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How to start college if you’re blind or visually impaired

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

Unlike with wheelchair-accessible colleges, you might not be able to Google which college campuses are the most suitable for visually impaired students. Because of the spectrum for those with visual impairments—visually impaired, legally blind, and totally blind—there is likely no surefire thing universities can do about their campuses being easily navigable. In addition, each student is going to have different needs when it comes to note-taking, testing, and studying in general. While normal things—tuition costs, how far from home, the quality of the program you’re looking into, etc.—should be taken into account while searching for your perfect college, students with visual impairments should also keep these things in mind.

Start with the School’s Website

While a well-designed website is not necessarily indicative of a school that will fit your needs, it certainly is a good start. If a school is conscious enough to make the website easier to read—whether that means making larger fonts available or streamlining the text for a text-to-speech reader—that might mean they are trying to make themselves more available to visually disabled students. Jon Gunderson reviewed 183 institutions to judge their websites’ text-to-speech capabilities. He ranked Missouri State University, the University of California at Northridge, and California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo as the top three websites (for the other 180 rankings, click here).

Contact the School’s Student Services Office

Colleges and universities must make learning accessible for their students. This goes beyond making buildings and living accommodations suitable for students with disabilities. By contacting the student’s services team, you can inquire what assistance is available for visually impaired students. This can change depending on the school, including having a dedicated note-taker, supplying Braille versions of readings, allowing you to tape-record lectures, and staff/instructor training. If the school doesn’t offer what you need, see if they can accommodate your specific needs.

In addition to asking what the college or university can supply, ask your department if they can do anything. Departments have the ability to be more close-knit; even if the school cannot provide you a note-taker, for example, the department might be able to work something out with you.

You should also ask what documentation the school needs from you in order to prove your need for accommodations. This process, along with how easy it is to request services, says much about a school.

The Surrounding Environment

Some colleges are so small, it only takes five minutes to cross campus. Others sprawl out and about, making campus bus services almost essential to get anywhere. Some universities are in their own little bubble, while others have integrated themselves with the surrounding town or city. These are important factors to consider. Are the crosswalks built with visually impaired people in mind? Is campus a maze? Are there buses you can take instead of walking all the way there? Being able to navigate campus and the surrounding areas easily is only going to improve your experience while at college. It’s always a great idea to go and visit a college before making the decision to study there.

Your Personal Needs

Do you need a text-to-Braille converter for your classes? Do you use a cane or service dog to navigate? How much the school is willing to work with you on personal items you will be bringing with you says a lot. For example, service dogs go with their humans because of the service they provide, and a school should not be able to dispute that. This includes possibly having the dog in the residence hall with you, walking around campus, and going to class. Is there an easily accessible place for your dog to do its business? Some professors don’t like their lectures recorded, either audibly or speech-to-text. However, you should access what you need in order to learn successfully. This includes any extra materials or time you might need for assignments and exams.

Online Material Availability

More and more, college classes post materials online. Scanned PDF readings, lecture notes, charts, research clippings, assignment instructions—you name it, it’s been on an online class site or been attached to an email. Much like the school’s website, this material should also be considerate of those with visual impairments. Talk with the school as well as professors. Make sure that you will have easy access to these materials or an alternative version of them.

Use College Raptor’s free match tool to discover personalized net price estimates, college matches, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid from schools across the country!

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

Starting college can be overwhelming, but if you find yourself feeling this way, you’re not alone. Just about everyone finds that going to college means making many big adjustments all at once. At the same time, the transition to college can be the widening of your world. It can be the beginning of finding out who you are, what you want to do with your life, what really interests you, and who your friends and contacts will be for many years to come. Expect to feel confused and lonely sometimes, but remember that this is all a process and an ongoing journey.

In those moments when you do feel at a loss, here are some suggestions that may help:

  • While you’re trying to make new friends and form a new social life, emotional support from people who care about you is helpful. Touching base with your friends from high school and your community, your parents, your siblings or other family members, and trusted individuals such as former teachers can boost your spirits and reinforce your feelings of acceptance and self-worth.
  • Joining groups or maintaining your membership in them is another way of staying connected with people who can offer you information, tips, help, and camaraderie. Sports, web-based interest groups, and campus activities are just some possibilities.
  • Consider volunteering, contacting professional and student membership organizations, and exploring mentoring arrangements such as CareerConnect, the employment and careers mentor database maintained by the American Foundation for the Blind.
  • Social media can provide you with a network of people and resources. You can bounce ideas off them, turn to them for help, and express your interests and needs.
  • Your college and its campus and national organizations in the field of visual impairment and blindness also offer resources, including staff that can provide useful information and a friendly ear. Counselors in academic, disability, placement, and psychological services on campus are all good sources of assistance and support if needed. So are outreach and hotline operators at national organizations.
  • Keep in mind that this is just the start of a rewarding transition. For now, you’re just learning the ropes, but soon you’ll be moving into another, more informed and self-assured phase of your life.

I don’t know a soul who isn’t nervous to make the leap from high school to college or a university. If this is you, you’re in good company.

A long list of changes is inevitable and exciting. Will you leave home to live on or off campus? Will you enjoy the company of your roommate(s)? Is the meal plan worth the money? Are you confident in your cooking skills? (Hey, let’s be honest—most college students aren’t known for their cooking skills.) How many classes can you handle in your first semester?

Then there are changes in accommodations as you enter college. If you are blind or visually impaired, you had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) in high school. Your IEP team, hopefully with you as the lead, decided on necessary accommodations and the school provided the support in order to help you succeed. The school was legally bound and federally funded, thanks to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), to assess your needs and provide you with a free and appropriate education.

Enter college or a university. Your postsecondary education will not provide a team to write an IEP; it cannot even legally approach you and offer assistance. Here, you must self-advocate.

Whereas the focus of your IEP was to help you to succeed, the focus of any disability accommodation service at the university level is to provide access to learning materials. It is up to you to succeed or fail. I know this sounds harsh, but it is a gift, as it is good preparation for work life.

Here’s basic information to help you advocate for resources likely available at your college or university:

  • You must identify yourself as a person with a disability. Contact the school’s disability resource center and schedule a meeting to discuss services prior to the start of school.
  • You must be qualified to receive accommodations. Ask your university for the documentation they require. If you are blind or visually impaired, a recent eye report will be necessary.
  • Describe your functional limitations at the disability resource center meeting. Provide documentation, such as a recent Functional Vision Assessment and IEP.
  • Advocate for your accessibility needs, such as receiving handouts in braille or electronically, taking tests orally or with large print, accessing audio books, using a tape recorder or talking calculator in class, accessing tactile graphs, using a reader to read textbooks to you after class, etc.
  • Know that coursework and tests are not modified. You will have the same workload as the general population of students. Universities typically offer tutoring services (sometimes free of charge) that you can schedule.
  • Most colleges have a dedicated computer lab with assistive technology such as closed-circuit televisions, text magnification or text-to-voice software, dictation software, embossers, etc. Ask if these resources are available to you.
  • Ask the disability resource center to recommend community resources, such as a local agency that provides orientation and mobility services.

Learn now to assertively self-advocate. Entering post-secondary education is an opportunity to practice requesting reasonable accommodations, just as you will continue doing throughout your career.

If you are blind or visually impaired, go to APH CareerConnect and scan the message boards to connect with peers and find out how others advocated for their needs in college and beyond.

If you are a teacher or professional working with youth who are blind or visually impaired, prepare your students to assertively self-advocate by utilizing CareerConnect’s Assertiveness Training lesson series.

Check out APH CareerConnect’s College-Ready Challenge audio piece for a fun and educational list of the differences in attending high school versus college or postsecondary school.

With more people who are visually impaired in today’s workforce, following these simple do’s and don’ts is smart business etiquette

Documents with highly stylized typefaces can be difficult for people with low vision to read. Instead, use easy-to-read fonts like Helvetica or Arial.

It’s not difficult to work with people who are blind.

In fact, if you have coworkers who are visually impaired, or if your job takes you to companies with employees who are blind, following some simple guidelines will make your interactions more respectful and productive. While some of these suggestions may seem like basic common sense, others may not be so obvious.

