Guide Dog Etiquette 101

Image via Guidedogs.com

Image via Guidedogs.com

Guide dogs are an invaluable resource to the blind and partially sighted. More than just pets, these furry assistants help people get around, can locate and retrieve objects, and can offer their owners a sense of independence they might not otherwise have. But how should others behave around a guide dog? What is acceptable behavior and interaction? Here are some tips from Guidedogs.com.

  • A guide dog should never be distracted from its duty. A person’s safety may depend on the dog’s alertness and concentration, so refrain from petting the dog without asking.
  • On the other hand, many people enjoy introducing their dogs when they have the time, so it is okay to ask for permission to pet the guide dog.
  • Before asking a question of a person handling a dog, allow them to complete the task at hand.
  • Remain calm in your approach and mannerisms, and never tease a dog.
  • A guide dog should never be offered food or other distracting treats. The dogs are fed on a schedule and follow a specific diet in order to keep them in optimum condition. Even slight deviations from their routine can disrupt their regular eating and relieving schedules and seriously inconvenience their handlers. Feeding treats to a guide dog weakens its training.
  • Similarly, guide dogs should not be offered toys without first asking the handler for permission. Though guide dogs are treated as pets when not in their harness, they are only allowed specific toys.
  • Calling out to a guide dog or obstructing its path can be dangerous for both the dog and its handler as it could break the dog’s concentration on its work.
  • In some situations, the handler may prefer to take your arm just above the elbow and allow their dog to heel instead of lead. Others will prefer to have their dog follow you. In this case, be sure to talk to the handler and not the dog when giving directions for turns.

Race to Cure Blindness

RaceToCureBlindness

Photo via Foundation Fighting Blindness

Many races, including 5k runs, triathlons and marathons, have designated charity beneficiaries. But did you know you can turn any race into an opportunity to raise money for fighting blindness?

The Foundation Fighting Blindness has made this process easy. Simply sign up for your race of choice, then visit www.racetocureblindness.org and go through the registration process. Upon completion, you will be directed to a personal fundraising page, which you can customize and share with your friends and family. You are now ready to start raising money. FFB has a starter packet you can download to help you set goals.

This is a great way to turn your race into a more personalized fundraising effort and to help raise money and awareness for vision-related causes.

Guiding the Vision-Impaired

Image via NCBI

Image via NCBI

Diseases such as AMD affect more than just the individual with the condition. A degenerative eye disease of any kind can have profound effects on those closest to the patient, who must rely on those around them more as the disease progresses. Yet for those with loved ones affected by loss of eyesight, it can sometimes be difficult to know when and how to step in.

Here are some tips for aiding the vision impaired provided to AMD.org by the American Foundation for the Blind and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind:

  • First and foremost, never assume the person wants or needs help. Always ask first and never force the person to accept help.
  • If help is accepted, tap the back of your hand against his or her hand. This will cue the person to grasp your arm directly above the elbow. Never grab the person’s arm or try to direct him or her by pushing or pulling.
  • If the vision-impaired person does not know sighted guide techniques, you may need to guide their hand to the proper place above your elbow. You may also verbally guide the person by pointing out potential obstacles.
  • Relax and walk at a comfortable pace, but stay one step ahead of the person you are guiding.
  • When moving through doorways or narrow spaces, as the guide, you should enter first. To signal this, move your guiding arm backwards and position it diagonally behind your back so that the two of you are in single-file, with the vision-impaired person’s arm fully extended to avoid stepping on your heels. Let the person know you are moving through a doorway or narrow space, and describe as much detail as possible, including the direction the door opens. When you’re finished navigating the narrow space, bring your arm back to your side and resume the normal guiding stance.
  • When navigating stairs, approach the stairs squarely; never from an angle. Let the person know where the handrail is, and allow the person to detect the edge of the stair with his or her foot. Proceed up or down the stairs in rhythm, with the guide always one step ahead of the vision-impaired person.
  • To guide a person to a seat, place the hand of your guiding arm on the seat. The person you are guiding will find the seat by following along your arm.
  • Never leave the person in “free space.” The person should always hold your arm, and when this is not possible, make sure the person is in contact with a wall, railing or some other stable object until you return.

