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Guest Post: 8 Things I Wish People Knew…

About Going Blind from a Degenerative Eye Condition

Originally Posted on February 2, 2016 by

  1. Phoropter (ophthalmic testing device)
    Phoropter (ophthalmic testing device)

    It usually occurs slowly.
    While there are some people who go blind overnight or in a matter of days, such as with detached retinas, following eye surgeries, or with certain types of Glaucoma, the vast majority of people with degenerative diseases such as Retinitis Pigmentosa and Macular Degeneration, lose their sight gradually, over a period of many years.

  2. Just because our vision changes doesn’t mean our interests do.
    Some people assume that certain hobbies that are sight-related, such as sports, fashion, makeup, woodworking, etc are no longer interesting or feasible after vision loss.  This simply isn’t true.  There’s nothing worse than a group of friends assuming that you no longer want to go on your annual bike-riding trip, aren’t interested in watching a football game together, or don’t enjoy shopping with them anymore.  Yes, some things may change, such as needing to use a tandem bicycle or a tether for running side-by-side or audio descriptions for movies, but these activities can still be very fun.  There are always ways to compensate and adapt when it comes to the activities we love.  I have a friend who is completely blind from RP and recently refinished his basement alongside his son, even handcrafting a beautiful wet bar, all without sight.  I’ve heard of auto mechanics who can no longer drive but still find ways to work on cars.  When someone has a talent or interest, they find  a way to continue doing it.
  3. Silhouette of a solitary woman facing the sunset.It can feel socially isolating.
    Think of all the social interactions that you use your vision for, from greeting your neighbor across the way to commenting on someone’s clothing.  From college students bonding over late night activities around campus to parents observing their kids’ soccer games, some of these experiences can feel a bit awkward for people losing their vision.  While we can still participate in many of the same activities, some of the commentary involved in a shared visual experience is missed.  Sometimes we feel like we have to fake “ooh-ing” and “aw-ing” over that cute or funny scene everyone is pointing at, lest we feel out of the loop.  We can’t dart from person to person at a party, spotting friends across the room.  Some of this is unavoidable, but friends and family who go out of their way in social settings can make a huge difference.  Even when we can’t spot you in public, we still appreciate being acknowledged and greeted.  For example.  I love it when a parent of someone in my daughter’s kindergarten class comes up to me in the grocery store and tells me who they are, even if I’ve met them before, and starts a conversation.  I can’t stand it when someone tells me, after the fact, that they were near me in a public setting, “Oh, I saw you at the movie theater last week,” but didn’t make their presence known at the time. It’s a weird feeling when people can spot you but you’re not able to see them.  It can leave you feeling self-conscious and awkward. When someone passes me and just says, “Hi Joy!” without identifying themselves, I sometimes spend the next 10 minutes trying to figure out who it was.  On the flip side, when someone says, “Hi Joy, it’s Lindsay!” I can ask how her daughter is or spout off a relevant comment, which is what people who are fully sighted do regularly in their social lives without even thinking about it.
  4. Image of a Penrose Rectangle - known as an impossible object, an optical illusion that is drawn to look like a three-dimensional object.
    Penrose Rectangle

    The things we can and cannot see are sometimes confusing, even for us.
    I can’t always explain why I can’t figure out what a picture that someone texts me is of but can read the print caption that goes along with the photo.  Perhaps it has something to do with visual memory of letters and how my brain fills in the gaps, even when parts of those letters are missing.  Or maybe it’s the contrast or the size and color of the photo that makes a difference.  Whatever it is, it can be difficult to explain to people and could even appear phony, like I have “selective sight”, but anyone who knows me well understands and doesn’t give it a second thought.  My younger sister, who works on a cruise ship, overheard one of her coworkers complaining about a passenger who had requested vision-related assistance but then appeared to be looking at something.  The co-worker assumed the person was lying about their poor eyesight, but my sister grew up watching her 2 older twin sisters struggle with vision loss and quickly told her co-worker that the passenger might need help seeing some things but not others.   Vision loss is not always a concrete, black-and-white picture for people losing their sight.  Take colors, for example, I can identify most colors in a general sense but often can’t distinguish between blue and green, red and orange, purple and brown, or even between yellow and white.

