Vision Forward welcomes new members to the board of directors

Vision Forward Association is proud to welcome the following members to their Board of Directors: Guillermo Baena, Milwaukee Youth Symphony; Dr. Michael Dante, Marquette University; Crocker Stephenson, Retired Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Nicholas H. Tosi, M.D., Retina & Vitreous Consultants of WI; and Sonja Williams, Wellpoint Care Network.

Guillermo Baena, Philanthropy Officer, Milwaukee Youth Symphony

Photo of GuillermoGuillermo holds a degree in economics and a graduate certification as a life coach. Legally blind since birth, Guillermo loves to share his story, acting as a keynote and motivational speaker on different occasions.

“I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa as a young child, and all my journey has been a process of adapting and rebuilding activities. I genuinely believe in Vision Forward’s mission since it is about teaching people to live an independent and productive life without sight,” states Guillermo.  Guillermo lives an active lifestyle that has led him to engage in rock-climbing, downhill skiing, martial arts, and cycling. He has even acquired his scuba diving license and completed a certification to become a professional skydiver, having jumped solo at 10,000 feet.

With a unique blend of professional experience in economics mainly focused on business consulting and strategic planning in the corporate arena, and with a passion for helping others, he successfully transitioned into the nonprofit world.

Having played various roles in the community, Guillermo recently served as a board member at the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra before joining them as a staff member. He also has volunteered for the Lighthouse of Broward, Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Foundation Fighting Blindness, and the National Eye Institute, among many others.

Michael Dante, PhD, Marquette University

Photo of MichaelMichael ’s motto is living life to the fullest, “There’s a certain zeal in the way that I live – with gusto, and I just savor the time that I do have with such gratitude of what I have been given, not that everything is always easy.”

One challenge he speaks very openly about is his vision impairments, which he acknowledges primarily for its gifts.  Michael says of his vision loss, “It allows me to see beyond what the eye might see in terms of potential and to see with the eyes of the heart.”

Michael began his relationship with Vision Forward as a client when moving to Milwaukee in 2012. He received mobility and technology training.  He also participates in a monthly conversation group that explores the challenges and experiences of vision loss.  When speaking about his appointment to the Board of Directors, Michael said, “I am very humbled to take on this position.  So many people have supported me along my journey. This role offers me a chance to support others in kind and the opportunity to use my ‘inner-eye’ to further Vision Forward’s mission.”

Since 2012, Michael has worked as the director of Marquette University’s Faber Center for Ignatian Spirituality.  Through retreats, book discussions, and seminars, his center fosters the spiritual growth of the faculty and staff and helps them understand the key principles of the Jesuit heritage.  Before joining Marquette, Michael taught in the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham University in New York.  Prior to transitioning into his new career of ministry and teaching, he was a mathematician in Washington D.C.. He performed program management, funds execution, and budget analysis on U.S. Space Programs for Senior Government officials.

Michael earned a Doctorate in Spirituality from The Catholic University of America, a Master’s of Divinity from the Washington Theological Union, and a Bachelors in Science from Johns Hopkins University, among others. He is excited to use his education, experiences, and gifts to further Vision Forward’s efforts. 

Crocker Stephenson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Photo of CrockerRecently retired, Crocker worked as a journalist for over 30 years covering urban affairs and city government for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  Throughout his career he covered crime, public health and an array of feature stories for the newspaper. He was sent to New York City in the aftermath of 9/11 and to Kosovo to cover the war in the late 1990s. His hallmark is writing with rich description and revealing detail.

Crocker has won many awards for his work, but the most meaningful to him are the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism, which he won three times, and the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine Keck Communication Award for Empty Cradles, his 2011 series on infant mortality.

Crocker began losing his vision about five years ago. “It was sudden and dramatic — a retinal disorder not unlike macular degeneration.” Adaptive technology, mobility techniques, and other adaptive strategies he discovered at Vision Forward helped him adjust and continue working until his recent retirement.

When asked about his involvement as a board member for Vision Forward, Crocker states, “What a great opportunity to give back to an organization that, at a very difficult point in my life, taught me so much and gave me something I was not expecting: Hope.”

Nicholas H. Tosi, M.D., Retina & Vitreous Consultants of WI

Photo of Dr. TosiDr. Tosi has been a retina specialist at Retina and Vitreous Consultants of Wisconsin since 2015, and currently is a partner and serving as Vice President of the organization.

Prior to coming to the Milwaukee area, he completed a traditional ophthalmology residency at LSU/Ochsner Hospitals in New Orleans and a two-year retina fellowship at UAB in Birmingham, where he developed a passion for retina surgery.  In addition to a clinic-based practice which focuses on medically managed diseases (such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy), Dr. Tosi performs vitreo-retinal surgery weekly and after hours for emergency retina procedures (such as retinal detachment and trauma).

