Living Visually Impaired in Prescott Arizona — The 2016 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 affordable 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 Prescott resident who maintains vision loss coping skills after reaching legal blindness a decade ago. There’s plenty of room to improve the community resources. Please consider action, suggestions and collaboration for everybody losing vision in these days of abundant 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 participate in social media. “Active Daily Living” refers to these sticky dot tricks and myriad organizational tasks formerly taken for granted. Serious safety concerns are addressed by “Orientation and Mobility Training” for climbing stairs, walking with the miraculous long white cane, and crossing streets. Gaining or maintaining computer communicationskills requires adapting to magnification or audio interaction or gesturing on a touch screen smart phone.
Sensitive interpersonal skills come into play when a conversation partner must be identified by voice or when 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 safe, affordable driverless cars.
Where does one start recovering from vision loss?
When the page text becomes wiggly or haze surrounds you or objects jump into your path, eye doctors may help for a while, but there’s no miracle cure for effects of aging, sunlight, and genetics. Struggling to drive, read, walk, recognize faces, or see computer screens tell you it’s time to find vision rehabilitation. Medical interventions (except for cataract removal) rarely restore vision. Don’t deny, bargain, get angry, or become dependent when it’s time to learn new ways of doing things.
A great starting place is Macular Degeneration Support (mdsupport.org). You’ll find ongoing discussions about treatments, vitamins, iPads, good lamps, photography, travel, smart phones, and just about everything a Macular Degenerate lives with. We share secrets, such as the frequency of visual hallucinations called Charles Bonnet Syndrome. Guide books and tips abound. The community is international and multi-generational.
Another great resource is the “Eyes on Success” weekly podcast interviews with vision loss survivors, eyesight professionals, technologists, hobbyists, sportsters, and employed workers. A friendly pair of retired scientists in Rochester NY, one blind and one sighted, have compiled a library of easy listening MP3 files and show notes.
Where do I go for local help?
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.
- The ‘People Who Care’ nonprofit offers “Confident Living” introductions to topics in Vision Rehabilitation and Causes of Vision Loss. Limited transportation and other elder support services are also available. Six-week seminars are presented when funding is 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.
- The Disability Empowerment Center (formerly New Horizons Independent Living center) provides independent living services for people with various disabilities, and a transportation system based in Prescott Valley. Call and ask whether vision rehabilitation services are currently available.
- Yavapai Library Network sites have assistive computers for people who know how to use magnification and audio assistance. 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.
- 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 publicized events. Clarification of their services would be appreciated in the comments of this website, especially to identify matches with needs expressed here.
- Warning!!! 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 services gone from the troubled trail of Prescott vision supporters.
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.
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.
- In 2014 Prescott established Disability and Accessibility coordination mandated by the 1990 American Disabilities Act (A.D.A). Call the city information line or http://www.prescott-az.gov/accessibility/. The federal ADA.gov website expands on citizen rights, organization responsibilities, and procedures for grievance.
Many cities have a Disability Services Coordination council based in the Mayor’s office, alas not Prescott, but maybe in Prescott Valley. Audio alerts for street crossing are available only on Willow Creed Road near Embry-Riddle but not downtown. Sidewalk barriers, icy patches, overhanging branches, and unsafe construction should be reported to City Streets and Code Enforcement (they do respond). Visitors to downtown Prescott should not expect comfortable, safe walking conditions.
- with A.D.A. enforcement, airlines, banks, and hospitals have trained personnel for providing equitable services. PHX airport provides walking guides through TSA to your gate (tell before checking in). Notable within Prescott are bank “talking tellers” for automated cash withdrawal (e.g. Chase Bank). Checkout devices at stores are now equipped for accessibility and privacy, e.g. typing in a PIN, but may not be enabled or known to checkout personnel.
- social Security offers documents and transmittals in electronic formats on CD.
What do blindness support organizations offer?
The following groups are knowledgeable about all aspects of vision loss and advocate for improvements that benefit people with disabilities. Organizations that accept charity contributions are not necessarily well informed about Active Daily Living, Orientation and Mobility, assistive technology, the A.D.A, or the interface between medical and social service systems (but they should be). “Helping the visually impaired” requires education, awareness of needs, and accountability.
- 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 over 400,000 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, available also through BookShare. National Library (NLS) provides narrated books played on free) 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 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, Apple, NLS, Amazon enable downloading and listening to books, magazines, and documents.
Smart phone apps provide walking navigation, location awareness, remote identification of photographed objects, reading money, and other assistance. Many games and apps are fully accessible. Speech recognition increasingly replaces keyboarding. Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) are fully accessible by voice (use Triple Click Home to start). Android devices lag Apple in both capabilities and training, varying across models and manufacturers. Verizon and Apple store personnel can assist in turning on these devices but only practice will determine whether they meet vision needs.
- The blindness communities maintain a “Internet radio network” of interviews, demonstrations, and advice on all topics related to vision loss and especially technology. 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.
- Apps can remotely recognize and label record contents of files and food cans. Color identifiers, GPS systems, and talking thermostats exist to overcome daily eye sight annoyances. The coming Internet of Things offers in-home devices that recognize speech, read out device information, and operate remotely. Be sure you understand the surveillance capabilities of such devices as well as how failures can lock you out or inadvertently activate other devices.
- 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.
See the “Talking Assistive Technology” page on this website for links to products.
Where can I get more information on vision rehabilitation in the Prescott region?
This web page is your current best bet for information. Its author is a legally blind technologist. She survived the sparse services available in Prescott by seeking resources for self-rehabilitation. She has attended national and state assistive technology exhibitions and visited vision rehabilitation centers in Tucson and San Diego. She’s a user of assistive technologies and a constant tracker of external services. Ask her anything about vision rehabilitation and she’ll find an answer.
Please add comments with additional services, corrections, or opinions. Anyone interested in taking over this web page and keeping it up to date is welcome to the information compiled so far.
Isn’t it time Prescott had full service vision rehabilitation for retired people with vision loss? 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 technologies. Why can’t Central Yavapai have a branch of such a facility? Advocacy needed!!!
Send corrections and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message 928.445.6960.
Links to Resources
Other Posts in “As Your World Changes”
This blog started as a way to reclaim writing skills. These earlier posts convey the spirit of a changing world as vision degrades and skills increase.
- “Talking Assistive Technology” Resources
- Prescott needs a coordinated disability services
- Resources for Macular Degenerates — MDSupport.ort
- What’s a print-disabled reader to do? Bookshare!
- Overcoming Synthetic Voice Shock
- Accessible voting, yes, it works
- Starting from an Identity Cane
Warnings About Web Misinformation
- Web searches in Google, DuckDuckGo, Bing often link to misleading or outdated web pages. Sometimes links go to local white/yellow page directories driven by advertising.
- The following organizations are defunct: Northern Arizona Vision and Hearing Loss Center; Yavapai Blind Center; YABVI Blind Center;; and related terms. There is no blind center on Washington Street, vacated in 2007. The phone number 928-778-0055 is disconnected. If you receive a brochure or read an article about this location, facility, or phone number, please correct the mis-informant. YABVI (Yavapai Association for Blind and Visually Impaired) appears to be a restructuring of a previous organization, now managed funds by a group of eye doctors.
- No attempt is made here to assure accessibility of web sites beyond ascertaining content using Firefox with the NVDA screen reader. Some resources use PDF documents difficult to use with a screen reader.
- Resources here focus on “vision rehabilitation” rather than medical treatments typically billed to Medicare or insurance. Vision Rehabilitation includes: Orientation and Mobility Training, walking with a long white cane and safely crossing streets; Active Daily Living, tricks and techniques for optimizing remaining vision in everyday life; reading newspapers and books; and using technology by magnification or voice interaction.
National Level Organizations
Vision Information and Support
- Macular Degeneration Support mdsupport.org encyclopedia of resources and a mailing group Also a self-help guide.
- AFB.org American Federation for the Blind includes a senior site and assistive technology newsletter
- NFB.org National Federation for Blind advocacy and information
- Acb.org American Council for the Blind with informative at acbradio.org podcasts on technology and vision related issues
- “Going Blind The Movie” portrays vision rehabilitation and medical support services in New York City
- Podcasts (MP3 files downloaded or listened to from website) are plentiful and extremely helpful for technology updates, reviews, and demonstrations as well as panel and expert discussions of issues for blind and visually impaired. Especially informative are
Under the Americans with Disabilities act we can claim equal access to most resources. However, “civil rights are not self-enforcing”. The following websites address issues of equality and offer many paths to further public information.
- Disability.gov, connecting the disability community with information and opportunities drill down by state and topic, e.g. to Arizona and Transportation.
- White House Disabilities Coordination including monthly conference calls
- Federal Elections Help Americans Vote Act implemented by Yavapai County, supporting private and independent voting on site
- FCC 21st Century Communication Act covers cell phones,audio and video descriptions, and PLAN, the Personalized network for public safety alerts
- ADA.gov, the law, policies, enforcement’s.Dept of Justice and YRMC settlement on training citizen complaint invokes A.D.A. to change procedures and train staff
State Level Organizations
- Directory of services from Department of Economic Security
- AZ Governor Council on Blind and Visually Impaired
- SunSounds Reading Services
- Assistive Tech Training Center (Cottonwood)
- National Library Service Talking Book Arizona contact
- SAAVI (Southern Arizona Association for Visually Impaired (Tucson), website describes full service vision rehabilitation
Arizona Center for Visually Impaired (Phoenix)
- (PDF) ViewFinders Low Vision Resource Directory (PDF)
- VRATE, Vision Reabilitation and Asstive Technology Expo is held annually in Phoenix, free, excellent coverage of state-wide capabilities
- Arizona Assistive Technology Exchange
Chapters of national organizations
Yavapai County and Prescott Area
- State Department of Economic Security Rehabilitation sustains local vision rehabilitation and coordinates orientation and mobility training.
- Prescott Public Library may have screen readers on notebooks and vision aware Computer
Mentors. Also provides membership with National Library Service.
- City of Prescott Accessibility and disability coordination (A.D.A) Meeting the A.AD.A law!!!
Nonprofit and other services
- Georgeanne Hanna Certified Vision Therapist and Certified Low Vision Therapist, email@example.com, phone 928.775.5857. Contact directly to arrange state rehabilitation services.
- Disability Empowerment (formerly New Horizons Independent Living) Center (Prescott Valley)
- “People Who Care Confident Living Seminar (
- Verizon can turn on iPhone VoiceOver, Triple-click-home
- Best Buy sells Apple products with good accessibility (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) and Android tablets with unpredictable accessibility
- Chase (and maybe other) banks have “talking ATM” machines that read menus into earphones to dispense cash and perform other services.
- Yavapai College Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offers a track of technology courses.
- Prescott MAC and PC clubs have held programs on assistive technology
Revised July 25 2016, firstname.lastname@example.org
“As Your world Changes” article on “Living Visually Impaired in Prescott AZ” — 2016 http://AsYourWorldChanges.Wordpress.com