Tony Cancelosi: Fighting for the Blind

Last year, the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind hosted its first annual “Lighting the Way” Gala at the French Embassy. Vietnamese-American chef Christine Ha received the Lamplighter Award and did a cooking demonstration for the audience. She has a long résumé of culinary accomplishments, including cookbooks, a food blog and an award-winning restaurant. In 2012, she won the MasterChef competition, of Gordon Ramsay fame. Christine is also blind.

Tony Cancelosi, the President and CEO of Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, wants other visually impaired children to follow in her footsteps, achieving great things in spite of their disability. His organization is their support network.

A century ago, the world was an unfriendly place for the blind. Schools, the workplace and public infrastructure did not accommodate for them. The Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind (CLB), founded in the early 1900s, has been fighting to make the world friendlier for the visually impaired. First, it focused on helping the blind survive with life skills and, in recent decades, on helping them earn a stable living.

Tony Cancelosi, the current President and CEO, continues the fight. Before taking the helm 14 years ago, he served as CEO for several technology software companies, and before that, he was one of the founders   of education program now called Sylvan Learning. Helping others had always been a priority for Tony, serving on nonprofit Boards that fought for the disabled or for veterans.

Today the District is one of the most progressive places in the country for the visually impaired.
This is especially true in education. To help schools offer Braille instruction for visually impaired students, CLB trains and provides teachers. “Braille,” Tony says, “is what allows students to accelerate their learning. It’s how they will make it to high school and college.” It’s best to teach kids Braille when they are young so that they never fall behind. Tony and other community leaders are now working with Councilmember David Grosso to increase access to Braille instruction in D.C.’s public and public charter schools.

It’s also important to catch visual impairments early, preferably at preschool. That’s why the organization runs a mobile vision testing van, which offers eye exams. CLB looks forward to adding another Mobile Eye Care unit to the existing program, generously funded by Providence Health System and Ascension, to specifically serve Wards 5, 6, 7, and 8 in the District.

CLB also teaches life skills. It runs a youth pre-employment summer transition program where high school students spend three weeks at Catholic University. They do short internships, interact with faculty and learn how to live independently.

The organization fights for making day-to-day life easier to navigate for the blind, too. It developed an app for using the DC Metro and bus system and helps make websites more accessible. It’s engaging with Comcast to extend their messaging about the importance of accessibility.

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Making a Treasured Painting Accessible

 
 

Making a Treasured Painting Accessible

This edition of 3DPhotoWorks’s accessibility newsletter focuses on the powerful impact one museum had using tactile technology to help visitors who are blind experience a painting by American artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Another article discusses how museums can work with the National Federation of the Blind to make museum exhibits more accessible.

Buster Ratliff is the development officer at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas, where one of the museum’s most treasured artworks was recreated in a tactile form, with sensors imbedded in the painting that revealed information as visitors explore the painting with their hands.

Q. Buster, tell me about Art for Everyone, and how that initiative to make art more accessible to all museum goers, particularly people who are blind or low-vision, came to be at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum. The vision started with seeing the 3DPhotoWorks booth at the American Alliance of Museums convention in Washington, D.C., in 2016. When we saw it, we knew it was something we had to do. 

Q. Before you could launch this initiative, Panhandle-Plains needed to raise $25,000 to fund this project. John Olson, co-founder of 3DPhotoWorks, came to talk about the importance of making art accessible to blind visitors. Tell me how that talk was received by your members. John is such an amazing speaker and knows how to connect to an audience. His talk was a hit. In fact, we raised nearly half our goal that night and that would not have happened without John.

Q. In 2018, you put on display a tactile version of Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Red Landscape” to launch Art for Everyone. Why did you choose that photo to be the first to get the tactile treatment? Red Landscape” is one of the iconic pieces in our collection. Besides being an O’Keeffe, it is inspired by Palo Duro Canyon, which is an important piece of our region. It’s a unique painting and not one that many would associate with the O’Keeffe style. And she painted it while she was a teacher at West Texas State Normal College (now West Texas A&M University) and our museum is on the WTAMU campus. For us, it was a no-brainer.

Q. 3DPhotoWorks used its technology to produce “Red Landscape” in three-dimensional relief with imbedded sensors. When visitors run their hands over the painting, what information do they hear by activating the sensors? There are four sensors on the painting that describe the colors and look in that section of the painting. Below it there is some information about Canyon, Texas, in 1916 when the painting was painted; Dr. Amy Von Lintel, who is an art historian at WTAMU and an O’Keeffe expert, gives information about O’Keeffe; and then a reporter who interviewed her in the ’60s talks about what it was like meeting O’Keeffe. On top of that, all audio is in both English and Spanish.

Q. How did blind visitors respond to “seeing” that famous painting for the first time? What about other visitors? The response was amazing. It was especially fun watching the first blind visitors “see” art. One visitor has been coming to the museum her entire life and had paintings described to her every visit. When she responded, “I now know what you’ve been describing,” we knew we were on the right path. 

Q. Will you expand Art for Everyone and use 3DPhotoWorks technology to make other paintings accessible to visitors who are blind? Yes, we will. We have been renovating galleries over the last few years and the next step for us is adding more 3D reliefs of our permanent collection. We have four paintings we want to do that are important and iconic to our collection. I believe over the next several years you will see more and more 3D reliefs in our art galleries.

Q. What advice would you give other museums who are trying to make their art and photography accessible to the blind? Do it. It is as simple as that to me. Art is something that in some form or fashion, whether people realize it or not, speaks to everyone. Everyone has a favorite painting. It could be “Red Landscape” or the “Mona Lisa” or even “Dogs Playing Poker,” but everyone has a favorite. And I am a firm believer that whether you are sighted or not, you deserve the experience of discovering your favorite.

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ONE STEP FURTHER - Running Without Equal

ONE STEP FURTHER - Running Without Equal

Follow the link above to an inspiring article about two retired Army officers who finished one of the toughest ultramarathons despite the fact that one of them lost his vision while serving in Iraq.

 

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Photo Exhibit Designed for the Blind is Honored

 

 
Photo Exhibit Designed for Blind and Sighted Visitors is Honored

Photo Exhibit Designed for Blind and Sighted Visitors is Honored


3DPhotoWorks accepted the 2019 Colonel John H. Magruder III Award from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation for an innovative tactile photo exhibit created in partnership with the Newseum, Stars and Stripes and the National Federation of the Blind.

“The Marines and Tet: The Battle That Changed the Vietnam War” was the first major exhibit in the United States to incorporate 3DPhotoWorks technology that delivers visual information to blind and low-vision visitors. It was displayed at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., in 2018.

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., USMC, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Robert B. Neller, USMC, commandant of the Marine Corps, and John F. Kelly, former White House chief of staff, were on hand for the presentation as 3DPhotoWorks co-founder John Olson accepted the award at the foundation’s annual gala in Quantico, Va. The awards honor exemplary work that furthers understanding of Marine Corps history, traditions, culture, and service.

More than 350 blind members of the NFB attended the January 2018 opening of “The Marines and Tet” at the Newseum. In the first three months, the exhibit was open, 84,000 visitors had access to the groundbreaking exhibit that brought touch and sound to the first-person story of a battle that changed the course of the Vietnam War.

More than 285 million people worldwide are blind or low-sighted. Museums can provide life-enhancing opportunities for the blind to learn and achieve independence and equality.

 

'The Marines and Tet' Tactile Photo Exhibit Available

The award-winning photo exhibit, “The Marines and Tet: The Battle That Changed the Vietnam War” is available to tour. The exhibit features 20 large-format photographs and 10 tactile versions of those images with embedded descriptive audio sensors. The photographs were taken during the 1968 Tet Offensive, a bloody battle that became a turning point in the Vietnam War. The groundbreaking photo exhibit includes audio interviews with 11 of the Marines who fought in the battle, and the doctor who treated them. “The Marines and Tet” has been featured on “CBS News Sunday Morning,” Fox News, The Washington Post and C-SPAN.

The Assault on Dong Ba Tower
See the photos. Hear the survivors describe the battle and life after.
 

'The Marines and Tet' Tactile Photo Exhibit Available

Mark Riccobono - President, National Federation of the Blind
Hear What They Have To Say
 

'The Marines and Tet' Tactile Photo Exhibit Available

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3DPhotoWorks and the National Federation of the Blind collaborated on an Accessibility Resource Kit, which includes a tactile image sample and valuable information from the NFB about making exhibits accessible for both blind and sighted visitors.
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Are You Aware Of Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

February is the month for increasing awareness of Macular Degeneration, often called age-related macular degeneration or AMD. AMD is an eye disorder that normally occurs with aging and causes a loss of sharp, central vision. We use our central vision for many tasks during the day, to read, to drive, to watch TV or a computer screen; it is how we see clearly.

I want us to spend a moment thinking about what having AMD would mean in our lives and how it would affect us. Imagine having a conversation with a person who is very important to you, but not being able to see their face when you look at them. How would you know how they were reacting to your comments or your questions? You could not see their smiles or a frown on their face. The only way you could see those expressions would be to turn away from them and watch them out of your peripheral side vision. Would they wonder why you were “not looking at them” during your conversation? What would they think if they did not know of your vision loss? Would they think you were being rude, trying to end the conversation, looking for someone more interesting to talk with?

In another situation, imagine you were just being introduced to someone, but you need to look sideways in order to see their face. You turn away and appear to be looking in another direction...Would they feel that you were pleased to meet them?

It is estimated that 1.8 million Americans aged 40 years and older are affected by AMD and an additional 7.3 million are at substantial risk of developing AMD. It is very likely that you know someone with AMD; why don’t you talk with them about it and learn how to assist in making their lives a little bit easier?

Vision loss awareness: Let’s not make it more than just a thought in February!

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November Is Diabetic Eye Disease Month

Over 3.6 million Americans above the age of 40 suffer from a diabetic eye disease, most commonly diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness for American adults and the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide. The number of Americans with diabetic retinopathy is projected to increase 50% by 2030.

