Clients miss help from blind and visually impaired association

Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 5:41 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Many things came back after Covid, but one thing that didn’t was the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired of Northern New York. It has been closed for two years now.

In 2019, the organization was growing with workers like Deltra Willis providing essential services and free handouts for the visually impaired. For example, Braille labels helped people identify household appliances.

“It sounds silly but it makes a big difference for someone who is trying to be independent. Do their own laundry. Do their own cooking,” said Willis.

The association had just cut the ribbon on its new Watertown Vision Rehabilitation Center.

But the good times didn’t last. Covid forced the organization into a tough place and attempts at a merger with Utica’s association were shot down.

“The letter we got back said they would only come up here if the association disbanded completely,” said Willis.

Now that Utica group, the Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, is the group local clients can call.

But since it’s Utica based, it has no dedicated staff in the area.

Former volunteer Timothy Monaghan, who is legally blind, says this poses a couple of issues.

“All of that stuff is gone. They can’t just walk in and talk to somebody or find that instant help they need that day because it becomes very frustrating figuring out where they need to go now,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Central Association says walk-ins may be coming back if certain criteria are met.

“Demand isn’t such for us to have a full-time person in the office but we’re looking to do that in the coming year,” said Kathy Beaver.

For some former clients like Darrell Lemon, that demand is already there.

“I just hope the Association for the Blind can come back. In some cases maybe the central could bring out client rep and give some one-on-one to people,” he said.

For now, services just aren’t the same for north country residents who need help.