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.

The iKan-RCIL program started in August of 2010 and its purpose is to teach people who are blind/have low vision and are 55 years or older how to live as independently as possible. IKan-RCIL has been possible with contracts awarded from Kansas Rehabilitation Services (KRS) that allows funding for orientation and mobility training, assistive technology aids and devices, and independent living training. RCIL recently received its third contract which will last through 2020.

Since inception, iKan-RCIL has more than doubled in size from 15 counties in 2010, to 32 counties beginning in July 2017. The coverage area includes the following counties: 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. This is including the nine counties RCIL began covering in July (Chautauqua, Cherokee, Crawford, Elk, Labette, Montgomery, Neosho, Wilson, and Woodson.)

iKan-RCIL map 2017

To be eligible for this program you must live in one of the above mentioned counties, be 55 years or older and have a vision loss that affects your daily living. Mandy Smith, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist, who is based out of the Osage City office provides the services for this program. She travels to individuals’ homes to teach the skills and/or give items that will allow individuals to be as independent as possible. This program is free to the individual and can be provided in any home setting. Mandy also does presentations to promote services and educate the public. Mandy will also be hosting independent living classes through the next three years throughout the 32 counties. Look for more information on these classes in the near future.

ikan-RCIL Flier

Technology, you have to love it!  Below is a link to a YouTube video from Microsoft about their new Seeing AI (artificial intelligence) app and glasses.  I am truly amazed at the information this is able to give those without sight.  The doors it could open are unlimited!

Seeing AI Video

If you are looking for something to do this month here is a list of events around our service area:

September 15th – Manhattan Senior Center from 1:00pm-3:00pm

  • Low Vision Information and Device demonstration – NanoPac, Assistive Technology for Kansans and RCIL will present on low vision devices and helpful information

September 16th – Topeka/Shawnee County Library from 9:00am-12:00pm

  • Senior fair – Many booths will be open to provide seniors information on services available.  Door prizes will be given.

September 19th – Flint Hills Mall (Emporia) from 8:00am-12:00pm

  • Lift Off for Health – Games, prices, bouncy house, samples, balloon release, free food, fitness demonstrations, activities, and grand prizes of His and Her Fitbits

It’s October and the Royals are still playing baseball!  I think a lot of us are happy about that!  How old were you when the Royals were playing in their last Post Season game (1985)?  I was 1 year old 🙂

Well, I thought since many of us are excited about baseball and football (Go Chiefs!) I’d share some fun facts on sports and important information on eye injuries.

 

Sports/Eye Related Injury Facts

 

Mandy Smith, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist, will be presenting at the Chase County Health Department on May 1st.  The presentation will begin at 1:00pm and last approximately an hour.  Mandy will be explaining what the iKan-RCIL program does and the services it provides along with showing pieces of assistive technology.  Anyone who has a vision loss or anyone who works with people who have a vision loss is welcome to attend.

iKan-RCIL serves individuals who are 55 years and older and who are blind or have low vision, so this program will be focused on that age group.

Chase County Health Department
301 S. Walnut
Cottonwood Falls, KS 66845

If you have questions please call (785) 267-1717.

iKan-RCIL is funded by Kansas Rehabilitation and Services and covers 23 counties in Kansas.

iKan-RCIL will be hosting a low vision fair in Fort Scott on April 2nd.  The fair will consist of Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Foulk speaking about eye health, diseases and conditions along with Audio Reader, Talking Books, Assistive Technology for Kansans (ATK), and iKan-RCIL speaking about their program and services.  Assistive technology equipment will be available for hands-on demonstrations.

The fair will be held at the Fort Scott Housing Authority/Scott View Apartments (315 Scott Ave. Fort Scott, KS 66701) from 1:00-3:00pm.  If you have questions please call Mandy Smith at (877) 719-1717.

iKan-RCIL is a program for individuals who are 55 years and older who are blind or have low vision.  iKan-RCIL is funded by Kansas Rehabiliation and Services and covers 23 counties in Kansas.

 

Low vision support group –  a group of people who have some type of vision loss that gather and talk about strategies, stories, equipment, etc.  A support group can be very beneficial especially if a person has a new vision loss or is having a hard time handling their new way of life.

iKan-RCIL will be hosting low vision support groups in Wamego and Council Grove every month.  For January, Wamego’s meeting will be held at the Wamego Senior Center on January 30th at 12:30pm.  This month’s meeting will be focused on recreational assistive technology.  Council Grove’s meeting has been canceled for January.

Council Grove Senior Center Wamego Senior Center
Canceled January 30 12:30pm
February 26 1:00pm February 27 12:30pm
March 26 1:00pm March 27 12:30pm
April 30 1:00pm April 24 12:30pm
May 28 1:00pm May 29 12:30pm
June 25 1:00pm June 26 12:30pm

The group of people who attend the meetings will have the say so on what topics are covered.  The meetings will happen on the last Wednesday of the month in Council Grove and the last Thursday of the month in Wamego.  If you have questions please call (785) 267-1717.

I read a story by Dr. Chris Kuell this week and I pulled this quote from it…

“My cane does announce to the world that I’m blind, but I’m okay with that. It only symbolizes inferiority in the hands of those who don’t have the skills and confidence to use it properly. When I’m walking down the street, it signals to cars and pedestrians alike that I’m going places.” – Dr. Chris Kuell

In my short time as a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist, I’ve learned that for most people learning to use a white cane can be very tough.  This toughness can be physical when in training the person uses arm muscles a lot to move the cane.  But mostly it is an emotional toughness.  They must admit not only to themselves but also to their friends, family and the public that their vision is either leaving or gone.  Using a cane does not allow them to hide their disability anymore.

When people lose their sight they go through a grieving process.  Most people go through denial, anger and depression which could be a short amount of time or a year or longer.  This can also occur to individuals who lose some sight but keep a remainder (low vision).  (Most of the people who I’ve worked with who have low vision say the worst part was losing their driver’s license.)

I wish people looked at their cane the way Dr. Chris Kuell now looks at his cane.  (He did not always feel this way…)  Yes, a cane does “label” a person as blind but that can be a very good thing.  Using a white cane gives the pedestrian the right of way and also makes drivers be a little bit more carefully.  People should not think that their cane shows off their disability but instead shows off their capabilities.  Just like Dr. Chris Kuell said, “…it signals to cars and pedestrains alike that I’m going places.”

If you’d like to read all of Dr. Chris Kuell’s story follow this link. http://www.blindskills.com/jul_aug_2007_sample3.html

ATK Expo

Please keep September 12-14 open to join the Assistive Technology (AT) Expo at the Topeka Expo Center.  More than 20 AT sessions will be given ranging from independent living, community, employment, education and recreation.  There will also be around 200 booths set up in the Expo hall.  The AT Expo is free to the public!  The AT Expo is put on by Assistive Technology for Kansans (ATK)

Below is a link for more information on the AT Expo.

http://atk.ku.edu/conference/index.shtml