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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

By Gerardo Corripio

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.

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 Atención Můltiple 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.

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.

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.

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.

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:


AER Website: 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 naďve 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.

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