Low Vision Clinic
Many clients come to us once they have reached a point when ordinary glasses, contact lenses, medical treatment and/or surgery can no longer correct their sight to normal range – which is known as low vision. Our low vision clinics increase utilization of remaining vision through assessment and training with low vision aids including magnifiers, telescopes, CCTVs, and other adaptive devices.
There is a high demand for our vision rehabilitation services, particularly our Low Vision Clinic. With the Washington State population of individuals over the age of 65 more than doubling in the next 20 years, this will undeniably result in an increase of those with age-related eye conditions. In an effort to meet this demand, we have operating satellite clinics in Bremerton and Sedro Woolley as well as an on-site clinic in Seattle.
The use of magnification has the potential to improve emotional health and sense of independence by providing clients the opportunities to complete many tasks and activities independently. When it comes to choosing the best magnifier, the Low Vision Staff at SightConnection considers the tasks and activities the device will be used for and offers special training, teaching the necessary skills to properly utilize the magnifier. Reading the newspaper, recipes, checking blood sugar, cooking dinner, and navigating safely in one’s own home may be the determining factors for independent living. Fortunately, with the proper adaptive devices, self-sufficiently completing daily routines is achievable.
Independent Living Skills Training
The SightConnection counselors are often a primary contact for our clients. Not only are they a great source of information about the many resources within the agency and beyond, but they also provide the support, reassurance, and encouragement many clients need in order to get the most of the resources. With special training in vision loss, aging, and disability issues, our counselors work with clients and their families so they can move beyond the medical diagnosis of vision loss to rehabilitation and adaptation. Working through feelings of denial, frustration, depression, and grief allow clients to focus on learning how to maintain their independence and well being despite vision loss.
SightConnection Rehabilitation Specialists provide training for a variety of practical skills that enable clients to continue with many daily activities, including training in home and personal management for independent living. Independent living skills may include suggestions for safe layout of home and work settings; help marking appliances and tools to facilitate operation by touch; training with adaptive aids for cooking, sewing, and personal care; instruction in the use of assistive devices for diabetes and health care management; suggestions about different ways to continue with crafts and hobbies; Braille and other communication skills; and information and referral to other necessary services.
Traveling safely and confidently is another key to independent living. Our Orientation and Mobility specialists provide instruction in the use of white canes and/or support canes, sighted guide technique, orientation to neighborhoods, instruction to public transportation and special needs transportation system, and dog guide information. Taken independently, or as a whole, the independent living skills offered to clients in their environment provide a great deal of support for our clients to acquire the skills to regain self reliance.
Assistive Technology Training
Our Assistive Technology Program provides information about computers and other technical devices that foster independence, self-reliance, and human connection. Assistive Technology is a term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for those with low vision, for example; software that can read computer screens, scanners that read magazines or other text out loud, Braille tools, toll-free phone number and newspaper reading services, websites that have downloadable books and magazines, and more. We work hard to keep our program on top of the latest developments in the AT field, which in turn, allows us to keep our clients connected with the most current resources available.
Without adequate training, one may face major obstacles in improving their computer and/or internet use. Our AT specialist provides hands-on demonstrations of selected products and offers individual instruction in their use. Products available for individual instruction are: accessible Macbook laptop/PC, Braille training, closed circuit televisions, software synthesizers, large display monitors, optical character recognition software, personal readers, scanners, screen enlargement and screen reading software.
AT promotes greater independence by enable people to perform technological tasks that they were formerly unable to accomplish. Like all of SightConnection services, our AT program enhances safety, promotes self-reliance, and supports skill development. As the sophistication in technology continues to grow – we continue to provide supportive, compassionate, client-focused technology services that help individuals gain the skills to research and access community resources, send and receive e-mails, surf the internet with confidence, and remain connected with family and friends.
To reach out to the greater community and promote public awareness on the significance of vision rehabilitation services we host numerous educational programs. Our most recent success is the planning of Insight: A Low Vision Expo. This educational event proved to have an exceptional impact on attendees in 2010 and we are looking forward to a positive outcome again this year.
Insight 2011 will feature keynote speakers, breakout sessions, and vendor space all while bringing together approximately 300 attendees who shared a commitment to assisting individuals with vision loss throughout Pacific Northwest.
At Insight 2011 our keynote presentations will include Nutrition and Your Vision as well as Forward with Hope: Research in regenerative medicine for the eye presented by Russell Van Gelder, MD, PhD and director of UW Medicine Eye Institute.
Breakout sessions will include Fall Prevention: Avoid, slips, trips, and stumbles presented by Susie Starrfield with Snohomish County Long Term Care & Aging; At the Crossroad: Passing the car keys presented by Marty Richards, MSW, Affiliate Professor at UW School of Social Work; Unexpected Emergencies: Are you prepared? Presented by Debbie Goetz with the Seattle Office of Emergency Preparedness.
In addition we’ll have an all day assistive technology learning lab with hands-on demonstrations of modern technology and accessible computer devices as well as an all day vendor fair. This event was possible from our event sponsors and vendors who are assisting us in underwriting the cost of Insight. Each successful event hosted helps us build a foundation for a positive future by encouraging healthy, active lives for the blind and partially sighted individuals in our community.
In order for SightConnection to meet the needs of our community, it is vital that the programs and services of SightConnection continue to be available. Future success of our planned events and programs will rely on funding from outside sources. Each donation given to SightConnection directly maintains and enhances our services.
We have learned that a client’s chance for resiliency through education and training is dependent on generous support from our community. Taken individuals, and as a group, each successful program and service of SightConnection represents tremendous progress toward our mission of enhancing the ability of people with vision loss to lead active, independent lives. As the population of visually impaired individuals continues to rise, the financial support we receive is vital in helping us education clients.