Please enjoy reading some positive and inspiring stories sent in from our participants. We wish to thank everyone who shared their story with us (so far). If you have a VISIONS story you wish to share, click here to send us an e-mail
If you enjoy our participants' stories, consider making a donation so we can continue to provide services and show even more participants what is possible!
Hong & Jian Shen's Story
My son, Jian Shen, and I, have been coming to VISIONS Center on Blindness (VCB) for three years. Jian Shen is totally blind and autistic. English is his second language. During our first summer, he worked with a gentle and experienced bilingual (Chinese and English) staff member (Flora). She accompanied him and provided support during programs and activities, and provided in-home vision rehabilitation services after the summer.
VISIONS has been very considerate of his additional needs from the beginning. Each year, Jian Shen became more cooperative with staff and now can answer simple questions about his needs. For Jian Shen, VISIONS opened a window for him to see that there are many children out there who are just like him, making strides forward every day. He is not alone.
For me, VISIONS is not just a place that provides services, but a place that supports parents and families. VISIONS also offers a platform for parents of special needs children to directly exchange experiences and share resources. At VCB, parents can share feelings and difficulties, and receive cheers and praise from other parents who understand and care for each other.
As a parent with a special needs child, it is my greatest wish for Jian Shen to live a dignified life. Fortunately, non-profit organizations like VISIONS work closely with families like mine to help us reach that goal. Donations from benevolent people will help support VCB and provide much-needed resources and infrastructure for other families, so that their children can look forward to the future, just like mine.
Hong Guo (Jian Shen's Mother).
I have two visually impaired daughters, Rebecca and Dana, now 31 and 29 years old. Both participated in summer programs with VISIONS as young children. Besides enjoying the activities, they both drew great comfort from meeting and interacting with other visually impaired children in a positive social setting. This no doubt gave my kids a lasting feeling that they were not “alone in the world” dealing with their disability.
As young adults, VISIONS had an even more positive impact on my children’s growth and development. Due to the practical and financial support provided to my daughter, Rebecca, she was able to excel as a student at Fordham Law School through the Lavelle Scholarship Program. VISIONS provided invaluable assistance to Rebecca in connection with her scholastic and job-related activities, such that she successfully graduated, passed the bar exam, and became employed by a large law firm in Midtown Manhattan. She now lives in Brooklyn, works in Manhattan, and I am proud to report, is completely self-sufficient.
Likewise, VISIONS worked closely with my other daughter, Dana, who after taking a position as a ski instructor in Vail, Colorado, returned to the New York area and with VISIONS help, secured a role as an Executive Administrative Assistant. She later became a digital marketing specialist at a law firm, due in large part to the technology training and employment assistance provided by VISIONS.
I can categorically and unequivocally state, as a proud and very relieved parent, that neither of my children would have attained the level of independence and success that they are currently experiencing, without the help and assistance of VISIONS. VISIONS staff have made an indelible mark on my children’s lives, for which my wife and I will be forever grateful.
David A. Zarett, Esq.
The Landeros Family: Participants of VCB's Rehabilitation and Recreation Program
Porfiria Landeros, and her two children, Dayonara (age 10), and Jose (age 9) from Staten Island are among the many wonderful families who attend VISIONS Center on Blindness (VCB) in the summer. Like many, they return year after year to learn, connect, and grow with staff and families like theirs.
The Landeros' VCB journey began four years ago, when they first attended at the recommendation of their New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB) counselor, Paul Geraci. Initially, after aging out of one vision rehabilitation agency, and being turned away by another, Porfiria was concerned that VCB staff may not be able to work with her son, who has a learning disability. To Porfiria's surprise, VCB staff told her they COULD work with her family, and would even provide her son with an individualized plan to meet his needs.
Over the next four summers, the Landeros family participated in VCB's Rehabilitation & Recreation Program (R&R), a week-long program in which children with visual impairments and their families learn how to safely navigate, and utilize adaptive equipment for completing household tasks such as cooking and cleaning. Additionally, families enjoy socializing and connecting with other children and families during supervised activities including swimming in an accessible pool. Porfiria recalled one year, where VISIONS staff went above and beyond in their work with Jose, to help him get over his fear of the swimming pool. "Staff took their time, got on his level, and gave him the confidence to get over his fear. I was very proud of that moment and found it to be very memorable."
