Eye Talk by Annie Schlesinger
It wasn’t until I was in my forties that I was diagnosed with my heredity eye disease Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). I was told I would likely become totally blind. Although I knew I couldn’t see well, it was a shock! Not knowing how long I had, I begin to prepare.
I took some classes at Braille Institute in Los Angeles. I was given lessons in using the long white cane. Next I took correspondence courses from Hadley Institute including Independent Living and Braille. After I started getting talking books I read stories by and about blind people. I wanted to know how to live.
Although I was legally blind I could function fairly well for a lengthy period of time. BUT as the loss of vision started to impact more of my daily functioning I begin to take vision loss seriously. Unlike me many people won’t become totally blind, I read 85% will retain some vision but may have trouble reading and with activities of daily living. Everyone can benefit from these suggestions.
Here are some things I suggest:
My number one is to get organized! Don’t waste your time and get frustrated by not being organized.
Learn to do things in a non-visual way. This is easier to do while you still have vision as you can check on yourself. Use other senses, there are four more besides vision. Touch does lots for us. Mark items with bump dots or 3D paint so you can locate places such as numbers on a microwave.
If you expect to change residences, do it while you still have vision and can arrange it to your satisfaction.
Work with your environment. Get used to pushing in chairs, close cabinet doors. Plan contrast in dishes, towels, rugs. Plan lighting, avoid glare.
Sign up for talking books if you like to read; this gives you telephone access to NFBNewsline which has over 500 publications available. Bard allows downloading books to a tablet or other device.
When you can’t read your own handwriting there are several digital recorders available for under $100 you can use to make notes and lists.
If you can, get into technology. There’s much available, and although harder to learn for older folks, it opens up another dimension for us. We older folks, and younger ones too, resist change and it may take more repetition for us to learn something. But I did it when all I really wanted in technology was to use the ATM.
“With tools, techniques and a dose of imagination blended with persistence there have always been solutions to performing ordinary tasks without the benefit of 20/20 vision.” Deborah Kendrick
References: Eyes on Success, MDSupport, Access World
Eye Talk by Annie Schlesinger
By the time I was diagnosed with my eye disease, I was in my forties and legally blind. I had some classes at Braille Institute in Los Angeles and Orientation and Mobility training (O&M). Most of my O&M has been done wearing a blindfold. It was SCARY! My first instructor let me walk in to a wall; he said, “You need to learn!”
For years I didn’t use the cane; I could get around fairly well and only occasionally bumped into people or objects. Luckily I never fell. Like many others I didn’t want to be identified as a blind person; some perceive a stigma about using a cane.
I started using the cane when I was bumping into more people. One woman didn’t accept my apology and shouted at me. She walked away but came back and shouted at me again. I was about in tears. After that I started at least carrying the cane to identify myself. People were nicer and often helpful. I was safer.
The long white cane helps me to scan my surroundings for obstacles and orientation landmarks. The basic technique is to swing the cane side to side no wider than the shoulders, the cane is two steps ahead as one walks. This can be done by tapping the cane in an arc or sliding the cane from side to side, keeping contact with the surface. in close quarters a pencil grip keeps the cane close to the body while still checking ahead. Shore lining is hitting the edge of the sidewalk with each swing.
No matter how skillful I am situations develop. So far I deal with them and go on. In my complex walkways can have obstacles: walkers, carts, baskets and sometimes doors are left ajar. My cane encounters them and I pass safety.
I search for landmarks such as potted plants, changes from carpet to tile and other changes in surfaces. I am alert for ramps, curbs and stairs. Sometimes sounds echo off a surface or a low ceiling; skillful travelers can often detect differences in these sounds.
When do you start to use a cane?
-When you are not effective in getting around,
-When you are relying more and more on help,
-When you become dangerous to yourself and others,
-When you want to be more effective and competent,
-When you want to walk as a blind person with confidence, it’s time to use a long white cane!
NFB.org has instructions for using the cane, “Care and feeding of the long white cane”. It is instructive but I recommend training with an instructor.
Newsy Notes February/March, 2020
Eye Talk by Annie Schlesinger
As I age I notice my memory is not as good as it used to be. As we age we also experience some loss of touch sensitivity, taste, eyesight, hearing and problems with balance.. Of course I want to do what I can to maintain my facilities particularly memory. I’ve heard it said blind people have the best memories; well, we depend on memory a lot!
Memory is network structures, storage of information and the ability to recall information when needed. It is now believed memory loss isn’t inevitable. Our brain can grow new pathways and new connections by learning new things and staying engaged.
Fleeting memory lapses are more upsetting as we get older; we fear loss of intellectual function and worry do we have dementia! Most of the fleeting problems reflect normal changes in the brain, making it a bit harder to learn new things quickly.
Some symptoms of dementia are forgetting routine things constantly, trouble learning new things and difficulty with complex tasks. It seems to be a matter of degree, small lapse are Okay, but more and more of the ones cited here are troublesome and need evaluation by a professional.
Anything that helps the body helps the mind: good nutrition and exercise. Life long learning is excellent. Slow down, live in the moment . Reduce stress-be aware of how stress affects you.
I read that in order to enhance memory one could move something and try to remember the new location. I didn’t like this idea as I am organized: my keys always go in their tray, cane goes beside the door and so on always. But I did decide to move the soap dispenser to the opposite side of the sink; someday I will switch it back. I switch hands to brush my teeth and I am attempting to perform more tasks with my non-dominant hand to create new pathways in my brain.
1. Keep learning. Challenge your brain with activities such as puzzles, gardening, dancing or learning new words.
2. Use all you senses. Example: try to guess smells in restaurants and elsewhere.
3. Believe in yourself. Believe you can maintain and improve.
4. Economize your brain use. Organize and keep distractions to a minimum. Focus on new information you want to remember. (My favorite-don’t waste your brain power being disorganized.)
5. Repeat what you want to learn. Repeat it several times, and if you can, write it down.
6. Space it out. Repetition is best when it is studied after longer periods of time. Let some time go by and repeat what you want to remember.
7. Make a mnemonic. As RICE to remember first-aid for injured limbs: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Associate the first letter of a new name with something familiar
(References: MDSupport, Harvard Health)