AFB Center Promotes Independence
Every seven minutes someone in America becomes blind or visually impaired. For some, the onset of vision loss has been a gradual process over many years; for others, the onset is immediate and dramatic. Whether the vision problem was gradual and expected, or sudden and without warning, the bottom line is that any significant sight loss is traumatic and life altering.
Individuals of all ages confronting vision loss need to learn new, creative ways of doing things. Routine daily activities and simple tasks that most of us take for granted, such as shaving, cooking, or selecting clothing, can prove overwhelming for someone newly experiencing vision loss.
The greatest challenge facing these individuals is becoming aware of and gaining access to the resources, technology and training that can empower them to continue living active, independent, and productive lives. Although most states have agencies that provide rehabilitation services such as independent living skills and orientation & mobility instruction, the reality is that bureaucratic red tape and personnel shortages make it difficult for individuals facing loss of their sight to access these services in a timely manner. It is not uncommon for individuals who have experienced a sight loss to have to wait two or more years before they receive urgently needed resources and training.
In an effort to bridge the gap between the onset of vision loss and the need for rehabilitative services, AFB opened the AFB Center on Vision Loss (the Center) in Dallas, TX.
The Center provides visually impaired individuals and their families with access to information on programs, services, and technology, and offers training opportunities for blindness professionals. In addition to the on-site facility, AFB has created a unique and comprehensive web site, AFB Senior Site, which is accessible from any location and by anyone interested in learning both high-tech and low-tech ways to preserve the independence of individuals who are experiencing vision loss. The AFB Senior Site web site is revolutionizing how millions of Americans understand, address, and compensate for vision loss.
But don't let the Center's name fool you—individuals of all ages will benefit from the wealth of information found there and on AFB Senior Site. For example, parents will be able to locate assistive technologies such as screen magnifiers or synthetic speech readers that will enable their visually impaired children to access their school work; adults who are experiencing vision loss will learn how to use lighting and contrasting colors effectively to make their homes easier to navigate; baby boomers will learn how to mark temperature settings on ovens and microwaves to enable their visually impaired parents to continue to safely cook for themselves; and architects and interior designers will be able to view a prototype of a user-friendly, accessible, man-made environment.
Whether you live in a sprawling suburban ranch or a cramped studio apartment in the city, most of us have a desire to feel comfortable and in control of our domain. The independent living component of the Center offers practical, common sense solutions based on four key principles:
- Lighting: Use high wattage or three-way bulbs to provide non-glare lighting. Purchase goose neck or swing arm lamps in work or reading areas. Install additional fixtures in bedroom closets and underneath kitchen cabinets. Increase lighting throughout
stairways and entrance ways, where accidents are most likely to occur. Put night-lights in bedrooms, bathrooms and hallways to improve access.
- Organization: Keep similar items together in the same location. Put away clothing, cooking utensils, or CDs immediately after use. Make use of rubber bands and textured Velcro tabs to differentiate similar items.
- Eliminating Hazards: Always close closet and cupboard doors immediately. Install non-skid flooring in kitchens and bathrooms. Do not leave shoes, packages or other items on the floor. Mop up spills as soon as they occur.
- Creating Contrast: Place dark-colored items against a lighter background. For example, place brown chairs against a light beige wall or burgundy or black towels in a white tiled bathroom. Install door knobs that contrast with the door color and switch plates that contrast with the wall color. Avoid upholstery with busy patterns, such as checks or plaids, because they can be confusing to the eye.
These helpful tips and a multitude of others are available on Senior Site and at the AFB Center on Vision Loss in Dallas. The resources and information provided by the Center are not intended to take the place of rehabilitation services but rather to fill a critical need in the interim—providing individuals experiencing sight loss with immediate access to critical advice that will enable them to live active, rewarding, independent lives.
If you would like to find out more information about the Center please contact Judy Scott at (214) 352-7222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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