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On Sight: December 2015

December is “Safe Toys and Celebrations Month”

Each year, more than 250,000 children are sent to the hospital for toy-related injuries.

The holidays are a great time to spend with friends and family, but it’s also important to stay safe while celebrating.

Each year, toys that can often seem safe are responsible for causing thousands of eye injuries to kids. Studies show that toy guns often contribute to the most prevalent injuries, followed by playground equipment, bicycles and balloons.

According to Friends For Sight, each year, an average of 250,000 children are sent to hospitals for toy-related injuries. Most of these injuries are to children 15 and under and more than half are facial injuries. The American Academy of Ophthalmology warns that most toys have the potential to cause harm and parents should take careful consideration when purchasing gifts for the holidays. Toys that are age appropriate should be chosen and parents should be aware of their child’s abilities.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology and Prevent Blindness America outlined the following helpful tips when purchasing safe toys:


- Read all labels and warnings on toy box
- Avoid purchasing toys with rigid or sharp points, rods, spikes or dangerous edges
- Purchase toys that meet the safety requirements of the American Society for Testing and Materials. Look for the letters ASTM when buying toys.
- Only buy toys that are meant for the child’s age or maturity, and ability
- Inspect toys given to children
- Show children how to use the toy safely
- Supervise children while playing
- Fix or throw away broken toys
- Have children wear the right protective gear for sports 


Eagle Eyes Advanced Optic Technology provides additional tips:

- Avoid buying flying toys, such as bows, arrows, slingshots and darts, which can be very dangerous. Toys like these often invite kids to target other kids.
- BB guns are not considered toys and should not be purchased for children too young to handle them safely
- Avoid buying toys with smaller parts for young children, which may cause choking and eye hazards.

When searching for that popular holiday gift, it’s very easy to get caught up in buying the “cool” new toy and disregarding safety concerns. However, small toys with many pieces could be poorly constructed, having the potential for eye injuries.

Christmas trees can also pose potential eye threats for both children and adults. Follow these guidelines when putting up the tree.

- Branches and needles can be hazardous to eyes. When untying your tree, be very careful. Branches can quickly lurch forward, hitting and injuring eyes.
- Glass ornaments should be hung out of a child’s reach. If broken, shattered fragments can greatly damage the eye.

If you or your child does sustain an eye injury, do not rub or touch the eye, do not apply medication to the eye, and do not attempt to remove any debris from the eye. If the eye injury is caused by a chemical in the eye, flush the eye with water. For all eye injuries, seek medical attention immediately.

For more information on Safe Toy and Celebration Month, visit Friends for Sight at or Eagle Eyes at


Council Honors Ford and Evers at Annual Luncheon


Pictured: (back row - left to right) Council Executive Director Loretta Himmelsbach and Council Board Members Rhonda Staats and Nona Graves; (front row - left to right) Outstanding Public Service Award winner Tony Evers and Louis Seidita Distinguished Service Award winner Neil Ford.

The Council honored two long-time educators for their contributions to the blind and visually impaired community during the Annual Awards Luncheon on Saturday, November 14 in Madison.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction State Superintendent Tony Evers was presented the Outstanding Public Service Award, while UW-Madison Professor Emeritus from the School of Business and former Marketing Department Chair Neil Ford received the Louis Seidita Distinguished Service Award.

Evers and Ford were selected as this year’s honorees by the Council Board of Directors’ Awards Committee. Board Treasurer and Awards Committee member Kathy Brockman said the annual awards recognize those who have advocated for the blind and visually impaired through community outreach and legislative efforts.

As state superintendent, Evers has emphasized the importance of providing accessibility to students with disabilities throughout Wisconsin. Evers’ commitment to both national and state-wide disability services made him an ideal choice for the Outstanding Public Service Award.

“He understands special education and the needs of students who have disabilities and has worked to provide additional services around the state,” Brockman said.

