Resources for Low Vision
Fortunately, we live in at a time when there are extraordinary resources available for individuals with impaired vision. The primary resource for information is your primary eye care provider, your ophthalmologist or optometrist. They can direct you to public and non-profit organizations that provide services for the vision impaired. Frequently, the entry point for obtaining help is the State Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. In Minnesota this government agency is part of the Department of Employment and Economic Development. The main office is in St Paul, but there are local offices in nine other locations throughout the state. You may be referred to State Services for the Blind by your eye care provider by filling out a postcard indicating your diagnosis and level of visual acuity. You may also contact State Services for the Blind directly in St Paul or any of their regional offices (mn.gov/deed/ssb).
State services will then arrange an interview with you to evaluate your visual needs, assess your level of visual disability, and provide low vision materials and aids. They may also refer you to various low vision rehabilitation providers located throughout the state. These providers will then arrange an in person or in home interview to evaluate the extent of your visual disability. They may then recommend a range of services including assistance in activities of daily living, mobility training, and technology assistance. Additional services include one-on-one training, support groups, volunteers to assist with shopping, as well as community educational and recreational activities.
The largest provider of low vision rehabilitation services in Minnesota is Vision Loss Resources, recently relocated from Minneapolis to Little Canada (www.visionlossresources.org). They accept referrals from eye care providers, including ophthalmologists and optometrists, referrals from State Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, or may be contacted directly. Other providers include Fairview Visual Rehabilitation Services located at the University of Minnesota, with suburban offices in Edina, Burnsville, and Maple
Grove (www.fairviewmnhs.org/specialties/visual-rehabilitation). Blind Inc is also a provider located in Minneapolis (www.blindinc.org). Services are also available in Duluth at the Lighthouse for the Blind (www.lighthousefortheblind-duluth.org). National organizations may be accessed through the internet: The American Council for the Blind of Minnesota (www.acb.org/minnesota), Foundation for Fighting Blindness (www.blindness.org), National Federation for the Blind (www.nfb.org, and the American Council for the Blind (www.acb.org).
Low vision devices are available at local low vision retail stores or through internet providers. These include the Low Vision Store in St Paul (www.thelowvisioncenter.com), and the Lighthouse in Duluth (www.lighthousefor theblind-duluth.org). Patients may shop for various low vision aids, including magnifiers, large print materials, reading guides, and technology devices. They may try out these low vision aids before they decide to purchase them.