focalpoint: The Hadley Blog

focalpoint: The Hadley Blog

The ABCs of Back-to-School Prep When Your Child Has Vision Loss

August 8, 2016

Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired offers tuition-free seminars and courses for parents of children with vision loss through its Family Education program. Following are some back-to-school preparation tips for parents adapted from a family-related Seminars@Hadley entitled, "Back to School Prep Starts Now."

For millions of American parents, the end of summer is the time of year to take children shopping for the latest fashions and to stock up on pencils, paper and other school supplies. For parents of blind or visually impaired elementary, middle and high school children, the back-to-school "to do" list gets a bit more involved. With a little planning, however, it doesn't have to be daunting.

It's About Communication

Good advanced communication with teachers, administrators, school nurses, counselors and other personnel can help parents avoid any unwanted surprises when the school year gets underway. Start by making sure you have a copy of the school calendar. Prepare to stay involved by attending school functions, plays and sporting events.

Share any concerns with your child's TVI (teacher of the visually impaired) frequently, so that your child's academic needs are met. In fact, consider inviting the TVI to your house during the summer, so that he or she can offer tips that are specific to your home environment. Your TVI can also advocate for your child by refuting stereotypes your child's school may have regarding children with visual impairments. He or she could even bring vision simulators to the school to show the faculty and staff how your child sees the world.

Ask the school counselor or psychologist what your state's Department of Education standards are for each grade level, in each content area, to ensure that your child is on track with sighted peers. Accommodations can be made for your child, such as offering course material in braille. Modifications also might take place in areas of the curriculum to better meet your child's needs. Make sure you understand what those are before the school year begins.

You are a vital part of your child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) team. Ask questions at IEP meetings. You can call an IEP meeting whenever you deem it necessary — the beginning of the school year could be a smart option, particularly if your child is non-verbal, transitioning to a new school, a new teacher or a new classroom.

Communication also extends to the school nurse. Use the summertime to make sure your child is up-to-date on immunizations and boosters. Many times, children with visual impairments take medications, such as eye drops. Some children also have food allergies. Discuss the use of an EpiPen and/or inhaler, as well as protocols for seizures, etc. Some visually impaired students get eye fatigue and headaches. The nurse will need to know when and how to administer related medications. (To help mitigate eye fatigue, balance your child's curriculum among braille reading, use of a computer and digital or audio format books.)

Practice "Soft Skills"

Take advantage of the low pressure summer break to help your child brush up on social skills by role-playing interpersonal interactions with him or her. For example, many visually impaired children need to practice facing a speaker when in conversation, so that others do not think they are uninterested. The proper way to raise one's hand is an example of a skill children could practice the summer before first grade or kindergarten. Frank discussions about what to do in case of bullying also are important for all children these days.

Establish a Routine

Plan where your child will keep his or her materials; how and where to do homework; where homework is stored once completed, etc. A big part of that routine will be safely navigating through the school building itself — including the busy lunchroom and a chaotic playground. Have a plan regarding transportation. Will your child ride the bus or carpool? Decide on a set drop-off and pickup area. Even if your child remains at the same school the next school year, classes might be in a different part of the building than they once were. When appropriate, have your child work with an O&M (orientation and mobility) specialist to practice moving through hallways; locating the restroom; using upper and lower body protection; memorizing the number of doors before arriving at his or her classrooms, etc.

The primary ingredients for a successful academic year are preparation and communication. The more "what ifs" that are anticipated ahead of time, the fewer unforeseen circumstances could take place later in the year.

Do you have additional summer back-to-school planning tips for parents of children with vision loss? Let us know at

Eyes on the Prize: Why Hadley Championed Three New Businesses

July 15, 2016

Colleen Wunderlich, Director of the Forsythe Center for Employment and Entrepreneurship (FCE), established the New Venture Competition to extend a financial incentive for FCE students to develop a product or service idea into a business and to provide practical application of principles learned in the FCE. Through this program, Hadley offers tuition-free courses in business and technology to assist its students as they grow their careers.

