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International Perspective

For your reading convenients below you will find all the International Perspective published in 2019

January 2019

Happy New Year readers!
Unfortunately, I do not have an interview article for the International Perspective segment this month. I am always looking for people to interview about life in their country as a blind person. If interested please contact me at my email address above. We can do this one of two ways; you can write the article on your own, or I can interview you and write it up for you. Some countries I have not yet covered include Italy, Poland, Iceland, Lithuania, Bahamas, Saudi Arabia, just to name a few.

Until I have interviews with people from other countries, I will write up some interesting facts/ statistics about blindness in other countries.
Country: India
Blindness population: 12 million
Global blindness population: 39 million
National Program for Control of Blindness (NPCB) blindness definition: Vision of 6/60 or less and a visual field loss of 20 degrees or less in the better eye, after spectacle correction.
A person unable to count fingers from a distance of six meters (19.7 feet) is categorized as �blind� in India.
World Health Organization (WHO) blindness definition: Visual sharpness of less than 3/60, or a corresponding visual field loss to less than 10 degrees in the better eye, even with the best possible spectacle correction.
A person unable to count fingers from a distance of 3 meters (9.8 feet) is categorized as �blind� according to WHO.

Under Vision 2020, India has to reduce the prevalence of blindness to 0.3% of the total population. India�s NPCB is adopting the WHO�s blindness criteria, therefore, India can achieve the Vision 2020 goal. They estimate with the change in the blindness definition, 4 million people will no longer be classified as blind.

Statistics based on 2017 World Health Organization estimates
About 285 million people are visually impaired worldwide
39 million are blind
246 million have low vision (severe or moderate visual impairment)
About 90 per cent of the world's visually impaired people live in developing countries
Globally, uncorrected refractive errors are the main cause of visual impairment
65 per cent of visually impaired, and 82 per cent of blind people are over 50 years of age, although this age group comprises only 20 per cent of the world population
Top causes of visual impairment: refractive errors, cataracts and glaucoma
Top causes of blindness: cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration
While there is still a long way to go when it comes to eye health, the number of people visually impaired from infectious diseases, however, has greatly reduced in the last 20 years.

February 2019

By John Snowling
United Kingdom
A bit of Information:
I live in a small city in the county of Cumbria at the very far north of England. The population is 75,306. The city has a few cobbled streets. If I were to go in a car from my home it would probably take me around 10 minutes give or take a minute to get directly over the border into Scotland.
To the west and south of my location is the Lake District national park and other famous areas where William Wordsworth wrote his poems and the children's book, Swallows. Amazon was also based in my county.

Blind SCHOOLS:
There aren't many schools for the blind and partially sighted about these days. My old school, St. Vincent's school for the blind in Liverpool now takes multi disabled people besides children with visual impairment. Most children either seem to go into mainstream education or go long distance to places like Henshaws in Yorkshire or new college Worcester, which is in the middle of the country.

BRAILLE AND MOBILITY:
Both braille and mobility are taught within school, but one can learn braille outside of school. Mobility can also be taught to individuals by a rehabilitation officer as part of your local social services. The county of Cumbria is a large county in square miles and I know we have one person covering the north and east of the county who might be in the city on one day a week. At one time we didn't have a mobility officer here and I waited close on 9 years to get a new cane and some extra training.

SPORTS AND LEISURE:
Blind children do play sports in school. There are organisations who cover blind sports such as Soccer, Golf, Goal Ball, and in Scotland I believe, Curling too. Some sighted clubs do have blind members like Chess clubs, but I've not seen any sports or recreation in my area.

JOBS AND EMPLOYMENT:
There is a Disability Employment adviser to help with applying for jobs. Alas here though, not many people with visual impairment, including totally blind people, work because the employer has to foot the cost for the assistive tech. You can get access to work benefit which will help with costs, but because of the size of the county it�s not easy to get from A to B.

COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY:
yes, blind people do go to colleges for the blind and to university too. I have been in both worlds. I went to a college for the blind for 5 years and then I went into mainstream college for 4 years, which I really loved.
Some universities are good at offering support for people with disabilities and some aren't. Students do get grants to buy equipment and I believe there is a way for students to access course handouts and stuff online.

TRANSPORT:
Some parts of the country have Ring and Ride, which is a small bus that takes people from home to say, shopping. In this part of the world, I don't think we have anything like that. You can get what's called a Blue Badge so that if someone takes you out, you can park in a disabled parking spot.
I think that you can get a bus pass, but its reduced fares. There is a rail pass, again, it reduces the cost of train travel. I can call by phone for a taxi normally on the same day, but to be sure, I can order it the night before. The Transport in this part of the world isn't good. If I wanted to visit my mum, 18 miles west, there are only two busses that go from the bus station in town.
Although I live in Carlisle, I live just under a quarter of a mile from the city centre in a little area called Denton Holme. This area has some of the best shops and tons of eating places due to our high student population.

