“For many men, pride may get in the way of addressing health issues, including deterioration of vision,” said Clark Stevens, Envision’s senior director of rehabilitative services. “We want them to know that vision loss is nothing to hide, and that they can and should get help from their eye provider. There are more low vision rehabilitation options than ever that minimize the effects of vision loss and allow individuals to stay engaged in their everyday, essential activities.”
Low vision rehabilitation teaches ways to “see past” a vision disability and builds self-sufficiency and self-confidence through orientation and mobility training (using white canes, taking public transportation, preventing falls), occupational and physical therapy, behavioral health, Braille and assistive technology instruction (magnifiers, smart phones, text-to-voice computer screen readers) and other measures.
Envision, which is headquartered in Wichita, Kan., with locations in 11 states, is a national leader in providing employment and low vision rehabilitation services and programs to people who are blind or visually impaired. At the Envision Vision Rehabilitation Center (EVRC), roughly 62 percent of patients are female.
While it is true that women are at a greater risk for eye disease (women tend to live longer and many eye problems are age-related), men shouldn’t ignore their eye health.
Renowned ophthalmologist Donald C. Fletcher, M.D., EVRC medical director, notes that the longer it takes men to visit eyecare experts and begin low vision rehabilitation, the more likely they are to suffer permanent damage.
“Early detection and early action are critical factors in tackling vision loss and limiting its impact on a person’s life,” Dr. Fletcher said. “This isn’t only about warning people to protect the vision they have or pointing them toward surgical solutions to correct what they’ve lost or are at risk of losing. It’s also about familiarizing them as early as possible with technology and techniques that can help them compensate for lost vision and keep them more independent and active.”
So, how can well-intentioned family, friends, co-workers and medical advisors help? Stevens suggests talking to the men in their lives about the benefits and realities of low vision rehabilitation. Key points include:
Don’t assume a diagnosis of vision loss means you must sacrifice your independence – Help is available for people with visual impairments brought on by many common eye diseases, including: diabetic retinopathy; age related macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, cataracts and glaucoma.
You don’t have to give up doing what you love – From phones and clocks with enlarged numbers and bright displays to labeling accessories to reflective products and more, there are an array of adaptive devices on the market that contribute to independent living. An understanding of assistive technology and lighting can help individuals gain or retain access to computers, stay competitive in the workforce and tap into the many resources the internet has to offer.
Outdoors, adaptive sports such as beep baseball and goalball allow individuals who are blind or visually impaired to stay active and competitive. In addition, not-for-profit organizations like Envision offer arts, music and support programs that keep people with visual impairments engaged in their favorite pastimes (or learning something new) and connects them with others who share their passions and personal experiences.
Inquire about low vision rehabilitation – Ask your primary care or vision care provider for a referral to a low vision specialist who can create a customized care plan tailored to your specific needs. The EVRC has partners throughout the country and can connect people with low vision to rehabilitation services in their area. More information is available at envisionus.com or by calling (866) 319-4646.
“We hear so many stories from adults with vision loss who can once again participate in the activities of daily living because of low vision rehabilitation,” Stevens said. “We hope that by building awareness and offering vital facts, we can engage more men to regularly explore all of their eye health options.”
About Envision: Envision promotes advocacy and independence for those who are blind or low vision. Founded in 1933, Envision is one of the largest employers of individuals with vision loss in the nation. Headquartered in Wichita, Kan., Envision’s mission is to improve the quality of life and provide inspiration and opportunity for people who are blind or visually impaired through employment, outreach, rehabilitation, education and research. For more information, visit www.envisionus.com.