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Fashion Trends Surge Among Blind and Visually Impaired Community

Tri collage of me posing in front of my counter with my white cane wearing a black off the shoulder choker top, white jeans, black suede chunky high heels and silver jewelry..

Fashion Trends Surge Among Blind and Visually Impaired Community

I wrote the following article (posted 3/14/2018) for VisionAware.org:   

Editor’s Note: The week of March 11 was World Glaucoma Week. Peer advisor Steph McCoy, Founder, and CEO of Bold Blind Beauty, has written eloquently about her journey with this eye condition. As a real fashionista, in this post, she shares her thoughts on fashion trends, an important topic as Spring approaches. 

Does Loss of Vision Equal Frumpy?

There’s a misconception that sight loss equals frumpy and unfashionable. Likewise, there’s a silent societal expectation where people with sight loss shouldn’t be fashionable.

The truth is, there are people with sight who either have no interest in or lack fashion sense. Also true, there are people who are blind or have sight loss, and they are fashionistas.

Thankfully, maintaining a sense of style and keeping a finger on the pulse of trends isn’t wholly reliant on eyesight. Like anything else, we can continue to enjoy and immerse ourselves in the world of fashion if we desire.

While the fashion industry still has a way to go where inclusion is concerned, the Internet has improved access to information. The Internet has made it possible for individuals with disabilities to become mouthpieces for change.

Fashion Trends Resources with Persons Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired In Mind

Today, there are many blind and visually impaired fashion content creators with plenty room for more. With this in mind, here are few tips to help a person who is blind or visually impaired remain connected to fashion.

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

  • When you know your style, stick with it.
  • Keep it simple and classic.
  • For trendsetters, taking risks is part of the fun in fashion, continue doing what you do.

Expand Your Fashion Resource Network

  • Follow and engage with fashion bloggers, vloggers, and writers. You can find them on blogging platforms, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.
  • Read about and discuss the latest trends, styles, and seasonal colors with friends who have similar tastes and interests.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help from someone you trust who will give you honest feedback.
  • Testing new looks? Take photos and share with your trusted online community or friends and family for feedback.

Easy Low Tech Fashion Resources

QVC does a remarkable job in describing their merchandise. Following is a small sampling of their fashion segments.

  • Morning Q Live – Style Edition
  • Amy’s Closet (Amy Stran)
  • Denim & Co.
  • Susan Graver Style

Seek Professional Assistance

  • Professional consultants develop in-depth personal profiles to suit individual needs
  • Personal Shopper/Styling Service
  • Beauty Consultant
  • Image Consultant

Final Note

As blind and visually impaired people, we face our share of barriers. We are not what’s happened to us, and we have the power of choice. Thankfully, we can choose how to move forward with our lives and allow fashion to play a role.

Featured Image Description:

Tri collage of “yours truly” posing in front of my counter with my white cane wearing a black off the shoulder choker top, white jeans, black suede chunky high heels and silver jewelry.

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Capable, Competent & Crushing It

“You’re not blind, you looked at me;” or “What do you mean you’re blind? Who put your make-up on this morning?” or “What do you mean you’re blind? You have kids.” ~Ashley Nemeth, www.blindmovingon.com

Close up photo of Ashley wearing her makeup.

Unlike the term “a little bit pregnant,” blindness is not like this. In blindness, there isn’t an “is” or “is not.” There is a wide range in the loss of eyesight (it’s not as simple as seeing or not seeing). For those of us who make the decision to get on with life after sight loss, we learn different methods of accomplishing the tasks we used to do. Anything is possible when we choose not to limit ourselves.

Blindness is not black or white. According to VisionAware.org, the estimated percentage of people who are “totally without sight” or no light perception is 15%—the remaining 85% of all individuals with eye disorders have some remaining sight.

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More Women Than Men Have Vision Loss

Gender Differences On Eye Health

Audrey & Sophie (her guide dog)
Audrey & Sophie

Fellow VisionAware Peer Advisor and Woman On The Move, Audrey Demmitt wrote the following previously published article.  

