Disability Pride Month: Winnetka nonprofit has been helping visually-impaired adults for a century

Monday, July 11, 2022
Winnetka nonprofit helping visually-impaired adults
Hadley, a Winnetka-based nonprofit, has been working to help visually-impaired adults for 100 years.

WINNETKA, Ill. (WLS) -- Winnetka-based nonprofit Hadley has been helping people thrive despite vision loss for the last 100 years.

"If you're experiencing vision loss and and need help to figure out how to do your daily tasks, we're there," said Hadley President and CEO Julie Tye.

It was founded in 1920 by William Hadley, who lost his sight at the age of 55.

"His ophthalmologists recommended that he learned Braille, so that he could continue to enjoy reading," Tye said. "So he taught himself Braille and then realizing that there are other adults in the same situation that he was in, he undertook to teach literally Braille by mail."

Today, Hadley is continuing to provide free learning resources for visually-impaired adults.

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"We help people discover those new ways of doing things they've done every day, how to pour a cup of coffee, for example, without getting burned or how to read your mail, if you only have pinpoint vision," Tye said.

Approximately 12 million people 40 years and over in the U.S. have vision impairment, according to the CDC. And the number will only grow as more Americans get older.

Tye said what's particularly concerning is the growth among Black and Latino communities.

"It is a major public health issue," she said.

Tye said many people suffer in silence and wait too long to get help, which can cause other problems like falls or taking the wrong medication.

"We think of vision loss or blindness as being a very serious condition, it is," Tye said, "but in some ways it's the tip of the iceberg."

Hadley wants to increase its reach to assist more people. They hope to soon offer content in Spanish.