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On Sight: February 2016

Deadline to Register For Snowshoeing Event Coming Soon  


Registration for the upcoming snowshoeing events will end on Friday, February 12.

The Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired is partnering with two different groups in two different communities for a special afternoon of snowshoeing on Saturday, February 20.

The University of Wisconsin Hoofers Outdoors Club is hosting one event for the Council’s Recreation Committee from 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. starting at Outdoor UW in the Mendota Lodge, located at the UW Madison Memorial Union (800 Langdon St.) on Lake Mendota.

The second event will be hosted by Beaver Creek Reserve in Fall Creek, WI (S1 County Road K) from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Cost is $20 per person, which includes equipment rental and refreshments. Are you interested in attending this event but aren’t sure you can spare the money? Hardship stipends may be available to cover the registration fee upon request. Car pooling may also be available for the Fall Creek event.

And while you’re having fun, so will your guide dogs! Volunteers from the Wisconsin Hoofers Outdoors Club and Beaver Creek Reserve will help watch guide dogs in a specified play area during each event.

This event welcomes all ages and skill levels.

Make your reservation by February 12 for either event by contacting Justin Lemke at 608-237-8119 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. WCBVI reserves the right to cancel either event due to inclement weather.

 Council Annual Scholarships Ceremony and Awards Luncheon to be Held in May


The Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired is continuing its tradition of supporting post-secondary education, as well as recognizing outstanding volunteers and employers for the blind and visually impaired community.

This spring, the Council will hold its annual scholarship luncheon with its annual awards luncheon. Once again, the Council will offer ten scholarships in the amount of $2,000 each to full and part-time students-- whether undergrad, graduate, professional, or doctoral-- who are Wisconsin residents and are blind or visually impaired. 

The awards committee is also seeking nominations for the Louis Seidita Distinguished Service Award, Exceptional Accommodation Award, Legislator of the Year, Community Partnership Award and Public Service Award.

For the scholarship kit and guidelines, please go to: The deadline for applications is March 25.

For details on each award and the nomination process, please go to: deadline for nominations is April 1.

The annual awards and scholarship luncheon will be held on May 21 in Madison.

“The Big Share” is Coming Tuesday, March 1


Mark your calendars for March 1 and The Big Share!

The Big Share is a 24-hour online fundraising event which supports 70 local nonprofit groups, including the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired. Now in its second year, The Big Share is an easy, convenient way to learn about organizations that help our community and to support them with a donation. From a single web page, donors can select from among 70 nonprofits and direct their gifts to the causes they care most about.

“The Council participated in The Big Share last year with great success,” said Lori Werbeckes, Fund Development Director. “New donors learned about the services we provide and made a donation to help us continue our work. Small donations can have a strong collective impact and The Big Share provides the framework for making this online giving day successful.”

Community Shares of Wisconsin, of which the Council is a member, provides the staff and training to prepare local nonprofits for The Big Share.

To make a gift to the Council, click on and follow the online directions. If the Council has the most donors from 8:00 – 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 1, we will receive an extra cash prize! You will receive a receipt, and much gratitude from people in Wisconsin who count on the Council’s vision services, store and educational opportunities. The Council thanks everyone for contributing to a great cause.

Join Us For Our Next Webinar on April 27


Our first webinar of 2016 is entitled “Establishing and Managing a Low Vision Support Group” and will take place on Wednesday, April 27th from 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

How are support groups for persons with vision loss established? What does it take to manage and lead a group? What keeps group members coming back to the next meeting? These questions will be addressed during this presentation.

Watch for more information and for registration dates in the coming months! 

Growing Problem Recognized During “Age Related Macular Degeneration” Month


According to the National Eye Institute, Macular Degeneration affects more than 10 million Americans, more than glaucoma and cataracts combined.

During “Age Related Macular Degeneration Month,” it’s important to understand what Macular Degeneration is and what steps can be taken to prevent the onset of the disease. Unfortunately, Macular Degeneration presently has no cure and the disease continues to grow among seniors.

Macular Degeneration is formed when the central portion of the retina breaks down. This is the inside back portion of the eye that records images and sends them, through the optic nerve, from the eye to the brain. The macula, the central portion of the eye, is tasked with focusing central vision, and it allows us to read, operate a vehicle, distinguish faces or colors, and see objects in detail.

Macular Degeneration can sometimes be difficult to detect because, in the early stages, it does not affect vision. However, if the disease progresses, wavy or blurred vision may occur. If the disease worsens, central vision can be completely lost. Because the retina is still working, however, peripheral vision remains, but it’s not as clear as central vision.

Macular Degeneration comes in two types: dry and wet. However, almost 90 percent of cases are considered dry or atrophic, while about 10 percent are wet or exudative. Age-Related Macular Degeneration comes in three stages: early, intermediate and late. According to the National Eye Institute, most people do not suffer vision loss in the early stages, which makes regular eye exams so vital, especially if risk factors are high. Early AMD is discovered when medium-sized drusen (yellow deposits beneath the retina) is discovered.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of research funding, the factors that cause Macular Degeneration aren’t specifically known. However, researchers do know that both heredity and environment play a role. Researchers are working to find out what causes the cells of the macula to break down and are hoping for a treatment breakthrough soon.

