DEDICATED TO IMPROVING THE LIVES OF BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED PEOPLE

Resources for Partners may 21,2021

Dear Readers:
Today’s Bulletin highlights a number of timely topics. We will not be publishing next Friday, in observance of the Memorial Day Weekend. The next Bulletin will be sent out on Friday, June 4.
Please continue to send suggestions for the Bulletin to: [email protected].
Enjoy the week and the long holiday weekend.
Please read on..

In Recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month
Vision Loss and Depression: Some Studies and Insights
“Vision loss can make it harder – even impossible – to do certain activities you enjoy or to perform routine tasks, such as driving.” The connection between vision loss and depression is examined in the HCA West Florida Division blog. It covers factors like aging and vision loss, isolation, how to be proactive, recognizing symptoms of depression, and coping — with practical tips to manage life with vision loss. Read the full blog.

How vision loss impacts individuals already living with depression is discussed in a news feature from the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired. The article shares the experience of Garry Lone, whose vision loss resulted in a worsening of his long-time depression. He reveals the real losses people feel in terms of everyday activities, like riding a bike or watching TV. Lone also offers some self-care strategies and tips that help him, including exercise, eating habits, sleep, stress reduction and being open to doing everyday tasks differently. Read more about it here.

Findings from the U.S. National Health and Aging Trends Study reveal a higher likelihood of symptoms of anxiety and depression among older adults with impaired vision as well as a higher likelihood of vision loss among those older adults with symptoms of anxiety or depression. An online article by Wayne Boggs, MD, featured in the Psychiatry & Behavioral Health Learning Network, explains the impact of vision loss beyond “not seeing clearly.” An increased risk of mood disorders, cognitive decline, falls and loss of independence are among the consequences. The fact that vision loss among older adults is not inevitable is also cited, with references to prevention and the importance of vision care in overall health.

New On-Demand Workshop Series on Adjusting to Vision Loss
This new series of workshops from Hadley provides practical advice and emotional support on such topics as “Coming to Grips with Vision Loss,” “Tools for Talking About Vision Loss,” and “Partner to Build Skills and Boost Confidence.” Find out more here.

Mental Health in the Workplace: Strategies for Employers
According to guest blogger Leslie Wilson of Disability:IN, writing for the Campaign for Disability Employment, COVID-19 “did put mental health front and center in our workplaces”, and employees, whether or not they have a previous mental health diagnosis, are at increased risk of anxiety and depression. As a matter of fact, research firm Accenture’s report on mental health in the workplace is titled: “It’s Not 1 in 4; It’s All of Us” and states that mental health issues touch 90% of all workers. And that affects business’s bottom line. Disability:IN’s Roadmap to Mental Wellness in the Workplace describes how four companies approach the issue through peer-assisted mental health programs (American Airlines), helping client companies expand benefit choices (Aetna Behavioral Health), training line managers to know the signs of mental illness (Accenture), and providing training and information around mental health to employees at all levels of the company (PNC Financial Services Group). The American Psychiatric Association offers employers a May Is Mental Health Month Toolkit which includes strategies for reducing workplace loneliness, planning a company-wide mental health initiative and facts to share with employees to start the conversation.

Military Appreciation Month: Recognizing Pioneering Work in Blind Rehabilitation
May is also Military Appreciation Month, a fitting time to recognize the role of the military and Veterans Administration (VA) in the history of vocational rehabilitation. Since World War II, the military and VA have made substantial contributions to the field of blind rehabilitation. In 1944, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, through an executive order proclaimed “No blinded servicemen from WW II would be returned to their homes without adequate training to meet the problems of necessity imposed upon them by their blindness.” Subsequently, the training and social adjustment of blinded soldiers became the responsibility of the military, with vocational rehabilitation handled by the VA. The experience of blinded soldier Russ Williams paved the way in adapting the assistive techniques he learned in teaching others. Williams, who was appointed the first Chief of the Hines Blind Rehabilitation Center, “developed a sequential learning experience built on little blocks of success until the patient ultimately achieved his established goals. The Hines experience created an atmosphere of respect for what blind people could do.” Today the legacy continues, with nine additional Blind Rehabilitation Centers in operation, along with Visual Impairment Service Teams, including outreach programs, and blind rehabilitation university training programs, which have educated rehabilitation professionals who serve in private and public agencies. Read more about the History of Blind Rehabilitation Service.

