MONTGOMERY – Vision Rehabilitation Therapists have a tremendous impact on the people they serve. To celebrate their efforts, Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Awareness Week will be observed April 14-20.

These dates were chosen to cThese dates were chosen to commemorate Anne Sullivan’s birthday on April 14, 1866. Sullivan was a pioneer of the vision rehabilitation profession. She was the teacher who worked closely with Helen Keller to develop the skills she would later use as an international lecturer and advocate for individuals with vision and hearing loss.

Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Awareness Week is even more special for Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services VRT, Jill Rossiter She is serving in Keller’s hometown and has seen first-hand the difference a VRT can make.

“I myself am a recipient of such training,” she said. “I was diagnosed in my teens with a hereditary eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa. My first contact with someone who was blind was my rehabilitation teacher, Sandra Elliott. Sandra served as the rehabilitation teacher in the Muscle Shoals office from 1979-1994. Sandra mentored me and gave me the encouragement, training, and self-confidence to reach for my own hopes and dreams.”

Rossiter feels fortunate to be able to personally and professionally raise the expectations of blind individuals.

“I want my consumers to know that they can live the life they want. Blindness is not what holds them back,” she said.

At the onset, everything from brushing your teeth to picking out the clothes you are going to wear, preparing meals, or getting to work becomes a challenge. People often feel helpless and hopeless, or they feel as if life has stopped. That is where the vision rehabilitation therapists begin to change lives.

The techniques depend on the person’s needs and wants. However, some of the basics include onsite kitchen safety, sewing, communication techniques, diabetes management, and braille.

A growing computer and technology program is helping people learn to use their iPhones and computers to surf the web.

According to Lenore Dillon, coordinator of vision rehabilitation therapists and orientation and mobility specialists for the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, it is always a thrill for a VRT to help a consumer turn the corner.

“I think one of the most exciting things is when you see someone cry because it is the first time they have been shown magnifiers, and it is the first time in several years they have been able to read anything or see their grandchildren’s faces,” she said. “That happens a fair amount, and it is one of the things VRTs do.”

Today’s VRT most often holds a graduate degree and additional national certification to meet established professional standards. For more than a century, as home teachers, rehab teachers, and now vision rehabilitation therapists, VRTs provided the primary rehabilitation skills training for individuals experiencing blindness or vision loss.

Clients are most often adults who have experienced an acquired vision loss through diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetes, etc. Referrals may come from doctors, or clients may refer themselves through local state or nonprofit agencies.

For more information about VRT services and eligibility, call 1-800-441-7607.



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