April is Occupational Therapy Month

During the month of April, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) celebrates Occupational Therapy Month and the more than 213,000 occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants, and students who work nationwide to create fuller lives for clients and their families. This blog will look at the basics of occupational therapy (OT), reasons you may need OT, and a section specifically for OT for the visually impaired. Information from this blog can be found at WHAT IS OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY? and Occupational Therapy Services for Persons With Visual Impairment.

What is Occupational Therapy?

Your life is made up of occupations—meaningful everyday activities. These occupations can include many roles, such as being a parent, a friend, a spouse, a tennis player, an artist, a cook, or a musician. We generally do not think about our daily occupations until we have trouble doing them. Everyone has occupations—from the toddler whose occupations are play and learning to develop important skills, to the older adult whose occupations are engaging with family and friends and managing his or her home. If you are recovering from an accident or injury, your valued occupations may be disrupted. Occupational therapy incorporates your valued occupations into the rehabilitation process.

Occupational therapy practitioners are either occupational therapists or occupational therapy assistants. They are skilled health care professionals who use research and scientific evidence to ensure their interventions are effective. With strong knowledge of a person’s psychological, physical, emotional, and social makeup, occupational therapy practitioners can evaluate how your condition (or risk for one) is affecting your body and mind, using a holistic perspective.

OT is covered by most health insurance plans. Ask your physician about a referral for occupational therapy services or look for a private practice in your community. Talk to your child’s teacher about occupational therapy services at school.

Reasons You May Need OT

Imagine if an accident, injury, disease, or condition made it difficult for you to participate in your daily activities. A wrist injury means that getting dressed in the morning is painful. Arthritis makes driving challenging. Autism may hinder a child from interacting effectively with classmates. A traumatic brain injury keeps a wounded warrior out of active duty because of difficulties with memory and organizational skills. Or a small change in your activities or the environment could prevent a future condition (such as using ergonomics at work to avoid injury).

An occupational therapy practitioner will keep the focus on the things you need and want to do—your goals, your activities, your independence. With occupational therapy services you can:

  • Achieve goals, such as helping your teenager with a developmental disability gain the skills to transition from high school to independent living as an adult.
  • Stay as healthy and productive as possible, while managing a chronic medical condition.
  • Maintain or rebuild your independence, such as using assistive devices so you can care for yourself after a stroke.
  • Participate in the everyday activities important to you, such as driving, visiting friends, going to church, and other activities that keep you involved with your community.

In short, an occupational therapy practitioner can help you live life to its fullest no matter your health condition, disability, or risk factors.

OT for Persons with Visual Impairment

20.6 million Americans report experiencing vision impairment or blindness (Blackwell, Lucas, & Clarke, 2014). It is one of the top 10 disabilities among adults over age 18 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015).

Older adults with visual impairment are three to four times more likely than adults with normal vision to experience difficulties completing instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), such as preparing a meal, managing medications, and utilizing community mobility options (Crews & Campbell, 2004).

Occupational therapy practitioners work to ensure that older adults are able to age in place and participate in their communities despite visual impairment. Occupational therapy practitioners are also part of coordinated rehabilitation teams that enable working age adults with visual impairment to acquire or continue independent living and productive employment.

Occupational therapy practitioners also apply their expertise with adaptive devices and assistive technology to enable older adults to use optical and non-optical devices to complete ADLs. The practitioner, for example, may work with the person to use a prescribed optical device such as a hand-held magnifier to complete shopping, or a non-optical device such as a talking glucometer to complete diabetes self-management.

Occupational therapy services for persons with low vision may be provided in any setting, including early intervention environments, schools, skilled nursing or other extended care facilities, rehabilitation centers, specialty clinics, community-based programs, and the person’s home.

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All About Reading Glasses

Like it or not, as we age, our vision tends to get worse, and you may eventually find yourself needing a pair of reading glasses. This blog will look at the reasons behind this phenomenon, how to know when it is time to consider getting a pair of readers, and how to determine which strength and style of reader is right for you. Information in this blog came from American Academy of Ophthalmology, Your Sight Matters, The Cleveland Clinic, and product suggestions from the ILA website.

Presbyopia, the Reason You May Need Reading Glasses

Presbyopia is when your eyes gradually lose the ability to see things clearly up close. It is a normal part of aging. In fact, the term “presbyopia” comes from a Greek word which means “old eye.” You may start to notice presbyopia shortly after age 40. You will probably find that you hold reading materials farther away in order to see them clearly.

