To view a larger font version, click here.
“I think one of the most important things is learning to become a self-advocate,” says Zach Knighton, who was diagnosed with progressive cone-rod dystrophy resulting in a decreased visual acuity and extreme sensitivity to light.
Zach's vision loss hasn't stopped him from living life or pursuing a degree from the University of Northwestern-St. Paul.
Using a combination of technology and visual rehabilitation techniques, Jennifer Swanson, a Fairview occupational therapist and vision rehabilitation specialist, has helped Zach use tools to perform everyday life tasks, as well as his ability to express his needs in the classroom to professors and peers.
“I used to just put up with things like colored paper and small font sizes, to fit in,” Zach says. “I realized that this doesn’t have to happen.”
The key to Zach's progress was figuring out how best to minimize issues that get in the way of success. Issues such as sleeping habits, posture and wearing amber lenses to counter light sensitivity all worked well for Zach.
“He has embraced all different modalities,” Jennifer says, explaining that most people who suffer from vision loss aren’t even aware of the technologies and strategies visual rehabilitation has to offer.
Techniques such as lighting, magnification, use of contrast, safety with mobility, electronic magnification and technology with optical character recognition all allow people with vision loss to continue being an active part of their community.
Although these techniques often leave Zach tired at the end of the day, he finds strength in knowing he will be successful by being tenacious, creative and adaptable.
“You just put that mentality out there that you can overlook things that are difficult,” he says.
Being adaptable, creative and fiercely independent also comes naturally to Holly Kathrynne, who was diagnosed with glaucoma and retinitis pigmentosa. Like Zach, she has found success in visual rehabilitation with Jennifer.
Holly has learned to use strategies like glare reduction, transitioning from dark to light and learning how to utilize contrast to help her locate things in her environment.
As a former nurse, Holly sometimes finds herself frustrated with not being able to help others in a way she would like. To help cope with these feelings, she has started to journal.
Every page is filled with a phrase, a picture or a thought—words to provide empowerment, coping skills, solace, a way to channel her feelings and reminder herself, "I am a kind and lovable person with purpose and worth, regardless of the vision I have."
"My vision loss does not define me," is another powerful theme from Holly’s journal.
"She is learning to cope with her vision loss in a positive manner and is such an inspiration to others,” says Jennifer.
Experiencing vision loss can be difficult for anyone to bear. Visual rehabilitation techniques provide patients with strategies to restore their quality of life.