When I was first told that my vision wasn’t something that could be corrected with a new eye glass prescription, but rather more devastating news that I was going to lose it all, I was in shock. I drove home from the doctor’s office that day, crying with the song “For Your Eyes Only,” the James Bond theme song playing on the radio. Even though I was still driving, working, reading and having a “normal” life in every way, I wasn’t prepared, nor did I ask the questions that would prepare me, for what was coming down the road.
A couple of years later when I had to give up the keys, my job and reading, I did not know where to turn. Little by little, I found out things, sometimes by accident or coincidence, which would be the keys to me getting back on track. Since I am a person who likes to get things done, having a “road map” of what to do and where to go, would have given me some positive steps to take that would impact my future. I would have also found pretty quickly that there were people out there who could help.
Polly Abbott, our certified vision rehabilitation therapist, has put together such a “road map” to guide anyone who has been given that diagnosis – “There’s nothing more that can be done.” If you or someone you know is in this situation, please share these ten things they can do to remain hopeful and productive. After many years of searching and experience, I know they work!
1. Ask Questions until You Understand
Ask your eye-care professional to clearly explain, and write down, your eye condition. This will help you explore your treatment options and understand your prognosis. Ask for a letter stating your condition, acuity and field of vision. A copy of this letter will serve as proof of legal blindness when applying for many services.
2. See a Low-Vision Specialist
Ask your eye doctor for a referral to a low-vision clinic or specialist. The low-vision specialist, usually an optometrist, will help you determine your need for magnification devices, lighting and contrast.
3. Continue to See Your Eye-Care Professional
Visit your eye-care professional annually to monitor vision health. There are many newsletters about the latest medical advances that you can share with your doctor.
Rehabilitation training is simply having a professional show you adaptations you can make to perform daily activities with vision loss. These adaptations help you maintain your independence and reduce stress and frustration.
Available training can include cooking, handwriting, recreational activities, technology and independent travel.
5. Explore Independent Living Products
There are many products that can help with everyday tasks. Talking watches help you tell time, large print calendars help you keep appointments and locator markers help you label appliances.
6. Investigate Transportation Options
Call the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) to obtain a reduced-fare card and/or to apply for para-transit service. Your local township or municipality may also have dial-a-ride or voucher taxi services.
7. Stay Informed
Continue to stay informed and entertained by signing up for alternative reading options for books, magazines and newspapers.
8. Find Support
Find a local vision-loss support group in your area to share feelings, exchange ideas and learn about the many resources available to you.
9. Sign Up for Free Telephone Directory Assistance
Contact your local telephone service provider to obtain an application for free directory assistance within your area code.
10. Advocate for Yourself
Involve your family and friends in your rehabilitation plan. Communicate with them about how and when you may need assistance. Incorporate the new things you learn into your daily routine.