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Resources

Each of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia has an agency to help its blind and visually limited residents obtain the skills and tools needed to find and maintain jobs.  They provide job placement assistance, orientation and mobility training, support for courses leading to potential employment, magnification and screen reading software and training, other aids to assist with basic life activities, and general information to aid in seeking and holding jobs.
 
The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) under the District of Columbia’s Department on Disability Services provides job counseling, development, placement and retention services.  Information can be found by calling (202) 730-1700 or by visiting RSA’s web site at:
 
http://dds.dc.gov/page/dds-services
 
The Office for Blindness and Vision Services of the Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) provides assistive technology, academic support, orientation and mobility training and training in daily living skills.  Job placement assistance is also available from DORS.  Information can be found by calling (301) 949-3750 or by visiting DORS’ web site at:

http://dors.maryland.gov/consumers/specialized/OBVS/Pages/default.aspx
 
The Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired (VDBVI) provides vocational evaluation, job training, job development, placement, follow-up and other services.  Information can be found by calling (800) 622-2155 or by visiting VDBVI’s web site at:
 
http://www.vdbvi.org
 
Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind (CLB) is a private non-profit organization that provides a comprehensive, integrated range of services including low vision care and rehabilitation, job development training, and employment for people of all ages who are visually impaired or blind.  Information can be found by calling (202) 454-6400 or by visiting CLB’s web site at:
 
http://www.clb.org
 
The Federal government gives priority in hiring to individuals with disabilities who are considered qualified for the positions they seek.  Blindness has been listed as a “targeted disability” for purposes of hiring preferences. Information about the Federal government’s hiring of people with disabilities can be found at the web site at:

https://www.disability.gov/disability-connection-newsletter-january-2015
 
Information about available Federal government jobs, how to apply for them and the priority in hiring for people with disabilities can be found at the web site at:
 
https://help.usajobs.gov/index.php/Individuals_with_Disabilities
 
The Social Security Administration (SSA) pays disability benefits to persons with disabilities including blindness if they or other members of their family have worked long enough and they can show that their medical condition has prevented them from working or is expected to prevent them from working for at least 12 months or end in death. The benefits are modest.  Application can be made on SSA’s web site.  Information can be found by calling (800) 772-1213 or by visiting SSA’s web site at:
 
http://ssa.gov/disabilityssi
 
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) provides that employers employing 15 or more workers may not discriminate against individuals with disabilities in hiring, firing, training, advancement or compensation.  Reasonable accommodations must be provided for disabled workers, such as readers or audio software, unless to do so would impose an undue hardship on the employer.  Information can be found at:
 
http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/fs-ada.html
 
The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act) authorizes taxpayers to establish savings accounts under state approved programs, similar to 529 college tuition savings programs, to cover disability-related expenses incurred by or on behalf of themselves, their spouses or their dependents if the beneficiary is subject to a long term disability including blindness that occurred before the beneficiary reached age 26.  The earnings in these accounts grow tax free but are subject to tax and a 10% penalty if withdrawn for any reason other than the authorized purposes which may include education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology and personal support services, health, prevention and wellness, financial management and administrative services, legal fees, and expenses for oversight and monitoring, and funeral and burial expenses.  Each beneficiary may have only one ABLE account, there is a limit on the annual amount that may be put into an ABLE account, amounts contributed by others than the account beneficiary will be subject to gift tax rules and, should the beneficiary die with a balance left in his account, his state may claim against the balance for amounts it has paid to or on behalf of the beneficiary during his life.  Being the beneficiary of an ABLE account will not impact a person’s eligibility for government benefits such as Social Security or Medicaid unless the account balance exceeds $100,000.  Information can be found at:
 
https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/647
 
The American Council of the Blind (ACB) strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people.  ACB has effectively collaborated with Vision Rehabilitation Service providers to develop the principles and values that should be at the heart of providing adjustment and placement services to people who are blind.  ACB has worked with governments at all levels to enhance and ensure adequate accommodations and rehabilitation services are provided both through policy initiatives and program implementation.  It has also advised and encouraged private companies and organizations to provide fair access and non-discriminatory treatment for those with vision loss.  Information can be found by calling (202) 467-5081 or (800) 424-8666 or by visiting ACB’s web site at:
 
http://acb.org
 
Maryland and northern Virginia also have state affiliate members of ACB.  Information about ACB of Maryland and Old Dominion Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired can be found by contacting ACB.
 