Streets & Crossings:
Some streets have what we call Pelican Crossings. When you press the button on the post, and when it�s safe to cross the road, it beeps or a metal thing spins around underneath.
The paving has tactile dots that you can feel under your feet. Some kerbs are ramped but not all.

Braille:
Some lifts are brailed with buttons and one or two restaurants have braille menus. You can receive braille bank statements but they are very slow to arrive. Most banks either supply stuff on audio CD or you can check information with their banking app or by phone.

GUIDE DOGS:
We used to have several guide dog training centres in England but I think the majority closed down. I think the nearest guide dog training area is in Scotland. I believe there are over 2 million blind people in the UK, less than 1 percent have dogs.
Even if you are totally blind, you will not automatically get a dog. You have to be traveling daily to be qualified to receive one.

BENEFITS:
Yes, blind people in England and the UK do receive benefits. At the moment, I receive Employment and Support allowance. I'm in the support group due to ill health, so I am not required to work. I also receive personal Independence Payment, or PIP which I get once a month to help with my daily needs.
In order to purchase computers or screen readers, you can get grants from charities. Our social services here don't provide SMA's for Jaws or stuff like that.

READING AND BOOKS:
You can get talking books from the RNIB, Royal National Institute for blind people. You can get books in braille, on USB stick and Daisy CD as well as download books to Overdrive on a PC or other smart app's on iPhone.

BLIND ORGANISATIONS:
We have the RNIB, who are based in peterborough and London. They offer advice and products for sale.
We have a company called Sight and Sound Technology, who provide equipment and also Jaws and SMA�s.
We do have a local blind society but that tends to be for older people. I have had very little contact with my local society.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
I feel it�s a mixed reaction to us in this part of the country. The majority of people are helpful but there are those who can cause hate crimes like abusive taunts and that could be through ignorance. I don't really think things can be improved in this area.
Sometimes it feels like blind Organizations like RNIB and others don't listen to younger blind people. This part of the world doesn't have a ton of services.
I know if I visit my family out in the country the nearest social services is a good 20 miles away.
I have never really looked into a Ring and Ride service which I used to use when I lived in Birmingham in the West Midlands.
here I tend to get my frozen foods and groceries delivered by Wiltshire Farm Foods who do great meals for my talking microwave and Sainsbury's who deliver the rest of what I need. I have tons of food places near where I live, with my favourite just around the corner from where I live.

March 2019

Stats & Facts

United Kingdom
The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) and Specsavers joined in partnership to transform eye health. Read some of the following statistics and findings from 2017, from the State of the Nation Eye Health.

Sight is the nation�s most precious sense by far; 10 times more people (78 percent of people) said sight was the sense they fear losing most compared to the next most popular sense, smell (8 percent), followed by hearing (7 percent.

Almost a quarter of people are ignoring the first signs of sight loss; despite not being able to see as well in the distance or close up as they used to.

23 percent have not sought advice from an optician or medical professional.

Research suggests Brits check their teeth more often than their eyes; 42 percent visit the dentist once every six months (equating to four times over two years) while 25 percent of UK adults haven�t had an eye test in the past two years or at all.

More than 80 percent of people are not aware that an optician can spot the early signs of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the UK.

Every day 250 people start to lose their sight in the UK.

1 in 5 people will live with sight loss in their lifetime.

most common cause of permanent and irreversible sight loss in the UK is Age-Related macular degeneration (AMD).

By 2030, we estimate more than 2.7 million people in the UK will be living with sight loss. This growth will be primarily driven by an ageing population.

April 2019

Mexico
By Gerardo Corripio
Karen@TheBlindPrspective.com

A Bit about the country:
Mexico is located in North America, between the United States to the North, and Guatemala and Belize to the south. It is the fifth largest country by land mass, and the 11th most populated.

School:
Since 1993, when the Educational Reform was signed by then, president Carlos Salinas Degortari, blind children have been mainstreamed into public schools. Teachers of the Visually impaired go to these schools to help adapt materials, and to assess classroom teachers on aspects of the educational process. Parents too, play an important role, sometimes even more so than the special Education teachers. They go as far as to learn Braille themselves, to better help their sons or daughters in the educational process.

That's how it's supposed to happen, but in reality, most blind students even though they attend public school, they go once a week to what is known in Spanish as Centro de Atenci�n M�ltiple or CAM (Center for Attention of Multiple Disabilities). IN these centers, people with diverse disabilities attend in order to receive support for school. The teacher of the visually impaired adapts tasks and materials for the students.

Braille & Mobility:
Braille and O&M, are taught not as part of the school curricula, but mostly through separate blindness agencies or associations.

Sports:
Blind individuals can play sports in school, local communities, and in separate sport programs. Goalball and a special type of blindness soccer are played through the blindness associations.

