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Legal Blindness

Do you know what the term “legal blindness” really means? Legally Blind is a legal term used to define blindness as it pertains to being able to qualify for benefits.

Legal blindness is a level of visual impairment that has been defined by law either to limit allowed activities (such as driving) for safety reasons or to determine eligibility for government-funded disability benefits in the form of educational, service, or monetary assistance.

To be considered legally blind, your visual acuity must be 20/200 or worse in your better eye while you are wearing corrective lenses.
The United States Social Security Administration (SSA) defines legal blindness as follows:

Reduced central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in your better eye with use of the best eyeglass lens to correct your eyesight; or, Limitation of your field of view such that the widest diameter of the visual field in your better eye subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees.

Legally Blind due to Reduced Central Visual Acuity
What does being legally blind due to “reduced central visual acuity of 20/200 or less” mean?

In the United States, clarity of eyesight almost always is expressed by a measurement system called Snellen visual acuity.

In this system, you identify smaller and smaller letters on an eye chart, and the results are expressed as a fraction standardized for a viewing distance of 20 feet.

(Picture of the Snellen Eye Chart)

If you have 20/20 Snellen visual acuity, this means the smallest letters you can discern from a distance of 20 feet (the first number in the fraction) are the same size as the smallest letters a person with historically defined “normal vision” can see at a distance of 20 feet (the second number in the fraction).

But if you have 20/200 visual acuity, the smallest letters you can identify from a distance of 20 feet are the size of the smallest letters a person with historically defined “normal vision” can see from a much greater distance — 200 feet, in this case.

So your central vision — the part of your eyesight you use to see and identify objects you are looking directly at — is much worse (10 times worse, in fact) than that of a normally sighted person.

Important: In order for you to be considered legally blind, your visual acuity must be 20/200 or worse in your better eye while you are wearing corrective lenses. So how poorly you see without your glasses or contact lenses when you get out of bed in the morning has nothing to do with it.

As long as your vision can be corrected to better than 20/200 with glasses or contacts, you are not considered legally blind, no matter how much nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism you have.

Also, if your best corrected vision in one eye is worse than 20/200, but you can see better than 20/200 with corrective lenses with your other eye, you are not considered legally blind.

Legally Blind Due To Visual Field Restriction
Visual acuity tests measure the clarity of your central vision. However, some people can see small letters on an eye chart, but can’t see the person standing right next to them due to poor peripheral vision.

The importance of a wide visual field is especially apparent when you consider how much you rely on peripheral vision for certain activities, such as driving a car or crossing a busy street.

Visual field tests are totally different from tests of central visual acuity. Whatever device your eye doctor uses to test your peripheral vision, the goal is to determine if you have a normal field of view without unusual narrowing of your peripheral vision or the presence of abnormal blind spots.

People with normal peripheral vision have a maximum lateral field of view that creates an angle of nearly 180 degrees. In other words, distant objects that are located directly to the right or left of the observer are still visible. The normal vertical field of view of humans is not as expansive — it creates an angle of about 135 degrees. (Objects directly above us and at our feet are not simultaneously visible.)

If visual field testing reveals your peripheral vision is severely restricted to only 20 degrees (creating a very limited field of view often called tunnel vision), you are considered legally blind — even if you can see the 20/20 line on an eye chart.

How Many People Are Legally Blind?
According to a 2009 report by the National Federation of the Blind, 1.3 million people in the United States were legally blind at the time of the report.

In a 2004 study conducted by the Eye Diseases Prevalence Research Group, nearly one million (937,000) people over age 40 in the United States were legally blind, and another 2.4 million Americans had low vision (corrected visual acuity worse than 20/40 in their better eye).

The study authors estimated the number of legally blind Americans would increase by 70 percent to 1.6 million by 2020, with a similar rise in the number of people with low vision, due largely to the aging of the U.S. population.

Contact Social Security if you want to know more about disability benefits at

Give STL Day!

May 1st is “Give STL Day”.

The St. Louis Community Foundation has been helping St. Louisans put charitable dollars to work since 1915.

They are a respected source of information for donors as they seek to clarify the goals that guide their giving. In addition, they help donors assess the resources they have to give and connect them with charities, which are aligned with their goals and doing effective work.

The Foundation also serves as an experienced administrator of charitable funds and provides the customized giving tools that make giving easy, maximize tax benefits, and give donors confidence that their dollars are making a real difference in the lives of others.

The Foundation has more than 600 individual charitable funds that exceed $500 million in assets. On behalf of its donors, the Community Foundation makes approximately $80 million in grants annually to nonprofits that help shape our region, touch communities across the nation, and extend around the globe.

The St. Louis Community Foundation is as an unbiased, technically astute, and collaborative charitable-giving resource. Their combined expertise promotes effective charitable giving and they promote regional philanthropy through:

Charitable Intent – helping to articulate what charitable giving means to donors, enabling them to be more confident in their giving.

