The following post is from the Southern Arizona Heath Care System.
The Southwestern Blind Rehabilitation Center’s (SWBRC) mission at the Tucson VA is to help blinded Veterans achieve independence by teaching them the skills they need to master everyday living.
In order for the SWBRC to be successful at teaching Veterans the low vision skills that they have learned in a classroom setting, staff from the SWBRC takes Veterans on various types of fieldtrips to prefect the skills they have learned. It’s through these outings where Veterans can master their low vision skills in a real world setting. The SWBRC has developed a partnership with the Tucson Museum of Art to where blinded Veterans can experience different modes of art even though they may not be able to see all of the details in the art work.
Kelcie Douglas, Blind Rehabilitation Specialist with the SWBRC says a trip to the museum allows Veterans to interact with others, shows them that they can still enjoy visual spaces, and teaches them that there are other ways of viewing art that they might not know about.
During visits to the museum Veterans are allowed to use devices to help them see the art work better. They are allowed to take pictures on their mobile devices and zoom in to see the art work. Veterans are also allowed to touch some of the art work so they can experience the texture. Most importantly, museum guides offer very descriptive explanations of the art work, which allows the Veteran to experience the art through words.
“We want Veterans to be able to enjoy the visual world of art and through visits to the museum we can teach them to use their other senses to enjoy art, said Douglas. “We also want them to be part of the community and to not isolate themselves because they have low vision. We want to help them eliminate as many barriers as possible so that they can get out of their homes and experience life.”
For Navy Veteran Anthony Ricci, the trip to the museum was like being part of history.
“I’m using what I have left of my vision to lean about the past historical events, and also using the different skills that I learned in the SWBRC to experience things from the past as well,” said Ricci. “This was probably the best museum experience I’ve had, instead of reading a history book I actually felt like I was walking through one.”
Douglas is very appreciative of all the community support that she receives in supporting the SWBRC.
“Having this type of support makes my job so much easier. We would not be able to get out and do what we do to support the Veterans we serve, if we did not have these types of partnerships in the community,” said Douglas.