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Get Active during “Healthy Aging Month!”  

As we honor “Healthy Aging Month,” we’re reminded that aging is an opportunity for us to reinvent ourselves, from life-changing moments like becoming a grandparent, heading back to school or even routine lifestyle changes such as beginning a new exercise program. Just because you’re getting older, it doesn’t mean you should miss out on these exciting opportunities.

Vision impairment or loss doesn’t have to mean an end to physical activity. Before you start a new exercise routine, however, it’s important to follow several guidelines, provided by VisionAware, to keep exercise safe and fun.

  • Do not begin any type of exercise without consulting your physician. Depending on your medical history or any medications you may take, conditions such as diabetes, glaucoma, macular degeneration, high or low blood pressure, heart disease, COPD, and many others must be considered when planning an exercise program.

    Mom and daughter smiling

  • Do not exercise alone, especially when beginning a program. Using new equipment, learning new movements or getting used to an unfamiliar environment takes help. A sighted fitness professional or exercise partner ensures safety while providing motivation and boosting confidence.
  • Begin slowly and choose an activity you’ll enjoy. Becoming discouraged is easy if your muscles are sore and you’re not having any fun!
  • If it hurts, STOP! Exercise and movement should not be painful. You might experience symptoms such as mild to moderate fatigue, muscle or joint awareness, or slight breathlessness, but you should NOT feel any pain beyond what you may experience on a daily basis.
  • Listen to what your body is telling you. If you are sore or fatigued, take a day off. If a certain movement causes discomfort or pain, find a substitute. Conversely, if you can’t get out of a chair without help or climb a flight of stairs without becoming winded, it is time to embrace a more active lifestyle.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and footwear. Comfort enhances motivation.
  • Congratulate yourself for anything active you choose to do. Doing something is always better than doing nothing.
  • Most importantly, have fun!

Discuss your fitness needs with an instructor at a gym, health club or community center. Most instructors can work with you to design a fitness routine that is safe and effective. They can also teach proper form and movement as you begin a new exercise regimen.

The National Center on Physical Activity with a Disability website, http://www.nchpad.org, features a database of personal trainers with years of experience working with individuals with disabilities.

For more information on activities that are healthy, safe and fun, go to https://go4life.nia.nih.gov to read about exercises for people with low vision.

Dining in the Dark Provides Another Amazing Experience

For one evening, Ros Zeltins’ friends experienced what she deals with everyday when she sits down to enjoy a meal. 

Zeltins and her husband, John, along with six of her friends, attended this year’s Dining in the Dark event on August 27 at GingeRoots Asian Grille in Appleton. Those who sat down for dinner feasted on a five-course meal, with one major caveat – they were blindfolded throughout the entire meal.

“My husband and I went to Dining in the Dark two years ago and we had such a good time that, this year, I talked to some of my friends into coming,” Zeltins said. “The food was just great; the wait staff was wonderful. We just had an amazing time.”   

Without relying on their sight, dinner guests had to use other senses to experience the texture, aroma, flavor and taste of each serving.

Zeltins, who lives in Portage, was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) – an eye condition that causes loss of peripheral vision – at a young age. Despite her vision loss, she continued a long career in pharmaceuticals and is enjoying retirement.  

Zeltins Dining in Dark

While many of Zeltins’ longtime friends have a general understanding of the obstacles Zeltins must deal with as a visually-impaired person, the Dining in the Dark event presented a new perspective.

“They were a little bit nervous of spilling and dropping things and how to get the food to your muzzle,” Zeltins said. “They were game to try it and experience some of what I generally have to do. I think they did a pretty good job of getting everything into their mouths.”

“It ended up being a real positive experience for everyone,” Zeltins said. “I was really grateful to my friends for trying to experience something like that and I think they really enjoyed it.”

Zeltins believes the blindfolded experience at Dining in the Dark is a unique opportunity for sighted people to not only gain empathy toward the blind or visually impaired, but also learn how to interact with them.

