Category: Blindness & Visual Impairment

INDEX Summer Camp Resources 2023

We have updated Summer Camp resources for children with disabilities. Camp listings are for day and residential camps. Camps are located in Massachusetts, New England, and beyond. Check our listings for specific camp information and openings. Cost varies by type of camp and programs offered.

Camps offer a big range of programs and activities. Camps may have available openings and wait lists. Each camp has its own eligibility requirements. If you have questions, please contact each camp for details.

INDEX Summer Camp Resources 2023

Audio Book Resources

stack of books with headphones around them

Audio Books can be obtained through talking book libraries, book stores, public libraries, and the internet.  Here are some great resources available to help those with disabilities enjoy the pleasure of hearing a book.

Perkins Braille & Talking Book Library
provides FREE services to Massachusetts residents of any age who are unable to read traditional print materials due to a visual or physical disability. Services include free audio, braille and large print books, magazines, special equipment required to play recorded special materials and free delivery and return by mail.
Located at 175 North Beacon Street in Watertown, MA
Phone: (617) 972-7240 or 800-852-3133

Worcester Talking Book Library
is the sub regional talking book library located at the Worcester Public library.
Phone: (508) 799-1730 or 800-762-0085

Learning Ally
is the largest source of educational books and textbooks on tape in the
world. Individuals pay a $99 annual fee to borrow unlimited audio books.
Located at 2067 Mass Ave, 3rd floor in Cambridge, MA.
Phone: 617-500-2724

Choice Magazine Listening
selects and records memorable writing from approximately 100 leading magazines. It is a free service available for blind, visually impaired or physically handicapped subscribers on new digital Talking Book Cartridges playable from the Library of Congress.

The Talking Information Center
is a non-profit reading service that broadcasts newspapers, magazines, books, and special consumer information to visually-impaired listeners.
Phone: 800-696-9505

Digital audio books can be downloaded directly to your computer, usually
in a format like an MP3. After you download them, they can be transferred to the listening device of your choice. Some popular listening devices like iPod and iPhones support downloading audio books directly from the internet.


Audio BookVendors
Compares most common downloadable book formats on the web
Barnes & Noble
Similar to Netflix, you can rent unlimited audio books for your smartphone, tablet or laptop for $29.95 a month.

18 Best sites to Download Free Audio Books

For additional resources check out our Alternative Reading Formats Fact Sheet which outlines various types of alternative reading formats.

Perkins Library: More Than Just Books

Roz RowleyRecently I visited Roz Rowley in her classroom at Perkins School for the Blind. I was amazed to learn that she has been a Teacher of the Visually Impaired for 42 years. Wow! I wanted to meet with her to learn more about what the Perkins Library means to her as a teacher and how it impacts her students.

After all, who would know better?

Teaching self-reliance

As we talked, Roz spoke about all the ways she uses the Library. Through our conversation, we discovered together that the Library is an important tool used to teach self-reliance. It also gives her students access to the same information that their sighted peers have.

Roz teaches a class, English for Real Life. The curriculum includes everything from returning a digital talking book through the US mail to completing applications, to downloading a book.

All important life skills. All related to the Library.

Something as simple as encouraging a student to place a call to the Library by themselves teaches important, independent phone skills.

Library offers equal opportunities

The Library provides students at Perkins and across Massachusetts with the same opportunities for learning as sighted students.
They have books, just like sighted students. They write book reports. And research.

Perkins Library has a dedicated Reference Librarian who meets with students each year so they know how to use the library. Perkins graduates keep that connection as they enter the world outside of the school.

Students also learn to use the Newsline service. By calling Newsline they can read today’s newspaper and contribute to a discussion about current events.

Just like sighted students.

Newsline also has job postings so that students can start thinking about different employment options. People who are blind are typically unemployed or under employed. At least knowing what kinds of jobs are out there is a start.

I used to think about our Library simply as a way for people to enjoy reading. My conversation with Roz gave me a whole new perspective.

Our Library helps students build self -esteem and independence.

Our Library allows students become informed citizens as they go out into the “real world.”

My Love Affair with Talking Books

Gayle YarnallThis week we introduce Gayle Yarnall, a patron of the Perkins Library and part of the Library Outreach Team whose goal is to spread the word far and wide about library services.

The Talking Book Program is 80 years old and I have been a big fan and loyal patron for 47 of those years.  I somehow got to my senior year in high school without ever being told about talking books. My vision was poor. I could not easily read print. I could never read for pleasure. My mom recorded the books I absolutely needed for school and I faked the rest.

Talking books introduced

It wasn’t like my vision was being ignored. I grew up in Chicago. My parents took me to all the best doctors who tried all kinds of treatments including drugs and very unflattering eye wear.

In my senior year we moved to Florida and I went to a new doctor. This doctor casually mentioned the Talking Book Program and a big ugly record player, the talking book player of the day, moved into my house. The first book I read was Tale of Two Cities. My mom was thrilled she did not have to record it.

