Unless it happens to you, you just don’t understand

Michael Jernigan_Brittani_Shoulders_UpLosing 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.

brsBRS 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.

galebwfrGale 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.

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About Gale Watson

Director, VA’s Blind Rehabilitation Service

8 Comments to “Unless it happens to you, you just don’t understand”

  1. Jim Donaldson says:

    I am a Vet of 15 years. I have been nearly married for 2 years. My wife lost her right eye to a condition when a child. Now the left eye is starting to deteriorate. Being a Vets wife , can she be helped with your programs?
    Thanks,
    Jim Donaldson

  2. I am having a hard time seeing. The outside light affect my vision, everything is a blur it makes driving very hard for me to see things clear. Whom can I talk to other then my eye clinic Doctor assigned to me at the VA?. I just found out that I have first stage Catricateric forming, I found out from my Nurse assigned to assist me with some of my physical needs. Please advise. Thank you

    • Gale Watson says:

      Floyd, your vision issue sounds like something an eye doctor should advise you about – as rehabilitation practitioners, that is outside our scope of care. Your assigned Nurse can assist you in assuring your questions are answered.

  3. Lara Mc Kinley says:

    Blind Rehabilitation is not only for those who have lost their sight completely, but for those who have experienced Traumatic Brain injuries. I experienced this in Iraq/Kuwait in 2003 and in the military for 16 years. Bilateral corneal abrasions and a mild traumatic brain injury brought me to the Long Beach VA, and the Blind Rehabilitation Center. Not only was I treated was the utmost respect, but the Residents were very patient especially when it came to asking questions. The Blind Rehab in Long Beach addressed all my vision needs i.e.: How my eye sight was deficient in each eye, tracking regarding reading, how the light now can affect veterans and their vision not only outdoors but inside and when at a computer as well as setting up set times for education to relearn how to use my eyes. They recently opened a VA Ophthalmology Clinic 15 minutes from my house, this is convenient for routine checkups instead of making the 45 minute drive. I believe our eyesight is a part of how we see the world. Sometimes our world view is skewed when we return home from war as veterans. But visually for this Veteran; my eyes can only see the positive in life and the wonder for a better tomorrow. I believe this to be one of the reasons because of the amazing experiences at the VA Long Beach, Blind Rehabilitation Center.

  4. Reading these experiences makes on realize that the VA cares for disabled veterans in a most helpful manner. As a person newly arrived into the VA system, it gives me hope that any treatment which I receive will be well done! Thanks, VA