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Posts Tagged ‘blind’

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Photo: John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Margaret Baba Diri, a Ugandan legislator who lost her sight, visits the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton to gather ideas for helping the blind in her own country.

Here is a woman from Africa who refused to let her disability keep her from helping the people of her country.

Emily Williams writes at the Boston Globe, “Margaret Baba Diri is scrolling through her iPhone, even if it doesn’t seem that way at first. The screen is dark, and she holds it at her chest, her finger swiping through the pages as an automated voice calls out the names of her apps until she lands on the one she wants.

“She is practicing ‘flicking,’ a technique she learned during an eight-week training program this spring at the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton.

“A member of the Ugandan Parliament for more than 20 years, Baba Diri, 64, came to the center to improve her skills and move closer to her goal of opening a center for the blind and visually impaired in Uganda.

“She hopes to model many aspects of the Carroll Center’s program, she said, especially the close relationship instructors build with students. ‘We’re not here for competition,’ she said. ‘We are all growing at our own pace.’ …

“Over time, Baba Diri has developed many ways to compensate for her lack of sight and work independently. She reads braille and, with the use of a special machine, can record, edit, and print notes in braille.

“Over the past several weeks, through the center’s independent living program, Baba Diri practiced a range of everyday tasks, such as crossing streets, washing clothes, and cooking meals. …

“As she learns, she is taking careful note of how those skills are taught and envisioning how she’ll construct her own programs. …

“Baba Diri lost her sight in 1990 from glaucoma. She had been teaching biology and chemistry at a secondary school for 14 years, and when she lost her sight, she also lost her ability to teach.

“ ‘I thought it was the end of my life,’ she said.

“But a friend reminded her that the loss of her sight didn’t diminish her intellect. She could learn braille, practice mobility training, and find a new career.”

Learn more about this indomitable woman at the Globe, here.

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Photo: Adam Grossberg/KQED
Ahmet Ustunel, who is blind, plans to kayak across the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey, like blind King Phineus of Greek mythology.

Never say studying Greek mythology fails to prepare a student for life. Laura Klivans’s story at Public Radio International will help you understand why it can be valuable.

“Ahmet Ustunel remembers his daily commute to high school well. He’d wake up at home, on the Asian side of Istanbul, Turkey, a city that straddles two continents. Then he would take a ferry across the Bosphorus Strait to the European side of the city. …

“Ustunel has been blind since he was three years old when he lost his sight because of eye cancer — but that never kept him away from the water. He spent afternoons fishing with his father and summers swimming in the Black Sea, where his grandmother had a house. …

“For the last 11 years, Ustunel has lived in the United States. … He plans to return to his homeland next summer to kayak solo across the Bosphorus Strait. …

“Ustunel first became inspired to captain his own boat in high school, while studying Greek mythology. …

” ‘There was this blind king called Phineus, and he used to live on the north side of the Bosphorus,’ he recalled. ‘His mission was guiding sailors in the dark safely to the Black Sea from the Mediterranean.’ …

“Earlier this year, Ustunel saw an opportunity … A nonprofit launched a new award to fund blind and visually impaired people undertaking adventures. The Holman Prize for Blind Ambition offers grants of up to $25,000 to accomplish a bold project. …

“LightHouse has been able to fund these creative projects after receiving an unexpected gift of $125 million from a Seattle businessman upon his death.

“For Ustunel, the money will help him buy the right kind of kayak and the instruments he will use to navigate. He’s documenting his training process on his website, where he calls himself ‘The Blind Captain.’

“So, how do you kayak if you can’t see? Ustunel says the first thing is to use your other senses, which can convey lots of information. …

“But to cross the Bosphorus, Ustunel will need more than just his senses. His journey will be just over 3 miles, but the strait is one of the busiest shipping channels in the world. The waters are dangerously crowded with huge freighters and tankers, alongside small ferries and fishing boats — and the currents are strong.”

At PRI, here, you can read about the many gadgets the kayaker is testing before he tackles the Bosphorous.

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Today there are increasing numbers of opportunities for people with disabilities to enjoy the benefits of activities that others take for granted.

Eva Clifford writes at Women & Girls Hub about one intriguing example: ballet for the blind.

“In a third-floor dance studio, Lorena Nieva begins teaching her ballet class. Every weekend Nieva, the international coordinator of Psicoballet, travels 80 miles (130km) from her home in Puebla to give lessons to a group of girls from Casa Rosa de la Torre, a home for blind children run by nuns. Aged between nine and 22, all of the girls in Nieva’s class are completely blind or partially sighted.

“As the music plays, Nieva guides the girls, steering their movements with the sound of her voice and a gentle push with her hand. While the first half of the lesson is spent rehearsing a dance routine, the second half is devoted to improvisation. Breaking from the rigidity and strictness of conventional ballet training, Nieva brings in objects to inspire movement and games, such as fabric sheets, elastic ribbons and chairs.

“ ‘Dance cannot be reduced to a single sense,’ says Nieva. ‘It has to come from the whole body – from its limitations, too.’

“Founded on the belief that dance is ingrained in our biological roots, Psicoballet was created in 1973 by Cuban psychologist Georgina Fariñas Garcia … Teachers and advocates say Psicoballet, like most forms of dance, improves balance, posture and mobility, while also boosting self-esteem and reducing anxiety and depression. …

“ ‘I really enjoy discovering new ways of teaching, as it forces me to get out of my comfort zone,’ says Nieva, who has instructed people of all ages and various disabilities, but says teaching the blind girls has so far been the most rewarding. ‘I am keen to see that the girls have fun in the lessons, and that what is learned does not just stay in class, but it also enriches their everyday lives.’

“For many of the girls, that’s exactly what Nieva’s teaching does. ‘It has helped me a lot,’ says Itary, 15. ‘I feel I have improved my way of coexisting. Before, I was very aggressive, I walked a little weirdly and crashed up against everything, and this is not the way to be. Everything has to be done in a smooth way. To dance is to express with my movements what is within me.’ ” More here.

I found the article at the Huffington Post, which had reposted it.

Photo: Eva Clifford
Four girls who suffer from blindness wait to be called out for their first dance in Chiapas southern Mexico.

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Nate Homan recently wrote a good human-interest story for the free subway newspaper, Metro. It’s about one of Boston’s subway musicians, a blind woman.

Michelle Abadia sits at Harvard Station early each morning that her T performer permit allows, strumming her guitar and singing to an audience she cannot see.

“ ‘Music was my passion from an early age. I don’t have a memory without it,’ Abadia said. ‘I am told that I was helping tune the piano when I was three.’ …

“She lost her sight to congenital cataracts at the age of 4 after six unsuccessful eye surgeries. She has started a GoFundMe page hoping to earn $20,000 to fund her musical career and to help pay for medical bills. …

“She earned a double degree in language studies and music in Boston College, and went on to earn a master’s in French literature and International Latin American Studies from Tufts. After that, she earned New England Conservatory master’s for vocal performances.

“Now she is trying to earn a living as a musician, after teaching Spanish at several colleges in the area and working as an interpreter in courtrooms.

“ ‘The commuters are half asleep, and I don’t know how effective I can be in brightening their days, but some people say the I do,’ Abadia said. …

“ ‘For anyone who is blind wants to be a musician, or anything, I would tell them to follow their dreams,’ Abadia said.”

More here.

Photo: Metro.us

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Douglas Quenqua recently wrote in the NY Times about a study with rats that could someday lead to aids for the blind.

“Blind rats with a sensor and compass attached to their brains were able to navigate a maze as successfully as sighted rats, researchers found.

“Researchers at the University of Tokyo wanted to test whether a mammal could use allocentric sense — the awareness of one’s body relative to its environment — to replace vision. The scientists attached a geomagnetic sensor and digital compass to the visual cortices of rats with their eyes sewn shut.

“When the rats moved their heads, the sensors generated electrical impulses to tell them which direction they were facing. The rats were then trained to find pellets in various mazes.

“Within a few days, the blind rats were able to navigate the mazes as well as rats that could see. The two groups of rodents relied on similar navigation strategies. The findings, published in the journal Current Biology, could help lead to devices that help blind people independently navigate their surroundings.

“ ‘The most plausible application is to attach a geomagnetic sensor to a cane so that the blind can know the direction via tactile signals such as vibration,’ Yuji Ikegaya, a pharmacologist and co-author of the study, wrote in an email.” More here.

I couldn’t find a picture of three rats together although there were lots of drawings of three blind mice. I started thinking, Do children even know nursery rhymes anymore? I wonder what they would make of Jack, for example, who fell down “and broke his crown” and “went to bed to mend his head with vinegar and brown paper.” I know a couple kids who would have a lot of questions about that medical treatment.

Perhaps we should make a concerted effort to teach these rhymes before they are lost completely. After all, they are part of our culture, one of our many cultures.

Photo: redorbit

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Studio 360 interviewed a blind photographer the other day. He had not always been blind, and blindness has not stopped him from creating high-quality photographs, strange as that may seem. He gets by with a little help from his friends.

But then, which among us doesn’t?

“In 1994, a stroke left the young photographer John Dugdale nearly blind, and over the years since, he has lost the remainder of his vision. But has never stopped taking photographs.

“ ‘I have a few wonderful people in my life that I trust to help me create the pictures that I see in my mind’ Dugdale tells guest host [Studio 360] Alan Cumming. He insists on releasing the shutter on every photo he takes. ‘It’s the most sacred time in my life whenever that shutter opens and closes — and it’s also the only time I’m quiet.’ …

“Dugdale contracted HIV in the mid-1980s. In the early 1990s he became ill with cytomegalovirus retinitis, an eye infection common in HIV patients, and it accelerated quickly. ‘I didn’t tell anyone, because I thought through magical thinking maybe it would go away,’ Dugdale explains. ‘In a matter of weeks I lost one eye.’ A stroke left him paralyzed for a year and left him with about 20% of his vision. … ‘I’m alive because my mother brought me elbow macaroni with Parmesan cheese and beans every single day for a year.’

“When Dugdale was released from the hospital, he almost immediately began working again. He tells Alan that the photographs ‘poured like a libation out of a vase. I barely even felt like I was making them. They just made themselves.’ …

“ ‘Being blind is not what you think,’ Dugdale tells Alan, ‘it’s not all darkness. My optic nerve still works and shoots a beautiful ball of brightly colored orange and purple and violet light and sparkling flashes all the time.” More at Studio 360, here. Check out some of Dugdale’s work, which continues to be in demand by prominent collections.

Photo: John Dugdale
“Untitled, Self-Portrait with Teacups” 1994

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