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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

AFB Center on Low Vision in Dallas Expands Possibilities and Offers New Hope for People Living with Vision Loss

(Dallas, TX – Oct. 23, 2006)—For people experiencing vision loss, simple daily activities of living and independence are suddenly disrupted—from making a cup of coffee, to getting dressed, to setting the indoor thermostat.

No one knows these challenges more than Dallas resident Esther Smith, 81, who began losing her vision to macular degeneration 10 years ago. After the initial shock of being told by her physician there was nothing else she could do, she realized her doctor was wrong. While her vision couldn't be restored, she was determined to learn how to live independently with her vision loss and help others in the process.

Today Smith, a community volunteer with the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) proudly tours people with vision loss through the newly created AFB Center on Low Vision in Dallas. The newly designed 13,735-square-foot facility in Northwest Dallas houses a fully furnished 1,600-square-foot model home, which includes a living room, dining area, kitchen, bedroom, closet, and bathroom filled with simple designs and solutions on how to make daily life more manageable for those who are blind or losing their vision. Each room contains low-tech and high-tech gadgets. People with low vision can touch the items and see how they really work. They are shown how to cook, pick out clothing, handle medications, read mail, pay bills, and watch television.

Smith was instrumental in raising funds for the Center and making sure the model home felt like home while it was equipped with items such as a talking thermometer, strategically placed task lighting, and contrast furnishings. Other items include lights placed inside kitchen cabinets to make contents more visible, a knife attached to a cutting board making chopping safer, and a beeping device that tells you your cup is full.

"It's about giving people new ways to do very familiar tasks," explains Kelly Parisi, vice president of communications for AFB which built and operates the center.

"The goal is to help people function as independently as possible," adds Judy Scott, director of the AFB Center on Vision Loss. "It's exciting because people tour the home and realize how simple some of the options are. They often say, 'That's something I can do tonight, when I get home'."

The Dallas model home is the first of its kind in the country. Scott praises the Dallas business and civic community for raising more than $1 million to make the Center possible, including Dallas business leaders Rodger Meier and Larry B. Kimbler.

AFB, a national nonprofit organization based in New York City, doesn't sell any of the items, but provides detailed cards and information on where to purchase them. It also houses a national resource library and encourages tours of the facility.

There are currently 10 million people in the U.S. who are blind or have vision loss—and that number is expected to rise rapidly due to the aging population.

"The chief cause of eye problems is age," states H. Dwight Cavanaugh, M.D., professor of ophthalmology at UT Southwestern who also serves on the AFB board and is assisting the center with free seminars for the public. "We hope this Center will help seniors learn how to maintain their independence in spite of vision loss and age."

Some reasons for vision loss as people age include macular degeneration, which affects central vision; glaucoma, which affects peripheral vision; diabetic retinopathy, which distorts vision; and cataracts, which makes vision cloudy.

For more information about the AFB Center on Vision Loss: 214-352-7222, dallas@afb.net, 11030 Ables Lane, Dallas 75229.

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