National Deafblind Awareness Month

VIA WNY Celebrates Deafblind Awareness Month

June is Deafblind Awareness Month, and it’s the perfect time to build awareness about the portion of the population that experiences partial or full deafness and blindness. Here at Visually Impaired Advancement, we focus on visual impairment and VI awareness specifically. It’s our mission to help as many people as possible maintain a high quality of life in spite of their visual impairment, and to spread awareness about visual impairment as a whole.

Let’s take a closer look at visual impairment itself as well as Deafblind Awareness Month and why it’s so important. We’ll also discuss how you can do your part to help raise awareness and advocate for the deafblind and visually impaired in your community.

What is visual impairment?

When we use the term “visual impairment,” what is meant by that, exactly? In general, this means having impaired vision that can’t be totally corrected by glasses, contact lenses, surgery, or medication. It’s important to understand that a person with visual impairment can’t be “cured,” and there isn’t an attempt to correct or improve vision in every case. The goal many times is for the individual to simply adapt to having lower vision and maintain a high quality of life while doing so.

The American Optometric Association categorizes low vision into two areas:

  • Partially sighted – a person who is partially sighted has visual acuity between 20/70 and 20/200 when using prescription lenses or visual correction
  • Legally blind – a person who is legally blind has visual acuity no better than 20/200 when using prescription lenses or visual correction, and/or has a restricted field of vision less than 20 degrees wide

What causes visual impairment?

There are many possible causes of visual impairment, including but not limited to macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, eye injury, and more. And different people can experience visual impairment in different ways, including fuzzy vision, loss of central or peripheral vision, night blindness, and many others.

Here’s the good news: medical and technological visual impairment advancements have made it easier than ever for people living with visual impairment or low vision to function normally – and maintain a high quality of life and independence while doing so. And there’s no better time to highlight this fact than during Deafblind Awareness Month.

What is Deafblind Awareness Month?

National Deafblind Awareness Month marks the birth month of Helen Keller, the most famous person who was deafblind. Keller became an advocate and activist for the cause and is known the world over for her efforts and achievements.

The experience of being deafblind means that a person has “a substantial degree of both hearing and vision loss, the combination of which results in significant difficulties in accessing information and pursuing educational, vocational, recreational, and social goals,” according to the Canadian Helen Keller Centre (CHKC).

Another part of Deafblind Awareness Month is showing appreciation for the deafblind community’s intervenors. Intervenors are professionally trained individuals who provide auditory and visual information to people who are deafblind. They act as the person’s eyes and ears, providing information about the environment and surrounding circumstances when the person isn’t able to obtain this information by themselves. Intervenors are indispensable in many deafblind people’s lives because they provide opportunities for the deafblind to gain independence, pursue goals, interact with their environment, and make their own choices.

Here at VIA, we think June is the perfect month to draw awareness not only to the experiences of the deafblind, but to those living with visual impairment at various levels, too.

What can you do to help?

The Helen Keller National Center for Deafblind Youth and Adults lists various suggestions for getting involved and drawing awareness during the month of June and beyond. You can celebrate Deafblind Awareness Month by:

  1. Printing out and displaying the Deafblind Awareness poster. This can be found on the Helen Keller National Center’s website here.
  2. Writing to your local legislators. Write to your congressperson, mayor, or governor requesting that June 26th to July 22nd be declared Deafblind Awareness Week. A sample proclamation can be found on the Helen Keller National Center’s website here.
  3. Writing an article about the deafblind people you know. Do you know deafblind people who live or work in the area where you live? Write an article or blog post about them and get the word out. Try sending your article to your local newspaper or get it published in community newsletters.
  4. Honoring business or organizations in your community who employ deafblind people. Write an article or leave a review praising these organizations for their inclusiveness.
  5. Using your website or social media accounts to showcase the cause. Post about articles you’ve written, photos you’ve taken, and special events involving deafblind people.

At VIA, we believe that many of the same actions can be taken to raise awareness and advocate for the visually impaired. From seeking out businesses in your community who employ the visually impaired to raising awareness on social media, every little bit helps. If you’re passionate about the cause of advocacy for the visually impaired or the deafblind, take some steps to spread awareness and highlight the need for accessibility and funding in this crucial area of care.

Turn to VIA for Vision Loss Rehabilitation Services

Are you or a loved one experiencing vision loss? VIA’s vision rehabilitation services can help. It’s our aim to help visually impaired individuals live their lives to the fullest through vision loss rehabilitation, tools, education, job training, and other support.

Our services include:

  • Vision rehabilitation therapy – Using adaptive techniques and tools to deal with vision loss, we’ll help you restore your confidence and independence.
  • Orientation and mobility – You’ll regain the ability to know where you are and how to get where you need to go using our techniques and tools.
  • Social casework services – Our casework services help you adjust to vision loss through community resources, recreational opportunities, counseling, and more.

Visit Our Low Vision Clinic in Buffalo, NY

When you or a loved one first begin experiencing visual impairment, it’s important that you contact your doctor or ophthalmologist for a consultation. Once you’ve spoken with your doctor, VIA’s low vision optometrist can make additional recommendations to help you live independently once you’ve been diagnosed with low vision or impaired vision.

Our low vision optometrist will conduct a thorough evaluation of your eyesight and discuss your diagnosis with you. You’ll also talk about your goals moving forward and what you would like to achieve using our services. Then, we’ll be able to recommend the right vision rehabilitation services for your needs.

Help With Vision Loss in WNY

Deafblind Awareness Month is the perfect chance to highlight the need for advocacy and accessibility for visually impaired and deafblind individuals. If you or a loved one is experiencing visual impairment, contact VIA. We offer comprehensive vision loss rehabilitation to people of all ages experiencing vision loss or impairment, and we’ve been serving the community of Western New York for more than 100 years. Our goal is to maximize functional vision and help people adapt to vision loss, allowing them to improve their independence, safety, and quality of life.

If you’re dealing with vision loss or know someone who is, get in touch with us today. Our team looks forward to finding out how we can help.

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