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Join Us June 28 to “Explore Sharper Vision”

ExploreSharperVision Glaucoma

Some adults experience low vision as a result of macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy or other eye diseases.  “Low vision” means that vision cannot be corrected with eye glasses, medication, or surgery.  Every day, valued activities can still be done, but first new ways of doing have to be discovered through the use of different techniques, adaptive devices or by making changes at home. 

Vision rehabilitation services can guide you in that discovery and learning process.  If you or someone you know has vision loss due to macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, or another eye disease and would like to learn about living well with changing vision, come and "Explore Sharper Vision" on Tuesday, June 28, 2016 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.  The seminar will be held at Northwest Dane Senior Services at 1837 Bourbon Road in Cross Plains. 

During this seminar you will find out more about low vision and strategies to adapt to it.  You will also have the opportunity to schedule a FREE low vision evaluation and/or in-home vision rehabilitation services.  Low vision evaluations will be scheduled for July 12 in Cross Plains or on other days in July in Madison. 

To reserve a seat, call Education and Vision Services Director Jean Kalscheur or Low Vision Therapist Amy Wurf at 608-255-1166.  Family members and friends are welcome to come.  If you are not able to attend the seminar and are interested in receiving services, contact Jean or Amy to discuss your options.  This program offered in collaboration by the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired and Northwest Dane Senior Services, Inc.

Council Connects with Children Through Elementary School Presentations

School presentations 

Having spent years learning and teaching, Judith Rasmussen knows it takes a special connection to engage a student, especially elementary-aged children.

Rasmussen, a Program Assistant with the Council, has helped lead two elementary school presentations this year and hopes to do more when school resumes this fall. The first presentation, at Lodi in February, drew 150 second graders, while the second at Oregon in March had about 40 students. Rasmussen, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, said the Council would like to do about six per school year.

“At that age I know there has to be a lot of variety in the presentation and you have to ask questions. Kids have to be engaged and feel like they’re involved,” Rasmussen said.

In the presentations, Rasmussen, who shares her personal experience as a blind person, gives examples of how Louis Braille and Helen Keller helped people with disabilities through their own experiences. Rasmussen also captivates the students by showing some of the products she uses on a daily basis, like talking clocks, calculators and calendars.

The presentations can be developed to reflect teachers’ lesson plans and goals. Before ending each presentation, Rasmussen always opens it up to questions from an inquisitive group of young students.

“Going forward, I would like to do more cooking and baking presentations. I like to ask, ‘How would you tell which one is flour and which is sugar?’ It shows the kids that you can use other senses. We’re not just visual beings,” Rasmussen said. “Through the Council, one of our goals is educating the public and these presentations make an impression to kids that blind people can get out and do things and be independent.”

For more information or to book a school presentation, contact Gale Hellpap, Director of Community Relations and Marketing, at 608-237-8113 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Consider a Gift to the Council during our 2016 White Cane Appeal

white cane 

 “I navigate with the use of a white cane so thank you for mine. I’m glad to help someone else with this gift.”

 “The Council did so much for my dad. This gift is a thank you for helping him adjust to losing his vision.”

“I receive 90 letters a month all asking for money, but you are my chosen one.”

These heartfelt quotes are a sampling of the notes we receive with donations to the White Cane Fund. We appreciate the sincerity and are grateful for these generous gifts that allow us to continue our work. Please consider giving online at

Your gift makes a positive difference for people who are blind or visually impaired. Each person receives individual attention as we help them adapt their home environment and find the right products to keep them safe and connected.

Thank you for transforming lives from “I can’t” to “I’m confident!”

State Legislator Shares Experience at 4th Annual Dining in the Dark

Dining in the Dark Struck 

The fourth annual Dining in the Dark, held on May 3 at GingeRootz Asian Grille, was an opportunity for many guests to experience dining in a way they probably never had before – blindfolded.

