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September is National Preparedness Month! TIPS for First Responders: Assisting people with Low Vision or Hearing Impairments

Did you know that September is National Preparedness Month? Florida Reading and Vision Technology Inc., serves clients all across the United States and wants to ensure that regardless of region, all are equipped with preparedness tips. Whether you are a resident or First Responder the below tips can help you be better prepared this season.

TIPS for First Responders: Assisting people with Visual or Hearing Impairments

First Responders provide essential services when a disaster impacts a community, including preventing further damage and ensuring steady recovery operations. However, when assisting a visually or hearing impaired individual the following tips should be adhered to:

People with Service Animals

Traditionally, the term “service animal” referred to seeing-eye dogs. However, today there are many other types of service animals.

  • Remember – a service animal is not a pet.
    • Do not touch or give the animal food or treats without the permission of the owner.
    • When a dog is wearing its harness, it is on duty. In the event you are asked to take the dog while assisting the individual, hold the leash and not the harness.
  • Plan to evacuate the animal with the owner. Do not separate them!
    • Service animals are not registered and there is no proof that the animal is a service animal. If the person tells you it is a service animal, treat it as such. However, if the animal is out of control or presents a threat to the individual or others, remove it from the site.
    • A person is not required to give you proof of a disability that requires a service animal. You must accept that he/she has a disability. If you have doubts, wait until you arrive at your destination and address the issue with the supervisors in charge.
    • The animal need not be specially trained as a service animal. People with psychiatric and emotional disabilities may have a companion animal. These are just as important to them as a service animal is to a person with a physical disability – please be understanding and treat the animal as a service animal.
    • A service animal must be in a harness or on a leash, but need not be muzzled.

 

 People who are Visually Impaired

  • There is a difference between visual impairment and blindness. Some people who are “legally blind” have some sight, while others are totally blind.
  • Announce your presence, speak out, and then enter the area.
  • Speak naturally and directly to the individual.
  • Do not shout.
  • Don’t be afraid to use words like “see,” “look,” or “blind.”
    • State the nature of the emergency and offer them your arm. As you walk, advise them of any obstacles.
  • Offer assistance but let the person explain what help is needed.
  • Do not grab or attempt to guide them without first asking them.
  • Let the person grasp your arm or shoulder lightly for guidance.
    • They may choose to walk slightly behind you to gauge your body’s reactions to obstacles.
  • Be sure to mention stairs, doorways, narrow passages, ramps, etc.
    • When guiding someone to a seat, place the person’s hand on the back of the chair.
    • If leading several individuals with visual impairments, ask them to guide the person behind them.
    • Remember that you’ll need to communicate any written information orally.
    • When you have reached safety, orient the person to the location and ask if any further assistance is needed.
    • If the person has a service animal, don’t pet it unless the person says it is ok to do so. Service animals must be evacuated with the person.
  • Refer to the section on People with Service Animals.

 

People Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

  • There is a difference between hard of hearing and deaf. People who are hearing impaired vary in the extent of hearing loss they experience. Some are completely deaf, while others can hear almost normally with hearing aids on.
  • Hearing aids do not guarantee that the person can hear and understand speech. They increase volume, not increase clarity.
  • If possible, flick the lights when entering an area or room to get their attention.
  • Establish eye contact with the individual, not with the interpreter, if one is present.
  • Use facial expressions and hand gestures as visual cues.
  • Check to see if you have been understood and repeat if necessary.
  • Offer pencil and paper. Write slowly and let the individual read as you write.
  • Written communication may be especially important if you are unable to understand the person’s speech.
  • Do not allow others to interrupt you while conveying the emergency information.
  • Be patient – the person may have difficulty understanding the urgency of your message.
  • Provide the person with a flashlight to signal their location in the event they are separated from the rescue team. This will facilitate lip-reading or signing in the dark.
  • While written communication should work for many people, others may not understand English well enough in English to understand written instructions. Keep instructions simple, in the present tense and use basic vocabulary.

 

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2012 Top Entrepreneur Lesa Kretschmer, CEO of Florida Reading & Vision Technology Inc. Continues to Push the Envelope of Success

Just shortly after being honored by Southern Business Leader in its selection of “Top Entrepreneurs 2012,” Lesa Kretschmer, CEO of Florida Reading & Vision Technology Inc. is continuing to advance both her business and commitment to her community.

