Low Vision Committee

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Low Vision Committee :: December 2014

By Rita Galbraith

A Short Story of a Blessed Life

Many people that have a disability(ies) can find certain activities in life frustrating. Those of us that have visual challenges and blindness issues are no exception. Some of us were born blind; some of us became blind because of accidents, disease, or aging. We may have been angry when we were first diagnosed and/or first discovered for ourselves that we had such a permanent disability. Our new lifestyle might have been difficult to accept. But for most of us, as time went by, our negative attitude changed and we learned how to accept the reality of our situation.

As for me, I was born with low vision. I know that I didn't like being referred to as blind because, to me, that actually meant not being able to see at all. I did attend public schools and eventually graduated from college. I am grateful for the wonderful people, and for the special adaptive aides, all of which have helped me in various aspects of life whether it was as a student, an employee, or as a homemaker (which is my favorite occupation).  I am fairly independent except that I cannot drive a car. GOD has blessed me abundantly. I can see flowers, trees, birds, et cetera; but without a lot of the minute details. I always ask for a blessing of safety when I go out walking my little dog, Pandora. I have a wonderful family in my husband Mike, my children, and my grandchildren. I am truly blessed!

Thus, I wish any and all who read this article in whatever format or hear it by whatever means, nothing but the best. Take time each day to count your many blessings one by one.

Low Vision Committee Report :: March 2014

By Jeff La Montia, Committee Member

I would like to start out by saying that we hope you all have enjoyed the holidays with family and friends and are comfortably staying warm during this chilly winter season!!

At this time, I would like to introduce to you all our current committee members with their email addresses. I will begin first with our Low Vision Committee Chairman, CJ Campbell, chaplaincampbell@att.net, followed by Committee Members, Linda Kinkelar, lindakinkelar@att.net; Beverly Robertson, b1946m1968bjr@hotmail.com; and myself, Jeff La Montia, jeff.lamontia@gmail.com. If anyone has any questions regarding the Low Vision Committee, please feel free to e-mail any of our members at any time!

Introduction

To begin, the Low Vision Committee is a vital extension of the Missouri Council of the Blind. It can be very tough on a person when it comes to learning how to deal with any vision loss. It is imperative that we reach out to those individuals across the state of Missouri with the goal of providing them the tools necessary to navigate these waters. An area in which we feel we can make an immediate impact is during childhood and adolescence. This is the period in which individuals begin to gain autonomy by extending themselves out into the world with a lessoning degree of supervision with time. This is also the time that confidence can either be gained or lost, which can greatly alter outcomes later on in life. As autonomy continues to increase, there needs to be a good balance of resources and proper training close by such that confidence, tools, skills, trust, and knowledge can be ascertained. It is in this area that we feel that we can make a difference.

While blind individuals may struggle to reach out for help during high school and even in college, due to peer perception, that is exactly the time in which we need to act. We understand that this is quite an undertaking, but we can start small and grow our outreach overtime!

The Plan

Our Committee met on January 6, 2014 to discuss where we stand and our goals going forward. To be honest with you all, there is quite a bit of excitement and promise within our committee as we look toward the future. What should be noted is that it will be much easier to attain our goals if we all focus on the building blocks now and use them later to propel our entire organization. As of right now, we have decided that we will begin our outreach through mailers, telephone interaction, and in-person conversations with guidance counselors, principals, collegiate learning centers, campus life coordinators, and so on across the state.

This will be a perfect opportunity to advance the word about the Missouri Council of the Blind while also allowing us to get a feel for these organizations, institutions, and programs such that we can really reach out those with low vision in Missouri.

As we gain an understanding of the process of properly reaching out to these young, aspiring individuals through others, it will be then that we begin to expand the type of outreach in which we perform. At this time, it will be imperative that we become a resource for those institutions and programs of which we have reached out to. It is also worth noting that we must become innovative in working with these young, blind individuals as we do understand the need to “fit in” and peer perception. Our outreach is not just for education purposes, but it will also be used as a fun, energetic, and creative way to help those with low vision become confident, high-energy leaders of tomorrow!

