Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

RDPFS Resources for Partners May 27, 2022

From the Desk of Jason Eckert, Executive Director, Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation

Taking On The World

I must admit it, I loved college. At this time of year, I reminisce about my own experience and think about this year’s graduates, the class of 2022. Wearing the cap and gown, hearing an inspiring commencement speech, getting a diploma, and feeling confident that the knowledge one has gained has prepared them for a bright future.  What a wonderful feeling…

To all who are graduating, congratulations!  You have accomplished something great.  You deserve recognition and have earned this celebration.

I do wish to highlight two groups of graduates. First, those who have chosen a field of study relevant to, and plan to pursue a career in, the blind and vision impaired (BVI) community.  All the Teachers of the Vision Impaired, Orientation and Mobility Specialists, Vision Rehabilitation Therapists, Low Vision Doctors, Rehabilitation Counselors, Social Workers, Disability Lawyers, and so on. Thank you for joining our community and sharing your skills and expertise with us. The BVI community needs you, welcomes you, and looks forward to working and growing together.

Second, I want to acknowledge those who successfully attended undergraduate or graduate school, earning a degree while living with vision loss and blindness. All who read this bulletin know how hard you had to work to accomplish this goal.  Achieving in college, even with accommodations, is not an easy feat. The mainstream college classroom remains a visual environment which is challenging to navigate with vision loss. I recognize the extra time and energy you put in, the courage and grit you put forth just to get an equal footing with your sighted classmates.  Believe me, I know. Your graduation is a testament to the content of your character as well as your intellectual abilities. I also know that as you begin your employment journey, your character and intellect will be tested again and again. I can’t wait to see you in action, showing everyone what it means to be a member of the BVI community and exemplifying all that a person living with vision loss can achieve. Now go out there and take on the world.

Summer Tips for Healthy Eyes

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

As the school year concludes and summer approaches, many people will be venturing outside to enjoy fun in the sun. Before hitting the pool or beach, please remember that proper eye care and protection are essential. Excessive sun exposure can be harmful to your body, especially your eyes. Here are a few tips to enjoy summertime activities safely, by protecting your eyes.

When going outside, use proper sunglasses. The eyes can get “sunburned” through a condition called photokeratitis, which can cause severe eye pain and even temporary blindness. Sun can also cause glare, making it more difficult to see, especially for individuals with eye conditions where glare sensitivity may be an issue, such as macular degeneration or glaucoma. To avoid eye damage, wear sunglasses that provide protection from ultraviolet (UV) rays including those that block both UVA and UVB rays, which are responsible for sunburn, that can damage the eyes and skin. UV sunglasses with 400 UV Protection are excellent for outdoor activities because they block out nearly 100% of the sun’s damaging rays. It is also worth noting that glasses with a blue tint should not be used outdoors as they emit UV light which can damage the eyes. When choosing sunglasses, polarized lenses are best to reduce glare. And brown, grey, green or yellow lenses reduce color distortion.
For extra eye protection, pair your UV blocking sunglasses with a hat or visor to block sunlight from reaching your eyes and cover areas that sunglasses may miss. Also, remember that cloudy weather doesn’t mean UV rays aren’t reaching your eyes, so always protect your eyes when going outside for extended periods of time. Excessive sunlight can increase your risk of developing cataracts as well as age-related macular degeneration.
For water-related activities, it is important to wear eye protection as well. When going to the pool, in the ocean, or any body of water, wear goggles. Goggles protect your eyes from chemicals like chlorine and from bacteria in the water which could cause eye irritation or infection. When choosing goggles, select the proper size to cover your eyes fully, with no gaps, to prevent water from getting into the eyes. When you are done with water-related activities, splash your face with clean water to wash away any remnants of sea or pool water. It is also a good idea to carry eye drops to use after swimming. Check with your eye care professional to see what kind of drops are right for you, whether they are available over-the-counter or through a prescription.

So when you go outside this summer, protect your eyes. You’ll be glad you did. For more information about proper eye care during the summer read the Nevada Blind Children's Foundation article, "Eye Care Tips for Summer." You may also read The University of Chicago Medical Center’s article, "Can your eyes get sunburned? 10 answers to your biggest summer eye care questions" or the Cleveland Clinic's Health Essentials article, "How to Choose the Best Sunglasses for Your Eye Health - They’re more than a fashion statement."

Anticipated Growth of the Global Adaptive Equipment Market for Individuals Who Are Visually Impaired

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

In the past, people who were blind or had visual impairments relied primarily on simple devices, such as the magnifying lens, during their daily activities. The advent of assistive technology has expanded available options to include electronic and digital magnification devices, apps, software, and other products and tools that help to improve the lives of people with visual impairments. ”These technologies can be high tech or low tech, which can range from smart canes, wearables, reading helpers, and lever doorknobs to voice recognition software and augmented communication devices (speech generating devices).” Many developments have occurred in the past two years, from Freedom Scientific's RUBY 10, a 10-inch touchscreen, video magnifier with text to speech and advanced viewing modes, to Eyedaptic, Inc.'s Eye3, augmented reality eyewear for people with low vision, and more. Increased prevalence and awareness of visual impairments, the latter through social media and other platforms, has fueled growing demand for assistive technology. Dozens of companies dominate this “emerging but competitive” field. In the coming years, this growing market “is expected to gain further momentum,” as additional smart technologies are developed and upgraded, and more money is invested into the market, along with “a favorable regulatory landscape.” It is anticipated that the “global Vision Impairment Devices Market” will grow at a rate of 8 percent by 2026. For more details, check out the Medi-Tech Insights article, "Global Vision Impairment Devices Market – Fuels the Eye Care Revolution."