Hadley invited blind entrepreneurs nationwide to submit their plans for a start-up business and an opportunity to win one of three cash awards, with a purse totaling more than $25,000. In order to qualify to enter Hadley's first annual New Venture Business Competition, contestants must have completed at least one FCE module. (Note: A module can be completed in a matter of hours.) On May 18, three national finalists were flown to Chicago, where they presented their business plans to a panel of judges for the final round of the competition. The following day, judges awarded each contestant a cash award prize at the Business Leadership and Superior Training (BLAST) Conference, a convention for entrepreneurs who are blind.

Hadley finalist Satauna Howery, owner of Satauna's Voiceovers, based in Clifton Park, NY, was born blind with a condition known as Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA). Satauna has been a Hadley student since her late teens and also earned a degree in "Music Industry" from the College of Saint Rose, Albany, NY. Satauna's Voiceovers is an Internet-based business providing voiceover services to clients in more than 18 countries. Her work can be heard on corporate phone systems and in children's cartoons. Because she has a home studio and sends her voiceover clips to clients electronically, her clients are not aware that she is blind. Eventually, she hopes to add part-time staff to assist with administrative and studio duties, with the ultimate goal of employing at least 60 percent of individuals who have a significant visual impairment. On May 19, Satauna was awarded $5,000 to invest in her business.

Hadley finalist Karen Richardson-Moore is the owner and CEO of the startup, Innovative Back Office Solutions LLC., located in Buffalo, NY. Her company has contracts with CPAs, attorneys, marketing people and human resource administrators, offering the full gamut of services under one umbrella to micro entrepreneurs. Karen is legally blind due to diabetic retinopathy. Although diagnosed in 2008, she began to lose her vision two years prior. She has a B.A. in organizational communication and a minor in business management from Canisius College, Buffalo, NY. Karen received a $10,000 investment for her business.

Hadley finalist Eileen Vasquez, owner of Locavore Thyme, St. Paul, MN, seeks to bring organic food to the marketplace through the use of sustainable agriculture systems, such as "aquaponics." "Locavore" is indicative of a person who eats locally sourced food. Within the Twin Cities area, Eileen plans to supply a range of products to restaurants, specialty grocery stores and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms. Eileen lost her vision at age 23, due to radiation damage while working for the U.S. Navy as a Nuclear Mechanic. She persevered and earned a B.S. degree in accounting and a Studio Art minor from Saint Catherine University, St. Paul, MN, in addition to taking supplementary courses at the University of Minnesota. Eileen was awarded $12,500 seed money for her business.

Although the competition is closed, we are still interested in your experiences with the job search process or with entrepreneurship. Let us know at

Insights into Illustrious Icons

June 15, 2016

What do Johnny Depp, Whoopi Goldberg, Bono and Steve Wynn have in common? If you read part 1 of this two-part blog list last month, you would know that they are all living with vision loss. In fact, many people who are making the world a better place have varying degrees of visual impairments. The May edition of focalpoint featured deceased leaders in a variety of industries. This month's blog highlights celebrities who continue to delight us with their acting talents, musical genius, business acumen or political prowess. The celebrities in this blog are legally blind; have blindness in one eye; glaucoma; macular degeneration; Graves' disease, which can cause double vision and make one's eyes appear to protrude; retinitis pigmentosa and a genetic condition called Senior-Løken syndrome, which affects the kidneys and the retina. Because most of us already know about opera singer Andrea Bocelli and composer/musician Stevie Wonder, they do not appear on this list. In the interest of space, and because athletics were the topic of a previous Hadley blog post, we also omitted sports figures from both blogs. Test your knowledge about these powerful people.



Business Mogul:


Whatever your dreams may be, Hadley can help you hone the skills to make them a reality. In last month's blog, we discussed the fact that Hadley's educational and business programs offer tuition-free courses in academics, independent living, careers and leisure activities designed to contribute to students surpassing both personal and professional expectations. We can't promise fame and fortune but, whether you want to learn how to use the latest in accessible technology or simply improve your chess game, Hadley stands ready to help you meet your goals. Also, you don't need to commit to enrolling as a Hadley student to benefit from our free online seminars on diverse topics from travel to cooking to starting a non-profit to help you shine like a star.

