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What is the best method to approach a blind or visually impaired person to offer assistance?

Often, when people encounter a person who is blind or visually impaired, they want to offer assistance, but aren't sure how to approach the person.  It is alright to ask the blind person if they need assistance. If they do need assistance, just ask how you may assist them. If they do not need assistance, don't take it personally. Many blind and/or visually impaired people are quite proficient with their skills.

Keep in mind that the majority of blind people have some small degree of usable vision. Few people are totally blind.

When you encounter someone with a dog guide, don't assume the dog knows exactly what to do. The dog only understands some basic commands that are given by its handler. Don't speak to the dog or distract it in any way. However, it is just fine to ask the person if they need assistance.

Where can I get a white cane?

The Blind Relief Fund
215-487-1444

The New Vision Store
215-629-2990

Independent Living Aids
1-800-537-2118

Maxi Aids
1-800-522-6294

Does ASB find jobs for blind and/or visually impaired?

Unfortunately, we do not provide job-placement services. Fortunately, we do prepare visually impaired individuals to enter the work force with a better advantage by sharpening their skills that employers expect.

For job placement services, visit your local Career Link or Blindness & Visual Services, (BBVS).

What are some eye diseases that may lead to blindness?

The primary cause of vision impairment and blindness in the United States is age related disease. Today, approximately 10 million Americans are blind or have a visual impairment severe enough to affect their daily living.  Of that 10 million, more than half are age 65 or older.  By the time we reach our senior years, we, or someone close to us, will be facing a significant vision loss: age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and/or glaucoma.

Normal vision, (20/20), occurs when light is focused directly on the retina rather than in front of or behind it.

Cataract
A cataract is a clouding of the eye's naturally clear lens.  Cataracts usually appear with age and may be a result of exposure to ultraviolet radiation contained in sunlight or lifestyle factors such as cigarette smoking and diet.

Diabetic Retinopathy
A common complication of diabetes, it affects the tiny blood vessels in the retina.  These blood vessels can break down, leak or become blocked, impairing vision over time.

Glaucoma
This disease is commonly described as tunnel vision.  Glaucoma is a gradual degeneration of cells that make up the optic nerve.  As the nerve cells die, vision is slowly lost, usually beginning with peripheral vision.

Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is a disease that primarily affects the part of the retina that is responsible for sharp vision.  The exact cause of macular degeneration is unknown; however, risk factors include age, Caucasian race, and smoking.

Visual impairment from most eye diseases and disorders can be reduced with early detection and treatment.  Healthy vision is a shared responsibility; that's why we at Associated Services for the Blind & Visually Impaired are here to help.  Our quality programs and services are available to make adjusting to an eye disease or disorder, a smooth and less frightening transition.  For further information please contact us at (215) 627-0600.

What does legal blindness mean?

These standards are set by the Department of Health and Human Services to determine only the eligibility of those people under these standards to receive governmental aid.

The definition of legal blindness is:

"A person whose central acuity does not exceed 20/200 in the better eye with corrective lenses, or whose visual acuity is greater than 20/200 but is accompanied by a limitation in the field such that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees."

  -- National Association for the Visually Handicapped

If a person is legally blind, can they still see?

The acuity of 20/200 means that what a person with a visual impairment can see at 20 feet can be seen
by a person with normal vision at 200 feet. Yes; a legally blind person can still see and may function well.

It would be best to keep in mind that visual acuity measurements do not determine a persons level of function or ability.

I am afraid to take travel training (mobility) because the white cane will make me stand out to those people who would take advantage of me. Are there other colors or styles of canes that are used in travel training?

The white cane is universally known as a tool for the visually impaired in many countries of the world. It is one of the test questions to acquirer a driver's license so every driver understands the meaning of the white cane.   In situations where visually impaired people and moving vehicles are concerned being easily seen by the drivers is a good thing.

Regarding the possibility of being victimized because the white cane will make you stand out from the crowd, there will always be those people who will take advantage of others regardless of their situation. I say the same thing about this situation to all my students. "People who do bad things, do them in secret. They do not like to be publicly scrutinized as they go about their unlawful business".  

So it stands to reason that the more you are scrutinized by everyone the less likely you will be victimized by some one.

Also keep in mind that people who do bad things are the exception to rule and for every person that does bad things there are at least ninety-nine people who do good things. While it is true that the white cane will make you stand out to people who do bad things the much larger group of people who do good things are also watching you and the people who do bad things know it.

So to answer your question, "Are there other colors or styles of canes that are used in travel training"? None that this agency knows about or would use. 

Where can I find services in my area?

We get this question quite often. 

ASB provides many services to people in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware area.  There are some services we offer outside of this area, such as braille books and audio magazines, etc.

If you are not in this area and you are looking for specialized or rehabilitation services, you can generally find these by contacting your local or regional Blindness & Visual Services, directory assistance or perform an internet search using your favorite search engine and form your request in the following manner:

mobility training "Houston, TX"
learning braille "New York, NY"

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