The 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.”
The month of April is all about reading. The second full week is National Library Week to celebrate community libraries and their knowledgeable staff. The whole month of April celebrates D.E.A.R., which stands for Drop Everything And Read. And, as if that wasn’t enough, April 10-16, 2022 is designated Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Appreciation Week…
Wait. Huh? What does Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Appreciation Week have to do with reading?
Glad you asked!
For someone with a recent vision loss or diagnosis of macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, or any other condition that, negatively impacts vision, reading may suddenly become more challenging. The idea of connecting with the local library, or dropping everything to read a book, probably seem like just a wistful memory if you’ve recently lost some of your vision. The vision rehab therapist (VRT) is the professional who provides primary rehabilitation services for individuals who are blind or have a vision loss that can’t be corrected with prescription glasses or contact lenses.
Where do I find a vision rehab therapist?
Your eye doctor may not refer you to a vision rehab therapist. VRTs are rehab professionals who most often work for a state or community social services agency. The VRT often has a Master’s level specialization in vision rehab, and a national certification, but they are not medical professionals, so they are usually not part of a medical practice. In fact, you may find that the VRT will come to your home, workplace, or school, to perform an assessment and get you started training.
What does this kind of training cost?
VRTs services are not currently billable to Medicare, Medicaid, or most private insurance. Don’t worry though, most state and community agencies use state and federal funding to provide services at no cost, or on a sliding scale. As a result, you get one of the most highly trained and experienced vision rehab professionals for much less than you might pay for a medical professional, who may not specialize in vision rehab, like an OT. The VRT may not be part of your doctor’s medical practice but will coordinate services with them. Not only that, but the VRT often works with other professionals, like Orientation and Mobility specialists. These are the professionals who teach the skills for more independent travel with a vision loss. Vocational rehab counselor, the professional who will suggest accommodations and training to work with a vision loss. Low vision therapist, assistive technology specialists, and more.
OK, so what does this have to do with reading?
If you haven’t already discovered the free National Library Service Talking Book Program, Bookshare, or NFB Newsline for audio newspapers, the VRT can get you started with these services, and get you set up with basic training. They can work with you on magnification—handheld magnifiers or electronic video magnifiers. They can get you back to using the computer, tablet or telephone, using magnification or the text to speech features built right into them, to read emails, webpages, medication labels, mail, and other print and electronic text.
So, to drop everything and read right now, if you have a vision loss , start by calling the National Library Service Talking Books Program at 888-657-7323 to get set up with audio books and magazines, postage paid and free of charge.
To find a vision rehabilitation therapist near you, just call the APH Connect Center at 800-232-5463. You can also find a great state by state directory of vision services online, at VisionAware.org. There’s a link right on the home page to their Directory of Services..
Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Appreciation Week is observed each year, the week of Anne Sullivan’s birthday, which was April 14, 1866. As you know, Anne Sullivan was one of the pioneers of the vision rehab profession when she worked with her celebrated student, Helen Keller to teach her alternative methods of reading, and other daily living skills. Here’s to you Anne Sullivan and all the other vision rehabilitation professionals who will get you back to reading all your favorite books, magazines and newspapers.