In 1914, Frederick Parks Nash, Grace Swift Strong, Thomas Schall (who would later become a senator) and Mrs. Edward Mortimer Van Cleve, along with other concerned citizens, started the Minneapolis Society for the Blind. A few years later, the Council of Jewish Women , members of the Masonic Temple and a long list of philanthropic Saint Paul women representing clubs and charities of the community founded the St. Paul Society for the Blind. These two organizations merged in 1991, forming Vision Loss Resources.
A hundred years ago, most people with vision loss or blindness didn’t have jobs or go to school. The Minneapolis Society for the Blind and the Saint Paul Society for the Blind helped people with blindness and vision loss develop skills to work and make a living as well as skills for making a home and living independently. At both societies, people learned job skills such as piano tuning, chair caning, rug weaving and broom making. We taught white cane mobility and Braille. But our main goal was to help blind people lead active, independent lives.
Fast forward 100 years.
Vision Loss Resources is still focused on this main goal. Now we are doing it with 21st-century technology. We offer classes in using your smart phone with voice over to make phone calls, text, search the internet, read and send email, and keep your calendar. Technology has opened so many doors for people with vision loss. With voice over programs on PCs and laptops, there is almost no business application that is not accessible to a visually impaired or blind person.
Today, the leading causes of vision loss are age-related changes to the retina: Macular Degeneration, Glaucoma, and Diabetic Retinopathy. The majority of people living with vision loss are over age 65. One in four people over age 75 has significant visual impairment. As our population ages, more and more people will be experiencing vision loss.
Most people who first learn they are in the begining stages of vision loss are certainly not ready to retire or give up living the independent life they have always led just because of a little vision loss. Vision Loss Resources has been helping people with vision loss adjust for 100 years. We can help you maintain your work skills, manage your own life and keep your home. We teach you how to order your groceries online, bank online, and stay in touch with family and friends through social media. Today, leisure activities for the visually impaired include kayaking to the sea caves on Lake Superior, attending audio-described plays and movies, book clubs, baseball games and technology classes to keep you current and connected to family, friends and work.
If you or someone you know is experiencing vision loss, please call us or go to our web site. Let’s begin a conversation about all the options there are to get back to the active life you have always known. No one should be sitting at home with vision loss frustrated or frightened. We have 100 years of strength from our past that we would be happy to share. There is so much hope for the future.
Call 612-843-3400 and ask to speak to a Community Services Specialist, or visit www.visionlossresources.org.