Ten Steps to Maintain Your Lifestyle
1. Clarify diagnosis and prognosis of your eye condition with a medical eye care professional. Make sure you understand how the eye condition affects your field of vision and acuity. Find out if there is a diagnosis of "legal blindness" (acuity of less than 20/200 in best corrected eye or visual field less than 20 degrees), and if so, get a letter from your doctor as proof. Copies of this letter may be used as proof of vision loss when registering for different services.
2. See a Low Vision Optometrist for a low vision assessment to determine what needs exist for magnification, lighting and contrast. Obtain magnification devices. If your ability to pay for these aids is an issue, consider checking for funding or other assistance through:
- Illinois Assistive Technology Program, www.iltech.org, 800-852-5110
- Centers for Independent Living (Ask about the Elder Blind Grant). Find the closest center online at www.ilusa.com/links/ilcenters.htm
- Local public libraries sometimes also have CCTVs (video magnifiers) for loan
3. Call the local blindness agency, state department of rehabilitation services/bureau of blind services or veterans hospital for assessment and instruction of daily living skills and orientation and mobility training. Be aware of what services and programs are offered in your area.
- Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education, 312-633-3520
- Edward Hines Jr. VA, www.hines.va.gov, 708-202-8387
- American Foundation for the Blind, www.afb.org 800-232-5463 (To find services in your area)
4. Obtain catalogues of independent living aids.
- Second Sense (see our product catalog)
- Independent Living Aids, www.independentliving.com, 800-537-2118
- LS&S products, www.lssproducts.com, 800-468-4789
- ShopLowVision.com, 800-826-4200
5. Stay involved with friends and relatives. Learn new independent living techniques to maintain your independence. Learn from the vision rehabilitation professionals who are trained to help you.
6. Sign up for FREE 411. Call the telephone service provider and speak to the Customer Service/special needs department to request free 411. They will send a form to be completed by a medical doctor. After sending it back, directory assistance calls will not be charged within your local calling area. (This is an example of when a letter from your doctor describing your vision loss would be very helpful).
7. Sign up for reduced fare and paratransit service by contacting the RTA ADA Paratransit Certification Program at 312-663-4357.
8. Sign up for other services to keep you informed:
- National Library Service Talking Book Program (books and magazines on tape and descriptive videos sent to you free). Call 888-657-7323 to connect to a local library.
- Learning Ally (digital audio books), www.learningally.org, 800-221-4792
- NFB Newsline (free access to newspapers, magazines and TV listings from across the country at anytime via the telephone). www.nfb.org, 866-504-7300. This service may also be acquired through your Talking Book center.
9. Attend a support group to get connected with others with vision loss issues. Attend conferences and workshops to network and educate yourself so you can participate in your rehabilitation therapy. Be willing to change your views of what vision loss means by confronting stereotypes.
- Second Sense offers a variety of support groups, focusing on topics such as independence, anger management, coping strategies and depression awareness.
- Contact Second Sense to find out if there is a support group in your area (Chicago metropolitan-area only). Call Kathy Austin at 312-236-8569 or firstname.lastname@example.org
10. Continue to see your eye care professional at least once a year to monitor vision health. Many newsletters are available on the latest developments in research and treatments that you can discuss with your doctor.