  • DO identify yourself when initiating a conversation. You shouldn’t assume the person will recognize your voice. Just as you identify yourself when conducting a phone conversation, it’s helpful to quickly identify yourself when speaking to someone who is visually impaired. You don’t need to formally introduce yourself each time. A quick, “Hi there, it’s Mary” is usually just fine. Similarly, when working with a group, it’s often helpful to go around the room and have everyone state their names so the individual who is blind knows who’s attending the meeting.
  • DON’T censor your language when speaking to individuals with disabilities. It’s perfectly okay to use words like watch, look and see when talking to someone who is blind. For example, asking, “Did you see that show last night?” won’t offend most individuals who are blind.
  • DO describe the layout of large rooms. When entering a meeting or conference room with someone who is blind or visually impaired, a brief description of how the furniture is arranged can make it easier for that person to navigate his or her surroundings. Generally, an extended description is not needed. A description such as “The table is U-shaped and we’re at the open end” or “The room is set up classroom style” works well.
  • DON’T be afraid to ask questions. If you’re curious about the technology a person is using or if you want to know what they can or can’t see, don’t be afraid to ask. Most people with a disability would rather have you ask questions than just make assumptions.
  • DO give a verbal indication when you walk away from a conversation or leave the room. If the individual to whom you’re speaking can’t see you, they may not know you walked away. A quick word that you need to leave will eliminate any awkward moments.
  • DON’T speak to or touch a guide dog. These dogs are working, and touching them or talking to them may distract them from their job. This could potentially result in injury to the individual being guided. Even if a dog is at rest, ask the owner for permission before petting the dog.
  • DO provide electronic copies of materials you’ll be handing out in hard-copy form or presenting via PowerPoint prior to a meeting. This gives staff with disabilities the opportunity to load the documents onto their computer or other device and print them in an accessible format, or listen to them in auditory format. Providing copies ahead of time is simple courtesy. Just as you would never give a handout to all the tall people in the audience and tell anybody below 5’10” you’ll send them a copy later, don’t make people who are visually impaired be the last in line to receive essential information.
  • DON’T use highly stylized typefaces. When preparing documents, avoid using stylized or graphical fonts, as these can be difficult for individuals with low vision to read. Instead, use easy-to-read, sans-serif fonts with clearly defined letters and clear spacing between the letters, such as Helvetica, Verdana or Arial.
  • DO add alternative text tags to graphics. If you insert a graphic or photograph into your PowerPoint presentation, Word document or webpage, add alternative text tags which briefly describe the image. Depending on the software you’re using, this can usually be done by right-clicking on the graphic and choosing “Properties.”

In today’s high-tech workforce, it’s becoming more and more common to work with people who are visually impaired. So following these simple do’s and don’ts is not just good business etiquette – it’s good business.

Jim Denham, who is visually impaired, is director of assistive technology for Perkins’ Educational Programs. He has worked in the field of assistive technology for almost 20 years.

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

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Most blind and partially sighted children are educated in mainstream schools, or in special schools that do not specialise in vision impairment.

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

In this section you’ll find information about how to support children’s education, from the early years to transition into adulthood and life beyond school. This includes how to secure the right support for your child in nursery and school through a process of assessment and specifically tailored support.

Young children’s education

New legislation brought about by the Children and Families Act 2014, means that statements for special educational needs will be replaced by Education, Health and Care Plans. The principle of setting out what an individual child needs remains the same. Changes only affect families living in England. We have now updated our content to reflect these changes.

School, college and university

School is a big part of your life and we have advice around choosing subjects, exams and study skills, after school clubs and activities as well as how to start planning for life after school and moving on to college, uni or work. If you’re going to school, college and university, visit Young people for more information and advice. We also have advice if you are looking to start studying as an adult or retraining because of sight loss. It is never too late to start learning!

Teaching

We have a large amount of advice and guidance about teaching blind and partially sighted pupils from the early years to secondary education in our Education Professionals section.

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

Reading and learning products

Whether you’re reading for pleasure or studying, there’s something for you in our range of audiobooks, DAISY players and accessible learning resources.

We’re here for you

Our Helpline is your direct line to the support, advice, and products you need to face the future with confidence. If you or someone you know has an eye condition, our sight loss advisers can help.

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

What Kinds of Jobs do People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired Do?

A common question the Lighthouse’s Employment Services Department gets is what types of jobs can people who are blind or visually impaired do? I too get this question from curious individuals, who are in awe when I tell them about my work at The Chicago Lighthouse as a radio producer and development assistant. Today’s technology, as well as using different adaptations, allows people with vision loss to do just about any job you can think of. The following list, although not exhaustive, is meant to give a general idea of the different careers and jobs done by people who are blind or visually impaired

  • Teachers, college professors and guidance counselors
  • Social workers and psychologists
  • Doctors, nurses and occupational and physical therapists
  • Masseuses and chiropractors
  • Rehabilitation teachers and counselors
  • Customer service representatives
  • Restaurant and store workers
  • Factory workers
  • Freelance writers, journalists and TV and radio broadcasters
  • DJs and musicians
  • Attorneys, judges and politicians
  • Executive directors and managers
  • Coaches and athletes
  • Authors and motivational speakers
  • Chefs
  • Architects
  • Researchers, engineers and scientists
  • Artists and photographers

Just like people with sight, individuals who are blind or visually impaired have different interests and skillsets. For a long time, the unemployment rate among people with vision loss has been over 70 percent, and it is due in large part to the numerous misconceptions that still exist. Thanks to equipment like screen-reading and magnifying software, Braille displays and various other tools, people with vision loss can hold different jobs. When employers have doubts about how we will accomplish a certain aspect of the job, chances are we have already given careful thought to it and come up with solutions.

If you would like to learn more about the different jobs done by people who are blind or visually impaired, visit the American Foundation for the Blind’s CareerConnect website. The site provides different resources and other information for job seekers with vision loss. It also includes blog posts from successful professionals who are blind or visually impaired. You can also read our popular post about the top 5 benefits of hiring employees who are blind or visually impaired.

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

Sandy Murillo works at The Chicago Lighthouse, an organization serving the blind and visually impaired. She is the author of Sandy’s View, a bi-weekly Lighthouse blog about blindness and low vision. The blog covers topics of interest to those living with blindness and vision impairments. Being a blind journalist and blogger herself, Sandy shares her unique perspective about ways to live and cope with vision loss.

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

CINCINNATI — Imagine walking into a gas station or grocery store, blindfolded, placed in front of a refrigerated display case full of canned drinks and told to grab something to drink.

“If you think about being blind or visually impaired, how do you know if you are drinking a beer or a soda?” said Hanna Firestone, community relations and development specialist for the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI).

She added that the question is, in part, why CABVI exists.

“Our mission at CABVI is to empower blind and visually impaired people of Cincinnati to lead more independent lives,” Firestone said.

In order to further that mission through fundraising, and to drive the point home, CABVI has partnered with West Side Brewing on a new collaborative beer, the Braille Ale. The raspberry gose ale will debut in a uniquely labeled can in the brewery’s Westwood taproom on Aug. 27.

“As far as we’re aware, no brewery has ever put braille on an actual beer can,” said Joe Mumper, co-founder and CEO of West Side Brewing. “And so, the beer can itself will have visible print, but it will also have raised braille print.”

Mumper said the collaboration began in late 2019 after one of the brewery’s salespeople brainstormed with friends who work at CABVI.

“We’ve done a variety of events with different non-profits and charities,” Mumper said. “We have events here in the taproom where we donate a percentage of our sales in a given night to a charity.”

Firestone said the idea to design a beer can label with braille printed on it made the best sense.

“I come from a design background, so I think accessible design is really important,” she said. “Assuming sighted is the norm is not the best thing to do. So we want to be able to bring that out to anyone who is blind or visually impaired — that they know what kind of beer they are drinking and they don’t have to ask anybody else.”

What neither CABVI nor West Side Brewing realized until they started was just how difficult it would be to produce a Braille beer can label.

