Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

RDPFS Resources for Partners November 11, 2022

Veterans, Vision Loss, and Rehabilitation

Today, as we celebrate Veterans Day and thank all who have served in the armed forces for their contributions, we also acknowledge the incidence of vision loss in this population. In last week’s Bulletin, we recognized the services available to members of the military who are blind or have low vision, past and present through the articles Recognizing Veterans Day. In some cases, vision impairment has taken place during active duty; while for other service members, loss of vision occurs later in life. The following pieces provide some insights about vision loss, rehabilitation, and other items of note related to military service.

The Importance of Sports for Blind Veterans, and Vice Versa

by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern

While Veterans Day is a time to honor and appreciate our veterans’ service to our country, it is also a time to consider how programs for veterans are beneficial to those with disabilities who have not served. A prime example of this has been the creation and adaptation of various sports to be playable by those with diverse disabilities. Adaptive sports for veterans were the primary impetus for the formation of events like the Paralympic Games, as well as the spread of many sports well-loved in the vision loss community. Indeed, the game of goalball, the first sport to be designed specifically for those with vision impairments, was first invented in Austria and Germany as a rehabilitation tool for blinded World War II veterans. Those countries’ roles in that war notwithstanding, we can acknowledge that goalball is one of the most famous blind sports. In the United States, the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) lists many resources for rehabilitation, athletic and otherwise, as does a similar page from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In any case, not only should we thank our veterans for their service, but the blind community is also indebted to them for some of our favorite pastimes.

Glaucoma: A Leading Cause of Vision Loss Among Veterans

Among veterans over the age of 60, glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness. Keeping that in mind, as noted in an article in, U.S. Veterans Magazine, the “VA (Veterans Administration) is at the forefront of vision research and glaucoma is one of its top priorities.” One current study is aimed at predicting the “Development and Progression of Glaucoma.” Sponsored by the VA Rehabilitation, Research, and Development Division, this project builds on the recent discovery that glaucoma can impact the “development of a cellular immune response that can further reduce vision.”  Investigators are checking if the reaction of a blood sample can predict future vision loss and its impact on quality of life. Another study, from the Iowa City VA, uses artificial  intelligence as it “diagnoses the severity of glaucoma, detects the earliest signs of worsening vision and its response to treatment.” Enhancing the ability for early detection of patients at greater risk makes it possible to treat vision issues before damage occurs. Those experiencing vision loss also have access to Blind Rehabilitation Services (BRS) to preserve their quality of life. Veterans enrolled in VA health care can schedule eye exam appointments directly with Ophthalmology or Optometry specialists, without a referral from a primary care practitioner. Read more in the U.S. Veterans Magazine article on The Leading Cause of Blindness For Veterans.

“It’s Not Over In October:” Advancing Disability Inclusion Throughout the Year

by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern

Last Monday marked the conclusion of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), but by no means is its theme going away. On October 28, 2022, Renee Tajudeen, Supervisory Program Manager for the Policy Communications Outreach Division of the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), published a blog titled “Advancing Disability Inclusion All Year Round.” In addition to discussing major NDEAM events and accomplishments, this post mentions various ways that any organization can keep the focus on “disability, part of the equity equation” no matter the month. Highlights include meeting with your organization’s disability employee resource group or setting one up if it does not already exist, volunteering with organizations that prepare people with disabilities for work, and implementing disability training as a core element of onboarding. Tajudeen also links to another DOL page with more suggestions Year-Round Employer Strategies for Advancing Disability Inclusion.

World Diabetes Day is November 14, 2022: Access to Diabetes Education

Diabetes affects one in ten people worldwide. “Understanding the condition is the first step towards managing and preventing it.” In recognition of the World Diabetes Day 2022 focus on access to diabetes education, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) School of Diabetes has developed a new online education program to help individuals with the disease and those who care for them to “make informed decisions about their condition.” The program features free interactive courses, including an introduction to the condition and its complications and basic information about blood glucose control in preventing or delaying long-term complications, which include eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema. For more information, check IDF’s webpage About World Diabetes Day. IDF is also calling on policymakers to advance access to diabetes education. The organization asks people to support their call for action by sending letters to health or policy officials. For additional information and a sample letter, visit their webpage on Diabetes: education to protect tomorrow.

Virtual Programs on Diabetes, Low Vision, Apprenticeships, and More

Diabetes and Your Health Webinar: November 16, 2022

Participants who tune into the “Diabetes and Your Eye Health” webinar on November 16, 2022 at 1 pm ET (Eastern Time) will learn how diabetes impacts eye health. The program will cover diabetic eye diseases and what practices can help to protect eye health. It is being presented by Dr. Sherrol Reynolds, member of the planning group of NEHEP [the National Eye Health Education Program of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s National Eye Institute (NEI)] in collaboration with the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging, Inc. and the National Optometric Association. Visit the NEI webpage on National Diabetes Month to Learn how diabetes impacts your eye health and register here for the webinar on Diabetes and Your Health.

