The Vision Rehab Podcast is a short monthly podcast od topics and issues related to vision rehabilitation therapist and vision rehab. You can also listen on your smart speaker, just ask for, “Vision Rehab Podcast.”
Maybe you‘ve been recently diagnosed with a vision loss that can’t be corrected, from Macular Degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, or some other eye disease or injury. The doctor said there was nothing more she or he could do. You’re wondering what will happen next, because you’re having difficulty reading the paper, using the computer, driving, reading your recipes or medication instructions, seeing faces. You’re not prepared for this and wonder how you’ll manage.
For starters, when the doctor said there was nothing more that could be done, she meant there is nothing more medically that could be done. There is plenty more you can do to adjust to a vision loss, and there are resources you can use to learn more about the adjustment process.
Did you know there is a whole field of vision rehabilitation specialists that are mostly outside the medical profession. In many states and communities you’ll find these professionals in the social services or rehabilitation services agencies at the state or local level.
We often don’t know they exist because we are not told about them, or because we think that they are only for people who are blind. These services or agencies often have the word “blind,” or “visually impaired,” in them, and usually have highly trained vision rehabilitation professionals, and some work with doctors who specialize in low vision.
OK, maybe you’re wondering, “How do I find these services?” If you have access to the computer, you can look up services for your state at VisionAware.org/directory. You’ll find a pretty comprehensive list of the services and where to find them listed for your state.
If you don’t use the computer or are having trouble seeing it because of your vision, check out the Connect Center’s toll free number at 800-232-5463 or your state’s 211 service to find a local or state agency near you.
Here are some of the professionals you can expect to find when you get connected to vision rehabilitation services:
Low vision doctor. This is a medical doctor, like an ophthalmologist or optometrist who can make suggestions based on your existing vision and show you some devices that may help you maximize the vision you have.
Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (VRT or CVRT). This professional often holds a Masters degree in vision rehabilitation with a national certification. The VRT provides training on a wide variety of daily living skills and how to do them with a vision loss. For example, reading the newspaper, cooking, and using the computer, smartphone or tablet with a vision loss.
Low Vision Therapist (CLVT). A professional who specializes in working with low vision devices, like a handheld magnifier or telescope, video magnifiers, and other devices you might use for reading, work or school.
Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS or O&M). This is the professional who will train you on transportation alternatives in your area, safe travel in your community, using a white cane or GPS if that’s your preference, outdoor glare filters and handheld telescopes, called monoculars.
Rehabilitation Counselors (CRC). Often a nationally certified professional who can provide guidance for staying at your current job with accommodations, if needed, or finding a new job.
Assistive Technology Specialist (CATIS, AT Specialist). A professional who can do an assessment and train you on Assistive Technology, also called AT. For example, they might show you how to use the screen magnifier, or text to speech built into your computer or smart phone, or show you a phone that’s easier to use with a vision loss.
Keep in mind, each state is different, so the services you find near you may be different. You may have to be a real strong advocate for your needs. For example, some states may have very limited funding for training with computers, smartphones, or other assistive technology, unless you are working or actively looking for a job. In today’s world, being older or out of the workplace certainly doesn’t eliminate the need to use our technology to read email or get other information from the computer, so you’ll need to ask about other programs available to you, like I Can Connect (if you have both a hearing and vision loss), or opportunities available through your state’s Tech Act program.
If you’re experiencing a vision loss, there is plenty more you can do. Reach out to a vision rehab professional near you and get reconnected to the daily living activities that are most important to you.