Five Eye Safety Tips for Halloween

Image via FDA.gov

Image via FDA.gov

With Halloween approaching, the FDA, Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued a list of safety tips for trick-or-treaters and partygoers. While many Halloween safety tips focus on the food we eat (such as inspecting candy before eating), it is also important to be thoughtful about vision; specifically, not obscuring your vision, being visible to others, and protecting your eyes. Following are some important vision-related tips:

  1. Wear makeup and hats instead of masks that can obscure your vision.
  2. Wear bright colors or add reflective tape to your costume to make yourself more visible in the dark.
  3. Test makeup you plan to use on your arm a couple days beforehand to watch for irritation or allergic reaction. This is especially important for makeup that will be applied near your eyes.
  4. Check the FDA’s list of permitted color additives to see if makeup additives are FDA-approved. Do not use anything not approved for its intended use.
  5. Don’t wear decorative contact lenses without first checking with your doctor and getting a proper fitting and instructions. In fact, the FDA, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists and the American Optometric Association discourage consumers from wearing decorative contact lenses altogether.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Study Shows Seniors with AMD Stay Close to Home

Seniors with age-related macular degeneration travel shorter distances from home than those with glaucoma or normal vision, a recent study found. Photo by Jenny Kane, The Patriot-News

Seniors with age-related macular degeneration travel shorter distances from home than those with glaucoma or normal vision, a recent study found. Photo by Jenny Kane, The Patriot-News

A recent study on how eye disease affects mobility found that older Americans with macular degeneration tend to stay closer to home than their peers with normal vision, and even those with glaucoma.

The study, led by Frank Curriero of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, found that on average, adults with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) traveled a maximum of 5.6 miles distance from their homes each day, compared with 6.3 miles for people with glaucoma and 6.9 miles for those without vision loss.

The new study used cellular tracking devices to measure the movements of more than 200 older adults between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., for seven days.

Curriero told Reuters Health that previous studies have shown that people with AMD often stop or limit their driving, but did not clearly establish that they travel less. While the average travel difference between fully sighted adults and those with AMD was expected, Curriero said he was surprised at the difference that showed up between test participants with AMD and those with glaucoma.

“We didn’t think AMD and glaucoma would have different outcomes, so that was unexpected,” he said.

The diseases collectively known as glaucoma can lead to the slow loss of peripheral vision, while AMD damages sharp and central vision, which is important for reading and driving.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about two million people in the U.S. have AMD, while about the same number are affected by glaucoma, though only half of those people know they have it.

Curriero said that the study should change the way medical providers think about delivering services to people with AMD.

“Services directed towards individuals with AMD may have to be based in the home, or include transportation, to properly ensure that they are accessing the services they need,” he said.

Futuristic Pod Simulates Sight Loss

Photo via clickliverpool.com

Photo via clickliverpool.com

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is touring a futuristic-looking pod that simulates common sight conditions, with the goal of making eye health a priority for those in the UK and encouraging eye checks every two years.

The pod features giant eyes on its roof that have cameras installed inside of them. Inside the pod, people can view the video feed on screens which demonstrate how people with eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic eye disease and age-related macular degeneration see the world. There is also detailed information available about eye health and sight loss.

For more information about the RNIB Eye Pod Tour, visit http://www.rnib.org.uk/getinvolved/campaign/sos/pages/eye-pod.aspx.

New App from Library of Congress Grants Instant Access to Materials for Vision-Impaired Readers

A screen shot of the BARD Mobile app. Via iTunes.

A screen shot of the BARD Mobile app. Via iTunes.

The Library of Congress has released a new application that allows vision-impaired readers instant access to its collection of more than 50,000 books, magazines and musical scores in audio and braille formats. The Braille and Audio Reading Download application – BARD Mobile – offers a way to bypass the slower process of mailing out audio cartridges or hard-copy braille books to regional libraries, which then deliver them to patrons.

