Shining the Light on Devil’s Snare

Post by Richard Hunter

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the reader is introduced to Devil’s Snare, which is a magical vine-like plant that strangles its victims but wilts in sunlight. The more one struggles in its grasp, the tighter its hold. Adversity can be a noose that zaps one’s will. It is suffocating. Where can we find that light that loosens its grasp?

There is not a person that leaves this Earth without facing adversity. It is a given. Loss, illness, injury and broken relationships leave us bumped and bruised, both physically and emotionally. Our response to these normal life occurrences can leave us wounded, broken and bitter. We find others to be inspiring when they respond to adversity in an overtly positive manner. The assumption is that it is nearly impossible to remain positive when bad things are happening. We put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, and conclude that we would never be able to manage that kind of stress. While I’m challenged over and over again in my own thought process, I can’t afford to buy into that way of thinking. Simply put, it would hurt too many people I care about.

At 47 years old, I feel like I’ve had many do-overs already. My original career aspiration was to be an officer in the USMC. However, within 10 months of being commissioned as a 2nd LT, I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, told I was going to go blind in the future, and was medically discharged. While it took several years to be able to think long-term again, I ended up going to graduate school to become a school psychologist. Within 10 years, I could no longer observe students in the classroom or administer one-on-one learning disability assessments. Disability applications risked defining me by my limitations. It was not a good time in my life. Continue reading

Using Technology in Our Everyday Activities

Jennifer Kaldenberg at Senior Connection giving her keynote talk on technology

“How many of you use technology to complete your daily tasks?”

The speaker is Jennifer Kaldenberg, MABVI Clinical Director & Clinical Assistant and Boston University Professor. She has also worked for the New England College of Optometry and their clinical affiliate the New England Eye Institute, specializing in working with individuals with visual impairment. She is an expert in vision loss, facing a room of hundreds of low vision support group members, many of them seniors. Only about 25% of the adults in the room raise their hands.

“If I told you using a magnifier, or even a bump dot to identify the start button on the microwave is technology, how many of you would now answer that they use technology on a daily basis?” She asks.

All of the adults in the room raise their hands.

Two of the guests at Senior Connection raising their hands in response to Jen Kaldenberg's questions

Two guests at Senior Connection raising their hands in response to Jen Kaldenberg’s questions

It seems these adults with vision loss use technology every day without even realizing it. Furthermore, it seems many have not been shown or assessed for what technology is appropriate for them. The key is training, according to Kaldenberg: individuals can be trained to use new tools to help maintain participation in the things that are important to them and improve their daily lives. Equally important is an eye examination by a low vision specialist. Yet only 75% of the audience self-reports having ever had a low vision exam. For individuals who have not had a low vision exam or know someone hasn’t, there are many barriers that may limit someone’s ability to access services including: o Lack of awareness of services or assistive devices o Giving up hope that there is help o Having heard “nothing can be done” o Other health issues like cognitive deficits o Lack of financial resources to afford or think they can’t afford technologies Additional barriers may include age, gender and ethnicity. Some of these barriers are the perception of the individual and others are placed on them by a healthcare practitioner, family members, or society. Of the 75% who have received a low vision exam, only 1/10 say their doctor has asked them what they want to be able to do. So how are visually impaired adults supposed to find the technology they need to remain independent?

“Be proactive and ask your doctors about technology,” Kaldenberg says.

Emerging technology is becoming more task specific and requires more training. Research indicates that the average person with a visual impairment uses 6.1 assistive devices, many which are task-specific. Often times, these devices are purchased by the individual through a catalog or are given to them by a family member of friends and not recommended by a low vision specialist. Recent studies report a high rate of assistive device abandonment, nearly 20%, among those with visual impairment. Reasons for device abandonment include the devices are ineffective, they are using other devices, they do not like the device, the device is defective, they have had a recent change in their vision, they do not have the space to accommodate the device, or they are unable to use the devices. Over the next 20 years, the number of individuals with visual impairments is going to increase greatly, so we need to explore new strategies to assist people in remaining active and help them retain their independence. “If individuals can be trained to use new technological devices properly, they will be able to do everything they could with sight.”

More adaptive technology resources: Adaptivision The Carroll Store Freedom Scientific ABISee Let’s Go Technology Check out this video of Jennifer Kaldenberg discussing OT/vision rehabilitation from our YouTube channel: