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Bonnie's Story

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      Bonnie Kennedy explores the sculpture park in downtown Des Moines on her final travel assignment while in IDB's Orientation Center.In this era of instant everything, it is still rare to meet someone with whom you feel an instant connection.  Yet, when you meet Bonnie Kennedy you have just that experience. And how can it be otherwise, given her warm smile, outgoing personality, and general sense of optimism?  

      All of these traits stood Bonnie in good stead, but were challenged, when she began to experience vision loss in her early 60’s due to macular degeneration. Though she quit driving at night, the Fort Dodge resident continued with her busy schedule. As vision loss proceeded gradually, she quit driving altogether in 2004. Nevertheless, it was quite a jolt when she woke up one day to discover that she could not read the computer screen. She had experienced a sudden, drastic, and irreversible vision loss. How was she going to maintain her independence? Fortunately for Bonnie, her daughter had anticipated this development and had already made a referral to IDB for her.  

      “I started to get home visits,” she recalls. “It was helpful immediately because they helped me mark my appliances with tactile dots so I could use the stove, microwave and do my own laundry. I went to Senior Orientation (a week-long training program) and learned to use the long white cane. I eventually decided to attend the Orientation Center in Des Moines. Before training I would not go to the store alone because I was not comfortable crossing streets. After I learned cane travel I have been able to go to the store alone and cross busy streets. I also learned to ride the DART bus and use it for all doctor appointments. I would not have been as sure of myself if I had not had the help of the teachers at IDB. I’ve learned Braille so now I can label all my groceries in the pantry. This has made it much easier to cook for myself and others. I now entertain my neighbors, friends and family. I always tried to stay upbeat and not let blindness get me down, but I often wondered what I would do if I lost all of my sight. I really don’t worry about it anymore because I have the skills to take care of myself.”

      Since completing the Orientation Center program in the summer of 2012, Bonnie has returned to live in her own apartment in Fort Dodge and is one of the leaders of the local vision loss suport groups.