We all know men are from Mars and women Venus. But you may be surprised to learn there are gender differences when it comes to eye health and vision loss. As a  nurse and a woman with a visual impairment, I was surprised to learn there are more women than men who are blind or visually impaired. I have a degenerative eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa and have been legally blind since 1994. Though this condition is genetic and untreatable, there are many steps I take to preserve and protect my remaining vision. And I want to urge other women to take good care of their eyes so they will last a lifetime.

Women’s Eye Health Task Force reports that nearly two-thirds of all visually impaired and blind people in the world are women. More women than men suffer from eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Research has shown there are gender-specific symptoms, conditions and risks associated with vision loss.

Prevent Blindness America or PBA, reports similar figures for the U.S.; 66 percent of people who are blind or visually impaired are women. Women have more risk factors and thus, higher rates of vision loss than men. To make matters worse, a recent survey done by PBA revealed that only 9 percent of women realize these troubling facts. Many blinding eye diseases can be treated to prevent blindness and almost all eye injuries can be prevented. Therefore, women need to know what their risks are and learn ways to preserve their vision. PBA launched a new program called See Jane See: Women’s Healthy Eyes Now to educate women on their unique eye health needs.

Women are more likely to lose their vision for several reasons

  1. They live longer than men. Many eye diseases are age-related. As women live longer than men, they are more likely to be affected by conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. The rates of these diseases are increasing as the population ages, especially among women.
  2. Some eye diseases are intrinsically more prevalent among women. For instance, dry eye syndrome which is believed to be linked to hormones is two to three times more common in women than men. Hormonal changes across the lifespan of a woman, from pregnancy to post-menopause, can influence vision changes. Women also have higher rates of autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. These conditions often have serious effects on the eyes, causing vision loss.
  3. Social and economic factors can limit the frequency, quality, and availability of health care for women. Since blindness and vision impairment can be prevented through early detection and treatment in some eye conditions, access to proper eye health care is believed to influence the greater rates of vision loss among women.
  4. There are behavioral and environmental factors that can increase the risk of eye problems, though they are not specific to women. Among them are poor nutrition and obesity which can cause diabetes and subsequent diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of vision loss. Smoking is also a proven risk factor for eye diseases, including cataracts and macular degeneration.

Women can help themselves and their families to lower the risks of vision loss by educating themselves on eye health and following these guidelines:

  1. Get a comprehensive, dilated eye exam at age 40 and continue these exams every two years. If you have a family history of an eye condition or have been diagnosed with an eye disease, follow the recommended schedule of your eye doctor. If you experience any vision changes, eye pain, signs of infection, or eye injuries, see an eye doctor right away.
  2. Quit smoking! Smoking affects many organs in the body and the damage is irreparable. Heart disease, lung cancer, stroke and other vascular problems have long been known as good reasons to quit smoking. Now you have another: blindness. Talk to your doctor about ways to “kick the habit.”
  3. Maintain a healthy body weight. Start a weight loss or management plan to accomplish this goal. A healthy body weight lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes which can all cause loss of vision. Be sure to include daily activity in your plan as this has many health benefits that can protect your vision. Begin with 30 minutes of walking at least three times a week.
  4. Eat an eye-healthy diet, rich in colorful fruits and vegetables. Foods containing carotenoids and anti-oxidants such as green leafy vegetables, and fruits high in vitamin C, like oranges, strawberries, and melons, may protect eye health. Also include foods rich in omega 3s such as nuts, salmon and egg yolks in your diet. There are supplements available to maintain eye health which contains these micro-nutrients, but it is best to eat fresh, whole foods in a variety of colors to get the best nutrition from your diet.
  5. Protect your eyes from harmful sun rays. Invest in good quality sunglasses that have full UV-a and UV-b protection. In beach and snow conditions, darker tints are needed to filter out the harmful rays. Wear ball caps or hats with a wide brim for additional protection from scattered rays that reflect off of surfaces. Avoid prolonged periods in the sun without eye protection.
  6. Use cosmetics and contact lenses safely. Wash hands and face thoroughly before applying contacts and cosmetics. Keep contact cases, make-up brushes and applicators clean. Throw away eyeshadows, eyeliners, and mascaras after three months. They expire and can become a breeding ground for bacteria. Do not share makeup. Follow the recommended wearing and cleansing schedules for your type of contacts.
  7. Learn proper eye safety and first aid for home, work, and recreational environments. Wear protective eye gear such as goggles when using chemicals, tools, and machinery. It is important to protect the eyes from burns, cuts, and foreign objects that can damage the corneas and other structures of the eye.

