Lighting Paths Through the Darkness
Society for the Blind

Article

Most of us have seen a blind or vision impacted person using a long white cane, but have you ever appreciated the keen and well-developed skills such persons must possess to navigate safely and efficiently using only this simple tool and non-visual senses to guide them?  And did you know that in the greater Sacramento area there are over 30,000 blind or vision impacted individuals, or that nationwide this population is expected to double by the year 2040, or that Baby Boomers are facing the primary reason for vision loss – simply aging?

Society for the Blind (SFTB) founded in Sacramento in 1954, is the guiding beacon through the darkness for blind and vision impacted persons in California from the Oregon and Nevada borders to Modesto.  SFTB serves 3,000 individuals a year with a variety of programs that provides their clients with mobility and daily living skills training, career development and job search support, audio access to printed news, the latest in low-vision evaluation and adaptive technology, and the critical resource of mentorship.  Because age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration are the leading cause of vision loss, one of the SFTB’s critical programs is the Senior IMPACT Project, lead by Shane Snyder.  This program reaches out to individuals who have lost their vision at an older age and are struggling to maintain their independence.  A former program participant, Ramona Herriford, lost the vision in her right eye in 2005 due to a rare genetic disease.  That same disease claimed the vision of her left eye a few years later.  Imagine being an older, self-employed homeowner and suddenly being unable to drive or even navigate your driveway.

SFTB provided the life-altering programs that Ramona needed to maintain her independence and her livelihood.  Because of her need for mobility to run her business, Ramona spent 120 hours in Orientation and Mobility classes that made her an expert in “listening” to her cane.  It enables her to tell if she is on a sidewalk, in the street, or in an alley (which she also deftly manages with the added distortion of wind or rain).  Ramona explains with enthusiasm and a wide smile, “The tip of this cane and the environment are my eyes”.  In addition to living her life and running her business, Ramona is also a volunteer, mentor, and chairs SFTB’s Consumer Advisory Council.  She is a remarkable example of the success of all the rehabilitative programs – and the hope and individual empowerment – offered by SFTB and its dedicated staff.

Anyone needing assistance coping with vision loss, from emotional concerns to access and training on the latest adaptive technology, can contact SFTB for further information at (916) 452-8271.  SFTB receives two-thirds of its funding through local donors.  Donations to SFTB can be made on their website at www.societyfortheblind.org or through any United Way work-place giving campaign or via the CA State Employees Charitable Campaign. 

This story was written by United Way board member and marketing committee member, Terry Myrrdin.