Charitable Financial Planning – leveraging tax-efficient giving tools in creative ways to achieve charitable as well as wealth and estate planning objectives for donors.

Community Investment – helping donors make thoughtful investments that tackle community issues in measurable ways both now and for the next 100 years.

Asset Stewardship – managing traditional and non-traditional assets in support of donors’ short- and long-term charitable aspirations.

If you’d like to make a donation to the Service Club for the Blind, please click on the link and follow the instructions below:

What do you need to keep in an Emergency Kit?

Spring is the time of year when we start to think about severe weather and worry about what we would need to do in case of a tornado or other severe weather issues. Do you have an emergency kit in your house that would keep you going until emergency services could get to you or until utility services would be operational again?  Read about preparation details here.

What do you need to keep in an emergency kit? FEMA recommends the following:

Consider having 2 kits: one for everything you’d need in order to stay where you are and make it on your own for a period of time, such as a couple of days worth of clothing, decent walking shoes, medications etc.

The other should be a lightweight, smaller version you can take with you if you have to leave your home.
Water – one gallon of water per person per day for at least 3 days for drinking and sanitation;
Food, at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food and a can opener if kit contains canned food;
Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both;
Flashlight and extra batteries;
First aid kit;
Whistle to signal for help;
Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place;
Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation;
Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities;
Local maps;
Pet food, extra water and supplies for your pet or service animal;
Copy of prescriptions, copy of ID and other important documents.

Emergency kits should be checked at least twice a year, so try to co-ordinate that with Daylight Savings Time changes.  Once you have a kit put together, it is easy to keep it up to date.

Adaptive Technology

Technology is a wonderful invention and we are fortunate to be living in the 21st century where so much is available to us.

With the advent of talking products, people who are blind are able to become more independent and self-reliant. The downside of this technology is that it is very expensive and sometimes involves quite a learning curve.  A couple of items that are very popular with our clients and members are:

Atomic Clock: This is a talking clock that will speak the time, the date, the inside temperature and the outside temperature.  The outside temperature is controlled by a small square block that you can fix securely outside within a short distance from the clock itself.  Make sure it’s not in direct sunlight and away from a place where it could be blown away or get wet.  You can set it to speak the time every hour on the hour or switch that feature off.  Being atomic, that means that you will never have to set it for daylight savings time and back to standard time.  It will set automatically.  The only thing you’ll have to do is set your time zone and the clock will talk you through that.  Tip from the Service Club:  when it’s time to replace the batteries in either the clock or the outside block, we recommend that you replace everything at the same time.  For some reason the clock works better that way.

Atomic Watch:  This follows the same idea as the Atomic Clock except it does not announce anything to do with the temperature.  It will set itself for Daylight Savings time and back to Standard time and will announce the date, time and it has an alarm.  There are various options for the watch ie. leather or expansion band, black or white face with either black or white numbers, chrome or gold plated surround.  These are unisex watches, slightly bulky but keep perfect time.

Braille Playing Cards: This is a regular sized deck of cards with standard print pictures and lettering, but it has Braille on 2 corners (diagonally from each other) with, for example “2 h” meaning 2 of hearts.  Many various card games are available in Braille.

Bump Dots: these are plastic or rubber raised dots that stick on surfaces to help people find numbers on keypads and various other things.  Common uses for bump dots are on washing machines, tumble dryers, microwaves, computer keyboards, phones, TV controls, refrigerator water/ice dispensers and many more.  They come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes.  These are cheap and have a lot of uses.

These items are our biggest sellers.  Please contact the Service Club if you’d like to purchase any items.


Price Slashing Sale

The Service Club for the Blind will be holding an all-time, price-slashing, once-in-a-lifetime sale on some of our older items.   All products will be sold “as is” and are non-returnable/non-refundable.

Items for sale will be remnants of our past!  They are left over from various Christmas sales, items that were purchased before some of us started working here and some items that are not necessarily old, but didn’t sell very well at the time of purchase.

We will also have some audio cassettes that we are giving away for free (no CD’s – just cassettes) as well as parts of the Bible in Braille and some religious teachings on audio cassette.

There are some household items such as wine glasses and salt and pepper shakers for sale, some robes, and a very small amount of clothing.

We have some Valentine’s Day toys, some Thanksgiving and Halloween items, some Spring and Summer outdoors items, bird feeders, wind chimes etc.

We also have dust mops, mini and regular sized brooms for sale.  There are ornaments, musical figurines, candles and candle holders and some fancy various holiday motif tea light holders that are pretty, but quite fragile.  Some have never been opened.

This sale will occur on Tuesday May 29th, Wednesday May 30th and Thursday May 31st from  9am – noon each day.

