Skip to Content

AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

AFB Blog

Track This Blog By E-mail

2019 AFB Leadership Conference (#AFBLC19): Aging and Vision Loss Highlights

*Special Note: Have you booked your hotel room yet? Rooms are going fast! Our room block expires on February 4 or whenever rooms sell out, so book soon to avoid disappointment: online reservations or call 888-236-2427 and reference our conference to get the group rate.

Text reads: Learn, Engage, Advance, Deliver. The first letter from each word spells out the acronym L.E.A.D.

Experts predict that by 2030, rates of vision loss will double along with the United States' aging population. Join us for the Aging and Vision Loss track to learn more about the unique needs and issues facing the older blind with vision loss.

Thursday, February 28

  • AG14: Dementia and Vision Loss: The Role of the Rehabilitation Team—Moderator: Audrey Demmitt, RN; Presenters: Teepa Snow, OT, Positive Approach® to Care. Learn about dementia and its impact on teaching and learning new skills.
  • AG24: Transportation for Older Adults with Vision Loss: Transitions, Options & Adaptations to Support Community Living—Presenter: Virginia Dize, M.S., N4A and Co-Director of the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center. This session will cover what the Center is doing nationally to promote the availability and accessibility of transportation options for older adults, people with disabilities, caregivers, and communities.
  • AG34: Popular Apps and Smart Speakers in the Home: Strategies for Reducing Social Isolation—Presenter: Steve Kelley, CVRT, CVLT, CATIS, IRIS. Smart speakers, like the Amazon Echo and Google Home can bring a great deal of information, practical communication functions, and leisure to older adults, without the need for a computer science degree or even a keyboard. Explore the basics and some features of each to consider during an assessment.
  • AG44: Connecting to the Outside World from Home: Strategies for Reducing Social Isolation—Presenter: Steve Kelley, CVRT, CVLT, CATIS, IRIS. An overview of options will be covered and discussion of these options and how they are working across the country will be facilitated in this interactive session.

Friday, March 1

  • AG54: Treatment of Chronic Visual Impairment: An Evidence-based Approach—Presenters: Judith Goldstein, OD, Wilmer Eye Institute. This session will cover the relationship between patients seeking outpatient low vision services and the effects of depression, cognitive impairment and loss in physical ability on rehabilitation outcomes.
  • AG64: Peer Support Networks: A Strategy for Addressing Isolation—Presenters: Linda Pogue, MSW; Kay McGill, M.A., CRC and Audrey Demmitt, RN. Project Independence (PI), an Older Individuals Who Are Blind program in Georgia, offers a statewide network of peer support groups. The presenters will cover how this network was started, what training took place and the ongoing support the peer support leaders receive.
  • AG74: Falls Prevention and Health Promotion: Evidence-Based Programs, Partnerships, and Funding—Presenters: Kathleen Zuke, MPH, NCOA and Shannon Skowronski, MPH, ACL. Join us to learn more about evidence-based programs available through the aging services network focused on falls prevention, health promotion, and disease prevention.

2019 AFB Leadership Conference

Crystal Gateway Marriott, Arlington, VA
February 28-March 1

Older Individuals Who Are Blind Program Managers Meeting - February 27 (Open to all conference attendees, but seating is limited)

Early-bird rate until February 1: $399
Rate after February 1: $449 (includes on-site registrations)

Register online

To learn about sponsorship opportunities: 2019 Sponsorship menu

And don't forget—we'll kick things off on February 27 with the 2019 Helen Keller Achievement Awards Gala! This black-tie event was established by AFB in 1994 to acknowledge Keller's extraordinary efforts and to promote the notable achievements of individuals and organizations that have improved the quality of life for people with disabilities. The gala, which will be emceed by athlete, adventurer, and author Erik Weihenmayer, includes a cocktail hour, silent auction, and formal dinner. The 2019 award recipients are Amazon, Northrop Grumman, and Washington State Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib. Tickets for this special event must be purchased separately. Please visit our site to purchase individual tickets, tables, or event sponsorships.

