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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

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Make No Mistake, Reduced Vision Is Not Equivalent to Reduced Quality of Life

You've heard it said, "Where there's a will, there's a way."

When it comes to life after vision loss, let it be heard 'round the world, I say, "Where there's vision rehabilitation services and a will, there's a way."

From a young child born with no eyesight to an older adult who is adjusting to blindness, there is life- quality life- on the other side of the "door". The "door" being services which teach individuals with visual impairments to lead independent lives (more accurately "interdependent", as healthy individuals with and without disabilities attain and offer assistance.)

With the guidance of parents, a teacher for students with visual impairments (TVI), and a certified orientation and mobility specialist (COMS), a child who is blind or visually impaired will learn, from the start, to eat, play, work, and travel using limited or no visual input.

Teens and adults who lose vision charter a different course. Having relied on vision for many years, which is now deficient or nonexistent, these individuals are caught in turbulence. Not only are they initially unable to complete their daily and work-related tasks, they are also emotionally devastated. It's easy for one who falls in this category to feel they are on a sinking ship.

But life doesn't end there. The ship is not sinking. Instead, the ship captain has been issued a new vessel and must learn to master it.

To do so, the captain must first determine to charter the waters instead of spend each day docked; secondly, he or she must learn strategies and tools to navigate the ship. Only then will the captain be able to enjoy the freedom of the open seas once again.

Sometimes I get carried away by illustrations. Forgive me. What I mean to say is, vision rehabilitation services are vital to men and women with vision loss who are eager to once again pursue life.

While there is tremendous fear that vision loss will permanently steal the joy of life and the ability to work, these fears do not have to be substantiated. Thanks to your will and vision rehabilitation services (which we recognize annually on September 21), there is, in fact, life after vision loss. It begins with coping with vision loss and progresses to the pursuit of blindness-related services which teach use of accommodations, strategies, and assistive technology.

You can once again sail the open seas—feel the ocean spray across your back and the warm sun on your neck.

Make no mistake, reduced vision is not equivalent to a reduced quality of life.

Personal Reflections

How to Stay Current in Best Practices As a Professional in the Field of Blindness

September marks the arrival of autumn—brilliant swaying leaves, invigorating crisp air, warm drinks soothing our chilled hands, and chunky cable-knit sweaters adorning us all. (That is, unless you live in Florida! Shout out to that great state I once called home.)

Regardless, I think I speak for all when I say this change of season and accompanying weather is welcome.

I’m reminded of our ever-changing field of blindness and visual impairments. As time progresses, our students/consumers become more diverse, as does the world into which they’re integrating.

So, how do we become more knowledgeable on the unique needs of our recent clients (think: the rapidly growing population of individuals with brain-based visual impairments)? How do we keep up with today’s research-based best practices? How do we stay on top of ever-evolving technology?

Three words: AFB eLearning Center.

We offer a wide variety of courses and webinars to help you stay current in best practices and earn continuing education credits. Topics include:

It is a privilege to provide these resources for you, as you provide the education individuals with visual impairments use to lead rich lives at home and in the workplace.

Career Specific Information for Professionals Working with Individuals with Vision Loss

If you are looking for some resources to help your students or clients prepare for employment, check out these CareerConnect resources:

Low Vision
Online Tools
Planning for the Future

"Go for the Gold" As a Visually Impaired Athlete: Paralympic Games 2016

Gold Medal on a red ribbon

Watching the Olympics always inspired me as a kid. Maybe, just maybe, I could be an Olympic athlete someday. With the advent of the Paralympics, that possibility is more attainable for a person with a disability today than ever before.

Have you been following the Paralympics in Rio? The USA has won 49 medals, behind only China, Great Britain, and Ukraine. But, in what events could someone who is visually impaired hope to be competitive?

You decide. Will it be a sport designed for blind players like Goal Ball, or will it be an equestrian event? Is swimming your passion? How about judo or track and field? The point is, it's up to you. Getting and staying active is the first step for any athlete and the earlier the better.

Getting connected is the second step. The US Association of Blind Athletes has resources for many different athletic pursuits and connections to programs for kids and adults scattered all over the country.

Getting inspired is the third step. Look for athletes like Donte Mickens, a CareerConnect Mentor and a member of the US Men’s Goal Ball team for many years. Donte knows what it means to persevere, a trait that is essential for his career as a financial analyst.

