I get questions many times about available apps for people who have vision loss. I thought I’d write a brief description of 5 apps that have great features for people who are blind or visually impaired.

  1. LookTel Money Reader – This app uses the camera on the back of the phone/tablet and then says out loud along with large print on the screen what nomination the bill is. This allows easy money identification at home or while out.
  2. Tap Tap See – This app also uses the camera to take a picture of an object the person needs to identify. Using an internet search Tap Tap See will give an audio description of the item.
  3. Be My Eyes – Be My Eyes is similar to Tap Tap See, it uses the camera but you connect to a live person. This person is a volunteer so they do not have any training with working with people with vision loss. The person with the vision loss uses their camera to show what item they need identified or read and the volunteer assists them.
  4. KNFB Reader – While this app is not free like the others it has a purpose most would find priceless. This app converts text to speech and/or Braille for users. It can read documents long and short by taking a picture using the camera on the phone/tablet and using ocular character recognition (OCR) can read the document out loud.
  5. Seeing AI – This is one of my favorite apps. Seeing AI has multiple purposes again using the phone/tablet’s camera. This app can identify text such as KNFB Reader using OCR for short and longer text. And unlike any other OCR it is able to read some handwriting! It can also identify money like the LookTel Money Reader. It has a bar code reader to give product description and read labels. It can also give a description of people and the scene/surroundings indoors.

These apps are not a one size fits all or needed for everyone but a great tool for a person’s tool kit. If you have questions on how to download or anything else please contact Mandy Smith at (785)528-3105.

 

RCIL’s Mandy Smith will be hosting the following events:

  • Low vision fair April 7th at the Parsons Public Library from 1:00-3:00pm
  • Low vision independent living classes April 23rd and 30th at the Riley County Senior Center in Manhattan from 1:00pm-3:00pm
  • Low vision fair May 13th at the Marion Senior Center from 12:15pm-2:15pm

Please look for more information in the future or call Mandy at (785)528-3105 if you have questions.

I’m a few days late but National Braille Day is celebrated on January 4th, which is Louis Braille’s birthday.  As most know, Louis Braille created Braille at a young age after going blind from accidently poking his eye out and obtaining an infection that affected his second eye.  Louis created Braille after learning a form of night writing the France military was using.

It is important to celebrate National Braille Day or at least discuss it after the fact (LOL) as it is a reminder of how important Braille is.  Braille allows those with vision loss the ability to access print and allows independence.  Louie Braille died in 1852, before he was able to see how great his invention was for future generations.

Bradford and Bryan Manning, were diagnosed with Stargardt’s  (a form of macular degeneration) at a young age.  They have since started a clothing company, “Two Blind Brothers” that profits help with finding a cure for blindness.  Something I thought was awesome, is they have Braille incorporated in all of their clothing.

Here is a clip from Ellen talking about their clothing line and how they got started.

I thought I would switch things up a bit and instead of posting about what other places were doing or events going on, I’d talk about myself.  This week I celebrated 10 years at RCIL.  Crazy to think how far I’ve come in those 10 years professionally and personally.  The older blind program that I run has also grown so much (in 9 years) from 15 counties to 32 counties. Recently, I have been working on becoming more efficient with Braille.  I passed the first course (Hadley) with flying colors and just starting the next course. (Any Braille users out there with tips let me know!) I also recently took a beginning JAWS class.  So, though I’ve had this job for many years I know I’ll never know it all or enough.  I’ll always be looking forward to learning that next thing to help my consumers.

Be on the lookout for updates coming soon about independent living classes for persons with vison loss and low vision fairs.  If you have any questions about Braille, JAWS, or the older blind program feel free to email me at amanda.smith@rcilinc.org

As I get ready to get in the car for today’s appointments, I thought I would take this rainy morning to remind everyone of iKan-RCIL.  iKan-RCIL is a program for those who are 55 years and older and have a vision loss caused by such conditions as Glaucoma, Age-Related Macular Degeneration, Diabetic Retinopathy, and many more.  This program is often referred to as the “older blind program”.   The person does not have to be totally or “legally” blind but the condition causing the vision loss must affect their daily living to qualify for services.  The iKan-RCIL program covers 32 counties which are listed below and if you are interested in a county not listed email Amanda Smith and I’ll get you the contact information. iKan-RCIL coverage includes: Allen, Anderson, Bourbon, Brown, Chase, Chautauqua, Cherokee, Clay, Coffey, Crawford, Dickinson, Doniphan, Elk, Geary, Greenwood, Jackson, Labette, Lyon, Marion, Marshall, Montgomery, Morris, Nemaha, Neosho, Osage, Pottawatomie, Riley, Shawnee, Wabaunsee, Washington, Wilson, and Woodson counties.

I visit individuals at their home and teach them skills or give them technology to live as independently as possible with their vision loss.  To qualify for this service you must live in one of the mentioned counties, be 55 years or older and have a vision loss. There is no cost to participate in this program and if you or someone you know is interested they can email Amanda Smith or call at (785) 528-3105.

February is Low Vision Awareness month so I’d like to share some knowledge on this topic.