Conclusion

In closing, over the next several months we will begin this process with challenges to overcome and tweaking to be made. We strongly hope that the Low Vision Committee will become a beacon for those who need assistance with the goal of developing a working relationship with schools, colleges, programs, and organizations across our state. Building relationships is an important and vital function for any person and/or group and is one in which we wish to use heavily. Thank You!

Committee Mantra: “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Napoleon Hill.

Did You Know… :: March 2014

By Mary Hale, Dual Vision and Hearing Loss Chair

Did you know that the average age for people to start to have a “NEED” for a hearing aid is 60 years of age? Of course we all know that many simply are in denial that they have a hearing loss. The blind community is not any different from the general population. In fact, because of blindness, it is even more important to address any hearing loss, because we rely on our hearing even more so.

Did you know that you are not alone when it comes to understanding about hearing loss and hearing aids? Many simply do not know where to begin when a hearing loss is suspected. There are many places that offer “Special Deals” on hearing aids. Some come in the mail; some are in newspapers, radio and TV ads. Beware, as not all of them have “YOUR” best interest in mind.

When looking for a place to go to have your hearing checked, especially for your first time, you might find it difficult to know the difference between the many options available. And, you'll see some places listed as having "Hearing Instrument Specialists" and others as having "Audiologists." So, what's the difference and why should it matter?

Most people (through no fault of their own) think anyone who fits hearing aids is an audiologist. However, there is a BIG difference between the two.

Hearing Instrument Specialists: To be a hearing instrument specialist, a person must have at least a high school diploma or GED, 62 hours of training in theory. In addition, a hearing instrument specialist must complete 98 hours of practical, supervised training on testing, ear mold impressions, infection control, hearing aid fitting, and follow up care. Finally, they also have to pass a written exam with at least 70% or a C grade and demonstrate ability to make an ear impression.

Audiologists: To be an audiologist, a person must have either a Master's or Doctoral degree from an accredited university graduate program in audiology. In addition to this education, an audiologist must complete many hours of practicums in various settings while they are in school and, after passing the national exam at no less than 80% or B grade, complete a fellowship year of training in all aspects of audiology under supervision before being certified. Being accepted into an audiology program is not easy; it is stringent just like nursing, dentistry, physical therapy, etc.

As is true for any profession, it is always a good idea to seek out the very best for your care. When in doubt, we suggest working with an audiologist vs. a hearing instrument specialist because you will benefit from their extensive knowledge and training and receive the very best hearing care possible.

Another thing to keep in mind is that getting hearing aids are not like getting eye glasses. When getting a pair of eye glasses, they are made special for you and once you get them, rarely do you need any adjustments. However, with getting a hearing aid, you’ll need to expect to go back several times, until the hearing aids are properly fitted and programmed correctly for you alone.

Low Vision Committee Report :: September 2013

By Cathie Brauner, Chair

CAREERS FOR BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED INDIVIDUALS

People who are blind or visually impaired can perform almost any job you can imagine. Lawyer, artist, accountant, secretary, customer service representative, food service worker, factory worker, financial analyst, teacher, media transcriptionist, day care, computer programmer, cook, salesperson, clerk and more. We cannot count the number of different jobs people who are blind or visually impaired are engaged in today or will be in the future. The possibilities are tremendous.

People who are blind or visually impaired have a wide array of career possibilities than ever before in history because of a combination of events since the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Legislative and social changes have reduced discrimination toward visually impaired workers as attitudes toward people with disabilities generally have improved. Employers, especially in midsized and large businesses, routinely follow equal employment opportunity practices and have diversity and disability-accommodation processes in place. Available assistive technology makes it easier for people who are visually impaired to perform many jobs that they never could have before. Proper training, appropriate tools, the ability to sell oneself and a willing attitude on the part of employees constitute a winning formula.

