Mark Levengood talks to John Kauffman about managing employment and retirement with a visual impairment.
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.
A great way to keep up with all the good things Vision Resource Center of Berks County is doing in our community is by staying informed through our newsletters. Please enjoy our Fall 2017 In-Sight Newsletter in print format below.
print version: Fall Newsletter, 2017
Scott Maulick gives his personal testimonial of his experience at Dine in the Dark with Mark Levengood on Insight.
September is National Guide Dog Month
Story Credit: Natural Balance
National Guide Dog Month is a celebration of guide dogs throughout North America. Guide Dog Month was first inspired by U.S. pet food manufacturer Natural Balance’s co-founder, Dick Van Patten, who was impressed by the intelligence and training of guide dogs. During a visit to a local guide dog school, he was blindfolded and experienced how guide dogs provide mobility and assistance to visually impaired and blind people. After learning about the costs, dedication and commitment to raise and train a guide dog, he was inspired to help raise awareness and support the cause.
Van Patten served as an honorary Board Member for the Guide Dogs of the Desert. Through his pet food company Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Pet Foods, he has underwritten all costs for the promotion of National Guide Dog Month to ensure that all money raised would directly benefit non-profit, accredited guide dog schools in the United States.
In 2008, Van Patten enlisted the support of the Petco Foundation, to organize a fundraising campaign through their retail stores. The San Diego based retailer piloted the first guide dog fundraiser in the Southern California area to benefit the Guide Dogs of the Desert, based in Palm Springs, California. In 2009 National Guide Dog Month was established to benefit the non-profit guide dogs schools accredited by the International Guide Dog Federation.
In 2009, National Guide Dog Month was established for the month of May, however in 2010, it was moved to September due to conflicts with other national fundraising drives.
A Lasting Impact
To celebrate National Guide Dog month in 2016, Natural Balance partnered with Guide Dogs for the Blind. Since 1942, Guide Dogs for the Blind has empowered lives by creating exceptional partnerships between people, dogs and communities.
- Largest Guide Dog school in the country.
- Dedicated to providing high quality student training services and extensive follow-up support for graduates.
- Services are provided to students from the United States and Canada at no cost to them.
- Operate two training facilities in San Rafael, CA and Boring, OR.
- More than 2,000 volunteer puppy raisers throughout the Western states.
- More than 14,000 teams have graduated since their founding.
- Approximately 2,200 active guide dog teams are currently in the field.
Ashleigh & Yuri
Visually impaired since birth, Ashleigh used a cane to get around for years—but found that it became increasingly difficult to be mobile during the wintertime due to dangerous patches of ice on the pavement. These harsh winter conditions—combined with encouragement from her family—got her to consider the possibility of a guide dog.
Ashleigh grew up terrified of dogs, but as she began researching Guide Dogs for the Blind, she felt that their positive reinforcement philosophy matched her personal beliefs and values. So she took a leap of faith. When Yuri—a Guide Dogs for the Blind-trained yellow Lab—first walked into her life, Ashleigh remembers he was so excited that he couldn’t stop sneezing. Now, over two years later, they’re so connected that she can’t imagine life without him.
“Being paired with Yuri has changed my life in so many ways. In addition to being my eyes, keeping me safe, and giving me independence, he has also become my best friend—and is constantly by my side,” says Ashleigh. Without Yuri, Ashleigh may have never developed the confidence and independence needed to fulfill her dream of living and working in New York City. She is now able to navigate the city’s fast-paced subway system every day, feeling fully safe and cared for.
Melissa & Camry
Being diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at age three, Melissa was at risk of losing her eyesight from a very young age. In the coming years, she slowly began to realize the impact that this diagnosis would have on her. As Melissa had to sit closer and closer to the whiteboard in her college courses and could no longer see her friends waving to her across campus, things began to take a turn. As her vision continued to deteriorate, her doctor told her: “Melissa, you need to face the facts, you’re going blind.” She was just 27 years old.
