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Make Vision a Focus for Healthy Vision Month

Editor's note: The National Eye Institute (NEI) has proclaimed May as Healthy Vision Month.— and the National Eye Institute (NEI) needs your help to Make Vision a Focus!

eye chart with words in decreasing font sizes: May is Healthy Vision Month which is not just about seeing an eye chart

Did you know more than 23 million American adults have never had an eye exam? Getting regular eye exams can catch vision problems early, when they may be easier to treat. That’s why NEI is interested in making vision health a priority, by encouraging adults to take action to protect their vision and inspiring health professionals to continue teaching the importance of vision care.

In conjunction with this month, Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, F.A.C.S, has written a post on preventing the loss of sight. Following the American Foundation for the Blind's "Second National Conversation on Aging and Vision Loss" , Dr. Mendelsohn asked if he could contribute an article, saying, "I see too many patients who face the serious risk of blindness simply due to a lack of awareness."

Dr. Mendelsohn has practiced for 30 years. He attended Northwestern University’s Honors Program in Medical Education and Northwestern University Medical School, where he also completed his residency training in Ophthalmology. He completed a Fellowship at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. While practicing in South Florida, Dr. Mendelsohn has been actively engaged in organized medicine at the local, state, and national levels. He served as President of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology in 1996 and has assumed leadership roles for two decades in that organization’s public policy efforts. Further, Dr. Mendelsohn has developed and enhanced laser procedures for glaucoma and cataract surgery, and has published his work in prestigious scientific publications.

Be Proactive About Your Vision

by Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, F.A.C.S.

What Is the Best Way to Prevent Sight Loss?

Dispensing medical advice is a something ophthalmologists love to do. Patients are not always receptive to our words of caution and tend to be more responsive when we dispense medications. I don’t take it personally. My favorite piece of advice to my patients is limited to two words: be proactive.

While there are many medical diseases which are genetic and outside of our control, there are things we can personally do to limit or prevent diseases which affect the eyes.

Macular Degeneration

Let’s start with macular degeneration, the principal cause of vision loss among older people in the United States. More than 10,000,000 individuals are affected by this progressive ocular disease. But if you are proactive, there are ways you can mitigate the process and preserve your eyesight.

Steps to Being Proactive About Your Vision

  • The first step is to stop smoking. Research has proven smokers have a stronger probability of being diagnosed with macular degeneration than nonsmokers. Smoking can cut off the oxygen supply to the macular, which is the central part of the retina. And while we all lose pigment as we age due to environmental toxins such as ultraviolet light, smoking accelerates the process.
  • A second recommendation is to buy eyeglass lenses with blue blocker. 95% of Americans spend more than two hours a day on their cell phone, computer, iPad, or other digital devices. We are also exposed to blue light from the sun and fluorescent light bulbs. The result is eye fatigue and possible macular degeneration. By purchasing lenses with blue blocker, the damage is minimized.
  • The third step is to wear sunglasses during daylight hours, even when driving your car. Please keep in mind not all sunglasses are created equal. The only sunglasses which offer proper protection have U-400 blocker and are polarized on both sides of the lenses.
  • A fourth proactive step is to add foods rich in alpha omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Walnuts, flaxseed oil, and many types of fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and snapper are good dietary sources.
  • My final recommendation is to take AREDS 2 Vitamin supplementation. My patients love advice in the form of pills. They contain six active ingredients including lutein, zeaxanthin, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, zinc, and copper. According to a study sponsored by the National Eye Institute, taking high levels of antioxidants and zinc can reduce the risk of developing advanced age-related macular degeneration by about 25%. However, be sure to talk to your doctor before taking this vitamin as the AREDS formula is not recommended for persons who have not been diagnosed with macular degeneration because it contains a high dose of zinc.

Importance of the Annual Eye Exam

Your annual eye exam is also an extremely important proactive measure. People typically see their eye doctors hoping to improve their eyesight. What they often don’t realize is more than 200 major, systemic diseases have eye involvement as part of the disease course.


Diabetes is one of the common diseases diagnosed during an annual eye exam and according to NEI, the leading cause of blindness in the United States. I could not possibly count the number of patients I have seen who have left my office with my recommendation to see an endocrinologist. Patients with thyroid abnormalities such as Graves’ disease sometime present with exophthalmos, a bulging of the eyeball. Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease, sickle cell, anemia, and even breast cancer often can be identified during your annual visit.