EVERY WORKER IS AN INDIVIDUAL

No two visually impaired people have the exact same level of functional vision or the same approach to executing work-related tasks. Some use their vision more than others; some may work more efficiently when they can use nonvisual techniques. Many learned to perform these essential functions of their jobs before they became visually impaired and will need to learn adaptive techniques to retain or return to employment. New employees who have been visually impaired for many years will need to use adaptive techniques as they learn to perform their duties effectively. The majority of people who are blind or visually impaired will benefit from accommodations or modifications to their work environment in order to perform competitively at work.

ACCOMMODATIONS IN THE WORKPLACE

Accommodations are adjustments to the work environment or an individual’s work situation that enable a person with disabilities to perform work duties as well as (but not always in the same way) as his or her co-workers without disabilities. Accommodations that have proved effective and affordable for workers with visual impairments include the following:

Glare reduction and adjusted lighting.

Voice or e-mail messages instead of handwritten notes.

Desk or laptop computers adapted with screen-reading (synthesized speech), screen magnification and/or optical character recognition (OCR) software.

Sometimes, larger-than-average monitors and/or braille display devices can be added as peripherals.

Large print, tactile, or talking calipers, scales, tape measures, thermometers, blood pressure cuffs, calculators, money identifiers and cash registers.

Aids to mobility for people who are blind or visually impaired include long canes, dog guides, electronic travel aids, special telescopes to read signs, use of public transit and carpooling.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

For further discussion on the jobs that visually impaired people do and tips for employers, explore the Career Connect database of mentors, which includes more than 1,000 employed visually impaired persons who have agreed to act as mentors to visually impaired people seeking career information. The mentors can also offer advice on the practical aspects of performing their job duties and getting along well in the workplace.

For informative, first-hand accounts written by blind and visually impaired people who have achieved success in a variety of interesting jobs, check out the success stories written by Career Connect Members.

To check out all of the American Foundation for the Blind links and become informed, go to http://www.afb.org and enter Career Connect Database of Mentors in the Search Box. If our Committee can provide education, resource information or peer support, please contact me at cathiebrauner@gmail.com and enter LV COMMITTEE in the SUBJECT BOX, or call 417-781-1188 and leave a message. Your comments, suggestions and funny stories/awkward moments are always welcome.

Low Vision Committee Report :: June 2013

By Cathie Brauner

Pet Peeves Of The Blind And Visually Impaired. June, 2013, Author Unknown

ONE - The Guessing Game: “Hey (insert name here); do you know who I am?” Oh, please don’t do this. I’ve seen adults do this with students (a lot) and frankly; it’s just rude. Don’t put that person in a position to be embarrassed just in case they don’t remember. Yes, they will recognize familiar voices and you may know they recognize you, but please resist the temptation to prove it to others by quizzing them. Don’t you think you would feel a little stressed if you thought you’d be tested about people every time you went out? Be considerate and identify yourself! End the conversation by telling the visually impaired person that you are leaving; don’t just walk away without letting him/her know. You put them in an awkward position of looking like they are talking to themselves if you walk away without letting them know you are leaving. Please be considerate.

TWO - Being afraid to say the “S” word. Someone can be talking to a visually impaired person and say something like, “Let’s go see what’s for lunch.” Then they gasp and think, OH NO, I shouldn’t have said “see”! Lighten up. Everyone uses “see” and “look” and “watch out!”; even the visually impaired person.

THREE - I’m blind; not deaf. HELLO, HOW ARE YOU”? Which goes along with one of my own pet peeves - “You teach blind kids. So you must know sign language?” Uh…..NO. I know braille. I wish I had a dime for every time someone asked me that – to include administrators during an interview. Sometimes they “get it”; but sometimes they don’t. That’s okay because I’ve just deducted 5 I.Q. points from them (smiles). For the record - I have taken sign language courses and since I don’t have deaf-blind students I have long since forgotten it. I wonder if teachers of the hearing impaired get asked if they know Braille.