Lesa Kretschmer, President
Photo of Lesa Kretschmer, President of Florida Reading and Vision Technology.

“Being chosen by Southern Business Leader as a Top 2012 Entrepreneur is a gratifying accomplishment,” states Kretschmer. “This award really set the tone for 2013 – energizing me to continue to set and achieve high goals.”

Founded in 2000, Florida Reading & Vision Technology Inc. has grown into a thriving e-commerce business offering more than 800 products to the blind and deaf populous. Already this year, Kretschmer has launched four new products, sponsored or participated in a dozen events around the State of Florida all while training her fourth guide puppy Laslo.

Kretschmer was recently spotlighted by CBS Miami for having dedicated over 4,000 volunteer hours to raising guide dogs – a volunteer effort that she shares with her daughters and that earned Kretschmer the “2012 President’s Volunteer Call to Service Award.”

“For me this business is really about offering people who have experienced hardships, technology and solutions that can help them live more independently,” states Kretschmer.

Building the company on a most solid socially responsible foundation, Florida Reading & Vision technology Inc. opened their flagship store in Fort Lauderdale in 2003 and formed an alliance with Lighthouse of Broward in 2008.

“Connecting with our community is at the core of our business,” states Kretschmer, “And what better way to do that then to have a physical store where our consumers can come in and sample our products.”

To connect with Lesa Kretschmer and Florida Reading and Vision Technology Inc. visit www.floridareading.com or stop by the store at 650 N. Andrews Avenue, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33311. Like what we are doing? Show us at facebook.com/FloridaReading.

About Florida Reading & Vision Technology Inc.

According to the World Health Organization there are approximately 285 million people in the world who are visually impaired, of whom 39 million are blind. Florida Reading & Vision Technology, Inc. (FRAVTI) is committed to offering safe and dependable products to those seeking greater independence. Founded in 2000 by Lesa Kretschmer, Fort Lauderdale, Florida based FRAVTI offers more than 800 products and tools that help those who are blind or visually impaired meet the needs of the broader public.

To learn more or order a product visit www.floridareading.com or call 1-800-981-5119. Like what we are doing? Show us at Facebook.com/floridareading

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Florida Reading and Vision Technology Inc. Offers Smarter, Smaller & Wireless Multi-Media Library for the Visually Impaired

With devices like the iPad and Kindle Fire all the rave these days it seems only fair that the visually impaired should have access to an all inclusive media library in their pockets as well. Offering cutting edge technology for both the visually impaired and deaf populous for more than 13-years, industry powerhouse Florida Reading & Vision Technology Inc. is proud to offer a new product that meets the demands of today’s mainstream technology.

“Offering products that are complimentary to what’s trending in the mainstream is key,” states Lesa Kretschmer, President of Florida Reading and Vision Technology Inc. “People who suffer from vision loss also desire cutting edge, multi-faceted technology – they just seek devices that go the extra mile to adequately address their needs.”

Florida Reading and Vision Technology
Florida Reading & Vision Technology Inc. add Victor Reader Stream to product line

The new and improved Victor Reader Stream (New Generation), manufactured by Humanware, does just that. This popular media player for people who are blind or visually impaired is sleeker and 28% smaller than its 2007 predecessor.

Despite its smaller size, the Victor Reader Stream (New Generation) manages to offer louder speakers, improved text-to-speech from Acapela, improved recording capabilities, faster USB transfers, and 32-gigabyte capacity SD cards, plus it easily connects to flash drives. And it offers the Softpak features of full stereo recordings, EPUB2 unprotected books, DOCX support, MP4 and iTunes M4A files, plus a built-in clock.

“Florida Reading & Vision Technology Inc. was founded on the principle of providing greater independence for those with vision and hearing loss,” states Kretschmer. “The wireless capabilities of the new Victor Reader Stream opens doors so that the visually impaired can also have access to the latest novels, magazines and music and right in the palm of their hands.”

The Victor Reader Stream (New Generation) is now available at the Florida Reading and Vision Technology Center located at 650 N. Andrews Avenue, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33311 or by ordering online at www.floridareading.com. For more information please call 954-525-5311.

