Health News

What Can You Do with Your Eyes Closed?'
Written by Paula F. Howard

Richard Duciaume and his wife, Meredith Ruff, cross the street while he is blindfolded, as part of “Close Your Eyes” Day in The Villages. Sponsored by the Lake Sumter Lions Club at Lake Sumter Landing recently, the special event brings awareness of life with limited vision, a program of New Vision for Independence at Lake Sumter State College.

Close your eyes. Now open them. Can you see colors? Objects around you?

Not everyone can. Imagine life with impaired vision.

How would you dial a phone, write a check, get your e-mail, drive your car, get to work? Would you even have a job?

In the United States, more than 7 million people of all ages have some measure of visual disability from impaired to complete blindness.

Richard Duciaume is one of them.

“In 2000, I had a vein occlusion in my left eye,” Richard said, “It destroyed my vision. Then, I developed glaucoma in my right eye which is making it very difficult to see. I had to give up driving around 2005. When I went to renew my license, I realized it wasn’t safe for me to drive with impaired vision. I wasn’t safe on the road.”

Marsha Bukala, a resident of the Village of Delmar, started having significant vision loss some five years ago.

“Doctors said I have a genetic condition: A defective gene from my mother, combined with another type of defective gene from my father, don’t do well together.”

As a result, Marsha’s vision became progressively worse. Currently, she is in an Iowa study on optic nerve damage. But here, her story brightens.

“I was able to get my helper, Jewel, about two years ago and we’re a great team. I give her directions and she leads the way.”

Her seeing-eye dog is a lovely blonde Labrador mix and Marsha’s constant companion. With gentle eyes and a soft manner, she lay at Marsha’s feet awaiting her next command.

For three days, New Vision for Independence is holding a special event in three cities to invite everyone to experience what life with vision loss is like. Sponsored by the Lake Sumter Lions Club, this writer attended the event on White Cane Day, Oct 15, which is celebrated nationally, and established during President Lyndon Johnson’s term of office.

“We want people to become aware of the “White Cane Law” and the “New Vision for Independence” program at Lake Sumter State College,” said Chantel Buck, CEO/President of the 501 (C )(3) organization. “We help people of all ages learn to adapt to and overcome visual impairment on their journeys toward independence.”

Attendees at the event are blindfolded, given a partner and a white cane with instructions to walk to stores, get directions, and experience what others do when they are visually impaired.

“Frightening,” was this writer’s first impression, then, as my partner and I walked around, crossed streets, and found our way, “I began hearing voices clearer, felt my surroundings more acutely, and basically, wanted my vision back.”

I was lucky to be able to remove my blindfold. Others are not.

Yet, the future is not dark as the LSSC program enlightens people on ways to become independent.

“We provide rehabilitation to multiple age groups,” said Chantel, “We offer support services and community education. Our goal is to help remove blindness as a barrier to independence.”

“I still play golf,” said Richard, “I listen to books on tape, and I still dance.”

And, he was just married two years ago to Meredith Ruff, who fell in love with him just as he is.

“He’s a very good dancer,” she says with a happy smile.

“Don’t feel sorry,” said Chantel, “It’s an adjustment and we are here to help. We are always looking for good people to serve on our Board. If anyone is interested, please apply on our website:

Support can also be given by attending their Annual Luncheon, sponsored by Beacon College

When:             Thursday, Dec. 6 at 11:30am

Where:            Tavares Civic Center, 100 E. Caroline Street

Cost:                Individual tickets are $15, Tables of 8 are $145.

Pay:                 Online at or send a check with Annual Luncheon on the memo line to New Vision for Independence, 9501 US Hwy 441, Leesburg, FL 34788-8751.

Reservation deadline is Nov. 26. Tickets will not be sold at the door.

The White Cane Law

  1. Makes it a second-degree misdemeanor for anyone to use a white cane or one with a red tip if they are not visually impaired.
  2. The Law also states that for someone carrying a white cane or one with a red tip or if accompanied by a seeing-eye dog that all vehicles must come to a complete stop at such intersection or place of crossing and avoid injuring such pedestrian. Otherwise, if convicted, the violation is considered a moving violation.
  3. If a visually impaired person is not carrying an appropriate cane, nor is accompanied by a seeing-eye dog, they will be held harmless from negligence nor shall this failure to do so be admissible as evidence in the trial of any civil action with regard to negligence.

You would live much differently if you couldn’t see, or if your eyesight was limited.

Don’t close your eyes to this one.

About the author'

Paula F. Howard

Paula F. Howard, RN, finds life a never-ending smorgasbord of people, places, and things of interest. A returned Peace Corps Volunteer, she has enjoyed a 35-plus year career in business and communications, being recognized for her writing by several national organizations. She then became a registered nurse for another decade, continuing to enjoy serving people, in places, doing things.

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