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On Sight: April 2016 

Council to Host First Low Vision Forum in Green Bay on April 19

     

The Low Vision Forum will include a multitude of speakers, including keynote speaker disability rights advocate Jessica Nell.

The Council is excited to host a special Low Vision Forum to discuss community involvement and employment opportunities on Tuesday, April 19.

The forum will run from 10:00 a.m. – 2:45 p.m. at the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of Brown County, located at 300 S. Adams Street in Green Bay.

The event will begin with a morning session, featuring opening statements from Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt and Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired Executive Director Loretta Himmelsbach. Jessica Nell, a disability rights advocate, will serve as the event’s keynote speaker, discussing methods to develop strong personal advocacy skills through her presentation, “Your Voice, Your Tool… Speak Up & Speak Out.”

Joan Groessl, Assistant Professor with the UW-Green Bay Social Work Program, said Nell is a perfect choice for the forum’s keynote speaker.

“Jessica is a graduate of UWGB’s Master of Social Work Program and has worked diligently on advocacy for individuals with disabilities,” Groessl said. “She has been active at both the state and local level, starting her own advocacy-based company.”

Jean Kalscheur, Education and Vision Services Director for the Council, said Sandy Popp, from Options for Independent Living, will also be a featured speaker at the forum.

“Sandy will be there to provide information on the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Kalscheur said.

In addition, Lt. Karl Ackermann from the Green Bay Police Department will offer a presentation, along with City of Green Bay Transit Director Patty Kireiz to discuss the Green Bay Metro transportation system.

The afternoon portion of the forum will showcase the Wisconsin Business Enterprise Program (BEP), taking a look at the program’s history and employment opportunities the program offers. Speakers from BEP will include successful participants who have vision impairments. Later in the afternoon, attendees will have the opportunity to discuss transportation and accessibility issues with two legislators from northeast Wisconsin.

A light lunch will be included. Attendance is free, but registration is required for planning purposes. To register, go to our website at www.wcblind.org or call 1-800-783-5213.

Joins Us on April 27 for Our Webinar: “Establishing and Managing a Low Vision Support Group”

The first webinar of 2016, “Establishing and Managing a Low Vision Support Group,” is fast approaching.

The Council will host this presentation on Wednesday, April 27 from 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

This content will focus on several important topics, such as what it takes to develop support groups for people with low vision and what keeps members coming back to frequent meetings. The webinar will also discuss the role of being a successful leader or manager.

To register, go to www.wcblind.org and click on the “Events” tab.

Council Joins GingeRootz For Dining in the Dark on May 3

GingeRootz owners, Alice and Doris Ng, have supported the Council for the past four years by hosting Dining in the Dark.

For the fourth straight year, the Council is partnering with GingeRootz Asian Grille in Appleton for an unforgettable dining experience.

This year’s event will take place on Tuesday, May 3. Dining in the Dark allows sighted guests an opportunity to experience dining on a multi-course meal without using their sight.

Council Fund Development Director Lori Werbeckes said “Dining in the Dark” is truly one-of-a-kind.

“We always have so much fun at Dining in the Dark and it seems to attract more people every year,” Werbeckes said.

Dining in the Dark is also an ideal opportunity to support the Council.

“It’s definitely one of our biggest events of the year,” Werbeckes said. “The staff at GingeRootz has always been a great partner with us and we’re hoping for another great night on May 3.”

Advance reservations are required and can be made by calling GingeRootz at 920-738-9688 or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Cost is $65 per person; $80 with a wine pairing. GingeRootz is located at 2920 N. Ballard Road in Appleton.

For more information, contact Lori Werbeckes at 608-237-8114 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Grant Provides Services and Toolkit

For several years, a generous charitable foundation has anonymously made grant funds available for seniors in Iowa County and western Dane County to learn more about their vision loss and receive services from the Council.

This year, those funds will be used to offer low vision evaluations, technology classes, and in-home technology training designed around the individual’s needs. Low vision evaluations are offered at the Council’s offices in Madison, but this grant allows us to take them “on the road” to a location accessible for elderly clients living in rural areas.

More seniors are using email, laptops, tablets and smart phones. This grant provides funds for technology training which helps to keep seniors connected to their families and communities. Our vision services staff tailors the training to the needs of the participants. One to one follow up is available in the person’s home.