The hardest step after hearing this shocking news was accepting the use of a cane to help Melissa get around. When she finally accepted her new reality, Melissa was ready for the chance to bring her old self back—and her first step was to apply to Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Now on her third guide dog—a beautiful black labrador named Camry—Melissa is an entirely different person. She says that with Camry, her “invisibility clock has been lifted.” Her independence and mobility have been enhanced, and new-found freedom shines through her countless adventures with Camry. The two have traveled to three continents, including North America, Europe, and Asia. Even more importantly, through the highest of highs and lowest of lows, Camry is always by Melissa’s side. From navigating through the chaotic streets of Los Angeles to dodging skateboarders, Camry and Melissa tackle each new obstacle like professionals. Together, the two are ready to conquer the world.
Michelle & Oscar
Born with glaucoma, Michelle spent a big part of her young life unable to navigate the world around her. Later, when Michelle became more mobile, it came with its fair share of bumps and bruises. Lacking depth perception, she lived in a constant state of discomfort and found it increasingly difficult to get around.
Around the same time that she started her undergraduate degree in psychology, Michelle made the split second decision to apply for Guide Dogs for the Blind program, and she has never looked back. From the get go, Michelle knew that the program had done a marvelous job in matching her with her beautiful golden guide dog Oscar—they immediately fell into step with each other, and within two months knew they had a lifelong partnership.
Even more surprising was the sheer number of people who approached Michelle on the first day of the new semester. The questions on everyone’s lips were: “Who is your furry friend?”, “Where can I get one?”, and of course “Can I pet him?” With this positive attention, the pair was able to walk with confidence everyday—whether it be on a small grocery shopping trip or a longer trip to visit Michelle’s sister in Los Angeles. Together, the two tackle intense psychology and jiu jitsu classes, but always leave room for playtime. Michelle and Oscar are primed to tackle deadlines and take the mental health field by storm.
Tom & Dynamo
After months of seeing Tom come home from his daily walks with strange bruises, his wife decided to apply to Guide Dogs for the Blind on his behalf. Before he knew it, Tom was headed to San Rafael, California to meet his future soulmate—Dynamo, a professional guide dog. “I’ve had four great gifts in my life: my wife, my two kids, and Dynamo,” says Tom. A superhero guide dog and a superhuman athlete, Dynamo and Tom spent their days training and securing their bond for two intensive weeks. They have never looked back.
With Dynamo never more than 20 feet away, Tom can listen to the birds sing and feel the wind in his hair without worrying about his safety. The added mental calm that Dynamo gives Tom, and the support and positive reinforcement that Tom gives Dynamo, have helped the two complete a half-marathon together, raising $6,000 for charity. With no signs of slowing down, the two are now planning to hike up Mount Rainier and travel the country— speaking as ambassadors for Guide Dogs for the Blind.
For Additional Information: Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Pet Foods, has underwritten all costs for the promotion of National Guide Dog Month to ensure that all money raised would directly benefit non-profit, accredited guide dog schools in the United States. Visit them here: Natural Balance Pet Foods
August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month
Story Credit: Consumer Health Digest
August is dedicated to preventing eye injuries and vision loss and saving children’s eyesight. One of 20 children ages 3 to 5 has a vision problem that could result in permanent vision if left untreated. Despite this unsettling statistics, 80 percent of preschoolers do not receive an eye screening. Children’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month encourages parents to learn how to protect their child’s eyesight and save their child’s eyesight from vision threatening conditions through regular eye exams, hence early detection and proper treatment. According to Craig Hensle, MD, President of the Virginia Society of Ophthalmology, eye exams for children are important because vision changes can occur without you or your child noticing.
Purpose of Children’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month
Parents should make their child’s vision health a priority, which is why the main objectives of Children’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month are to:
- Spread Information On The Importance Of Healthy Vision – Many activities gear towards family-friendly resources that help parents take care of their child’s eye sight and keep it healthy.
- Know More About Early Detection Of Vision Problems In Children – Impart the red flags that a child may have a vision problem, such as uneven focus, amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (crossed eyes). Early detection of vision conditions is crucial. Lazy eye is often corrected if treatment started at an early age; however, successful treatment is rarely achieved if treatment has started after a child reaches 8 or 9 years old.
