Tech Authority: The Voice Memos App

by Mark Levengood

A common struggle among visually impaired individuals is the emphasis on pictures as a means of capturing a moment or experience. Certainly we will participate in the picture and position ourselves according to instruction from the individual with the camera or smart phone, but inevitably we will never be able to enjoy those pictures. However, I inadvertently stumbled across a solution to at least some of these situations. While exploring my iPhone I discovered an app called Voice Memos. I never downloaded this app, so I can only assume it came as a standard app already installed on the iPhone at purchase. Essentially, this app is a preinstalled digital recorder on the phone. Many visually impaired people will pursue a digital recorder as a means of quickly recording appointment dates and times when at a doctor’s office or even phone numbers of people they encounter in public, both of these situations occurring away from their normal means of noting this information in a form that is accessible to them. Naturally a paper and pencil will not work, but a digital recorder suffices. The Voice Memos app will successfully accomplish this same task.

My primary use for the Voice Memos app at this time in my life actually concerns my nieces. As previously mentioned, visually impaired people cannot appreciate pictures, and there are certainly many pictures to be taken of all children, but especially when infants and toddlers in an effort to capture and preserve that stage of life. I began using my Voice Memos app in early 2017 before my nieces even turned a year old to record their cute sounds, laughter, and early attempts at words, which has since evolved into recording them say my name and that of my Seeing Eye dog as well as some of our earliest conversations and songs. Every time they do something adorable, which is frequent, I am trying to record it with my Voice Memos app to relive and experience later, either that week or in the years to come. Therefore, the Voice Memos app has offered me and other visually impaired people with a way of replacing cameras and pictures by providing an alternate means of capturing those special moments in life. A picture might be worth a thousand words, but as a visually impaired individual I can now record those thousand words to appreciate and value just as a sighted person treasures a picture.

If you are visually impaired and you have a digital recorder, then by all means use it, but if you do not have a digital recorder and do own an iPhone, then start accessing this Voice Memos app. I cannot comment on other smart phones having a Voice Memos app or something similar as I am an iPhone user, but hopefully something is available as I have recorded not only special interactions with my nieces, but also important presentations and other family events.

Dine in the Dark


Vision Resource Center of Berks County and the Kutztown University Visual Impairment Program proudly present

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Crowne Plaza, Reading
1741 Papermill Road
Reading, PA 19610


Call 610-375-8407 to find out more about this special event. Tickets available SOON!

Interested in partnering with us for Dine in the Dark 2018? We have sponsorship opportunities available including the coveted Title Sponsorship. For more information, please download our Sponsorship Opportunities PDF HERE and contact Carolyn Krick: 610-375-8407 ext. 110 (ckrick@vrcberks.org) or Bill Sutton: 610-375-8407 ext. 117 (bsutton@vrcberks.org).

 

 

2017 Highlights

In our continued effort to raise awareness for the blind and low vision of our community, Vision Resource Center of Berks County along with Kutztown University Program on Visual Impairments hosted our annual Dine in the Dark event on Thursday, September 28th, 2017.

In 2017 Dine in the Dark turned into a bigger and wider reaching event by moving from the VRC building to the Crowne Plaza of Reading. Cocktail hour opened the evening with a chance for people to mingle and bid on raffle items. At 6 p.m., the blindfolds went on and dinner was served! After dinner, the visual struggles continued when the blindfolds came off and glasses that simulate a variety of eye ailments were worm at the self-serve dessert stations! Over 150 people experienced a one-of-a-kind evening of education and inspiration with firsthand accounts from clients, staff, and friends of Vision Resource Center of Berks County and Kutztown University. It was truly an evening of light being shed in the dark. Many in attendance raved about the food, the presentations, and a humbling appreciation for sight and those who struggle daily with low vision.

Your support allows Vision Resource Center of Berks County and the Kutztown University Visual Impairment Program the continued opportunity to help blind and visually impaired children and adults in our community. VRC and KU send out a big THANK YOU to all our event sponsors and attendees!

 

If you or your organization can’t make the evening but would still like to donate, please click on a link below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month

Glaucoma… The Leading Cause of Preventable Blindness

Story Credit: Glaucoma Research Foundation

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, an important time to spread the word about this sight stealing disease.

