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Veterans with vision loss learning to adapt at blind rehabilitation center

Posted at 10:12 PM, Jul 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-20 01:27:51-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — Veterans with vision loss are getting a new lease on life through the Southwest Blind Rehabilitation Center.

"When we're having our meals, it's amazing how many blind jokes fly around the dining room," Arnold Rice said.

This is something Arnold Rice is able to smile about. He's a U.S. Marine Veteran, and slowly started losing his eyesight after his second tour in Vietnam.

Now, he's in the inpatient Southwest Blind Rehabilitation Center, or SWBRC, at the VA.

"I actually consider myself lucky, because I have some sight," Rice said. "There are many other folks that are here with me, that don't have their sight."

Losing much of his vision -- and independence -- took a toll on Rice. He remembers one of the first questions he was asked when he started the program.

"Do you have trouble putting toothpaste on your toothbrush," Rice recalls. "Now that's something we do every single day. You don't even think about it. And I said, 'Yeah, as a matter of fact, I do.'"

This is one of the basic, everyday things that becomes challenging with vision loss. But here, they're taught how to do those everyday things a little differently.

"And they said, 'Well, why don't you try squeezing a little toothpaste into your mouth and then brush your teeth?' Rice said. "And it's those kind of things that we learn here, that you don't even think about."

Each veteran makes individualized goals at the center. For Rice, one of those goals was getting back into leather crafting.

Other goals may include including cooking, personal financing, getting around neighborhoods.

For more information about the Southwest Blind Rehabilitation Center, you can contact your local VA Hospital and ask to speak to a Visual Impairment Service Team (VIST) Coordinator.

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