About Florida Reading & Vision Technology Inc.

According to the World Health Organization there are approximately 285 million people in the world who are visually impaired, of whom 39 million are blind. Florida Reading & Vision Technology, Inc. (FRAVTI) is committed to offering safe and dependable products to those seeking greater independence. Founded in 2000 by Lesa Kretschmer, Fort Lauderdale, Florida based FRAVTI offers more than 800 products and tools that help those who are blind or visually impaired meet the needs of the broader public.

To learn more or order a product visit www.floridareading.com or call 1-800-981-5119. Like what we are doing? Show us at Facebook.com/floridareading

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Florida Reading & Vision Technology Inc. “It’s Time to Get Real… With Braille”

Braille has endured for almost 200 years and is continuously being incorporated into modern technological developments. According to National Braille Week, more than 150 million people currently continue to use Braille around the world for a multitude of reasons.

Florida Reading & Vision Technology, Inc., a leading e-commerce retailer of assistive technology for the deaf and blind, is extremely supportive of Braille on both the technology front and within the community.

“Louis Braille was ahead of his time in 1824 at the age of 15, when he invented the 6-dot Braille system,“ states Lesa Kretschmer, President of Florida Reading and Vision Technology Inc. “As a blind child he knew that he needed to be able to communicate, he knew that he needed to devise a system to become more independent.”

Founded on the principle of providing greater independence for those with vision and hearing loss, Florida Reading and Vision Technology Inc. just added the new Perkins SMART Brailler® to it’s 800 plus product inventory.

Florida Reading and Vision Technology
Smart Brailler

The SMART Brailler® is a high-technology learning and teaching tool that offers a new, more intuitive way for individuals, both sighted and blind, to communicate, teach and learn Braille together.

“Now teachers can see what their students are Brailling, sighted parents can help their visually impaired children with homework and students can take the lead in their own Braille education,” states Kretschmer.

This product launch comes at a unique time for Florida Reading and Vision Technology Inc. “We are big sponsors of the Braille Challenges throughout the State of Florida,” states Kretschmer. “Since the first of the year we have sponsored or participated in four Braille Challenges from Tallahassee to Tampa and Orlando, including one on February 22, 2013 right in our hometown of Ft. Lauderdale.”

The Braille Challenge is a national program of the Braille Institute® hosted by regional schools and agencies that serve blind and visually impaired children. It is the only national Braille literacy competition of its kind in the country, and is specifically designed to challenge and reward blind students for their study of Braille, which is essential to their future academic and employment success.

The SMART Brailler® is now available at the Florida Reading and Vision Technology Center located at 650 N. Andrews Avenue, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33311 or by ordering online at www.floridareading.com. For more information please call 954-525-5311.

About Florida Reading & Vision Technology Inc.

According to the World Health Organization there are approximately 285 million people in the world who are visually impaired, of whom 39 million are blind. Florida Reading & Vision Technology, Inc. (FRAVTI) is committed to offering safe and dependable products to those seeking greater independence. Founded in 2000 by Lesa Kretschmer, Fort Lauderdale, Florida based FRAVTI offers more than 800 products and tools that help those who are blind or visually impaired meet the needs of the broader public.

To learn more or order a product visit www.floridareading.com or call 1-800-981-5119. Like what we are doing? Show us at Facebook.com/floridareading

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Florida Reading & Vision Technology CEO Lesa Kretschmer Trains Guide Puppies to Give Back to the Blind

Lesa Kretschmer
Laslo and Lesa appear on the CBS Focus on South Florida Show

Lesa Kretschmer, Founder and President of Florida Reading & Vision Technology Inc. has dedicated her professional and personal life to helping Florida’s visually impaired live more independently. As if running one of the largest e-commerce business which offers more than 800 products to aid the visually impaired and deaf isn’t enough, Ms. Kretschmer volunteers her time in a most unique way – training guide puppies.

Kretschmer, Business Leader’s 2012 Top 50 Entrepreneur is proud to be training her fourth guide puppy – Laslo.  Having just appeared on CBS’s Focus on South Florida segment in February 2013, Lesa and Laslo are quickly becoming South Florida’s most beloved duo.