 

Currently, more than 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma. The National Eye Institute projects this number will reach 4.2 million by 2030, a 58 percent increase.Glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight” since there are no symptoms and once vision is lost, it’s permanent. As much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing.Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness. Moreover, among African American and Latino populations, glaucoma is more prevalent. Glaucoma is 6 to 8 times more common in African Americans than Caucasians.Over 3 million Americans, and over 60 million people worldwide, have glaucoma. Experts estimate that half of them don’t know they have it. Combined with our aging population, we can see an epidemic of blindness looming if we don’t raise awareness about the importance of regular eye examinations to preserve vision. The World Health Organization estimates that 4.5 million people worldwide are blind due to glaucoma. 

Help Raise Awareness

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Talk to your family about glaucoma.

In the United States, approximately 120,000 are blind from glaucoma, accounting for 9% to 12% of all cases of blindness. Here are three ways you can help raise awareness:

  1. Talk to friends and family about glaucoma. If you have glaucoma, don’t keep it a secret. Let your family members know.
  2. Refer a friend to our web site, www.glaucoma.org.
  3. Request to have a free educational booklet sent to you or a friend.
  4. Get involved in your community through fundraisers, information sessions, group discussions, inviting expert speakers, and more.

Connect with us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for regular updates on glaucoma research, treatments, news and information. Share information about glaucoma with your friends and family.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually steal sight without warning. Although the most common forms primarily affect the middle-aged and the elderly, glaucoma can affect people of all ages.

Vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve. This nerve acts like an electric cable with over a million wires. It is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain.

There is no cure for glaucoma—yet. However, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. The appropriate treatment depends upon the type of glaucoma among other factors. Early detection is vital to stopping the progress of the disease.

Watch a video from the research scientists working to find a cure.

Types of Glaucoma

There are two main types of glaucoma: primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), and angle-closure glaucoma. These are marked by an increase of intraocular pressure (IOP), or pressure inside the eye. When optic nerve damage has occurred despite a normal IOP, this is called normal tension glaucoma.

Secondary glaucoma refers to any case in which another disease causes or contributes to increased eye pressure, resulting in optic nerve damage and vision loss.

Read more about Types of Glaucoma.

Regular Eye Exams are Important

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization. In the most common form, there are virtually no symptoms. Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision, so if you have glaucoma, you may not notice anything until significant vision is lost.

The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get a comprehensive eye examination. Then, if you have glaucoma, treatment can begin immediately.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among African-Americans. And among Hispanics in older age groups, the risk of glaucoma is nearly as high as that for African-Americans. Also, siblings of persons diagnosed with glaucoma have a significantly increased risk of having glaucoma.

Read about Glaucoma Eye Exams.

Risk Factors

Are you at risk for glaucoma? Those at higher risk include people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent. Other high-risk groups include: people over 60, family members of those already diagnosed, diabetics, and people who are severely nearsighted. Regular eye exams are especially important for those at higher risk for glaucoma, and may help to prevent unnecessary vision loss.

Help Us Find a Cure

Glaucoma Research Foundation is a national non-profit organization funding innovative research to preserve vision and find a cure for glaucoma. Gifts of every size make a difference. Donate today.


About Glaucoma Research Foundation: The Glaucoma Research Foundation is a national non-profit organization dedicated to finding a cure for glaucoma. Founded in 1978 in San Francisco, the organization funds glaucoma research world-wide. Learn more about Glaucoma Research Foundation.

 

Remember Safety This Holiday Season!

Set Your Sight on Safety!

Story Credit: Prevent Blindness

Prevent Blindness Provides Tips on Best Ways to Keep Holidays Safe by Purchasing Safe Toys and Gifts for Children:

Last year, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a report stating that there were an estimated 254,200 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments. An estimated 88,700 of those injuries were to children younger than age 5. And, 45 percent of the total injuries were to the head and face area, the area of the body with the most injuries.To help shoppers select appropriate gifts this holiday season, Prevent Blindness has declared December as Safe Toys and Gifts Awareness month and offers tips including:

