When Pauline Proulx was in her late thirties, she realized she had eye issues. She was missing things that other people seemed to be able to see. Nothing a pair of glasses could not solve, she thought.
But after ten hours of testing at a specialist’s office in Boston, it became clear that glasses would not be able to correct the issues she was confronting. Pauline was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic degenerative eye disease. Over time, cells in the retina break down, causing vision loss. For many, the condition makes it look like you are peering through a paper towel tube, seeing what is right in front of you but nothing on the periphery. Over time, that field of view gets smaller.
With her diminished vision, Pauline had decided on her own to stop driving at night. Then her local ophthalmologist told her that driving during the day was no longer safe.
Pauline says that at that point, she went into shock. There was a numbness that overtook her. She was unable to think or feel anything.
She took a leave of absence from her job.
Having two young children with school and other activities to get to and routine shopping and other travel needs, she worried about how her family would manage with only her husband available to drive.
Pauline says, “I just tried to pretend that my vision was fine.”
While social workers from IN-SIGHT and Rhode Island State Services for the Blind reached out to her to offer solutions, she was just not ready. “I was not fully comprehending what was happening. I just kept telling myself to act normal.”
During those times when she could not do things because of her diminished vision, she would make excuses or blame it on clumsiness.
After spending three years trying to figure things out, she eventually returned to work part-time doing medical transcription.
As years went by and her vision continued to diminish, she knew she needed to do something more. “I wanted to be independent. I wanted to do things. I was tired of missing out,” she said.
Twenty years after first connecting with IN-SIGHT, she reached out again, looking for help with mobility. Given her lack of peripheral vision, she was concerned about safely getting from place to place.
Pauline connected with a mobility teacher who taught her the proper techniques for moving about, using the white cane to provide information that would keep her safe. “Initially, I was embarrassed to use a long white cane in public. Ultimately, I realized that it was a necessary tool if I wanted to remain independent.”
She also began attending IN-SIGHT’s support group meetings, Yoga classes, and the monthly Book Club, where she met others in a similar situation. Knowing she was not alone and being able to share what she had learned with others was a big help.
Through various free workshops, she learned new skills that helped build her confidence and independence.
Today, Pauline travels between family homes in Rhode Island and Florida, confidently navigating transportation and airports independently. She spends a lot of time doing things with friends and living the life she wants.
This summer, she received a dog guide to further assist with her mobility needs. “Having a dog guide is a whole new experience for me, but it has led to even greater independence,” she says.
Pauline’s advice to those in the same place she was is to “realize that you are not alone, take advantage of the resources available to you, and most importantly, don’t worry about what other people think.”
If you find yourself in a place similar to Pauline, call us. We can help you connect with programs and services to increase your independence.
Contact our Client Services team at (401) 941-3322, ext. 121, for an initial conversation or to attend an upcoming VISION Group.
IN-SIGHT clients rang in the holiday season at several different events throughout December.
Holiday Music Boxes: with help from Ellen Blomgren at Mudstone Studios, a group of clients created their unique ceramic containers with a holiday theme. Many folks chose Christmas trees and angels to top their pieces.
Holiday Bingo: using adaptive bingo cards, including ones with Braille and large print, participants at our December Positive Outlook meeting had the chance to play a few games, with the winners receiving an IN-SIGHT golf umbrella.
It’s A Wonderful Life: thanks to our friends at the GAMM Theater, almost twenty clients had the chance to take in an exceptional performance of the classic holiday story staged as a radio play. Before the show, everyone enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Greenwood Inn.
Holiday Craft Workshop: with a wide variety of craft supplies available, participants in this class had the chance to create unique ornaments and decorations to brighten their homes or give as gifts.
Many thanks to the donors to our Annual Fund Appeal, whose generous support helped to make these events possible.
After more than forty years, IN-SIGHT’s radio reading service signed off the air on December 31, 2022.
Since 1981, hundreds of volunteers brought the printed word to thousands of visually impaired and blind Rhode Islanders. However, technological advances significantly changed how people access news and information.
To be sure, the decision was bittersweet.
We have always had some of the most dedicated volunteers anywhere, and not having them here every day is a significant loss. We are so thankful to all the people who have generously given their time as readers, production assistants, engineers, and receiver repairers.
On the other hand, the reduced need for this program is a recognition that many people with visual impairments now have much better access to news and information, which is something to celebrate.
The Rhode Island Radio Reading Service started as an all-volunteer program in 1981. The service merged with the Rhode Island Association for the Blind, forming IN-SIGHT a few years later.
With newspapers being the primary source of information at the time, volunteers read them through a closed-circuit signal, providing critical access to information for people who could not access print.
Several years ago, a transition to digital technology strengthened our over-the-air signal and created the opportunity for listeners to access our programming through the IN-SIGHT website as well as Alexa-enabled devices.
Ironically, the same technological advances that have improved access to IN-SIGHT Radio’s signal have also led to its demise.
When our radio reading service began, local newspapers brimmed with the latest goings-on in the community. There was so much news on many days that our volunteers would struggle to choose which stories they had enough time to read and which would end up on the cutting room floor.
