Ralph Griner, age 79, recently discovered Asheville’s Community Low Vision Center (CLVC) after moving from Florida.
Due to vision loss, Griner recently decided not to renew his driver’s license, but he still gets around well.
Discovering this facility, part of nonprofit IFB Solutions (locally known as Industries for the Blind), has made a major difference in his life. Griner calls it his “low-vision toy store.”
“I can read 20-point type, but you don’t find that large a size in most places, so I bought a handheld portable electronic magnifier, and it’s made all the difference. I can read my iPhone now, menus, and almost everything else,” said Griner.
Griner is also testing a computer software program called ZoomText that allows him to continue using Microsoft Word and Excel by magnifying the screen. He notes there’s a learning curve, but a CLVC employee is available to help him learn the nuances.
Asheville’s CLVC connects people who have significant visual impairments (also called “low vision”) or who are blind to assistive devices and computer technology that helps them live more independently.
Grant Weathers, low-vision services and outreach coordinator at CLVC, manages the store. He also has low vision, so he knows exactly how to help and the best devices for specific low-vision issues.
The Asheville center also includes access to low-vision physicians who hold clinics three days a month at the CLVC. During this time patients receive low-vision evaluations and recommendations for tools and technology to help them maintain their independence.
Senior adults can try out assistive devices that help them continue hobbies they love such as cooking, reading, sewing, and woodworking. And there are resources for people of all ages—children who have low vision can find new and better ways to keep up with schoolwork.
There are dozens of items to accommodate most levels of low vision. Some of those include simple items, like the following:
- Bold line writers (markers)
- Bold line paper
- Large print, high contrast measuring cups, and kitchen aids
- Bump dots, which are extremely helpful for finding numbers on microwaves and other products
- White canes
Other items include:
- EVMs (Electronic Video Magnifiers)
- CCTVs (Closed Circuit Televisions)
- Talking watches and scales
- Color readers to help people coordinate wardrobes
All these products are for sale at reasonable prices, and all proceeds help support programs for people who are visually impaired or blind. One of those programs is SEE Camp, a three-week program for children who have vision loss—the camp is free for all the children.
Through a Recycle for Sight program, the CLVC collects low vision devices from those who no longer need them and recycles them to people who cannot afford new items. The organization’s Focus on Literacy program provides equipment free of charge to children who are blind so they can complete homework and other tasks at home.
Tax-deductible donations to help people who are visually impaired or blind are welcome (donate here).
Weathers tells the story of a 93-year old woman with low vision that he had helped at CLVC. She took him to lunch at a local restaurant to say thank you, and to show him the illuminated menus there.
Unfortunately, the menus at lunch weren’t lighted, so Weathers couldn’t read them. But his companion could—she pulled out her handheld electronic video magnifier and used it to read him the list of lunch items.
“She was so satisfied that she could read the menu, and I think she got a kick out of reading it to me, too,” Weathers said.
“Many adults come in to try our aids. When they can read their Bible again, or the newspaper it thrills them, and it thrills me for them,” said Weathers. “All these aids help seniors do one thing. They help them remain more independent. And that is why we’re here.”
Asheville’s Community Low Vision Center is part of IFB Solutions, a nonprofit whose mission is to create life-changing opportunities for people who are blind.