Originally created 08/09/99

Laments lack of help for the blind



(Editor's note: The writer is president of the Augusta Chapter Georgia Council of the Blind.)

I was glad to read the July 29 article in the "Neighbors" section regarding Harold Mays and the Veteran's Administration Hospital. His despair and frustration on going blind are felt by all of us at one time or the other. Mr. Mays was lucky. He is a veteran and the VA has an excellent program of help for their own. However, all blind persons are not veterans. In fact, according to the Federal Burea of Census, in 1990 there were more than 10,000 blind or vision impaired persons in Richmond County, and I know not all are veterans.

I recently heard of another blind person who was getting help through the VA Hospital. However, it seemed to take him about 14 years before he found this source of help. This is a good example of not knowing where to turn at a time of need.

Yes, there is help out there for non-veterans, but it is hard to find and many times adds to the frustration and despair. I was recently asked to help a person newly blind. After a week of unreturned phone calls, I was lucky and found the name of the person in charge of the program. After a call to that person, I finally got action. I later learned the patient was approved for some kind of help but was then told he was number 99 on the list. Through some miracle, he seemed to be moved up on the list and was aided in good time.

It takes a lot of phone calls and unanswered mail before anything happens. Of course, there is no one place you can go for help.

Mr. Mays is getting excellent help. However, there are other problems not addressed by the VA Hospital that are common to all blind people. At the present time, our chapter is working on traffic signals, transportation and TV programs and weather warnings. Here again, there is nothing but frustration with unreturned phone calls and no reply to one's mail. One gets hope only to have it dashed by those that can help. ...

Jack Eckert, Augusta