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Core Values Guide Our Journey

core values

Just as a street sign helps to navigate the road ahead, so too do our core values help in navigating our journey as an organization.

By Denise Jess, CEO/Executive Director

Inclusivity, uncompromising respect and integrity represent the core values of the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired.

Core values are what help guide our actions and support us in achieving our mission and vision.  If we imagine that we’re on board a bus together, the destination for the journey is striving for our mission and achieving our vision.  How we interact with each other, with those getting on and off the bus and those we pass by is reflected in our core values.  By going through a rigorous process in 2016 to identify, agree upon and make these values public, the Council continues to hold ourselves to a high standard for excellence in what we do.

I am so privileged to witness these values in action on an on-going basis. 

Our values live in how our vision services team, reception and store staff listen attentively and compassionately to client concerns and needs, seeking to find solutions that better their quality of life. 

Our values live in our board and staff discussions, as we consider multiple perspectives to make shared decisions that inform the Council’s goals and direction. 

Our values live in our relationships with partnering organizations to find creative ways to utilize our unique talents and assets for the greater good. 

Our values live in how we hold a Culture of Philanthropy with deep gratitude for each person who makes a contribution to the Council. 

Our values live in our publications in striving to share the realities of people living with vision loss in authentic and heart-felt ways. 

As our journey continues to promote the dignity and independence of the people of Wisconsin who are blind or visually impaired, we look forward to many opportunities to practice integrity, inclusivity and uncompromising respect with our fellow passengers for years to come.

To read the full values statement for the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, please visit the “Who We Are” page of our website at

Low Vision Clinic Celebrates Second Anniversary

Low Vision Evaluations

Amy Wurf, Certified Low Vision Therapist, works with a client in the Council’s Low Vision Clinic.

As the Council’s Low Vision Clinic celebrates its second anniversary next month, we reflect fondly on two years of helping clients with their low vision needs.

At the beginning of 2015, Certified Low Vision Therapist Amy Wurf joined us, and the Clinic opened soon after. Amy brings nearly 20 years of experience to the Clinic, having provided low vision care for veterans in Madison and the Chicago suburbs.

In the past two years, Amy has provided more than 150 low vision evaluations. In addition, after initial evaluations, Amy has followed up with clients in their homes to assure the tips and tools given to them for their low vision needs are successful. Follow-up services either at the Clinic or in a client’s home are included in the evaluation’s cost.

When Amy meets with clients, she talks to them about their daily routine to determine techniques and tools they could use to enhance their vision. Through that process, Amy offers suggestions for the use of lighting, contrast, color, and position to enhance the use of the client’s remaining vision.

For Amy, seeing the Clinic expand and grow since February of 2015 has been very gratifying. As she looks to the future, Amy is exploring new ways to help clients with their vision needs. 

Education and Vision Services Director Jean Kalscheur said the Clinic has brought in new technology to assist with low vision evaluations.

“At the end of 2016, a LuxIQ was added to the Clinic’s tools. The LuxIQ simulates a range of task light intensity and temperature,” said Jean. “Working with the LuxIQ leads to recommendations for clients to purchase specific light bulbs and types of lamps to optimize vision performance.”

For more information on the Low Vision Clinic, or to schedule an appointment, please contact Amy at 608-237-8107 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Council Welcomes Blumenfeld and Associates

as Public Affairs Liaison

Bloomenfeld Profile

Michael Blumenfeld of Blumenfeld and Associates.

As the Council begins its work in the New Year, we are excited to announce that Michael Blumenfeld with Blumenfeld and Associates will be our new public affairs liaison for our legislative initiatives.

Michael is a UW Madison graduate that began his work in politics at an early age. “I learned more working as a State Capitol page then I ever could have imagined,” he says.

For the past 30 years, Michael has been running his own firm, Blumenfeld and Associates as a non-partisan government relations and public affairs firm. Their goal is to “successfully bridge the divide between their clients and state government.”

“We are uniquely qualified and adept at a wide range of services. From crafting a specific public affairs plan to representing our clients’ interests in the Wisconsin State legislature, our talented staff works together to achieve our clients’ goals,” states Michael on his website.

Blumenfeld and Associates has worked with dozens of organizations and businesses, primarily in the areas of healthcare, transportation, education, civil rights and discrimination.

“I am very focused on coalition building,” says Michael. “My goal is to work with each client to create a groundswell together with grace, elegance and clarity.”

Michael shared that he is particularly passionate about issues of transportation, which is an important issue that the Council will be focusing very specifically on this year.

“We are so incredibly excited to be working with Michael and his team,” states CEO/Executive Director Denise Jess. “He will be a very important partner to work with in supporting our legislative committee.”

All legislative questions and inquiries can be directed to Denise, who will then work with Michael and his team. Denise can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 608-237-8103.

Chad Nelson’s New Adventure Sends Him to Minnesota


Information & Referral Specialist Chad Nelson will be leaving the Council to pursue new experiences with Blind, Inc.

After eight years of working with the Council, we are pleased to announce that staff member Chad Nelson will take part in an extensive training program with Blind, Inc. in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Chad will begin the six to nine-month program entitled “Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions” at the nationally acclaimed training center for blind individuals in February. Chad will be involved in the Comprehensive Program where students attend classes 40 hours a week to improve a variety of skills.

