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“It was kind of like being pushed out of the nest”
Patti found a way to fly after her vision loss

It all started when Patti Ligman, a young mother, lost the central and peripheral vision in her right eye.  At first, doctors couldn’t identify the cause, but later she was diagnosed with Ocular Histoplasmosis.  The disease is caused by a fungus that can grow in bird feces.  Patti had lived on a chicken farm, and she unwittingly breathed in the dangerous spores. “I became a one-eyed driver and for almost 30 years, I was fine.  Then when I turned 50, I noticed something in my left eye.”  A retinal specialist confirmed that the disease was back, this time in her other eye.  It had been dormant all those years.Patti and Lily

“My initial reaction was fear.  I had seen other people become isolated after they lost significant vision, and I didn’t want it to be that way for me.”  Sitting on the porch and feeling sorry for herself, Patti almost didn’t pick up the phone when it rang.  On the other end was a voice that would change her life.  Susan Dachelet from the Office for the Blind & Visually Impaired said to Patti, “I’m here to help you.”  Turns out, Patti’s optometrist “saw that there was a person beyond my eye disease” and he told Susan about her situation.

Patti is grateful to Susan for many things, including the assistive products that “opened up a new world for me.”  Thanks to Susan’s gentle nudging, Patti finally agreed to check out the Lions Summer Camp.  Now a regular attendee, Patti reflects, “It’s a week of utter joy!  The people at this camp understand me, and you hear about all the things that you CAN do, not the things you can’t.”  An avid crafter, Patti makes and donates beaded jewelry to the Lions Summer Camp as a way of giving back for all that she has received from this experience.  The camp keeps 100% of the profits from sales of her jewelry.

Over the years, Patti has found lots of items in the Council’s Sharper Vision Store that help her manage daily activities and interests.  She especially likes the 20/20 pens, talking clocks and watches, calculator and pedometer.  “I’ve visited the store and I tell others about the helpful products.  Right now, I’m mentoring a young girl who has Retinitis Pigmentosa.  I made sure she knows about the Council and the store.”

In 2007, Patti received a guide dog.  “Lily is a wonderful companion.  Thanks to her guidance, I can walk upright again.”

Patti exudes a deep attitude of gratitude.  “You have to help others when you have received help yourself.”  She recalls receiving a call from a quilting instructor.  One of her students was diagnosed with macular degeneration and the student thought her life was over.  The teacher asked Patti if she would talk to this person and tell her about available resources.  “Of course, I said I would.  I brought my trusty suitcase that’s filled with products like 20/20 pens, large print items, and magnifiers.  I’m happy to say that this woman is still quilting!”

Patti’s area Lions Club asked her to speak to their group.  From there, she added annual presentations to second graders at the local school.  “I tell them, ‘I’m differently abled.’  They see how I do things, and a light of understanding and awareness seems to go on in their heads.”

A cause that’s near and dear to Patti’s heart is transportation for people who can’t drive because of their age, health or disability.  “Isolation can be desolating,” she remarked.  She served on a Long Term Support Board in Sturgeon Bay where she lives, and she helped raise awareness of the need for better transportation resources.  At the time, only a taxi system was available in the area.  Today, the “Door to Door” program has expanded beyond Sturgeon Bay to include the majority of Door County, and rides are available in the evenings and on weekends.  “This service has totally changed the lives of people who can’t drive,” she noted.

Looking back on her own journey, Patti reflected, “Losing vision as you age is a blow that’s hard to recover from—especially when you experience the loss of your independence.  In my own case, I had to be pushed at first—kind of like a bird being thrown out of the nest.  I decided to learn about vision resources, get involved in new activities, connect with different people, and help others.  You can make your life what you want it to be.”

We think Patti has made her life a full and fulfilling one!


As National White Cane Safety Day approaches, I think back about 13 years.

I was handed my first cane in downtown Madison, Wisconsin.  Met some folks on the corner of Lake and State Street--a busy shopping and entertainment area in the heart of UW- Madison. I thought it was strange that we would walk up this very busy street, with myself getting acclimated to using a cane for the first time. Challenging? Yes. Difficult? A little bit. Scary? Have to say yes.

After this initial introduction to the white cane, I knew I needed some serious instruction in order to “travel” alone. This I received soon after from Marshall Flax, an orientation and mobility instructor, at the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired.  Marshall asked me where I wanted to walk to in my hometown of Baraboo. “How about my favorite barber shop?” I asked. A nice little 10 block walk later, I entered Sam’s Barber Shop, proud as a peacock--with Marshall at my side, of course.

