Sunday, June 24, 2007

Latest inventions for the visually impaired

Confusing a can of cat food for canned tuna is a mistake taste buds remember for a long time.
Confusing cholesterol pills for heart medication is a mistake you might not live to remember.
Those are two common perils faced every day by the visually impaired. Wednesday’s 13th annual Visually Impaired Awareness Day featured new solutions to those problems and more.

More than 30 vendors made the College of DuPage’s Student Resource Center bigger, bolder and brighter with their products.

Most of the world seeks pocket-sized convenience. The visually impaired in attendance sought TV remotes the size of a rolled-up magazine, glasses that blow up individual letters and electronic magnifiers that make it possible to find the dotted line when writing checks.

But the items drawing the most interest involved safety.

Rex, the disposable talking medication bottle, and the ScripTalk Station both may appear at pharmacies in the near future. They use audio clips to supplement prescription labels.

While some pharmacists have the ability to print up Braille instructions, many people don’t become visually impaired until their senior years when the raised-dot system is harder to learn and the sense of touch is lessened, said Eugene Franz, general manager of Medivox Rx in Carol Stream.
Medivox Rx sells Rex, which lets users record prescription names and instructions that play back with the touch of a button on the bottle itself.

“You can have it say, ‘Mom, this is your ibuprofen. Take it at 2 p.m.,’” Franz said.

ScripTalk Station is slightly different. It involves a device the size of an answering machine that works in tandem with a microchip pharmacists would embed in the prescription bottle. The ScripTalk Station home unit scans the microchip and reads the patient’s name, drug name, dosage and warnings out loud.

Anna McClure, who sells the ScripTalk Station, said the device helps avoid confusion with multiple medications for the visually impaired and thus unnecessary trips to the doctor or hospital.
“It can be quite dangerous for people when they confuse their medicines,” McClure said.

The third hot item on exhibit was the UltraCane Electronic Mobility Aid by Northbrook-based LS&S. The folding cane uses echolocation, just like bats, to detect the distance between the user and objects. When a user approaches an object such as a wall or person, the cane gives off a slight vibration. The closer the object is, the stronger the vibration.

For more information about any of these products, contact the DuPage Center for Independent Living in Glen Ellyn at (630) 469-2300.

Preschool for the visually impaired is given sizeable donation

Catherine Sliva made it look easy on her first fossil hunt.

The Catonsville Middle School seventh-grader found a fossilized shark's tooth on a school field trip to Calvert Cliffs State Park that dwarves the teeth that frightened moviegoers watching "Jaws."
The 13-year-old found the triangular tooth, about two inches tall and nearly as wide at its broadest point, along the shore in Calvert County.

The beach at Calvert Cliffs is known as a fertile area for finding fossils. Park guests can keep fossils they find, according to a state Department of Natural Resources Web site.

Catherine's find is most likely from a megalodon, according to Tim Lovell, a science teacher at Catonsville Middle who was on the field trip with her and more than 100 other seventh- graders.
In his second year at Catonsville, Lovell said he has never seen anything like the tooth.

A megalodon was a massive shark of between 5 million and 1.5 million years ago, according to the National Museum of Natural History.

An adult could be up to 40 feet long, compared to a modern great white shark which can reach lengths of around 15 feet.

Catherine said she has been interested in sharks since she saw "Jaws" several years ago, so she knew what she had found as soon as she saw it.

She said her father bought her a kit when she first showed an interest in predatory fish. The kit shows different sizes and types of shark's teeth, including megalodons.

"This is probably from a baby or from all the way in the back (of the mouth)," she said.

Lovell, who was in charge on the trip, said the seventh grade had completed a unit on rocks and fossils, so the May 3 trip fit perfectly with the curriculum.

He said the seventh grade was divided into two groups because there isn't room on the beach for the approximately 230 students all at once.

A portion of dolphin's jaw was the only other find of note by the students.

Lovell said the trip was planned for a day when they would arrive at low tide after the 1 1/2 hour bus ride so that more beach area could be searched for fossils.

Finding fossils in that section of beach, which is about 100 yards long, is not uncommon, due to the eroding of the cliffs that tower over the sand.

Fossils from more than 600 species have been found from Calvert Cliffs, according to the DNR Web site.

