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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Profile of Eva Crowder, Vision Rehabilitation Therapist

Intro: Where and to whom does one go after vision loss? Meet Eva Crowder, one of the skilled and wonderful specialists in the field of vision rehabilitation. Learn about what she does to help people learn to become even stronger and better than before!

The Story: I am a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist for the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind. I earned my certification in the field in March 2006. My clients are primarily older adults who have lost vision due to eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. My responsibilities include assessing client needs, planning lessons and agenda for a 6-week Independent Living (IL) class, writing reports at the beginning and end of the IL class, and keeping monthly statistics. A typical IL class involves introduction of students to staff members, review of community support groups and services available to the visually impaired (Talking Books, descriptive videos, etc.), and instruction on performing activities of daily living. Since classes are designed to meet the needs of my clients, they tend to vary. A typical class will include labeling/organizing medications and kitchen items, clothing care, cooking safely, cutting/preparing foods, mixing/measuring ingredients, cleaning, managing time and money, and participating in recreational activities. One of the most important parts of the IL class is the adjustment aspect. I designate several sessions a week to discuss the topic of adjusting to vision loss. In this support group, we discuss the stages of grief, commonly experienced frustrations, and self-advocacy.

At the end of a work day, I log hours spent with each client. Different billing codes are used for different class activities, so record keeping must be detailed. Progress notes are written for each client to track his/her progress on skill performance. These notes are used when writing a client's final staffing report, which summarizes the activities reviewed in class, the client's performance of these skills, and any additional services needed.

I work with an excellent group of people who know what teamwork means. The case manager is one of the first to meet and greet the clients in their home and discuss all the services available at the Lighthouse. She does an excellent job in explaining services, assisting clients with signing papers, and scheduling transportation for clients to the class when needed. Our receptionist makes the clients feel welcome when they arrive for class. She's also the one who holds the office together. I work closely with the Orientation and Mobility instructor during the course of the IL class. She is our driver on recreational and leisure field trips and provides group instruction on various topics throughout the class. Our work during a class requires planning and flexibility in scheduling individual and group sessions. We respect each other's areas of expertise and never try to blur the line. I also work with our computer instructor, preparing clients for computer training. We share information on current technology and adaptive devices so we can provide up-to-date resources for our clients. My supervisor provides feedback on my performance as a teacher, opportunities to participate in training seminars, and new challenges that allow for professional growth.

My current job came about through an interesting series of events. In the spring of 2001 I was at an all-time low, having been unemployed for about a year. I worked from 1998 to 1999 as a mental health counselor in a local center before being laid off due to downsizing. Although I applied left and right for similar positions, I was getting nowhere fast. I resorted to substitute teaching in the public school sector while periodically interviewing for guidance counselor positions. I also performed janitorial work and babysitting on the side. My youngest sister decided that I was being discriminated against because of my visual impairment in regards to obtaining full-time employment. Out of concern, she contacted the Division of Blind Services (DBS) on my behalf. I must admit I was angry at first when I received a call from DBS. I think that was pride. As a result, I began computer training to learn how to access the computer using JAWS for Windows. In doing so, I became very familiar with the services available through the Lighthouse for the Blind. I also had the opportunity to meet the rehabilitation teacher. I was impressed with her work as a teacher and the rapport she established with her clients, and I became interested in pursuing a career in rehabilitation teaching. While pursuing other interests related to my education, I was offered the chance to work with the rehabilitation teacher as a teacher's assistant. One thing led to another and in November 2001, I was offered a full-time position on the condition I receive a Master's degree in Visual Disabilities. The rest is history!

Although I am not providing one-on-one mental health counseling, I continue to use my former education as a counselor when addressing adjustment issues with my clients. Rarely is an individual dealing with just the stress of vision loss. My counseling profession comes into play when I am leading the Adjustment with Blindness support group. Good listening skills are essential, as is knowing when it is appropriate to share personal experiences for the benefit of the client. I also find my own career path helpful when discussing this topic with clients in the job placement program. From part-time to full-time jobs, my employment has ranged from data-entry in call-centers to janitorial work to teaching.

I use JAWS for Windows to access the computer, write reports, and read e-mail. I can use a portable or table top CCTV for short periods of time to read printed material. Occasionally, I use the braille embosser to translate documents for clients or community contacts that read braille. I wear thick glasses and a pair of visual image glasses when reading small print close-up. At home, I use MAGIC magnification software with speech to manage my personal word processing tasks and update my website. I recently purchased the Amigo portable CCTV, and I love it. I can read my own mail without the frustration or inconvenience of waiting on someone else to do it. What privacy!

I love my job because it is so rewarding and fulfilling to watch a client's life transform from one of fear and anxiety of living with vision loss to one of great expectations and plans for the future. So many of my clients are scared to live alone when they first come into the center. When they learn that the person teaching the class is visually impaired, lives alone, and is active in the community, they are willing to try old tasks in a new way.

I would recommend this job to someone who is a people person, understanding that people come from different walks of life, with different baggage, and varying personalities. Understand that just because you desire the person to achieve a set of goals does not mean the person desires the same thing. It is not about what I want for the client, it is what the client wants. Living 37 years as a visually impaired person does not make me a great vision rehabilitation therapist, professional training in visual disabilities is a must. Continued training and attendance at professional seminars helps keep me up to date on the latest news, technology, and instructional approaches in rehabilitation teaching. The paperwork and statistics can be a headache at times, but when lives are changed for the better because of it, it's all worth the effort.

The Contact: Eva Crowder

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