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Rehabilitation for Blindness

By Alex Moroz, MD, Associate Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine, Vice Chair of Education, and Residency Program Director, New York University School of Medicine

Rehabilitation for people who are blind depends on whether blindness was present at birth (congenital) or at a very young age or whether it developed later in life. Children who are born blind or who become blind at a very young age usually receive special education about how to function without sight from the beginning. Thus, most of them become well-adjusted. However, people who become blind later in life must learn new ways of dealing with daily living, such as how to feed themselves. Usually, people are taught the clock method. The dinner plate is pictured as a clock, and the meat is always placed at 8 o'clock, with the vegetable at 4 o’clock and the beverage at 1 o’clock.

Therapists also teach people to rely more on their other senses and to use devices for the blind, such as Braille. The goal is to help people function as well as possible, become independent, and regain their self-confidence.

Blind people also have to learn how to use a cane, and family members and other caregivers must learn how to walk with them. Family members are instructed not to change the location of furniture or other objects without telling the blind person.

Learning how to use a seeing eye dog and Braille come much later. In the interim, audio books help the blind participate in reading.