Archive for November, 2009

Nova Scotia man carries torch as a symbol of struggle against adversity, racism

By Geoff Davies © Canwest News Service, AMHERST, Nova Scotia — Paul Wilmot couldn’t help but think about the symbolism of the Olympic torch he carried Saturday morning through this Nova Scotia town. “I’ll be praying for world peace,” the 48-year-old outdoor recreation professor said before his portion of the relay, which took place shortly before the torch was set to leave Nova Scotia. Wilmot said, for him, the flame represents struggle against adversity, a struggle many people have faced during the history of the Games, and one he knows all too well. “For me, the torch represents an opportunity for people to find all kinds of good things in what we do as opposed to focusing energy on negative things.” Wilmot pointed to one of the Games’ darkest times as an example of how the Olympic spirit had triumphed through adversity. During the 1936 Olympics in Berlin — the Games that Adolf Hitler and others in the Nazi party had hoped would show the superiority of the Aryan race — Jesse Owens, a black American track-and-field athlete, stepped up to make a different kind of statement, winning four gold medals. Wilmot has overcome his own adversity. Sent away from his Mi’kmaq community at a young age because of his visual impairment, Wilmot said he had to learn to accept being stuck between two worlds that didn’t accept him…. READ ARTICLE

Blind law school grad can see injustice

By Patty Fisher © San Jose Mercury News, California — Being blind didn’t keep Stephanie Enyart from graduating from Stanford University. It didn’t keep her from earning a law degree at UCLA. And she’s determined not to let it keep her from practicing law. Enyart, 32, is suing the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which repeatedly has denied her request to take the bar exam using adaptive technology. She was a 15-year-old high school sophomore growing up in Nipomo, south of San Luis Obispo, when she learned she suffered from a rare form of macular degeneration called Stargardt’s disease. Her central vision was deteriorating rapidly, and there was no way to stop it. At first, she refused to believe it…. READ ARTICLE

Legally blind torchbearer plans to savour the moment

© Canwest News Service, Canada — SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. — Prince Edward Island’s Robbie Burt has spent months training to swim, bike and run better and faster. But on Sunday, the Olympic torchbearer was hoping to take his time and savour every moment of the 300 metres he would carry the flame in Summerside, P.E.I. “I’m going to go slow and enjoy,” said Burt, who is legally blind, but works as a technical support worker at a local call centre…. READ ARTICLE

Brooklyn’s Caitlin Sarubbi overcomes rare vision disorder to compete on U.S. Disabled Ski Team

By Nathaniel Vinton © Daily News, New York City –It’s March of 2010, and a cluster of New Yorkers shiver at the bottom of a snowy mountainside in the Canadian Rockies. The group includes surgeons and firefighters, the family and friends of John and Cathy Sarubbi of Gerritsen Beach. Their classic Brooklyn accents clash with the Japanese, German, and various other languages here in the crowd at the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics. Suddenly, a skier swoops into view high above them, zipping through a race course at Belt Parkway speeds. It’s Gwynn Watkins, a former collegiate ski racer, zigzagging through the course and narrating everything she sees and does into a special microphone installed in her helmet and connected to a radio. Just a few seconds later, John and Cathy’s 19-year-old daughter, Caitlin Sarubbi, comes into view. Through an earpiece in her own helmet she hears Watkins’ description of the snowy terrain. As a visually impaired ski racer, Sarubbi is relying on a combination of her feel for gravity, the radio messages of Watkins, her guide, and a bottomless store of courage. Her downhill race at the Paralympics is just the latest milestone in her lifelong battle against a mysterious developmental disorder called Ablepharon Macrostomia Syndrome. She has undergone 58 surgeries in her life, many of them on her eyes…. READ ARTICLE

Intel Reader a valiant effort, but with flaws

By WALTER MOSSBERG © THE WALL STREET JOURNAL; published in Cape Cod Times, Massachusetts — Despite all of the advances in digital technology, too few high-tech products have emerged to help the blind read books or other paper documents, or to make reading such texts easier for people with impaired vision or language-related learning disabilities. A few years back, a breakthrough was made with text-to-speech software that could be installed on a specific mobile phone, but with limitations due to the phone’s small screen and buttons, and restricted processor power. Now, Intel, the giant chip maker, is attacking this problem with a new product: the Intel Reader. It’s a chunky, book-size device with a computer-grade processor and a large, forward-facing screen that can be viewed easily while its downward-facing camera is shooting text for translation into audio and giant text. It also has raised buttons that are easy to find via touch…. READ ARTICLE

Radiation Beams Used to Restore Eyesight

By Thomas Moore © Sky News, U.K. — British surgeons are pioneering a technique that uses pinpoint beams of radiation to restore eyesight to blind people. The therapy kills abnormal blood vessels at the back of the eye that cause macular degeneration. The disease is the most common cause of blindness, affecting more than a quarter of a million people in the UK. Currently, they are treated with monthly injections of a drug into the eyeball. But the new treatment – called brachytherapy – needs just a single trip to hospital…. READ ARTICLE

River Blindness (Onchocerciasis) Reduced by Nearly One-Third in At-Risk Populations in Six Countries

PRNewswire, WASHINGTON — A regional initiative launched in the 1990s to eliminate onchocerciasis (river blindness) in the Americas has substantially reduced the prevalence of the disease in recent years, as evidenced by a 31% decrease in the number of individuals requiring mass drug administration in six endemic countries. Results were reported today at the 58th annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH). The reported progress reflects the success of the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA), which promotes health education and twice-yearly administration of the deworming drug Mectizan® (ivermectin) to more than 85% of the eligible population of endemic communities in six countries. The OEPA was formed in response to a 1991 Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) resolution to stop blindness from onchocerciasis in the Americas by 2007 (later augmented to stop transmission by 2012). The Carter Center in Atlanta, GA is the sponsoring agency for the Guatemala-based OEPA, a partnership that includes the six endemic countries, Lions Clubs Foundation International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the PAHO (the American regional office of the World Health Organization), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Merck & Co., Inc. contributes greatly to the program’s achievements by donating supplies of Mectizan for as long as is necessary to eliminate river blindness as a public health problem…. READ PRESS RELEASE

Growing up Bin Laden

By Susannah Cahalan © New York Post — He enjoys growing sunflowers, has daddy issues, and suffers from disabling blindness in his right eye. But this man is no sympathy figure — he’s the world’s most wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden. “Growing up Bin Laden” follows the intimate inside story of the bin Laden family through the eyes of his first wife Najwa and fourth son Omar…. READ ARTICLE

First human stem cell trial using IVF embryos will treat patients facing blindness

© Daily Mail, U.K. — Patients facing blindness with a rare and incurable eye disease are expected to become the first-ever people to benefit from an embryonic stem-cell therapy. Sufferers of Stargardt’s disease, which causes sight loss in early adulthood, are set to undergo the first clinical trials of the controversial treatment. American scientists want to carry out transplant operations using stem cells from spare human embryos left over from IVF treatment…. READ ARTICLE

Through different eyes

By Linda Koehler © Times News, Lehighton, Pennsylvania — Helen Koshensky, 69, opens her door to her home in Saylorsburg and greets her visitor with hospitality. She leads the way to the kitchen table and offers the guest tea or coffee. So far, no one would know she was blind…. READ ARTICLE