October 05, 2005.
The Republican (Massachusetts).
I was born with a visual impairment along with my other disabilities. Out of all my disabilities I feel my vision is the worst one. At a very young age I was fitted for glasses small enough to fit a Cabbage Patch doll.
Visual impairments are the result of functional loss of vision through eye disorders, such as retinal degeneration, albinism, cataracts, glaucoma, corneal disorders, diabetic retinopathy and congenital disorders.
There are several categories of vision impairments. The first one is partially sighted, which is the point at which special education services are needed due to the vision problem.
Low vision refers to an individual who is unable to read a newspaper at a normal distance even with glasses. They use adaptive methods like large print materials, special lighting and Braille.
The third category is legally blind, meaning a person has less then 20/200 vision in their better eye or a very limited field of vision. Being legally blind also means you are unable to obtain a driver's license.
In some cases people with the first two categories of vision impairments can qualify for a day driver's license. But due to my low vision I do not qualify for driver's license; instead I have a state identification card.
Totally blind individuals learn to use their other senses and learn Braille. In dealing with any disability, early intervention is the key to a child's development.
Vision problems can hinder their reading skills and fine motor skills. Resources like Braille or large-print materials and magnifiers are brought in to enhance the child's education.
In school I had large-print textbooks and any paper material was enlarged. I also had the option of having extended time for tests where they were read to me.
Today I mainly use a magnifier to read, and enjoy large-print books. Due to my eyesight I do not drive, but my loving and supportive husband is always willing to take me where I need to go and help me when I need it. I am also very lucky to have a mother-in-law and sister-in-law who have become good friends who are always there to assist me.
My computer also has many accessibility features such as enlarged fonts and icons along with an on-screen magnifier.
There are also programs that offer features where the computer audio system reads what is on the screen. They are voice output systems where computer hardware and software products produce synthesized voices for text displayed on the screen and keystrokes entered on the keyboard.
I have used a talking browser that reads what is displayed on Web sites. I find it very helpful when I am doing research for my columns, as well as just surfing the Web.
I recommend visiting www.econointl.com
for more information on this technology.
Like my other disabilities, I see my vision impairment as a challenge in my life and I am always looking for new ways to improve the quality of my life. Carrie Barrepski, a native of Livonia, Mich., lives in Western Massachusetts. Her column will appear twice monthly. You can learn more about Carrie at her Web site,
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source URL: http://www.masslive.com/metroeastplus/republican/index.ssf?/base/news-0/1128412169287440.xml&coll=1.
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