N.H. Association For The Blind Announces New Name, Extended Outreach

Mar 1, 2017

New Hampshire Association for the Blind announced today that it’s getting a new name. It will be called Future In Sight. The organization’s president and CEO David Morgan says the new name better represents how the organization addresses the needs of the community.

David Morgan spoke with NHPR’s Peter Biello to discuss the change and how they plan to serve the community.

This transcript has been edited for clarity. 

Tell us, what need in the community is your organization addressing that warrants changing the organization’s name?

For 105 years we've served clients around the state. Up until recently we never served babies. We served seniors, but not outside their home. And more and more we’re discovering there are some 30,000 New Hampshire residents with profound sight loss, and we only served about 1,100 last year. So there’s certainly a compelling need out there that’s left unfulfilled. And frankly, the word “blind” in our name inhibited a lot of conversations, particularly in doctors’ offices and between doctors and their patients.

Right. We should mention you serve far more people than just people that are completely blind.

Absolutely. Ninety-three percent of the folks we serve in New Hampshire have profound sight loss, but are not blind.

In the announcement today, you mentioned that demographics were part of the shift that your organization is managing as you grow. And you just mentioned babies. Is that the only demographic you now have an eye on?

We serve babies, children between three and 21, adults in partnership with the Department of Education and Vocational Rehabilitation in the state, and seniors. About 73 percent of the folks we serve are actually individuals above 65 years of age.

What would you say is the biggest challenge of addressing the needs of people of various demographics?

There are a number of challenges. I think one is the difficulty in finding those folks, particularly over 65, that may be living alone at home. More and more we find we need to partner with organizations like Lions Clubs, doctors’ offices, ophthalmologists and educational institutions to help find those kids, babies, adults and seniors all around the state, particularly in the rural areas because so often the rural areas are underserved.

Assuming you were able to find these people, what kind of services do you provide?

A complete and full range of services. Most often anyone who has an interest or need for our services will make contact through our social workers. Those social workers would actually either go out to those patients' homes or, in the case of school children, go out to the school systems. But that range includes rehabilitation therapy, social worker and counseling support, peer support, training and introduction to assistive technology, and partnering with lots of other social service agencies. So it’s a full range of services that include teachers of the visually impaired, orientation and mobility.

Helping people move and operate in the real world?

Yes. For instance, if it’s a senior in need we might be in their home helping them to live independently and navigate the space around their home. In many cases after we provide those services we actually help them get out in the community and live and thrive with sight loss through recreational activities, social activities and peer support activities.

Give us an example of how you may serve someone on the younger than 65.

Very often a school will call. They may have a child on an individual education plan, and that child will have vision loss. They may call our social worker and say, “Can you help us with this school-age kid?" They’ve got a number of disabilities. They may be on the autistic spectrum with vision loss. Or a parent might call in a panic with a baby with profound sight loss and ask how we can help. That’s a very typical starting point.

And from there you would connect them with an ophthalmologist?

It’s not uncommon at all for an ophthalmologist to refer to us and for a teacher to go help that child understand what their individual needs are. From there they may help them and other teachers, for instance, get access to digitally accessible materials to help them in their school. They may provide orientation and mobility training that helps them navigate their world. They may coach them up with what we call expanded core curriculum which could include assistive tech, socialization skills, a whole range of skills that really help that child live and thrive and learn their surroundings and their school plan.

So bring this back around again to the name change, Future In Sight. How does a new name help you do all that?

It’s had an amazing impact already, actually. As we stopped using the word “blind”, what we did was create new conversation around the word “sight”, and the use of what’s left for residual sight for both school-age kids and adults. I’ll give an example in the doctor’s office. So often a doctor is challenged by having to acknowledge the word "blind", which says they can no longer help you. The person receiving that information is in denial about the word “blind”, and that they no longer have any hope. I think this new name is very hopeful and inclusive, and frankly a proactive approach in going about addressing sight loss needs around the state.