Guiding With Seoul: MABVI Travels to Korea

Kyle and Andrea running

Running in Seoul!

By Andrea Croak, Team Coordinator of MABVI’s Team With A Vision

Recently my coworker Kyle Robidoux invited me on a trip of a lifetime: to head to Seoul, Korea, for a few days and assist in presenting at the K-Sports Foundation’s inaugural 2016 International Guiderunner Conference. There, we would talk about how we at the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI) manage our robust volunteer guide services, including MABVI’s 1:1 Volunteer Program; United in Stride, our online guide matching resource; and Team With A Vision, our running team made up of athletes who are blind and visually impaired, their sighted guides, and supporters.

With an opportunity like this, of course I said YES! Continue reading

Here to Help: MABVI’s Adjustment to Vision Loss Counseling

Loriby Lori Berkey, MSW, LICSW, Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI) Adjustment Counselor

As a social worker who has worked with people with a range of challenges, I was delighted to join the MABVI team as an adjustment counselor last fall in their new Adjustment to Vision Loss Counseling Program.

My interest in working with people with sight loss is something that has grown over the years. Twelve years ago, I happened upon an ad in the local newspaper that said the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired was seeking volunteers to help people who are blind with clerical work, reading their mail and going grocery shopping.

I figured that was something I could do, so I contacted their Volunteer Coordinator, Mary Haroyan, and signed up for an orientation where I learned special tips on communicating and serving as a sighted guide. Continue reading

Meet Jen Buchanan

Jen and Keating posing on the grass in front of the ocean at Fort Sewall in Marblehead

Jen and Keating pose by the ocean at Fort Sewall in Marblehead

Jen Buchanan, the new Volunteer Coordinator working out of the Brookline office of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI), knows how important finding the right services and support can be for those losing their vision, because she’s been through it herself.

“When I first was losing some sight,” she says, “I didn’t know where to go.” When she learned about a local MABVI low vision support group in her hometown of Peabody, she decided to go. “It was really the first place I had journeyed to independently with my cane. I was early and I sat outside of the room, where I met Joanne, a member of the group. She was so welcoming and had so much experience to share that I knew I was in the right place. I absolutely love each and every one of the group members. They all have something unique to share and are eager to do so.” Continue reading

Exercising My Soul as a Boston Marathon Guide for the Visually Impaired

By Dr. Vincent Hau, vitreoretinal physician and surgeon at the Kaiser Permanente Riverside Medical Center, California

Vincent Hau guiding Richard Hunter as they run the Boston Marathon

VIncent Hau guiding Richard Hunter at the Boston Marathon

Like most avid marathon runners, I’ve always dreamed of running the most prestigious marathon race in the world: the Boston Marathon. I first qualified when I was a medical student nearly 11 years ago, but was afraid of requesting time off from my third-year clinical rotations to run it. For the following 10 years I’ve always regretted never asking.

Since joining Kaiser Permanente, an institution that values an employee’s health and well-being via a strong work-life balance, I’ve been able to achieve qualifying for the Boston Marathon again. Ten years later, in 2014, I ran the post-bombing marathon in a personal record time and shared in showing the world how a terrorist act would never dissuade the spirit of our running community.

This year, after having to take nearly a half-year hiatus from training due to plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis, I knew that in running Boston I would not get close to the time I achieved last year. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if I should be running at all, since I was still recovering and had run for only a couple of weekends prior. When I asked my orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist if I should run Boston, they answered with silence and that special smirk that implied they knew I would run it anyway if they said no. Continue reading

Getting sound footing on National Falls Prevention Awareness Day

Fall is here – and September 23rd is the 7th annual National Falls Prevention Awareness Day. Falls are the leading cause of injury for people over 65. As age increases, this risk unfortunately rises as well. People who are 85 and above are four times more likely to fall than those under 65. Those likely of falling tend to have a history of recent falls, have medical problems, and vision and/or hearing problems. By controlling risk factors of leg weakness, poor balance and changes in the environment, it is possible to be safer and healthier in and out of your home.

See the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Collaborative to learn more and determine if you are at risk of falling. Follow these tips to prevent a fall!

To strengthen your legs and improve your balance, you can ask your health care provider to develop an exercise program for you to practice skills like coordination, flexibility and stability training. Some great leg strengthening exercises can be done just sitting in your chair! In addition to regular exercise, good nutrition is equally important. Low blood pressure can increase the likelihood of falls. For this, you should make sure you are drinking plenty of water and eating full, balanced meals.

The one environment you have full control over is your home. Do everything you can to make it as safe as possible for you to roam around worry-free. First and foremost, try to keep clutter out. Remove items that can cause you to trip like loose rugs, boxes and phone cords, Have your furniture arranged to make navigation through rooms as easy as possible, with a clear pathway. If you tend to have trouble with stairs, start by adding railings to both sides. If you still feel unsafe, it may be worth installing a stair lift. Lastly, try to keep all regularly used items like clothing, dishes and food within reach. If something by chance falls or spills, try to have someone clean it up immediately to keep it from causing more problems later.

Most falls occur in the bathroom. To prevent this, first remove all mats on the floor and in the bathtub, or replace with nonslip safety mats. Install a clear shower curtain to increase the amount of light in the shower, and choose dark-colored towels and mats to contrast with light-colored bathroom tiles to make it easier to see.

High contrast bathroom with dark tiles and light bathmat, dark towel on white tub.

High contrast bathroom.

An additional step you can take in decreasing the likelihood of falls is to invest in nonskid footwear. It’s also a good idea to keep a portable phone with you at all times in case of emergencies. If you do fall, stay calm. Relaxing your body will reduce the impact. Use your portable phone to call for help or 911.

In 2013, professionals, elderly folks and their family members came together in 46 states and Washington DC for National Falls Prevention Awareness Day to raise and spread awareness about preventing falls for themselves and loved ones. Follow these suggestions and make the changes necessary to stay out of harm’s way!