Visually impaired students go on tour

Move over, Stevie Wonder - five visually impaired pupils from Luton's Chantry Primary School are performing music concerts at local schools, to raise much-needed cash to buy a minibus. The children, two of which are completely blind, perform digital music created through loops, which the youngsters then play along to on their keyboards or drum pads. Each school hosting the concert are asked to make a donation to watch the show.

On Wednesday the visual impairment provision at the Tomlinson Avenue school showed off their talents at Ferrars Junior School. Both Crawley Green Infants and Whitefield Junior School have also hosted shows and donated to the cause.

It is hoped that the minibus will enable all visually impaired children from the provision to visit museums and places of interest, as well as allow them to take part in activities as horse riding and picnics in the summer. If you would like to see these talented children play at your school, call Bianca Spiteri at Chantry Primary School on 01582 706500

Training provided to about 500 visually impaired Vietnamese

As many as 500 visually impaired people in Hung Yen, Vinh Phuc and Quang Ngai provinces are benefiting from a three-year Swedish project that was inaugurated recently.

The VND1 billion (US$62,500) initiative, which is being implemented by the Viet Nam Association for the Blind, aims to teach the blind how to navigate through their immediate and external environment and how to read and write in Braille.

According to Cao Van Thanh, Vice Chairman of the Viet Nam Association for the Blind, similar projects have previously been successfully completed in the seven provinces of Ninh Binh, Quang Ninh, Nghe An, Ha Nam, Bac Ninh, Tien Giang and Khanh Hoa, benefiting over 1,000 visually impaired people.

Website wins awards for its accessibility to the visually impaired

An innovative project from The National Archives has won a prestigious Jodi Award for excellence in accessible museum, library and archive technology.The Jodi award for excellence in website accessibility went to The National Archives´ exhibition Prisoner 4099.

This online resource is the culmination of a three year collaborative project between The National Archives, a group of blind and visually impaired students from different parts of Britain and other national organisations keen to promote and develop accessibility on the Internet.

Prisoner 4099 deals with Victorian crime and focuses on the life of a 12 year-old boy, William Towers, who was arrested and sent to prison for stealing.William's story was the inspiration for a radio play produced by the students. This forms a significant part of the online exhibition, covering the events as seen in the minds of modern teenagers and showing how they might feel and deal with a similar situation.

The exhibition also presents detailed documentary evidence about Victorian crime and William's plight using original documents, images and maps from The National Archives.Throughout the project The National Archives worked in partnership with students, teachers and youth workers from New College Worcester, Youthcomm (a project of Worcester Youth service) and LOOK - the National Federation of Families with Visually Impaired Children.

At the Jodi Awards ceremony at the British Museum on 13 June, Martyn Green, web designer at The National Archives, said:"Our goal was not just to make a good website accessible to disabled people, but to involve people in our project, listen, try things out and see what worked. Then, with an understanding of standards and best practices, try to build a great website that everyone can explore and enjoy."

University adapts to students needs, including the visually impaired

Students who are vision, hearing and or limb impaired, will now benefit from a new state-of-the-art modern resource centre on the University of the West Indies (UWI ), Mona, campus in Jamaica
The project, which was built at a cost of $40 million by the Lions Club of Mona in partnership with the UWI Development and Endowment Fund, was lauded by former principal of the UWI, Mona, campus, Governor-General Professor Kenneth Hall, as a tremendous achievement.

"It will enable the
University of the West Indies to live up to and deliver opportunities in a meaningful way," the governor-general said.

Not only have the capital assets of the university been increased, but the needs of some 25 students, who are currently enrolled, and staff with special needs, will be better served.
"This is the dawn of a new day," stated Peter O'Sullivan, coordinator of the Office of
Student Services and Development, as he gave the vote of thanks. This sentiment was supported by past student Damion Mclean, who is visually impaired.

"It has opened a new era for students who have challenges, making it better for them to function in their pursuit of tertiary education," he stated, adding that UWI Mona can now stand up as a premier tertiary institution in the Caribbean, and by extension the Americas, for students with challenges.

Ceremonial opening

The ceremonial opening of the doors to the building was done by visually impaired students Vivian Blake and Sean Harvey. The building, which sports soundproof exam/recording rooms, students' meeting/classrooms and a library, among other things, is furnished with modern equipment geared towards challenged students.

Beaming with pride, Harvey, who is a third-year social work student, stated, "It will always feel good to be a part of history."