Today, it’s a different story. Absolutely nothing gives me more satisfaction, self-esteem, and pride than to leave my home and walk the 10 blocks downtown by myself. The white cane has made me a totally independent person. Once I let go of my inhibitions, my confidence soared. It’s all about being trained properly and trusting the cane in your hand.  It’s a very nice feeling when you leave your home--not to have to rely on anyone but yourself.

So, get off that couch and enjoy the day with your white cane!

--Gary Doering
 Baraboo, WI

“Now, I see with my hands”

 Matt Brandt of Darlington, Wisconsin, was 40 years old when his vision really started to diminish.  He was diagnosed with Diabetic Retinopathy—a result of having Diabetes.  “I did well for a few years.  I could still drive and walk around places, but I got to a point where my vision diminished so much that I could no longer drive, and I couldn’t read road signs clearly.”

Matt eventually lost all his vision but not his desire to remain active and travel safely.  “So many car engines are quiet these days.  I wanted drivers to recognize that I’m legally blind, so I decided to request a cane from the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired.  Now, I would feel lost without it.”

In order to make the most of his white cane usage, Matt completed orientation and mobility training.  The training, he said, “was priceless.  It was great for falls prevention, negotiating street crossing, and becoming much more aware of my surroundings.”

Reflecting on other benefits of using a white cane, Matt remarked, “My cane has become an extension of my hand.  Now, I see with my hands.”  He believes that his white cane has “opened doors to conversation I would never had had, and given me the opportunity to teach others that just because I’m blind, it doesn’t mean I can’t do the things I want.  I just may do things differently or at a slower pace.”

“For me,” Matt says, “a white cane has attracted people in a positive way, kept me safe and independent, and helped me get respect.”

Marjean moves confidently with her white cane

In an ironic turn of events, Marjean Kuschel ended up needing to use the very orientation and mobility (O&M) skills she was studying as part of the curriculum for being an O&M instructor.  Now, these strategies help her travel with confidence and in safety to places like New York City, Chicago, Oregon, Florida, Hawaii (a place on her Bucket List) and Alaska. 

Marjean decided to change majors, but not because of her vision loss.  As a white cane user, she drew from what she learned at school in De Kalb, Illinois and from classes she later attended at North Central Technical College in Wisconsin. 

While living in Chicago, Marjean used her white cane to travel on buses, trains and the L.  Using her cane, she identified landmarks that served as “cues” for getting to her desired destination.  “Orientation and mobility,” Marjean remarked, “has two parts.  One part is orientation to your surroundings, using your sense of hearing, touch and smell.  The other part is asking yourself how you will use your white cane to get from one point to the other.”  When she moved to Madison, Marjean relied on orientation and mobility training to acquaint herself with her new environment.  “It’s an ongoing resource that helps me adapt and adjust to change,” she reflected.

Not only does a white cane orient Marjean to her surroundings, but it also orients her to people.  She finds that when traveling, her cane helps launch conversations with others who are curious about her vision loss and how she is able to travel alone.  “People comment on my confidence, and they tell me it inspires them.  I hope it also educates them to the many things a person with vision loss is still able to do and to the importance of a white cane.”

Marjean regrets that many individuals with partial vision opt to not use a white cane.  “This tool can give a person so much freedom and safety.”  Since she knows about the many doors her cane has opened, she wishes more individuals with vision loss would use one “…so they can enjoy more of life.”

“Your kindness has been like a beacon of hope and help: Marion’s story

Marion Hintz and her husband live in Milwaukee.  Both have had their share of health concerns.  After receiving a white cane from us, she wrote this letter of thanks:

My heartfelt thanks for my new support cane.  Recently, I experienced a stroke in my left eye.  Shortly after that, I had an implant to relieve pressure in what was my former “good” eye.  I now have no vision in that eye, and my right eye has severe macular degeneration. 

In the midst of that, my husband required heart surgery.  During one of our doctor visits, a friend and I struck up a conversation with a gentleman who had one of your canes.  Since I also use a cane for spinal stenosis, he suggested that we contact you.  Lo and behold, a week later, a white cane appeared in the mail!  I have been using it—it’s so wonderful and nice and sturdy.  What a great way to warn people that I “am coming.” 

I’m still adjusting to all of these health issues, and your kindness has been like a beacon of hope and help. 

I truly appreciate what your organization and all involved are doing.