If you have diabetes, please get a comprehensive eye exam annually even if you do not believe you are experiencing any vision difficulties. The vision loss is caused by high blood glucose levels that damage or destroy blood vessels in the retina.

This damage is irreversible—but the damage may be prevented in many cases if detected early. Unfortunately, symptoms often not detected until the condition reaches an advanced stage. These symptoms include blurry or double vision and can include dark patches in your vision or floaters. If you have any of these symptoms please schedule an eye exam as soon as possible.

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If It Is Such A Great Tool, Why Don’t We See More Of Them?

Why celebrate a “White Cane” Day? It was originally hailed as a “staff of independence” when the day was first established by our Congress in 1964.

But if it is such a great tool, why don’t we see more of them?

If you think back to October 15, 2015, did you see a single white cane? I presented a seminar to a group of about 90 health care professionals the other morning and I asked them: did they know October 15 was “White Cane Day” and did they see one? No one knew of the celebration nor had a single white cane been spotted that day.

I have spoken with women who have lost a portion of, or all of their sight as adults, about their thoughts about the white cane and the fact they were not using them. At first, they looked towards me and shook their heads as though asking themselves “did she really ask me that question?”

Then I continued, “I have a theory about why I don’t see women with canes, but since I am sighted, I don’t know if my theory is correct….” The answer was not a surprise to me; why on earth do we want to wave a “red flag” and bring to people’s attention that we are vulnerable? As women, we often wonder if we are in safe environments or entering an area were the risk of assault or rape is increased.

Why are we silent about this? It is difficult enough for people to overcome vision loss. Why aren’t better tools and modern technology out there for this growing population of the visually impaired?

I think it is time for open and frank discussion. Will you join me?

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He Could Play Beautiful Music; Now He Can Read It Too

We earlier posted a success story involving eSight, and how its product helped a woman see her son for the very first time. Here is another, and it tells the story of Nicholas, who a 17-year-old cellist from Lawrenceville, Georgia and has been legally blind since birth. He has played at Carnegie Hall and his dream is to turn his talent into a career, but in order to join a professional orchestra, Nicholas needs to have the ability to sight-read.

In April, Nicholas received his eSight and Kleenex - a product you may need when watching this - created an amazing video about it.

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Blind Bowlers Association Could Use Your Help

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

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How eSight Can Make A Huge Difference

One of the areas the Overcome Vision Loss Foundation hopes to make a difference is by raising funds to provide eSight technology to those with vision loss. eSight uses a sophisticated high-speed camera, patented video processing software, a computer processor and the highest quality video OLED screens to project a real-time image that allow the legally blind to actually see.

While most legally blind individuals retain some very limited eye sight, often concentrated in their peripheral vision, their eyes do not receive an adequate signal for the brain to recognize what is being seen. This phenomena creates blind spots, blurriness, inability to detect contrast, and other symptoms that reduce vision. eSight eliminates or significantly corrects these impediments.

The result is that people with low-vision that use eSight describe their symptoms falling away, revealing a world they otherwise aren’t able to see. The above video shows how this technology can make a huge difference in a person's life...

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Get Great Deals While Helping The OVLF!

If you shop online - and these days just about everyone does - we have come up with a way for you to get great deals and help generate proceeds for the Overcome Vision Loss Foundation. Simply go to this website and shop for what you normally would. The store is set up through Amazon, and the prices are exactly the same as if you went directly to the Amazon website. The only difference is by going through this online store, the Overcome Vision Loss Foundation receives a percentage of the gross sales.

Our funds are being used in several ways at the moment:

1. Raising the funds to provide eSight technology to those with vision loss (check out these Youtube videos about it)

2. To bring together the leading eye researchers and clinicians to develop a clinical practice guideline addressing vision loss after a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

3. To educate the public about the magnitude of vision loss in our country (Few people know that the Centers for Disease Control named vision loss as one of the top ten disabilities in our country several years ago).

We would be most grateful if you would use this site for any on-line shopping you do AND to please share this information with your family and friends so we can work more aggressively to improve lives!

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A Closer Look

• 7 of 10 people with severe vision loss are unemployed

• 80 percent of people with severe vision loss experience chronic depression

• Visually impaired veterans are 10 times more likely to commit suicide than any other type of disabled veteran

• Total cost of vision loss exceeded $50 billion in 2007

• Roughly 21.5 million adult Americans have trouble seeing

• One in three youths under 25 are currently obese and a large percentage will suffer from vision loss

Our Services:

The goals of the Overcome Vision Loss Foundation include:

• Serving as advocates for those with vision loss from any reason

• Targeting causes of preventable or reversible vision loss

• Supporting research on quality of life to speed societal changes in public policy and legislation

• Serving as a primary source of information for all such research

Our Blog

The OVLF Blog keeps up on news and developments involving those dealing with vision loss. Take a look, and if you like, leave a comment...

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Meet The Board

Vast experience from many different viewpoints and backgrounds make up the Overcome Vision Loss Foundation's Board Of Directors.

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