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Jim Denham Joins Council Staff as Assistive Technology Specialist


Jim Denham smiles for the camera while standing with his white cane.

The Council is pleased to welcome Jim Denham, Assistive Technology Specialist, who joined our staff in mid-October. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Management Information Systems from St. Norbert College, and is JAWS Certified by Freedom Scientific. A Wisconsin native, Jim lived out-of-state for the past two decades. Previously, Jim served as Director of Assistive Technology at the Perkins School for the Blind for ten years.

Jean Kalscheur, Director of Education and Vision Services, says she is looking forward to having Jim on board because it will allow the Council to provide a greater variety of technology services to clients.

“It became obvious to us that, with the growth of options, mainstream equipment, and apps, we needed to hire someone specifically to focus on technology trends and making sure people in the community could more readily learn about their options regarding tech-based products,” says Jean. “Jim will be giving clients the knowledge and training to operate their assistive technology devices. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table, and we’re thrilled to have him on board.”

Jim says he is ready to be working for the Council because it gives him the opportunity to work directly with clients.

“I love helping people use technology,” Jim says. “Training is always something I’ve been passionate about.”

In his free time, Jim enjoys reading, exploring new restaurants with his wife, and watching sports.

“I am a huge Green Bay Packer fan and have remained so during the past twenty years when I was not living in Wisconsin,” Jim says. “I was living in New England when the Packers went to the Super Bowl in 2011. I couldn't celebrate a Packers Super Bowl with a bunch of Patriot fans, so I did a little research and found a Packers bar in Boston. I watched Super Bowl XLV with a lot of other Wisconsinites who had been transplanted to New England. My Wisconsin-based family would often send boxes of Wisconsin cheese to New England as they know my wife and I enjoy and missed it.”

You can read more about Jim in our upcoming edition of “The Courier” newsletter. Not receiving “The Courier?” Click here to be added to our mailing list!


November Webinar Set to Share New Products Available in the Sharper Vision Store – Just in time for the Holidays!

AT Position

Store Manager Brent Perzentka guides guest Todd Barnett of Barnett Architects, LLC on how to use the new OrCam OCR glasses during our July Grand Reopening Event. Todd and his team created the build-out plans for our new reception area.

Our final webinar of 2017 is “Learning Environments and High Tech Readers in the Sharper Vision Store,” and will take place Wednesday, November 15, from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m.

“We’ll be using video clips to demonstrate products,” says Director of Education and Vision Services, Jean Kalscheur. “We want to showcase our new learning environment store layout. Sometimes people see our products and don’t know how they would be used in their homes or office settings, so our new store layout facilitates a more hands-on approach to shopping with us.”

Brent Perzentka, Sharper Vision Store manager, will showcase the new learning environment arrangement of the store. Products are available to try in each of the five learning environments – living room, office, kitchen, sewing, and health care. There will be an overview and demonstration of magnification options highlighting pocket, head-worn, and stand magnifiers.

The OrCam glasses will also be introduced and demonstrated. This new device consists of a camera mounted on eye glasses that reads text aloud, identifies commercial products, and recognizes people’s faces as the user looks at them.

“This webinar will bring awareness of the products we carry, and you won’t have to travel to the store to see them demonstrated,” says Brent. “Professionals who are attending can carry the information back to their clients who are blind or visually impaired, and people who are blind or visually impaired themselves can learn more information about the products and new store setup so they can be familiar with it when they visit.”

To register for the webinar, click here! Everyone who attends receives a coupon for a purchase at The Sharper Vision Store.

The webinar will be recorded, and a link will be provided to all registrants, so don’t worry if you cannot attend. Keep in mind that only attendees will receive the coupon.


 “Vision for Tomorrow” Online Auction Ends this Week!


A screenshot of the “Bidding for Good” website featuring our “Vision for Tomorrow” Online Auction depicts the layout of the auction page. To the left in a teal color rectangle is the list of item categories. The center of the image shows six different auction items, which includes the Wisconsin Union Theater, Dragonfly Hot Yoga, Batch Bakehouse, The Grumpy Troll and Harbor Athletic Club.

Help the Council buy a new braille embosser by purchasing fun items! The Council’s “Vision for Tomorrow Online Auction” is now open for bidding and concludes this Thursday, November 15th at 8 p.m., Central Standard Time.

