MORRISTOWN, NJ - The Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders recognized Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey when it designated October as Blindness Awareness Month in Morris County.
“This is not a world that fully sighted people know much about until they or a loved one are affected by vision loss — which is why the freeholder board is calling attention to the issues of vision by issuing this proclamation,’’ Freeholder Director Kathy DeFillippo said at the ceremony on Wednesday.
The proclamation recognized the work of Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey, which has been based in Denville for more than 60 years, and provides the only comprehensive, nonresidential vision rehabilitation program for adults in the state. Formerly known as NJ Foundation for the Blind, the nonprofit changed its name to Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey in January to more accurately reflect what it is: an alliance of individuals, organizations and communities dedicated to helping adults who lose their sight learn to adapt and regain confidence.
“We envision a life for all individuals with profound vision loss that is healthy, independent and productive, with individuals living in their homes, returning to their work and participating in social and community activities,’’ Vision Loss Alliance Executive Director Kris Marino said.
Marino noted the growing need for services because cases of eye diseases that can lead to vision loss are increasing as the population ages. In New Jersey alone, blindness and profound vision loss affect more than 130,000 adults over age 35, according to state statistics. The National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, projects a three-fold increase in cases of blindness alone by 2050.
Rockaway resident Peggy Kane, once a participant at Vision Loss Alliance and now an instructor, shared her inspirational story with the freeholders. Blind from birth, Kane never let her lack of sight prevent her from pursuing her goals.
“I’ve always managed to do what I want, and I’ve found a way to do that,’’ said the married mother of two. Kane said Vision Loss Alliance helped give her confidence, and that as an instructor, she strives to impart it to people adapting to vision loss.
“It’s like starting life all over. We all need the confidence to know we can do the things we once did,’’ she said. I am a survivor, and I am still roaring!”
To help the public understand what it’s like to live with profound vision loss, Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey is hosting a Fall Showcase on Saturday, Oct. 15. The free event will give visitors a close-up look at programs and technologies that are empowering adults with vision loss.
Visitors will enjoy demonstrations of Vision Loss Alliance’s arts and adaptive cooking classes, as well as its horticulture therapy program, drumming, line dancing, and technology training on iPhones and iPads. Plants grown by participants will be available for purchase.
The New Jersey State Library’s Talking Book & Braille Center, which delivers free reading materials in accessible formats to individuals with profound vision loss, will be at the event, along with Vis-Abilities Inc. and Eye Assist, LLC, vendors that offer adaptive products. The Lions Club will be there with its Eye Mobile to conduct free vision screenings.
The showcase runs from noon until 3:30 p.m. at Vision Loss Alliances’ Denville location, 155 Morris Ave. Delicious healthy baked goods and other snacks will be available for purchase. Visit vlanj.org or call 973-627-0055 for more information.