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Sep 9, 2021

White Caane Day 2021 - 2

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 Hi. My name is Jutta. I'm a member of the Malta Society of the Blind.

I just want to take the week of the White Cane Day as an opportunity to tell you a little bit about the history of the white cane.

What do you think when you see a white cane?

You might say it's just a tool used to be more independent. But it's not only that. It is also a symbol of people who are blind or severely visually impaired. Nowadays, the white cane is both: a tool AND a symbol for the blind. But let's look back - this has not always been the case.

Le'ts quickly scroll a few thousand years backwards.

Already in biblical times a shepherd's crook was used as a tool for traveling alone for a blind person to find and circumvent obstacles in their way, and for many centuries the "cane" was basically just used for traveling.

Only in the beginning of the 20th century, the cane got its role in the Western World in the way we know it now to be used by the blind as a symbol to make their environment aware of the fact that they are blind. One story says, that an Englishman  invented  the white cane when  he lost his eyesight after an accident and felt unsafe in the streets with increased motor vehicle traffic, and therefor he painted his walking stick white so he would "stick out" and be more visible to motorists.

With the invention of the "long white cane" which is intended and for use as a mobility aid, which sometimes has a red part at the bottom for better contrast against the ground or anothert ype consists of several red and white sections to indicate that the user has both a visual and a hearing impairment, the cane was returned to its original role as a tool but also  maintained the symbolic role as an identifier of "blind independence", as we know it today.

INDEPENDENCE:

However, independence means the right and the ability to decide and have control over one's own life and wishes.

Therefore, when meeting a person that is using a white cane, please don't just assume something. Visually impaird or blind people can hear you. So if you want to help the person, don't just grab and phush him or her. Please ask, if help is wanted, and which kind of help is wanted. The person will let you know in which way you can help and will appreciate that you asked.

And I also want to tell you another "secret": Not every person who is visually impaird, partially sighted, wears sunglasses or uses a white cane or a guide dog. And vice versa, not every person who uses a white cane or a guide dog is totally blind.

That's another reason why we all should learn to never assume but ask whether or not and which help is wanted.

I hope you enjoyed this little excursion to the history of the white cane and back to its present meaning.

If you share this, more people will get a better understanding bout white cane, visuall impairment and how to deal with blind or visally impaired persons.

 

Thank you for listening, sharing and caring!

Dec 8, 2020

Support the Malta Society of the Blind for a vision in the dark

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Jul 20, 2020

Sunu Band

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Sunu Band. Obstacle detection using ultrasound.

 

This wrist-worn device can be used in addition to your cane or guide dog to help you to protect your body from running into obstacles.

The Sunu Band uses ultrasonic technology to detect obstacles in your way and gives haptic feedback, i.e. vibration, which will become more intense the closer you get to an object.
It works best above hip level, therefore it is not meant to substitute your cane or guide dog.

For example, the Sunu Band can detect plants or branches of a tree or signs being in your way. I considered it quite impressive that the device can detect a barrier strap spanned at about 1 meter height between to poles, which you might not be able to become aware of using your cane only.


The company also offers the Sunu app for this device to adjust some settings, The free app is available for iOS and Android.
There will more features in the future. On their website, Sunu currently announces a navigation app to come soon...


Find more information on the Sunu Website.
Also have a look at the review in Sam Seavey's video about the Sunu Band on his YoutTube channel "The Blind Life".

With USD 299, the Sunu Band device is (unfortunately) a bit pricey.
Using the Coupon Code offered in the video will give a 10% discount.

May 30, 2020

Jutta's Story - 20 years after being diagnosed

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"Da steh ich nun, ich armer Tor, 
und bin so klug als wie zuvor."
(And here, poor fool, I stand once more,
No wiser than I was before... )
[Goethe]

   

How can you explain to another person what you see (or better: what you do NOT see) .


Funny and not so funny situations due to visual impairment
by Jutta Miroiu-Dunker in August 2018




 Here just an excerpt to make you curious:

20 Years Ago

 

About 20 years ago, when I was in my early 40s and living in Israel, I had a few routine examinations at the ophthalmologist. As it seemed to be something unusual to him, he referred me to the ophthalmic clinic of the University of Jerusalem. They did all kinds of tests and examinations and told me, that I got a macular dystrophy - an inherited form like e.g. Stargardt's disease. A detailed diagnosis was not carried out. In principle, this is irrelevant, because any form of this eye disease cannot be cured. One eye was more affected than the other. However, it was immediately brought to my mind that the degeneration of the macula would progress slowly and that the second eye might not be spared. The only "good news", they said, was that most probably I would not go totally blind, since peripheral vision will usually remain. 

