Saturday, March 29, 2008

Several restaurants in Austin now use Braille menus

Visually impaired students at the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center created Braille menus for several restaurants across Austin.It's a special project seven weeks in the making.Visually impaired Austinites will now have more choices and more independence.Before Friday, Sheila Tigner often avoided restaurants.

She didn't like relying on someone else to tell her what's on the menu."If it's a busy time, they don't have time to tell you the ingredients and how it's made," Tigner says.That's why Tigner along with about 50 other visually impaired students at the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center took the matter into their own hands -- they created Braille menus.

Each team worked to enter the menus into the computer.The students chose their favorite Austin restaurants and translated every word on the menus into Braille.With the finished product ready, the students hand-deliver the new menus to each restaurant.Something so simple, that many take for granted, gave Sheila a whole new perspective on eating out. Now she has great food at her fingertips.Austin restaurants now have Braille menus along with regular ones to offer customers.

Visually impaired woman is about to discover music in a new way

Sarah Getto says she sings to inspire.

The Norman native, born without eyes and with a severe cleft palate, soon may be exceeding her expectations.

She's been contacted by the military to perform and give hope to those who suffered injuries during fighting in
Iraq and Afghanistan that left them visually impaired.

Getto, who performed Wednesday during People with Disabilities Awareness Day at the state Capitol, may soon be singing for veterans recovering from their injuries in military hospitals across the country, her father said.

Mike Getto said the military wants to bring his daughter to entertain visually impaired veterans and "tell them what she's been able to accomplish.”

Sarah Getto, 24, said she wanted to sing and play piano for the annual event sponsored by the state Rehabilitation Services Department, which uses the occasion to let legislators know of available services it offers and of its funding needs. Nearly 500 attended the daylong activity.
The agency helped provide specialized equipment and worked to ensure classroom accessibility at
Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, where Sarah Getto graduated summa cum laude in December.

"My goal is to make people aware that just because you have a disability you don't have to sit on your backside and do nothing at home,” she said. "I want to show you can live a normal life with blindness.”

She said she also wanted to perform to thank the
Rehabilitation Services Department for the help it gave her and for its work in helping disabled people succeed.

"Some people who are disabled and don't know what's out there think they can't accomplish anything in life,” she said. "DRS has really done a lot for me. If it wasn't for them, I would have had a hard time in college.”

She joined others Wednesday who visited with legislators to encourage funding for the agency.
Blessed to inspire
Sarah Getto said she always had a knack for music. Her dad, also a musician, discovered it when she was about 6 months old. She would squawk whenever he hit a wrong note on the piano or guitar.

"He said I would also keep time with my hands and feet,” she said. "The Lord blessed me with perfect pitch.”

Norman School District began working with her when she was 6 months old, her dad said, to help stimulate development. Sight helps stimulate the brain; teachers came to her house and worked in helping develop her other senses, he said.

She started playing piano at age 3 and violin when she was 10. She also plays the autoharp, guitar and bass guitar.

She began performing when she was 14, first at civic clubs and country music shows. She spent the past couple months performing at shows in Texas and left Wednesday to perform the next couple weeks in Arizona and New Mexico.

She placed third in
Billboard magazine's 2006 international songwriting contest; nearly 60,000 entered.

Her goal is to travel the next couple years and then teach music to elementary students, she said.
"When I perform, my goal is to always inspire people,” she said. "A lot of people tell me that when they've been down in the dumps I lift them up because they realize their life is not so bad.”

A blind womand dives with sharks to raise money for the visually impaired!

A BLIND woman will brave a shark tank in a bid to raise money for charity.

Fearless Nicki Cockburn, from Llandudno, will take part in a shark dive at the Blue Planet Aquarium next Sunday.

The 30-year-old will swim just inches from the predators in aid of the organisation Deafblind UK.
Her next adventure comes after she completed a 200-mile trek and raked in more than £8,000 for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

“I really hate the water,” said Nicki. “And I’ve never dived. I don’t really like sharks either.
“But I am not one to turn down a challenge and I am up for doing things out of the ordinary to raise as much money as possible.”