Job Training:
Most blind people here work in call centers or as a massage therapis. There are also blind individuals that work in an informal setting as musicians or blindness instructors; for which there is no certification to regulate these instructors. Those of us with university degrees, sometimes have to work outside our fields, or become self-employed in order to persue our career goals and aspirations.

University:
IN some universities, there are programs that record, or scan books for students to read on their own. In terms of computers and other equipment, students are on their own to either purchase it or find it used. Blindness-specific technology, though, is advisable not to purchase. The reason for this is when trying to import it from other countries, like the US, lots of taxes are charged to be able to bring these devices here. Also, if a device breaks or needs maintenance here in Mexico, you're left with a museum artifact in your hands. There are no distributors that can help in sending the devices back to the States, Canada or countries of origin, for making them operational again. Here in Mexico, it's most advisable to use mainstream (Windows computers, Smartphones, or tablets), which are easier to be maintained and/ or repaired, or in extreme cases, replaced.

Accessibility Transportation:
Here in Mexico, there are only regular taxi cabs, city buses, or relying on others to take us places when needed, or for leisure.

Getting around:
Sadly, it's not safe to be out and about crossing streets. Those who do because of a need, put their lives in danger! Sadly, most car and bus drivers aren't blindness-conscious of street laws and related matters. Blind people have been hit by cars, fallen into the subway (or Metro as it's called in cities where they have it like Mexico City & Monterrey) tracks, and other mishaps.

Braille:
Receiving materials in Braille from banks and other utility companies would be a dream come true! Thus, Braille here in some restaurants they do have, but their menus are out of date. Also due to the fact that Braille displays are very expensive, and with no help from government or other agencies, plus as mentioned above, where if such a device were to need repair, you're left with an expensive toy in your hands. The use of Braille displays is almost nonexistent. For this reason, nowadays Braille is hardly used anymore.

Guide Dogs:
There's a Guide Dog School in Mexico City. But having a Guide Dog here in Mexico, is getting into always having to fight for your rights everywhere you go. Sadly, there are no strong laws regarding Guide Dogs and their access.

Benefits:
Blind individuals are on their own to buy equipment for school or work. And as of this date, blind people have no monthly checks or any sort of government help to make their lives a bit less hectic in terms of economy.

Reading service:
IN Mexico City, there are services in which paying a monthly subscription, enables you to receive books on CD�s. However, you don't select what you want to have burned, rather they burn the same CD�s for everyone in the service. Blind individuals need to use Google Play Books, apple Books or other means to get what they want to read. To add insult to injury, the movie theaters have no Audio description.

Blind Organizations:
Blindness organizations here in Mexico aren't regulated like those in the States and other countries. Thus, any ordinary blind group of friends can create one. Unfortunately, most blindness organizations don't prevail because the friends who create them end up disagreeing, or the services given or received, end up not being up to specs. Also, there are sometimes no specialized people who teach skills like braille, mobility, independent and daily living techniques available. thus, sadly the instruction and/or philosophical quality towards blindness, sometimes isn't the best there is.

Final Thoughts:
Sadly, blindness here in Mexico, isn't given the importance it deserves. It's our job, as individuals to do so, little by little. We�ve got a long way to go that's all I can say!

May 2019

This is not a typical international perspective article, but it has an international aspect. I recently conducted a Q&A with Kevin McCormac, the Chair of AER International Services & Global Issues Division. Please read on to learn more about this organization and what they are all about.

Q. What is the AER International Services & Global Issues Division?
AER is the Association for people who work in education or the rehabilitation of people who are blind or visually impaired. There are multiple divisions within AER that focus on issues such as aging and deafblindness. The International Services and Global Issues division focuses on making the membership of AER aware of the variety of issues that people who are blind or visually impaired face worldwide. We also seek to be a point of connection for AER members who have an interest in a certain world region to individuals and organizations that are already doing work in or near that region.

q. How did this organization come about?
I wasn�t there in the beginning, so I have limited information. But the division began about four years ago and I believe Kay Ferrell was the first chair.

Q. Who do you serve?
We try to serve any and everybody. Since we are an AER-based division, we have a responsibility to serve the needs of AER members as they relate to global issues. We are willing to engage with non-AER members as well. Ultimately, people who are blind or visually impaired worldwide are the people we serve. Especially in places with little to no access to services that can improve their lives in ways appropriate to their culture and geography.

Q. What services do you provide?
Since we are still a relatively new division, we are still finding our way regarding activities. We have created newsletters, had a presence at international conferences, a book club, offered a scholarship to non-North Americans, had internationally-themed teleconferences, and started an international Braille Pals program.
Editor�s Note: Nat wrote about the Braille Pal Program in a previous article.

To be clear, although International �Services� are in the division name, we don�t have a direct international service. We do, however, want to understand what services exist internationally for people who are blind or visually impaired and seek to make our membership aware of them, and how they can be of service to AER members who are interested in that world region.

