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Free Low Vision Evaluations Available Starting July 12

Low Vision Evaluations

Certified Low Vision Therapist Amy Wurf will be conduction free low vision evaluations starting July 12 for a limited time only.

Are you living with low vision and looking to learn how to better adapt? The Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired is offering free low vision evaluations, starting on July 12.

Individuals who attended the Council’s “Explore Sharper Vision” presentation on June 28 in Cross Plains had the opportunity to register for a low vision evaluation and/or an in-home vision rehabilitation visit. However, if you missed the presentation in June, you can still schedule a free low vision evaluation for another day in July at our Madison office at 754 Williamson Street.

During the evaluation, Certified Low Vision Therapist Amy Wurf will test for near and far vision accuracy and contrast, and clients can receive optical aids to maximize existing vision.

One-hour appointments are available and in-home follow-up appointments can be scheduled, if needed. For more information, contact Amy Wurf or Jean Kalscheur at 608-255-1166.

Join Us this August for Our Central Wisconsin Low Vision Fair

Low Vision Fair

Last year's Fox Valley Low Vision fair was held in Appleton. We are excited to bring a similar experience to Wausau this summer!

If you’re looking for an opportunity to see the latest products for persons with low vision, talk to industry leaders, and listen to speakers discuss topics of accessibility, don’t miss out on your chance this August.

WCBVI will be hosting the Central Wisconsin Low Vision Fair on Friday, August 12 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Wausau Labor Temple, located at 318 S. Third Avenue, in Wausau.

The Central Wisconsin Low Vision Fair will feature products from 18 vendors. Companies will present both low and high-tech products for persons with low vision. Businesses in the Wausau area that provide services for seniors and people with disabilities will also be available.

The fair will include break-out sessions featuring three scheduled speakers, along with a listening session.

This is a free event and door prizes will be offered.

More information can be found at our website: www.wcblind.org.              

August Webinar to Discuss When It’s Time to Stop Driving

 Driving Webinar

After many years of driving, it can be difficult for a person with diminishing vision to decide when the right time is to stop driving, but it could be one of the most important decisions they make.

The Council’s next webinar, “When to Stop Driving and How to Talk to Your Loved Ones About It,” will discuss this sensitive topic. The presentation on August 17 will provide encouraging advice for individuals trying to make the difficult decision to stop driving. The webinar will also identify talking points adult children can use with their parents when they have conversations about no longer driving.

Watch for more details to come at our website: www.wcblind.org.

White Cane Appeal Update

Thermometer panel

You can help us reach our goal for the White Cane Fund! Every year, the Council puts nearly 500 free white canes into the hands of people with low vision. These white canes identify individuals as having vision loss and help them safely navigate their neighborhoods, bus routes, and their way to work or school. A white cane fosters the dream of independence – and you can help make that dream a reality! Online gifts can be made at www.wcblind.org or by mailing a check to WCBVI, 754 Williamson Street, Madison, WI  53703. Thank you!

White Cane Safety Day Resource Kits Available Soon

White Cane Safety Day Lions promo

White Cane Safety Day takes place annually on October 15.

White Cane Safety Day is coming on October 15 and the Council is preparing a resource tool kit to provide organizations statewide with information to honor this important day.

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 vision loss and receive services from the Council.

Funds from this foundation have allowed the Council to develop a resource tool kit to help promote 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, raise funds, or bring awareness of white cane usage to the communities they serve. The resource tool kit will be shared with schools, low vision support groups, Lions Clubs and other service organizations who work with or support people with low vision or blindness.

“The focus of White Cane Safety Day is to create public awareness of white cane traffic laws so people who are blind or visually impaired can travel safely on sidewalks and crosswalks,” said Lori Werbeckes, Council Fund Development Director. “The White Cane Safety Day Resource Kit will provide a template for groups or individuals to use when planning their own event focused on white cane safety.” 

The Shopko Foundation has provided a grant to mail and distribute the kit statewide.

Artists’ Work Needed for Annual Gallery Night in October

Gallery Night Painting 

 Artist Eunice Reep featured her watercolor artwork at the 2015 Fall Gallery Night.

