For the visually impaired, the COVID-19 pandemic presents new set of challenges

The coronavirus lockdown has many feeling isolated and alone. But it is even more so for those who are visually impaired.

News 12 Staff

May 22, 2020, 1:23 AM

Updated 1,427 days ago

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The coronavirus lockdown has many feeling isolated and alone. But it is even more so for those who are visually impaired.
A dozen people from across the Garden State gather on a Zoom call, which isn’t very unusual these days – except that everyone on the call is blind or visually impaired in some way. They are all using Zoom to learn how to use home shopping apps like Amazon and Instacart, which have become crucial during the crisis.
Instead of clicking visual links, the program voiceover allows the user to tap or swipe along with audio cues.
Many visually impaired New Jerseyans, like Paul Caruso of Lodi, travel hours by bus each week to attend these classes in person a few times a week.
“It’s a great group of people. You get to know people,” he says.
But like so many organizations, the Visual Loss Alliance of New Jersey has had to move its services online – thus the birth of Zooming for the blind. There is Zoom meditation, tech classes, yoga and more. It is a chance to not only continue learning skills that are crucial, but also allows the group to do something equally as important – connect with one another.
Photos: Your Coronavirus Pandemic Experience
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“Going to Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey was our out,” says Syzanne Systma. “Our time to go out, see our friends and be with our friends. So, it was wonderful that Vision Loss Alliance was able to start these Zoom meetings.”
Systma worked as a nurse for decades before losing her sight to glaucoma. She now teaches the tech classes. She says that there are some things that sighted people can learn from the visually impaired.
“I think patience and gratefulness are two things that people in the rest of the world should get used to. Because every day I get up in the morning, I am grateful that I’m here,” she says. “And since I’ve become visually impaired, I’ve had to learn a lot more patience.”
The Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey has been active since 1943 when it was founded under the name New Jersey Foundation for the Blind.


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