Older Individuals Who Are Blind Program: A Treasured Resource for Older Texans

Authors: Tim Spong, Program Specialist for Independent Living Services—Older Individuals Who are Blind, Texas Workforce Commission

Keywords: elderly, macular degeneration, in-home services, confidence, independence, quality of life, OIder Individuals Who are Blind specialists, OIB, ILS-OIB, Centers for Independent Living

Abstract: Tim Spong, with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), describes the Older Individuals Who are Blind Program (OIB) for people who are 55 or older and are experiencing vision loss.
A gray-haired woman holds a magnifier in her right hand to help her read the book in her lap.

A woman uses a hand-held magnifier to read a book.

Do you know someone who is elderly and losing vision—maybe a family member, someone at church or a friend or neighbor? Independent Living Services for Older Individuals Who are Blind (ILS-OIB) is an often overlooked program available through the Texas Workforce Commission that helps people regain their independence and improve their quality of life. As Anna’s story demonstrates, the program had a positive impact in her daily living.

With confidence in her step, Anna makes her way to her mailbox to check her mail. It’s hard to believe that just two weeks ago, she needed her neighbor to take her mail right to her doorstep for her. Anna is delighted to be outside and able to retrieve her mail once again! What a great feeling she has–a feeling of confidence – a victory in overcoming challenges with her independence. A few months ago, as her eyesight deteriorated due to Macular Degeneration, Anna began to stay inside of her home and relied on others to assist her in living independently. However, she learned about the Older Individuals Who are Blind/Visually Impaired program (OIB) through a friend of hers at church. As a result, she met her OIB worker and together they identified the goods and services that could contribute to overcoming barriers she was facing with her visual limitations. With planning and information she received from her OIB worker, it was decided she could benefit from Orientation and Mobility training, Independent Living Skills training and assistive technology (a video magnifier). These goods and services have had a profound impact not only on Anna’s life, but the lives of many older Texas with visual impairments.

Vision loss happens frequently as we age and can affect the independent living of older individuals.

The OIB program provides seniors aged 55 or older who have blindness or visual impairment with the tools and training needed to maintain their freedom, confidence, daily life at home, and participation in the community.

Located throughout the state, the OIB program’s blind services specialists can provide in-home services that help seniors like Anna to acquire skills in orientation and mobility, receive assistive technology devices such as magnification tools or braille instruction, diabetes education, or retraining on how to perform everyday activities such as meal preparation and identifying medications—all geared toward overcoming challenges related to vision loss.

OIB’s blind services specialists are active in community events such as senior fairs and work closely with medical providers. They routinely partner with the Centers for Independent Living (CILS) and Texas Health and Human Services since they also provide services for seniors with other types of challenges in living independently that are not related to vision loss.

The ILS-OIB program made a difference for Anna and can have a positive impact on others who need this type of support. If you know someone who needs these services, please contact:

Texas Workforce Solutions- Vocational Rehabilitation Services

A federally funded program, the ILS-OIB Program is administered, along with Vocational Rehabilitation, under the Rehabilitation Services Administration. In Texas, these programs are now housed and managed under the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).

For purposes of the Independent Living Services for Older Individuals Who are Blind Program, Federal funds paid 90 percent of the total costs incurred under the program. In Federal fiscal year 2020, the agency received $2,159,283 in Federal grant funds for this program. Funds appropriated by the State paid 10 percent ($239,920) of the total costs incurred under the Independent Living Services for Older Individuals Who are Blind (ILS-OIB) program.

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