Among the guests was State Representative Amanda Stuck from Appleton. Stuck, a freshman in the Wisconsin Assembly, represents the 57th District, which includes Appleton and Menasha. The event was well attended and many dined on several courses without the use of their sight.

“I came by myself so, for me, trying to talk to people and make that connection when you can’t see the person you’re talking to was a new experience for me,” Stuck said.

The event allowed Stuck an opportunity to realize what a person who is blind or visually impaired goes through while dining.

“When I’m interacting with somebody who is blind or visually impaired, it helps me to remember some of the tips they had on the table, like you don’t have to yell louder just because you can’t see. It’s those types of things we do without thinking,” Stuck said. “It also helps talking through things and not assuming somebody who can’t see knows where an item is on the table. It’s good to remember that talking, giving direction and explaining things is helpful.”

Stuck said Dining in the Dark was an enlightening experience and she believes it will help guide her in making important legislative decisions in Madison.

“It helps you better understand the impact of legislation when you can attend events like this by giving you a chance to see something from a different perspective,” Stuck said. “By attending events like this, I can learn about organizations like the Council and I can refer my constituents to make them aware of what type of resources are out there.”

Stuck is already interested in next year’s Dining in the Dark and plans to attend additional Council events in the 57th District.

“I would definitely go back,” she said. “Events like this are a great learning experience.”

BrailleNote Touch Presentation at the Council Office on June 23

BrailleNote Touch 

Roger Behm of Adaptive Information Systems (AIS) will be at the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired on Thursday, June 23, from 1 PM to 6 PM.  He will be demonstrating the new, HumanWare BrailleNote Touch Android Braille Tablet.  You, too, will be able to get your hands on the BrailleNote Touch.  If you’d like to preview the BrailleNote Touch, go to  He also hopes to show the new Juliet 120 wireless/Bluetooth Braille interpoint embosser and other HumanWare products.

Roger will be in the upstairs conference room.  Stop in any time between 1 and 6 PM.  The Sharper Vision Store will also be open that evening until 6 PM.  There is off-street parking at the Williamson Street entrance to the Council building.  If coming by bus, check the route as the Jenifer Street bus, due to road work, is running on Williamson Street.  If you have questions for Roger and what he’s bringing, contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  If you have questions about our location, contact the Council at 608-255-1166 or 800-783-5213.

Artists’ Work Needed for Annual Gallery Night

 Gallery Night

The Council is looking for talented artists who are blind or visually impaired to display their work during Gallery Night on Friday, October 7.

In collaboration with the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA), the Council will join several businesses in downtown Madison, showcasing the artwork of local artists.

Last year, several artists displayed their work at the Council office and talked about their pieces with visitors. A variety of work was featured, including pottery, watercolor, pen and ink, textiles and photography.

If you’re interested in displaying your artwork at this year’s Gallery Night, contact Administrative Assistant Justin Lemke at 608-237-8119 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Getting an Earful - By Dan Sullivan

A blog post currently featured with “The Outlook from Here”

OLFH   Dan Sullivan 

Just the other morning, I got lectured.  This was a classic case of getting an earful.  Spring had sprung and I was in the midst of experiencing this season for the first time in my Northwoods home.  I began my day with the awakening call of a loon.  It’s an earthy rendition that cannot be mistaken.   Before even sliding out of bed, another primal echo reached my ears as flocks of migrating geese honked overhead.  And as if this were not enough, the squawking of nearby merganser ducks started competing with the bantering geese.  The world was coming to life all around me. 

While preparing breakfast, the obnoxious hammering of a woodpecker reverberated from the next door neighbor’s hollow tree.   Repeatedly pounding his head against this hard object reminded me of my days working for the federal government. Just outside the living room window and perched high in an oak tree, a mourning dove cooed its own wakeup call.   

