Main Menu

Making Store Tags More Accessible

Ali places new store tag on a shelf

Volunteer Ali removes an old store tag and replaces it with a large print, brailled tag.

A redesign of the Council’s Sharper Vision Store tags means shoppers can easily find what they are looking for and how much it costs. The tags on each product feature the item number, item name, color of the item, and price. Tags are in large print, braille, and audio.

“We wanted to offer people who are blind or visually impaired the opportunity to come into the store and shop on their own,” says Amy Dean, the Council’s Sharper Vision Store Manager. “Everybody likes to browse the store. We wanted to provide that experience through our new tags.”

Store tag for HM801

A Talking Pill Reminder device shown with its new store tag.

Council Volunteer, Ali Webber, put in the work to help make this project a reality. Ali typed the new tags, printed and laminated them, recorded audio messages for each tag, and applied the braille. (Note, tags may be placed above the products, or below on the shelf in front of the products).

“My grandfather used some of the services at the Council and bought a magnifier when he was losing his vision,” Ali says. “The Council does a lot of interesting things, and is a valuable resource for people and service for the community. I wanted to be involved in work that was meaningful, and had a lot of fun volunteering at the Council.”

Ali’s hometown is Middleton, Wisconsin, and she is currently a senior studying international affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She graduates this December. Ali said her time volunteering at the Council provided a valuable work experience.
“I am thinking about where I want to work when I graduate,” Ali says. “I’m determining what qualities are important for me to find in an employer. I thought everybody at the Council was super friendly and I liked the culture of the office. I definitely enjoyed my time here.”

Visit the Sharper Vision Store and check out the store tags in-person. The Sharper Vision Store is located at 754 Williamson Street, in Madison. Store regular hours are Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The store will be open for extended holiday hours on Thursdays, November 29, December 6 & 20, from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays, November 24, December 8 & 15 from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Contribute to the Council Through Donor-Advised Funds

A donor-advised fund (DAF) is also known as a charitable investment account. The sole purpose of the DAF is to support charitable organizations you care about, while providing you with tax incentives. A donor-advised fund allows you to make a charitable contribution, receive an immediate tax benefit, and recommend distributions from the fund over time. 

Simply put, you can contribute to your donor-advised fund as often as you like. When you would like to make a gift from your DAF, you speak with the fund holder (usually a community foundation), and request donation amounts be made to your favorite charities.

For example: John Smith sets up a DAF with his local community foundation. The foundation invests the money along with their other assets, and it grows faster than if John invested it himself or put it in a savings account. Sometime later, John decides he wants to donate to the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired. He notifies the foundation and a check is sent to WCBVI.

Donor-advised funds are growing in popularity as donors work through changes in federal tax laws. Giving a larger amount to establish a donor-advised fund may be a wise tax decision, simplifies record-keeping, and is flexible to suit your charitable needs.

If you have a donor-advised fund, please consider recommending a gift to the Council. Contact your financial advisor if you would like more information on setting up a DAF.

Save the Date for Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday Stacked with Date

Black Friday. Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday, November 27, 2018.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday focus on buying material goods for those on your holiday gift list. Giving Tuesday, November 27, reminds us to share our blessings with others by making a donation to a nonprofit organization.

Giving Tuesday is a national day of giving – a reminder to look beyond the physical holiday preparations to the causes that are most important to you.

The Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired encourages the philanthropic spirit in all of us. We ask that you consider making a gift to the Council on Giving Tuesday. We will use your gift to empower the lives of residents of Wisconsin who are experiencing changing vision by providing white canes, assistive technology training, legislative advocacy, education to the general public, and much more.

Giving is easy at

Thank you for your generosity and support!

Meet the Gallery Night Artists

Aurora Mendez Speaking at Gallery Night

Artist Aurora Mendez, a high school student, talks to Gallery Night attendees about the creative spark and how she explores art media.

Did you miss Gallery Night? The Council exhibited works from artists who are blind or visually impaired on Friday, October 5, as part of a city-wide event organized by the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA). Artists range in age from early teens to late 70s, but one thing tied them together: a creative spark to do art that started at a young age.


Deb Claire, Madison, Wisconsin (painting, paper)

Debra Claire Painting

“Out of the Gilded Cage” acrylic painting by Debra Claire.

From childhood, I had an urge for ll things creative, whether it be dance, music or other forms of art. I came from a creative household, and that definitely played a role in my love of creating art. My mother was very creative and there were always watercolor paints, oil paints and paint brushes around the house. She encouraged me to do creative projects. I took art classes in high school. When my vision started to change, I had difficulties seeing the chalk board at school and then standard print became difficult to read. After I failed the depth perception test in drivers’ education, I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa when I was 16. It didn’t affect my ability to do art, so I took college classes. I went from artistic mediums like painting and drawing to 3D art like woodcarving, clay and plaster molds and fabric art. After college, my vision was starting to deteriorate even more. I started working at the UW-Madison McBurney Disability Resource Center and stayed there for 22 years. I found that by the end of each day, I did not have the energy or creative juice for art projects. I retired five years ago and realized I still had the burning urge to create art. I took a couple of watercolor classes and got back into the creation process.