Nicki said she hopes to exceed her target of £400.

She heard about the event on blind radio station Insight.

“People who know me know I never do normal things.

“Boring things like coffee mornings are not really up my street.

“I'm just hoping that on the day the sharks have had a hearty breakfast and won't fancy munching on me.”

Nikki added: “Deafblindness is one of the most challenging disabilities a person can endure.
“It has been described as the loneliest condition in the world.

“I am hoping to raise as much as I can for the worthy cause.”

To sponsor Nikki visit nickisnextadventure

Friday, March 21, 2008

Marathon for the visually impaired!

A WETHERBY science teacher and his son are preparing to run the 2008 Flora London Marathon.
Huge Thurgood, 51, and his son, Joe, 20, will take on the 26.2 mile marathon on April 13 in aid of Visually Impaired Children Taking Action (VICTA) – a registered charity that provides support for visually impaired children and their families.

It will be Hugh’s seventh London marathon, and Joe’s second. Last year the pair managed to raise £2,000.This year the men are keen to do the same again and they will also be raising vital money for charity, Children With Leukaemia.Hugh, of Ayr Mount, Wetherby, said of his training: “I run home from school in Morley every week which is about 20 miles.

“And when I rang my son up yesterday he’d just run up a mountain in the Lake District so he’s training.”“My best time for the marathon is three hours 35 minutes so I’m looking to try and beat that this year,” he said.To sponsor Hugh log onto or email to leave a donation.

The full article contains 197 words and appears in Wetherby News newspaper.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Visually impaired governor is a source of inspiration!

Today marks a new era for New York state as David Paterson becomes not only the state’s first black governor, but its first legally blind governor.And according to the staff at the Chautauqua Blind Association, the precedent is a source of inspiration.‘‘It’s exciting for visually impaired people everywhere,’’ said Lisa Lane-Gniewecki, the association’s executive director.

‘‘To see him rise to this level, he will probably end up a role model for young people and even the elderly with visual impairments across the nation.’’Contrary to what many believe, a person who is legally blind can usually see more than total darkness. According to Ms. Lane, a person is legally blind when their ‘‘best corrected visual sharpness is 20/200,’’ or need to be as close as 20 feet to identify objects that people with normal vision can spot from 200 feet away.

The Chautauqua Blind Association serves more than 800 clients in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, according to Andrea Hatfield, rehabilitation teaching assistant and certified occupational therapy assistant.She explained that the association’s overall mission is to ‘‘enable visually impaired people to be active members of their community and to provide education and services to prevent vision loss.’’An ear infection which spread to the optic nerve is what left David Paterson legally blind when he was 3 months old.One aspect of the association’s prevention initive includes vision screenings conducted at area day care centers.

Ms. Hatfield said that detecting visual impairments in children is especially hard, due to their age and the variety of conditions which may cause them.‘‘A parent or teacher might not see the signs because they aren’t always obvious,’’ Ms. Hatfield said. ‘‘But you’re always better to catch these things early when there’s more avenues for treatment.’’

Debbie Liddell, also a rehabilitation teaching assistant and certified occupational therapy assistant, said that she has only been working at the association since August, but already finds her work very rewarding.‘‘Anybody who is legally blind or visually impaired can be successful,’’ she said. ‘‘David Paterson is just an example of that.’’

Ms. Hatfield said technology is one of the biggest assets in today’s world for visually impaired and blind people to live an independent life. She demonstrated the use of special, binocular-type glasses, intended to allow people to watch TV, and compared the device to an old TV screen magnifier. The old device was a problem for many people because it wasn’t clearly viewable from even a slight angle, she said.Ms. Hatfield explained that other devices have been improved over the years, including a ‘‘video magnifier TV,’’ which allows the user to zoom in on newspapers, documents, or even their face.

‘‘The thing a lot of people miss (when they begin losing their sight) is the newspaper,’’ the executive director said. ‘‘This unit can zoom in on the print and it also has several color settings to adapt to the persons visual impairment. The newer ones are laptop-sized and portable. I’m sure Mr. Paterson has one of these in the office.’’She did mention that the association provides people a chance in the office to see if the device works for them, but they can not give them away to clients as they typically cost more than $3,000.

