Imagine a world in which faces have vanished, obscured by a dark cloud in the centre of your vision. Out of focus impressions remain on the perimeter of your sight but the faces of those you love have disappeared completely, along with the faces of everyone you look at. When you dream you remember faces, but you lose them on awakening.
The voice nearby sounds friendly, but you’re not sure you’re being addressed. There are other people nearby. Eye contact to gauge the speaker’s intentions is not possible. You’ll look a fool if you butt in. You sit quietly, hoping you’re not causing offence. You feel vulnerable, and very lonely.
This is sight impairment.
Strange images begin to haunt your remaining sight. You’re really frightened. Perhaps you have a mental illness? Drifts of flowers curtain your vision, ants swarm across the floor like pools of spreading ink. A black cat curls up comfortably in the seat beside you – but you don’t have a cat! You don’t know it but your brain is filling in the gaps from the limited information it’s receiving from your eyes. The results are alarming.
This is sight impairment.
Shopping is very stressful. Pavements, full of obstacles, narrow and swell in strange distortions. People rushing, crossing in front of you. You feel panicked. You go into a shop. It takes an age to find what you want because when you try to identify the product, read the price, these things vanish behind the dark cloud in the centre of your gaze. Sometimes you snatch something up, hoping it will do. Very often it doesn’t.
You hope the notes you hand to the assistant are the right denomination. You hate to look a fool. Last week you smiled and explained that you’re sight impaired. “Why don’t you wear glasses then?” was the response. You felt sick and humiliated. You made for the nearest loo to try and pull yourself together, but everything vanished in a dazzle of hygienic white. You groped for the fitments, crashed your hip against the sink. You can still feel the bruise.
This is sight impairment.
EYECAN can help. A rehabilitation officer assesses people in their own homes, helps make the environment work for them, matches them to equipment and support which makes life easier. He provides mobility training to enable people to move around confidently wherever they are, and gives tips to help them deal with the visual hallucinations caused by Charles Bonnet syndrome. He can refer them to social and activity clubs where they will meet other people with sight loss. When a member had a bad cold recently 5 other members rang staff to let them know she couldn’t make it that day. Such friendships are invaluable.
EYECAN is always working to raise awareness of the needs of sight impaired islanders. Staff will listen to bad experiences. People don’t usually mean to be unhelpful but Jersey has a legal obligation to be inclusive and staff training, and advice on accessible premises and information, are available from EYECAN.
For more information about EYECAN please visit www.eyecan.je or phone 864869.
29 year old Zoe Morrison experienced significant sight loss 3 years ago. At her eye department appointment, when she was told that it was no longer safe for her to drive, she realised that she would not be able to keep up her job. She was absolutely devastated. “I felt I’d just lost my independence” she says. Her consultant had mentioned that she should get in touch with EYECAN, but it took several weeks before Zoe could bring herself to do this, and 4 – 6 months before she could properly engage with the support on offer. “I didn’t want to admit that I needed help”, she explains. She also thought that social clubs were just for old people.
Zoe is now a popular and committed Activity Club member. Her charming designs regularly feature on EYECAN Christmas cards. Since her first contact with EYECAN the Community Team has provided much practical support to Zoe, including mobility training, and assistive technology to promote her independence. When out shopping Zoe sometimes uses Be My Eyes, an app loaded onto her phone which video-calls a helper who reads product details to her. Zoe can now take note of ingredients, expiry dates and prices. Whenever Zoe has concerns EYECAN has stood beside her, advocating for her, giving her confidence and making sure she is listened to.
Zoe recently finished an Introduction to Counselling course and this year will begin the Level 2 course in Counselling Skills. She says “I have a chance again, my world isn’t over. Technology is a of massive benefit to people with sight loss. And who knows, in time perhaps there’ll be a cure for me. Whatever happens, I feel that I’ve got my independence back.”
EYECAN can help. A Rehabilitation Officer assesses people in their own homes, helps make the environment work the them, matches them to equipment and support which makes life easier. He provides mobility training to enable people to move around confidently wherever they are, and gives tips to help them deal with the visual hallucinations caused by Charles Bonnes Syndrome. He can refer them to social and activity clubs where they will meet other people with sight loss. When a member had a bad cold recently 5 other members rang staff to let them know that she couldn’t make it that day. Such friendships are invaluable.
EYECAN is always working to raise awareness of the needs of sight impaired Islanders. Staff will listen to bad experiences. People don’t usually mean to be unhelpful but Jersey has a legal obligation to be inclusive and staff training, and advice on accessible premises and information are available from EYECAN.
Enjoy good food – protect your eyes!
We often hear about the health benefits of a diet rich in natural ingredients, but how many of us realise that such a diet also supports good eye health?
Medical research suggests that by regularly eating colourful fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and oily fish we could prevent, or slow down the progress, of several eye conditions. Research also indicates that a diet low in saturated fats and high in leafy green vegetables, and also eggs, could delay the progression of cataracts and Age-related Macular Degeneration.
Lots of very good reasons to eat tastily and healthily!
As EYECAN’s Rehabilitation Officer, Chris Frost, points out, “combine such a diet with regular exercise and the risk of acquiring Age-related Macular Degeneration can be reduced even further, whilst maintaining a healthy weight considerably reduces the risk of diabetes, a condition which can lead to sight loss.”