VIA’s Low Vision Clinic in Buffalo, NY

Experiencing vision loss – or watching someone close to you experience it – can be frustrating and downright scary. And it’s probably not something you’ve thought about until it happens, which only makes matters more confusing. Having a trusted partner in your corner during this difficult time can make a world of difference.

That’s where VIA’s Low Vision Clinic comes in. We are the Western New York area’s leading center for the visually impaired, and we’re here to help you or your loved one through every stage of your vision loss and rehabilitation journey. We offer comprehensive vision rehabilitation services to people of all ages experiencing vision loss or visual impairment.

You’re probably wondering what the Low Vision Clinic is and does – and what our vision loss services are comprised of. Read on to learn more about our clinic and what you can expect when you work with us.

What Does Our WNY Low Vision Clinic Do?

The first thing to understand is that our low vision clinic is not designed to replace the expertise of your ophthalmologist or doctor. Your personal eye health professional (commonly your ophthalmologist or doctor) will continue to monitor and treat the health of your eyes – we are here to support you on your journey toward vision rehabilitation making your vision functional.

When you visit us, our Doctor of Optometry, a Certified Low Vision Optometrist, will perform a thorough evaluation of your vision, discuss your goals for your vision moving forward, and determine what vision rehabilitation services will help you achieve those goals.

Our low vision clinic can help you with things like:

  • Reading small or standard print
  • Telling time
  • Using a computer/keyboard
  • Identifying medications and dosage instructions
  • Watching television
  • Organizing household items
  • Recognizing faces
  • And more!

What is Vision Rehabilitation?

You may be wondering what is meant by “vision rehabilitation.” This term encompasses an array of professional services that help to maximize safety, independence, and quality of life following vision loss. These services may be provided in the home, school, or workplace.

VIA’s vision loss services include:

  • Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT): We’ll help you restore your confidence and independence in the face of vision loss by using adaptive techniques and tools that work with your life. Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) allows you to do everything you did before vision loss; you’ll just learn to do it a little differently.
  • Orientation and Mobility (O&M): Know where you are, where you need to go, and how to get there using our O&M techniques and tools. O&M services help you get around your home, neighborhood, workplace, or other community settings through various methods, including the use of residual vision, a sighted guide, long cane, guide dog, and more. * Note that VIA does not assign guide dogs
  • Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI): Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments special education teachers who have received certification and specialized training in meeting the educational needs of students who are blind or have visual impairments.
  • Social casework services: Social workers can assist with learning how to access community resources, services, and benefits, as well as providing opportunities to meet with others with vision loss, self-advocating, and educating others about vision loss. Our social casework services can also include individual and group adjustment counseling – VIA offers a short-term men’s and women’s support group facilitated by social workers, and an ongoing peer support group led by volunteers who have successfully adjusted to vision loss.

It’s also helpful to remember that terms like “low vision” and “vision loss” don’t just refer to blindness. The truth is that low vision occurs across a spectrum, consisting of varying degrees of visual acuity. It can be caused by a variety of disorders including age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetes, as well as less-common causes like brain injuries, cancer in the eye, and albinism.

The American Optometric Association classifies low vision into two groups:

  • Partially sighted: the individual has visual acuity between 20/70 and 20/200 when using prescription lenses or visual correction.
  • Legally blind: the individual has visual acuity no better than 20/200 when using prescription lenses or visual correction, and/or a restricted field of vision less than 20 degrees wide.

What Should I Expect When Visiting the Low Vision Clinic?

If you’re looking for vision loss services in WNY, VIA’s low vision clinic can help. We’ll perform a thorough low vision exam to evaluate your vision loss and formulate a plan of action.

Here’s what to expect when you visit our low vision clinic:

We’ll discuss your vision loss.

The exam begins with a conversation. We’ll start by gathering an extensive health history and getting some information from you about how your vision loss affects you, your family, and your life in general. We ask that you bring any vision aid items you’re currently using – eyeglasses, magnifiers, etc. – with you to the exam.

We’ll educate you and answer questions.

We’ll discuss your eye condition and answer questions you might have about the process or what to expect moving forward. We’ll give you a lot of information during this stage – it’s recommended that you have a family member or friend with you in the exam room to help you absorb and remember everything.

We’ll maximize your vision.

Our Doctor of Optometry will try a variety of lenses to help you see at a distance and at close range. You’ll also learn about lighting and how it affects your ability to perform activities of daily living. From there, we’ll make recommendations for any additional vision rehabilitation services that could be beneficial to maximize your independence.

While the procedure for managing a case of low vision will be determined by your ophthalmologist and vision loss rehabilitation experts like those at VIA, there are both optical and non-optical aides that patients can use to manage low vision. For most people, a combination of both will be used to maintain a level of independence.

Optical aides are designed to help magnify or sharpen objects or print in the field of vision. Some examples are:

  • Magnifying glasses
  • Hand magnifiers
  • Telescopic glasses
  • Light-filtering lenses
  • Reading prisms
  • Closed-circuit televisions

Non-optical aides are designed to make life easier for those with low vision. These include things like:

  • Talking clocks, watches, pill bottles, etc.
  • Large-print reading materials
  • High-contrast clocks and watches
  • Screen-reading software
  • Text-reading software
  • High-intensity table or floor lamps
  • Writing guides

About Our Provider: Dr. James Simmons

Dr. James Simmons has been employed within VIA’s Vision Rehabilitation Department as our Certified Low Vision Optometrist for over 20 years. He’s helped countless individuals regain independence, comfort, and quality of life after vision loss.

Dr. Simmons is a native of Western New York and graduated from Pennsylvania College of Optometry in Philadelphia in 1993. There, he earned his Doctorate of Optometry and a Master’s of Science in Vision Rehabilitation. Prior to that, Dr. Simmons attended LeMoyne College in Syracuse, NY, to earn his Bachelor of Science in Biology.

Visit Our Low Vision Clinic in Buffalo, NY

If you or your loved one are experiencing visual impairment, contact your doctor or ophthalmologist to address the health of your eyes. After speaking with your doctor, Dr. Simmons can make additional recommendations to help you live independently in the face of vision loss. Our goal is to help you live life to the fullest – we offer vision loss rehabilitation, tools, education, job training, and community support in order to help individuals of all ages experiencing vision loss live and work independently.

VIA: Vision Loss Rehabilitation in WNY

Visually Impaired Advancement has been providing the Western New York community with vision loss rehabilitation services for more than 100 years. Our mission is to maximize patients’ functional vision to improve their safety, independence, and quality of life. We have two clinic locations in WNY:

Main Campus
1170 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14209


Northtowns

1491 Sheridan Drive, Suite 600
Tonawanda, NY 14217

Clinic hours are Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. To make an appointment at one of our locations, please give us a call at (716) 888-4556.

Are you dealing with vision loss? Do you have a friend, family member, or loved one who is? There’s no denying that a diagnosis of vision changes or loss can be challenging. But it doesn’t change who you are, what you believe, or what you want to accomplish. Contact VIA today to learn more about our vision loss rehabilitation services and get started on your vision rehabilitation journey.

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