  • Avoid toys that shoot or include parts that fly off.
  • Ask yourself or the parent if the toy is right for the child’s ability and age. Consider whether other smaller children may be in the home and may have access to the toy.
  • Avoid purchasing toys with sharp or rigid points, spikes, rods, or dangerous edges.
  • Ensure all art materials are labeled as “nontoxic.”
  • Buy toys that will withstand impact and not break into dangerous shards.
  • Look for the letters “ASTM.” This designation means the product meets the national safety standards set by ASTM International.
  • Do not give toys with small parts to young children. Young kids tend to put things in their mouths, increasing the risk of choking.  If any part of a toy can fit in a toilet paper roll, the toy is not appropriate for children under the age of 3.
  • Do not purchase toys with long strings or cords, especially for infants and very young children as these can become wrapped around a child’s neck.
  • Always dispose of uninflated or broken balloons immediately.
  • Do not purchase toys with small magnets. Magnets, like those found in magnetic building sets and other toys, can be extremely harmful if swallowed. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect a child may have swallowed a magnet.
  • Ensure any batteries are securely in place.
  • Read all warnings and instructions on the box.
  • Always supervise children and demonstrate to them how to use their toys safely.
  • If purchasing sunglasses, make sure they are labeled as 100 percent UV-blocking.
Sports equipment is a popular gift idea. Prevent Blindness suggests that the proper sports eye protection is also included. Recommendations may be found at www.preventblindness.org/recommended-sports-eye-protectors.“By taking a few simple steps when shopping for the perfect gift, we can help to make sure that the holidays are safe and memorable,” said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness.For more information on safe toys and gifts for children, please visit preventblindness.org/safe-toy-checklist. For more information on sports eye protection and safety, please visit www.preventblindness.org/sports-eye-safety.
Download a copy of the safe toys press release here.

About Prevent Blindness: Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness is the nation’s leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight. Focused on promoting a continuum of vision care, Prevent Blindness touches the lives of millions of people each year through public and professional education, advocacy, certified vision screening and training, community and patient service programs and research. These services are made possible through the generous support of the American public. Together with a network of affiliates, Prevent Blindness is committed to eliminating preventable blindness in America.

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November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month

November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month

Story Credit: American Diabetes Association

 

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in working-age Americans

  • Almost 1/3 of diabetics don’t know they have the disease and are at risk for vision loss and other health problems.

  • The most common diabetic eye disease is diabetic retinopathy which affects 5.3 million Americans age 18 and older.

  • Once diagnosed with diabetes, you should schedule a complete eye exam, including dilation.

  • Early diagnosis of diabetes can help reduce your risk of developing eye disease related to diabetes.

 

Eye Insight

To understand what happens in eye disorders, it helps to understand how the eye works. The eye is a ball covered with a tough outer membrane. The covering in front is clear and curved. This curved area is the cornea, which focuses light while protecting the eye.

After light passes through the cornea, it travels through a space called the anterior chamber (which is filled with a protective fluid called the aqueous humor), through the pupil (which is a hole in the iris, the colored part of the eye), and then through a lens that performs more focusing. Finally, light passes through another fluid-filled chamber in the center of the eye (the vitreous) and strikes the back of the eye, the retina.

The retina records the images focused on it and converts those images into electrical signals, which the brain receives and decodes.

One part of the retina is specialized for seeing fine detail. This tiny area of extra-sharp vision is called the macula. Blood vessels in and behind the retina nourish the macula.

Glaucoma

People with diabetes are 40% more likely to suffer from glaucoma than people without diabetes. The longer someone has had diabetes, the more common glaucoma is. Risk also increases with age.

Glaucoma occurs when pressure builds up in the eye. In most cases, the pressure causes drainage of the aqueous humor to slow down so that it builds up in the anterior chamber. The pressure pinches the blood vessels that carry blood to the retina and optic nerve. Vision is gradually lost because the retina and nerve are damaged.

There are several treatments for glaucoma. Some use drugs to reduce pressure in the eye, while others involve surgery.

Cataracts

Many people without diabetes get cataracts, but people with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop this eye condition. People with diabetes also tend to get cataracts at a younger age and have them progress faster. With cataracts, the eye’s clear lens clouds, blocking light.

To help deal with mild cataracts, you may need to wear sunglasses more often and use glare-control lenses in your glasses. For cataracts that interfere greatly with vision, doctors usually remove the lens of the eye. Sometimes the patient gets a new transplanted lens. In people with diabetes, retinopathy can get worse after removal of the lens, and glaucoma may start to develop.

Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a general term for all disorders of the retina caused by diabetes. There are two major types of retinopathy: nonproliferative and proliferative.

Nonproliferative retinopathy

In nonproliferative retinopathy, the most common form of retinopathy, capillaries in the back of the eye balloon and form pouches. Nonproliferative retinopathy can move through three stages (mild, moderate, and severe), as more and more blood vessels become blocked.

Macular edema

Although retinopathy does not usually cause vision loss at this stage, the capillary walls may lose their ability to control the passage of substances between the blood and the retina. Fluid can leak into the part of the eye where focusing occurs, the macula. When the macula swells with fluid, a condition called macula edema, vision blurs and can be lost entirely. Although nonproliferative retinopathy usually does not require treatment, macular edema must be treated, but fortunately treatment is usually effective at stopping and sometimes reversing vision loss.