“It’s like a library in your pocket,” said Karen Keninger, director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, in an interview with CQ Roll Call. “Now [patrons] can use a mainstream device – iPhone, iPad or iPod – to download the book they want today and have it ready within five minutes.”

The National Library Service expects a surge of downloads for the new application, which is available in the iTunes store, because so many NLS patrons have already requested access to materials through mobile devices. The NLS currently delivers reading materials – which include children’s books, teen fiction, mystery and romance novels, in addition to classic literature and works of nonfiction – to more than 500,000 citizens with vision impairment.

The move towards a digital delivery system is particularly meaningful for Keninger, who is visually impaired, and recalls with nostalgia the deliveries of braille books to her childhood home in Vinton, Iowa. Appointed in March 2012, Keninger is the first visually impaired person to head the NLS since it was established by Congress in 1931.

The NLS said that an app for devices that use the Android platform is currently in development.

Hybrid Font Allows Blind and Sighted Readers to Share the Same Book

Universal Type: Books for sighted and blind readers use a typeface that combines Braille with ink lettering (Photo Courtesy of Gizmodo)

Universal Type: Books for sighted and blind readers use a typeface that combines Braille with ink lettering
(Photo Courtesy of Gizmodo)

A book designed to be shared by visually impaired and sighted readers aims to bring together students who often go through separate learning experiences. Using simple images with embossed outlines and a typeface that combines Braille with ink lettering, the ‘Storybook For All Eyes’ series is equally accessible to both sighted and visually impaired readers.

The Thailand Association for the Blind teamed up with ad agency BBDO Bangkok and the publishing house Pasarnmitr to create this new ‘hybrid’ font, and to publish the first book of its kind for both blind and sighted readers: Mr. Light and Mr. Dark by Rook Floro. By allowing visually impaired and sighted students to read the book together, the Association for the Blind hopes to knock down a barrier that separates these children at a young age.

“Separate books make kids live in separate worlds,” BBDO Bangkok stated in a video introduction to the new book. “But the Thailand Association for the Blind believes in the equality of the blind and the fully sighted. So together, we created a book to unite all eyes.”

This is a great first step in uniting the learning experiences of more visually impaired and sighted readers.

Study Shows Eye Diseases May Affect Language Comprehension

Photo credit: Morguefile

Photo credit: Morguefile

A recent study by the University of Utah shows that language comprehension relies not only on sound, but also on vision. Researchers found that the auditory signal in the brain was influenced by vision, and as a result, certain retinal degenerative diseases could potentially affect the way those affected by the diseases understand others, particularly in loud or crowded places.

According to the study, the brain correlates both auditory and visual cues when processing speech, and when the two contradict, what you see can actually override what you hear. This phenomenon is known as the McGurk effect and can be attributed to brain signals in the temporal cortex, the region of the brain that processes sound.

More information on this study can be found in the press release from the University of Utah.

Simple At-Home Tests Can Help Detect Signs of Wet Macular Degeneration

Did you know that simple at-home tests could alert you to changes in your vision that could indicate wet macular degeneration? And since the first line of defense is awareness and early detection, these simple tests are a great way to proactively monitor your eye health.

The first test is called the Amsler Grid and looks like graph paper with a dot in the middle. One of the first signs of wet macular degeneration can be a blurred or missing area of vision, as well as wavy, broken or distorted lines. The Amsler Grid can help you spot these vision anomalies early.

To use the Amsler Grid, wear your reading glasses if you normally use them, position your face about 14 inches away from the grid, and cover your left eye. With your right eye, focus on the dot in the middle of the grid. While looking at the dot, you should still see the lines of the grid. Note if any of the lines are distorted, broken or blurred. Repeat the process with your left eye, while covering the right. Repeat daily.

Amsler_Grid

An alternative to the Amsler Grid is to simply look at your face in the mirror every morning, covering one eye at a time. While focusing on your face, notice if there is any central blurring or missing parts.

If you notice any vision anomalies during either test, contact your eye doctor and ask for a dilated eye examination. Even if you don’t notice any vision changes during these tests, you should see your eye doctor every year or two for a dilated eye examination.

For more information about the Amsler Grid, or to download a copy of the grid, visit AMD.org.