Hopefully a breakthrough comes sooner than later. According to Dr. Carl Kupfer, former Director of the National Eye Institute and National Institutes of Health, Macular Degeneration could become an epidemic as Baby Boomers enter their golden years.

“As the ‘baby boom’ generation ages, and in the absence of further prevention and treatment advances, the prevalence of AMD is estimated to reach epidemic proportions of 6.3 million Americans by the year 2030,” Kupfer said.

The disease is most likely to occur in people age 55 and older. Other risk factors include genetics - those with a family history of AMD are at higher risk. Race is also a factor; Caucasians are at a higher risk to get the disease than Hispanics or African-Americans. Smoking doubles the risk of getting diagnosed.

While there is no cure for AMD, there are solutions to slowing the advancement of the disease after a diagnosis. A healthy diet, exercise, not smoking and protecting eyes from ultraviolet light can help slow the progression of AMD.

Jean Kalscheur, WCBVI Education and Vision Services Director, said there are ways to detect changes in Macular Degeneration.

“People with Macular Degeneration often ask if there’s a way to note changes in their Macular Degeneration. I recommend an Amsler grid to monitor your central vision,” Kalscheur said. “Tape the grid to the refrigerator or the bathroom mirror as a reminder to do this simple procedure each day.  Put it at eye level.  If you wear glasses for reading, put them on.  Stand about 14 inches away from the grid.  Cover one eye at a time with your hand.  Stare at the dot in the center.  Pay attention to what you see and how it appears.  If there are changes from one day to the next, contact your eye doctor.”

A doctor can provide an Amsler grid or to download one for free go to:

The American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF) helps generate vital research for the treatment of the disease. To learn more, go to For more information about Macular Degeneration go to the National Eye Institute’s web site:

The Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired will be hosting the “Saving Sight Symposium” in partnership with the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Heath, UW Health and Unity Health Insurance on Thursday, October 27, 2016 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. The focus of the symposium will be Age-Related Macular Degeneration. To learn more about this event, go to

Wisconsin Resident Reflects on Personal Experience as "National Rare Disease Day" Approaches


Each day, thousands of people struggle with rare diseases across the U.S., and there are several rare diseases related to the eyes. Jennifer Much knows how important rare disease awareness is because she has dealt with Reiger Syndrome Anomaly since childbirth.

Much, a 26-year-old from Appleton, was diagnosed with the rare disease a week after she was born.

“My mom noticed I wouldn’t open my eyes when it was normal light out, like outside, or if it was really bright in the house. I would only open my eyes when it was really dim,” Much said. “She took me to my pediatrician who actually told her she was a ‘paranoid mom.’”

Not settling for her pediatrician’s opinion, Much’s mom took her baby daughter to an ophthalmologist, and was diagnosed with Reiger Syndrome Anomaly, a rare genetic disease that causes eye abnormalities. Much, who is blind in her right eye, had her first surgery at a very young age and has had all procedures performed by Dr. Mark S. Ruttum from the Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee.

“I was able to learn a little more about Reigers through him and he specializes in rare eye diseases,” Much said. “There is really not a ton that I know about it. I have a mild case of it and it primarily affects my right eye. The iris in my right eye has a black slit that goes through it, which is an indicator of Reigers Syndrome. I can basically identify colors, very faint shapes, and if somebody is standing next to me. I can’t identify any specific, clear and concise details.”

While the disease is still largely a mystery, very little was known about it when Much was born in 1989. However, with help through the National Organization for Rare Diseases (NORD), Much found more insight as she transitioned into adulthood.

“In actual medical books, there’s not a lot written about it. The last time I went to get glasses, the ophthalmologist had to look it up because he had never heard of it before. He opened up his medical book and there was literally one sentence about it in that book,” Much said. “There just isn’t a lot of information about it, but NORDS was a very good stepping stone for my parents to learn more about it.”

With her family having no prior relationship with the rare disease, NORD provided a window into the unknown. In fact, the disease is considered an anomaly, it’s so rare. While she has transitioned into normal adulthood smoothly, Much faced some difficult times as a child and was sometimes bullied because of the disease.

“Growing up, knowing that there wasn’t much information on it was a little scary. I had the same doctor from the time I was born until I was 18 who helped answer questions, but NORD has really been the one constant that I’ve turned to for information,” Much said. “For me having a very slight case of it, I’m lucky that way, but I still wish there was more information about it. It’s definitely been a thing to adapt to, and there’s no one else in my family who is visually impaired. Unfortunately, it was a big source of bullying growing up. And, with having so many surgeries on my eye, I really wanted to find out more about it.”

While dealing with the disease has been frustrating at times, it hasn’t stopped Much from fulfilling her goals and dreams.

