Vision loss can have a devastating impact on an individual, and each person handles this life changing event in their own unique way – getting along well in some areas and perhaps, not so well in others. If you are losing vision, you already know that many otherwise ordinary tasks can quickly become full of fear and worry. Having trouble cooking a meal, writing checks, reviewing the mail, losing the ability to drive safely – all can erode self confidence before you even know it. Constantly relying on family and friends – who often don’t understand vision loss and how to help, or not help – can take a dramatic toll on personal morale. This is why the sharing activities of a support group are so often beneficial to people who develop low vision. If you are having trouble learning to live with vision loss, or want to meet other people who are also dealing with vision related problems, a support group can be a valuable resource.
A Low Vision Support Group is a gathering of people with the common problem of vision loss. They form or join such groups to discuss various aspects of their problems including the emotional aspects of sight loss, to investigate solutions and share resource information. These groups range from well organized gatherings sponsored by large organizations or agencies and run by professional facilitators with psychology and low vision training backgrounds, to informal “grass roots” groups which spontaneously form. These latter support groups are more casual and are usually held in an individual’s home, at a church or senior center. There is an “organizer” who is a lay person with a vision impairment who is motivated to form the group.
Taking part in a Low Vision Support Group offers many advantages to its members. One area of support is resource sharing. Because there are very few geographical areas with centralized information sources for the vision impaired, finding out about available services is often difficult and time consuming, and can be a daunting task for someone who feels depressed and isolated. Taking part in a support group provides much information about available services, and results in an increased access to such services by group members.
The groups also offer psychological support. People who participate in Low Vision Support Groups come to understand that others have similar problems and experiences, and so their sense of isolation is greatly reduced. Participants often experience less depression and develop a more positive attitude about their ability to function and lead normal, productive lives. They value an atmosphere where they can discuss aspects of living with vision loss that they do not feel comfortable discussing with normally sighted individuals who often do not understand the problems resulting from diminished vision. Also, the group experience can become social as well as functional. The meetings deal with vision issues, but may also include recreational activities such as games, listening to recorded books, and going on group outings.
E.A.R.S. for EYES has put together this National Directory of Low Vision Support Groups in an effort to help people find and participate in what can be a very rewarding and helpful activity.
This Directory is ongoing and is continually expanding. If you know of a Low Vision Support Group in your area that is not listed, please let us know either by phone at 1-800-843-6816 or by using the “suggestions” email on this site. Our goal is to build and maintain a comprehensive, nationwide list of Low Vision Support Groups. If you do not find a Low Vision Support Group listed in your area, check back – new listings are added regularly.