Some In’sights’ Into Low Vision Resources
What is a low vision specialist and what qualifications should that person have? Where do I find one? What do they do anyway? Can that person teach me Eccentric Viewing Techniques? These are just a few of the questions I’ve been asked about some of the resources I use. Luckily one of my readers, Kaityln Cremer Smith, OTD, OTR/L, a low vision occupational therapist from southwest Florida gave me some great answers.
First let’s talk about Occupational Therapists who aid patients with low vision learn various adaptive skills to compensate their vision impairment. This is part of their education requiring a masters degree and includes home adaptation and compensatory strategy training. Things like walking down stairs safely, crossing the street, finding and identifying objects, home safety issues and a myriad of other great training. OT’s work through the medical system and, generally speaking, most sessions are covered by insurance.
Since Eccentric Viewing is not part of the OT’s curriculum they must have further education to train others since it is quite complex, requiring the eyes and the brain to learn a new method of seeing, which means developing new habits and skills. It is difficult to self-teach eccentric viewing, because it can be frustrating, and an experienced professional can help by offering new approaches when others may not be working.
Kaitlyn recommends (an I heartily agree) 1.be sure your Occupation Therapist graduated from an accredited school and 2. they have additional training in EVT. I received my EVT training at Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital in Schenectady NY. You can find these specialists by checking the yellow pages under ‘Rehabilitation Services’ – be sure to check out any you choose to be sure they are accredited. For more information about EVT click HERE to read an earlier story.
Now let’s talk about Certified Low Vision Therapists (CVLT), generally an ophthalmologist or optometrist specializing in low vision. These therapists generally work through not-for-profit organizations such as the Lighthouses or, in my case, through Northeast Association for the Blind at Albany (www.naba.org) and may not be covered by insurance but are usually made available free of charge for anyone who needs their help.
Through a low vision examination, these specialists can help decide if you need special low vision optical devices, better lighting, or other training to better use your functional vision. NOTE: Functional Vision is defined as a degree of vision sufficient to be of use in performing a given task, such as reading or sewing.
To learn more about the Low Vision Examination click HERE
I have used both an OT with advanced training in Eccentric Viewing and had a Low Vision Exam. These were two of the best things I did for support and assistance during my journey with mac degen.
Special Note: from time-to-time I see ads for low vision aids such as binoculars, magnifying glasses, etc. Just because a company carries these types of things, does NOT mean they have a CVLT or Low Vision Therapist on staff. Make a call or send an email and check that you are speaking with a professional.
My special thanks to Kaitlyn and for the work she does with those of us with low vision. Kaitlyn’s company, Low Vision Works, teaches a proprietary version of EVT.