Services for the Blind looking for referrals

Monday, August 7, 2017

Vision loss can be difficult to deal with and can sometimes put people in danger of losing their jobs. But it doesn't have to. That's the message Kimberly Harkey is trying to get out there.

Harkey is Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor with the Department of Humans Services (DHS) Division of Services for the Blind (DSB). She spoke recently with the Trumann Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors about the services her office provides. She said that while the DSB office is in Jonesboro, they are working to build up referrals from the rural counties they serve, including Poinsett County.

The DSB helps people who are blind, severely visually impaired, or losing their vision. "It's not based on income or insurance," Harkey said. "It's based on: do you work, and what are your eye numbers?" She said DSB's goal is to get people back to work or to help them continue working.

Harkey said in order to eligible for DSB's services, a person's visual acuity must be 20/50 or worse in both eyes with correction. The person's insurance is billed for the services, but what insurance does not take of, DSB will pay.

"We pay for eye surgery, cornea transplants, retinal detachments, everything except Lasik," Harkey said. "We want to prevent you from losing a job or get you back in the workforce." She said DSB will also help pay for things like one pair of glasses a year, prescriptions, going to college, and starting a small business.

DSB also helps people who have lost their eyesight to develop new skills, such as reading Braille, using a walking stick, and learning to use assistive technology. As an example, she spoke about a man who worked for a small radio company. When he lost his eyesight, he needed assistive technology to continue to be able to do his job, and DSB helped with that.

"You might not have a skill or might not know what you can do. But we'll find what you can do and get you training to get you back to work," Harkey said.

Harkey encouraged anyone who knows of someone who may benefit from these services to contact DSB at 870-268-2230, 1-800-960-9270, or visit their website at http://humanservices.arkansas.gov/dsb.

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