Additional grant funds will be used to create a Resource Toolkit for White Cane Safety Day. Organizations wishing to celebrate White Cane Safety Day will be able to use the step-by-step guide to create an event, organize a celebration, fundraise, or bring awareness of white cane usage to their community. The Resource Toolkit will be shared with schools, low vision support groups, Lions Clubs and other service organizations who work with or support people who live with low vision or blindness. Watch for more details on how to receive your resource kit in future Council publications!

We are very grateful for this generous grant and to the Courtier Foundation for their support of these educational opportunities!

Wisconsin Native Kevin Meyers Shares His Journey to the National Paralympics Cycling Track Championship

 

Kevin Meyers, left, and his pilot Bob Springer, compete in a tandem paracycling race at the 2012 Track Nationals. Meyers and Springer finished first in ’12 and placed third in 2015.

 

Kevin Meyers admits his life should have ended on a fateful day in 1987. Instead it was the beginning of a new life as not just an outstanding competitive cyclist, but sharing his personal experiences with others as well.

As members of a United States Association of Blind Athletes tandem racing team, Meyers, along with co-pilot Bob Springer, captured two bronze medals at the U.S. Paracycling Track Championships in Colorado Springs, Colorado last December.

Meyers and Springer won a national title in 2012, however, Meyers said last December’s success could be their biggest career highlight.

“What happened at last year’s 4K pursuit race was really exciting because the tandem team that was trying to make a move to pass us, we ended up passing them and by the tenth lap, we won the race to take the bronze medal,” Meyers said. “I’ve never had a race like that before where someone was about to pass us and we just kick it into high gear and pass them.”

Before a race, Meyers, who resides in Greenfield, Wisconsin, tries to stay calm and collected. But once he gets on a bike, he’s totally locked in.

“That’s when I get into what they call ‘the zone,’” Meyers said. “I’m just so focused on what I need to do for that race to put out the appropriate power and effort. It’s not like I’m thinking super hard about being in the zone, it’s just a feeling, and it’s an awesome feeling because it allows me to put out the best that I can.”

Meyers, 54, always had a passion for sports, especially outdoor activities; however, he didn’t start his paracycling career until 2009. Meyers attended a training session and was immediately hooked on tandem bike racing. He didn’t begin his drive for success on the bike until after fracturing his ankle in a skiing accident in 2008, but facing setbacks is nothing new for Meyers.

In the summer of 1987, Meyers lost his sight, and nearly his life, in a freak boating accident. After facing a period of depression and anger, Meyers realized losing his sight didn’t mean all was lost. Through his strong belief in God, Meyers believes his life was spared so he could help others facing difficult situations.

In 1999, Meyers began a part-time career as a motivational speaker, spreading his message of “true vision” to crowds both large and small. Meyers feels he has accomplished more without sight than he would have if the accident never occurred.

“I truly do believe that it’s a miracle that I’m still alive, because I should have been killed in that accident,” Meyers said. “God knew my purpose was to remain here on Earth and help people overcome challenges in their lives and overcoming those odds, which we all have. I really love to motivate other people in talking about the challenges I’ve faced and overcoming those challenges to remain successful.”

In the future, Meyers wants to scale back his racing career after this year, but keeping fit both physically and mentally will always be an important aspect of his life. 

“I really believe that if you’re feeling good physically, it affects other aspects of your life in positive ways,” Meyers said.

Beep Baseball Available in Madison This Spring

Spring is here and it’s time to play ball!

Madison School & Community Recreation (MSRC) will be offering beep baseball this spring and summer. Beep baseball is a form of softball for persons with visual impairments that can be enjoyed with family and friends.  

Games will be played every Wednesday from May 18 through August 10 at Lincoln Elementary School in Madison. Cost to sign-up is $35 per participant. To register, go to www.mscr.org and use program code 10023.

Beep baseball is a great opportunity to learn a new sport, have fun and meet new friends!

World Health Day Takes a Focus on Diabetes on April 7

 

The World Health Organization selected a superhero theme for this year’s “World Health Day” as a way to “Halt the Rise of Diabetes.”

On April 7, the World Health Organization (WHO) is focusing on diabetes as part of World Health Day.

According to WHO, about 347 million people worldwide had diabetes in 2008, and the disease is growing, especially in low and middle-income countries. In 2012, diabetes caused 1.5 million deaths and WHO predicts that diabetes will be the seventh leading cause of death by 2030.