Your clear lens sits inside the eye behind your colored iris. It changes shape to focus light onto the retina so you can see. When you are young, the lens is soft and flexible, easily changing shape. This lets you focus on objects both close-up and far away. After age 40, the lens becomes more rigid. It cannot change shape as easily. This makes it harder to read, thread a needle, or do other close-up tasks.

There is no way to stop or reverse the normal aging process that causes presbyopia. However, presbyopia can be corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses or surgery. People who have trouble seeing both near and far may benefit from progressive lenses. In the future, presbyopia be treated with eye drops. If you do not correct presbyopia, you may be bothered by headaches and eye strain.

How to Know When You are Ready for Reading Glasses

OK now you know what could cause the need to have reading glasses but when is the right time to consider getting them? If any of these 5 reasons sound all too familiar it may be time to consider getting reading glasses, or at the very least make an appointment with an eye doctor to be sure.

  1. You are over the age of 40. Everyone’s eyesight changes at a different rate, but most people develop presbyopia in their 40s. Presbyopia is a condition in which the eyes strain to focus on nearby objects. This is different from farsightedness, or hyperopia, a condition in which you can see distant objects clearly, but objects nearby may be blurry. Hyperopia is usually present at birth, but presbyopia develops during the aging process.
  2. You need brighter light when reading. If you never seem to have enough light, regardless of the room type or the number of lamps you have turned on, it may be time to get reading glasses. According to a study, a 60-year-old requires three times as much light as a 20-year-old to do the same tasks.
  3. Your eyes get tired when reading or working at your computer. Do you find yourself dozing off at your computer, or do your eyelids get heavy when you read or do detailed work? If you are developing presbyopia, your eyes are working harder and straining more than they normally would. A temporary solution is to blink more often, take more breaks, or adjust your screen to reduce glare. Another option would be to get some reading glasses!
  4. You are getting more headaches. Consistently straining your eyes to read or focus on crafts could give you headaches. A headache right behind your eyes could be indicative of hyperopia. It is important to remember the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. If your headaches persist, you should visit your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam.
  5. You see halos. When your lens cannot focus light into your retina, it makes your vision appear blurry. You may see glowing circles around lightbulbs or car headlights. Glasses often solve this problem, but this may also be an early sign of cataracts.

Deciding on the Right Pair of Reading Glasses

Ok so maybe you are over 40 and at least one of the deciding factors sounds like you, now what? Trying to decide on the right pair of reading glasses may at first sound daunting but it does not have to. Here are three tips to keep in mind when searching for your first pair, or any pair, of reading glasses (also referred to as readers).

Tip 1: Find the right power. All reading glasses will have signs or stickers indicating their power. In most cases they will range from +1 to +5 diopter, in increments of +.25. Try the lowest power (+1) first.

Tip 2: Test-drive the glasses. If you have brought reading material with you, try reading it at a comfortable length. (Many drugstore eyeglass displays have an eye chart, too, to test the glasses.) If you have to hold the material too far out to be able to read it, increase the power. Keep testing the different powers until can read clearly at the distance that is most comfortable for you. If you are shopping online for reading glasses, you can also print off this printable reading eye chart to help you decide.

Tip 3: Go big the first time. While there are many styles and colors to choose from, you may want to start your reading glass journey with a bigger pair of specs. You may need larger glasses frames or lens to really get the sweet spot of where the prescription is. You can go down in size as you get used to wearing them.

ILA offers many different types of reading glasses including these Boca Linear Stylish Reading Glasses, Greenwich Linear Reading Glasses, and the Burgundy Designer Readers with Rhinestones.

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Information about the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled

Last week’s blog celebrated National Library Week and shared information about the things libraries offer their community. This week we will discuss the National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Print Disabled. Information for this blog came from the NLS website and product suggestions came from the ILA website.

What is the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS)?

The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS), Library of Congress, administers a free national library program that provides braille and recorded materials to people who cannot see regular print or handle print materials. Established by an Act of Congress in 1931 to serve blind adults, the program was expanded in 1952 to include children, in 1962 to provide music materials, in 1966 to include individuals with other physical disabilities that prevent reading regular print, and in 2016 to permit NLS to provide refreshable braille displays. The NLS program is funded annually by Congress, and books and materials are mailed as “Free Matter for the Blind or Handicapped” through a separate appropriation to the United States Postal Service. Cooperating network libraries are funded through a combination of state, local, and/or federal sources.

