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Medical Information and FAQs

Will I ever become totally blind with macular degeneration?
No, macular degeneration alone does not cause total blindness. If you have macular degeneration and no other eye disease, you will always have your peripheral or side vision. Therefore, individuals with macular degeneration will not be able to see a person’s face, but can still see the person’s hair surrounding the face.

What is the definition of legal blindness?
Legal blindness is defined as a visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with corrective lenses; or a visual field limitation such that the widest diameter of the visual field, in the better eye, subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees.

If I become legally blind, am I eligible for a tax exemption when I file my tax return?
Yes, legal blindness can be used as a tax exemption when filing a tax return. However, a letter from an ophthalmologist or an optometrist stating the person’s visual acuity and the fact that he or she is legally blind is required.

How can I remain in my own home when I am not able to read my own mail, set my own appliances, cook for myself, or write checks to pay my own bills?
Lilac Services For The Blind provides independent living training and low-vision aids to assist a person who wants to remain self-sufficient in their own residence. The training is provided in the individual’s residence, and it is free of charge. Some low-vision aids can also be provided free of charge when accompanied by training.

Do I need training if I am not totally blind?
Yes, many individuals find that the alternative techniques they have learned through independent living training to be as efficient, and in some cases more efficient, than using the residual vision they possess.

When I feel it is no longer safe for me to drive my car, what other forms of transportation can I use?
Lilac Services For The Blind provides training to utilize the city bus system. If a person has other disabilities that would make it impossible to use the city bus, a person can apply for the Paratransit van through the Spokane Transit Authority.

I have a magnifier, but it is not strong enough for reading. Where can I find a stronger magnifier?
Lilac Services For The Blind has a low-vision department consisting of more than 90 different types of magnifiers. With a scheduled appointment, a person can receive a free low-vision evaluation in order to determine which magnifier(s) will best meet their needs.

Can I get a strong magnifier that will cover a whole page?
It is the curvature of the magnifier lens that provides the magnification. The larger the area of the magnifier, the less the surface is equally curved, and therefore the less magnification capacity. In order to obtain a wide reading area with high magnification, a person would have to purchase a special reading device such as a closed circuit television or a video magnifier.

Can I get a magnifier for my television screen?
Yes, TV magnifiers are available through various suppliers of low-vision aids. However, in most cases a magnifier for distance-vision tasks is more effective for TV viewing, and it is less costly. Lilac Services For The Blind carries two types of magnifiers that are helpful for TV viewing.

Can I get a magnifier to enlarge the screen on my computer?
Yes, there are suppliers that sell computer screen magnifiers, but for most individuals, software for the vision impaired is more effective. There are large-print programs and voice programs that are available for the partially sighted. Lilac Services For The Blind has a computer lab, and can provide free instruction regarding a variety of programs for the partially sighted. A scheduled appointment is required.

How can I check my own blood sugar and measure my own insulin when I cannot read the display on my glucometer or the units on my syringe?
Large-print and talking glucometers are available for checking blood sugar levels. Insulin magnifiers and special insulin-measuring devices are also available.

Helpful Hints For The Blind
and Partially Sighted

  • When you are reaching for a glass of liquid on a table, it is best to run your hand as close to the table as possible. This will help you keep from spilling the liquid. The reason for this is that your hand will come into contact with the bottom of the glass.

  • An easy method of keeping your laced shoes together is to tie the laces together after you remove them.

  • If you have trouble determining the difference in coins, use this method to identify them by touch. You can feel the outer edge of the coins. Dimes and quarters have ridges while nickels and pennies are smooth.

  • If you are having trouble putting toothpaste onto your toothbrush, an alternative way to do this is to squeeze the toothpaste directly onto your tongue. Our tongues are very sensitive so you are able to feel how much is being squeezed out of the tube. If you share a tube of toothpaste you can squeeze the paste onto your finger, then put the toothpaste onto the toothbrush. Also, you can hold the bristles of the toothbrush between your index finder and your thumb and then squeeze the toothpaste on the bristles.

  • The Federal government has a pass that will allow you to enter most Federal campgrounds free of charge. It is called The Access Pass, which gives people with disabilities lifetime free entry to more than 2,000 Federal park and recreation sites.

  • If you are legally blind, the State of Washington may allow you to obtain a fishing license at a discounted rate. Documentation of your legal blindness is required.

  • When using a wall as a guide while walking down hallways, a blind person should use the back of the hand and not the palm. This is to allow the fingers to bend and prevent the possibility of breaking fingers when approaching surfaces such as door frames.

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