By Wanda Scroggins, Outreach Group facilitator and motivational speaker with Lions Clubs International and Leader Dogs for the Blind

About the Support Group

I am the facilitator of the local support group for the blind in Lower Alabama. The Covington County Blind & Low Vision Outreach Group meets twice a month in Andalusia, Alabama. It is a multi-dimensional group, from those experienced at living with low vision to a brand new person ready to “come out of the denial closet” regarding their vision loss. Our mission is to help blind people meet other blind people and to assist them so they know they have options.

The Covington County community is rural, with an average age of over 75, and the community is very motivated to help their neighbors.

Dealing With My Sudden Loss of Vision

For me, it was seven years of personal anger dealing with my sudden loss of eyesight. I recognized the desperate need for new education and skills to become a “Lady of Stature.” The lack of resources was my major obstacle in my community and I have now dedicated my life to become a local resource for others dealing with loss of eyesight.

Creating Extreme Experiences

I challenge everyone to create a “Bucket List” of everything from small goals to Large Dreams. In just the past year, several of us have done many “Extreme Experiences,” such as scuba diving, feeding stingrays, swimming with dolphins, catching a prize-winning largemouth bass, rock climbing, cross-country skiing, becoming a full-time baby sitter for twin grandsons, learning basic computer skills, developing self-advocacy skills, learning farm life to city life, driving a Corvette, taking braille classes, earning college degrees, studying through the Hadley School for the Blind, acquiring guide dogs, volunteering at a food pantry, competing in an international fishing tournament, sharing orientation and mobility tips, traveling, gardening, knitting and crocheting, fine-tuning culinary skills, and our annual “Extreme Experience Retreat” (EER) in Andalusia, Alabama for blind adults.

We use the EER time to bring specialized workshops, leisure time, and fun-filled experiences, all taught by blind peers through our extended blind family members traveling from all over the United States.

Learning to Live with Vision Loss

It is our belief each of us does make a difference in someone else’s day. You make a choice to either have a positive attitude or become bitter and find yourself alone.

For example, we have a new member in our Outreach Group who is 70 years old. She has had low vision all of her life, has never used a white cane, never used a computer, and could not read. She has raised a large family and served as caregiver for her now-deceased husband, her parents, and in-laws. She lives independently but did not know how to be independent as a blind person.

At least partly due to her involvement with our group, she has changed in many positive ways: riding the local bus, exploring with her new white cane, reading books with the National Library Services, becoming a new client of the State of Alabama Rehabilitation Services, and purchasing herself a computer. Her self-esteem is now very high.

Many people have requested and used information for their personal rehabilitation. To see our resources being applied in their daily lives — how awesome is that?

Encouraging Readers to Find a Support Group

We are just one of many examples of the miracles that your local support groups can provide. We encourage you to find a support group in your own community.