Hints and Tips and Fun Facts

Hints and Tips About Speaking with the Blind and Visually Impaired

  • Speak in a normal tone of voice. People with vision problems usually have normal hearing.
  • Introduce yourself. Recognizing voices can be difficult for some people.
  • Speak directly to a person with impaired vision. Most people can answer for themselves.
  • Be Descriptive. Rather than using gestures and hand signals to convey instructions, directions or size, describe the information.
  • Be clear with your instructions. Many people use “right” when they mean “yes”; other words like “here”, “there”, or “this” are vague and don’t give enough information.
  • It’s o.k. to use words like “look” or “see” as they are part of normal conversation. People with impaired vision use these words themselves.
  • Hellos & Goodbyes. Let a person with impaired vision know you are leaving so that he/she won’t be left talking to him/herself.
  • Last but not least, treat people with impaired vision as you would want to be treated.

Facts about Blindness and Visual Impairment

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released the following key facts regarding Blindness and Visual Impairment.

  • About 285 million people are visually impaired worldwide; 39 million of them are blind.
  • Throughout the world, most people with visual impairment are age 50 or older.
  • About 90% of the world’s visually impaired live in developing countries.
  • The number of people blinded by infectious diseases has been greatly reduced by recent public health efforts, but age-related impairment is increasing.
  • Cataracts remain the leading cause of blindness globally, except in the most developed countries.
  • Correction of refractive errors could give normal vision to more than 12 million children ages 5 to 15.
  • Globally about 80% of all visual impairment is avoidable.

Source:  WHO Fact Sheet #282.

In the United States, EyeCare America issued the following report:

  • By age 65, one in three Americans has some form of vision-impairing eye disease.
  • Of the 119 million people in the United States who are age 40 or over, 3.4 million are visually impaired or blind. This level of blindness and visual impairment costs more than $4 billion annually in benefits and lost income.
  • In California, over 13 million people are age 40 or over, and 356,000 are visually impaired or blind. This represents approximately 10% of all visual impairment and blindness in the United States.
  • People with diabetes are 25 times more likely to become blind than people without diabetes.
  • Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States, and the most common cause of blindness among African Americans.
  • Nearly 3 million people have glaucoma, but half do not realize it because there are often no warning symptoms.

Source:  Eye Care America Fact Sheet.

 

Names of people with visual impairments that you may recognize

 Helen Keller – (1880 – 1968) – Helen Adams Keller (June 27, 1880 – June 1, 1968) was an American author, activist and lecturer. She was the first deaf/blind person to graduate from college. She was not born blind and deaf; it was not until nineteen months of age that she came down with an illness described by doctors as “an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain”, which could have possibly been scarlet fever or meningitis. The illness did not last for a particularly long time, but it left her deaf and blind. Keller went on to become a world-famous speaker and author. She is remembered as an advocate for people with disabilities amid numerous other causes.

Stevie Wonder – (born Steveland Hardaway Judkins on May 13, 1950, name later changed to Steveland Hardaway Morris), is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer. Blind from infancy, Wonder signed with Motown Records as a pre-adolescent at age twelve, and continues to perform and record for the label to this day. It is thought that he received excessive oxygen in his incubator which led to retinopathy of prematurity, a destructive ocular disorder affecting the retina, characterized by abnormal growth of blood vessels, scarring, and sometimes retinal detachment.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt – (January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945) Franklin was the 32nd President of the United States of America and played a big role during World War II. Roosevelt eventually aided the poor and un-employed of America and restored order at various times during his Presidency. He was also the only President to ever get elected 4 terms in a row, mostly because of his help in the recovery of the economy. It has been said that Roosevelt had several disabilities including vision impairment.

Harriet Tubman – (c. 1820 – 10 March 1913) Harriet Tubman was a slave throughout her youth, being treated as an animal until she eventually escaped captivity. When she had reached Canada she did not stay to enjoy her freedom. She returned to the lands and brought hundreds of black slaves back to safety, saving them from slavery by escaping from what they then called The Underground Railroad. After a severe wound to the head, which was inflicted by a slave owner before her escape, she became victim to vision impairment and seizures. Which did not keep her from tossing her fears aside and to keep fighting for the freedom of her people.

Louis Braille – (January 4, 1809 – January 6, 1852) Louis Braille became blind after he accidentally stabbed himself in the eye with his father’s awl. He later became an inventor and designed braille writing, which enables blind people to read through feeling a series of organized bumps representing letters. This concept was beneficial to all blind people from around the world and is commonly used even today. If it were not for Louis Braille’s blindness he may not have invented this method of reading and no other blind person could have enjoyed a story or been able to comprehend important paperwork.

