Living With Low Vision: Stories of Hope and Independence

Living With Low Vision: Stories of Hope and Independence


I seen a big black
blob over my sink. I was getting my eyes
checked all the time. And they told me that if
I ever see any change, I should come
in immediately. I called them up and I
told them what I seen and they said come right in. Millions of Americans have
low vision and cannot correct their eyesight
with regular glasses, contact lenses,
medicine, or surgery. Low vision can result
from a variety of eye diseases and
health conditions. Age-related macular
degeneration accounts for almost 45 percent of all cases. Many people with cataract,
glaucoma, or diabetic retinopathy also
have low vision. In the past, low vision was
defined as vision 20/70 or less. The definition now is vision
loss not correctable with standard glasses or
contact lenses that affects the person’s
functional abilities. So, it’s not about a number now, it’s about reduced vision that’s
affecting the quality of life of the individual and
their functional abilities. Nine or ten years
after the military, I developed seeing
rainbows around lights and couldn’t focus on
things directly and then found myself walking
into doors and tables. And then I went to the VA
and the eye doctor told me that I had advanced
case of glaucoma and I was on the verge
of losing my sight. We first noticed that Erin
was having visual problems probably around
the age of three. She had gone to a activity for
kids in the park and actually one of the college students
that was working and reading them books
came up to us and said, “Your daughter keeps coming up
to us when all of the other kids aren’t and I don’t think she can
see the pictures in the book.” We eventually found out
that it was the dominant optic nerve atrophy
and we just, you know, learned more about it
and it was very hard. Very hard at first. To get a referral to a
specialist in low vision, you should really start with
your regular eye care provider. So, ask them who they
would like to refer you to. Ultimately, you have to
get an evaluation, because an evaluation is going
to sort out what things are going to help you
to function better. You’re going to have a chance
to actually try those devices. Individuals with low vision
often do find it necessary or helpful to make a number of
modifications in their home. There’s a number of ways
that appliance dials can be marked with high-contrast
and/or tactual markings so that they can operate the microwave
and the washing machine and the oven dials more efficiently. One of the things that’s
extremely important for the low vision individual is to
make sure they have appropriate lighting and appropriate can be
different for different people. People don’t realize that a
lot of times, if you can remove the glare, it allows the person
with a vision impairment to have a lot more contrast, and
contrast is normally what’s important for a lot
of us depending as to what our visual issue is. We also introduce them to
a number of low vision aids, which include magnifiers,
handheld magnifiers, magnifiers on stands,
spectacle-mounted magnifiers, also telescopes and
electronic magnifiers. One thing we really focus
on is always looking out for the next greatest
thing with technology. I would say we probably started
with the closed circuit CCTV. We originally got one for her
to try out in the classroom when she was in kindergarten. She then was started using the,
we call it her little CC or mini CC handheld closed circuit
TV video magnifier and that was again a day of celebration
when we found that tool. It gave her mobility. Simple things like going to
the restaurant and looking at a menu she could do now. Looking at price
tags in a store. We looked for the smallest
print that we could find and it was on a prescription bottle. Very tiny, I mean you
could hardly see it and she could read it. There’s a lot of different
things that can help you. Yes, right. It just depends
on what you need. This here is a talking
color identifier and it can be used
to detect colors. Primarily in your
clothing, shoes – I can see certain
colors-yellow, orchid, green. It shows up enough to see and I get mixed up
with black and brown. Purple. Purple. And I’m a person, I like
everything to match. So, I try to put in my closet,
I try to hang everything up on the hanger that all goes
together so when I take it out, like what I’m wearing is all,
was hanging all together. I am a customer care
associate at a call center. On the job, I use MAGic, which
is a magnification software. I can invert the screens. I can highlight my
mouse, my mouse cursor. I can not even use my mouse
and navigate through different screens and
different programs. It’s, it’s very great. It works a lot of wonders. A lot, a lot of wonders. The right services and devices
coupled with a positive outlook can help people affected by
vision loss overcome obstacles and maintain their
quality of life. It’s very, very common for
individuals who have just experienced a significant loss
of vision to be very depressed. And it’s a common thing. We know that, that depression
is about one-third of people who have experienced a
permanent loss of vision. And so the important thing
for them is to show them that there are things that can help
them to continue to be able to function better and I think
oftentimes they don’t know. If a person gives up tasks
and gives up more tasks, they can often fall
into that depression. They get caught in that
depressive cycle where they feel as though, I can’t, I
won’t, I don’t know what to do, and I don’t do anything. I went through a major
depression for about a year. I was just – I didn’t go
anywhere, I didn’t do anything. I resigned from my job of 11
years, I just – at that point, I thought life was over. My counselors had introduced
me to the Lighthouse. Okay, so what I’m
going to have you do is read character by character,
basically just go over – At that time,
I had learnt a lot. I was seeing a lot of
different people like myself. The depression went away. Everything started
to get better. My independence came back. My confidence came back. It just made me feel good
to see that by me being so young and being a mom, it
was not as bad as it appeared. It was not the
end of the world. The families are very
important for the successful rehabilitation of the
individual with the vision loss. Family members a lot
of times will ask us, well what can I do? And one of the things I
always tell them is find out as much as you can about this
particular eye condition so that you can help your family
member who is dealing with the eye condition come
to the realization that the person who needs to be
the expert on it is them. The worst thing you can do is
assume that you know what it is. So go and ask questions and
when you ask those questions, be patient with the person. It may very well be they don’t
want to answer you right then. Also, it’s important that the
family not do too much for the person with visual impairments
and not take the attitude that it’s easier for me
to just do it myself. And yes, it will be more
difficult for the person with low vision to do it initially
and it will be slower, but if the individual is going to
learn, they need to practice. Low vision services allow those
with low vision to not only maintain independence,
but also pursue their goals, hobbies, and passions. You know, they might have been
told by their eye care provider, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing
more that we can do for you.” And yet there are many,
many things that can be done. So, there may not be anything
more medically or surgically that can be done, but from
the standpoint of enhancing functional vision, there are
many things that we can do. We want to show
them the ways that they can continue to
remain independent. Remain in their own homes. Be able to maintain
their own finances. Read the newspaper and
do all those things that are part of everyday life. Don’t give up on things
that you enjoy doing. I really enjoy bridge. And once I, I hold my cards
up and see what I have and they tell me
what’s on the board. If I have the cards,
I can play them. And if I don’t have the
cards, I can play them. I have a magnifier that
I use to help me to do more detail work on my art work. I like for my work
to, to stand out. To be, you can be able
to touch it, to see. Something I love to do. I love to paint. With my vision loss, it gave
me the courage and strength to continue on painting,
to do more painting because I wanted to say, let the world
know that with your vision loss, you can continue
on no matter what. You can still do it. It is very important for you to
seek the information yourself. Because that’s a form of
independence and you don’t ever want to give that up. Google, check the
Internet, try to find counselors, network,
research, talk to people, don’t shut down. Whatever you do,
don’t shut down. Talk as much as you can. Ask questions, don’t be ashamed, don’t be embarrassed,
don’t give up. Because it’s just so much
out there that can help you. I mean what, what are
you really going to do? These are things that
you can’t control. Your vision, you
can’t control that. But you can control how you
approach living life with your vision loss and
if you approach it well, then you’ll find out that
you’ll, that you live well. When you live well, you know,
great things happen to you. Great things happen for you.

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