“I know the process was complicated,” Firestone said. “I know they had to order a part from Germany to be able to get this Braille on the can.”

West Side Brewing will start distributing the six-packs of cans to local retail outlets for sale on Aug. 28. Mumper said a portion of each sale will be donated to CABVI. That money will help support the organization’s radio reading program and audio mobility services among other things, Firestone said.

“We do all of that only with the support of our community and the dollars that we can bring in,” she said.

Mumper said when the planning for the collaboration first began, the brewery wanted to host a bigger kickoff event. COVID-19, though, changed those plans.

“We’re hoping this is the first of many collaborations with the CABVI,” Mumper said. “We’re wanting to do this beer on an annual basis.”

Editor’s Note: Today’s blog post is from guest blogger, Tovah Miller, from Perkins School for the Blind. This blog was originally posted on the Learning Ally blog.

Giving Blind and Visually Impaired High Schoolers a Head Start on the College Experience

By Tovah Miller

There’s no place more energizing than a college campus. However, many colleges fall short when it comes to accessibility for students with visual impairment. That’s why college can be challenging—physically, socially, and academically—for these young adults.

In fact, according to the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2), six out of ten visually impaired students do not graduate.

College is a whole new world—and, in many cases, it’s the first time a young adult is away from home and on their own (i.e., without the day-to-day support of parents, family, and a network of educators). That means arranging for necessary accommodations, signing up for their own classes, managing their own schedules—plus the added responsibilities of laundry, shopping for food, cooking and cleaning, as well as the rigors and realities of everyday life.

You’re Responsible for Yourself – There’s No One to Fall Back On

Meet Adam. He’s a current college senior who is visually impaired. Adam is doing well in school now but acknowledges that he faced some challenges along the way. When asked about what it was like early on and some of the things that surprised him, he shared this insight:

Advocating for the Proper Accommodations

“In high school, it was easier for me because my parents worked things out with the school. They were the ones to push to get what I needed. When I got to college, they were no longer there. It became my responsibility. I had to figure out quickly what I needed and what I needed to say. Sometimes you’ll hear ‘no’ for something you need and think they shouldn’t be able to tell you no. You need to work your way through—it’s another hurdle you need to overcome.”

Balancing Free Time and Academic Responsibilities

“College is different; you have two or three classes a day, maybe four if you have a really tough schedule. Then the rest of your day is free to manage your time how you want to manage it. It’s much less structured. You’re more independent… but you also have a lot more homework, and you’re the one managing your time. There’s no teacher emailing you or calling your parents to say you’re not doing well or completing assignments on time. You’re responsible for yourself—there’s no one to fall back on.

Living with Roommates

“Living on my own in a dorm was… interesting at first. I definitely was pretty shocked by the amount of independence you really needed, especially learning to live with other people and learning to be independent while adapting to those other people. I wasn’t prepared to have to accommodate for them as well as explain to them how they could be accommodating to me. Just living all together in harmony like that was something I was not ready for.

Preparing the Foundation for Success in College

The statistics are sobering and there are certainly challenges but with the right approach, a solid plan and the right resources, a successful outcome is within reach.

With that in mind, Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts just launched College Success @ Perkins, a selective, nine-month residential program for college-bound high school graduates as well as students who have spent time in college and want to hone their skills, so they can return ready to succeed. The program provides a solid path for these students to continue their academic success while preparing for success in college, career, and life.

College Success @ Perkins, which kicks off in September 2017, is designed to help young adults who are blind or visually impaired make the most of their time in college. Participating students will have the chance to experience campus life in Boston, take college courses for credit, refine self-advocacy, and essential independent living skills, navigate the social aspects of dorm living, master the latest mainstream and assistive technologies, create meaningful connections, and get exposure to influencers at top local companies.

The program was specifically designed with an emphasis on:

  • Giving students an edge: Students will earn credits, become accustomed to the daily routines of campus life, and enter their freshman year fully prepared.
  • Building the foundation for a successful college experience: A defined application process and individualized support will ease and ensure the path to college admission.
  • Focusing on the individuals: The program will be tailored to each student’s unique needs.
  • Availability of financing: Perkins is working closely with state vision rehabilitation agencies to ensure this program qualifies for Pre-ETS funding.

A True College Experience – Both On Campus and Off!

This is an experience for the student, driven by the student. The curriculum encourages both academic and personal growth; in addition to core classes, students will have a wide selection of fun elective courses and seminars to choose from.

With Boston’s highly accessible public transportation system (including buses, subways, and even ferries) just steps away from Perkins, students will also have the run of one of America’s best college towns from afternoons at Fenway and evening concerts on the Charles River to shopping at the local mall and making quick latte stops at Starbucks.

As part of the program, every student also gets a membership to Boston Sports Clubs—providing access to basketball, swimming, running, cycling, Zumba, yoga, and more…whenever the urge strikes.

The Bottom Line: With Preparation, the Sky Is the Limit

The potential for an amazing, successful college experience is there, and College Success @ Perkins is built to help young adults who are blind and visually impaired tap into that potential.

College is the next step they’ve been waiting for—the chance to make new friends, pursue studies that will lead to careers, and live on their own. It’s all about new beginnings, exciting opportunities, and breaking free to discover who they really are. College Success @ Perkins will make that experience worth the wait.

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

Our programs will prepare you to work with individuals who are blind or visually impaired in wide range of settings. New York State certified Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TSVI or TVI), work with young people in grades K-12 who may be blind or have low vision. TVIs work in a variety of educational settings, including residential schools for the blind or as itinerant teachers in public and private schools in New York City, Long Island, upstate New York, and beyond. You will learn how to teach assistive technology, braille, orientation and mobility, and all components of the Expanded Core Curriculum.

Programs in orientation and mobility (O&M) prepare you to work with children and adults who have visual impairments in both schools and adult, residential or non-school agency settings. If you have a master’s degree in vision rehabilitation therapy or teacher of the visually impaired, our real-time distance learning instruction and limited on-campus required labs allow you to complete your advanced certificate program in O&M from anywhere in the United States.

Hunter also has master’s and advanced certificate programs to prepare you to teach in vision rehabilitation therapy (VRT) and work with individuals who are visually impaired and blind in adult, residential or non-school agency settings. Employment opportunities are excellent across the United States for VRT professionals. The VRT programs use real-time distance learning instruction with limited on-campus required labs, allowing you to complete your master’s degree from anywhere in the United States.

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

Tantalizing aromas, delectable flavors – who doesn’t love to eat? But before you can eat, you need to cook, and that means planning ahead. Check out these tips for organizing your kitchen to make cooking easier and safer, and get you to the eating part faster. These tips are helpful if you’re blind and preparing to tackle a culinary challenge, or if you’re helping someone who is visually impaired set up a cooking environment.

  1. Organize the kitchen. A place for everything and everything in its place. Group like items together and store items close to where you’ll be using them. If you have multiples of an item, store one behind the other on the shelf. Also, be sure to store cleaning products separately from foods.
  2. Be smart about labeling foods. You don’t need to label items that are in distinctive packaging, such as a can of shortening, baking powder or milk. (If you have similar milk and juice containers in your fridge, put a rubber band on one to tell them apart.) Label different containers that are similar in shape, like tuna and cat food, soups, breakfast cereal boxes and oils and vinegars. Use braille or large-print labels and rubber bands, tactile markers on rubber bands, or a Pen Friend.
  3. Use a cafeteria tray at your prep area to organize materials and contain spills. Anticipate making somewhat of a mess (that’s part of the fun of cooking!). Locate and take out all ingredients and supplies before starting to cook so you won’t need to hunt for things later. A simple method of organizing is to place all your waiting-to-be-used ingredients and equipment on the left side of the tray. Do the actual prep work – slicing, mixing and so on – on the tray. After using an ingredient or piece of equipment, move it to the right side of the tray. When you’re finished cooking, all the items that need to be cleaned, put away or tossed into the trash will be in one place.
  4. Use nesting measuring cups or spoons for measuring wet and dry ingredients. Put liquids that you’ll measure small amounts of, such as vanilla, in wide-mouth containers. Bend a measuring spoon to function as a ladle to measure them out. That way, you won’t have to pour liquid into a small spoon.
  5. Transfer dry ingredients from paper bags, plastic bags or cardboard boxes to rigid, labeled plastic or glass containers. This makes measuring, identification and storing easier. It also discourages kitchen pests like weevils and ants.
  6. Keep a wet towel at your prep area to wipe fingers. This minimizes unnecessary trips to the sink and also reduces mess from touching things with wet or sticky fingers.
  7. Play it safe with boiling water. Add ingredients such as pasta and rice to water before boiling (and remember to add a few minutes to your cooking time). That way, you avoid the potential splashing hazard of adding items to water that’s already boiling.
  8. Don’t be afraid to cook something new. Be creative! With good planning and cooking techniques, and good friends who pass along a delicious recipe or two (and are a phone call away if you have questions), you’re ready to cook your next mouth-watering meal.

