WATERTOWN – After providing professional services to the area for decades, the Association for the Blind and Partially Sighted of Upstate New York has cracked under years of pressure over being unable to find qualified staff , other obstacles and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Central Association for the Blind and Partially Sighted, headquartered in Utica, has stepped in to make sure people with visual impairments stay well cared for.
The transition took place in the spring. The priorities have been to maintain care for people in the north of the country and to increase awareness of other resources available through CABVI. The organization now has offices in the Northern New York Community Foundation building, 131 Washington St., where its staff will have regular hours starting in 2022.
âWe had a great relationship and they put their consumers first,â said Kathy E. Beaver, CABVI vice president of rehabilitation. âThey wanted to make sure that the services were available to those they had already served, so we made a memorandum of understanding in which all of their consumers became our own. We contacted these people, sent them letters and spoke to them by phone, many of whom are now actively serving. “
CABVI has been providing service in and around Jefferson County for many years, almost 20 years, according to Ms. Beaver.
The organization was approached by the New York State Commission for the Blind because Jefferson County was flagged as an underserved area, meaning it did not have a rehabilitation service provider. professionals. The Commission approached ABVINNY, which did not have any accredited staff with a master’s degree in visual rehabilitation therapy. But CABVI did. The two organizations co-managed services in the county for several years.
CABVI now offers vision rehabilitation services in Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Oneida, Herkimer, Madison, Fulton, Montgomery and North Otsego counties. According to Ms Beaver, the past year saw the organization’s largest service in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, serving more than 250 people since the spring transition. In total, as an organization, CABVI serves approximately 1,900 blind and visually impaired people.
The services offered by CABVI include orientation mobility or travel training; visual rehabilitation therapy or independent living skills; clinical social work; and adaptive technology. Ms Beaver said many services are provided in the home.
âWe also have grant opportunities that we have been able to expand in the region,â she said. âWe are partnering with Johns Hopkins and conducting research on extreme low vision, using alternate reality headsets and helping to understand what people can actually see. We did some research in our Watertown office that people can participate in.
Due to the success of research with Johns Hopkins, this program has been extended. The second phase involves the incorporation of movements with the participants in a virtual travel environment – they must step off a sidewalk and cross the street successfully.
The organization also received a grant from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, a wellness organization that funds programs in several categories for New Yorkers. CABVI’s grant focused on health and nutrition and their impact on vision. Ms Beaver said this program took place earlier this year.
Although CABVI is only just getting started in its new office, it has an Adaptive Technology Center and is looking to put this program in place.
The organization plans to reach out to school districts to serve more children with vision loss. CABVI already has contracts with some local districts like Watertown, LaFargeville and Indian River, but anticipates a possibility of expansion.
âThe northern region is growing – it’s probably one of the strongest regions that is often overlooked in New York State, but it has a lot of upward movement when it comes to people who s ‘are settling in the area, âMs. Beaver said. “I know some of them are grassroots (Fort Drum), but it’s getting very gradual and we want to be a part of that growth, of that community.”
CABVI aims to be readily available to answer questions and help people. The private non-profit association does not want anyone to deprive themselves of necessary services and is on a mission to help people living with vision loss achieve their highest level of independence, regardless of their ability to pay. .
Ms Beaver said the organization will provide as much information as needed, which is always free, to anyone who requests it. CABVI staff assisting callers will talk to them about disabilities, help them obtain medical records and navigate options. Even though the services are not needed now, people are encouraged to learn more so that in the future, if they need CABVI, they will know what is available to them.
Ms. Beaver noted that CABVI is also interested in partnering with other organizations, especially those serving a population with a high prevalence of vision loss. Ophthalmologists and other health care providers, for example, may be able to participate in patient care.
âWe want to meet the needs of everyone who has vision loss, not just those who are legally blind, but those in the early stages of vision loss,â Ms. Beaver said. âWe want to get in touch with them early, to make sure they understand we’re there and available to them – all it takes is a phone call. “
To learn more about CABVI, visit www.cabvi.org or call the Watertown office at 315-797-2233 ext. 4026.