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Macular Degeneration in SE Portland

What To Expect When You Visit Oregon Commission For The Blind.


I can’t say how I’d respond to the news, but I hope it would be as well as my mother in law Judy’s reaction when she learned she had macular degeneration.

But probably not.

This woman is the biggest reader I’ve ever known, the sort who takes notes on books and keeps a list in her book bag. Really, who has a book bag after college or high school? Great readers do.

She’s a knitter from the old school where you knock out a scarf without looking down. She even teachers a knitting class.

Will vision impairment bother her more than others?Be sure about one thing, loss of vision bothers everybody. From young star gazers to big baby boomers glued to their television screen, vision loss gives them all one question: “Why me?”


Age related vision impairment is something you live with, something you adapt to. When your doctor runs the tests and says, “There’s nothing else we an do for you,” they’re telling half the story.

Do they give you a card or number for the Oregon Commission For The Blind? There was no mention in the medical offices I visited with Judy.

I asked the specialist about that.

“Do you get a lot of referrals from the docs?”

“Not so much,” she answered. “They have a patient load to deal with and move on to the next case when they hit the wall with one. If they can’t do more for a patient, they give them the news and that’s it. Not everyone’s at the top of their game when they think they’ll be blind. They don’t ask as many good questions. How did you find us?”

Ladies with a busy social schedule have resources the rest of us wish we had. Their friends have gone through pretty much everything imaginable, and they help each other along the way. Judy knew about the Oregon Commission For The Blind because of a friend’s vision.

Then there’s the name. You don’t have to be blind to make an appointment, but that’s the perception.

Our specialist did her work in a large room that reminded me of the lab James Bond visits before he leaves on a mission. Vision aids and assists of all kinds, of all magnification, were in there. One of them would be the right answer.


Gail Webb, Low Vision Specialist, gave us the feeling of confidence. She inspired and instructed the way a coach does when things aren’t going well in a game. If one thing is working, try something else as long as there’s time on the clock.

From the beginning she had a focus that read her patient’s response to vision. Are they quitting on her? Do they have doubt? Are they willing to adapt?

For over an hour she kept Judy on task, moving from one possibility to the next with hope and grace. Gail was a pro who knew what to expect and how to deal with surprises. Her first time patients who come in shocked and surprised to find their vision changing are lucky to have such an ally.

Good readers keep reading and the tools at the commission show how.

There’s close up reading.


┬áThere’s reading from a magnified screen that uses an HD camera. It changes font size, color, and background.


Will any of it make a difference? Maybe. What is certain after an appointment with Gail Webb is that you are the difference maker. Your attitude makes the biggest difference.

You’ve met people like Gail, but you don’t call them Low Vision Specialists. You call them the light in the darkness you hoped for.

And she makes it look so easy.


About David Gillaspie
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