April 30, 2014

Staff Perspective: Why I Love My iPhone

Photo: A person's hands holding an iPone

By Beth Hiseler, WBRC Living Skills, CATs, and iProgram Instructor

When a tech savvy, visually impaired staff member handed me his iPhone a few years ago, I have to admit I didn’t recognize a good thing when I felt it.  As a blind touch typist and braille user for decades, I was very comfortable using a keyboard; it seemed like the perfect way to communicate with a device.  The iPhone had no keys—only a few buttons—and its touch screen made me feel disoriented and powerless.  I rushed back to my Nokia cell phone.  Maybe it wasn’t smart, but it had all those reassuring tactile buttons.  If I got an iPhone, would I be able to answer my calls before they went to voicemail?
But, over the years, they wore me down.  The iPhone and iPad took the WBRC by storm.  Veterans were more interested in them than any other part of our programs.  I’d had some training with the phone at work, but when my students came to Living Skills class with more knowledge about the iPhone than I possessed, I decided I’d better get one of my own.
When I brought my new iPhone home, I was fortunate to have a tech savvy friend to set some things up for me the way instructors do for their veterans at the WBRC; the Apple Store staff were pretty helpful too.  At the beginning, it wasn’t all smooth sailing.  I had to practice quite a bit to get comfortable, but it was more fun and more functional than I had thought it might be.  I learned to tap, double tap and swipe to let the device know what I wanted to do, and I could definitely answer calls before they went to voicemail!  I could also download books and music and actually preferred the phone to the computer for these activities.  The weather, news, stocks and more were literally at my fingertips.  There was also Siri, who performed various activities when I pressed a button and asked for assistance—placing calls, checking the temperature, setting alarms and reminders—she was more limited than a human, but she really could handle a lot of tasks quite quickly and efficiently.  There were, I discovered, apps for identifying money, bar codes, and colors, and they all worked on this one little device.  If you’re feeling like a new adventure and are willing to spend some time coming up the learning curve, some day, you might find you love your iPhone too!

CLICK HERE to lean more about the WBRC iProgram

April 15, 2014

VisionAware Publishes Article About WBRC's CNVR Program

Photo: John Kingston works with a veteran on the NVT light panel for scanning training.
VisionAware has published an article by Mary D'Apice about the WBRC's Comprehensive Neurological Vision Rehabilitation (CNVR) program  for veterans and active duty service members with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) related vision loss.  The article included a review of some types TBI related vision loss and some of the specialized treatment that the WBRC provides to enhance the ability of people with TBI related vision loss to use their remaining vision. 

CLICK HERE to read the VisionAware Article

CLICK HERE to learn more about the WBRC CNVR Program

April 7, 2014

WBRC Welcomes New Guide Dog Puppy in Training

Photo: WBRC's new Guide Dog Puppy in Training 'Rookie'
WBRC would like to welcome 'Rookie', a new Guide Dog puppy 'in training'.  Rookie is a 8 week old male 3/4 yellow Labrador 1/4 golden retriever who is being raised and trained by Lindsay Hass, WBRC Orientation and Mobility Specialist.  Rookie will accompany Ms. Hass to work and in the community for about 18 months to become acclimated to a variety of environments, people, and situations prior to returning to Guide Dogs for the Blind for evaluation and additional training to become a Guide Dog.  Rookie is the 6th Guide Dog puppy that Ms. Hass has raised for Guide Dogs for the Blind.  Her last Guide Dog puppy, Hawthorne, is currently participating in formal training at Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, CA

April 4, 2014

April Construction Updates

Photo: B-500 Siding Panels begin installation on the west side of the building.
Construction crews of the new Polytrauma and Blind Rehabilitation Center (B-500) have begun installation of the windows and the siding panels on the exterior of the building. The new center will overlap the original WBRC footprint on the Palo Alto VAPAHCS campus. This will be the VA's first and only Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center to be combined with a Blind Rehabilitation Center.
Photo: B-500 windows begin installation on the east side of the building.
 At 174,000 square feet, this new facility is the largest consolidated rehabilitation center in the VA and will include 24 beds for the polytrauma program, 32 beds for the blind rehabilitation program, and 12 beds for the polytrauma transitional rehabilitation program. The center will also have an outpatient physical therapy/occupational therapy clinic, an outpatient physical medicine and rehabilitation clinic, and clinical programs for Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom Veterans.
Image: Draft Rendering of the finished B-500 front entrance area.
Construction is anticipated to complete in late 2014 with the building becoming operational in Spring of 2015.

CLICK HERE to view additional construction pictures

CLICK HERE for construction updates

CLICK HERE to read the project's news release