The Sunday Gleaner has learned there will be at least eight hearing-impaired students entering the university in the new school year.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fashion vs. Braille clothing tags

Two women from RIT are forming the nonprofit White Cane Label to give the blind and visually impaired community more independence in choosing their wardrobe and more confidence when dressing for success. They will present their ideas for Braille Clothing Tags and a talking Web site at the Fashion for Good Roundtable in Rome, July 9-13.

Imagine coordinating your wardrobe in the dark. It’s not something Armani, Prada or Fendi think about when designing clothes. For them, a little black dress speaks for itself and doesn’t need a safety pin or special tag for description.Yet, every morning, millions of blind or visually impaired people reach into their closets to read the Braille-embossed aluminum tags sewn into their clothes or the coding system of safety pins they’ve devised to identify their garments.

Two women who met as students at Rochester Institute of Technology want to give the blind and visually impaired community more independence in choosing their wardrobe and more confidence when dressing for success. Jaimen Brill and Asmah Abushagur are in the process of forming the non-profit organization White Cane Label to help the blind and visually impaired shop for clothing and coordinate their outfits. They are advocating for an interactive, talking Web site and standardized, Braille-embossed clothing tags made of cloth, not aluminum, to be sewn onto all garments.

The user-friendly Web site will include a questionnaire to gauge personal style, clothing recommendations and detailed descriptions of each item in different styles and price ranges. The Braille clothing labels will include three symbols indicating the brand, color and coordinating style for mixing and matching individual pieces.

A second label will include washing instructions in Braille.Brill and Abushagur chose the name for their organization based on White Cane Day, or Oct. 15, the annual day of awareness in the United States for issues facing the blind.The day is named for the familiar white cane used by millions of people.“If White Cane Day is the only single day that exists for them, then White Cane Label is pretty obvious,” says Brill, who graduated in May from RIT with a bachelor’s degree in advertising and public relations.

“This is a new idea; it’s never been done before,” she says.“We are very confident that, once the idea is put on the table, people will begin to believe in it just as much as we do,” adds Abushagur, a fourth-year marketing major at RIT’s E. Philip Saunders College of Business.Next month, Brill and Abushagur will pitch their ideas to leaders of the fashion world during fashion week in Rome, July 9-13. The women will present their concept for White Cane Label at the Fashion for Good Roundtable in hopes of soliciting the kind of support that has brought attention to prominent causes like AIDS awareness, breast cancer research and the anti-fur campaign.

Brill and Abushagur will ask the industry to include Braille labels on their garments. They will also request initial donations of clothing and accessories to stock the Web site store they plan to debut in fall 2009. The Fashion for Good Roundtable is sponsored by Alta Roma, the fashion association in Rome. The biannual roundtable, formed in 2002, brings together leaders of the fashion and non-profit worlds to encourage ethical and socially responsible practices.

In January, the Fashion for Good Roundtable’s focus on underweight models and eating disorders gained attention worldwide. Previous roundtable participants have included designers Anna Fendi, Pierre Cardin and Laura Biagiotti, as well as fashion journalists, ambassadors and diplomats, among others. “Fashion has the power to bridge or separate people,” says Wilma King, associate professor of public relations at RIT and co-founder of Fashion for Good with Giancarlo Polenghi, corporate executive officer of Marketing Communication Mix in Florence. “I think the fashion industry is looking for innovative and sincere approaches to social responsibility. I have every confidence it will embrace and love White Cane Label.”

Brill and Abushagur met in King’s Public Relations class in fall 2006. White Cane Label grew from a class assignment to develop an awareness campaign for a special needs group.King approached her students with a problem a blind acquaintance had shared with her—the difficulty he faced dressing himself and knowing what to wear as the head of a corporation.The women brainstormed ideas and checked the Internet.

They learned that, in 2005, the World Health Organization reported 46 million blind people and 161 million visually impaired people. “We thought all our ideas had to have been done,” Brill says.“We Googled it and found out there was nothing, period, out there for the blind other than aluminum tags, which have to be sent to a Braille printing company (and then sewn onto a garment) and the recommendation of coding your clothes with safety pins on the tags,” says Abushagur. “It seemed kind of outrageous that nothing has been done to help the blind and visually impaired.”Talking Web site technology is expensive, costing around $2,000, according to Brill.

The advocates hope to make the technology available to more people by offsetting the cost with White Cane Label proceeds. Once White Cane Label is operational, Brill and Abushagur plan to extend the Web site to become a global community resource for the blind and visually impaired. Proceeds made by White Cane Label will go back into the organization and fund scholarships for the blind and visually impaired. Profits will also be used to help fight preventable blindness in children living in developing countries.“Fashion is just the starting point,” Brill says.

Visually impaired student makes history

Studying History at University and preparing for the grueling Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) competitive examination without eyesight must be an outcome of insight and steely determination. Tariq Bashir has both. The 25-year old is one of the few visually impaired men who has entered into the highest seat of learning in the state. Now in the third semester of MA course in History, Tariq is also preparing for civil service examinations.

“I got selected for MA courses in my favorite subjects—history and geography. But I chose history, which will be my main subject in KAS exam,” said the soft-spoken and confident youth from Andoora hamlet of south Kashmir’s Islamabad district. A tape recorder, a bag of audiocassettes and help from friends and encouragement from parents over the years has helped Tariq to continue his studies. He records the lectures of teachers in the classroom and then listens to them twice, thrice, or till he gets to the bottom of lessons.

“This is my way of learning the subjects. Besides, I have a very sharp memory and remember 60 percent of topics in one go,” Tariq told Greater Kashmir at the KU campus. Tariq puts up in the KU hostel. “If I miss any topic somehow, my roommates and class friends record them for me,” he said. Tariq said he had shaky eyesight till 10th standard and was able to able to read from books and write with difficulty.

“Gradually my eyesight grew weaker which affected my performance in the matric examinations, forcing me to abandon studies for more than a year. One day I heard on radio that audio recorder has been found beneficial for visually impaired students in continuing their studies. I decided to opt for this technique; so far it has done wonders for me,” Tariq said, adding, “I secured first division in 12th standard and graduation.” Impressed by his determination, the KU authorities have arranged some audio cassettes and CDs related to the syllabus for Tariq from outside.

“University authorities, especially Head of the History Department, are very helpful but I wish if there could be a separate section of audio cassettes about different books and concerned subjects available in the central library of the university. It would encourage visually impaired students to continue their studies, learn about the outside world and study their subjects in detail,” Tariq said. He is also interested in learning computers.

“A JOSS software, designed for visually impaired students to learn computers is available in the Iqbal library. But there is no instructor to teach me,” he rued. Friends and roommates rate Tariq as one of the bright students of the university. “He is always absorbed in learning and has a deep knowledge and clear concept regarding his subject,” Tariq’s friend, Muzammil, said. Justice Zakaria Muhammad Yaqoob, a prominent judge of South Africa who recently visited the KU and is also visually impaired, had suggested Tariq to ask for a Braille system of learning in the varsity.

“In 2001, a census showed there are thousands of visually impaired people in the valley. But only handful of them reach higher level of studies; I am the first student to enter the KU. Government has the responsibility to provide sophisticated gadgetry including Braille system to these handicapped students at every level of education. It would encourage the visually impaired students to continue their studies.

They can then earn for themselves and would never feel a burden on their relatives,” Tariq said. Despite the ‘disability,” Tariq however feels that “one has to accept life as it is bestowed upon him. There are thousands of youth in Kashmir who have perfect eyesight but are literally impaired.”

Visually impaired student raped by her mother's common-law husband

A trial began Monday for a man accused of twice sexually assaulting his common-law wife's blind 17-year-old daughter.

Edward James Mears is charged with sexual assault against a child by a person of trust.
The incident allegedly occurred on October 17, 2004, during the night while the victim was in Ottawa visiting her mother for the weekend.

The victim, whose identity cannot be published because of a media ban, was a student and lived at the W. Ross Macdonald School for the Visually Impaired in Brantford, Ont. at the time.

Monday, the Court heard from two witnesses: Cathy Canton, the victim's guidance counselor at the time at W. Ross Macdonald, and Elizabeth Dunton, then vice-principal at the school. Both women told Justice Gerald Morin how the victim approached them on Oct. 18 to tell them about the alleged assault.

"She was terrified," Ms. Dunton testified. "Shortness of breath, wringing her hands, shaking. She was really upset."

Ms. Dunton testified she then contacted the Ottawa police, who co-ordinated with the Brantford police in the investigation.

Both women also testified that the victim, who was a new student at the school in 2004, had many "issues" and was unhappy when she visited her mother in Ottawa every weekend.
The victim is expected to testify Tuesday.