Thanks to Jessica Alves, Kathy Bull, Kate Crohan, Sue Shannon, Rachael Noyes, and Alex LaVoie, Occupational Therapists and Home and Personal Management teachers.

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Watertown, MA 02472

Like people, dogs often experience failing eyesight as they get older—and need a “seeing eye” just as you would. Caring for a dog who is losing his vision (or who’s already gone blind) can offer a special set of challenges for the rest of the family. But a loss of eyesight certainly doesn’t mean a poor quality of life, especially for pet parents who are willing to adjust how they care for their impaired canine.

Common Causes

Dogs can go blind for a number of reasons, from disease to old age. Some of the most common reasons for blindness in dogs are cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, and suddenly acquired retinal degeneration (also known as SARDS).

Certain breeds and sexes are also more susceptible to blindness. Middle-aged female dogs, for instance, are especially prone to SARDS, which causes blindness quite suddenly. Dachshunds, miniature schnauzers, and mutts are at higher-than-average risk for the disease as well, according to research reported on by PetMD. Cataracts, meanwhile, are more common in miniature poodles, cocker spaniels, miniature schnauzers, golden retrievers, Boston terriers, and Siberian huskies.

Beta Carotene

Good nutrition is vital to your dog’s health and can help keep his vision healthy in some cases, although SARDS and similar vision-impairing conditions have no known treatment or approach to prevention.

But, beta carotene can help a dog’s vision. According to Pet360, several foods that are healthy for both of you, such as carrots and cantelope, are known to strengthen a dog’s vision and reduce the chances of cataracts. Look for dog food that lists beta carotene in its ingredients — Hill’s® Science Diet®, for example.

Necessary veterinary care will vary depending on what’s causing your dog’s blindness. Along with beta carotene, your vet might suggest seeing a veterinary ophthalmologist, which may be more expensive than routine care. When searching for this specialist, a good place to start is an online directory kept by your country’s veterinary ophthalmologist professional organization, such as American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologist (ACVO).

Living with a Blind Dog

Many volunteer organizations are actually dedicated to helping blind and visually impaired dogs by adopting them from various shelters. If you have a blind or visually impaired dog, you can reach out to these volunteer organizations for advice. Here are some helpful tips to get you started:

  • Put tags or bells that jingle or make noise on other animals in the house — and consider wearing one yourself — so that your blind dog knows where his companion is.
  • Teach your dog commands such as “watch,” as observed by the nonprofit Best Friends, to make him aware he’s approaching a hindrance. Consider “step” as well, to teach him when a stair is in front of him.
  • Get down on your dog’s level to look for things in your home that could harm him. Sharp table corners, for instance, could harm your dog if he approaches too quickly.
  • Help put together a routine for him; this could include the trip from his bed to his food, the back door, and his favorite napping spot. Keep these pathways void of any obstacles to make it easier for him to get around. When taking him outside, you might need to keep him on a leash to guide him to his favorite spots to do his business. After time, his other senses will strengthen and help him be able to do this routine behavior on his own.
  • Help him stay active. Just because your dog is visually-impaired doesn’t mean he can’t have fun and play. Much like a seeing-eye dog would do for a visually impaired person, you can help guide your dog along with a leash. Make sure to keep the leash short so you can better direct him where to go. It’s also nice to let him sniff around and take in his surroundings through smell. It’s a small gesture, but one he’ll be sure to appreciate. You can also help him play. Find an open, safe area for him to be able to run around in like a backyard and play fetch with dog toys that make a noise. Through his sense of smell and hearing, he will eventually be able to track down the ball, and as you call to him to bring it back he’ll use those same senses to come back to you.

There’s no doubt that the care of blindness in dogs will take some special effort. But with love and time, both of you can adjust to this natural condition. Just because your dog cannot see as he used to, doesn’t mean his quality of life has to suffer. Continue to show him the same love and affection that you always have and he will return the favor.

Contributor Bio

Kara Murphy

Kara Murphy is a freelance writer who lives in Erie, Pennsylviania with her cat Olive.

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Being blind or visually impaired does not make you unemployable. In fact, a U.S. Census Bureau study released in 2006 found that 55 percent of adults with any given disability between the ages of 21 and 64 were employed at some point over the 12 months prior to the research. The important thing is knowing where career opportunities are most abundant, what accommodations employers can make for you, and how to access the vast network of resources available for helping you in your job search.

Reduced Barriers

In 2008, more than 25 million American adults age 18 and up suffered from some sort of vision impairment that was not correctable by wearing glasses or contacts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey. However, societal and legislative changes have helped reduce barriers for visually impaired persons over the years, making it easier for them to find work. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 were enacted to protect qualified individuals from being discounted because of their disabilities. Various states have subsequently passed their own laws guaranteeing equal opportunity for disabled workers.

Career Range

Career opportunities for visually impaired people are almost as plentiful as those for the non-impaired. According to The Foundation Fighting Blindness, popular careers among visually impaired persons with college degrees or special licenses include accountants, bankers, insurance salesmen, attorneys, doctors, pharmacists, nutritionists, masseuses, computer programmers, engineers, teachers and professors. Popular entry-level jobs include typists, receptionists, retail salespeople, file clerks, dispatchers, travel agents and food service workers.

Workplace Accommodations

The job choice itself is less a consideration than the environment in which the job is performed. Ask your employer to accommodate your disability so that you can be more productive at whatever it is you do. Effective and affordable solutions may include adjusting lighting to reduce glare or increase brightness; using voice or email messages instead of handwritten notes; installing larger-than-average monitors, large print keyboards and braille display devices; installing synthesized speech and optical character recognition software on computers; and making accommodations for Seeing Eye dogs.

Self Employment

Entrepreneurship is just as viable for the visually impaired as it is for their plain-sighted counterparts. You can apply for entrance into the Business Enterprise Program (created under the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act) through your state’s vocational rehabilitation agency. This program affords you the opportunity to run your own vending stand or cafeteria business along state highways, in government buildings or on military bases through loans that are repaid with a percentage of your sales. Outside the BEP, your state may also partially sponsor start-up expenses for other types of businesses under an Individualized Plan for Employment.

Special Notice Option For The Blind Or Visually Impaired

If You Are Blind Or Visually Impaired — Your Choices For Receiving Information From Social Security

At times, Social Security needs to contact you with important information. There are different ways to receive information from us if you are blind or have a visual impairment and

  • you have applied for or receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, or
  • you are the representative payee for someone who has applied for or receives Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

You can choose to receive notices from us in one of the following ways. Just let us know which you prefer. Your choices for receiving notices are:

  • Standard print notice by first-class mail;
  • Standard print notice by certified mail;
  • Standard print notice by first-class mail and a follow-up telephone call;
  • Braille notice and a standard print notice by first-class mail;
  • Microsoft Word file on a data compact disc (CD) and a standard print notice by first-class mail;
  • Audio CD and a standard print notice by first-class mail; or
  • Large print (18-point size) notice and a standard print notice by first-class mail.

To select or change the way you wish to receive information from Social Security, go to our secure Internet application:

If you already have requested notices in one of the seven formats, but need us to provide a particular Social Security document in your preferred format, please contact us.

The holiday season is here–and Perkins has the perfect gift list for the whole family!

