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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

AFB eNews

February 2015

Spotlight on…

The Joint AFB Leadership and Arizona AER Conference in Phoenix

Collage of images representing Arizona (cacti, flowers, Phoenix skyline, palm trees) There's still time to register for the 2015 AFB Leadership Conference (AFBLC) at the Phoenix Renaissance Downtown, April 9-11. This year’s event is being held in conjunction with the Arizona chapter of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), the professional association in the blindness field.

This annual conference covers the most pressing and relevant topics in the field of blindness and offers many opportunities to learn from the best and brightest minds in our field, make new connections, and reunite with old friends while earning ACVREP and CRC CEUs.

The popular AccessWorld Magazine Tech Summit and Showcase is back, packing in even more cutting-edge information. And you won’t want to miss AFB’s Paul Schroeder leading a plenary panel featuring leaders from Google, Comcast, Microsoft, and the Web Accessibility Initiative to examine “All the Buzz: Your Guide Through the Changing Landscape of Technology Developments and Accessibility.” On Friday morning, AFB’s Joe Strechay will lead a discussion with TED speaker and architect Chris Downey and Walmart executive Russell Shaffer on career success and vision loss. If you work with seniors, you’ll want to join us for "A National Conversation on Aging and Vision Loss: Giving Feedback for the 2015 White House Conference on Aging," and stay for workshops looking at the specific needs of seniors. And you can polish your leadership skills by attending sessions such as “Achieving Strategic Collaborations and Lasting Partnerships” and “Data-Driven Decision Making.” For more information, check out the 2015 agenda, and start planning today!

The AFBLC attracts established and emerging leaders in the blindness field. Conference attendees include technology experts, corporate representatives, university professors, teachers of students with visual impairments, orientation and mobility instructors, rehabilitation professionals, and parents. They come from diverse organizations and institutions spanning the public and private sectors, including school districts, schools for the blind, Veterans Administrations, hospitals, private agencies, and universities.

The 2014 AFBLC attracted over 440 attendees from 39 states and 8 countries.

Hot Topics

New Book on Cerebral Visual Impairment Published by AFB Press

AFB Press is preparing to launch a new, comprehensive text on cerebral visual impairment, also known as cortical visual impairment (CVI). Vision and the Brain: Understanding Cerebral Visual Impairment in Children will be launched at the AFB Leadership Conference, and will be offered for sale in the AFB Bookstore immediately after the conference.

CVI has become the most common cause of visual impairment in children in the United States, and Vision and the Brain illuminates the complexities of vision loss related to brain injury and neurological causes. Editors Amanda Hall Lueck and Gordon N. Dutton, both eminent leading experts on cerebral visual impairment, bring to bear the collected insights, comprehensive descriptions, and practice suggestions of a range of specialists. Readers are also provided with essential approaches to assessment and intervention.

Vision and the Brain: Understanding Cerebral Visual Impairment in Children will be available in the AFB Bookstore in late April, or by calling 1-800-232-3044. It will also for sale at,, and in the iBooks store. The book will be available in print, e-book, and online subscription formats.

Comcast Provides AFB with $2 million in PSA Airtime

AFB’s new Breakthroughs public service announcement (PSA) is airing on national television thanks to an extremely generous donation from Comcast, which is providing AFB with $2 million in free PSA airtime. The 30-second spot is slated to run until March 29.

In October, the PSA reached 8.1 million viewers through a partnership with Litton Entertainment, which aired the spot during its Saturday morning programming on ABC and The CW. In November, CBS Television added the PSA to its regular rotation.

AFB Receives $275,000 Grant from NEH

AFB is thrilled to announce a grant of $275,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to digitize the Helen Keller Archives. Keller was a longtime employee of AFB and bequeathed a collection containing over 80,000 items, Keller's most prized possessions—among them the Presidential Medal of Freedom; an honorary Oscar; the words and letters she wrote as a young child; correspondence from Mark Twain and Franklin D. Roosevelt; photographs with John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Charlie Chaplin; and her extensive collection of manuscripts and writings.

