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Program helps bridge gap in services for the visually-impaired

Millie Gellner, a resident of Lake Forest Senior Living Community in Plattsburgh, uses a low-vision timer, one of the several articles that may be recommended for people through the Courtesy Visit Program by the North Country Association for the Visually Impaired.

Millie Gellner, a resident of Lake Forest Senior Living Community in Plattsburgh, uses a low-vision timer, one of the several articles that may be recommended for people through the Courtesy Visit Program by the North Country Association for the Visually Impaired. Photo provided

— The North Country Association for the Visually Impaired makes it its business to help those who suffer from vision problems — even those who sometimes fall between the cracks when it comes to qualifying for services.

According to NCAVI executive director Donna M. Abair, the nonprofit organization — which has been providing vision rehabilitation services since 1989 in Clinton, Essex, Franklin and St. Lawrence counties — contracts with the state to provide services for the blind and legally-blind ages 55 and older free of charge. However, the organization recognized there was a largely underserved population of those who didn’t meet that criteria. So, they decided to help.

NCAVI created the Courtesy Visit Program, which consists of making house calls free of charge for home evaluations of those requesting services, explained Abair.

“We visit with folks anywhere from one to three times, where we offer advice, bring them new or recycled equipment and give them home evaluations for things like magnifiers to help them with their vision,” said Abair.

The visits also help the visually-impaired with suggestions of how they can make their homes more accessible such as by improving lighting and utilizing clocks and other devices with larger print.

Though NCAVI provides services through the Courtesy Visit Program, it continually raises money privately to keep services going, said Abair. This year, the organization dedicated its annual “Golf for Sight” golf tournament at Harmony Golf Club in Port Kent toward the program. The event raised more than $8,500.

“We were encouraged by the participation,” said Abair, who felt people were compelled to join specifically to help the Courtesy Visit Program, which last year alone served 50 people and this year expects to double that figure.

The Courtesy Visit Program is also important to have in place to help prepare the visually-impaired for further complications with their sight they could develop over time, said Abair.

“When we catch people earlier than when they become legally-blind, it’s an advantage for them,” said Abair. “This way, their familiar with us and they’re not behind the eight ball. They have the tools in place to help them cope and are way ahead of the game.”

For more information about the Courtesy Visit Program or other services offered by NCAVI, contact the organization at 562-2330 or visit www.ncavi.org.

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