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

3Doodler Start allows kids to “draw” mid-air and create cool, tactile designs and structures.

Gearing up for the holiday season and want to buy the perfect gift for your loved one? We’ve got you covered. From apparel to assistive technology, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite gift recommendations for everyone on your list, whether they’re sighted, blind, or visually impaired.

1. Eone – The Bradley Watch

A modern-meets-classic timepiece with tactile hour markers that let all users, sighted or blind, discreetly tell the time in any setting. The Bradley Watch comes in an elegant silver or black finish with a variety of bands to choose from.

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

2. Nintendo Switch

One of the hottest gaming systems, the Nintendo Switch features games that respond to movement and vibration, allowing blind and visually impaired players to join in on the fun. The Nintendo Switch is a great gift for gamers–and the multi-player features make it perfect for the whole family.

3. Reminder Rosie

Know someone who has trouble keeping track of appointments? The easy-to-use Reminder Rosie is a hands-free, voice-activated digital clock that can be pre-programmed with recorded reminders about events, medications, meetings, tasks, and more.

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

4. Drawing With Your Perkins Brailler

Teach your child to create beautiful tactile drawings using a Perkins Brailler. This activity guide offers step-by-step instructions for 36 different drawings, including shapes, animals, vehicles, and holiday-themed objects. It’s available in both print and braille.

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

5. Braille Uno and Accessible Braille Monopoly

When it’s cold outside, and you want something fun to do indoors, classic card games are always a hit. Braille Uno is sure to bring everyone together—even if no one in the group reads braille, using these cards can help young players understand how people who use braille play the game. If you’re more into board games, check out Monopoly, featuring braille and large print cards, money, and dice, anyone can pass Go!

6. Amazon Echo Dot

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

The Echo Dot (2nd Generation) transforms your home and makes everyday tasks easier with Alexa, your digital assistant. Alexa can play music, answer questions, read the news, and give traffic and weather reports. It can even order you a pizza—all with just the sound of your voice.

From a member of the Perkins staff: “My daughter LOVES these, and they truly give her access to do all sorts of things via Voice that is beneficial to her along with other blind/verbal kids. “Alexa, add bananas to my grocery list,” is a popular one in our house. The Echo Show is also worth a mention. Even though we have every device made, this one is now on her list for a particular reason. If you haven’t heard about its “Show and Tell” feature, check out this video.”

7. Aira

Aira is an amazing technology that enables people who are blind or visually impaired to connect with highly trained professional agents who provide visual information and support. Paired through a smartphone or a pair of smart glasses, Aira agents can take photos, help with navigation, provide detailed descriptions of a person’s surroundings or events, and so much more. This holiday season, you can give the gift of Aira by purchasing either $30, $50, or $100 credit that can be used for monthly Aira plans, Add-on minutes, or any Aira purchase.

8. Victor Reader Stream

Perfect for the book-lover in your life, the wireless Victor Reader Stream lets you download the latest books, magazines, and music for listening on the go. The new generation model also plays content from Audible.com, which means instant access to thousands of titles.

9. Dragon Profesional Individual

Speech recognition software like Dragon Pro lets you control your computer using only voice commands. With 99% accuracy, Dragon software makes writing emails or composing term papers a breeze for people who have trouble using a regular keyboard.

10. Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma

For the book lover on your list, purchase this moving memoir by Haben Girma, the first deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School. From the book’s blurb: “Haben takes readers through a thrilling game of blind hide-and-seek in Louisiana, a treacherous climb up an iceberg in Alaska, and a magical moment with President Obama at The White House. Warm, funny, thoughtful, and uplifting, this captivating memoir is a testament to one woman’s determination to find the keys to connection.” Sounds like a must-read book to us!

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

11. Nest Thermostat

Nest Thermostat is an electronic thermostat that can be installed in your home and controlled from your computer, iPad, iPhone and/or Android devices. Nest Thermostat learns its user’s preferences and automatically adapts as the seasons change, keeping you cozy in the freezing cold winters and cool in the scorching hot summers.

12. 3Doodler

3Doodler is the perfect gift for the crafty kid, gadget nerd or artist in your life. The 3Doodler is a 3D pen that allows users to “draw” in mid-air, creating awesome 3D designs, structures, even jewelry with recyclable and safe-to-use plastic. There’s a 3Doodler Start for ages 6-13 and a 3Doodler Create+ for ages 14 and up.

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

13. Children’s Braille Book Club

Give the year-long gift of reading to a child who is blind or visually impaired when you sign them up for National Braille Press’ Children’s Braille Book Club. The lucky recipient will receive twelve monthly print/braille books in the mail. It’s a gift that keeps on giving all year-round.

14. 6dot Braille Label Maker

This thoughtfully designed label-maker allows braille readers to make adhesive braille labels for food items, controls, medicines and much more. It has a built-in braille keyboard and also connects to a standard QWERTY keyboard so sighted friends and family can also create labels.

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

15. Liftware

Liftware technology helps people with hand tremors or limited hand and arm mobility to “eat with confidence.” Liftware products resemble traditional silverware but with a twist. The oversized stabilizing handles have electronic sensors that help reduce shaking, making it easier to eat without spilling food. This is a life-changing technology for people with hand tremors.

16. Two Blind Brothers Gift Box

Brothers Bryan and Bradford Manning, both blind, often have to trust sighted salespeople when they shop. Now they’re asking, will you shop blind? Buy a mystery gift through their ‘Shop Blind’ initiative and 100% of your purchase will go toward researching cures for the 11 million Americans with retinal eye disease.

Getting into the workplace is a nerve-racking experience for anyone, but can be extra daunting for visually impaired people – especially if you’ve recently lost your sight. Blind and visually impaired people play an important role in the workplace, and with the right support, losing your sight shouldn’t mean losing your job.

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

“I’m Tom, and I volunteer for Henshaws in their Manchester centre. I am partially sighted and have an eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa, which affects my eyesight and mobility within dark and low light conditions. I’ve recently started my next level of legal Secretarial Diploma with Pitman Training, and am going to share some of my advice which I hope those with a visual impairment will find useful for finding and starting new jobs.

Applying for jobs

Whilst applying for jobs I would recommend disclosing your disability, as this should enable the employer to understand your requirements and needs. During the application process, I also recommend including details of any assistive aids that you use or may need providing. Whilst looking and applying for work it might be worth asking for either advice or support from organisations such as Henshaws who are dedicated to helping blind/visually impaired back into the workplace.

Whilst applying for jobs, double check all sections of your application to ensure that you’ve not missed anything and that there are no errors on the application form. Asking a friend or a relative to help with proofreading of your application can be really useful for this.

Preparing for interview

If your application is successful and you are invited to an interview I would recommend researching the company. You need to make sure that you know how to get to the interview and that you have some prior knowledge of the company. If you’re getting public transport, make sure you plan lots of extra time in case there are any delays!

Whilst arranging the interview with the employer it may be worth describing your disability in more detail to ensure that you have reasonable adjustments in place to feel comfortable and confident within the interview.

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

Starting a new job

Starting a new job is nerve-racking for anyone, and it is important that you feel comfortable within your work environment. Your new colleagues should have been made aware of your disability by the employer and they should also be aware of some of the challenges that visually impaired people face on a daily basis. If you feel confident it might be an idea to demonstrate how to correctly guide a blind or visually impaired person within the office (Henshaws offer a Visual Impairment Awareness Training which might be useful for your staff team).

It is important to become familiar with your working environment and exploring the building during your free time to ensure that you become familiar with stairs, furniture, etc. During your induction ensure that you know the company’s fire evacuation procedures, and you understand the company’s health and safety procedures if an incident occurs. If necessary ask for a demonstration of these procedures from your line manager.

When you start a new job the correct support needs to be put in place by the employer. This could include assistive technology such as handheld magnifiers, PC screen magnification software etc. These requirements are essential for you, and the employer needs to be fully aware of this. I recommend visiting the Access To Work section of the Direct Gov website as they may be able to fund a proportion of the cost of these aids, and may also be able to help with travel arrangements.