As a practicing retina specialist in SE Wisconsin, Dr. Tosi is familiar with Vision Forward’s mission of helping serve patients with low vision needs.  “I tell my patients that my obligation and goal is to help them maximize their full visual potential through medical and surgical avenues.  Similarly, Vision Forward seeks to optimize patients’ vision potential, but through hands-on occupational therapy and education.”  Dr. Tosi hopes this overlap of clinical practice with Vision Forward will create synergistic value for the organization, while also providing an educational experience for himself.

Sonja Williams, Wellpoint Care Network

Photo of SonjaSonja Williams is an accomplished people leader with nearly 25 years of talent optimization and organizational development experience. Driven by a desire to support the work of community-based organizations with compelling missions, she has performed impactful work in community-focused and educational organizations over the course of her career.

Sonja is currently employed as the Vice President (VP) of Human Resources at Wellpoint Care Network (formerly SaintA) – a national leader in trauma-informed care that serves and helps nearly 5000 children, youth, and adults build life skills and navigate systems of care in Southeastern Wisconsin. Prior to this role, she has held Human Resources positions seeking to improve the social, health, and economic outcomes for marginalized groups.

Sonja has a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater and a Master’s Degree in Administrative Leadership from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. She is also a nationally certified Human Resources professional, and a 16-year member of the Society of Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) local chapter.

In addition to her role on Vision Forward’s Board of Directors, Sonja currently serves on the boards of Lutheran Home & Harwood Place and Triangle of Hope, Inc.  She is also actively engaged in the Christian community through her church membership at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.

“The Vision Forward mission statement resonates with me because I feel strongly that community-based education and advocacy can reduce the disparities in health, access, and opportunity experienced by the visually impaired.” commented Sonja.  “Glaucoma has impacted my family and I too am at risk and would like to raise awareness within the African American community about eye health as well as help to remove barriers that prevent people of color and others from benefiting from advances being made in the vision community.”

Join us at TEC Talk Live!

Being stuck inside makes it hard to get demonstrations of assistive technologies, which is why we’ve started TEC Talk Live! This live virtual event is held every Friday at 10 AM CST, and is streamed via Facebook Live and via Zoom. Join Luke Scriven and Cory Ballard, assistive technology specialists at Vision Forward, for live demonstrations of the latest and greatest in the assistive technology world. Demonstrations are followed by an open question and answer and discussion session, so you can get answers to all of your most pressing assistive technology questions.

A different assistive technology device will be featured in each episode. In the next episode on Friday, May 8th at 10 CST, find out about the Orcam Read. This is the latest device from Orcam technologies, makers of the Orcam MyEye 2.0, and is designed to assist people with print disabilities in reading. With state of the art OCR/TTS technology in a small pen shaped format, find out what the Orcam Read can do for you!

You can join Tec Talk Live on our Facebook page: https://vision-forward.org/visionforwardwi

Keeping Entertained During COVID-19!

Staying inside is important right now, but how to stay entertained? There’s plenty of great content out there thanks to digital media and streaming services but not all of it is accessible. Luckily, Vision Forward has you covered! Check out our videos below to find out what streaming services and devices offer accessible content for people with vision loss, and how to use those features! Remember, if you are struggling with your technology, our technology team is available to help. You can call 847-770-0410, email lscriven@vision-forward.org or fill out our online scheduling form here https://vision-forward.org/requesttecdemo/ to make an appointment for a virtual training session!

Accessible Streaming Devices

First off you’ll need an accessible device that allows you to stream content to your television. If you have a Smart TV then you’re already covered, but if not you can use one of the solutions below. You can still purchase through Amazon who will deliver, or purchase through Best Buy and do curbside pickup.

Apple TV: The Apple TV can be connected to your television with an HDMI cable, and provides a fully accessible interface using magnification and the VoiceOver screen reader that you may be familiar with from Apple’s other products. It will allow you to find television shows and movies that you are interested in using its intuitive remote, and even has SIRI built in so you can find content just by asking! Check out our video on the Apple TV here https://youtu.be/-qe4xFTyiYU.

Amazon Fire TV: Amazon Fire TV is cheap and again can be connected to your existing TV through an HDMI port. It has very similar offerings to the accessibility built into the Apple TV, including magnification, a screen reader and Alexa voice control functionality.

