Esther's Insights Finding Professional Help for Dealing with Vision Loss

Esther Smith When I first started losing my vision, one of the most helpful things I did was go to my state's rehabilitation service provider. I've since helped other friends experiencing vision loss go through this process, and while it varies from state to state, here's some basic information I can share with you.

You can start by locating your state's rehabilitation service provider through the AFB Directory of Services. Every state has services for people with vision loss. Some states provide the services directly. Others work with local agencies that serve persons with vision loss.

You'll need to complete an application, but this isn't hard. Just call and talk to your local office about what you need to do. They'll do the writing and ask you for the information they need. You may have to visit an eye doctor to verify that you are eligible for services, but if you have current records from your eye doctor, they may be able to use that information.

Each agency employs a variety of professionals who can help you. You can find an overview of what they do in the Vision Loss Specialists article. In most states, a counselor will talk with you, assess your case, sign you up, and write a plan for what you need. When developing your plan be sure to ask for Rehabilitation Teacher Services (sometimes called vision rehabilitation therapy or independent living services). Most states pay for these services and, if your income qualifies, for at least some of the products and devices you'll need. You may have to pay for other independent living products that you desire. However, these are your tax dollars working for you, so don't be afraid to ask for services.

Some general services that most states offer include having rehabilitation teachers come to your home to teach you some of the skills and techniques you will need to be independent, and working with a low vision specialist to help you use your remaining vision to its maximum potential. If you want to get around more independently, you may work with an O&M specialist.

Other services are offered on an individual basis, such as computer instruction or vocational rehabilitation services, so tell your counselor what's on your mind. He or she may be able to help in ways you never dreamed possible.

Remember, it's a process. It doesn't happen overnight. Like anything worth doing, it takes time, perseverance, and hard work. I hope you find rehabilitation services as helpful as I did.

Esther

P.S. In May, AFB Senior Site will start to feature agencies that provide the types of services that I've described. Be sure to check out the Agency of the Month section to learn more!

Contact Me

I'd love to hear from you! If you have questions or comments for me, please e-mail esthersinsights@afb.net and put Esther's Insights in the subject line. I have lots of ideas for this column, but would love to answer reader questions here as well.

More about Esther Smith

Mrs. Smith has been involved in numerous volunteer activities in Dallas over the years, and is currently a member of the American Foundation for the Blind Center on Vision Loss Board and heads up the Center's docent program. She was married for 47 years to Don Paul Smith, a noted inventor. Mrs. Smith is a graduate of Lindenwood College for Women in St. Charles, Missouri, and was a 2006 recipient of an honorary degree from the University of North Texas. In addition, she was head of the circulation department at the Fondren Library at Southern Methodist University for 11 years. Mrs. Smith has three daughters and seven grandchildren. For more about her experiences with macular degeneration, look for the AFB Press book, Out of the Corner of My Eye, in which she shares more of her insights, and view the video Esther and Gwen: A Mother and Daughter Story.


Listen to Esther Discussing Out of the Corner of My Eye

Transcript of Esther Discussing Out of the Corner of My Eye

Esther Smith: I have had the opportunity of reviewing several times the book entitled Out of the Corner of My Eye, and feel it is a wonderful learning tool for anyone who has that condition. The book was authored by Ms. Ringgold, who has had macular degeneration for some 10 years. It's obvious that she's a knowledgeable, educated woman who has chronilized her condition of macular degeneration from being a very slight case to an advanced case. I would certainly recommend either reading or listening to this book to anyone who has the condition of macular degeneration, not only to help you cope with your condition but also for your family to understand how you are coping and how they can help you.

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