“It really hasn’t inhibited me from doing anything; I still drive, I still do things like everyone else would, it’s just limited vision in one eye,” Much said. “It is interesting that people want to learn more about it, but it’s also kind of a bummer too that there’s not much information out there.”

Other rare eye diseases include Anophthalmia and Microphthalmia, Bietti’s Crystalline Dystrophy, Behcet’s Disease, Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension, Retinis Pigmentosa, Retinoblastoma, Stargardt Disease, Usher Syndrome and Uveal Coloboma. For more information on rare eye diseases, go to

“It’s great that there are places like NORD and the Council to help people with more information that goes beyond a text book,” Much said.

National Rare Disease Day is celebrated annually on February 26 to bring stories like these to the general public’s attention. For more information about Reigers Syndrome and NORD, go to 

Charitable IRA Offering: A Permanent Giving and Tax Savings Opportunity

In December 2015, new federal legislation extended the charitable IRA rollover and made the tax savings measure permanent. 

For donors aged 70.5 or older, transfers up to a total of $100,000 from traditional and Roth IRAs can be made directly to one or more qualified charities, including the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired. The transfers will be made free from federal income tax, and the gifts count toward the IRA's required minimum distribution (RMD) for the year in which the gift is given.

It is important to remember the gift must be distributed directly from an IRA to the charity of your choice as opposed to withdrawing the funds prior to the gift. These contributions can be made anytime throughout the year.

As you look at your charitable giving plans for 2016, keep this option in mind as a tax-saving method of supporting the Council and helping us sustain the vision services we provide to thousands of people throughout Wisconsin. Your gift can make a substantial impact for someone with vision loss.

If you have any questions or need more information, please contact Council Fund Development Director Lori Werbeckes at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 608-237-8114.

Thrivent Financial Members Can Give Through Choice Dollars Program


Start the year by supporting nonprofit organizations that are near and dear to you.

If you are an eligible member of Thrivent Financial, you can recommend charities to receive funds given by Thrivent Financial through their Thrivent Choice Dollars program. Choice Dollars can be directed to the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired or other 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations nationwide.

Choice Dollars is a charitable grant program from Thrivent Financial. To learn more, visit

Opportunities Available through the Wisconsin Business Enterprise Program


The Wisconsin Business Enterprise Program (BEP) has been providing employment opportunities for Wisconsin’s blind and visually impaired for over fifty years.  We currently have openings for those with the desire to help grow an already successful small business development program.

If you dream of being your own boss with tremendous earning potential, no up-front costs and ongoing business support, then the BEP maybe for you. 

The BEP is designed to help those with drive and determination to start and run their own business.  If you’re ready to work hard then we would like to meet you.  Please call Kent Walser at 608-770-2710 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." style="font-size: 12.16px; line-height: 1.3em;">

More information can be found at

Be Prepared this Election Season

2016 is an important election year. In order to be best prepared make sure to take the following dates and procedures into consideration:

Primary & Election Dates:

-  Tuesday, February 16: Primary (Supreme Court)
-  Tuesday, April 5: Local & State (Supreme Court) Election /Presidential Primary
-  Tuesday, August 9: Primary (US Senate / Congress)  
-  Tuesday, November 8: General Election (US Senate/Congress & President)

How to obtain a Voter ID: If you do not have ID for voting purposes, you can get a free WI ID from the Department of Transportation (DOT).  

If you do not have the required documents to obtain an ID card, you may petition the DMV to verify your identity with a state or federal agency. 

File the petition as soon as possible. The DMV will try to complete verification within seven business days, but the process may take longer.

You will need to check a box on the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) application to indicate that you need the ID for voting purposes.

Documents needed for Voter Photo ID: You need to present the following types of documentation:

-  Proof of name and date of birth, usually a certified birth certificate and certified marriage certificate or judgment of divorce (if name changed)
-  Proof of identity, usually a Social Security card
-  Proof of Wisconsin residency, usually utility bill, lease, or pay stub
-  Proof of U.S. Citizenship
-  Social Security number

UW-Extension Looking for Screen Reader Volunteers

University of Wisconsin-Extension, Continuing Education is looking for feedback from participants age 18 and older with experience using screen reader software such as JAWS or VoiceOver in hopes of improving user capability.

The purpose of the study is to make quality and process improvements to the online learning experience for populations regardless of disability. Participants will be asked to go through educational materials with an online media player. Then, participants will be asked a few questions to learn feedback about using the tool.

The session will be videotaped so participant feedback can be reviewed. The study will take about 60 minutes and compensation will be available. To learn more about being a part of this study, contact Laurie Berry at 608-262-8095 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sharper Vision Store Product Feature:

Mattingly 3X and 5X LED Pocket Slide Magnifiers


This new product from Mattingly is small and compact, making it convenient to fit into your pocket or purse and has bright LED lights for optimal lighting. 

Item # MPF303(3x) & MPF305(5x) $17.50