See the accompanying Links for Living Visually Impaired in Prescott.
Living Visually Impaired in Prescott Arizona — The Story
If your vision is beyond correction by traditional medical and optical procedures, if you are anticipating this situation, or you are assisting someone like this, you need resources and training known as “Vision rehabilitation”. Good news! Technology and well known practices offer great techniques to reduce many vision limitations to inconveniences if you’re willing to tackle the learning curve. Bad news! Prescott is limited in its access to rehabilitation personnel, awareness of possibilities, and diffusion of people who can help each other.
Below are resources collected by a person who maintains independence and vision loss coping skills after reaching legal blindness 8 years ago. With plenty of room to improve the community resources, please consider action, suggestions and collaboration possibilities for everybody losing vision in these days of abundance of technology and information sharing.
What is Vision Rehabilitation
Useful techniques range from marking appliance settings by sticky dots through using a smart phone to read books, identify money denominations, and manage phone contacts. “Active Daily Living” refers to these sticky dot tricks and myriad organizational tasks formerly taken for granted. Serious safety concerns are addressed as “Orientation and Mobility Training” for climbing stairs, walking with the miraculous long white cane, and crossing streets. Gaining or maintaining computer skills requires adapting to magnification or audio interaction or the adventure of mastering assistive apps on a touch screen smart phone. New interpersonal skills come into play when a conversation partner must be identified by voice or sighted assistance must be requested. All these are conquered by learning and practice, leaving only the misery of transportation until the day of civilized public transit or affordable driverless cars.
Where does one start?
When the page text becomes wiggly or haze surrounds you or objects jump into your path, eye doctors may help for a while, but normal aging effects and eventual vision rehabilitation should not be denied. A great starting place is MDSupport.org with ongoing discussions of treatments, vitamins, iPads, good lamps, photography, travel, comfort, and just about everything a Macular Degenerate lives with. Care-givers and eye professionals are welcome and guide books and tips abound. This member since 1998 checks in daily on a mailing list and refers everybody in low vision land to this community.
Locally, here are resources beyond the vision medical professionals who do not customarily offer vision rehabilitation as described above. Veterans have great residential training in Tucson. Students grow through school disability services and special education programs. People seeking jobs have state Department of Economic Services special programs and assistance to work. Otherwise retired people must generally develop and implement their own rehabilitation programs.
- People Who Care offers seminars introductions to topics in Vision Rehabilitation and Causes of Vision Loss. Limited transportation and other elder support services are also available.
- Georgeanne Hanna is a contact with and certified rehabilitation contractor for state services that also assist retired individuals. Her phone is 928-775-5857. Watch for Public Service Announcements. Orientation and mobility trainers can be imported at state expense upon request.
- Yavapai Guidance Clinic has offered disability emotional support groups.
- New Horizons Independent Living center provides a broad spectrum of independent living services and a transportation system based in Prescott Valley.
- Yavapai Library Network sites may have assistive computers and computer mentor training. Contacts are available for the National Library service “talking books” program.
- YC OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) offers occasional workshops on vision and hearing loss adaptation. Summer 2013 includes “Using Things That Talk” demonstrations and a documentary movie.
- Prescott Fine Arts Theater honors requests for front row seating for visually impaired people and companions.
- Lions clubs underwrite medical and optical services for low income persons and occasional publicity events. Some localities may provide grants for assistive technology and vision rehabilitation trainers.
- Former organizations now defunct include: Northern Arizona Vision and Hearing Loss, “old blind center”, Yavapai Association for Blind and Visually Impaired (YABVI), “new blind center”. Check out carefully Daily Courier articles for dates referring to any possibly defunct vision organization.
In summary, People Who Care Confident Living Seminars and state DES rehabilitation coordinators are the primary currently active resources. A mobile person losing vision should also consider relocating to gain a full multi-month training program from a facility such as Southern Arizona Association for Visually Impaired, see saavi.us.
What help is available from government?
- AZ Department of Economic Services supports a local vision rehabilitation professional (see above) special services for vocational training, and limited assistive technology. An online directory is available.
- Many cities have a Disability Services Coordination council based in the Mayor’s office. Is there a Prescott contact?
- The American Disability Act (A.D.A.) has been in law over 20 years, although “civil rights laws are not self-enforcing”. Websites disability.gov and Disability Scoop track federal government A.D.A. developments.
- with A.D.A. enforcement, airlines, banks, and hospitals have trained personnel for providing equitable services. Notable within Prescott are bank “talking tellers” for automated cash withdrawal (e.g. Chase Bank).
- social Security offers documents and transmittals in electronic formats on CD.
What do blindness support organizations offer?
- The American Council for the Blind (ACB) and National Federation of the Blind (NFB) advocate and educate on blindness issues that benefit people with all kinds of vision loss. State affiliates hold annual conferences and support local chapters (but not currently in Prescott).
- The American Federation for the Blind (AFB) has special websites for seniors and is affiliated with the Vision Aware service. A monthly newsletter evaluates technology
- MDSupport.org specializes in macular degeneration with myriad free downloadable guides and an ongoing support mailing list.
- Books and newspapers are available from Bookshare.org, with a library of 200,000 fiction/nonfiction, adult/adolescent volumes readable on the website or downloadable to book readers. The NFB NewsLine offers national newspapers and magazines in various formats and reading services. National Library (NLS) provides narrated books played on special readers (free) or mobile devices.
How about technology?
- PC and Mac computers have built-in magnification and voice support. For Mac, VoiceOver is a click away while for PC a free NVDA package is easily installed. Various $1000 commercial products offer versatile magnification and audio with support and training. These “screen readers” enable a synthetic voice to speak web pages, documents, and buttons or typing. The technology is great, but the learning curve is steep and trainers are scarce.
- Elegant hand-held devices can read books from NLS or Bookshare, notably Victor Reader Stream and BookSense. Amazon Kindle and Nook devices are regrettably not usable without sighted assistance.
- The smart phone has put mainstream devices into the hands of people without full vision but with sufficient hearing. The iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch have Voice Over built in to read buttons as fingers glide across the screen as well as text in mail and web pages. Book reader apps from Bookshare, Nook, and Amazon enable downloading and listening to books, magazines, and documents. Special apps provide walking navigation, location awareness, remote identification of photographed objects, reading money, and other assistive tools. Many games and apps are fully accessible and speech recognition increasingly replaces keyboarding. Alas, the Android family of smart phones lags Apple devices, but does provide many limited capabilities. Verizon offices can set up these products but trainers and patience are required for full mastery.
- The blindness communities maintain a “Internet radio network” of interviews, demonstrations, and advice on all topics related to vision loss and especially technology. The iBlinkRadio app on iPhone and Android is a great portal. Accessibleworld.org, EyesOnSuccess.net, and Hadley.edu have highly informative weekly updates. These are MP3 files for subscription and downloading as podcasts via iTunes or podcatcher apps.
- Hand-held readers also serve as recorders for presentations, memos, and bookmarks. Some also provide radios with audible controls.
- Audio labelsing devices provide means for recording contents of files and food cans. Color identifiers, GPS systems, and thermostats exist to overcome daily eye sight annoyances.
- Twitter social media is a river of news about technology and blindness under the keyword #accessibility and people like slger123 and all major vision-related organizations and federal agencies.
Where can I get more information on vision rehabilitation in the Prescott region?
Further links and updates from this handout are online at http://asyourworldchanges.wordpress.com or search for “visually impaired Prescott Arizona”. Essays depict the vision self-rehabilitation and personal lessons learned from the world beyond Prescott substantiating the selected resources here, notably MDSupport, Bookshare, and white cane travel.
Isn’t it time Prescott had full service vision rehabilitation for retired people with vision loss? For an example, see saavi.us, the Southern Arizona Association for Visually Impaired. Following the MDSupport motto “No one should leave an eye doctor’s office thinking their situation is hopeless”, vision loss is a journey of learning and adaptation and challenges that build on established rehabilitation practices and abundant technology if only the community realizes these potentials.
By mail and email, we are attempting to provide a more thorough, accurate, and timely resource page. Please send corrections and additions to slger123 @gmail.com or leave a message 928.848.9292 or 928.445.6960.
Links and Other Posts
See the accompanying Links for Living Visually Impaired in Prescott.