Signal Centers Helps Visually Impaired

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — As we get older most of us give up some of the benefits we had—such as the ability to walk, hear or see well enough to function.

Let’s say you are losing your sight, and don’t know where to turn for help in dealing with that. So..you end up at home where you may not have family or friends to help you do necessary things like shopping or running errands.

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Signal Centers in Chattanooga is a non-profit organization with many functions..one of which is providing what’s called Assistive Technology. Larisa DeZayas is a specialist who works with those with low vision or blindness.

“My profession is called orientation and mobility which is often shortened to O and M…so I’m an O and M’er and the walking companion program is just a way of re-packageing O and M so that people who need the service won’t shy away from it,” said Larisa Dezayas, with Signal Centers.

Larisa has more than 20 years experience as an orientation and mobility specialist. Her goal with every patient is to get them back into mainstream life.

“I’ve had people come to me, to their appointments, sitting in a wheel chair…and the firsr thing I’ll ask them is, ‘Why are you sitting in that wheel chair?’…and if the answer is because they can’t see..then I show them how to walk without the wheel chair..to get up and walk with either holding on to my elbow…using the sighted guide technique, or we can start talking about how they can use a cane,” said Ms. Dezayas.

Older adults with even mild vision loss…can be overly cautious about losing their balance and being at risk for a fall. Sometimes they stop walking altogether. The staff at the Assistive Technology center can work with people at their homes….like the patients in this video done by the center.

They can get up to 10 free half hour coaching sessions.

“They can call Signal Centers and ask for the cane lady…or the walking companion coach program,” said Ms. Dezayas.

Again, the goal of these highly trained specialists is to get people out of their homes and active again..despite the loss of sight.

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Ashley is a lifetime Chattanooga area resident, and a 1987 graduate from UTC, with a BA in communications. While there, he was commissioned through the ROTC program, served simultaneously in the 1/181st field artillery Tn. Army National Guard, finished Airborne school, was a member of the Scabbard and Blade military honor society and ROTC Rangers, the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, played snare drum with the UTC Marching band, and played in a southern rock band called Southern Atmosphere, while working a full time job as a trainer at the Sports Barn. He also won the Southeastern United States teenage bodybuilding competition during this time. Ashley has been with News 12 Now for 21 years. Prior to working here he was a videographer, director, producer and editor at Falcon Cable TV in Dalton, Ga. for 6 years where he produced thousands of commercials and dozens of hour long features. He also worked as a freelancer and employee at another network affiliate in Chattanooga. He has operated a part time video production business from home for 25 years. He says his passion is telling stories that feature people who give of themselves to help others, and stories that inspire people to make positive changes in themselves and their communities. Ashley is ecstatically married to Debbie Henderson, and has two step sons, a daughter in law, a sister, and lots of aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, and great nieces and nephews. His parents are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year. Ashley and Debbie are active members of Brainerd Baptist Church. His interests include weight training and cycling with his wife, photography, poetry, playing drums, and checking off items from his extensive honey-do list. If you would like to reach Ashley, email him at ahenderson@wdef.com.