Low-vision expert serves Cortez

Support group meets once a month

Rose Romero, low-vision coordinator at Southwest Center for Independence in Cortez, poses with her service dog Ivy. Enlargephoto

Cortez Journal/Jim Mimiaga

Rose Romero, low-vision coordinator at Southwest Center for Independence in Cortez, poses with her service dog Ivy.

Rose Romero and her seeing-eye dog Ivy know the trials and tribulations of blindness.

Acceptance and adjusting to a life without sight takes time, but she is here to help with services and technology at a walk-in Cortez office.

Romero is the low-vision coordinator for the Southwest Center for Independence, located at 2409 E. Empire Street, east of Highway 145.

“Our job is to help the disabled live independently, and for the vision impaired to learn the resources and all of the gadgets to make life better,” Romero said.

A retinal detachment in 2009 led to Romero losing sight in her left eye. She had it removed and replaced with a prosthetic that looks so real you don’t notice it’s fake.

“They’re amazingly detailed and crafted to match your other eye,” she said. “They’re realistic, designed by professional designers, not like the old glass eyes.”

Then in 2010 glaucoma in Romero’s other eye became so severe she became legally blind.

But the spry Romero was not deterred by her disability, and she understands the physical challenges, anguish, and depression that come with vision loss.

“I’ve walked in their shoes, I know what they are going through,” Romero says. “I decided instead of quitting, I would move forward.”

The Center has training services for the visually impaired, including on using a white cane, how to get a seeing eye dog, vocational rehabilitation, and setting up a household for independent living. A network of eye doctors, consultants, and specialists is also offered.

Romero, who still has partial sight, gets excited about low-vision technology. One device allows visually impaired to magnify images and text onto a screen or wall.

Other machines scan copy and then read it back to the person.

“The low-vision technology works really well, and we help to choose the right device and set it up,” she said. “Everyone is at a different level. We accommodate for each person’s situation.”

Equipment such as 20/20 pens, wide-ruled paper, bumps, electronic magnifiers, talking books and watches, large-print calendars and address books, large-print checks, and much more is also available through the Center.

A support group meets once a month in Cortez. The Center serves 100 local residents, but there is a lack of awareness of the service.

“It is hard for people to lose their vision, they tend to isolate and don’t want people to feel sorry for them,” Romero says. “You can’t help losing your vision, but you can adjust your attitude, and look at it as another life problem to overcome.”

Call (970) 759-2347 to make an appointment.