With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, I thought it was an appropriate time to write about two Montana organizations that have helped me through my legal blindness in different ways. I don’t want anyone to feel left out here – there’s a laundry list of family members, friends, coworkers, and various other individuals throughout the years who have given me more than I have any right to take, and to them I’m also eternally grateful. But I’ve had both these organizations on my mind lately, so hey, how about a blog about them?
The first is an organization you should look up if you have a low-vision family member in the state. Even if they’re not totally blind, Blind and Low Vision, a department within the state’s vocational rehabilitation program, helped me through a lot of my hardest times by providing me with education and gadgetry support when I needed it for work and my home life. When I talked endlessly about traveling to Denver and going to the Center for the Blind, they were the ones who were able to make that happen. When I needed to learn to walk with a cane, they taught me the basics. When I needed magnifiers for work, or specialized programs back before magnifiers became standard on computers, they helped.
It’s not a charity, which I can appreciate. Blind and Low Vision wants you doing something. The training they provide is to help get you off the couch and into the work force, or at least living a good life as free of assistance as possible with your particular limitations. I’ve worked with a handful of representatives throughout the years, and all of them have been kind, hardworking individuals who aren’t paid a hundredth what they deserve for their efforts. They make 150 mile trips to come to White Sulphur to visit clients. They listen. They work within their means to help.
Without them, I’m not sure I’d have six books on the market. I certainly wouldn’t have the confidence I have now in going completely blind someday.
The other organization, sadly, is in the process of being stripped to its very barest of bones thanks to Montana’s huge deficit problem. The Montana Talking Book Library program was one of the first to see painful cuts, and I’m worried they haven’t seen the last of them.
They provide the blind with large audio readers, about the size of a small cassette player, but much heavier. The buttons are huge and well-defined, and the audio quality is fantastic. The “tapes” they send look a bit like a plastic cartridge wrapped around a USB drive, and require no effort to get them playing, something I can’t boast of the statewide regular library audio program – Overdrive is a pain sometimes in conjunction with iPods.
I’m not sure if the audio versions are the same used used for “regular” audio books, as many times, it’s mentioned by the reader at the end that the recording was made for libraries for the blind. That said, by and large, the readers are at least passable and often range into greatness. I love to listen to their books while I”m cleaning or playing what I all “podcast games,” which are just video games that don’t require a lot of attention, so I can drift away into the gameplay and listen to my book on tape peacefully.
From what I understand, most, if not all, states have similar programs to these. If you or your loved ones have low vision, they’re worth at least a call to see if you qualify. Take advantage of the opportunities out there to help yourself to your feet, and entertain yourself with a free program.
Thank you, Blind and Low Vision and Montana Talking Book Library. You folks are awesome.
And to the rest of you, in case I don’t get a chance to say it, happy Thanksgiving! Hope you’re enjoying Forever and Farewell.