In the workplace

If you work for a large institution such as a University or Government department, they might have a specialist disability officer who could provide help with any concerns or queries you may have – check this by researching online, or ask another member of staff.

Don’t be afraid to remind people if you need something provided in your format or any extra support – for example, if you’re going into a meeting and you need a hand-out in large print.

Remember, it’s important to feel happy in your working environment – arrange regular meetings with your line manager and make sure to let them know any problems you might have and how you’re progressing.

I hope this helps with finding and starting your new job – good luck!”

If you’re interested in getting back into work, training or volunteering, Skillstep might be the course for you! Skillstep is our free 12-week programme for anyone of working age with sight loss to learn new skills, gain confidence, and take advantage of employment and accredited educational opportunities. Find out more on our website or get in touch with our team on 0300 222 555.

We can’t do it without you

Henshaws rely on voluntary donations; our work just wouldn’t be possible without people like you. Your support empowers local people living with sight loss and a range of other disabilities to increase their independence, achieve their dreams, and go beyond expectations.

The Rehabilitation Teaching Program provides services to eligible individuals of all ages who are blind or who have a severe visual impairment to enable them to live as independently as possible in their homes and communities. Rehabilitation Teachers provide a wide range of independent living services to all eligible individuals in all areas of the state, including those living in rural counties. Teachers provide direct services to individuals on a one-on-one basis and coordinate services which may be available from other agencies and organizations. Teachers are also active in establishing support groups in the communities. All services are customized to meet the individual’s needs and may include:

  • Guidance and Counseling
  • Functional Low Vision Evaluations
  • Orientation and Mobility Services
  • Instruction in Communication Skills such as braille, use of recording devices, books in alternative formats, etc.
  • Instruction in Self Care Skills
  • Home Management Training
  • Instruction in Leisure Activities
  • Information and Referral

Tennessee Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired receives special funding to provide independent living services to older individuals who are blind or visually impaired. These services are administered by the agency’s Rehabilitation Teachers who direct the efforts of Teacher Assistants in working with individuals who are at least 55 years old. These assistants provide direct services to individuals on a one-on-one basis and coordinate services which may be available from other agencies and organizations. All services are provided under the supervision of a Rehabilitation Teacher.

Contact Information:

To refer an individual to the Rehabilitation Teaching or Independent Living Program or to learn more about program services, contact the office nearest you.

Johnson City Nashville
423-434-6934 615-741-1606

Knoxville Lawrenceburg
865-594-6060 931-766-1419

Chattanooga Jackson
423-634-6700 731-423-5620

Cookeville Memphis
931-526-9783 901-528-5284

Note taking is a skill that is important to every post-secondary student, however, in my opinion, it is even more important for a visually impaired student, to know how to take notes, and to have a toolbox of strategies that they are able to use in the classroom when visual information is presented.

There is no wrong or write way to take notes, as long as you can understand what your notes mean. For example, the way that I take notes, is a method that many teachers would not agree with, but personally it works for me, and helps me to create great study tools.

If you’re going into college, or high school, you should talk to all your teachers before class starts. This is not only a good idea so that you can discuss your accommodations with your professor, but you can also get a good idea on what they’re teaching style will be like. Depending on how much you are able to see, you will have different accommodations that you require. For example, I am a totally blind student, so I require different accommodations than a student who has low vision. Personally, when I talk to a teacher for the first time, I like to explain to them that I have never had vision before, and have no vision, so abstract concepts can be hard for me to understand. This usually leads into the discussion on how they can help me best, and how as a student, I have certain responsibilities to complete, so that I can help myself further my education. I usually start by asking the teacher if they are willing to help me after class to explain certain concepts that I will not understand. I than address barrierS that are in the course, and try to get them resolved as quickly as possible so that I can get the course started at the same time as my classmates, and most importantly, so that I can keep up with the course work.

Once that discussion is out of the way, I than move onto my note taking strategies for each class, and how the professor can best help me take notes. You may be wondering why I did not say note taking strategies, and why I take notes in the same way for each class. I always make it a point to ask teachers for their powerpoint presentation, or class lecture notes ahead of every class. I have only had one teacher tell me not when I requested this accommodation from them, when that happened, I was able to borrow the notes from a friend after every class. When a teacher gives me their powerpoint presentation, or lecture notes, before class, I read them, and if we are using a textbook for the course, I also read the textbook and fill the blanks in where the notes or presentation leave off, but where the textbook expands. I than am usually ahead of the class, and can focus on listening to what the teacher has to say, sometimes only having to fill in a few spots that I missed, sometimes having to write nothing. If I do not have a textbook though, I will sit at the front of the class, and using my laptop or my Braille display, write down everything that the professor is saying. It makes my notes really long, but after the class is done, I then go back over my notes, and paraphrase what I have written so my notes are no longer in the teachers words. This method is usually the way I go, because up until now, I have not used a textbook for any of my classes. It is long, but for me, it works very well and I find it easier to make study tools that way.

I personally do not record the class lectures because I find that the microphone on the laptops doesn’t pick up sound the best, plus, my screen reader would interfere with the lesson, and it would be hard to hear. If you think this method works for you, use it to your advantage, you just need to be careful that you make sure you receive permission from your professors to record their class. From what I have heard, there is also this service that you have to pay for, but you can record your class lectures and send it to them, and within two days, they have your notes transcribed for you, and sent to you somehow, in a document that you can read on the computer.

If you have some amount of vision, and are able to write print with a pen, there is also a pen you can get called the Livescribe Penn. This pen enables you to handwrite your notes, and record your class lecture at the same time. The cool feature about this pen is that as you write on a piece of paper, it records and sinks the recording to the paper, so when you finish writing, if you know you missed something, you can touch the pen to the piece of paper, and it will play back that specific part of the lecture so you can finish off the note for that part.

As you have been reading there are many different ways to take notes depending on how good your vision is, and how good you are with technology. Depending on what kind of funding you get, you can get services like I mentioned above where they transcribe for you, or some schools provide a notetaker for you free of charge, whereas other post-secondary education institutions charge you for note taking services. My best advice as a student who has just entered college is find what works for you and go with it. Personally, I am pretty sure that I have a good system in place for taking notes, but one day that system could fail me. If it gets to that point, I am going to look into options like I wrote about in this blog post, but don’t be afraid to try new note taking strategies that you thing will work. Maybe they will be a disaster, and maybe they will work sometimes, and not other times, but eventually, you will be able to find a system that works for you, and your notes will be awesome, and will be able to help you create study tools. If by the end of the first semester of college or high school you haven’t found a good note taking strategy, talk to someone at your education institution who can give you some ideas. If that still doesn’t work, find a class that the quality of your notes isn’t a large deal, and try some options again. Maybe the options you tried before didn’t work in the particular classes you had that previous semester, or maybe you were thinking of a lot of other issues and could not focus on taking notes, but do what works for you. It may be a weird method, or one that most teachers despise, but use what works for you to understand information. If you have a teacher that puts pictures in their notes or lecture power points, ask a student in the class, or a teacher to describe the photo so you have a better understanding on what the topic is. Google is also my best friend as well for note taking. If I don’t understand a specific topic, or area of a lecture, I will look it up on the internet so that I can gain a better understanding of what I am studying.

There are many ways to take notes in college, university, or high school if you are a visually impaired student. It is important that you understand what note taking method works for you, and what accommodations you need from your teachers so that you can get the best education possible. In the end, it is only you that needs to read your notes, so write them how you understand them, even if it is really wordy and not spelled correctly, if you can read, understand, and explain them to another person, your notes are good enough for you to study off of, and you will be getting great grades in no time!