When I was younger, my art was inspired by famous people like the Beatles. When I was in high school, Star Trek was coming out, and I would draw sketches of spaceships and insignia and costumes. I relied on my creativity to come up with alternative techniques for doing art, since I could no longer see to render the way I wanted to. I got really nice quality colored paper, because I could cut it into shapes and see the colors, and arrange them on a page and everything would be stable. One of the pieces at Gallery Night, “Into the Fuchsia Void” was one of my experiments with paper art. I also dabbled in finger-painting, since I could no longer render well. The Gallery Night piece, “Pansies from the Ether” is an experiment in finger-painting.

I would tell potential visually impaired artists not to let any limits or differences get in the way of what they want to do. If the expressive urge is there, let the very creativity that wants to come out guide you in how to make it happen. Observe your inner critic, acknowledge it, but do not let it run the show. Give yourself the opportunity to play and have fun with your art.


Joan McAuliffe, Stevens Point, Wisconsin (photography)

Joan Photo of Pink Flower

“Magnolia” photograph by Joan McAuliffe

I did not have a family who did anything vaguely artistic. I didn’t take an art class until late in my college years, but my chemistry teacher in high school started a photography club, so I joined that. I used the last photograph on my first roll of film to take a picture of a weeping willow tree I saw when I got off the bus for school. I still remember what it was like to be in the dark room, watching the image of that tree slowly appear on the blank piece of paper. It was an incredible feeling. At 18, I joined a convent, and I was busy doing chores and I did not have time to create art.

I ended up leaving the convent and married my husband at 36. My husband came from a family where hobbies were important. He encouraged me to buy a good 35mm camera. I took classes at The Folk Art School of Learning in Door County. My husband encouraged me to set up a dark room in our home, and I became a professional portrait photographer and loved it. I photograph my dogs and garden, too; I love doing close-ups.

Art can come to you late, and that is okay. Give yourself the freedom to figure out what you really like, and do it.


Aurora Mendez, Janesville, Wisconsin (drawing and painting)

Aurora Mendez Painting

“Fall Escape” painting by Aurora Mendez.

Creativity is something that has always been in my life. I discovered my artistic ability when I was in elementary school. I always looked up to my art teacher. She was so creative with everything she did. I remember thinking, “I want to be like you; I want to paint like you.” In middle school I dabbled in art, although there were fewer opportunities. I took an introductory art class in high school, which was wonderful because we did everything, from clay to painting to drawing to sculpting. I loved it all!

I’ve found that I like creating more surrealism and abstract things than I do realistic things. I like to take a very realistic idea and turn it into something completely different; my own thing. The Gallery Night piece, “Girl at the Piano” is an example of how I did that.

I would tell potential artists to be creative. There is not one right way to create art. You can take a concept and turn it into your own thing and envision it a different way. When you change it, that turns it more into you. Expressing yourself through your art is a very fun thing to do, because you are able to show what you are feeling in that moment.


Albert Schmiege, Mauston, Wisconsin (oil painting)

Albert Schmiege Painting

“Hillside Sunburst” oil painting by Albert Schmiege.

I have been creating art all my life. I took art classes all the way through elementary, middle, and high school. When I started to lose my eyesight in 1985 to Stargardt disease, I started to look at the creation of my art in a different way. I knew I could not stop creating art. This is mainly because when my wife, who is also visually impaired, tried to take an art class in college, they told my wife they could not teach her because of her visual impairment. When I heard that story, I wanted to show it can be done. Art does not have to be taught; it is something you have inside of you--it is a passion. I find inspiration for my art everywhere. I cannot pinpoint it, but it definitely comes in waves. It might be a dream sequence I have, something people describe to me, or a landscape I picture in my mind. I love to interact with other artists, because I get different ideas and perspectives from them. When I was younger, I loved watching Bob Ross, an artist who had a television show on PBS, “The Joy of Painting.” I liked his style and I liked the way he taught.

As I have lost my vision, I have learned how to create detail through trial and error. For example, when I am painting tree leaves, I cannot see enough detail to paint individual tree leaves. I figured out that if I crunch up a paper towel and dip it in paint, I can make the designs on the leaves. Bold and bright colors are something I gravitate towards.

Do not let anybody tell you that you cannot create. No one has that ability but yourself, if there’s a will there’s a way. If you want to do it, you can. You go by your feeling and internal expression.

Additional Artists:

  • Alison Fortney, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (photography)
  • Rosemarie Fortney, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (painting)
  • Ron Wendt, Madison, Wisconsin (stained glass)
  • Ken Lonnquist, Madison, Wisconsin (musician)

As all of the artists have reiterated, follow your creative spark. You never know where it could lead or what will happen.

