VA Western New York Healthcare System
New Technology Helps Veterans With Low Vision See
As technology gets “smarter” so does VA Western New York Healthcare System’s Low Vision Clinic and their care for Veterans. Those that are eligible for VA low vision services, can get an array of modern devices and features to help Veterans live independently and connect with friends and family in ways they couldn’t have years ago.
Rochester resident and Navy Veteran Donald Diehl, 88, has been using VA services for over eight years in New York and Florida. After finding out he was legally blind with macular degeneration, Diehl attended independent living classes at the affiliated Center for the Visually Impaired. Now with his new skills, VA helps Diehl stay independent with the latest devices and services. “He is completely independent,” says VA Western New York Healthcare System’s Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist Meghan O’Brien. “He is able to bank online, read the newspaper, mail and e-mail all on the devices we give and train him on.” However, Diehl’s condition leaves him unable to leave his home to attend his 14-year-old granddaughter’s gymnastic meets. “I was never able to get much out of them because of my condition,” says Diehl when talking about attending a meet. One of the devices given to Diehl by VA’s Low Vision Clinic is a large screen magnifier that allows him to view print materials and video with high definition and clarity. On a day O’Brien was at Diehl’s house for an evaluation, they looked up his granddaughter’s gymnastic meet on YouTube and turned on the machine only to be overcome with emotion. “As I was watching, I could see her. Her foot moved the wrong way on a landing and I was able to catch it,” says Diehl. “I enjoyed it immensely! I sent her an e-mail right away about it. She got a big kick out of it.”
VA Western New York Healthcare System has given Diehl other devices to keep him independent and able to connect with his friends and family. Multiple hand magnifiers, a large phone, iPad, sun filters, white support cane and a talking blood pressure machine to name a few. “Devices are given to eligible patients at no charge, with training in the home and follow-up evaluations to see if the Veterans are using the devices and if they are using them correctly,” says Dr. Carolyn Ihrig, OD, and Chief of Vision Impairment Services for Outpatient Rehabilitation. After receiving the iPad, Diehl was thrilled because it gave him the ability to download and read books. Now, Diehl volunteers at the senior living facility he lives in by helping others download books. “VA has been so amazing it makes me choke up,” says Diehl. “Unless you’ve been through it, it’s a shock. I am very, very fortunate.”
If you or a loved one is experiencing vision problems, please contact VA Western New York Healthcare System’s Primary Care Clinic at 1(866)884-8567 for an appointment to see if you are eligible for the Low Vision Clinic at VA Western New York Healthcare System.