By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Shrewsbury resident Shaun Kinsella was still a teenager, living in his homeland of England, when he followed his sister’s example and volunteered with a group that took kids with disabilities and terminal illnesses on vacation to France. He was inspired to earn a university degree in social administration and counseling, after which he was hired by an agency in Massachusetts. In 2013, after racking up more than 10 years experience, Kinsella was appointed director of the entire slate of vision services provided by the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI).
MABVI’s services, based out of Brookline and Worcester, include low vision examinations, occupational therapy, orientation and mobility, peer empowerment and volunteer services in an integrated medical and social model that treats the whole person. Low vision support groups overseen by MABVI are offered around the state including monthly meetings affiliated with the Northborough and Marlborough senior centers.
Kinsella believes the integrated model is essential.
“Particularly when people experience vision loss later in life,” Kinsella said, “it’s not just about getting an eye exam, it’s also about preventing social isolation. It’s about accessing technology; it’s also about having somebody volunteer to provide some assistance with tasks that become more difficult.”
According to Kinsella, MABVI’s comprehensive concurrent treatment of all the issues related to vision loss helps people achieve independence and successful living.
“If you’re 80 and you lose your sight,” Kinsella said, “it’s a very high probability that you’re also experiencing depression, and we can provide rehabilitative training so you can learn skills to perform your activities of daily living in a different way. But if you’re too depressed to be able to access the rehabilitation, it’s not going to work. So you have to treat various aspects of vision loss all at the same time.”
Kinsella started working at MAB Community Services (an umbrella agency which includes MABVI) in 2001. He branched off for a period to focus on other clinical interests including the gerontological program at UMASS Boston before returning. He said he missed the family feeling at MAB during his other stints, and was pleased when his current position opened.
“This position was just an amazing convergence of everything I’d been doing in the last 10 years,” he said, adding that MAB has always looked after him throughout his time on another continent from where he grew up and he has felt very nurtured there.
Kinsella lights up when he talks about his work.
“I love to see people who thought that they were unable to do something learn that all they need to do is do it a different way and for them to regain their confidence and to maintain their independence,” he said.
Kinsella has goals. He said vision loss and the related services are under-recognized and underutilized. He strives to increase awareness of these services and of the numbers of people that require them.
Kinsella works to educate people about early intervention of vision loss. He said many who begin losing sight are so scared of the prospect that they wait to have a low vision exam or see an ophthalmologist because they don’t want to be faced with what might lie ahead.
“But the sooner you access services,” he said, “the easier it is to learn new ways to do things. The more sight that have as you go through vision rehabilitation, the more successful the rehabilitation is. So don’t wait.”
For more information about MABVI’s services or to volunteer, call 888-613-2777 or visit the programs tab at www.mabcommunity.org.