“I think some people are put-off by someone who can’t see, and it’s not because there’s anything wrong with that person, but by not being exposed very often to someone with a visual problem, people tend to be trepidatious because they don’t know what to expect and they don’t know what to do to make an experience not awkward for both people,” Zeltins said. “I have a little bit of sight left so I can see people’s reactions – they don’t know what to say or do.”  

She said the wait staff at GingeRoots was very good at telling the blindfolded participants the placement of dishes and silverware on their table. It took them awhile, but once the blindfolded guests had a general idea of where items were, the meal went smoothly.

“It was good for them to learn the little tricks that I have to do,” Zeltins said. “My biggest hint was to stay low. When you’re looking for your glass of wine or water, just feel along the table bottom because if you reach high, you’re going to knock it over.”

When the evening ended, Zeltins’ friends returned to eating meals and living life with sight, but for Zeltins, the challenges of living everyday visually impaired remains.

“My friends are very emphatic, but you really don’t know what it’s like until you’ve tried something like this and try and gain some insight into what it’s like so I truly appreciate that they were willing to do that.”

Zeltins is already looking forward to next year’s Dining in the Dark and anticipates bringing along more friends to enjoy the evening.  

“I already have people lined up for next year who couldn’t go this year,” she said.

National Guardian Life proudly sponsors Dining in the Dark

National Guardian Life logo

National Guardian Life Insurance Company (NGL) located in Madison, Wisconsin, was honored to be a part of the 2015 Dining in the Dark event by the Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired.  We applaud WCBVI for its hard work and service to people throughout the state who may have unique visual abilities. 

The Council provides many people with rehabilitation assistance, technology assistance and adaptive products.  WCBVI also gives webinars and workshops to educate the general public on eye health.  NGL is grateful to WCBVI for shedding light on this important area of health and opening doors to independence for many who cannot see.

The Council would like to thank NGL for helping make Dining in the Dark a success and values its continued support in helping the blind and visually impaired community.  

Fox Valley Low Vision Fair Brings Praise and Positive Feedback 

Registration Table

On Friday, August 29, the Council hosted its first ever “Fox Valley Low Vision Fair” at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton. Over 100 attendees were able to connect with 18 vendors and participate in 5 break-out sessions throughout the course of the day. A few parting comments included:  

“It was good to connect with others who have similar eye problems.” 

“Hope you do it again.” 

“It was very interesting. I’ve seen some items I want to order.” 

Make sure to pick up the Fall Edition of our “Friends” newsletter for a more detailed article about the results of this event.  

Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act: Personal Reflections 

This month’s featured article from the Outlook from Here blog 

By Katherine Schneider

Signing of Act I’m celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act like it was the Fourth of July! For the 19% of us who have disabilities, it is.

As John Locke said: “The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.” The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is an amazing piece of civil rights legislation that has immeasurably increased freedom of access to the good things of life for the 19% of us who have disabilities.

I, as a blind person, have benefitted in a multitude of ways. When I travel around in the world with my Seeing Eye guide dog, I’m denied access much less often because people generally know that service animals are permitted in public places. 

When I request electronic copies of written information like meeting agendas or government documents, many people agree cheerfully. For those who don’t, I can gently remind them it is legally required. 

Website accessibility has improved a lot over the years, partially because of the ADA. When I shop for a dress online, access has gone from nothing (my screen reader just said “graphic, graphic” to describe the pictures) to good alt text tags describing length and style of the dress on some sites. I still will tend to ask a sighted friend to look at the picture and offer an opinion on whether it’ll look good on me before I plunk down my cash. 

iPhone apps are wonderful when designed to work with VoiceOver. I can identify denominations of paper currency, play Trivia Crack and determine how many minutes I’ll have to wait for the next bus to arrive. I can download and read books, magazines and newspapers. I can receive emergency notifications of bad weather by email on my iPhone. That truly beats hearing “beep beep” as an emergency notification scrolls across a television screen and not knowing where the tornado is! 

