KB’s Low Vision and Hearing Committee recently hosted a special Q&A session with Vision Specialist, Mae Michels. Ms. Michels’ years of experience working for the Lions Center for the Visually Impaired in California, the Spectrios Institute of Wheaton and the Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education in Chicago have afforded her a vast array of insights and recommendations for those experiencing low vision. During her presentation, Ms. Michels shared a variety of ideas and resources with a group of K-B residents, while giving them an opportunity to ask questions, share their experiences and exchange tips of their own. It was an enjoyable and educational experience for all involved.
Ms. Michels opened the session by encouraging residents to be their own advocates. She pointed out that people don’t always look like they have a vision impairment. It is not a disability others can see just by looking at you. For this reason, it is important to ask for what you need. For example, if you are at a restaurant and order fish, ask the wait staff if you can give a different color plate or if they can place a lettuce leaf under the fish to help distinguish the food on the plate. White fish on a white plate would be a challenge for someone with a visual impairment. Being vocal about your needs is vital - and others may not know what you need unless you ask. As Ms. Michels said, “do not complain, but request!”
The group also discussed how to find ways to do the things you’ve always enjoyed with low vision. Taking advantage of services like Talking Books through the Library of Congress or listening to volunteers read your favorite newspapers and periodicals through CRIS Radio were good examples. Companies like American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. offer free catalogs that are filled with tools and gadgets to improve quality of life for those with low vision. A change in vision doesn’t mean your activities change – instead, adaptations can be made to help you achieve success in doing the things you love.
Other tips were shared including creating and maintaining an organization system that works for the individual; promoting adequate lighting in your environment; and decorating suggestions to help make your home low-vision friendly.