Meet Esref Armagan – A Blind Painter

March is National Craft Month and most people would assume that those with visual impairments would have little interest in creating crafts when they can’t fully see their own creation.

They would be wrong. Some might believe that creating tactile pieces like pottery or knitted sweaters would be the only form of art that a person challenged with vision could complete. Again, they would be wrong. People with blindness or low vision have the same passion to create art as others, and even have a unique approach due to their limited vision.

Consider Esref Armagan. Born in 1953 in Istanbul, Turkey, Esref had one eye the size of a lentil.  The other eye was fully formed but totally non-functional, leaving him completely blind.

Despite his blindness, Esref had a strong desire to discover the world around him and express himself through color and art. Using cardboard and nails, he first drew patterns on paper, then began drawing pictures using paper and pencil.

Esref sees and discovers the world with his fingertips. His first picture, drawn around age 8, was a butterfly. He drew and drew as a child, mixing vibrant colors to express what he felt with his fingertips. By age 18, he was painting on poster paper with oil paints, and decided on a career as a painter.

Using colors, perspective, shadow, light and balance in his pictures Esref began to attract the attention of both international artists and curious scientists. In 2004, Harvard University scientists tested him with brain and eye scans.  They were amazed to discover that his brain´s visual cortex lit up whenever he touched an object and began drawing.

Today Esref has developed a unique technique and method to paint what he imagines.  He has been featured in the documentary “The Real Superhumans” by Discovery Channel as well as in an internet commercial for Volvo and numerous media interviews for television, radio and the press.

 

 

Here is a video of his story:

https://youtu.be/JTDQcSS809c

 

 

Lindsey’s Cane Story

What is tall and thin and wears only red with white?  

That would be me – Daisy.  My purpose in life is to help others and my partner in this work is Miss Lindsey.  Together we travel and can do great things!  We believe we can change the world!

Cane on a wood porch

Cane on a wood porch

Lindsey has Low Vision, and at times, when she is using her eyes to look up and find our path, she doesn’t see the floor, or things like curbs and drop-offs.  That’s my job – protecting her from things she does not see.  Lindsey’s job is to learn, explore and help us change the world!

Lindsey is in high school and learning to do more things on her own.  She likes shopping, exploring and working some too.  She is learning many new things to prepare her for life after school.  Right now, Lindsey and I get to walk around some really neat places and meet some really interesting people, as she tries to figure out exactly what she would like to do for her job after High School.

Recently, Lindsey, her travel trainer and I sat down to talk together about why our partnership is so important to Lindsey. 

Blind woman traveling with white cane

Blind woman traveling with white cane

Lindsey explained that my most important job is to help her walk safely, find obstacles and not trip.  When we work together, she swings me from side to side to clear her path, and if I find something, I let her know.  When we find steps or curbs, I drop down low and Lindsey knows to stop.  If I bump into an obstacle, we stop, take a look, and find another path.  In this way, I take care of the looking at the ground and Lindsey takes care of deciding where we go.  

We have been taking a lot of time to learn how to PLAN our trips too.  Lindsey is learning how to make mental map pictures of the areas in which we travel.  Mental Mapping is Really Cool.  When Miss Lindsey needs to travel from one place to another, she takes a minute to think about her route, shares it with me, and then together we travel, looking for the clues and landmarks along the way – so as to not get lost.  Sometimes I help her find the down low landmarks and she helps me to find the up high ones.

small map

Street map with short route

When we talked about what was most challenging for Lindsey and I working together, Lindsey shared that it was all the questions people asked her about me, her cane.  She shared that sometimes people question why she needs a partner to travel around and this makes her upset.  Lindsey shared that she is grown-up now and old enough to start making some of her own decisions.  She shared that she is the only one who knows how she sees best and that she really wishes people would trust her decisions when it comes to working with me when we travel around.

Recently, Lindsey, her family and I went on a really cool trip – we took a ship out onto the ocean!  We visited some really interesting places and got off the ship here and there to explore.  Lindsey shared that when travelling in new places she really feels best when I am by her side.  Sometimes, the paths are rough, and the area is not familiar; when I can come along and help her find the bumps and drops, she feels a lot more confident and happy.  

lindsey from the back with cane

Lindsey using Daisy to find a curb

As we talked with Lindsey about some of the new places we will be travelling to in the next few months, she got really excited!  We talked about learning how to cross streets downtown, how to explore some new places to learn about work and maybe how we could look at what kinds of jobs she and I can do together.  Lindsey and I understand that to be safe AND independent moving forward, we are going to have to work hard together as a team.  My bright white and red uniform helps others to see us and to know that they have to be more careful, especially if we are in the crosswalk.

