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On Sight: October 2015

Honor World Sight Day on October 8


Today is World Sight Day and it serves as an important communications and advocacy opportunity for the eye health community. It is an ideal chance to connect with a larger audience to showcase why eye health is important for everybody internationally.  

This year’s call to action is, “Eye Care for All.” The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) advocates for the importance of eye care services. For groups that are most vulnerable and need eye care the most, what can be done to bring eye care to them? Can access to eye care be affected based on gender or where someone lives, or their financial status?

World Sight Day also advocates eye health for individuals with irreversible vision loss, including rehabilitation and assistive services. This World Sight Day, let’s reach out to those who need eye health services the most.

For additional information about World Sight Day, go to:


October is “Home Eye Safety Awareness Month”


Fall cleaning, home improvements and yard work: for many Americans, these projects define this time of year. But, did you know home projects like these can be a major threat to eye safety? As we acknowledge “Home Eye Safety Awareness Month”, we examine the major causes for eye damage and proper ways to protect your eyes. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, nearly half of all serious eye injuries occur at home, yet only 35 percent of Americans wear protective eyewear during projects that could pose a threat to their eyes. Hazardous activities at home include:

- Cleaning. Chemicals like bleach in household cleaning products cause 125,000 eye injuries each year.

- Home Improvement. Screws, nails and hand tools can become projectiles, while power tools can propel wood chips or other substances into the air.

- Yard Work. Lawn mowers, trimmers and even shovels can throw dirt and debris into the air, and branches, twigs and thorns can also be dangerous.

For more information on activities that may be harmful to your eyes, go to:

Each year, nearly 50 percent of the annual 2.5 million eye injuries occur at home – more injuries than occur in school and at the work place, combined. From cleaning and cooking to mowing and repairing, eye injuries occur every day while performing routine activities. When completing these daily tasks in and around the home, we often become complacent and do not take proper safety precautions. The most common place for an eye injury to occur is in the yard or garden. One in four eye injuries happen during home repair. However, there are things you can do, both indoors and outdoors, to help protect your eyes and body from unnecessary injury. Here are a few tips for keeping your eyes healthy and safe:

- Wear eye protection, this cannot be stressed enough. Eye protection, such as safety goggles, protects your eyes against particles and dust, flying debris and chemicals splashes. Also note that regular corrective lenses do not protect your eyes against injury; you can easily find safety goggles that are worn over your glasses.

- When using hazardous products (e.g., bleach, detergents, cleansers) never mix chemical agents or other caustic substances, always read and follow the manufacturer warnings and guidelines, and always use in well-ventilated areas.


Remove debris and inspect the yard and the garden before beginning yard work, such as mowing or using a weed trimmer. This measure will not only protect you, but it will prevent potential injury to bystanders.

- Be sure tools and cleaners are out of the reach of children.

- To improve safety on stairs and walkways remove tripping hazards, secure rugs, install gates on stairs, and provide sufficient lighting and effective handrails. This is especially important in homes and locations where toddlers and senior citizens reside.

- Remember to wash your hands after completing a task and before touching your eyes or face.

- When cooking use shields, as this will prevent hot oils from splashing on your body, face, and especially into your eyes.

Understandably, we cannot prevent all injuries from occurring. If you should experience 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, thoroughly flush the eye with water.

For all eye injuries seek medical attention immediately. For more information on ways to prevent eye injuries, go to:


Talented artists showcase their work on Gallery Night


With help from the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA), the Council celebrated the work of blind and visually impaired artists at Gallery Night on October 2.

The WCBVI office was transformed into a mini art gallery for the night as attendees admired work from five artists and was entertained by the folk music of acoustic guitarist Ken Lonnquist. Gallery Night featured the work of watercolorist Eunice Reep, the pottery of Judith Rasmussen, photographer Mike Morris, quilter Susan Elizabeth Gasal and drawer Illana Dehoyos.

Gasal, who lives in Random Lake, had a very large quilt displayed at Gallery Night. Gasal learned to quilt in high school despite having vision problems from a retinal detachment. Gasal said her sewing teacher refused to teach her certain techniques, but that didn’t stop her from following her passion.

After stepping away from the sewing machine for several years, Gasal began sewing again in 2004. It took her a while to relearn the craft, but the hard work paid off. In September, the quilt Gasal featured at Gallery Night was displayed at the Madison Quilt Expo.

“Quilting does make me happy because I’m still able to do this with the limited vision that I have,” Gasal said. “My color palate has opened up because of friends encouraging me to do it.”

Morris, of Belleville, received outstanding praise for his photography at Gallery Night. For years, Morris enjoyed the beauty of the outdoors, but was often too busy to really notice the pristine scenery around him. At age 38, Morris was diagnosed with myopic macular degeneration. While the diagnosis was difficult, Morris decided it was time to capture the beauty of the outdoors while he still could.

Morris continues to grow as a photographer, focusing on the detail of each shot. Morris’ ability to focus on contrasting colors and the sharpness of scenes is remarkable.

“This was a new hobby that I had picked up. I use the phrase ‘fight or flight.’ It was either I’m going to fight this and continue to show that I can do whatever I want to do, or I can curl up into a circle somewhere and ball and let this win,” Morris said. “So I picked up the photography really in the last two years.”

When she isn’t busy at the potter’s wheel, Rasmussen, from Madison, works part-time at the Council and is also a licensed massage therapist. Rasmussen suffered a detached retina as a child and had to use a magnifying glass to paint flowers, leaves and other designs on slip-mold ceramics. When she became an adult, however, Rasmussen lost all her vision, and searched for a creative outlet to fill an artistic void.