Each year, Porfiria leaves the R&R Program with a newfound confidence that a visual impairment will not stop her children from living a life full of joy and exploration. "Vision loss doesn't stop you; there are no limits to what people could do, or where they can explore." Porfiria also knows that with each year, she is able to meet other families with whom she can relate, and be part of a great community. "Don’t think about it twice. Take the opportunity. Meet other people and learn from them. This program helped my children come out of their shells, and learn what they’re capable of. Any parent considering this program will not regret it!"
When Porfiria and her family are not at VCB, her children attend school, and receive VISIONS services in the home to help strengthen their skills, and get them ready for the experience they will have next year at VCB!
In 1952, I was born at 7 months, placed in an incubator with eyes uncovered, and exposed to high oxygen levels. Although many preemies in this situation lost all of their sight, I luckily came away with some sight in one eye. After high school, I sought career services through the New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB) and enjoyed a career as a licensed psychiatric social worker for children and families for almost thirty years.
In my fifties, my vision worsened and I was no longer able to read print or writing. I enjoyed my job and was active. However, one day while rushing to work in the Winter, I lost my balance and fell down 13 steps, hitting my good eye on a metal doorframe. I was conscious, but what a mess. A few days later, I could not see a thing. My retina had totally detached. It was quite some time before some vision came back, but it was never the same. I retired and needed to find other ways to be independent. The stress on my family was great, especially if I went outside alone.
I learned about VISIONS services at a library event and the Older Adult Center at Selis Manor immediately caught my attention. My daughter and I met with Elizabeth Lee, Director of Programs at the Older Adult Center. I signed up for fitness and healthy living classes for strength and balance, book club, "Senior Expressions", and ceramics classes just to name a few. My favorite class has been the writing workshops and performances sponsored by the Teachers and Writers Initiative. It was great hearing the stories of others, and how they move safely. The community of older adults became my center of support for learning new skills with limited vision. Today, I have many new friends who understand the ups and downs of everyday life, and there is a lot of fun and laughter.
I have been attending the Older Adult Center for the past 6 years, and am a part of the Older Adult Council, where we get feedback and ideas from older adults for fun events and discuss any concerns we might have. I also volunteer at VISIONS and started a Diabetes Support Group, where older adults encourage each other to maintain good glucose levels, follow medical advice, and stay fit.
Although it has been hard for me to adjust to the shut-down of Selis Manor in March of 2020 due to the pandemic, technology, as well as technology training, has come to the rescue. Most of the center’s classes are held on Google Meet, or on Zoom, and I got a lot of help with using my IPhone and computer in class.
The community of older adults at Selis Manor are committed to staying connected and helping people like me deal with my new reality, and above all, having some fun! Although we await the time when we can finally meet face to face, I feel less isolated even during these trying times.
Please support our efforts to engage older adults who are visually impaired in activities with others. They need to know that they are not alone
You are sitting down for a friendly game of Blackjack, you look at your two cards and see a 3 and a 4, and you think to yourself “great, I’ll never beat the dealer with just a 7”. So you ask for another card, it’s an 8 bringing your total to 15. You ponder whether that’s enough but ultimately decide you need another card, it’s a 6, blackjack! You anxiously wait to see the dealer’s hand, 18. Dealer picks another card, it’s a 7, bust. You win.
In life, we are not always dealt the best hand. Sometimes, the cards are stacked against us, making success harder, but not impossible. Whether it be from birth, or onset later on in life, I’ve met many people who may feel as though they were dealt a bad hand and had the odds stacked against them. Low vision is a tough obstacle to overcome, which becomes almost insurmountable if approached alone. It is essential that during times like those, the people that need the assistance receive it, pushing them that much closer to their goal, their ‘blackjack’. Sometimes the hand that we are dealt is not enough to achieve our goal by itself, we need the help of an organization such as VISIONS to step in and get us closer to our objective. This was certainly the case for me.
When my New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB) counselor, first suggested I check out VISIONS after graduating college, I did not really know what to expect. I assumed I would meet someone that would help me fix up my resume and give me some tips on how to find the type of job I wanted online, maybe something like that. What I did not expect was that there would be someone who would check in with me a couple of times a week after meeting them face to face; Someone who developed a plan with next steps I had to take; and someone who kept me accountable, and helped answer whatever questions I could think of. In short, I found someone who was more passionate and committed about finding me the right job than even I was at the time (Valdine Bonheur, Career Services Coordinator). That was something that really stood out to me, which left a great first impression. In fact, when I learned about a job opening at VISIONS to help other people in my position, I did not think twice about it; I applied, and got the job!
