DES Recognizes Low Vision Awareness Month

February is Low Vision Awareness Month, an opportunity for us to better support individuals with visual impairments and understand the obstacles they face on a daily basis. A visual impairment can have a considerable impact on daily life, with the potential to affect most everyday activities. As defined by the National Eye Institute, low vision is a condition that cannot be corrected with glasses, contacts, medication or surgery. Fortunately, there are services and innovative assistive technology that can help individuals with visual impairments overcome obstacles so they have the opportunity to thrive.

The Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) has several programs tailored to individuals with disabilities, including visual impairments, so they can find success in the workplace. RSA services include:

  • Vocational Rehabilitation (VR): The VR Program provides services to individuals with disabilities–including visual impairments–to help them prepare for, enter into, or retain employment. Services provided by VR may include vocational evaluation, job training, job search, job placement, transportation, job site modification, self-employment, entrepreneurial activities and more.
  • Business Enterprise Program (BEP): BEP provides VR clients who are visually impaired with opportunities to own and operate merchandising businesses. After completing a training program, BEP participants run their businesses under Federal and State agency management and earn a stable income, including medical and retirement benefits.
  • Independent Living Older Blind Program (ILOB, formerly known as the Older Individuals Who Are Blind Program): ILOB is a program for adults 55 years of age and older with a significant visual impairment who need support to achieve their goal of living independently. The program provides evaluation and instruction in the areas of orientation and mobility, communication skills, and personal home management.

Our RSA programs have the ability to transform the lives of individuals with various disabilities, including those with low vision. “[Vocational Rehabilitation] is an incredible asset to the Blind community as it helps a blind or low vision person regain their independence and freedom,” said BEP Operator and RSA client, Michael Armstrong. “There are countless stories of how the Business Enterprise Program has permanently improved the quality of life for blind entrepreneurs. The concept of upward mobility constantly enables the operators to improve their prospects. I personally have more financial freedom now than I ever have had in my life.”

VR client, Jason Rogers, has also seen tremendous success in the utilization of RSA services. “My time enrolled in the VR program was rewarding and life-changing in so many ways,” he explains. “The team at VR gave me the tools necessary to adapt to my loss of sight as well as the guidance to utilize those tools effectively.”

Jason goes on to offer advice to individuals considering applying for VR services: “The only thing you are required to do is dedicate yourself to this process. VR will provide you with the resources you need for success such as, but not limited to, vision care, life skills, cane training, work training, technology, transportation, and even a college education in some cases.”

Remarkable stories like these are first-hand accounts of how DES and RSA can assist individuals with low vision, including the types of assistance and outcomes individuals can expect when collaborating with our dedicated staff. Our RSA team members are committed to providing people like Michael and Jason the best outcomes possible, so they can achieve their goals, provide for their families, and ultimately, thrive.

Throughout the month of February, we will be sharing more success stories and resources for individuals with visual impairments looking to take that critical step toward a promising future. Thank you for your partnership in helping to spread awareness!

Angie Rodgers