… on May 25, 2022: Diabetes and Your Eyes
If you or someone you know is living with diabetes and would like to know how your health care providers work together to preserve your eyesight, tune into this upcoming webinar, on May 25, 2022 at 6 pm Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), sponsored by Prevent Blindness. The program will explain how providers coordinate care for individuals with diabetes, speak with each other, and consider the patient’s needs. Participating panelists include a person living with diabetes, leading doctors, and vision rehabilitation and research professionals who care for people with diabetes. For more information or to register, visit the Prevent Blindness listing for this Webinar: Diabetes and Your Eyes: A Conversation Around Patient-Centered Care.
...also on May 25, 2022: “Neuropsychological vs. Psychoeducational: Deciding Which Type of Evaluation You Need”
This session, offered by Adapt Community Network on May 25, 2022 at 10 am EDT, will consider the similarities and differences between these two evaluations to help to determine the most useful approach in developing education and treatment plans. To register, click on Neuropsychological vs. Psychoeducational: Deciding Which Type of Evalluation You Need.
…and on June 2, 2022, from 10 am – 12 pm EDT: “Sensory Smart Strategies for School Success”
Also from Adapt Community Network, this webinar will offer “real-life tips and proven techniques” to help students stay involved and “thrive in school.” Click here to RSVP for Sensory Strategies for School Success. You can also register by emailing [email protected] or calling (718) 436-7979, ext. 704.
The celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) on May 19th aims to stimulate the inclusion of accessibility as a “core requirement” in “the culture of technology and digital product development.” In 2021, the GAAD Foundation was launched to mark the tenth anniversary of GAAD and build on it, seeking to ensure that “Accessibility is built into the product lifecycle for technology and digital products.” This global initiative underscores the need to improve accessibility to include the more than one billion people worldwide with disabilities. GAAD points out that the most common causes of accessibility issues are low contrast text, missing image alt text, and empty links.
Virtual and in-person GAAD events are happening in many parts of the world, some of which continue or have not yet occurred. Still others are being recorded for future access. For example, on May 24th, a free webinar from AbilityNet at 1 pm London time/8 am Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), will consider global accessibility in terms of How leaders can build a culture of empathy. On June 2, 2022, from 4 to 5 pm Central European Summer Time (10 am EDT), the International Civil Society Centre, supported by Sightsavers, is joining with CivicTech Africa for a free Digital Dialogue event, number four in a series, entitled Ensuring Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities into the Digital Space. And a free, virtual “bootcamp,” by texthelp, offers to help participants to understand how to make websites and digital content more accessible through webinars, resources, and other tools. To learn more and sign up for their recommended five-day learning plan, available until June 30th, visit the listing for Digital Accessibility Bootcamp.
by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern
Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States, celebrated in May, seeks to break the stigma associated with mental health and treatment. Many people worry about their peers' and neighbors' perceptions of them when they seek mental healthcare. However, any type of discomfort or pain should be treated appropriately to feel better. First recognized by Mental Health America, this commemoration began in 1949. Clifford Whittingham Beers started this initiative based on the fact that every member of his large family suffered from mental illness. Having been hospitalized for mental illness, Beers wanted to end the stigma attached to mental healthcare and improve treatment of those affected. Many studies have found a connection between vision impairment and mental health. Some have suggested that “nearly one third of people with visual impairments and disabling eye diseases experience depressive symptoms.” Specific diagnoses are often associated with mental health issues. In one study, among newly diagnosed glaucoma patients, “roughly 35% of the study sample reported experiencing nervousness, anxiety, or stress…” People with vision issues are also often impacted by physical and other health problems which can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, and more. Age can be a factor as well. “Seniors with comorbid depression and vision impairment have higher rates of smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, and poorer evaluations of health, potentially resulting from depressive symptomology.” Some treatments have been developed to address these issues, although their availability and implementation have been limited. “Existing psychosocial interventions for improving mental health in people with visual impairment show some promise, but are limited by low adherence and lack generalizability.” It is important to “expand access to services to improve the detection and treatment of mental health problems” among those with visual impairment. To find out more about mental health and vision issues, check out the Clinical Ophthalmology journal article, "Visual Impairment and Mental Health: Unmet Needs and Treatment Options." Resources for those dealing with mental health issues are available from such sources as the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Helpline, MentalHealth.gov, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and SAMSA's (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Helpline. More information about Mental Health Awareness Month is included on the National Today webpage titled, "Mental Health Awareness Month - May 2022."
Building Mental Health-Friendly Workplaces: A Virtual Event on May 25, 2022
In honor of Mental Health Month, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is hosting a free virtual event on May 25, 2022, at 2 pm EDT. Participants will learn about the DOL’s efforts to promote “mental health-friendly workplaces” and their commitment to ensuring that workers have access to “the equitable and inclusive mental health services they need.” Guests include Marty Walsh, U.S. Secretary of Labor; Julie Su, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor; Ali Khawar, Acting Assistant Secretary, Employee Benefits Security Administration; and Taryn Williams, Assistant Secretary, Office of Disability Employment Policy. Learn more and register here for Building Mental Health-Friendly Workplaces.
by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern
Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month, commemorated in May, celebrates the cultural and historical contributions made to the United States by people and cultures from Asia, Hawaii, and Pacific Islanders, including Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week was established through a joint congressional resolution in 1978. In 1992, the recognition expanded to a monthlong celebration, now known as AANHPI or Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This year, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. issued his administration’s recognition of AANHPI, which can be read by clicking here for A Proclamation on Asian American, Native Hawaiian, And Pacific Islander Heritage Month, 2022. This occasion also provides an opportunity to highlight the importance of regular eye care.
