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ABVI continuing with New Skills New Vision

May 12, 2016

Rochester, NYBetty Smith of Pittsford struggled for years with vision impairment. She stopped doing the things she loved and worried she’d no longer be able to live independently.

It wasn’t until she enrolled in the seven-week New Skills, New Vision program, through the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ABVI), that Betty learned the tools and techniques needed to live independently.

ABVI started this new program in 2015 for adults, over age 55, who are legally blind. Thanks to a $2,500 grant from Excellus BlueCrossBlueShield, ABVI is continuing this free program in 2016.

People like Betty Smith are given renewed hope and the ability to take control of their lives. A vision rehab therapist works with participants in the program to help them care for themselves and their families.

"We've found that people are initially reluctant to attend this program,” said Sarah Favro, foundation and corporate group giving manager at ABVI. “With their vision loss, they're afraid to leave their house and go to a new place. But by the end of the first class, they don't want to leave.”

The Excellus BCBS grant helps participants access transportation to the program and acquire certain tools, including a thermometer that audibly says the temperature.

Participants are introduced to other products that make life a little easier and safer, including: a speaking watch, a phone with large dialing buttons and an enlarged pill box. They learn how to identify money and medication and how to clean and cook.

Betty loves to cook and spends a lot of time in the kitchen. As a result of the program, she changed the color of her countertops to black and her cabinets to white. The contrast helps Betty see her hands on the countertop.

The program gave Betty the confidence needed to return to Monroe Community College as a volunteer mentor, counselor and coach. Betty had previously retired from MCC after 30 years.

“I’ve learned that you can be a visionary without vision and that is so beautiful,” said Betty. “I have a disability, but I’m not disabled. If it wasn’t for the program, I’d probably still be here feeling sorry for myself.”

Go to to view a video on how Betty learned to live independently in her home.