Stepping out onto my deck, the freakish sound of a distant raven drifted across the lake. After enduring a long winter with commotion-causing crows, my changed fortunes now found me being entertained by the varying melodies of returning songbirds.  Although it was robins which dominated this a.m. scene, I suddenly caught wind of a triggered memory. There was this chirping song I had not heard for years, I distinctly remember where and when I used to hear this tune.  It was that same bird which greeted me along the trout streams of southern Wisconsin, where so much of my youth was spent fishing with my old mentor, Reuben.  I froze momentarily while daydreaming about threading a hook through a big fat night crawler and tossing it into the current. 

Even though I had yet to venture beyond my home on this burgeoning April morning, I now found myself being summoned by a call of the wild.  There once had been a time when I could focus on all these feathered friends with greater clarity and acuity.  Those days were now long past and so on this particular day, I had to settle for sounds that let me see what I could no longer see.   This continues to be a difficult journey for me.  These faded eyes still miss what used to be.  Nonetheless, by way of this enlightening and nurturing spring morning, life sounded oh so good to me. 

* If you are interested in writing for The Outlook from Here, contact UW-Madison writing instructor and WCBVI board member Annika Konrad at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Summer Eye Safety Tips for National Safety Month

National Safety Month 

As the calendar flips to June, summertime pastimes such as grilling on the patio and outdoor chores will keep people busy in the sunshine. 

In honor of National Safety Month, Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired Education and Vision Services Director Jean Kalscheur and Low Vision Therapist Amy Wurf provide some key tips to stay safe outside.

“With porches and patios, be sure that the steps onto and off the staircase are even and marked to give either a visual or touch cue. If you use visual cues, consider using bright-colored duct tape along the edge of the step to better indicate the stair width and height,” Kalscheur says. “If you prefer touch cues, look for stick-on strips that feel like sandpaper or ridged plastic at your local hardware store. These strips can be placed on the edge of a step. When your toe or shoe feels that cue, you will know when it’s time to step down.”

Kalscheur notes it’s important to check the sturdiness of handrails leading to a porch or patio and make sure they are strong from the top to bottom step.

“Several people I’ve met have attached outdoor LED rope lighting just under the handrail,” Kalscheur says. “This provides good visual cues for dawn, dusk, or evening use of your outdoor area.”

For outdoor grilling, there are a few vital steps to keep in mind. Kalscheur shares some ideas for protecting your hands and face.

“Find a fireproof oven mitt that covers your hand and forearm. They are especially important when working with the charcoal or grill grate,” states Kalscheur. “Long-handled tongs or forks make it easier to get to the items being grilled. You really need to use both the oven mitt and long-handled utensils for proper safety.”

While some cooks can determine if grilled meat is done properly by touching it, the safest way to make sure meat is cooked thoroughly is to use a talking meat thermometer.

“Cook the meat about 10 degrees less than the desired final temperature; remove the meat from the grill, cover it, and let it ‘rest.’ The meat will continue to cook and the internal temperature will rise,” Kalscheur says. “Many grills have lids. Open the lid away from you to prevent all the heat, smoke, and possible steam from rushing toward your face.”

Amy Wurf says there are a few key things to consider when working outside, especially when using power tools.

“We always recommend safety goggles over glasses when using power tools, lawn mowers or weed-whackers,” Wurf says. “Glasses may not provide enough protection and could shatter.”

Wurf also says wearing a brimmed hat and sunglasses can help to keep items such as swinging branches away from your face and eyes.

Intense sunlight exposure in the summer can affect your eyes. When purchasing sunglasses, it’s best to look for brands that provide adequate protection from ultraviolet rays.

“Always look at the tag on the sunglasses, or have someone else look, to be sure you are protected from UVA and UVB rays from the sun,” Wurf said.

Does Medicare Cover Cataract Surgery?


Medicare generally does not pay for vision care, but it will cover certain medically necessary services, such as cataract surgery. If you have Original Medicare, these services are covered under Part B, which covers outpatient services. Medicare Advantage Plans cover the same services as Original Medicare, but may have different costs and conditions. If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, contact a plan representative to learn about how the plan covers cataract surgery.

