On Sight July 2018

A Closer Look at Our Low Vision Fair

ADRC Staff at a table with information about services.

When you have changing vision, it can seem isolating. You might wonder if there are others going through the same thing, and if so, where you can find them. You might feel unable to talk with friends or family members about what you are experiencing, because they may not understand. The good news is you are not alone. There are people you can talk to who can understand and validate your experience. And if you live in the Lakeshore/Manitowoc area, they are coming to you via our Low Vision Fair.

The fair takes place Thursday, August 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It will be located in Founder’s Hall at UW–Manitowoc at 705 Viebahn Street in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The event is free and registration is not required.

Breakout sessions will begin at 10:15 a.m. and will run for 30 minutes each. Presentation topics will include labeling items in your home and using Smart Home devices, such as the Amazon Echo. Staff from the Council will hold a listening session so we can learn about specific needs in your area.

“I’m excited that the Council is hosting a Low Vision Fair in the Lakeshore area so residents can learn about all of the wonderful services and products the Council provides,” says Bruce Parkinson, a former member of the Council’s Board of Directors. “The Council staff is friendly and wants to help, and I’m sure there are people who live in the area who do not know the Council exists. Having them come to Manitowoc could benefit a lot of people.”

Throughout the day, you will be able to meet with vendors of assistive technology products, hold the products in your hands and get demonstrations of how they could enhance your life. Some of the vendor representatives include the Council’s Sharper Vision Store, Felician Village (a Manitowoc senior independent living center), Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library, Aging and Disability Resource Center of the Lakeshore, Options for Independent Living, Vision Forward, Manitowoc Low Vision Support Group, the Office for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Manitowoc Public Library, and Enhanced Vision.

A lighting display will allow you to experience the difference between soft light and daylight lightbulbs to help you decide if replacing the bulbs in your home would make tasks easier and put less strain on your eyes. Many alternatives will be right in front of you, and experts will be there to help you pick out what would work best for you and your unique situation.

Parking is free, and there is easy access to the doors. Light refreshments will be provided and you can come and go as you please. Spend time talking to vendors, other people experiencing vision loss, or to the breakout session leaders. All are welcome, including friends and family members.

If you have questions, contact Jean Kalscheur at 608-237-8106 or email her at jkalscheur@wcblind.org. We look forward to seeing you on August 9 at our Low Vision Fair.

Scholarship Student Spotlight: Sophia Keil

Headshot of Scholarship winner Sophia Keil.

Council scholarship winner Sophia Keil says that her curiosity and drive to succeed strongly influenced the direction of her life. She will attend the Conservatory of Music of Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, as a freshman this fall, studying flute performance. She is a graduate of Monona Grove High School. Council Communications Coordinator Katherine Corbett had the opportunity to sit down with Sophia — read on for the Q&A.

Katherine: Why did you decide to go to Oberlin College?

Sophia: I chose Oberlin College because of my professor, Alexa Still. I worked with her throughout the years and she’s an exceptional mentor and I look up to her a lot.

Katherine: Tell me about a person who inspires you.

Sophia: I would have to pick Professor Still. Beginning in fall 2018, I will be the first totally blind flute performance student at Oberlin Conservatory. She’s someone who looks beyond that and applies the equity principle. She empowers me. She believes in what I can do and who I am as a musician.

Katherine: What lessons has your visual impairment taught you?

Sophia: I’ve learned that in order to succeed, I need to work hard, plan ahead and apply myself. I particularly enjoy being a leader in my school’s band. I memorize all my music, and by doing this demonstrate the importance of preparing for rehearsal and performances. Even when I’m learning subjects that are visual, such as those in science and math classes, my curious mind and drive to do well cause me to push past any frustrations I might be feeling.

Katherine: How do you plan to apply those lessons to the rest of your life?

Sophia: An important part of my life is social justice, particularly equity versus equality. That means making sure people are given the tools and resources they need to succeed given their unique situation. My visual impairment has shown me the importance of not judging others and of using critical thinking skills to accomplish my goals.

Katherine: How does the mission of the Council resonate with your own life goals?

