Sight, the ability to see the world with which we interact on a daily basis, is a gift most of us take for granted.
Being able to see the “on” switch for the coffee pot, noticing the obstacles in our way as we navigate steps, viewing our computer screens to conduct business – almost every task incorporates the need to see something. Even our language emphasizes the importance of seeing: we do not “hear,” “taste,” “smell,” or “feel” a new idea – we envision it.
Through discussions with the Sight Center of Northwest Ohio, the need to turn their visions into realities became clear to the Foundation. While the Center receives funding from sources such as Medicare and private insurance plans, Executive Director Dawn Christensen shares that most vision rehabilitation services and specialized adaptive equipment are not covered by insurance.
And the services the Sight Center provides to its clients are unique: rather than duplicating the services offered by primary eye care clinics, the Sight Center concentrates on the skills necessary to help people retain everyday independence. The Foundation has awarded grants totaling $120,000 in the last two years to fund programs to help just that.
From lessons in the daily living training center, such as how to prepare and cook food, to training with adaptive software programs aiding people with low to no vision to use computers, the Center offers specialized vision rehabilitation services so that people with low vision can make the best use of their remaining vision and people who are blind can continue to live independently.
The Sight Center aids all levels of vision loss, focusing on where there is a need to regain functionality and life skills, rather than drawing a line at certain visual acuity levels.
The Center’s commitment to help people suffering from all levels of low vision means that the organization often has to find ways to financially support their diverse clientele, from very young children and their families to senior citizens.
“Through various Foundation grants, we have been able to provide our services to many individuals we would not have otherwise been able to reach, especially children and senior citizens. Our goal is to provide the skills and equipment to people suffering from vision loss in order to give them a level playing field in the world,” says Dawn.
The Foundation has aided the Sight Center in its role as a rehabilitation visionary as it continues to help those with vision loss – the young, the old, and the in-between – achieve independence in a world where we don’t necessarily need to see, in order to envision.
According to Dawn, the Center’s most impactful program has been Stepping Stones to Independence. Stepping Stones exceeded even her expectations. “We were given the opportunity to understand and know the needs of children experiencing vision loss and their families.
“It can be scary for the families of the individual, as well as the individual who experiences vision loss. Stepping Stones began as a program to teach children between the ages of 9 and 14 daily living skills to increase their confidence and to help them fulfill their potential.
“The program fulfilled its goals but also turned into a support group and a forum for the families going through the experience of raising a child with vision loss.
“Raising funds has always been one of the most difficult pieces of my job, but when I walked away from the meetings generated through Stepping Stones, I was truly moved. The parents and children participating in the program proved to me that we are here for a reason, we have a purpose,” she adds.
The services provided by the Sight Center allow people with vision loss to remain in their homes and to actively participate in their environments. As baby boomers age, the number of people who will experience vision loss will increase significantly.
As of this year, Dawn notes, “Sixty to 70 percent of the population we serve is currently 60 years of age or older and that population is growing. And the importance of vision to daily tasks and the ability to be independent makes the impact of increased numbers of individuals experiencing vision loss that much more critical.”