Women live very busy lives juggling the demands of jobs, children, their households, and aging parents. We often play the caregiver role, but sometimes neglect our own self-care. You may take your child for eye screenings or an aging parent to the eye doctor, but when did you last have an eye exam yourself? The power to prevent vision loss is in your hands. Awareness and knowledge are the tools you need. Your sight is precious-save it! Treat yourself to an eye exam today.

Learn more at:

Posted on

More Women Than Men Have Vision Loss

April Is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month

Audrey & Sophie (her guide dog)
Audrey & Sophie

Fellow VisionAware Peer Advisor, Audrey Demmitt wrote the following previously published article.

We all know men are from Mars and women Venus. But you may be surprised to learn there are gender differences when it comes to eye health and vision loss. As a  nurse and a woman with a visual impairment, I was surprised to learn there are more women than men who are blind or visually impaired. I have a degenerative eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa and have been legally blind since 1994. Though this condition is genetic and untreatable, there are many steps I take to preserve and protect my remaining vision. And I want to urge other women to take good care of their eyes so they will last a lifetime.

Women’s Eye Health Task Force reports that nearly two-thirds of all visually impaired and blind people in the world are women. More women than men suffer from eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Research has shown there are gender-specific symptoms, conditions, and risks associated with vision loss.

Prevent Blindness America or PBA, reports similar figures for the U.S.; 66 percent of people who are blind or visually impaired are women. Women have more risk factors and thus, higher rates of vision loss than men. To make matters worse, a recent survey done by PBA revealed that only 9 percent of women realize these troubling facts. Many blinding eye diseases can be treated to prevent blindness and almost all eye injuries can be prevented. Therefore, women need to know what their risks are and learn ways to preserve their vision. PBA launched a new program called See Jane See: Women’s Healthy Eyes Now to educate women on their unique eye health needs.

Women are more likely to lose their vision for several reasons.

  1. They live longer than men. Many eye diseases are age-related. As women live longer than men, they are more likely to be affected by conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. The rates of these diseases are increasing as the population ages, especially among women.
  2. Some eye diseases are intrinsically more prevalent among women. For instance, dry eye syndrome which is believed to be linked to hormones is two to three times more common in women than men. Hormonal changes across the lifespan of a woman, from pregnancy to post-menopause, can influence vision changes. Women also have higher rates of autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. These conditions often have serious effects on the eyes, causing vision loss.
  3. Social and economic factors can limit the frequency, quality, and availability of health care for women. Since blindness and vision impairment can be prevented through early detection and treatment in some eye conditions, access to proper eye health care is believed to influence the greater rates of vision loss among women.
  4. There are behavioral and environmental factors that can increase the risk of eye problems, though they are not specific to women. Among them are poor nutrition and obesity which can cause diabetes and subsequent diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of vision loss. Smoking is also a proven risk factor for eye diseases, including cataracts and macular degeneration.

