Vision Loss and Tools for Independence

By Nicholas Goodman, MiCAFE Network Specialist at Elder Law of Michigan

Losing your vision can be overwhelming and feel incapacitating, but there are many resources available so you can continue to live independently and enjoy your hobbies and favorite activities.

In Michigan, the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (BSBP) is under the purview of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). The BSBP offers many services for people who are blind or have low vision and want to maintain independent living. One of the services provided by BSBP is the Independent Living Program for Michigan residents age 55 and over. A few of the services in the Independent Living Program include braille lessons, peer support, and opportunities to use adapted appliances.

Another option for people learning to navigate daily living as a blind person is the BSBP Training Center in Kalamazoo. The Training Center is an immersive residential setting where you can learn many skills such as cooking, using a computer, braille, and Orientation and Mobility (O&M). Orientation and Mobility skills help you learn how to navigate your community, whether it be with a cane, guide dog, or without the use of assistive technology. The Training Center also has fully functional apartments in which blind and low-vision consumers can practice skills such as cooking.

Perhaps you greatly enjoy reading but learning to use Braille is daunting. The Braille and Talking Book Library (BTBL) is a great resource to receive reading materials for free. Vision loss is not the only qualifying condition to utilize the Braille and Talking Book Library. If you have a reading disability (such as dyslexia) or a physical disability which makes it unfeasible for you to hold a book and turn pages, you may also qualify for the services of the BTBL. Books, magazines, and newspapers are available in several formats including audio books, large print, and Braille.

If you have questions about your rights as a person with a disability, Elder Law of Michigan has the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors. You can call the Legal Hotline at 800-347-5297 to speak with an attorney at no-cost. If you want to apply for benefits such as Medicaid or food assistance, MiCAFE at Elder Law of Michigan can assist you as well. Appointments can be conducted over the phone, so you don’t have to worry about reading application forms on your own. For more information about applying for benefits, call MiCAFE at 877-664-2233.

If you are navigating vision loss, you don’t have to do it alone and you don’t have you give up activities that bring you joy.

Nicholas Goodman is a Network Specialist for MiCAFE. He has been a member of the Elder Law of Michigan team since October 2013. As a Network Specialist, Nicholas  assists Michigan seniors with benefit applications and serves as an advocate for seniors.