Any resident of the United States or American citizen living abroad who is unable to read or use regular print materials as a result of temporary or permanent visual or physical limitations may apply for service.

Collections

The NLS Catalog contains more than 281,000 book records, of which more than 74,000 are braille books and braille music scores and 207,000 are talking books.

Books are selected for the NLS collection on the basis of their appeal across a wide range of interests. Approximately sixty-five percent are fiction, and thirty-five percent are nonfiction. Bestsellers, biographies, fiction, and how-to books are in great demand. The collection includes books in Spanish and a limited number of titles in other languages. Books for youth—from preschool to young adult—are provided in audio, braille, and print/braille. Registered borrowers learn of new books added to the collection through two bimonthly publications: Braille Book Review and Talking Book Topics. The NLS book collection and other resources from cooperating agencies are listed in the NLS Catalog.

Currently 51 audio and 40 braille magazine titles, selected for the program based on reader interest, are available through NLS by subscription. Other magazines are available on BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download). Readers may subscribe to such titles as People, National Geographic, and Consumer Reports in audio and ESPN: The Magazine and the New York Times Large Print Weekly in braille. A variety of magazines for children are also available. Current issues are mailed to readers shortly after print issues are released.

BARD and Equipment for Loan

BARD, a free online service, provides access to thousands of special-format books, magazines, and music materials. The same materials that are offered on digital cartridge and braille are also available for download in compressed digital audio and ebraille formats. The password-protected service is operated as a partnership between NLS and its network of cooperating libraries. Readers with a personal iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch can download and read audio and ebraille materials with the BARD iOS Mobile app. A refreshable braille display with a Bluetooth connection is required to access ebraille materials. Readers using Android devices, including the Amazon Kindle Fire, may use the BARD Mobile app for Android to access BARD’s audio materials. BARD Express provides NLS patrons with a simplified way to access BARD on Windows-based computers and transfer books and magazines to a NLS cartridge or USB drive.

NLS patrons are loaned playback equipment free of charge for use with talking books and magazines. Players are available in two models (standard and advanced), provide high-quality sound, offer variable speed controls, and have built-in audio instructions. The advanced player also enables bookmarking and navigation, allowing readers to skip to different parts of a book. Accessories for the players include lightweight headphones, adapters to facilitate the use of commercial USB flash drives, and a breath switch. Readers with significant hearing loss may request a high-volume player and headphones.

Devices for Purchase

Some people prefer to own their own equipment to have more freedom and ability to save/personalize their devices as they see fit. If you would rather purchase your own device ILA offers several different options to choose from.

Milestone 312 ACE Book Reader for the Blind: Use Milestone 312 ACE as your daily, portable companion and experience a new simplicity in digital entertainment that overcomes barriers. It represents a new generation of aids for visually impaired and blind people. Milestone 312 is furnished with a Voice Recorder, Music Player, superior Text to Speech voices, NLS-Audio Book Player, Clock, and Alarm. This unit can play Audible.com and National Library of Congress books as well. Milestone 312 integrates enormous functionality in a small credit card size casing. The following formats are already usable with Milestone 312: MP3, M4A, M4, M4V, AAC, WMA, WAV, TXT, DAISY 2.02, DAISY 3.0, DOC, AA/AAX (NLS, Audible, Bookshare, and iTunes).

New Victor Reader Stream: The New Generation Victor Reader Stream is smaller and smarter than its predecessor with new wireless capabilities that will open up the world to the blind and visually impaired. With the new Stream you can receive content from books and newspapers to podcasts and radio. It features a louder speaker, superior text to speech and improved recording. The high contrast tactile keypad and popular Victor Reader bookshelf navigation makes this the easiest to use hand-held player on the market. This new model has been designed to be user friendly, compact, and lightweight. Read books from DAISY libraries, The National Library Service (NLS,) Audible.com, Bookshare, and Learning Ally.

Envoy Connect Book Player: Economical, rugged, and solar powered book player can play any file in an MP3, WAV, WMA, OGG, and FLAC format. Download books from Bookshare, LibriVox, or Open Culture. Navigation on the Connect is simple, with just a few raised, intuitive buttons for Bookshelf, play, volume, forward/back, and sleep timer. Connect has 8GB of internal storage or a microSD card slot for additional storage. High-quality built-in speaker, as well as an earphone jack and ear buds. Comes with an on-board audio tutorial as well as audible user feedback for all buttons. Solar powered or USB re-chargeable. Not DAISY compatible.