- Raise Awareness About Preventing Eye Injuries In Children – In addition to eye diseases and conditions, you can also protect your children from sports-related eye injuries. About 100,000 sports-related eye injuries happen every day, where in one-third of these injuries occur in children under age 16. 90% could have been avoided if the child had worn protective eyewear, such as polycarbonate lenses fitted by an eye care professional. These lenses can withstand a ball traveling 90mph as it is 20 times stronger than ordinary eyeglasses.
- Save Children’s Eyesight – Teach parents to help their child correct their vision and recover from vision loss.
What You can do on Children’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month?
Having a month dedicated to knowing about your child’s eye health and safety can make a big difference to your child’s health and life. Based on the key objectives of this awareness month, you can do so much more to help raise awareness about vision diseases and eye conditions in children, as well as how to prevent them. To do a quick involvement, you can do your own research online and use the social media to share good and factual information to others. You can also support eye health and safety education program and sight-saving programs, which are designed specifically for children.
Message on Children’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month
Children should have an eye exam at 6 months and this must be repeated at age 3. Once they start school, eye exams must be done regularly. About 80% of what children learn in school is taught visually, which means if a child has undetected and uncorrected vision problem, it will affect the child’s development and performances in school. Some warning signs that your child may be experiences vision problems are:
- Tilting the head or squinting to see the class board better or when watching TV
- Frequent eye rubbing when he’s trying to concentrate on something.
- Holding a book too close to his eyes or often sitting close to the TV.
- Consistently using his fingers to guide his eyes when reading.
- Closing one eye to read or watch TV.
- Excessive tearing without any tear-causing stimuli.
- Eye discomfort when using a computer or any digital device i.e digital eye strain.
- Sensitivity to light, which sometimes accompanied by headache or nausea.
- Wandering eyes.
Special Tips on Children’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month
Aside from keeping a watchful eye for some of the warning signs listed above, protect your child from eye injuries by ensuring your children’s toys are age-appropriate and not a danger to their eyes. Check if your child’s toys or stuff are free of sharp or protruding parts that could accidentally poke the eyes. Fireworks are also detrimental to your child’s safety, as it can cause blindness if not handled correctly.
It’s your responsibility as a parent to know how you can keep your child’s vision healthy and obtain early diagnosis in case your child is suffering from vision problems through a regular eye exam. Also, be aware that eye injuries can happen anytime, anywhere. Eye injuries are often caused by sports or physical activities, so know proper precautions such as wearing protective eyewear when playing sports.
About Consumer Health Digest: Consumer Health Digest presents health related content to individuals looking to improve their overall health and well-being. All of the content appearing on Consumer Health Digest’s website is produced, selected, and reviewed by health writers and editors. Consumer Health Digest focuses on providing valuable health information and savings on health-related products for better managing your health.
A great way to keep up with all the good things Vision Resource Center of Berks County is doing in our community is by staying informed through our newsletters. Please enjoy our Summer 2017 In-Sight Newsletter in print format below.
print version: Summer Newsletter, 2017
Fireworks Eye Safety Advice from AAO
Story Credit: American Academy of Opthalmology, Written by Shirley Dang / Reviewed by Brenda Pagan-Duran MD
Fireworks may be advertised like toys. You may think you know how to handle them safely. But fireworks injure thousands of Americans every year. Playing with fireworks can blind you or your loved ones. Leave fireworks to the professionals this year.
Real People, Real Injuries from Fireworks
- Stacy: Woman’s Vision Saved After Devastating Fireworks Injury
- Javonte: Firework Blinds Teenager, Severs Hand
- Jameson: Teen Blinded in One Eye By Fireworks
Facts About Eye Injuries
Thousands of people, many of them children, suffer eye injuries from fireworks each year in the United States. In the most severe cases, fireworks can rupture the globe of the eye, cause chemical and thermal burns, corneal abrasions and retinal detachment — all of which can permanently cause eye damage and affect vision.
According to the most recent fireworks injury report (PDF) from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks injuries in the in the United States caused nearly 10,500 injuries requiring treatment in emergency rooms. The report also showed that nearly 1,300 eye injuries related to fireworks were treated in U.S. emergency rooms in 2014, more than double the 600 reported in 2012.
