What’s on the Menu? Council’s Vision Services Offerings Continue to Grow

Rachel Pavone sitting across a table from a man using a braille labeler.

Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Rachel Pavone working with a client on use of a braille labeler.

Whether it’s during a home visit, at a job site, at our own office or in a virtual remote session, the Council’s Vision Services staff can help determine the impact of vision loss on an individual’s daily activities and work with them to develop strategies for living safely and independently.

All programs are led by qualified, certified professionals who collaborate with the client to determine an individualized action plan. Referrals may also come from eye care providers, social services and DVR counselors.

Our menu of available vision services has expanded over the past year! Here’s a summary of the types of services people with vision loss can access through the Council:

Orientation and Mobility (O&M) sessions are led by Brent Perzentka, who is both a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist and Certified O&M Specialist. O&M provides skills for getting around safely and independently. That could be anything from white cane skills to get to a baseball game across town, to navigating one’s own home, to moving safely from the basement laundry room to the second story bedroom. Learning to instruct people in cane skills was one of the centerpieces of Brent’s training. He provides an assessment to discover the client’s needs and goals for mobility, then provides training at their residence, in the community, or at their workplace. Brent notes that getting a person to trust the cane over their vision can be a tough sell. “There’s a building of confidence,” he says. Confidence in both the cane and in the instructor. “You take baby steps,” Brent says. “Building a rapport is important. They need to build trust to take your word and take that leap of faith.”

Access Technology Services at the Council are provided by Access Technology Specialist Jim Denham. The goal of access technology services is to help individuals with vision loss gain access to information as efficiently and easily as possible. Whether the client is trying to use a smart phone (such as an iPhone), tablet (such as an iPad) or a personal computer, an access technology specialist can help them use technology effectively at home, in school or at the office.

During the initial assessment, a client’s current abilities, needs and technology-related goals are discussed, and features of current hardware and software applications are demonstrated. Each one-on-one training session is customized to provide what the client needs to meet their individual training goals. Training can take place in the Council’s on-site access technology classroom, in the client’s home or via online remote instruction.

Low Vision Evaluations are provided by Certified Low Vision Therapist Amy Wurf. Amy works with clients to find ways to make the most of their remaining vision using color, contrast, lighting and magnification. Amy describes the evaluation as a “guided tour of magnification options.” It can be frustrating trying to find a strong magnifier at regular stores, and online shopping does not offer a chance to try the magnifier before buying it. The low vision evaluation, provided onsite at Council offices, includes a conversation about the specific things a client wants to see again or see better.

Changing lighting or using a different color background can often make a significant difference in seeing details for daily activities like taking medications, working on crafts, etc. Magnifiers come in many sizes and strengths, and a client should learn what works best for them before making a purchase. The low vision evaluation can help them find the right tool for the task, whether it is a magnifier or a non-optical aid, and understand how to use that tool most effectively.

Vision Rehabilitation Services are provided by both Brent Perzentka and Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Rachel Pavone. Vision rehabilitation services help people with vision loss regain independence and confidence as they learn adaptive skills to safely manage day-to-day tasks.

A preliminary conversation seeks to identify the areas of daily living the client would like to address. Assessment and training in the Council’s recently opened Vision Rehabilitation Classroom, staffed primarily by Rachel, are related to a wide range of daily living activities, such as medication management, smart speaker and TV remote operation, timekeeping, notetaking, labeling and more. Rachel also provides braille instruction. In-home training may also include organization around the home, meal preparation and safe cooking.

There are fees associated with vision services. Payment options can be discussed when scheduling an appointment with the vision services professional. A sliding fee scale is available. To learn more about the range of Vision Services offered by the Council, you can fill out the Vision Services Request Form or call us at 800-783-5213.

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