5 for Good: Newton Nonprofit Helps People with Vision Loss Lead Full Lives

Holly Polgreen has been a speech language pathologist since 1994.

For the past 16 years, she’s worked with preschoolers in Brookline, recently learning to work with them in a different way.

Legally blind, Polgreen pre-reads books into a recorder, and there’s Braille on her flash cards. Those tools are new to Polgreen. Right before turning 50, she said she noticed her vision was failing.

In 2021, a genetic test revealed her diagnosis, which is a hereditary form of optic neuropathy.

“I can see the outline of you and of all the furniture, but I can’t see details,” Polgreen said.

At first, she said it was terrifying, and she especially worried about having to stop working, but then she found the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton.

Jennifer Harnish, a clinical psychologist who, like Polgreen, started losing her vision as an adult, is the director of rehabilitation services.

At the Carroll Center, people of all ages are offered support and services. For adults, Harnish said, that means learning a full range of skills.

“How to use the white cane to navigate around a whole range of environments,” she said. “Cooking, cleaning, laundry … we also have thorough technology training.”

The nonprofit also offers counseling services and creates critical connections…

Jennifer Harnish, Director of Rehabilitation Services at the Carroll Center, interviews with Erika Tarantal on the outdoor back patio at the Carroll Center.