February is Low Vision and Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Awareness Month. AMD is the leading cause of vision loss among Americans age 60 and older and may affect as much as 30% of the population over the age of 75, according to the National Eye Institute. Visual impairment and blindness are expected to double in the US by 2050.
Individuals with macular degeneration, may also have low vision as a result of vision loss caused by AMD. Low vision may also be the result of many other eye diseases, such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Low vision is a term used to describe vision that is not correctable by conventional means, like glasses or contact lenses.
Many activities of daily living, such as driving, reading the newspaper, seeing the computer screen, working, etc., may be negatively impacted by low vision. Unfortunately, many people with low vision are completely unaware of the highly trained vision rehabilitation professionals who are available to assist them, either through state agencies, or local non-profits. Very few doctors suggest these alternative to their patients, and many patients are reluctant to seek out training from agencies serving clients with vision loss or blindness.
These vision rehabilitation specialists are highly educated and often hold advanced degrees in their professions, with additional certifications. These professionals may include:
- Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapists (CVRT) who work with clients on adapted daily living skills;
- Certified Low Vision Therapists (CLVT), who work with clients to use optical devices such as magnifiers and hand-held telescopes;
- Certified Orientation and Mobility Instructors (COMS), who work with clients to travel safely and with confidence;
- Assistive Technology Specialists (CATIS or AT Specialist) who train clients on using the computer, tablet, smartphone, or other devices with a vision loss.
Many people are surprised to learn there is usually no fee to work with these professionals and referrals can be made directly by the client—a referral from the eye doctor is not required. Federal and state funding ensure these services are available at little to no cost, and may be delivered right in the home or workplace. To search for a vision rehabilitation professional near you, go to the APH ConnectCenter Directory of Services or call them at 1-800-232-5463 . Hadley offers a wide variety of training workshops on daily living activities, technology, adjusting to vision loss, and braille. There is no cost for workshops and they’re available online, in large print, audio cartridges, and braille. Call Hadley at 800-323-4238.
Be sure to mark your calendar for Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (VRT) Appeciation Week, the week of April 14th, in honor of Anne Sullivan’s birthday, the rehabilitation professional who worked so closely with Helen Keller.