Specifically, Medicare covers:

  • The removal of the cataract
  • Basic lens implants
  • One set of prescription eyeglasses or one set of contact lenses after the surgery

Medicare covers cataract surgery that involves intraocular lens implants, which are small clear disks that help your eyes focus. Although Medicare covers basic lens implants, it does not cover more advanced implants. If your provider recommends more advanced lens implants, you may have to pay some or all of the cost. It is important to talk with your health care provider before the surgery to understand which costs you will be responsible for, and which costs will be paid by Original Medicare or your Medicare Advantage Plan.

After the surgery, Medicare will also cover one pair of glasses or contact lenses. This is an exception to Medicare coverage rules, which normally exclude eyeglasses from coverage. If you have Original Medicarem, you should get your glasses or contact lenses from a supplier that accepts assignment in order to pay the least for your item. You will pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for the glasses or contact lenses. If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, contact a plan representative to learn where you should get your glasses or contact lenses.

Some beneficiaries may have trouble getting Original Medicare or their Medicare Advantage Plan to cover their glasses or contact lenses following cataract surgery. If your glasses or contact lenses are denied coverage, you can appeal the decision. You can request that the glasses or contact lenses be covered, or request reimbursement if you already paid out of pocket for your prescription. You and your health care provider can both write appeal letters to the plan. Be sure to state that because you met the Medicare requirements for cataract surgery, your prescription glasses or contact lenses must be covered.

Article provided by the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources, Inc. 

DNR Update: Eligibility of Trolling Permits for Fisherman


A new law, 2015 Wisconsin Act 363, expands the eligibility for a trolling permit.  Effective April 17, 2016, the department shall issue a trolling permit to individuals who produce a certificate from a licensed physician or optometrist stating that his or her sight is impaired to the degree that he or she cannot read ordinary newspaper print with or without corrective glasses.

Previously, state law required the department to issue a trolling permit to any person who meets any of the following requirements:

  1. Has an amputation or other loss of one or more arms above the wrist.
  2. Has a permanent substantial loss of function in one or both arms or one or both hands and fails to meet the minimum standards of any one of the following standard tests, administered under the direction of a licensed physician or a licensed chiropractor:
  1. Upper extremity pinch.
  2. Grip.
  3. Nine-hole peg.

We are in the process of updating the Hunting or Trolling Disability Permit Authorizations Application form 9400-604 [PDF] on the “Permits for People with Disabilities” web page to include the additional manner in which a person may qualify for a trolling permit.

But I thought everyone could troll now. Why is this necessary?

Current administrative code, in effect until May 4, 2018, allows all individuals to troll on all inland waters with 1 hook, bait or lure per angler (and 2 hooks, baits or lures maximum per boat).  In addition, trolling is allowed with up to 3 hooks, baits, or lures per angler in many counties and waters. Despite the expanded trolling opportunity available to all individuals, trolling permits provide opportunities not afforded anglers under current administrative code.

Under current law, a person who holds a trolling permit and who holds a current fishing license or who is exempt from holding a fishing license may fish or troll in the waters of this state using an electric motor. Further, a person who assists the disabled person in the same boat may also fish or troll if he or she also holds a current fishing license or is exempt from holding a license. Statute specifies a person with a trolling permit may use an electric motor notwithstanding any ordinances that prohibit the use of motor boats on navigable waters. Note an individual holding a valid trolling permit and any assistant accompanying them in the same boat is not subject to the line restriction specified in Administrative Code NR 20.06 and so they may troll in any manner that does not exceed 3 hooks, baits or lures.

Article provided by Linda Oliver of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Sharper Vision Store Product Feature: LED Slide Pocket Magnifier

On Sight June product 

The LED lighting provides a quality of light nearest to daylight at noon, and it turns on by simply sliding open the magnifier which eliminates the frustration of dealing with tricky on/off switches. The sliding mechanism also covers and protects the lens when not in use. The dimensions are 3.75 inches closed; 5.75 inches when open, and it comes in either 3x or 5x magnification. 

Item #MPF303 for the 3x and #MPF305 for the 5x; $17.50