February is designated as National Low Vision Awareness Month. Low vision is the term used to describe the visual performance of eyes impacted by any condition that renders a person’s visual acuity to 20/70 or poorer in the better-seeing eye and cannot be corrected or improved with regular eyeglasses. Most people know this term as being “legally blind”.
Many conditions can make a person legally blind but the most common is Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD). The macula is the region of the retina that we use for our most precise vision. It has a huge metabolic demand that requires our bodies to supply it with the necessary oxygen levels and sugars necessary for it to function properly. With age, the body’s ability to do this diminishes and the macula burns itself out, not unlike a finely tuned race car engine does if it is running without enough oil.
ARMD is inevitable if we all live long enough. That statement may sound quite dire but the good news is that if one has good genetics, eats a diet high in anti-oxidants, protects the eyes from UV exposure, avoids smoking, and controls their diabetes and hypertension, this condition may only impact them if they live well into their 90’s and beyond. I always tell my patients to live healthfully so you will have to be 125 before it hits!
Sadly when retinal damage does occur due to this condition or others, the ability of the eye to see detail is gone and does not return. When this happens people are then challenged to learn how to function within the constraints of their new reality.
The people in Stockton are blessed though because they have access to The CCBVI-The Community Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The CCBVI was founded in 1949 when Mrs. Myrtle Stephens Clark brought together 11 people to establish an Adult Blind Club where people could meet, socialize and enjoy arts and crafts. From this small club the CCBVI was born.
Today the CCBVI offers a huge array of products and services to our partially sighted population, which include:
- Information and referral to the various governmental sponsored programs that offer financial and technological support for the blind and visually impaired.
- Personal and family support to help adjust to vision loss by offering advice and direction within a framework of open and honest discussions of the challenges facing everyone connected to this condition.
- Braille instruction and access to materials such as books, music scores, playing cards, bingo cards and board games designed for Braille use.
- Daily living skills where clients are taught how to cook, maintain a home, manage money, and care for themselves. These services include home visit assistance with adapting techniques to home environments.
- Orientation and mobility training to teach patients how to travel safely and effectively using their remaining vision, a long cane, and optical devices.
- Training on computers and large print magnifiers.
- Products such as canes, magnifiers, talking timepieces and Braille/large print playing cards are stocked for sale if needed.
- Leisure time activities where the center offers educational, recreational, and social activities designed to offer opportunities to socialize with peers, prevent isolation, and develop self-esteem. These include field trips, card games, ceramics, arts and crafts, gardening, bingo, etc.
Not every community is as lucky as Stockton is to have this kind of resource. It is just one of the hidden gems that makes this community what it is, and Brookside Optometric is a proud sponsor of the CCBVI.
Please use the following information if you or any family member is in need of these services:
2453 Grand Canal Blvd Suite 5
Stockton CA 95207
Learn more on their website.