Alec Templeton – (July 4, 1909, March 28, 1963) was a satirist and pianist who had moved from Wales to the United States where he played with several orchestras, eventually making it to his first radio performances on the Rudy Vallee Show, The Chase and Sanbourn Hour,The Magic Key and Kraft Music Hall. The way he would memorize his scripts before the show was by asking someone to read them 20 times in a row while he would listen. He was blind from birth but it did not stop him to doing what he wanted to do in the end.
Galileo Galilei – (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) Galileo Galilei was a Tuscan (Italian) astronomer, mathematician, physicist, and philosopher being greatly responsible for the scientific revolution. Some of his accomplishments include improvements to the telescope, accelerated motion and astronomical observations. Galileo was the first to discover the four largest satellites of Jupiter which were named the Galilean moons in his honor. Galileo had also improved compass design and eventually opposed the geocentric view. His sight started to deteriorate at the age of 68 years old and eventually leaded to complete blindness.

Andrea Bocelli – (born 22 September 1958) Andrea Bocelli had become blind at the age of 12 years old following a football accident in which he was hit in the head. At 6 years old Bocelli was taking piano lessons before also learning the saxophone and the flute. His family would always ask him to sing, bocelli once said “I don’t think a singer decides to sing, it is the others who choose that you sing by their reactions”. Bocelli has also sung with other great singers such as Pavarotti.

Johnny Depp – John Christopher “Johnny” Depp II (born June 9, 1963) is an American actor, producer, and musician. He has won the Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor. Depp, who shot to fame in the late 1980s hit TV series “21 Jump Street”, confessed in the July issue of Rolling Stone that he is blind in his left eye and near-sighted in his right. Depp has starred in films including “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Edward Scissorhands”. If Depp isn’t wearing glasses while acting he can only see a few inches in front of him. Something fans may have never realized until now.

Percy Wyndham Lewis – (18 November 1882 – 7 March 1957) was an English painter and author. He was a co-founder of the Vorticist movement in art, and edited the literary magazine of the Vorticists, BLAST. His novels include his pre-World War I-era novel Tarr (set in Paris), and The Human Age, a trilogy comprising The Childermass (1928), Monstre Gai and Malign Fiesta (both 1955), set in the afterworld. A fourth volume of The Human Age, The Trial of Man, was begun by Lewis but left in a fragmentary state at the time of his death. He also wrote two autobiographical volumes, Blasting and Bombardiering (1937) and Rude Assignment: A Narrative of my Career up-to-date (1950). Lewis spent World War II in the United States and Canada. Artistically the period is mainly important for the series of watercolour fantasies around the themes of creation, crucifixion and bathing that he produced in Toronto in 1941 – 42. He returned to England in 1945. By 1951, he was completely blind. In 1950 he published the autobiographical Rude Assignment, in 1951 a collection of allegorical short stories about life in “the capital of a dying empire,” entitled “Rotting Hill,” and in 1952 a book of essays on writers such as George Orwell, Jean-Paul Sartre and Andre Malraux, entitled “The Writer and the Absolute.” This was followed by the semi-autobiograpical novel “Self Condemned” (1954), a major late statement.

Brian McKeever – (born June 18, 1979 in Calgary, Alberta) is a Canadian cross-country skier and biathlete. In 2010, he became the first Canadian athlete to be named to both Paralympic and Olympic teams. He began skiing at the age of three and started competing at thirteen. At 19 he began losing his vision due to Stargardt’s disease. At the 2002 and 2006 Winter Paralympics he competed in both cross-country skiing and biathlon. He won two gold medals and a silver in cross-country the first year and bronze medal for biathlon plus two gold medals and a silver for cross-country skiing in the later year. His older brother, Robin McKeever, competes as his guide when Brian skis in the Paralympics.
Sabriye Tenberken – (born 1970) is a German socialworker and co-founder of the organisation Braille Without Borders. Sabriye became gradually visually impaired and completely blind by the age of thirteen due to retinal disease. She studied Central Asian Studies at Bonn University. In addition to Mongolian and modern Chinese, she studied modern and classical Tibetan in combination with Sociology and Philosophy. As no blind student had ever before ventured to enroll in this kind of studies, she could not fall back on the experience of previous students,so she developed her own methods of studying her course of studying. It was thus that a Tibetan Braille script for the blind was developed in 1992, which became the official script for the blind in Tibet. In 1997, Sabriye travelled to Tibet alone in order to assess the situation of the blind there. Returning in 1998, she founded the Centre for the Blind in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, to educate blind people. Before, the blind had not been able to attend school.

