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Second Sense - Beyond Vision Loss

Is Your Sweetie New to Vision Loss? A Guide for Enjoying this Valentine’s Day

February 13, 2018 | 2 Comments

by Polly Abbott, CVRT

Tags: , ,

Couple holding hands on table covered in red table cloth with drinks and chocolates.

Keeping Your Relationships Strong Even with Vision Loss

Are you close to someone who is experiencing significant vision loss for the first time?

Do you feel helpless — wanting to help them but don’t know what to do?

Do you feel your world has been turned upside down and life isn’t what it used to be?

These are common emotions for a sighted partner. Your partner is probably looking to you for help and support. And you both are looking for some feeling of normalcy.

Doing things together may not be exactly the same, but they can still be enjoyable. Here are some things you can enjoy together right now along with some quick tips that can help relieve some of the stress associated with this life transition.

Moving Around Safely

The simple act of walking around can be very scary for your loved one with vision loss.  Using the proper “human guide” technique is a method you can both learn during vision rehabilitation training.  In the meantime, you can offer your arm so your partner can hold on to you while walking.  It is helpful to describe any curbs or stairs you encounter so your partner can be prepared to step up or down.  You might also ask your loved one if they would like you to describe the environment you are passing by –interesting landscape or funny occurrences can make them feel more a part of the experience.

The Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired has a great audio recording, Going Out with a Friend, that describes the human guide technique and offers ways to navigate outside of your home.

Getting Out of the House

  • Go out for a movie.  Do a little research before you go to make sure the theater and the movie have audio description available. Audio description conveys the action on the screen, in between dialogue, that can bring a movie to life for someone with vision loss. And for you, there’s no more answering the question, “What’s going on now?” Check the accessibility webpage for your movie theater to see the movies with audio description.
  • Attend a live theatre performance or musical production.  Many live stage performances also have audio description and some offer touch tours prior to the performance.  A touch tour allows people with vision loss to come on stage before the performance, touch the props and costumes and often have a chance to talk with the cast.  In Chicago, check out the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium for listings of audio-described theatre productions and other accessible cultural events.
  • Attend a Concert.  Whether you both enjoy the symphony, jazz or rock, you’re sure to find a concert of your liking.  Universities and colleges have terrific talent at a fair cost and restaurants and taverns often have nights with live music, too.
  • Visit an art gallery or museum.  Many art museums have tactile representations of artwork and also can provide a docent to guide you both through the museum. Docents may have an art background or education and will describe the features of the art, the history behind the artist and the time period.
  • Go to a football, baseball or basketball game. Many venues have transponders with the radio broadcast synced up to the live action so there’s no delay.  Your partner can listen to the play-by-play and still feel the energy of the cheering fans.  Transponders are usually available at the customer service desk.


Dining Out

  • Check the restaurant menu online before you leave home.  This gives your partner time to think about what to order. You also won’t have to read the entire menu at the restaurant and hold up the server.
  • Choose a restaurant with a quiet atmosphere so you both can talk.  It helps to sit close to each other to make it easier to hear.
  • If you are dining out during the day, have your loved one sit with his or her back to the windows to reduce glare.
  • Choose restaurants with food that is easy to eat such as hamburgers, sandwiches or other types of “finger food” so you and your loved one are not faced with trying to cut meat or struggling with finding food on the plate.  Keep in mind that after your loved one receives vision rehabilitation training in daily living skills, this won’t be your only choice.

Hadley Institute has an audio recording, Going Out for a Meal, that provides tips and tricks for eating out in public.  Our Second Sense large print handout, Tips for Dining with Confidence, is also a helpful resource.

Spending Quality Time at Home


Finding Support

Reach out to local vision rehabilitation services or ask your eye clinic if they know of a vision loss support group in your area.  You will find a wealth of knowledge and experience by talking to other members who have also been living with a partner with vision loss.

Adjusting to vision loss is a process for both of you.  Acceptance does not happen overnight.  The key is to take small steps first and be conscious of both your partner’s and your feelings.  Let go a little and don’t be hard on yourself if things are not perfect.  Most of all, communicate with your partner.  With positive steps and encouragement, you will both begin to feel better. 

Watch for part two of this post on March 1.  I’ll provide more concrete steps you can take to create an atmosphere of learning with small but significant ways to help your partner be a little more independent every day.

Polly is the Director of Adult Rehabilitation at Second Sense.

2 comments on “Is Your Sweetie New to Vision Loss? A Guide for Enjoying this Valentine’s Day”

  1. Tony says:

    I sure appreciate this post. I happen to be blessed with a sighted wife who has this stuff down. To all you couples out there, the adjustment is well worth the effort.

    1. Polly says:

      Thanks, Tony. It’s nice to hear that feedback and encouragement to other couples.

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