Special Thanks to Our 2019 Sponsors!


Leadership Track Highlights from the 2019 AFBLC Program

Text reads: Learn, Engage, Advance, Deliver. The first letter from each word spells out the acronym L.E.A.D.

Thanks to generous support from Hewlett Packard Enterprise, the 2019 AFBLC Leadership Track will provide attendees with fresh perspectives and the opportunity to learn new tactics for successful leadership from top speakers. The full program is now available online.

Thursday

LS15: Network Leadership by Jane Wei-Skillern, Senior Fellow, Center for Social Sector Leadership, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley. This session introduces a set of four counterintuitive principles that are critical to collaboration success and offers insights for how nonprofit leaders can ensure that their collaborations can have an impact that is dramatically greater than the sum of the individual parts.

LS25: Leadership Perspectives Across Sectors, moderated by Jane Wei-Skillern; presenters: Kirk Adams, President and CEO, American Foundation for the Blind; Tina Ballard, Executive Director, AbilityOne; Kathleen W-Evans, MPA, CRC, Director of Business Relations, Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation. Jane Wei-Skillern will moderate a panel of experienced leaders from across sectors, exploring the ways in which they embody the four principles of network leadership. Motivating and aligning networks, government, corporations, nonprofits, and individuals, proves the most effective way to achieve systemic social change.

LS35: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act: Implications for Employment Leaders, moderated by Stephanie Enyart, Chief Public Policy and Research Officer, American Foundation for the Blind; presenters: Rita Martin, Deputy Director, Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation; Kathleen West-Evans, MPA, CRC, Director of Business Relations, Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation. This presentation by national experts on the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act will address misperceptions, realities, and outline tactics leaders can use to accomplish employment objectives in the current regulatory environment.

LS45: Ending Sight-Splaining: Discussing Systemic Barriers to Unemployment in the Blind Community, by Kristin Fleschner, Lawyer, Speaker, Para-Athlete. This session will cover the most commonly reported inclusion barriers of visually impaired and blind persons in the workplace. Kristin will discuss how her experiences working before and after vision loss shaped her approach to her career and advocacy. Ways to better catalyze attitudinal change—like how to better partner with other marginalized groups—and how, in the meantime, to build the needed resilience within our community to overcome the odds, will be addressed.

Friday

LS55: The Collaborative Leader, by Jeremy Grandstaff, Collaboration & Strategy Consultant, S&G Endeavors, Ltd. This interactive session focuses on convening conversations, growing capacity, and transforming your organization for success. It helps you discover the power of the collaborative leader and change agent. Learn new tools, explore virtual approaches, discover techniques, and transform your leadership style to take your work to the next level.

LS65: Team Sea to See, moderator: Jeremy Grandstaff; presenter: Jack Chen. On June 25, 2018, forty individuals made history by becoming the first team of all blind cyclists, along with their pilots and crew, to complete the 3,100-mile Race Across America from California to Maryland. This historical feat would not have been possible without the hard work, coordination and dedication of the award-winning crew. Come to learn what made this team so successful and how lessons learned apply to a broader context. After this session, attendees will be able to discuss the role of problem-solving and flexibility, explain the importance of focus, and describe how working with passionate individuals had an important impact on the success of this endeavor.

LS75: Building a Blind Leaders Development Program: What Is Needed for Success? Presenters: George Abbott, Chief Knowledge Advancement Officer, American Foundation for the Blind; and Megan Dodd, Director, Center on Vision Loss, American Foundation for the Blind. AFB is building a blind leaders development program to help professionals strengthen their skills and gain experiences that will help them achieve higher levels of influence. A framework for the program will be shared. Help AFB shape the program by giving your input on topics and activities to be included and determine the leadership curriculum to serve as the foundation of the program.

2019 AFB Leadership Conference

Crystal Gateway Marriott, Arlington, VA

February 28-March 1

Older Individuals Who Are Blind Program Managers Meeting

February 27 (Open to all conference attendees, but seating is limited)

Early-bird rate until February 1: $399

Rate after February 1: $449 (includes on-site registrations)

To register online: http://www.cvent.com/d/wbq0kn/4W
To book your hotel room (the group rate expires February 4 or when rooms sell out; book early to avoid disappointment): Online reservations or call 888-236-2427 and reference our conference to get the group rate
To learn about sponsorship opportunities: 2019 Sponsorship menu.

And don’t forget—we’ll kick things off on February 27 with the 2019 Helen Keller Achievement Awards Gala! This black-tie event was established by AFB in 1994 to acknowledge Keller’s extraordinary efforts and to promote the notable achievements of individuals and organizations that have improved the quality of life for people with disabilities. The gala, which will be emceed by athlete, adventurer, and author Erik Weihenmayer, includes a cocktail hour, silent auction, and formal dinner. The 2019 award recipients are Amazon, Northrop Grumman, and Washington State Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib. Tickets for this special event must be purchased separately. Purchase individual tickets, tables, or event sponsorships for the gala.

Special Thanks to Our 2019 Sponsors

Leadership Track Sponsor

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise

Platinum

Amazon

JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Gold

Delta Gamma Foundation

Google

Bronze

American Printing House for the Blind

Microsoft

Sprint

Conference Sponsors

Albertsons

Charter Communications

Facebook

HumanWare

T-Mobile

Gala Sponsors

CBS

Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.


In Light of World Braille Day 2019

As a means of consuming literature, learning, and communicating, braille has remained the biggest game changer in the history of inventions for people who are blind. It is only fitting then, that we celebrate the United Nations’ recent resolution designating January 4 of every year as World Braille Day.

As a braille user myself, I can say firsthand that those tiny tactile dots represent so much more than the sum of their parts—they are a gateway to independence for people who are blind or visually impaired. Braille lets students who are blind or visually impaired learn at the same pace as their sighted peers, so there are no limits on their potential.

I learned braille at a very young age, and to this day feel gratitude towards my early grade school teacher, Mrs. Summers, who taught me braille. As a child, reading was very important to me, especially after I left the school for the blind and was the only blind student at my school. I often felt isolated. But I was a voracious reader, and reading was a constant comfort and solace. I also learned a great deal, including how to absorb information and become an excellent speller—because I was actually reading instead of listening to recorded books. The literacy aspect of braille is just one of the reasons why the American Foundation for the Blind will always advocate for braille instruction.

At AFB we believe that if someone who is blind or visually impaired can’t read print at the same speed as a sighted person by using magnification, then they should learn to read braille. Reading is an important part of an overall quality of life—not just for education and employment but being a well-informed citizen and a person who can enjoy art, poetry and fiction, who can engage in entertainment and escape and all the things people use reading for. I rely on braille every day at work, and read fiction every single day. Reading is central to my life, as it should be for everyone.

But none of us can do it alone. We need to advocate for fundamental changes in our educational systems, our employment practices and the way society is designed in order to create a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired. We need everyone to be onboard—educators, employers, elected officials and members of the community—to change the way the rest of the world sees people who are blind or visually impaired.

Braille is essential to learning for people who are blind or visually impaired, and AFB will continue to advocate for the availability of braille across every area of life, from school to the workplace to daily living. It’s up to all of us, and I know a world of no limits is something we can create together.

On behalf of the American Foundation for the Blind, on this 2019 World Braille Day we commend the United Nations for passing this resolution and recognizing the historical significance and importance of this invaluable learning tool.

Kirk Adams, AFB President and CEO

See also: UN General Assembly affirms World Braille Day, World Blind Union


AFB’s Holiday Wish List for Older Americans

Lovely senior lady having a fun conversation with her friend or a family member over her cell phone

As we close out 2018 and prepare for 2019, AFB would like to share our hopes and dreams for older people in this country: complete and timely access to vision rehabilitation services, including low vision, rehabilitation, orientation and mobility, and employment for older people who have vision loss; and a fundamental change in the public understanding and acceptance of low vision and blindness that promotes equal access to high quality, fully productive, and independent lives and overcomes employment barriers for older people who are visually impaired.

What Makes These Hopes and Dreams Critical to Achieve?

Economically:

Presently the annual economic impact of major vision problems among Americans older than age 40 is more than $145 billion, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Media Advisory about vision loss.

Statistically:

An estimated 61 million adults in the United States are at high risk for serious vision loss. There are already over 25 million adults with vision loss in the United States, according to the 2016 National Health Interview Survey. In 2016, of all the civilian, non-institutionalized adults ages 65 and up in the U.S, 7.3 million (or 15.1%) experienced vision loss, and 356,000 (or 0.7%) were blind. Another research study projects a near doubling in the number of people with uncorrectable visual impairment and blindness from 2015 to 2050. This is not a low incidence disability.

Yet, according to research commissioned by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS), timely diagnosis and early treatment could prevent as much as 98% of visual impairment and blindness in the United States.

Morally and Philosophically:

With proper and timely diagnosis, treatment, training, equipment, and accommodations, people with visual impairments can live independent, full, productive lives. The problem is that many individuals today do not receive the full complement of resources needed to do so. In fact, our data indicates that less than 2% of older persons with vision loss who are eligible for services actually receive them.

Our Challenge To You

An important and immediate population health need is to bolster our ability as a nation to manage the rising challenge of chronic vision loss. Despite enormous potential costs for individuals, caregivers, and society, chronic visual impairments receive little emphasis in most national and public health agendas focused on chronic conditions.

Recommended Actions or Proposed Solutions

Massive public education activities are needed to bring about a fundamental and positive change in public attitudes toward blindness and low vision. Further, legislative action is needed to bring about the following:

  • Fewer older people lose vision unnecessarily due to the increase of: information and referral, eye exams, treatment, transportation, and follow-up services
  • More older people with vision loss live independently in the setting of their choice with the ability to access needed services and activities within their local community
  • Older people with vision loss are empowered to contribute to society by working and volunteering at the same level as their sighted peers
  • Fewer older people with vision loss are hospitalized or are admitted to skilled nursing facilities because of early diagnosis, treatment, vision rehabilitation services and chronic disease management, as well as decreased medication errors and falls
  • The annual economic cost of vision loss among older people in America is reduced, while quality of life is improved

We would love to hear from you. What do you think? Send us your thoughts in an email to AFB’s National Aging Initiative Specialist, Neva Fairchild, at: nfairchild@afb.net. Together, we can change the way the world perceives the rights, capabilities, and skills of older people who are losing their sight.


Here’s One Way the American Foundation for the Blind Is Giving Back This Holiday Season

AFB’s Huntington office has a holiday tradition dating back the last several years that allows us to better and more fully connect with our community. Every December, the staff throws a modest holiday party—either a catered lunch or a visit to a local restaurant. The party includes a gift exchange, where we previously all put our names into a hat and drew a colleague’s name, then that colleague receives the gift at the party.

When you draw a person’s name, you think about what that person’s job is, or what they enjoy doing. Then you buy a gift that fits this description as though the recipient were a child. For example, a couple years ago someone drew a colleague who was into horses and horseback riding, so the colleague bought a My Little Pony toy as the recipient’s gift. On another occasion, a colleague who worked in accounting received a toy cash register.

If this sounds so far like your pretty standard holiday secret gift exchange scenario, well, it is. But here is where it gets interesting. We then donate all of the toys to the Toy Train of West Virginia, Toys for Tots, or other local charity that holds an annual holiday toy drive to collect toys to provide to less-fortunate children in the Huntington area.

As a non-profit ourselves, AFB understands the importance of supporting important causes. This is just one way we strive to “pay it forward” and make a difference in the community in which we live and work.