Q. How did you become involved with this program, and what is your role?
I have had the fortune of being able to travel to several countries. I have also had the fortune to befriend people from many places in the world who have moved to the U.S. As I went through my studies to become an orientation and mobility specialist, I naturally had a curiosity to find out how orientation and mobility is done in different parts of our world. There isn�t much information out there, especially for lower-income countries. It was evident that increasing my understanding wasn�t going to happen mainly through reading a book or website. So, when I first found out about the AER Global Issues division, I didn�t have a choice, I had to join.

My role as chair is to set the mission of our division and keep our activities going. We have a core group of volunteers that meet monthly and we update each other on how division activities are going and how we can keep improving.

Q. How are you funded?
We get a budget from AER.

Q. Can you provide contact information?
You can contact Kevin at: Kevin3DMack@gmail.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AERGlobalIssues/

AER Website: www.AERBVI.org/about us

Enjoy reading the following submissions from readers Abbie and Carol.

Meeting My Inspiration Again

by Abbie Johnson Taylor

One sunny afternoon in May of 2018, I was resting in my recliner, listening to the drone of lawnmowers and whine of weedwhackers as my landscapers did their weekly business in my yard. Suddenly, I heard a crash. This time, it wasn't my garage door being smashed by a truck belonging to a patron of the day care center next door. Instead, it was a lawnmower colliding with a car in my neighbor's driveway on the other side. I know this only because one of the landscapers, not knowing me, came to my door, thinking it was my driveway and my car.

According to a policeman who showed up a couple of hours later, the car sustained a lot of damage. I gave him the landscaping company's phone number, and he gave me his card, saying he remembered asking me years ago if drivers were stopping to let me cross streets with my white cane. I couldn't believe it.

In the fall of 2002, I was single and living in an apartment complex subsidized for seniors and people with disabilities. A registered music therapist, I was working in a nursing home. On a day off, I was walking home after my water exercise class at the YMCA. I'd just jaywalked in front of my building and stopped to talk to a neighbor in a wheelchair when she told me there was a policeman behind me. I turned around and there he was, on a bicycle.

Where had he come from? Had he seen me jaywalk? Was I about to get a ticket, my first ever brush with the law?

To my surprise and relief, he asked me if I was having difficulty crossing streets because drivers weren't stopping. I told him that as long as I used four-way and other intersections where drivers were required by law to stop, I rarely had a problem. I also explained that I couldn't see well enough to get the license plates from offending vehicles. He said he would bring up the issue at roll call and rode away.

Now, I was again flustered, even though I'd done nothing wrong this time. All I could tell him was that our first meeting had inspired my first novel. I should have given him my card, but I didn't. He probably thought I was nuts and wished he'd given me that ticket for jaywalking years ago. In any case, we parted amicably enough.

After I posted about this incident on Facebook, someone asked if the story would continue. That remains to be seen. I may never see that officer again, but I'll always have the memory of how our first meeting inspired We Shall Overcome.

A Spicy Kind of Dessert

by Carol Farnsworth

When I was first married, I found that my new husband loved pie. I didn�t have much experience with pie making but I figured I could follow a recipe. I got out the old Betty Crocker cook book and looked up desserts.

I found a recipe for apple pie. I carefully measured the ingredients for the pie crust and the pie filling. I mixed, rolled and fitted the pie crust into the baking pan. I mixed the sliced apples with sugar, flour, butter and spices. I poured the whole mix into the crust and put it into the oven to bake.

After the timer went off, I removed a beautiful looking pie. I didn�t want to ruin the look of the pie so I didn�t try it.

When my husband came home, he was greeted with the smells and the appearance of a perfect pie. He got a glass of milk and cut a big slice of the apple pie. He took a large bite with his fork and started to chew. His eyes grew large and he was barely able to swallow the pie. After a large drink of milk, he asked what spice I had put in the apples. I replied cinnamon.

He asked to see the bottle. I rummaged in the cabinet and pulled out the container. My husband read the label and started to laugh.

I wanted to know what was so funny. After wiping his eyes, he told me that I had used red cayenne pepper instead. To make matters worse, I had doubled the cinnamon amount thinking it would be Spicy.

My husband tried to finished the piece but the heat of the spice was too much. The pie was thrown out in the compost. To be honest, no critter attempted to eat the pie. We finally had to bury the pie.

Ever since then I have put markers on my spices, and have my husband check what I am putting in my desserts. I have made errors over the years, but I have not made such a Spicy pie again.

Thank you Abbie and Carol for sharing your stories.
If you would like to share a tip, technique, story, or anything blind related, send it to my email address located at the beginning of this article. Please send it to me no later than June 15, and I will publish it in the July edition.

July 2019

A funny one, and can be a bit disturbing


By Daniel semro

It was my senior year of high school, and I had an older set of eyes in. I�ve gotten new ones since. Anyway, my left eye always had trouble staying in, so I had to wear a patch to keep it in. It didn�t always work as you�ll come to find out. I was leaving my English class, headed for lunch. Before I go to lunch, however, I need to stop by my locker to get my lunch. So, I do.

