Variety of resources available for the blind

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Are you finding your eyesight fading? Maybe we can offer some support. Come join the United Blind of Walla Walla. Our next meeting will be 1:30-3:30 p.m. March 25 at Clarette’s Restaurant, 15 S. Touchet St.

For more details, call Alco Canfield at 525-7136 or click here.

When a person is told by their eye physician that their eyesight has decreased until they have become legally blind, it can be a devastating blow. Questions bombard them as fearful darkness settles over them. What will I do to feel useful? How can I continue working? But there is still another fear: Who will be able to help me adjust to this loss so I can still function?

“You are legally blind,” were the words the ophthalmologist spoke as I sat in the exam chair. I felt the room spin as his words sank in. Finally I asked, “What does that mean?”

“It means your days of working are over. It means you can’t drive your vehicle any more,” — we had a brand-new pickup, bought just six months earlier — “it means you are not to use your lawn mower, chain saw, Skil saw, or garden tiller anymore.” (I will add here that I did continue using all my garden equipment, including the saws, for several more years, though in time, I had to give them up one by one.)

“So what am I to do?” I asked.

“You are to go sign up for Social Security.

I was working in a profession I really enjoyed, as charge nurse in a rural hospital. My employers, fellow nursing staff and physicians, as well as the patients, let me know they respected and trusted me. Just a few weeks earlier, noting a problem, I had made this appointment with my ophthalmologist, never expecting this verdict.

I was unable to find any help in adjusting to my eyesight loss. I could find no help in making our house easier for a person with limited eyesight, and no help in training for other kinds of work.

I remember the early days when I felt quite useless. I continued doing most of the yard and garden work but I felt guilty doing these tasks for fear others would think I was not legally blind but only trying to get free help. I had no one to turn to and many times found the best therapy to be walking up the lonely gravel road until I was exhausted.

Fortunately, today those with fading eyesight can find help. There are several agencies across the state that offer help to the blind. If you or a loved one are facing loss of eyesight, the nonprofit Edith Bishel Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired is the region’s best place to find help. Residents of Yakima, Franklin, Klickitat, Walla Walla and Columbia counties, and Northeast Oregon, can visit the center or its website to receive information and assistance.

Edith Bishel Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired:

Website

› 628 N. Arthur St., Kennewick

› 855-665-8547 or 509-735-0699

Email

The Edith Bishel Center helps with low-vision examinations and assessments, independent living and low-vision aids, as well as personalized independent living skills training. Resources include customized computer training and education, socialization opportunities, support groups to cope with vision loss and library access to specialized print, audio, video and Braille media.

When a loved one is visually impaired, family and friends may not be sure what type of assistance is needed or desired, and consequently they may so restrict the one with fading eyesight that they are not allowed to be much more than a couch potato, thus greatly reducing enjoyment of life. Or they may just leave the blind to stumble along as best they can, not offering any help.

People suffering fading eyesight must communicate and ask for help when help is needed, while at the same time asserting their independence, letting others know that being blind does not make them a less valuable person.

Sheila Turner from the Edith Bishel Center makes house calls and is ever ready to assist in getting the house, including appliances, marked so the blind person can remain at home and for the most part do their own complete care.

With some adjustments, those with limited eyesight or even completely blind can live independently, continue to carry out daily activities and take pleasure in hobbies.

Ernie Jones, a registered nurse who retired due to vision loss, can be reached at 529-9252 or at theolcrow@charter.net.

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