FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions about services for the blind


I am not legally blind, can I still benefit from your services for the blind and visually impaired?

YES! Although we are known for our services for the blind, a majority of our consumers have some usable vision and many of our services are available for those with vision between 20/70 and 20/200. If we think you might be legally blind (20/200) we will recommend you contact your doctor as you will be eligible for assistance through your state rehabilitation agency.

 

Does being declared legally blind mean that eventually I will become totally blind?

The definition of legal blindness is a bureaucratic definition, signaling that a person is sufficiently visually disabled to receive benefits. Very few people who are legally blind ever lose all vision. As a matter of fact, most people retain a surprising degree of partial sight. The Carroll Center offers a wide variety of services both in your home or at our facility to help you adjust to loss of vision.

Whether a legally blind person will become totally blind is a medical question and depends primarily on the medical diagnosis of the blindness. Always seek out the best medical treatment and advice. If severe vision loss results, seek out rehabilitation and counseling resources. We are happy to help guide you through the process or refer you to the right resource. Contact Dina at 1-800-852-3131 at the Carroll Center for more information or guidance.

 

What can a person do about losing vision?

First seek out the best medical treatment and advice. If severe vision loss results, seek out rehabilitation and counseling resources by contacting your local state services for the blind. You can find the telephone number by looking in the telephone directory for Services for the Blind. In Massachusetts the general number is 617-626-7492. Or contact Dina at 1-800-852-3131 at the Carroll Center for guidance.

 

Is there a difference between those persons born blind vs. those losing vision later in life?

Yes, there is a tremendous difference. Congenitally blind children must learn adaptive skills from the earliest age possible that will assist them educationally, socially and in daily living skills. Newly blinded adults need the same adaptive skills but the methods vary considerably since they are drawing from a lifetime of visual experiences. The person who becomes blind experiences blindness as a traumatic loss wherein an entire life style must be adjusted. In addition, loss of vision later in life is often accompanied by the loss of a career or job.

Persons born blind frequently have conceptual deficits because they do not have the reinforcements provided by sight for objects in the physical world. Parents should do their best to create as many opportunities as possible for their young children to touch, feel, and hear, helping the child build their experiences of the physical world. It is not harmful to a child to be taught all the daily activities that a parent would teach a sighted child. The blind child should make his bed, brush his own teeth, and learn to tie his shoes. The more experiences one can have the greater the possibility for the child to lead a normal life.
 

How do I apply to the Carroll Center?

We invite anyone who is struggling with vision loss, their family or friends the opportunity to visit our center by attending one of our monthly information days.

If you feel that you want to attend a program, you will first need to complete an application and submission of an eye report. Once received, we review the information and contact you to schedule your appointment. For our residential programs a health form is also required. Appointments for vision assessments and computer training schedule will be confirmed over the phone or through email. Services for the blind and visually impaired are available after applications are approved.
 

How should I guide a blind person or provide other help for the blind?

  • When offering help for the blind to get around, do not push or pull them in a direction, but rather extend your arm and ask the blind person to grip your elbow and to follow you.
  • Identify yourself when you enter a blind person’s room and tell them when you are leaving.
  • When you see a blind person waiting to cross the street, introduce yourself then ask if assistance is needed. If so, let the person hold your arm, do not grab their arm. The person will feel more secure holding you. Go all the way across the street up the next sidewalk. Inform the person where you are.
  • Speak directly to the person using a normal tone of voice. You do not need to avoid words like “I see”. Blind people use them too.
  • If you come to a set of stairs let the person know you are about to ascend or descend, roughly how many steps are coming, and if there is a landing.
  • When accompanying a blind person into an unfamiliar room, escort the person to a seat or place his hand on the back of a chair or a point of reference a wall, a table etc.
  • When changing money for a blind person, present each bill of a given denomination saying what it is. Coins can be separated by the blind person independently.

 

Can Vision-Impaired Persons Participate in sports or outdoor recreational activities?

Vision impaired persons can sail, cross-country ski, canoe, hike, and bicycle, to name just a few of the sports in which many blind and visually impaired people participate. The Carroll Center’s Outdoor Enrichment Program (OEP) provides each participant with a volunteer sighted guide, who may serve as an instructor to beginners, but will serve primarily as a guide for experienced participants. Activities may be geared toward beginners or toward more advanced levels, depending on the skill level of participants.

Once a person has lost their vision he or she should be encouraged to find an activity that interests them and actively participate in it. It is much more difficult for visually impaired and blind persons to exercise so having a routine program of sports activity will help that person to maintain good health. Often the staff at a recreational facility will be nervous to allow a blind person to swim, run around the track, or participate in other activities. If you have had training in the necessary adaptive techniques and this happens to you, call your local agency for the blind and ask them for assistance. It is often the case that staff at athletic facilities needs to be educated regarding the capabilities of blind persons and is generally not trying to exclude anyone but is genuinely fearful for the safety of the blind individual. In this case, it is a matter of education and you may direct them to the Carroll Center for information.

