Braille Monitor                                                    July 2009

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Bridging the Gap: Living with Blindness and Diabetes

The image under the book title is a silhouette of a suspension bridge with a man holding a white cane standing at the center of the span.
The front cover of our new book about blindness and diabetes

From the Associate Editor: At our convention in Detroit the first week in July, the National Federation of the Blind released a new book, Bridging the Gap: Living with Blindness and Diabetes. It focuses on nonvisual methods of managing diabetes. Since the NFB's quarterly publication addressing issues of blindness and diabetes, the Voice of the Diabetic, is no longer being published, this volume has been prepared to answer common questions from blind diabetics. The book includes a collection of some of the best articles from the Voice of the Diabetic and a useful resource section. The NFB is making this free guide to living with blindness and diabetes available to everyone interested in this subject, particularly blind diabetics and healthcare professionals. Contact the NFB Independence Market at (410) 659-9314, ext. 2216, or email <[email protected]> for further information or to place your order. To give readers an idea of the volume’s organization, its target audience, and the features that make it especially useful to blind and low-vision readers, here is the book’s introduction:

Diabetes can be difficult, especially if one lacks essential information about managing it. Blindness or vision loss can be all the more frustrating when one lacks critical know-how. So what happens when one is experiencing both diabetes and blindness? Where can one turn for answers? Where does someone with diabetes turn when he loses vision? Where does a blind person turn when she develops diabetes?

Bridging the Gap: Living with Blindness and Diabetes, a one-of-a-kind resource, provides the necessary link between diabetes and blindness, and the facts about successfully managing diabetes as a blind person. The word “blind,” as used in this volume, refers to any significant degree of vision loss that a person experiences that markedly limits the ability to do things visually.

This five-part volume draws from articles originally published in the Voice of the Diabetic, a magazine that the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) published for twenty-four years that met the informational needs of blind people with diabetes. We begin with “Personal Portraits: Success Stories about Living with Diabetes and Blindness.” Readers of this book (particularly blind people who also have diabetes) need to know that they are not alone and that people everywhere are adopting a positive approach to coping with these dual conditions.

Next, we present “Diabetes Basics: What Everyone Should Know.” Few diabetes resources are available in accessible formats, so in this section we make sure that readers have access to necessary information. In “Secrets of Success: Managing Diabetes as a Blind Person,” we offer a wealth of wisdom developed especially for and by the real experts, blind people who manage their own diabetes. Seasoned diabetes specialists and rehabilitation professionals, as well as blind diabetics, will find this section enlightening and instructive.

In “Continuing the Journey” we share personal stories and important technical information from medical experts in the field. This should prove especially informative for those blind diabetics who may also be encountering concerns like dialysis, amputation, wound care, neuropathy, and gastroparesis. Finally, in “Resources” we gather a treasure trove of useful community-based resources for enhancing independence, many of which are free for the asking. We have even included sample jumbo-print diabetes logs, available for the first time.

Designed with Optimal Accessibility in Mind

Bridging the Gap: Living with Blindness and Diabetes is unique. This new resource guide has been created by the Diabetes Action Network (DAN) of the NFB and has been designed with maximum accessibility in mind. It is produced in large print so that some blind people can read the print independently. But accompanying it is a disc that includes an audio CD recording of each article (in an MP3 version) along with an electronic text-only version. In addition, people can read this book online, where they can also find printer-friendly versions of each article.

A Special Message to Healthcare Providers

If you serve blind diabetics, this book is for you too. Here you will find essential tools so that blind diabetics can independently manage their diabetes every day. Feel free to reproduce its articles to share with coworkers, diabetic patients, and clients.

What Is the NFB Diabetes Action Network?

Since 1985 the NFB Diabetes Action Network has educated, empowered, and inspired blind diabetics to live their best and fullest lives. The DAN encourages its membership, advocates for accessible diabetes technology, and does everything it can to put essential information about diabetes into the hands of blind people. This Federation division fosters positive attitudes and offers practical advice to blind diabetics, family members, rehabilitation specialists, and healthcare professionals working in the field of diabetes. We encourage you to join the DAN and benefit from its peer support and advocacy efforts.

The Changing Demographics of Diabetes and Blindness

When the NFB established its diabetes division, most of our members were type 1 diabetics who had lost their vision after years with the disease. Back then far less was known about diabetes, and hardly any tools existed for reliably measuring and controlling blood sugar.

Today our members also represent two other quickly expanding demographics, most of whom have type 2 diabetes. Some have lost or are losing vision from type 2 diabetes; others have been blind for some time and have mastered independence as blind people, but, like too many other Americans today, they have developed type 2 diabetes as experienced blind adults. Whether you were born blind or are blind from other diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, or glaucoma, you can turn to the NFB Diabetes Action Network for both accessible diabetes information and tips for managing diabetes without vision.

With Gratitude to Our Sponsors

Special thanks go to the generous donors that have helped fund this important work. They are GlaxoSmithKline, the Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation in Washington, D.C., and the St. Agnes Hospital Foundation in Baltimore, Maryland. Without their support this critically needed resource would not be in your hands today. Enjoy reading Bridging the Gap: Living with Blindness and Diabetes.

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