Aubree Mitchel receives training from Jason Vice, Ph.D. on her new vision aid.A pediatric patient and Jason Vice, Ph.D. explore her new vision aid.On August 21, 2023, UAB's Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation, in collaboration with Sight Savers America, held an equipment dispensing clinic in its UAB Callahan Eye clinic space. The event aimed to provide high-tech visual aids to individuals with vision impairments, enhancing their daily lives and fostering independence.

As a provider, determining the right candidates for visual aids is a crucial step. Patti Fuhr, O.D., Marissa Locy, O.D. and Elise Agostinelli, O.D., refer patients from the UAB Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation to Sight Savers America to provide this life-changing equipment. According to Agostinelli, a vision rehabilitation specialist, understanding a patient's hobbies and goals is key. “These aids that Sight Savers America dispense can be life-changing for these patients as they can drastically enhance the contrast and enlarge reading material making information that they previously could not see accessible to them,” noted Agostinelli. Some models feature Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, which reads text aloud to patients, opening up new realms of opportunity.

After patients receive their visual aids, proper training becomes vital. Agostinelli explains that patients are often referred to Occupational Therapist Jason Vice, Ph.D., ORL/L, for training on using the specific device. This training enables patients to comfortably and independently use their new aids, thus maximizing the benefits of these devices. During the dispensing clinic, Vice, along with trainers from Sight Savers America acclimated patients to their new tools. Sight Savers America conducts follow-up sessions after two weeks, six months, 12 months, and annually thereafter to ensure the devices meet patients' needs.

Samuel Kennedy receives training on his new vision aid at the UAB Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation.A patient receives training on his new vision aid at the UAB Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation.Patient qualification to receive a device involves evaluation by low-vision specialists like those at the UAB Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation, with financial need being a determining factor. The partnership between the UAB Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation and Sight Savers America is instrumental in providing optimal care. Sight Savers America's support facilitates access to high-tech vision aids for patients who cannot afford them. These aids play a crucial role in promoting patients' independence and overall well-being.

Dawn DeCarlo, O.D., Ph.D., Director of the UAB Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation, says, “The clinics offer the opportunity to train patients in the use and care of the devices they are being given and to inspire them to use their new devices in ways which will increase their independence and confidence.” These aids are not only tools for daily tasks but also opportunities for increased independence.

The longstanding partnership between Sight Savers America and the UAB Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation has significantly impacted patients' lives. Over the last 20 years, the Center has held numerous pediatric equipment dispensing clinics and referred patients to Sight Savers America to provide them with essential vision aid devices and specialty glasses, while Sight Savers America has continued to refer patients with vision impairment to the Center for evaluations. This partnership exemplifies the power of collaboration and underscores the importance of empowering individuals to achieve independence and confidence through innovative vision aids.