 

Can stronger glasses or magnifiers help someone with severe vision impairment?

Low Vision Therapy is a treatment that evaluates the loss of vision and how it affects daily activity. The therapist may recommend training with high-powered glasses and magnifiers that will assist in doing the identified task. Successful low vision treatment varies considerably for each person and requires a skilled clinician to provide the training.

Often a person can be helped with very simple devices by adding stronger lighting to their environment, improving contrast and making other simple adjustments. In the case of low vision training – it is important to be individually evaluated by an experienced therapist.

 

How can I help my elderly loved one who sits at home and cries all the time?

Depression is common among older people who see their energies diminishing and may think they are on the down side of their lives. They may have had great fulfillment from a job that they no longer hold. They may have enjoyed raising a family. Depression often accompanies loss of vision, which initially limits activities and increases dependence on others for tasks that used to be simple.

In addition to seeking professional help, there are many small things you can do to help your elderly parent, grandparent or spouse. You may help by keeping the person active and by including them in all your activities, despite their protests to the contrary. You may also purchase simple assistive devices to help them maintain their independence for example there are self-threading needles, double sided spatulas that allow you to hold the hamburger or other item steady when you flip it so you won’t splatter the grease on yourself or on the stove; there are handwriting guides and signature guides, magnifiers of various strengths, and reading lamps with magnifiers attached to the light. These are only a few examples, most of which are available for sale in the Carroll Store.

There are multiple types and systems of labeling food items, clothing, kitchen cupboards, insurance papers and other important documents so your loved ones will still be able to locate necessary items. There is an excellent large print address book, which is very handy for an aging elder alone in the house searching for a phone number. There are also large print dials that can be superimposed on your existing telephone, or large button phones. Among the other special devices you will find: eye drop guides, talking thermometers, medication organizers, talking watches and timers, Braille watches and timers, large face watches and timers, large print Bingo, Uno and playing cards. These useful items will help your loved one regain their independence and bring more enjoyment and satisfaction back to their life.

If your loved one has burned him or herself cooking we do not recommend going back to cooking without training but training is available for these daily living tasks in your home. You can usually receive assistance through your local state agency for the blind even if your loved one has some sight, as the limits of “legal blindness” are broad. In addition there are agencies with private funding from foundations that provide this service to low vision elders who are not legally blind.

One daily issue that people with vision loss often find aggravating is the fluctuation of vision, which can be caused by too much sun, too little sun, not enough light, or too much light. A very simple solution can often be the use of wrap around sunglasses and sun visors. You have probably seen people with these glasses. They are wide on the side on the way to the ear, where the glass has been extended. These glasses are rated for various eye conditions for example with macular degeneration you use one type of glasses whereas with RP another type of glasses is more suitable.

One enjoyable activity for many people with vision loss is listening to audio books. You can receive a talking book free of charge if you are legally blind (that is a legal definition you need not be totally blind). Incidentally, the talking book program was begun in the 1930’s and is how “records” were invented, as a tool in order to have books recorded for blind persons to listen to music came later. This is a rare case where the device invented for the blind went into general use and became popular. Usually it is the other way around!

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped has a complete listing of talking book libraries for every state in the country. The talking book library is a federal program of the library of congress, division of physically handicapped and blind. A complete list of available books will be available through your regional library. The division serving Massachusetts is located at:

Braille and Talking Book Library
Perkins School for the Blind
175 North Beacon Street
Watertown, MA 02472-2790

Librarian: Kim Charlson
Telephone: (617) 972-7240
Toll-free (In-state): (800) 852-3133
FAX: (617) 972-7363

You must register to receive the tape recorder, a specially made recorder that is simplified for use by seniors. After registering, you may order magazines, newspapers, books etc. as many as 6 at a time. The postage is free; you simply flip the mailing card on the plastic case, put them in the post office mailbox, or leave them out for your postal delivery. They will be returned to the library. It is a terrific service.

It is important for you to realize that defining the status of your loved one’s vision loss will go a long way to alleviate the worry of total blindness. And even if this is the unwelcome prognosis, there is definitely life after blindness. The message of positive hope is the best medicine.

There are support groups which help alleviate the fear and allow the person losing vision to discuss their fears in a non threatening environment. Check with your local agency for the blind or call Dina Rosenbaum at 1-800-852-3131 at the Carroll Center who can direct you to resources in your state.