Why is Low Vision Awareness Month important to VisionAware readers? The numbers of older people with low vision are increasing and are projected to grow dramatically over the next several years. As noted by the National Eye Institute, “The good news is that vision rehabilitation services can help people with vision impairment learn how to stay independent and make the most of their sight. Low Vision Awareness Month is a great time to spread the word about vision rehabilitation — and make sure that people with vision impairment know about the services available to them.”
Vision rehabilitation, unfortunately, is one of those “best kept secrets.” According to the National Health Interview Survey, only about 3% of older people with low vision receive rehabilitation services. Why? Individuals are unaware of services or think that the services are offered only to people who are blind.
What Are Vision Rehabilitation Services?
As noted on VisionAware, “the term ‘vision rehabilitation’ includes a wide range of professional services that can restore functioning after vision loss, just as physical therapy restores function after a stroke or other injury. Vision rehabilitation services allow people who have recently lost vision, are blind, or have low vision to continue to live independently and maintain their accustomed quality of life.”
Who Provides These Services?
Vision Rehabilitation and Low Vision Therapists and Orientation and Mobility Specialists are specially trained providers in the field of vision rehabilitation. Additionally, some occupational therapists have been certified in low vision.
How Can You Find Services?
VisionAware offers a directory of services provided by state and local nonprofit agencies. You can check by type of service and by state. An excellent place to start is the daily living skills category, and there is also a low-vision category for low-vision providers.
You can also visit Time to Be Bold for listings of state agencies by state.
One of the best ways to locate the right type of help for your situation is to call the APH ConnectCenter Information and Referral line, available Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. US Eastern time:
1-800-232-5463 or email [email protected].
What Do People Say About Vision Rehabilitation Services?
Steve Kelley, who has low vision and is now a Vision Rehabilitation and a Low Vision Therapist, says, “A vision loss acquired later in life can be isolating. Before vision loss, we may have no exposure to individuals who are blind or low vision, so what we think we know about blindness or vision loss is often inaccurate. Also, like most people with sight, we have learned most of our daily living and employment skills with vision and have no idea there are alternative ways to do these things with less vision. I know some of this to be true firsthand. When my vision loss began over 20 years ago, my anxiety and delay in seeking out rehab resources contributed to losing a job I loved, depression, and isolation for a while before regaining a healthier understanding of what this loss meant and how to adapt to work with it.”
Get Started now! Check out our Getting Started guide. Or call the APH ConnectCenter for help! Again, that number is 1-800-232-5463.