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Blind Veteran grateful to Houston VA Low Vision Clinic

A VA assistive technology specialist provides treatment to a Veteran.
Stephen Pandov, VA Assistive Technology Specialist, works with Air Force Veteran Alexander Brown to help improve his mobility and navigation skills.

While serving in the U.S. Air Force, Alexander Brown was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was medically retired after serving nine years.

As a civilian, his condition gradually got worse and significantly affected his quality of life.

“Simple things like putting toothpaste on a toothbrush became a difficult task for me,” said Brown. “I soon lost my ability to drive and lost interest in activities that otherwise brought me joy.”

Brown self-medicated with alcohol to fight depression.

“I felt like no one understood what I was going through due to the nature of multiple sclerosis being an invisible disease,” he said.

During his first appointment with his primary care doctor at the Houston VA Medical Center, Brown was referred to the Visual Impairment Services Outpatient Rehabilitation (VISOR) clinic which is one of nine VA clinics nationally that provide comprehensive outpatient low vision services.

Brown received a low vision optometry exam and then visual skills/low vision therapy, mobility and navigation skills, living skills instruction, and training in assistive technology.

“I resonated with how detail-oriented they were with my assessments and how it affected me,” he said. “I was also fascinated that some of the staff members had visual impairment issues or blindness themselves which gave me motivation and hope.”

He also received a computer and iPad with the assistive technology, several pair of glasses, and the clinic connected him with community resources such as the Blind Veterans Association.

“My journey with the VISOR clinic was nothing short of spectacular,” he said. “Before I knew it, I was cooking again, leaving the house more and enjoying my hobbies once again.”

Brown was able to see his child graduate and also earned an associate’s degree in mental health counseling from San Jacinto Community College.

“I owe all of this to the excellence and quality care of this team,” he said. “I would highly encourage all Veterans with visual impairment issues and blindness to visit VISOR to discover this life changing experience.”

Brown hopes to become an alcohol and drug counselor.

“It is an honor to serve all of our Veterans, but it is special to be part of Mr. Brown’s recovery journey because he is going to pay that forward and help other Veterans in his career,” said Amy Wheeler, Director of VISOR.  “He took the tools and skills learned in VISOR and put them to use in order to achieve his goals.  Vision loss doesn’t have to define a person and Mr. Brown is living proof.”

For more information on the VISOR program, please contact 713-794-7532 or email: amy.wheeler2@va.gov.

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