“People need to be educated about folks with white canes” 

Glaucoma, “the sneak thief of sight” took the vision in Tom Peralta’s right eye about seven years ago.  “I went to bed one night with vision in that eye and the next morning, it was gone.”  More recently, he lost most of the vision in his left eye.  After many doctor visits and tests, medical professionals don’t know exactly what caused this, but they suggested that it might be due to a series of strokes Tom suffered. 

“My depth perception was not good, so I knew it was time for a white cane.”  Tom received a white cane and orientation and mobility training from the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired.  He later spent three months at the Hines Blind Rehabilitation Center in Illinois to build on what he first learned.  Equipped with a white cane and mobility instruction, Tom can better negotiate the streets of Richland Center, where he lives.  “This is an old town, and some sidewalks are breaking up or buckling.  Having a white cane has prevented a lot of injuries, and it orients me to my surroundings.  I have a better idea of what’s coming up.”

Like other white cane users, Tom is concerned that drivers are often inattentive to him. “Bus drivers and truckers stop and allow me to cross a street, but not most other drivers.  People need to be educated about the White Cane Law.” 

As White Cane Safety Day, October 15, approaches, Tom plans to share information with officials in Richland Center.  This includes Governor Walker’s White Cane Safety Day 2013 proclamation and a letter that Loretta Himmelsbach, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, sent to mayors of major cities in Wisconsin, encouraging them to promote this observance in their community.

Please consider doing something in your community to help raise awareness of pedestrian safety and this legislation.


Council scholarship supports Kelsi's dreams

Kelsi Watters of Cameron, Wisconsin was delighted when she received a Council scholarship in 2012.  She knew this financial support would help her pursue her goal to become a religious counselor.  Now, a second semester freshman at Saint Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota, Kelsi is on her way.  She’s taking five classes, working on campus and participating in several extracurricular activities.

“As I was growing up, attending college was always a given.  I liked school, and I knew I wanted to do professional work later.”  Her Mom and her vision and mobility specialist encouraged her throughout grade school and high school—where she graduated with a 3.93 GPA.

Choosing the right school with the right fit was an important process for Kelsi. As part of her research, she checked out three schools in the UW System, as well as Bethany Lutheran College, Bethel University, St. Olaf College and Saint Mary’s University.  “At first, I thought I’d study English at UW-Eau Claire, but the more schools I considered and the more I thought about who I am and what matters to me, the more attracted I became to Saint Mary’s in Winona.  A tour of the campus and conversations with some “wonderful, caring people” plus a Presidential Academic Scholarship all contributed to her final decision.  It’s one that seems ideal for her.

To prepare for college, Kelsi and her vision and mobility specialist had many long talks about the opportunities and responsibilities involved.  She learned a lot about Saint Mary’s from their website and attended an orientation session a few months before classes began.  She familiarized herself with certain places on campus like the chapel, dorm, dining room and her classrooms.  “It was important for me to negotiate the campus sidewalks because they are shaped more like the spokes of a wheel than like the more typical straight sidewalks.”

Kelsi is the first student without vision to attend Saint Mary’s in about 20 years. “I don’t consider myself ‘blind.’  I consider myself a person without vision.”   She feels that the term “blind” implies that one is not paying attention or being open to all the possibilities that exist in spite of one’s vision loss.  She finds the environment at Saint Mary’s to be warm, embracing and inclusive—something her vision and mobility specialist noticed the first time they were together on this campus.  “People there treat me like a normal person, and my white cane isn’t off-putting    to them.”

To help her with the academic dimension of college life, Kelsi receives classroom materials in a format that is accessible for her, and she meets regularly with the disability services coordinator.  Teachers and students e-mail WORD documents to her so she can convert them to her BrailleNote.

In addition to her class load and working at the university switchboard, Kelsi is involved in the Saint Theresa Leadership and Service Institute for Women. As a member of this organization, she’s initiating a campus-wide food drive for a local pantry. She sings in the Liturgical Choir, and she’s a member of the Living/Learning Community in her dorm.  Activities of this group center around the “four pillars” of spirituality, wellness, leadership and sustainability.

If all goes as planned, Kelsi may spend her spring break at a L’Arche community in Iowa, working with people who have disabilities.  At the end of the school year, she hopes to attend a 12-day mission trip to Guatemala.

For students without vision who are thinking about college or vocational school, Kelsi offers a few tips:

*Make sure it’s a place that fits your life and interests, and trust your instincts about the school.

