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Lighthouse Guild doctor offers tips to help visually impaired people walk the Monday Mile


Nearly 14 million Americans – about one out of every 20 people – have low vision, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eye-care professionals use the term “low vision” to describe significant visual impairment that cannot be corrected with standard glasses, contact lenses, medicine or eye surgery.

According to the National Federation of The Blind, each year, 75,000 more people in the United States will become blind or visually impaired. Though the condition mainly afflicts the elderly, younger Americans are increasingly at risk of irreversible vision loss, particularly as cases of diabetes continue to rise. Low vision means that even with regular glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery, people find everyday tasks, such as reading, shopping, cooking, watching TV, writing, and exercising difficult to do.

Because of this difficulty, individuals with visual impairments often exhibit lower levels of fitness than their sighted peers, often due to fear and lack of confidence. Walking, a simple form of exercise with many health benefits, is considered a good choice for people who are visually impaired, according to Laura Sperazza, OD, Director of Low Vision Services at Lighthouse Guild in New York City.

Dr. Sperazza encourages people with low vision, who have been hesitant to venture out and walk for fitness, to participate in the American Heart Association’s National Walking Day on April 5. The day promotes all the benefits of walking, and people can keep the momentum going throughout the year by starting a Monday Mile in their community.

The Monday Mile is an initiative of The Monday Campaigns, the nonprofit public health organization, associated with Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Syracuse universities. The Monday Mile mission is to encourage people from all walks of life to walk for their health, by using Monday as the starting day. Research by Johns Hopkins shows that people view Monday as a day for a fresh start and are more likely to begin new healthy behaviors on a Monday, and carry them out for the rest of the week.

What are the best ways for people who are visually impaired to walk the Monday Mile with confidence? Dr. Sperazza offers these tips:

•Walk during daylight hours in order to avoid obstacles.
•Walk with a normally sighted buddy to help avoid obstacles and unforeseen conditions.
•Don’t walk in bad weather.
•Wear proper shoes to avoid slipping.
•Walk in familiar areas so you can anticipate the path.
•Use a ‘sighted cane’ which notifies others that you have an impairment
•For people with a greater level of impairment, train in the use of a ‘sighted cane’ with a mobility specialist, which can help them adjust to different surfaces and unfamiliar areas



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