Student Spotlight: Kenya Hernandez

Kenya Hernandez

Headshot of Kenya Hernandez

For Council scholarship winner Kenya Hernandez, family has played an important role in how she views her identity, capabilities and visual impairment. She is a senior at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee and will graduate in December with a double major in Biology Health Sciences and Spanish. Her goal is to become a physician’s assistant. She recently sat down for a chat with Katherine Corbett, Council Communications Coordinator.

Katherine Corbett: Why did you attend Mount Mary University?

Kenya Hernandez: I initially went to Carroll College in Waukesha, because they had a physician’s assistant program—Mount Mary did not. While at Carroll, I realized it was not a good fit for me. I like smaller settings, so when I first went to lecture at Carroll, I felt like I was not getting the information I needed and felt lost. My older sister, who also wants to enter the medical field, graduated from Mount Mary, and it is closer to home. I transferred there and I love it. It is a very small setting; classes can range from eight to 20 students in each class, and I feel like my professors really know who I am. I am not just a number. Even though Mount Mary does not have a physician’s assistant program, I know they are preparing me well.

Katherine: What lessons has your visual impairment taught you?

Kenya: My older sister was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa first, so initially I observed life through her and her experiences. I remember one time she had an appointment, and her doctor suggested that maybe she should reconsider entering the medical field, too, because it might be hard to do with a visual impairment. That hurt both of us, and I realized we will need to support each other in our dreams and goals. I have since also been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, and my impairment has taught me to keep following my dreams and be persistent. It should not define who I am, and my sister and I intend to continue pursuing what we want to do.

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

Kenya: I want to be an example for others of the capabilities of people with vision loss. Additionally, I will be able to try to empathize more and connect with patients in a different way. I am very aware of other people and want to take what they might be going through into consideration.

Katherine: Tell me about a person who inspires you.

Kenya: Dr. Tim Cordes, the totally blind psychiatrist. If he entered the medical field, why can’t I?

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

Kenya: The Council is focused on making every individual feel empowered. I am a woman, I am considered a minority, I have a disability. There are a lot of things not in my favor. I have all these aspects that do not make me seem as strong, but I know I am a strong, independent woman. I will not let these things become an obstacle in life. I want to embrace life in a different way. I want to prove to myself that I am capable, and can do anything I set my mind to.

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

Kenya: I enjoy watching movies; I have always been a huge movie fan. Growing up, I had an uncle who was really big into movies, and I would watch movies with him. My brother, sister and I go to movies together a lot. I’m a really big family person, so in addition to watching movies, I love to go sight-seeing and take family trips. So far, we have been to Mexico, Indiana, Michigan, and Florida. I love to make memories with my family.

Connect with Resources from the 2018 Saving Sight Symposium

Brent Sharing Info with Symposium Attendees

Council Vision Rehabilitation Intern Brent Perzentka demonstrates store products for symposium attendees.

Want to keep track of all of the resources featured at the Macular Degeneration Symposium? Enhance your life with the following resources:


The Council’s Sharper Vision Store

Provides: Adaptive Products and Vision Services

754 Williamson St.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 608-255-1166

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.


Vision Forward Association

Provides: Adaptive Products and Vision Services

912 Hawley Road

Milwaukee, WI 53213

Phone: 414-615-0100

Fax: 414-256-8744

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library

Provides: Free braille and talking books to people in Wisconsin who are blind or visually impaired

813 West Wells Street

Milwaukee, WI 53233

Phone: 414-286-3045

Toll-free within Wisconsin: 800-242-8822

Fax: 414-286-3102

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Office for the Blind and Visually Impaired (OBVI)

Provides: Vision rehabilitation services and resources

1 W. Wilson Street

PO Box 2659

Madison, WI 53701

Phone: 888-879-0017

Fax: 608-266-3256

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Watch the full 2018 Macular Degeneration Symposium on YouTube.

Thank you for a Successful Online Auction

Basketball signed by Greg Guard

A basketball signed by Wisconsin coach Greg Gard, which was part of the Council’s online auction.

The Council’s Vision for Tomorrow online auction raised $4,533! The auction took place from Tuesday, November 8 through Wednesday, November 14. The Council extends heartfelt thanks to the businesses and individuals who donated nearly 150 items and the supporters who generously bid on those items. Friendly competition among bidders helped us exceed our goal by more than $500. Nearly 500 bids were placed from 15 states, averaging five bids per item. Twenty-five items sold at or above their value.

We will use the proceeds to buy a DSLR camera, accessories and professional services which will result in high quality, high definition photos for Council publications, promotions and a new store catalog.

Thank you for donating, bidding, and spreading the word about the auction.

Join the Council!

The Council is hiring a Planning Coordinator, a position responsible for managing project assistants, website updates, event assistance and technical support. Applications are due Sunday, December 9 at midnight. Position description and application information is available at The Council is an Equal Opportunity Employer.