January 2019 On Sight

 2018 Donors: We Appreciate You

An infographic highlights 2018 fund development successes.

Thank you for your financial support of Council activities in 2018. Your gifts have made a direct impact in the lives of people experiencing vision loss. Your generosity has supported:

  • Vision Services – low vision fair, open house for the public, school presentations, adaptive technology one-on-one or group class training
  • Legislative advocacy – accessible pedestrian signal installation, accessible voting, greater access to public transportation
  • Macular Degeneration Saving Sight Symposium
  • One-on-one vision rehabilitation, technology training and low vision evaluations
  • The distribution of nearly 500 white canes to people who are blind or visually impaired across Wisconsin

Your gifts brought skills, knowledge and empowerment to those looking for resources. Thank you for your generosity.

2019 Council Events

Put the following events on your calendar and check WCBlind.org/events for more information.

Dining in the Dark

Tuesday, February 5, 2019, 6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Vignette Dining Club, Fitchburg

Vignette’s Chef Mark greets Dining in the Dark attendees
The chef greets Dining in the Dark attendees

Diners at the summer 2018 Dining in the Dark at Vignette Dining Club.

Vignette Dining Club offers a delicious multi-course meal that challenges participants to rethink the importance of vision in the food experience. Guests wear blindfolds while dining.

Call (608)237-8114 for reservations. Dinner costs $50 per person with proceeds benefiting the Council. Invite your friends and family via Facebook.


The Big Share

Tuesday, March 5, 2019


2019 TBS Annoucement Image 1

The Big Share is an online day of giving hosted by Community Shares of Wisconsin (CSW) for nearly 70 local nonprofits dedicated to building an equitable and just community and protecting our environment. CSW and its members envision a future where all voices are heard, where we all have clean water and air, where all neighbors have access to family-supporting jobs, and all communities in Wisconsin are safe and thriving. The Big Share is a fun, easy and flexible way to donate to and learn more about organizations making a difference in our community.


Dining in the Dark

Thursday, March 28, 2019, 6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Charlie’s on Main, Oregon

Chef Dave Heide creates an Italian-inspired multi-course menu that challenges participants to rethink the importance of vision in the food experience. Guests wear blindfolds while dining – experiencing hot, cold, crunchy, smooth food textures and a range of local flavors.

Call (608)237-8114 for reservations. Dinner costs $50 per person with proceeds benefiting the Council. Invite your friends and family via Facebook.


Apply for a Scholarship from the Council
Application Deadline: Friday, April 5, 2019

The Council will award $2,000 each to up to ten qualifying applicants. To qualify, a student must be a Wisconsin resident who is blind or visually impaired, be attending or accepted into a college/university or technical training program, have a 3.0 GPA or better and fully complete and submit all components of the application no later than Friday, April 5, 2019. All qualifying applications will be vetted by the Council Scholarship Committee and applicants will be notified in late April.

The scholarship application materials will be placed on WCBlind.org in early February. Follow the Council on social media or watch future publications for more details on how to apply.


Nominate Someone for a Council Excellence Award
Nomination form deadline: Friday, April 19, 2019

Do you know an individual or organization who has made an important contribution in the lives of people who are blind and visually impaired in Wisconsin? Consider nominating them for a Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired Excellence Award.

Award categories include:

  • Community Volunteer Award
  • Community Partner Award
  • Community Giving Award
  • Exceptional Accommodations in Employment Award
  • Louis Seditis Distinguished Service Award

The Excellence Awards nomination form will be placed on WCBlind.org in late February. Follow us on social media or check the next issue of On Sight for more details on how to submit your nomination.


Legislative Day

Tuesday, April 9

Capitol building, Madison

The day will be spent increasing awareness of issues that affect the BVI community. This involves information sessions with legislators and staff at the Capitol building. Legislative Day provides an excellent opportunity to open lines of communication between constituents, the Council and the legislature. If you are interested in attending, email Adam at agrassnickle@WCBlind.org or call 608-237-8120. There is a $10 registration fee.


Birding by Ear
Indoor session: Thursday, May 30, 6-8pm OR Saturday, June 1, 8-10am

Outdoor session: Thursday, June 6, 6-8pm OR Saturday, June 8, 8-10am

Just as unique as their coloration and shape, bird songs come in all tunes and pitches. Identifying birds by their song is an exciting activity and skill, and any experienced bird watcher will tell you that most birding is done without actually seeing the bird, but by hearing it. This event is co-organized by the Madison Audubon Society. Participants can choose to attend one of the indoor sessions and one of the outdoor sessions for the full experience.


Disability Pride Festival
July 27, 2019

Tenney Park, Madison

The Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired will host a table at this city-wide event to promote pride and empowerment among people who are blind or visually impaired. This festival is the only one of its kind in the state. All are welcome.


Low Vision Fair

Friday, August 9, 2019

Eau Claire

Compare and try adaptive products, learn new techniques at informational breakout sessions and meet Council Vision Services staff and vendors. Network and share experiences with other people experiencing vision loss. The event is free. No registration is required.


Student Spotlight: Kaitlyn Siekert

 A young girl with brown hair and brown eyes, wearing a white shirt and necklace with a green and yellow splotted backdrop behind her.

