By: Emily Maurer
Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities Foundation (AID.org) is known for helping with gifts such as wheelchairs, medical equipment and other financial needs, but sometimes our help can come in something as meaningful as a phone call. Today, I want to tell you about how we help in other ways through Geri’s story.
The world has slowly become a blur for Geri, an elderly Glendale Arizona resident, due to a degenerative eye condition brought on by a childhood illness. When I called Geri last week, I met a woman whose anxiety was growing day by day as her impending blindness was stealing her independence. Fear was evident in her voice and the list of concerns were significant. I sensed that Geri was very discouraged and felt as if she had lost sight of hope. As the Resource Coordinator for AID.org, I knew that we could help!
Like many, it was difficult and overwhelming to reach out for help. Thankfully Geri had a good friend that contacted AID.org on her behalf. After her friend helped fill out the questionnaire online, I was able to get to work researching services available for her immediately when I received her profile. It was such a pleasure to call her the next day and give her a list of resources that she could connect with that would bring her independence back into grasp.
I called the Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (http://www.acbvi.org) who immediately mailed an application appropriate for Geri to fill out. Once accepted, this agency will provide Geri with mobility training, practical living skills like learning how to cook and clean without sight and also help her learn how to use a computer adapted for her impairment. Best of all, this agency provides support groups to encourage individuals with the emotional stresses of having visual impairment.
One of the greatest concerns for Geri was becoming home bound–not being able to go grocery shopping or visit her favorite Goodwill stores. As her eye sight has faded she has had to give up driving. Phoenix Valley Metro has a wonderful program for individuals with disabilities called Dial-A-Ride which provides reduced fair bus rides to any location Geri requests with reservations. Like many, she had not heard of this city service and was thrilled to know that there was an option for her after she completed a simple application and evaluation process.
Additionally, I reached out to Ability360 (ability360.org) and requested a peer mentor for Geri. As I talked with Geri, I realized her biggest need was a mentor–a friend to walk this new road of visual impairment with her. A person who knew what she was going through and could help her safely, securely walk through all the new experiences she was going to have without her sight. Ability360 has mentors that are trained and experienced in all of the different aspects of life as a blind or visually impaired person. I am thrilled to report that Geri has already had her in-home in-take meeting with Ability360 and will be matched with a mentor in just a few days. Geri’s mentor is even going to help her attend her Dial-A-Ride evaluation and help her get a better grasp on how to use the existing services available in Phoenix.
Geri can’t see, but I can. It was a pleasure to use my abilities to restore faith in hers and assure her that she can still learn new abilities as a senior citizen. At the end of our conversation she said one thing that stuck with me. She said, “Well Emily, after our talk, I have hope for the first time in a long time.” I am so glad that I could give sight to her hope once again.