Historic Timeline of the Service Club for the Blind

Historic Timeline of the Service Club for the Blind

March 28, 1934 – Service Club for the Blind was founded by Adeline Ann Ruenzi

  • In 1927, Miss Ruenzi developed the tactile writing aluminum script because she was anxious for her pupils to learn the use of penmanship – this is still in use throughout the world.
  • In 1929, Miss Ruenzi helped organize a radio fund for the blind which was eventually run through the Service Club.
  • In 1934 the Cultural and Service Club for the Blind was formed and Adeline Ruenzi elected President.
  • Treasury had $4 in its fund.
  • The Club’s first home was in the building occupied by the Henry L. Wolfner Memorial Library for the Blind at 3844 Olive Street (now an historic building), but because the ground floor was not available the blind could not display articles for sale that were made in home to passersby.
  • The Club then moved to a ground floor building at 4312 Olive Street which had a display window that could be seen from the sidewalk.
  • In 1940 the name of the Cultural and Service Club for the Blind Incorporated was changed to Service Club for the Blind, Incorporated and the fiscal year which had been from April 1st to March 31st was changed to October 1st to September 30th.
  • In 1940, the Service Club for the Blind added the White Cane Service to its Objectives and took over the responsibility of the white canes, sponsored by the Lions and the Kiwanis Clubs. White Canes were distributed to the blind throughout St. Louis, St. Louis County and to rural districts upon request.  The Service Club for the Blind was the only organization in the state giving White Cane Service to the blind.  The cost of the White Cane is approximately 65c a piece. From 1946 to 1959 the Service Club for the Blind has assumed the full responsibility of the White Cane Service.  The cost of White Canes is approximately $1.75 apiece. (Today in 2018 The Service Club sells its white canes for $17.50 for a 4-section cane and $20.50 for a 6 section cane)
  • On October 16th 1947, Miss Ruenzi formed the Carver League for the Negro Blind, a recreational club, housed in the Wolfner building.
  • In 1957 after extensive renovating on the Club building, and two weeks before they were to hold an open house, a tornado came through St. Louis and tore the roof off.
  • One year later in 1958 the building became victim of an electrical fire which was related to the tornado damage the previous year.

1971 – Lillian Dunn became President

• Lillian Dunn was Acting President from October 12, 1971 to June 10 1971 when she became President, after the resignation and subsequent death of Adeline Ruenzi.
• She passed away on  January 27, 1976 while still in office.

February 4, 1976 – Fred Keller became President

• Joined the Board October 1972 as 1st Vice-President January 9, 1973.
• February 7 1994 – the Service Club moved to 3719 Watson Rd. (formally Mardel Hardware Store) due to the neighborhood around Olive St. becoming dangerous.
• Joined the Carver League with the Service Club.
• Abolished the fundraiser program as the Service Club was spending more money on it than raising money.

2003 – Kathleen Demsky became President

• Approved for membership on October 12, 1972;
• Introduced gift cards for our clients;
• Introduced grant programs for the purchase of adaptive technology and major medical benefits, and person of the month;
• 2012 – 2-month major renovation of the inside of the building allowing for more social functions.
• Retired September 30, 2016.

October 1, 2016 – Jack Lenk became President

• 2017 – New roof and new refrigerator.
• Introduction of the “Coffee with the President” program.
• Reinstated the Annual Appeal.

Happy Birthday Service Club

On Wednesday March 28th 2018, the Service Club for the Blind celebrates its 84th birthday!

We recently found some old documents dating back to the early days of the Service Club and discovered that it was quite an icon at its inception, creating a lot of opportunities and interaction for people who were blind during the 1940’s on-wards.  Read more about Our History

The founder, Adeline Ann Ruenzi, was a very influential person who spent a lot of time fundraising and networking with people able to provide the Service Club with funding.  She was a former Supervisor of the Home Teaching Department of the Missouri Commission for the Blind.


The early  emblem and motto of the Service Club for the Blind:  The emblem being a hand holding a lit torch and the motto being the 3 monkeys – speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil.

One of the most outstanding services to the blind population of St. Louis, Missouri was given by Dr. Meyer Wiener when he initiated the idea of the Henry L. Wolfner Memorial Library for the Blind.  Dr. Wiener became an Honorary Associate President of the Service Club for the Blind.

In 1939 a need was created for the Service Club for the Blind to operate as a service agency because the Missouri Commission for the Blind discontinued all its departments.  Therefore, headquarters were established in the building of the Henry L. Wolfner Library, sponsored by Dr. Meyer Wiener.

The Service Club for the Blind ran a radio program where radios were provided and serviced for free.  It was called the Adeline Ruenzi Radio Fund.  Over 700 people were given radios.

