Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (VRT) Appreciation Week is observed each year the week of Anne Sullivan’s birthday, on April 14, 1866. This year VRT Week will be observed the week of April 11-18, 2021. We all recognize Anne Sullivan as the Home Teacher who instructed Helen Keller on the skills she would later use as a world renown writer and lecturer. Sullivan’s profession, that of Home Teacher was the precursor of today’s Vision Rehabilitation Therapist, a professional who often provides the primary rehabilitation for individuals who are blind or have a vision loss that cannot be corrected with glasses or surgery.
Ironically, as well known as Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller’s story is, the Vision Rehabilitation Therapist has been called “one of the best kept secrets,” for those experiencing a vision loss later in life from diseases like macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, etc. VRTs are most often found working for state and local agencies for blindness or low vision. Doctors may overlook referrals to these resources for their patients with a vision loss, and patients may not be aware that most of the services available through these agencies include skills training and technology for individuals with low vision as well.
Like Anne Sullivan, present day VRTs can teach braille for creating household labels or for reading and writing, but clients today more frequently learn to use handheld and electronic magnifiers, smartphones and tablets with magnification and screen readers, a wide variety of adapted daily living skills for work, home and leisure, and how to adapt to their vision loss. It is not uncommon for a VRT today to also have a vision impairment themselves, like Sullivan, putting them in the unique position of understanding first-hand the challenges of working, managing a home, staying up to date with technology, and adjusting to a vision loss.
Fortunately, a doctor’s referral is not necessary to find or work with a VRT. Check out the APH Directory of Services or call the APH Connect Center toll free at 1-800-232-5463 to find a vision rehabilitation therapist or services near you. You may also find that there is no out-of-pocket fee for their services, or they are available on a sliding scale.
To learn more about vision rehabilitation therapists and their vital role, check out Hadley Presents interview with VRTs, Kendra Farrow and Steve Kelley, “A Guide to Vision Rehab,” and Ed Haines presentation, “The Vision Rehabilitation Therapist: Your Advocate for Independence,” or ask your smart speaker for, “Vision Rehab Podcast on TuneIn.” For more facts about VRTs, ask Alexa to “Open Vision Rehabilitation Facts.”
Happy Birthday, Anne Sullivan!