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NEI’s Webinar on Going Blind and Going Forward Now Available Online

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The National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) of the National Eye Institute (NEI) hosted a webinar on Going Blind and Going Forward on Wednesday, September 5, 2011. Moderated by Rosemary Janiszewski of NEI, the online workshop featured Joseph Lovett, director of the film, Going Blind: Coming Out of the Dark About Vision Loss; Julie Gaynin, Outreach Coordinator for Going Blind and Going Forward; George Theriault, President of the New Hampshire Association for the Blind; and Stacy Pommer, Visual Impairment Services Team Coordinator at the Veterans Health Administration, New York Harbor Healthcare System.

Over 400 individuals registered for the event – the highest in NEHEP’s history. Participants discussed how to use Going Blind as a tool to engage the blind and visually impaired community to open the lines of communication between their eye care providers, low vision specialists, and the general public; raise awareness about low vision services and devices; and inspire the visually impaired community to obtain low vision and rehabilitation services.

A post-participation survey found that 81% of participants would likely use the film and outreach materials in their community to raise awareness of low vision services and breakdown stereotypes of those living with low vision. In particular, participants would like to use the film with:

  • Medical residents; in-service programs
  • Senior citizens; family and friends
  • Community screenings
  • Local legislators

Since the webinar, many blind service organizations and Veterans Affairs Medical Centers have hosted screenings of Going Blind followed by panel discussions and audience talk-backs, including the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government and partners and the Syracuse VAMC.

More Info

Going Blind and Going Forward webinar participants include:

Rosemary Janiszewski, M.S.
CHES Branch Chief
Office of Science Communications, Public Liaison, and Education
National Eye Institute

Joseph Lovett
Director, Producer, and Writer Going Blind Film

Julie Gaynin
Outreach Coordinator
Going Blind and Going Forward

George Theriault
President and CEO
New Hampshire Association for the Blind

Stacy Pommer
Visual Impairment Services Team Coordinator
Veterans Health Administration, New York Harbor Healthcare System

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

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It is believed that over 2.2 million Americans, and over 60 million people worldwide, are diagnosed with glaucoma. What is more shocking though, is the fact that an estimated 4 million Americans actually have the disease but half of them simply don’t know it yet.

Though it is a disease that deserves our attention all year long, several eye care organizations dedicate extra effort to raising awareness about glaucoma each January at the start of the New Year. The National Eye Health Education Program(NEHEP) and the Glaucoma Research Foundation both offer an abundance of free information for you to utilize yourself as well as distribute to others in your community to help spread the word. This disease can affect anyone so it is crucial that everyone be informed.

Glaucoma research and awareness is especially important to Going Blind director Joe Lovett because he has been receiving treatment to combat his own declining vision for the past twenty years due to this disease.

What is Glaucoma?

The National Eye Institute explains, “Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the optic nerve in the eye. Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common form. In this condition, fluid builds up in the front chamber of the eye, and the optic nerve is damaged by the resulting increase in eye pressure. Left untreated, glaucoma can lead to serious vision loss or blindness.”

Glaucoma is often called the thief in the night. There are no symptoms or early warning signs because it typically begins with peripheral side vision loss and thus you don’t notice diminished vision. Once vision is lost, it is lost for good.

With regular comprehensive eye exams, early detection, and new treatments, vision loss due to glaucoma can be dramatically slowed down and prevented. This makes awareness about the disease so incredibly important.

Please spend a few moments this month taking a look at some of these resources compiled here below.

Learn & Share This Month

  • Are You At Increased Risk? It is important for everyone to monitor their vision, but it is particularly important to make sure those with increased risk for glaucoma are well monitored: These include people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent, people over 60, who have diabetes, family members of those already diagnosed, and people who are severely nearsighted.
  • Free Educational Booklet: Request a free booklet from the Glaucoma Research Foundation and register to receive their free newsletter mailed 3 times/year.
  • Glaucoma Education Website: A great, easy to navigate, comprehensive website with information about glaucoma, FAQs, facts, tips and questions to ask your doctor, and many other resources.
  • Keep Vision in Your Future – Glaucoma Toolkit: After informing yourself on the above website, download this toolkit with helpful information and resource materials to use as teaching tools and distribution material to educate others in your community.
  • Don’t Lose Sight of Glaucoma Brochure: NEHEP will send you free copies of this brochure to distribute to anyone who is at risk for glaucoma to help inform them about what they can do to prevent vision loss. Place in waiting rooms, senior centers, local libraries or health fairs in your community.
  • Send E-Cards: This is a great way to send family or friends a link to the information provided on the Glaucoma Education website to remind them they should be thinking about this disease.
  • Medicare Benefits Card: Inform others about the glaucoma and diabetic eye disease benefit under Medicare with free copies of this card you can place around your community. Developed by the National Eye Institute with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, it contains helpful information about benefit eligibility.
  • The American Optometric Association: Provides additional information about Glaucoma Awareness Month and specifically addresses Medicare eligible patients providing them with a free hotline for information about finding eye care professionals.
  • Glaucoma Eye Exam in 2012: EyeCare America, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology offers free glaucoma eye exams for those who are uninsured and at increased risk for glaucoma. Find out about eligibility.

Additional Links:

For World Sight Day: Where are they now?

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After filming ended for Going Blind, the lives of our main characters changed in many profound ways. We’d like to share with you, the audience, how the compelling stories of these characters did not end when principal shooting did.

After leaving Hines Blind Rehabilitation Center in 2008, Steve Baskis became involved with the United States Association for Blind Athletes (USABA). This partnership led him to Paralympic training facilities across the country to help prepare for the 2012 Paralympic Games. Steve has climbed mountains and competed in races all over the globe. In July 2011 Steve visited Tanzania as a part of a service project to provide medical aid to blind albino Africans. Steve is pursuing a career in public speaking in order to share his story with the general public.

In the last year Jessica Jones suffered two difficult setbacks. Her beloved guide dog, Chef, died of a brain tumor and she was severely affected by complications from an ankle fracture. However, never one to be easily discouraged, Jessica persevered. She is now back to work at the Lavelle School, fully healed, accompanied by her new guide dog, Willie. She also started a website that includes a digital portfolio of her work with students.

Emmet Teran is a sophomore at Loyola High School in Manhattan. Coping with albinism, Emmet plans to get involved in blogging with fellow teens through a support group called, “Positive Exposure.” Just like we saw in the film, Emmet is still doing stand up comedy and still loving it.

Pat Williams has not let her disability get her down and has enjoyed her life since we last met with her. Pat still works at the Veterans Administration and is poised to celebrate her 30th anniversary at the New York Harbor Health Care System.

When Ray Kornman was interviewed in Going Blind, he worked as an outreach coordinator at the Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey. He is no longer at the Seeing Eye and plans to continue his work in the vision services field. Ray still lives in New Jersey and is looking forward to what the future holds.

Peter D’Elia lives in New Jersey with his wife Peggy. They are both enjoying their retirement. They are traveling around the world like never before having recently visited France.