New staff, new program offerings, and a return to more in-person events — such as Gallery Night in November — were just a few of the highlights of 2022, the Council’s 70th Anniversary year. Important traditions were carried on as well, including the Council Scholarship program, which provided support for eight students from around the state to launch or continue their postsecondary education.
The busy and productive year kicked off with World Braille Day, celebrated annually on January 4, the date on which Louis Braille was born in 1809. The Council now offers braille instruction for individuals who can benefit from it in their employment, academic studies or everyday activities at home.
The Big Share, organized each year by Community Shares of Wisconsin, is a one-day fundraising event. For this year’s edition, which took place on March 1, the Council set a target of $7,000 in honor of our 70th anniversary. We exceeded that goal by a nice margin, receiving over $10,000 from more than 100 donors large and small. The highlight of the day was a Facebook Live event we collaborated on with Disability Rights Wisconsin and the League of Women Voters focusing on barriers to voting faced by people with disabilities.
In April and May, the Council joined forces with Madison Audubon once again to present “Birding by Ear,” an educational program that offers people with vision loss and others the opportunity to recognize birds by their songs. This year’s program included an online educational session and two field trips to the Lakeshore Nature Preserve adjacent to Lake Mendota on the UW-Madison campus.
In June the Council teamed up with two Wisconsin food establishments to present two very special “Dining in the Dark” events. These unique gatherings are culinary experiences where patrons enjoy their meal while blindfolded. The idea is to provide diners who are not visually impaired an opportunity to appreciate a fine dining experience through senses other than vision. The events also serve as fundraisers for the Council. This year’s Dining in the Dark events took place at Beastro & Barley in Reedsburg and at Fitchburg’s Four Winds Farm.
During the summer, the Council made two significant enhancements to its menu of Vision Services. The opening of our on-site Vision Rehabilitation Classroom has enabled us to serve clients at our Madison facility in addition to in their own homes. Education and Vision Services Director Amy Wurf says, “Opening the classroom enables us to better serve clients for whom a home visit is inconvenient or impractical.” The new classroom is staffed by Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Rachel Pavone. Rachel provides fee-based assessment and training related to a range of skills and activities such as medication management, smart speaker and TV remote use, timekeeping, notetaking, labeling and much more. To take a tour or schedule an appointment, use the Vision Services Request Form or call 608 255-1166.
Another new addition to our range of services is Orientation & Mobility (O&M) instruction. O&M services are provided by longtime Council staffer Brent Perzentka, whose training culminated in a summer-long internship at the Blind Rehabilitation Center at Chicago’s Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital.
The Council has long been dedicated to promoting pedestrian safety, and we ramped up our focus on that issue over the course of 2022. In early September, we partnered with the Sierra Club and 1000 Friends of Wisconsin to present “Make Way for Pedestrians,” a one-hour webinar covering ways to advocate for pedestrian safety in our communities.
October 15 was White Cane Safety Day, an annual opportunity to educate the public about Wisconsin’s White Cane Law and promote safe, welcoming communities for people with vision loss. This year, we used White Cane Safety Day as an anchor to promote the Council’s broader set of pedestrian safety priorities. Thirty municipalities around the state joined Governor Tony Evers in issuing White Cane Safety Day proclamations this year.
After two years of virtual-only Gallery Nights, the Council featured the work of eight artists living with vision loss in an in-person gathering in November. This marked the 11th year the Council has hosted Gallery Night. For those who were unable to attend, you can view our virtual art display.
2022 also brought the introduction of a new Low Vision Support Group specifically for college and working age adults. This is in addition to our existing support group, which has been redubbed the Trailblazers Low Vision Support Group. You can find information about both of these groups, each of which meet virtually via Zoom once a month, on our website at https://wcblind.org/council-events/low-vision-support-group/ and https://wcblind.org/council-events/college-and-working-age-low-vision-support-group/.
Along the way, we were pleased to welcome three new staff members to the Council in 2022: Fund Development Coordinator debbie rasmussen joined us in April; Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Rachel Pavone came on board in June; and Program Associate Jaxon Baker arrived in September.
And finally, as we await the arrival of 2023 and the beginning of our next 70 years, we hope you’ll enjoy this anniversary video highlighting the Council’s extraordinary history of working to advance the dignity, independence and empowerment of Wisconsinites living with vision loss.