FOUR - Visually impaired people can hear everything. The flip side of #3; people assume the visually impaired have better hearing than the rest of us. No - but they do rely on it much more. They are probably listening and paying attention better. Not paying attention to the teacher, though. They also don’t have “visual distractors”; so they can focus more on what they hear. Unless they don’t want to hear it - they are human; after all.

FIVE - “I don’t really believe he’s blind, even with that white cane. I’m not moving from this side of the hallway.” That attitude will leave you sprawled out on the floor when the visually impaired person barrels into you! Here’s a good rule: Don’t play “Chicken” with a visually impaired person. You will always lose! Instead, get out of the way - or at least make yourself known by saying something or making a noise.

SIX - Holding out your hand for a handshake without touching their hand. If that person cannot see your hand; how is he/she supposed to know where your hand is? Answer: They will often extend their hand in anticipation; but if not, tell them you would like to shake their hand and then reach out and take their hand. Same thing goes for handing them an item. You would be amazed at how many times this happens. “Here’s your homework” and then you hold it out in space. Or; even better, don’t say anything at all and hold it out. Again, exactly how is he/she going to know where it is? Grope about for it? Sometimes groping is okay – for finding a dropped item. When handing things to the visually impaired; touch their hand with it so they know where it is. Oh good grief, Ryan Secrest tried to “High-5” blind Scott MacIntyre on American Idol. Get a clue Ryan!

SEVEN - Low expectations: This includes…

The Pity Person: “Oh, you poor blind child. You must have a terrible life. Dr. So-and-so can work miracles. I know; because my Grandmother/Nephew/dog has 20/20 vision now.”

The Helper: “Let me do that, I know it’s too hard for you.”

The Excuse Maker: “I don’t want him/her to learn how to make a (insert food item) because he/she might (cut/burn/make a mess).” “You can’t go on that field trip because there might be a terrorist attack and I would worry.”

The Denial/Embarrassed Person: “Don’t use your cane at the store so people won’t know you are blind.” Unfortunately, the list goes on and on.

Low expectation is probably the worst thing one person can do to the other; regardless of abilities. If you aim for low performance; that’s likely what you’ll get. Don’t be an enabler. Being too over-protective will dramatically hinder the visually impaired person’s progress towards independence and living a happy, social, productive life. Step back and allow them to fail, get a minor injury and make their own mistakes. That’s how we all learn. Don’t forbid them these opportunities.

EIGHT - “Would you like to feel my face?” Whoa, do you ask sighted people if they’d like to feel your face? First of all, a blind person is not going to get a lot of information from feeling a face, other than maybe the shape of your nose. If you won’t let a sighted person feel you, don’t let a blind one. I’ve answered this question a lot from sighted people who have felt awkward allowing this to happen. Well, they feel awkward for a reason! It’s not socially acceptable! Feeling your hair, or lack of it, can be appropriate depending on the circumstances. I’ve also had this question from a parent; “How will my son know what a particular girl looks like? “ Answer: His friends will tell him! Oh yes, they will! Smiles

NINE - Rudeness: It’s usually ignorance; but don’t assume that any visually impaired person automatically needs help. Grabbing the persons arm and pulling them along is wrong on several levels. We know you’re probably trying to be nice, but don’t! Always ask the person if they would like assistance. Then, use the Sighted-guide Technique correctly. Offer your arm and let them hold it; usually right above the elbow. Also, if there are several people with the visually impaired person, speak directly to him/her and not through the “Interpreter” as if the visually impaired person is not there. Say the visually impaired person’s name so they know you are talking to them.

TEN - Pure meanness: Placing obstacles in the visually impaired person's path, throwing things at them, re-arranging furniture, moving or taking their belongings, calling them names, taking them to the wrong place and leaving them. Yes, it is mean and it happens all too often. Educating ourselves and our children about disabilities may help reduce the bias, discrimination and ignorance.