From 1940 – 1959, the Service Club for the Blind added the White Cane Service to its Objectives and took over the responsibility of the distribution of white canes, sponsored by the Lions and the Kiwanis Clubs.  White Canes were distributed to the blind throughout St. Louis, St. Louis County and to rural districts upon request.  The Service Club for the Blind was the only organization in the state giving White Cane Service to the blind.  The cost of the White Cane was approximately 65c a piece!

This is the 2nd office that the Service Club occupied.  It was on the ground floor of Olive Boulevard with a large front window that could showcase all the products that the members of the Service Club made in order to sell them.

Some of the items made by the members were aprons, bags, baby bibs, bath mats, crocheted articles, dish cloths, dolls, dust cloths, wash cloths, hot plate sets, leather articles, pot holders, rugs, towels and miscellaneous articles.

The Service Club continues to help its members and clients and thanks to a more modern and digital world, we’re able to reach a larger area in shorter time.  If you’d like to make a donation to the Service Club and thereby contribute to meeting the needs of people who are blind we’d welcome any assistance you could offer.

The Service Club for the Blind is located at:
3719 Watson Rd.
St. Louis, MO 63109



“The Tree”

Around 12th Night, when the Christmas tree is traditionally supposed to be put away for the season, we didn’t languish the idea of trying to fit it back into the box it arrived in. I really don’t think it’s possible to re-box items once they’ve been removed. I think it’s a ploy of the big box stores to ensure you can’t return it! To avoid packing it away we decided to re-purpose it!

We have been artfully creative and decorated “The Tree” (as it’s now referred to) for each holiday and event. We are open to suggestions too! Once the Christmas decorations were packed away we turned it into a Valentine’s Day tree, then came Mardi Gras, then St. Patrick’s Day, then of course, Easter and for our latest pièce de resistance, the Cardinals!

Other plans are to represent summer, Memorial/Labor Day, then autumn, Halloween, Thanksgiving and back to Christmas. What are we missing? Do you have items that are theme related and “tree hangable” that you’d like to donate to us? We’d be happy to take them off your hands.

Valentine’s Day tree

Mardi Gras tree

St. Patrick’s Day tree

Easter tree

Cardinal’s tree

Spring Planting

Every year around this time, my heart pulls towards the re-birth of my garden. I’m a little bit of a hoarder when it comes to seeds and I start scrutinizing my 127 (!) packets of seeds and plan my spring garden. My love for sprouting things gives me great joy. I check on my seeds a couple of times a day just in case I missed something.

Celita and I ran down to Home Depot and picked up some herbs and flowers for the pots outside the office and then got them planted. Now we hope for rain! This year we decided to specialize in herbs. We have Greek Oregano, Dill, Sage, Sweet Basil, Lemon Thyme and Lavender, as well as a few other flowers for some color. We’re hoping for a smelling fest of summer herbs this year. We will be happy to give you a few leaves if you’ll plan on using them for cooking!

Our office neighborhood, Lindenwood Park, holds an annual “Lawn and Garden” contest every June and there is always a special mention for businesses that beautify their building. The Service Club is proud of the fact that we usually receive a special mention every year for our hard work. If only there was a contest for keeping a Christmas tree decorated all year with various themes! We’d win that hands down! If you haven’t seen our latest design, come and visit us at the office and check it out.

These are flowers in pots on the side of the building and over a walking hazard in the front of the building.


These are the herbs we planted in pots under our sign.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you from the Service Club for the Blind! We trust it will be a year of good health, happiness and prosperity for you. 2017 is sure to be a year of interesting happenings!

I am often fascinated by various New Year traditions and how people celebrate. Just within the United States alone there are many different ways people see in the New Year and the foods they prepare on New Year’s Day. Many celebrations involve parties with friends and loved ones, food and traditionally at midnight, champagne. New Year’s resolutions form a high point of the New Year. The top resolutions are: dieting, exercising and curbing bad habits.

If you want to subscribe to superstition, don’t let anything leave the house on New Year’s, except for people. Tradition says: don’t take out the trash and leave anything you want to take out of the house on New Year’s outside the night before. If you must remove something, make sure to replace it by bringing an item into the house. These policies of balance apply in other areas as well—avoiding paying bills, breaking anything, or shedding tears.

Some foods considered “lucky” to eat during the festivities include: Circular shaped foods, Black-eyed peas, Cabbage (or collard greens), Pork.

The song, “Auld Lang Syne,” is sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking country in the world to bring in the New Year. At least partially written by Robert Burns in the 1700’s, it was first published in 1796 after Burns’ death. Early variations of the song were sung prior to 1700 and inspired Burns to produce the modern rendition. An old Scottish tune, “Auld Lang Syne” literally means “old long ago,” or simply, “the good old days.”

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine†;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.


Whatever your traditions, we trust you enjoyed your festivities and will “take a cup of kindness” and be sure to pass it on.

Happy New Year!

(click on the link below and scroll down to listen to the song Auld Lang Syne)–auld-lang-syne#player-drawer