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kategrathwolvisionlossresourcesceoBy Kate Grathwol, president and CEO, Vision Loss Resources

Recently, we had a Friends and Family Day here at Vision Loss Resources, and a 90-year-old mother and her 70-year-old daughter were among those who attended.  

Everyone who had vision was blindfolded and we taught them how to pour water without spilling, safely insert an electrical plug into an outlet, write a check, dial a phone number, and do other common tasks without vision.   

The daughter kept her blindfold on all day, and after she peeled it off, said, “I finally understand why my mother doesn’t want to do anything.  It’s exhausting to not have any vision!” 

She’s right. Eighty percent of our perception is visual, and when the brain doesn’t get the visual input it craves, it strains to pick up every little nuance, smell and sound. It’s trying to guess what is happening. 

Visual perception gives us speed.  Those of us with vision wake up, jump in the shower, scrub our hair, apply makeup, choose clothes, pour coffee and cereal, grab car keys and run out the door. 

But not so for those who are visually impaired. You don’t run anywhere.  Your thoughts run something like this: “OK, I can do the shower thing … but where’s the soap?”  You must have a designated spot for the soap, because you can’t see it. You must have a detailed system for shampooing, applying makeup, choosing clothing, getting breakfast, everything. It’s a whole different world that moves at its own pace, while the sighted world still is moving around you at 100 miles per hour, seemingly oblivious to you. 

In many cultures, when a person loses vision they are considered a burden and are shut away. Shut away or not, you’re likely to feel as if no one understands your situation. You may feel you’ve lost your independence, your choices. Research tells us that other than the loss of a child, there is no greater loss than vision loss, and its loss of independence. 

What to do? Where to turn? Is there help?

You step out of the sighted world and look for community, and that’s Vision Loss Resources. 

A person with vision loss needs support, encouragement, skills and the ability to laugh with people who understand on a gut level. We offer all of that. 

One client told this story to a group of people at Vision Loss Resources:

She wanted sausage for breakfast so she went to the freezer, easily located the sausage and placed it in a boiling pot of water.  After a few minutes, as the sausage cooked, the fragrance seemed off. 

She stirred the sausage and poked it, thinking, what the heck.  Something didn’t seem quite right so she took it out of the pot, cut it up, and tasted it. 

She had cooked the banana she’d been saving for banana bread.  So she made some banana bread and then found the sausage. 

The listeners got it. They’d done similar things. Their response was hearty, supportive laughter. 

Vision Loss Resources is a community where people understand how it feels when you want to get up and grab your car keys and go, but then realize, “I can’t drive now,” and drop your keys.  Many clients have told us, “I was all ready to go to the grocery store and had my keys in my hand and I remembered…I can’t drive.”  

People here understand and share their stories and solutions. “Yeah, I remember my first Metro Mobility trip and how frightened I was.” This is followed by a reminiscent chuckle, a shared knowledge that there was no need for fear.   

It is here at Vision Loss Resources that you hear about the grief and loss of vision loss, and what to do about those feelings. 

We understand, and we help you understand that vision loss does not mean the end of independence. It does not mean that you give up reading, getting around town, golfing, cooking, movies, canoeing, skiing, card games, biking, or other activities you enjoy. 

It does mean that we, your peers, can help you gain the knowledge and critical thinking skills to make life full again. 

We offer you the inner strength and outer resources to enjoy your life. Our doors are open. Join us and see how far you can go.

 

 

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