Are there other famous people who are living with vision loss we have overlooked? Let us know at

A Look Back at Venerable Visionaries

May 15, 2016

What do historical figures Harriet Tubman, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Galileo Galilei and Louis Braille have in common? They all experienced vision loss. In fact, many people who changed the world for the better had varying degrees of visual impairments. There are many to celebrate, and several will be honored here in a two-part blog. This first list features deceased leaders with diverse backgrounds who rose to great prominence. Next month's blog will highlight celebrities who live active, vibrant lives. Because most of us already know about deafblind activist Helen Keller and musician Ray Charles, they do not appear on this list. In the interest of space, and because athletics were the topic of last month's focalpoint, we also will omit sports stars from both blogs. Test your knowledge about these influential people.

Does this list have you feeling ambitious and encouraged? Hadley's educational and business programs offer tuition-free courses in academics, business and technology to help students grow personally or professionally. Can Hadley help you achieve your dreams? Whether you are seeking employment, desire to learn how to manage low vision or master independent living techniques, Hadley can help you develop the skills you need to be successful in whatever you choose.

Are there other deceased famous people with vision loss we have overlooked? Let us know at

Outdoor Accessible Activities

April 15, 2016

After another grim winter, birds are finally chirping, the sun is shining and millions of people are emerging from the couch. Now is the time to take the dog for a long walk (he's been hoping for one for months now), or maybe register for a team sport or activity that you never imagined would be available to someone who is blind or visually impaired. Many sports can be easily adapted for people with all levels of vision loss. Hadley has a free, archived sports-related seminar available as well as a seminar for people to learn about how to get involved in other types of recreational options. If you are more of a daredevil and want to climb a mountain, for example, there is a more extreme sports seminar for you, too.

Beep Baseball

Beep Baseball is similar to traditional baseball. The biggest differences are that the ball beeps and is a modified, oversized softball. The bases also buzz. Also, unlike traditional baseball, there are six innings and four strikes instead of three and there is no second base. Matthew Simpson, membership and outreach coordinator of the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) says, "Athletes from across the competitive spectrum participate and compete in beep baseball." Start with the National Beep Baseball Association to find a local club.

Fun with a Sighted Guide

If traditional ball sports are not your thing, perhaps sailing, swimming, judo, tandem cycling, swimming or running are more your speed. Many of these activities may involve a sighted guide.

Tandem cycling, for example, involves a sighted "pilot" in the front who communicates with a "stoker" in the back seat. The pilot informs the stoker about the course layout and upcoming turns. The stoker is the main source of power, sets the pace and leans into the direction the pilot sets.

According to Simpson, most visually impaired runners, recreational and competitive alike, run with a sighted guide and a tether. The tether is typically a shoestring of between 10 and 20 inches that both the guide and runner hold or loop around their fingers. Running clubs can be found just about anywhere and can be a great source for willing guides. There is also a national database created to help link sighted guides to runners. Visit United in Stride or Achilles International for more information.

A triathlon involves cycling, running and swimming. Participants use the same guide for all three activities and the guide is usually the same gender as the athlete.

Water, Water Everywhere

Water pastimes can be a great way to beat the heat in summer. Simpson says that rowing and paddling sports require almost no adaptations and demand very little training before someone can be out on a boat. Rowing clubs are common anywhere there is water and can provide an accessible sport experience for almost anyone. Canoeing and kayaking can provide a leisurely outing if on a lake or calm river or, if you prefer more excitement, try these sports in rapids. Simpson's advice: work with a skillful and knowledgeable sighted guide to pilot your canoe or kayak; many places have clubs and communities to join. Some even have adapted rowing or boating programs. Check out the U.S. Association of Blind Athlete's yearly rowing camp, as well.

Swimming is a very accessible way to exercise and relax. If you're interested in being competitive, you can join a swim team. Simpson advises that adapting swimming for someone who is totally blind can be done by having someone stand at the end of a lane to serve as a tapper. This person would hold a pole affixed with a soft object, such as a pool noodle or tennis ball, to use to alert the swimmer of the approaching wall with a tap on the shoulder. If you want to get out in open water for a longer swim, bring a guide who can help provide direction. If you're swimming a long distance or in a current or ocean, try using a long length of thin rubber tubing tied around the waists of you and your partner, with a few feet of slack in the middle, to help keep you together.

