Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Visually impaired woman teaches line dancing!

Billie “Boo” Hood does not have a long time to chat. She is busy setting up music, making sure slips of paper with dance instructions are in order and greeting class members.Hood volunteers at the Leesburg Senior Center, leading line dances on Tuesday afternoons, Friday afternoons and Friday nights. She has anywhere from 20 to 34 students at each session.

Hood slipped on the headpiece of a wireless microphone and adjusted it over her glasses.“OK, let’s go,” she said as the music started, counting off the beat for the dancers then taking up the rhythmic chant of “kick, ball chain, step in and out, point, cross.”But Hood wasn’t entirely sure her class was in step until 30 right heels came down in unison on the final step.“Sounds great, everyone,” she said.

Hood is legally blind. The Leesburg resident keeps track of how her dancers are doing with her ears, and with what is left of her peripheral vision. She can’t see straight ahead because macular degeneration has robbed her of much of her sight.“I can see everything except what I’m looking at,” Hood said with a chuckle. “You should see me try to spray a roach. When I teach a new step, and we do a walk through, I tell people to nod their head if they get it — they know I can’t see them.”“She’s been dealing with visual impairment for years,” said Otis Maxson, Retired Senior Volunteer Program coordinator for Lake and Sumter counties. “Most of us should use Boo as an example.

If her regular ride can’t bring her, she calls around until she gets a ride. She’s always been an independent person, so that’s hard for her.”Dancing has been part of Hood’s life for a number of years.“I never took lessons as a kid, but I have always liked music. I just can’t stand still when there is music,” Hood said. “I was living part time up in North Carolina, and I saw line dancing, and I started going. Eventually I became a teacher.”But Hood soon began to notice trouble with her vision.“The doctor told me I had macular degeneration in 1998, and by 2000, I was legally blind,” Hood said.

“When the doctor told me about it, I just asked, ‘What do I do next?’”Hood then returned to her native Leesburg.“All my family is here,” Hood said. “I have three children, seven grandkids and three-and-eight-tenths great-great grandchildren.”Hood also got to work, taking classes in independent living and Braille. Soon, she found herself teaching the classes to others.Hood also uses a few technological tricks to supplement her remaining vision, including a computer program that reads what is on the screen and a device that magnifies printed pages.“I really don’t have difficulty leading the (line dance) class,” Hood said, “because I have so much help.

People here will read anything that I need read to me. I find new dances on the Internet, I work them out, or people bring them to me.”Hood draws a wide audience to her dance sessions.“People,” Maxson said, “come to the class for entertainment, exercise, and because they love to line dance. People come from all over — Leesburg, Lady Lake and Ocklawaha.”Rita Jennings of Groveland has been coming to Hood’s line dance classes “off and on” for four years.“I like her, she’s good,” Jennings said.It took a while for Jennings to realize that Hood had a visual impairment.“I didn’t realize it the first time I came,” Jennings said.

“I realized later that the way she was looking at me meant she couldn’t see.”Hood recently added the Friday night line dancing session.“I wanted to start the Friday night session so people who work all week would have a chance to come and enjoy dancing, too,” Hood said.Donna Riley-Lein is a reporter for the Daily Sun. She can be reached at 753-1119, ext. 9255, or donna.riley-lein

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Company gives a chance to visually impaired people to make a living!

Jackie Ackley had worked at the Milwaukee County Zoo for 22 years when she went blind from diabetes and had to give up her job. Sitting at home listening to soap operas, she wished to die."Sitting on the couch does not appeal to me," said Ackley, 55. "I have a strong work ethic.

I like to function on my own."She's been able to do that at Wiscraft Inc., a small Milwaukee nonprofit that began doing assembly, packaging and machining work for the federal government and companies such as Harley-Davidson Inc in 1985. At least 75 percent of Wiscraft's workers are legally blind."The job gives you a feeling of accomplishment," said Ackley, employee of the year in 2005. "You have contributed something."

Wiscraft is not a charity, workers are quick to point out. It competes with for-profit companies for contracts and receives no tax subsidies."We don't want people to give us these jobs because we're blind," said Gene Hubbard, 57, a trainer at the plant. "We don't want the sympathy kind of thing. We want the job because we can do the work for them."The company recently received ISO 9001:2000 certification, which is an international benchmark for quality.

Its business also grew under president and CEO Bill Piernot, who retired Dec. 31, chief financial officer Kelly Draves said. A new leader has not yet been named.Robert Buettner, rehabilitation services director at the Badger Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired, said companies such as Wiscraft, which was founded in 1903 as the Wisconsin Workshop for the Blind, provide important job opportunities for the blind. But they shouldn't be their only opportunities, he said.

A number of Wiscraft workers said they chose the company over other employers because it was flexible in adapting work to their abilities.Production coordinator Emeric Rokay, 48, who has an engineering degree from the Milwaukee School of Engineering, said Wiscraft took a chance on him when others wouldn't.

The company "has meant a lot to me," said Rokay, who is legally blind. "It's provided a steady income. It's given me the opportunity to do some of the things I was educated to do."

Visually impaired runner completes half marathon

How many people complete a half marathon on their first go? Not many. Akinath Khedekar, a visually impaired, fought fatigue and cramps to finish the half marathon. Though he finished way down the order, he was quite ecstatic.

“At the 14-km mark I was pretty tired; I pulled a calf muscle. But Vikas Dubey (his escort) pushed me to finish the race. People were cheering me throughout the route, that was motivational as well,” says, Khedekar.

Inspired by his friend Jatin Shah, also visually impaired and who had competed in last year’s marathon, Khedekar, decided to run this year. Shah (who did not take part this year) introduced Dubey to Khedekar. “I had assisted Shah, last year and we were going to compete this time around as well. As Shah was not able to compete, I decided to help Khedekar,” said Dubey.

Dubey’s experience of running with Shah helped Khedekar this time around. Dubey, who has competed twice in the race, says, “Completing a race is not a problem but competing is. Khedekar was not used to running such a long distance at a stretch, so it was a commendable effort.”

He was not blind right from his childhood; he started losing his eyesight when he was in fifth standard. He completely lost his eyesight in 2000. But that didn’t deter him and he kept following his passion — sports. He is currently pursuing TYBA (economics) from St Xavier’s College.

Exciting finish for visually impaired man

Chris Williamson of Markham, Ont., and his substitute guide Erik Petersen of the United States, raced to the gold medal in the men's slalom for the visually impaired at the Para-Alpine World Cup for alpine skiers with a disability.

Calgary's Lauren Woolstencroft added gold in the women's standing competition and Kathleen Forestell of Ottawa was second in the women's visually impaired race.

In the men's visually impaired, Williamson and Petersen finished ahead of Gianmaria Dal Maistro of Italy in second and Jon Santacana of Spain in third.

Petersen hooked up with Williamson for Friday's giant slalom and the pair placed third. A.J. Brown of Peterborough, Ont., in his first season as Williamson's full-time guide, crashed in Thursday's first GS and suffered a concussion.

"It went very well, Erik did a great job," said Williamson who also won the two Super G races with Brown on Wednesday. "It was a very close race after the first run but we made the necessary adjustments and dominated the second. Racing that GS yesterday also really helped us get acclimatized to each other."

Added Petersen: "I saw Chris race at the Nor-Ams last week and I knew he was a very strong skier. My biggest worry was whether he would run me over. When I heard he needed help I was eager to get involved. I wanted to do it, to help my sport. At Winter Park we run a program that attracts athletes from all over the world."

Woolstencroft earned her fourth medal and third gold of the competition finishing ahead of Sandy Dukat of the U.S., in second and Andrea Rothfuss of Germany in third. Andrea Dziewior of Nanaimo, B.C., was sixth.

Taxman not as hungry with the visually impaired

Some older taxpayers may be able to cut their tax bills with very little work.The Internal Revenue Service has special, higher standard-deduction amounts for taxpayers age 65 or older. There is a similar break for the blind, regardless of age.

The option to take these bigger tax breaks is found below the line where you enter your adjusted gross income on the 1040 or 1040A return -- older and visually impaired filers can't use the 1040EZ form.

Here you'll find boxes to check if you or your spouse are older or visually impaired.As with the regular standard deduction, the exact amount of these special deductions depends on your filing status. It could translate into a deduction increase of up to $4,000 for some taxpayers.

New technology allows the visually impaired to read

The Spanish National Organization for the Blind (ONCE) recently announced the winner of the Fourth International R & D Award in New Technologies for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Developed by the Spanish company Robotiker-Tecnalia, the winning entry is a software program that enables the blind and visually impaired to read information displayed on screens -- such as supermarket displays, microwaves, and digital clocks -- by means of a portable device.