One of the things we are MOST excited about is teaching others about our relationship.  We are the perfect team.  We talked about how everyone needs special tools to do their jobs and get work done.  I am one of those special tools!  And I think that Miss Lindsey and I make a great team.  I can’t wait for others to see us in action and to better understand how we can work together to keep Miss Lindsey safe AND help her be the best young person she can be.  Keep Your Eyes Open.  We will see you soon!

JANUARY: Glaucoma Awareness Month

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month.  Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause vision loss because of damage to the optic nerve, the nerve responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness.  It is sometimes called “the sneak thief of sight” since there are no obvious symptoms and as much as 40% of vision can be lost before a person seeks medical attention.  Experts estimate that half of those with glaucoma don’t even know they have it.

January is Glaucoma awareness with more details

Although glaucoma does not have obvious symptoms before vision is lost, there are several risk factors which could make you more susceptible to glaucoma.  The disease is more prevalent among African American and among Latino populations.  These groups are 6 to 8 times more likely to have glaucoma than Caucasians.  Other high-risk groups include: people over 60, family members of those already diagnosed, people who are severely nearsighted, and those with diabetes.

Regular eye exams are especially important for these high-risk groups.  Glaucoma causes your eye pressure to increase due to fluid buildup, coupled by your eye’s inability to regulate the internal pressure.  Your doctor or eye care professional will be able to determine eye pressure quickly with that little blast of air during a routine exam.

The relationship between diabetes and open-angle glaucoma (the most common type of glaucoma), has intrigued researchers for years.  People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop glaucoma as are non-diabetics.  Similarly, the likelihood of someone with open-angle glaucoma developing diabetes is higher than that of a person without the eye disease.

Neovascular glaucoma, a rare type of glaucoma, is always associated with other abnormalities, diabetes being the most common.  In some cases of diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels on the retina are damaged.  The retina manufactures new, abnormal blood vessels.  Neovascular glaucoma can occur if these new blood vessels grow on the iris (the colored part of the eye), closing off the fluid flow in the eye and raising the eye pressure.

There is no cure for glaucoma.  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.  If you have glaucoma, treatment can begin immediately when it is discovered and the amount of vision loss can be reduced.  An annual eye exam is your best defense against glaucoma and its devastating effects.

Seasons Greetings & Happy Holidays

Vision Rehabilitation Services of GA wishes each and every one of you very Happy Holidays!  May the time you spend with family and friends warm your hearts and remain with you always.  VRS looks forward to the New Year and being able to serve our clients and their families.  We also appreciate our sponsors and supporters in all they do to help our efforts.

In observance of the Holidays, VRS will be closing at 1pm ET today.  We will remain closed Monday, December 25th, and Tuesday, December 26th.  We will reopen, Wednesday, December 27th!

Four-Part Christmas Plan For Diabetics

Christmas bellsIt’s the Christmas season and those with diabetes should approach the season with thoughtful planning in order to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and keep up with hard-earned healthy habits.  Creating a four-part plan for eating, drinking, traveling and activity at Christmas is one strategy recommended by the American Diabetes Association.  VRS instructors can assist you in developing your holiday plan – feel free to contact us at any time with questions:

Holiday Eating Plan:

American holidays are typically celebrated with excess food, so it is important to have an eating plan for maintaining healthy glucose levels Holiday Eating plan graphicthroughout the season.

  • Communicate your dietary needs to the event host
  • Offer to bring healthy alternatives to add to the menu
  • Have a high protein snack earlier in the day to avoid arriving hungry at the event

How to cut calories, without compromising on taste:

  • Remove the skin and eat light-colored meat (breast) rather than dark meat (thigh)
  • Make low-carb pigs in a blanket. Use low-fat cocktail sausages and pierce the skins. Instead of wrapping in bread, wrap with lean back-bacon (with the excess fat trimmed off) and grill. Do not fry or bake
  • Roast your potatoes; minimize fat by dry-roasting or using spray oil
  • Use vegetarian sausage rather than high-fat, high-calorie sausage meat in your stuffing
  • Keep to the healthy plate rule: 2/3 of your plate should be vegetables
  • Be extra cautious with dessert. Check out this link for dessert ideas. https://www.rd.com/food/recipes-cooking/diabetes-friendly-holiday-desserts/

If you have a higher blood glucose level than normal due to overindulging or changing your routine; don’t worry too much as this shouldn’t affect your long-term diabetes control.  Do aim to avoid persistently high readings in order to avoid compromising your hard-earned healthy habits.

