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Area Residents Experience What It’s Like to be Blind at Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey’s Fall Showcase

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Vision Loss Alliance participants Albert Butler of Rockaway, Solomon Bryant of Newark, and Peggy Heyderhoff of Sparta play the drums for guests
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Eva Mendelsohn of Randolph (left) tries to paint with her eyes covered, while Vision Loss Alliance art therapist Ruthie Bashan looks on
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DENVILLE, NJ - Eva Mendelsohn covered her eyes with a black paper mask and began outlining the shape of a horse. The task seemed impossible, but she knew it wasn’t: she had admired an impressive painting of the horse made by a man who is blind.

“Wow, this is hard!’’ she said as she worked the oil-based crayon around a cutout of a horse image overlaid on canvas.

The Randolph resident was among 150 people to attend Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey’s Fall Showcase on Saturday to mark Blindness Awareness Month. 

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“We designed the day to have something for everyone: people with vision loss, their family members and friends, and other community members who wonder what it’s like to live without sight,’’ Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey Executive Director Kris Marino said.

Guests tried to read wearing goggles that significantly limit vision, and find items relying on touch only. They checked out technology that reads text aloud from books and menus, and tested apps for iPads and iPhones that open the world to people without sight.

Virginia Kenny of Lincoln Park looked at signs, bingo cards and playing cards wearing the distorting goggles. “This gives you a perspective of how some people see the world,’’ Kenny said as someone playing braille bingo at the table behind her shouted, “bingo!”

Vision Loss Alliance art therapist Ruthie Bashan explained to Mendelsohn various techniques she uses to help people without sight learn to paint. “People come to Vision Loss Alliance feeling worthless, like they can’t do anything without sight, and they learn that they can do amazing things,” Bashan said. “It’s not about people with disabilities, it’s about people with different abilities.” 

A group of Vision Loss Alliance participants put on a rousing drum performance, while outside, dozens of visitors had vision screenings done in the Lions Club’s Eye Mobile.

Anyone seeking more information about Vision Loss Alliance programs can visit vlanj.org, or contact Vision Loss Alliance at info@vlanj.org or 973-627-0055.

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