From the Desk of Jason Eckert, Executive Director, Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation
It’s easy to get caught up in our day-to-day lives. We go to work, pay bills, take care of family, do household chores, go to bed, wake up, and do it all over again.
In the midst of our daily lives it’s easy to overlook and forget to appreciate the people around us; those in our lives who make that daily routine worthwhile. It is hard to admit, but I don’t express my gratitude to all who support me in my personal and professional life nearly enough.
Fortunately, there are days when we can’t avoid noticing and appreciating our friends, colleagues, and family who lift us up, give us hope, and inspire us.
Thanksgiving is one of those days.
When I take the time to pause and think about it, I’m overwhelmed by how many things make me grateful. Like many of us in the nonprofit or government blindness services sector, I am fortunate to love my work. Every day I am surrounded by a team of dedicated individuals in the blind and vision impaired community working to make this world a better place for those living with vision loss.
I’m grateful for all who support Readers Digest Partners for Sight Foundation as donors, contractors and other business associates, staff members, subscribers to Select Editions Large Type, and nonprofit agency grantees. Your partnership serves as inspiration to drive the community forward.
Collectively, we are exploring new ways to support each other and our joint mission to assist those who are experiencing vision loss to lead independent lives. By doing this together we can be more effective in improving the communities we serve. That you trust us to be part of the journey with you is gratifying.
On this day of giving thanks, and every day throughout the year, we at Readers Digest Partners for Sight Foundation are extremely grateful for you.
New Podcast Discusses Inclusive Apprenticeships for People with Disabilities
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
Since this week is National Apprenticeship Week (November 14-20, 2022), it seems appropriate to report on the collaboration between the Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship (PIA) and leading human resources (HR) blog workology.com in producing the Apprenticeship for All Podcast. This offering focuses on how inclusive apprenticeships help people with disabilities find and retain employment. An initiative of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) since 2020, PIA works with employers and apprenticeship intermediaries to design programs enabling people with disabilities to enhance skills while also meeting employer talent requirements. The show’s host, Workology’s Jessica Miller-Merrell, interviews a diverse array of guests with disabilities on how inclusive apprenticeships helped them achieve their career objectives. Examples include the most recent episode on how a military veteran’s apprenticeship helped her to find a career in cybersecurity; another on how apprenticeship helped a neurodivergent person gain marketable skills in internet technology (IT); and a conversation between colleagues with various disabilities, including visual impairment, on what employers and coworkers can do to bring about an inclusive work environment. Other episodes feature interviews with experts and consultants on the impacts of inclusive apprenticeships. For example, one episode covered apprenticeships in nontraditional sectors, another apprenticeships for veterans with disabilities, and a third highlighted how inclusive apprenticeships in IT can alleviate talent shortages. The podcast is available here as well as on all the major podcast apps.
New Data Collection Program Launched for the Usher Syndrome Community
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
The Usher Syndrome Coalition (USC) has announced a new data collection platform (DCP) for those living with the condition. The leading cause of genetic combined blindness and deafness, Usher Syndrome is a rare inherited condition. The new program, a collaboration with nonprofit organization RARE-X, a global data sharing platform for rare disease, will help to accelerate research into new and improved drugs, therapies, and devices through voluntary participation. RARE-X takes on hosting, governance, and security duties for the DPC at no cost to the user. Goals of the new platform include:
giving those with Usher Syndrome the ability to join clinical trials;
providing better data for use in clinical trials, as well as enabling the use of data, rather than patients, as a placebo;
giving researchers an idea of how Usher Syndrome changes over time; and
expediting the process for studying new medicines and for getting treatments to people who need them.
DCP’s work complements that of the Ush Trust, which connects the USC and researchers with people and families in the Usher community. The two serve different purposes: the Ush Trust is a simple registry program for the USC, whereas the DPC connects the community with research efforts, clinical trials and treatments. A webinar detailing the usage and benefits of this new program was held on November 16, 2022, and the recording will be made available on the USC’s website. Here is the link to join the new Data Collection Platform.
November 14-20, 2022 is Thyroid Eye Disease Week
Thyroid Eye Disease (TED) Awareness Week, from November 14 to 20, 2022, aims to increase knowledge and understanding of this autoimmune disorder. With TED, the immune system causes inflammation and swelling and triggers muscle tissue and fat production. Prevent Blindness offers free educational materials about the disease, risk factors, and treatment options to patients, caregivers, and health professionals, including fact sheets, social media graphics in English and Spanish, and a webpage. TED may cause eye pain, double or blurred vision, vision loss, and changes to physical appearance which can have a negative impact on quality of life. Some people also “experience depression anxiety, loss of independence, and reduced self-confidence.” For more information check out the press release announcing that "Prevent Blindness Declares Third Annual Thyroid Eye Disease (TED) Awareness Week." An episode of the Focus on Eye Health Expert Series on Thyroid Eye Disease is available as well, featuring Prevent Blindness President and CEO Jeff Todd interviewing Sara Wexler, MD, FACS, professor of clinical ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, and TED patient Stephen Bander.
Upcoming Free Webinars
Automatic and Power-Assisted Doors and Accessibility: December 1, 2022
Doors and entrances in general are key elements of access along routes and to buildings, rooms, and other spaces. This session, taking place on December 1, 2022 from 2:30 to 4 pm ET, will cover the requirements included in standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) on accessible routes for entrances and doors when they are automatic or power assisted. Presenters will review the specifications regarding such operations as opening speed, safety features, sensors and activation devices, labeling, and more. The program will include video remote interpreting and live captioning. Questions can be submitted ahead of time or during the session. For more information or to register, visit the Great Lakes ADA webpage on Accessibility Online session on Automatic and Power-Assisted Doors.
