The Challenge of Aging and Blindness

How ACB Can Make a Difference
Compiled by: Ardis Bazyn, ACB Membership Committee Chair
 
This ACB “Membership Focus” Call was titled “The challenge of aging and blindness and how ACB can make a difference”. The participants on the call had many ideas on this topic. It was expressed that this group often doesn’t want to identify as “blind” people so it’s necessary to reach them where they are. We first identified agencies or places where we could either meet them or leave information to be shared with them. Then we discussed what they might want to know.
 
One suggestion was contacting the Department on Aging in the local community and offering to assist them with blindness or low vision resources. ACB affiliates could offer tip sheets with a list of services that would interest those losing their sight. This information could be disseminated to social workers, senior centers, assistive living centers, ophthalmologists, Lions chapters, audiologists/Hearing impairment centers (talk with staff), Deaf-Blind agencies/organizations, state or county aging and blindness committees, support groups, etc. Members could volunteer to give presentations to these groups or at eye-related conferences. Presentations could explain these resources in more detail as well as giving members an opportunity to tell them about ACB and local chapters. Once members are known in the local community, referrals will automatically be sent to them.
 
Some resources that were identified for newly blind or low vision persons were: how to receive National Library Services in your state, parra transit or local transportation options for seniors or people with disabilities, enhance social and recreational activities such as audio described movies or programs, local services such as homemaking or shopping assistance, specialized gadgets such as needle threaders or other low tech items, book clubs for blind or visually impaired persons, and Tech Access programs in your state that may cover cost of computers. Another resource that could be disseminated is the organization called
“Ears for Eyes”. It is available nationwide. They have    a dozen training cassettes explaining how to learn particular skills in the kitchen, travelling inside your house, etc. “Ears for Eyes” toll free number is: 800-843-6816. If you go to their website, there is a Form to fill out if you click on the “contact us” link.
 
The Tennessee Council of the Blind applied for a grant from the stimulus funding and received one for two programs. One allowed them to purchase a “Traveling tool kit” which included color identifiers, the pen friend, and other useful items for seniors losing their sight. Now, they can use this resource to entertain them by showing the items and how they work.
 
Many seniors with vision loss do not know about the American Foundation for the Blind senior sight on www.afb.org. It has many tips to help both seniors losing sight and their families. Some of ACB’s special interest affiliates would be helpful to newly blinded seniors as well. The Alliance on Aging (AAVL), Council on Citizens with Low Vision International (CCLVI, Diabetics in Action, Visually Impaired Veterans of America, or Library Users of America would have helpful ideas. You could encourage local support groups to see what ACB affiliates have to offer them.
 
The Veterans Administration has a training program for blinded veterans. Many seniors who could qualify may not know that they provide many tools and equipment for visually impaired persons. Two state affiliates have brochures especially for seniors losing their site. Check the California Council of the Blind website at www.ccbnet.org and the Washington Council of the Blind website at www.wcbinfo.org.
 
The best way to let people know about the resources your chapter/affiliate may have is to encourage your members to be an active part of your community and meet people one on one and talk to them. Make sure your organization is on the charitable resources list for the 211 number in your county. Write Papers to send to local service organizations or provide resource lists to them. You can offer to tell them about trips you’ve taken and how they worked for you. Be out there and embrace everyone and you will reach family members of those with vision loss.