Welcome back to our collection of Stories of Independence. Guest writers are invited to share their own personal experiences, or express their views on the world around them.
Below, Dorothy Lee, a client in VisAbility’s Community Activity Centre shares her journey from her diagnosis of vision impairment, to how finding a fun and like-minded community has brought her independence and joy in the later stages of life.
Let’s step into Dorothy’s shoes. This is her story.
“VisAbility is only a phone call away, by Dorothy Lee.
At VisAbility down one of the corridors, the one that leads to Handa Hall, several photographs of times gone by hang from the walls. The picture which attracted my attention was the one of two Labrador puppies sitting side by side, one black and one cream coloured. Such beautiful animals!
On the frame above the dogs are the words: Please Support Guide Dogs. On the lower part of the frame reads the name ‘The Association for the Blind’ and the address 16 Sunbury Road, Victoria Park.
A block west from here, Sunbury Road meets with Clydesdale Street at a T-junction. To the right of Clydesdale Street and up the hill, was our family home where I was born and lived for 63 years. We were fully aware of Sunbury Road and the Association, but I never dreamt that one day I would be walking its corridors as a vision impaired person.
The Victoria Park Railway Station used to be opposite Harper Street but in changing times, the station was demolished. A new station was built a block away opposite Duncan Street where it is now. From the station, two long ramps lead the traveller off the platform and down to a pedestrian crossing. This is controlled by traffic lights and crosses Kitchener Avenue. A short walk down the pavement, and you will reach VisAbility. The entrance is now from Kitchener Avenue. While the name has changed from the Association for the Blind to VisAbility, the telephone number is still the same!
Having a disability is not the end of the world. New doors open and new things can be learned.
My first visit to VisAbility was to purchase a good pair of sunglasses from the onsite shop which sells daily living aids. This is where I met Andrew (Specialist Services Manager) who gave me a few tips on what was available at VisAbility for people with vision impairment. I joined and became a member for a small amount, it’s only $40 now.
Afterwards, a lovely lady named Rebecca who is an Occupational Therapist, came to my house. She showed me the trick of placing the door key in the key hole, as well as tips to fill the electric jug.
Back at VisAbility, I was introduced to the Assistive Technology department. I was shown various appliances for reading the newspaper. There was lots on offer, but because of a shortage of space where I live, I chose a smaller “i-LOview” viewer which suits me well for reading Saturday’s paper. Magnifying glasses were also shown to me so that I could select the most suitable for my purpose.
Lastly, Rebecca returned with Sinead and together they installed Zoom Text on my desktop computer. These larger more expensive items, can receive a subsidy from the Lotteries Commission, but first one’s income must be assessed. On-going help is available for technology.
Attending VisAbility is like going to a senior’s learning Activity Centre. There are so many classes for us to attend such as pottery, woodwork, mosaics, music appreciation, Italian, dancing, craft, discussion group, gym and so much more!
You can do whatever takes your fancy. I thought I had given up knitting when I reached the stage of K1, P1, drop one, swear twice! But VisAbility has bought this craft back to me and I am surprised at all the rugs, scarves, and crocheted bags I have made. Oh yes, I still drop one, but I am glad to say I do not swear once (or even twice!)
The Activity Centre is open from Monday to Friday and on weekends for special sports programs. Of course payment (which can be through your My Aged Care plan) must be made to partake in these lessons. That’s only natural.
Transport can be arranged for those who have no other way of attending, or you can use the Council or Silver Chain volunteer driver services. So much is done to make life easier and interesting for us.
Every Friday a special outing is arranged where we are taken to various places that would be impossible for us to tackle alone on public transport. Among the places we have visited are Toodyay, the Swan Valley, Hillary’s Boat Harbour, Cottesloe, Fremantle, to the Museum’s dinosaur display, a canal cruise on Mandurah, and AQUA. These outings are followed by a luncheon – sometimes included in the cost or at our own expense – at a special restaurant. Volunteer drivers take the bus or a Maxi-car and in general, we all have a happy time.
One of the pleasures, we who are vision impaired can get, is a Daisy player or Victor Reader Machine to listen to audiobooks. Once your income is accessed, you can get one fully or partly funded or simply pay for it outright through the VisAbility Library. We can then take these home, and are given cartridges of audiobooks to listen to at a time. Each cartridge contains hours and hours of reading. We have the choice of Fiction or Non-fiction and when we’ve listened to them all, we can drop them into a mailbox and receive the next selection through the mail!
What impresses me the most from attending VisAbility is the care and concern given to clients by those in charge, the tutors, and the volunteers who assist in our classes. Never once have I heard a word of impatience from them, and surely those who are elderly, must try the patience at times. But no, everyone is so kind and concerned to make life better and interesting for us. They are truly wonderful.
When once is confronted with a disability, as first it can be a bit daunting. A good sense of humour has to be maintained and I am sure many of us had had the experience of speaking to a shop assistant and wondering why they haven’t responded only to find out that you have been speaking to a full-size cardboard cut out of someone who looks very much like a real person.
If you have a vision impairment and want to have some fun and learn new things, why not come and join us. VisAbility is only a phone call away! See you there.”
Are you interested in joining our Community Activity Centre? Or would like to know more about the services you could receive from VisAbility under your My Aged Care funding? Get in touch with us at 1800 846 477 or contact us.