Digitizing the collection will both preserve the physical collection for generations to come and provide immediate, online global access to both sighted and non-sighted audiences. The project will also create a standard for a fully accessible online archive that will create equal access to historical collections for those with and without visual and auditory disabilities.

AFB Receives $100,000 from L’OCCITANE en Provence

Carl Augusto and David Boyton from L'Occitane stand with an oversized check for $100,000In December, our friends at L’OCCITANE en Provence, makers of luxurious beauty products and fragrances, held a promotion whereby $5 from each purchase of select gift sets would be donated to AFB, up to $100,000.

In early February, David Boynton, CEO at L’OCCITANE, invited us to the Manhattan flagship store for a special event and presented us with a check for the full amount. The donation will be used to support AFB’s programs and services.

AFB Releases HTML5 Video Player

AFB has developed its own accessible embedded video player, a versatile, full-featured player with HTML controls that lets users select the size and color scheme they prefer. The controls are labeled with text, so they work with any kind of assistive technology (AT), or no AT at all. Users can expand the video to a full screen, which is particularly helpful for people with low vision. Please test it out and let us know what you think!

Announcing the Release of AccessNote® for Android

The AccessNote notetaker app for Android is now available—and it’s free thanks to generous support from the Motorola Mobility Foundation. AccessNote, previously available only on the iOS platform, is a notetaking app that has been designed to take advantage of Android’s built in screenreader, TalkBack. The app has also been optimized to work with wireless Bluetooth keyboards by implementing keyboard shortcuts and an easy-to-navigate interface. As Android devices become more popular among people with vision loss, we are striving to bring some of the capabilities of stand-alone notetakers to the Android platform.

New from FamilyConnect®

FamilyConnect has launched a new series of articles in the Future Starts Now section of our website. These articles cover the types of services and programs that students who are blind with additional disabilities may require as they transition out of public school programs. If you are a parent or caregiver and have questions about this upcoming transition, this is the resource for you. Information covers financial planning, planning for the future, employment, and residential options and is available in both English and Spanish.

VisionAwareTM Launches Glaucoma Guide

VisionAware has just launched the Patient’s Guide to Living with Glaucoma, written by Stuart Carduner, who has glaucoma and has become an advocate for patient rights. In the guide, Carduner covers learning about glaucoma, what’s involved in making the diagnosis, asking the right questions and communicating with your doctor, new treatments on the horizon, and resources. Written from his own experience, Carduner knows that many patients enter the ophthalmologist’s office with a good deal of anxiety and fear. They want to understand what is happening to their eyes, and they want to know what to expect from office visits. They wonder what the prognosis is for their vision and how they will maintain independence if they lose more sight. Through his online guide, Carduner provides coaching to VisionAware readers who have been diagnosed with glaucoma or who are going through the testing and assessment process.

Tools for Professional Development

New Research Navigator Series

The AFB Public Policy center has had an enthusiastic response to the newly launched AFB Research Navigator, an online and e-newsletter series designed to keep researchers and non-researchers alike informed with user-friendly facts and figures and the latest research pertaining to people with vision loss. If you are interested in vision loss and impairment demographics, sign up to receive updates via e-mail. Future editions will take a closer look at data about children with visual impairments, as well as changes in demographics and statistics over time.

Awards and Events

Access Award Winners Announced

Comcast, Microsoft, MIPsoft, Odin Mobile, Joel Snyder, Ph.D., Texas Instruments Education Technology, Orbit Research, and American Printing House for the Blind (APH) will be honored with 2015 Access Awards for their commitment to innovation and access for all.

Chosen annually, the Access Awards honor individuals, corporations and organizations that eliminate or substantially reduce inequities faced by people with vision loss. The 2015 Access Awards will be presented to the recipients on April 10 at the AFB Leadership Conference.

