Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Vision Troubles? The Cleveland Sight Center Can Help.

If you face vision problems in the greater Cleveland area, there is a powerful local resource that should definitely be on your radar. We sat down with Tom Sawyer from the Cleveland Sight Center to learn more about how the group supports our community.

"[We] help people to use the vision that they have left to remain as independent as possible in their home, workplace, community or school," said Tom. "We look at different low-vision products and how people might use or want to use different things and match them up, essentially." The program offers sight support to people of all ages and all levels of compromised vision. "Cleveland Sight Center has been around for going on 110 years," Tom went on, "and we have everything from preschool to the oldest individual I've worked with to date is 104."

Making Vision Support a Reality

Often times, people come to the Cleveland Sight Center at a crossroads. "[People] find out that they've ignored the problem and they can't ignore it anymore if they want to stay independent or if they want to have any kind of quality of life," Tom shared. "There are people that just sit in a dark room all day, every day. They don't know of the opportunities that are available to have equipment or people come alongside them to encourage them and empower them to do the things to be the whole person that they once were. It may be in a different way, it may have different accommodations, but they can still be very vibrant and full of life and successful and do daily living activities at the very least."

The center also supports people who were born with compromised vision. They have a program that empowers youth as they prepare to transition from living at home to going out on their own into the world. "We have had students who are going off to college or going into the world of work," said Tom. "They may have been protected … from all of the outside influences, but now Mom and Dad understand that they need to help their child grow and move to the next phase. So, they come here sometimes six to eight weeks, depending on the program, and they'll stay here. We help them assess where they are. We help them go and look at different employment possibilities or schools and mobility issues and assess their capabilities to use technology and introduce them to new technology. … We have residence centers with peers where they stay. They do shopping, they go bus ride, there's just a number of things that they do."

"We also have a camp," Tom continued, "the oldest and largest in the country, I believe. … In-ground pools, indoor camping--it helps them build skills [like] communication, socialization. It encourages them to work together. It's intergenerational as well because there are a number of other people--not just kids or young people--it's every age just about."

Best Practices for Vision Challenges

If you want to do what you can to navigate the world with the vision you have left, Tom had some specific tips to share:

Make the Most of Light Sources: While the sun can be a challenge to sight when you are facing it directly, you can turn your face away from it and allow it to shine on your reading material to help you read. The same is true for overhead lighting sources; point them as much as possible directly at the task you are undertaking and you will see what you are doing more clearly. You don't want light shining in your eyes; it should be behind or above you to illuminate your tasks.

Bump Dots or Spotlight Paint: When people are beginning to lose their eyesight, often times something called a "bump dot"--a sticky adhesive dot--can be attached to certain things, such as a number on the microwave, a setting on the washing machine or a key that is used frequently. Spotlight paint is another such solution that will allow visual distinction even with advanced vision deterioration.

Use a Bold Pen: Writing with a gel pen or even a Sharpie marker can help make writings more readable.

Natural Daylight Lightbulbs: Bulbs calibrated to produce light equivalent to natural daylight support vision indoors.

Go for High Contrast: A great example of this is, when cooking, if you're cutting a tomato, you would want to use a white cutting board, not a dark-colored board. On the other hand, if you're cutting onions, you would want to use a dark cutting board. The Cleveland Sight Center sells a white/black cutting board that you can turn over to use the side you need to see your task best.

Protect Your Eyes: Twenty or thirty years ago, you'd see everyone over 70 wearing these huge, bulky black frames over their glasses. These days, there are plenty of more palatable options for people to choose from to protect their eyes from bright sunlight.


This interview series is sponsored by Eldercare Professionals of Ohio, where we make your well-being our priority. Our interview series goes hand in hand with that effort, and we hope you find it helpful! For more information on how we can help, contacts us at, for questions on how to make your home a home for life, visit us at or call me (Brian Pritchard) at 216-212-7531.

To connect with The Cleveland Sight Center, visit them on the web at or call 216-791-8118.

To listen to the full audio conversation between Tom and I, please click on the player below...