Women can help themselves and their families to lower the risks of vision loss by educating themselves on eye health and following these guidelines:

  1. Get a comprehensive, dilated eye exam at age 40 and continue these exams every two years. If you have a family history of an eye condition or have been diagnosed with an eye disease, follow the recommended schedule of your eye doctor. If you experience any vision changes, eye pain, signs of infection, or eye injuries, see an eye doctor right away.
  2. Quit smoking! Smoking affects many organs in the body and the damage is irreparable. Heart disease, lung cancer, stroke and other vascular problems have long been known as good reasons to quit smoking. Now you have another: blindness. Talk to your doctor about ways to “kick the habit.”
  3. Maintain a healthy body weight. Start a weight loss or management plan to accomplish this goal. A healthy body weight lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes which can all cause loss of vision. Be sure to include daily activity in your plan as this has many health benefits that can protect your vision. Begin with 30 minutes of walking at least three times a week.
  4. Eat an eye-healthy diet, rich in colorful fruits and vegetables. Foods containing carotenoids and anti-oxidants such as green leafy vegetables, and fruits high in vitamin C, like oranges, strawberries, and melons, may protect eye health. Also include foods rich in omega 3s such as nuts, salmon and egg yolks in your diet. There are supplements available to maintain eye health which contains these micro-nutrients, but it is best to eat fresh, whole foods in a variety of colors to get the best nutrition from your diet.
  5. Protect your eyes from harmful sun rays. Invest in good quality sunglasses that have full UV-a and UV-b protection. In beach and snow conditions, darker tints are needed to filter out the harmful rays. Wear ball caps or hats with a wide brim for additional protection from scattered rays that reflect off of surfaces. Avoid prolonged periods in the sun without eye protection.
  6. Use cosmetics and contact lenses safely. Wash hands and face thoroughly before applying contacts and cosmetics. Keep contact cases, make-up brushes and applicators clean. Throw away eyeshadows, eyeliners, and mascaras after three months. They expire and can become a breeding ground for bacteria. Do not share makeup. Follow the recommended wearing and cleansing schedules for your type of contacts.
  7. Learn proper eye safety and first aid for home, work, and recreational environments. Wear protective eye gear such as goggles when using chemicals, tools, and machinery. It is important to protect the eyes from burns, cuts, and foreign objects that can damage the corneas and other structures of the eye.

Women live very busy lives juggling the demands of jobs, children, their households, and aging parents. We often play the caregiver role, but sometimes neglect our own self-care. You may take your child for eye screenings or an aging parent to the eye doctor, but when did you last have an eye exam yourself? The power to prevent vision loss is in your hands. Awareness and knowledge are the tools you need. Your sight is precious-save it! Treat yourself to an eye exam today.

Learn more at:

Posted on

How Can I Be Fashionable in the New Year If I Am a Blind or Visually Impaired Woman

Fashion versus Style?

I wrote the following article (posted Jan. 23, 2015) for VisionAware.org

Raw sketch of 3 modelsTo answer this question we need to understand fashion. Fashion unlike style is ever-changing and dependent on current trends. A trend that looks nice on one person may not necessarily agree with someone else. Style on the other hand, like art, is a form of self-expression and communication which encompasses the whole person. An extension of oneself, style begins on the inside with our personality, lifestyle, values, likes, dislikes, mannerisms and it permeates all areas of our life. Since fashion and cosmetics are multi-billion dollar industries, the process of finding professionals to tailor a personalized style program for you can be relatively painless. One good resource to begin with is CitySearch where you can type in the name of your city to obtain a list of businesses that fit within the scope of what you are seeking. Hair stylists, makeup artists, tailors are also good sources to contact for help with color analysis, skin tone, face shape and body shape.

Determining Your Style

In determining an individual’s style there are a number of considerations such as body type (bone structure), body shape, height, skin tone and face shape to name a few. Combining all of the above traits can save you money, time and peace of mind because you will be buying and wearing only the clothing, makeup and accessories that compliment you and therefore make you look your fabulous best. Wearing clothing that fits your body in fabrics and colors that enhance your best features work miracles on the psyche and can help to hone your confidence.

Learning to Wear Your Clothes

Learning to wear your clothes and not let them wear you is key. All of us have something about our bodies that displeases us and we’d like to change. Little Miss Suzy Q down the street wants to be like Polished Polly who wants to be like Gorgeous Georgette who wants to be like Lovely Lorraine and it goes on and on. The point is rather than waste precious time and energy bemoaning those physical attributes that we can’t change why not celebrate what we do have and work it to the best of our ability?

