Interview with Emma Imrie, Occupational Therapist, Vision Australia
Question: How does Vision Australia support Australians who are blind or have low vision?
Emma Imrie: Vision Australia is a not-for-profit organisation providing blindness and low vision services to Australians of all ages. Our goal is to create equal opportunity for people who are blind or have low vision so they can get an education, a job and be as independent as they choose. We offer a wide range of services including low vision clinics, orientation and mobility services, Seeing Eye Dogs, children's services, library, adaptive technology and training and advice, alternate format information and advocacy services. More information is available here.
Question: What's a typical day like, for you in your role at Vision Australia?
Emma Imrie: There is no -typical day' for an Occupational Therapist. My role is centred on the needs of our clients, so flexibility and taking a person-centred approach is key. For example, I may visit a client in their home to talk through what's important to them such as living independently at home. However during that visit, I might notice that they are having some emotional challenges, so I will adapt our session accordingly.
Question: How do you respond to those who are blind or have low vision that ask how to maintain their appearance?
Emma Imrie: Our Occupational Therapists work with our clients on a one-to-one basis to understand what they would like to be able to do independently. They will investigate what actions they may have tried and suggest additional strategies, for example if a client has low vision and would like to apply makeup, we would suggest that they use a well-lit, magnifying mirror, to enable them to see more detail. A client, who is blind, may benefit from learning a two handed technique for applying makeup, where one hand is used to guide accurate application.
Question: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Emma Imrie: The greatest part of my role is seeing the difference I can make to the life of a person who is blind or has low vision. It's the -aha' moment when a client realises that they can still do the things they like doing, that make this role rewarding.
Question: Can you provide us with the tips as to how the blind and low vision community apply beauty products?
Emma Imrie: We have a list of how-to tips for personal care on our website.
Question: What sessions do Vision Australia run for clients?
Emma Imrie: Specifically related to maintaining appearance, our Occupational Therapists will work one-on-one with clients to support them with their personal care needs. Clients will be seen at one of our low vision clinics or in their home. In these sessions, low vision aids such as video magnifiers, magnifying mirrors, and lamps can be trialled, and a range of techniques can be practised to assist with nail care, makeup application, eyebrow shaping, clothing selection, or colour identification.
Throughout the year we may also hold Pamper Days. On these days we invite a group of clients to hear from specialists on a range of topics from manicures to reflexology, make-up techniques, colour styling and women's health specialists. We, or one of our volunteers, may also take a client clothes shopping to support them to keep their wardrobe current.
Question: How has technology made it easier for Vision Australia clients to overcome beauty and fashion obstacles?
Emma Imrie: There are a range of apps that can help clients identify items – apps that tell the colour of a clothing item (this can help with matching clothes) or an app that scans a barcode and tells you what product you have selected (this can help with selecting makeup).
Question: How can Australians support Vision Australia?
Emma Imrie: They can donate, make a bequest, fundraise for us or volunteer. More information is available on our website.
Question: Is it possible to volunteer to Vision Australia?
Emma Imrie: Yes. We have approximately 2,880 volunteers across the country, who contributed a total of 724,995 hours of work during the 2013/14 financial year. Our volunteers work in many areas, such as: administration, client support, community work, community advocacy and education, events, fundraising, library, recreation support, radio, Seeing Eye Dogs and transport. More information is available on our website
Interview by Brooke Hunter