Sophia: The mission of the Council to empower blind people to live the kind of lives they want resonates with me because of the equity principle. The Council’s scholarship program is a great example of how they are using scholarship money to make getting an education an equal playing ground for students with visual impairments. I may eventually be able to serve as a model or guide for other young musicians who happen to be blind. I would welcome serving the Council as a member for other young people with vision loss who may wish to pursue music professionally.

Katherine: What is your favorite instrument, sport or hobby? Why?

Sophia: I love to read books, play with my dog and be involved with activities at school. My favorite thing, though, is playing the flute. I learned to play the flute at the time I was losing my vision. Music has always been a comfort to me. I know most people don’t think of music as a humanitarian career, but I want to give back the gift of music, such as by playing in churches and nursing homes.

Katherine: Do you have anything else to add?

Sophia: It was quite an honor to receive this scholarship. I’m very grateful to the scholarship committee for their generosity.

Watch future issues of On Sight for more Scholarship Student Spotlight stories about our 2018 scholarship recipients.

Asian Flavors to be Highlighted at Next Dining in the Dark

Appleton Dining in the Dark attendees listen to information about the food and wine pairing.

Experience Asian cuisine using senses other than sight. The Council’s next Dining in the Dark event takes place Tuesday, August 14, from 6-9 p.m., at GingeRootz in Appleton. Guests will be blindfolded during the meal and the menu will be revealed the night of the event. This is the sixth Dining in The Dark event GingeRootz has hosted. Owner Doris Ng says she and the staff always enjoy organizing the dinner.

“We enjoy hosting the event every year since it allows our culinary team to create off-menu items,” says Doris. “It’s fun to watch the diners try the food strictly using taste and touch.”

Tickets are $65 per person for the meal, with a wine flight available for an additional fee. For more information visit https://wcblind.org/events/eventdetail/68/-/dining-in-the-dark-gingerootz. Email party@gingerootz.com or call 920-738-9688 for reservations.

Seeking Artists who are Blind and Visually Impaired for Fall Gallery Night

Art can be used to teach, to make a statement or to represent a reality the artist faces. As an artist who is blind or visually impaired, you are an important ambassador to other artists and the community at large. What are you helping the world to learn through your pieces? Why does your artwork matter?

“The Council’s Gallery Night helps to affirm to myself that I truly am an artist,” says Rosemarie Fortney, an abstract painter living in the Milwaukee area. “Meeting other people and sharing my insights was excellent, too. I could tell they were really appreciating my art. Because some of my art was tactile, it could be enjoyed both visually and by touch; it crossed boundaries. To be able to educate about who I am and how I create my art is an equalizer.”

Displaying your work at this fun event allows you to network with other artists who are blind and visually impaired. The Council will highlight the chosen artwork in our publications and on social media. You might even sell some of your artwork. Previous featured artwork includes: woodworking, textiles, photography, watercolors, copper relief and pottery.

A piece of artwork done by Rosemarie Fortney.


Indicate your interest by sending PDF or JPEG samples and descriptions of art to Denise Jess at djess@wcblind.org by Friday, September 14. If selected as an artist, Denise will notify you. Feel free to contact Denise by calling 608-237-8103 if you have questions. We look forward to your submissions.

Recreation and Leisure Part 2: Five Steps to a Successful Event

In our last issue of On Sight, we discussed the importance of planning events for your low vision support group. This time, we share tips and techniques for pulling together a successful event, from planning through wrap-up.

1. Choosing an Event

Reaching out to learn what type of events your group will appreciate is important, and using multiple methods to get feedback enables you to reach the most number of people, since not everyone communicates in the same way. Some people, for example, might not feel comfortable speaking in front of a whole group, but if you call them on the phone or send them an email with a Google survey, they might be more likely to reply. Make sure people know that everyone will be working together to plan the event, so no matter who has the idea, everyone will be pitching in to make the event a success.

If your group is large, it might be a good idea to develop a sub-committee that collects ideas, picks three options and brings those to the group. Use a voice vote to choose the activity, or the committee can choose based on feasibility.

Some logistics that might help determine the feasibility of an event are: the expected weather for that time of year; the event location and accessibility; the availability of transportation; and other events going on in the community.

