Lewis Ginter hosts unique tour for legally blind: ‘You learn to use those other senses’

RICHMOND, Va. -- Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens hosted a special tour this week for a support group for individuals dealing with low vision.

The Low Vision Support Group, sponsored by the MEDARVA Foundation, is for people who are legally blind and have vision problems that can not be corrected by laser eye surgery or glasses.

The group members were given a guided tour of the garden that would teach them to enjoy it using senses other than sight.

“People think that your other senses just automatically kick in. They don't. You just learn to use those other senses,” said Mary Bullock, a licensee occupational therapist with the foundation.

Bullock said along with teaching members how to better use their other senses, the group also tries to help them keep doing the things the love.

“If they're knitting. I want them to go back to knitting. If they want to clean their house, we want them to clean their house,” added Bullock.

Alis Freeman, who was on the tour, is already benefiting from the group on what was her first visit.

Freeman said she uses her peripheral vision primarily as she has glaucoma in one eye and a blood clot in the other.

“I did not...appreciate my eyes,” added Freeman.

She said the biggest loss for her with the vision troubles was her difficulty reading.

“I used to could, I guess what you'd call, engulf a book that thick in about two days,” said Freeman as she held her thumb and index finger about an inch apart.

But thanks to her first day with the group, that love of reading should been rekindled. She said other members were able to give her information about accessing books on tape, which Freeman said she had not known about.

“I think it's going to open up a whole new world just for me and if it does, then I can stay at home by myself, do what little bit I have to do, and sit down and really enjoy a book. Now that's what I wanted,” added Freeman.

The Low Vision Support Group meets about once a month.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.