According to the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), there are 165,000 blind or visually impaired veterans in the United States. BVA data also indicates that some 7,000 veterans become newly blind or visually impaired each year, due to age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and retinitis pigmentosa. In addition, approximately 17 percent of the evacuated wounded service members in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered a serious war-related eye injury.
For all service members and their families, VisionAware’s Information for Veterans Coping with Vision Loss offers a one-stop hub of information and support, ranging from daily living tips and techniques to a directory of regional services and local agencies:
- Veterans’ Services and Other Resources
- Legal Resources for Veterans
- Veterans, Brain Injury, and Vision
- A Veterans’ Administration Comprehensive Neurological Vision Rehabilitation Program
- Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury: What Do I Ask My Eye Doctor?
- Statistics on Vision Loss and Military and Policy Implications
- Information for Older Veterans
- Veterans’ Forum message board
Resources and information for family members include:
- Essential skills for living with vision loss
- Emotional support and help for families
- Support groups and other resources
- Employment issues and support
Personal Stories and Interviews with Blinded Veterans
One of the most compelling veteran-related features on VisionAware is our series of interviews with, and personal stories about, veterans who have grappled with vision loss – in both active duty and retirement – and discovered a wide range of personal strengths, supportive services, and rehabilitation options:
- Paul Mimms, Vietnam-era veteran and advocate
- Dan Standage, Director of Disability in Education for the Student Veterans of America
- Staff Sgt. Brian Pearce, USA-Ret. and his struggle with traumatic brain injury
- Master Sgt. Jeffrey Mittman, who was wounded by a roadside bomb in Baghdad, Iraq
- Timothy E. Hornik, LMSW CPT, US Army, Retired, who was injured by a sniper during combat operations in Iraq
- Vietnam veterans Gerry Fitzpatrick and Jim Hammond, who provide volunteer services at the Martinsburg, West Virginia Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center
The Military Origins of the Orientation and Mobility Profession
Did you know that the profession of Orientation and Mobility has its origins in the military? The profession began to develop during, and immediately after, World War II, when soldiers who had been blinded in battle were sent to recuperate at Valley Forge Army General Hospital before entering Avon Old Farms Convalescent Hospital, the U.S. Army’s former experimental rehabilitation center for blind soldiers in Avon, Connecticut.
In order to better serve the large number of blinded soldiers who required special training and services, the military recruited Richard E. Hoover, an Army sergeant, who was assigned to the center for the treatment of blinded soldiers at Valley Forge Army Hospital in 1944.
During the same year, Russell Williams, who was blinded by enemy action in France, received medical rehabilitation at the Valley Forge Army Hospital, and in 1947, C. Warren Bledsoe joined the Hospital. Both Hoover and Bledsoe had worked previously at the Maryland School for the Blind. These three men made significant contributions to the development of a new profession: Orientation and Mobility.
The blinded soldiers were highly motivated to be successful, and Richard Hoover believed that the traditional strategies taught and used to travel independently were inadequate. In response, he developed a technique for using a cane that is lightweight and longer than support canes. This technique and cane revolutionized independent travel for blind people and are still used today. You can read more about the profession at An Introduction to Orientation and Mobility Skills.
VisionAware remains deeply committed to providing veterans’ information and promoting rehabilitation-related services to all blind and visually impaired veterans and their families. We thank our veterans and active-duty personnel for your extraordinary service to our country, and support you in your quest to be as independent as possible after vision loss.