Asian Americans and Glaucoma
by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern
Asian Americans are at greater risk for developing angle-closure glaucoma, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). “While less common than open-angle glaucoma, if untreated it can still cause irreversible vision loss.” Early detection and treatment are vital to maintaining healthy eyes and staving off vision loss. AAO recommends that adults of all ethnicities get regular eye exams, especially older adults and those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, known eye diseases, or high blood pressure. For more information about AANHPI Heritage Month, check out the History.Com website titled, “Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.” To learn more about the Asian communities and eye exams, please read the American Academy of Ophthalmology article, “Ethnicity and Eye Disease: A Risk Reminder for Asian-, African- and Latino-Americans.” For additional relevant facts and data, please check out the US Census Bureau's press release, "Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: May 2022."
Individuals ages 55 and older may be interested in attending the “Asian Support Group: A Virtual Support Group for Seniors,” taking place on May 24, 2022, from 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm EDT. For more information about the event and to enter, visit the Society for the Blind’s webpage titled, “Asian Support Group: A Virtual Support Group for Seniors.”
by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern
As mentioned in a previous Bulletin, on March 18, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a press release updating the guidance on web accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The update concerned how state and local governments (entities covered by ADA Title II) and businesses open to the public (covered by ADA Title III) must ensure that their websites are accessible to people with disabilities, as required under the ADA. However, since the ADA predates the internet, no regulatory standards exist to advise businesses on how to comply with the ADA. According to the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), “Although this (new DOJ) guidance links to commonly used accessibility standards, until the Department of Justice issues regulations clarifying what covered entities are required to do to meet their ADA obligations, many accessibility barriers will persist.” AFB also noted that it is important for the DOJ to consider how applications, such as those downloaded to a smartphone, are covered under the ADA. A bill introduced in the House of Representatives, H.R.1100, the Online Accessibility Act (which you can read here), would amend the ADA “to include consumer facing websites and mobile applications owned or operated by a private entity, to establish web accessibility compliance standards for such websites and mobile applications, and for other purposes.” This Act, if passed by Congress, would give businesses the roadmap needed to correct accessibility issues. The DOJ maintains that web accessibility for people with disabilities is a priority, and it may address this issue in the future and establish enforceable regulations. For more information about this issue, please read AFB’s article, “Justice Department Issues Web Accessibility Guidance Under the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
Moving Toward Early Identification of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Researchers from The University of Manchester (England) “have taken an important step towards finding a (new) treatment for age-related macular degeneration (ARMD)…” and “were able to identify early signs of the disease which could be targeted by new treatments before symptoms develop.” So states an article in Medical Xpress, citing a study published by PNAS (the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). Building on the knowledge that people with certain genetic factors are at greater risk of developing ARMD, scientists found higher incidences of “mast cells” in the eyes of those with the risk genes, even with no symptoms. Mast cells emerge as one of the first defenses of the immune system against infection. Although scientists have known that more mast cells exist in people known to have ARMD, this new finding identified elevated levels before the disease develops. This research was led by Paul Bishop, professor of ophthalmology at The University of Manchester, collaborating with Dr. Richard Unwin in Manchester and Prof Simon Clear, previously at Manchester, now at the University of Tübingen. Dr. Unwin explained the significance of this finding, stating that “This gives us a look into the very earliest stages, and gives us hope that we can intervene to stop the disease developing and ultimately prevent loss of vision.” For more details about this study read the article: A step closer to treatment for the most common form of blindness.
Vision Loss in Older Adults Often Mistaken for Cognitive Impairment
A new study released by the University of South Australia (UNiSA) reports that older people with vision loss are at risk of being misdiagnosed as having mild cognitive impairment. “Millions of older people with poor vision are at risk of being misdiagnosed with mild brain decline due to cognitive tests that rely on vision-dependent tasks.” Incorrect diagnoses can occur among many older people who have unidentified visual problems such as cataracts or age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). Study leader and UNiSA PhD candidate Anne Macnamara stated that “’A mistaken score in cognitive tests could have devastating ramifications, leading to unnecessary changes to a person’s living, working, financial or social circumstances.” Furthermore, the researchers noted that vision impairments are often overlooked in “research and clinical settings.” As the population continues to age, the study team emphasizes the need for neuro-degenerative researchers to “control for vision when assessing people’s cognition.” Macnamara noted that "'Mobile apps can now be used to overlay simulated visual impairments onto test materials when piloting their stimuli'" and that screening tasks can be conducted prior to having participants perform cognitive tests. Read more in the ScienceDaily article: Poor eyesight unfairly mistaken for brain decline. For the detailed study results, from Scientific Reports, read The effect of age-related macular degeneration on cognitive test performance.
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