Mind the Gap

IRD Patients Give Us New Perspectives

Receiving the diagnosis that you will lose your sight, or that you or your child will never have sight, is devastating. Yet patients leave our clinics to navigate the world without critical next steps or resources. We’ve heard this time and again and the creation of the IRD and Low Vision Clinics (See A Rapidly Changing Horizon) are two examples of how The Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences is working toward filling the gaps in the patient experience at every UW Health Eye Clinic. Meet IRD patients who implore us to mind our gaps.

Annika Conrad, PhD, has dedicated her research to the experience of going blind. She has focused on the term, “Access Fatigue” that explores the many ways the blind and visually impaired have to justify their disability and make others comfortable with it. As someone who has studied this process extensively, and also as a patient of the IRD Clinic, she is working to ensure that others in our care receive the resources they need at the point of diagnosis, instead of navigating the news of blindness without a clear next step or appropriate support.

Wendi Dwyer is a non-profit development professional. As the Executive Director of Literacy at the Well, she co-founded the program to provide reading instruction at wells in South Sudan where women and girls wait for hours every day to get drinkable water for their families. Wendi has spoken at the UN, UNESCO the Library of Congress Literacy Awards and the Lion Clubs International Conventions across the world to advance this critical program.

She recently returned to her hometown of Madison and is the new Development Director at the Literacy Network of Dane County. She recently completed the Leader Dogs for the Blind program with her new dog, Mukwa (meaning “bear” in Ojibwe). Wendi is committed to public education efforts to break down stigmas, create awareness, and to help blind and visually impaired individuals secure employment.

Joe Tiner, MEd, is an office assistant at Colorado State University for the Student Disability Center and the Assistive Technology Resource Centers. He traveled from Colorado to UW–Madison with his longtime friend and low vision academic teacher, Sheryl Herlevich, to visit the IRD Clinic for a second opinion on his childhood diagnosis.

He works tirelessly to help provide resources, better access, and technology to people with disabilities, and Joe desires to build a more inclusive community for visually impaired students on his campus.