Accessible Content

Once you’ve figured out how to stream your content, you need to find the content you want to watch! Luckily many digital streaming services have accessible content with audio description, allowing you to hear the action on the screen being described. Check out the streaming services below

Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime: All three of these popular streaming services are accessible to screen readers, and have audio described content. Find out how that works in our video! https://youtu.be/xKf6DlJuOP8

Video Magnification

Another solution for people with low vision is to use a wearable electronic magnification device. The best one for watching television at the moment is the Vision Buddy, which wirelessly sends the image from your television directly into the headset so you can watch it in a large, bright format right in front of your eyes.

You can get the Vision Buddy from Vision Forward (see it in our store here https://vision-forward.org/product/vision-buddy-low-vision-tv-watching-system/) and have it shipped right to you. We can even offer remote training!

Make sure to check out our video on the Vision Buddy here https://youtu.be/mkq5KGDdvEc to find out how it works.

The Ultimate Portable Electronic Magnifier?

Portable electronic magnifiers have long been an important tool in the toolbox of people with a vision impairment. With their ability to magnify to large sizes, change the color of text for better contrast, and of course portable design, they’re essential tools for reading menus, price labels and other essentials when you’re out and about. However as with anything else, for all the benefits there are also downsides. One is that the small screen sizes of these devices are only good for ‘spot reading’ – that is, reading small amounts of text. This is fine for a lot of reading tasks, but if you want to read a newspaper, magazine or book then a portable usually doesn’t cut it. A second downside is that they aren’t useful for writing underneath, as their low camera height doesn’t allow for you to put your hand underneath.

In recent years portable electronic magnifiers have started to offer larger screen sizes in an effort to be more applicable for larger amounts of reading. Of course, a balance has to be maintained which still allows for portability while offering a larger screen size. Ideally, a portable device can be taken out when needed, but also be used at home for reading larger amounts of text, thus eliminating the need for two devices – a portable and a desktop electronic magnifier. Technology has reached a point now where this is more possible, as a lightweight and portable design can be maintained even when a larger screen size is used. Even with this being the case, current larger portable devices are still not ideal for writing underneath, often requiring a separate stand to raise the camera.

The latest larger portable device to come on the market is the Compact 10 HD Speech from Optelec. This device features a 10″ screen, which is a great size in that it offers a nice viewing area while still being small enough to be a practical portable device. Of course, the main camera is high-definition and offers a very sharp and clear image at all magnification levels. You may have noticed I said ‘main camera’…that’s because the Compact 10 offers a second camera, which folds out of the top of the device. This is where things really get interesting!

This camera when folded out is high above and to the side of the device, offering a wide field of view. This makes it perfect for writing underneath, without the need for a separate stand or anything else additional. But that’s not all! Not only does this camera offer a great solution for writing, but it also offers a great solution for OCR. Simply put your document underneath the camera, use an on-screen control to take a picture of it, and the Compact 10 will read the text aloud to you. The Compact 10 can read an 8.5×11 in one go, and has an easy to understand voice which can be adjusted for speed and volume.

We like this device a lot. If offers a very portable package with all the features you could ask for, and could be a practical replacement to a desktop electronic magnifier while still being practical to take out and about with you. The only potential downside is that the controls are all done using the touchscreen, which some people may find challenging. That being said, most people own touchscreen devices these days, and as such controlling the Compact 10 may come naturally to many.

As usual, we have made a video about the Compact 10 HD Speech so you don’t need to take our word about what it can do! Check it out below!

 

Need Some Low Vision Magic? Get a Merlin!

Enhanced Vision are one of the leading companies in assistive technology for visual impairment, and they have some great devices for everyday tasks such as reading, writing and watching television. One of the devices often used for reading and writing with is a desktop electronic magnifier, or CCTV. These devices have a camera which projects anything you put underneath it onto a screen. You can then manipulate the image with magnification, color enhancement, brightness and more.

The Merlin Ultra HD allows you to do all of these things and more! This desktop CCTV has a fantastic quality high-definition camera that does great color reproduction, making it not only great for reading and writing, but also perfect for looking at pictures. Whether you want to see images on a magazine, look at your smartphone or tablet, or look at photographs, the Merlin works great and looks great.

It is also very easy to use, with easy to understand, large and tactile controls which are located on the front of the screen. These allow you to magnify and minify, adjust color and brightness and turn off the device’s lights when you are looking at something with a self-lighted screen, such as a smartphone. Find out more about the Merlin Ultra HD in our video below!

 

Stem Cells and Eye Disease

The potential for using stem cells to cure certain types of vision loss has been a hot topic for a while, as it seems like a promising area of research that could yield great results for people with vision loss. One way to utilize stem cells is by manipulating them with CRISPR technology, which is a tool which allows scientists to edit genomes, altering DNA sequences and modifying gene function. These genetically edited stem cells can then be used to help treat and hopefully cure diseases.