It can be a struggle to take notes for anyone, but if we didn’t struggle at the start we would not succeed in the end. Keep on trying new techniques, because you never know if you will invent a new note taking strategy. When you think about it, all note taking strategies were made up by struggling students right?-)

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

An interesting discussion is going on over on Reddit, sparked by user FearfulJesuit_ who asked blind people to explain what sexual attraction is like for them. A lot of users weighed in, answering questions in a series of posts that were open, honest, and pretty adorable. Here are the best things you can learn from them about love and beauty:

1. What feels beautiful isn’t always what looks conventionally beautiful.
User ktwounds, who is legally blind in the state of Texas (as he points out, the standards vary from state to state), notes that “voice and personality are the two major traits I ‘look’ for. This may be a blunt way to put it but as far as figure is concerned — once you get to that point it’s rather amazing to me that what feels the best to the touch (curves) isn’t really what many find appealing to the eye. My wife is an extremely beautiful woman, I know this because I talk to her and she talks to me.”

2. Some people walk more sexily than others.
BrittSprink, who taught two students with visual impairments noted that “the absolutely number one thing she would talk about was a boy’s voice. I remember showing ‘The Outsiders’ one day, and her swooning over Ralph Macchio’s Johnny. She not only liked the tone of his voice, but also recognized the character in it and noted the accent. She said he ‘wasn’t as hot’ in ‘The Karate Kid.’ In person, she recognized so much just by listening. She would say hi to me in the hallway just by hearing me walk, and also frequently commented about the way boys carried themselves. She liked guys who were graceful, instead of stomping around, and could hear when boys were playing around (skipping, jumping, squeaking) while they walked.”

3. Hot people aren’t just hot because they are pleasing to look at.
Another user, KING_BUTT_TOUCHES (let’s gloss over the username), mentioned that one of their blind friends was always attracted to physically hot men, and they were confused how they were able to “see” that. Most people offered up non-visual clues that would show how confident they were, which is always a plus, and their pheromones could also come into play. But then user linkprovidor offered up another theory: “Maybe you just think that hot guys are hot because they look hot, but really they look hot because they are hot.”

4. Scent is a big turn-on (or turn-off).
Another legally blind user, BlindPixie, wrote, “I don’t like dudes that bathe in colognes or use heavily-scented bath products. It’s distracting and it might even give me a headache if I have to stand too close to you. Normal body odor is fine. This goes for your breath and your skin, too — junk food smells gross when it’s coming out off someone’s breath or out of their pores, and kissing people with soda-mouth. Ugh.

User thrusdaxkeyhole interviewed his blond dad, and posted that, “Like everyone knows, smell is important — but it can also tell you a lot about a girl before she even speaks to you. How does she want other people to know her? Is her perfume floral or exotic or natural? I can only imagine what the scope of a woman might be when I begin to add all these things together. And different body parts have different smells — from hair to face and beyond.”

5. And sound is just as powerful.
BlindPixie went on to write, “Are you a mouth breather or a nose breather? Do you snore? Do you know? I do and I’m sorry that it’s creepy I can’t -help- it. I’m more attracted to guys with steady, confident, vibrant voices. Meekness, hesitance, and arrogance all come through in your tone and your choice of words. It’s not the size of your thesaurus that matters, it’s how you use it.

6. Sex feels extra special when you’re blind.
Unfortunately names user DontDropThSoap wrote, “In my opinion it also kind of makes being intimate with someone even more special because it’s the one time I can really take in all of her features and truly appreciate the beauty of another person.”

7. Presence is a tangible thing.
User J_D_X wrote in about his relationship with his fiancé: “I know her presence so well that she can be across the room, and I can still feel connected to her, as if I were touching her. I don’t have super hearing, but the sound of her feet on the floor, her breathing in, her flicking her hair, is amplified by my concentration. All of that information is there for you too. Close your eyes and listen carefully.”

And I’ll leave you on that devastatingly beautiful note.

Want more from Frank? Follow him on Twitter.

Tennessee Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired is a State agency that is part of the Department of Human Services, Division of Rehabilitation Services. It provides a wide range of services to persons of all ages who are blind or severely visually impaired.

OUR MISSION
To Assist Tennesseans who are blind or visually impaired in maximizing their potential by providing a variety of individualized services to insure freedom of choice and to allow independence in their lives which encompasses the workplace, school, community, and home.

OUR PHILOSOPHY
It is our philosophy and belief that blind people, when given the proper training, can achieve the same level of success and independence as anyone else when given equal opportunity.

SERVICES AVAILABLE
A wide array of services are available including:
Vocational Rehabilitation
Rehabilitation Teaching
Older blind Services
Services to Children
Deaf Blind Services
Prevention of Blindness Services

VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION
Vocational Rehabilitation Services are available to help eligible adults who are visually impaired to successfully compete with others in entering, returning to, or retaining employment. These services are coordinated by Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors who have been specially trained to work with customers who are blind or visually impaired. Services are customized to meet the needs of the customer who plays an active role in developing an Individualized Plan for Employment and choosing services and service providers. Depending upon an individual’s particular circumstances, the following services may be available:

  • Guidance and Counseling
  • Vocational Training
  • Post Secondary Education
  • Orientation and Mobility Training
  • Independent Living Services
  • Personal Adjustment Training
  • Work Adjustment
  • Technology Related Services
  • Job Placement
  • Medical, surgical, and hospital care needed to eliminate or reduce the effect of the visual disability; and,
  • Information and Referral

Some of these services are based upon economic need and may require financial participation on the part of the customer.

If you wish to talk with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor about services or if you need additional information, please contact us.

REHABILITATION TEACHING
The Rehabilitation Teaching Program is designed to provide services to individuals of all ages who are blind or visually impaired to better enable them to live independently in their homes and communities. Fourteen professionally trained Rehabilitation Teachers across the state provide a wide range of independent living services to preschool children and their families, working age adults, and older individuals who are visually impaired. Teachers work with customers both on a one-on-one basis in the individual’s home and in group settings. The teachers are also active in establishing and nurturing support groups in the communities. All services are customized to meet the individual’s needs and may include:

  • Guidance and Counseling
  • Family Counseling
  • Orientation and Mobility Services
  • Instruction in Communication Skills such as Braille, use of tape recorders, talking books, etc.
  • Home Management Training
  • Personal Adjustment Services
  • Instruction in Recreational Activities; and,
  • Information and Referral

Rehabilitation Teachers are located in all of our regional offices. For more information about services, please contact us.

OLDER BLIND SERVICES
Tennessee Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired receives annual funding from the U.S. Department of Education to provide independent living services to older individuals who are blind or visually impaired. The Older Blind Project is administered by the Agency’s fourteen Rehabilitation Teachers who direct the efforts of nine Teacher Assistants. These Assistants work exclusively with individuals who are at least 55 years old and have a visual impairment. These Assistants provide direct services to individuals on a one-on-one basis and coordinate services which may be available from other agencies and organizations. They also work closely with the Area Offices on Aging and senior citizen centers across the state to assist persons who are visually impaired to access services available through those agencies. All services are provided under the supervision of a Rehabilitation Teacher.

SERVICES TO CHILDREN
Services to children who are visually impaired are available through the Rehabilitation Teacher Program. Teachers may work with parents, guardians, school personnel, and other service providers to provide useful information about the child’s visual impairment, the availability of specialized services, and things that parents can do to prepare their children to live more independently. For more information about services available from the Rehabilitation Teachers, contact us.

DEAF-BLIND SERVICES
Tennessee Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired provides specialized services to persons who have dual sensory impairments. A Deaf Blind Specialist is housed in the Central Office to provide technical assistance to field staff on how to best serve this population. The Specialist is also involved in advocacy activities on behalf of persons who are deaf/blind and plays an important role in educating the public about the specialized needs and abilities of persons who are deaf/blind.

PREVENTION OF BLINDNESS SERVICES
Tennessee Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired has responsibility for Prevention of Blindness Services in this state. A modest amount of funds are appropriated each year to provide emergency eye care for those individuals who have no other resources available. The services are intended to either prevent blindness or restore vision. This may include eye examinations, surgery, treatment, and hospitalization. These services are based on economic need.

The blind and visually impaired students make their way to the second-story classrooms at Addison Trail High School, hang their canes on hooks just outside the doorway, then run their fingertips across tables until they recognize the feel of foam shapes marking their assigned spots.

For the rest of the school day, the 35 high school students who come from across DuPage and Cook counties will take advantage of special-education services guaranteed to them by law. State and federal dollars provide helpful accommodations, including shelves full of braille textbooks and tablets loaded with the latest apps designed to help students with partial blindness to see what is on the board.

