Lynda D’Heilly, a student in the Adjustment to Blindness Training Program at Vision Loss Resources, wanted tospeak out and raise awareness of what VLR’s Rehabilitation Center is all about. She found a great time to share her story: the City of Minneapolis was preparing to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), so she nominated Vision Loss Resources for special recognition by the Minneapolis Advisory Committee on People with Disabilities.
On July 23, 2015, thanks to Lynda’s nomination, Vision Loss Resources was one of three organizations recognized by the city of Minneapolis, on the occasion of the City of Minneapolis’s celebration of the anniversary of the ADA! Click here to read our report on the day.
We’re honored to share Lynda’s essay with you here:
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