By Jeanette Schmoyer
Originally published in The PCB Advocate, Fall 2011
Soon after moving into an “over 55” community, I realized how many people
were sharing with me their concerns about losing eyesight. I have had low
vision for over fifty years, and have acquired knowledge and experience in
the field of low vision, so I felt I had something to offer them.
I approached the social worker in our building about starting a support
group, explaining that one of the first things I did after moving here was
to call the local Association for the Blind to arrange for O&M services
specific to this area. I also explained that I am very familiar with the
leading vender of low vision products in this region. My own experience with
many low vision devices offered through catalogs and other venders seemed an
attribute I could share.
The social worker agreed that a vision support group was a great idea. She
felt that using the name “Vision Support” would be less threatening to the
residents than using “Low Vision.” I planned an agenda for the first
gathering, and gave a promo to the social worker to submit to the community
At the first gathering nearly forty people came to hear what was being
offered. I spoke about my experiences to make it clear that as the initiator
of the group I was not a professional, but a person who had experienced and
was still experiencing loss of eyesight. The response was very positive. The
residents felt they could relate to me. That was in May 2008, three months
after I had arrived, and we have met almost monthly since then.
The monthly programs have included various eye physicians and low vision
therapists, various staff members from the Association for the Blind,
assistive device venders, and PCB officers. Countless low vision devices and
daily living gadgets have been demonstrated. Attendees have been introduced
to CCTV’s, portable video magnifiers, digital book players, electronic
readers, liquid level indicators, Bump Dots, tactile checks, talking clocks,
wrist watches and calculators, ZoomText for the computer, clothing labels
and much more. They have had opportunities to share their concerns, and to
share discovered solutions. In addition they have heard about various
advocacy issues that PCB and ACB are pursuing and tracking.
On behalf of the support group I have written letters to the administration
here and to the Campbell’s Soup Company. In response to suggestions from our
Vision Support Group the directory of residents here is now printed in large
print in addition to the traditional directory, and a yellow center line has
been painted on the roads on campus in our community. We have had a letter
of response from Campbell’s Soup and we hope the soup name on the labels of
their soups will once again be in large bold black lettering instead of the
more recently used thin script writing.
In January 2010 our support group held a Low Vision Expo with five
demonstrating participants, and now the facility staff includes low vision
venders in their annual senior expo here on the campus. Neighboring senior
communities are invited to the expo, so the impact of the support group here
If you are thinking of starting a Low Vision Support Group, be sure to make
the appropriate contacts to initiate the group. That may be an administrator
or social worker in the location you wish the group to meet. Clarify who
would be responsible for scheduling speakers and reserving the meeting room.
Be sure you are prepared to lead if that is asked of you. Know local
resources you can call upon as presenters. Be prepared to make the phone
calls required to schedule speakers and venders if that is your
responsibility. Plan well in advance. Stay in touch with your host facility
to be certain that your space will be available as planned. There are many
details to care for to make things go smoothly.
If you have any questions or comments, you may contact me at (215) 703-4072
or via email at