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'Braile Van' Comes to the Rescue

Mobile Solutions Van brings vital services to the visually impaired.

Posted: February 18, 2008 1:20 p.m.
Updated: April 20, 2008 5:04 a.m.

Madeline Tevere reads print during a test to find the correct magnification for her glasses.

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It's no secret that, as we get older, it gets harder and harder to get around. For those seniors with health issues, this is even more the case. Now consider those seniors with health issues - and vision problems. Traveling to an out-of-the-SCV vision center for needed services becomes an overwhelming task for them.

But never fear, the Braille Institute's Mobile Solutions Van is here.

Numerous times each year, the van comes riding over the hump from the south, flying into the SCV Senior Center parking lot in a cloud of dust and a four-wheel slide (do not take this seriously), bringing those vital vision services to seniors, and others, who need them.

Actually, the whole process is rather sedate, but no less necessary than a cavalry rescue.

Take it from Canyon Country resident Madeline Tevere, 72.

Tevere suffers from diabetes but, unrelated to that, she has suffered from macular degeneration since 2005.

"It just happens to people who get older," she said.

She describes her symptoms like this: "It's blurry. I can see very large print. I can't read signs on the freeway, and I have to look close to see faces."

She said the problem first started in her peripheral vision but spread and now affects her total range of vision.

"There's nothing they can do for it. It's 'wet macular,'" she said.

"I used to drive. I used to be a secretary at church. I had to give it up."

On a recent Wednesday, Tevere had an 11:30 a.m. appointment with the "Braille Van" at the Senior Center to re-check her close-up vision and to replace a special, hand-held magnifier she had broken when she dropped it in a supermarket - an $80-plus item that is not covered by insurance or Medicare.

Assisting her on the day were Sharon Ziegler, field services coordinator for the Braille Institute in Los Angeles County; Camille Basilio, low vision rehabilitation specialist; and John Taylor, who heads up the Visually Impaired Assisted Services at the SCV Senior Center. John, by the way, is visually impaired, himself.

You'd have to call these three the "gentle cavalry," for the care with which they handle clients.

While Taylor's program at the center encompasses a wide variety of services for the visually-impaired, his role in regards to the Braille Van is mostly to facilitate - scheduling appointments, coordinating visits and such.

On this day Ziegler drove the van, though she often has a driver. She said her responsibilities are to greet clients and make sure they get their appointments and to provide information to them. She also does a brisk business of information-dissemination to passers-by, several of whom stopped by on the day to ask questions.

Generous and personable, she treated clients like close friends (because they are) and even served as their walking-escort from the center to the van.

"We're a service-based organization, here to service the visually-impaired and legally blind with the mobile van. That's what we're doing," Ziegler said.

Once Tevere was inside the van, Basilio took over. She gently guided Tevere through a vision test that had her reading lines of various-sized type from about two inches away. (That's how bad her vision is without magnification.) The process resulted in the selection of the correct magnification for Tevere's new   hand-held magnifier.

Tevere said she also gets talking books through the Braille Van and noted that there are many other items available. These include visual aids, library services and, as the brochure states, "a variety of household and other items that make living with limited vision a little easier," such as talking watches and calculators, large-print address books and playing cards.

While the van has some of these items on-hand, they often need to be ordered. Taylor can also order these items for clients, and then the Braille Van will bring them out on the next visit. Clients pay by cash,
credit card or check and Taylor noted that they get the items at wholesale prices.

While Taylor's services for the visually-impaired at the Senior Center deserve their own story, one of his jobs is to refer people to the Braille Institute for classes. A different van picks up the clients at the Senior Center and takes them to the institute on Wednesdays, leaving at 8 a.m. and returning at 4 p.m.

Whether it's the Mobile Solutions van, or any other aspect of the Senior Center-Braille Institute partnership, the result is convenience for clients.

"I think they're wonderful. The people are wonderful," Tevere said.

For information visit You can call the Los Angeles Sight Center at (323) 663-1111 or John Taylor at the SCV Senior Center at (661) 259-9444.


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