Winning Solutions for Failing Sight
Serving Our Community Since 1979

Selected Articles from Past Newsletters

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Managing Stress

Winter 2005

Everyone has stress and learning to manage your stress can help you deal with your vision problems and stay healthy.  Anne Williams, PhD, RN, CDE, defined stress in the fall edition of Voice of the Diabetic as a reaction to a change or a strain.  "The change or strain can be primarily physical, such as having an illness or injury, Or it also can be primarily emotional, such as being worried, upset, anxious or depressed," she said.  "It's how you react to stress," she reports, "that makes a big difference in how the stress affects your health." "Recognizing your stress, and realizing you have choices about how you respond to it are necessary for beginning to learn to handle stress," Williams added.  She suggested a simple technique to use to become more aware of one's stress.  That is to put your stressed feelings into words.  "Doing that," she said, "can help you begin to be aware how you react and how you might have more choices than you previously realized."  Contact LVC for a complete copy of Dr. Williams article.

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Winter 2005

Over protection in older adults with vision impairment was the focus of a recent Lighthouse International study in the Arlene R. Gordon Research Institute.  The study showed that family and friends might be over protective in order to prevent falls and injuries.  Over protection also may happen when support providers feel it's easier and faster to take over certain tasks rather than watch relatives struggle to accomplish them on their own.  Some comments made by study participants supported that claim.  They said, "Family members and friends would rather do it themselves than wait."  "People aren't that patient towards someone with low vision."  "Family members may simply not realize the potentially negative impact of their actions."  The study also found that those who feel overprotected are more likely to report symptoms of depression.  The overprotection makes people feel helpless, which in turn, may lead to depression.  Other research has found that overprotective care can hinder successful rehabilitation outcomes.  The more help people reported receiving, the more likely they felt that the help was overprotective.  It appears that receiving a lot of support with daily living tasks sets the stage for feelings of overprotection.  The study concluded that the more overprotected the participants" felt, the less likely they were to adapt psychologically to their vision loss.

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Summer 2005

Lighthouse International had an excellent article in its Fall 2003 newsletter that dealt with the importance of accepting vision loss for both psychological and functional well-being. Their research found that visually impaired people who accept their condition are less likely to be depressed and more likely to use vision rehabilitation services to help them maintain their lifestyles and daily activities.

Acceptance can range from willingly receiving something to enduring something without protest or reaction. Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle says in his book The Power of Now that we have only three options when we find our situations intolerable: remove oneself from the situation, change it or accept it. One person stated in the Lighthouse article "accepting vision loss is turning loose of the past - releasing yourself from what was, turning to what is and learning to do things differently."

The article listed attitude, maintainingactivities, peer and family support andfaith as factors that help one cope with vision loss.

However, the Lighthouse article pointed out that accepting vision loss is an ongoing process, not a "done deal". It takes a lot of patience and a sense of humor can be very helpful.

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What "EyePower" Means to Me

by Mary Hoyt, Board member
Low Vision Center

Spring 2005

When I was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration, I thought it would be the end of my active, independent, live-alone life. My impaired vision, I was told, could not be reversed. It was devastating. Where would I find a caring person who understood what was happening to me, someone with the time, patience and expertise to teach me to cope with vision loss.

Luckily, I found all that - and an emotion I have come to call "eyepower" - at the Low Vision Center in Bethesda.

The Center has been helping people with Macular Degeneration, Glaucoma, Cataracts and other eye diseases for more than 25 years. Setting up my free appointment with a Center staffer in the non-profit's office was easy. In a one-on-one meeting, my personal concerns were thoroughly addressed. Questions about low vision technologies and research, local resources, were discussed. Electronic aids and simple gadgets for daily living were there for me to test.

I came away thinking, well, perhaps I'll be able to manage pretty well after all.

It took several months for me to realize that I was developing full-blown eyepower.

Having eyepower does not mean that I see better now, only that I feel like I do. It has taken a little time, but the old me is coming back. Armed with confidence, optimism from the Center's guidance, bolstered with a few of those Center "bells and whistles" for impaired vision, I'm beginning to view the future more calmly and clearly.

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Winning Attitude

Spring 2005

It's normal to react with despair when first confronted with the fact that you are suffering from vision loss. Everyone goes through that initial phase. However, we have found with many of our Low Vision Center clients that there is hope.

You might have to accept a modified lifestyle. But with a positive mental attitude and access to some of our low vision aids, you can return to doing many of the everyday activities you enjoyed in the past.