Living Well with Low Vision: Website and Webinar on November 16, 2022

If you, a family member, or loved one are living with vision loss and blindness, or work with individuals with vision loss, join Prevent Blindness on November 16, 2022 from 6 to 6:45 pm ET for a free webinar on the new “Living Well with Low Vision Resource.” The program will provide information on what low vision is and about resources that can “ease the burden of vision loss.” Participants will gain knowledge about the Living Well With Low Vision website, a resource for people living with vision loss as well as those providing care, including the accessibilty features of this new offering. Speakers will be Tracy Williams, OD, FAAO, executive director, Spectrios Institute and clinical professor, Department of Ophthalmology, Loyola University, who will also serve as moderator; Virginia A. Jacko, president and CEO, Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visualy Impaired; Ken West, senior director of Communications, Prevent Blindness; and Dan Roberts, editor, Living Well With Low Vision and patient advocate with Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).  For more information, visit the web listing for the: Webinar: Introducing a New Low Vision Resource from Prevent Blindness. And register here for this virtual event.

Apprenticeship Intermediary Webinar: November 15, 2022

In celebration of National Apprenticeship Week, which goes from November 14 to 20, 2022, the Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth (CAPE-Youth) will host a webinar on November 15, 2022 at 4 pm ET with “apprenticeship intermediaries,” which are organizations that have the “capacity, expertise, and network to help businesses successfully create, launch, and expand apprenticeship programs.” This year marks the 85th anniversary of the passing of the National Apprenticeship Act of 1937, which created the Registered Apprenticeship Program. During the webinar, the participating organizations will review the evolution of apprenticeships generally, and, specifically, for people with disabilities. The discussion will include inclusive apprenticeships, with speakers describing their efforts to advance these efforts and “best practices to ensure apprenticeships are inclusive of youth and young adults with disabilities.” Learn more from the OFA (Office of Family Assistance) Peer TA (Technical Assistance) website here about the Apprenticeship Intermediary Webinar and visit The Council of State Governments listing and register here for the Zoom webinar.

An Evening with Disability Justice Advocate and Human Rights Lawyer Haben Girma: November 17, 2022

Haben Girma, lawyer, disability rights advocate, and author of Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law, will discuss accessibility, diversity, and leadership on November 17, 2022 at 6:30 pm ET at a program being held virtually and at Lighthouse Guild in New York City. Her work was cited in the March 11, 2022 Bulletin and her memoir has been featured in The New York Times, Oprah Magazine, and the TODAY Show. Visit the Lighthouse Guild website to register for An Evening with Haben Girma.

Guide to Accessible Holiday Gift Options: A Webinar on November 17, 2022
As the holiday gift-giving season approaches, APH (American Printing House for the Blind) staff and guest presenters will talk about accessible options for family, friends, or colleagues who are blind or have low vision at a webinar on November 17, 2022 from 7 to 8 pm ET. Gifting choices for children and adults will be discussed. Find out more and register here for Gift Giving for the Holidays.

Free Virtual Technology Fair, November 22, 2022

by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern

The Carroll Center for the Blind is holding its annual Technology Fair, both online and live in Newton, Massachusetts, on November 22, 2022. This event’s purpose is to help those with vision loss, their families and friends, and professionals in the field to “discover innovative technology that can make an immediate impact” and allow people to live as independently as possible. Various venders will give presentations, followed by in-person breakout rooms where individuals can go to focus on any particular product from “assistive technology exhibitors.” The virtual presentations will take place from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM, in-person exhibits from 10 am to 2 pm, and virtual breakout rooms from 3 pm to 5 pm. Presentation topics include Google Workspace with screen readers; smart speakers in the home: top smartphone apps of 2022; Windows screen reader tips and tricks; and benefits of the use of smartphone apps. To date, 17 venders will be represented either in person or in virtual breakout rooms. The full list of exhibiters includes a wide range of products and services, from the OrCam reader, Envision products for people with low vision, Biped smart technology, and Pneuma Solutions accessible technology to Non-24 Vanda Pharmaceuticals, local eye care services, the Perkins School for the Blind, the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), Computers for the Blind, and more. The presentations will be available virtually via Facebook livestream. Registration is encouraged, but not required; the link to register is here.

New Study Links Demographic Factors and Other Social Determinants of Health with Visual Impairment

by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern

A recent study published in JAMA Ophthalmology finds a correlation between various social determinants of health (SDOH) and severe visual impairment (SVI). According to an article from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, social determinants of health are defined as “the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.” The objective of the study was to inform providers and insurers of priority populations and needs groups to develop more comprehensive eye care for those groups. Findings showed that race/ethnicity, employment status, socioeconomic status, and health care coverage all “correlated with higher odds of SVI.” More than 800,000 people voluntarily responded to the survey, which was conducted by telephone between January 2019 and December 2020. Of the respondents, 53.07 percent were female, and 5.17 percent reported some degree of visual impairment. Among the findings, the incidence of SVI was significantly higher among American Indian/Alaska Native, black or African-American, Hispanic and multiracial respondents than among those who identified as non-Hispanic white. The study also found a correlation between a household income of below $35,000 and increased incidence of SVI, as well as a marked decrease in incidence as incomes rose above $50,000. Those with the greatest likelihood of SVI had incomes of $10,000 or below, while those with the lowest incidence earned $75,000 or above. More respondents had SVI who did not complete high school compared to those who did; were unemployed for a year or more, retired, or unable to work; were widowed, separated or divorced; had a mental health diagnosis or self-reported mental health problems for at least half of each month; and had no health care coverage or could not afford to see a physician. More information is available in JAMA Ophthalmology’s abstract of the study on the "Association of Socioeconomic, Demographic, and Health Care Access Disparities With Severe Visual Impairment in the US" and a summary from AJMC (the American Journal of Managed Care) titled “Social Determinants of Health Associated with Severe Visual Impairment.” The full text of the study can be viewed by creating a free account under the JAMA Ophthalmology link above.

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