As I am leaving my locker, I feel a sneeze come on! Achoo! And out goes my eye, rolling down the hallway. Funny thing is, kids are kicking it, not even realizing it was my eye they were kicking. So there goes my aid running down the hallway to get it.

As a result of this craziness, I get to come home with the biggest piece of tape on my face. From one side of my face, the left, to the other side of my face, the right.

Moral of the story�Hold on to my eye when I know I�m about to sneeze!

I was just getting another load of firewood


By Michael Nuce from West Virginia

Even with tunnel vision I could see that the sky was a beautiful October blue and from the corner of my garage, I could easily see the woodshed door where I was headed with the empty wheelbarrow to get a load of wood to put on my front porch. It smelled like someone in the neighborhood already had a wood fire going and the smell of the smoke and the smell of dried leaves in my yard were signs that I needed to get the porch loaded with wood for my wood burner.

Then �WHACK� on my left shoulder, as I bumped hard into the clothesline pole that I could not see between the garage and the woodshed. My tunnel vision was the result of Retinitis Pigmentosa, which is a genetic disorder that runs in my family. It causes gradually more restricted tunnel vision over time, eventually causing total blindness. Visually impaired means �partial sight� and at the same time �partial blindness.� When a person�s vision / blindness is this way, it can fool them into believing that they can see better than they can. I do not think I was being stupid or �not accepting� my disability. I just thought that since I could see some things, I was doing pretty well, even though I banged my shoulder and it hurt a little.

I always thought it strange when someone would ask me �Just how much can you not see?� I could not really answer that question, because I did not know what I was not seeing, because I couldn�t see it. I realistically did know that my vision was getting worse and that �someday� I would need to use a white cane and need to learn Braille. However, that elusive �someday.� I really wasn�t thinking about it at all on that day when I was pushing loads of wood in the wheelbarrow. I wasn�t thinking about it until I banged into the clothesline post again on the very next trip for another load of wood.

I had gone from the porch to the corner of the garage; sighted a straight path (or so I thought,) to the woodshed and then �Bang!� again and this time on the left side of my forehead. Not a serious injury, but I did see a few stars and I could feel a goose egg. I hit the clothesline pole, but what else hit me hard was the intense thought that �this blindness stuff is real and it is real for me,� and I needed to do more to be able to take care of my family. More than loading wood on the porch, maybe I needed to make some calls about learning how to use a white cane and how to read Braille.

Whatever you call it, A Rude awakening- accepting reality- a reality check- working through denial - I had been aware of the fact that I had been going blind and now I was �Really, Really, Really� aware and I needed to get away from the �someday I will be blind,� thinking.

I think it is kind of a human tendency. When I worked at Prestera Mental Health Center, some of the substance abuse staff would say things like, �People will get help for addiction only when they have fallen far enough,� referring to detrimental life circumstances that addiction can cause. I have heard some Cabell Association of the Blind (C. W. A. B.) consumers say things like, �I should have done something sooner about this or I should have stopped driving sooner, �I guess It is kind of stupid.� I have had such thoughts and I think we all do things when we are ready and we all want to think of ourselves as �doing OK.� I believe that it is pretty much normal to not want to work on a problem such as gradual vision loss, because we don�t want to have the problem; not because we are too lazy or too stupid.

I have no idea what I did later that day, but I did not continue to get firewood on the porch. I was angry and disappointed and Yeah, I�ll admit it, I was kind of scared too. Wondering if I could do what it takes to be a successful blind person and be able to support my family. I loaded the porch later and I had to figure out a strategy. Visually impaired and blind people often have to figure out strategies to get things done.

Instead of aiming my wheel barrow at the wood shed from the upper corner of my garage, I aimed from the lower corner and I could be sure I was below the clothesline post as I went past. It made the trap just a few steps longer, but it worked for me and my family stayed warm that winter and winters to follow.

That day was about 30 years ago and now my wife tells me the color of the sky and I am glad that I can remember the beautiful shade of October blue. She and I together, kept things going, working as a team; raising 3 children and keeping the household together. Some people are na�ve about blindness and they say things to me about blindness, such as �you are lucky; your wife can do everything for you.� Granted, she does help me, but at the same time I help her, because we are a team and she is not my caretaker. We built our lives together and we are both stronger for it. We don�t use the wood burner any more, but if we did, I�m sure we would figure out a way to get the wood from the woodshed to the porch. Maybe we would get a wagon to be pulled by our riding lawn mower. My wife would drive the mower; I would fill the wagon and ride to the porch on the load of wood as we would continue to work together.