The next steps in the process are all yours to take. And, even if you don’t plan to pursue the life of a Paralympian, you can improve your health by getting up, getting out, and moving more than you have in the past.

Where you go and what you do depends on where you are, which, if you think about it, applies to just about every aspect of life. In terms of physical fitness, athleticism and competitiveness, you’re the best judge. If you’ve been active, played a sport, even succeeded in tournament play, and your sport is your passion, then maybe it’s time to take the next step and seek the advice of those who can help you move toward a medal ceremony at the 2018 or 2020 Paralympics.

If you’re like me, and sitting on the sidelines is as close to an athlete’s life as you’ve gotten, there’s more you can do. Check out fitness information for people with visual impairments and get moving. Blind Alive offers workouts designed specifically for visually impaired people at all levels of fitness.

The bottom line is physical activity is good for us, and if watching the Olympics and reading about Paralympic athletes has awakened your inner-champion, go for the gold!

Planning for the Future

If Your Guide Dog Could Talk: Guide Dog Appreciation Month

Detra and her guide dog Yulea at work posing for the camera

If only we could write an eloquent thank-you to our service animals for Guide Dog Appreciation Month; let them know we appreciate their assistance and the freedom of independent travel the guide dogs enable. Maybe we’d discuss the smiles they put on our faces, the heaping confidence they provide, the instant-connections with others they facilitate, and the off-duty companionship we adore. If only…

But if we did (and that’s a hearty "if"), I think this is the response your guide dog would provide.

Quotes from Your Guide Dog

"You’re thanking me?! I should be thanking you. I see those neighborhood pets (and I didn’t fall for the drama in 'Secret Life of Pets’); those pups stay put…b-o-r-i-n-g, if I do say so myself."

"I was made for this stuff! My head’s held high for a reason."

"Not only do I get to be by your side all day, but I am also led throughout town. You take me on the bus…Oh, the bus! The hum of the engine puts me to sleep. After walking, looking for overhanging trees, dodging obstacles, searching for doors, following directions, and exerting all my effort to ignore squirrels, I love the bus-nap."

"My other favorites are the malls, restaurants, weekend outings, and your dear coworkers; I could go on and on."

"Let me get to the point. You may think you need me, but the truth is I need you."

"So thank you, my good human. I’ve heard you say it and I agree, we make quite the team."

Guide Dog Appreciation Month

On behalf of Guide Dog Appreciation month, we acknowledge your gratitude for your guide dog and your guide dog’s gratitude for you. What a team.

For sure and for certain, forgo the note…opt for a meat treat; your guide dog will feel the love.

And I have a feeling we have some readers who are considering a guide dog, allow me to pass along these resources:

A good day to you and yours. Hug those service animals for me!

Getting Around

A Head-On Look at Depression and Suicidal Thoughts in Persons with Visual Impairments

Older man looking depressed

September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Addressing depression and suicide is painful and messy, yet far too important to intentionally ignore or absentmindedly dismiss.

Though not an expert on mental health, I am one who has lived through a season of depression. If there’s anything my experience taught me, it’s that we must look toward the inner beast (even the inclination towards depression) and fight it before it has the chance to take hold and choke the life right out us.

You see, according to a JAMA Ophthalmology study in May 2013, there is an increase in depression in adults with functional vision loss.

I don’t state the increased risk to instill fear but to remind us to pay attention to our thought life. Emotions wax and wane and circumstances will affect our moods, but chronic symptoms of depression should be identified and a plan of healing must be undertaken.

According to the Mayo Clinic, depression symptoms may include feelings of emptiness, anger outbursts, changes in appetite, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, slowed thinking, lack of energy, or recurrent thoughts of death. The Mayo clinic explains symptoms will be severe enough to disrupt daily life.

If you recognize these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, I urge you to pick up your boxing gloves and FIGHT!

To do so:

If you knew your body was throbbing from an open wound, you’d act. If your mind and spirit are throbbing, act just as swiftly.

If you are in crisis, talk to someone you trust. Free confidential help is available any time at 800-273-8255. If you suspect someone you know is in crisis, ask them about it. Ask with genuine concern. Do not be judgmental. Be supportive.One of the best resources for facts, figures, and support may be found at Live Through This.

Personal Reflections