Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Being Thankful as Low Vision becomes more Inclusive

 In a previous post, the word, "blind," was mentioned as a deterrent for people with vision impairments and newly diagnosed patients who are seeking help because the word, "blind," still means total blindness in most people's minds.  The National Federation of the Blind, the Xavier Society for the Blind, and other organizations that use the word say on their websites and brochures that they are inclusive and provide services to the approximately 10% of the “blind” population that is totally blind and the 90% that is legally blind or visually impaired but do not meet the requirements for statutory blindness services or benefits.  Only the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired (formerly the Hadley School for the Blind) and Learning Ally (formerly Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexics—RFB&D) have changed their names and made their services more welcoming.

An even more exciting trend is taking place as low vision is becoming lower.  I thought as my visual acuity decreased far beyond what I considered low vision that I was no longer qualified to write about the subject or attend low vision support groups.  Then, to my delight, a new member was welcomed who is almost totally blind--not from any eye condition but from an operation to remove a brain tumor.  I have been learning how to live with vision loss for many decades from people who are totally or nearly totally blind.  This newcomer, a professional woman who is living with her unexpected disability, is giving living with low vision a whole new dimension as she adjusts to her vision loss.  Unlike so many people who must learn to live on a modest income, she has hired an accountant and a part-time administrative assistant to help her perform her personal and financial duties.  She uses a fleet of volunteers that she met at book clubs she attended.  They provide door-to-door driving services that are scheduled using signup software. 

As "low vision" has become more inclusive, the newly renamed Living with Low Vision Support Group at The University of Michigan's Kellogg Eye Center now has a newsletter that tells patients via email what to expect at their monthly meetings or changes in services.  There are balance classes that include exercise routines, private lessons with a part-time orientation and mobility instructor, and discussions where patients are encouraged to share their feelings.  Support group topics are also moving beyond eye diseases and current research or adaptive tools to legal concerns.  Two lawyers talked with patients who attended the November meeting about
Social Security, Social Security Disability, and Supplemental Security Income.

It is much easier to love what is left while living with low vision when activities are more inclusive and more fun.


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