Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

Resources for Partners May 14, 2021

In Recognition of Older Americans Month:
Arts and Crafts Suggestions for Seniors with Vision Challenges
Vision changes that occur as we age do not have to limit participation in arts and crafts activities, according to Opticall Eyecare, based in the UK. Some, like pottery for example, utilize tactile abilities that can shape art based on visual memory. Jewelry making with beads can be done using larger beads with larger openings and adaptations such as a beading needle, which is longer than regular sewing needles. Painting can be another fruitful option – and was for a number of famous painters with vision impairment, including Edgar Degas and Claude Monet. Knitting is also a creative pastime that can be enjoyed by those with limited or even no vision, using such adaptations as larger needles and tightly woven yarn that is easier to see and feel. For more details and tips.

Adapting Games and Recreation to Changes in Vision

Older adults with vision loss can continue to play the same board and other games they enjoyed earlier in life. Some companies offer adaptive versions of popular games, like Monopoly, checkers, dominoes and Scrabble and large-print playing cards. Many people with low vision do not need adaptations, however, depending on the game, how much contrast and lighting as well as tactile elements are available and the extent of vision loss. More information is available from VisionAware about “Recreational Activities for Seniors with Visual Impairments.” Read about it here.

Activities and Tips for Caregivers of Seniors with Low Vision Who Have Dementia or Alzheimer’s
Although regular activity is key to stimulating cognition and memory in older adults, finding such activities for those with vision loss and dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease can be extra challenging. Music, audiobooks and radio shows, chair exercise and other modified movement, and animal therapy are among the recommendations outlined by the caregiver website DailyCaring. Detailed suggestions and links to helpful websites provide guidance in introducing beneficial and entertaining activities, such as memory-boosting songs, exercises that improve circulation, and involvement in household tasks like preparing vegetables for cooking, to name a few. Activities are organized into nine categories for easy reference. Read more about it here.

The Power of Gratitude: A Conversation with Rebecca Alexander” on May 27

Award-winning author, psychotherapist, fitness instructor, extreme athlete and more, Rebecca Alexander is almost completely blind and deaf due to Usher Syndrome type III. She will share her experiences and “zest for life” that help her overcome the challenges she faces during an AFB Centennial Conversation on May 27 at 2 pm EDT. For more information and to register for this free, virtual event.

Transition to Work – Free Train the Trainer Workshop for Professionals

“Putting Your Best Foot Forward” is a recently introduced school to work intensive transition curriculum for visually impaired youth with barriers to employment. Writing in the Visual Impairment and Deaf Blind Education Quarterly, Jennifer Cmar and Michelle McDonnell from the NRTC at Mississippi State note that engaging youth in job finding for work experiences is a greater predictor of job success than work experiences that occur through the intervention of schools or other providers. NRTC created its five-module, 40-hour program to match six critical components of effective job search interventions. The NRTC has developed a free, online interactive Train the Trainer Workshop for direct service professionals to be offered in June and September. Trainers work in tandem, so at least two people from each organization must sign on. Those who complete the training receive a certificate of completion, up to 8 ACVREP continuing education credits, and complete downloadable course materials. Registration begins the first week of June, so sign on to the waitlist.

Students from Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind to Paddle in the Seventy48
At 7 p.m. Pacific time on June 4, the 14-person crew from the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind will shove off to compete in the Seventy48, a boat race between Tacoma and Port Townsend, Washington which requires crews and boats to be in constant motion for 48 hours. All boats must be human powered, which means participants must pedal, paddle or row the 70-mile course. To prepare, the crew not only needed to practice, they needed to build a boat. The directors of USDB’s blind and deaf programs got approvals and funding, and enlisted help from students and staff at Platte Canyon High School in Colorado, which competed in the race in 2019. The boat builders and the paddlers learned to problem solve on the fly, to paddle in sync using metronome bracelets and in late March had their first practice on Lake Powell. Read how the project came together here, and wish them well on race day.

DIY Braille Embosser, Talking Washing Machine Interface, MP3 Soccer Ball and More… is an open source community for people who like to make things, share their ideas and instructions, and even encourage others to improve on the makers’ designs. There are sections for making everything from non-toxic nail polish to robots to tiramisu, but the assistive tech projects section has lots of ideas for those who are blind and visually impaired. It’s complicated, but the low cost to create the Open Braille Embosser  might make the challenges involved worthwhile. Have a washing machine with LED indicators that makes tactile markers useless? Try putting together a Talking Washing Machine Interface. There’s even a solution that keeps a foam ball making noise when it’s no longer in motion with the MP3 Soccer Ball. Countless other ideas, too.

Wear Works’ Wayband to Launch in June
In 2017, marathoner Simon Wheatcroft, who has retinitis pigmentosa, wired up with a new technology called corrective navigation for the New York City Marathon. His only human assistance would come from three other runners who would shadow him only for the purpose of helping him avoid collisions with other runners. He would do this using various devices, but most importantly with a previously untested device called a Wayband, which works by emitting vibrations rather than voice commands. Read Wheatcroft’s running story and what he encountered during the marathon in this article from the New York Times. Fast forward to 2021, and with some kinks worked out, the Wayband is ready to take off with an introductory discount offer. Find out all about it on the Wear Works site.

In Memoriam: Helen Murray Free, Chemist Who Developed Paper-Strip Diabetes Test
Helen Murray Free, who co-developed the “dip-and-read diabetes test, a paper strip that detected glucose in urine,” died earlier this month. Ms. Free worked with her husband, also a chemist, in creating this diagnostic tool that “made it easier for clinicians to diagnose diabetes and cleared the way for home test kits,” which make it possible for the growing number of people with this condition to check their own glucose levels. The dip-and-read tests continue to be used in clinical laboratories. Read more about Helen Murray Free in The New York Times here.

The Return of Virtual Dog Days of Summer
Fidelco Guide Dogs has announced the reprise of its “Virtual Dog Days of Summer” program for children, with “new and improved content!” This summer’s program features two different themes: “Puppy Pals” and “Fidelco Fun.” Live events, guest appearances, interactive games and hands-on activities, like making dog toys, Tao Dog Yoga, and more will be brought to each child’s home – virtually of course. For more information and to register.
Fifth-grader, “Dog Days” alum and now entrepreneur Grace Miller used what she learned during last year’s program to launch Ziller Dog Supplies. She and two friends started this business in late 2020, making and selling dog blankets and dog toys, with proceeds going to purchase supplies to make more blankets and toys that Grace donates to the Humane Society and to dog shelters. It all began when she learned how to make blankets and toys for dogs during one of the program’s activities. Read more about Grace here.