A pioneering and unique initiative, the R & D competition provides a $310,000 (euro 240,000) award to the top technological development that helps the blind and visually impaired function more effectively in a sighted world.

According to Cesar Nombela, Professor of Microbiology at the Universidad Complutense of Madrid and President of the Experts' Committee -- the body that reviewed the R & D Award entries -- the winning project "addresses an important need for the visually impaired, considering the prevalence of information screens and displays in all the areas of our daily life."

Overall, this year's competition received 52 projects from 18 countries, with the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, and Spain submitting approximately 10 projects each. Organizations from France, Germany, India, Israel, Japan and Russia also submitted entries for the R & D Award.
In addition to the winning project, other entries for the Fourth International R & D Award included:

-- A system to help the visually impaired better access public transportation

-- A fingertip color recognition device

-- A Braille machine for recognizing musical symbols to help with musical transcription and learning music
-- An Internet browser enabling low vision access to the World Wide Web

As in previous competitions, many of the project submissions for this year's R & D Award were from universities and research and design centers, including the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the University of Tokyo, the University of Reading (UK), and the Institute for the Research, Training and Rehabilitation of Rome.


Held every two years, the ONCE International R & D Award in New Technologies for the Blind and Visually Impaired promotes technological developments that make a substantial contribution toward the integration and normalization of the blind and visually impaired.

Through the R & D Award, ONCE seeks to help the blind and visually impaired overcome their disability by promoting scientific and technical research innovations in the fields of engineering, artificial intelligence, computing, telecommunications, microtechnology and nanoelectronics.


The Spanish National Organization for the Blind (ONCE) was founded in 1938 to further the social integration of the Spanish blind and visually impaired. Today, almost 70 years after its founding, ONCE continues to provide social services for some 63,000 blind or visually impaired Spanish citizens.

Since 1988, ONCE has expanded its scope of action to include people with other disabilities, advocating for the elimination of physical and communication-related barriers and providing financing training and employment programs to assist the more than 3.5 million people with disabilities in Spain.

ONCE funds its activities and initiatives almost exclusively with proceeds from the sale of tickets (the "Cupon") issued for a popular Spanish lottery. To learn more about ONCE, visit
http://www.once.es/ .

Saturday, January 20, 2007

What is the Braille challenge?

The first regional Braille Challenge™ in North Carolina will be hosted by the outreach program at The Governor Morehead School.

The Braille Challenge™ program was designed by Braille Institute of America and is coordinated through an array of academic and community partners, with the goal of motivating school-age braille readers from throughout North America to excel in this vital medium. Now in its sixth year as a national event, it has grown in size and impact and this year was awarded the prestigious “Creative Use of Braille Award” by the American Printing House for the Blind at their Annual Meeting last month in Louisville, Kentucky. There is still time to enter the challenge. The deadline for registering is January 31, 2006.

The Braille Challenge™ is a part of Braille Institute’s literacy initiative. From the mid-‘60s to the present, the percentage of school-aged blind children in this country who use raille as their primary reading medium has dropped from 50 percent to 12 percent, and more than a generation of blind children has been largely allowed to grow up illiterate under the damaging notion that tape recordings and talking computers are sufficient for them.

Braille is the only means by which blind people can truly read the written language.A sighted child has instantaneous visual feedback aiding them in the writing process. A blind or visually impaired child who writes on a keyboard with speech output before learning the basics may never learn the intricacies of writing; spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Academic research has shown that the early learning of raille correlates strongly with both academic and employment success later in life.

Eligible students include all blind and visually impaired students from N.C. in 1st through 12th grade. Students are divided into 5 age groups, and asked to complete a series of exercises demonstrating proficiency in braille reading and writing, reading, speed and comprehension, spelling, proofreading and use of tactile graphics. All students participating in the preliminary-round contest are acknowledged, with prizes. Then all eligible contests are ranked nationally, with the 60 top-scoring contestants earning a three-day trip to the Braille Institute in Los Angeles as finalists in June.

To register your student to participate in this unique Braille literacy contest or for more information, call our office at (919)715-4257 or e-mail Kathryn.Flynn [at] ncmail [dot] net or Mary.Flanagan [at] ncmail [dot] net - "North CarolinaDepartment of Health and Human Services "

Woman helps out the visually impaired

Janet Dylla is in the business of helping people make the most of what they have.
She started Desert Low Vision Services in 1999 because she had experience in the field and wanted to continue to help those with vision impairment.

