October 8, 2013

Professionals needed to help visually impaired

PLATTSBURGH — Joanne Zucker has a congenital eye defect that has prevented her from seeing more than shadows for her entire life.

Yet, Zucker has not allowed that defect to interfere with her life: She has enjoyed a successful career in education, has raised a loving family and has helped others with similar vision disorders reach for their own dreams and wishes.

Along the way, she has received priceless support from the North Country Association for the Visually Impaired, a regional organization that has provided education and adaptive-living training to more than 5,000 individuals and families since 1989.

“Eileen’s support was extremely beneficial,” Zucker said of the contact she had with the association’s Eileen Brennan, a trained rehabilitation teacher and orientation and mobility specialist.

“At first, Eileen came to the house and taught me how to use appliances safely, what kinds of modifications were needed (to make the living environment safe for Zucker),” she continued. “She also took me out for an assessment to see how I would do (in an unknown environment).

“She helped me determine what areas I needed to improve upon.”

Brennan is one of three visual-rehabilitation teachers working with the North Country Association for the Visually Impaired. She covers Clinton and Essex counties, while Pat Wilson provides services in Franklin County, and Michele Boyea covers St. Lawrence County.

The certified experts provide one-on-one services at the work site and in school as well as at home. They also offer specialized low-vision exams and instructions for equipment used to match individual needs.

“We help the blind or legally blind with how to conduct activities of daily living,” Brennan said. “How do they clean their home? How do they tell money apart? How do they know when they get in the shower how to find and use shampoo?

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