Outlook Enrichment: A Community Lifeline for the Visually Impaired During COVID-19

Keep six feet of social distance while grocery shopping or shop online during the pandemic. Set up an at-home workstation to keep your job. Transfer learning online as classrooms and campuses shut down.

Millions of Americans embraced these and other prevention measures to defend themselves from the novel coronavirus. But how do people with vision conditions incorporate these adaptations into their daily routines?

Outlook Enrichment addressed the issues faced by isolated and at-risk people with vision conditions by providing people who understand these challenges and technology to help them stay safe and connected during difficult times.

Like many nonprofits, Outlook Enrichment canceled some programs and events with the onset of COVID-19, but it adapted others and established new ones to continue to offer services to the more than 15,000 people whose lives are impacted by vision loss in the Omaha area.

Within days of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Douglas County, Outlook Enrichment shifted its focus to a case management model and deployed a rapid response team to increase access to essential goods and services for people with vision loss. Outlook partnered with other agencies within the Vision Resource Coalition to ensure collaboration and communication between agencies to facilitate solutions. The Coalition, which typically meets quarterly, checks in weekly during the pandemic.

A resource help line for people with vision conditions—(531) 365-5059—is staffed from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. People who are visually impaired can call for assistance with various items including grocery delivery. Outlook partnered with Shopping Angels to assist with any shopping requirements and with Resource Coalition partners like the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging for other essential services.

Outlook Enrichment quickly shifted from in-person technology training to remote training, loaning devices to clients from Outlook to train with at home if necessary. Outlook now offers computer and smartphone training remotely. This helps clients learn how to use smartphone apps and other technology tools that are increasingly important for working remotely, learning online, shopping, banking, and engaging with others.

Outlook established a technology help line for people with visual impairment—(531) 365-5334. The organization’s adaptive technology trainers respond to messages within 24 hours with technology solutions to help their blind neighbors stay connected to their loved ones and continue to conduct business.

Outlook led a live public video/teleconference for people living with vision loss or blindness to get answers about how they would be impacted by the CARES Act and steps they need to take.

Living with the uncertainty COVID-19 creates requires flexibility and adaptability. Both are strengths of those who live with vision conditions, especially with access to the proper tools and training. Helping neighbors persevere and watching them succeed in this time strengthens Outlook’s belief that when we empower and support our blind and visually impaired neighbors, the whole community benefits.

Outlook needs your help to continue assisting our neighbors living with vision loss. Please consider supporting Outlook Enrichment financially at outlookne.org/donate.

Outlook Nebraska Logo

Sponsorships for Vision Beyond Sight, Outlook’s fall signature event featuring Dessert in the Dark, are available now. Visit outlookne.org/vbs or call (531) 365-5342