Sight Tech Global: December 7-8, 2022
This webinar is the first worldwide, virtual conference seeking to “foster discussion among technology pioneers” about how the rapid advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and related technology will “fundamentally alter the landscape of assistive technology and accessibility.” The program, entitled “Shaping New Technologies to Create a More Accessible World for People with Blindness and Visual Impairments,” will feature panels and demonstrations with leading technologists, researchers, designers, and advocates, along with “expert moderators” who are editors and notable people in improving accessibility in the blindness community. Key speakers are Matt King, accessibility technical program manager with facebook; Saqib Shaikh, co-founder of Seeing AI, and Jutta Treviranus, director of the Inclusive Design Research Centre. Learn more here about Sight Tech Global and register here. And check out the TechCrunch webpage on the Sight Tech Global 2022 Agenda.
Accessible Holiday Ideas, Part 1: Crafts from the Pacific Northwest--The Blind Woodsman
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
Known on TikTok as “The Blind Woodsman” and covered in a previous Bulletin as part of a holiday gift roundup, John Furniss along with his wife Annie, a mixed-media artist, is once again preparing handmade crafts which you can use as accessible gifts this season. Blinded at age16 due to personal issues, he had to learn how to navigate blindness as a teenager, although his true healing began years later. He now shares his views on blindness, art, and mental health on his social media and uses his previous vision as inspiration for his projects. The Furnisses met while he was finishing piano repair school and she was volunteering as an artist in the school’s fundraising efforts, and John accidentally put his hand on a piano Annie was painting while it was still wet. Now ten years married, art is a full-time job for both. John deals primarily with woodwork, while Annie works with wood, clay, paper, paint and more. The couple sell a variety of crafts ranging from garlands to ornaments to bowls, and even an ash honey pot with an optional wooden bee added. The two will be restocking their online store on Sunday, November 27, 2022 at 10 am PT (1 pm ET). If interested, marking your calendar is a good idea; items tend to go quickly. Be aware that the Furnisses do not take custom orders or pre-orders, and they ship only within the United States. Here is the link to their store and their stories. You can also find links to The Blind Woodman’s social media accounts and subscribe to his newsletter on the above website.
Get a Letter for Your Braille Reader from Santa
This holiday season, Braille Works is sending braille letters on behalf of Santa to bring joy to students throughout the United States. As Braille Works points out, “At the same time, a letter in braille is a great way to encourage and develop their braille reading skills.” Parents, teachers, and friends may arrange for these cards to be sent at no cost, including the “postmark …from the North Pole!” Requests must be received by December 5, 2022. For more information or to request a letter for your braille reader, visit the Perkins School for the Blind webpage on Letters from Santa Claus in braille. For additional details about Braille letters from Santa, including sample letters, check out the information on the Braille Works webpage describing how Santa Reads Braille.
Cooking for the Holidays
As Thanksgiving and the holiday season approach, whether you’re hosting a meal, preparing goodies for visitors, or creating tasty gifts, some tips on planning can help the process along. Following are some tips from VisionAware for cooks who are blind or visually impaired:
Decide What to Prepare: Assess your skill level regarding what you can do easily and tailor recipe choices accordingly. If you are not very experienced and/or are still learning adaptive techniques, plan gifts like “dump, mix, and go appetizers, candies, and desserts,” easy-to-prepare dishes, or jarred mixes. Those who are more advanced can make items such as baked goods from scratch.
“Make a List and Check It Twice:” Use braille, large print, a digital recorder, or smart phone to record what you will need. Check your refrigerator or pantry to determine what you already have in stock.
Shop, But Not Until You Drop: Consider using grocery delivery services, like Amazon Fresh, Walmart.com, or those offered through large grocery store chains, or companies like Instacart. Delivery may be free and even if there is a fee, it may be comparable to a paratransit round trip.
Schedule Tasks: Determine what can be prepared the day before a get-together or, if on the actual day, consider scheduling “in 15-minute increments” up until the time to serve. Plan what cooking implements will be needed as well.
Ask for Help: Most guests are glad to assist, whether it’s carving the turkey, serving the food, or clean up.
For more details and additional tips, check out the article on Cooking for the Holidays When You Are Blind or Visually Impaired.
Having Trouble Reading Standard Print? Enjoy today’s bestsellers in easy-to-read large print: Select Editions Large Type Books
Enjoy the best in current fiction, romance, mystery, biography, adventure, and more. Reader’s Digest Select Editions Large Type features expertly edited best-selling books in every volume. You get a full year of exciting reading (five volumes in all), for the low nonprofit price of $25. Indulge your love of great reading in a format that is comfortable and pleasurable to read. A portion of the proceeds from each subscription supports Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation’s work and dedication to fostering the independence of people who are blind and visually impaired. Subscribe to Reader’s Digest Select Editions Large Type today or give a gift subscription. To order your subscription by phone, call 1-800-877-5293.
Note to Readers: Since Thanksgiving is being celebrated next week, we will not be publishing the bulletin this coming Friday. Resources for Partners will return the following Friday, December 2, 2022.
Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday!