Editor’s note: In Lynda Lambert’s first post in this series, she discussed the importance of getting immediate eye medical attention and learning about low vision services. In this post, she details the types of vision rehabilitation services she received.
Step Three to Regain a Creative Life After Vision Loss: Learn to Use Low Vision Devices and Equipment
Because I was interested in continuing to work, I qualified for the vocational rehabilitation program in my state. Here, we have two options for training: (1) we can go away for a little while and enter into a residency program where we are in school all day long, five days a week, or (2) we can stay home and get our training without disrupting our normal life as much as possible.
Initially, I chose the first option. I knew I wanted to move along on a fast track. I was in it for the distance. I had goals I wanted to achieve, and I knew I needed a lot of help to attain the dreams and intentions I had in mind. I was ready for the hard work, and I wanted to fully focus on recovery and rehabilitation with no distractions. I know this option is not for everyone, nor would everyone be eligible for this choice, but it was definitely the best one for me. There are other types of vision rehabilitation programs available for people 55 years of age and older with vision loss. Check the VisionAware directory of services for help in your state.
Option #1: In-residence
This training occurs in a place where you will live in a school or facility. Most students live at the facility for a predetermined period of time, such as a week or more. I was in such rehabilitation school for three months of intensive training in personal adjustment to blindness as well as technology training.
Note: This type of rehabilitation program or school may offer day program experiences for adult students who live nearby or who have other obligations such as work or family.
All of the students attend daily classes with other students. Teachers are present in the classrooms throughout the day. This is an intensive period of time in which the student covers a large amount of information and has assignments to do every day. The bonus for this type of program is that the student can have discussions with faculty and hands-on teaching every day. Lessons are reinforced by daily practice. Because some of the low vision equipment has a steep learning curve, this is a sensible option.
Advantages Provided By This Program
A great advantage for this option is that the instructors are teaching with programs and equipment they are working with daily. They are familiar with every detail of a piece of equipment, and you do not have to wait for an instructor to experiment or read product manuals before they can show you how it works. This saves time, and the student gets a full schedule of programming opportunities. It’s efficient.
Another bonus is the interaction with other students. Learning together, side-by-side, with another student is invaluable. The interactions you have as you learn how to use the equipment helps you to remember and reinforces the technique and lesson.
A second advantage is that I worked with the teachers to determine exactly which programs and equipment I would use. We met to discuss my needs and desires for my personalized program. Each student has an individual course plan designed specifically for them. It is a joint decision. We worked out a plan for our education goals, daily lessons, and an assignment for each step of the learning process. It was well organized and well defined. Each lesson was designed to move us forward in using the equipment when we were on our own.
A third advantage for me is that I left my home and daily life behind so that I was free to learn. I did not have distractions such as taking care of pets or children, phone calls, tasks to do that involved other family members, or daily jobs such as preparing meals, doing laundry, or household tasks. I could stay in the classroom all day long and even return to my studies at night to do homework and to reinforce the lessons without interruptions. For me, this was the perfect learning environment. When I left the school at the end of my three-month training period, I had the feeling I could do anything I wanted to do. I just had to figure out how to adapt to do it. It was a triumphant feeling.
Finally, in addition to the daily classes in classrooms, I was given hours of mobility training outside on the streets of the city. I learned how to walk on the city streets and to analyse every traffic stop in determining how and when it was safe for me to step out to cross the streets. I learned how to order and take city buses, how to shop in a variety of stores, and how to find my way to and from any location. I felt so triumphant when I completed my training.
Option #2: Homeschooling
This training takes place in your own home. The instructor comes to your home and gives you a lesson periodically over several weeks or months. Your lessons may be from two to three hours in length. Over the past 11 years, I’ve had three different in-home learning experiences. Each was different and for different purposes.
You may choose this option if it fits your lifestyle and intended goals. With this option, you’re learning takes place over a long period of time with a couple of weeks or more between the instructor’s visits. This option is preferred for a number of reasons. The student may have obligations at home or with a job that will not allow them to do an in-residence study. I think that people with sight loss and low vision need carefully planned lessons that are well-developed, organized, and have clearly defined lessons. The worst-case scenario for me would be that lessons are random, and the student does not know what to expect with each visit of the instructor. I know that I need reinforcement and repetition so that I can remember lessons that were discussed weeks prior to the current visit. I need a teacher who comes with a well-planned session that will begin with a refresher of where we left off last time. I want to know exactly where we are going with each visit; continuity is what we need.
Advice for Getting the Most Out of This Option
- Keep in mind that your instructor is given a particular block of time to spend with you. This is determined by an agency. You won’t want technical problems to take the instructor away from your lesson. Be as prepared for your lesson as you can be when the instructor arrives.
- If you are getting a new computer, spend your time putting all your files onto discs or thumb drives well ahead of the planned exchange from one computer to the new one.
- If you do a business from your computer, this can take you several weeks to accomplish. Just be aware that this can really put you behind on your schedule to install and learn the new equipment. Allow a lot more time for this than you think you need.
- Create a schedule with your instructor and stick to it in order to successfully learn to use your new equipment.
- Be certain your instructor installs the correct programs you want and will use. Have a discussion before any work begins to be sure you are in agreement. Don’t have programs put on your computer that you do not need and do not intend to learn to use.
Another Potential Option
In addition to state-run rehabilitation programs, in some states, private agencies for people who are blind or visually impaired offer training programs through which people can come to a local agency for training. You can locate such services through the VisionAware directory.
Find out what equipment and devices helped me in my next post.