Have you or someone you know gotten professional help relearning their kitchen’s layout after going blind? Maybe, someone’s come over to your friend’s house to teach them how to adjust their house’s lighting or texture contrasts to better distinguish one room from another. Have you known a relative who suffered some loss of sight to get retaught cooking skills?
The person who came to give such help might very well have been a certified vision rehabilitation therapist. Now it’s easy to get them confused with a general occupational therapist since the skills they teach overlap. But occupational therapists’ work involves dealing with people having any number of physical or cognitive difficulties. Vision rehabilitation therapists zero in on those who experience some amount of vision loss as their predominant disability.
Unless a CVRT works privately, he usually is part of a team based in a center for independent living, a Vocational Rehabilitation or Department of the Blind office or residential school. In that case, one may work with clients who are totally blind while another may help those who are adjusting to more gradual vision loss. Schools such as World Services for the Blind (Little Rock, AR) and St. Louis’s South Office of Missouri’s Rehabilitation Services for the Blind divide up work between several certified staff members who teach clients how to read braille, develop soft skills for job interviewing, and skills for organizing their home life. In this team approach, CVRT’s can rotate from one area of teaching to another so as to keep their skills fresh and resist the temptation to burn out amid a constantly changing caseload.
Because many offices of a State’s service department of the blind cover several counties, they contract with CVRT’s in the field who more readily reach their clientele to help with all the previously mentioned skills for adjusting to blindness. Rehabilitation teachers who are themselves blind partner with a sighted driver who brings them to several clients in a single day. This allows for someone’s whole family to get involved. Often when someone goes blind after being married or a parent for several years, the changes they must make can overwhelm those living with them. So a CVRT lends a hand to everyone to make the transition of vision loss as smooth a time as possible.
Have you ever thought of becoming a CVRT yourself? The field is always in need of new blood. After all, the technology today is much different than that which affected people who were blind twenty or thirty years ago. You may teach people to use a smart phone’s Free and low-cost apps like Be My Eyes or Seeing AI to perform many of the jobs like matching colors on clothing, money identification, and reading mail. A CVRT may teach someone going blind to organize things-to-do lists on an Alexa device or plan a daily workout on the Revision Fitness App.
Of course. Schools like Western Michigan and Salus universities offer Masters degrees in Blindness and Low Vision Studies. From there, you will become certified by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals (ACVREP). Through the Association of Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AERBVI), you will become part of a supportive network of blindness professionals who collaborate on research and share the latest teaching methods for helping people cope with their vision loss.
Shortly before I moved to Connecticut for an internship, the lady helping me with cooking skills brought me a lock-lid pan, a meat cutting guide and a few other gismos I could use when making dinner. From the one-cup coffee maker to the silicon grips on my elbow-length gloves, I gained confidence navigating my kitchen. When switching careers to work for the Federal government, I did attend World Services for the Blind and learned from the CVRT’s on staff who refreshed my approach to more efficiently do blindness. Now married and enjoying the life of advocacy, I can appreciate the time and effort CVRT’s put into helping us more fully participate in everything life has to offer.
So we say thank you to certified vision rehabilitation therapists and the service they give us.