Did you know that 25 million Americans report difficulty performing everyday tasks due to limited vision? This is an alarming statistic. For some, the onset of vision loss Is a gradual process over many years; for others, the loss of vision is immediate and dramatic.
Whether your vision problem was gradual and expected, or sudden and without warning, the bottom line is that any significant loss of sight is traumatic and life-altering. If you are confronting vision loss, you need to learn new, creative ways of doing things.
Routine daily activities and simple tasks that most of us take for granted, such as cooking, shaving, or selecting clothing, can prove overwhelming if you have recently experienced a significant change in your vision.
Your greatest challenge is likely to be finding information about the resources, technology, and training that can empower you to continue living an active, independent, and productive life. Although all 50 states have agencies that provide vision rehabilitation services, such as:
- independent living skills training;
- assistive or access technology classes;
- and orientation & mobility instruction,
the reality is that bureaucratic red tape and personnel shortages may make it difficult for you, or someone you care about, to access these services in a timely manner.
In an effort to bridge the gap between the onset of vision loss and the availability or need for vision rehabilitation services, American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) opened The AFB Center on Vision Loss (the Center) in Dallas, Texas in 2006.
The Center provides visually impaired individuals of all ages, their families and the professionals who serve them, with access to information on vision rehabilitation programs, services in the community, and assistive technology, as well as training opportunities in the form of seminars and online courses for teachers of the visually impaired, blindness rehabilitation professionals, as well as those experiencing vision loss and their families. For example:
- As a parent, you and your child can try out different assistive or access technologies such as electronic video magnifiers or computer screen reading software, which will enable your visually impaired child to access their schoolwork more independently
- Adults who are experiencing vision loss can explore how to use lighting and contrasting colors & textures to make their homes easier to navigate
- The children or grandchildren of baby boomers can learn about marking temperature settings on an oven or microwave to enable their parent with low vision to continue to safely cook for themselves
- Architects and interior designers can visit a prototype of a user-friendly, accessible environment that makes life easier for those with less than perfect vision to live independently
Whether your home is a sprawling suburban ranch or a cramped studio apartment in the city, you most likely have a desire to feel comfortable and in control of your domain. Esther's Place, our independent living model home at the Center offers examples of practical, common sense solutions based on four key principles:
- Lighting: Use high-wattage or three-way bulbs to provide non-glare lighting. Purchase gooseneck or swing-arm lamps for work or reading areas. Install additional fixtures in bedrooms, bathrooms, closets and underneath kitchen cabinets. Increase lighting throughout the house, especially in stairways and entrance ways, where accidents are most likely to occur. Put night-lights in bedrooms, bathrooms and hallways to improve safety.
- Organization: Store related items together near the location where they will be used. Put away clothing, cooking utensils, or CDs immediately after use. Make use of rubber bands and texture dots or Velcro tabs to tell the difference between 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 differ from wall color. Avoid upholstery with busy patterns, such as checks or plaids, because they can be confusing to the eye.
You will find these helpful tips and many more on display at The AFB Center on Vision Loss in Dallas. The resources and information provided by the Center are not intended to replace vision rehabilitation services, but rather to enhance or fill a critical need in the interim between the onset of vision loss and the provision of direct services.
The Center strives to provide access to critical information which will enable people experiencing vision loss to live active, rewarding, independent lives.
If you would like to schedule a tour of Ester's Place or you need more information, please contact the Center at (214) 352-7222 or firstname.lastname@example.org Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm.