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Vision Impairment Service Outpatient Rehabilitation: An Intensive Program

February Low Vision and Age-related Macular Degeneration (A.M.D.) Awareness Month. VISOR Intensive Program graduation photos

During Low Vision Awareness Month, the DC VA Medical Center’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Team recognizes the inspiring strength of Veterans who experience vision loss at birth or later in life due to battle-related injury.

This year, the team hosted a weeklong Vision Impairment Services Outpatient Rehabilitation (VISOR) Intensive Program for women Veterans and their caregivers to supplement the resources and services offered at the Washington DC VA Medical Center. 

Deirdre Dockery is the supervisor of the VISOR Blind Rehabilitation Clinic. “The purpose of the VISOR Intensive Program is to empower women Veterans and their caregivers to regain independence previously hindered by vision loss,” according to Supervisor Dockery. To meet the needs of each woman Veteran, participants completed individual classes focused on adaptive skills and techniques for cooking, applying cosmetics, reading, accessing the internet, making phone calls, yoga, and other activities to improve daily life. The program included the participation of their caregivers.

Each caregiver completed the program to gain perspective needed to best support their loved one. For example, the caregivers donned blindfolds during a “Dining in the Dark” experience, a simulated dining activity where the caregivers relied on their other senses to guide them. “It was great to have my caretaker participate in “Dining in the Dark,” the simulated activities, the group discussions and roll play. We learned so much and we both grew from the experience,” one Army Veteran shared. 

The initiative was not only the first of its kind nationwide, dedicated to women Veterans with vision loss, but it also created a community by establishing a peer support group made entirely of women Veterans with vision loss. “I have visited a Blind Rehabilitation Center twice but had never met a woman Veteran with vision loss. I realized I am not alone on this journey. My fears and concerns were shared and when we held that women’s support group, I realized that together we can do this,” one Navy Veteran proclaimed.

VISOR also hosts quarterly Intensive Programs focusing on blind rehabilitation for other co-occurring conditions, including but not limited to dual sensory loss, diabetes, and more. 

If you are a Veteran in the DC area and have been diagnosed with blindness or low vision, please contact VISOR, 202-745-8000, ext. 58311, to learn more about the Intensive Program. 

Learn more about VA blind and low vision rehabilitations resources here.