Saturday, June 02, 2007

Sight Centre opens its doors to the visually impaired!

The Sight Center of Northwest Ohio recently opened its new facility designed to deliver vision rehabilitation services to people throughout the area who are blind or visually impaired. The single-story building is located adjacent to the Area Office on Aging near Arlington and Detroit avenues in south Toledo. The new Sight Center is hosting a grand opening celebration for the public from 2 to 5 p.m. June 17. The community event will include tours, interactive vision activities for all ages, refreshments and a Father's Day gift for all dads.

The Toledo Society for the Blind operates today as the Sight Center of Northwest Ohio. The center was located on Canton Avenue near Downtown for 51 years and has operated as a nonprofit agency since 1923. “When we planned the day for the open house, we discovered that the building on Canton was dedicated on that same date in 1956,” said Dawn Christensen, executive director of the Sight Center.

“The need is immense with an estimated 170,000 people in the center's 16-county service area experiencing life-altering vision challenges,” she said. The 12,300-square-foot facility offers a more efficient, cost-effective delivery of care, improved programs and services, and increased opportunities for professional collaboration. It includes a complete vision center, three exam rooms, three training rooms to help people adapt to reduced vision or blindness and offices for its staff. The comprehensive vision rehabilitation training available in the new setting allows people to remain independent in their own homes, while reducing health care costs due to shorter stays in assisted living facilities and nursing homes.

The agency serves about 1,200 clients per year at the center and provides some in-home services and rehabilitation programs such as “white cane” training for the blind.

In many cases, the Sight Center is the only source in Northwest Ohio for people losing their vision. It does not provide primary eye care or examinations, but offers specialized rehabilitation services so people with low vision can make the best use of their remaining sight and the blind can continue to live independently.

Laurie Brown of Archbold was a new client evaluated on her first visit after being diagnosed with macular degeneration. Her vision loss was beginning to make her work designing and selling invitations on the computer and Internet more difficult to complete.

“I wanted to get help early so as it progresses, I hope I can adjust easier,” said Brown, who wants to maintain her independence while adjusting to her vision loss.

She is a candidate for special adaptive equipment with large print and “talking” software to read and also convert print into Braille.

People who benefit most from the services offered at the Sight Center include those whose vision impairment or loss interferes with their ability to perform routine daily tasks; people whose vision can no longer be improved with glasses, contacts, surgery or medication; or those who have a specific eye disease such as age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma or cataracts, said Christensen, who is blind.

Her first introduction to the organization occurred while attending camp for blind children and adults when she was 6. She received white-cane and adaptive-technology training and learned to address daily living issues.

Christensen worked a total of 20 years in two different periods for the organization before being named its executive director in March 2006.

“It's been challenging and fulfilling,” she said. “We have an incredibly dedicated staff of 23 full-time, part-time and contingency employees as needed.”

The organization conducted a capital campaign raising $1.65 million to build the new facility. However, the cost of construction increased by 25 percent from the planning stages to completion with a final price tag of $2.1 million.

The Sight Center is continuing its fund-raising efforts to obtain the additional money to pay for its construction, Christensen said.

The Sight Center is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) agency that receives approximately 20 percent of its funding from the United Way. The balance of the nonprofit's budget comes from private donations, bequests, memorial requests, wills and grants from foundations and government sources. “Nonprofit agencies are businesses with customers we serve,” Christensen said.

The Sight Center works with doctors and optometrists as well as visually impaired clients. It is accredited by the National Accreditation Council of Agencies serving the Blind and Visually Impaired.


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