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Legislation Passes to Help Seniors, Vision Impaired

A Legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
Two bills in particular which passed the State Legislature could help both seniors and visually-impaired residents if signed into law by the Governor.

I supported each in the Assembly and both passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Help for Vision Impaired

A5451C would create a license for low-vision specialists and vision rehabilitation therapists.  If signed by the Governor, this will help ensure that those who become blind or visually impaired will have access to rehabilitation professionals who can help those with vision loss navigate their world independently.

I was proud to help sponsor this legislation.

Unfortunately, those with sudden or gradual vision loss or impairment do not always receive services that enable them to make the transition to lead an active and productive life.

Creating the license will allow more professionals to service people. With longer life expectancies, many more people are and will experience vision loss from macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and other eye diseases.  Low birth weight babies are thankfully beating the odds with the help of modern medicine but often experience vision loss and other disabilities. Sports, workplace incidents, traumatic brain injuries and other accidents cause vision loss in youth and adult populations. As such, the need for these professionals has grown.

The goal of vision rehabilitation professionals (VRPs) is to teach individuals with vision loss to return to being independent with adaptive techniques and equipment.

Some examples include Braille, a long cane for independent mobility, or speech software to enable access to technology. It is my hope that the Governor signs this bill into law. It passed almost unanimously through both houses.

More Treatment Options for Alzheimer’s

A5318 requires the State Office for the Aging in conjunction with the Department of Health to develop and maintain a dementia and Alzheimer’s disease program database.

This database would consist of programs that have been deemed successful in supporting and treating people suffering from these diseases. It would be made accessible to the public through the State Office of the Aging’s website.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Barring the development of medical breakthroughs, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease will rise to 13.8 million by 2050.

Almost half a million (about 473,000) people age 65 or older will develop Alzheimer’s in the U.S. in 2015.

In 2015, Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost the nation $226 billion, including $153 billion in the cost to Medicare and Medicaid.

It’s important that our state be prepared for this growing population and share knowledge as best as we can to help save on costs that are projected to rise so substantially and improve the quality of life. The database would enable residents to learn about successful program treatments.

This bill passed both houses but has not yet been delivered to the Governor.

To learn more about the warning signs of dementia and to search resources, visit the New York State Department of Health’s site at https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/conditions/dementia/warning_signs.htm

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.

My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.

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