Spotlight on Rockland Organizations

Spring Valley, NY – By age 65, one in three Americans will develop some form of vision-impairment. According to EyeCare America, of the 119 million people in the United States who are age 40 or over, 3.4 million are visually impaired or blind. This level of blindness and visual impairment costs more than $4 billion annually in benefits and lost income.

The Association for the Visually Impaired (AVI) was begun as a grassroots organization, founded in 1973 by residents of Rockland to serve blind and visually impaired residents of Rockland and Orange Counties. The group recognized a need for a local organization that could assist blind and visually impaired people with activities and could offer counseling to those having a difficult time adjusting to their vision loss. At the time, blind individuals had to travel into Westchester County to receive services. Initially the consumers were all adults, however, AVI began to realize there was a growing need in the community to provide Functional Vision Services to children birth to three years old living in Rockland that were blind or visually impaired. This led to a contract with the Department of Health, Early Intervention. The organization expanded into Orange County in the late 1980s to provide comprehensive vision rehabilitation services and programs and helps individuals in neighboring counties in need of workforce development and placement services.

Today, AVI provides training to the blind and visually impaired to ensure independence and the ability live a healthy and meaningful lifestyle within the community in the home of their choice. The agency also provides comprehensive vision rehabilitation services, support meetings and escorted transportation services to the blind and visually impaired in Rockland County. All services are provided at no cost to clients; clients may be referred to low vision specialists for an evaluation and acquisition of low vision tools.

The agency also hosts a Social Educational Support Group, which meets the first and third Thursday of each month at 11 a.m. at the Promenade at Chestnut Ridge (Old Schoolhouse Road in Spring Valley). Among the regular attendees is Claire, a 102 year old widow who is legally blind due to macular degeneration and glaucoma. She was originally from Montreal, where she worked as a bookkeeper and raised two children. According to Claire, when her vision worsened, Claire left her home in Canada to move closer to her daughters; both had married and moved to New York years before.

The Social Educational Support group is free and open to the public; the objective of the group is to help adults of all ages to develop coping strategies to adapt to vision loss by providing peer support as well as access for community services which can improve their quality of life. Agency representatives actively seek presentations regarding eye conditions/research as well as nutrition, exercise and other health, wellness and safety topics. AVI invites presenters to conduct programs in the area of music, adaptive sports and games; with the assistance of volunteers, the group also plans outings to local restaurants. This program is made possible in part through grants from United Way of Rockland County and M&T Bank.

For more information on the Association for the Visually Impaired please call 845-574-4950.