After a visual impairment diagnosis, it’s important to think about how it will affect your daily life and all the changes that will need to be made to your living space. It may seem overwhelming at first, but if you sit down and make out a list of your daily activities, you’ll be able to see easily which changes need to be made and start working out a budget for any modifications.
Here are some of the best tips to help get you started.
Painting the railings a color that contrasts with the wall will be helpful.
If you have stairs in your home, it will be important to modify them in a simple way to make them a little safer to navigate. For instance, painting the railings a color that contrasts with the wall will be helpful, as well marking the edges of the individual steps with brightly colored tape. You might also consider installing small, battery-operated lights on the facing of each stair step–think of the ones in movie theaters–to help you find them easily in the dark.
Change up the lighting
Use sheer curtains or light-filtering mini blinds if you want a little privacy.
Lighting is very important for individuals with a vision impairment. Natural light typically works best, so make good use of the windows in your home. Use sheer curtains or light-filtering mini blinds if you want a little privacy. It’s also a good idea to make sure there are floor lamps and desk lamps near your workspaces or the most used areas of your home, and add lighting to stairways, hallways, the pantry, and closets. Banish those shadows, which can be tricky to navigate.
Paint light switch plates a dark color if you have white walls.
It’s imperative to get organized. Cabinets, drawers, and closets should be neat, with a place for everything. You can get sliding racks and shelving to make it easier to find items in the back; place like items with each other and consider using a braille label maker to mark the shelves. Keep cleaning supplies well away from any food items, and, if possible, refrain from storing items on high shelves so you won’t have to use a step stool.
You can use texture and contrasting colors to make important things easier to find; for instance, it might be useful to paint light switch plates a dark color if you have white walls; white tape on black stove controls will help you easily see the settings when cooking.
Make safety a priority
Furnitures without sharp edges are great protection to people living in the house.
If you live alone, safety should be high up on your list of priorities. Keep a fire extinguisher in each room, and make sure all the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order and have fresh batteries.
Clear any clutter from your home and make sure walkways, hallways, and main living areas are easy to walk through, with no obstructions such as large pieces of furniture. Throw rugs aren’t advisable, but if you do have them, make sure they’re tacked down to the floor beneath to prevent trip hazards.
Consider a service dog
Service dogs are wonderful companions.
Service dogs are wonderful companions and can be trained for a number of tasks, including keeping you safe on walks and being helpful around the house. It’s not cheap to train a dog for this service, however, so you need to be absolutely sure you’re ready for the commitment before making the decision to acquire one.
Originally published by Zoomax on http://www.zoomax.co/low-vision-information/Prepare-Home-After-Visual-Impairment-Diagnosis.html Special thanks for you!
For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.
We all have our challenges in life – physical, mental and emotional. Some are bigger, some are smaller, and some need more assistance than others to overcome. These ten apps use modern technology to enrich the lives of people with disabilities – allowing everyone to be able to use your smartphone the same way as everybody else. Today we’ll discuss some of the best disabled apps and accessibility apps for Android.
[Price: Free / $0.99]
Assistive Touch is an app that gives you virtual buttons. These virtual buttons allow you to navigate your device without having to touch it. It comes with a virtual home button, volume buttons, back button, take screenshots and more. It’s made for those who are physically disabled. Unfortunately, it has a variety of useless features as well, such as RAM cleaning, boosting, and other features. We highly recommend you don’t use those.
Google Now is already a very powerful tool. You can use it to send texts without typing anything, open apps, search the web, and call people. With Commandr, you can expand the usability of Google Now to include things like turning on a flashlight (if your device has an LED flash), toggling various functions (e.g. Bluetooth, WiFi), and even add your own custom commands using Tasker. Being able to automate many tasks via voice commands has the potential to help those with physical disabilities get around their device more easily and with less frustration. Note, you will need Google Now on your device for this to work. It’s one of the better disabled apps on Android.
Google Talkback is an accessibility feature that is built into Android to help those who are visually impaired. Once activated using the Accessibility option in the Settings menu, Google Talkback will help the visually impaired interact with their devices. It’s pretty based compared to most disabled apps and accessibility apps. It adds things like vibration, spoken, and audible feedback. The idea is to help you understand what’s happening on your device better. It’s not the end-all-be-all of solutions. However, it is pre-installed on your device so you might as well try it!
