Lions promote eye-care mission

The Peterborough Lions Club is observing White Cane Days on two weekends this month, and club member Stephen Yerardi, who is blind, is heading the effort.

Club members will be staffing tables at Market Basket in Rindge from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 13 and 20, and also at Shaw’s in Peterborough on April 13, seeking donations to support the club’s local eye-care mission. Yerardi will also help Jim Orr, club president, distribute coin containers to area businesses.

Yerardi, who uses a white cane, was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition, at the age of 9. Today he can see light and shadows and some outlines of shapes.

“The reason I’m working on White Cane Day is to get out the message that with the proper tools and training, people who are blind can participate actively in our society. The white cane and mobility training allow me to travel independently and interact with businesses in my community,” said Yerardi.

He graduated from the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Mass., where he learned daily living skills as well as how to use a white cane. His training also included assistive technology, the software and hardware that allow a blind person to operate a computer.

Several computer programs combine to allow Yerardi full use of his computer, which can “speak” any visual element on his computer screen, as well as allow him to speak into the computer and have it read the dictation back to him. “This allows me to operate any Windows computer using keyboard controls or shortcut keys instead of a mouse,” he said.

He also has used an electronic notetaker with a Braille keyboard. Braille consists of six dots, the position of which usually indicates a letter or a word. “I could also plug in a Braille display or use a Bluetooth display so I would be able to speak into the computer and it gives me speech feedback,” said Yerardi. “Feeling in Braille, I would be using three senses instead of just hearing and speaking.”

Yerardi’s training and experience have led him to a position with the N.H. Accessible Informational Materials program, for which he trains blind students in refreshable Braille technology, which allows the user to feel Braille in real time.

He is a board member of the National Federation of the Blind of New Hampshire and also represents the blind community at the state Rehabilitation Council and Independent Living Council. The mission of these councils is to improve the life of people with disability in New Hampshire.

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