“Private donations are vitally important to our mission,” says Lori Werbeckes, Fund Development Director. “The auction involves area businesses, and because of their generosity in donating items, we are able to raise funds in a creative and engaging way.”

The proceeds from the auction will go towards helping us purchase a braille embosser. The Council strongly believes in making our written materials available in the preferred format of our readers. An embosser is essential for providing braille to our staff, board, volunteers, and readers of our newsletters. A braille embosser prints braille on both sides of a page from documents created on a computer, and makes it possible to quickly create multiple copies. To make the number of copies needed at the quality expected by our readers, we need a working backup embosser to use when our older one needs repair or cleaning.

“The repair process leaves us without an embosser for six to eight weeks,” says Program Assistant Judith Rasmussen, who does much of the brailling for the Council. “There is only one repair site for the entire country, and it is in Florida.”

Place your bids now by clicking here! Most items make for excellent holiday gifts. Bidding ends this Thursday so don’t delay - Place your bids today!


Why all the Chatter about the Talking Voice Assistants?

Join us for an overview of Echo and Google Home on December 6


The Amazon Echo is a round, cylindrical black voice assistant device. The top round edge glows in shades of blue and features four depressed buttons.

Lately, television is full of ads for Google Home, Amazon Echo and other voice assistants. What are these devices all about and how can a person with little or no vision use them? The truth is, these devices can be used to make phone calls, listen to news and information from around the world, play entertaining games and help you do things around the house, all with just your voice. You can also use these products to help manage your business calendar, control your thermostat and even assist with your holiday shopping - all from the comfort of your home or office.

Want to know more?  Join Jim Denham, Assistive Technology Specialist with the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, as he presents an overview of the Amazon Echo and Google Home.  You will learn what each of these products can do, the models available and the differences between them. Jim will demonstrate products from both companies, so you can learn which device is right for you, a friend or family member.

This presentation is free to attend and will be offered on Wednesday, December 6 from 3:00 to 5:00 pm at the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, 754 Williamson Street in Madison. For more information, or to RSVP, please contact the Council at 608-255-1166 or email Jim at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Meet the Gallery Night Artists:

Ginger Lee-Held, Nikki Wolf and Donnette Schroeder

art night

The image collage includes pieces from all three artists: A crocheted doll by Ginger Lee-Held, a photograph of a pig at the fair by Nikki Wolf, and the copper relief of the Last Supper by Donnette Schroeder.

The image collage includes pieces from all three artists: A crocheted doll by Ginger Lee-Held, a photograph of a pig at the fair by Nikki Wolf, and the copper relief of the Last Supper by Donnette Schroeder.

The Council hosted our annual Gallery Night event on Friday, October 6, with the art installation continuing at our office through November 17. We are excited to finalize our feature story series, highlight the art and lives of the exhibiting artists featuring Ginger Lee-Held, Nikki Wolf and Donnette Schroeder.

Ginger Lee-Held

Middle school teacher Ginger Lee-Held teaches Family and Consumer Sciences in Oshkosh. She has been a teacher for 26 years and loves to share the joy of textiles with her students. She was blinded at the age of five as a result of a hunting accident. She made both the fabric-filled dump truck and the pink and purple quilt currently on display at the Council when she was a child. As a teenager, she made and sold crocheted dolls. The majority of her work is based on patterns she develops herself.

“It is difficult to use premade patterns for my creations due to the fact that I rely on sighted people to cut out my patterns and read me the directions,” Ginger says. “This is why the majority of my creations are my own design. Through the use of different textured fabrics, or by marking the fabrics with scotch tape, making tape, safety pins or sticky labels, I can differentiate between the colors of fabrics or even yarns to create my patterns.”

Nikki Wolf

Photographer Nikki Wolf became visually impaired as a result of Retinopathy of Prematurity. She has loved photography since high school and has recently started getting behind the camera again.

“I’m really excited to get my photos out to the public,” Nikki says. “I want to show the sighted world that visually impaired people can do photography, too. As an artist with a visual impairment, I know that it is important to be open to trying things. You can do whatever you want; you just might do it a little differently or need to look at things more closely.”

Nikki’s other interests include writing poetry, bowling on a blind bowling league, and spending time with family and friends. She lives in Janesville.