1.) Low vision is a vision loss that makes it difficult to accomplish visual tasks even with the best possible correction, but with the potential for use of available vision, with or without optical or non-optical compensatory visual strategies, devices and environmental modifications.
In other words, even with glasses, contacts, surgery, etc. the person does not have enough vision to do daily tasks. But with use of some tools/skills the person may be able to complete these tasks.

2.) People with low vision may label themselves as blind, legally blind, visually impaired, partially sighted or many other terms.
In order to be deemed legally blind by a doctor, the person’s vision when best corrected (wearing glasses, contacts, after surgery, using medication, etc.) is 20/200 or less or has a visual field of 20 degrees or less. 20/200 means that a person with 20/20 vision can see at 200 feet, that person can see at 20 feet. A visual field of 20 degrees or less can be demonstrated by putting your hand out in front of your face in a fist and only the area blocked by the fist would be visible.
People who are blind can be spilt into two groups – light perception and no light perception. Our society stereotypes that people who are blind only see darkness. This is not true; many can see light, different shades of color, shadows and or shapes.

3.) Low vision devices include everything from computer software, handheld magnifiers, video magnifiers, scanners, binoculars, monocular and many other items.
Most the time, when people think of devices that help people complete daily tasks, they think of high priced electronic equipment. That is not always the case. A rubber band can aid a person in detecting which can of food they are needing out of the cabinet. A raised bump can identify which medication the person needs to take in the morning. A piece of cardboard cut correctly can help a person with low vision fill out a check to pay their bills.
Some tasks people do by using mostly their vision, people with low vision have to unlearn using their vision and rely on other senses in order to complete these tasks. One example would be to use your hearing for the beeps while on the elevator instead of watching the number move above the elevator door.

4.) The term low vision is very broad and encompasses many people with many different types of vision loss. The most common causes for low vision in the United States included age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. Most of these diseases do not affect people until they are 45 years or older but that is not always true. There are forms of macular degeneration that affects children, infants can be born with cataracts, and if a person has been diagnosed with diabetes in their early years they can end up with Diabetic Retinopathy at an early age as well.

Please have your eyes checked annually especially if you are 45 years or older and make sure your eye doctor is checking your eyes for common diseases.

RCIL will be hosting two low vision fairs in March.  The fairs will be on March 6th in Baxter Springs and March 7th in Garnett.  Both fairs will be located at the town’s library and will be from 1:00-3:00pm.

During that time Mandy Smith, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist, will present on iKan-RCIL’s program and services and will introduce representatives from other agencies that serve the low vision/blind population.  In Baxter Springs, the agencies will include: Assistive Technology for Kansans (ATK), Audio Reader, and Kansas Talking Books.  Garnett’s line up will be NanoPac, Audio Reader, and Kansas Talking Books.  Along with presenting on available resources, agencies will also have demonstrations of equipment for hands-on opportunities.

If you have questions feel free to call Mandy Smith (785) 528-3105 or email her at Amanda.smith@rcilinc.org

Fliers are located below with the address of both locations.

Baxter Springs LV Fair 2018Baxter Springs LV Fair 2018

marked seasoningsSo many things we do on a day to day basis we do using our sight.  So what do you do when your sight no longer helps with those daily activities?

Recently, I was working with a 90 year old woman who has been married to a farmer for 70 years.  She loved cooking and that was how she remembered spending most of those 70 years; cooking for her husband and hired hands after their long days on the farm.  As she has gotten older her eye sight has faded due to Age-Related Macular Degeneration (just like 1 out of every 3 people who are 65 years and older).  Cooking is more difficult for her but not impossible.

A person with vision loss will need added time to get tasks such as cooking done, more lighting (most likely), possibly aids such as magnifiers or talking device, and patients to accomplish daily living activities.  I tell the people I work with (55 years and older who are blind or have low vision) there is only one thing you can’t do because of your vision loss, and that is driving! {Which they are working on!}  Everything else you can do but it might take more time and it more than likely will take a new way of doing it.  That’s where my job comes in, to teach those new ways.

The photo I’ve added to this blog is one of many examples of how a small adaption can help in a big way to accomplish daily living tasks.  The lady I spoke of earlier wants to still cook her favorite dishes for her husband and by marking her seasonings with puff paint and marker she can still flavor dishes as before.  Adaptions can be low tech and cheap such as puff paint or can be high tech and more costly like a digital recording system.  Adaptions can be bump dots on appliance buttons, rubber bands around shampoo bottles, and much more.  If you have questions regarding how to make an item in your house easier to find/use please contact me at (785) 528-3105 or Amanda.smith@rcilinc.org .

 

RCIL will host two independent living classes for people with vision loss in Pittsburg next month.  The first class with be November 1st and will cover self-care, transportation, cooking and shopping.  November 8th is the second class and reading, writing and over all assistive technology will be covered.  Both classes will run 1:00pm-3:00pm and will be held at the Via Christi Village (1502 E. Centennial Dr.).

For anyone who registers ahead of time and/or attends both days will be entered into a drawing for a prize.  To register or if you have questions contact Amanda Smith at (785) 528-3105 or amanda.smith@rcilinc.org.

Look for more information in the upcoming weeks for other locations that classes will be held.

Pittsburg November 2017