Online nonprofit provides support for those with visual impairments during pandemic

Posted at 6:24 PM, Oct 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-05 19:24:57-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — People who are visually impaired tell 41 Action News resources like the local nonprofit Hadley are needed now more than ever.

Originally started in 1920 by William Hadley, the organization offers practical help and resources to people all over the world who are blind or visually impaired.

When Hadley began, the organization started off as a correspondence school teaching braille by mail.

Over the next 100 years it would develop into an online learning hub for people across the world.

Julie Tye, president of Hadley, said it may come as a surprise that Hadley is entirely online and has been for years.

"As we say, we got a 100-year head start on remote learning," Tye said.

Tye said the organization recently launched an entirely new online platform.

"Much of Hadley's existence was focused on academic types of content. We've shifted now over the last four years to really focus on how do we give practical help to older adults who are new to vision loss," Tye said.

Independence resident Linda Hager has used Hadley for years after learning she had a condition that caused her to go almost completely blind.

"It's a lifesaver. It's like I don't have to depend on other humans for things. I'm almost normal," Hager said. "It makes me realize that I have help. I can get through almost anything."

Hager was able to test out the new platform before it launched and give her feedback. She said Hadley is needed now more than ever in the world of COVID-19.

One of the biggest challenges for her has been navigating grocery stores with social distancing markers on the floor.

"You don't find those with a cane, you have to have someone sighted to lead you through things," Hadley said. "When I first went in Hy-Vee without my husband, finding out how to get in the line was a real challenge, and they couldn't have anyone shop with me because they didn't want people next to each other."

Hadley launched a series of podcasts addressing that issue and others, such as wearing masks and glasses and getting to appointments safely.

Tye said she gets a lot of questions about how the organization can serve people who are blind online.

"The answer to that is most people who are legally blind have some degree of vision so an online experience can work for them," Tye said.

The service is free of charge, and users can customize the website to the font size and colors that will help them use it best.

"I don't think the journey through vision loss and blindness is nearly as bad when you have Hadley," Hager said.