She serves about 500 clients a year, many of whom are legally blind, but she can help them read a newspaper and do other daily tasks. She said visitors to her office range in age from 5 to 108. Although she does some radio advertising, most of her clients come by referral from eye doctors and by word of mouth, she added.

Her mission, she said, is to help make people "more independent at home, more functional at work and more successful in school."

The business was a logical choice for her since she had long been interested in nursing and rehabilitation. She ran the eye center at St. Joseph's Hospital until it closed in the late '90s.
At her small office, she showed a visitor a device that looks like a scanner that can put text from a book up on a screen in large type while the book is read aloud in a pleasant human voice _ your choice of American, British or Australian English and several other languages. The device, which sells for about $2,800, comes with 40 public-domain book titles by authors such as Zane Grey, Mark Twain and Jules Verne.

A small retail area of her office has products such as phones, clocks and TV remotes with extra-large numerals, talking scales, tape measures that can be read by touch and Monopoly games in Braille.

Helping with product selection is her purchasing manager, Tom Northrop, who also happens to be her husband.

Northrop helps define the mission of the business, Dylla said, which is to help clients maintain hope and a positive attitude. Northrop is legally blind and was told as a graduate student in 1978, when visiting a doctor about vision complaints, to just "get a dog and learn Braille." He said he was so angry at the time that he just drove himself home, safely as it turned out.

Now, Dylla wants to help clients "use their remaining vision in the best way possible" using available tools and techniques.

She dismissed a question about profitability of the business and answered simply, "We make a living."

Satisfaction for Dylla comes from clients who return for more help as they adapt to vision impairment, she said.

One of those clients, Karen Conant, said she has gotten several kinds of visual aids from Dylla's office over the years.

"If it wasn't for some of the things I get there, I couldn't do my job," said Conant, who is legally blind and a clerk in a government office in downtown Tucson.

Dylla noted that many people are involved in helping her clients.

"We are a small piece of vision rehabilitation," she said.

Doctors, optometrists, counselors and other professionals help the visually impaired and blind, she added.

"We are just one step in the process."

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The visually impaired can now listen to the newspaper on the radio

The freedom to hear local news on the radio is a privilege available to visually impaired residents of Berthoud and beyond. “The Radio Reading Service of the Rockies, Inc. (RRSR), founded in 1990, is a 501(c) 3 non-profit, volunteer-based, broadcast and audio information service for Colorado's blind, visually impaired and print handicapped residents.

RRSR's services provide access to otherwise inaccessible ink print materials.RRSR’s mission is to empower the lives of a largely invisible segment of society, to decrease their sense of isolation, to increase their independence, to promote education, and to foster their connection with their individual communities,” according to their website, www.rrsr.org.Berthoud resident Barbara Meneely has been a volunteer reader of The Old Berthoud Recorder on RRSR for three years. Full time, she works as a trust officer at a local Wells Fargo Bank, where she discovered RRSR and joined their board of directors in 2003.

“It is really fun to contribute to the organization and help the local community. Visually impaired people cannot read lots of print materials we take for granted. People want Berthoud news and upcoming events that they cannot hear by listening to Denver area television or radio channels,” Meneely explains.RRSR is different from standard radio broadcasts, in that they do not have call letters and are not an AM or FM radio station.

Through a special agreement with Rocky Mountain Public Broadcast System, they are able to use secondary auxiliary programming signals reserved for close caption or descriptive services in order to broadcast its signal.Meneely gives her time on the weekend to record the most prominent Old Berthoud Recorder news stories published the previous Thursday.

At 2:30 pm on Mondays, her program is broadcast. She is allotted a 30-minute program to cover the local news, but sometimes finds time to read pertinent magazine articles in addition to the newspaper stories. The RRSR studios are located in Boulder, but Meneely has opted to work from home, using a headset her husband installed to save her time driving to the Boulder studio.

After recording, she saves her broadcast to a file before exporting it to an MP3 file and finally sending it to RRSR. The program is provided at no cost to listeners, who are given a radio pre-tuned to the Secondary Audio Program (SAP) frequency. Listeners may also hear the broadcast through links available on the RRSR website.