Ophthalmologists are perfectly positioned to be able to identify these illnesses before anyone else and refer patients to appropriate treatment before symptoms develop or progress.

Routine eye examinations definitely help preserve and improve vision, but more importantly, they often save lives.

Additional Information

Age-Related Macular Degeneration Risk Factors

Eye Health

Diabetes and diabetic retinopathy
Low Vision
Macular Degeneration

Inclusion for All: Celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2018

Thursday, May 17, marks the seventh Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), the purpose of which is to get everyone talking, thinking, and learning about digital access/inclusion and people with different disabilities.

Every year on this day, AFB takes this opportunity to share our own resources to get the public thinking about accessibility. This year, we put together a free webinar to commemorate the day, featuring presentations by Cristopher Broyles, Chief Consulting Solutions Officer; Matthew Enigk, Accessibility Engineer; and Lee Huffman, Editor of AccessWorld.

Cristopher Broyles, Matthew Enigk, and Lee Huffman, presenters of the 2018 Global Accessibility Awareness Day webinar

Topics ranged from recent advances in the accessibility space to the common characteristics of successful accessibility programs. It also included an overview of AccessWorld, AFB’s online magazine devoted to technology as it relates to people with vision loss, as well as a look at the solutions and services AFB offers to augment and support corporate accessibility programs. The webinar was recorded and we'll make that publicly available soon.

Meanwhile, Helen Selsdon, AFB's archivist, demonstrated the accessible features of the digital Helen Keller Archive with students at the New York Institute for Special Education in the Bronx.

Helen Selsdon at NYISE helping a student explore the Helen Keller Archive student using the Browse feature in the digital Helen Keller Archive

As we look forward to leading the way in accessibility rights, addressing technological barriers, and pioneering accessible and inclusive solutions for people with vision loss, here’s a brief look back as what AFB has shared over Global Accessibility Awareness Days past.

As always, learn how you can improve global accessibility for your website or business by contacting AFB.

Helen Keller
Web Accessibility

Engage at Every Age: This Year's Older American's Month Theme

logo for Older Americans Month May 2018 Engage at Every Age

Editor's note: Every May, the Administration on Aging, part of the Administration for Community Living, leads our nation's observance of Older American's Month. The 2018 theme, "Engage at Every Age," emphasizes that you are never too old (or young) to take part in activities that can enrich your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It also celebrates the many ways in which older adults make a difference in our communities.

Creating a World With No Limits for Older Persons with Vision Loss

The theme of this year's Older American's Month could not be more appropriate to the work that the American Foundation for the Blind is spearheading regarding older Americans with vision loss, the 21st Century National Agenda on Aging and Vision Loss. AFB is working to increase funding and capacity to serve the needs of older adults with vision loss. AFB is leading the vision loss community in the implementation of a national advocacy strategy to dramatically increase federal funding and implement the structural reforms needed to strengthen the breadth, quality, and availability of services available to older adults with vision loss.

Older adults with vision loss are frequently overlooked and underserved. Vision loss can also exacerbate normal changes associated with aging. Further, the numbers of older persons with vision loss keep rising. The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS, 2016) Statistics on aging and visual impairment indicated that 7.3 million American adults 65 years and older report experiencing trouble seeing even with glasses or contacts. The data also indicated that older adults are significantly more likely to report vision loss as follows:

  • When compared to Americans age 18 to 44 years of age, Americans 45-74 years of age were approximately twice as likely as to report vision loss.
  • When compared to Americans 18 to 44 years of age, Americans 75 years of age and older were approximately 2.5 times as likely to report vision loss.

Given these statistics, through our nationally led "conversations with older people," we are seeking input on the most critical issues that concern older persons with vision loss.

Consistent Themes That Have Arisen in the AFB-Led Conversations

  • Concerns about accessing medical care and lack of ophthalmology referrals for vision rehabilitation services
  • Need for transportation
  • Desire to continue reading
  • Need for technology and training on how to use it
  • Issues related to accessibility of information including text-based financial and legal information
  • Need for advocacy for funding and services
  • Issues with managing medications, monitoring diabetes
  • Need for preventative care, exercise, healthy eating
  • Concerns about mental health, depression, and isolation
  • Problems with participating in and receiving effective long-term services and supports
  • Limitations in saving for retirement
  • Concerns about extra expenses related to vision loss
  • Issues related to financial management and financial literacy
  • Concerns about abuse, scams, discrimination, and theft

Engaging in the Conversation: Your Chance to Contribute

Please respond to our national survey on aging and vision loss and give us your input on "a world without limits" for older persons with vision loss. Or call us and leave a message at 234.228.6165.

