April 14 is Anne Sullivan’s birthday. Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher, brought her student out of isolation and into the world where she became a political activist and author. To celebrate Anne’s dedication and contributions to the profession of teaching people with vision loss, the week of April 13 is Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Week across the nation.
At Second Sense, we are fortunate to have our own CVRT, Polly Abbott. Polly has been working with our clients, community groups and low vision support group leaders for close to ten years. Polly vividly recalls a lesson she learned early in her career that has been reinforced with many clients over the years:
“When I was a student in my final month of practicum at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) I visited an elderly woman with macular degeneration who had lived with vision loss for many years, but whose vision had deteriorated to such an extent that she had to reach out for help.
I offered to show her how she could do different tasks around her house. I told her about the different professionals at CNIB who can teach her how to be independent. She politely refused all that I offered. After an hour I felt there was nothing more for me to do.
As I was leaving, with my hand on the doorknob, the woman asked me to thread a needle for her. I told her I had a needle that was easy for anyone to thread, if she wanted to try it.
I stayed a little longer teaching her how to use the new needle. Once she learned how to thread the needle independently, a door was opened. We talked about the other things she could learn to do with a little help. Since I was almost done with my practicum, I connected her with another rehabilitation therapist at CNIB and a mobility instructor.
I learned that you never know what the key to helping someone will be. No matter how reluctant a person is, I keep seeking for that one thing.”
Your eye doctor may refer you to any number of specialists to treat your eye condition, but when it comes to managing your life in a new way, a vision rehabilitation therapist can provide the practical solutions that can relieve the frustration and loss of independence that is often felt when vision deteriorates.
To find a certified vision rehabilitation therapist, check with your local blindness agency, state rehabilitation department or the
Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP).