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Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

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Breaking News: AFB Applauds Senate Action on Autonomous Vehicles Legislation Benefiting People with Vision Loss

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) applauds Senators John Thune, Gary Peters, Roy Blunt, and Debbie Stabenow for introducing the American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act (S. 1885). This groundbreaking bipartisan bill was passed out of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation this morning, and includes many specific provisions drafted by AFB that address our concerns about the earlier House version of the bill. Among other key components, the senate bill would:


North Texas Community Comes Together to Benefit the AFB Center on Vision Loss

We did it! Thanks to all of you the AFB Center on Vision Loss (CVL) reached the $5,000 challenge goal during North Texas Giving Day on September 14 . In addition, our generous challenge grant donors contributed another $5,000 when we hit the goal! In total, you helped us raise $13,025 benefitting the Center on Vision Loss. The AFB Center on Vision Loss focuses on increasing the numbers of persons with visual impairment served in the North Texas region. Funding from the giving day will


Lessons from New Zealand Earthquakes Can Help People with Visual Impairments Prepare for Disasters

In light of the recent 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck New Zealand's South Island on Monday, November 14th, and the 6.9-magnitude earthquake that struck Japan's Honshu Island on Tuesday, November 22nd, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) extends its heartfelt sympathy to all those affected by the initial tremor and aftershocks. To help people with visual impairments, especially older people with vision loss, prepare for similar situations, AFB would like to share a few disaster-preparedness tips from an article that will appear in the forthcoming special issue of the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB) on aging and vision. <img src="http://www.afb.org/image.asp?ImageID=7946" alt="Older man sitting on a wooden bench with his


When You Can't "Catch 'em All": Overcoming Social Isolation As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Image: Left to right, William Reuschel stands with Aaron Preece, looking at an iPhone, while Aaron's guide dog, Joel, appears to look for a Pidgey. It's time to dust off the old Gameboy, find the faded trading cards, and watch cartoons starring Ash Ketchum because Pokémon is making a HUGE comeback. The makers of Pokémon, Nintendo America, in cooperation with Niantic Labs, have introduced a new mobile app game, Pokémon Go. This international craze has taken over the world. It is in the news, on social media, and all over town. But what


"Yours Is a Different Understanding of Architecture": Helen Keller’s House in Easton, Connecticut

Image: Left to right, Helen Keller standing with Polly Thomson at the door to their home in Easton, Connecticut, circa 1955. AFB is thrilled to publish the third in our series of posts focusing on newly digitized items in the Helen Keller Archival Collection. This week’s post is from historian David Serlin, an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California-San Diego. Enormous thanks to David for contributing such a fascinating, thoughtful, and thought-provoking blog post.


What Do You Do When Sighted People Grab Your Arm in Public?

Editor's note: We weren't too surprised to read the following question in the most recent installment of "Dear Prudence" on Slate: Q. Blindness: I am blind, and I wear dark glasses and use a cane. My problem is that everywhere I go, strangers will come up and grab me to help me walk and yell at me as if I am deaf. I know they mean well, but it throws off my balance when they grab me and it’s scary. I get a headache from people yelling at me. I can hear quite well so what can I do? Being blind does not mean I can’t walk or hear. I find myself staying home rather than deal with people. Suggestions?


Meeting Helen Keller

Helen Keller fought for the rights of war veterans for over 40 years. The Helen Keller Archival Collection contains photographs and documents testifying to the extraordinary impact she had on the personal and working lives of the men and women who served and fought in the First World War, the Second World War and the Korean War. One such document is posted and transcribed here. Written 94 years ago today, the letter is signed by 30 ex-servicemen who were tuberculosis patients. It is a thank you letter to Helen Keller for visiting them and for inspiring them to rise above their misfortunes. Transcription of


Helen Keller in Paris: Tourism, Nostalgia and Memory

Image: Helen Keller holds baguettes and stands next to Polly Thomson, 1952 This week’s blog for Inside the Helen Keller Digitization Project is a wonderful piece by David Serlin, associate professor of communication and science studies at the University of California, San Diego. Enjoy! One of my favorite objects in the


Self-driving Bicycles Add to Transportation, Fitness, Independence for Blind Riders

I heard such exciting news this morning! A well-known drone company, Auto-Fly, and a major bicycle manufacturer, Trekker, have teamed up to make a self-driving bicycle. The new device has pedals and seat much like a conventional bike, but the steering and braking are handled by electronic and mechanical devices based on recreational drone technology. What's exciting about this? Soon I'll be riding my bike to work! Imagine, the only obstacle to riding my old-fashioned bike is ... obstacles. With the new drone-bike, I set my destination on my phone, hop on my bike, and pedal. The bike navigates the streets