As a puppy raiser, Kretschmer has dedicated more than 4,000 volunteer hours landing her the 2012 President’s Volunteer Call To Service Award. “Community activism and giving back is the life blood of Florida Reading and Vision Technology,” states Kretschmer. “My daughters and I dedicate our time to raising and training the adorable pups so that others can have a more independent lifestyle and best friend.”

Kretschmer takes Laslo everywhere—to the office, out to eat, on tradeshow trips, and even grocery shopping. “Ultimately, this real-world training imitates the experiences that Laslo will need to successfully guide a visually impaired person wherever they want to go,” states Kretschmer.

The puppy-raising experience requires a great deal of commitment, time, energy, and focus. After living in the Kretschmer household for 14 to 20 months, Laslo will return to “school” for formal harness training and meet his new owner.

To connect with Lesa, Laslo and Florida Reading and Vision Technology Inc. visit www.floridareading.com or stop by the store at 650 N. Andrews Avenue, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33311. Like what we are doing? Show us at facebook.com/FloridaReading.

 About Florida Reading & Vision Technology Inc.

According to the World Health Organization there are approximately 285 million people in the world who are visually impaired, of whom 39 million are blind. Florida Reading & Vision Technology, Inc. (FRAVTI) is committed to offering safe and dependable products to those seeking greater independence. Founded in 2000 by Lesa Kretschmer, Fort Lauderdale, Florida based FRAVTI offers more than 800 products and tools that help those who are blind or visually impaired meet the needs of the broader public.

To learn more or order a product visit www.floridareading.com or call 1-800-981-5119. Like what we are doing? Show us at Facebook.com/floridareading

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Florida Reading & Vision Technology Kicks off the New Year By Providing a New Look for South Florida’s Visually Impaired Residents

Who doesn’t love a makeover? And what better time to reinvent oneself than at the start of a new year? That’s why Florida Reading and Vision Technology Inc. sponsored a fun-filled day of glam and pampering for South Florida’s visually impaired residents.

Florida Reading
Florida Reading hosts new look new you event for visually and hearing impaired individuals

“The New Look, New You event was all about fun,” states Lesa Kretschmer, Founder and President of Florida Reading & Vision Technology Inc., “We sponsor and participate in more than 50 events per year that benefit the visually impaired, blind and deaf population and really wanted to offer a more special, personal experience.”

On January 14, 2013, it was all about beauty as the lucky ladies arrived at the Lighthouse of Broward. From manicures sponsored by Gisela Leguizaman of Salon 51 and Eric Yu of Queen Nails, to haircuts and blowouts sponsored by Leslie Dunn, I Studio and Robin Weber of Festival Flea Market, makeup and skin care sponsored by Anna Maria Douglas of Mary Kay and Julliane from Clinique at Macy’s, the visually impaired ladies received the royal treatment.

Known as an e-commerce industry leader, offering more than 800 products for the visually impaired and blind online at www.floridareading.com, Florida Reading and Vision Technology Inc. opened their flagship store in Fort Lauderdale in 2003 and formed an alliance with Lighthouse of Broward in 2008.

“Connecting with our community is at the core of our business,” states Kretschmer, “And what better to do that than to have a physical store where our consumers can come in and sample our products. Additionally, our store provides a venue for hosting community events that benefit the visually impaired and deaf population right in our own backyard.”

To connect with Florida Reading and Vision Technology Inc. visit www.floridareading.com or stop by the store at 650 N. Andrews Avenue, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33311. Like what we are doing? Show us at facebook.com/FloridaReading.

About Florida Reading & Vision Technology Inc.

According to the World Health Organization there are approximately 285 million people in the world who are visually impaired, of whom 39 million are blind. Florida Reading & Vision Technology, Inc. (FRAVTI) is committed to offering safe and dependable products to those seeking greater independence. Founded in 2000 by Lesa Kretschmer, Fort Lauderdale, Florida based FRAVTI offers more than 800 products and tools that help those who are blind or visually impaired meet the needs of the broader public.

To learn more or order a product visit www.floridareading.com or call 1-800-981-5119. Like what we are doing? Show us at Facebook.com/floridareading