*Make sure that the school you have in mind offers adequate services for your vision condition.

*Spend time on the physical campus so you feel confident getting around safely and independently.

*Seems to us that Kelsi has learned a lot already, and we predict that she has a bright future ahead!

Applications are now being accepted for 2013 scholarships.  The kit is available at:  Application deadline is April 8, 2013.  Recipients will be notified by May 15, and they will receive their scholarships at the Council’s July 20 event in Sparta.

Making beautiful music in spite of vision loss

Ros of Portage has always loved music.  It’s no surprise that she was a member of her high school’s marching band.  What was a surprise was when the band director asked why she kept moving in a different direction from the rest of the group when they were in formation.  Little did she know that several years later, she would be diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, commonly called “RP”.  She was already losing some of her peripheral vision while a teen.

Fast forward to age 24, the year Ros was married, and it was clear that she needed to address her growing vision challenges.  A trip to her eye care provider confirmed that she had RP.  “The thought of losing my independence was so daunting at first!  I knew that eventually I would have to give up driving, too.” 

Fortunately, Ros has a supportive husband and wonderful friends, and she was able to continue her job as pharmacy director at Divine Savior Hospital in Portage.  She and her husband moved closer to work so she would have a short commute.  Eight years later, to simplify her life and accommodate her vision loss, she found a pharmacy job at her local drugstore where she worked for 23 years.  “I realized that if I had had a different eye condition, I wouldn’t have been able to work for as long as I did.”  

When RP made it increasingly difficult to read, Ros decided that it was time to retire.  “When I was working, I tried to minimize certain aspects of my blindness.  Once I retired, I was determined to embrace my vision loss and learn how to live my best life.  It does no one any good to sit around, mope and feel sorry for oneself.” 

As a 25-year member of the community band in Portage, Ros has traveled to Europe for a five-country tour and performances.  Her personal travels have included China, Thailand, Egypt, Kenya, New Zealand, Nepal, and the Baltic Countries.  Music is a passion she didn’t want to give up, so she contacted our certified low vision specialist a few years ago to explore new ways to read music. 

She also learned about adaptive products in the Council’s Sharper Vision Store and purchased mobility canes, raised dots to identify things in her home, lined paper, pens, and a reversible cutting board.  Ros recently completed a series of orientation and mobility training sessions through the Council, and she is excited about the guide dog that she will receive in April through another organization.

Ros is amazed at how much technology has advanced for individuals with vision loss.  She loves her e-reader, and she attended both of the Council’s webinars last year.  “I loved the reference list the speaker provided during the program on best websites for people who are blind or visually impaired. I’ve shared it with lots of my friends…..Through this webinar, I also learned about classes through Hadley School for the Blind, and I’ve already completed a few of them.”

The low vision support group in Ros’s town meets monthly, and it has provided an additional source of help and sharing.  “I love talking with others who live with low vision and learning about new products that can make everyday activities easier.  Reaching out has been an important part of my response to RP.”

Ros wishes more health care professionals would tell their patients about the numerous resources available to individuals with vision loss. We do, too!

A Life of Giving

Vicky has been volunteering since she was a teenager in Atlanta, Georgia.

She began by teaching vacation Bible school as part of her church’s mission to the cotton mill slums of Atlanta.  Over time, she donated her stamping skills and created greeting cards that were sent to church members who were ill.  Later, as a volunteer for the Literacy Network, Vicky taught a 70-year-old woman how to read.

When she drove to downtown Madison for events and appointments, Vicky would often take Williamson Street, where she noted the Council’s name on the building.  She was searching for a one-on-one volunteer experience, so she contacted us about opportunities.  Happily, we were able to help because we had just received a request for a volunteer reader.  That was more than three years ago.  Now, Vicky looks back with satisfaction on the special friendship that has developed over time between her and Nancy. 

Both women are interested in politics, so they choose a book to read and dig in.  Vicky reads to Nancy every two weeks.  Most of the time, it’s in Nancy’s home, but Vicky has read to Nancy when she was in the hospital and at a nursing home.  While Nancy benefits from Vicky’s reading, Vicky has derived great pleasure from their connection. “We are so mutual in our interests and concerns about social justice.  I’m continually inspired by Nancy’s courage and zest for life.  Just like the saying ‘Carpe diem,’ Nancy seizes the day, and she doesn’t allow her impairments to impede her pursuit of a full life.”

