Lions Low Vision Resource Center Helps Thurston County Residents See Better With Free Resources

Those with low vision can rent free vision aids from Olympia Host Lions


From the loss of independence to the inability to do our favorite hobbies like reading or sewing, we can all agree that losing our sight to any degree massively affects our lives. The Olympia Host Lions Club’s Low Vision Resource Center helps Thurston County residents with low vision by offering free rentals of vision aids.

The Olympia Host Lions Club started helping those in our area with low vision through vision fairs and providing low-vision services to residents in need. In 2010, the club opened an official Lions Low Vision Resource Center with a vision aid lending library. “Thanks to generous business owners around town, the Center was able to rent temporarily at very low rent in vacant buildings over the years, but that temporary status made it difficult to move forward with new programs,” explains Michael Petty, Lions Low Vision Resource Center manager. “So, in 2023, we made the major financial commitment to rent more permanent space at the ARC building on Martin Way.”

Vision Aids Available for Thurston County Residents

“The Lions Low Vision Resource Center is designed to help individuals whose vision cannot be helped any further with glasses or surgery,” Michael explains. “Eye doctors often refer their clients with macular degeneration to the Center, for example, because they know that disease can progress to severely limit vision.”

The Lions Low Vision Resource Center has a range of aids available for anyone who needs them. There is no income, age or other requirements. If you have low vision, you can use their library to help you see better. Free loans include handheld magnifiers, talking watches and tabletop CCTV-type readers.

touch-tone phones, watches, magnifying glasses and other vision tools on a table
The Low Vision Resource Center in Olympia lends out free vision aids to Thurston County residents. Photo courtesy: Olympia Host Lions Club

“The center also has on hand a number of the newest tech devices for clients to try in-house to determine what might help them before they make a purchase,” explains Michael. “We do not sell items but we can help clients with low vision connect with sellers if they wish that help. Our own low-vision volunteers review devices so that we can provide first-hand suggestions about what might work best for each individual’s need.”

Volunteers also help with how to use in-home devices, such as phones and electronics through one-on-one or group training sessions. The center also offers activities for people together for support. “Social events, like an afternoon of cards or games, are scheduled to bring people with failing vision together with individuals who have ‘been there’ and can answer questions and concerns,” shares Michael. “One of our most important free services is just being there to support both the individuals with limited vision and their families or other support persons.  We constantly seek out and update our resource lists so that we can help to connect our clients with the resources that could help them.”

Michael says they are also working with school districts on how best to meet the needs of younger people with low vision, particularly in school settings.

Getting Help From the Low Vision Center Near Olympia

To receive help from them, all you have to do is call 360.790.8667 any day of the week to set up a free and confidential appointment. “During the appointment, a Lion volunteer will talk with the client about what he or she might be trying to do, what they want to accomplish and what is holding them back,” explains Michael. “Then we set about finding the right resources to help.”

Then the client can try different devices that are available at the center. If they find something they would like to take home, the item is signed out to them for as long as they would like to keep it. “Our volunteers check in regularly to ensure that our devices are working properly and continue to meet client needs,” he adds.

If you need help with eye exams or glasses, Michael recommends reaching out to the Union Gospel Mission to see if you qualify for their aid. “Eye doctors and Lions clubs in the area support the Mission in providing vision care for individuals with low income,” he adds.

a man paints a wall white with a roller
Flying Colors donated paint and time to give the Low Vision Resource Center a facelift that would benefit its clients. Photo courtesy: Olympia Host Lions Club

Flying Colors Painting Company Donates Paint to Lions Low Vision Center

Recently, Flying Colors Painting Company, donated paint and time to refresh the walls inside the center with a high-contrast palette. “The Lions learned of Flying Colors’ very generous offer to help a nonprofit through our affiliation with the Senior Action Network,” Micheal shares. “We applied and were delighted to have been chosen for painting assistance!”

Before the painting, the Lions Low Vision Resource Center had carpet and walls of similar tones that, to someone with low vision, could appear as one color. This made it harder to differentiate between the spaces or even navigate the rooms. With the new contrasting walls of light and russet, clients can better see walls, making navigating the space easier. The center is making use of the contrasting walls by placing lighter signs and items in front of the dark walls and vice versa, allowing them to show up better for their clients. “The contrasting colors demonstrate one more way clients can make their own surroundings easier to navigate,” adds Michael.

a row of computers on a long desk with four chairs in front of a russet-colored wall
Painting one wall a contrasting color makes it easier to navigate spaces – and makes items displayed show up better too. Photo courtesy: Olympia Host Lions Club

Aiding the Lions Low Vision Resource Center

If you would like to help the Lions Low Vision Resource Center with its mission, monetary donations are always gratefully accepted. The Center is funded entirely by donations from Lions Clubs, grants, businesses and individuals. Tax-deductible donations can be made on the Lions Low Vision Resource Center website or checks can be made to Olympia Host Lions Club, PO Box 416, Olympia, WA 98507.

Olympia Host Lions Club Low Vision Resource Center
2103 Harrison Avenue NW, Suite 5B, Olympia

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