Here’s a story to make you smile: Franklin Johnson; an MCB Guide Dog User, prepared the ingredients in the Crockpot for the evening meal. The Housekeeper gave instructions to place the contents of a container she had left in the refrigerator into the Crockpot 30 minutes before the meal was finished. Franklin followed this instruction and reported that the meal was DELICIOUS! When the Housekeeper returned for work, Franklin asked what was in the container that had been added to the Crockpot meal. Are you ready for the answer…..are you sure…..it was…..DOG TREATS! LOL

If our Committee can provide education, resource information or peer support, please contact me at cathiebrauner@gmail.com and place LV COMMITTEE in the SUBJECT Box. Your comments, suggestions, funny stories and awkward moments are always welcome.

Low Vision Committe Report :: March 2013

By Cathie Brauner

A new Low Vision Committee has been formed and our mission is to provide resource information and peer guidance to persons with low vision throughout Missouri. The Committee Members are Ron Brauner, Franklin Johnson, Jeff La Montia and Cathie Brauner (Chair). Franklin has worked in the field of Vocational Rehabilitation; serving the blind and visually impaired, since 1964. My Husband; Ron, and I had been Sales Representatives for Optelec (CCTV) and Coburn Optical (Low Vision Aids) and demonstrated CCTV to individuals in the four-state area. We also demonstrated Low Vision Aids to Low Vision Specialists (Optometrists) in the four-states as well.

Please submit your suggestions, comments, low vision challenges, low vision solutions, funny stories and anything else you wish to share to cathiebrauner@gmail.com and our committee will work diligently to meet your needs. We also offer a RESOURCE LIST (several pages long) to those individuals who are interested in seeking all types of low vision help (some free, some at a cost) – just send me your request and address and I will mail it to you.

I am a low vision Individual who began to lose sight in 1985. Part of my job was bookkeeping and when I added a column of numbers (more than once); I came up with different answers each time. In frustration, I saw my Optometrist; who drug all types of dusty exam equipment out of his back room, and to his frustration could not determine my problem. He sent me to a local hospital for a complete physical exam – which I passed with flying colors. I then went to the local Job Service Center to find a job I could handle, told the counselor about my vision problem and he sent me to Services for the Blind in Chanute, KS. The counselor sent me to a Low Vision Specialist (Dr. Terry Rothstein) who determined I had Macular Degeneration (it’s like looking through a piece of Swiss Cheese and affects detail vision) – my vision at that time was 20/60 and I was very frightened because I didn’t know what the future would bring and what would become of my life.

The counselor at Services for the Blind purchased Low Vision Aids and a Closed Circuit TV; which changed my life. He also found a job for me working as Administrative Assistant to a Plant Manager at a manufacturing facility.

Our committee understands the struggle of a low vision person and the quest to find help for the condition. For those of you who are losing vision and find that your current eye doctor is unable to help, please ask him/her to refer you to a Low Vision Specialist for immediate help. Most eye doctors (who are not LV Specialists) are not familiar with LV Aids and are not able to give a low vision person much help.

Losing vision is like losing a family member – don’t stay in mourning too long….get on with your life with the help of low vision aids. With the help of my LV Aids, I managed a LePrint Express quick-print shop with the help of my blind/low vision employees and won a Retail Employee of the Year Award. I retired as Administrative Assistant to a Director of Rehabilitation.

Remember…..the sky is the limit! I do all the things I did as a sighted person (except drive); but in a different way. Low Vision individuals are only limited by the limitation they place on themselves. Please keep an open mind and be willing to try new things.

I’m going to end this article with a funny story…

I was playing a slot machine at one of the local casinos and I wear a special eyeglass that has a magnifier in one lens. The magnifier requires that I hold the item I am trying to read to the tip of my nose. There I sat, with my nose on the slot machine screen and eventually began to win quite a bit of money. When I cashed out and started to leave, the lady sitting next to me said “I’m going to use your technique – it seemed to work for you” and placed her nose on the slot machine screen. I usually explain about my glasses; but that day I said “Good luck with that” and left. I have had some pretty good laughs because of my low vision and will share more with you later.