Those injured by fireworks are not necessarily handling the explosives themselves. In fact, nearly half of people injured by fireworks are bystanders, according to an international study (PDF). Children are frequent victims: 35 percent who sustained a fireworks injury are age 15 and under, according to the commission’s report.
Fireworks: The Blinding Truth
Fireworks safety tips
The Academy advises that the best way to avoid a potentially blinding fireworks injury is by attending a professional public fireworks show rather than purchasing fireworks for home use.
For those who attend professional fireworks displays and/or live in communities surrounding the shows:
- Respect safety barriers at fireworks shows and view fireworks from at least 500 feet away.
- Do not touch unexploded fireworks; instead, immediately contact local fire or police departments to help.
For those who decide to purchase consumer fireworks because they live in states where they are legal, the Academy recommends the following safety tips to prevent eye injuries:
- Never let young children play with fireworks of any type, even sparklers.
- People who handle fireworks should always wear protective eyewear that meets the parameters set by the American National Standards Institute and ensure that all bystanders are also wearing eye protection.
- Leave the lighting of professional-grade fireworks to trained pyrotechnicians.
What to do for a fireworks eye injury
If an eye injury from fireworks occurs, remember:
- Seek medical attention immediately.
- Do not rub your eyes.
- Do not rinse your eyes.
- Do not apply pressure.
- Do not remove any objects that are stuck in the eye.
- Do not apply ointments or take any blood-thinning pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
About the American Academy of Ophthalmology: The mission of the American Academy of Ophthalmology is to protect sight and empower lives by serving as an advocate for patients and the public, leading ophthalmic education, and advancing the profession of ophthalmology. The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. A global community of 32,000 medical doctors, we protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public. We innovate to advance our profession and to ensure the delivery of the highest-quality eye care.
Mark Levengood, Chad Johnson of Customers Bank and Caitlin Degler of Customers Bank, talk about the Dine in the Dark event.
June is Cataract Awareness Month
Story Credit: Prevent Blindness America
Vision Loss from Leading Cause of Blindness Can be Restored with Proper Treatment
There are currently more than 24 million Americans age 40 and older who have cataract, according to the Vision Problems in the U.S. report from Prevent Blindness America. It is the leading cause of blindness worldwide.
Cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens which blocks or changes the passage of light into the eye. Unlike many eye diseases, however, vision loss due to cataract can be restored. Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed procedures in the United States and has a 95 percent success rate. And, a new study found that cataract surgery patients had a significantly reduced rate of hip fractures from falls.
To educate the public on cataract, Prevent Blindness America has declared June as Cataract Awareness Month. The national non-profit group provides free information through its dedicated web page at preventblindness.org/cataract, or via phone at (800) 331-2020. For those interested in conducting discussions or seminars on the subject, PBA offers a free online module on cataract including a PowerPoint presentation with a complete guide as part of its Healthy Eyes Educational Series.
Cataract generally does not cause pain, redness or tears. However, these changes in your vision may be signs of cataract:
- Blurred vision, double vision, ghost images, the sense of a “film” over the eyes.
- Lights seem too dim for reading or close-up work, or you are “dazzled” by strong light.
- Changing eyeglass prescriptions often. The change may not seem to help your vision.
- You may sometimes notice the cataract in your eye. It may look like a milky or yellowish spot in the pupil (the center of your eye is normally black).
“Although getting a cataract is common, it doesn’t have to mean permanent vision loss,” said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness America. “One way to protect our vision is to make a commitment to take care of our eyes today, including getting a dilated eye exam, so we can help protect our sight for the future not just from cataract, but other eye diseases as well.”
For free information on cataract including Medicare coverage, please call Prevent Blindness America at (800) 331-2020 or log on to preventblindness.org/cataract.
About Prevent Blindness America: Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness America 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 America touches the lives of millions of people each year through public and professional education, advocacy, certified vision screening and training, community and patientservice programs and research. These services are made possible through the generous support of the American public. Together with a network of affiliates and regional offices, Prevent Blindness America is committed to eliminating preventable blindness in America.