World Sight Day, a global recognition that brings attention to blindness and vision impairment, takes place on October 14, 2021. Events and activities marking the occasion are coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB). It all began in 1998 when Lions Clubs International partnered with blindness organization worldwide to launch the first World Sight Day, according to timeanddate.com's World Sight Day listing. With this year’s theme, #LoveYourEyes, IAPB emphasizes the importance of eye care and vision tests. To advance the theme, the organization offers a schools pack that can be used by educators to highlight the importance of eye health and advice on “How to Love Your Eyes.”
Each year, White Cane Safety Day is commemorated around the world. Observed in the United States since 1964, this occasion celebrates the achievements of people who are blind or visually impaired. On White Cane Awareness Day, individuals and organizations addressing the needs of people who are blind or visually impaired conduct activities in local communities, although the continuing pandemic limited events in 2020 and this year as well. For more information about the occasion, check out the Awareness Days website listing for White Cane Safety Day 2021.
Recalling the History of White Cane Day
By Ahmat Djouma
Observed in the United States every year on October 15, White Cane Day recognizes “the many achievements of blind and visually impaired citizens and the white cane as a tool promoting independent travel.” The use of the white cane began during the last century, in the 1920s, a time when it was not a common tool and there was no universal white cane. It started with artist James Big, who became blind and did not feel comfortable with traffic around his home so he started painting his cane white to make it more visible for traffic. Its popularity for mobility spread to England and France and, in 1931, the Lion’s Club in North America started promoting the use of the white cane for travel. Peoria, Illinois was the first community to pass a special ordinance for white cane travel and today in the United States, almost every state has a white cane law on the books providing legal status for its use by blind people in traffic. In 1964, a joint resolution of Congress declared that a proclamation would be issued each year designating October 15th as White Cane Safety Day. The white cane is not only a mobility tool for the blind, but it is also symbolic. It symbolizes independence, confidence, and the skills of the person using it. To learn more about the history of the white cane, visit VisionAware.
Richard Hoover, referred to as the “’Father of the Lightweight Long Cane Technique,’” developed a successful technique using a long cane during his service as an army sergeant during World War II. Assigned to Valley Forge Army Hospital’s center for the treatment of blinded soldiers, Hoover introduced a cane cut to a prescribed length that replaced the short wooden cane. The technique for using this cane involved “arcing the cane from side to side with the tip touching the ground in front of the trailing foot.” He taught these techniques to staff at the hospital who then brought his methodology to the blind soldiers. Subsequently, the program was adopted by many schools and agencies for people who are blind or visually impaired. Beginning in 1960, university training programs were established and later certification standards and a code of ethics for orientation and mobility specialists teaching white cane techniques. In 2002, Richard Edwin Hoover was inducted into the APH (American Printing House for the Blind) Hall of Fame: Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field. Read more about the life and achievements of Richard Edwin Hoover.
Last week’s bulletin announced events coming up in recognition of National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month. Here are two more:
October 20: Discover Your Career at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
NIH invites high school and college students and recent graduates with disabilities to meet virtually with representatives of the agency on October 20th from 2 – 3:30 pm EST. This free informational session will cover an overview of NIH, summer internships, how to apply for positions, resume writing tips, and more. For more information and to register for the event, hosted by AAPD (American Association of People with Disabilities), click on the following link and scroll to Discover Your Career at the National Institutes of Health.
October 25: Workshop on Preparing for Interviews
This free NDEAM workshop, on October 25 from 11 am – 12:30 pm EST, features tips for gearing up for and engaging in the virtual job interview. Among the topics covered: an online personality test, “dressing for success,” types of interview questions, questions to ask – and “Questions Not To Ask!!” It is being held jointly by Prince George’s County (Maryland) Local Workforce Development Board, Employ Prince George’s, Independence Now, and the Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS). For more information and to register: Prepping For Interview: Virtual Interviewing (NDEAM) Workshop.
The Copyright Act in South Africa, in force since 1978, has limited access to written material for people who are visually impaired or blind by barring the conversion of materials to braille or other accessible formats without the permission of copyright holders. This “’book famine’” has been declared unconstitutional by Gauteng High Court Judge Mandla Mbongwe. The Judge deemed this requirement to be “an unreasonable and unjustifiable limit to the rights of those with visual disabilities.” The ruling, effective immediately, means that blind people can access all written works, without the consent of the copyright holder, and convert the material in an accessible format, such as braille or digital formats. The battle to overturn this act was a lengthy process, beginning in 2010. Read more about this news from GroundUp in Court victory for blind people after 11-year battle.
To raise awareness about retinal disease and prompt the public to take action, the American Society of Retinal Specialists (ASRS) has launched a See for a Lifetime See a Retinal Specialist Initiative. Affirming that “Retinal disease can steal vision, but it doesn’t have to,” the campaign seeks to empower people at risk and family members to take care of their vision, understand risk factors, be aware of signs and symptoms and seek professional help. In recent years tremendous advances have occurred in the diagnosis and treatment of retinal conditions like macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. This makes it more important than ever to reach people to ensure that they can access timely care. The See for a Lifetime See a Retinal Specialist initiative features educational materials for patient advocacy organizations, healthcare professionals, and policymakers as well as a video series, podcast, and other promotional media and resources to advance its goal of safeguarding sight.
Some Early Refractive Errors in Eye Exams May Suggest Retinoblastoma: Early Care “May Save an Eye or Even a Life”
InfantSee, a free eye exam program of the American Optometric Association, has resulted in the detection of numerous eye disorders, including retinoblastoma, an eye cancer that most commonly occurs in young children. One possible symptom is increasing hyperopia in the early years, a stage of life when farsightedness usually decreases. Another possible sign is anisometropia. This condition means that the eyes “have a different refractive power (prescription for correction), so there is unequal focus between the two eyes,” according to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. (Anisometropia can also occur due to other more common issues, such as amblyopia, or lazy eye.) The advice offered to eye care providers in Primary Care Optometry News is that “When your refractive error findings disagree with the expected norms, consider a mass such as a retinoblastoma and follow up with a careful dilated exam and possibly specialty referral. You may safe an eye or even a life.” Read more about this: Some refractive errors may suggest retinoblastoma in infants.
Through a collaboration between the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and McDonald’s, the fast-food company’s self-service kiosks will be more accessible to customers who are blind by the end of December. This will be achieved by adding enhancements to the technology of existing accessibility features, including “screen-reading software, tactile keypads and the ability for customers to connect their headphones or ear buds to the kiosk and independently place their orders by responding to audio prompts.” The company will have these upgrades in all the restaurants they own in California and a quarter of those that are company-owned in other states across the nation as well as in kiosks installed in any U.S. restaurant after July 1 of this year. Check out the details in a press release from NFB: McDonald's and National Federation of the Blind Collaborate on Self-service Kiosks.
A new, lightweight wireless headset with braille features has been unveiled by Logitech G. In addition to reducing the weight of the equipment, the manufacturer has also added “beamforming microphones and dual wireless modes.” The headset features braille indicators for left and right so that people who are visually impaired can know “which side they are on.” A review from Cool Blind Tech reveals more about this gaming innovation, including pricing: Logitech G unveils a wireless gaming headset with braille.
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