Members Speak Out


Greater Houston Group Enthused by Progress

 

Our regional group is very excited to have a role in the new VISOR program, which has come about fairly quickly here in our area. We are very pleased by the progress that is being made by VA to expand this program throughout the country.

VISOR staff, left to right, Secretary Julie Gilbert, Chief Bill Johnson, VIST Coordinator Karen Petty, and Orientation and Mobility Instructor Randall May.
VISOR staff, left to right, Secretary Julie Gilbert, Chief Bill Johnson, VIST Coordinator Karen Petty, and Orientation and Mobility Instructor Randall May.

We are also grateful for BVA’s important legislative advocacy that is making the funding possible and for the influence of the Pennsylvania Regional Group in getting this program started many years ago in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

For Bulletin readers still not familiar with VISOR, it is an outpatient, nine-day rehabilitation experience offering skills training, orientation and mobility, and low-vision therapy. The programs combine many of the features of a residential blind center with those of outpatient service delivery. A VIST Coordinator with low-vision credentials manages the program. Other key staff consists of a certified Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist, Orientation and Mobility Skills Instructors, Rehabilitation Teachers, Low-Vision Therapists, and a part-time Low-Vision Optometrist.

VISOR uses “hoptel” beds to house veterans so that the beds do not require 24-hour nursing coverage. The experience is similar to staying in a hotel. We hope that these new programs will indeed do what they are intended to do: provide high-quality rehabilitative services, reduce waiting times, and decrease travel across networks for veterans.

The accompanying photo is our new VISOR staff just getting started. Since the time the photo was taken, however, two Low-Vision Instructors, a Computer Trainer, and an Orientation and Mobility Skills Instructor have all come on board. There is more to come and it will only get better!

Ronnie Anderson
Houston, Texas
President, Greater Houston Regional Group

A New Connection in Connecticut

 

Gerry Fitzpatrick with manual skills teacher and Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Center staff member of 35 years, Marty Snitkin.
Gerry Fitzpatrick with manual skills teacher and Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Center staff member of 35 years, Marty Snitkin.

As a Vietnam veteran suffering from diabetic retinopathy, I was recently offered the opportunity to travel to West Haven, Connecticut, to attend a six-week residential course that would assist me in better coping with my legal blindness. I was informed that the experience would result in greater independence and freedom.

The opportunity surpassed all my expectations and literally opened my world.

Two vision rehabilitation teams, one named Blue and the other Eagle, each had a staff leader. Blue Team Leader Katie Wiseman led an outstanding staff of teachers, among them manual skills teacher and shopkeeper Marty Snitkin. Tom Knapp demonstrated to me the proper use of the white cane so that I can now get around more safely as one who lacks peripheral vision.

Cindy Sygrove brought to my awareness the many types of magnification, allowing me to see much better than I have in a long time. Not to be outdone, a living skills class taught by Joe Petrini helped me learn how to cook, type, write checks, and pour liquids into containers without spilling them—all things that I was able to do before losing my sight but which I took for granted.

I will be forever grateful for the world-class instruction of which I was the beneficiary at this wonderful facility. I encourage anyone in the same situation, and I know that there are hundreds of you out there, to please contact your local VA Medical Center and speak with a VIST Coordinator about attending West Haven or any of the other BRCs or VA programs that might enhance your quality of life.

As I was offered the opportunity to return to West Haven for computer training in just a few months, my bags are already packed and ready for the return trip!

Gerry Fitzpatrick
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania