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On Sight: May 2016

Council Excited to Launch New Website this Summer


Our current website is about to undergo some changes.

Watch for a new website coming this summer.

Get ready for a brand new look to the Council’s website.

For the past few months, Council staff has worked to upgrade The new website is planned to launch in June and will include a modern design with more accessible ways to access information.

Justin Lemke, Administrative Assistant for Education, Marketing and Governance, is excited to offer a more user-friendly website.

“I am always encouraged to see technology bringing accessibility options to blind and visually impaired persons,” Lemke said. “With our new website people who are blind and visually impaired will be able to easily find resources, purchase assistive technology products, and learn about the Council’s great events.”

Information and Referral Specialist Chad Nelson is also looking forward to what the upgraded site will offer.

“I really think it will definitely be a lot easier to use,” Nelson said. “We haven’t upgraded the site in several years and I think people will look forward to the change.”

Six Students to Receive Scholarships at Annual Luncheon


College can get expensive. The Council is proud to be able to support blind and visually impaired students annually through its scholarship program. 

Six hardworking students have earned scholarships to help pursue post-secondary degrees.

Each student will receive one $2,000 scholarship as they work toward achieving their dreams. The scholarships will be presented at the Council’s annual scholarship and awards luncheon on Saturday, May 21 in Madison.

This year’s scholarship winners are: Bailey Hart, UW-Whitewater freshman, education major; Sajid Jaber, UW-Whitewater, senior, computer science major; Ian Kloehn, Marquette University, senior, biomedical sciences major; Alexander Kloety, Moraine Park Technical College, senior, alcohol and substance abuse counseling major; Kaitlyn Siekert, Edgewood College, junior, child life and educational services major and William Zulegar, Ripon College, freshman, music major.

Well-Attended, Informative Sessions Highlight Legislative Day


Council Board Member Dan Sippl (left) and Program Assistant Tim Davis (right) engage in conversation during a short break at Legislative Day on March 30.

Council staff, board members and friends met with state legislators and state agency representatives at the annual Legislative Day on March 30 at the State Capitol in Madison.

Council Program Assistant Tim Davis helped assure the Council’s big day at the capitol went smoothly.

“It went very well and there was a lot of good information passed on,” Davis said. “There were a number of various organizations that were there and we’re looking forward to another wonderful event next year.”

Attendees heard from several speakers, including State Representative John Macco, discussing ABLE accounts, a tax-advantage savings account available for qualifying persons with disabilities.

“We had a few state senators and representatives talk about education, transportation and veteran’s affairs,” Davis said. “The other big topics included the Randolph-Sheppard Act, which focuses on allowing people with visual impairments to operate vending machines in state buildings or on state owned property and progress that’s been made with that. They also talked about a bill being proposed that defines what exactly is considered a service animal.”

Davis said it took the dedicated work of Council staff to help make Legislative Day a success, along with help from members of the Delta Gamma sorority at UW-Madison.

“Overall, it was one of the most well-attended Legislative Days that we’ve had,” Davis said.

Low Vision Forum in Green Bay an Accomplishment


Senator Dave Hansen of District 30 (right) addresses attendees at the Council’s Low Vision Forum on April 19. Representative David Steffen of District 4 (left) joined the program as well to discuss curb cuts on city streets.

The Council’s first Low Vision Forum in Green Bay offered a full day of sharing and learning on April 19.

Disability rights advocate Jessica Nell’s presentation provided the distinction between self-advocacy and self-determination. Council Education and Vision Services Director Jean Kalscheur said Nell was informative and inspirational.

“As a self-advocate, she encouraged us to seek out others and organizations to create a group who will have the power to improve services and make a difference in the lives of all,” Kalscheur said. “Her message about self-determination was one of encouragement to continue moving forward to create change within society so that persons with disabilities become fully accepted members of their communities.”

The forum also provided the chance for attendees to better understand concerns and issues of persons with vision impairment. For example, voting accessibility during the April 5 primary election was an important topic.  

“Polling places had accessible voting machines, but the poll workers may not have known how to assist persons with disabilities to use the machines so they could vote privately,” Kalscheur said.

Kent Walser, from the Wisconsin Business Enterprise Program (BEP), said a great deal has changed in the BEP through the past two years, due to measures focusing on informed change. Walser said the BEP is important because it has the ability to change lives. The BEP is working to create a well-trained workforce through a customized training facility. Walser also said the BEP is a place for people with drive and determination to reach their job goals and to create independence through employment.

“(Walser) said that when organizations help persons with disabilities come together we can build a stronger community,” Kalscheur said.

State legislators David Steffen and Dave Hansen held a roundtable discussion about the location of curb cuts on city streets with roundabouts. Lt. Karl Ackerman from the Green Bay Police Department, Patty Kiewiz from Green Bay Metro, and Sandy Popp from Options for Independent Living, were also available to provide information and spark discussion.

“The importance of having your voice heard and participating in change at the local level was encouraged and echoed by all,” Kalscheur said.

“The Outlook from Here” is Looking for Additional Writers


The Outlook From Here is a blog written by and for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Are you a Wisconsinite who is blind or has a visual impairment? Do you like to write? Would you like to share your stories of living with a visual impairment or a family member's visual impairment?

“The Outlook from Here” writers’ group is looking for new members to help write our blog. To date, our group has written over 50 stories on subjects ranging from dating to self-advocacy to seeking employment and everything in between.