Ms. Hatfield said that new computer-based voice recognition technology and web site zooming software have allowed the clients to experience the internet, and in turn, stay more connected with their friends and family.The association gets creative when they adapt common household items such as stoves and microwaves to be more easily used by their clients.Ms. Liddell said that using simple things like velcro or textured-rubber stickers are helpful to the clients, as they are easier to feel than braille.

‘‘We are using braille less and less,’’ Ms. Hatfield said. ‘‘Since many of our clients lose their sight as they get older, their finger tips aren’t sensitive enough to feel it.’’The Chautauqua Blind Association provides a number of services to their clients, according to the executive director. They make house calls and do everything from helping a person find technology to assist them in living independently to providing personal support to ensure the client that they are not alone.‘‘Sometimes they can feel isolated and alone,’’ Ms. Hatfield said.

‘‘And that’s (one area) where we step in.’’As David Paterson steps into N.Y.’s highest office, the executive director said she wants people who may be suffering from vision loss to feel comfortable to step forward and get confidential help from the association.The Chautauqua Blind Association is a United Way-funded agency. Anyone who has questions about visual loss, blindness or the Chautauqua Blind Association’s services is encouraged to call 664-6660.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Egg hunt using a beeper is a successful event for the visually impaired

A beeper egg hunt was held Wednesday morning in Loose Park for children from the Center for the Visually Impaired.

KMBC's Jim Flink reported that 74 children with various visual limitations searched for the chirping eggs.

"Look! I found one. I found two," said Abby Burton.

The idea for the beeper egg hunt was hatched 25 years ago.

"It's about the most rewarding experience you can ever have," said Judy Howard.

"In your mind, you know that visually impaired kids ought to be able to run and play as much as any other child. But when you see it, it's, like, wow," said Michelle McBrayer.

Flink reported that each child goes at his or her own speed.

"I see chocolate and a green Starburst," Burton said.

The volunteers who put on the event -- The Telephone Pioneers -- put on two other events for other children who are visually impaired.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

There is finally a Braille dictionary!

A Welsh/English Braille dictionary to help users translate, learn Welsh and support the use of Welsh among Braille users, has been launched.

The 22 volume work is believed to be the first of its kind.

The book, which has been produced by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) Cymru, was put together by volunteers and specialist staff.

A teacher for the visually impaired said the dictionary would have a "huge impact" on learning for pupils.

The Welsh Language Board provided 70% of the funds needed to produce the dictionary, launched on Tuesday.

RNIB Cymru said it had been developing Welsh Braille over a number of years after identifying the need to provide access to books for Welsh speakers with sight loss.

The dictionary's production was very time-consuming due to the complexity of the text, said RNIB Cymru.

This is a fantastic opportunity to make the Welsh language accessible to learners across Wales
Ruth Marks, director of RNIB Cymru.

Rachel Staritt, a 13-year-old visually impaired pupil at Pencoed Comprehensive School in Bridgend, said the dictionary would help her with her school work.

"I will be able to find the right words in English and Welsh, just like my friends," she said.

Pam Williams, specialist teacher of the visually impaired at the school, said: "It will be a great help in facilitating inclusion for our pupils, allowing them to access the same information as their sighted peers."

RNIB Cymru said its ongoing partnership with the Welsh Language Board would enable it to provide more Welsh-language texts in accessible formats, including large print, audio and Braille.
Ruth Marks, director of RNIB Cymru, said the charity would be offering 20 copies of the dictionary, initially on a loan basis.

"This is a fantastic opportunity to make the Welsh language accessible to learners across Wales," she said.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Can a tactile wand help the visually impaired?

This is a smart wand that has been designed to replace the traditional long stick used by the visually impaired.

This wand was created by Jin Woo Han it uses a sensor on the front to detect nearby objects and provides feedback about how far away they are with varying levels of vibration.

The wand includes a tactile strip where you place your thumb that will actually indicate the position of objects around you.

Unfortunately the Tactile Wand is just a concept right now, and given the time needed to perfect the design and the thorough testing that will be required.

Massage classes are offered to the visually impaired

A program to develop massage training centers for the visually-impaired opened in Hanoi last week with support from the Asia Medical Massage Instructors Network and Nippon Foundation.
During a week-long session, dozens of handicapped individuals learned Anma massage technology from Japanese experts.

Chairman of the Vietnam Blind Association, Dao Soat, said his organization considers massage to be a great occupation to help the blind improve their living standards.

Thousands of visually impaired people already make their living as masseurs in Vietnam.

Visually impaired boy dreams to teach kids with eyesight

SAVE for being visually impaired and an orphan, John Bosco Walugembe has joined the realm of top brains in the country. He got 4AABC from Iganga SS and attributes his success to the girls in his school who lent him a hand.

The school has just started teaching boys; originally being a single-sex school. There were only five boys in his class, he says.

"These girls would help me with discussions. The teachers were also very helpful," Walugembe adds.

Iganga SS and St. Francis Madera in Soroti are some of the schools in the country equipped to handle visually impaired students. Walugembe has his colleague Akura Suubi, who is also visually impaired, but got 23 points.

Walugembe, born in a family of three children, is the only blind one. But he did not find it easy to study with the sighted colleagues in class. Using his braille machine, he says, the girls would always complain of the noise it made.

"I also had a 'talking watch' which would make constant verbal alerts, which would disturb the class. Thank God, they grew to like me," he says.

It is surprising that Walugembe was also doing Literature, a subject that involves reading many texts. "I used to get people to read the novels and plays for me. I was also using recorded work on tapes," he explains.

He is planning to do Education at Makerere University. "I want to teach even the sighted people. If they can teach us, we can also do the same for them," the confident and jolly academic giant said.
Walugembe got aggregate 15 in eight at O' Level. He appeals to the Ministry of Education to provide more verbally-recorded literature to schools that cater for the visually-impaired.
Walugembe, who has started computer lessons, says he is committed to going beyond getting a first degree.

Advising the disabled learners, Walugembe says: "It is time we all went to school. The disabled also have a right to education. Just go conquer it, as this Government still supports us."
He appealed for well-wishers to get him a laptop, to ease his studying at the university.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Service dogs for the visually impaired

Finally, the construction of the new University Center is finished. Now students can navigate their way through the new building with ease. But that's not the case for all students.Imagine for a moment that you're blind and trying to find your way around three floors of the new and somewhat complex UC.

Suddenly the idea doesn't seem so easy anymore.Having to get used to and eventually memorize an entirely new UC is a reality for UW-Whitewater junior Jason Corning, who has been blind and deaf since birth.Corning has faced several navigation obstacles throughout his life and college career, but luckily he doesn't have to face those obstacles alone.His seeing eye-dog, Spencer, serves as his eyes and ears.

When last year's construction started, Corning was used to walking all the way around the UC and his trained yellow lab, knew exactly where Corning wanted to go on campus. "If I walked on the side of the street going toward Carlson, he knew I was going in that direction," Corning said. "If I walked in the middle of the main sidewalk, he assumed McGraw or the library. If I walked toward the new building and Upham, he assumed Heide or Roseman.

"According to, the combination of specialized training and tender loving care are the characteristics that make up a good seeing-eye dog like Spencer. Physically, the dog must be healthy, of good working size and low maintenance. Tempermentally, a guide dog must show a willingness to work, be confident, tolerant, not shy or frightened in any situation, non-aggressive, adaptable to change, have initiative and the ability to concentrate.Corning and Spencer recently made their first trip to the new UC and were both satisfied with the outcome.

"Spencer got so excited about the new UC," Corning said. "He was a little confused at first about the new setting, but we managed to get around okay." Corning believes the university keeps students with disabilities in mind when constructing buildings like the new UC, but came up with a few suggestions on how to make the building even more accessible.