Vicky admires Nancy’s curiosity and passion for learning new things. If they come across an unfamiliar word, Nancy offers to look it up on the Internet.  “Nancy’s resourcefulness just adds a lot of fullness to the volunteer experience,” Vicky reflected. 

Based on her volunteer experience with Nancy, Vicky offers a little advice for those who might consider volunteering for the Council: “If you are interested in a one-on-one experience, go with an open attitude and drop any stereotypes that might limit what you can learn from the other person.”

If you would like to learn more about volunteer opportunities at the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, please contact Heather  at 255-1166 or send an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Grappling with glaucoma:

Calvin found hope and healing in spite of his vision loss 

What first seemed like early morning, “I’m not quite awake” vision blurriness turned out to be glaucoma for Calvin.  He reached up to scratch his right eye and realized that he had no vision in his left.  “I thought it was a fluke, and that it would go away,” he reflected.  But, it didn’t.  A trip to the emergency room resulted in the diagnosis of glaucoma in both eyes.  Calvin’s slightly-stronger right eye had merely compensated for his left for a while.

Calvin underwent surgery on each eye over the course of a few weeks, and he was given drops to treat his condition.    “I felt numb with the realization that I might lose my vision completely.”  Over the next 10 years, Calvin had 12 more operations on his eyes.  After these, he received six experimental laser treatments and hoped they would at least halt his growing vision loss.  Unfortunately, scar tissue had developed, and his eye pressure had increased.  “It was such a letdown because my hope had been building for a cure.” 

When Calvin’s doctor suggested yet another surgery, he said “No.  That’s it.”  Those few words-- signaling acceptance of his permanent vision loss-- began the emotional healing process for Calvin.  “For me, acceptance was liberating.”  It was a long, slow journey, though, and he experienced severe depression the first six months. “At first,” he reflected, “I thought I would have to give up everything I have done or love to do.”  Then, he learned about services available through the Hines Vision Rehabilitation Center for Veterans in Chicago.  He took classes, received emotional support, and “felt more confident than ever before.” 

Calvin received a guide dog, and then he registered for computer science classes at Madison Area Technical College to re-tool himself professionally.  While interning as a programmer analyst at Johnson Controls, he took classes through the Business Enterprise Program which trains people with disabilities to own a business.  Calvin went on to manage coffee shops in Waukesha and Madison.  He later worked at the Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired in its docuScan program, and he currently serves as executive director of Dryhootch Madison, a resource for returning veterans and their families.

After some modest and minimal changes around his home and on his computer, Calvin resumed some of the activities he has always enjoyed--like reading, connecting through computer technology and cooking.  He praises his Mother who taught him at age seven how to iron and got him involved in food preparation.  “I tell people that my Mom taught me how to do these things so well that I can do them now with my eyes closed!”  He admits that returning to some of these activities is easier because he first learned how to do them when he was sighted.

Calvin also found many helpful items in the Council’s Sharper Vision Store, including braille paper and calendars, talking watches, a talking thermostat, a spice carousel, and gifts for others.  To increase his confidence and safety in new environments, he received orientation and mobility training from Council staff and through its partnership with the Office for the Blind & Visually Impaired.

Glaucoma may have taken away Calvin’s sight, but it gave him a new perspective on life.  “Like so many people who are sighted, I used to judge others by what they looked like on the outside. Now, I really listen to people, and I learn to value them based on what comes from within.”

Acceptance seems to have also brought a greater sense of humor and wisdom into Calvin’s life.  When a friend who was diagnosed with glaucoma complained about the “annoying” eye drops he had to use, Calvin offered to lend him one of his white canes.  “That made him quiet really fast!” chuckled Calvin.

Calvin also attributes much of his emotional healing to his faith from which he draws “tremendous strength.”  At church, he shares his personal story so that others can find hope.

Thirty-five years ago, when Calvin was first diagnosed with glaucoma, there weren’t the medical advances, treatments and educational resources that are available today.  Now, a painless, safe and easy test can detect this “sneak thief of sight” during an annual dilated eye examination.  The Council encourages you to protect your precious vision and schedule an appointment today!

Dora demonstrates that you’re never too old to learn!

At first glance, you would never know that Dora is 101 years old.  Her smile is bright; her gestures are full of energy and enthusiasm; and her eyes light up when you engage her in conversation—especially when the topic is her trusty iPad. 

A gift from family members Maryann and Tom, the iPad has made it possible for Dora to continue to enjoy some pastimes that are precious to her-- reading the Bible daily and staying connected with the world through the Wisconsin State Journal which she used to receive in print format until it became too difficult to read.

