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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

AFB eNews

December 2008

AFB's Holiday Guide for Friends and Family of People with Vision Loss

Stack of presents in various colors

During the holiday season, with all of the hustle and bustle, it's often difficult for people to find the right gift for the loved ones in their lives. For a friend or family member who is visually impaired, it may be even harder to think outside the box and give them something enjoyable, beneficial, and useful. Many people are often unsure of where to look for gifts that are vision loss friendly, and AFB tends to get a lot of questions from the family members, such as, "What's the best gift for my mom now that she has macular degeneration?" or "What can I do to make my home comfortable and safe for my visually impaired grandma who's visiting this holiday season?"

This year, to help answer these questions, AFB created a Holiday Guide filled with great gift ideas and decorating tips for people with vision loss. Examples of what readers will find in AFB's Holiday Guide include:

Fun gift ideas

  • Large print playing cards or large print Scrabble® for the game lover on your list.
  • Audio books on cassette or CD for the bookworm in your family.
  • Movies with descriptive video narration and a large button universal TV remote control for your favorite couch potato.
  • Black/white cutting board, large print measuring cups, or a talking microwave for the chef in the household.

Holiday travel tips to pass on to a loved one with vision loss

  • Be sure to identify yourself ahead of time as having a visual impairment.
  • Memorize your identification numbers, charge card numbers, passport number, and bank number. Or you may want to set up a system to get them easily should you lose your wallet.
  • You can ask the airline to arrange for a guide or to set up a wheelchair to get you to and from the plane easily and efficiently; a wheelchair especially helps at the security checkpoints, since you'll avoid getting stuck in line.

Ways to make a home comfortable and safe for a guest with low vision

  • Overall lighting is a must for safety. Always keep rooms well lit.
  • Set your holiday table with dark placemats and light-colored plates or light placemats with dark-colored plates to make the plates easier to see.
  • Make stairways safer by placing a brightly colored strip of tape along the edge of each step.

View the complete Guide at on AFB Senior Site®, the most comprehensive, informative resource for families and individuals affected by age-related vision loss.

2009 Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute (JLTLI) Update

Registration for AFB's 2009 Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute (JLTLI) is now available online. The 2009 JLTLI will be back in Washington, DC, bringing together experts and beginners across the vision loss field for a rousing discussion about how to improve health care, education, rehabilitation, and employment for people with vision loss. Reserve your spots today!

The official 2009 conference invitation containing the full agenda, speakers, special events, and registration information will be sent out in early January. If you would like to receive a copy, please e-mail Sara Hogan at or visit for more information.

News and Announcements

Description Key: Guidelines for the Description of Educational Media
The Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) has partnered with AFB to forge a "key" to equal access for students with vision loss—the Description Key: Guidelines for the Description of Educational Media. The Description Key is intended for new and experienced describers, description agencies, media producers and distributors, and others who want to make educational media more accessible. For more information, visit To connect with DCMP, visit to learn more about description resources available to teachers and parents.

AFB Distance Learning Survey Results Now Available
More and more schools, colleges, and universities are adopting online educational tools that students are required to use to obtain course syllabi, access lectures and associated material, participate in class discussions, read course material, and receive grades and feedback from instructors. These popular tools, such as Blackboard, can frequently pose significant barriers to students with vision loss because they do not work well, if at all, with computer programs commonly used by students who are blind or visually impaired to access content displayed on the computer screen.

AFB explored ways in which popular online educational tools can be made more accessible with the help of nearly 100 individuals who recently completed our online survey. The results are now available! Findings indicated that the most important and necessary features of online educational tools present significant problems for those using assistive technology, such as screen reading or screen magnification software. In nearly every instance, respondents identified features that were inaccessible. Visit AFB's web site to read the full report.

Braille Literacy: A Functional Approach
AFB presents Braille Literacy: A Functional Approach, a hands-on workshop for teachers who provide braille instruction to children and adults, including those who have additional disabilities, developmental delays, or deafblindness; speak English as a second language; or have other learning challenges. The workshop will be held February 5-7, 2009, at AFB's office in Atlanta, Georgia, and will be presented by Dr. Diane P. Wormsley, Brenda Brodie Endowed Chair and Professor of Special Education at North Carolina Central University.

If you are interested in participating, please contact Shirley Landrum at, or call 404-525-2303 to request an application. All applications must be received by Friday, December 19, 2008. Since there are only 24 spaces available, applicants will be notified of their acceptance status within one week of the submission deadline.

Assistive Technology Assessment for Students Who are Blind or Visually Impaired
AFB's Ike Presley will conduct a training on April 23-25, 2009, in Atlanta, Georgia, on assistive technology assessments for students who are blind or visually impaired. Participants will learn to identify the major components of an assistive technology assessment: the gathering of the needed background information, assessing the student's options for accessing printed and electronic information, determining appropriate writing tools, and determining the tools needed to produce materials for the student in alternate formats.

If you are interested in participating, please contact Shirley Landrum at, or call 404-525-2303 to request an application. Applications must be received by March 12, 2009. There are 24 spaces available; applicants will be notified of their acceptance status within one week of the submission deadline.

AFB Blog
Check out AFB's blog and read about AFB TECH and its work to improve small screen LCD displays, the Coalition to End the Two-Year Wait for Medicare, the 2008 Paralympic Games, the Ohio State School for the Blind Marching Band, and more!

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