Q. Do I have to be totally blind to get Commission services?
A. No. Persons who are legally blind may be eligible for services. Persons who have progressive conditions such as Macular Degeneration, Diabetic Retinopathy or Retinitis Pigmentosa may also be eligible for services.
Q. What services does the Commission provide?
A. The two primary services are the Vocational Rehabilitation and Independent Living/Older Blind programs. The Vocational Rehabilitation program helps blind persons to become employed. The Independent Living/Older Blind program helps blind persons to live independently in their homes and communities.
Q. What is legal blindness?
A. The Social Security Administration defines blindness as "either central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with the use of a correcting lens, or a limitation in the fields of vision so that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle of 20 degrees or less (tunnel vision)." In other words, a person with bad eyesight but who sees adequately with glasses is not legally blind.
Q. Does a person blind in one eye qualify for Commission services?
A. Probably not. Most persons with one eye can read, drive and otherwise function normally. However, a person might be eligible for services if there was severely reduced sight in the remaining eye, or if there was a risk of blindness due to a condition such as Diabetic Retinopathy.
Q. What age must a person be to apply for services from the Commission's Vocational Rehabilitation program?
A. The Vocational Rehabilitation program serves persons who are 14 and older.
Q. I am 78 and losing vision to age-related Macular Degeneration. What can the Commission do to help me?
A. We have people we call "Independent Living Teachers" who can go to your home and teach you how to adjust to loss of vision. We can teach you how to use a talking computer, calculator, scale, clock or watch. We can also teach you how to read newspapers through Newsline, how to read Braille or safely travel using a white cane.
Q. Can modern technology replace Braille?
A. No. Braille is an essential literacy tool. Technology such as talking computers and tape recorders are useful, but learning through listening does not teach a person how to read or write. It is also critical that Braille be taught as soon as possible, even if a young person has useful vision. Studies have also shown a very high correlation between successful employment and the use of Braille.
Q. Is the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired part of the Commission?
A. No. The two organizations are totally separate entities. However, NMSBVI and the Commission work closely together on areas of common concerns.
Q. Is there help for blind persons who cannot read newspapers?
A. The Commission's "Newsline for the Blind" program provides access to over thirty publications through a touchtone phone. The Commission also sponsors "NFB-Newsline," which provides access to over 200 national newspapers, including several in Spanish. You can get information about Newsline by calling Newsline at 841-8844, or 1-888-513-7958.
Q. Is there help for blind persons who cannot read a phone book?
A. Qwest offers free directory assistance to persons who are unable to use a printed phone book because of a medical condition. You can apply by calling the Qwest Special Needs Office at 1-800-223-3131.
Q. Does the Commission provide transportation or shopping assistance for persons who are blind?
A. No. The Commission trains blind persons how to either use public transportation, or how to arrange for other methods of transportation. The Commission also trains blind persons how to do their own shopping.
Q. I keep hearing about breakthroughs in artificial vision. Is this something that could help me?
A. No. While there is interesting research, there is nothing available that would provide useful artificial vision. There may someday be such a device, but that day may be decades away, if ever. For now, the best thing that a person can do is to get the training and skills needed to function despite loss of vision. With such training, a blind person can lead a normal and productive life.