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Letter: It's not charity to teach someone to live with vision loss
I read, with great interest, the letter to the editor written by Graeme McCreath, "Blind turned away by BC MLAs." I too was disappointed to learn about the meeting with our three local MLAs concerning rehab needs for persons experiencing vision loss. The MLA's response, ("rehab for vision loss is not our responsibility") along with their dismissal of the issues and concerns presented is unacceptable.
There are a lot of assumptions by the general public and by politicians that persons who are blind or partially sighted are receiving adequate rehabilitation services. I concur with Mr. McCreath's comments, these assumptions couldn't be further from the truth.
For a very long time I have felt that there was a fundamental flaw with our health care services specifically with vision loss. Perhaps the time has arrived to examine how rehab for vision loss is delivered and who actually is "responsible." It is becoming obvious the current delivery model via public donations is no longer effective way to mediate functional vision loss.
Any life altering condition resulting in a functional loss and requiring rehabilitation to regain function or to maintain one's independence must be covered equally under our medical services plan. Currently this is not so.
While MSP will cover most treatments and surgeries for vision loss, when the final outcome results is unrecoverable sight, one must then learn "how to live blind." This should not be viewed as a solely "charitable even." I can only imagine the public outcry if someone recovering from a stroke were referred to the Heart and Stroke Society to fund their rehabilitation needs. The same would be unacceptable if the physio (now covered under MSP) following hip replacements, became the responsibility of the osteoporosis society.
When vision loss effects every aspect of one's daily functioning, don't you feel it odd that it is not taken more seriously?
Is there life after vision loss? Yes. But in order to acquire the skills and confidence to regain and maintain function and a quality of life, the services needed must be accessible and adequate. Persons whose lives have been impacted by vision loss have long known that the current approach to rehabilitation for vision loss in less than effective and they are asking for a change. They are asking that rehab for vision loss be "included" as a necessary service.
A group of persons who are blind themselves met with our local MLAs to discuss the need for changes in how the rehab services for vision loss might be better delivered. These knowledgable folk "walk the walk" and." They offered suggestions on how these services might be accessed (via proven programs offered in the USA) until such time when these programs can be developed here.
Persons whose lives are newly impacted by vision loss, regardless of age, often don't know all that is available or what to ask for. Many settle for what little services they can get—often to the point of being left feeling beholden to society for their donations. Where is the dignity in this?
That old cliché comes to mind: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." The solution does not lie in providing the blind and partially sighted with "vision mates," but rather to provide them with skills and attitude to live functional and productive lives.
As long as persons affected by vision loss remain silent and as long as "the powers that be" justify what their responsibilities are and continue to ignore the issues by creating barriers to successful rehab for vision loss, nothing will change.