Overton Brooks VA Medical Center
VIST Displays Adaptive Equip for Visually Impaired
Overton Brooks VA Medical Center’s Eye Clinic reached out to visually impaired Veterans by showcasing adaptive equipment in its main lobby Friday, Oct. 17.
“We (Overton Brooks VA Eye Clinic) treat visually impaired Veterans from low vision to total blindness,” Broderick Burks, Visual Impairment Service Team Coordinator, said.” “If the veteran is dealing with vision loss related to an eye disease such as age related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, or trauma to the eye, they are eligible for VIST services”.
Showcased equipment included magnifying TV glasses, portable hand-held magnifiers, portable scanners, and closed circuit televisions (CCTV) to name a few.
“This is a great piece of equipment (CCTV),” Frank Gaffney, Vice President, Blind Veterans Association for Shreveport, said, “It increases the size of print so I can continue to read my mail and books”. I use this in my workshop. All of this equipment helps Veterans live more productive lives. Many people who become blind seem to think that they’re lives over, but that’s not true.”
Gaffney, an Army Veteran, represents visually impaired Veterans in numerous organizations to include the Randolph Shepard Program and the Louisiana Council of the blind. Gaffney and his spouse operate several vending machines at the U.S. Post Office, the Caddo Parish Courthouse, and Bossier Parish Courthouse to name a few.
“Veterans use the adaptive equipment to remain as independent as possible,” Burks said. “I have blind veterans that can no longer read their mail, watch television, use a computer, or even tell time”. The adaptive equipment we prescribe improves the quality of life for the veteran and allows them to be as independent as possible.
Burks also displayed a scrip talk reader, which reads the prescription label to include the prescription number, dosage amount, name of the medication, and the physician who prescribed it.
“I train Veterans on how to use this equipment as well as how to maintain it,” Burks said. “We even have computer screen reading software that will read an email or internet page to the veteran if he is unable to read the computer screen”.
For Veterans struggling to adjust to severe vision loss, the Biloxi Blind Rehabilitation Center in Biloxi, Mississippi offers an extensive training program so the veteran can learn how to live productive lives as they adjust to blindness.
“And you don’t have to go just once,” Gaffney said. “They train you there on how to use various pieces of equipment. Many people who go there think that they’re hopeless, but they’re not. I use all of this equipment, it’s all pretty versatile. I’ll take my portable magnifier to the store with me and read the price tags; I use the CCTV at home to read my mail and books. It’s not one fits all. Sometimes I have to carry around four different pairs of sunglasses as my eyes adjust from going inside to outside.
Veterans came by the booth to try out magnifying glasses, the CCTV, and the portable magnifiers. Burks answered questions as they looked. Gaffney explained to Veterans how he uses the portable magnifier to read menus and price tags. The magnifier can snap pictures of what I am looking at and I use the view finder to enlarge or “magnify” the image.
The VIST Coordinator is responsible for managing services for Veterans with severe vision impairments. This includes identifying Veterans who have severe sight impairments, providing counseling, and problem-solving advice, reviewing VA benefits and services, training on adaptive equipment, coordinating learning and outreach programs for visually impaired Veterans, according to VIST literature.
For more information about the program, call Broderick Burks, VIST Coordinator, at 318-990-4839.