  5. Blurred image of cars on the highway from passenger's perspective.We can have “bad” and “good” vision days.
    Sometimes it depends on how sunny or cloudy it is outside.  Other times it depends on eye strain, the time of day, lighting inside vs. outside, and even how many trees or landscaping are around casting shadows, causing my eyes to play lots and lots of tricks on me.
  6. It’s not something most of us dwell on daily.
    Gradual degeneration is a lot like aging.  You don’t look in the mirror every single day, inspecting every new wrinkle, exclaiming, “I’m getting older!” just like I don’t stare at eye charts constantly, noticing every little change.  Also similar to aging, most people don’t just wake up one day and realize that they’re a senior citizen….you realize that you’re aging at various points in your life, sometimes because of an event such as a milestone birthday, but other times you just notice yourself looking or feeling older from time to time.  Typically, vision loss is similar. There are times I’ve gone to the eye doctor and been surprised at my change in vision because I hadn’t noticed it happening to the extent that it dropped, despite the fact that I could tell it was worsening.  Other times, I notice the drop and am not surprised in the least when the Ophthalmologist shows me my test results.
  7. White cane with a cork handle from Ambutech
    Ambutech

    Some of us use mobility aids like canes and dogs and some of us don’t.
    There are people who have the exact same vision who move about the world completely differently. There can be 2 people who both have 19 degrees of vision, deeming them both “legally” blind, and one of them uses a white cane while the other walks around without any mobility tool.  If there is someone in your life who you feel like should be using a mobility assistance but doesn’t, it’s usually a realization they need to come to on their own, something through a few bumps, bruises and embarrassing moments.  No one can be persuaded through guilt or fear to get assistance.  Even among those who are completely blind, not everyone uses a cane or dog.  Some, for example, use echolocation.  It’s a personal preference.  A common misconception when someone begins using a cane is that they just had a major drop in their vision.  Sometimes this is the case, but many times the person is just sick of tripping over things and is ready for some help.

  8. Solitary white rose Most of us lead regular, happy lives.
    After doing a presentation about my vision at my niece’s school recently, a couple of her classmates came up to her at recess and said, “We feel so bad for your aunt!  It’s so sad, and we almost cried during her talk!”  Hearing this made me feel like I didn’t really do a great job conveying how much I love my life during my presentation.  It made me decide to start my school presentations by telling the kids to smile and laugh because my story is not a sad one.  Yes, I have dealt with my share of sadness over having RP.  No one likes the idea of losing one of the 5 senses, especially the one that society places the most importance on, but sadness is definitely not the word that comes up for me when thinking about my life. Challenge? Sure.  Adventure? Yep. Fringe benefits? Yes please. Joy? Absolutely.

When you’re done crying over RP, there are so many things to laugh at. (i.e. On a recent trip to Chicago, I reached out to press the crosswalk signal button and began pressing on a man’s arm instead, much to his surprise.  You can’t tell me that’s not laugh-out-loud funny!)  While studies show that people who are blind or visually impaired do tend to have more nightmares, due to anxieties that sighted people don’t face, apparently these added anxieties do not have bearing on a happy, fulfilling life, as happiness studies find that blind people are just as happy as sighted folks.  Helen Keller sums this up best, “I can see, and that is why I can be happy, in what you call the dark, but which to me is golden.”

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June is Cataract Awareness Month

Cataract Surgery Can Be Beneficial for People with Retinitis Pigmentosa

The Morning of Cataract Surgery
The Morning of Cataract Surgery

By Audrey Demmitt
I have Retinitis Pigmentosa and two years ago my retinal specialist noted on a regular checkup that I had developed cataracts on both eyes. The cataracts were sitting right in the center of my only remaining window of vision. They were the type of cataracts that are commonly found in RP patients. About 50% of patients with RP develop them.

My doctor explained that post sub-capsular cataracts or PSCs are located on the backside of the natural lens and the pouch which holds the lens and they tend to grow quickly. She recommended they be monitored until they caused a significant change in my vision.

It was not long before I was having trouble with close up tasks such as reading and the cataracts were significantly affecting my visual function.  Everything appeared dull and clouded as if I had blobs of Vaseline in my eyes.  My biggest struggles were reading the computer and my iPhone which I depend on heavily and spending time outside in the sunshine.  I decided to talk to the doctor about cataract surgery.

Cataracts in and of themselves are not a big worry and the surgery is one of the most common and successful procedures done today. But when they appear along with RP or other eye diseases, it is more complicated.  Since patients with advanced RP depend on their remaining central vision, there is much to be gained from removing cataracts. But no surgery is without risks.  As a nurse, I knew it was important to learn all I could about cataract surgery and consider my options carefully. I began to do a bit of research.

