The Council Office is closed today in observance of Labor Day.
Enjoy your “unofficial” final day of summer!
A bright yellow summer sunflower stands tall amongst broad green leaves and a pale yellow sunset.
This graphic includes six arms raised from the forearm to the hand. Each arm and hand is a different vibrant color: magenta, orange, green, teal and yellow.
The Council’s online auction is coming soon! This year, the money we raise from the auction will be used to purchase a braille embosser. A braille embosser allows us to take our text documents and convert them into braille and assures that our publications and meeting materials are accessible for everyone.
Reflections on Guide Dog Ownership fromThree Different Perspectives
Steve Johnson and his guide dog Bennet pose for a photo outside the Council office. Steve smiles and Bennett stands still while facing the camera.
September is National Guide Dog Awareness Month. Communications Coordinator Katherine Corbett sits down with three guide dog handlers to find out more details of what having a guide dog is really like.
Steve Johnson of La Crosse has worked with a guide dog since May of 1992 - over 25 years. His current guide dog is Bennett, an almost seven year old black lab, who was trained with Leader Dogs for the Blind.
Amelia Cazares of Milwaukee has used a guide dog for the past four years. Her dog, Piper, is a five year old black Labrador that was trained with the Seeing Eye. Piper is the first guide dog Amelia has ever worked with.
Meghan Whalen of Madison has worked with guide dogs for the past 12 years. She is currently self-training her 18 month old Catahoula Leopard Dog named Amiera.
What is the most challenging thing about using a guide dog?
Steve: I face interference by individuals with self-proclaimed service dogs that are out of control.
Amelia: I’d say disciplining my dog. Although you want to play with them, you need to be able to teach them that you are in charge and they need to understand when it is time to work.
Meghan: The biggest frustration for me is when I’m going about my day and living my life, and people are constantly interrupting me when I’m trying to get things done or go somewhere, just to talk about my dog. They ask about the breed, my dog’s age, and they say things like, “That dog must save your life every day.” I don’t mind questions, but if people could wait till I’m standing still, that would be great.
What is your favorite thing about using a guide dog?
Steve: I like the efficiency, durability, and companionship that my guide dog provides.
Amelia: It is difficult for me to choose what I like most about having a guide dog. Piper has improved my life so much. Since I got Piper, I am able to walk faster and with more confidence. I have gained greater independence and do not feel scared walking alone at night or catching the bus early in the morning to go to work. Although I still need to decide when it is safe to cross the street, I am able to walk across the street in a straight line. Veering while crossing the street or just walking in a straight line in general has always been an issue for me. I love having a loyal companion. I almost always take Piper with me. She accompanies me to school, work, outings with friends and long walks down the lake path by my house.
Meghan: I think the fact that two species who speak two different languages are able to work in harmony is amazing to me. It’s astonishing to me the amount of compromise the dog is willing to make to do this job.
What would you like prospective guide dog users to know or consider before getting a dog?
Steve: It’s critical to make sure your orientation and mobility skills are sharp, and make sure that a dog is right for you.
Amelia: You should not get a guide dog just because you can take them anywhere and you are allowed to let them live in an apartment with you for free. A lot of time and money is invested into these dogs and they actually want to work. It breaks my heart when people get a guide dog and they never take them anywhere. That defeats the purpose of having a guide dog. It is unhealthy for these dogs to live a sedentary lifestyle. They will have a lot of pent up energy if they are not worked. They were trained rigorously and it is important to keep up with that training.
Meghan: I think it’s important to recognize that when you get a guide dog, you’re bringing a living, breathing being into your life. You need to commit to putting them first when you might not necessarily want to. It’s a lot of responsibility.
What do you wish the general public knew about guide dogs?
Steve: There are too many things to list, but first, the dog cannot read. The dog does not know where they are going. It is the person who has access rights, not the dog.
Amelia: I wish that the public knew that we are not punishing the dog by not allowing them to be petted while they are working. I wish that the public knew that these dogs are doing a job by keeping their owners safe. If you touch a dog while it is working, you are not only putting their handler’s life in jeopardy but you are putting the dog’s life in danger as well. It is unfortunate that even if a dog has a sign saying that you should not approach or pet the dog people will still do it anyway. At least ask if it’s OK, and respect the handler when they say “no.”
Meghan: I wish people realized that the dogs have a job to do and they’re not out there for anyone except the person they’re working with. Anything a person might do to distract the dog could become a serious safety concern for both the dog and handler.
Do you have anything else to add?
Steve: Emotional Support Dogs (ESA) are not service dogs, and are not covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act; only fair housing. Comfort animals are not service dogs, and behavioral standards are what needs to be emphasized with all service and pet dogs in public.