Excitingly, this is currently being trialed with Leber congenital amaurosis 10 (LCA 10), a congenital eye disease which affects the retina and leads to severe vision loss early in life. A researcher in Oregon is currently testing for the safety of this treatment, with the ultimate hope of being able to restore vision for individuals with LCA.  Below is a posting that was shared by the Foundation fighting Blindness:

Clinical researchers at Casey Eye Institute, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), have dosed the first patient with an experimental CRISPR/Cas9 therapy in the BRILLIANCE Phase 1/2 clinical trial for people with Leber congenital amaurosis 10 (LCA 10). The emerging treatment targets a specific mutation (c.2991+1655A>G in Intron 26) of the gene CEP290. For more information click here.

This is an exciting development for individuals with genetic retinal diseases and emphasizes the importance of genetic testing for eye diseases, as these studies require that participants have detailed genetic profiles. Genetic testing for inherited retinal diseases is becoming much more available and can often be completed at no cost. Both the Eye Institute and the UW IRD clinics have options for free genetic testing so if you have an inherited retinal disease make sure to take advantage!

Need a Friend? How about a Vision Buddy!

Watching television is something we all enjoy doing, but when you are visually impaired it can be a challenge to keep up with the action that’s happening on screen. You can of course sit closer to the television, but that’s not always comfortable. You might try optical aids such as MaxTV glasses or spectacle mounted telescopes, but they reduce the quality of the image and reduce the field of view. There are electronic magnification devices you can try, but the image quality isn’t always very good because you are watching the TV screen through the electronic magnification device’s camera and screen.
That’s where Vision Buddy comes in! Designed specifically for watching television, this comfortable wearable device transmits the image from your television (or any other source that outputs over HDMI) directly to the glasses, resulting in an excellent image. You can of course then magnify it to your needs, and even the sound comes out of the headset, giving a truly immersive experience! It can be used with your cable box, but also your Apple TV, PC or Mac computer, game console…anything that outputs HDMI!
As well as watching television, you can also use the live magnification mode which gives great magnification for things like seeing people’s faces, going to a concert or play, going sightseeing and so on. The camera in the front of the Vision Buddy provides a good quality image and you can magnify up to 8X, enough to carry out many tasks! There is also an OCR mode which can read printed text aloud to you! Simply hold down a button, look at the print that you want to read, let go of the button and the Vision Buddy can read the text aloud to you.
We think Vision Buddy is the best solution currently available for watching television if you are visually impaired or low vision. There are still areas which can be improved, for example the OCR feature is still quite glitchy, but the TV feature which is the bread and butter of the device works fantastically. As it is  a modern product, it can of course be updated as software updates roll out, and users will get all of those updates for free. Rather than you reading about it here, why not check out our video and see Vision Buddy for yourself!
Vision Buddy: https://vision-forward.org/product/vision-buddy-low-vision-tv-watching-system/

It’s Low Vision Awareness Month!

February is low vision awareness month, and it’s worth becoming aware of what low vision is because it’s likely that you or someone you know will have low vision at some point in their life. But what is low vision? Simply put, low vision is a reduction in visual acuity or visual field which cannot be corrected by glasses or contact lenses. This reduction in vision is likely to cause a negative impact on your life, as it affects you ability to carry out essential every day tasks.

Low vision is an increasing problem as it is correlated with age, and an aging population means a higher incidence of low vision. Macular Degeneration is the worst offender in this regard, being the leading cause of vision loss for people over 65 in America. Macular Degeneration is a progressive disease which causes the loss of photoreceptor cells in the macular, the area of the retina responsible for your most detailed central vision. Unfortunately, this is the area which is used for the detailed tasks which we all need to do every day such as reading, writing, watching television, identifying people’s faces and so on.

With this loss of function often comes depression and a struggle to adapt to the new visual reality. People who develop low vision often don’t know where to turn and how to deal with the loss of such an important sense. The good news is that there is plenty of help available if you know where to look!

Firstly, there are professional who can help you to learn how to maximize your existing vision. Low vision doctors can look at your vision and then work with occupational therapists to show you tools, devices and techniques to carry out those important every tasks. There is a way to do almost everything, and the key is simply finding out how! Additionally, there are support groups where you can share your best and worst moments with other people going through the same thing. Being able to speak to people who really understand what you’re going through can be hugely beneficial and make the coping process that much easier.

