Need Financial Assistance to Purchase Access Technology and Devices for the Blind?

 

 

Assistive Technology Fund

The Association of Blind Citizens operates the Assistive Technology Fund. The Assistive Technology Fund (ATF) will provide funds to cover 50% of the retail price of adaptive devices or software. The ABC board of directors believes that this program will allow blind and visually impaired individuals access to technology products that will have a significant impact on improving employment opportunities, increase the level of independence and enhance their overall quality of life.

The products covered by this program must retail for a minimum of $200 with a maximum retail price of $6,000. Persons eligible to apply for assistance must have a family income of less than $50,000 and cash assets of less than $20,000. Applications will be reviewed by the Assistive Technology Committee (ATC) and recommendations will be submitted for board approval. If applicants are selected to receive a technology grant, applicants will be asked to provide documents such as tax returns, bank statements and any other documents that the ABC board or it’s designee would deem necessary to assess financial need for the grant.

Applicants must be legally blind and a resident of the United States to qualify for this program. Applications must be submitted by June 30th and December 31st for each grant period (two per year). Applicants will be notified if their request for a grant is approved. Applicants may submit one request per calendar year. All applications must be submitted via e-mail. You will be notified by ABC within 45 days after the application deadline. The grantee will have 30 days after notification to purchase the product. If the purchase cannot be made within 30 days ABC reserves the right to withdraw the award and assign it to another applicant. All decisions are final.

You may fill out the request form below by pasting it in to your word processor and emailing it to: atf@blindcitizens.org.

Important: Requests must be received via email only, by June 30th or December 31st. Please do not use attachments when submitting your request.

Association of Blind Citizens Assistive Technology request form

 

Name:

 

First Line Of Address:

 

Second Line Of Address:

 

City:

 

State:

 

Zip:

 

Telephone Number with area code:

 

Email address:

Provide a description of 500 or fewer words of the device you wish to purchase and how it will help you achieve employment or increase your independence.

 

Trina’s Job Hunt:Perseverance Pays Off

In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, I invited a Seeing Possibilities reader to share her story here in hopes that it will inspire and encourage other job seekers. Trina Bassak has a doctorate in Physical Therapy with 25 years of clinical experience. She enjoys yoga, gardening, and roller skating. Trina and her husband are Master Gardeners and 4-H leaders. If you would like to contact Trina, her email is: tdbassak@frontiernet.net

About Myself

I was born with glaucoma which was diagnosed at age six and already had tunnel vision. I had a retinal detachment after yet another glaucoma surgery the summer after high school and went to college with low vision.  I always knew I wanted to be in a medical career. Once I was exposed to physical therapy, that was what I wanted to do without question.

Some accommodations were made after more glaucoma surgery in college (assist for reading and special bright-colored markers in cadaver lab). Then two years after graduation, employed in an outpatient clinic, my other retina detached after glaucoma surgery again. I continued to work totally blind and then returned to school in 2009 to get my doctorate of physical therapy (DPT) degree.

I worked and went to online school for three years and graduated in 2011. I used my computer with JAWS, Open Book OCR and had a reader to assist with the school work. The college let me take extra time for testing. I also went to massage school as well and graduated in 2000. I was afraid advancing technology in my field may not be accessible and this might force me to change professions. So I wanted to prepare.

The Job Hunt

I have had a difficult year searching for a job and it is finally over. The frustration level was much more than I ever imagined and I thought maybe sharing it with others may help someone on the verge of giving up on their own job hunt.

I have been a physical therapist for 27 years in Pennsylvania and for 25 of them, I have been totally blind. I left a long-term position to relocate to Florida, for family reasons, thinking I would find another position in a reasonable amount of time. I moved to a very rural area and the people were not accepting of outsiders, yet alone a person who is blind!  There were only a few clinics within 20 miles and no public transportation. I didn’t even make it to the interview stage and that was without disclosing my visual deficit!

My husband and I decided it was not the area for us and we began to investigate opportunities in Colorado. There were more job openings, great weather in the southern region, gorgeous mountains and friendly, accepting people. This led to a second move after only 7 months!  I applied online, made phone calls and contacted agencies that I thought could be useful. I even started looking in other related professions such as healthcare advocate.