The Center has several Board members with low vision who have overcome the initial despair to become community activists. We have clients who report to us on a regular basis, the many activities in which they are involved. You can sense the energy and hear the enthusiasm in their voices. The point is, you can overcome the vision loss. You can continue to do many of your daily activities. It's up to you. In order to help you reach a positive mental attitude, we will run in each issue an example of someone who has overcome the despair of low vision, maximized his or her remaining vision and moved on to a productive life.

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Friends and Relatives

Summer 2003

Many of you reading this newsletter do not have low vision but instead love someone who does. You want to be supportive but sometimes feel uncomfortable and unsure about the amount and type of help to offer a person with a visual impairment.

A client with macular degeneration supplied these tips for assisting a relative or friend who has low vision:

  • Allow me to do as much as I can, even if it takes longer to accomplish a given task. I’ll let you know if help is required but let me take the lead in determining the amount of assistance needed. I’d rather take more time and remain independent than have you do everything for me.

  • Provide specific directions. Rather than “the book is over there,” say “the book is on the far right side of the coffee table.”

  • Push chairs under tables and keep cabinet and closet doors closed.

  • Don’t assume a specific task is impossible because I have a vision impairment. Most activities can be pursued using appropriate low vision aids and adaptive strategies.

  • Understand that it makes complete sense that someone with low vision can have trouble recognizing even familiar faces yet still notice a speck of dirt on the kitchen floor.

  • Do not take my arm to guide me around; instead allow me to hold your arm just above the elbow. Alert me to obstacles such as stairs, doors, curbs, or thresholds. And don’t forget to let me set the pace.

  • One of the sweetest sentences you can say to me is, “I have some extra time this week. What can I help you with?”

  • Put items back where you find them. I often locate objects like canned goods by remembering their exact location; i.e. chicken noodle soup is on the right; clam chowder is on the left.

  • Laugh with me. A sense of humor makes everything easier, and I haven’t lost mine, even if I have lost some of my vision.

  • Communicate often and openly. (Obvious but often overlooked.)

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The Lighter Side of Low Vision

Winter 2002

All too often we focus on the difficulties and challenges presented by low vision. Not today, for in this issue of Vistas, we share with you a few humorous vignettes, none of which would have been possible without the story teller’s vision loss. We hope these four tales will add some extra sparkle to your already happy holidays. And from all of us at LVIC, best wishes for a wonderful 2003.

From Elly Waters, macular degeneration:

When I ordered season tickets to the Studio Theater, I explained that I am visually impaired and would appreciate seats as close to the stage as possible. Lo and behold we were given four seats, front row center. I was delighted but still pulled out my binoculars which help me see facial expressions. Very shortly I found out that the play's title, Privates on Parade, had a double meaning. It included not only military life but also male nudity. Not wanting to be known as a dirty old woman, I put the binoculars back in my purse.

Sooz Stein, macular degeneration

I was having lunch with some friends at a very formal restaurant. With my fork I speared what I thought was a potato. Unfortunately, it was actually a very sour lemon wedge. As my lips puckered, I tried to unobtrusively take the lemon out of my mouth, but of course, everyone noticed. The delightful part of having such good friends is that they laughed with me, not at me.

Anonymous, diabetic retinopathy

As everyone knows, faces are particularly hard to discern, so at a recent wedding, I stood in the receiving line shaking hands and accepting congratulations from many people, none of whom I could truly recognize. I was thanking one young man for attending the wedding when he said, laughing, “Wouldn’t have missed it, Dad!”

Stan Cohen, eye muscle weakness and macula problems

I am not aware of many advantages that are available for those who cope with low vision, except perhaps a handicapped parking sticker. But on a recent Elderhostel excursion from Prague up the Elbe River to Berlin, my perils on river boat gangplanks, inside dark Cathedrals, and on cobblestone streets proved to be an ice breaker which caused arms to reach out in concern for my welfare. Most often they were women instinctively substituting for my wife who was otherwise diverted at that moment, but some were men. Things like this never happened during the decades when my eyes performed as nature intended. Walls between strangers tumbled down, and it was the shortcut to many pleasant conversations and friendships with fellow travelers which substantially enhanced a memorable vacation adventure.

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Reading Through Listening

Summer 2002

Is reading The Washington Post too difficult, even with your good lighting, magnifier or CCTV? Then listen to The Post -- and other newspapers -- instead!

The Washington Ear and Newsline both read aloud via the telephone The Washington Post and other national newspapers cover to cover every day. The Washington Ear offers a radio option, too. Both are free services. Because Newsline is a computerized voice and The Washington Ear uses human readers, you should try both to see which you prefer. The Washington Post's free Post Haste service also offers news over the telephone.