Amelia: I decided that I wanted to get a guide dog when I observed my friend Katie and her Seeing Eye dog. They worked so seamlessly as a team and I could tell that Katie truly trusted her dog. I wanted to have something like that. Getting a guide dog is one of the greatest decisions I have ever made.
Tips for Drivers and Visually Impaired Travelers
A woman crosses the street, white cane in hand. She walks to the left, over the white crosswalk painted on the street as traffic proceeds to the right, parallel to her.
White Cane Safety Day is on October 15. Leading up to this important celebration, we will feature a story series to bring more awareness to this important issue. In this edition of On Sight, we will focus on travel tips for for drivers that encourage individuals using white canes, as well as reminders for pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired. By following these tips, everyone can enjoy safe and effective journeys along Wisconsin’s roads.
Tips for Drivers
Tip 1: Stop before the crosswalk. Council Board Member Deen Amusa points out that where you stop your car impacts how comfortable he feels crossing the street. “When I’m preparing to cross a street, it’s helpful if cars stop before the crosswalk and don’t block it. If they stop in the crosswalk, I’m left wondering, ‘Should I go around or in front of the car?’ This is disorienting.”
Tip 2: Do not honk, please. It can be both startling and confusing if you honk your horn at a person who is crossing the street, and makes it difficult for them to listen to the flow of traffic.
Tip 3: Stop at stop-and-go lights, as well as controlled signals. “I’ve had cars narrowly missed hitting me when they pull in front of me on quiet streets,” says Deen. “It helps when drivers stop at the stop-and-go lights and wait for me to cross before proceeding.”
Tip 4: If you drive an electric car, be extra vigilant. “Electric cars can be hard to hear because they don’t emit very much sound,” says Deen. “If drivers are following the law and I can trust they won’t pull out in front of me as I’m crossing the street, I can better pay attention to traffic patterns and other sounds while I’m traveling.”
Tip 5: Know the White Cane Law. The White Cane Law states that the person with the cane or service animal has the right-of-way in any situation. The text reads, “S. 346.26 WISCONSIN STATUTES Blind pedestrian on highway. An operator of a vehicle shall stop the vehicle before approaching closer than 10 feet to a pedestrian who is carrying a cane or walking stick which is white in color or white trimmed with red and which is held in an extended or raised position or who is using a service animal, as defined in s. 106.52(1)(fm), and shall take such precautions as may be necessary to avoid accident or injury to the pedestrian. The fact that the pedestrian may be violating any of the laws applicable to pedestrians does not relieve the operator of a vehicle from the duties imposed by this subsection.” Following the White Cane Law and yielding to pedestrians who are blind and visually impaired helps everyone stay safe on the street.”
Tips For Travelers who are Blind or Visually Impaired
Tip 1: Pay attention to the sounds of traffic patterns. It’s important to cross when you have traffic moving parallel to the direction you want to cross. “When I’m preparing to cross a street, my first inclination is to listen to the traffic flow,” says Deen. “I want to make sure there are no cars coming in front of me and determine when it is safe to cross.”
Tip 2: Control how you get help. Deen says it’s critical, as a traveler, to be kind and gracious to those who offer assistance, but ultimately you need to be in control of the help you receive. He says, “What helps me a great deal is if people let me be the one to ask for help. Out of being helpful, I’ve had people just grab my arm and try to help me cross the street, which gets me lost, especially if they take me across the wrong street or in the wrong direction. Let me be the one soliciting for the help.”
Tip 3: Use effective cane and dog skills when travelling. Deen is a guide dog user, but he emphasizes the importance of knowing how to use a cane as well. “It helps me get my bearings,” he says. “When you know how to use your cane, it makes you better at not getting your surroundings confused. Even with a dog, I always like someone to show me a new environment while I’m using my cane first, because it helps me to know about obstacles and landmarks. When I move to a new area, I have a person show me the area with my cane.”
Tip 4: In addition to listening for traffic patterns, pay attention to ambient noises, such as construction. In an article published in Future Reflections, Stephen Benson points out that you need to pay attention to other sounds around you, and if other sounds are present that make it difficult to hear traffic, it might be a good idea to seek assistance. He writes: “The question of whether or not to accept assistance depends, to some extent, upon circumstances. Each person must decide when it is appropriate. If excess noise (say from a construction site or elevated train) prevents one from hearing normal traffic sounds, it might be wise to accept or seek assistance.”
Tip 5: Only cross the street when you feel confident it is safe. Don’t cross the street if you are unsure if it is safe to do so. It’s important to be comfortable and confident when crossing, and it’s even more important to be safe. Take all the time you need to listen for traffic patterns and wait until you feel ready to make a safe crossing.
By Ericka Short
Ericka Short pushes an orange and black Remington lawn mower in order to cut the long, plush green grass. She appears focused as she makes her way past a small landscaped area of bushes that line the front yard along the street’s curb. Ericka regularly mows this yard for her 90+ year old grandparents who live in Monona, WI.