The Council is looking for talented artists who are blind or visually impaired to display their work during Gallery Night on Friday, October 7.

In collaboration with the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA), the Council will join several businesses in downtown Madison, showcasing the artwork of local artists.

Last year, several artists displayed their work at the Council office and talked about their pieces with visitors. A variety of work was featured, including pottery, watercolor, pen and ink, textiles and photography.

If you’re interested in displaying your artwork at this year’s Gallery Night, contact Administrative Assistant Justin Lemke at 608-237-8119 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Have Fun in the Sun with Proper Eyewear to Stay Protected – July is UV Safety Month

Sunglass UV Safety Month

The Sharper Vision Store offers a variety of sunglasses, specific for your personal needs.

While we enjoy the long, warm days of July, it’s important to stay protected from the sun’s powerful rays.

Too much exposure to the sun can cause damage to both eyes and skin. The sun releases energy (radiation) in many forms, including ultraviolet rays. UV rays can cause sunburn and damage vision.

There are two types of UV rays: A and B. Long-term exposure to UVA rays can affect central vision. The macula, part of the retina at the back of the eye, can become damaged. UVB rays often injure the front portion of the eye where the cornea and lens are located.

Amy Wurf, Certified Low Vision Therapist with the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, said UV light could be described as an invisible threat because it’s not visible to the human eye.

“We should protect our eyes from UV light as much as we can,” Wurf said. “Look for tags on sunglasses that state they block 99-100 percent of UVA and UVB light. Wraparound sunglasses can be purchased to wear alone or fit over prescription glasses. These types of sunglasses protect the eyes from UV rays entering around the frames. Polarized lenses reduce glare, but they should not take the place of UV protection. They may include UV protection, but it’s important to check the tag to be sure.”

UV rays can lead to several eye diseases, including macular degeneration, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy. Macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss among older Americans, while cataracts are often formed from the effects of UVB rays.

“These eye conditions can cause people to experience discomfort with light sensitivity and create issues with glare,” Wurf said. “Filters that reduce overall light transmission and protect the eyes from UV rays manage the light that reaches the eyes to maximize functional vision. Reducing glare and increasing contrast can increase safe mobility and provide relief from light sensitivity.”

The good news is wearing sunglasses can be a simple and relatively inexpensive way to safeguard your eyes.

The Sharper Vision Store, located at the Council office, features the latest styles, colors and sizes in sunglasses, all with proper UV protection.

Sharper Vision Store Manager Brent Perzentka highlighted two frames, the Noir Filter glasses, which offer UV, invisible and infrared protection to manage light and maximize functional vision. Noir Filters are available in fit-over and wrap-around styles.

“We recommend you visit a low vision specialist before purchasing your first pair of filters,” Perzentka said.

Solar3 Wrap-Around sunglasses come in four different tints and can be worn as “wear-alones.” All Solar3 filters are designed to block 100 percent of UVA or UVB rays.

Wurf said wearing a hat or visor can provide additional protection.

“Remember it’s also important for children to wear sunglasses that provide UV protection,” Wurf said.

For more information on sunglasses or any product at the Sharper Vision Store, contact Perzentka at 608-237-8105 or go to www.wcblind.org/shopping.

Thrivent Choice Dollars® Can Be Allocated to the Council

 Thrivent Choice Dollars

Thrivent Choice Dollars allow members to make “positive change by taking action.”

Are you an eligible Thrivent Financial member with Choice Dollars® to direct? Grant funding through Thrivent Choice can make an impact and strengthen our community. By directing Choice Dollars to the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, you can help hundreds of people as they adjust to life with low vision. To date the Council has received approximately $2,000 in Thrivent Choice funds!

One positive choice can lead to another...and the impact can be amazing!

To direct your Choice Dollars®, go to www.Thrivent.com/thriventchoice or call 1-800-847-4836 and say “Thrivent Choice” after the prompt. Be part of something big—right in your own community!

It is OK. I am Blind -Talk to Me

By Chad Nelson

A blog post currently featured with “The Outlook from Here”

 OLFH Pic

A blind patron offers his credit card to a coffee shop clerk to purchase a bottle on orange juice.

