April 09, 2001 11:00 pm
SKILLS OF INDEPENDENCE: Dennis Hogan, a rehabilitation instructor for the visually impaired, talks with Esther Tuell of La Grande, one of 60 people he helps in Northeast Oregon. (The Observer/DICK MASON).
SKILLS OF INDEPENDENCE: Dennis Hogan, a rehabilitation instructor for the visually impaired, talks with Esther Tuell of La Grande, one of 60 people he helps in Northeast Oregon. (The Observer/DICK MASON).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Esther Tuell does not want to imagine what her life would be like without the help she receives from Dennis Hogan.

Tuell, a visually impaired

La Grande adult, recently gained a significant measure of independence. Tuell credits this to Hogan, a rehabilitation instructor for the blind and a vocational rehabilitation counselor.

Hogan, who works for the Union-Baker Education Service District, has been helping Tuell for several months. He has shown her how to write checks and letters and to operate her oven and washing machine and much more. Previously, she found such tasks extremely difficult and sometimes impossible.

I felt so helpless and frustrated before, said Tuell, who had good vision until several years ago.

She said that her husband, Jesse, also has been instrumental is helping her adjust to her vision impairment.

Tuell is one of 60 clients Hogan serves in Union, Wallowa, Baker, Umatilla, Morrow, Grant and Malheur counties. Visually impaired adults in Northeast Oregon already have access to Hogans services. The services are made possible by a cooperative agreement the Union-Baker ESD has with the Oregon Commission for the Blind and Senior and Disabled Services.

The American Foundation of the Blind is saluting the ESD for its efforts. The organization has presented the ESD with a national award that salutes the work it has done to make it possible for Hogan to help older visually impaired adults.

The ESD is an exemplary national model, according to Gil Johnson, the western director of the American Foundation for the Blind.

Johnson said the ESD has done a masterful job of collaborating to make Hogans services available.

These efforts truly empower blind and visually impaired older adults to remain independent and active in their communities, Johnson


Frank Synoground, project director for the Oregon Commission for the Blind, said Lenny Williams, Union-Baker ESDs assistant superintendent, has played a crucial role in the success of the program.

Because of Lenny Williams, the services are available, Synoground said.

Clients helped by the program learn skills of independence. For example, Hogan teaches people techniques that allow them to do housework even though they have impaired vision.

For example, Hogan provides special markers on the dials of ovens and washing machines which allow people to use the sense of touch to operate the machines.

Hogan also focuses on helping the visually impaired with orientation and mobility.

His clients are shown things such as how to cross a street with a white cane and to travel on a bus.

Hogan also serves as a vocation rehabilitation counselor for the visually impaired in Northeast Oregon. He successfully helps his clients land jobs.

Hogan inspires clients by pointing out that there are numerous examples of blind people in Northeast Oregon with rewarding careers. They include an attorney in Ontario, a water hydrology engineer in Hermiston, a deacon of a church in Pendleton, a man who repairs the soft drink machines at rest stops between Farewell Bend and Boardman and a custom wood worker in Baker City who is also deaf.

Many of these people are aided by technology which helps overcome their disability in the work place.

Technology can be a great equalizer, Hogan said.

Hogan has been working with the visually impaired for more than 10 years. Many of his clients are referred to him by people in this area. Hogan credits Dr. William Pettit, a La Grande ophthalmologist, with giving him the most local referrals.

Anyone who knows of a visually impaired person who could benefit from Hogans services can call the ESD at 963-4106.

We cant help people unless we know about them, Hogan said.

Hogan describes his work as very rewarding.

I like watching people grow and believe in themselves again, Hogan said.