University to accept visually impaired students

Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) is expected to start accepting visually handicapped students from next year, the second university in the country to do so after Universiti Malaya.

This will be made possible under the RM60,000 “We Care” project to be jointly undertaken by AIESEC UUM and St Nicholas Home Penang.

AIESEC UUM (AIESEC is an international platform for young people to discover and develop their potential to have a positive impact in society) and St Nicholas Home will make the necessary preparations to enable the university to accept visually handicapped students from its July 2008 intake.

At the project’s agreement signing ceremony at St Nicholas Home here on Monday, project director Cheng Tee Chuan said they were currently working on creating awareness of “equal education opportunity” within the campus.

“We will also hold roadshows at selected secondary schools for the visually impaired to encourage their students to pursue higher education,” she said.

Cheng said they would start the “hardware preparation” early next year.

“We will have to provide tactile paths and railings to make it convenient for the visually-impaired to move around,” she said, adding that St Nicholas Home would prepare the examination papers in Braille and help mark them.

The home’s executive director Ooi Chee Khoon said a team led by its training and social services division manager Wong Yoon Loong went to audit the university’s campus accessibility to the blind in March.

“Other than providing our expertise, we will also train UUM staff and students to cope with the blind community,” Ooi said.

Wong said not many physical changes were needed for UUM to cater to the visually handicapped.
UUM’s Human and Social Development Faculty dean Assoc Prof Azmi Shaari said most of the university’s management courses as well as its Information Technology, Communications and Law programmes were suitable for blind students.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Group of performers will raise money for the visually impaired!

Multicultural Education and Counselling through the Arts (MECA), a US community-based non-profit organisation, will be performing at the Youth Theatre in Ha Noi this Friday evening.

Come with MECA will feature jazz, classical and folk music. Trumpeter David Dove will be rubbing shoulders with Vietnamese group Giai Dieu Xanh (Green Melody) and perform works by Francisco Tarrega and Fernando Sor, among others. Expat Vietnamese guitarist Nguyen Quang Binh will also be giving a solo-performance.

MECA Mariachi, the non-profit organisation’s 30-member band, will be spicing up proceedings with hot Mexican melodies such as the Maya Song and the Song of Farmer.

The performance is part of MECA’s campaign to raise funds for disadvantaged children around the world. Proceeds from the night will go to Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for the blind.

Tickets can be purchased by calling (04) 9434673 or by visiting Youth Theatre’s box office at 11 Ngo Thi Nham Street in Ha Noi .

Appartments offers some units to the visually impaired

When the Seneca Place apartment complex opens in February, the exterior probably won't appear much different from any other project.One distinction, however, is the residential units that will be available for blind and visually impaired people. Six of the 40 units at Seneca Place, 300 Pine Trail, will be allotted for those with a vision disability.

The project is a partnership between Conifer Realty LLC and the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired-Goodwill Industries of Greater Rochester Inc.

ABVI-Goodwill regularly gets calls from its blind and visually impaired clients who need housing, said Marketing Director Tim Gleason. The agency typically refers them to residential providers, but Gleason said the issue is challenging.

"This is a unique opportunity for us to respond to a request that we get all the time," he said. "It is a great public/private partnership (and) a great step forward."

Some of the amenities for the six units include lights under the kitchen cabinets for those with limited or "low" visibility, a contrast between the floors and walls distinct to the touch, and knob controls on the front of the stove and other appliances, rather than buttons.

The common areas of the complex will also have accommodations similar to the units for the visually impaired tenants, said Andrew Bodewes, a project director for Conifer Realty.

Blind or visually impaired residents "will be able to acclimate," he said.Throughout the complex, a one-bedroom unit will rent for $469 a month, a two-bedroom unit will cost $565, and a three-bedroom apartment will cost between $624 and $643.

Not everyone is in favor of Seneca Place.M.J. Schmitt, who sits on the ABVI-Goodwill consumer advisory committee, is concerned about the accessibility of public transportation near the property.
"The very bane of our existence is transportation," she said. "It's going to be difficult for people to live out there."Schmitt, who is blind, said she grew up in eastern Irondequoit, lived for several years in the Rochester area and Chicago, and has never had problems finding housing. She now lives in Henrietta.

There is a Regional Transit Service bus stop nearby, according to Bodewes and Gleason.There is a bus stop at Monroe Street and at Maplewood Avenue, and both streets are near the project site, said spokeswoman Myriam Contiguglia of the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority. At this point, she said, RGRTA has not been contacted by Conifer Realty or the village of Honeoye Falls about adding a bus stop to service Pine Trail.

An ideal living environment for someone with a disability encompasses more than physical living space, said Michael Godino, president of the American Council of the Blind of New York.
He said a developer should also note whether a grocery store or shopping center is in close proximity when constructing housing for someone with a disability.

"We have to consider the whole realm of accessibility," he said.In addition to extra lighting and appliance knobs at Seneca Place, Godino suggested putting handles on the apartment thermostat and other amenities for those who are blind.

No applications are being taken at this time for the complex, but Bodewes hopes this won't be the last partnership between Conifer Realty and ABVI-Goodwill.

"We've already had discussions with ABVI to do more projects like this," he said.

Military police set up a special day for the visually impaired

To celebrate 50 years of the Military Police Fund for Blind Children, base Military Police hosted the Vancouver Island Visually Impaired (VIVI) Activity Day for 55 visually-impaired children.

The children spent last Friday morning at the Naden Athletic Centre running an obstacle course, hurling frisbees, splashing in the pool, and yanking the arms off military police in a tug of war challenge.

The event was also a chance for VIVI to thank military police volunteers for their work with the Military Police Fund for Blind Children.

“They do so much for the kids that we just really want to acknowledge them and say thanks,”says Elaine Todd, teacher at Belmont Secondary School’s Vision Program.

Cpl Thomas Sorbie, MP’s representative for the fund, jumped at the chance to host the activity day on base. “We wanted the 50th anniversary of the fund to be something special. People have to see the results to appreciate what they have done.”

Joining the children from across the Island was Kaitlin, a determined student from Belmont Secondary School. She has made many friends at the annual event since she was five, and relished the chance to do things she rarely gets to try.

“In a public school, I don’t really get to do much sports. Our activity day means I can do something that other kids get to do all the time,”she says.

“Hanging out with people with similar disabilities lets me express myself. We’re the same. When we explain things to each other, we get it,”she adds.

Kaitlin has personally benefited from the Military Police Fund for Blind Children. Funds enabled her to go to the Space Program in Huntsville, Alabama. She spent a week with 200 other visually impaired kids from around the world.

Donations have also purchased computers, brail computers, voice producing software, tandem bicycles and sent children to music camps.

“Five dollars here and five dollars there soon adds up to $200, and that can make such an impact,”says Cpl Sorbie.

The MPFBC reaches out to children beyond the scope of the military.

“At the end of the day, this is our own fund. We’re a very special branch because we are the only unit in the Canadian Forces that has it’s own registered charity. We’re very proud of that,”says Cpl Sorbie.

Loans granted to the visually impaired!

The Small Industries Development Organisation (SIDO) in Dar es Salaam Region has pledged to provide soft loans to the visually impaired and other people in the region, who underwent a two-week seminar on entrepreneurship last week.

The Dar es Salaam Regional SIDO Manager, Hamwel Saliel Meena, announced at the week end when closing the seminar, which was held at the Tanzania National Institute for the Blind (TNIB) office at Kinondoni, in the city. Meena said that the organisation would always be ready to dish out loans to persons who prove that they could do a business properly.

He said the seminar would enable the participants to run a business without becoming bankrupt. `We cannot continue dishing out loans to a person who had been given a lump sum of 50,000/- as capital only to be found later with a capital of 20,000/-. It shows that there is no improvement for such a person in the business, and s/he is not capable of doing business, and so such a person is not legible for our loans,` he said.

The Manager added that SIDO would be ready to continue providing loans on conditions that the applicant would be productive, adding that this would boost his or her capital and make more profit for her or his venture. `I will provide loans to people who are capable. The funds are abundant so come and ask for a loan provided you meet the conditions, do not hesitate,` he told the seminar participants.

Meena said that the entrepreneurship skills they obtained during the seminar were important to them if they seriously used them to do business, which would enable them fend off poverty. Earlier, the Executive Director of TNIB, James Shimwenye thanked the organisation for facilitating the training seminar and asked it to continue helping the institute in capacity building. The seminar was organised by TNIB and financed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) at a cost of 6m/-.

Visually impaird student gets great opportunity!

