Staff Report

Services for Andes residents who are losing vision include low vision exams, independent living skills, mobility training and assistance.

Jeff Ditchek and Robert Hanye gave an illuminating presentation on services for the blind available to local residents at The Andes Roundtable on May 5th.

Jeff, an engineer, has for 20 years had his own business, The Opportunities Group, Inc., developing contracts for Industries for the Blind organizations that employ legally blind persons that produce products sold to the federal government throughout the country and in Puerto Rico. Now operating out of Andes, he has joined the Board of the Association for Vision Rehabilitation & Employment, Inc. (A.V.R.E.), headquartered in Binghamton, which serves a 12-county area that includes Delaware County. A.V.R.E. is a member of National Industries for the Blind qualifying it for government contracts.

In pursuit of his goal of getting the word out on the services available both in the community and at their facility in Binghamton Jeff invited his colleague, Bob Hanye, President and CEO of A.V.R.E., to the Roundtable. With adaptive technology A.V.R.E. also offers employment opportunities and placement for people with severe vision impairment. It should be noted that over the years 13 residents of Andes and 150 residents of Delaware County have been served by A.V.R.E.

It was interesting to learn that A.V.R.E. Business Division manages a full-scale manufacturing operation, producing copy paper and file folders for government and commercial customers. Operating income is reinvested into vision rehabilitation programming and creating jobs for people with sustained vision loss, which may be caused by glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.

Bob Hanye was emphatic in describing how the blind learn productive activities that help them to be financially self-sufficient, boost their morale and simultaneously contribute to their local economies without costing the government money. Members of the audience gave personal testimony regarding family and friends who would have benefitted from A.V.R.E. services had they known of them.

For more information for yourself, a friend or neighbor email: info@avreus.org; visit: www.avreus.org; or call 607-724-2428.