“It means a great deal to me to receive this award,” said Evers. “Helping all students to succeed in Wisconsin, regardless of their needs and challenges, is the continued focus of my work as state superintendent.”

Ford, an active member in the blind and visually impaired community for several years, was excited to receive the Louis Seidita Distinguished Service Award. This award was named after the late Seidita, a blind businessman that advocated for social service organizations that served the blind and visually impaired.

According to Brockman, Ford has done many presentations for low vision groups throughout Wisconsin. In Columbia County, Ford developed a support group that has helped people cope with vision loss. He has represented the Council on several government task forces and committees. Ford also spent seven years on the Council’s board of directors, legislative committee, awards committee and products committee.

“I am incredibly pleased to receive this award,” Ford said. “Having been on the awards committee off and on for a number of years, I am familiar with the type of people that are nominated and it’s a great honor to now be a part of that group.”

Council Executive Director Loretta Himmelsbach said it was an honor to present two educators with this year’s awards.

“Both of them have inspired many people,” Himmelsbach said. “Their leadership and influence have touched so many lives through education and community. We are fortunate to call them friends of the Council.”


Sun Prairie resident publishes first novel, The Sapphire Scarf  


Despite vision loss from a brain tumor and related complications, Peterson published her first novel,

The Sapphire Scarf, on Oct. 1.

Allison Peterson has dealt with her share of obstacles in recent years, but it didn’t prevent her from achieving a lifelong dream.

Peterson, who lives in Sun Prairie, recently published The Sapphire Scarf, a 322-page romantic novel. Peterson enjoyed writing short stories and romantic poetry for years, but The Sapphire Scarf is her first full-length project and the first in a four-part series. She goes by the pen name Ali Mar Peterbakk.

Peterson began the project while going through a painful divorce, ending a marriage of 25 years.

“I needed to be strong for my kids through the divorce and it wasn’t a simple thing and it wasn’t easy, so part of finding myself through the divorce and being strong for my kids was writing,” Peterson said. “I started writing what I knew, but I turned everything negative into a positive, for my benefit and everybody else.”

With the divorce being settled and Peterson focusing on the book and her family, another obstacle came about. Peterson found out she had a brain tumor in 2013.

“That took some of my sight. At the same time, I had to go through radiation. I had to go through the whole process. It wasn’t cancer, which I was very thankful for, but that was another setback. I found myself, I was happy with my life and now this other setback comes along with the brain tumor and the possibility of having permanent damage,” Peterson said.

Despite losing some of her sight, Peterson knew she could still use the remaining sight she had to continue writing, which provided a sense of therapy during a dark period. Due to the location of the tumor, radiation and her blood pressure, Peterson lost more vision. After a year, Peterson’s blood pressure was stabilized and she recently noticed that her vision is coming back and her sight continues to improve.

“There was a time in there when everything was dark,” Peterson said. “I was just seeing black.”

While doctors told Peterson it was unlikely her sight would return, she leaned on her faith and the prayers of family and friends to pull through.

“I know all my prayers were answered,” Peterson said. “I went back to writing and I got the book finished before I had complete darkness.”

Through help from her mom, Peterson sent the manuscript to Page Publishing in New York City. The publishers sent back pages of edits, but without her sight Peterson knew editing would be a struggle. Through help from Council Education and Vision Services Director and Vision Rehabilitation Teacher Jean Kalscheur, Peterson received assistance during the long, arduous editing process.

At Peterson’s home, Kalscheur setup Window Eyes, a computer program that read Word documents back to Peterson. Former Council staff member Patrick Sweeney also helped Peterson learn the program, teaching her tips about three times a week.

 “I was overwhelmed because I’ve worked as an administrative assistant and a switchboard operator, so I’ve always depended on my eyes while using computers. Learning where the keys were was so hard to do, but Patrick said ‘You’ll get it, you’ll be fine’ and I did and I knew I could do this,” Peterson said.

“Karen Lee Whiting would (also) come over and read to me and tell me where a change needed to be made. It was a long process, but she was so dedicated, and she would read it how I would write it,” Peterson said.