Other listening options include telephone, obtainable through calling RRSR for access numbers, or through the local community cable station. Live streaming via the website allows listeners to hear news from other newspapers such as the Fort Collins Coloradoan, Windsor Beacon, Greeley Tribune, and Loveland and Estes Park papers, to name only a few of the 75 papers offered. Aside from newspaper articles, other programming available includes Colorado Jewish Community news, Children’s Hour, Kid’s Bookshelf, Children’s Mystery, Spanish programs, and the Oprah Magazine.

“There are a surprising number of children who are visually impaired, so there are many choices for them to listen to. Colorado also has a high percentage of illiterate residents, and many more who only speak Spanish. These groups are able to hear the local news for free, as well as those who are visually impaired.Volunteers like Meneely give 18,700 hours annually to RRSR. Volunteers also read from various magazines, newsletters, public service announcements, grocery and retail ads, and employment opportunity news.

Program topics include health/nutrition, employment, technology, science, gardening, history, cooking, HAM radio, book reviews, and music. In her position as a trust officer at the bank, Meneely has many clients who suffer from macular degeneration. “Reading the paper is often the highlight of a person’s day, and when they can’t do that, they feel disconnected. Even using a magnifying glass does not correct severe macular degeneration, so this is a wonderful alternative for people to stay connected,” she says.

“Because of her experiences in both her professional and personal life, Barbara has a soft spot in her heart for the visually impaired. She recognizes the wonderful service the RRSR provides to its listeners and strongly wishes to help expand their listener base,” according to a RRSR donation request letter, which ends with this powerful thought: “Just think, if you were visually impaired, someone else would be reading this to you right now.” David Dawson, Executive Director of the organization, started RRSR in Colorado.

“He is blind. Amazingly, the person who runs the computer services is also blind, and uses brail and a special keyboard. They do have a visual person who volunteers to help with specific tasks,” says Meneely.RRSR went on the air in October of 1991, and has been broadcasting continuously, day and night, year round. Three hundred and fifty statewide volunteers from both remote and local areas focus on providing local area newspaper and other print media information, covering the four main regions of Colorado.

They are always looking for volunteers, who are encouraged to register by filling out a form in person or online. Currently, over 120 sponsors make the programming possible. Twenty-five dollars donated to RRSR provides 30 minutes of programming; $100 provides one listener radio or two hours of programming time.For more information about the program, visit www.rrsr.org.

Virtual Braille helps the visually impaired to find jobs

Over the last decade the array of assistive devices that help the visually impaired use computers has grown.

However, the prohibitive cost of these products prevents their widespread deployment.

Work being done by a group of researchers from McGill University in Montreal may soon change that.

The researchers are working on a Virtual Braille or – an appliance that is likely to be a lower-priced alternative to conventional Braille readers.

What's more, virtual Braille (VB) technology is expected to open up greater employment opportunities for the blind.

The current model the team is working on is called Stimulator of Tactile Receptors by Skin Stretch squared (STReSS2).

"By developing a smaller and simpler device with fewer moving parts, we hope to create a far cheaper Braille reader than the ones in the market today," said Vincent Hayward, director, Centre for Intelligent Machines (CIM), McGill University.

The prototype is among the research projects exhibited this week by CIM, as part of an event sponsored by Precarn Inc., an Ottawa-based non-profit consortium of corporations and research institutes that support the development of intelligent information and communication technologies.
McGill University student Vincent Levesque, who is actively involved in the project, describes how the VB display works.

"You simply plug it onto the back of a computer, as you would a mouse," said Levesque, who is pursuing a doctorate in haptics, the study of how humans communicate with each other through touch.

The prototype is a pad containing an array of 64 miniature ceramic slabs called "benders" that move laterally as the device senses text appearing on a computer screen.

The device reads screen text and its array of "benders" proceeds to translate that text into Braille, a code devised by a Frenchman nearly 200 years ago.

The Braille system - created in 1821 by Louis Braille - is still widely used by the visually impaired to read and write. The system uses a series of raised dots with varying arrangements to represent characters of a writing system. Blind persons moving their fingers across a page written to Braille can read the contents by feeling the words represented by the dots.

The team, composed of Hayward, Levesque, Qi Wong and Jerome Pasquero, call their prototype devices laterotactile displays because the benders create temporary "lateral skin deformations" as they make contact with a user's fingers.

