Carol Eaton
Carol Eaton

Tell us a little about yourself. What is your background, education, and training?

I received my bachelor’s degree in Human Services from Michigan State University. When I was 27, I lost my vision due to diabetic retinopathy. After completing a rehabilitation program at the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, MA, I decided to enroll at Boston College for my M.Ed. in Rehabilitation for the Blind and Visually Impaired to become a Rehabilitation Teacher (now called a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist). After receiving my degree, I began working for the Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired in 1987, and I have been here ever since.

During my first year at the agency as a Rehabilitation Teacher/Vision Rehabilitation Therapist, I managed a full caseload and then was promoted to Supervisor. For the next 15 years, I managed a full caseload and also maintained supervisory responsibilities. It was a hectic time in my life, but I loved every minute of it. I was not ready to give up direct teaching.

As a Rehabilitation Teacher/Vision Rehabilitation Therapist, I taught adaptive independent living skills that enabled adults who are blind or have low vision to perform a range of daily living activities, including home management, home modifications, home mechanics and repair, personal self-care, financial management, leisure activities, using the telephone, reading and writing, and braille.

As staff continued to grow, eventually I became a full time Supervisor and no longer handled a full caseload. Fortunately, I do—on occasion—still go “on the road” with instructors to help with clients who have complex challenges. This keeps me in touch with our agency’s clients and provides me with the reward of helping them achieve their goals.

What made you interested in blindness, visual impairment, and low vision as a career?

When I lost my vision at age 27, I did not know what I was going to do for work. I could no longer perform my job with a publishing company, but I also knew I didn’t want to stay home and collect disability for the rest of my life. While attending the rehabilitation program at the Carroll Center for the Blind, one of my instructors was a visually impaired Rehabilitation Teacher/Vision Rehabilitation Therapist. I thought, If she can do it, so can I.

Working in the field of blindness and low vision has been very rewarding. Helping people to function more independently and resume the everyday activities that they had stopped because of diminished vision is very fulfilling.

Tell us more about the Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. What services does your agency offer? What is your current position at the agency

Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (VABVI) is a private, non- profit organization with the mission to enable Vermonters with vision problems, whether blindness or impairment, to achieve and maintain independence. I am the Adult Services Supervisor at VABVI. I supervise all of our Low Vision, Orientation and Mobility, and Vision Rehabilitation Therapy instructors, as well as our Group facilitators, Rehabilitation Assistants, our Volunteer Coordinator, and clerical support staff.

VABVI also has several programs that make us unique. We have a statewide network of volunteers who drive clients to support groups, medical appointments, grocery shopping, and other activities. Unlike many transportation programs, our volunteers even drive clients to social events. The volunteers also serve as walking companions, and as readers and tapists.

Another popular program is our closed-circuit television (CCTV) (also called video magnifier) lease program. This gives people the opportunity to try a CCTV in the home for an extended period to determine if it works well for them, and to determine whether it would be a worthwhile investment. In Vermont, we are also able to purchase CCTVs under Medicaid. This has allowed many people who could not otherwise afford a CCTV to own one.

Another benefit to our clients is that we loan daily living equipment for trial use in the home. This saves clients a lot of frustration and money. Ultimately, they purchase only those items they have tried and know will work satisfactorily.

How can our readers learn more about your agency’s services?

Readers in Vermont can call the agency at 877-350-8840 (Toll free) or 802-254-8761. They can also e-mail me at ceaton@vabvi.org.

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