This is a short story and explanation of how a blind rehab center functions to help veterans.
The White Cane Gang
By Emma L. Willey
Are you, or do you know a veteran in need of the magnificent blind rehabilitation services offered by the Veterans Administration? I have recently completed my training and am so inspired by it and the capable staff.
Every morning at when it was still dark, I and eleven other veterans at the BlindRehabilitationCenter at AmericanLake in Tacoma, Washington picked up our white canes and found our way to the mess hall for breakfast.
After breakfast we walked back to our rooms where we were housed for the duration of our training. We had about 30 minutes to get ready for our first classes. Every hour a new class was scheduled with short breaks between. Training programs were designed around our own individual needs and with one-on-one training.
The 12 white canes passed in the hallways as we met each other on the way to and from classes to learn some valuable skills to use when we got home. Most stay for six weeks, some longer. Most of us are thankful for the training, and after associating with others who are also blind, realized it isnít so bad to be blind after all.I now have acquired skills I didnít realize before I came for rehabilitation.
The rehabilitation program at AmericanLake consists of evaluation and/or training in the following skill areas:
ORIENTATION AND MOBILITY
The class teaches principles of safe, independent travel. Lessons may include sighted guide and self protective indoor techniques, long cane travel in various environments including residential, business and downtown areas. Use of the veteranís remaining vision and optical travel/aid devices are also incorporated.
This class is dedicated to developing remaining senses of the blind or visually impaired veteran. Each veteran is evaluated to assess tactual perception, bi-manual coordination and manual dexterity. He/she is then assigned projects which will improve his/her ability.
The veteranís personal hygiene, management of money, telling time, telephone dialing, clothing care, housekeeping and cooking skills are evaluated and adaptive techniques are taught in this class. This improves the veteranís ability to manage day to day activities as independently as possible.The veteranís lifestyle is considered when choosing activities.
LOW VISION AND OPTOMETRY
This program is devoted to educating veterans about their eye conditions and teaching them how to maximize their remaining vision. Low Vision Specialists work closely with the Staff Optometrist to evaluate and then train veterans to use their vision with low vision devices/aids. Training helps veterans achieve vision related tasks including reading, watching TV or seeing signal lights.
The goal of this class is to enable the veteran to communicate with others in an independent fashion. This includes the following:Braille, typewriting, handwriting aids, talking books, recording machines, cassette recorders, abacus, talking calculators and computers.Each veteran is evaluated to determine the need for training with these devices. An individualized program is developed for each veteran considering such factors as remaining vision, intellectual functioning and interest.
Counseling is available for each veteran which is provided by a psychologist or staff social worker. A family member of close friend of the veteranís choice is provided the opportunity to come to the facility.This program helps the family better understand the veteranís vision loss and hot it affects his ability to function independently.
NURSING AND HEALTH CARE
RN nursing care is provided 24 hours per day. Veterans are taught to administer their own medications. In addition, education regarding medical problems such as diabetes, chronic lung disease, coronary heart disease, etc. is provided on a one-to-one basis.
Kudos to all the capable instructors, he managing staff and the nurses who work at AmericanLakeRehabilitationCenter. They work together as a team to accomplish what they do every day for blind veterans. When the veteran leaves to go home, he has found new friendships and realizes he has obtained many benefits as a result of the training and aids he has been given to make his life easier.
I would like to encourage every legally blind or visually impaired veteran to apply for the blind rehabilitation program through your eye doctor or Jean Best, coordinator at the RoseburgVeteransHospital.