With other computer Braille readers, users move their fingers across a flexible pad to feel for the dots. When the user finishes reading one line, the pad is "refreshed" and produces another line of text.

The VB user keeps his finger tip planted on the small pad but moves the pad across a surface as he would a mouse.

Levesque said the team is exploring the possibility of incorporating the device on a mouse. This would enable users to scan the contents of a computer screen at will, rather than being restricted to reading line-by-line.

"We still have to work out how this could be accomplished without the user losing track of what's being read or getting lost on the page so to speak."

Most devices on the market today only allow users to read up to a line of 18 characters, according to Debbie Gillespie, manager, Braille publishing at the Canadian National Institute of the Blind (CNIB) Library in Toronto. By contrast, she said, a VB device on a mouse would serve to "represent the entire screen at once."

Gillespie says if the concept works it would enable the visually impaired to "see" the screen lay-out as a sighted user would. "You could have an entire screen of information literally at your fingertips."
She said the system would produce crucial time savings and be particularly beneficial to visually impaired software developers.

An array of Braille readers that provide users a tactile translation of what is on their computer screens and voice synthesizers that read out text messages have been available for years.
But despite advances in computing, these devices remain expensive with prices starting at $5,000 and going beyond $10,000, according to Jeff Fitzgibbon, national director, consumer goods and assistive technologies, CNIB.

The McGill researchers hope to develop a device that would cost much less.

The price of Braille readers is often a deterrent for employers, who might otherwise hire people with visual disabilities, as well as for visually challenged individuals with limited incomes.

"Anything that can be done to make information more readily available will have a definite positive effect on the society, labour and the economy," said Fitzgibbon.

New technology can improve vision of the visually impaired

A desktop seeing machine created at MIT by a visually impaired artist could help people with poor vision view images, use the Internet, virtually "previsit" unfamiliar buildings, or see the faces of friends.

Its creator, Elizabeth Goldring, is a senior fellow at MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies and has no vision in one eye and little in the other. She got the idea for her invention more than 15 years ago, when she had her eyes examined with a large, expensive machine called a scanning laser ophthalmoscope.

The machine projects an image directly onto a patient's retina to help determine how much, if any, retinal function he or she has. Someone who still has some healthy retinal cells will be able to see the image when it's projected onto them. ­Goldring did see images of stick figures, but as a poet as well as an artist, she very much wanted to see a word. At her request, she was shown the word "sun." She was thrilled.

After that exam, Goldring used the ophthalmoscope--which costs more than $100,000--for a project of her own. She created a "visual language" with hundreds of symbols--representing both nouns and verbs--that could be projected onto the retina. Each symbol is a combination of letters and ­simple graphics; for example, the word "door" is spelled with a d, the outline of a door, and an r. The symbols, ­Goldring says, are more visually economical than their text equivalents.

Goldring's next goal was to make a cheaper, more portable version of the costly device. With the collaboration of Rob Webb, the ophthalmoscope's inventor, and dozens of scientists, engineers, and students, that's what she did. The seeing machine--about the size of a bread box--has an eyepiece, a projector, a computer, a monitor, and a joystick. To cut expenses (the prototype cost about $4,000 to build), she used light-emitting diodes instead of a laser. When a person looks through the machine's eyepiece, the LEDs project black-and-white images and words from Goldring's visual language across the entire retina. If any part of the retina is healthy, the person may see the image.

Goldring conducted a pilot clinical trial with 10 visually impaired people. Six correctly interpreted every word-image they were presented with, and all could navigate the corridors of a simulated building using a joystick to move forward, backward, and sideways.Although the device has been called a "seeing machine," Goldring is not developing a wearable version to help visually impaired people get around. "It's too much to expect someone who is visually challenged to see and walk at the same time," she says. But she is now working on a smaller, even cheaper machine that will allow people to see in color.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Lions set up fun activities for the visually impaired

The Chesterfield Bay Lions Club plans a fun bowl Feb. 11 to raise money for visually impaired people.

The event begins at noon at Salt River Bowling Center, 33633 Twenty-three Mile Road. The cost is $10 in advance and $12 at the door.

The money goes to the Lions Visually Impaired Youth Camp, which offers blind children a chance to go camping, boating and swimming and make arts and crafts in Lake Orion for two weeks in the summer.