I wanted to know what the risks were of losing the rest of my vision and whether I could expect improvement in my vision if I had the surgery.  I visited VisionAware’s section on cataracts and the message board. Then I talked to my optometrist and low vision specialist.  We discussed my eye history, and my hyper-myopia and how that may increase risks. In the end, he said he believed I had more to gain than to lose in doing the surgery. He referred me to a cataract surgeon who was well-known to him and who seemed best suited to my case.

By the time I met with the surgeon for a consult, I was well-informed of the risks of this procedure. My goal was to preserve my ability to read my computer and iPhone with my low vision devices for as long as possible. The surgeon examined me, ran tests and took measurements. He declared that he believed I “was a good candidate for the surgery and would do well.” My surgeries were scheduled two weeks apart. I was sent home with a packet of instructions and prescriptions for eye drops to be started the day before surgery.

The morning of my first procedure, I felt nervous about having someone cut on my eye, but I was also confident in my doctors and in my decision. They all discussed my case and had my best interest in mind. There was a lot of discussion about which intraocular lenses would be best and what the prescription correction should be.

Eye Shields and Eye Drops
Eye Shields and Eye Drops

Previously, I wore contact lenses that corrected my vision to an intermediate focal point, allowing my low vision devices to work well for me. When I want full correction for distance, I add a pair of glasses to complete my prescription. To read or do close up tasks, I use prism magnifying glasses. With just my contacts, I am able to work on the computer (with Zoomtext) comfortably and do most daily tasks without any glasses. This has worked very well for me. Based on the pre-op testing, intraocular lenses that correct astigmatism in the same prescription as my contact lenses were chosen for the best vision outcome. I did have to pay out of pocket for this type of lens (toric) as it was not covered by my insurance.

The procedure went smoothly and was over quickly. I was given light sedation and was aware of a few sensations, but had no pain. At home that evening, my eye was scratchy and my vision was very blurry. By morning, it was comfortable and my vision was already clearing up. I visited my local eye doctor the next day for my first post-op check. The lens was in good position. There was some swelling which was to be expected and I did have an increase in my eye pressure. So the doctor said he would monitor that.

The next two weeks, I followed the post-op instructions vigilantly which included  administering several eye drops on a schedule, wearing eye shields to protect the eye,  and limiting physical activities as instructed. I had several more visits to the doctor for eye pressure checks. I was told this can happen due to swelling which blocks the drainage system in the eye. It is usually temporary and should resolve with healing and the medications.

On the morning of my second eye surgery, my eye pressure was too high in both eyes. I was immediately given eye drops to bring it down. The procedure went without a hitch, just like the first one. Within a couple of days, I was reveling in how much clearer my central vision became. I was so pleased that the gauzy film was gone, the glare improved and colors were crisper. With both eyes now corrected and working together, I was once again able to read my computer and iPhone.  A few weeks after surgery, I was reading 2-3 additional lines on the charts, which was very exciting.

It has been three months since my cataracts were removed. My intraocular pressures are still elevated and I am taking glaucoma eye drops. The doctors say I am what they call a “steroid responder” and this is why my pressures shot up.  They believe the pressure problem will resolve itself with time and I will be able to come off the eye drops. Of course, this was an unexpected outcome and there is cause for concern. But I am very happy with the improvement in my vision.  I feel as if I have dialed back time and got some vision back! And when you do not have much to start with, every bit of improvement can make a difference.

The preceding article was written by and republished with Audrey Demmitt’s permission in recognition of Cataract Awareness Month. 

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WOTM 24 Featuring Donna Hill

The Mystique of Blindness

Book: The Heart of Applebutter Hill with multiple-amarilis-blooms courtesy of Donna Hill
Image Courtesy of Donna Hill – The Heart of Applebutter Hill

Happy Friday!! I don’t know about you but I am so glad that it’s the weekend I’m not sure what to do with myself. This morning the thermometer registered a cool 3 degrees fahrenheit with a wind chill around 7 below zero or thereabouts. Layers were key, although my secret weapon (hot flashes) kept me rather comfy/cozy.

I want to dive right into today’s topic because it’s one that’s close to my heart. Donna Hill, author of the novel The Heart of Applebutter Hill, and the blog with the same title, wrote an interesting post yesterday and with her permission I will share with you today. But first a little on Donna.

Like many of the women I feature on Fierce Fridays I have not had the pleasure of meeting Donna in person but we but we connected through our mutual love of blogging. What caught my attention about Donna was finding out she also lives in Pennsylvania (I always get a little extra excited when I come across bloggers who are within my geographical area).