Additional Information on This Topic

AFB Ramps up Aging and Vision Loss Initiative

Taking It To the Streets

What Does Independence Really Mean to Older Persons with Vision Loss


Blewett, L.A., Drew, J.A.R., Griffin, R., King, M.L., and Williams, K.C.W. (2016). IPUMS Health Surveys: National Health Interview Survey, version 6.2. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.

In the News
Public Policy

AFB Consulting Applauds W3C’s Proposed Recommendations

It can only be seen as a positive that W3C has made the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 an official Candidate Recommendation. The latest proposed recommendation adds helpful guidance on certain areas without being overly restrictive.

The focus for WCAG 2.1 has been to more fully address the accessibility requirements for:

  • People with cognitive and learning disabilities
  • People with low vision
  • Mobile accessibility

W3C is also working to meet an ambitious timeline to publish the first Working Draft in February 2017 and complete it by June 2018.

We now have more specific guidance for visual user-interface elements, such as in 1.4.11 Non Text contrast. This ensures that icons, buttons, and other non-text content have the same contrast requirements as text, whereas in the past we've had to stretch the text requirement. Now these elements are explicitly covered. A great example of these latest changes can be seen in the new American Express logo, which the company redesigned to take into account accessibility considerations.

There are also some great additions for mobile content, including how to handle motion control and guidance for the minimum touch target size for elements like buttons.

AFB Consulting will continue to monitor for the next WCAG 2.1 Recommendation, expected in June 2018. If you have questions about implementation, please reach out to us at

Interested in learning more about accessibility? AFB Consulting will be hosting a free webinar on May 17th in celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Details to follow shortly!

Web Accessibility

AFB Staff on What Their Dog Guides Mean to Them

April 25 is International Guide Dog Day, which recognizes and celebrates the crucial role that working dogs play in enabling and supporting people who are blind or visually impaired to get around safely and independently. To that end, here at AFB we asked some of our colleagues to share their thoughts about getting around as a blind individual, their own dog guides, and the special relationship they have with their canine counterparts.

Neva Fairchild, National Independent Living and Employment Specialist, on Dog Guide Vinny:

Neva Fairchild with her dog guide

"The decision to work and train with a seeing eye dog is the single best decision I have made as a blind person,” Neva says. “Walking with my dog, Vinny, is like racing downhill on skis. But not so scary! We walk faster, negotiate crowds and routes easier, and generally sail through our day. Initially, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with grooming and other tasks associated with caring for my dog, but it is so little to give back for all he gives me that I had nothing to worry about. He keeps me safe, and he does it all for love."

Neva joined AFB in 2008 to oversee Esther's Place at the Center on Vision Loss. Esther's Place is a demonstration model home with over 500 products and environmental adaptations to help visually impaired or blind individuals live a life with no limits. Neva has over 25 years of professional experience in blindness rehabilitation and a lifetime of experience living with low vision. She was diagnosed at an early age with cone rod degeneration, a rare genetic eye condition.

Aaron Preece, AccessWorld Technology and Information Specialist, on Dog Guide Joel:

Aaron Preece with his dog guide

"I find that the fluid travel experience provided by a dog guide allows me to travel with more confidence and efficiency, but also have a greater appreciation for the act of traveling itself," Aaron says. "Though it is not the primary purpose of a dog guide, I find that the close bond between guide and handler, as well as the more approachable image a dog guide can provide to the public, provides tangible benefits that cannot be understated."

Aaron joined AFB in 2013 after serving as an intern with the organization. He authors articles for and assists in the production of AccessWorld, AFB's technology magazine, as well as operates AFB's Information Center, where he provides information and resources to those with vision loss, their families and friends, professionals in the field of vision loss, and the general public.

Learn more about how dogs assist people with visual impairments.

Getting Around
Orientation and Mobility
Personal Reflections