2. Sharing the Responsibilities

Discuss who is committing to help with the event and schedule planning meetings. Hosting meetings using conference calls will ensure that transportation is not a barrier to attendance. You will want to discuss:

  • the goals of the event,
  • how you will publicize it,
  • what arrangements need to be made in advance,
  • what needs to be done the day of the event,
  • how you will manage inclement weather, and
  • who will manage which tasks.

Encourage people to do tasks that are of interest to them and are in their skill-set. Make sure everyone is clear on their tasks and that people leave that discussion with clear expectations and check-in dates. Another important aspect to discuss is how it will be handled when tasks do not get accomplished. Do the members of the group cover for each other? Will certain group members co-sign tasks? Talk about this before making decisions and taking action to eliminate problems down the road. Allow time to cover for tasks that are not completed on time.

3. Communications

You can share information about your event at group meetings, via phone or email, and even through the mail. You may also have a local newspaper that will include the event in their calendar. Scheduling events well in advance allows time for the message to be sent out in a variety of ways. Make sure all your information and messaging is consistent to avoid confusion.

4. Managing the Event

When your event starts, you might find it helpful to check people in so you know who attended and can gather feedback afterward. As they check in, remind people you will have someone taking photos and make sure they are ok with that. Have a short introduction when you introduce and thank the people who planned the event, give details about what will happen at the event, and share logistical details such as location of bathrooms or water. You might offer bug spray or sun lotion if hosting an outdoor event. While everyone is still together, make sure to get a few group photos.

5. Following up

After the event, it is good to evaluate it by yourself and with your planning group. Have an evaluation tool to get feedback from people. Some questions you might want to ask: What went well? What could we improve on? What are lessons we learned from this event? How does this information prepare us for future events? Get together with your planning group to debrief and discuss the event.

It is important to manage your expectations about attendance. Acknowledge that even when people express a high level of interest, and you put in a high level of planning, not everyone who expresses interest will actually show up for the event. It can be scary or intimidating for people experiencing vision loss to go somewhere they have never been before and try something they have never done.

Even so, it is important to continue planning events and providing more people the opportunity to get together. Once someone attends and has a great time at your event, they will be more likely to bring a friend the next time. That is a great reason to feel encouraged.

Join Us for the Upcoming Saving Sight Symposium

Attendees at last year’s symposium explore assistive devices.

Have you received a diagnosis of macular degeneration? Does someone you know have it and wonder about how to live with their changing vision? Are you a health professional curious about the latest research and care? Find all the information you need in one place at our Saving Sight Symposium. The event is on Wednesday, October 10, from 9:00 a.m. – 1 p.m. It will be held at the Alliant Energy Center, 1919 Alliant Energy Center Way, in Madison.

The Council is co-sponsoring this event, along with UW-Health and the UW Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. Learn about current treatments, the most up-to-date research, causes of Macular Degeneration, as well as services and products that can assist and empower people with changing vision live full and happy lives.

Speakers include Dr. Barbara Blodi, Medical Director of the Fundus Photograph Reading Center and Clinical Trials Unit; Dr. David Gamm, Associate Professor; Dr. Sanbrita Mondal, Clinical Optometrist, Director — Low Vision Clinic; and Amy Wurf, Certified Low Vision Therapist at the Council.

“Attendees say they like having the more personal contact with the doctors who speak at this event,” says Amy. “Attending the symposium is an excellent way to get current information, and learn about products you never knew existed. We want to provide a venue for people to get their questions answered.”

Vendors include the Council Sharper vision store, Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library, Enhanced Vision, Optelec, Occupaws Guide Dog Association, the Office for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Adaptive Technology Resources, and Vision Forward.

“The symposium is important because it gives people with Macular Degeneration an opportunity to brush up on the changing knowledge-base of the condition,” says Denise Jess, Council CEO/Executive Director. “Attendees can ask questions of leading experts in the field on the medical or vision rehabilitation end. This event also provides the opportunity to be with other people who have Macular Degeneration and their families; to validate the experiences of people who have the diagnosis.”

Register by calling the Council at 800-783-5213; online registrations are at eyes.wisc.edu/event/amd-symposium. We would like to thank Associated Bank and Enhanced Vision for sponsoring this event. Watch future issues of On Sight for more information.


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