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Welcome to Your Library: National Library Week 2021

National Library Week (April 4 – 10, 2021) is a time to celebrate our nation’s libraries, library workers’ contributions and promote library use and support. This year’s them is “Welcome to Your Library.” First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and observed in libraries across the country each April.  This  blog will look at highlights found from the ALA’s dedicated page(s) for National Library Week. Read to the end to discover all the ways in which libraries are able to help anyone in their communities.

Celebration of Library Workers’ Contributions on April 6th

Library staff play an invaluable role in supporting their communities both in person and virtually as the world continues to fight COVID-19. In times of crisis, libraries of all types and their workers serve millions of library users in need of free access to WiFi, eBooks, accurate information, and digital social services.

On April 6, 2021, the nation will celebrate National Library Workers Day (NLWD), a time to recognize library staff members for their public service contributions in transforming lives and communities through education and lifelong learning.

The ALA Allied Professionals Association (ALA-APA) invites library advocates, patrons, and staff to show their support of our nation’s library workers by posting words of encouragement and appreciation for their local library stars at http://bit.ly/librarystar. Academic, public, special, school library patrons can “Submit a Star” by providing a brief testimonial about a favorite library employee. Patrons are welcome to share stories about how library staff has an impact on their lives or community. Each testimonial will appear in ALA-APA’s “Galaxy of Stars.”  Library staff and the general public can also share well wishes over their social media channels with the hashtag #NLWD21 or post messages to the National Library Workers Day Facebook page.

National Library Outreach Day on April 7th

Libraries across the country will observe National Library Outreach Day on April 7, 2021. Formerly known as National Bookmobile Day, communities will celebrate the invaluable role library professionals and libraries continuously play in bringing library services to those in need.

The American Library Association (ALA), the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS), and the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) agreed to rebrand National Bookmobile Day in recognition of all that outreach library professional do within their communities.

Library services surpass bricks and mortar, as library professionals continue to adapt and develop innovative ways to deliver library materials and services that transform lives and support lifelong learning. Whether bookmobile, outreach van, book bike, senior services, school services, library workers go above and beyond to ensure that marginalized, underserved populations and all community members have access to library services.

“During COVID-19, library outreach workers continue to provide essential resources and services to their communities,” said David Kelsey, president, ABOS. “Whether providing free Wi-Fi in mobile libraries, providing virtual programming and storytimes, calling seniors in isolation, or distributing food and clothing, outreach workers are there to meet patrons and their communities.”

During the day, libraries will participate in a Virtual Bookmobile Parade and post to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with the hashtag #LibraryOutreachDay. ALA will highlight examples of innovation over its social media channels and on its Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services (ODLOS) blog, Intersections.

Quotable Facts About America’s Libraries

The following facts are found from a 2019 ALA pdf entitled “Quotable Facts About America’s Libraries – January 2019.”

  • The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with more than 167 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves, which would span roughly the distance from The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., to Cape Canaveral, Florida.
  • Libraries play a critical role in the happiness of Americans. Communities that spend more on libraries, parks and highways are shown to support the well-being of community members.
  • Americans go to public libraries more often than they go to the movies.
  • There are more public libraries than Starbucks in the U.S. – a total of 16,568, including branches. Nearly 100% of public libraries provide Wi-Fi and have no-fee access to computers.
  • There were 113 million attendees at public library programs in 2016, more than all Major League Baseball, National Football League, and NBA games combined. That’s 16.5 million more than in 2013.
  • Students in high-poverty schools are almost twice as likely to graduate when the school library is staffed with a certified school librarian.

Libraries strengthen local economies.

  • 84% of libraries offer technology training to patrons in computer software use;
  • 76.8% of libraries provide online health resources and 60% offer programs to help Americans identify health insurance resources and get better informed on health topics;
  • 73.1% of libraries provide programs that assist individuals apply for jobs, create resumes, and prepare for interviews;
  • 97% of libraries help people complete online government forms

Libraries create healthier communities.

  • 77% of libraries offer online health resources
  • 59% provide programs on finding health insurance
  • 58% provide programs to help people find and evaluate health information
  • 23% offer fitness classes

Libraries are the place for lifelong learning.

  • 95% provide online homework assistance
  • 95% offer summer reading programs for children

Library access equals opportunity.

  • 100% of public libraries offer access to the Internet
  • 98% of public libraries offer free Wifi
  • 90% help patrons with basic Internet skills
  • 97% help people complete online government forms
  • 9 out of 10 libraries offer access to e-books

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*Blog banner reproduced with permission from the ALA National Library Week Press Kit