You can review all of our stories at No experience is necessary and we will gladly help you to brainstorm about topics, as well as provide feedback, editing advice and writing tips. There is no pay, but the rewards of helping people understand life with a visual impairment and making new friends who share your passion for writing and for public education are priceless. If interested, 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..

Cataracts Affect Over 22 Million – May is Cataract Awareness Month


There are 2 million cataract surgeries each year and it is projected that 50 million people in the US will have cataracts by 2050.  Graphic provided by the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Vision loss from cataracts continues to be a growing problem, and while there is no cure, there are ways to prevent the onset of this disease. 

During Cataract Awareness Month, it’s important to realize that more than 22 million Americans are affected by cataracts, costing an estimated $6.8 billion in treatment costs. The disease is especially prevalent in people age 40 and older.

A cataract occurs when the lens in the eye becomes cloudy. For a person with a cataract, it may seem as if they are looking through a dirty, foggy windshield. When a cataract affects everyday activities, such as driving, doctors recommend having surgery to remove the cataract, which is the only effective treatment.

Amy Wurf, Low Vision Therapist for the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, said there are several signs a cataract could be forming.

“Everything you look at may seem blurry, hazy or washed out; colors may not be as vibrant as they used to be,” Wurf said. “A cataract may make light from the sun or lamps seem bright and glaring. When driving, car headlights at night may seem to cause more problems with glare.”

According to Wurf, cataracts can also affect depth perception, which increases the risk of losing balance and falling.

“Because there is a general haze and lack of definition to what you see, it can be difficult to judge the depth of a step or curb,” Wurf said. “Take extra time on steps and curbs, keep sunglasses or a visor handy to manage glare outside and consider adding extra lighting in stairways or hallways at home. Keep a small flashlight on your keychain if you need to walk the dog at night to help you see the sidewalk and yard.”

If left untreated, vision can continue to decrease from a cataract. However, vision can be renewed by surgically replacing the lens with an artificial one. Before having surgery to remove cataracts, there are ways to improve vision by using everyday items.

“You might find help from using a magnifier to see print more clearly and trying different colors of sunglasses to reduce glare,” Wurf said. “Consider experimenting with good contrast to help identify objects. For example, avoid using a white dinner plate on a white tablecloth or placemat. Change the placemat to a different color, such as red or navy blue to increase contrast. Consider improving the lighting in your home with more or brighter lamps, but be cautious about creating more glare. Position the lamp away from your face and try to direct the light directly on what you want to read or see.”

Taking preventive steps during your younger years can reduce the likelihood of developing cataracts. Reducing exposure to ultraviolet light, not smoking, and cutting back on drinking alcohol are great ways of protection from developing this disease.

For more information on cataracts, go to the Friends for Sight website at or the Prevent Blindness website at

White Cane Fund Helps Provide Many Services  


Your donation to the White Cane Fund makes a big difference in the lives of those living with vision loss.

The white cane with red tip has long been a recognizable symbol of vision loss or blindness. Each year, the Council puts nearly 500 free white canes into the hands of Wisconsinites living with vision loss. With proper instruction, these individuals use their canes to safely cross the street, walk confidently throughout their neighborhoods, maneuver through airports, and be recognized as someone with low vision.

At this time of year, the Council asks for contributions to fund these white canes and to provide help for other vision services we provide throughout the state. You may have already received, in your mailbox, a request to give to the White Cane Fund. Please consider giving generously!

Besides purchasing white canes, your gift to the White Cane Fund helps to provide:

-      One-to-one home vision rehabilitation visits

-      Low vision evaluations

-      Information and referral resources

-      Community education

-      Legislative advocacy

-      Practical adaptive products

Your monthly gift of $20 would fund low vision evaluations for three people who may not have the resources to pay on their own.

Your monthly gift of $42 would buy white canes for 14 people – and you would qualify as a Council Friend. These special donors are invited to an annual luncheon where you can meet our board members, scholarship winners, and community award recipients.

All gifts to the Council are used to help people with vision impairments live independently and safely. Online giving is available at Your gift can transform a life from isolation to independence.

Be Prepared During Severe Weather Months


ReadyWisconsin is a part of the Wisconsin Emergency Management team. You can find out more about ReadyWisconsin at

With springtime upon us, warmer weather will lend itself to plenty of outdoor activities. The change in temperature can also pose dangerous threats of severe weather.

Council staff member and trained severe weather spotter Chad Nelson said there are a few key tips to remember to stay safe when severe weather strikes.

  1. Make sure to have a good weather alert radio that works.
  2. Have a plan on where to go in case of severe weather. Practice with a dry run-through.
  3. If a person with a visual impairment needs assistance programming a weather alert radio, make sure to get them help before severe weather arrives.

“Preparedness actions will save lives and will also be able to protect those with visual impairments by knowing where to go and how to get to a safe place quickly,” Nelson said.

The National Weather Service also provides valuable information on severe weather and tornadoes with guidelines to follow to stay safe. To keep up to date with severe weather threats in your area, go to

Sharper Vision Store Product Feature: Tactile Chess Set


Challenge your friends and family to a game of chess with this fully tactile board game.

This attractive wooden chess board is completely tactile, including pegs on each plastic playing piece and holes in the wooden chess board which hold each piece in place on each square.

For additional tactile recognition, each plastic piece is shaped differently; white pieces have a bump on top, and the dark squares on the board are raised to help track board colors. Measures 14" x 9.”

ITEM # RT268 $30.00