Holiday Drinking Guidelines:

Holiday Drinking guidelines graphicAlcohol intake can lower blood glucose levels and increase the risk of a hypoglycemia incident.  Check with your doctor or pharmacist regarding how your prescriptions interact with alcohol and adjust your intake accordingly.

  • Diabetic men should have a maximum of 3-4 units of alcohol
  • Diabetic women a maximum of 2-3 units
  • Alternate between alcoholic and diet soft drinks or water can help limit the amount of alcohol you consume and keep you hydrated
  • Reduce calories and alcohol units by consuming lower strength wine
  • Do not to drink on an empty stomach – this can cause a low blood sugar event

Holiday Travel Tips:

Travelling with diabetes requires some extra planning and, at times, extra luggage!  List the items needed for your journey; keep an extra copy on your device or with a loved-one.

Travel Tips graphic

  • Always take extra supplies in case of an emergency
  • Plan for the unexpected: storm and airline delays may require longer stays
  • Bring extra insulin, meters, strips, pump supplies, alcohol wipes and Skin Tac wipes. You may also want to bring additional ketone urine strips. Use a Frio or other cooling bag for carrying insulin.
  • If you are flying, plan for extra time to go through security
  • Get a medical note saying you are allowed to carry diabetes- related supplies onto the airplane
  • Carry all of your supplies onto the plane – just in case
  • Divide supplies between bags, perhaps between other family members, in case a bag gets lost
  • Find out about special precautions from your insulin pump company Most insulin pumps and CGMs cannot be removed and sent through the x-ray machine.
  • Wear a medical ID necklace or bracelet
  • Carry a list of your doctors’ phone numbers with you
  • Have a back-up plan. Always carry syringes even if you are on a pump; if your pump fails you will be okay
  • Carry Ziplock bags in case something needs to be put in ice so it doesn’t get all wet (such as a pump or insulin bottles)
  • Carry candy, granola bars, glucose tabs, and other low blood sugar foods
  • Carry extra batteries for your pump/meter if needed

 

Keeping Active during the Holidays:Keeping active graphic

There are lots of easy and fun ways to add in some extra physical activities during the holiday season.  Grab a family member up off the couch and check some of these off your list:

  • Take a brisk walk with your family after your holiday meal.
  • Dance to holiday music.
  • Go ice skating at a local or pop up ice rink.
  • Shoot a few hoops
  • Enjoy the colors or smells with a holiday hike
  • Walk the neighborhood and look at lights
  • Take a caroling walk in the neighborhood

Introducing activity into your holiday season can help control both blood sugar levels and blood pressure.  It also helps us make memories with our families and friends that will last a lifetime. Take some time to make your plan for staying healthy over the holiday season and then go enjoy!

holly

Client Holiday Party

It was our pleasure to host the annual VRS Holiday Party today.  While the weather was not working with us, we still had a great turn out, wonderful food, and a fabulous entertainment.

Food

Our guests were treated to a traditional holiday meal of ham, turkey, and all the trimmings.  We would like to thank Belinda Green of Akoma Events for catering our event and weathering the roads to deliver our delicious meal!!

Big Room U table

We had some fun holding a raffle where a number of gift baskets were won as well as a beautiful wreath.  We’d like to thank Cook’s Christmas Trees for the wreath donation.  They are setup right across the street on South Cobb Drive for those still looking for a Christmas tree, wreath, or other holiday décor.

 

We were also grateful to be able to send a mini key lime pie home with each guest thanks to the support and donation from Kenny’s Great Pies.  Kenny’s is a great alternative for your holiday pies and offer a varietyBig Room tables of flavors if key lime is not on your list.  We also enjoyed the live entertainment from Tina Knight, who’s voice was beautiful!