And last but not least there is assistive technology for vision loss – technology designed specifically for people who are blind or low vision to help with those important every day tasks. There are a huge array of technologies that can assist with reading, writing, watching television, seeing people’s faces and so on, and it’s highly recommended that you meet with an assistive technology professional who can help match you to a technology to meet your needs (you can schedule an appointment with us here https://vision-forward.org/requesttecdemo/).

Vision Forward offers all of these services and more, all housed under one roof. You can visit us online at https://vision-forward.org, or call us to find out what services we offer at 414-615-0100. Make sure to check out our YouTube Channel as well, where we release new videos on every Friday about assistive technology devices: https://youtube.com/infocustechnology.

The New PENfriend Is Here!

The PENfriend, developed in conjunction with the Royal National Institute of Blind People in England, is a great device developed to assist with identifying things around the house. People with vision loss often face a challenge when trying to identify common items such as cans, as there is no tactile indication as to what they might be. As such, anything that can help with identifying products is a good thing!

The PENfriend is a great tool for this as it offers a simple to use solution which can help you label most things. This is done via a pen shaped device, with three prominent and tactile buttons which are used to control it. The pen is able to identify labels (some are included and you can purchase more separately) whenever you bring it close to them. The process is simple: take a label and stick it on the thing you want to be identified; Put the pen near the label and record a voice label for the item; now whenever you bring the pen near that label, the voice recording will be played back!

This system does require some setup to record the voice labels, and this may need to be done by a sighted friend or relative. Once setup however, you can easily identify items that otherwise would be unrecognizable. Labels are also reusable, allowing you to record new voice labels on them if you want to. The PENfriend 3 also has some cool features such as the ability to play MP3s and audio books, making it a multi-functional tool!

If the PEN friend sounds like something that would be beneficial for you, then check out the video below to find out more about it, and see it on our store at https://vision-forward.org/product/penfriend/

 

What is This? Identifying Items with Vision Loss

Vision Forward provides professional training and webinars designed for vision professionals. Developed and presented by experts in the vision loss field, topics include cutting edge assistive technology, strategies for working with individuals with all stages of vision loss, and daily living skills. Vision Forward believes in presenting high level material in a way that makes sense.

What is This? Identifying Items with Vision Loss


Tuesday, February 25, 2020
What is this? This question is asked numerus times a day by individuals living with vision loss.  From identifying items in the home or office to product identification in the kitchen or at the store, learn how technology can make answering this question quick and simple.  Demonstrations of standalone identification devices, smart phone options, and computer-based solutions will provide you with the resources needed to assess your client’s needs and recommend the best solutions.
Objectives

  1. Explore the wide array of options available to identify items for an individual living with vision loss.
  2. Through demonstration, learn about the advantages and disadvantages of various identification solutions and their features and possible applications.
  3. Obtain knowledge to assist in making the best recommendation based on skill level, comfort with technology, and effectiveness of the solution.

    Webinar Details


    Tuesday, February 25, 2020 
    12:00 pm – 1:00 pm CST
    ACVREP Credits: 1 (qualifies towards CATIS category 1, blind/visually impaired assistive technology)
    Cost: $25.00
    Registration Page

Watching TV as a Vision Impaired Individual

Watching television is a past time which everybody enjoys, and with all the great content out there you certainly don’t want to miss out! With that being said, as a vision impaired individual there are certain challenges introduced when trying to do something as visual as watching television.

Luckily, there are a number of great accessibility options available now to people with vision loss which can make watching television a more user-friendly experience. Some of the accessibility options include:

1) Voice output which speaks aloud TV channels as you move to them

2) Magnification options

3) Contrast enhancement options

4) Large and bold print options

5) Audio description which provides descriptive voice over for programming

Even with all these options, you still need to know how to turn them on and use them in order to take advantage of them! That’s why we have started a new video series which will be dedicated to different ways to access television, and eh accessibility options that they provide.

In the first video we take a look at Apple TV. This streaming box connects to your television, and allows you to stream content from popular providers such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, as well as watch live TV. Being an Apple product, it has a number of accessibility features for people with vision loss that can make the experience of watching television easier and more enjoyable! Check it out at the video below.

OrCam Announcements from the Consumer Electronics Show, CES 2020

Each year, companies flock to the Consumer electronics Show, CES, to show off the new devices they have been working on and highlight some out of this world concept devices typically hidden away in their research labs.  Most assistive technology companies do not visit CES but this year, the creators behind the OrCam line of devices made the trip.

New Features for the MyEye 2

OrCam announced some new software-based features to their wearable reading device, the MyEye 2.  Currently the MyEye 2 provides the user with very fast optical character recognition, product and facial recognition, and money identification.  Some of the new functionalities being featured includes natural language processing and object identification.

New Devices

OrCam is also featuring completely new devices at this year’s show.  The OrCam Hear is a small discreet wearable device which promises to identify and isolate a specific voice, out of a group of voices, and send it wirelessly to a Bluetooth speaker.  The OrCam Read is a pen style device designed for those living with print disabilities such as dyslexia.  Simply point the OrCam Read at text and have that text read out loud.  Finally, the OrCam MyMe is a device designed to wear on your clothes which constantly monitors your surroundings.  The MyMe will scan for faces in your immediate area and use facial recognition to provide you with stored information about that individual which will be pushed to a smart phone or smart watch.

It is very exciting to see the mainstream technology being highlighted at CES and I hope more assistive technology companies take OrCam’s lead and share their future technology with the general public.  Keep an eye on this blog for future video demonstrations of new OrCam devices.  Until then, check out the TEC Demo of the current OrCam MyEye2!

How to Choose Technology

With all of the options for assistive technology for people with a visual impairment out there at the moment, you would think it would be easy to find a device which works for you. All you want to be able to do is read the paper, that should be easy!

Unfortunately that isn’t always the case. When choosing technology to meet your needs there are a lot of questions that you need to ask, starting from the ground up. So you want to be able to read the paper? What paper?, how large is the paper?, what parts do you want to read?, do you want to read it yourself or have it read to you?, what is your comfort operating technology?, does your vision fluctuate on a daily basis?, are there other things you would like to be able to read also?, where do you want to read the paper? The list goes on!

Selecting an appropriate technology to meet your goals requires taking a holistic approach which considers not only the task at hand and the devices designed to assist with that task, but also your personal circumstances, psychological makeup and motivation. So, maybe not so easy after all!

The good news is that that is why assistive technology professionals exist. We can help guide you through the questions that you should be asking yourself, and then demonstrate the technologies which meet the answers to those questions. Through this process we aim to provide the best match between user and technology, helping to ensure that when a person takes a technology home, it meets all the needs which they envisioned it would.

There is very likely a technology available out there that will allow you to meet your goals. The only thing you have to do now is find it! Let us at Vision Forward help you out with that. Call us at 414-615-0103 to discuss all things assistive technology, or reach out via email at infocus@vision-forward.org.

Vision Forward Meets The Blind Life

The number of assistive technology products on the market continues to expand every year, which is great news for consumers as it means more choice and more competitive pricing, but it also poses a challenge when it comes to making a decision as to what device is right to fit your needs.

We would always first and foremost advocate meeting with an assistive technology professional, as they are versed in the available options, their pros and cons, and which device or devices are best suited to meet your goals and abilities. Sometimes however, this just isn’t an option.

If you find yourself in this kind of predicament, YouTube is a great place to go. There are a number of channels now which showcase assistive technologies for people with a vision impairment (including our own channel, www.youtube.com/infocustechnology), and they are often presented by people knowledgeable in the field and with personal experience.

One channel that we’re a big fan of is The Blind Life, presented by Sam Seavey, who himself has a visual impairment. This channel features content all geared toward living with a visual impairment, and heavily features assistive technology. It’s presented in a fun and informative way and is the next best thing to trying the technology for yourself!

Vision Forward’s InFocus team and Sam at The Blind Life recently teamed up to talk about Aira, the digital assist platform that connects you to sighted professionals who can answer any visual questions you might have. Check out the video below!

Holiday Gift Guide

The Holidays are almost upon us, and as they approach our minds naturally turn towards what gifts we can get for people this year. This can especially be difficult when buying for the visually impaired people in your life, but fear not! We have got together a gift guide that has something for everyone to make life just a little easier. Check it out below, and contact our store at 414-615-0111 or store@vision-forward.org

Mobility Mittens

White cane users can now step out in warmth and style with our hand-made Mobility Mittens.  These one-size-fits-most mittens have a specially-designed opening where a cane can fit through and come in a variety of patterns.  Contact us to make your selection. 

XMMITTS:  $38.00

2020 Large Print Wall Calendar

Bold print and large spaces to write in make this 18-month large print wall calendar an important tool in helping to stay organized.
 
LWALLCAL20:  $13.50

Talking Keychain Alarm Clock

Small enough to fit in your pocket or purse, the talking alarm clock is easy to set and comes on a handy keychain. Batteries are included.

T6685: $12.50

3X Ladybug Pendant Magnifier

Accessorize your wardrobe with our new ladybug pendant magnifiers that can magnify items on the go such as menus and product labels.  Each comes on a 28” chain and has a 3X lens.  Choose between a red ladybug with silvertone accents and chain or a green ladybug with goldtone accents and chain.

