On Sight: April 2015
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Our Voice at the Capitol: Legislative Advocacy Day 2015
The Council’s Legislative Committee works throughout the year to advocate for issues that are important to people in Wisconsin who are affected by vision loss. Their work is highlighted on one day called Legislative Advocacy Day, where many people from a variety of Wisconsin agencies which serve people with vision loss come together to raise awareness of and support for these concerns. This year, the event will be held on Thursday, April 16.
The large focus of the day is to voice our concerns of elements of Governor Walker’s proposed 2015-2017 Wisconsin budget. Some of the issues that will be discussed include the numerous changes that affect the support of people with disabilities and older adults in Wisconsin, transportation, and employment opportunities for those who are blind or visually impaired.
We have invited other organizations and individuals who serve people who are blind and visually impaired to share this day with us. Look for post-event updates at www.wcblind.org.
First Low Vision Support Group Meeting for Rock Co. Veterans is April 8
Thanks to a generous grant from the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, The Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired is forming a monthly support group for Rock County veterans who are blind or have low vision. The purpose of this support group is to provide a welcoming atmosphere where veterans can exchange and share information, experiences, and resources in their areas.
The support group is scheduled to meet on the second Wednesday of each month from 10:00 – 11:00am at the Kienow-Hilt VFW Post 1621, located at 1015 Center Avenue in Janesville. The first meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, April 8. If you cannot attend the first meeting, you are welcome to join the group on any second Wednesday in the future.
The topics of the meetings will ultimately be decided by the participants, but some possible ideas include coping strategies for handling the challenges presented by vision loss, accessing resources (including those that the VA can offer), guest speakers on topics related to vision changes and eye disorders. There is ample parking at the VFW and the building is handicapped accessible. Spouses, significant others, or adult children/caregivers of veterans are also welcome.
The Big Share: A Big Success!
On March 3, the Council participated in Community Shares of Wisconsin’s first ever locally-focused, online giving day dedicated to supporting 70 nonprofits that improve our communities. Supporters of the Council donated $3,849 toward our mission of providing vision services, education and legislative advocacy. This is three times the amount of online donations the Council received in 2014! We gained new friends as they explored The Big Share website and learned about the great work being done by the Council and the other non-profit member organizations of Community Shares of Wisconsin.
We would like to say thanks again to all who participated in this big day. If you weren’t able to participate, remember that online donations are accepted at any time throughout the year. Visit our Ways to Give Page at www.wcblind.org/waystogive to donate today.
Celebrate Women’s Eye Health Month: Learn about Dry Eye Syndrome
By: Jean Kalscheur, Director of Education and Vision Services
The American Academy of Ophthalmology declares April “Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month.” Did you know that women make up two thirds of the population who have blindness or visual impairment? This is due to a combination of factors, including women’s longer life spans, reproductive health, and eye conditions which are more common in women. Dry eye syndrome is one of the most common eye conditions in women. It is most often seen in people over the age of 55. Approximately 6 million women and 3 million men experience dry eye symptoms.
The outside of our eyes is moistened by tears each time we blink. Those tears lubricate the eye’s surface, guard against infection, and wash away allergens. Without tears, good vision is impossible. For people with dry eye syndrome, blinking does not result in moist tears that soothe the eye. Instead, they experience itchy, stinging, burning, or gritty sensations that often worsen as the day goes on. Without the tear film, images are not transmitted clearly through the cornea to the retina. Therefore, dry eyes syndrome can result in blurred vision that makes visual concentration challenging, such as when reading, using a computer, or driving.
Dry eyes are associated with some chronic conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease. Prescription and over-the-counter medications can reduce tear production, including diuretics, beta-blockers, antihistamines, anti-anxiety drugs, and pain relievers. Environmental factors can trigger dry eyes, such as cigarette smoke, hair dryers, and rooms with low humidity.
There is no cure for dry eyes. The symptoms can be alleviated by using over-the-counter artificial tears, avoiding environmental triggers, using a humidifier during the winter, and applying a warm washcloth to soothe irritated eyes. A change in diet may also help. One study reported that women who consume omega-3 fats from fish (fatty fish like tuna and salmon) had a 17% lower risk of dry eyes compared to women who ate little or no seafood.