Google Translate is a very powerful app. However, most would think that it’s only good for travelers going to distance countries. You can do a lot more with a little creativity. Perhaps its best featured for the disabled is its ability to listen to spoken word and put it into text. This can be a great way for deaf people to communicate with those who don’t know ASL. It’s not as targeted as other disabled apps and accessibility apps. It’s still a good option, though.
HelpTalk is an app that can help assist in communication. It’s designed for those who are unable to communicate orally or through written word. It features a basic default profile that has a list of basic sentences and phrases. You can also create your own profile with whatever phrases you want. It uses a TTS engine for the speech and it is available in 12 languages. You can even use it to configure an emergency phone number, an emergency message, and an SOS button that will text a certain number if someone needs help. It’s one of the better disabled apps that we’ve found.
IFTTT stands for “if this, then that”. It’s an app that helps you set up automated actions. It can be used for a variety of things, including reading your text messages out loud, turning off your lights (if you have the right equipment), and all kinds of other stuff. With a bit of investment, you can make most of your house compatible with IFTTT which can make life a whole lot easier. However, it does take some work. The app is completely free. You can also find recipes for IFTTT with a simple Google Search.
JABtalk is an app designed to help non-verbal adults and kids communicate. With it you can build sentences from words, organize words into user-defined categories, import pictures and audio, and it even has text-to-speech capabilities. There’s also a backup feature With it, you can make sure to transfer your settings to a new device.. It essentially turns any Android device into an AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) device. It’s also completely free. It’s one of the lesser-known disabled apps. The only downside is that it has a few bugs here and there.
[Price: Free / $31.27]
NotNav GPS Accessibility is an app that was reportedly made by blind people, for blind people. It is a simple GPS navigation app that helps those walking around while blind. It will continually announce things like the nearest street address, your compass heading, nearby crosswalks and roads, and any other waypoint that you define. It’s a pretty solid and simple app. You can buy the full version for $31.27. The full version includes turn-by-turn directions as well. It’s about as good as it gets in this space.
Tecla Access is another accessibility app. It works kind of like a keyboard except you can use it all over the device to do all sorts of things. Most device functions and applications should be accessible. It’ll take you a few minutes to set up as well. There are also some bugs that can be annoying. Be sure to watch out for those. However, it’s still pretty good.
Voice Access is an app by Google. It’s for those who have physical disabilities. It utilizes the power of Google’s Voice Search to help you control your device. You can say things like “go back” or “go home” to navigate your phone. Additional commands includes “scroll down”, “click next”, and you can type with it. The app is in beta so there will almost certainly be bugs and issues that you’ll face. However, Google should make it better. Keep an eye out!
For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.
What exciting, sporty activities for the blind are out there?
As we all should know, blindness does not mean the end of your active life. As events such as the Paralympics and IBSA World Games show, there are a great many blind individuals who do not let their disability get in the way of an active lifestyle. You may be surprised at the wide range of exciting, adventurous activities for the blind, from scuba diving to skiing. At Seable, we specialise in accessible active holidays: as such, we have a lot of experience in adapting more challenging activities to make them accessible. In this blogpost we will take a peek at 6 activities for the blind which will exhilarate you and test your body’s limits. All of these are available within the UK or are offered by a UK company; many of them are offered by Seable. These activities for the blind are fun and exciting, a great way to keep in shape, and an empowering way to master your disability.
Sailing is a great way of improving your teamwork and communication skills, and honing your other senses: blind sailors have to constantly make calculated decisions from limited sensory information, such as the acoustic sounds from buoys and opponents’ boats.
If you’re in the UK and interested in getting involved, you’re in good company! There are thousands of disabled and blind sailors around the UK, and our blind sailing team is one of the most successful in the world.Blind Sailing, a registered Charity, aims to help blind and partially sighted people sail at all levels. They organise regular training sessions and racing events, provide coaching and help to enable novices learn to sail. RYA Sailability is a programme which introduces 53,000 young people and adults with disabilities to sailing per year. Their site also provides a search function to find your local sailing clubs and watersports sites which are approved to cater for the visually impaired.