August 2019

A Well-Behaved Mom

In memory and loving tribute of Lois Jean Goss
By Shirley Manning

m and I used to go shopping for clothes together often, along with my guide dog, Winnie. Although not always approving, Mom knew my tastes and was willing to keep an eye out for what I liked. Shopping has never been Winnie's favorite job, but she knew at the end she would get to play with Mom's dog, Ladybug, so she put up with a long day of being on the go.

On one shopping trip, I was looking for a dressy sweater to wear with a skirt I’d bought a while back. After spending most of the day looking, we were finally successful in a department store. As we approached the checkout counter, the cashier was bending down behind it digging in a box of hangers, she did not see Winnie by my side. From where she worked behind the counter, she still could not see Winnie. Several people were ahead of us in line and the woman next to me began asking about Winnie and making comments. As she often would, my mom left me at the counter to look at something that caught her eye. The cashier was listening to the woman and me talking.

"She's really beautiful," the woman said.
"Thanks! I think so too. She's a lot of help and a great companion" I replied.
From behind the counter the cashier said, "It's so nice of you to feel that way. Does she go everywhere with you?”
“Oh yes. We’re together almost all the time,” I said.
Then the woman next to me said, "And she's so well behaved!"
At this point, the cashier could not help herself. In a perplexed tone she said, "Well behaved…?"

By this time, there were quite a few people in line at the register. It was obvious to all except the poor cashier what was going on. The cashier had not seen Winnie, but she had seen my mom. I and several other folks near by laughed aloud. I backed up a little allowing the cashier to view Winnie and said, “I believe you haven’t seen my trusted friend down here.”

My mom, noticing the commotion, came back. I informed her that she was, "Very well behaved!" Now it was her turn to be perplexed, so I explained. All within earshot had a good laugh, including the cashier.

My Journey with Braille

By Jasmyn

I’ve grown over these past three years to enjoy Braille. Every time I use my Braille writer or slate and stylus to write, it’s hard to stop. Whenever I read a Braille book with my blindfold on, I can find a mysterious word or contraction to learn about. I love that Braille allows you to use different contractions in a word or by its self.

My favorite code is grade 2 Braille because there are more ways to use Braille. The short forms and contractions really challenge my brain to learn new symbols to use in words. When I don’t know a contraction, I ask one of my friends who are more experienced with Braille to help me. They will kindly give me the answer and encourage me to practice every day. This also helps me to enjoy Braille more! It’s great to have friends to help you be better at something you aren’t sure of.

Braille is great for me because I have glaucoma, a progressive eye condition that could blind me, so I must learn Braille for my future as well as my Braille Teaching career. Glaucoma doesn’t scare me because I have Braille as a backup in my life toolbox. It’s kind of like having a gun ready with bullets to shoot the enemy. I have some friends of mine with glaucoma that are Braille users. I too as a glaucoma patient, will need Braille at some point in my lifetime. In case I have a harder time reading print materials, Braille will be in my life.

I encourage all blind and visually impaired people to learn Braille. Once you learn this code, you will see how much Braille can bring up your confidence level. It will change your life for the better!

September 2019

Antigua
By Andrew Doumith
Tell me a little bit about your country:
Antigua has a population of about 101,000, and has an area of 108 square miles. It is fairly small. In 1981 it became independent from the United Kingdom.
Barbuda is Antigua’s sister island, and we are known collectively as “Antigua & Barbuda”. We are one nation.
We do not have a legal definition of “legal blindness” and have much advancements to make in the field of recognizing the disability.

School:
Antigua does not have an exclusive School for the Blind, such as Perkin’s School for the Blind. However, we do have a primary school with instructors trained on accommodating for low vision or blind students. This school is called TN Kirnon Primary School. I know the instructors there receive annual training from Perkin’s International. I personally am not too familiar with the details of the operations of the school.
After completing this primary school, students are integrated into the public school system or can choose to attend a private school. Both public and private schools are quite poor in the quality of accommodations. It is my understanding that it has improved a bit since I was in high school 9 years ago, but I can’t comment to what degree. I do know it is still behind from where it needs to be. Students are not offered basic accommodations such as enlarged print, more time on exams, electronic material, etc.

Braille & Mobility:
Unfortunately, braille and mobility are not taught in the school system or through an agency that I know of. I believe that TN Kirnon does offer these trainings.

Sports & Recreation:
There are no blind friendly sports or adapted activities that cater to the blind or visually impaired. This will be something very nice to introduce. The only issue is that I don’t think we have the population to support it. However, maybe a sports game, like beep ball, where everyone needs to be blind folded to play might be a good idea.
I know there is an adaptive sailing organization. I know they cater mainly to physical disabilities. I’ve never thought about if they might be able to support blind/low vision. Perhaps they might be able to.

Job Training:
There is no job training. We need to improve significantly here.

University:
Yes, blind students are encouraged to attend university. However, I am unaware of any assistance in providing students with accessible materials.

Accessibility
Transportation:
There is not a separate transportation system for the blind. However, I do think there might be one of some sorts for physical disabilities.
It is difficult to find taxi cabs, as they are usually hailed in specific tourist areas. There are public transport buses available. I do know the public buses have a wheel chair ramp available.

