BY KATIE MORRISON CONTRIBUTING WRITER
A new support group for the local citizens with vision impairment started up last week. On Thursday, Jan. 14, Morgan County’s Vision Impaired Support Group held its first meeting at the Morgan County Library. The group, founded by Rita Harris, was created to motivate and inspire others who are visually impaired in the community and surrounding areas. Though she established the group, Mrs. Harris wants no credit. She explained at the beginning of the meeting, “I started the group, but this is not my group – it’s our group. We are all going through the same thing.” The group’s motto is “Reach for the stars; don’t allow your disability to handicap you,” and their mission is “to empower and inspire others who are visually impaired by discovering self worth and obtaining confidence which will enable ones fulfillment of life.”
The Vision Impaired Support Group is the first vision support group to be established in Morgan County. Mrs. Harris explained, “A support group is very important. When I was going through the process of becoming legally blind I went through different phases. I went from denial, to being embarrassed and avoiding social situations. I tried to cover up the fact that I was losing my eyesight. I was ashamed. I learned that I didn’t have to live that way. I’ve always been very independent and social, so going from being independent to dependent took a great toll on me. I realized I had to pull myself out of that situation. So, I decided to form a support group.”
At the first meeting group members introduced themselves and shared their conditions. Members of the group also participated in a game in which a bag full of random items was placed in front of each member. Group members went around the table, each sharing an accomplishment since the impairment of their vision. When other group members shared that same accomplishment they would give a gift from their bag to that member. The game encouraged group communication, allowed group members to relate to each other, and celebrate their accomplishments. The meeting then held an open topic discussion where group members were encouraged to discuss anything concerning vision impairment. Topics included diagnosis, length of vision impairment, and service dogs. Mrs. Harris’ service dog, Mattie, was also present. She emphasized the importance of having a service dog in her life. According to Harris, ““With a service dog, you feel more secure and safe. My dog will not allow me to walk out in front of a moving vehicle. He protects me.” The group currently is composed of six members, and Mrs. Harris herself. However, she indicated that there are others who will start next month. Mrs. Harris has big plans for the group, such as going on field trips and having guest speakers that will discuss low vision resources as well as cane mobility. “We hope that these resources will help to make everyday living easier,” said Harris. The meeting closed with Mrs. Harris reciting the inspirational and highly appropriate poem, “See More.” She encourages everyone dealing with vision impairment to join the group and not endure the circumstances alone. The Vision Impairment Support Group meets on the second Thursday of each month at 10 am in the meeting room of the Morgan County Library located in Madison at 1131 East Avenue. cation.