After completing the manuscript in August of 2014, Peterson finally realized her dream when The Sapphire Scarf was published and released on October 1. With help from the Council, Peterson began her second book and plans to publish two more to complete the “Sapphire Series.”

“I kept writing and Karen Lee still comes to help with punctuations and editing. I’m so glad I got all that down. I couldn’t have done it without the Council’s help, it’s just been wonderful.”

The Sapphire Scarf is available through and For more information, email Peterson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Winter Tactile Art Exhibit Coming to Woodson Art Museum


Tactile artist Ann Cunningham will present “Forest Folklore: A Multisensory Experience” this winter at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau.  

From December 5 – February 21, the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau will present “Forest Folklore: A Multisensory Experience,” presented by tactile artist Ann Cunningham. The exhibit is an entirely tactile fairy tale forest and the specific creation of Cunningham, a Colorado-based artist.

On December 12, from 10:30 a.m. to noon, Cunningham will present “Art Beyond Sight,” a presentation that allows museum educators to rely on hands-on art making.

On December 13, from 1 – 2 p.m., Cunningham will share her methods and motivations for creating tactile artwork for museums, universities, and classrooms across the country. Cunningham will also present a gallery walk where she will share her low-relief Forest Folklore sculptures in slate, stone and bronze, designed and installed with a mission of inclusion and inspiration.

For registration information, visit or call 715-845-7010. To learn more about Cunningham, visit her website at


Sharper Vision Store Product Feature:

Large Print Sudoku


This spiral bound book features 220 puzzles, with one puzzle per 8 x 10 page, giving you large fonts and lots of space. The book has been approved by the National Association for the Visually Handicapped. 

Item # BL450 $15.50

To learn more about this and other related products, call the Sharper Vision Store at 608-237-8100 or visit


Sharper Vision Store has Many Great Gift Ideas

With the holidays and 2016 quickly approaching, shop for your 2016 calendars at the Sharper Vision Store. We have three varieties of large print calendars to choose from, along with many new products for your holiday shopping.

For more information, contact Sharper Vision Store Manager Brent Perzentka at 608-237-8100 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can also shop online at


Help the Council through the Amazon Smile Program

Did you know that your online purchases can help the Council?

If you shop on, you can designate .5 percent of your purchases to go toward the Council and it costs nothing! It’s part of the AmazonSmile program and millions of products are eligible for donations. Go to to learn more.


Happy Holidays and Thank You from the Council

"Thank you consists of just eight letters that form two of the most meaningful words in the English vocabulary." - Deborah Norville

I like this quote because it expresses how meaningful gratitude is.  I want you to know of our deep appreciation to our donors, our volunteers, our board of directors, our clients, and our staff.  At this time of year, I am indeed grateful for the successes we’ve had in 2015, which could not have been accomplished without you.

A few of these achievements include:

- Our work to inform legislators of the challenges of those who are blind or visually impaired including accommodations for service animals, transportation and the Business Enterprise program.
- Our presence in many communities around the state through client services such as vision rehabilitation and low vision evaluations, presentations at various health or senior fairs and speeches at service clubs or retirement communities.
- Our public education has been a major focus in 2015.
- Our scholarships to 10 post secondary students who are blind or visually impaired.
- Our four webinars with topics such as gardening, phones, veterans programs for blind vets and adaptive products.
- Our social media engagement on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and our blog, Outlook From Here.
- Our donations including the White Cane Appeal, the BIG Share, Dining in the Dark, online auction, and generous bequests.
- Our strong governance and management infrastructure.

Because of you, we have impacted many people in Wisconsin.  As we approach our holidays at this time of year, I give thanks and wish you peace and happiness in the spirit of the season.

 - Executive Director Loretta Himmelsbach


Council offices closed for the Holidays


The Council office and the Sharper Vision Store will be closed Thursday, December 24 – Friday, December 25 and Thursday, December 31-Friday, January 1.