January 31, 2013

WBRC Launches 'iProgram'

Photo: An Apple iPad 4 and iPhone 4
The WBRC has launched the ‘iProgram’.  Although the iPad and iPhone have been taught previously as a specialty Computer Access Training (CATS) program, the ‘iProgram’ is a departure from the traditional CATS structure.  The length of the program has been changed from an average of 4 week admission to a 2 week admission to better meet the needs of our Veterans.  The new 'iProgram' is an intensive program similar to the basic program.  The Veteran receives one on one instruction for 6 periods a day with 3 different instructors.  Another new component of the program is the Technology Lab, which is taught an additional period during the day in a group setting.  It covers advanced skills outside the basic skills parameters.  Up to three participants are brought in at a time to work on either the iPad or the iPhone.  Many Veterans report enjoying the camaraderie and skill reinforcement experienced by working together outside of the schedule class periods. 
The iPad and iPhone both have built-in accessibility software to magnify or provide verbal output to allow access for the visually impaired or blind population.  The iPhone and iPad each act as a portable computer and offer many of the same functions users enjoy on their desktop or laptop computer.  Once the basic core competencies have been met for issuance, treatment is individualized for each Veteran based on need and skill level.  During the basic program, the Veteran will often master basic skills of the Phone (iPhone only), Contacts (address book), Calendar, Notes, Mail, Siri and Safari (Internet).  In the technology lab, the Veteran may master advanced skills using iCloud, iTunes, Camera and Photos.  An advanced iProgram is also available for Veterans who would like to return to continue to learn advance functions of the device.  If you are a veteran or active duty service member with vision loss interested in participating in the iProgram please contact your VIST to request a referral.
The Western Blind Rehabilitation Center (WBRC) is a 27-bed residential facility located at the Menlo Park Division of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. Approximately two hundred veterans and active duty service members of all ages participate in the program each year. More than three quarters have usable vision for which specialized treatment is provided. Adjusting to and managing visual impairment is the major objective of the program. If you are in the area and are interested in a site visit, please call (650) 614-9952 to make arrangements.

January 28, 2013

Resource: Woodworking for the Blind Free Membership

Photo: Curls of wood shavings, a woodworking tool, and piece of wood [via]

Woodworking for the Blind, Inc. now provides free digital MP3 compact disk recordings of current woodworking publications exclusively for the use of blind and visually impaired woodworkers.  Voice recordings of Fine Woodworking magazine, Woodwork magazine, Woodsmith magazine, Woodworking magazine, American Woodworker magazine and Woodcraft magazine are recorded as CDs in MP3 format shortly after the current issues become available. All recordings include the text of woodworking articles on techniques and design, how-to-build-it articles, tips, tool reviews, shop methods, finishing advice, woodworker profiles and other general features. Recordings include descriptions of the many photos and illustrations that accompany the magazine articles. Occasionally, recordings of woodworking books also are issued.

Recordings can be sent only to members. Membership is free and open to all print-disabled persons who are blind, visually impaired or physically handicapped to read normal printed material as a result of such disability.

For further information or for a Membership Application send an e-mail to: 

CLICK HERE to visit the Woodworking for the Blind Website

January 23, 2013

ALUMNUS FOCUS: Mr. Joe 'Kool' Galindo

Photo: Mr. Joe Galindo, WBRC Alumnus & Poet

My name is Joe Galindo a.k.a. Joe Kool.  I served in the Army with the 82nd Airborne & with the 7th Special Forces Group for about 15 years I'm a Grenada vet & have a purple heart.  I love to write poetry & had 2 of my poems published.  I also love to draw, paint, & my favorite hobby is HO scale & N scale Amtrak trains.  The W.B.R.C. has been very helpful & good to me & all my fellow Vets that have been here.  That's why I call this place my home away from home.  W.B.R.C. staff is like my 2nd family & I love them all for being here to help us Vets.  My blindness has opened up a whole new world for me and I truly thank the Western Blind Rehabilitation Center.    

Two Poems follow below written by Joseph Galindo upon his WBRC Program Graduation in 2008 and 2013.

Putting Veterans First

There’s a place at the VA Palo Alto than many Vets will call home.

Veterans who come and go or been here before know of this place.

They have helped many Vets like me and you and continue to do so.

If you’re blind, going blind, low vision or somewhere in between, then this is where you need to be.

The will show you kindness, be caring, helpful, and always there for you.

The give you hope, respect, courage and real confidence with a new freedom.

They are dedicated, loyal, and trustworthy people who I will always remember.

You know who you are: nursing, mobility, staff, and all the other departments who make up the WBRC, a.k.a. WE BUILD REAL CONFIDENCE.

I will never forget my stay here of any of you.  Especially Yurika, Margaret, and Kristina.

And this will always be a place to me now that I can call home.

Words can never express how I feel for each and every one of you.

So I say to all of you from the bottom of my heart: I truly THANK YOU all so much for being here.

So may God take care and bless each and every one of you.

I know he blessed me when he sent me here to you.

Written by: Joseph P. Galindo Jr., 2008

Joe Kool Was Here & Chilled for a While

Came back for a computer class & stuck around for a little bit more.

I’m glad I came back, 'my home away from home'.

Met some old friends & made some new ones along the way.

It reminds me how much I miss all of you when I’m away.

Thanks to Daniel who has taught me so much more in my computer class.

He’s a real kool dude & an awesome teacher too.

To do the whole course again kind of takes me back down memory lane.

W.B.R.C. is the best of the best, coolest of the cool & all  my fellow Vets can say the same too.

So to each & every one of you, you know how I feel about the W.B.R.C.

I love you all, glad you’re around, keep up the good work & I’ll see you the next time around.

Joe Kool is packed up & ready to go home.

But my stay here with you is always so cool.

So as I say my goodbye’s I just want to say Thank You all for taking care of me & my fellow vets.

That’s why we love you all & call this ‘our home away from home’.

Remember me always as Joe Kool, a poet, an artist & one cool dude.

God bless, take care & you’re all like family to me.

Written by: Joseph P. Galindo Jr., 2013

January 18, 2013

WBRC Welcomes New Living Skills Instructor

Photo: Robert Morris, new WBRC Living Skills Instructor
WBRC is proud to announce that Robert Morris has accepted the position of WBRC Living Skills Instructor.  He started on Nov. 10th 2012.  Mr. Morris completed his Master’s Degree in Orientation and Mobility and Blind Rehabilitation at Northern Illinois University in 2004. He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Humanities from Shimer College and a Master of Theological Studies degree from Christian Theological Seminary. He is accredited by ACVREP as a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist and as a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist. Mr. Morris previously worked for the VA at the Central Blind Rehabilitation Center at Hines VA Hospital from 2004 to 2008, where he served as an instructor in Computer Access Training.
Photo by: Brian Higgins

January 11, 2013

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month.  Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually cause vision loss without warning.  Although the most common forms primarily affect the middle-aged and the elderly, glaucoma can affect people of all ages.  There are two main types of glaucoma: primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), and angle-closure glaucoma.  These are marked by an increase of intraocular pressure (IOP), or pressure inside the eye which can damage the optic nerve.  This nerve acts like an electric cable with over a million wires and is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain. 

Photo: A scene with two children viewed with unimpaired vision

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization.  In the most common form, there are virtually no symptoms.  Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision, so if you have glaucoma, you may not notice anything until significant vision is lost. 

Photo: A scene with two children viewed with a Glaucoma simulation

Those at higher risk include people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent.  Other high-risk groups include: people over 60, family members of those already diagnosed, diabetics, and people who are severely nearsighted.  Regular eye exams are especially important for those at higher risk for glaucoma, and may help to prevent unnecessary vision loss.

The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get a comprehensive eye examination.  Then, if you have glaucoma, treatment can begin immediately. There is no cure for glaucoma—yet.  However, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss.  The appropriate treatment depends upon the type of glaucoma among other factors. 

Over 2.7 million Americans, and over 60 million people worldwide, have glaucoma.  Experts estimate that half of them don’t know they have it.  If you have glaucoma, or any other type of vision loss, don’t keep it a secret.  Let your family members know and help raise awareness about the importance of regular eye examinations to preserve vision.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Glaucoma

The information above was gathered at www.glaucoma.org

January 8, 2013

WBRC Welcomes New Guide Dog Puppy In Training

Photo: Blythe, a Guide Dog Puppy in Training, sits in the grass outside the WBRC

WBRC would like to welcome 'Blythe', a new Guide Dog puppy 'in training'.  Blythe is a 15 week old female Golden Retriever puppy who is being raised and trained by Laura Koehler, WBRC Visual Skills Specialist.  Blythe will accompany Mrs. Koehler to work and in the community for about 12 months to become acclimated to a variety of environments, people, and situations prior to returning the Guide Dogs for the Blind for evaluation and additional training to become a Guide Dog.  Blythe is the 13th Guide Dog Puppy that Mrs. Koehler has raised for Guide Dogs for the Blind