It all began when Maryann took a class to learn about the applications on her iPad.  She was delighted to learn that she could change and enlarge font and print sizes, and she quickly saw its merit for Dora’s reading needs.  Dora happily inherited Maryann’s iPad, and with assistance from the Council’s vision rehabilitation teacher Jean Kalscheur (one of Maryann’s former Occupational Therapy students by coincidence), she can now access the newspaper online.  Dora commented, “It makes me feel so happy to be able to read the paper this way.  In the past, I often read just the headlines because they were in larger print.  Now, I’m reading the news more in depth and enjoying the greater connection with what’s going on. I’m very grateful to Jean for her help.”

Dora learned about Jean through Marshall Flax, Director of Vision Services at the Council.  Marshall met with Dora for a low vision evaluation after her ophthalmologist told her “I’ve done all I can for you.”  Marshall not only taught her how to maximize her remaining vision (she has dry macular degeneration), but he also registered her for the talking books program that has provided her with countless hours of reading pleasure.  “Marshall,” Dora reflected, “has such empathy and patience.  He took the time to understand my particular vision situation, and then he tried every technique and tool possible to help me see the best I can with the vision I have.  I felt like he cared deeply for me as an individual.”

Like everyone else, Dora receives a lot of mail.  The challenge was that her mailbox was located quite a distance from her house, making it tricky at times to access its contents.  Jean helped Dora obtain a doctor’s permission needed to help authorize relocating her mailbox so it’s closer. 

Jean told Dora about the hundreds of products available through the Council’s Sharper Vision Store, and she’s planning a trip soon to shop for a lamp.  There’s no telling what else she might discover! 

Discovering the Council is what Dora hopes people with vision loss will do, “…so they can learn about all the help that’s available there.”

 Making Marcie’s life as independent as possible:

Family members find resources and referrals at the Council

 Marcie Kennedy is 94-years-old.  She has sustained several falls within the last year.  She has a bad knee; her hearing has diminished, and she has been living with macular degeneration for at least 20 years.  Despite these challenges, Marcie lived independently in senior apartments until very recently.  Daughter Ruth Kocvara and daughter-in-law Karen Kennedy attribute this amazing fact in large part to the products and referrals Marcie has received from the Council.

Ruth recalls learning about the Council from Gary Goyke, a member of the Council staff, while both were serving on a strategic planning committee for St. Vincent de Paul, where she has worked for the past 12 years.  Gary told Ruth about the macular degeneration symposium which she attended at least three or four times and that provided her and Marcie with “a goldmine of information.”   After attending one of these symposia, Ruth was able to educate Marcie’s vision doctor about Charles Bonnet Syndrome, a condition related to macular degeneration that is characterized by hallucinations, and from which Marcie suffered.

Karen goes down the list of items she and Ruth have purchased from the Council over the years for Marcie.  They include a white cane,  large-print bank account statement book, dark ink pens, a large TV remote, talking watches, wrap-around sunglasses, a preprogrammed telephone, and the sticky raised dots that were placed on Marcie’s thermostat, microwave and phone.  Ruth notes that Marcie uses four or five talking clocks, and she keeps them in strategic places like her walker basket and purse. 

One of Marcie’s most valued items is a CCTV or “reader” that helps her read medication labels and lunch menus and enjoy looking at photos of her great-grandchildren by magnifying them.  “Marcie’s reader,” Karen noted, “is a priceless gift, and it’s one of the most important resources we’ve gotten from the Council.”  Ruth and Karen are unanimous in their ranking of talking books as “the biggest godsend for Marcie, because she was always an avid reader, and she’s able to continue to enjoy this pastime.”  Marcie’s new space at the nursing home is small, so she had to be judicious about what she could put in it.  She insisted that her reader and talking books have a new home there. Karen and Ruth agree that Council products have “helped extend Marcie’s independence and quality of life by at least 10 years.”

What advice would Ruth and Karen offer to individuals who are coping with vision loss?  “First, be proactive.  Go to a doctor and find out if there are treatments and procedures you can get to improve your condition, slow its progress, or at least deal with it as best as possible. Learn as much as you can so you are empowered.  Second, take full advantage of the products and services available through organizations like the Council.  Attend vision presentations, including the macular degeneration symposium, and you will learn about the latest in research and treatments, plus you’ll see that you’re not alone. Third, have a home assessment done so you can live safely and confidently there.”  Both caregivers see these as key components of a comprehensive “package” for health management.