Out & About

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The New York Sun

When Annette White started losing her vision because of macular degeneration, she gave up on many activities she once had enjoyed. The Visions program, at Selis Manor on West 23rd Street, helped her resume the full life she had.

“I’ve always been an insatiable reader and that was the main thing I missed,” Ms. White, a 65-year-old resident of Harlem, said. “With talking books, I got back to reading again. Right now I’m reading ‘Prospero’s Daughter’ by Elizabeth Nunez.”

She has also started singing in talent shows and bowling at the Visions facility. And she’s thinking about taking up tai chi.


In New York City, there are 60,000 legally blind people and 365,000 people who are visually impaired, but only a small percentage of them seek assistance from the nonprofit Visions. The program offers rehabilitation and job training services, and runs a vacation camp for the blind in Rockland County at no cost to clients. The organization marks its 80th anniversary this year.

“Public awareness of our services is a major goal,” the executive director, Nancy Miller, said. “We find that many people don’t know our services exist or are reluctant to use them.”

One area the group targets is Upper Manhattan because it contains several populations vulnerable to sight loss — the elderly, new immigrants, the Latino community, and African-Americans, according to Ms. Miller. The program formed the Upper Manhattan Advisory Board, which convened yesterday at a luncheon at Windows Over Harlem Restaurant.


One purpose of the luncheon was to honor the screening program for glaucoma, which has helped 200,000 residents in the area. Harlem Hospital’s director of ophthalmology, Dr. Linsy Farris, credited the Congressional Glaucoma Caucus, formed by Stanley “Bud” Grant, Rep. Charles Rangel, and others, with providing the funds to get it started. With early detection, people with glaucoma can have the disease treated and save their vision.

Others who spoke were the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People With Disabilities, Matthew Sapolin; a member of the advisory board, Antoinette Emers, and a representative from State Senator Davis Patterson’s office, Alex Movahed. Others who attended were Sonia Torres and Dihan Benitez, who work on the Harlem Hospital screening program; Upper Manhattan Advisory Board members James O’Neal and Shaun Covington; representatives from the Hamilton Madison House, Matt Kudish and Isabel Ching, and representatives of the Harlem Inter-Agency Council for the Aging, Howard Friedman and Harold Augustus.

The most moving moment of the event was when the former president of Manhattan, C. Virginia Fields, asked everyone to close their eyes for a minute.


“Now you know what it feels like to be blind and visually impaired,” Ms. Fields said.


The New York Sun

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