However, the growth of the internet, social media, streaming video, expanded television news channels, and other sources of information have led to a precipitous drop in the number of people reading newspapers. Subscriptions to the Providence Journal, for instance, have dropped more than 80% since 1990. The resulting loss of revenue has led to cost-saving cutbacks in content, making it a challenge on many days for our volunteers to find enough original local news to fill the allotted time slots.
The decline in people reading newspapers also meant less interest in our radio reading service. A survey found only a tiny handful of people who reported listening, and most of them only for a short time on some weekday mornings.
We have worked with these listeners to transition them to other free and easy-to-use options, including NFB Newsline, a telephone-based reading service, and the Talking Books program.
While this marks the end of a long and valued program, it also presents an opportunity for us to invest in new initiatives that will help people with visual impairments be more confident and independent. We look forward to announcing plans for expanded programming in other areas.
This past fall, a group of IN-SIGHT clients created unique dioramas meant to look like a stage with miniature figurines. The themes ranged from an opera singer to a day at the beach to ways of celebrating the holidays.
Each participant started with rolled-out slabs of clay, which they used to build their stages. Then using small pieces of clay, they created small figurines posed on the stage. Curtains and lights helped to complete the look of these fun pieces.
A group of IN-SIGHT clients recently took a day trip to Boston, where they feasted on authentic Italian cuisine, followed by a fun and informative tour on one of the city’s Duck Boats.
VISION Groups are a great resource for:
At these events, IN-SIGHT staffers Chris Butler, Lucille Gaboriault, and Doreen Holmes will be available to answer any questions that you might have. They will also offer an overview of resources that are available to help you increase your confidence. You will also meet and hear from people who are in a similar situation to yours and learn how they have overcome some of the same issues that you may be currently experiencing.
VISION Groups are open to everyone, and you can attend the meeting that is most convenient for you. You don’t need to pre-register to attend. For more information, contact Lucille at (401) 941-3322, ext. 121, or by completing the contact form below.
Tuesday, March 7, 2023
43 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick
10 AM – 11:30 AM
Friday, March 10, 2023
East Providence Senior Center
610 Waterman Avenue, E. Providence
1 PM – 2:30 PM
Tuesday, April 4, 2023
700 W. Main Road, Middletown
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Friday, April 7, 2023
Cranston Senior Center
1070 Cranston Street, Cranston
10 AM – 11:30 AM
Tuesday, April 18, 2023
North Providence Senior Center
2 Atlantic Boulevard, N. Providence
10 AM – 11:30 AM
Friday, April 21, 2023
Lincoln Senior Center
150 Jenckes Hill Road, Lincoln
10 AM – 11:30 AM
Tuesday, May 2, 2023
South Kingstown Senior Center
25 St. Dominic Road, Wakefield
10 AM – 11:30 AM
Friday, May 12, 2023
Westerly Senior Center
39 State Street, Westerly
10 AM – 11:30 AM
Tuesday, May 23, 2023
North Kingstown Senior Center
44 Beach Street, N. Kingstown
10 AM – 11:30 AM
This past July, with help from the Rhode Island Foundation and dozens of individual donors, more than a dozen visually impaired kids and teens had the opportunity to participate in many unique adventures.
The On the Move summer camp is a chance to practice mobility skills, learn about public transportation, and spend time with new and old friends.
This year the group had the chance to kayak at Lake Pearl, pedal down railroad tracks with the Rail Explorers, explore the streets of downtown Newport after taking a ride on the ferry from Providence, and participate in a unique touch tour at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, ride on the Essex Rail and Sail, and much more.
At a recent Positive Outlook support group meeting, the featured speaker was a talented artist who exemplifies the power of positive thinking.
Raymond Gonsalves has been living with visual impairment since birth, but he has never allowed those challenges to deter him.
Ray’s interest in art started at a young age, following the example of his brother, an accomplished artist in his own right.
In middle school, Ray found that he had a knack for drawing and started sketching cars and scenery. His talent got noticed and he began working as a freelance artist, painting various murals, and being featured in several clubs in the Providence area.
As he advanced through school, he received formalized training in his craft, becoming involved in an art magnate program, and then attending the University of Rhode Island where he attained a Bachelor of Fine Arts. He has also attended the Rhode Island School of Design for graphic arts and filmmaking. His artwork has been featured in several art shows in Rhode Island.
Ray paints in a highly realistic style and very much enjoys painting cars. He usually begins with a line sketch on canvas in pencil to map out the overall composition of the piece. After the line sketch has been completed, Ray begins the painstaking process of filling the lines with paint.
He checks his reference photo on a laptop, employing a zoom-in feature to enlarge a single section, becoming the focus for his painting session. It is a slow process of zooming into the image on his laptop and then using a handheld magnifier to assist him in applying the paint to the canvas.
Though his paintings are very realistic, Ray also employs his own creativity, making modifications or adjusting the backgrounds to whatever he likes.
Besides painting, Ray has developed many other artistic endeavors, including graphic design,
filmmaking, 3D printing, and more recently digital music.
When asked what his challenges are, Ray could not think of any, except for one – he has too many projects to finish! Ray is proof that a positive outlook goes a long way in reaching your goals.
The Rhode Island Parents of Blind and Visually Impaired Children is a group that provides an opportunity to connect with and learn from other parents and caregivers.
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