Easy Does It

Walking or hiking is the easiest and perhaps most relaxing way to be outside. It's an activity that has something to offer people of all ages, abilities and interests. Simpson says that there is no need for any adaptive equipment other than your mobility aid of choice. He also recommends a sturdy pair of hiking poles for anyone interested in attempting more physically challenging hikes. He suggests developing a set of verbal cues with sighted companions to help navigate trails and obstructions.

Don't sit on the sidelines this spring and summer! Hadley has a recreation resource list and a leisure activities resource list available, so that you can find opportunities in your own backyard. Dust off those sneakers, cleats or swim fins and get started.

Do you have any suggestions for accessible fun in the sun this spring and summer? If so, send your feedback to

Blindness Etiquette Tips

March 15, 2016

Welcome to the second edition of focalpoint: the Hadley blog. This month's topic is blindness etiquette tips. If you're visually impaired, you may have been frustrated when a sighted person assumes you can't do something or addresses you in a way that you find impolite. If you're sighted, you may have been uneasy around a person who is blind or low vision because you weren't sure what is considered proper etiquette.

Hadley's Blindness Basics course, open for Hadley Institute for Professional Study (HIPS) students, offers insights for people who are sighted about how to interact with people who are blind or visually impaired. Additionally, the "Low Vision Focus @ Hadley Presents: Talking About Low Vision" seminar offers tips for people with low vision on how to explain their condition to people who are sighted.

Hadley bookmarks are available for purchase at the Hadley store featuring quick tips for interacting with a person who is blind or visually impaired. Here are some of those tips:

What do you think of these tips? Have you ever experienced any major etiquette mistakes as a person who is blind or visually impaired?

We'd also like to hear from you regarding the topics you would like to read about in future blog posts. Got topic ideas? Send your feedback to

Welcome to focalpoint: The Hadley Blog. Here we will discuss topics relevant to the blind and visually impaired community—everything from the latest in accessible technology to tips and advice on independent living to blindness in popular culture and more. We will also give our readers a deeper insight into the Hadley community with student, staff and donor profiles; interesting stories about Hadley's history; and in-depth information about Hadley's courses, seminars and other resources. The goal of the blog is to inform as well as to spark conversation and dialogue. The blog will run once a month—mid-month. We want to hear from you, our readers—your opinions, experiences and questions.

Welcome to Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired

February 16, 2016

By now you may have already read our exciting news that Hadley has undergone some big changes. We've changed our name, our logo and created a fun, new tagline all to move our 96 year-old organization toward our Centennial and better represent the students we serve. Since this new blog is part of this "Brand New Day at Hadley," we thought it only fitting that the very first focalpoint post be about our rebrand.

Our former name "The Hadley School for the Blind" caused some confusion, leading many to think that we were a brick and mortar facility for young children who are blind when just the opposite is true. Hadley is the leading provider of distance education for people ages 14 and up who are blind or visually impaired, their families and blindness service providers, including teachers and others in the field. The word 'institute' speaks to education, but defies space and place. It is also broader and more appropriate for a distance education organization serving 10,000 students in more than 100 countries.

We also created a fresh, new tagline, "Educating — for life," which has a double meaning. It refers to Hadley's mission to promote independent living through lifelong learning but also speaks to Hadley's dedication to educating students on life skills.

A more contemporary logo is the last part of this rebrand trifecta and it illustrates how Hadley has changed, while remaining true to its roots. The graphic represents the braille letter "h," honoring Hadley's longstanding commitment to braille excellence. The graphic also is reminiscent of stained glass in prairie architecture, an homage to the North Shore of Chicago, where Hadley's offices are located.

Hadley has undergone several logo and name changes over the years. We hope you are as excited as we are with the new branding. To learn more, visit See updates to Hadley's website at Also, let us know what you think! Drop us a note at

Thanks for reading our first ever Hadley blog post. We'll be back next month with another topic that we hope you'll enjoy.