New View Oklahoma helps the visually impaired
New View Oklahoma is a nonprofit that provides specialized vision rehabilitation services to individuals with significant vision loss.
Lauren Branch is the president and CEO of New View Oklahoma, which has offices in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
The McFarlands share their story
Frances McFarland remembers the ice storm of 2007 like it was yesterday, but not for the reasons one might think. She was watching a University of Oklahoma football game when the TV appeared to lose color. She soon realized it wasn’t the TV that malfunctioned, but her eyesight — and so began her life with low vision and macular degeneration.
Her husband, Glyn, also was diagnosed with macular degeneration several years later. At 85 and 91 years old, the simplest of tasks had become real challenges for the couple until their retina specialist, Dr. Ray M. Balyeat, referred them to New View Oklahoma for assistance this past November.
About New View Oklahoma
New View Oklahoma is a nonprofit that provides specialized vision rehabilitation services to individuals with significant vision loss. It also is the largest employer for blind and vision-impaired Oklahomans, supplying nearly 150 jobs through in-house manufacturing and service contracts with local businesses and organizations. With the unemployment rate of visually impaired and blind individuals at over 70 percent, New View’s services are critical to the visually impaired community.
In Oklahoma, over half a million people are identified with conditions that will lead to significant vision loss, says New View President and CEO Lauren Branch. In the Tulsa-metro area alone, over 20,000 people are considered legally blind, which is why Branch is currently working to expand employment opportunities in Tulsa. This past October, the Tulsa World call center hired three visually impaired employees and plans to add more in the near future.
New View Oklahoma has been around since 1949, but its Tulsa clinic and retail store have only served the Tulsa area for three and a half years. However, New View is already changing lives.
“We do diagnostics; we don’t cure anything,” Branch says. “We worry about their functional vision. We need to understand what’s going on in their environment. We do safety assessments, lighting assessments, mobility assessments and help them safely move in their community.” Also, optometrists specializing in low vision provide functional low-vision assessments and recommendations for optical devices.
The McFarldands get the help they need
In keeping with its mission to empower individuals who are blind and vision-impaired to achieve their maximum level of independence, New View has revolutionized daily life for the McFarlands.
After an initial visit to the Tulsa clinic to assess their needs, their assigned therapist, Terry Rairdon, visited their home multiple times to help address their difficulties with reading, technology, kitchen tasks and contrast deficits. With each visit, he focused on a different area of need.
Rairdon found optimum lighting wattage and introduced them to everyday gadgets that are affordable and readily available on Amazon.com to make their lives easier.
“We didn’t know what to expect when the doctor referred us, but now I just can’t sing their praises enough,” Frances says of New View. “I thought to myself, I know what this is going to be; they are trying to sell us something. We were almost negative about it, but they weren’t selling anything. Now I feel so lucky to have these services.”
With technology assistance, the pair can watch church worship services on their iPad, bank online, use their phones as magnifiers to read menus and instructions and have emails and texts read aloud to them from their devices. A simple yellow fit-over for their glasses has helped increase color contrast, which opened up a world of color and clarity the two had been lacking for years now. “I’m astounded at the difference the yellow sunglasses make. Everything is so much clearer,” Frances says.
Frances even credits New View with keeping the couple independent in their home. “I know we will be able to stay in our home longer because of the ways they’ve helped us to be able to cook and do everything in our house,” Frances says. “I just feel so lucky.”
Who does New View assist?
New View assists individuals of any age, from infants to the elderly, but patients must be referred by their doctor. Currently, over 500 doctors in Oklahoma refer patients to the nonprofit. With an active client list of almost 5,000, New View receives 80 to 100 referrals per month.
Branch says the best thing people can do to assist those with low vision is to help them understand that resources such as New View are available. “I think more than anything people want to be independent and not dependent,” Branch says. “Instead of viewing it as, ‘There’s nothing we can do,’ we can help them reach out and get assistance to provide hope and independence.”