For information or to make donations or reservations, call 586-465-6365 before 8 p.m. weekdays.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

What is the link between being visually impaired and Diabetes?

Persons with diabetes are more likely to be visually impaired than persons without the disease.

1 In 2005, CDC estimated that 14.6 million persons in the United States had diagnosed diabetes and an additional 6.2 million had undiagnosed diabetes.

2 Despite the importance of detecting and treating vision problems caused by refractive errors (i.e., correctable visual impairment [CVI]), a limited number of studies have attempted to determine the proportion of persons with diabetes whose poor vision could be corrected with accurately prescribed glasses or contact lenses.

To estimate that proportion, CDC analyzed 1999-2004 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). This report describes the results of that analysis, which indicated that among U.S. adults aged 20 years with diabetes,* 11.0% had visual impairment (i.e., presenting visual acuity worse than 20/40 in their better-seeing eye while wearing glasses or contact lenses, if applicable) and approximately 65.5% of these cases of visual impairment were correctable.

Health-care providers and persons with diabetes should be more aware that poor vision often is correctable and that visual corrections can reduce the risk for injury and improve the quality of life for persons with diabetes.

NHANES is an ongoing series of cross-sectional surveys on health and nutrition designed to be nationally representative of the noninstitutionalized, U.S. civilian population by using a complex, multistage probability design. All NHANES surveys include a household interview followed by a detailed physical examination. For the 1999-2000, 2001-2002, and 2003-2004 surveys, participants also were asked questions regarding vision function, and the physical examination included a vision examination in which visual acuity was measured before and after an objective autorefraction test (optical correction measured by an autorefractor).

In this study, visual acuity before correction was defined as distance visual acuity with whatever form of current correction (e.g., glasses or contact lenses) the participant might have worn at the time of examination. Visual acuity after correction was defined as potential visual acuity as assessed by an objective autorefraction test. Only those participants whose visual acuity before correction was worse than 20/30 were administered the autorefraction test. Diabetes was defined as a self-reported previous diagnosis of the disease.

In the NHANES surveys conducted during 1999-2004, the combined household interview response rate was approximately 82%, and the medical examination response rate was 77%. Of 15,332 adults aged 20 years, 22 were excluded because of lack of diabetes information or because their diabetes was diagnosed only during pregnancy. Another 2,306 adults for whom visual acuity before correction values were missing were excluded from the study.

For this analysis, 1,237 adults aged 20 years with self-reported diabetes were divided into three groups according to their visual acuity in the better-seeing eye (before and after optical correction): (1) normal: visual acuity of 20/40 or better; (2) mild impairment: visual acuity better than 20/200 and worse than 20/40; and (3) severe impairment: visual acuity of 20/200 or worse. The prevalence of CVI was defined as the proportion of adults with mild or severe impairment before correction who were found to have the potential for normal visual acuity after correction.

All analyses were weighted to make estimates representative of the U.S. civilian, noninstitutionalized population. Results also were analyzed by age group (20-64 years compared with 65 years), sex, and race/ethnicity (non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, Mexican American, and other).

Overall, the prevalence of CVI among U.S. adults aged >20 years with diabetes was 7.2%, which indicated that the proper prescription for glasses or contact lenses would have restored normal visual acuity to 65.5% of visually impaired adults with diabetes.

The results indicated that 9.7% (95% CI [confidence interval] = 7.9%-11.8%) of U.S. adults with diabetes had mild visual impairment, and 1.4% (CI = 1.0%-1.9%) had severe visual impairment before correction; 2.9% (CI = 2.1%-3.9%) had mild impairment, and 1.0% (CI = 0.6%-1.5%) had severe impairment after correction. Approximately 0.3% of adults with diabetes who had severe visual impairment before correction had only mild visual impairment after correction. Thus, optical correction would have restored normal visual acuity to approximately 73.4% of adults with mild impairment and 9.1% of adults with severe impairment.

Although the crude prevalence of CVI among adults aged 65 years with diabetes (7.3%) was similar to that among those aged 20-64 years (7.2%), 89.2% of visual impairment cases among the younger age group were correctable, compared with 46.4% of cases among the older age group. The age-adjusted prevalence of CVI was similar among men (7.3%) and women (7.2%). Although not statistically significant, the age-adjusted prevalence of CVI was higher among non-Hispanic blacks (7.9%) and Mexican Americans (8.1%) than among non-Hispanic whites (5.6%).