Vision loss is about so much more than just loss of sight. It means a loss of identity, loss of mobility, loss of independence.
People with new vision loss find it difficult to dial a phone, cook dinner for their family, and keep their job. Imagine your whole life changing in a matter of months, days or even hours.
But, training is available to teach people how to do just about anything they could do before vision loss. And you can provide this training. Your donation will support our individual training services for adults with vision loss.
All our services are client-centered: our clients determine what is more important to them. Below, we share the individual journeys of three clients. Clients with different needs, different goals and different training. Read on to learn how our donors changed Bill’s, Panola’s and Marilyn’s lives.
Bill is engaging, outgoing and has a positive attitude. He also has an extremely rare hereditary condition that was slowly taking his vision. But, he made do. Completing college and starting a career. All the while, his vision continued to diminish.
By the time he was 25, he was legally blind. But, he continued to get by without any special training. To do this, he had to stay within his “comfort zone.”
This meant he was comfortable with his daily tasks. He knew the specific route to get to work. And he was familiar with two restaurants for lunch. For four years, Bill avoided anything outside that.
And his vision kept getting worse. When Bill was 28, he could no longer use his computer or his phone. Suddenly, even his comfort zone was shrinking. Bill decided he could no longer “get by.” He needed to seek out help. And, he reached out to Second Sense.
“I started with Joe learning technology. This was a huge game changer. I had never used a screen-reader. I thought that being competent with a computer was something I would have to leave behind.”
Bill learned to use JAWS, a speech program that enables people with no vision to use a computer. “For the first time in years I could just walk over to my computer and check my email. I felt I was rebuilding pieces of my life that I thought I would never have access to again.”
The training eased the fear that was creeping into Bill’s life. “That fear that I would never get a job again. I mean, who would hire a guy who can’t use a computer? That fear was now entirely squashed.”
Bill didn’t stop at learning technology. He has embraced all areas of vision rehabilitation. This includes learning life skills with Cody.”Cody taught me adaptive cooking and food preparation. So much of this training is learning safe techniques to overcome fears. Like sharp knives and hot ovens.
“There were just so many things I assumed would be off limits for me. Many of the techniques Cody taught me were so simple, but to me they are revolutionary life hacks!”
Bill also learned mobility skills with Eleni. “I just didn’t have the tools to go beyond these limits I set for myself. I had been using a white cane for four years before I actually learned to ‘how’ use it. Now that I have learned how to use a cane, I don’t have any fear of walking down a street I don’t travel regularly. I learned to make educated decisions to keep myself safe.
“My current world and the future seems manageable. It is now a welcome challenge. It is a huge victory for me, not being consumed with fear. I can now cross intersections. In the past if I encountered sidewalk construction on my set route, my world just crumbled before me. Now I have the tools to address issues like this.”
Using a white cane is scary. A white cane signifies so many different things. To experienced travelers, it is a sign of independence. Freedom to travel where you want, when you want, independently.
But, to people who are just learning to accept their vision loss, they may see it as a symbol of their weakness. A signal to anyone who sees them that they would be an easy target.
This is how Panola felt. She was very hesitant to travel outside her house using a cane. She had just lost her husband and was anxious about letting all her neighbors know she was alone and blind. Anxious about what they would think of her.
But, she knew she had to start doing things on her own. She had depended upon her husband for years — never going anywhere without him. Then he became sick. She started taking the Pace bus to the hospital to visit him. And, it was the bus driver who encouraged her to learn to travel with a white cane.
When Siobhan, one of Second Sense’s Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists, asked Panola what her goals were for training, Panola said she wanted to get her mail. “I haven’t opened my mailbox in years. I don’t even know if I can find it,” Panola told Siobhan. “You’re going to find it today,” was Siobhan’s response.
With that they set off. Walking down her drive to the curb — there are no sidewalks in her neighborhood — and walking the short distance to the group of community mailboxes. Siobhan walked behind Panola, giving her cues and assistance all along the way.
One week later, Siobhan came out for the next lesson. She told Panola she was going to travel the same route to her mailbox with one difference. “I’m invisible,” she told Panola. “You’re going to do it by yourself.”
It was a beautiful day, and there were several people out in the neighborhood. “I wasn’t so concerned for my safety,” Panola shared. “I was more concerned about what they were thinking.”
“But I found the curb. I made it to the mailbox. I was so excited. On the return trip, it didn’t even bother me that anyone saw me.”
“It was just a trip to my mailbox. But, it was the biggest challenge I have had to face without my husband. I had to trust someone else. Someone other than my husband. And, I knew I could trust Siobhan. It is such a good feeling to know that there are still people you can trust.”
Marilyn learned to use her iPhone and Apple Watch in 2019. She is a tech-savvy senior who wants to learn all she can to live a full and independent life.
When she called us again in 2021, she was interested in exploring other ways these tech devices can increase her independence. First up, create her own grocery list in the Instacart app.
During COVID restrictions, training couldn’t be in person. So our staff had adapted. And Marilyn was game to try a different method of learning.
So, after dropping off a spare iPhone at Marilyn’s door, Siobhan sat in her car. She used her phone to call Marilyn on the spare iPhone. Marilyn put the phone on speaker and used her own iPhone for the lesson.
Siobhan first helped Marilyn become familiar with the app. She then was able to listen in as Marilyn used the VoiceOver option on her own iPhone to navigate the app. With VoiceOver, Siobhan was able to hear what Marilyn was doing. Since Marilyn was an experienced iPhone user, she just needed a little prompting before she was able to add items to her shopping cart.
Marilyn also worked with Siobhan on using BARD — a service offering audible and braille books to adults with vision loss, on sending out text messages using the messaging app rather than Siri, and on using the Zoom app.
Director of Development
65 E. Wacker Place. Suite 1010
Chicago, IL 60601