Bowser, a 16-year-old Geneva High School junior, was born with cerebral palsy and glaucoma.
Outgoing and friendly, Bowser reads her books and notes in Braille and shuttles from class to class in a wheelchair, relying on her army of friends and classmates for help.

Bowser and her teacher for the visually impaired, Kathy Fuller, will present a hands-on workshop to help Geneva High School students understand the obstacles Bowser faces as a visually impaired student.

"I love my friends to death - - they would do anything for me - - but they don't really know what it is like to be blind," Bowser said.

Together, Bowser and Fuller have developed a lesson plan and made paper eyeglasses to demonstrate different degrees of visual impairment. They will present the lesson today.

"The students are interested in Braille, and it is important for them to see what it is like for students, like Hannah, who have to live with this every day," Fuller said. "Maybe the students will empathize with all people who are visually impaired, whether it be students or even the elderly," she said.
Bowser said she enjoys teaching and has presented lessons to elementary students and works with the Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities unit in the school district.

"Hannah is very open about her visual impairment, and she is very into educating others about it," Fuller said.

Bowser and Fuller have been working together for two years.

"I really want to thank Mrs. Fuller for her help," Bowser said.

Bowser's parents and sisters, Torey and Paige Bowser, support Bowser in her ambitions, including her goal to attend the Columbus School for the Blind after she graduates next year.
"My dad is kind of overprotective, so sometimes it is hard on him," she said.

Bowser said she feels like she fits in at the high school, despite her physical disabilities. She enjoys listening to the country band Rascal Flatts and plays computer pinball by ear instead of sight.

"I have a ton of friends here, and the kids are wonderful. I am very accepted, and I try to be normal like everyone else," she said.

Special competition will send winning student to Braille school!

A fund-raiser today will help send a Steadley Elementary School pupil to a national Braille competition.

Kelcey Schlichting, a fifth-grader, will head to Los Angeles, Calif., this month to compete as a finalist in the Braille Challenge.

The Braille Challenge is an academic competition for visually impaired students throughout the nation. Children in grades one through 12 are tested on tasks including spelling, proofreading, comprehension, speed and accuracy.

Kelcey, who was born visually impaired, will compete with 59 others at the contest scheduled for June 22-23. A total of 520 contestants participated in an academic pre-test during the first two months of the year.

“She is very excited about going,” said Rachel Schlichting, Kelcey’s mother. “Kelcey is a very bright and outgoing little girl. She has been all her life.”

The Schlichtings found out about three weeks ago that Kelcey was a finalist in the event.
“We would like to take our entire family, so to have airline tickets and money for extra food, it will be quite expensive,” Rachel Schlichting said.

A brats and hot dogs fund-raiser for the trip will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. today at the Power House, 430 W. Elk St.

The fund-raiser also will include raffle tickets for a variety of donated items, including an assortment of gift certificates.

An account also has been set up in Kelcey’s name at SMB Bank. Donations may be made at any SMB Bank by mentioning Kelcey or Rachel Schlichting.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

New housing now available for the visually impaired with low-income

Maine's first low-income housing for people who are visually impaired or blind is open for business.The $5.5 million Iris Park Apartments featuring 30 independent-living units is billed as the second of its kind in the country. A formal grand-opening ceremony featuring former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell of Maine is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 10.

The Iris Network spearheaded the Portland project to promote affordable housing for people with vision loss and to support independent living."I think everyone in the building is very happy with the new situation," said John Lee, president of the Resident's Council.The Iris Network is a 101-year-old nonprofit that serves as a resource for people with vision loss by providing training, education and support so they attain independence and integration into the community.

Library program now offered to the visually impaired

Irmagene Staley isn’t completely blind, but she has had problems focusing her eyes for about two years. “Losing your vision is like being blocked out of the world,” the 73-year-old Hampton woman said. “When you are unable to focus it’s hard. My peripheral vision is OK, but I can’t focus so I can’t read or watch television.” Staley became a member of the Georgia Library for Accessible Services program two years ago.

She joined the program through Fortson Library in Hampton and she says it has helped her cope with her impairment. The GLASS program was created for Georgia residents who have a visual or physical disability. The free program loans large-print books, books on tape, Braille materials, music, magazines, catalogs and listening equipment to members of the program. “I’ve never been into television. I love historical novels,” said Staley, who listens to 10 to 15 books per week.