Red Ladybug Silvertone: M3100128:  $11.50

Green Ladybug Goldtone: M301129:  $11.50

Cobra Desk Lamp

Choose one of three LED color modes (warm light, cool light and natural daylight) to help reduce glare and eyestrain. The sleek arm of the Cobra flexes and twists, and the base includes a USB port to charge phones and more.

E2CRG5B: $79.00

Clear Clock

High contrast makes reading the time easier on this sleek new digital clock that can either be mounted on the wall or set on a desk.  Brightness can be adjusted on the display that shows the day, month and year in large, bold letters.  Multiple alarm options are included.

HCCW: $44.50

Backgammon
Enjoy a game of backgammon with this adapted playing board that has raised lines, tactile dots and color markings.  The board folds for easy storage.  The playing pieces and dice have tactile markings as well.

G1164: $32.50

Tactile 4 In A Row

Play this classic game to connect four checkers in row using modified pieces that have red checkers with a tactile hole and yellow checkers that are solid.  4 In A Row is designed for two players ages six and up.

G291703: $22.50

Stress Less Drink Holder

Designed by an inventor who is legally blind, this handy drink holder provides confidence and independence while reducing messy spills and frustration.  It has a built-in coaster, accommodates a variety of beverage containers and has a handy holder for sugar packets, magnifier or glasses.

H53051: $15.00

Extra Long Oven Glove

Protect yourself from burns with this extra-long 15” glove that can withstand temperatures up to 480 degrees Fahrenheit.  This one-size-fits-all glove has non-slip silicone grip on both sides and can be used with either the right or left hand.  The machine washable glove will not catch fire or melt; however, it is not waterproof.

H555012: $15.75

Food Pod Silicone Cooking Bag

Easily boil, blanch, steam and drain with this silicone basket.  A clip holds the handle out of the hot water. Simply pull the pod out of the water and the water drains away, leaving the food in the basket.  The Food Pod measures 6″ round x 5″ tall.

H421175: $15.75

Big Larry Flashlight

Just under 7½ inches long, this flashlight is equipped with LED technology with an output of intense light to assist low vision users with reading. The BIG Larry™ also features a lower powered secondary light (160 lumens) and an intense emergency red flash mode. BIG Larry™ has an anodized aircraft-grade aluminum body and is impact and water resistant. It has a powerful magnetic base that can attach to metal surfaces or pick up metal items.

E401092: $25.00

Explore 8

The eight-inch screen on this electronic magnifier provides up to 30X magnification with a sharp HD image.  Use at home or take on the road with battery life of 4.5 hours.  The Explore 8 has twin Ultra HD cameras for desktop or distance viewing and can be connected easily to a large screen TV. 

YEXPLORE 8: $1,099.00

24” Topaz EZ HD

The Topaz EZ HD provides simply uncomplicated magnification with brilliant magnified images and easy-to-use controls. This economical video magnifier emphasizes ease of use with single-function controls and a high-definition camera. The HD camera provides superior image quality, a wider field of view, and a lower magnification range.

YTOPAZEZHD: $2,745.00


I Feel Grateful for my Vision Loss Because…

The headline to this blog post may have caught you off guard, because it’s not often that gratitude and vision loss go hand in hand. In this season of giving thanks however we decided to find out whether there were any ways in which vision loss had made a positive impact on any of our client’s lives.

Surprisingly we found that there were many ways in which our clients felt that their vision loss had led to some positive change, and we thought that the message was quite inspirational. So what do you do if you have an inspirational message? You share it with as many people as possible! Let’s see what our clients had to say…do any of their experiences mirror your own?

I feel grateful for my vision loss because…

I better understand the pain and complications other people experience in their lives and feel I can respond to them with greater empathy and care. 

I often get a chance to see the good, kind side of others.  So many people are thoughtful and caring toward me. 

I don’t meet typical expectations, so I feel greater permission to go ahead and be my authentic self. 

I am less embarrassed about small mistakes or disappointments.  I am less likely to sweat the small stuff.  

I save money when I don’t have to turn on the lights. 

I am less caught up in the Rat Race.  I keep my life simpler. 

I get more exercise because I walk instead of driving. 

I stand out as a distinct individual.  People remember me and look forward to interacting with me. 

I accept more of life’s limitations and realize you can’t always get what you want. 

I don’t focus as much on how aging has changed my face. 

I have an excuse to talk with other people than I otherwise would. 

I don’t judge others by their appearance but try to focus on their inner essence. 

I find that my relationships with family and friends are deeper than they were when I had normal vision. 

I don’t have to see ugly or violent images in the news. 

I sometimes get some extra consideration like being able to

be in the first group to board a plane. 

