Sightseeing. A periodic tour of CVI news, views and events.

Appreciating Those that Teach People with Vision Impairments

Picture of orientation and mobility instructor with clientThis week, April 11-15, is observed as Vision Rehabilitation Therapy Appreciation Week. A VRT is an instructor who teaches independent living skills to people with vision loss. The role of the VRT is to provide instruction and guidance in adaptive independent living skills, enabling adults who are blind and visually impaired to confidently carry out their daily activities. Other job duties for a VRT include evaluating their client’s needs, developing individual plans, identifying resources, teaching problem solving and how to use adaptive equipment.

VRT Appreciation Week began as a way to increase awareness of the field and recognize the dedication of professionals within it. VRT Appreciation Week takes place in April to coincide with Anne Sullivan’s birthday on April 14. She is best known for being Helen Keller’s teacher. But it was not until last year that VRT Appreciation Week was changed from June. Here at CVI we have VRTs as part of our New View Adult Rehabilitation Program and want to say a special thank you for all your hard work and service. We appreciate your efforts to fulfill our mission of empowering those with vision loss to live with independence and dignity.

Originally VRTs started out as a charitable home-based program in the 1900s that provided instruction in reading Biblical scripture. These home teachers were mostly blind women who quickly realized that people with vision loss needed more than just religious instruction. They developed strategies and helpful hints that address communication skills, daily living skills and handy crafts. It was not until after World War II that rehabilitation teaching established as a profession. Through customized training VRTs now learn about low vision, the psychosocial aspects of vision loss, gerontology, multiple-disability challenges, daily living techniques, and indoor orientation skills.

Because VRTs are college-trained professionals who can address a variety of skills needed; their clients are more equipped to live independently at home, to become employed, and to participate in community activities. Here at CVI our teachers give individualized instruction in braille, meal preparation and cooking, financial management, emergency preparedness, in home mobility and orientation, and so much more.

Picture of ADL teacher with CVI clientI remember when I started working with a VRT some years ago; I learned some valuable techniques that I still use to this day. For example, she taught me how to pour liquids, like hot water from a tea kettle, without spilling it on myself or the kitchen counter. She also came up with a creative way for me to keep up with my scarves by using a plastic hanger with multiple pouches. I then braille labeled the pouches to correspond with the color of the scarf that was in it. We also worked on identifying money and labeling my home appliances. Learning these skills gave me a stronger sense of independence. It also encouraged me to learn more ways to handle my life activities such as paying my bills and grocery shopping.

Have you worked with a VRT? If so, what things did you learn from that experience? If you have not and you want to learn ways to be more independent contact CVI’s New View Adult Rehabilitation Program at 404-875-9011.