What to Do When You Can't Find a Spanish Interpreter: Advice for Orientation and Mobility Specialists

As an orientation and mobility specialist, I’ve worked with visually impaired individuals of all ages and backgrounds, many of whom speak Spanish as their primary language. Let’s face it, if your Spanish is as limited as mine is, you need an interpreter, but sometimes there are none to be found. Here are some short-term strategies I’ve used when my back was to the wall: Hit up your bilingual friends or co-workers. Bribe them with whatever you’ve got. Food usually works, but sometimes they demand alcohol, too. This approach has some potential benefits and drawbacks. I’ve had some friends


A Blind Professional's Take on the Batman Episode, "This American Life"

A friend of mine sent me a link to an episode of NPR's "This American Life" on Dan Kish. I had not heard it yet, though I do listen to that show often. I listened to the piece right away, and I thought I would share my take on the piece. First of all, Dan Kish is an extremely successful and brilliant individual who is blind. He has trained youth and adults who are blind or visually impaired on how to travel independently for a long time. He founded World Access for the Blind, and trains individuals in the skill of echolocation, orientation and mobility, and independence. I should preface this by


Blind Boy Has White Cane Taken From Him, Replaced With A Pool Toy

Recently, you may have read a story or seen it on the news about the little boy whose white cane was taken away from him because of behavior reasons. I wanted to take a minute to discuss this situation and why this is so wrong. The purpose of the white cane is to be a tool to allow a person or child who is blind or visually impaired independence. As a person who is blind or visually impaired who depends on the use of my white cane for travel and independence, I am truly upset by this. We teach youth and adults who are blind or visually impaired to keep their cane with them. We encourage them to use it. The white cane is a tool and a pool toy is not a


Celebrating White Cane Safety Day with People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

If you know me, you know that I am a big proponent of using the white cane or the long white cane. I speak around the United States to youth and adults who are blind or visually impaired about employment, postsecondary education, and various other topics. I couldn't do it without the training I received in the area of orientation and mobility (O&M). I received my first white cane from an O&M instructor from the State of New Jersey's Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. I can't say it was love at first sight, but I definitely gained confidence in myself, the use of the white cane, and my skills over the years. The NJ Commission for the Blind and


Happy National Guide Dog Month!

Hi, I'm Paige, and I'm a dog guide. I've blogged here before, and so has my master, Crista Earl, who wrote a several-part diary telling how we first met. I wanted to give a shout-out to all my fellow dog guides because it's September, which is National Guide Dog Month. Recently my master and her colleagues took a trip to a wonderful place called The Seeing Eye in Morristown, New


On Driverless Cars, Bioptic Driving, and Alternatives to Driving

Ike Presley, wearing a bioptic device, at the driver's wheel of a 1929 Model A Ford Roadster replica There was a recent NPR story (one of the many lately) on self-driving cars, and some of the profound impact this imagination-captivating technology might have on people's lives: Is There A Driverless Car In Your Future? As in most of these stories, the expert made no mention of the impact these cars will have on the current non-driver. Why? Maybe because non-drivers are invisible. On


Canine Translator—Future of Dog Guide–Human Communication?

I often discover new and useful apps for my iPhone or iPad by just randomly poking around in the app store. I really found an awesome gem this week. It needs some accessibility improvement, but I think you'll find it useful, even in its current version. It's called Canine Translator 2020, and it claims to be the first interspecies automatic translator for home use. It's still in beta, and the makers caution that everything doesn't translate smoothly between humans and canines. Of course, dog owners know that already. You need a small device, called the C-Translate, that hooks to your dog's collar. It reminds me of a Jawbone Up for Fitbit sort of


Too Little, Too Late: On DOT’s New Rules for Air Travelers with Disabilities

So many of us who have been waiting for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to get off the dime and issue their long-awaited regulations on airline website and airport kiosk accessibility were excited this week to finally see them published. However, like so much it seems in the technology and civil rights for people with disabilities context, we are given relatively little and expected to gush with gratitude. That's certainly the case with these new DOT rules. Even though airlines have been repeatedly challenged to improve


This White Cane Day, Slim and I Are Ready to Strut Our Stuff

On October 15, we celebrate National White Cane Safety Day, or as I call it more plainly, White Cane Day. So, you might remember that the nickname for my long white cane is "Slim," as I have written about him on the AFB Blog and FamilyConnect Blog in past years. That's right: I am 35 years old, and have a nickname for my long white cane. You know, my white cane and I travel the country, and I depend on this tool to protect me in many environments. No, I am not a member of Seal Team


Barking Up the Wrong Tree: Phony Service Dogs?