For more info:
Washington Ear 301-681-6636
Newsline 301-946-0653
Post Haste 202-334-9000

[Editor's note" The Post Haste service was discontinued in May 2005.]

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That's Entertainment

Spring 2002

Do you enjoy movies but wish it were easier to follow the plot or understand the visuals? Luckily, there is video description that can help people who have low vision enjoy their favorite movies both in the theatre and at home.

Video description is a wonderful, free service that consists of narrated descriptions of visual elements -- actions, costumes, gestures, etc. -- woven into a film's audio track.

On your home TV, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable station features a described classic movie every Saturday night at 6:00 pm, and every subsequent broadcast also contains the video description. Major networks, including PBS, Nickelodeon, CBS, and Lifetime, are also starting to feature video description on some of their most popular programs.

You can also rent described videos at many local video rental stores or buy them though DVS Home Video (www.wgbh.org/dvs or
888-818-1999 for a catalog of available titles.)
It's incredibly easy to access video description on your TV. All you need is a stereo TV or a VCR with S.A.P (Second Audio Program). S.A.P is a standard feature on nearly all televisions and video players. Simply activate the S.A.P. feature on your TV or VCR (follow the manual or call the manufacturer if you need help) and you will hear the video description.

Away from home, the General Cinema Owings Mill in Maryland (443-394-0060) and the General Cinema Springfield Mall in Virginia (703-971-4203) show video described movies. The Smithsonian Natural History Museum IMAX Theater also features video description.

With all these wonderful options, people with low vision can still enjoy both old favorites and the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

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Enjoy Your Life!

Spring 2002

Are you allowing your low vision to get in the way of experiencing the important, small joys of life, like preparing a favorite meal, visiting with friends or sending cards to grandchildren? Do you permit your visual impairment to determine what fun you will have? If you are, even a little bit, we've got one word of advice -- DON'T!

Utilizing low vision aids and coping strategies, you can usually do whatever you wish; you just may need to employ alternate means to reach your objective. For example, take Metro Access to meet some friends for lunch or use a bright orange ball to play golf (18 hole or miniature). Record a letter on cassette or use a writing guide to stay in touch with faraway grandchildren. Learn to use contrast and other tricks to cook.

Borrowing a cliché from Nike, just do it!

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Moving Toward a More User-Friendly World for People with Low Vision

Winter 2001

On November 14th, the Low Vision Center hosted a fascinating discussion about coping with low vision in the real world, the world in which people must bank, shop, dine in restaurants, and navigate our busy streets and sidewalks.

Before we summarize the event, we'd like to thank our outstanding panelists who not only offered important information on how their businesses and organizations provide extra services to people with low vision but also listened attentively to the many suggestions provided by the enthusiastic audience.

  • Odonna Matthews, Giant Food
  • Gerry Hemming, Giant Food
  • Beth Ziebarth, Smithsonian Institution
  • Claude Andersen, Clyde's Restaurant Group
  • Denise Pope, Chevy Chase Bank
  • Bruce Mangum, Mont. Dept. Public Works
  • Stan Smith, Bradley Drug/Strossniders
All the panelists emphasized their desire to meet the needs of their visually impaired customers, but as many audience members noted, people who have low vision must also do their part by making their needs known and then by using those special services, such as large print menus or talking ATM's.

Everyone learned from the dynamic interactive discussion between the panel and the audience, and the panel left with a great deal of knowledge about how large, readable fonts, talking devices, attentive customer service, and high contrast signs can make it easier for their visually impaired customers to handle everyday activities.

Chevy Chase Bank announced that they will soon be operating talking ATM's in select locations across the metro area, and Giant Food noted that they are working to make shelf labels, aisle signs, and ads as easy to read as possible. The Smithsonian reminded everyone that through tactile tours and large-print or recorded material that its museums can be enjoyed by everyone.

Strossniders and Clyde's discussed how they are able to assist visually impaired customers due to their well-trained staffs who are happy to read a menu or find a particular item. The Montgomery County Department of Public Works announced a new type of pedestrian walk signal in Silver Spring that makes it easier to cross difficult intersections.

To the many people who shared their ideas and to our wonderful panelists, thank you, and let's hope that this was just the start of many discussions between people with low vision and our community's stores, restaurants, and institutions.

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Making It Work, Working It Out

Winter 2000

It's not often that we feature someone with low vision in our newsletter. Actually, we never have. Whether it offers you inspiration or simply entertains you for a moment, Bea's story is one worth reading.

