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Photo: Michelle O’Hanlon giving a tutorial to Sachi Rathod on low vision refraction

Professional Teaching Fellow (PTF) Michelle O’Hanlon led the School of Optometry and Vision Science Low Vision day held for Part V optometry students in March to increase students’ knowledge of the difficulties patients with vision impairments experience.

How do you guide a person who is guided by a guide dog? Or those with a walker? Students learned the art of guiding, and then experienced the vulnerability and the trust required to rely on someone else to guide them around blindfolded.

A variety of technological solutions exist beyond the simple handheld magnifier to assist people with blindness or low vision. Students learned how the patient’s own device’s accessibility functions can be adapted to help with most tasks. Other tools include apps like Big Launcher that simplify the phone display, Google or Siri which can be used even by people with blindness or light perception, and other software like JAWS which can be used for people who frequently use the computer.

Questions from the students, including “how do you ask if someone wants escorting?”, and “how do low vision individuals want optometrists to communicate with them?”, were asked of the volunteers with low vision on the interactive panel discussion, resulting in an engaging session.

Low Vision history, vision and refraction skills were enhanced as the students examined demonstration patients who kindly gave their time.

Special thanks to Blind and Low Vision Education Network NZ (BLENNZ), Blind Low Vision NZ, SOVS staff and the volunteer people with low vision and visual impairments.