This week, from September 13-17 & 20, 2021, events and activities are being hosted across the nation in marking National Disability Voter Registration Week – to REV UP! (Register! Educate! Vote! Use Your Vote!). The goal of NVRDW is to “increase the political power of people with disabilities by sharing resources and getting folks registered to vote.” To learn more – and find out about remaining registration drives, other events, and resources from previous NDVRWs and how to “Make the Disability Vote Count” – check out the information on the website of AAPD (American Association of People with Disabilities): National Disabilities Voter Registration Week.
Each September is Healthy Aging Month, an occasion observed nationwide to emphasize the positive aspects of aging. In commemorating Healthy Aging Month, organizations seek to raise awareness about how adults ages 45 and older can lead healthier, more satisfying lives. Recognizing that with age comes experience and many good things, “such as perspective (and) confidence…” The widespread use of technology also makes growing older easier. As Carol Worthington, Healthy Aging Month founder and editor-in-chief of Healthy Aging Magazine, states “’We saw a need to draw attention to the myths of aging, to shout out… ‘It’s not too late to take control of your health, it’s never too late to get started on something new. Read more from MeetCaregiver about Healthy Aging Month -- Promoting Positives of Aging
Aging and Vision: Living Better with Vision Loss
We know that older adults often face health challenges, including changing vision. Some are expected changes, such as the need for corrective lenses even among those who never wore glasses, the need for more light, and difficulty with contrast sensitivity. Other changes -- and vision difficulties -- occur with eye conditions that are more common among older adults, including macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. These transitions often can be addressed and dealt with, however: “…with the right tools and community support, you can still remain active and self-sufficient.” Following are some helpful tips:
Regular eye exams: key to avoiding preventable vision loss;
Increased use of travel alternatives: including public and paratransit, using drivers and obtaining a white cane, with training for navigation;
Optical aids and technology: for reading and writing.
Read more tips, as well as information about support resources, from the University of Washington Healthy Aging and Physical Disability Rehabilitation Research and Training Center about Living Well with Age-Related Vision Loss.
Producing Written Material for Older Adults
In producing written material for seniors, changes that occur with age should be taken into account. For example, “changes in vision and in the way the brain functions can affect the ability of older adults to understand and use written information.” While some cognitive skills decline with age, such as slower information processing, other abilities are generally retained or can enhance abilities. For example, with literacy, older adults draw on an extensive knowledge base that can facilitate interpreting information, decision making, and problem solving. In developing written materials, for example, the Toolkit offers suggestions to utilize a “reader-centered approach,” seeing the material from a reader’s point of view, as well as testing what’s written among intended users. In terms of visual accessibility, for people with visual limitations, it’s important to be mindful of type size, contrast and formatting. This information is expanded upon in Things to know if your written material is for older adults, part of a “TOOLKIT for Making Written Material Clear and Effective” issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Research Findings on Vision Loss and Brain Function
Untreated vision problems can affect the function of the brain, according to a “growing body of research.” Declines in language, memory and overall functioning can occur when an older adult’s brain has to exert extra effort to interpret what the eyes see. A recent study, published in JAMA Network Open, found that individuals showing poorer visual acuity when tested had an increased likelihood of “cognitive decline over time, including deficits in language memory, attention and the ability to identify and locate objects in space.” However, steps can be taken to minimize the decline. Early identification and visual correction are key and, for those experiencing visual impairment, low vision rehabilitation can help individuals adapt to vision loss and function as self-sufficiently as possible. Environmental accommodations, such as the increased use of high contrast road signs, can help as well. Read more about these issues in The New York Times article, How Vision Loss Can Affect the Brain.
Helping Aging Brains Stay Healthy: Read, Write, Play Games
A new study shows that “Mental activities like reading and writing can preserve structural integrity in the brains of older people…” These activities, as well as attending a play or playing board games, can contribute to a “healthier brain” later in life. The findings, presented to the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), came from a study conducted by researchers from Rush University Medical Center and Illinois Technology in Chicago. Find out more from Science Daily: Reading, writing and playing games may help aging brains stay healthy.
By Ahmat Djouma
The AAPD (American Association of People with Disabilities) 2022 summer internship application is now available online. Based on the applicant’s interest, they can arrange placements in a paid internship in a Congressional office, federal agency, non-profit, or for profit organization in the Washington DC area. They have both remote and in-person options, although “AAPD will offer more in-person slots than remote slots.” Opportunities are available for college students, recent graduates, graduate students and law students with all types of disabilities. The deadline to apply is October 20, 2021.
Applications Invited for Grants to Increase Employment Opportunities for Youth and Veterans with Disabilities
Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation has announced a new round of grants aimed at supporting “innovative projects that help youth with disabilities develop the leadership and employment skills they need to succeed.” Applications are being accepted for requests ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 per year for up to three years. Funded projects will demonstrate measurable outcomes for employment and will be national in scope. Model projects with definite plans for dissemination nationally or replication will also be considered. The application deadline is November 1. For more information or to complete the RFP, check out the item in Philanthropy News Digest: Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation Welcomes Applications for Youth, Veteran Employment Programs.
By Ahmat Djouma
Have you ever needed to toggle your airplane mode, cellular data, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or adjust the screen brightness quickly on your phone? Normally, you have to navigate first to your device’s setting to make the change. The control center on your iOS device makes it simple to adjust many of the important settings without directly going to the “Settings” icon. To go to the control center quickly on your phone to change some of the settings:
- Tap on your phone’s status bar (where its shows the time, Wi-Fi, or the device’s battery status).
- Swipe up, using three fingers, on your device to access the control center. This will give you all of your important settings.
To learn more about Voiceover gestures visit The IPhone User Guide: Learn VoiceOver gestures on iPhone.
Birding, a popular pastime especially during the fall months, can be and is becoming more and more accessible, thanks to the efforts of birders who are blind or visually impaired, advocacy organizations and other groups. “This is a time when birders of all branches, pardon the pun, are being welcomed into the circle of observation,” reported The Examiner News, in I Know Why the Wild Bird Sings; Or Do I? This story chronicles the experience of an ace bird watcher who has identified birds by their songs. Groups like the National Audubon Society have made an effort to make their offerings more inclusive and accessible. Blind birder Trevor Attenberg writes about his discovery of “just how accessible nature can be…” in an article appearing on Audubon.org, Birding Blind: Open Your Ears to the Amazing World of Bird Sounds. Attenberg, who is legally blind, began birding while in high school in a rural area of Connecticut, starting with his mother’s teachings about the difference between the call of Blue Jays versus that of American Crows. His skills and passion for birding grew in college, when he travelled abroad and later in relocating to Portland Oregon. Another birder, Donna Posont, learns bird songs by listening to CDs and recording samples of her own. This all began for her when she worked at a camp for blind children and sought to find “activities beyond arts and crafts…” She later began the Birding by Ear and Beyond Program at the University of Michigan. The program’s mission is “to use birding to build confidence and improve mobility skills for blind people.” Read more about Posont’s story in Birds & Blooms: Identifying Birds by Their Song. Resources and tips are available for birders who are visually impaired through Birdability, an organization that works to guarantee that birding is “welcoming, inclusive, safe and accessible for everybody.” Following are some tips they offer for those who have low vision:
Position yourself so that sunlight is behind you: to minimize contrast and glare
Watch for movement: that will help in locating the bird
Use a digital camera with a zoom lens rather than binoculars: binoculars have a narrow field of view; using a camera helps to keep the bird in view as you zoom in.
These tips and more from Birdability, as well as birding resources, can be found in Tips and Resources for Birders who are Blind or have Low Vision
Free Birding Apps:
The Audubon Bird Guide App provides a complete guide to more than 800 species of birds in North America. It helps in identifying birds, keep records of birds observed and find out about new birds nearby.
The Merlin Bird ID, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, offers quick help in identifying birds across the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. “Answer three simple questions about a bird you are trying to identify and Merlin will give you a list of possible matches.”
According to Birdability, both apps are accessible to VoiceOver on Apple devices and TalkBack on Android devices.
New Board member Dr. Tracye Weeks, SPHR, SHRM-SCP brings her experience working in the field of business management and human resources, totaling more than 18 years, to the Partners for Sight Board. Over the past 15 years, she has supported both for-profit and nonprofit organizations in strategic planning, oversight and “people relations.” Her creative problem-solving ability has helped to save organizations over $1,000,000 in operational spending by implementing solutions that are not only effective but efficient. At the same time, she has implemented creative initiatives that align with organizational goals and help them to fulfill their missions. Tracye currently works as a consultant and owns The HR Suite consulting agency. As a formally trained expert in the Six Sigma methodology of professional skills development, Tracye has achieved distinction as a Green Belt in that business discipline. She holds an M.A. degree in Mass Communication from the University of Georgia and a Doctorate in Human Resources from Walden University. Welcome Tracye!
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