Discuss symptoms of dry eyes with your eye care professional, especially if symptoms are frequent or interfere with daily activities. Read more at http://w-e-h.org/dry-eye-disease.html or www.healthywomen.org/condition/dry-eye-syndrome.
Do you have questions about your eye health or low vision? Visit our website at www.wcblind.org or call the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired at 1-800-783-5213. Our staff can point you towards resources that will answer your questions.
Dear Doctor Series
Going to the eye doctor when you’re blind or visually impaired can be nerve wracking. The writers of The Outlook from Here, a blog sponsored by the Council, are crafting thoughtful letters to eye doctors everywhere that reminds them of important things to keep in mind when building a relationship with a person with vision loss.
The first of the letters received a positive response from Dr. Justin Gottleib, MD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison: “I am an ophthalmologist and appreciate your thoughts. Unfortunately in medicine we have less and less time with our patients and your thoughts are spot on! Most often, getting to know our patients personally and discussing day to day needs is more important than discussions of the “physiology” and research.”
Celebrating National Volunteer Week: Volunteer Spotlight
Join us in celebrating National Volunteer Week (April 12-18) by recognizing your volunteers this April. The Council is fortunate enough to have over 35 regular volunteers in our database, and combined they donated a total of 2,478 hours of work last year!
Monica Wahlberg captured our volunteer spotlight this year for being a caring, vibrant woman with a big heart and a sincere love for the Council. You may recognize Monica’s voice as the narrator of the audio version of The Courier, which is published three times a year. One of her strategies when recording the Courier is to envision some of the listeners she knows. “I see the faces of who I may be reading for,” and that brings a smile to her face. Aside from recording, Monica also volunteers at a few events each year.
Monica first learned about the Council through a family member who used our services to help her live well with macular degeneration. Also formerly working with Executive Director Loretta Himmelsbach at the Girl Scouts, the Council became a place where Monica knew she could make a difference. Throughout the years, she’s helped the Council secure the Community Car parking space in our lot, drove our Vision Rehabilitation Teacher, Virginia, to her appointments, and was the Special Events Coordinator who spearheaded the 60th Anniversary events in 2012. Even when she moved forward with other opportunities, she shared that, “I still wanted to stay connected and be involved” with the Council, even after her employment ended.
During her time working at the Council, she also started her own business called imaginCRAFT, a consulting company where she takes on projects for community organizations around the state. Though her business and full-time job at WEDC keep her very busy, she still loves coming by to drop off her recordings and catching up with everyone at the Council. The friendships she has with some of the people we serve as well as former and current staff are long-lasting, and through tough times, “it keeps me going!”
Sharper Vision Store Featured Item: Talking Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer
Item # HG141 - $22.00
An attractive, conveniently sized (6 inch height x 3.5 width x .50 depth) talking thermometer that can be used on a desktop or hung on a wall. It has a large dual display that shows both the indoor and outdoor temperatures, and announces them verbally at the push of a button. It can be set to make announcements automatically every hour on the hour, and can even be programmed to announce the temperatures at a pre-set time in order to act as a wake-up alarm. It will announce the temperatures in Fahrenheit or in Centigrade, at the flip of a switch.
CORRECTION NOTE: The Legislative Committee on Writing a Bill
In the last edition of On Sight, the article titled, “The Legislative Committee on Writing a Bill” contained a content error. The statement that was corrected reads: “This year, the committee will work with legislators to introduce an Omnibus bill. The committee is also discussing legislation regarding service animals in hopes to align the Wisconsin law closer to the Federal laws. Currently, Wisconsin has less restrictive laws than the federal standards.”
We apologize for the oversight. The correct version of the article can be found in the Newsletters archive on our website.
May we help you?
If you have questions about the Council’s programs, services, events, outreach or legislative advocacy, please visit www.wcblind.org or call us toll-free at 800-783-5213 or locally in Madison at 608-255-1166.