But while technology and special-education programs for visually impaired students are more accessible than ever, a teacher shortage threatens to derail the progress.

The national Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired has 1,000 fewer members nationwide than it did 10 years ago. Meanwhile, administrators at Northern Illinois University and Illinois State University — the only two colleges in Illinois that offer degrees specializing in teaching blind and visually impaired students — say they are graduating far fewer teachers than the states’ students need.

“The shortage is a huge issue,” said Joan Allison, administrator of the blind and visually impaired program for the School Association for Special Education in DuPage County, which houses its high school program at Addison Trail and offers similar programs for the blind and visually impaired students from more than 93 school districts in the Chicago area.

Allison said she is grateful to have a full staff to operate the classrooms offered to 83 students at the elementary, middle and high school levels this year. But with three retirements expected in the next two years, she worries.

If she can’t find replacements, “the quality of the education for the students will be compromised,” she said.

Of the 2.4 million kindergarten through 12th-grade students in Illinois, there are 16,737 with low vision or blindness, and only 212 teachers certified to teach them. That’s a ratio of 1 teacher for every 79 students — a scarcity made more pronounced because not all of the students are geographically close to each other, said Olaya Landa-Vialard, assistant professor and coordinator of the low vision and blindness program at Illinois State.

“I got an email yesterday from a parent asking if we had any students who would be working in her child’s district so that her child would have a (teacher),” Landa-Vialard said. “There is a dire need.”

Students who are blind or visually impaired have several options from the public school system.

They can attend a mainstream school with the help of itinerant special-education teachers who travel to a child’s home district. Other students move to a residential facility in downstate Jacksonville, where they live and learn surrounded by others with visual impairment.

Still other students choose to be bused to one of several visual impairment “resource programs” offered across the state — the ones at Addison Trail and another run by the Chicago Public Schools being the largest.

While some special-education advocates push for inclusion in mainstream settings, many teachers for the blind and visually impaired contend that self-contained classrooms are the best way to teach lessons on how to use a Brailler to write, how to walk with a cane or how to use special technology to study U.S. history and geometry.

“It’s a philosophy discussion,” said Allison, who began teaching visually impaired students nearly 30 years ago. “People interpret that if you are not in your home school with kids, that’s restrictive. To me, to teach it really strongly, it’s easier to pull them out.”

How to Start College if You're Blind or Visually Impaired

Eddie Cortez , a 16-year-old from Wood Dale who was born blind, said he and his dad have high hopes that someday medical advances will be able to restore his sight. But until then, he has learned important lessons from both schools in his home district and now at the program at Addison Trail High School, where he is bused each day.

“I never get scared. I know where to go, and I like to come here,” Cortez said.

But the availability of teachers is — and has always been — critically low, school officials say.

Job boards at the national Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired consistently post openings for teachers for the visually impaired. At Northern Illinois, graduates who receive a special-education teaching license in the area of blindness and visual impairment routinely consider three or four job offers. Meanwhile, even with a federally funded program through the U.S. Department of Education that covers the cost of graduate school tuition, fees and offers a $5,520 yearly living stipend for students training to be teachers for the blind or visually impaired, there are still not enough takers.

At Illinois State, the program for training teachers for the blind and visually impaired has had fewer than 20 graduates for each of the last five years, Landa-Vialard said.

For many of us, accessing our favorite social media sites is as easy as opening our browser or mobile app. We log in and expect it to simply work. But for blind and visually impaired users who work with screen reader software, accessibility is far from simple.

With websites like Facebook, accessibility has to be coded into the back end. Their content must be able to be interpreted by a screen reader, which outputs the content either by reading it out loud, or by showing it on a refreshable Braille display. That’s why, when Facebook engineer Matt King, who is blind, joined Facebook as a user in 2009, the site was virtually impossible for him to use, he tells Bustle. At the time, Facebook was becoming more and more visual, and King’s screen reader software could not describe to him posts that were thick with images. So when Facebook recruited him onto its accessibility team in 2015, he became one of the people who works every day to make Facebook more accessible for people with disabilities, including helping to launch a game-changing photo description system that has now been deployed across Facebook products.

Without back-end accessibility coding, screen readers often produce “gobbledygook” for large swathes of websites, King says. Before Facebook began throwing serious developmental muscle behind accessibility, users like King would have to deal with their screen readers interpreting pictures as “photo” or something like “GX_23789ABCD.jpg, because it was the name of the image that was there,” King explains.

But with the system King helped to launch, users with screen readers are provided with descriptions of photos. At first launch in 2016, the system was only able to provide phrases like “image may contain two people outdoors, [. ] water,” King tells Bustle. “Pretty crude phrase, but a lot better than ‘photo’.”

This early model was a big enough step in the right direction that positive feedback poured in from users, and the team expanded the capability from Newsfeed to other products like Groups and Files. Now, the system is available in 25 languages “across most of the products that Facebook offers,” King says.

And Facebook’s accessibility team continues to flesh it out. In early 2017, they were able to give the AI the capability to recognize actions, so the system now recognizes 17 different actions like “walking, eating, playing musical instrument, onstage, and a few other things like that,” King explains. So now the phrase “image may contain two people outdoors” has been upgraded to, “two people standing outdoors,” he says.

Most recently, in December 2017, King’s team added the ability for users to hear the names of people who are in photos thanks to facial recognition. King clarifies that only a user’s friends who have facial recognition turned on in their settings will be detected by the AI, and says it can be a huge help for people who are visually impaired. “If you’re my friend, please have that facial recognition setting enabled,” he says.

Part of sighted users improving accessibility for their blind and visually impaired friends involves understanding that blind and visually impaired people use computers in the first place — which not all non-disabled people necessarily understand. King says people often seem incredulous when he tells them he works with computers. “I started using a computer as a blind person back in 1985,” he says. He used computers in college, and then as an electrical engineer at IBM, where he says he became aware of just how simple it was for sighted people to do the same work that required King to have very specialized knowledge.

“It bothered me that there were so many blind people that I was trying to help, like peers at IBM, for example,” he explains. “I was just trying to help them do their job better, and they had to learn so much just to do some of the basics on the computer.”

Screen reader software is an essential tool for visually impaired computer users, but having a screen reader doesn’t make up for websites that don’t consider accessibility. On websites where a screen reader can’t pick up on much of the content, particularly visual content, “You just have no concept of what’s in [images], so there’s no way to interact and be part of the conversation,” King explains. “It’s like there’s this room with glass walls and you’re on the outside, and everyone else is inside having their conversation. You can see the conversation going on, but you have no idea what they’re talking about.”

With programs like word processors, screen readers don’t have much heavy lifting to do, but when it comes to websites, if accessibility isn’t done on the back end, using what King calls the “plumbing of accessibility,” then screen readers will be stymied, rendering content inaccessible to blind and visually impaired users.

Turning on facial recognition is one of the ways Facebook users can help their blind and visually impaired friends right now. And though King and his team are continually building up the photo description system, users can also take a few moments to write their own descriptions in photo posts. A simple sentence like, “My daughter riding a gray horse in a field on a sunny day,” helps improve visually impaired users’ experience.

On the Facebook accessibility team’s “roadmap for the future” is adding the names of celebrities to facial recognition in photos, adding “concepts” to the photo description system so it will be able to recognize and describe more things, and potentially offering a functionality where a user would be able to have a conversation with Facebook’s AI about a photo.

King says that feature is “a long way from being a product,” but it would involve being able to “ask the picture a question like, ‘What color are the curtains?’ Just any arbitrary question, and the system would try to answer that,” he explains.

And when it comes to spreading the word about how accessible technology works, King says, “Anything that raises the awareness of accessibility, this whole idea that we can bring the media world to life, getting everybody to spread awareness of accessibility all at once [. ] It really helps if the general public understands how important equal access to information and technology is for people with disabilities.”

Folks like King work on improving accessibility every day, but it’s also up to non-disabled people to be aware of the challenges created by a world that is rarely accessible to all.