Dr. Jacob Bolotin – (1888-1924) – The first congenitally blind man to receive a medical license. Dr. Bolotin lived and practiced in Chicago during the early part of the twentieth century and was particularly known for his expertise on diseases of the heart and lungs. He used his many public speaking engagements to advocate for the full inclusion of the blind in education, employment, and all other aspects of society. Awards named for him are presented each year by the National Federation of the Blind to individuals and organizations who have made substantial contributions toward achieving the goal of the full integration of the blind into society on the basis of equality. The awards are funded by the Alfred and Rosalind Perlman Trust, created by a bequest from Dr. Bolotin’s nephew and niece. The first Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards were presented at the 2008 convention of the National Federation of the Blind

 Marla Runyan – (born January 4, 1969) Marla Runyan is a marathon runner who is legally blind. She is a three-time national champion in the women’s 5.000 metres. Runyan’s career as a world-class runner began in 1999 at the Pan American Games, where she won the 1,500-meter race. The next year, she placed eighth in the 1,500-meter in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, making Runyan the first legally blind athlete to compete in the Games and the highest finish by an American woman in that event. In 2002 she finished as the top American at the 2002 New York City Marathon with a time of 2 hours, 27 minutes and 10 seconds to post the second-fastest debut time ever by an American woman.
Ray Charles – (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004) known by his stage name Ray Charles, was an American pianist and musician who shaped the sound of rhythm and blues. He brought a soulful sound to country music, pop standards, and a rendition of “America the Beautiful” that Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes called the “definitive version of the song, an American anthem. In 1965, Charles was arrested for possession of heroin, a drug to which he had been addicted for nearly 20 years. It was his third arrest for the offence, but he avoided jail time after kicking the habit in a clinic in Los Angeles. He spent a year on parole in 1966.

Joseph Pulitzer – (April 10, 1847 – October 29, 1911) Joseph was a Hungarian-American publisher best known for posthumously establishing the Pulitzer Prizes (along with William Randolph Hearst) and for originating yellow journalism. In 1882 Pulitzer purchased the New York World, a newspaper that had been losing $40,000 a year, for $346,000 from Jay Gould. Pulitzer shifted its focus to human-interest stories, scandal, and sensationalism. At the age of 42 Joseph became blind due to retinal detachment leaving him no choice but to retire.

Jeff Healey – Canadian folk singer (born Norman Jeffrey Healey, March 25, 1966 – March 2, 2008) was a blind jazz, and blues-rock vocalist and guitarist who attained musical and personal popularity, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s.

Just to name a few!!!

 

Talking to Your Doctor

 

Lighthouse International has given these helpful tips about when to see and how to talk to your doctor.

When to See a Doctor

Even if a person has not experienced any eye problems in the past, he/she needs to see an ophthalmologist for the scenarios stated below:

  • Experience a change in vision in one or both eyes, such as blurring, double vision, blind spots, flashing lights or floaters
  • Experience pain, persistent irritation, itching, discharge or the sensation of a foreign body
  • Recurrent conjunctivitis or red eyes
  • Experience problems with too many or too few tears
  • Currently taking steroids orally for any other condition
  • Growth on the eyelid or the eyelid is incorrectly positioned
  • Diabetic


Questions You Can Ask

Today, patients take an active role in their health care.  A close partnership between the patient and the doctor helps achieve the best possible level of health. The first and most important part of such partnership is good communication. Here are some questions you can ask the doctor to get things started:

 About the Disease/Disorder

  • What is my diagnosis?
  • What caused my condition?
  • Can my condition be treated?
  • How will this condition affect my vision now and in the future?
  • Should I watch for any particular symptoms and notify you if they occur?
  • Should I make any lifestyle changes?

 
About My Treatment

  • What is the treatment available for my condition?
  • When will the treatment start and how long will it last/take?
  • What are the identified benefits of this treatment and how successful is it?
  • What are the identified risks and side effects associated with this treatment?
  • Are there any foods, drugs or activities that I should avoid while I’m on this treatment?
  • If my treatment includes medication, what should I do if and when I miss a dose?
  • Are there any other treatments available?

 
About My Tests

  • What kind of tests will I have to undergo?
  • What do you expect to find out from these tests?
  • When will I know the results of these tests?
  • Do I have to do anything special to prepare for any of the tests?
  • Do these tests have any side effects or risks?
  • Will I need more tests later on?

 

Tips

Here are a few more tips when consulting with a doctor:

  • Ask questions until everything is clear and understandable
  • Take notes (or have a friend or a family member take notes for you) and bring a tape recorder to assist in the recollection of the discussion
  • Ask the doctor to write down the instructions he/she has given
  • Ask the doctor for printed material about the disease/condition you are experiencing
  • Ask for available materials and resources that can supplement the doctor’s responses
  • Talk to other health care members, such as nurses and pharmacists, who can provide  more information

Sources:

www.lighthouse.org/about-low-vision-blindness/talking-to-your-doctor/

www.lighthouse.org/eye-health/do/

www.nei.nih.gov/health/talktodoc.asp

www.everydayhealth.com/vision-center/9-serious-vision-symptoms-to-watch-out-for.aspx

 

 

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