February is Low Vision Awareness Month

Vision Rehab Podcast logo closeup of an eyeThe Vision Rehab Podcast is a short monthly podcast about topics and issues related to vision rehabilitation therapists and vision rehab. You can also listen on your smart speaker, just ask for, “Vision Rehab Podcast.”

Listen Now to February is Low Vision Awareness Month

Transcript:

The month of February is Low Vision Awareness Month, so let’s take a few moments to talk about low vision. Blindness and vision loss are not an all or nothing sort of thing, It’s a spectrum. Many people who are considered blind do have some vision, although it may not be very functional. For example, it might be just enough to tell if a light’s on, or to see large objects, but not reliable enough to depend on for a street crossing, or to recognize a face across the room. In fact, most people who use a white cane for getting around, do have some vision, it’s just not useful or reliable enough for avoiding obstacles in unfamiliar places.

Low vision is just part of that spectrum—it’s vision that’s not correctable with glasses, contacts, or surgery. It might be vision that makes reading print or using the computer difficult, prevents passing a driver’s eye exam, or seeing a white board in class. It might also be that it requires using a white cane for independent travel.

For many people, low vision is that loss of good acuity, or sharp focus, as we age. It might be caused by macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetes, or cataracts. Reading the newspaper, seeing the computer or smartphone screen becomes difficult and we might even hear from our doctor that there is “nothing more that can be done.” She means, of course, there’s nothing more medically that can be done to restore that sharper vision we once had.

With the possible exception of removing cataracts, there may be little we can do to improve our visual acuity, but there’s plenty more we can do for low vision. There are a wide variety of handheld and desktop magnifiers to make print larger, There’s software built right into our computers and smart devices that will magnify the screen and even read what’s on the screen to us. There’s a whole field of professionals out there that  work with clients who are experiencing low vision, on all kinds of daily living activities, like reading, alternative ways to travel, labeling things, jotting down notes, or just adjusting to a recent vision loss.

Most of these professionals are not going to be found in the doctor’s office. You’ll find them through your state’s services for the blind and visually impaired, or in a local agency serving clients with reduced vision. And here’s the good news– there may be no fee for their services, or it may be available on a sliding scale, because many of these agencies are non-profits. Some of the professionals you’ll find include: vision rehabilitation therapists (CVRT) who provide training for adapted daily living activities; orientation and mobility specialists (COMS) for */independent travel with a vision loss; specialists for using the computer and technology with reduced vision; support groups; and other low vision specialists. For help finding one of these agencies, call the APH ConnectCenter at 800-232-5463 or look up your state online in the Connect Center Directory of Services.

Another place to get connected to resources and training for low vision is at Hadley. There’s no charge for membership or raking any of Hadley’s many training workshops they offer online, in large print or audio. Workshops can be taken online, or sent through the mail. If you’re new to low vision, a great place to start is Hadley’s workshop on Adjusting to Vision Loss.

Low vision awareness is all about recognizing that there really is a lot more to do if you acquire a vision loss and there are many resources out there to help you adjust and keep doing all the things you love to do regardless of what vision you *have.

Be sure to check out this interview with Vision Rehab Professionals on WhiteCanes Connect podcast for Low Vision Awareness Month.

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