Literature becomes a companion

From that book on I was wandering through the garden of literature, both old and new. I discovered travel books and mysteries, historic fiction and political books. I was off and running and I have never stopped.

Talking books followed me from Florida to Colorado and then to Massachusetts. They got me through raising three kids, middle age, and now into “seniorhood”. Is there such a word? They have introduced me to authors from around the world, places I have traveled and places I hope to travel. They have brought me through illnesses and power outages. They have given me endless sources for conversation.

Maybe most important of all they have kept me company.

Now I travel around Massachusetts spreading the word about the Library services. This is like being paid to eat chocolate. I am amazed at how many people don’t know about this service. How can you not love a library that comes to you? How can you not love a service provided by people who love what they do.

Help us to spread the word! Contact the Library at or 1-800-852-3133 or me at

Perkins Braille & Talking Book Library

Imagine a library right at your front door! That is what Perkins Library provides. This month we will learn more about this wonderful resource from our Guest Blogger, Debby Smith, Library Outreach Coordinator for the Perkins School Library.

A Library that delivers

We are the free public library for people who have difficulty reading regular sized print. Audio, large print and braille books are delivered to the homes of our patrons by the US postal workers. No postage is necessary.

Our patrons may have difficulty seeing regular sized print. They may have difficulty holding a book due to a physical condition such as arthritis, stroke, Parkinson’s disease. Or, they may have a reading disability.

Whatever the reason, if they want to read, we are here.

US Postal Worker

A wealth of resources

And we don’t just have books.

There are magazines, movies, museum passes. Even the opportunity to read over 300 newspapers across the country and from around the world is available by signing up for a service called Newsline. Subscribers access the service by telephone or computer.

Having worked with people who are blind or visually impaired for over 31 years, it is exciting to see how print materials are so much more accessible. The idea that you can listen to today’s newspaper, the entire thing, any time you want, not depending on someone else, is amazing.

Dean Denniston

Books offer lifeline

As the Library Outreach Coordinator, I have the privilege of going into the community to spread the word about the Perkins Library. It is so rewarding to be able to tell people that they can still enjoy reading.

When I meet with patrons they tell me that books are their “lifeline”. Some people say they read more than ever before because there are so many wonderful books available to them. When I talk to new people they cannot believe that this service is here; it is easy, it is accessible and it is free!

person listening to book


For more information about the Perkins Library, or to get an application in order to apply for services, visit our web site at or call 1-800-852-3133.

Also, be sure to read more about our library in the October blogs to follow.

Resources for Individuals with a Vision Loss

picture of the feet and cane of a person going down stairs

As we discussed in last week’s blog, once a person is diagnosed with a vision loss there are resources available to help people adjust. In fact, all eye care providers are required to report patients diagnosed with legal blindness so they can access resources.

In Massachusetts, there are about 35,000 residents who are legally blind and registered with the Commission for the Blind, the statewide resource for coordinating vision professional services.

Once a person is registered with the Commission, a case manager will meet with the individual and assist them in accessing services of their choice.

These may include:

Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist (COMS)
Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (CVRT)
Certified Low Vision Therapist (CLVT)
Assistive Technology Specialist
Deaf/Blind Specialist
Rehabilitation Teacher
Vocational Counselor
Case manager
Children’s Rehabilitation Case manager

For additional information, contact the Commission for the Blind at
(617) 727-5550.

Additional Resources

Blindness & Vision Impairment Resources from (Mass. Dept. of Developmental Services)
This site provides resources for individuals with vision impairment, legal blindness or deaf/blindness and intellectual disability.
Resources include:

Daily Living with Vision Loss
Leisure, Communication, and Recreation Resources
Local  & National Organizations Dedicated to Vision Loss
Product Catalogs of Aids & Appliances for Vision Loss
Eye Safety, Vision Care & Finding an Eye Care Provider

Professional Organizations / Vision Education / Certification

Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER)
is the professional organization of the blindness/vision loss field.

Northeast Chapter of the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (NE/AER)

Northeast Regional Center for Vision Education
UMass Boston has certification and master programs for Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialists (COMS) and Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (CVRT), as well as Teachers of the Visually Impaired.

Understanding Vision Loss and Legal Blindness

Ever wonder what the term “legally blind” means?

There is much confusion about legal blindness, since most individuals who are legally blind have some functional vision and their eyes may look perfectly fine. Legal blindness ranges from low vision to total blindness.

Determining legal blindness

When describing a person’s vision, most people are familiar with the term, “acuity”, meaning how clear or blurred a person’s vision is compared to others. To be registered as legally blind in Massachusetts, an individual must have vision acuity of 20/200 or less in their better eye with the best possible correction (eyeglasses/contacts).

Let’s compare this to a person with 20/20 vision.

If an individual has 20/20 vision, they can see something at 200 feet clearly. If they have 20/200 vision, they must be only 20 feet away to see the same object as clearly as the individual who is 200 feet away.