Nowadays occasional restaurants have braille menus, Hallmark stores may have one or two braille cards and some pharmacy chains are implementing talking pill bottles so I would know for sure what medicine I’m taking. Print/Braille books allow me to read aloud to sighted nephews and nieces. Audio described videos allow me to know who got shot when watching a murder mystery. Audio tours of museums add some culture to my life. 

When 2006 came around and I voted independently (using the “handicapped” machine) for the first time, I cried. Sighted Americans have a secret ballot and finally I did too. 

None of these accommodations are universal. Access involves asking, brainstorming and sometimes being downright pushy. Most of all, it involves people of good will working together to implement the ADA. I’m celebrating the ADA by organizing exhibits at libraries that offer programs in the community and designing an ADA 25th Anniversary card to hand out during the month of July. 

You who advocate for access for yourself, friends, family and the rest of the 19% of us who need it will make the next 25 years of implementation of the ADA even better. Let’s celebrate and then get back to work making the good things of life available to all. 

Katherine Schneider is a retired clinical psychologist, author, blogger (http://kathiecomments.wordpress.com) and advocate on disability issues in the Chippewa Valley. A version of this blog will appear in Volume One Magazine (www.volumeone.org).

Council Events Coming Up This Fall:

OccuPaws 10th Anniversary 

Sunday, September 20

11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.  

Wisconsin Brewing Company Bier Garten  

1079 American Way, Verona 

Come celebrate OccuPaws 10th Anniversary with a doggie costume contest and parade, dog activities, kids' games, silent auction, commercial vendors, music, food and beverages.  

The Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired is proud to sponsor this exciting event.  

For more information, go to www.occupaws.org 

Fall Gallery Night with the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art 

Friday, October 2 

5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. 

Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired  

754 Williamson Street, Madison 

Join us as we help celebrate Madison’s vibrant arts community, featuring breathtaking artwork from blind and visually-impaired artists. On Gallery Night, galleries, businesses and non-profit organizations showcase some of the best local artwork.  

Gallery Night offers art lovers and art novices alike an opportunity to enjoy a wide variety of exhibitions, opening receptions, special events, demonstrations, and refreshments at venues throughout Madison. This year, the Council will feature photographer Mike Morris and a local Madison high school student.   

For more information, contact Gale Hellpap, Director of Community Relations and Marketing, at 608-237-8113 

Upcoming Webinar - Benefits and Support for Veterans with Low Vision

Monday, October 19  

10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. 

Kurt Brunner, VIST Coordinator at the William S. Middleton Memorial VA Hospital in Madison, and Amy Wurf, Low Vision Therapist at the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, will discuss services available for veterans through the VA health care system. The audience will learn about eligibility for VA care for veterans, health care services offered by the VA Hospital, and benefits provided by the Veteran Benefits Administration. Information will highlight specific services for legally blind and low vision veterans, VA Blind Rehabilitation, and the range of low vision programs through the VA, as well as WCBVI services. A veteran with recent blind rehabilitation experience will join the conversation. 

To attend the webinar, you will need a personal computer with Internet access or belong to an organization that can provide access to this online event. Go to www.wcblid.org and click on the “Events” tab or call 1-800-783-5213 for assistance. Attending the webinar is FREE.

2014 Annual Report Now AvailableAnnual Report Cover

The Council experienced another active and fulfilling year in 2014. Whether it was educating the general public about what we do, advocating for vital legislation, engaging with others for outreach and collaboration or acknowledging the importance of our valuable donors, the Council accomplished many things.

To review our 2014 Annual Report, go to http://wcblind.org/2014_Annual_Report.pdf.

Help the Council by Shopping on Amazon

Amazon Smile logo

If you shop on Amazon, you can designate the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired to receive .5% of your purchases-- and it costs you nothing!  It’s part of the AmazonSmile program.  Millions of products on AmazonSmile are eligible for these donations.

To shop at AmazonSmile, simply go to www.smile.amazon.com  from your web browser on your computer or mobile device. Before you begin shopping, select the “Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired” to receive donations from eligible purchases.  The system will remember your selection, and then every eligible purchase you make will result in a donation to the Council when shopping on Amazon.