To describe Donna it’d probably be easier to list what she hasn’t done because she is so  multi-talented.  She’s a speaker, writer, advocate, musician, and breast cancer survivor with a range of interests from education, knitting, and animals to chocolate. And she doesn’t know this until she’ll read about it here, but she shares my affection of the Stephanie Plum series of books written by Janet Evanovich.

Donna, who was born legally blind from Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a rare, inherited eye disease that causes severe vision impairment and often blindness, developed a short quiz on her blog yesterday that encourages us to ponder what we think we know, or increase our knowledge of blindness. I wanted to share this to hopefully help alleviate the some of awkwardness on discussion about, or being around people who are blind or vision impaired. Since we’re operating on the honor system here, below the multiple choice questions are the answers then some resource information follows at the end of the post.

What Do You Know About Blind Americans, Their Skills & Challenges?

True or False

  1. Most blind people are either born blind or lose their vision as children.
  2. People using guide dogs and other service dogs are allowed in public places, but it’s OK for the business owner to have a separate place for them.
  3. The largest group of people with print disabilities who need books in accessible formats are not visually impaired.
  4. Most of the people who are considered legally blind have no vision whatsoever.
  5. If you meet a blind person, you can reasonably assume that they will need help doing    ordinary things such as crossing the street, using the bathroom or cutting their food.
  6. When talking to a blind person, you should always Speak louder than usual.
  7. Blind people can’t use computers.
  8. Blind people need to live with someone who can see.
  9. A blind man drove a car around the Daytona racetrack without sighted assistance.
  10. All websites are designed to conform to accessibility standards, so that people using screen readers, magnification programs, Braille interfaces and voice recognition software can use them.

Multiple Choice

  1. In which of the following occupations have blind people already excelled?
    a) medical doctor
    b) NASA engineer
    c) teacher
    d) lawyer
    e) All of the above
    f) None of the above
  2. Which of these statements best describes the availability of accessible books for people with print disabilities?
    a) Every new book is made into accessible formats for people with print disabilities      within the first month after publication.
    b) About two-thirds of all new books are made accessible.
    c) Only 5% of new books are made into accessible formats.
    d) No books are made accessible until someone specifically requests them.
  3. If you want to guide a blind person to a chair, a bus stop or store, you should:
    a) hold onto their arm and gently push them along
    b) put your arm around their shoulders as you walk
    c) take their hand
    d) ask them if they’d like to take your elbow.
  4. If a blind person has a guide dog, you should:
    a) hold the dog’s guiding harness,
    b) talk to the dog,
    c) give the dog a treat
    d) ignore the dog entirely
  5. If you want to pet a guide dog, you should:
    a) Pet their head
    b) Get down so you’re at eye-level with the dog
    c) Ask permission
    d) Just go for it, as long as the dog looks friendly.
  6. Which of the following statements about Braille is true?
    a) Braille is the only form of reading and writing for people who can’t see print which offers the same level of literacy as print.
    b) Braille can be read on small, portable digital devices that can hold many Braille books.
    c) Braille is taught to less than 10% of blind children.
    d) All of the above
    e) None of the above
  7. Rehabilitation counsellors say the biggest hurdle their newly blind clients must overcome is:
    a) Learning to use a guide dog or white cane
    b) Learning to read Braille
    c) Learning to use a computer with a screen reader.
    d) Changing their own beliefs about blindness.
  8. Encouraging middle school and older students, colleagues and others to read The Heart of Applebutter Hill, which features a 14-year-old girl who is losing her sight, can do which of these?
    a) give readers a safe place to meet a blind teen and other people with disabilities b) going about their daily lives.
    c) develop an awareness of the issues facing people with vision loss.
    d) raise awareness about bullying and how it impacts kids with disabilities.
    e) give readers the opportunity to read a fun and suspenseful story.
    f) all of the above.
    g) none of the above.