The second measurement of legal blindness is a field loss of 10 degrees or less in the better eye. Other visual functions impacting vision loss are: Contrast Sensitivity, how clear or clouded the vision is; Motility, how the eyes move together or not and Cerebral vision, how the brain processes images. All these visual functions impact an individual’s vision impairment differently.

Causes and signs of vision loss

Low vision may be due to different eye diseases and/or health conditions. Some major causes of vision loss are Age Related Macular Degeneration, Diabetes, or Glaucoma (See illustrations below). Vision, once lost, cannot usually be restored so getting regularly eye exams is very important to keeping healthy vision. Most vision loss is gradual, painless and unnoticed until a significant vision loss occurs.

Signs of vision loss may include difficulty recognizing faces, inability to read road signs, and difficulty reading print. Complaints may range from ‘lights seem dimmer” or “it’s never bright enough”. Other signs may involve bumping or tripping over items; spilling or leaving food on the plate. For individuals with limited communication skills, new negative behaviors may indicate a recent vision loss.

Role of vision professionals

When telling an individual the news that they are legally blind, many doctors will say nothing can be done to ‘fix’ the person’s vision. This may be true, but there are also many vision professionals who make it easier for their patients transitioning into the world of vision loss.

In next week’s blog we will discuss resources and services available for someone with vision loss, to make it easier for you or someone you know.

illustration of normal vision

glaucoma simulation

illustration of diabetic retinopathy

simulation of age-related macular degeneration

Top Ten List of DON’TS for Motorists

Bumper sticker says "I stop for white canes and dog guides"

One of the major complaints I hear from pedestrians who are legally blind is that motorists don’t know how to react when they encounter a white cane user at a street crossing.

As a result, we have compiled a Top Ten List of DON’Ts for motorists when they see a pedestrian using a white cane or dog guide at street crossings.
(Adapted from a 1998 handout developed by James Hazard & Kathy Zelaya)

Top Ten List of DON’Ts for motorists

10.   Don’t stop your car more than five feet from the crosswalk line or stop line.

9.     Don’t yell out “It’s OK to cross”.

8.     Don’t get impatient when waiting for a pedestrian who is visually impaired to cross. If the pedestrian places the long cane into the street, it usually indicates he or she will begin a street  crossing. If the cane user takes a step back and pulls back the cane from the curb, it usually indicates the person will not be crossing at that time. Proceed with caution.

7.      Don’t consider a “rolling” stop as a complete stop. A Stop sign means STOP!

6.      Don’t turn right on red without coming to a full stop and always look for pedestrians. The RIGHT on RED Law requires drivers to come to a complete stop prior to making a right turn.

5.      Don’t fail to stop for a pedestrian at all crosswalks whether or not there is a traffic signal or stop sign. Come to a full stop.

4.       Don’t stop your car in the middle of the crosswalk.

3.       Don’t pass another stopped car waiting for a pedestrian to cross the street.

2.       Don’t wave to pedestrians who are using a white cane or dog guide to indicate that you are     waiting for them. They CAN NOT see you.

1.        Don’t Honk!

Remember to follow the Massachusetts White Cane Law: All Motorists, when they see a pedestrian who uses a dog guide or white cane at a street crossing, must come to a complete stop!

White Cane Law Promotes Safety and Independence

This month we are pleased to introduce Meg Robertson, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist from the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind.

Have you heard about the White Cane Law?

Massachusetts, along with the rest of the country, has a White Cane Law. The Massachusetts White Cane Law states that all motorists, when they see a pedestrian using a guide dog or a white cane at a street crossing, must come to a complete stop.

The Orientation and Mobility Department at the Mass. Commission for the Blind is working to raise public awareness of the White Cane Law. To learn more come and celebrate International White Cane Day at the State House on Friday October 14, from 10-noon.

A symbol of independence

The white cane is a mobility device used by individuals who are legally blind to navigate safely around their communities. It is a symbol of independence, since anyone who is using a white cane is asserting their independence over blindness by continuing to travel within their communities.

There are different types of white canes used by individuals who are legally blind.
Cane choices depend on the individual’s vision impairment, age, height, gait, etc. The main types of white canes are a support cane type, and/or a long thin cane, which are white with red at the bottom of the cane.

Mobility devices offer a choice in support

Individuals who are legally blind but still have functional vision may use the support type cane to alert motorists that the pedestrian is legally blind. These canes can also assist with depth perception on stairs or curbs.

The more common used mobility device is a long white cane. This cane is used for independent travel and to avoid obstacles

Specialized training is needed for both types of canes as well as travel skills. This specialized training is provided by a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS). All individuals who need a white cane, should be evaluated by a COMS to be sure they get the correct cane and proper training.

A small percentage of people who are legally blind choose a guide dog as a different type of mobility device. Either way, all should receive Orientation & Mobility training with a long cane and street crossing skills before acceptance by a dog guide school. The White Cane Law applies to guide dog users as well.

For more information on white cane training or blindness, contact the Orientation and Mobility Department at the Commission for the Blind or 800-392-6450 x 626-7581 (Voice) or 800-393-6556/TTY.