Beauty Products are Becoming More Accessible

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

Shopping for beauty and personal care products can be tricky if you are living with vision loss. Identifying products on shelves and figuring out how to open and use them can be frustrating. Now, “the beauty sector is showing signs of taking action,” according to a Vogue Business article entitled “Beauty’s accessibility shift: Inside the new priority.” One example is progress made by the giant consumer products company Proctor & Gamble (P&G), whose accessibility leader Sumaira Latif lost most of her vision to retinitis pigmentosa by the age of 16. Latif advocates internally and externally to improve beauty offerings for consumers with disabilities. P&G has launched a People with Disabilities network, where employees with disabilities can share experiences with each other and with the company, to help break down access barriers to their brands. Employees and consumers with disabilities are being included in product design, packaging, and marketing. Partnerships with other businesses also help to “expand opportunity and provide accessibility and inclusion…”  Practical advances include P&G’s introduction in October 2021 of Navilens technology on Pantene products, using QR codes scanned by a smartphone app to provide product information audibly. Also, tactile markings on Herbal Essences shampoos and conditioners make them easier to identify. Other companies are also making strides in inclusivity and accessibility. Unilever-owned Degree has introduced a prototype “Degree Inclusive (deodorant) that removes the need to twist off a cap, turn a stick or push down on an aerosol,” making it easier to use by those with vision loss or upper limb motor disabilities. The indie brand Guide Beauty uses universal design principles to create “makeup that is easy to apply regardless of a user’s dexterity, grip or skill level.” For more information, please read the Vogue Business article, “Beauty’s accessibility shift: Inside the new priority," or the ABC News article, “Degree Inclusive deodorant is designed for people with disabilities and visual impairment.” For more information about Navilens, check out their website, here. To use Navilens, download it in the Google Play store, here, or in the Apple App Store, here.

Colleges and Universities Invited to Participate in Workforce Recruitment Program

The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) connects employers nationwide, from the public and private sectors, with “highly motivated college students and recent graduates with disabilities who are eager to demonstrate their abilities in the workplace through summer or permanent jobs.” Colleges and universities are invited to sign up to participate in fall 2022 applications for this recruitment and referral program. In addition to increasing job and internship prospects, WRP provides resources such as resume writing and interviewing skills to students, and professional training webinars with WRP staff. The program also helps to advance a school’s diversity and inclusion initiatives by “growing the relationship between your career, disability, and veterans services offices” and fosters collaboration with other colleges and universities to share best practices regarding the management of WRP. To provide students access to the WRP, college or university staff need to register their school before June 30, 2022. WRP is managed by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Diversity Management Operations Center (DMOC). For additional information and to participate, visit the listing for Colleges and University staff: Register for the Workforce Recruitment Program and to learn about the WRP click here.

Recruiting Veterans for Digital Accessibility Usability Studies

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

As Memorial Day approaches, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is recruiting veterans for usability studies concerning its websites, mobile applications, and other digital tools in order to make exploring, applying for, managing, and tracking VA benefits easier. VA teams seek feedback from veterans, transitioning service members, families and/or caregivers regarding improvements made to its platforms to gauge ease of use and relevance. Most of the studies are online and it’s easy to sign up and participate. Studies typically conclude in an hour or less and are scheduled during business hours in the Eastern time zone. Some studies may require specific eligibility criteria. If you are interested in participating, you may register and fill out the eligibility questionnaire, here. Participants will receive a $5 Amazon coupon code as a thank you gift. If you are eligible for the study, you will be invited, via email, to studies that match your characteristics. Those who complete studies will receive compensation for their time. For more information, please read the Veteran Usability website page entitled "We are recruiting for user experience studies with the VA.".

Tips and Techniques for Eye Drop Users Who Are Blind to be Covered in Free Webinar on June 22, 2022

Accessible Pharmacy Services for the Blind invites participation in an "Eye Drop Webinar" on June 22, 2022 beginning at 12 pm Eastern Time. Among the speakers are experts from The Chicago Lighthouse, including Dr. Kelly Scherer, a low vision optometrist and Director of Clinical Services, and Laura Hayes, Director of Occupational Therapy services, as well as from the Accessible Pharmacy. They will discuss tips and techniques for eye drop use and trends in related legislation. If you cannot attend, you can receive access to the audio and video from the webinar after the event by registering. Learn more by clicking here for the Eye Drop Webinar. You can register for the Blindness and Eye Drop Webinar here.

Recognizing the Connection Between Stroke and Vision Loss During Stroke Awareness Month

The goal of National Stroke Awareness Month, recognized each May in the U.S., is to increase public awareness of stroke and how Americans may be able to “’Save a Life’” of a person who is experiencing this medical event. According to the American Stroke Association, approximately 65 percent of stroke survivors may have vision problems. These difficulties can affect visual field, such as homonymous hemianopia, which involves the loss of vision in the right or left half of the visual field in both eyes. The neurological impact of stroke can cause visual challenges as well. For example, neglect, or spatial inattention, can cause people to be unaware of and unresponsive to objects on the “stroke-affected side.” Visual changes that occur after a stroke may be permanent or can improve over time. To manage changes, those affected can be evaluated by eye doctors (ophthalmologists and optometrists), neurologists, and neuro-ophthalmologists and neuro-optometrists. These specialists can develop a treatment plan, which may involve rehabilitative therapies that can help survivors regain as much function as possible. Information about the monthly observance is available from WhatHealth’s piece on Stroke Awareness Month - May 2022. For more details on vision issues, read the Johns Hopkins Medicine Wilmer Eye Institute article on Stroke-Related Vision  Loss and the American Stroke Association fact sheet entitled Let's Talk About Stroke and Vision Changes.

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