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Geisinger 65 staff receives visually impaired accessibility training

Times Leader - 1/30/2020

Jan. 30--KINGSTON -- The Geisinger 65 Forward Health Center received special visually impaired accessibility training from representatives of Northeast Sight Services on Wednesday afternoon.

The Geisinger location, opened last July, came equipped with many different aids for the visually impaired, including dimmers, window blinds and even lighting -- but things could always improve, and thanks to some tools and tips from Northeast Sight Services, Geisinger 65 Forward will become fully accessible to blind and visually impaired patients.

Northeast Sight Services is based out of Exeter and is devoted to serving the blind and visually impaired community, both in accessibility and also the prevention of vision loss in the first place.

"Our mission is to help the visually impaired achieve the best quality of life," said Amy Feldman, the director of development at Northeast Sight Services.

Feldman was on hand alongside vision resource manager Kristen Boyle to present the Geisinger staff with some helpful hints about helping visually impaired patients.

Boyle introduced the group to the concept of low vision patients, or patients whose vision has become bad enough to where it can no longer be corrected by eyewear or surgery.

The presentation included numerous ways to handle visually impaired patients, for the Geisinger staff and for the building itself.

One concept that the presentation discussed was the differences between the Americans with Disabilities Act and the idea of Universal Design.

The ADA mandates by law that public buildings be handicap accessible, while Universal Design highlights the best possible ways to lay out a building so that it could be accessed easily by handicapped and visually impaired individuals.

"An ADA-compliant building might have a handicap-accessible ramp in the back. while a Universal Design structure would have a ramp and an automatic sliding at the main entrance to the building," Boyle said in her presentation.

The presentation included a demonstration by Boyle and Feldman on how to act as a sighted guide for a visually impaired patient. There were also goggles passed around to staff members that were meant to replicate the sight of someone with glaucoma, or macular regeneration, or even cataracts.

James Tricarico, a physician at Geisinger 65 Forward, thought this was an incredibly useful training session.

"I learned a lot," said Tricarico. "We have to be prepared to deal with anything that comes through the door."

According to operations manager Stephanie Pacovsky, the building already meets a lot of the standards and tips provided by the presentation, and with a bit more training, Geisinger 65 Forward should be fully accessible to the visually impaired immediately.

Northeast Sight Services is currently looking to expand their training to businesses all across four counties as part of their "Community Accessibility Campaign."

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