Image of a blank recipe card Mrs. Greene crafts, food, fashion, life via Pinterest
Image Mrs. Greene crafts, food, fashion, life via Pinterest

Ingredients – Style, Makeup and Wardrobe

The subtitle to this section sounds similar to preparing for an onstage performance and if you think about it every time you leave your home you are presenting yourself to an audience in the world around you. Putting your best foot forward can bring about opportunities like that job you just interviewed for, that love interest you’ve been dying to meet or just make you feel so darn good about yourself no one can bring you down.

How to Define Your Personal Style

Defining your personal style begins with your personality, lifestyle, career, stage of life and circumstance in your life such as a disability. In broad terms style can be including but not limited to, classic, dramatic, elegant, natural, romantic or sporty. Once you’ve identified your personal style you can then begin building or rebuilding your wardrobe. A good place to start is with the basics such as a trouser suit, blazer, skirt, white button down, cotton t-shirt, jeans, little black dress, handbag, pumps, etc. These basic pieces are classics that will never go out of style and are well worth the investment.

Instructions – Caring for Your Style

  • Organizing Your Clothes. Enough can never be said about organization of clothing. When you are organized not only does it help with locating needed items it also lets you know when doing a periodic inventory what, if anything, needs replaced.
  • Creating a Capsule Wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe, a relatively small collection of clothes that all work together, helps to keep your sanity because everything in the capsule can be worn on all occasions. The idea behind a capsule wardrobe is it’s all about quality, not quantity, finding what suits you and what you absolutely love. Since all the clothes in the capsule can be mixed and matched, you can label the capsule with the appropriate colors of clothing that are enclosed. A talking color identifier can help with determining the colors of the clothing items you place in the capsule.
  • Using Closet Organizers. The assortment of closet organizers available is dizzying and dependent solely on your needs and allotted space. There are double and single rod organizers with shelf towers for shoes, sweaters, shirts, bags, etc.
  • Using Drawer Dividers. Dividers are great for keeping contents within neat and tidy. Likewise makeup/skincare organizers serve with the same function of keeping cosmetics and tools in their space. And you can bag easily lost items in plastic ziplock bags and label them.
  • Heeding Clothing Care Instructions. Following the care instructions on clothing will keep them looking and feeling fresh while at the same time increase their longevity. If you can’t read them, you can label them in a variety of ways or use a device like the RNIB pen friend voice labeling system to record instructions.

The Most Important Ingredient to Being Fashionable

Even with all the pointers the most important ingredient to being fashionable is the way you carry yourself. If you walk with confidence and feel good about yourself you will look good and feel good! And you will convey that to others you meet.

 

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Staff of Independence

White Cane Safety Day

WhiteImage of black background with white text & symbol of a person using the white cane. White Cane Safety Day 10-15-14. The white cane in its simplest terms represents a tool by blind and vision impaired people can lead independent lives.

October has been a busy month yet a good one in terms of bringing awareness to noble causes. Today marks another important day for blind and vision impaired people – White Cane Safety Day. Here in the US since 2001, today also represents Blind Americans Equality Day.

Imagine what it’s like to receive a life-altering diagnosis. Similar to the stages of grief the initial shock can only be described as traumatic while the brain tries to come to grips with what has been said. As a fully functioning adult losing independence is not an easy thing to endure.

Coming to terms with a major life change is difficult but not impossible. Learning new ways of doing what was once so familiar takes time and determination. Then one day you are given the gift of independence through a simple mobility device.

The long thin white cane is more than just a widely recognized tool for blind and vision impaired users – it is the means by which we can take our lives back. In its simplest terms, the white cane allows us to get back to the business of living our lives in the best way possible.

For more information on White Cane Safety Day, you can visit VisionAware.org to view their illuminating article.