Many thanks to everyone who joined us today!  The VRS staff and Board wish each and every one of you a very Merry Holiday Season and Happy New Year!

snowing at party

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving-clip-art-thanksgiving-clipart-download-free-clipartcow

Vision Rehabilitation Services of GA wishes a very Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!  As families and friends gather and share past memories while making new ones, we at VRS wish you a day of happiness and gratefulness.  We are thankful for our clients and the ability to assist when needed.  Our capability to be there for our clients is not possible without our sponsors and supporters who we are very appreciative to and thankful for having.  With much gratitude, Happy Thanksgiving!

In observance of Thanksgiving, VRS will be closed Thursday, November 23rd, and Friday, November 24th.  We will reopen, Monday, November 27th!

VRS JR on the Road Again: A Visit to Portrait on a Plate

Hello Everybody!  Monday, November the 13th, the VRS Job Readiness group was once again out and about in the community. They visited Portrait on a Plate Catering, located in Austell, Georgia. These opportunities for hands on experiences provide insights into possible career paths as well as reinforcing daily living skills such as cooking, arranging transportation and time management.  VRS and our clients truly appreciate these outings and events.  So enjoy the following…

Upon our arrival, De’astin introduced us to our hosts, Chef Mark and Chef James. The Chefs of Portrait on a PlateAs soon as we walked in, the chefs had our group sit down at the kitchen table, after which they served us some delicious appetizers: warm, tenderly-cooked meatballs and Chicken wings marinated in a honey curry sauce.

While we ate, Jamie gave our hosts a chance to learn about how the visually impaired operate at the dinner table. You see, because most of us have problems with our eyesight, Jamie informed us of the location of our utensils and drinking glasses by describing them as if they were placed upon a clock’s face. Next, to confirm the location of these objects, Jamie told us to use our sense of touch to determine which items are in front of us. Afterwards, so that every participant would know who they were sitting next to, Jamie had each of us call out our names (kind of like playing Marco Polo without a pool). Our hosts were quick learners, and upon witnessing Jamie’s demonstration, Chef Mark and Chef James immediately adopted her methodology- how helpful!

After finishing the appetizer, we gathered around the kitchen’s L-shaped cooking counter, The Cooking Stationtied on our aprons, and began learning how to cook Chicken Cordon Bleu. Chicken Cordon BleuChef James- our cooking instructor for the day- guided us patiently throughout every stage of the cooking process.  For instance, he showed us how to avoid injuring our fingers while chopping vegetables by demonstrating the “Tiger Paw” technique. (Our fingers thank you!) James also allowed us to hold and smell every ingredient in the recipe. That way, even the folks with the least amount of useable vision available could tell them apart. Additionally, James and Mark allowed each person to contribute to the cooking process by handing everyone either a meat tenderizer, a knife, or a bowl of seasoning. This part was especially fun, because Derrick and William got to release some of their pent-up emotions by pounding the living daylights out a chicken breast.  More importantly, however, both Chef Mark and Chef James trusted each member of the JR group to complete their tasks safely, and we truly appreciate such trust and kindness.

In fact, the staff members at Portrait on a Plate were extremely kind and accommodating throughout our entire visit. For instance, not only did they provide us with refreshments and music while we ate, but the chefs also closed their business to the public on October 13th, all so that they could teach our Job Readiness class how to cook as a favor to the Vision Rehabilitation Services of Georgia.  The staff members refused to charge the JR group for either the meals or the cooking lesson that they gave us.   (Maybe, they can write it off as charity during tax season.) The Job Readiness Participants didn’t even have to worry about cleaning up their work stations or washing dishes when the class was finished- and let me tell you, a bunch of low-sighted cooks can make quite a mess in the kitchen.

To show our appreciation for their generosity, the Job Readiness group members agreed to recommend Portrait on a Plate to everyone on Facebook and Twitter, along with any of the other 70 million identical social media websites. Additionally, Jamie and the JR participants were happy to answer any questions that the chefs had regarding the signs which accompany certain visual disorders, the types of sports open to people with visual impairments, or the percentage of students who were born with low vision, as opposed to those who acquired their visual impairments later in life.

For instance, according to Jamie, vision problems manifest in many different ways. So, if you experience dizziness, vision problems or headaches, then you probably drink too much. Nonetheless, if these problems continue, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.  Finally, after their questions had been answered, the Job Readiness participants bid farewell to our hosts, before heading back to the VRS office to be picked up.