Scuba diving can be an incredible experience: the sensation of the current, the muted sound and the feeling of calm and weightlessness combine to create an entirely different world. To scuba dive blind may seem like an arduous challenge, but with the proper instruction it can actually be safe and enjoyable. Scubability offers courses for the disabled, from complete beginners to advanced.
At Seable, we offer a full five-day scuba diving course in the Mediterranean, with each dive around 2-3 hours a day. The course is accredited by the H.S.A (Handicapped Scuba Association), and culminates with a diver certification which is valid worldwide.
Our Scuba diving course in action
You may have heard of Erik Weiheimayer, one of the most intrepid and inspirational blind adventurers in the world. Shortly after going blind, he received a newsletter in Braille about a group taking blind people rock climbing. He decided to sign up, and later described his early experiences: “Although there was a lot of flailing and struggle in those early days, the freedom of attacking a challenge and problem solving my way through it invigorated me and helped me to feel less trapped by blindness.” This “early seed of adventure” fuelled his ambition to reach ever greater heights, and on May 25, 2001, he became the only blind person ever to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. Time Magazine ran a cover story honouring him, and he was interviewed by Oprah and Jay Leno, amongst others. Today, Erik still refuses to let his blindness get in the way of his adventures, and continues to rock climb, kayak, ski and even paraglide in locations all around the world. Find out more about his adventures on his website.
If you’d like to follow in Erik’s rock holds, there are a range of ways to get involved in the UK. Actionnaires is a sport and activity club for children and young people aged 8 to 16 run by Action for Blind People. Over 16s are also welcome and are encouraged to take on a leadership role at the clubs. These clubs offer a range of activities from swimming to athletics, and, of course, rock climbing. The Bendrigg Trust is a residential activity centre in the Cumbria countryside which offers rock climbing and abseiling for disabled people of any age or ability, along with a whole host of other activities.
In blind tandem biking, a sighted rider, or “pilot”, sits at the front of the bike and communicates what is ahead to the visually impaired person, or “stoker”, in the back seat. The pilot gives information about obstacles, turns, upcoming hills, and when to break, whilst the stoker concentrates on pedalling, breaking and communicating with the pilot. Tandem cycling can provide a sense of speed which is uncommon for a blind person in everyday life, great exercise, and a great way of building camaraderie. Many blind cyclists tandem bike with a friend or partner as part of the rehabilitation process, in order to aid communication and mutual understanding.
Tandem cycling has been rapidly increasing in popularity in the UK following our success in the Olympics and Commonwealth games, and there are a number of clubs and organisations in the UK for blind and partially sighted people. A good idea would be to contact the Tandem Club, which has a Disabilities Liaison Officer who may be able to help with queries related to disabled people and to visually impaired cyclists. The Two’s Company initiative by the charity Life Cycle UK enlists sighted volunteers to help the visually impaired enjoy a day out cycling on a tandem bicycle.
Horseback riding has been shown to have many physical and cognitive benefits for blind and visually impaired children and adults. Known as “hippotherapy“, therapeutic horseback riding has been shown to improve posture, strength, balance, navigational skills, coordination and emotional well-being.
The Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) has over 18,000 instructors and volunteers, and offers activities for the blind for all age groups. Hoofin-About take people from all over the world to go on horse-riding holidays in Wales, and can accommodate visually impaired or blind riders. At Seable we also offer a horse-riding activity, which lasts 90 minutes and is carried out by fully trained instructors.
A high energy, physically demanding sport that many sighted people can’t do, skiing can provide a rare sense of sheer exhilaration and freedom as you fly downhill at blistering pace, slicing through the wind and the snow. It’s also a very social sport: it’s common to have holiday groups of visually impaired skiers, who get together at the end of the day and share their adventures.
The Ski 2 Freedom Foundation provides a comprehensive guide to skiing, snowboarding and other winter sport activities for the visually impaired, with a list of ski centres and resorts known to provide instruction and suitability for anyone who has a sight impairment, both abroad and in the UK. Whistler, a mountain resort in British Columbia and host of the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic games, offers many accessible sports venues and skiing and snowboarding lessons in the winter as part of its Whistler Adaptive Sport Programme.
