Coast Guard Veteran D.K. Adams (pictured above) was stationed in the North Atlantic during the Vietnam War when he suffered blunt force trauma and three concussions. His injuries ultimately caused him to lose most of his vision over a 30-year period. After 33 eye surgeries, including a partial corneal transplant, he continues the fight to save the remaining five percent vision in his right eye.
Adams has channeled his struggles with losing his sight into writing a series of books, including three children’s books, starring his service dog, Ace.
“I can educate others about what service dogs can do.”
“Service dogs for the visually impaired are truly remarkable animals and the bond that develops between the two can be extraordinary,” Adams explained.
The children’s books are light-hearted tongue-in-cheek stories from his dog’s perspective, introducing readers to the world of the visually impaired and the unique challenges they face.
The profits received through the sale of the children’s books go directly to a local service dog organization. The organization helps Veterans, like Adams, gain independence by providing and training service dogs.
Adams is passionate about advocating for service dogs.
“I’ve had the opportunity to accept my vision loss in small doses,” he said. “One of the things that I can feel good about through this experience is that I am able to use what I’ve lived through to educate others about what service dogs can do for people like myself.”
He credits VA for helping him pursue his passion.
“VA gave me the adaptive assistive technology and technology training to be able to pursue what I love, so I figured I better do something worthwhile,” he said.
The Visual Impairment Service Team (VIST) at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System collaborates with the eye clinic to ensure that Veterans with vision loss are identified, evaluated, and are provided individualized social, medical and vocational rehabilitation services to maximize adjustment and management of their vision loss.
“I’ve been able to explore new adaptive assistive technology that has given me the ability to launch my writing career,” Adams acknowledged. “Getting a computer and the technology training through their service has been life-changing.”
The VIST Coordinator and the Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist are licensed clinicians who provide recommendations and training for the visually impaired Veteran population. The goal of the VIST program is to help Veterans restore their independence and enhance their quality of life.
Rehabilitation services in the home or community
Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist Rebecca Munjak explains that “We are here to assist Veterans with any training services they may need as their vision deteriorates. In addition, we can provide rehabilitation services in the home or community, and can educate the Veteran’s family and caregivers if needed.”
VIST Coordinator Delva Freeman adds, “Veterans are provided with a choice to attend training at one of the 13 inpatient centers across the nation. These inpatient programs provide the most intense and in-depth rehabilitation training for the visually impaired Veteran. The West Palm Beach VA Medical Center is our regional facility here in Florida. This blind rehab center provides comprehensive rehabilitation training for eligible Veterans.”
“When you are blind, you don’t have a ton of opportunities to interact with other visually impaired people. This training gives me that opportunity. We are able to share our experiences and relate to one another. Every bit of the experience is valuable,” Adams said.
Learn more about Blind Rehabilitation Services.
Melanie L. Thomas is the public affairs specialist at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System.