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Blog posts for February, 2018

Discover the latest innovations in the low-vision, low-hearing, and mobility industry, as well as those must-have products to enhance your day-to-day life. Our Independent-Living Blogs will help inspire you and make your daily life a little less of a struggle and a bit more pleasurable with assistive products, suggestions, motivational stories and advice. MaxiAids Helps You Do It . . . Yourself™. We welcome you to leave a comment if you enjoyed reading a particular blog!
25 February, 2018

Blind Veteran Helps Social Media Users Interact with Visually Impaired Community

Rob Long is a 30-year-old blind veteran who lost both his eyes during combat in Afghanistan. Long, now a Brazilian jiujitsu competitor, went viral with a tweet that helps people understand how blind users navigate the social media world. The tweet introduced the concept of image captioning capabilities, which reads blind users like himself descriptions of photos posted to social media platforms.

Long describes himself as an avid social media user, using platforms like Twitter and Facebook regularly, just like most of his peers. In fact, he told BuzzFeed (https://www.buzzfeed.com/tanyachen/what-its-like-navigating-social-media-as-a-blind-person?utm_term=.cb6RPGjVa#.qs0aq4YLn) that technology has "raised my standard of living” in recent years, due to the emergence of image captioning tools. Long described how to use these tools in viral tweet read by millions in early January 2018.

 

The tweet was read by over 24 million people and retweeted 146,000 times to date. It introduced image captioning to many social media users who weren’t aware it existed, which he said “helps normalize social media use” for blind users. All users have to do is enable the "compose image description" feature in Settings > Accessibility, then they’re given the option to write descriptions for any images they tweet. Blind users are then able to get a description of the image transcribed aloud to them when they scroll through their Twitter feed. Twitter describes the feature under Learn More: “When you Tweet photos using the Twitter app for iOS or Android, or on twitter.com, you have the option to compose a description of the images so the content is accessible to people who are visually impaired.”

Long continued to tell BuzzFeed, "At the moment I scroll through Twitter and Facebook and I don't feel blind. I know I don't get exactly what everyone else is getting but I don't feel like I'm missing out or I don't understand the context of a post."

While Twitter is the easiest social media platform for blind users to interact with because of its use of image captioning, Facebook is a close second. Long explained that Facebook uses AI bots to interpret photos for him, although the technology hasn’t been perfected yet. One platform Long says doesn’t have any image captioning capabilities or AI bots to interpret photos is the visual-heavy Instagram.

While image captioning has given Long a new sense of independence in today’s social media-dependent world, his introduction of the tool to many new people allows us to do our part to help the low vision community interact on social media platforms

Take a look at these products that are currently improving the lives of people who are blind or have low vision.

04 February, 2018

Eye Tips from Lighthouse Guild for Low Vision Awareness Month

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Here are some everyday eye tips in honor of February being Low Vision Awareness Month! Keeping eyes healthy is important at any age, beginning with young children. Lighthouse Guild, the leading not-for-profit vision, and healthcare organization are advising everyone to schedule regular screenings and comprehensive eye examinations.

Lighthouse Guild offers the following tips:

Get regular eye exams.
Vision screenings and eye exams are critical to maintaining eye health. Comprehensive dilated eye exams for adults can help detect glaucoma, macular degeneration and other serious eye diseases that can lead to blindness. Vision screenings can help detect problems, such amblyopia, also known as lazy eye, in children.
 Get high-quality eye charts for checking visual acuity here.

Speak up if your vision changes.
If you notice blurry spots, blurred vision, halos surrounding lights, eyes that itch or burn, black spots or "floaters," double vision, tearing or watering eyes, or if you find yourself squinting or having trouble reading or watching television, it's time to make an appointment. An eye doctor should be made aware of any gradual changes in your vision so the necessary action can be taken to maintain eye health.

Seek urgent care.
Seek urgent care if you experience sudden and/or severe eye pain, sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes, light flashes, or if your eyes turn bright red. Any of these could indicate a severe problem and should be addressed immediately.

Get UV-protected sunglasses. 
Tinted glasses will not necessarily protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. It is important to get good quality eyewear that provides both UVA and UVB coverage to protect your eyes properly. 
Get UV glasses here.

Give your eyes a rest from the effects of digital eyestrain. 
This type of eye strain—also known as computer vision syndrome—doesn't permanently damage eyesight, but symptoms could include burning or tired eyes, headaches, neck pain, fatigue, blurred or double vision. To rest your eyes, it's good to look up from your work every 20 minutes, focus on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds (the 20-20-20 rule).
 Get your computer, phone, and tablet light protectors here.

Dr. Laura Sperazza, Director of Low Vision Services at Lighthouse Guild, says, "The most important thing you can do to protect your vision is to get an eye exam.  If you find out you're in the early stages of an eye disease, your eye care professional will help you maintain the highest possible level of eye health and visual function."

Informational article: Lighthouse Guild/PRNewswire

Product links: MaxiAids

Photo courtesy: Allaboutvision.com