Answers to the “What Do You Know About Blindness?” Quiz

“*” = further info & references are below True or False

  1. False: A very small percentage of vision loss happens at birth or in childhood. Most blind people grow up sighted. The CDC predicts a tripling of diabetes-related blindness in working age Americans by 2050.*
  2. False. Equal access under the Americans with Disabilities Act specifically prohibits businesses from confining service dogs to  areas set aside for pets, such as pet rooms in motels, and allows them access to all areas open to the general public. Service dogs must be under control, however.*
  3. True. Most students who require books in alternative formats have learning disabilities such as dyslexia, not visual impairments. In fact Learning Ally (formerly Recording for the Blind), which provides recorded books read by volunteers, says that 75% of their 300,000 subscribers are learning disabled.
  4. False: According to the American Foundation for the Blind, “Only 18 percent of people who are visually impaired are classified as being totally blind, and the majority of them can differentiate between light and dark.”
  5. False. Assumption about anything is problematic. The causes, extent and the length of time a person has lived with vision loss, the training and quality of rehabilitation they have received and the beliefs about blindness held by their families and friends, along with their innate strengths and weaknesses  make it impossible to “assume” anything about what they can or cannot do.
  6. False. Just like the general population, some blind people have hearing loss, but most hear normally. And, no, blind people don’t have super senses; they just pay more attention to their remaining senses  .
  7. False. Text-to-speech (aka screen reading) technology enables blind people to prepare, format and edit documents, read and write emails, surf the internet and use cellphones.
  8. False: Blind people live in many situations including alone. They can cook, clean and handle household finances as well as a sighted person, if they have the proper training, equipment and a “can-do” attitude. They ski, surf, climb mountains and participate in society as volunteers, politicians and parents.
  9. True. on January 29, 2011, preceding the Rolex 24 at the Daytona International Speedway, Mark Riccobono (currently president of the NFB and at the time Executive Director of the NFB’s Jernigan Institute) drove a modified Ford Escape at 30 mph around the raceway. Blind and blind-folded, he received real-time information via vibrations sent to his fingers, back and legs that allowed him to make independent decisions about speed and steering.
  10. False. The ADA and other laws governing access to the internet and digital software are complaint driven. Despite almost a quarter century of public awareness campaigns and landmark rulings and out-of-court settlements, much of the internet remains off-limits for people using adaptive software. Often, the problems are simple to fix, like properly labeling buttons or links and using text-based security questions instead of graphic CAPTCHAs. Even audio is problematic especially for those who are deaf and blind. Free resources are available to help web designers create accessible PDF files, Flash, Java and other web design elements. *

Multiple Choice

  1. Answer: E. Yes, all of the above and more. Technology is enabling blind people to excel at professions assumed to be off-limits without sight, including the sciences.*
  2. Answer: C. The World Blind Union states that only 5% of books are made accessible. This puts blind people at a significant disadvantage vis-à-vis their sighted peers in  education and employment.*
  3. Answer: D. Allowing a blind person to hold your elbow means you will be leading and they will be following. It’s more comfortable for everybody.
  4. Answer: D. Never touch a guide dog or any part of the dog’s guiding equipment without specific permission.
  5. Answer: C. Always ask before approaching, talking to or touching a guide dog, and respect the person’s wishes. Guide dogs are “on duty” when their harness is on, even if they’re sprawled on the floor snoozing. Failure to respect these boundaries sends a conflicting message, can cause the dog to be distracted and could lead to problems down the line. Sometimes, it may be OK, but let the dog’s handler make that call.
  6. Answer: D. Listening is wonderful, but it isn’t literacy for sighted people and it shouldn’t be for blind people either.  Spelling and grammar are felt in real-time as a person reads Braille. When using a screen reader, a person can go back and read character by character to catch the spelling and punctuation; this is an extra step, however, and you have to remember not to assume. After all, not everyone spells names like John and Debbie the same way.

Braille is part of the digital revolution, making it possible to access far more books than ever before. Students can carry all of their textbooks in a small digital device with a refreshable Braille display. Nonetheless, Braille literacy  has fallen to about 10%, despite the increased availability and portability of Braille books and  strong links between Braille literacy to success in higher education and the workplace. This is due to a shortage of qualified Braille teachers, low expectations and a general societal loss of an understanding of what literacy actually is.

7.  Answer: D. Blindness is not like other minority groups. Most of the time, whites don’t wake up one day as African-Americans, men don’t suddenly become women and straights don’t just end up gay. This, however, is exactly what happens in most cases of blindness and other disabilities. Since most blind people grow up sighted, they form beliefs in childhood about what it means to be blind. These beliefs are often negative and based upon misinformation and prejudice. If you believe that life as a blind person would be devoid of independence, productivity and joy and then lose your own sight, these beliefs form a major stumbling block to living life at its fullest.
8.  This is a bit of a trick question. I hope the answer is “all of the above.” Won’t you read it, and tell Donna what you think?

Donna, thank you for being proactive in creating this tool to help provide deeper insight into the realm of blindness and vision loss.