Hopefully this post has given you just a glimpse into the expansive world of activities for the blind out there. With some ingenuity, hard work, and experienced help almost any activity that an able-bodied person is able to do can be done by a visually impaired person. At Seable we relish making our activities for the blind accessible, from scuba diving to windsurfing, and can offer you the help and experience to give you the opportunity to shine. See below for our testimony from the Paralympic Athlete Stephen Campbell, who travelled with us and took part in our scuba course, windsurfing and jet skiing:
Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a common eye condition and the leading cause of vision impairment in the UK, affecting up to 500,000 people. The condition is most common in people over 50, and it is estimated that one in every 10 people over 65 have some degree of AMD.
AMD causes damage to the macula, the part of the eye needed for sharp, central vision. As a result, a blurred area at the centre of vision is a common symptom. Over time, this blurred area may grow larger, and objects may not appear as bright as they used to be. This can interfere with simple everyday activities, such as the ability to recognise faces, drive, read, write, cook and do chores around the house.
Image courtesy of University of Washington
Currently, no medical or surgical cure exists for age-related macular degeneration. Coping with the vision loss can be a painful process, as everyday tasks become difficult to do. However, although you may not be able to restore your vision, plenty of services, tools and techniques are available to empower you to make the most of what you have. AMD does not mean you will no longer be able to enjoy the company of friends and family, or carry out projects, or indulge in your hobbies: plenty of sufferers continue to lead active, independent, and fulfilling lives. Here are 7 tips and recommended adjustments for making the most out of your vision.
1. Draw support from groups and professionals around you.
Research has shown that people with age-related macular degeneration who participate in support groups or self-help programmes do much better than those who simply go it alone. Visit a specialist in low vision, who can give you devices and learning skills to help you with everyday tasks. Your GP or optometrist should be able to refer you to one. Here are some good questions to ask your eye specialist:
– How can I continue my normal, daily routine?
– Are there any resources or special devices to help me with everyday tasks?
– What training and services are available to help me around and outside the house?
You could also ask them to refer you to a professional counselor, or support group. Alternatively, if you live in England, you can also usethis online search from the NHS to find visual impairment services near you. You may find it encouraging to find others with the same situation, to voice your feelings, share useful information, and gain emotional support. Finally, stay engaged with family and friends: not only do they form a support network, they are also important for your general wellbeing. A common frustration of AMD sufferers is the inability to recognise other people: if so, tell people you know to say hi and tell you their name when they meet you, so that you can recognise them.
2. Make use of the range of low vision aids available.
There are plenty of aids and electronic systems available for the visually impaired. Some of these include:
• Reading glasses with high-powered lenses
• Handheld magnifiers
• Computers with large-print and speech-output systems
• Large-print reading materials
• Talking watches, clocks, and calculators
• Computer aids and other technologies, such as CCTV magnifier, which uses a camera and television to enlarge printed text
Not every aid works for everyone, so ask your eye specialist and use your own experience to figure out which ones best suit you.
You may also wish to develop a technique known as “eccentric viewing”: this involves identifying an are of your retina that retains reasonable functionality, and is as close to the central part of the macula as possible in order to maximise detail, and learning to use this effectively. Click here to find out more about eccentric viewing.
3. Adjust your environment at home accordingly.
It’s a good idea to change up your environment at home to make things comfortable and safe for yourself from day to day. Here are some suggestions for improvements:
• Use brighter lighting, including task lamps for reading and up-close activities, and additional lighting in dark hallways and stairways.
• Eliminate glare from windows and on your computer wherever possible.
• Learn how to be organised, so that everything has its place.
• Use contrasting colors to help you navigate your surroundings.
• Try to eliminate tripping hazards, such as rugs.
With time, you will create an environment which is organically suited to your needs.
4. Take good care of your general health and wellbeing, through diet and exercise.
Foods rich in antioxidants – Image courtesy of Maja’s Diary
You may not be able to cure your AMD, but you can take steps to prevent it from getting worse.
