John Pina, creative director of Miniac Films, left, places headphones on Herb Kline, who is legally blind, so that he can experience an art installation titled "Unseen-Interpretations with the Visually Impaired", Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami. Credit: Lynne Sladky / AP

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Maine is to be commended this year, during Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Appreciation Week, April 10-16. Maine supports a vital infrastructure of vision rehab professionals, including vision rehab therapists, through the Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and statewide nonprofits, like the Iris NetworkDisability Rights Maine and Catholic Charities. The professionals that work within these agencies — including orientation and mobility specialists, vocational rehabilitation counselors and teachers of the visually impaired — provide the primary rehabilitation services for Mainers with a vision loss.

Sadly, in my experience, many eye doctors throughout the state fail to refer patients with a vision loss to the vision rehab therapist. Although vision rehab therapists in Maine hold masters degrees in vision rehab, and a national certification, they work in the social services field and may be overlooked. Referrals might instead go to occupational therapists or physical therapists, with far less training on vision rehab. Fortunately, a doctor referral is not necessary, and people can locate one  by calling Maine DBVI through the Career Center.

If someone has a vision loss that can’t be corrected with glasses or contacts, from macular degeneration, glaucoma, or some other disorder, a therapist can work with them on lighting, magnification, computer or phone, and other daily living skills. These services are often provided in your home, workplace, or school, at no out-of-pocket cost, or on a sliding scale.

Here’s to Maine’s vision rehab professionals during VRT Appreciation Week!

Steven Kelley

Vision rehabilitation therapist