For people with diabetes, the occurrence of eye disease is often more prevalent. Diabetic eye disease is a group of issues caused by diabetes, and all can cause severe vision loss or blindness.

There are three different diabetic eye diseases: diabetic retinopathy, cataract and glaucoma. Jean Kalscheur, Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired Education and Vision Services Director, said managing diabetes every day is vital to prevent vision loss.

“If you have vision loss, consider working with a diabetic educator and a vision rehabilitation specialist to find ways to accurately monitor and manage your diabetes,” Kalscheur said.

According to the National Eye Institute and the National Institutes of Health, diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and the leading cause of blindness among adults in the U.S.

People affected with diabetic retinopathy may notice no changes in their vision in the early stages of the disease. However, as time passes, diabetic retinopathy can grow worse and cause vision loss in both eyes.

A cataract in the eye will cause the clouding of an eye’s lens and loss of vision. The disease can’t spread from one eye to the other. Dilated eye exams are the only way of detecting cataracts, so it’s important to have an eye doctor perform a dilated eye test every year during a routine vision check.

Cataracts can be treated with new eyeglasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses or magnifying lenses. If these options don’t help, a cataract can be removed through surgery.

Glaucoma, which affects the optic nerve, can cause vision loss and blindness. Glaucoma can develop in either one or both eyes, and is diagnosed through a dilated eye exam.

If not treated, glaucoma can slowly diminish peripheral vision and can cause tunnel vision. Glaucoma may also affect straight-ahead vision, causing loss of total sight.

There are treatments for glaucoma that may save remaining vision, but can’t restore sight already lost. Treatment for glaucoma may include medication, conventional surgery, laser surgery, or a combination of these. An early diagnosis is very important, because early treatment can prevent continued vision loss.

There are several ways to prevent the onset of diabetic eye disease; the most important is to have a dilated eye exam every year. People affected by proliferative retinopathy can reduce their risk of blindness by 95 percent with regular eye exams.

For diabetics, controlling blood sugar levels is important in controlling the onset of diabetic eye diseases. The Wisconsin Diabetes Prevention and Control Program recommends having an A1C blood sugar level checkup every 3-6 months.

A healthy lifestyle is also a great way to prevent the onset of diabetes. Physical activity 30 minutes per day, five days a week, is recommended, but any physical activity can help lower blood sugar and lead to a longer, healthier life. Quitting smoking also greatly decreases the risk of diabetic retinopathy as well.

Eating healthy can help prevent diabetes. For those already diagnosed, seeing a registered dietitian for regular visits, especially through the first six months of diagnosis, is extremely beneficial. It is recommended to visit a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) every 6-12 months to learn how to self-manage diabetes. 

“Carefully reading food labels help in making healthy eating choices. If you can’t see the labels, consider going to www.directionsforme.org and search by brand name,” Kalscheur said. “If the item is in the database, you get preparation instructions, nutrition information, and a listing of ingredients. Your tablet or computer can magnify or read this important information to you.”

For people not online, collecting labels from typically used food products can also help make healthier choices.

“Have a family member or friend enlarge relevant portions of the label on a copy machine,” Kalscheur said. “Place the enlarged information in a plastic sleeve so it is available as a reference. Read it with a magnifier, or add an audio label using a device like PenFriend.”

Kalscheur said vision rehabilitation specialists can help teach food preparation skills.

“It is possible to clean, chop, and cook with low or no vision,” Kalscheur said.

To learn more about low vision therapy and how to manage diabetic eye disease, contact the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired at 1-800-783-5213.

“The Outlook from Here” is Looking For Additional Writers

 

The Outlook From Here is a blog written by and for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Are you a Wisconsinite who is blind or has a visual impairment? Do you like to write? Would you like to share your stories of living with a visual impairment or a family member's visual impairment?

“The Outlook from Here” writers’ group is looking for new members to help write our blog. To date, our group has written over 50 stories on subjects ranging from dating to self-advocacy to seeking employment and everything in between.

You can review all of our stories at https://theoutlookfromhere.wordpress.com. No experience is necessary and we will gladly help you to brainstorm about topics, as well as provide feedback, editing advice and writing tips. There is no pay, but the rewards of helping people understand life with a visual impairment and making new friends who share your passion for writing and for public education are priceless. If interested, contact UW-Madison writing instructor and WCBVI board member Annika Konrad at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or WCBVI staff writer Kevin Damask at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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