Imagine my surprise when I read the following in Monday’s edition of the New York Post: Liars use phony vests and ID tags to get fake service dogs into posh New York restaurants. Huh? No surprise here, but was just blown away by this. As you may know, AFB headquarters are located in New York City (although I mainly work out of the Huntington, WV, office), as are over three dozen other blindness agencies. Over the last few years, service dogs have been introduced for a variety of different jobs, in addition to


Dog Guide Diary: Weekend Roundup

In this new series, guest blogger and Center on Vision Loss volunteer Holly will chronicle her experience in attaining a new dog guide. Stepping Out Saturday Saturday was full of adventures. After another great breakfast, and a dog distraction on the way to the van, we headed into Portland. I'm happy to report that, for the first time, I was not cold! I didn’t even have to wear a jacket, and for this Texan, that was a welcome change. Normally, because our lounge is downtown, parking is at a premium. But today we only had to park a block away. I was able to exit the van without help from my instructor, which made things feel real. Our objective was to go to the mall and


Dog Guide Diary: Fast Moving Friday!

In this new series, guest blogger and Center on Vision Loss volunteer Holly chronicles her experience attaining a new dog guide. Fast Moving Friday! Happy Friday! Today was fast and furious. It started with the fact that it was raining like crazy when I woke up. It made me nervous because the sound of the rain can block sounds in the environment and make it harder to read traffic. We had another dog distraction along the sidewalk en route to our vans. Tyra had to do a timeout, but afterward she regained her focus very quickly. I was very proud. Everything


Dog Guide Diary: Working the Wild Wednesday

In this new series, guest blogger and Center on Vision Loss volunteer Holly chronicles her experience attaining a new dog guide. Working the Wild Wednesday Coming to you live from the Portland lounge, with lots to report. First off, we have worked two very successful routes, and for those of you who know my lack of interest in coffee, you will find it funny that our destination route was to a local Starbucks. I have been inside it once to find the counter. Each of us will be working with another person as a team. The person I am working with is training


Dog Guide Diary: Meeting Tyra on Monday

In this new series, guest blogger and Center on Vision Loss volunteer Holly chronicles her experience attaining a new dog guide. Meeting Tyra on Monday I would like to introduce you to my very own runway model, Tyra! She is a yellow lab that is almost white. She has dark eyeliner and a pink nose. She is 21 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs 51 pounds. She is very responsive and heels very well. She waits for instructions when working, and is steady and fast. She already knows that my balance is poor and she checks on me as we


Dog Guide Diary: A Firsthand Account

In this new series, guest blogger and Center on Vision Loss volunteer Holly will chronicle her experience in attaining a new dog guide. Day 1 I was in a hurry, as usual, when I left the house with my parents to go to the airport en route to the Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) Oregon Campus. I left Pollyann, my retiring guide dog, at home because, I thought if she saw me walking away with my cane, she would get upset. I flew with a man from my area who will be training with his first


Erik Weihenmayer is off to new adventures; new book may help others follow suit

[Editor's Note: The following post is authored by Paul Ponchillia, Professor Emeritus at Western Michigan University and Olympic Torch runner. Dr. Ponchillia is the founder of sports camps for children with visual impairments nationwide and also co-author of Physical Education and Sports for People with Visual Impairments and Deafblindness: Foundations of Instruction, recently published by AFB Press.] If you’re a New York Times reader, perhaps you saw the


My Buddy Slim and I are Celebrating White Cane Safety Day!

October 15th is White Cane Safety Day, and my white cane, Slim, and I are celebrating out in the community. Yes, I have a nickname for my long white cane, and yes, it is Slim. I am a white cane man, and I don't leave home without him. In all seriousness, I am psyched to be trained to use my long white cane, as it allows me a feeling of comfort, safety, and confidence when I am traveling through the community or even around the country. No, I don't fly on my white cane like a witch flies on a broom, and no, my white cane doesn't have magical powers. I was trained on


A Thought on Dog Guides in the Workplace

[Editor's Note: The following post comes from Jim Kutsch, in light of September as National Guide Dog month. In addition to his role as president and CEO of The Seeing Eye, Jim is also a CareerConnect mentor.] I first came to The Seeing Eye in 1970 as a 19-year-old sophomore at West Virginia University. My Seeing Eye dogs helped me through a number of careers, starting as a college professor and then as executive in the telecommunications industry. Today, I have the unique distinction of being the first Seeing Eye