Fortson Library Branch Supervisor Janice Brown said members find the program convenient.“The program is great. They send the materials right to the patrons’ homes,” she said.In order to become apart of the program, an application and information from a physician has to be submitted to a GLASS office.Brown said the application encourages patrons to indicate the type of materials that are of interest to them.

“There is a wide variety of selections from romance to murder mysteries,” she said. Frances Stell, 84, of Hampton said her favorite type of book is fiction with a Christian blend. “I would recommend this program to anybody that has some sort of eye problem. It’s wonderful,” said Stell, a member of GLASS for one year.

The Fortson Library’s collection also includes large-print books, books in Braille and Playaways, said Brown. Playaways are recordings of books that can be listened to by plugging earphones into a MP3 player. “We all need some type of entertainment to escape into. This program helps me to keep my sanity,” said Staley.—On the net:GLASS:

Sight Centre opens its doors to the visually impaired!

The Sight Center of Northwest Ohio recently opened its new facility designed to deliver vision rehabilitation services to people throughout the area who are blind or visually impaired. The single-story building is located adjacent to the Area Office on Aging near Arlington and Detroit avenues in south Toledo. The new Sight Center is hosting a grand opening celebration for the public from 2 to 5 p.m. June 17. The community event will include tours, interactive vision activities for all ages, refreshments and a Father's Day gift for all dads.

The Toledo Society for the Blind operates today as the Sight Center of Northwest Ohio. The center was located on Canton Avenue near Downtown for 51 years and has operated as a nonprofit agency since 1923. “When we planned the day for the open house, we discovered that the building on Canton was dedicated on that same date in 1956,” said Dawn Christensen, executive director of the Sight Center.

“The need is immense with an estimated 170,000 people in the center's 16-county service area experiencing life-altering vision challenges,” she said. The 12,300-square-foot facility offers a more efficient, cost-effective delivery of care, improved programs and services, and increased opportunities for professional collaboration. It includes a complete vision center, three exam rooms, three training rooms to help people adapt to reduced vision or blindness and offices for its staff. The comprehensive vision rehabilitation training available in the new setting allows people to remain independent in their own homes, while reducing health care costs due to shorter stays in assisted living facilities and nursing homes.

The agency serves about 1,200 clients per year at the center and provides some in-home services and rehabilitation programs such as “white cane” training for the blind.

In many cases, the Sight Center is the only source in Northwest Ohio for people losing their vision. It does not provide primary eye care or examinations, but offers specialized rehabilitation services so people with low vision can make the best use of their remaining sight and the blind can continue to live independently.

Laurie Brown of Archbold was a new client evaluated on her first visit after being diagnosed with macular degeneration. Her vision loss was beginning to make her work designing and selling invitations on the computer and Internet more difficult to complete.

“I wanted to get help early so as it progresses, I hope I can adjust easier,” said Brown, who wants to maintain her independence while adjusting to her vision loss.

She is a candidate for special adaptive equipment with large print and “talking” software to read and also convert print into Braille.

People who benefit most from the services offered at the Sight Center include those whose vision impairment or loss interferes with their ability to perform routine daily tasks; people whose vision can no longer be improved with glasses, contacts, surgery or medication; or those who have a specific eye disease such as age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma or cataracts, said Christensen, who is blind.

Her first introduction to the organization occurred while attending camp for blind children and adults when she was 6. She received white-cane and adaptive-technology training and learned to address daily living issues.

Christensen worked a total of 20 years in two different periods for the organization before being named its executive director in March 2006.

“It's been challenging and fulfilling,” she said. “We have an incredibly dedicated staff of 23 full-time, part-time and contingency employees as needed.”

The organization conducted a capital campaign raising $1.65 million to build the new facility. However, the cost of construction increased by 25 percent from the planning stages to completion with a final price tag of $2.1 million.

The Sight Center is continuing its fund-raising efforts to obtain the additional money to pay for its construction, Christensen said.

The Sight Center is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) agency that receives approximately 20 percent of its funding from the United Way. The balance of the nonprofit's budget comes from private donations, bequests, memorial requests, wills and grants from foundations and government sources. “Nonprofit agencies are businesses with customers we serve,” Christensen said.

The Sight Center works with doctors and optometrists as well as visually impaired clients. It is accredited by the National Accreditation Council of Agencies serving the Blind and Visually Impaired.