As I get ready to get in the car for today’s appointments, I thought I would take this rainy morning to remind everyone of iKan-RCIL.  iKan-RCIL is a program for those who are 55 years and older and have a vision loss caused by such conditions as Glaucoma, Age-Related Macular Degeneration, Diabetic Retinopathy, and many more.  This program is often referred to as the “older blind program”.   The person does not have to be totally or “legally” blind but the condition causing the vision loss must affect their daily living to qualify for services.  The iKan-RCIL program covers 32 counties which are listed below and if you are interested in a county not listed email Amanda Smith and I’ll get you the contact information. iKan-RCIL coverage includes: Allen, Anderson, Bourbon, Brown, Chase, Chautauqua, Cherokee, Clay, Coffey, Crawford, Dickinson, Doniphan, Elk, Geary, Greenwood, Jackson, Labette, Lyon, Marion, Marshall, Montgomery, Morris, Nemaha, Neosho, Osage, Pottawatomie, Riley, Shawnee, Wabaunsee, Washington, Wilson, and Woodson counties.

I visit individuals at their home and teach them skills or give them technology to live as independently as possible with their vision loss.  To qualify for this service you must live in one of the mentioned counties, be 55 years or older and have a vision loss. There is no cost to participate in this program and if you or someone you know is interested they can email Amanda Smith or call at (785) 528-3105.

Last month I posted about January being Glaucoma Awareness month.  Well, February is Low Vision Awareness month so I’d like to share some knowledge on this topic.

1.)  Low vision is a vision loss that makes it difficult to accomplish visual tasks even with the best possible correction, but with the potential for use of available vision, with or without optical or non-optical compensatory visual strategies, devices and environmental modifications.

In other words, even with glasses, contacts, surgery, etc. the person does not have enough vision to do daily tasks.  But with use of some tools/skills the person may be able to complete these tasks.

2.)  People with low vision may label themselves as blind, legally blind, visually impaired, partially sighted or many other terms.

In order to be deemed legally blind by a doctor, the person’s vision when best corrected (wearing glasses, contacts, after surgery, using medication, etc.) is 20/200 or less or has a visual field of 20 degrees or less.  20/200 means that a person with 20/20 vision can see at 200 feet, that person can see at 20 feet.  A visual field of 20 degrees or less can be demonstrated by putting your hand out in front of your face in a fist and only the area blocked by the fist would be visible.

People who are blind can be spilt into two groups – light perception and no light perception.  Our society stereotypes that people who are blind only see darkness.  This is not true; many can see light, different shades of color, shadows and or shapes.

3.)  Low vision devices include everything from computer software, handheld magnifiers, video magnifiers, scanners, binoculars, monocular and many other items.

Most the time, when people think of devices that help people complete daily tasks, they think of high priced electronic equipment.  That is not always the case.  A rubber band can aid a person in detecting which can of food they are needing out of the cabinet.  A raised bump can identify which medication the person needs to take in the morning.  A piece of cardboard cut correctly can help a person with low vision fill out a check to pay bills.

Some tasks people do by using mostly their vision, people with low vision have to unlearn using their vision and rely on other senses in order to complete these tasks.  One example would be to use your hearing for the beeps while on the elevator instead of watching the number move above the elevator door to know which floor you are on.

4.)  The term low vision is very broad and encompasses many people with many different types of vision loss.  The most common causes for low vision in the United States included age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.  Most of these diseases do not affect people until they are 45 years or older but that is not always true.  There are forms of macular degeneration that affects children, infants can be born with cataracts or glaucoma, and if a person has been diagnosed with diabetes in their early years they can end up with diabetic retinopathy at an early age as well.

Please have your eyes checked annually especially if you are 45 years or older and make sure your eye doctor is checking your eyes for common diseases.