September is National Guide Dog Month

In light of this month's celebration of guide dogs, we’ve assembled some favorite past (and present) posts throughout AFB's blog network that highlight the importance of, and our love for, our canine helper-friends. Dog Guide Etiquette, From One Who Knows (AFB) Can a Guide Dog "Know" Its Owner Is Blind? (VisionAware) Going to the Dogs Doesn't Mean a Life Without Computer Access (AccessWorld)


On Navigating New York's Streets and Sidewalks

[Editor's Note: the following post comes in response to the recent New York Times article, "With Changes in New York's Streets, More Hurdles for the City's Blind Pedestrians" and is authored by Dan Aronoff. Dan is a licensed social worker (LMSW) currently looking for work helping people with disabilities. He also happens to be New York's premier blind food critic. Check out his blog at blindtastetest.net, and follow him on Twitter at @blindblog.] <img


Dog Guide Etiquette, From One Who Knows

[Editor's note: The following blog comes from Paige, a Dog Guide here at AFB headquarters. Paige is here to share a few thoughts on what to do when you encounter a visually impaired person and his or her dog guide.] Hi! I'm Paige, and I'm a Dog Guide. You may also hear of us referred to as "Seeing Eye Dogs" and "Guide Dogs," but we do prefer Dog Guides - after all, we're dogs first! Since my master is currently occupied – she's a rather busy womanI'd thought I'd use my down time to discuss what my colleagues and I do for a living. Becausemake no mistakethis is our job, and a pretty darn important one at that. Dog guides are carefully trained service


GPS...I don't remember that fraternity

Ah, campus life. Dormitories, dining halls, and...GPS? The newest school staple for co-eds with vision loss is a talking Global Positioning System (GPS). Some of you readers might not be familiar with GPS, how it works, or its level of effectiveness so you should read AccessWorld(r)'sAFB's online technology magazinereview< of Sendero GPS 3.5 for BrailleNote. Now, back to school. Florida State University recently completed mapping its campus so that various important spots can be picked up by the electronic tracking tool. Hmmm...I wonder if this includes all the party spots. In order to use these systems, students must have upgraded Braille Note notetakers which are


Coming Home with the New Dog Guide

We're home! Ralph drove Paige and me home this week and worked with us in my home neighborhood for several hours. I guess most people fly home, so the trainers take them to the airport and go through security with them to the gate. This is great, since the dogs have not flown before and often the people don't have much experience with it, either. And, getting a dog through an airport is different from getting a cane through. I'll have that experience sometime in the near future. Being so close to the school meant I could show Ralph the problem spots in my neighborhood and he could work through them with me. The worst was a subway stop that I use as a backup or when I want to go to the Bronx. It's on an island with busy streets all around. We crossed and


Getting a Dog Guide -- Free Time?

Before I came to the Seeing Eye to get my dog, all my friends and coworkers wanted to know what I would do when I wasn't in class. I wondered the same thing. Would I be able to work? Could I train for a marathon? How about a triathlon? Could I catch up on my reading? I imagine other people planning to get a dog might be wondering the same thing. To what extent is my life on hold? The first-timer's program is 26 days long. People getting a second dog are here for a shorter time. Training time involves a lot of walking with the dog and trainer, lectures and discussions, and hands-on practice with grooming, care, harness assembly, and so on. I would divide non-class time into two categories: waiting time and free time. Friends had told me


Putting it All Together-- Getting a Dog Guide

Tomorrow Paige and I will have been working together for three weeks (I'm at the Seeing Eye getting my first guide dog, if you're just tuning in). We're really starting to work together as a team. We're a little rough around the edges in a few places, but we do mostly look like we know what we're doing. On Friday we did a solo, where we walked in partly unfamiliar territory without a trainer on hand. I had a walkie-talkie and Pete, the trainer, walked far enough away that Paige couldn't really see him, but if I got stuck I could ask him questions. I didn't get stuck, though, and we made the trip easily. We had one spot where a truck partially blocked the sidewalk and I was worried it would start up as we passed in front, so we went around behind it. Pete told me


Matching a Dog Guide and a Person

A lot of people have asked me how dogs and people are matched up. I'll try to describe what I've observed about the process at one school, the Seeing Eye, and maybe other people will fill in or contradict me. I'm sure every school has its own way of doing it. Before I arrived on July 22, many of my friends asked me what kind of dog I would get. Lots of people assumed I would pick out my own breed or even my own specific dog. Apparently if you feel you must have particular traits in a dog you can request those traits, such as breed, size, or gender. I didn't do this for one major reason, but there are a couple of good reasons not to do it. First, the experts at the school are very thorough and careful in their matching. if they think a particular dog is right for


Broadening Our Experiences-- Getting a Dog Guide

I'm at the Seeing Eye, getting my first dog guide. I arrived July 22 and it's been the experience of a lifetime. This is the seventh post on the subject, so if you'd like to start at the beginning, go to the July 23rd post, Getting a Dog, Day 1. The past few days have been spent working on specific things we're likely to encounter while going from place to place. One of my favorites was the escalators. New York is loaded with them, and often it's hard or impossible to get where you're going without one. I've heard many things about escalators from other dog guide users, including that they should always be avoided, that certain ones should be avoided, and that there was a right way to do them.


A Lifestyle Change-- Getting a Dog

It was a week ago yesterday afternoon that Paige's leash was handed to me. I can't believe how much I've learned. I can't believe how much I have yet to learn. A friend of mine who is a cane user came to visit last Sunday. He asked me the same question I've been asked a hundred times: "Does it make much difference walking with a dog instead of a cane?" In the past, all I could say was, "I hope so. That's the plan." This time, I gave my friend the one-week dog-guide-user answer. I hope some of you experienced dog users will chime in and help me answer the question. After a week, do I think it's different? For me, vastly different. I'm walking faster, I'm hunting around to find my way less, actually not at all, I'm gliding past


Beginning to Work Together: the Dog Guide Team

(This post is part of a series that begins with "Getting a Dog, Day 1." I'm at the Seeing Eye, getting my first dog guide.) Paige knows everything about guiding. She's had four months of training, during which she's had obstacles block her path, had cars pull in front of her, had people's pet dogs try to distract her, had people walk in all crazy directions in front of her and around her... and she's been taught how to handle those things. What Paige doesn't know is how to work with an inexperienced handler. She shifts easily from working with Barbara, her trainer, to Ralph, mine. She isn't so sure what to do with me. I, on the other hand, know nothing. The walks


Learning the Basics with a Dog Guide

A few weeks before my class began, a friend who is a dog guide user was telling me some of her experiences. She described some of the early frustrations of taking over the ownership of a well-trained dog. I said it must be like trying to do things with someone else's dog. I remembered a Will Rogers quote I had heard sometime in the distant past, and it's been stuck in my head ever since. "If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try ordering somebody else's dog around." Well, Monday and most of Tuesday I really felt like I was ordering somebody else's dog around. Paige is willing and eager, but simply doesn't know what I want half the time. Sometimes, she just doesn't want to do it. The hardest thing I've had to do, and I've had to do it many


We Meet the Dog!

Crista and Paige Her name is Paige! She's a black Golden Retriever/Labrador Retriever cross. She looks exactly like a lab to me. Her coat is short like a lab's and she's as black as black can be. She's a very high-energy dog. Ralph called me to the lounge just down from the women's dorm, and I went down to meet her. She pushed close, then laid down on the floor and asked me to scratch her tummy. She got up and scooted under my chair for a moment, then wanted to sniff all around the room. We walked down the hall to my room. The instructions were to keep her on the leash and not to groom her yet,


Getting a Dog, Day 2

Yesterday was full of exciting new experiences! Everything is leading up to preparations to match us with our dogs this afternoon. (In case you're just tuning in, I'm at the Seeing Eye, getting my first dog guide.) We had breakfast at 8:00, then went into a Morristown neighborhood for Juno walks. According to Ralph, one major purpose of these walks is to help the trainers determine which dog is best for each student. All the trainers took their small groups to the same area, so we saw our classmates and their trainers. Our group practiced crossing streets, turning, giving commands, and holding the leash and harness. I was curious to know how a dog whose head is two feet off the ground could tell if my head was going to brush a tree branch.


Getting a Dog, Day 1

The author at the Seeing Eye school in Morristown, NJ What's it like to get a dog guide? I arrived yesterday at the Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey and will leave here, if all goes well, with my first dog guide. I'm beside myself with excitement I took a long time deciding that a dog was right for me and then choosing the school. Then, there was the application and admissions process. Now I'm finally here. I'll share at least the big events with you, since you may have the same questions I've had. What's the training like? What's the school like? How is traveling with a dog different