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Specialist offers clear vision on rehabilitation options

A loss of vision shouldn’t mean the end of an active lifestyle, according to visiting vision rehabilitation specialist Jane Charlton.

The Madison, Wisconsin resident is spending six months on the Island working with the Bermuda Society for the Blind as a consultant in the field of vision rehabilitation therapy.

“Kind of like how physiotherapy helps to rehabilitate the body, vision rehabilitation helps to restore some of the fundamental vision and help you use what vision you have most effectively,” she told the Hamilton Rotary yesterday.

She said that in the case of many people with a visual impairment, using high-contrast items can help them make the most of what vision remains. For example, it is easier to see how full a cup of coffee is in a white coffee cup.

“Vision rehabilitation is really teaching people skills that will allow them to continue their daily activities and maintain an active lifestyle,” she said. “Even if you can’t drive, there are still ways to get places.”

Without such skills, the visually impaired can find themselves trapped in their own homes, isolated and depressed.

“As a vision rehabilitation consultant, it’s my job and my privilege to meet with as many people on the Island as possible and find out from them what kinds of services they do need, what kinds of services they would use, what would make their life more interesting,” she said.

A 2009 survey found around 200 people on the Island were classified as visually impaired.

“Over 80 percent are not actually blind,” she said. “The majority of people have what is called low vision. Folks don’t see normally, and they cannot use glasses or contacts to have 20/20 vision.”

In Bermuda, she said the main issue is glaucoma, which is caused by pressure in the eye damaging the optic nerve.

“Many, many people have glaucoma and don’t realise it because the symptoms come on really slowly,” she said.

Other common causes of visual impairment on the Island include cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration.

While not all of the ailments are completely preventable, two are linked to diabetes and high blood pressure major health issues on the Island which can be combated with healthy living.

She advised people to protect their vision by living a healthy lifestyle, wearing sunglasses and visiting an eye doctor on a regular basis.

Several of the conditions also have a hereditary element, so those who have a family history of visual impairment should be particularly cautious.

Jane Charlton, a certified vision rehabilitation therapist and vision consultant working with the Bermuda Society for the Blind was the Hamilton Rotary Clubs's guest speaker during their meeting at the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club Tuesday ( Photo by Glenn Tucker )

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Published January 16, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated January 15, 2013 at 11:32 pm)

Specialist offers clear vision on rehabilitation options

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