The doctors just were surprised that I was already in my early 40s and nothing was noticed ever before so. They told me, that this type of "juvenile macular degeneration" (in contrast to the better known and more common AMD, i.e., age-related macular degeneration) is usually noticed in children/adolescents.




In the beginning…

 

At first, I had indeed not noticed any problems. Just the usual "fatigue" after long hours at the computer to do my job. Well, when the eyes get tired, straight lines are just don't look straight, but a bit bent. This condition stayed that way for a while. Until that key moment about one year later... 

Everyone knows a peephole in a door. And probably, we always use the same eye to look though the fish eye. So do I. Then, one fine day, it looked through the spy - and the hallway is gone. "Yikes! There always was something to see!" I looked again and saw - nothing. So I thought it might help to clean the fish eye, did that and looked once more. And again - nothing. Strange ... Eventually I looked with the other eye – and, lo and behold, the hallway was back! 

I see! So that's how it is when the central point of the retina (the macula) does not work properly anymore. Suddenly there is only a gray spot. Well, as long as it's a small spot and you can use the other eye to look through a peephole, it's not that bad yet. 

Unfortunately, over time, this small spot in the macula grew slowly but constantly. That is, the spot that only covered the small hole of the fish eye became a larger spot. And also, this spot has different impact over distance.

 

 



20 Years Later 


Just about a year ago [this was early 2018], actually as continuation of the previous chapters, the situation worsened quite more than just a bit. 

Well, I could still recognize text, even though even black text seemed "grayer and grayer". I could still work on the computer as a translator. But for how much longer? I had no idea. For work I changed the monitor twice within the previous half year - now it is a 48"curved TV with originally 4k resolution. Thus, at least accommodated all required windows and data on the screen even at lower resolution (say larger font). But still I had to change the resolution every few months. And "looking around the corner" when reading or writing is more than exhausting physically and mentally. 

I was, however, hoping I could continue like that a few more years-Maybe even more than the 3 years until retirement age. Legitimate hope... 

With all setups involving glasses, different computer monitors, font sizes, and you name it, work is literally just a lot of headache.

I know, my eyesight will never get better. Slowly but unstoppably, it becomes even more difficult to see what is in front of my eyes. All this, even over the last few years, obviously had and has big impact not only on my work but also impact on everyday activities. And this fact does often drive me to the edge of despair, with all sorts of emotional imbalances.




…at the end

 

Today, after having worked with this condition worsening until last December, I had consulted my ophthalmologist towards end of the year [this was still back in 2017]. But the new glasses I got for the computer were not really effective, so it became more and more stressful and basically impossible for me to do my job properly. 

Well, so I was hoping my optician could come up with something. But the always optimistic optician - before we met, he had even set aside a nice new spectacles frame. - checked my eyes and had to admit he had no more solutions for me. No new glasses or the like that could help me anymore. He really felt sorry and somewhat shocked. 

OK, next step was to go back to the eye doctor. And the same thing – no corrective lenses to help me. He, too, seemed surprised and just asked "How do you still work?". Not that a really had an answer for him … 

Then now, a few weeks ago[this was early 2018], during a routine check for my mother that I attended, my ophthalmologist just turned around to me and said: "Your mother's eyesight is much better than yours." And he added: "Are you still driving?" –"No, surely not", I replied. "Very good", he continued, "Because I know a lot of people that are legally blind and are still driving a car."




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About this text
Jutta's Story texts were originally written in 2016-2017.
Since end of 2018 I am officially legally blind.
And I am proud to be a member of the Malta Society of the Blind.

May 29, 2020

How you can trick yourself

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How easily you can trick yourself and others.

The "look around the corner"   that I always mention, can trick oneself and others. For example:

 

… at the optician

You may also trick an optician or ophthalmologist to a certain extent. 

I found myself (with the still better functioning eye) "automatically" looking somehow next to letter chart of the eye test, and - thanks to years of experience and exercise – albeit mainly unwittingly - recognized the letters quite well. 

I did that so well, that just a couple of years ago, an ophthalmologist told me that I could still drive a car. 

"Ha-ha", I thought. If he knew how much I really do recognize, and why I gave up driving. 

The letter charts still have a good quality - they are static and have a certain size. They don't disappear as fast as on a large poster, where suddenly some letters are missing. 

And each and every twinkle of of the eye will change the picture...

 


… in everyday situations

Quite a few years ago, I was in a big electric store looking around for the TV offerings. 

"Wow, how cheap are the 55" smart TVs!" 

Well, that price changed immediately, when I stepped back a few steps. I had missed the thousand’s digit on the price tag.

Only when changing the line of sight and distance, I noticed the mistake... 

What a pity. 300 Euros would have been a good bargain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About this text

Jutta's Story texts were originally written in 2016-2017. 
Since end of 2018 I am officially legally blind.
And I am proud to be a member of the Malta Society of the Blind.