Imagine this situation: you are blind, and you walk into a restaurant, bank, or some other business and you want to get a meal, make a transaction, or buy something. You just happened to go in with a sighted, or even partially sighted friend or significant other, for no other reason except that you are with him or her. You and your friend walk up to the counter and the clerk turns to your friend and asks, “Good morning. What would he like today?”

Now, in this situation there can be two outcomes; the first is that your friend answers for you and says, “Yes, he would like the turkey sub with lettuce and tomatoes,” or, the second response would be, “I don’t know, ask him.”

Here are two other examples:

A sighted friend and I walked into a bank together to get money out of my checking account, and I walked up to the teller line, indicating that I wanted $20.

Bank teller: “Can you please give me his account number? I need to look up his account information.”

Sighted friend: Looks at the teller, smiles and shrugs.

Me: “You don’t need to ask her. I can speak for myself. I am only blind.”

The teller didn’t know what to say. I think that she felt pretty embarrassed.

The second time was at a sandwich shop. I went in with a partially-sighted friend.

Cashier: “Good afternoon. What would he like on his sandwich?”

Friend: “I don’t know. I didn’t ask him, but you can ask him yourself.”

Me: “I am able to answer questions by myself.”

Clerk: Ignores me.

It comes time to pay, and the same thing happens, only worse.

Clerk: “Please take his card and swipe it through the machine for him.”

Me: “Sir, you know just because I can’t see, doesn’t mean that I am unable to hear. You need to please address me, and please stop talking to others about me like I am not here.”

Clerk: Ignores me.

By this time, we were both getting pretty insulted and angry at the lack of respect and tact by the employee who just couldn’t get the idea that, just because I am blind, I can’t handle my own business.

This doesn’t happen every time. As a matter of fact, a lot of times, such as the other week at a bank branch and the other day at a department store, I dealt with people who addressed me respectfully and treated me like I am a real human being. But, on the occasion that people ignore me and talk to the other person I am with, it makes me and my sighted friends angry. We feel like people think blind people are helpless in every other way as well as not being able to see. This is not true at all and the general public needs to be educated, realizing the blind have feelings and can do everything anyone else can do, just in a slightly different way.

There are a lot of times when people don’t know how to act around someone who is blind, and they think that person needs to have a caregiver. Blindness is not something that makes a person incapable of doing things; it simply takes away any useful vision. There needs to be more positive education for those who are either ignorant of people who are blind or simply don’t understand blindness.

Some things a sighted person can do when encountering a blind person would be to say something like, “Is there anything I can do to help?” Not, “What does he or she need?”

Another thing that is also helpful and won’t make a blind person feel as if they are incapable is to lightly touch a shoulder or hand in a way that is not obvious to others and ask “How can I help you?” This will let the blind person know that they are the one being addressed.

Some things a blind person can do if someone is talking to a sighted friend or significant other instead of talking to them directly would be to simply say, “Can you please ask me the question? I am perfectly able to speak for myself.”

If a blind person knows that someone is talking about them, simply answer in the affirmative. Such as, if someone asks a sighted friend, “Would he like something to drink?” The blind person could say, “Yes please, I would like a Coke.” This is a gentle way of letting the sighted person know it is expected that they should be talking to the person who is blind.

Being blind is like any other disability that isn’t understood. It only takes education to help people know how to react in a positive and acceptable manner.

Our 2015 Annual Report is Now Available

Annual Report Infographic

This infographic features some of the Council's most impressive activity statistics from 2015.

The 2015 Annual Report is a great way to look back at several of the Council’s highlights. From distributing close to 500 free white canes to serving more than 2,000 customers in our Sharper Vision Store, join us in celebrating our successes.

To view our Annual Report, click here.

Sharper Vision Store Product Feature: Keyboard

July Sharper Vision product

This keyboard has been specifically designed for people with low vision, featuring the largest print available on keycaps along with one-touch internet and email buttons for easy access.

The keyboard features eight media keys for one-touch music and video control keyboard dimensions, eight internet keys for one-touch internet and email access, and enhanced 104-key layout.

It’s available in either black on white as item number CA200, or white on black as item number CA210. Cost: $50.00