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Coping with Blindness

Guest Author - Monica J. Foster

With advanced technology, better legislation and more social acceptance, it's getting easier for people who Blind and visually impaired to be productive in life, including enjoying a good book. There are sites site that act as a central repository for scanned books over the Internet. Some are free and others require fees.

Other options include buying or downloading audio books on CD or on your iPod. Some audio books may also be free, depending on the book and the site where it was downloaded

While there are many reference sites with information on living life with a visual impairment, I recommend government sites and organizations. The Library of Congress has a list of sites with not only information on independence, but other resources for people who are visually impaired, including:

• National consumer organization sites such as American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults (AAF) and American Council of the Blind (ACB). AAF offers newsletters, free Braille calendars, and Twin Vision books in both print or Braille. The ACB is a national membership organization that helps people who are visually impaired advocate for civil rights, educational opportunities, vocational training, social security benefits, and health and social services.

• Organizations that provide reading services such as the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), International Association of Audio Information Services (IAAIS), and the Library of Congress. APH is a source of educational texts for students who are visually impaired Americans. The IAAIS provides an online listing of radio reading services in the United States, Toronto and Levin, New Zealand. Internet broadcasters deliver audio broadcasts of daily newspapers and other printed materials. The Library of Congress administers a free national library program of Braille and recorded materials.

These are just two of several resources for information and services. Also seek national professional organizations, children’s organizations, organizations with a focus on injuries or illness to the eye, as well as other organizations that provide financial and independent living services, including state divisions of services for people who are Blind.

Software for assistive technology is available to give people who are Blind access to books, computers and other electronic devices. The software works on a computer or other handheld information device, such as a cell phone or PDA. Electronic book readers also allow you access to books in large print and higher contrast.

Closed-circuit televisions or CCTVs project magnified images onto a video monitor, a TV screen or a computer monitor. The text can be changed from black on white to white on black, making it easier for someone who is not completely blind to read. If the user doesn’t have enough vision to read for a significant amount of time, eye fatigue and other physical problems may be present. Prior to purchasing a video magnifier, the individual should have a low-vision evaluation through their healthcare system and community service contacts. A low-vision specialist can also help determine which video magnifier is appropriate to your individual situation.

Magnification programs for the computer screen are also available, though many sites are programmed with a “change text size” button. When the user clicks on this, the text becomes larger or smaller, depending on your needs.

Optical character recognition (OCR) systems scan printed text, then convert it to recognized characters and words. The words are then sent to a synthesizer, which then recognizes the scanned document. OCR systems also use a spell checker and a lexicon, much like a standard word processing program. This will help to fix spelling errors, so that the correct word is read back to the listener.

Are you a student who is Blind? Many scholarships for people with disabilities who want to attend college are available. In the past, it was difficult for a person with a visual impairment to attend college. There weren’t enough technological advances to help with reading texts. Also, college entrance exams were a burden on students with a visual impairment, often leaving that student discriminated against and left out of the college experience entirely. No more!


There are also scholarships for people who are visually impaired or Blind. These scholarships generally have very few requirements.

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) offers scholarships for the visually impaired, ranging from a few thousand dollars to up to $12,000. The Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship is given annually by the AAF for $12,000. This scholarship is for students who wish to work in the area of changing perceptions regarding the capabilities of people who are Blind across the world. No additional restrictions are placed on this scholarship.

The Charles and Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship is a $10,000 scholarship awarded in honor of Charles Owen in loving memory of his wife—an individual who was Blind. There is no limit on the field of study, except that “it shall be directed towards attaining financial independence and shall exclude religion and those seeking only to further general or cultural education.”

People with visual impairments have more opportunities than ever before. The world awaits you as someone without sight to grasp every possibility.



Content copyright © 2009 by Monica J. Foster. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Monica J. Foster. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Monica J. Foster for details.
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