There’s just something beautiful about being in nature. The birds chirping their melodies, the raucous fight between chipmunks and other animals trying to scrounge for a snack in the feeder, the wind gently caressing you and the warm sun reminding you it’s summer. And of course, in backyards all over, there’s an unmistakable scent of skunk, fragrant blooms and my personal favorite, mowed grass.
I’ve had a love affair with mown grass since I was about eight or nine. By middle school I was mowing that grass for my dad. Gardening and other outdoor work has always been a part of family chores so it just made sense. But you’re legally blind, you say? So what!
I have two younger sisters. They are quite capable of mowing, it’s true. But for some reason they didn’t want the five bucks. Dad never skipped a beat when I said I’d like to mow. Where he got his information I don’t know, but he proceeded to show me how to start the mower, keep track of rows and off I went! We had a corner lot and well, a lot to mow! I was in heaven.
There’s freedom in mowing. Mowing is a great way to reflect and pray. One day it dawned on me: it’s freeing because the grass is my road, the mower is my vehicle, and for that half-hour or so, I am in complete control of my life. I am not Ericka, the woman with the disability. I am Ericka, nature lover and someone giving back. Period.
My two younger sisters learned to drive and take care of a vehicle, in case something happened. Dad taught me how to take care of the mower. How to clean it out, how to put the bagger on, how to check for oil and of course how to fill the gas tank. Dad’s philosophy having three girls was “you should be able to take care of yourself because you can’t always rely on a man for everything. Be independent.”
I have learned a lot from mowing; there is too much to list here. I’ll never forget the freedom I first felt when Dad trusted me with that lawnmower, though. Though my vision has changed, the only steadfast thing in life has been the lesson that if I can mow the yard, I can do anything with vision loss. Oh, and as I close this post, my 91 year old grandfather just called asking me to come over and mow. I better hop to it! You know that grass doesn’t mow itself.
Super Oven Gloves
Item #HK180, $14.00
Eliminate the fear of getting burned when removing pans from the oven or lifting hot lids off of simmering pots. These heat resistant Super Oven Gloves will withstand heat up to 480° F. They are offered as a pair and they are one size fits all. This is a wonderful alternative to the classic potholder or oven mitts.
These gloves weigh only 4.2 ounces and they are machine washable.
Self-Advocacy in Social Situations
When: Saturday, September 16
Where: WCBVI Office, Large Conference Room – 754 Williamson Street, Madison
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Annika Konrad, PhD Candidate at UW-Madison, guide for The Outlook from Here blog and WCBVI Board member, will lead a discussion on self-advocacy and strategies in various contexts, such as at work, in social situations, and when in the community. She will suggest ways to help evaluate or read situations to determine appropriate self-advocacy strategies. The discussion will draw upon participants’ experiences to generate more strategies that others might use.
Dining in the Dark – Fitchburg
When: Saturday, September 30
Where: Secret location to be revealed the day before! Will stay in the Madison area.
Time: 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Join the Council as we partner once again with Vignette Dining Club for Dining in the Dark! Plan to arrive on time in order to settle in, chat with fellow dinners, and grab a nibble. Dinner begins promptly at 6:30 p.m.
Your seat includes a fabulous 4-course meal, coffee, H20, and unsweetened iced tea. Seats are paid for in advance and are non-refundable.
The cost is $47.50 per person and will take place at a secret location in Fitchburg. Attendees will receive an e-mail with instructions and address of the secret location the night before the event.
To register for Dining in the Dark and to learn more about Vignette Dining Club, go to: http://vignettedining.com/the-menu.html.
Webinar - Caring for Patients with Blindness or Low Vision
When: Wednesday, October 4
Where: From the convenience of the web device of your choice!
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
For more information and to register, go to www.wcblind.org.
Fall Gallery Night
When: Friday, October 6
Where: WCBVI Office – 754 Williamson Street, Madison
Time: 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Mark your calendars and join us for Fall Gallery Night on Friday evening, October 6, as we proudly showcase work from artists who have vision loss. This event is in partnership with the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA).
Participating artists will display and discuss their work during the opening reception at the Council office. Attendees are welcome to browse the artwork, enjoy refreshments and talk to the artists.
White Cane Safety Day
When: Sunday, October 15
Where: Nationwide! Perhaps in your community?
Do you like bringing attention to the needs and concerns of people who are blind and visually impaired? Do you enjoy planning events in your community? Does educating the public excite you? If you answered “Yes!” to these questions, then consider planning a special event or spreading the word about White Cane Safety Day, celebrated this year on Sunday, October 15, 2017! Our White Cane Safety Day Toolkit is here to provide inspiration, examples and helpful hints as you plan for and promote this important day.