March 17, 2016

WBRC Alumnus Update: Terry Kebbel

Photo: WBRC Alumnus Terry (left) with wife (right)

WBRC Recently received a letter and photo from Alumnus Terry Kebbel, which he graciously agreed could be shared here on the WBRC blog.  Thanks Terry!

Thank you Western Blind Rehab Center for the training I received in November.  I was able to navigate the trail at Bandelier National Park using a two cane technique that Summer [My WBRC Orientation and Mobility Specialist] taught me. It was a 1 ½ mile trek with an increased elevation and irregular stone steps. My sighted guide and I were able to travel quite easily.

Photo description: I am on the left side of a wooden ladder that leads to a cave dwelling at Bandelier Park. My wife, Maryellen, is to the right of the ladder.

Terry also contributes to

March 9, 2016

WBRC Staff Peer Review APH Publication

Image: APH Information about a new web based publication
for Orientation and Mobility Specialists
WBRC would like to congratulate two of it's staff members for recently peer reviewing a new publication through the American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.  John Kingston, WBRC Orientation and Mobility Department Supervisor, and Anthony Chambers, WBRC CNVR Program Coordinator were a part of the team which peer reviewed the APH's new publication 'Orientation and Mobility for Wheelchair Users With Visual Impairment or Blindness'.  The web-based publication is intended to help Orientation and Mobility Instructors learn how to train students who are wheelchair users to travel safely and effectively. 

Mr. Kingston and Mr. Chambers were excellent choices for peer reviewers due to their experience with the WBRC's Power Mobility Program which trains participants who are medically indicated to use Power Mobility Devices such as Power Wheelchairs and Power Scooters.  This program focuses on safe and independent use of these devices in a variety of travel environments in which the participant plans to travel.  Travel training environments could include indoor, campus, residential, business, urban, rural, as well as public transportation use.  Participants work one-on-one with a WBRC Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialist and must demonstrate consistent application of O&M power mobility safety recommendations prior to device issuance.  The average length of stay for the Power Mobility Program is four weeks.

Congratulations John and Tony!

CLICK HERE to view information about this publication on the APH website

The Western Blind Rehabilitation Center (WBRC) is a 27-bed residential facility located at the Menlo Park Division of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System.  Approximately two hundred veterans and active duty service members of all ages participate in the program each year.  More than three quarters have usable vision for which specialized treatment is provided.  Adjusting to and managing visual impairment is the major objective of the program.  If you are in the area and are interested in a site visit, please call (650) 614-9952 to make arrangements.

March 7, 2016

WBRC Now Accepting Applications for Upcoming 'Matter Of Balance Program' Sessions

Photo: The Veterans and Staff who participated in the WBRC's 'Pilot' MOB Program
By: John Kingston, COMS, WBRC Orientation and Mobility Department Supervisor

In 2015 the WBRC  piloted a new fall prevention program called Matter of  Balance.  Matter of Balance is a nationwide, evidence based fall prevention program for older adults.  It addresses the fear of falling, fall prevention measures, and simple exercises to promote health and balance. 

The program was developed through research by the Roybal Center for Enhancement of Late-Life Function at Boston University.  Matter of Balance is designed to reduce the fear of falling and increase the activity levels of older adults who have concerns about falls.

 The WBRC is the first VA and first Blind Rehabilitation Center to adopt this program.  It is also the only Matter of Balance program that is offered as inpatient treatment for Veterans with visual impairment.  The program runs for four weeks and is group based with up to six Veterans and up to three Matter of Balance Coaches. 

Some information about the program:
  • Matter of Balance group classes take place twice a week.
  • Veterans have the opportunity for one-on-one assessment and training options in additional skill areas such as Orientation & Mobility, Living Skills, and Visual Skills.
  • Matter of Balance daily group exercise sessions start in week two.
  • Additional group educational sessions on MyHealtheVet and devices such as use of a grabber/reacher (as many falls involve reaching for objects).
  • Matter of Balance group Community Outings provide the opportunity to apply newly learned skills. 
  • Veterans may also participate in regularly scheduled WBRC Recreation Therapy activities, as well as the Student Forum and the Relaxation Group.
  • Access to skilled nursing care 24 hours per day.

An additional Matter of Balance Session was held in the Beginning of 2016 with similar results.  The Veterans who graduated from the Matter of Balance program encouraged the WBRC to keep this program going for other Veterans.  Participants rated the program highly.   

A few quotes from the first WBRC Matter of Balance participants:

“I feel more comfortable talking about falls with my family. More aware of what I am doing and how I am doing it…”

“I am doing the seated marching before standing up to limber me up to prevent  falling”

“I feel better informed on the use of my walker…and on the use and value of the exercises involved in the program”

WBRC’s next scheduled Matter of Balance sessions are
April 4th through April 29th, 2016 & July 11th through August 5th, 2016.

Talk to your Visual Impairment Services Team (VIST) Coordinator about being referred to this specialty program, or contact the WBRC at (650) 614-9952 to learn about future Matter of Balance session dates.