My perspective is probably a unique one. From first receiving services as a participant with a visual impairment, to joining their team and getting a glimpse from behind the scenes of how these services are provided, I got to observe how VISIONS impacts peoples’ lives for the better. VISIONS is not only an organization committed to helping those who are visually impaired lead as independent a life as possible, but they help to bridge the gap that would otherwise be there. VISIONS provides the core services (such as Vision Rehabilitation Therapy, Orientation & Mobility, Job Placement, and Social Work) that push people closer to their goals, closer to their ‘blackjack’.
Something I learned recently, is not to take anything for granted, and I certainly do not take the services VISIONS offers for granted. During these times, any contribution you can make, if you are able, will play a critical role in helping someone in need get closer to achieving their personal goals.
Thank you and safe wishes,
9 days after she was born, I found out my daughter Aubrey was blind and started to research what I needed to do to give her a “normal living”. Though there wasn’t enough research and VISIONS didn’t pop up in my Google search, it was VISIONS staff that came into my home and gave me all of the resources I needed to move forward.
The first search result highlighted in big bold letters was “REGISTER WITH THE COMMISSION FOR THE BLIND”. I did not know what that meant, but I knew it had to be done. I promptly made the call, scheduled to go in, and there I was, receiving even more overwhelming information. Towards the end of the meeting is where the good news came in: “You and your family have the opportunity to go to VISIONS VCB Family Week”. I had absolutely no idea what that would entail. Keeping an open mind was all I could do right? I of course got the details on what VCB would offer; I just didn’t think that three years later, it would be even more fulfilling than the first two.
For me and my family, it’s been more than just what VISIONS offers as far as services, it’s more about the comfort of knowing that no matter how non-typical Aubrey’s life may be, she will still have the guidance she needs. She will always feel a part of something and she will always have the VISIONS community to rely on. VISIONS has provided my family with a lifetime of support and resources. Whenever we have needed a little more reinforcement, they have without a doubt never failed us. The amount of FREE resources and services they have supplied us with, will never be forgotten.
If there’s one thing VISIONS could give to a family like mine, it is, of course, a smile, but best of all, PEACE. Life for a parent like myself is indeed a difficult task. Just knowing that as Aubrey grows older she can receive continued support, is everything I need to keep going. There’s no place like VISIONS if you ask me. They’ve connected me to a world where I no longer have to be alone as a parent, and where Aubrey will never have to feel alone as a child.
So many people have no idea how blessed they are to have their sense of sight. Any little bit counts and donating to VISIONS can open a world of opportunity to those who are visually impaired like my Aubrey.
"Shut up, stop feeling sorry and come down to VISIONS" is the statement that changed my life. My doctor told me I was going blind. In a moment of hysteria, tears and feeling like everything was ending, VISIONS brought understanding, friendship, fun and life back.
I attended parties where there were people with visual impairments and instead of dancing, they were sitting and staring at a wall. I couldn't help but think, "Is this what we do?" I knew something had to change and I knew I could help with that change.
I went to VISIONS Center on Blindness (VCB} in Spring Valley and asked to teach dance. I taught three blind students and we performed marvelously at the talent show; so marvelously, that they asked if I could teach in Manhattan at VISIONS at Selis Manor. I started as a volunteer teacher and taught line dance and aerobics. I asked if there was a paid teaching position but none was available at the time. I was back at VCB a few years later when Nancy Miller, CEO of VISIONS, came up to me and said, "Congratulations you're going to be on the staff and get paid." I was so shocked I thought she was joking. I had to hug her.
A visual impairment wouldn't stop me or other visually impaired people from dancing and, for me, to pursue the dream of being a paid blind dance instructor. VISIONS made it happen.
People don't understand how blessed they are to have their eyesight. Donating to VISIONS helps those of us that can't see. They don't charge us for any programs. Without VISIONS, we would be lost. Whatever you can give, please give to VISIONS so we can be involved and active and yes, work if we want to into our 70's and beyond.
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