“When I lost all my sight I felt like I needed something creative to do, so I called the studio here in (Madison) and said, ‘Hey, I’m blind, but I would really like to know if I would fit into one of your classes and how would the instructors feel about that,’” Rasmussen said. “They were very receptive so I started to work on wheel-thrown pottery, which is a wonderful feeling to know that you’re molding something with your hands.”

Many of Rasmussen’s items are functional, such as bowls, mugs, vases, teapots, and lidded casserole dishes, while others are free-form.

Reep, a watercolorist from Madison, showed several paintings during Gallery Night. Reep, who graduated from UW-Madison with a degree in art, studied ceramics, design, drawing and painting. Reep’s work won a “Best of Show” award in 2002 and the “President’s Award” in 2004 from the Wisconsin Regional Arts Program exhibition at the UW-Madison Pyle Center. Due to macular degeneration, Reep has experienced declining vision the past several years, but it doesn’t stop her from pursuing her passion.

Gallery Night also featured the work of 16-year-old Illana Dehoyos, whose love for drawing didn’t subside due to limited vision.

Council Executive Director Loretta Himmelsbach said all the artwork displayed at Gallery Night inspires her.

“The artists continue to follow their dreams in spite of vision loss,” Himmelsbach said. “Their passion definitely shows in their extraordinary art.”


Council Events Coming Up This Fall:

Monday, October 19

Upcoming Webinar - Benefits and Support for Veterans with Low Vision

10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Kurt Brunner, VIST Coordinator at the William S. Middleton Memorial VA Hospital in Madison, and Amy Wurf, Low Vision Therapist at the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, will discuss services available for veterans through the VA health care system. The audience will learn about eligibility for VA care for veterans, health care services offered by the VA Hospital, and benefits provided by the Veteran Benefits Administration. Information will highlight specific services for legally blind and low vision veterans, VA Blind Rehabilitation, and the range of low vision programs through the VA, as well as WCBVI services. A veteran with recent blind rehabilitation experience will join the conversation.

To attend the webinar, you will need a personal computer with Internet access or belong to an organization that can provide access to this online event. Click here to register or call 1-800-783-5213 for assistance. Attending the webinar is FREE.


Monday, October 26

Open Your Eyes and Restaurant to Persons with Vision Loss

6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Join instructors from the Council as we team up with Willy Street Co-op in Madison for a special cooking class.  

This class will provide valuable tips on how to make the dining experience more comfortable with individuals with vision impairment. While the emphasis will be on restaurants, these tips can be useful for any business. Blind or visually impaired persons are often repeat customers when employees can create a comfortable experience for them. A participatory demonstration will be held with food provided by persons who cook without vision.

The event, located at 1221 Williamson Street, Madison, Wisconsin, is FREE. Please register at the Willy East community service desk or call (608) 251-6776. For more information, go to:


Saturday, October 31

10th Annual Euchre Tournament

Culver’s Restaurant – 571 E. Richardson Springs Rd., Edgerton

10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

$10 registration fee includes lunch. Space is limited to 76 players. All proceeds benefit the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired programs and services. Please contact Sally Zenchenko by October 23 at (608) 334-1818 to register.


Thursday, November 12  

Webinar: Exploring the Low Vision Exam and Adaptive Products for Persons with Low Vision

1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Join our final webinar of the year, “Exploring the Low Vision Exam and Adaptive Products for Persons with Low Vision,” on Thursday, November 12. The webinar will include a video segment explaining how the low vision exam is done by our Low Vision Therapist, Amy Wurf.  We will also demonstrate the most requested adaptive products from the Sharper Vision Store, and introduce you to the Odin phone, a simple-to-use, voice guided cell phone.


Bidding Against Blindness

It’s that time of year again! Support the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired by bidding on items during our annual online auction.

There’s no event to attend, no transportation to arrange, no babysitter to pay – just spend a few minutes in the comfort of your home, browsing a variety of items available in our auction at Items will be available to view beginning on October 27.

Here are a few of the items to look forward to bidding on at this year’s auction:

  • Willy Street Co-op gift cards
  • Boulders Climbing Gym passes
  • Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra tickets
  • Comedy Club passes
  • Circus World Museum admissions
  • Local restaurant gift cards, delicious and unique foods, wine tastings and tours, concert and theater tickets, and much more!

Bidding begins November 10 and ends November 18. There will be more than 100 items to choose from! Don’t miss many great deals and the opportunity to support the Council’s work.

The Council thanks the businesses and individuals who donated auction items. If you know someone who might be interested in contributing an item, please contact Fund Development Director Lori Werbeckes at 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.. Your generosity makes this auction a fun and fund-filled event!


OccuPaws Anniversary Celebrates Family, Fun and Service Dogs


OccuPaws Guide Dog Association celebrated its 10th anniversary with a fun-filled event on Sunday, September 20 at the Wisconsin Brewing Company in Verona.

The special anniversary celebration, which also celebrated National Guide Dog Month, was very well attended. Families brought their kids and dogs, listened to live music and enjoyed a hot dog and a beer while talking to local vendors.

The event also gave families an opportunity to see dogs they raised in action, through the OccuPaws guide dog program. “My wife and I raised two OccuPaws puppies and we were told they would be here today,” said one attendee. “It’s great to reconnect with them and see how they are helping someone.”

A family from near Milwaukee, who attended the OccuPaws celebration with their adorable service animal, said the event provided information on valuable resources.
“We’re from a suburb of Milwaukee and often use the services of Vision Forward. It’s always nice to learn about all of the services available to the blind and visually impaired.”


“Friends” Fall Newsletter Coming Soon

The Council’s Fall 2015 edition of “Friends,” highlighting events of the past few months, will be available in late October.

Featured stories to include: the Council’s first ever Fox Valley Low Vision Fair, a story on Veteran Low Vision Support Group member Jack Allord, a recap of all the fun at Dining in the Dark, information on upcoming events and more!