Proliferative retinopathy

In some people, retinopathy progresses after several years to a more serious form called proliferative retinopathy. In this form, the blood vessels are so damaged they close off. In response, new blood vessels start growing in the retina. These new vessels are weak and can leak blood, blocking vision, which is a condition called vitreous hemorrhage. The new blood vessels can also cause scar tissue to grow. After the scar tissue shrinks, it can distort the retina or pull it out of place, a condition called retinal detachment.

How is it Treated?

Huge strides have been made in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy. Treatments such as scatter photocoagulation, focal photocoagulation, and vitrectomy prevent blindness in most people. The sooner retinopathy is diagnosed, the more likely these treatments will be successful. The best results occur when sight is still normal.

In photocoagulation, the eye care professional makes tiny burns on the retina with a special laser. These burns seal the blood vessels and stop them from growing and leaking.

In scatter photocoagulation (also called panretinal photocoagulation), the eye care professional makes hundreds of burns in a polka-dot pattern on two or more occasions. Scatter photocoagulation reduces the risk of blindness from vitreous hemorrhage or detachment of the retina, but it only works before bleeding or detachment has progressed very far. This treatment is also used for some kinds of glaucoma.

Side effects of scatter photocoagulation are usually minor. They include several days of blurred vision after each treatment and possible loss of side (peripheral) vision.

In focal photocoagulation, the eye care professional aims the laser precisely at leaking blood vessels in the macula. This procedure does not cure blurry vision caused by macular edema. But it does keep it from getting worse.

When the retina has already detached or a lot of blood has leaked into the eye, photocoagulation is no longer useful. The next option is vitrectomy, which is surgery to remove scar tissue and cloudy fluid from inside the eye. The earlier the operation occurs, the more likely it is to be successful. When the goal of the operation is to remove blood from the eye, it usually works. Reattaching a retina to the eye is much harder and works in only about half the cases.

There are two types of treatment for macular edema: focal laser therapy that slows the leakage of fluid, and medications that can be injected into the eye that slow the growth of new blood vessels and reduce the leakage of fluid into the macula.

Am I at Risk for Retinopathy?

Several factors influence whether you get retinopathy:

  • blood sugar control
  • blood pressure levels
  • how long you have had diabetes
  • genes

The longer you’ve had diabetes, the more likely you are to have retinopathy. Almost everyone with type 1 diabetes will eventually have nonproliferative retinopathy. And most people with type 2 diabetes will also get it. But the retinopathy that destroys vision, proliferative retinopathy, is far less common.

People who keep their blood sugar levels closer to normal are less likely to have retinopathy or to have milder forms.

Your retina can be badly damaged before you notice any change in vision. Most people with nonproliferative retinopathy have no symptoms. Even with proliferative retinopathy, the more dangerous form, people sometimes have no symptoms until it is too late to treat them. For this reason, you should have your eyes examined regularly by an eye care professional.

 

You may have heard that diabetes causes eye problems and may lead to blindness. People with diabetes do have a higher risk of blindness than people without diabetes. But most people who have diabetes have nothing more than minor eye disorders.

With regular checkups, you can keep minor problems minor. And if you do develop a major problem, there are treatments that often work well if you begin them right away. Please visit your health professional regularly.


For Additional Information: Please visit the American Diabetes Association website.

 

October is Blindness Awareness Month

October is Blindness Awareness Month

Story Credit: Rich Shea, Foundation Fighting Blindness

Back in the 1970s and ’80s, when the Foundation Fighting Blindness was in its formative years, blind people on TV and in movies usually fit the stereotype — dark glasses, a cane, stumbling along the sidewalk. While that one-dimensional portrayal is no longer politically correct, there are still many misconceptions about people who are blind and visually impaired, including just how many there are.

Throughout October, which is Blind Awareness Month, FFB hopes to help put those misconceptions to rest. For instance, worldwide there are 285 million people who are visually impaired, 39 million of whom are completely blind. In fact, the vast majority of the 10 million Americans who have retinal diseases — those affecting the ultra-thin tissue at the back of the eye — have at least some vision. Only it’s progressively getting worse — for some quickly, for others gradually. Some are losing peripheral and night vision, others central vision.

Which is the whole point of Blindness Awareness Month — those affected are individuals, with their own lives, dreams and hopes.

DID YOU KNOW:

  • Worldwide there are 285 million people who are visually impaired, 39 million of whom are completely blind.
  • Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide.
  • Blindness or low vision affects 3.3 million Americans age 40 and over. This figure is projected to reach 5.5 million by the year 2020.

For Additional Information: Visit American Federation of the Blind and Foundation Fighting Blindness.