Visually Impaired Residents Working To Create Local Support Group
Oskaloosa, Iowa – Learning to make it through everyday life is a challenge for most people, but being blind or visually impaired can provide an extra layer of challenges to overcome.
One group of individuals impacted by visual impairments are joining together to help one another overcome those obstacles. Things like transportation and transportation options in a rural community setting are one of those issues most discussed. Keeping informed, and performing daily tasks like cooking and baking can all be made easier when ideas and techniques are shared.
Joseph Van Lent is a Commissioner for the Iowa Department For The Blind. He was on hand to lend his experiences to the group, not only in his capacity as a Commissioner, but also as a visually impaired individual. He said that it’s important to help share information that he has, along with lending support to others who are facing blindness. This is especially important as Americans are living longer, and some people are experiencing vision loss later in life.
Van Lent said that his time traveling across the state helps him share ideas from one group of individuals to others.
Kimberley Barber, Independent Living Program Director for the Iowa Department For The Blind, also offered her help and expertise in laying the groundwork for the group. She explained that the independent living programs have always been around to support older blind Iowans. “One of the things they found is a need, the fact that older blind [people] need to have connections with other blind people,” explained Barber.
Support groups were one of the keys during the formation of independent living, and the group has been helping to facilitate the formation of groups around the state. “Then empower the group to facilitate the discussions,” said Barber.
Groups may meet once a month, others are less, depending upon the needs of the group and individuals within that group. Transportation to and from the meetings also proves to be a challenge for the blind members.
The hope is that the support groups will help each other provide information and problem solving skills, which can then be shared between group members. “Something as simple as, I’m a gardener and I don’t know how to do this because I am blind now and I can’t see what I’m doing.”
Those experiences can be shared, built upon and then shared to someone else.
“The support group also gives them the opportunity to invite others from the community, such as policy makers or an aid counselor, who will be able to help discuss the latest aids with the entire group. It will allow the group to make a change, for the better, for them,” said Barber.
Barber said she hopes the group will facilitate further independent living of those impacted by vision loss.