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!

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!

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.

Childhood Obesity Creates Risk for Chronic Diseases

Childhood obesity is an epidemic that is impacting the health and wellness of  millions of children. To bring attention to this critical situation, September was deemed National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, a month to reflect on the problem of childhood obesity in America.  Although September has come and gone we must continue to reflect on the problem of childhood obesity and how to stop it.

The Facts

The percentage of children with obesity in the United States has more than tripled since the 1970s. In fact, one in 3 children in the United States are overweight or obese putting children at a higher risk for chronic diseases once only seen in adults, like diabetes. There are increasing incidences of diabetes among obese youth which can lead to eye disease and vision loss. In addition to diabetes, children with obesity are at higher risk for other health conditions such as heart disease, asthma, sleep apnea, and bone/joint problems.

Growth Charts

Health professionals use growth charts to see whether a child’s weight falls into a healthy range for the child’s height, age, and sex. Children with a BMI (Body Mass Index) above the 85th percentile and less than the 95th percentile are considered overweight. BMI percentile is preferred for measuring children and young adults (ages 2–20), rather than weight, because it takes into account that they are still growing, and growing at different rates depending on their age and sex.

Bullying and Teasing

Besides the physical health risks, it has been found that children with obesity are bullied and teased more than their normal-weight peers and are more likely to suffer from social isolation, depression, and low self-esteem. The effects of bullying can result in poor performance in school, mental health issues,  and addictions. These effects can have lifelong impact on the child’s self image and future prospects.

Childhood Obesity is Preventable

The most important thing to know about child obesity is that it can be prevented. It is important to tackle the issue as soon as possible, under a doctor’s guidance, and without drawing unnecessary and prolonged attention to the child’s physical appearance. In the long term, childhood obesity is associated with having obesity as an adult, which is linked to serious conditions and diseases.

Spread Awareness

Encourage the families you know to be aware of the risks related to childhood obesity and take their child’s weight and fitness seriously. Advise them to make small changes, like keeping fresh fruit, instead of high caloric snacks, within reach for after school snacks. Commit as a family to physical activity, like going on a family walk after dinner instead of watching a favorite television show. Make physical fitness and healthy eating a natural part of your lifestyle. If you are a grandparent, forego giving traditional “grandparent” like fresh-baked cookies, cake, and chocolate on a regular basis. Instead, keep these items as infrequent treats and keep your own home stocked with healthy food choices for their visits. Ensuring our children have healthy habits helps motivates us to make better life choices as well!

Attention ALL Adults – Have you had your immunizations?

Living Well with Diabetes and Vision Loss is a United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta sponsored program run by VRS. Each month we work to provide information that we feel is helpful to those living with diabetes and vision loss.

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that affects how the body uses food for energy due to insulin resistance. Diabetes affects the metabolism as well as the immune system. The disease causes the immune system to destroy insulin producing cells within the pancreas. The immune response is also much lower in people who have diabetes so they are more susceptible to getting infections that could result in the loss of a limb.

Many of us will remember the days of toting our children to the doctor to get their recommended immunizations and protect them from various diseases. As adults, however, we often neglect much needed vaccinations which are recommended and help prevent dangerous and sometimes deadly diseases. To stay protected against serious illnesses, adults need to get vaccinated too. Shots such as the flu vaccine, are recommended annually for all adults and other shots such as the pneumonia or Shingles vaccine may also be recommended by your doctor.

Take this short quiz below to determine what shots you may need to take, then talk to your doctor about each. Don’t neglect the steps you need to take to be at optimal health.

The Adult Vaccine Quiz from the CDC: https://www2.cdc.gov/nip/adultImmSched/

To stay healthy this winter also be sure to eat well, get some exercise and plenty of sleep. The immune system fights best for you when it is healthy and taken care of. Allow for time with family or friends playing games or sharing stories and leisure activities. Laugh a lot. Our emotional health is tied directly to our immune system and when we feel a part of a community our immune system works its best.

Eclipse Soundscapes Project

Eclipse Soundscapes Project

 

Have you wondered how the visually impaired and others who can’t use their own eyes to see Monday, August 21st’s Eclipse will be affected and engaged?  Did you hear about the project from NASA’s Heliophysics Education Consortium?  To find out answers to these questions VRS is reproducing information here so please enjoy and share with others…

Quoted text follows:

On August 21, 2017, millions of people will view a total solar eclipse as it passes through the United States. However, for the visually impaired, or others who are unable to see the eclipse with their own eyes, the Eclipse Soundscapes Project delivers a multisensory experience of this exciting celestial event. The project, from NASA’s Heliophysics Education Consortium, will include audio descriptions of the eclipse in real time, recordings of the changing environmental sounds during the eclipse, and an interactive “rumble map” app that will allow users to visualize the eclipse through touch.

During an eclipse, we gaze in amazement as day becomes night. But, along  with the striking visual effects,  the soundscape of natural environments changes dramatically.   The changes in the sounds of the eclipse are not only of interest to sociologists, birders,  and naturalists, but will also give the blind and visually impaired an opportunity to experience this rare celestial event.

The Eclipse Soundscapes project will use a specially designed app to allow citizen scientists to record environmental sounds before, during, and after the August 21, 2017 eclipse.  These recordings will be shared across the world in order to give everyone the opportunity to experience the awe of a total solar eclipse.

Join our project: https://goo.gl/forms/lu8CkUcbxHMIdZw12

Thanks to our partners

Smithsonian  https://www.si.edu/

NASA https://www.nasa.gov/

HEC

Contact us: info@eclipsesoundscapes.org

Eclipse Soundscapes Project

c/o Henry “Trae” Winter, MS 58

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA

 

Follow Us:

Twitter, https://twitter.com/EclipseSoundSAO

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/EclipseSoundSAO/

Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/eclipsesoundscapes/

Eclipse Mob, http://www.eclipsemob.org/

 

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