VIPS plans to bring vision center to Sequim

Visually Impaired Persons of Sequim is gearing up to open a vision loss center, but its members continue to search for a place to set up shop.

“We have our board, we’re all operational and we are ready to open our doors. At this time we’re looking for a location,” said Kyle Parrish, VIPS president, who added that the service center has charitable, nonprofit status. “We’ve been struggling to get it going. It’s a big job to get it going.”

The Lions Club and the National Federation of the Blind of Washington will sponsor the center, which has been named the Low Vision and Blind Service Center of the Olympic Peninsula.

“This center works with the existing eye professionals in the community and we would provide everything from teaching Braille, mobility with a cane or a dog, even grief counseling for people who have recent vision loss,” explained Parrish. “It’s going to be a wonderful thing.”

The center also would provide funding, through grants provided by the Lions Club and NFB, to pay for anything from eye surgeries to magnifying glasses. Parrish envisions the center as a storefront-like setting with a concentration of resources to help those who suffer from low vision or complete blindness.

According to Parrish, often those suffering from visual impairments feel isolated or embarrassed and feel their lives are greatly limited. For example, there is a 70-percent unemployment rate within the visually impaired community. Parrish believes this could change if people with impairments could learn more about the appliances, software and emerging technologies to help better their lives.

“There’s a whole gambit of things that people need to be aware of. They don’t need to live their lives at 10 percent when they can probably go 70 or 80 percent with these devices,” Parrish said. “There’s no excuse for people who have a vision loss to not have very active lives.”

The center’s board plans on drafting a letter and creating a packet to send to optometrists in the Sequim and Port Angeles communities, making them aware of the center’s services. Parrish admits that the center’s creation has been met with apprehension from some local optometrists who see the center as competition.

“We’re not here to take clients away from the existing eye professionals, we’re here to aid them,” Parrish said. “We can provide the funding to get them (those with visual impairments) to an eye doctor if they need it.”

“The eye doctors don’t do very much to refer them to where the resources are, and if they do refer them, sometimes people don’t make contact. We want to help with that,” added VIPS secretary Sherron Smith.

VIPS is looking for a home for the center, from a small commercial space to a room in a medical office. Although Parrish hopes the center will help visually impaired persons across the peninsula, not just Clallam County, he would prefer that it be located in Sequim.

“That’s our hope because it’s more or less central to the peninsula. Port Angeles is another option, but it seems like Sequim is kind of becoming the center and if it grows the way they say it’s going to grow and is friendly to disabled people, it’s the perfect location,” Parrish said.

For more information or to help, contact VIPS at 360-775-1089 or

We’re not here to take clients away from the existing eye professionals, we’re here to aid them.”

— Kyle Parrish, VIPS president

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