July 23, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Vision Loss Resources Recognized by City of Minneapolis at Celebration of 25th Anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act
Vision Loss Resources was recognized Thursday, July 23, 2015 by the Minneapolis Advisory Committee on People with Disabilities for excellence in service and supporting independence, inclusiveness, and accessible environments and services for individuals with disabilities. The award was presented as part of the City of Minneapolis’ celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
“We were honored to be nominated by Lynda D’Heilly, a student in our Adjustment to Blindness Training Program,” said Kate Grathwol, CEO of Vision Loss Resources. “For many people, the loss of vision seems to mean a loss of independence. In fact, through adaptive skills training and support, participants come to realize they can do most everything they used to do—they just have to learn to do things differently.”
In her nomination D’Heilly, who lost her vision from an acute illness, wrote about the importance of regaining her sense of self and maintaining her independence after losing her vision. Through Vision Loss Resources she found the tools and support of her peers to face those challenges.
In an excerpt from her nomination of Vision Loss Resources, D’Heilly says:
My world was transformed when I started rehab at Vision Loss Resources and when I became involved with programs like technology class and woodworking. I can navigate a kitchen once again because the staff taught me how to use adaptive techniques to prepare food—to do the daily tasks so many people take for granted. When I became blind I realized I could no longer use the microwave, and not being able to do something as simple as use a microwave is the worst feeling in the world. But with the Life Skills classes at Vision Loss Resources, I learned how to make adjustments to my environment and to my pattern of thinking, allowing me to remain independent in my own home. They also offer support groups and peer counseling and recreational activities, among other things—the list goes on!
“More than anything, the ADA has helped to raise awareness that disability can happen to anyone of us at any time,” said Grathwol. Vision Loss Resources prepares people to go back to their active lifestyle, and back out into the workforce, if possible explained Grathwol. “We offer the tools and support people need, so they can transition back to work or school, family life and volunteering – engaging in the communities and activities they most want to stay connected with.”
Grathwol said her team at Vision Loss Resources is motivated by the ongoing efforts of the City of Minneapolis to help visually impaired individuals to see their possibilities and not their limitations and to not be defined by their vision loss.
See the complete nomination letter below.
ABOUT VISION LOSS RESOURCES: Vision Loss Resources is the largest provider of services for people living with blindness and vision loss in Minnesota. For more than 100 years, we have changed lives throughout the metro area through in-home visits, counseling, teaching independent living skills, and providing information and support to families and caregivers. We have served 14,000 people since 2000 and have provided over 70,000 services. To find out more about Vision Loss Resources services and programming, visit www.visionlossresources.org
Lynda D’Heilly, a student in the Adjustment to Blindness Training Program at Vision Loss Resources, shared her story in an essay submitted to the City of Minneapolis while celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Being blind is like being in a box with no windows. And until you find a door, you’re not going to get out. Vision Loss Resources (VLR) built that door for me.
When I came to VLR I had lost my vision. I had a brain tumor and it destroyed the optic nerve in my left eye; surgery to remove the tumor destroyed the optic nerve in my other eye. I was originally told by the doctors that my vision would come back, but the damage to my eyes was permanent, making me blind. When I lost my vision I also lost myself.
I was going through a lot of changes, physically and emotionally, and I didn’t know why. I had lost my identity. I was depressed. I was in a box, and that box was empty, and when I yelled nobody could hear me. Then my husband started looking for people who could help. Thankfully, we found Vision Loss Resources.
My world was transformed when I started rehab at VLR and when I became involved with programs like technology class and woodworking. I can navigate a kitchen once again because the staff at VLR taught me how to use adaptive techniques to prepare food—to do the daily tasks so many people take for granted. When I became blind I realized I could no longer use the microwave, and not being able to do something as simple as use a microwave is the worst feeling in the world. But with the Life Skills classes at VLR, I learned how to make adjustments to my environment and to my pattern of thinking, allowing me to remain independent in my own home. VLR also offers support groups and peer counseling and recreational activities, among other things—the list goes on!
What makes VLR extra special is their responsiveness to emerging needs among the blind (and deafblind) community. They are developing a meditation class to instruct students on mindfulness breathing and ways to reduce stress. This responsiveness and openness to new ideas, and the ability to translate ideas into specific activities, is a sure sign of an organization that goes above and beyond normal requirements or expectations—and that’s not to mention the terrific staff.
The staff and volunteers at VLR teach you that anything is possible—that you can do whatever you want. Sure you may have to do it differently, but you can still do it. There is life after blindness, and when you learn how to adapt, that life can be really good. I thought I’d never use the internet again, or read, or enjoy TV. But I can do these things. I can even go bowling! If somebody had come to me a year ago and said, “Let’s go bowling.” I would have said that I can’t and probably never will. Here’s a secret: I’m a better bowler now than I was with normal vision!
I am currently taking orientation and mobility classes at VLR and I’m learning how to navigate the city. My instructors have shown me what to do if I lose my sense of direction. I am learning how to use the public transportation system and how to safely cross the street, and with these skills I will be able to enjoy the city like everyone else. Before VLR, I didn’t walk outside the house by myself. Now, I walk about a mile to get to class. I have the confidence to get out and about and to be a person again.
At VLR I found people like myself; I found a sense of belonging. I am happier now, and my family is happier. This is who I am. And I know in my heart that I could not have gotten to this place without Vision Loss Resources, and that’s what makes them excellent.
— Lynda D’Heilly
Iris Key, Vision Loss Resources