A Prolific YouTuber: Tommy Edison
Tommy Edison, a blind YouTuber with over 700,000 subscribers, produced a show recently featuring retro TV ads that “Could Be For Today’s Pandemic.” He offers a nostalgic view of public service messages from the 1970s for swine flu, equating them with current themes. In another segment, Edison features a guest who lost her vision later in life. He started his YouTube career in 2011 and believes he was “the first blind person on YouTube.” For the retro ads and other Tommy Edison YouTubes. Read more about Tommy Edison in Wired.

New “Eye on the Cure Podcast”
From the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB), this new podcast highlights news, scientific information and perspectives on vision and retinal diseases. In the first “Eye on the Cure Podcast” released last week, host Ben Shaberman, FFB’s senior director scientific outreach, describes how the retina is a valuable target for development of therapies and also offers updates on clinical trials. Guests come from the research and vision communities. The Podcast is available on Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Amazon Music & Audible. Find out more.

Travel the “Sonar Islands” Via A Fully Accessible Game
Sonar Islands, released this year, is a fully accessible audio game that does not require the use of voiceover to play.  While traveling, you will encounter a group of islands, with each one presenting different challenges to overcome.  Your task is to collect treasures and, at the same time, avoid obstacles along your way.  In passing through some of the islands you may encounter a sea — which you can’t swim – so you must avoid the that as well as a volcano, where you have to avoid stepping onto the lava.  In one of the tutorials, you are given a compass to figure out where to go. RDPFS intern Ahmat Djourna tried it out and provided this information, sharing that he “could not figure out how to avoid the sea…” Even so, he found the game “challenging, but also interesting.” The game is available as a free app through the App Store (with in-app purchases) for iPhones and iPads.

Internet Cost Relief for Those Who’ve Lost Income – Sign Up Now
The Emergency Broadband Benefit, or EBB, will pay $50 every month toward the cost of internet service for those who lost income since the onset of the pandemic, including people who receive food stamps, Medicaid, supplemental Social Security income, federal public housing assistance, have a child who qualified for free and reduced-price lunch at school, received a federal Pell Grant for education, or meet federal poverty guidelines. To begin the two-part process, go to GetEmergencyBroadband.org, which is available in English and Spanish. Once enrolled, the discount is credited to enrollee’s the ISP bill. This article from the Washington Post is chock full of detail about how it works.

National Scavenger Hunt Celebrates Global Accessibility Awareness Day
Our Space Our Place, a grantee of RDPFS, is recognizing Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) with a National Scavenger

Hunt to increase awareness about the lives and experiences of people who are blind or have low vision. The Hunt began yesterday, May 20, and runs until May 23. Target Clues, six in all, cover such noteworthy items as “the man who took dots to language…,” “the first recorded example of man’s best friend in an assistance role…” and the blind person who scaled the highest mountain in the world. For more information about the Hunt– and the Virtual Wrap-up party on Sunday, May 23: National Scavenger Hunt.

New Helen Keller Doll Adds to Barbie “Inspiring Women” Series
This week the latest Barbie made her debut. Designed to resemble and recognize the life and legacy of Helen Keller, the doll is dressed in the style of the early 1900s, when Keller was a student, and holds a book with braille on its cover. She joins Mattel’s “Inspiring Women” Series, which “pays tribute to incredible heroines of their time, courageous women who took risks, changed rules and paved the way for generations of girls to dream bigger than ever before.” The toy manufacturer worked with the National Federation of the Blind in creating the doll as well as the packaging, which also features braille. Read more about it.