The task seemed simple enough: pour a glass of water from a pitcher. Blindfolded.
That’s what it’s like for the 130,000 adults in New Jersey who live with profound vision loss.
“I’m amazed with what people living with vision loss are faced with, but I’m also amazed by all they can do,’’ said Timothy Brunnock, one of 40 people who attended the Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey’s open house on Feb. 11. Brunnock managed not to spill a drop thanks to a liquid level indicator, a device used by the visually impaired.
After 72 years as the NJ Foundation for the Blind, the nonprofit in January took on a new name with a renewed determination to expand access to programs that give people with profound vision loss the skills and confidence to live independent, fulfilling lives.
Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey Executive Director Kris Marino explained that the new name better represents what the nonprofit is about.
“We are an alliance of people, organizations and communities that have worked together for over 72 years to provide programs and services designed to help individuals with profound vision loss get back up on their feet, confident in their homes and communities, and to the best of their abilities, lead the independent lives they had before,’’ Marino said.
The nonprofit provides the only non-residential, comprehensive life-skills training programs in the state for adults with profound vision loss. Certified instructors teach participants practical skills, such as how to get around and cook safely in their home, and coping skills to overcome the feelings of isolation and fear, she said. They develop confidence, and learn how to harness the power of technology to keep them informed and connected. And often, they discover through classes a passion for painting, pottery or dancing.
Jefferson Township resident Suzanne Sytsma, who lost most of her sight to glaucoma, described how Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey empowered her, teaching her cooking skills and how make use of apps on the iPhone and iPad.
“Losing your sight is devastating. This is where everyone understands, a safe place to learn the skills to live in a sighted world,’’ said Sytsma, who now teaches technology to other participants.”
Since its founding as a residential camp for blind women in 1943, Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey has been at the forefront of empowering people who lose their sight so they can lead engaged, productive and independent lives. The nonprofit has helped well over 50,000 people.
Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey offers programs in Denville, Montclair, Ridgewood, and Sparta. “Our strategic plans calls for expanding programs to more communities in the future,” Marino said.
“This is a terribly underserved population,’’ Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey trustee Terry Gunning said. “We’ve got to get the word out for all we can do for folks with profound vision loss.”