Getting around:
We do not have many sidewalks at all. In our central downtown area, the sidewalks are continuously changing in level with many elevations and steps down.

No braille nor audible notifications at intersections. Good idea to introduce.
Braille is nowhere I’ve ever seen before in the public. I don’t think you can receive documents in braille format.

Guide Dogs:
We do not have a guide dog school, nor have I ever seen a guide dog with any Antiguan citizen. I do believe service animals have access to public buildings.

Benefits:
blind individuals do not receive any monetary benefits. Nor is there assistance in purchasing accessible equipment. This would be a good idea.

Reading service:
Currently, we cannot get talking books or braille books.

Blind Organizations:
As small as Antigua is, we do have a few organizations that focus on low vision and blindness. These include:
Glaucoma Awareness Organization
Lions Club, which provides vision screenings for students in primary school
Caribbean Council for the Blind (CCB)
Antigua and Barbuda Society of and for the Blind (ABSOFB)

Final Thoughts:
I do think a lot more emphasis and resources need to be given to supporting people who are blind. A lot more awareness is needed. For example, it is extremely rare to find anyone that even knows what audio descriptions are, and it is not something available at the movies.

Personally, since navigating with my white cane in public, I cannot say I have ever had a bad experience where I was treated differently or discriminated in any way.

I think a big part as to why we have such poor accommodations is the simple lack of resources but mainly the lack of awareness of what is needed.

There is just so many areas for improvement that I see, and I will love to be the change agent to drive the change. Below are some key areas that come to my mind now:
Audio descriptions option in movie cinema, plays, and other live events
Tactile markers, audible signals, etc. on sidewalks
Free or reduced rate transport for the blind or visually impaired

School accommodations, such as:
Extra exam time
Large or electronic print material
Class accommodations, etc.

Free mobility, braille, independent living, technology training offered to the blind or low vision. If we think about this, this should not be too difficult considering the fact that our blind population must be so small.

We need a “support group” that people that are low vision or blind can attend and participate in. Blindness or low vision awareness needs to be taught in high schools.

Antigua has many areas for improvement, and I will love to be the change leader in this field. I have a wide vision of launching a social impact organization called “Pristine Vision” with the mission of “redefining and reframing what it means to be blind or low vision in legislation, society, and within you.

October 2019

Unfortunately, there is no International Perspective article for this month. In order for this segment to continue I need readers to reach out to me. There are so many more countries to cover. If you are interested, please email me at my address above.

Until I get people to interview, or someone submits their story, I will go ahead and change it over to the Reader’s Perspective segment again. This means that you, the readers, are now able to submit an article on any blind/ low vision related topic. I really enjoyed the ones that were published during the summer months. So, go ahead and submit your stories, thoughts, and experiences!

In the meantime, read below for some interesting worldwide facts about blindness/ low vision, according to World Health Union (October 2018):

Globally, it is estimated that approximately 1.3 billion people live with some form of distance or near vision impairment.
With regards to distance vision, 188.5 million have mild vision impairment.
With regards to near vision, 826 million people live with a near vision impairment.
217 million have moderate to severe vision impairment.
There is an estimated 36 million people who are blind.

Globally, the leading causes of vision impairment are uncorrected refractive errors and cataracts.
Approximately 80% of all vision impairment globally is considered avoidable.
The majority of people with vision impairment are over the age of 50 years.

November 2019

I think NFB Newsline is wonderful, as I remember the old days.
By Michael Nuce of West Virginia

I have Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and in 1978 my wife, son and I moved to Huntington so I could complete my education at Marshall University. I had enough tunnel vision at that time to slowly read text books, but I had also heard about a reading service for the blind called “Hears to You.”

The local Talking Book Library sent me a radio that was like a wooden box, a little smaller than a shoe box, and it had only one knob on it. As you turned the knob it would click on, then increase volume and you would be tuned in to the only radio station available on it. The station was called “hears to you,” and volunteer readers could be heard reading from a radio station, broadcasting as they read from a few newspapers and magazines. A schedule came with it and it was available only a few hours a day and I think one newspaper was local and the other national and articles were read from about 10 magazines. You could not select what was being read, only the time you wished to listen. For example, if you wanted to listen to “Time Magazine,” the schedule might say listen on Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. and the reader would read articles that he or she chose.

Since I was a student, I did not have much time for “Hears to You,” and the reception was not very good where I lived. However, I remember the volunteers as having nonprofessional every day voices and how this was a wonderful way for blind people to have something to read at the time. It was either that or someone had to read to them.

I finished college, got a job and my family grew and as happens with RP, my tunnel vision did not last. However, my job did last until I recently retired and technology helped me along with my career. A little over 20 years ago, I had the privilege of being part of the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, which is a local Foundation that supports local services for the blind and visually impaired. During my first year on the Board, a grant came through asking for assistance in establishing the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Newsline in West Virginia. I cannot think of a way to compare the old “Hears to You” volunteer reading service to NFB Newsline.

