Over the past 20 years, a support group for blind and visually impaired people has been quietly meeting in Auburn to discuss and problem-solve issues centering around vision loss. We have met at many locations, grown and shrunk as people’s needs changed, and have recently seen a boost in membership in the last year. The group is run with the support of Aurora of CNY, and is co-led by Nancy Anderson and myself. Both Nancy and I are blind, and Nancy is the founder of the peer support group, and recently retired from Aurora of CNY.

The group currently meets at Cayuga Community College from 10 to 11:30 a.m. the last Friday of each month. Many of the members use the SCAT Van to get to the meetings, which are open to anyone both in and outside of the county to attend. There is no membership fee to join the group, and significant others and caregivers are welcome to attend.

Like most support groups, this group begins its meeting with introductions, and if members are comfortable to share, descriptions of their individual vision loss. The group hosts presenters, who talk about topics that concern people with vision loss, and they have hosted both the Auburn Fire Department and the Cayuga County Sheriff’s Office to discuss fire safety and personal safety and security. Often, the group has staff from Aurora of CNY come to talk about new programs or devices that blind and vision impaired people use to become more independent. We also have sharing times within the group to talk about things we are doing that may help others in the group that are struggling. The group has even gone to the Auburn Movieplex to try out the new accessibility devices that describe movies to blind patrons.

The main mission of the group is support. No one wants to think they are alone when dealing with something as devastating as vision loss or blindness. Eye diseases affect a wide range of people in our area, some very young, and others much older. This group is a representation of that dynamic, and most of the members are dealing with different eye conditions, but everyone knows what it is like to be losing their vision. Overcoming that fear is much easier to do when you have a group of people who are experiencing something similar, and have some years behind them that can offer wisdom and reassurance.

If you know anyone who is struggling with vision loss, please share this with them and encourage them to come. You can check out our brand new Facebook page by searching for "Blind support group of the greater Cayuga County areas," or feel free to contact Aurora of CNY at (315) 422-7263. If you would like to be put on the support group list, you can contact me at (315) 730-6845.

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Susan Gray is a peer support advocate and a member of the board of directors of Aurora of Central New York, which promotes the interests of people with visual and hearing impairments. For more information, visit auroraofcny.org.