"I would add a table with a raised print map for people to feel because the one on the walls is too small and has colors that are hard to see," Corning said. "I would also provide a large print menu in Braille, too. Also, there should be a videophone booth for deaf people to use." On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the easiest to navigate, Corning gave the new UC a seven. He plans on checking out the recreation center soon and his favorite part so far is the food.

Two other students, Matthew Scott and Alex Ledbetter who both use wheelchairs, agree with Corning. They enjoy the new UC, but have a few minor suggestions to improve the building."The new UC is comparable to the old one in terms of accessibility," said Scott, "However, the location and lack of elevators is a concern of mine and some of my friends. I would also add more signs to make it easier for students go get around."Other than that, he thinks it's a great addition that provides many different options for food, entertainment and a social environment on campus.

"My favorite part of the UC is the variety of food and the amount of space to lounge," he said.Ledbetter, a broadcast journalism major, gave the new UC the highest possible rating of a 10. "I think it's a great addition and upgrade from the old UC," said Ledbetter.

"I think it's easy to navigate, I wouldn't change a thing and my favorite part is the theater and Down Under."Director for the Center of Students with Disabilities, Elizabeth Watson shared her thoughts on the new UC."Although it's a new building our students and animal companions are doing fine," Watson said. "It's expected that our students would ask for help if necessary. Animals will be able to guide students around any obstacle. Our students with visual impairments or who are blind and those in wheelchairs have been navigating new situations their whole lives."

"We have worked closely with Facilities Planning and Management, the contracts and students to provide updated paths of travel information to our students," Watson said. "Maintaining access to the campus has been a priority of the administration and Center for Students with Disabilities."

Talking newspaper is now a reality for the visually impaired

Listen here to the Lancashire Evening Post's special Talking Newspaper service.

Visitors to can now hear a selection of our top news, sports and entertainment stories from around mid-morning from Monday to Friday.The LEP Talking Newspaper aims to serve the visually-impaired community, as well as add variety for other readers who may wish to use the service.

It is simply one of several ways in which to get your news from the Lancashire Evening Post.

Touchable art!

Signs ask visitors to keep their hands off the art in the Louvre Museum. But one special sculpture gallery invites art lovers to indulge. The Louvre’s Tactile Gallery, targeted to the blind and visually impaired, is the only space in the museum where visitors can touch the sculptures, with no guards or alarms to stop them. Its latest exhibit is a crowd-pleaser: a menagerie of sculpted lions, snakes, horses and eagles.

The 15 bronze, plaster and terra-cotta animals are reproductions of famous works found elsewhere in the Louvre. Called "Animals, Symbols of Power," the exhibit focuses on animals that were used by kings, emperors and pharaohs throughout history to symbolise the greatness of their reigns. Though the gallery was conceived for the blind and visually impaired, children and other visitors also enjoy it.

During guided tours on the weekends, children can explore the art with blindfolds on. The Louvre opened the Tactile Gallery in 1995. Though other French cultural exhibits offer periodic events and programmes for the blind, the Louvre says it is the only museum in France with a gallery specifically set up for the visually impaired.

Elsewhere in Europe, Ancona, Italy, and Athens, Greece, have entire tactile museums. "There’s really a way to learn how to touch, with habits to learn," said Cyrille Gouyette, the co-head of the Louvre’s gallery. Some people run their hands over the works, he said, and some even knock on them to understand the material of which they’re made.

He said the exhibit on animals strives to "use the sense of touch to make people think." The exhibit displays statues of Charlemagne and French King Louis XIV astride their horses, a pose that raised the rulers and made them look more imposing. It also features a reproduction of a Napoleonic eagle. Napoleon chose the eagle as an insignia because he was inspired by Ancient Rome’s use of the bird as a sign of its military might. The exhibit, which opened in December, is scheduled to run for about three years.

First-time visitor Didier Roule, who was accompanied by his seeing-eye dog, said the visually impaired "are certainly more attentive to some details... and we can feel things through the materials." Roule, a sculptor himself, said, "The exhibit gives me ideas."