Newsline has hundreds of newspapers from all over the U.S. and some foreign countries, and I imagine that over 100 magazines are available. If you access Newsline, you choose what and when you read. It is always available and you can read it on your phone as you travel, since it does not have to plug into the wall. Newsline is wonderful; yet, I still remember those wonderful volunteers who sat in a recording studio reading to blind people over the air waves.

If you want to sign up for NFB Newsline, or if you just want information about it and how you can get it by phone, mobile devices or computer Call 866-504-7300.

December 2019

ole from Biarrit, France writes in to share this information about google.

Google Accessibility Support Adds Hours and Languages:
You can now contact Google Accessibility Support in French, German, Spanish, Italian and Brazilian Portuguese.

The Disability Support team is available to answer questions about using assistive technology with Google products and accessibility features and functionalities within Google products.

Email a specialist
For email support, complete the disability support email contact form. You'll receive a reply within 24 business hours.
Email support is available Monday through Friday:
6 AM–5 PM (PT) in English only.
9 AM–5:30 PM (GMT+1) in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Brazilian Portuguese.

Chat with a specialist
For chat support, complete the disability support chat contact form. Chat support is available Monday through Friday:
6 AM–5 PM (PT) in English only.
9 AM–5:30 PM (GMT+1) in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Brazilian Portuguese.

Talk to a specialist
For phone support, complete the disability support phone contact form. Phone support is available Monday through Friday 6 AM–5 PM (PT) in English only.

Contact a specialist through Be My Eyes
You can contact a Google Disability Support specialist through the Be My Eyes app on your phone or tablet. Be My Eyes support is available in English in 201 countries and territories.

The above information along with the different contact forms are available on their website at: www.support.google.com/disability

Bonnie submitted the below Ski for Light press release.

The 45th annual Ski for Light International Week will take place from February 9 through 16, 2020, in Casper, Wyoming. This is a new venue for the all-volunteer non-profit’s annual event where beginning blind and mobility impaired skiers are taught the basics of cross-country skiing, while more experienced skiers further hone their skills. All enjoy a variety of après ski activities.

Participants will stay at the Ramkota Hotel and Conference Center and ski atthe Casper Mountain Outdoor Center at McMurry Mountain Park. The Center has 42 kilometers of wide cross-country trails. The annual week-long event attracts more than 250 skiers, guides and volunteers from throughout the United States, as well as international participants.

During the Ski for Light week, each skier with a disability is paired with an experienced, sighted cross-country skier who acts as ski instructor and on-snow guide. Most blind and/or mobility impaired adults leave Ski for Light with a sense of accomplishment and motivation that carries over to every aspect of their lives. Many volunteer guides return year after year and most discover that in the process of giving of themselves they get much more back in return.

If you have never before attended what many have called “the experience of a lifetime,” join us on an epic adventure in Wyoming. Additional information can be found at www.sfl.org

or you may contact Visually Impaired Participant Recruitment Chair Melinda Hollands at 231-590-0986 or MlHollandstc@gmail.com

Come discover yourself and make new friends!

Jay from Virginia shares this sad news for those who do not already know regarding Talking Thermostats.

Dear friends of the Blind and Visually Impaired Community,
My name is Harry Cohen and my company, Talking Thermostats.com has supplied many of you with talking thermostats and excellent customer service over the past sixteen years. I am writing to inform you that as of this date we will be exiting the talking thermostat business and closing our company.

This was a difficult decision to make. We were helped with this decision by the manufacturer, BuyMax Alliance who is also our supplier of the VIP talking thermostat. Because of poor inventory control by our supplier, their stock of talking thermostats was depleted in January of this year. In addition, our supplier changed to a new electronic assembly vendor in China. Both of these issues by our supplier have caused very long lead times resulting in a stock out condition of thermostats not only for our company but also for our competitors. All the VIP talking thermostats come from the same factory in China.

We have not had thermostats to ship since February. BuyMax Alliance told us we would have thermostats in April. Then they changed the delivery to the end of July. It is now the third week of August and still no thermostats. During these six plus months, we still offered customer and technical support even though there was no income being generated. Without income, we can no longer afford to pay rent, keep the lights on and keep the phones active. Therefore, we are closing up shop.

With the closure of our business, product questions and warranty issues now revert back to BuyMax Alliance, the VIP 3000 manufacturer / supplier. BuyMax Alliance can be reached at 866-936-6622.

Over the past sixteen years this business has given me the opportunity to establish relationships with the blind and visually impaired community of the United States and provide another means to help people with visual impairments live more independently. Thank you for this opportunity.
Sincerely,
Harry Cohen

If you have any information relative to the blind community that you would like to share with us, just send me an email at my address located at the beginning of this article.

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