I have met wonderful people who have supported and challenged me around my vision loss. 

Ring Ring, Blindshell is Here!

Communication is key, and the telephone is a great way to do it, but what if you find smartphones are just too much hassle to learn? Although there are options out there, there isn’t anything especially made for people with vision loss.

This is where the new Blindshell Classic comes into play! Built specifically for people who are blind or visually impaired, the Blindshell Classic is completely accessible AND simple to use. Despite this it still manages to pack in some great and up-to-date features, such as voice control and dictation, emails, internet radio, weather, music playback and more!

But if all you want to do is call and text, no problem. Blindshell Classic has a large print, high-contrast display, full voice output for every function and voice input, allowing you to control the phone with just your voice! Want to send a text message? Simply tell Blindshell Classic to send a message, and dictate what you want it to say. Easy!

But don’t take our word for it. Check out the video we made covering some of the basic functions of the Blindshell Classic, and decide for yourself. If you have questions, then get in touch!

Call us: 414-615-0103
Visit us online: https://vision-forward.org
Email us: infocus@vision-forward.org

Professional Training Opportunities

Vision Forward provides professional training and webinars designed for vision professionals. Developed and presented by experts in the vision loss field, topics include cutting edge assistive technology, strategies for working with individuals with all stages of vision loss, and daily living skills. Vision Forward believes in presenting high level material in a way that makes sense.

As a member of the ACVREP, Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals, Registered Provider of Professional Learning and Education program, many of our professional training opportunities provide continuing education credits upon completion. Please refer to each opportunity for specific credit details.

Upcoming Training Opportunities

Reading Printed Text with Your Smart Phone

Many apps designed for the iPhone can provide access to printed documents using the device’s camera and optical character recognition, OCR. Learn about what options are available and see live demonstrations of each app including Seeing AI, Envision AI, Voice Dream Scanner, and KNFB Reader.

Learning Objectives

  1. Explore what apps are best suited for accessing printed text utilizing a smart phone.
  2. Through demonstration, discover the differences between mobile OCR apps.
  3. Determine which OCR app best meets the needs and skill level of your student, client, or patient

Webinar Details

Tuesday, December 17, 2019
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm CST
ACVREP Credits: 1 (qualifies towards CATIS category 1, blind/visually impaired assistive technology)
Cost: $25.00
Please click here to register for the Reading Printed Text with Your Smart Phone opportunity.

Vision Forward Partners with eSight

Wearable electronic magnification devices for people with vision loss are all the rage at the moment, and for good reason. They offer the potential to do it all by being hands-free and focusing up close and in the distance, and all in a portable package that you can use at home or when you’re on the go.

One of the first of the new generation of wearable devices was eSight, and they’ve gone from strength to strength, releasing their eSight 3 glasses to great acclaim. These are some of the best looking and most technically advanced electronic glasses on the market, and they are now available to try at Vision Forward.

If you want something that can help you read, write, see faces, watch a sports game, movie or concert, watch television, use a computer and more then eSight might be for you. But don’t take our word for it – come and find out for yourself!

Demonstrations are available at Vision Forward, and last around an hour. Get some hands-on time with eSight and see if it’s right for you, and if it isn’t there are plenty of other assistive technology devices available to try!

Vision Forward Association

912 Hawley Road

Milwaukee, WI 53213

414-615-0103

lscriven@vision-forward.org

Amazon’s Echo

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last 5 years then you will likely have heard of Amazon’s Echo device, commonly referred to as ‘Alexa’, a smart speaker which listens to verbal commands and carries out a number of tasks.

Because the Echo doesn’t have a visual interface, it’s perfectly suited to people with vision loss, and as such has found a good following amongst people who are blind or visually impaired. That being said, oftentimes people who buy one or receive one as a gift don’t know what top do with it when they get it!

As a response to this we have made a video highlighting some of the things Echo can do for you to make your life and a little easier, and a little more fun! Check out the video below to see Cory run the Amazon Echo through its paces.

Welcome to the InFocus Blog!

InFocus is a resource created by Vision Forward Association in Milwaukee, WI. to provide valuable information to people with vision loss about assistive technology and devices.

Consisting of 3 channels, the InFocus blog, InFocus YouTube Channel and InFocus Podcast, InFocus can cover everything from quick tips and tricks to in-depth looks at tools and devices – and all in an informative and entertaining way!

Whether you are new to vision loss or an experienced assistive technology user, InFocus has something to offer! Make sure to check the blog regularly, and don’t forget you can find all the InFocus resources at https://vision-forward.org/infocus.

To get a flavor of our content, make sure to check out our latest video, where we take a look at the Reveal 16i from Humanware.