Chad plans to utilize the program to enhance his career opportunities.

“I’m really looking forward to improving my computer skills,” Chad said. “The career-building classes really focus on resume writing, creating cover letters and improving interview skills. They will also help me advocate for a job when I’m being interviewed for it.”

After completing the program, Chad hopes to pursue a career in adaptive technology or web development.

To meet the program’s graduation requirements, Chad must learn braille, improve his knowledge of how to use public transportation, and prepare two special meals (one for a small group and one a large gathering).

Council CEO/Executive Director Denise Jess is thrilled to see Chad embark on an ambitious new journey.

“I am so pleased for him because there are so many day-to-day tasks and job training skills that people take for granted but are more complex for people who are visually impaired,” Denise said. “His desire to step into a program that is going to focus on those things is really commendable. Blind, Inc. not only focuses on job training, it builds mobility and everyday living skills. I’m really proud of Chad’s decision to go through with this intensive program.”

As our Information and Referral Specialist, Chad has used his impeccable attention to detail to successfully update our searchable database.

Administrative Assistant Justin Lemke said Chad has worked extensively to research, retain and store information on low vision support groups in the state on our website.

“We have an expansive information and referral section thanks to his detailed-oriented mindset,” says Justin.

As he leaves us to follow a new path, Denise says Chad’s contribution to the Council will not be forgotten.

“Since joining the Council staff I have worked closely with Chad to evaluate the current state of the Information and Referral portion of the website. He has been really receptive to rethinking it,” Denise said. “I love that his legacy is that we will have worked together to completely redesign the I & R database in a manner that is very accessible for both people who are sighted and people with a visual impairment.”

Planning Ahead to Support Changing Lives


Naming a charity as a beneficiary in your will is a great way to give back to the organizations you care about most.

Plan ahead. We hear that advice over and over as we grow in age and experience. The lesson is just as valuable after retirement, as you make decisions about how you will manage your insurance and assets.

One of those decisions may be finding a way to benefit a charity that has helped you or a family member over the years. By naming the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired in your will, the services you received will be available for the next generation of people with vision loss. Upon receiving notice of your intention to benefit the Council, you will be welcomed as a member of our growing Legacy Circle.

Two new members of the Legacy Circle recently made the decision to leave a bequest to the Council. Eye diseases are common in their family and the Council has been at their side as those family members adjusted to life with low vision. They chose to leave a legacy gift to the Council because of the assistance that was offered, the knowledge they gained, and to make sure those same services will be available for future generations.

You, too, can make a gift that will change lives for the better. For more information, contact Lori Werbeckes at (608)237-8114 or visit the Council’s website at

Strategies for Fun and Accessible Cooking: A Heavy Kitchen Scissors Goes a Long Way

This Month’s Featured “Outlook From Here” Blog

By Judith Rasmussen

Judith Cooking

Image shows Judith Rasmussen using a pair of heavy-duty scissors to chop a stalk of celery. Judith is steadily holding the celery in her left hand and the scissors in her right hand and focuses on cutting the vegetable. On a countertop, just in front of Judith, lies an apple, potato, carrot and paring knife, resting atop a cutting sheet. Sunshine peers in through a window, illuminating the kitchen as Judith intently chops the celery.

Trying new recipes, either for myself or to serve to family and friends, is something I love to do. Growing tomatoes and herbs in pots on my porch is a relaxing and enjoyable pastime during the summer. Smelling their wonderful scents and enjoying their flavors in my recipes is doubly rewarding.

Losing all my vision has made me think of new ways to do what I want when cooking and baking. One of the most useful kitchen tools I've found is a good, heavy-duty pair of kitchen scissors. I use them to cut up everything from chicken breasts, stringy items like celery and rhubarb, to veggies and herbs. They don't totally replace knives, but do the job for many recipes and come apart for easy washing. A German brand, Wusthof, costing $14.99, is what I have, but I’ve also heard that Oxo Good Grips is another good brand.

Making the recipe below I used my scissors to cut the chicken, bell pepper, green onions, celery, and the basil leaves from their stalks. Flattening the chicken breast by pulling on both sides of it, makes it easier to cut uniformly sized cubes or strips. I use one finger to measure where I want to cut, place the bottom blade next to my finger under what I’m cutting, slide my measuring finger away from the scissors and cut the piece off.

If you want to make this fast, use a little of your favorite bottled salad dressing instead of making it from scratch as listed below. This will serve four people. If you're making it for one, refrigerate the greens separately from the vegetables and assemble as needed.

Chopped Chicken Salad and Optional Homemade Dressing


1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil for sautéing the chicken

1 red or yellow bell pepper, cut into small pieces

2 green onions, cut thinly

12 cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in quarters

2 carrots, thinly sliced, must use a knife

1 stalk celery, thinly cut

4 cups of your favorite salad greens

4 sprigs of basil, stalks removed and discarded


Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Sauté it in 2 tablespoons olive oil until tender.

Toss bottled or homemade dressing with the vegetables.

Divide the salad greens among four plates; top with vegetables and chicken.


Optional Homemade Dressing

2 t mayonnaise

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


Whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Toss with the vegetables.