I interviewed on the phone and even went to Colorado twice before moving for in-person interviews. One company flew me out and provided us with a car and hotel accommodations. I passed all their work lift tests and drug screens and thought I would get an offer. They declined me after 6 months, claiming they could not accommodate me. This was one of many rejections – at least 12-15…I stopped counting.  I started looking at other career options again. I applied online and contacted people with experience working from home. This included customer service, writing articles, and data entry. I really love my profession and working with patients, but was getting discouraged by the many barriers to employment.  I kept remembering the saying “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”   At this point, I was frustrated, angry, getting depressed and cried a lot more than I ever had in my life.  I very much identified with being a physical therapist and my feelings of self-worth and self-esteem depended on my work, I came to realize.

Getting Discouraged…

My husband and I argued all the time and things were not going well.  At a very low point, I knew I had to do something. I then decided to take any position I could find and started looking at both therapy and non-therapy positions. On an impulse, I started calling chiropractors who seemed to work in conjunction with physical therapists. My focus was still on working in an outpatient clinic setting, which I believed would be the most accessible for a blind therapist. Or was it…?

Got the Job!

Finally, I received a call from an operations manager for an outpatient clinic and home health agency called AIM Home Health in Pueblo Colorado. We talked a bit and I learned they did not have an opening in outpatient. He wanted to meet me and discuss the opening in home health, even after I disclosed my visual limitations.  After a few meetings, I was offered a position as a home health therapist and I accepted the job.  The company offered to provide me with a driver who also would assist with computer work and home orientation, and a company car to do in- home treatments.

I contacted the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation upon arriving in Colorado and they started my application process immediately. While I was waiting to be accepted, I found a job on my own, which changed my plan with them. Instead of helping me obtain a position, they were now assisting with work accommodations. They sent an access technology specialist to assess the computer system which is already partly accessible. I am working out the necessary accommodations, learning the job, and orienting myself to new environments. It all has definitely been an adjustment for me.

Trina doing physical therapy in a client's home

Trina with client Nicole Turner

The biggest adjustment has been working in new environments-not knowing where everything is all the time as I did in an outpatient clinic. I don’t have control of the situation as I did previously but I still have to present myself as a confident and competent therapist. It seems to be going okay so far but I am constantly striving to make it better. My assistant and I are getting used to each other and she is learning how to provide me with directions. She is not used to being around a blind person and I am doing silly things since she doesn’t know how to tell me where things are.

Soon we will fall into a routine.  I am grateful for her help and the opportunity this company has provided me. I am a good therapist and just needed to be given a chance and some accommodations. I keep wondering what I would be doing now if I had given up the search. Instead of doing the same thing over and over again, I’m glad I tweaked my search and opened myself up to new opportunities. It feels like the right place for me now.

Don’t Give Up!

Anyone in search of a job needs to be persistent and look at all opportunities and options, even if they don’t seem feasible.  I was on the verge of giving up but chose to continue forward. Now I completely understand why many people do give up.  During this difficult process, something in job preparedness needs to be done every day. Whether it is working on a resume, searching for openings online or in newspapers, making phone inquiries, networking, expanding your knowledge by taking online courses, or reading articles of interest…just do something! Perseverance will pay off; maybe not in the way you initially thought but open yourself up to new ideas and experiences.

Trina in the tomato patch

Trina in the tomato patch

 

A Spring Chorus of Twitters and Tweets

Ahhh, I welcome the crisp spring air and bright morning sun on a March day. I wander the yard with my guide dog Sophie and we are both feeling the freshness in the breeze and have a renewed spring in our step. Sophie pauses, closes her eyes and lifts her twitching nose high in the air to inhale the kaleidoscope of scents. There is a definite smell to the color green. And rain has a distinct and lingering fragrance. Just as humans see the world in varying shades of color, dogs experience it in layers of exquisite smells.

Image result for daffodils

 

I walk my little plantation to find other signs which tell me winter is over. I know the vegetation in my garden and I take inventory. My daffodils and paper whites are smiling and the forsythia bush is aflame. I can detect these vibrant splashes of color as they dance against the still brown lawn. The azaleas are budding and the camellias are in full bloom. No sign of the hosta yet and I cannot find the lilies of the valley either. A few herbs are pushing through-I ruffle the leaves and smell parsley and lemon balm. I gather my clues through touch and smell. Then I am suddenly aware of another sign of spring that demands my attention.

 

I close my eyes and stand still, like Sophie does. I hear layers of birdsong in the trees: playful twitters and tweets, insistent squawks and squeaks, delicate coos and peeps. My yard is a veritable bird sanctuary! I notice the melodic and frantic sounds like never before and wonder what the birds are saying to each other. “I’m over here!” and “Oh-oh, pick me!”  I imagine, as male and female flirt. The birds call out back and forth, replicating and responding in the ritual of finding a mate. What enthusiasm and energy they have as they play “Marco –Polo” in the tree tops. This adds yet another awareness of beauty this morning for me. Though I cannot see the frisky feathered creatures, I am enthralled with their noisy love songs and playful antics overhead. I suddenly want to learn more about them and their signature voices. I want to not only take time to smell the roses, but stop and listen to the beautiful spring chorus offered by nature.Image result for birds in the spring

 

Perhaps I will take The Hadley School for the Blind course entitled “Enjoying Birdsongs.” Here is the course description:

 

{Enjoying birdsongs helps people reduce stress, improve cognition and memory, interact with nature, and even have spiritual experiences. This course guides students through the many birdsongs presented in John Neville’s audio CD set Beginner’s Guide to Bird Songs of North America. This course helps students become able to appreciate nature and birdsongs, as well as reflect on their experiences with birdsongs}

 

The Hadley School for the Blind offers many distance-learning courses for high-school students and adults. There is a variety of academic, enrichment, technology and recreational courses that are FREE to the blind and visually impaired. Learn more at:

http://www.hadley.edu

 

Christmas:Generosity and Gift Giving

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us and we have reflected on all that we have for which to be thankful, it is time to be generous and give gifts. Gift giving is truly one of my love languages. I enjoy making gifts, thinking of the perfect gift for someone, finding gifts that communicate what I want to say to the receiver, wrapping the gift and finally giving the gift. Giving gifts allows us the opportunity to be creative, thoughtful and generous which is good for the soul! Gifts do not have to be extravagant or expensive…they just need to come from the heart.

A few years ago, I received the following in a Christmas card. I really liked it so I am passing it along. Though this is the season of gift giving, here are some gift ideas for year round:

8 Free Gifts You Can Give

THE GIFT OF LISTENING . . .
But you must REALLY listen. No interrupting, no daydreaming, no planning your response. Just listening.

THE GIFT OF AFFECTION . . .
Be generous with appropriate hugs, kisses, pats on the back and handholds. Let these small actions demonstrate the love you have for family and friends.

THE GIFT OF LAUGHTER . . .
Clip cartoons. Share articles and funny stories. Your gift will say, “I love to laugh with you.”

THE GIFT OF A WRITTEN NOTE . . .
It can be a simple “Thanks for the help” note or a full sonnet. A brief, handwritten note may be remembered for a lifetime, and may even change a life.

THE GIFT OF A COMPLIMENT . . .
A simple and sincere, “You look great in red,” “You did a super job” or “That was a wonderful meal” can make someone’s day.

THE GIFT OF A FAVOR . . .
Every day, go out of your way to do something kind.

THE GIFT OF SOLITUDE . . .
There are times when we want nothing better than to be left alone. Be sensitive to those times and give the gift of solitude to others.

THE GIFT OF A CHEERFUL DISPOSITION . . .
The easiest way to feel good is to extend a kind word to someone. Really it’s not that hard to say “Hello” or “Thank You.”

 Happy Gift-Giving and remember-give generously…it is good for your own heart!

...the joy of gift giving...

…the joy of gift giving…

A Piano Concert: Pure Joy!

I attended a piano concert at Spivey Hall this weekend. Now I am a total novice when it comes to music of such caliber. But I do love music of all genres and enjoy the way it can influence my mood, inspire my thoughts, and elicit sweet memories all at once. That is indeed the power and magic of music and I have always wished that I could make music and understand it more fully. Though I am no musical connoisseur or musician, I was moved by the pure pleasure of this experience.

keyboard of a Steinway grand piano

keyboard of a Steinway Grand Piano

Richard Goode, a classical American Pianist, was phenomenal. We had 2nd row seats and I could see his outline as he entered the stage in his black suit and snow white hair. He seemed to have a commanding posture and bowed deeply to his audience. Then he got right to the business of stroking and caressing his beloved keys. Immediately, I was in awe and drawn into his music. He played a variety of classical pieces each with its own story, mood and interpretation, for which he is known. He is a true master and it was a privilege to be there.

black Steinwas Grand Piano

Steinway Grand Piano

I found myself closing my eyes so that I could “hear” the music better. And paradoxically, I could “see” the music better too. I got lost in it as each note, each piece rang out crystal clear in the perfect accoustics of this fine hall. I imagined some notes as fairies dancing on moonbeams, lithe and whimsical. Others were complex and booming like a thunderous storm in the night. In my mind’s eye, I followed each story as it unfolded in layers. The music appeared as light and gave me a sense of knowing.  I could hear, see and feel each piece in a way I have never experienced before. Is this part of losing one’s vision? Is it a function of being more attuned to my senses? Was it the sheer pleasure and appreciation of exquisite music? I do not know for sure but I can say with certainty that it was beautiful and haunting and it left me wanting more. 

Music notes with Light in the background

Music is Light…

Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life. ~Ludwig van Beethoven

Happy Birthday Ms. Sophie!

My guide dog turned 5 years old yesterday. All day I pondered the ways she enriches my life and facilitates my independence. I celebrated her with extra hugs and special attentions and she ate it up. I even fixed her a “birthday” treat which my sister shared with me. (Take several doggie treats and place them in a small bowl. Cover with water or chicken broth and freeze. Pop it out of the bowl and give to your dog) Sophie loved her popsicle and worked on it out in the yard. She also got a juicy bone to chew today!

Sophie enjoying her birthday popsicle

Sophie enjoying her birthday popsicle

     ” Be the person your dog thinks you are.”

It just so happened that Leader Dogs for the Blind asked me to write a list of “Top Ten Ways My Leader Dog Assists Me” for a media campaign the day before Sophie’s birthday. I enjoyed thinking about that list and it marked her birthday in a special way. So here is what I came up with:

Top Ten Ways My Leader Dog Assists Me…

    10. My Leader Dog helps me to live a healthy walking lifestyle.

     9.  With my Leader Dog, I am more engaged in my community with    organizations like Lions Clubs and local school groups.

     8. My Leader Dog helps break the ice and start conversations socially.

     7. I feel confident and eager to go places with my Leader Dog.

     6. My Leader Dog gets me from here to there with style, grace, and efficiency.

     5. My Leader Dog keeps me on a schedule and encourages me to play.

     4. My Leader dog helps me walk in a straight line, maintaining my balance, pace, and route.

     3.My Leader Dog assists me to stay safe while walking, avoiding obstacles like curbs, signs, and people.

     2.With my Leader Dog, I am able to walk with my head up and enjoy my surroundings.

…and the #1 way my guide dog assists me is she provides unlimited love, adoration and devotion which lifts my spirit and enriches my life…what is not great about being adored?! 

Happy Birthday Sophie…I love you to the moon and back!

It’s Pumpkin Time!

My favorite time of year is autumn. I love when the air turns cool and the shadows lengthen. After a long, hot summer it is a welcome reprieve. The colors and flavors of fall are among my favorites as well. From golden yellows and showy reds in the leaves to the rich oranges of pumpkins, the changing colors announce the harvest and the time to prepare the earth for rest. As a child, I remember my mother always brought home bushels of crisp, shiny apples from a farm nearby. We would delight in the first apple pie of the season – my mom’s specialty. Her crust was the flakiest in the entire world and the scent of cinnamon filled the kitchen. I grew to love the warm spices of fall recipes; cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and clove. To this day, they evoke fond memories of hearty meals, fruity desserts, and autumn activities.

Nothing declares fall like a bright orange pumpkin. As an adult, I have discovered the wonders of cooking with pumpkin — pumpkin cakes, cookies, muffins, pies, and even soups. The flesh of this humble squash is rich in vitamin A, anti-oxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin, and carotene, all beneficial nutrients for eye health. It is low in calories and high in fiber. Pumpkin is versatile, nutritious and lends moisture to any recipe.

On a chilly morning, there is nothing quite as heavenly as a pumpkin spice muffin, one of my family’s favorites. I used to bake everything from scratch when my kids were young and my vision was better. I was opposed to using mixes and pre-prepared foods as a matter of principle. But over the years, I have given up this high moral standard as a matter of convenience and efficiency. I enjoyed cooking more when I had the vision and a hungry family to feed. Now, I am happy when I find “easy” recipes that are as good as “homemade” and feature nutritious ingredients. For those of you who still want to bake but your vision limits you in the kitchen, I share this simple and delicious recipe.              

Yummy Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Yummy Pumpkin Spice Muffins

 Pumpkin Spice Muffins 

  • 1 box Spice Cake Mix
  • 1 14 oz. can of pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup of water

Stir above ingredients until well mixed. Fill a greased muffin tin and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Makes 12 large muffins.

I hope you enjoy the yummy flavors, aromas and colors of autumn. Make it a time to slow down, smell the spices, and be grateful for the harvest of blessings in your life.