About the 2015 Access Award Recipients:

Comcast recently launched the industry’s first voice-guided TV interface, a solution that is revolutionizing the way people with visual disabilities navigate and experience TV.

Microsoft has made huge efforts to advance accessibility in computing by increasing access to the popular Window-Eyes screen reader and by supporting the needs of customers with disabilities through a dedicated technical support service.

MIPsoft’s Blindsquare iOS-based app, forged from user feedback and in use in over 130 countries, combines GPS technology, speech synthesis, and open-source data to help orient, guide, and educate people who are blind and visually impaired about the public points of interest and streets around them.

Odin Mobile is the only nationwide provider of cellular service specifically targeted to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. 

Joel Snyder, Ph.D., an ardent advocate for audio description, has led training sessions throughout the world in the art and technique of describing television shows, movies, theater productions, as well as museum tours and other cultural activities for people with vision loss.

Texas Instruments Education Technology, Orbit Research and APH are receiving a joint award as a result of their collaborative effort to develop the Orion TI-84 Plus Talking Graphing Calculator, which gives students with visual impairments access to technology that allows them to interact with math and science without relying on sight to learn.

AFB Names 2015 Kirchner Research Award Recipient

John E. Crews, D.P.A., will receive the esteemed 2015 Corinne Kirchner Research Award, which honors individuals whose leadership and dedication illuminate the most pressing needs of people with vision loss through timely, innovative and authoritative research.

Dr. Crews is a health scientist with the Vision Health Initiative in the Division of Diabetes Translation at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. His specialties are vision impairment and aging and caregiving and disability, and his research interests include health disparities among people with disabilities and aging with a disability. Dr. Crews has almost 40 years of experience in vision rehabilitation, disability and vision research, having worked for the Michigan Commission for the Blind and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Rehabilitation Research and Development Center on Aging in Atlanta, among others. He joined the CDC in 1998.

The Corinne Kirchner Research Award, named for Dr. Corinne Kirchner, a national leader of demographic, evaluation and other research in the blindness field during her tenure at AFB, will be presented on April 11, 2015, at the AFB Leadership Conference.

AFB Names Russell Shaffer Recipient of the 2015 Stephen Garff Marriott Award

Russell Shaffer will be honored with the 2015 Stephen Garff Marriott Award at the AFB Leadership Conference. The award honors a blind or visually impaired individual who has served as an extraordinary mentor or who has attained remarkable professional success.

Shaffer serves as manager of Corporate Affairs – Constituent Relations for Walmart. He manages Walmart’s relationships with national stakeholder organizations in the aging and people with disabilities communities, partnering with these groups to develop and execute programs to help older adults and people with disabilities to live better. Shaffer is active with AFB as a CareerConnect mentor, helping others with visual impairments with career advice. He is a member of the U.S. Business Leadership Network’s Corporate Advisory Board, past chair for Walmart's Advocates for Disability Awareness and Education resource group and is a board member of Sources for Community Independent Living in Fayetteville, AK.

From the AFB Blogs

Get to Know the DataFerrett! The Census Bureau and AFB's Webinar March 26th by Rebecca Sheffield on 3/16/2015

CSUN 2015 Exhibit Hall: 3D Printing Is Coming to People Who Are Blind by Crista Earl on 3/9/2015

CSUN 2015: Cameras for Everybody! by Crista Earl on 3/6/2015

Prepared for My Job Interview: A Mildly-Awkward Poem Filled with Resources for Job Candidates who are Blind or Visually Impaired by Shannon Carollo on 3/9/2015

Back to the Basics: The Art of Reciprocating Support and Favors as a Professional who is Blind or Visually Impaired by Shannon Carollo on 3/4/2015

Recipe for Success: The Secret Ingredient to a Compelling Cover Letter by Shannon Carollo on 3/3/2015

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