Donnette Schroeder

Donnette Schroeder currently lives in Middleton. She lost her vision 11 years ago, and created the exhibited copper relief piece while at Edward Hines VA Hospital in Chicago. She says working on the piece helped her move through the stages of grief after losing her vision.

“I really enjoy artwork because it relaxes me,” says Donnette. “I decided to work on this picture because I thought it was beautiful and I wanted to do something that would make me feel free. This piece is very important to me because it took me through the five stages of grief after I lost my sight. I first faced denial, and then I got angry because I lost my sight and now have low vision. It still bothers me today. Then there is also depression. I feel that everyone must go through depression at some point in their lives and persevere through it. After that came the bargaining; I really like to bargain and ask that things will be ok. The final stage is acceptance. We learn to accept our work and what is wrong with us, but even then, we can always go through the previous stages again. It’s not like you accept it and forget about it; it doesn’t work that way in life. I like to believe that awareness of these five stages will help everybody because it raises your love for other people to think we all go through them at some point in our lives.”

Pieces of art created by Ginger, Nikki and Donnette are on sale and on display at the Council office, 754 Williamson Street, in Madison. The gallery is open from 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday until November 17. Call 608-255-1166 to schedule a free tour.


Featured “Outlook From Here” Blog Post:

Seeing Eye Dog Experience: Part III

By Chad Nelson


A guide dog in their harness stands facing the left as its owner sits surrounded by other people. The owner has her right hand placed on the dog’s back. This particular image is not that of Chad Nelson or his guide dog Laura. It is an example of what a guide dog looks like with their harness on.

After staying at the Seeing Eye for two weeks, getting to know and working with my new guide dog Laura, and having lots of fun and laughs with the instructor and other students, it was time to think about “real world” travel scenarios.

After the first week, when students and new dogs, along with their instructors, traveled a route in Morristown to work with the dog, and become familiar with each other, things changed. Once the “solo” (where the dog and handler work a route without instructor intervention) was complete, it was time to do what is known as “freelance work.”

Freelance was a fun time because if there was something I wanted to do, or a place I wanted to go, we would do it if it was reasonable. I traveled to Wal-Mart to buy a Blue Tooth headset for my phone, and to a drugstore to pick up something for the instructor. We even walked through the Morris County Courthouse. This courthouse is very old and it has a maze-like atmosphere, with lots of twists and turns, stairways, and a lot of people in the halls as they go about their business or attend court hearings.

Laura and I also took the bus from Morristown to Summerset where we took the light rail back into Morristown. The bus was no big thing since I ride one every day when I’m at home. The train, on the other hand, was a really different experience.

Near the end of our training period, I took a trip into Midtown Manhattan with my instructor and a new friend who had just received his next dog. We wanted to walk around and experience New York City. It always sounded like a fun city with lots of quaint shops and people from all walks of life and backgrounds.

We parked at the Port Authority plaza and walked up 8th Avenue. Along the way, we stopped in a small shop that sold t-shirts, and I bought a purple shirt that had the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline on it.

On the way back to the Port Authority, we decided to take the subway instead of walking. I had taken the subway once before when I was in New Jersey 13 years ago when I trained with Pete, my first dog. The subway is a totally unique experience if you haven’t ridden one before. Being underground, the trains are very loud and they move at high speed.

New York was really fun to visit. It’s great to work a dog in the city because he or she will weave around people and things on the sidewalk.

All in all, the experience at the Seeing Eye was very rewarding. This time around, it was a much more pleasant experience than my first time, when I was dealing with some personal issues.

If you have ever thought about getting a dog guide, I think the Seeing Eye is one of the very best places to go. The staff is very helpful and friendly. By the end of the training, it feels like you are leaving behind some wonderful old friends.

If for any reason I wouldn’t get another dog, I will always have very fond memories and a deep respect and love for the Seeing Eye and its entire staff.


Happy Thanksgiving from the Council!


A festive holiday graphic reads “Happy Thanksgiving!” in large orange text. Below, in smaller brown text, states “From your friends at WCBCI!” Above all the text is a pumpkin and surrounding the text is a variety of orange, brown and maroon leaves.

Our office and the Sharper Vision Store will be closed in observance of Thanksgiving on Thursday, November 23 and Friday, November 24. We hope you enjoy your holiday with family and friends!