Make sure to eat a healthy, balanced diet high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are protective for AMD. They can be found in abundance in green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and spring greens, and in fruits and vegetables with a bright colour like peppers, oranges and red grapes. Also eat plenty of fish, 2-3 times a week – fish such as salmon and sardines contain copious amounts of omega 3, a critical nutrient for the heart and eyes. Cut out saturated fats – research has shown that saturated fats contribute to AMD. You can find some healthy recipes at Eyefoods (click here), or order their book.
Depending on how developed your AMD is, and whether you are at high risk for developing advanced AMD, your doctor may also choose to prescribe you a supplement. In particular, a formulation created by the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) of concentrated antioxidants and zinc has been shown to help people at high risk of developing advanced AMD keep their remaining vision.
Exercise regularly: aim for three days a week. This pumps up your cardiovascular system, and can also lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels – both factors which have been linked to AMD.
If you smoke, quit! There is a very strong link between smoking and AMD: smokers are up to four times more likely than non-smokers to develop AMD. If you already have AMD, smoking can worsen it. Smoking decreases the level of antioxidants and increases the level of oxidants in your body, whilst reducing the amount of oxygen reaching your macula.
5. Take extra precautions when travelling, and do not be afraid to seek help.
Avoid driving in certain conditions: at night, in heavy traffic, or in bad weather. In fact, you may wish to suspend driving until you consult a specialist. You may find the book “Driving with Confidence: A Practical Guide to Driving With Low Vision” by Eli and Doron Peli helpful: click here to view it on Amazon.
If you are uncomfortable travelling alone, then seek help – ask family members or friends, or contact your local council for a list of vans, shuttles and volunteer care networks. You may also wish to use public transportation, where there will be attendants who can provide help if needed.
If you’re on holiday, it’s a good idea to put a brightly coloured strap around your luggage for easy identification, and to ask hotel staff for a tour of your surroundings. If you’re travelling alone, try and arrange for someone to help you around: it can be difficult navigating a foreign destination with a visual impairment. Here at Seable we can provide a chaperone to accompany you for the entire length of your holiday, from airport pickup to the final dropoff.
6. Protect your eyes from the sun.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the ultraviolet (UV) light in sunshine. UV light is known to contribute to cataracts and macular degeneration. UV light can pass through clouds, making overcast days just as dangerous as sunny ones.
To protect your eyes, invest in some UV-blocking sunglasses. Look for sunglasses that screen 99-100% of ultraviolet A and B rays. There are sunglasses designed specifically for macular degeneration, which include side panels and a ridge at the top of the glasses so that all light is filtered. You could also have your regular glasses treated with a UV coating – a clear coating which will not interfere with your normal sight. If you aren’t sure about the quality of your UV protection, you can ask your optician to check.
7. Stay positive.
Last but not least, stay positive! Vision loss may cause feelings of loneliness, anxiety, helplessness and depression. Learn how to cope with these by visiting a counsellor or support group. Asking others for help does not mean you are not independent: rather, think of it as taking charge and making use of the resources and networks out there which are available to you. Do not define yourself by your eyes or your vision, and empower yourself to overcome your impairment. AMD does not mean you cannot continue to lead a fulfilling and enjoyable life. With some help from the team here at Seable, you can even go on holiday! Below you can watch our interview with Peter, an 81-year old veteran with AMD who travelled alone with us to Sicily and had the “best holiday of his life”.
Situated at the southern tip of Italy in the Mediterranean, Sicily is a diverse island of extremes. Its history stretches back more than 3,000 years and as a strategic crossroads for southern Europe, it has the legacy of various civilizations which have influenced its way of life, culture, architecture and cuisine. The island is like a vast museum, a testament to the historic Mediterranean civilizations. (more…)
Loss of sight can be a difficult journey especially if the disability is relatively new. Visually impaired or blind people have to struggle with several coping mechanisms to make life easier for themselves. One of their biggest challenges is being able to move around independently without any helper and still feeling confident and safe. Most blind people rely on dogs to get them around, but most vacation spots and attractions rarely have the facility to accommodate this need of theirs. Nevertheless, blind people still are able to overcome all these weaknesses and live their lives equally well as sighted people. (more…)
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