I lost my sight due to a car accident in December 1979. I am thankful that my Ophthalmologist referred me to the Center for the Visually Impaired. I started my rehabilitation training in March 1980. The training that I received included: mobility, braille, activities of daily living, sensitivity training and recreation. This training helped me to realize that my life was not over. It gave me self- esteem to move forward with my life. During the time that I was receiving training, several clients and I would sit in the break room and share our feelings about vision loss. We found this to be very therapeutic and helpful. We approached the rehabilitation manager about starting a support group. The manager agreed and the support group was formed.
The support group is called Adjusting to Vision Loss and is led by a CVI staff counselor and a peer counselor. Even though I finished my rehabilitation training years ago I wanted to stay connected to CVI and give back so I attended peer counselor training classes. I have served as peer counselor for this group since the late 1980s. We have found that this support group is very helpful to individuals adjusting to their visual impairment regardless of how or when they lost their eyesight. By participating in the group, new members are encouraged by the older group members sharing their experiences (how they dealt with frustration, fear, anger, doubt, etc.) and their successes. The older group members show empathy and understanding - this makes it easier for new members to open up and express their feelings about vision loss.
We found that vision loss often causes low self- esteem. You don’t realize what is possible and you don’t see how you will be able to live a fulfilled life. New members are encouraged to attend the support group on a weekly basis. As they attend the group sessions, they begin to learn what is possible. They learn about all of CVI’s services and activities and other resources in the community that will be helpful in their rehabilitation. They are also encouraged to start the process of entering CVI to receive the training that will allow them to regain their independence. They are also asked to stay involved with the group so that they can pay it forward and be a support for someone else.
I have seen many people participate in this support group and they have moved on with their lives. Some have had to change careers, some have remained in the same career and many have been able to live independent of their family. This is why I have been committed to this support group for more than 30 years. I truly believed that this support group and the training provided by CVI help people with vision loss to live with independence and dignity.
Have you ever attended the Adjusting to Vision Loss support group? If so, did you find the experience beneficial? Would you recommend a support group to a friend losing their vision? If you are not familiar with CVI’s Adjusting to Vision Loss support group we encourage you to attend. The group meets each Thursday afternoon from 2:30 p.m. until 4 p.m. at CVI. For more information call 404-875-9011.