Bea Dubroff, 75 years old, learned she had wet macular degeneration about 30 years ago. Determined to continue working, she searched for grants to purchase low vision aids and persuaded her employer to buy her a CCTV. She also was the first person to get a computer at her office and used cassette tapes to learn how to use it. Bea finally retired two years ago, which has been fortunate for the hundreds of LVIC clients to whom she makes follow-up calls through her volunteer job.

"Finding tools and community resources is the most important thing," Bea advises. A monocular allows her to enjoy exhibits at the art museum and plays from her front row seat at Arena Stage. A variety of magnifiers, from 4x to 9x, help her read bills and medicine bottles.

When she's not taking Tai Chi classes, she uses a computer to write letters and Talking Books to continue her love of literature. She sits close to her TV, preferring a small screen to a large one, to watch the few programs she feels are worth watching. Bea also makes use of Newsline, free 411 service, Metro Access, and other local transportation services. Bea's kitchen, tape recorders, computer, and other appliances are covered with bump dots she can see and feel.

Bea laughs when people call her a role model. "I just live my life. I cook, I shop. I get to doctor's appointments and go to the movies with friends. You have to accept your vision loss and move on. I've got macular degeneration and a cataract in my right eye, my left eye has no vision from some treatment for a tumor on my retina, and I live alone. We're lucky that in the Washington area there are so many community resources. And there are so many low vision aids that make an enormous difference. It takes initiative, but the results are worth the effort. My cup is definitely half-full."

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Attitude is Everything

Spring 2000

By Amy Gabala, Executive Director

I've been Executive Director of the Low Vision Center for just about two exhilarating years. One of the most important lessons I've absorbed from this always-interesting job is how absolutely essential a positive attitude is to managing one's visual impairment.

I've seen some clients (fortunately not too many) who have minimal vision loss yet are convinced they can't cook or enjoy books. Instead, they resign themselves to living in a cold, dark world, rarely leaving their homes. On the other hand, I've had many clients who have severe vision loss yet continue to lunch with friends, manage their finances, and go to the movies. The only difference is attitude

There are many proven tricks for battling one's low vision and hundreds of adaptive aids to assist in that fight, but they only work if you have a 'can-do' attitude. The right attitude will help you succeed, whereas a negative attitude can only discourage you.

Most of our clients, if not all, have felt great loss and sadness from having low vision. Family and friends, low vision support groups, or therapists can help you deal with the anger, denial, frustration and depression that all too often accompanies a visual impairment.

Whether you're 55 or 85, whether your vision loss is moderate or severe, your life can be fulfilling and happy. Knowledge of adaptive aids along with a healthy dose of determination can prevent low vision from stealing the joy that rightfully belongs to you.

Arm yourself with a positive attitude and information. Give yourself the time to learn new ways of doing things. And please let us know if we can help.

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Envision Technology Partners with LVIC to Provide Clients with High-Tech Help

Spring 2000

Curious about dot coms and ecommerce? Want to learn how to e-mail your grandchildren? Need to know the tricks to making computers low vision friendly? Envision Technology is your answer.

Located in Bethesda, Maryland, Envision Technology can help you do all the above and more through their computer training for visually impaired people. Their personable, patient and proficient staff will help you use special low vision software programs such as Zoom Text or Jaws, as well as help you learn basic computer skills such as the fundamentals of Windows, word processing and e-mail.

Envision Technology can also help you choose computer and other high-tech products that will help you maximize your remaining vision. Their products, which include stand-alone and computer based reading machines, CCTV's and computer software designed for people with special needs, may just be the thing to help you read, write and enter the exciting world of the Internet.

To discover if their services are right for you, call Envision Technology at 301-654-3568. (Don't forget to mention that you learned about their services through the Low Vision Center.)

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Low Vision Accommodations at Area Theatres

Fall 1999

Many theater performances are accessible to members of the low vision community. So enjoy a show this year - with so many theaters, you're sure to find one that deserves your personal standing ovation.

  • Arena Stage: 202-554-9066, ext. 234

    Large print program at all performances. Audio described performances on select Thursday evenings and Saturday matinees.

  • Ford's Theatre: 202-638-2941

    Large print program available with advance notice. Audio described performances on select Sunday matinees and Tuesday evenings.

  • Kennedy Center: 202-416-8727
    Large print program available at all performances. Audio described performances at select matinee and evening performances of all theatrical presentations.

  • Olney Theatre: 301-924-4485, ext. 105

    Audio described performances on the third Thursday of each five week performance.

  • Shakespeare Theatre: 202-547-3230, ext. 2520

    Large print program at all performances. Audio described performances on select Thursday evenings and Saturday matinees during each production.

  • Metropolitan Washington Ear: 301-681-6636)

    Provides transportation to people with low vision to attend audio described shows.

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