Library services benefit visually impaired

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 1, 2002

Features Editor

Life was rolling along pleasantly for Martha Griffin and, then, in the blink of an eye, her whole life changed.

In Feb. 2001, she was driving on Carter Hill Road in Montgomery, doing an errand for a friend. Suddenly, she realized she could not see the traffic light.

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"I didn’t know what was happening to me and it really frightened me," Griffin said. "I was able to follow the line of the cars ahead of me and I made it home."

She immediately called her ophthalmologist and made an appointment for the next morning. He sent her to a retina specialist who diagnosed her with macular degeneration.

"There are two kinds of macular degeneration – wet and dry," Griffin said. "I have the wet, which comes on suddenly. Dry comes on over a period of time – weeks or months. The disease causes bleeding in the retina and the blood blocks the vision."

Three laser treatments removed the blood from Griffin’s eye and prevented her vision from getting worse.

"But there was nothing they could do to improve my vision," she said. "My life changed drastically. I can see shapes of bodies, but I can’t make out faces. It can be embarrassing when I meet people and can’t tell who they are unless I recognize their voices.

Anything that has a straight line or edge to it, I see as a wavy, crooked line."

Watching television is not much of a pleasure anymore because, to see any image at all, Griffin has to position herself about a yard

from the screen.

"I usually just listen," she said of the television. "I listen to the news and sometimes the morning shows like Today. But, I really don’t care too much for television anymore."

But, Griffin still cares very much for her favorite pastime, reading.

"I’ve always loved to read and I really miss being able to do that," she said, adding that she hasn’t had to give up reading completely. "I can read with a magnifying glass – not the kind your wear – the kind you hold in your hand. Using a magnifying glass I can read, but it’s difficult because macular degeneration destroys your fine direct vision. I can’t see a whole word, just parts of it, so if it’s a new word that I can’t figure out, I just have to skip over it. But, it could have been worse. I could have been blind, so I don’t complain."

When Griffin was diagnosed with macular degeneration her limited vision was frustrating for a while. Now, she as accepted it as a part of her life and she makes the best of her situation and passes time reading large print books.

The large-print books that have an eye in the front and have the seal of approval of the National Association of the Visually Handicapped have darker print and wider spacing than the other large print books and are easier to read, Griffin said.

"I had heard that the Tupper Lightfoot Memorial Library had large print books, so I went to look around," she said. "While I was there, Jean Carroll (head librarian) asked me if I would like to participate in their program for the visually impaired. I said that I would."

The recently organized program provides readers for the blind and visually impaired during regular library hours. Griffin immediately signed up and is enjoying the benefits of the program.

"I love to come here and have someone read to me," she said. "I always bring

my Sunday school lesson. Judith (Henderson)

reads it to me so I am prepared for my class on Sunday. She reads The Messenger to me and Reader’s Digest. I enjoy the ‘Chicken Soup’ books and she’s going to read them to me. She will let me select the books I want to hear and she reads beautifully. Having books read to me is a real pleasure and joy."

Services for the blind and visually impaired are offered as a free service of the Tupper Lightfoot Memorial Library. For more information, call 735-2145.