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