2018 Council scholarship recipient Kaitlyn Siekert says taking advantage of the opportunities, programs and services available to her was integral to her success. She is an undergraduate student at Edgewood College, and will graduate in May 2019 with a Studies in Education degree. She sat down with Katherine Corbett, Communications Coordinator, for a quick chat.

Katherine Corbett: Why did you decide to attend Edgewood College?

Kaitlyn Siekert: I chose Edgewood because of the Cutting Edge program for students with disabilities who want to attend college. The program teaches strategies for success for students who want to have the college experience and get a degree. Edgewood College was the only school in this area that offered my major.

Katherine: What are you studying?

Kaitlyn: I am a Studies in Education major, with a Child Life emphasis. I was studying to be a child life specialist, but realized it was a very visual field. I did not feel it would have been a good fit, so I switched.

Katherine: What lessons has your visual impairment taught you?

Kaitlyn: Overall, I need to work a lot harder. I have always been determined and wanted to do well, but I feel I need to work harder to get things in accessible formats and get the visual information I needed in a non-visual way.

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

Kaitlyn: With the new degree I am going for, I will have so many more options, so my hope is to work with kids who have special needs of any sort. I am very good at understanding what they are going through because I have gone through similar things. I plan to pursue a position in a hospital or specialized care setting for children who have health issues. Through my volunteering and internships, I have certainty that this is really what I want to do. When it comes to my visual impairment, I plan to advocate if I need anything and be honest with my boss and coworkers.

Katherine: Tell me about a person who inspires you.

Kaitlyn: I would have to say my boyfriend, Tyler, inspires me. We have been dating for two years as of November. I have taken very difficult courses, and I feel like I am able to go to him with any challenge. Even if I am having a bad day or am negative or going through hard times, he is my cheerleader. I am very grateful to have him. I want to be that support for someone else someday.

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

Kaitlyn: The Council affirms that even though individuals who are visually impaired differ from others, we are still equal and we can do things just as well and make a difference, the same as any other person would do. I share the belief that our challenges inspire us; we can still do the same as others without these challenges. I plan to live out this mission by spreading that message to the kids I work with.

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

Kaitlyn: I love to work out; working out is my stress-reliever. I love going to Badger football and volleyball games with my boyfriend.


Thank You and Farewell to Council Staff

It is with heavy hearts that the Council announces the departure of Justin Lemke, who has been our Administrative Program Manager at the Council since 2015. He will be finishing his Masters of Education at Edgewood College and will go on to be a high school social studies teacher. Amy Dean, Store Manager of the Council’s Sharper Vision Store since July of 2018, is also departing to tend to the needs of her family. We honor and thank both Justin and Amy with these many quotes from Council staff and Board members.


Parting Words for Justin:

 A young man with short brown hair and blue eyes wearing a black sweater with a white background.


“Working with Justin over the past few months has been great. He is so helpful with event logistics and did a great job sorting the Council’s databases. I wish him success in his next endeavor.” –Hannah Wente, Communications Director

“I appreciate everything that Justin has done at the Council and as my supervisor. He has made my job approachable and taught me a lot; he has been a mentor to me during our time working together. I genuinely have grown from his patience and guidance.” –Adam Grassnickle, Program Assistant

“Justin has been a calm presence at the Council. He does not show stress in any situation and always seems at peace. It has been great to work with him.” – Amy Wurf, Certified Low Vision Therapist

“It has been a gift to watch Justin’s professional growth over these years, especially in providing solid support for the Council’s activities. As a high school teacher, he will bring his calm demeanor and compassion to his students and their families.” – Denise Jess, CEO/Executive Director


Kind Words for Amy:

A middle-aged woman with short brown hair and brown eyes wearing a teal shirt with a red brick wall behind her.

“Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication.  Your efforts to improve the lives of others is greatly appreciated by the board and the individuals you have assisted.  Best of luck to you in everything that you do.” –Nick Sinram, Council Board Member

“When Amy moved into the job she was a very quick learner. She brought in good retail experience which was helpful in looking at how to make display areas appealing. She also suggested products that would appeal to family members as well as to our usual clients. I am sad to see her go. I wish her the best and I appreciated working with her.” –Sue Cowan, Accounting Manager

“Even though Amy’s tenure with the Council was brief, she brought innovative ideas for new store products and a wealth of knowledge for successfully running a retail business. We wish her all the best in attending to her family’s needs.” – Denise Jess, CEO/Executive Director

“We on the Board are grateful to both Justin and Amy for their service and wish them well in their future endeavors.” –Chris Richmond, Council Board Chair

Watch future issues of Council publications for updates on welcoming new staff.


Take the Assistive Technology Classes Survey to Provide Feedback

A man sits at a computer screen and a group of people sit around him

If you want to help shape the topics of the monthly group classes Jim Denham, Assistive Technology Specialist, offers in 2019, take the online survey. It is not necessary to have attended a class in the past, and you will have the option to enter to win a $25 Sharper Vision Store gift certificate just for participating. Please submit responses by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, February 15, 2019. Visit surveymonkey.com/r/R57ZZGD to take the survey. If you have questions, or need assistance completing the survey, call Jim at 608-237-8104 or email him at Jdenham@wcblind.org. Thank you for your feedback and participation.

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