For people that were just diagnosed with low vision or progressive blindness, one of the things that can help people with vision impairments the most is setting up a case or file with their state resource department for blindness or vision impairment. The name of this department in each state varies- Virginia is the Department of the Blind and Visually Impaired, Maryland is Department of Rehabilitation Services, New York is New York State Commission for the Blind, etc. No matter the name of the department, receiving services can help tremendously with navigating life with a vision impairment- and they provide their services for free. Here are seven benefits of having a case with state departments for vision impairment.
Vocational rehabilitation is defined as “a process which enables persons with functional, psychological, developmental, cognitive and emotional impairments or health disabilities to overcome barriers to accessing, maintaining or returning to employment or other useful occupation.” Through this program, people with vision impairments can receive resources and training towards gaining stable and meaningful employment. They can also receive training for maintaining their job.
One example of how vocational rehabilitation services may be used is if a computer programmer began losing their sight, they would learn how to use assistive technologies and screen reading and/or magnification software to continue to do their job. Another example would be helping a high school student get into an apprenticeship and helping to ensure they graduate and gain employment.
Help with IEPs and 504 Plans
When I had an IEP in high school that eventually transitioned into a 504 plan, when I graduated, we always noted that I had a case with Virginia’s Department of the Blind and Visually Impaired (DBVI). My case was opened in ninth grade.
Having a case helped to confirm that I needed services and also eliminated the need for repeated assessments to determine if I still qualified for services. This came in handy when I moved school districts.
My school had trouble understanding why I received services from DBVI, citing that I wasn’t blind. The truth is, almost all state departments can help students with low vision in addition to blind students. Another benefit is that your DBVI case manager can come to IEP, 504 plan, and child study team meetings as an advocate.
Aids in college transition
Before starting college, I had an intake meeting with Disability Services so we could determine my accommodations. Having a case file with DBVI meant that I could receive almost instant approval for services. This is because my file has a lot of documentation about my condition.
Orientation and mobility training
As your vision changes, you might need to learn alternative ways of navigating. You may also need to learn to use a blindness cane either for identification or mobility purposes. Almost all state departments for vision impairment have at least one orientation and mobility specialist who teaches people how to navigate, how to pick out a cane, and learn to travel independently. Sometimes you might even be able to get canes for free.
- My initial feelings about using a blindness cane in my White Cane Day post
- The different colors of blindness canes
Assistive technology services
No surprise, this is one of my favorite things about having a case with my state department for vision impairments. Everyone I have met from the assistive technology department has been very knowledgeable and up-to-date on technology. They can perform assistive technology assessments as well as show off the latest gadgets for people interested in them. One of these meetings actually led to me discovering the E-Bot Pro. It’s important to remember that not all assistive technology devices are high-tech though.
State Protection and Advocacy organizations
When I ran into an issue that was connected to the fact I have a disability, I was able to utilize my state Protection and Advocacy organization. Having a case with DBVI helped me be able to get my other case approved quickly. It also helped move everything along even quicker.
A reminder vision impairment isn’t the end of the world
A lot of people tend to be scared of losing their eyesight, or not being able to function after they have lost it already. One of the greatest benefits state departments for vision impairment provide is that you can still lead an amazing life, no matter what your sight level may be. There are a lot of great people who want to help and make life easier for you, and it’s important to give them the opportunity to do so.
Having a case with my state department for vision impairment has helped me a lot. I highly recommend setting up a case if you haven’t already.