Of Note

TBI Returnees Undergo New Vision Therapy


A medical device cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to help stroke and Traumatic Brain Injury survivors restore lost vision is now being provided to soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Vision Restoration Therapy, or VRT, uses light to stimulate neurons in the brain that are responsible for vision. There are no drugs or surgery involved in the rehabilitative process.

The new therapy began following an announcement last August of a partnership between the Tampa VA Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center (VA Medical Center) and NovaVision, a company based in Boca Raton, Florida, dedicated to the development of comprehensive solutions to restore the vision of patients with neurological impairments.

VRT is based on the science of neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to adapt and form new connections to compensate for injury. NovaVision’s diagnostic testing maps areas where vision may be improved and targets such vision-processing regions in the brain. Based on their visual field deficits, patients receive a customized therapy program to perform daily at home for about six months.

“Providing brain trauma survivors with access to NovaVision VRT is a significant step forward in the quality of care offered to the nation’s veterans and current military members,” said Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL-3), a senior member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health.

Between 10 and 30 percent of all service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered some degree of Traumatic Brain Injury. Some 20 percent of that group have experienced vision loss and could potentially benefit from VRT. Soldiers recommended for VRT are referred to Imelda Llanos at the Tampa Polytrauma Center (813-972-2000, Ext. 7276) to make an appointment for candidacy screening and tests.

Although each case of vision loss is unique and must be evaluated individually to determine if the therapy is appropriate, data from a recent retrospective study revealed that more than 70 percent of U.S. patients undergoing VRT for six months showed significant improvement in their vision.

VisionAWARE Offers Self-Help for Loss



VisionAWARE.org is a new “Self-Help for Vision Loss” website that contains free, practical information for adults with vision loss, for their families, and friends.

The site is the primary focus of a nonprofit social service organization dedicated to education and rehabilitation of the blind and visually impaired. It covers a wide range of topics that include eye diseases and disorders, home modification, home mechanics, employment with vision loss, recreational activities, personal self-care, indoor and outdoor travel and mobility, Braille reading and writing, computers and technology, and information to help locate vision rehabilitation services, products, and resources.

An interview series entitled “My Story …” features men and women who discuss their experiences and share the ways they and their family members have learned to cope with the everyday challenges of vision loss. A “Practice Exercises” section gives step-by-step instructions for using and maximizing the senses of hearing, touch, and taste. A newsletter archive includes special issues on macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

To access the site, go to www.visionaware.org.

Designs Sought for Veterans Day Poster


The Veterans Day National Committee is seeking submissions for the 2008 national Veterans Day poster, which is distributed each autumn to more than 110,000 U.S. schools and to military installations and federal agencies throughout the country and around the world.

The deadline is May 1, after which the committee will convene to review all submissions and select a finalist.

The poster is also the same illustration that each year graces the cover of the official program booklet for the Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

Although the final poster must be 18 by 24 inches at 300 dots per inch, all submissions should be scaled down to 9 by 12 inches and sent in one of two ways: JPG images or PDF files via email to vetsday@va.gov; hard copies of artwork or a CD containing files via postal mail to Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20420.

To view Veterans Day posters from previous years, visit www.va.gov/vetsday and click on “Poster Gallery.” Submissions should include sufficient information to demonstrate that the photos and concepts of the image are the work of the artist and have not been extracted from copyrighted material. The committee may select a particular submission while still asking the artist to make modifications to the original design. Additional changes may be required prior to printing.

APH Turns 150


In 1858, the General Assembly of Kentucky passed an act establishing the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) after Dempsey B. Sherrod, a blind man from Mississippi, had raised funds for the establishment of a national publishing house to produce books in raised letters.

Sherrod’s efforts occurred over the course of several years and culminated with a charter of incorporation from the state of Mississippi in 1857 that influenced the legislation in Kentucky the following year.

APH began with one employee in the basement of the Kentucky School for the Blind in Louisville. Now, 150 years later, the organization has more than 300 employees and a budget of $32.7 million coming from direct sales, donations, and a federal appropriation that serves approximately 10 million visually impaired and 1.3 million legally blind Americans.

Among the multitudinous technological innovations and adaptations over 150 years was APH’s 2003 release of Book Port, a revolutionary portable book reading device that allows the user to download and read electronic text files with synthetic speech or digitally recorded books with human speech.

APH also houses the Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field, several of which were closely affiliated with BVA’s early history. The Hall is supported by the entire vision profession but maintained and hosted by APH.

Guide Offers Updated Technology Info


An updated 2008 edition of the American Foundation for the Blind’s Guide to Assistive Technology Products includes detailed profiles of more than 280 products for people who are blind or visually impaired, including more than 30 new products.

The guide, available in both print and CD, includes facts about items ranging from cell phones, PDAs, and GPS systems to screen readers, Braille printers, and CCTVs. A resource section contains manufacturer names and other contact information.

Additional details about the guide are located at www.afb.org/store.

“Read This to Me” Provides New Service


A free service reads printed documents to the blind and visually impaired over the telephone. All the client needs is a telephone line and a fax machine.

“Read This to Me,” staffed by volunteers, is available throughout the United States. The blind or visually impaired individual sends a document by fax to 877-333-8848. The first page of the fax must be a cover sheet that includes the client’s first name and a callback phone number. As long as the pages are in the range of 5-10 or fewer in length, the document can range from a handwritten letter, a bill, or a label from a can of food to a multi-page magazine article. Shortly after the fax has been sent, usually within an hour or two, one of the volunteers from “Read This to Me” will call the client and read the document.

For detailed information about the service, go to www.readthistome.org or call 877-333-8847.

Mobile Clinics to Offer Emergency Medication


VA now provides a pharmacy on wheels that allows veterans to secure needed medications during periods of disaster.

Housed in a 40-foot-long solid steel trailer, the VA Mobile Pharmacy is built to withstand winds in a Category 3 storm and includes a satellite connection with VA’s Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy (CMOP) system, a computerized state-of-the-art mailout pharmacy with automated systems that process more than 1,000 prescriptions per hour.

In the event of a disaster, pharmacists can use the satellite system to obtain a veteran’s prescription data to dispense the drugs onsite or to send them by mail or carrier services to a veteran’s home or temporary address.

VA recognized the need for a mobile pharmacy unit in 2005 after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita severely damaged VA Medical Centers in the Gulf Coast region. The first unit was unveiled on September 11, 2007 in front of VA’s Central Office in Washington, DC. A second unit was scheduled for delivery in March 2008 and a third shortly thereafter.

The first three CMOPs will be stationed in Dallas, Texas; Murfreesboro, Tennessee; and Charleston, South Carolina. They will provide immediate prescription services for critical medications such as insulin and will all be loaded with a satellite dish, medications, water, and other emergency supplies that could be needed during a disaster.

A Journey for Old Glory


The White House Commission on Remembrance has partnered with the USS Arizona Pearl Harbor Memorial Museum in a nationwide flag raising effort.

The flag began its journey on December 7 at Pearl Harbor during the National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. It made its way eastward in January, February, and March, and will have visited 25 national cemeteries and historic battlefields before the journey’s culmination at the U.S. Capitol on May 26, Memorial Day.

The final event will constitute a significant portion of the National Moment of Remembrance ceremony. Members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, elected officials, representatives from the military services, veterans and their families, and ceremony representatives are expected to be in attendance.

For more information on the flag raisings nationwide, go to www.remember.gov.