I Won’t Know Unless I Try

Post by Brian Klotz

Ellie Leach at MABVI's Senior Connection 2014

Ellie Leach at MABVI’s Senior Connection 2014

Ellie Leach had never used a computer. No email, no games, no web browsing – as she puts it, “I had never even used a typewriter!” Over twenty years ago Ellie, now 78, was diagnosed with macular degeneration, a medical condition that causes vision loss, putting yet another obstacle between herself and tech-savviness.

Today, however, Ellie is the proud owner of an iPad, which she uses to email friends and family, play games, and listen to her favorite music.

“It’s like I’m alive again,” she says. “I feel like I’m a part of everything again.” Continue reading

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Worcester Vision Rehabilitation Center to participate in Greater Worcester Gives

A female client meets with Dr. Toomey-Gitto for a low vision exam. MABVI offers low vision exams at its Worcester office, as well as several other locations.

A female client meets with Dr. Toomey-Gitto for a low vision exam. MABVI offers low vision exams at its Worcester office, as well as several other locations.

Post by Steph Solis

On May 6, the Worcester office will participate in a 24-hour online giving day, called Worcester Gives. The campaign, organized by the Greater Worcester Community Foundation, encourages the community to support local nonprofits including the Worcester Vision Rehabilitation Center.

MABVI’s Worcester Vision Rehabilitation Center celebrates over 50 years providing services to blind and visually impaired individuals in Greater Worcester. Last year alone the office worked with more than 300 blind and visually impaired clients through low vision exams, volunteer services, support groups and more. At the Worcester Vision Rehabilitation Center, clients learn to adjust to their vision loss so that they can maintain their independence and enjoy their lives.

“When people see what can be accomplished with an adaptation or by learning a new skill, it can be uplifting and empowering,” said Mary Haroyan, coordinator of volunteer services at the Worcester Vision Rehabilitation Center.

MABVI offers low vision exams at the Worcester Vision Rehabilitation Center, run by Dr. Caroline Toomey-Gitto. Low vision specialists can assess their vision and offer adaptive devices to help them maximize the use of their remaining vision. Last year Dr. Toomey-Gitto gave specialized low vision exams to 164 patients. Clients have also undergone low vision exams through MABVI’s affiliate providers, including Dr. Jane Orenstein in Whitinsville and Dr. Jen Salvo in Wellsley.

Clients have also received vision rehabilitation training from an occupational therapist who visited their homes. One hundred thirty nine patients who underwent low vision exams followed up with an occupational therapy appointment.

Throughout Worcester County, MABVI holds low vision support groups to bring blind and visually impaired individuals together. Our Worcester, Northborough and Leominster Low Vision Support Groups served 34 clients as they experienced vision loss.

“You will never know what a blessing the lighted hand-held magnifier has been to me, especially at church and at the grocery store,” one client writes. “I’m thankful for their visits to our home and their helpful advice in a number of areas—they’ve helped immensely with problems I was unaware could be readily resolved and my mood always improved with the visits.”

Numerous clients have benefited from the 1:1 volunteer services, including children’s book author C.J. Posk. Clients can meet with volunteers who help with grocery shopping, drive them to medical appointments, read mail and labels, write checks and more.

The low vision support groups at Worcester, Northborough and Leominster provide a forum for blind and visually impaired people to come together. We have served 34 individuals at the support groups as they experienced vision loss.

Clients and their volunteers can also enjoy leisure time with events like candlepin bowling, which has been around for than 40 years.

With programs like these, we work to forge a strong community and transform lives. We hope you will consider supporting MABVI through Greater Worcester Gives next on May 6.

Focus on Function: The Low Vision Exam

Optometrist Jen Salvo offers insight into the low vision exam.

Optometrist Jen Salvo offers insight into the low vision exam.

This post was written by Dr. Jennifer Salvo, a low vision optometrist. She sees patients for MABVI in Holyoke and Springfield and also provides low vision care in Wellesley Wayland, and Hyannis through her private practice. For more information about Dr. Salvo and her low vision practice, visit www.metrolowvision.com  or call her at 508-740-0706 to schedule an appointment.

If you have impaired vision, and your eye doctor is unable to restore your vision with treatment or surgery, where do you go for help? When your doctor tells you, “There’s nothing more I can do” or “These are the strongest glasses I can give you”, what is your next step?

Many people give up at this point and become increasingly isolated and depressed due to their vision loss. However, there is help available, and your next step should be a low vision exam. A low vision exam is far different than the one you receive when you visit your retina doctor or glaucoma specialist. It is a functional assessment–meaning that the low vision doctor will assess your ability to perform daily tasks, hobbies and activities, and will also address safety concerns.

After performing various vision and reading tests, the low vision doctor will evaluate and prescribe appropriate devices and make recommendations for improving your functioning. The doctor may recommend LED magnifiers, high-powered reading glasses, telescopes, television glasses, or video magnifiers. He or she may also recommend in-home training with an occupational therapist who specializes in working with visually impaired individuals.

Although you may receive a new glasses prescription at the low vision exam, glasses will not restore vision that is lost due to retinal damage or eye disease. However, the low vision doctor can help you maximize the use of your remaining vision.  The low vision exam is the starting point for receiving the services and devices to help you regain independence  and maintain activities you enjoy.

Click here to hear Boston-area low vision optometrist Richard Jamara describe how he helps individuals living with vision loss.​