Clients from the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired South Carolina (ABVI) recently participated in a Vision Loss Self-Management Seminar funded by a Community Engagement Grant from Trident United Way. The seminar was a 6-week education and health awareness course that was structured to help blind and visually impaired adults develop self-efficacy, enhance their independence and learn to advocate for themselves to improve their overall health. Unlike the comprehensive vision rehabilitation and skills training we typically provide at ABVI, this seminar offered participants the opportunity to develop ways to implement healthy strategies to improve their quality of life.
Each week a group of 10 clients participated in group discussions and developed various ways to proactively problem solve to address common barriers for life with a disability. By working in a group, the participants were able to collaborate when grappling with various issues. This process also helped them to understand the importance of peer-to-peer support networks. By leaning on peers with similar experiences and challenges, the participants began to develop usable solutions, coping strategies and more.
All of the surveys from our Vision Loss Self-Management Seminar reflect the program’s success as 9/10 participants were very satisfied with the course as well as the information and skills attained. Moreover, the majority of the participants reported having a new ability to create action plans and accomplish goals, having a new ability to communicate assertively, having increased activity and exercise, having new coping strategies, understanding how to partner with their healthcare providers for better care, understanding how to better plan for the future and using community resources for help. Comments from the participants include: “the seminar gave me a new purpose in life.” The seminar gave me “good usable solutions” to day-to-day problems. The seminar allowed me to be “with others who can relate to my challenges.” I discovered the “supportive spirit of others who can relate to me.” Many clients found the seminar so helpful and informative that they asked us to consider incorporating it into our formal programs.
Some of the many benefits of the seminar included reduced emotional stress, improved self-efficacy and mood as well as an increased sense of social support and enhanced daily participation, to name a few. This type of self-management program promotes living with vision loss as independently as possible to increase one’s quality of life.
One of the success stories from the seminar includes a participant who has struggled emotionally for years since losing her vision. She was unable to cope with her vision loss and became more and more depressed as her vision worsened, and she was no longer able to participate in some of her favorite hobbies. Despite efforts from ABVI staff and therapists, she could only look at her life based on the things she was losing because of her vision loss. During this seminar, she experienced a breakthrough and discovered she does not have to be defined by her vision loss. The seminar helped her see that she has worth and her life is valuable because she can share her knowledge and help newer clients. She now feels like her life has meaning again and she now feels hope for the first time in a long time.
Thank you again to Trident United Way for supporting this incredibly valuable experience for our clients.