2020 Conference

Glimpses of State Projects: Peer to Peer

Session Date: 
Thursday, September 3, 2020 - 2:30 pm to 4:00 pm CDT


Alabama Camp Seniors Adapting to Visual Impairments (SAVI)

Matthew Haynes


Matthew Haynes is currently the coordinator of Alabama’s older-blind program, OASIS – Older Alabamians System for Information and Services, at the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services. He earned his MS in Rehabilitation Services from Auburn University in 2003 and is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor. Before becoming the Program Coordinator, Matthew was a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist for the OASIS Program for three years, and Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the Blind and Visually Impaired for five years.

Camp SAVI is a one-week program designed to provide independent living and adjustment-to-blindness services to adults 55 and older who are blind or visually impaired. The camp is a collaborative effort between the OASIS Program and the E.H. Gentry Technical Facility at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind.

Through Camp SAVI, participants can gain personal insight, learn more about vision loss, enhance adaptive techniques for performing independent living skills, and gather information about some of the resources and services that are available to them. Many participants have an increase in motivation, confidence, and socialization after this program.
This program is funded through the OIB program. Typically, $13,000 is set aside each year for this program.

Contact: Matthew Haynes at matthew.haynes@rehab.alabama.gov

Minnesota Aging Eyes Initiative

Ed Lecher


Ed Lecher has been the Older Blind Director for Minnesota State Services for the Blind for the last eight years. Prior to that, he served on the administrative team for the agency. Before working at Minnesota State Services for the Blind, he was the director of several non-profit organizations. His background and education are in Public Administration. He has thirty years of experience in non-profit and government services.

“The Minnesota State Services for the Blind (SSB) contracted with the Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs to study potential programmatic solutions to provide services for more seniors while managing rising costs. The solution that showed the most promise was simple, straightforward, and clearly cost effective: provide training to those already working with seniors to initiate basic interventions with these individuals in the early stages of vision loss. For seniors whose needs were beyond these basic interventions, a referral would be made to SSB. The program, known as the Aging Eyes Initiative, launched in December 2015.

Through this initiative, MNSSB staff members reach out to allied health and other organizations that serve seniors. The outreach determines whether organizations are interested in becoming, and whether they have the capacity to become, partners. If they are interested and have qualified professional personnel, MNSSB provides four hours of training that teaches new partners recognition of vision loss, knowledge of the various simple low vision devices, data recording and the terms and conditions for becoming a partner.

At the successful completion of their training, health professionals, now partners, are provided with a low vision kit that contains items such as signature guides, adaptive kitchen and household items, large-button telephones, talking timepieces, low-power handheld magnifiers, bold-line paper, and other low-tech items. Through a simple one-page form, the partner records the services rendered and devices provided, and submits that form to MNSSB. Using the form, partners indicate individuals who have more advanced vision rehabilitation needs and who have requested follow-up from MNSSB. MNSSB staff records that information, sends the partner items needed for resupply, and follows up with those seniors with greater vision loss.

The Aging Eyes Initiative has achieved several outcomes. First, it has obtained more referrals for individuals who need intensive vision rehabilitation services. Second, it has served more individuals who might not have been served otherwise, due to their vision loss not being as advanced. Third, it has empowered professionals who serve seniors, such as OTs, to perform basic low vision interventions; including knowing where to refer the more advanced cases of vision loss.” (Farrow, Holden, Lecher, & Larges, 2018)

Source: Farrow, K., Holden, C., Lecher, E., & Larges, L. (2018). Increasing Access to Vision Rehabilitation Services for Seniors through Collaboration with Occupational Therapists. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 112(3), 301–306. https://doi.org/10.1177/0145482X1811200309

Additional information from the Q&A session:

  1. Partners are required to take the NRTC course Introduction to Blindness and Low Vision before joining the Aging Eyes Initiative program.
  2. There is no requirement for medical referrals to participate.
  3. An audit revealed that 100% of people that participated were blind or low vision.
  4. More than one-half ended up receiving services in his program after first seeing one of the Aging Eyes partners.
  5. One of the most requested services is a functional vision exam.

Contact: Ed Lecher at Edward.lecher@state.mn.us or 651-539-2324.

Georgia Remote Low Vision Evaluations

Kay McGill

The remote low vision exam was created to reduce the risk of COVID-19 by eliminating exposure to people and surfaces related to transportation, public places, and waiting rooms. The intake, doctor consultation, low vision interview, and testing are completed through the phone. Consent forms, testing equipment, trial equipment, and resources are all sent free matter for the blind to the individual.

Kay McGill graduated from the University of Kentucky (UK) with a Bachelor’s degree (cum laude) in psychology and a Master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. She is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and a Certified Public Manager. Kay has been with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) her entire career serving in several capacities. She received awards from the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia, Georgia Council of the Blind, the Business Enterprise Program, Helen Keller National Center, the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, and Vocational Rehabilitation.

She and her husband, Dick, have been married for 30 years and are the aunt and uncle of Anderson and his triplet siblings Marshall, Harper, and Elena. She is an avid University of Kentucky basketball fan and was on the UK Fencing Team (her collegiate athletic venture!)

Contact Key McGill
Office: 404-780-6649
Fax: 770- 414-2674 | Georgia Relay: 711
2082 East Exchange Place│Suite 120
Tucker, GA 30084

Wendy Mons

Wendy Mons earned a degree in Special Education for the Blind and Visually Impaired at the University of Texas in 1971.  She is the founder and president of Mons International, a company dedicated to providing products and services to visually impaired persons continuously since 1986.

She also served as President of the Georgia Association of Education and Rehabilitation for the Blind.  Wendy is currently serving on the board as Immediate Past President. She received the ACVREP certification as a Certified Low Vision Therapist in 2014 and recertification in 2019.

Contact Wendy Mons: wmons@vifga.org;

Additional Session Information:

  1. Low Vision Remote Protocol Resource - the resource elaborates on the low vision remote protocol for vifGA
  2. Low Vision Remote Protocol Appendix - the appendix lays out the low vision remote protocol for vifGA