More Info & References:

Statistics on Blindness

  • Statistics on blindness and visual impairments are difficult to interpret because of differences in definitions and methods. Also, until recently, blindness was lumped in with other disabilities even by the Department of Labor and Industry for employment statistics.  For more about this issue see the latest issue of the Research Navigator from the American Foundation for the Blind: www.afb.org/info/programs-and-services/public-policy-center.
  • Based on data from The 2013 American Community Survey, the Current Population Survey (CPS), which looks at functional visual impairment (people who are still reporting difficulty seeing well enough to perform everyday tasks despite correction): 2,100,000 people Ages 16 to 64 report visual difficulty. There are another 2,018,000 over age 65 (1,296,000 of whom are over 75). Visit the Data Corner of the National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision at: www.blind.msstate.edu
  • In contrast, the American Printing House for the Blind collects data on children and youth eligible for adapted educational materials from APH through the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind, based on visual acuity. The total number of non-college students (infants and older) is 60,393.
  • Distribution of Eligible Students Based on the Federal Quota Census of January 7, 2014: www.aph.org/federal-quota

Blindness is on the Rise in Working-Age Adults

  • “Diabetes Epidemic Signals an Increase in Blindness, Too” www.nytimes.com

Service Dogs

Accessible Books for People with Visual Impairments and Other Print Disabilities

Here’s a  comparison between what’s available for print readers & what’s accessible for those with print disabilities

  • 36 million – the approximate number of books and other print materials in the collection of the Library of Congress (according to LOC.gov) with 12,000 added daily.
  • 300,000 – approximate number of titles available from Bookshare, the world’s largest accessible online library for people with print disabilities. Note: Bookshare provides their collection in several downloadable formats, including DAISY text, synthetic speech and refreshable Braille.
  • 80,000 – approximate number of titles available from Learning Ally – formerly Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic – the world’s largest library of human-narrated audiobooks, as of October 30, 2014.
  • 80,000 – books in audio format available through the National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped (NLS), a division of the Library of Congress.
  • 31,338 – books available in braille from NLS.

For more information and to learn about the Marrakesh Treaty and how ratifying it can help, read “Is Literacy Really for Everyone? – the Numbers Tell a Different Story” at: donnawhill.com

Braille Literacy

Careers for Blind People

  • Tim Cordes graduated from medical school in 2010: www.msnbc.msn.com
  • He wasn’t the first blind man to do so. Dr. David Hartman, a practicing psychiatrist in Virginia attended medical school as a blind student in the ’70s, and Dr. Jacob Bolotin did so in 1912.
  • Celeste Lopes, New York State assistant district attorney and deputy bureau chief, Rackets Division, grew up blind and has been with the NYC District Attorney’s office for over 27 years. www.afb.org/info/living-with-vision-loss/for-job-seekers/our-stories

Read about the contribution of blind Goddard Space Flight Center employee Dr. Marco Midon in “Blind Engineer Finds Solution That Could Provide Insight into Soyuz Capsule Re-entry Issues” at: www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/2008/soyuz_reentry  

Blind Driver’s?

  • The Blind Driver Challenge ™ (BDC) is a joint project between the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Jernigan Institute and Virginia Tech’s Robotics and Mechanisms Lab (RoMeLa). The Jernigan Institute is the only research and training facility on blindness operated by blind people. Dr. Dennis Hong, RoMeLa’s director, stepped forward after NFB President Emeritus Dr. Marc Maurer challenged America’s universities in 2004 to develop a car blind people could drive. An initiative to develop nonvisual interface technology that conveys real-time information, the BDC  received the 2010 Application of the Year Award at the National Instruments Graphical System Design Achievement Awards. The Virginia Tech/TORC BDC team project also received the Graphical System Design Achievement Award in the Robotics category.  blinddriverchallenge.org

Website Accessibility

Accessibility to websites, software and digital technology for people with visual impairments is limited. This profoundly impacts education and employment. The November, 2011 issue of the First Monday Journal (University of Illinois, Chicago) features an academic study explaining the issues and recommending solutions.

“Retrofitting accessibility: The legal inequality of after-the-fact online access for persons with disabilities in the United States” by Brian Wentz, Paul T. Jaeger, and Jonathan Lazar: www.uic.edu

It warns that disability laws are creating a “separate but unequal” online environment and a “permanent underclass.”

Make Your Website Accessible to Everyone

Prepared 2/9/15 by Donna W. Hill, author of The Heart of Applebutter Hill. Contact Donna at: DonnaWHill.com