Losing the ability to see through your own eyes is something that cannot be imagined; those outside of this world may never fully understand it. The frustrations of developing visual impairment as an adult can be daunting.
“The most destructive part of losing one’s sight is the feeling of incompetence… I’ve broken or cracked more than half of my set of drinking glasses by dropping or knocking them over. I vacuum up electrical cords because I forgot to check for them. I’ve walked into people by accident. I’ve stepped on my cats too many times to mention, and I’m afraid that one of them holds a grudge.” —What Is It Like to Be Blind
VA Blind Rehabilitation Service provides world-class rehabilitation programs for Veterans and Servicemembers with visual impairment. VA implemented a progressive plan in 2009 to provide vision and blind rehabilitation to Veterans and Servicemembers, who have earliest vision loss to total blindness.
BRS sponsors programs such as “White Cane Day,” to help people who are sighted better understand the onset of blindness. During these events, BRS representatives educate the sighted through activities such as walking with a white cane while blindfolded, wearing devices that simulate visual impairment, and exploring the technologies that help blind Veterans remain independent. Helping people to understand how the blind successfully function helps them to better appreciate the accomplishments and independence of blind people.
The recovery and reintegration stories of Veterans and Servicemembers who have demonstrated their strength and courage are a testament to what is possible for all people.
Their experiences and achievements are inspiring to many.
“I completed a 16-week blind rehabilitation program at VA in Augusta, Georgia. This was the most instrumental step on my path back to independence. There I learned how to clean a house, do my laundry, iron my own clothes and even cook my own meals, which is a great thing because I am a very talented cook. I learned how to do maintenance around the house to include rewiring a lamp and fixing the plumbing underneath the sink. As part of my manual skills instruction I completed a couple of woodworking projects….This program has taught me that even without sight I can lead a very productive life.”
“Although suffering from my injuries might seem like an unfortunate incident, it has provided me with many great opportunities to better myself. I have taken advantage of the ones that interest me the most and look forward to any more that may cross my path.” — “What a Way to Come Home” by Mike Jernigan
Learn more about VA’s Blind Rehab Service here.
Gale Watson is the director of VA’s Blind Rehabilitation Service. She has more than 35 years of experience in the field of visual impairment and blindness, including practicing low vision therapy and working as vision rehabilitation manager for the Atlanta VA Medical Center’s ophthalmology clinic in Georgia, prior to becoming Director of the VA’s Blind Rehabilitation Service.