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national non-profit foundation dedicated to seeking equal access and opportunities for people with vision loss.  It connects families to sources of knowledge and support.  It advises on the creation of more accessible products.  It offers publications and eLearning courses to educate professionals in the field.  Its advocacy helps to implement disability legislation including the Americans with Disabilities Act. Information can be found by calling (212) 502-7600 or by visiting AFB’s web site at:
 
http://www.afb.org
 
People losing vision are welcome to join the nationwide support group called
the Inspirational 3 Support Group.  This group has a conference call every
Tuesday evening from 7:00 PM until 9:00 PM.  Anyone can dial-in to contribute or listen to
topics related to vision loss.  A variety of topics are covered.  Dial (605) 562-3140 and enter access code 813025#.  Information can be found by calling (240) 487-9028 or by emailing:

i3sgroup@mail.com 

The Hope Line is a free conference call every Monday night starting at 7:30:PM that is a forum for people who are blind and low vision to share information.  To participate, call: (712) 775-7035, Access code: 168598#; to listen to the recording later, call: (712) 775-7039, Access code: 168598#
 
The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) is an organization of blinded veterans helping blinded veterans.  Through its service programs, regional groups, resources, and advocacy before the legislative and executive branches of government, it hopes to make life better for blinded veterans.  It also hopes to be there with encouragement and support.  There is no charge for any BVA service and membership is not a prerequisite to obtain help.  All legally blinded veterans are eligible for BVA’s assistance whether they become blind during or after active duty military service.  Information can be found by calling (800) 669-7079 or by visiting BVA’s web site at:
 
http://www.bva.org

Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired (formerly The Hadley School for the Blind) offers lifelong, distance education programs for individuals who are blind
or visually impaired, their families and blindness service providers.  Hadley offers courses free of charge to its blind and visually impaired students and their families
and affordable tuition to blindness professionals.  It provides free audio seminars described in its monthly newsletter.  Information can be found by calling (847) 446-8111 or by visiting Hadley's web site at:

http://www.hadley.edu/

AFB offers Learn Tech, a technology access initiative that features free online tutorials to help people who are blind or visually impaired learn how to improve their computer and technology skills.  The tutorials can be accessed at:

www.afb.org/learntech

The Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan Washington (POB), the largest local prevention of blindness agency in the United States, is dedicated to the improvement and preservation of sight by providing services, education, advocacy and innovation.  POB screens more than 8,000 children annually for vision loss and strabismus, and 5,000 adults for glaucoma.  POB also provides thousands of low-income and homeless persons with eyeglasses.  POB sponsors the Aging Eye Network, the Macular Degeneration Network and Stargardt's Network that provide public programs and support groups.  Information can be found by calling (202) 234-1010 or by visiting POB’s web site at:
 
http://www.youreyes.org
 
IONA Senior Services supports people through the challenges and opportunities of aging.  One resource it offers is a support group for older persons adjusting to vision loss.  This group is monitored by a trained therapist who herself has experienced blindness at an older age.  Discussions deal both with emotional issues relating to loss of sight and devices that can make life with limited or no vision easier.  The group meets two Thursdays each month.  Information can be found by calling (202) 895-9448 or by visiting IONA’s web site at:
 
http://www.iona.org
 
The Council of Citizens With Low Vision International (CCLVI), an affiliate member of ACB, is an advocacy membership organization for persons who have some but limited sight.  Its purposes are to establish the right of persons with low vision to make full use of their vision through all available aids, services and technology, to provide a mechanism through which low vision people can express their individual needs, interests and preferences, to educate the general public, professionals, and low vision people themselves as to the potentialities, capabilities, and needs of low vision people, to establish outreach programs to insure that all individuals with low vision have access to necessary services, to promote research to prevent blindness, improve maximum utilization of sight, and improve environmental conditions and access for low vision people, and to support the development of and expansion of pre-service and in-service training programs to improve the quality and quantity of medical and rehabilitative low vision services.  Information can be found by calling (800)733-2258 or by visiting CCLVI’s web site at:
 
http://www.cclvi.org
 
Lions Clubs International has Local Lions Clubs which provide resources and support to benefit individuals with vision loss.  Information can be found by calling (630) 571-5466 or visiting its web site at:

http://www.lionsclubs.org

ICanConnect (National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program) is available for those with significant combined vision and hearing loss meeting Federal income guidelines.  They can receive communication technology and training to stay connected with family members and friends at no cost.  Information can be found by calling (800) 825-4595, TTY (888) 320-2656 or by visiting the web site at:

http://www.icanconnect.org

Braille Institute of America offers the Sound Solutions Series which promotes independence while educating and empowering the entire family through free audio dramatizations.  Information can be found by calling (800) 272-4553 or visiting its web site at:

http://www.brailleinstitute.org

Ears for Eyes - Enrichment Audio Resource Services provides free audio lessons promoting independent living.  Information can be found by calling (800) 843-6816 or visiting its web site at:

http://www.earsforeyes.info/index.php/index.html

The Foundation Fighting Blindness provides information and outreach programs.  The Foundation is driving research to provide preventions, treatments and cures for people affected by retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration, Usher syndrome and the entire spectrum of retinal degenerative diseases.  It funds leading-edge research in promising areas such as genetics, gene therapy, retinal cell transplantation, and pharmaceutical and nutritional therapies.  Information can be found by visiting its web site at:

www.blindness.org

The American Red Cross provides information and tips for visually limited persons to handle emergencies and disasters.  Information can be found by visiting the web site at:

http://www.redcross.org/prepare/location/home-family/disabilities

More information about resources available in the Washington, DC metropolitan area can be found by visiting the web site at:
 
https://www.enhancedvision.com/low-vision-resources/district-of-columbia-low-vision-resources.html

Further resources can be found by visiting the web site at:

http://www.samobile.net/users/happytrails/bookmarks/6313