VRS_Volunteers_Portrait_on_A_Plate_Group_picOn behalf of Vision Rehabilitation Services of Georgia, we would all like to thank Chef Mark and Chef James for providing us with delicious food, valuable cooking tips, as well as a wonderful dining experience overall. Whether you are desperately searching for someone to cater your next party, or simply looking for a cooking instructor that can make learning both safe and fun, you can’t go wrong with Portrait on A Plate Catering!

Finally, a special thank you to Mr. Wayman, Beth Shaw, and Bob Shaw of the Lion’s club who drove us to Portrait on a Plate Catering on Monday. You people are real life savers. (We really mean that: the buses won’t go to that part of Austell, and you don’t want a bunch of people who have visual impairments attempting to drive themselves.)

 

November is American Diabetes Month – Did you know…

November is American Diabetes Month, a month set aside to educate the general public about this serious, and sometimes debilitating disease. One of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States, diabetes can cause blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease, and other health problems if it’s not controlled.

Diabetes#1causeofblindnessOne in 10 Americans have diabetes — that’s more than 30 million people. Another 84 million adults in the United States are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Fortunately, people who are at high risk for type 2 diabetes can lower their risk by more than half if they make healthy changes in their life – such as eating healthy, getting more physical activity, and losing weight. Those with diabetes in their family tree should be especially aggressive about making these changes as the risk of diabetes increases dramatically based on genetics.

Here are some tips for “tackling” Thanksgiving, football, and diabetes:

One of the most important considerations for those of us managing our diabetes or similar health issues, is to keep your blood sugars balanced during the day. Stable blood sugars ensure that your visual functioning remains consistent and at its best. The most effective way to balance blood sugars is to eat vegetables and proteins. So, on Thanksgiving Day, plan to eat small balanced meals at your regular meal times –breakfast and lunch –before the big dinner meal. Enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner by eating small portions of the food available for the meal. Leave the leftovers. Go back to your normal healthy eating the next day. It’s also an excellent idea to get up and move a little. Take an after meal walk and reminisce with loved ones,  stand up, stretch, and move during commercial breaks of the football and basketball games or better yet, go outside and toss the football yourself with the kids!

Even if you are already a diabetic, you can limit the progression and impact of the disease by carefully monitoring your health and following your doctor’s plan of action to diligently treat your diabetes. Further information about the prevention and treatment of this disease can be found on the American Diabetes Association website at www.diabetes.org.

Breast Cancer Awareness Continues

Just as the trees start to turn their glorious shades of orange and red, everywhere you look another glorious color emerges– Pink! From pink-clad legs of our soccer-playing kids to the teens sporting hair dyed in shades of pink we never knew existed – it’s clear that Breast Cancer Awareness is upon us! When asked why their team was wearing pink socks last week, I overheard a 10-year old boy explain that his teammate’s mom has breast cancer and they wanted to make her feel loved. Pink is everywhere and it’s not surprising to hear such statistics as: about 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point in their life.

Fortunately, just like my soccer mom friend, if found and treated early, most women can survive breast cancer, which makes all the pink and public awareness campaigns even more important. Know the risk and follow directions for proper and timely screenings.

The most important screening tool for early detection of breast cancer is a mammogram; an x-ray of the breast. Doctors recommend that women should start annual mammograms at age 40. If a woman has a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, she may want to consider starting mammograms earlier.  After menopause is complete, women can lengthen the time between mammograms to once every two years. Take time to look at the risk assessment link below to better understand your personal risk factors: https://www.cancer.gov/bcrisktool/

It is also recommended that women do a self-examination of each breast monthly, beginning at the onset of their menstrual cycle. If you notice any changes in your breasts, contact your doctor for an appointment immediately.

It is not commonly known that breast cancer can occur in men; over 2,000 men are diagnosed each year. If you are male and notice a change in the breast or nipple area, or feel a lump or hard spot there, see your doctor immediately.

Finally, what better way to support those who are managing their disease then to participate in a breast cancer walk in your community. You can enjoy the glorious fall weather, the beautiful changing colors and create your own stylin’ Pink outfit to dazzle your friends! Websites such as the American Cancer Society or other cancer non-profit organizations also welcome your support through donations and other volunteer opportunities.

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