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Second Sense - Beyond Vision Loss

Vision Rehabilitation: It’s Work, but Worth It

May 13, 2024 | Leave a Comment

by Kathy Austin

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Mariama walking along a sidewalk with her white cane

 

When you receive the news from your doctor that nothing more can be done to improve your vision, and there’s the possibility your eyesight will worsen, you are in shock. You may not think of the next question right away – “What do I do next?” While the doctor cannot improve your vision medically, there are still things you can do to help you adjust.

 

First Steps

Hopefully, your eye doctor has provided you with some resources to help you get started on your path to remain independent. If not, call the doctor’s office after your visit and ask.  You can also ask a friend to do some Internet searching for resources in your area. Research these contacts to find an organization providing vision rehabilitation services and educate yourself on what is available. At the end of this post, we have listed some great resources to help you get started. Think about the particular challenges you are having and what you want to learn. The next, and probably more difficult step, is going through the actual rehabilitation process and staying motivated.

 

Learning New Ways

It is natural to just want to do things the way you used to, even though these ways may no longer work for you. Letting go of old ways and accepting change is hard. So, at times during your training, you may feel discouraged you are not “getting it.”  You may feel angry, frustrated or upset. These are normal feelings when you are learning something new. Be patient with yourself and understand this adjustment takes time.

 

Practice, Practice, Practice

The most important part of vision rehabilitation is practicing what you have learned.  While you may meet with your vision rehabilitation therapist, orientation and mobility specialist or assistive technology instructor once a week or so, it takes more than these meetings to become adept with the skills you need to be independent. Practicing what you have been taught, and integrating it into your life, is the way you become successful.

Practicing the skill you are working on isn’t not only about setting aside time for practice. Integrating the new method when the opportunity comes up, is a natural way to incorporate the method into your daily life. For example, instead of using Siri for everything on your iPhone, take the time to activate and scroll through an app using the VoiceOver gestures you have been taught. Yes, it will take longer in the beginning, but you will find it gets easier the more often you do it.

 

Failure is Okay

Failure is a part of the process. We learn from our mistakes. As with any skill we learn — whether it is playing an instrument, learning a new language, or walking in a straight line with a white cane — practice is the only way we get better. Remember, we didn’t know how to read or do math when we entered kindergarten. It was a process, building on each skill as we learned them.

Sometimes you may hit a plateau with your instructor and find it hard to move forward. Perhaps you have become dependent on your instructor for encouragement and guidance. Trying what you have learned alone at home doesn’t feel quite the same. This is a pitfall you want to be aware of. Take this time to reflect on what you have accomplished so far.

Celebrate even the small accomplishments. Did you walk down the sidewalk practicing your white cane techniques, didn’t fall down and didn’t get lost on the way back? Yeah! You deserve a reward so treat yourself to something positive, a piece of chocolate, a cold beer or a manicure.

 

Tips for Success

  • When you are trying out your new skills, questions will arise.  Take notes on where you are having trouble so you can ask your instructor or therapist at your next meeting. This will help you get the most from your instruction time.
  • Finding people to support you and hold you accountable for practicing and using what you have learned will help you stay on track. Family members may want to help and do it for you. Ask them to give you space and time to try it on your own.
  • Find another person with vision loss who may be further along in their rehabilitation process. They can be an inspiration – if they can do it, so can you!
  • Vision loss support groups can be a valuable resource for not only information, but for the encouragement and empathy they can provide.

 

Remember, celebrate your successes and above all, keep your sense of humor!

 

Resources for Vision Rehabilitation

 

American Printing House for the Blind

https://aphconnectcenter.org/visionaware/professionals/understanding-vision-rehabilitation/vision-rehabilitation-services/

A detailed explanation of vision rehabilitation, professionals in the field and other resources.

 

VisionAware

https://aphconnectcenter.org/visionaware/

Free directory of services, tips for living with vision loss, information on specific eye conditions and other helpful information.

 

Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired

https://hadleyhelps.org/

Online discussion groups, podcasts on living with vision loss and virtual workshops with practical advice from experts

Kathy is the Community Engagement Specialist at Second Sense

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