Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the mission of the Sight Center and how long have you been in operation?

The Sight Center’s mission is “to prevent blindness and promote independence for those with vision loss.” The Sight Center’s doors opened in 1938 and we celebrated our 80 year anniversary in 2018.

What types of services does the Sight Center provide?

The Sight Center of Northwest Pennsylvania has two main sides of the organization: prevention of blindness and vision rehabilitation. Recently, we have introduced a Diabetes Prevention Program too, in order to pick up on the work left off by the Erie County Diabetes Association. The Sight Center also offers transportation services and specialized support services too for the visually impaired.

What specific programs are offered through the Prevention of Blindness mission?

We operate a vision screening program for children between the ages of 1 and 6 using a state-of-the-art, non-invasive PediaVision Spot Screener. We want to screen children young in order to catch vision impairment as early as possible and to allow for maximum results on correction. Two full-time employees screen over 11,000 children per year in preschools and daycare centers throughout our seven-county service areas. We also serve the hard-to-screen population in private or public schools for autistic, behaviorally challenged, and/or children who know English as a second language. We even offer in-service days with school nurses with our trained professionals to educate them on what to look for in school-aged children. To learn more about our screening process or to schedule a screening, contact us by calling 814-455-0995

Do you offer an eye exam and eyeglass program for low-income people?

For those who are under-insured or have no health insurance at all, we do our best to connect people with resources in the community to get the help they need to obtain a free (or severely reduced) eye exam and new glasses. It is our goal to help these individuals function best in their daily life with maximum visual efficiency–an effort made possible through the support of the Erie Lions Club and the Save-an-Eye fund–not to mention the generosity of our local eye doctor community.

What services are offered through the vision rehabilitation program?

The Sight Center promotes independence for those with vision loss. This process can start with low vision evaluation which is essentially an adapted screening process for people with low or no vision. We have a specially trained optometrist on staff to assist with this process and follow-up with occupational therapy to provide instruction in visual skills and use low vision devices and lighting to help maximize what vision remains for any given individual.

Does the Sight Center provide transportation services for blind people?

The Site Center does provide transportation for people who can’t see to drive. We offer this service in all seven counties and drive over 100,000 miles per year to get people where they need to go. This is much different than taxicab service as we offer “door-through-door transportation” where we go into the home and help someone get into the vehicle. Upon arrival of the destination (for example, a doctors appointment), we guide them in and help them sign-in, and then come back to get them and take them to the pharmacy if-needed and aide them in running related errands. From the bank to grocery stores, to personal reading, we will help pay bills, write checks, get the kitchen setup, etc.

What other business or personal services does the Sight Center offer to blind people?

In addition to transportation services, we also offer chore services, life skills education, talking books, counseling, information, and referral or support programs. The primary goal of the Sight Center’s Specialized Support Services are to promote and enhance independence for people without sight or who are losing their vision. Services like transportation assistance with bill-paying, mail-reading, grocery shopping and participation in the Sight Center’s support group help provide a greater quality of life for those with vision loss. Qualifications for services include visual acuity and other factors depending on the specific service. To inquire, please visit our Specialized Support Services page, or call (814)455-0995.

What are common myths about blindness?

One common myth is that blind people have no vision at all. This is not true. Most people who are considered legally blind have at least some limited vision. The Sight Centers job is how to best use that remaining vision to conduct the activities of daily life and help people be independent. Our wonderful team of occupational therapists help teach and treat legally blind people with new techniques to help mitigate total eyesight loss.

Why is the Sight Center involved with a diabetes prevention program?

Diabetes is the #1 cause of severe or permanent vision loss in people of all ages. Furthermore, Erie and her surrounding communities have a higher rate of diabetes when compared to the national average. Our diabetes prevention program is sanctioned by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and is a year-long commitment. The program is in a group setting where attendees meet once a week for the first 4 months, then every other week for another 4 months, and once a month for the last 4 months. The program is operated by a certified diet and lifestyle coach who help people plan out a better lifestyle for themselves and spend their money wisely on healthy options. Hospitals refer people to us and is a program previously supplied by the Erie County Diabetes Association that is now defunct. Anyone can join this program, and we do our best to hold meetings out in the community (not just our office) as transportation is almost always a barrier for people with, or at risk of, diabete

Do I qualify for Sight Center services?

It is important to note that we do not turn anyone away; however, there is a sliding scale fee for our services depending on how much-combined household income there is for the number of people living in the household. Clients are required to have a current (within 12 months) prescription from an eye doctor and demonstrate a financial need with documentation. Individuals with extraordinary circumstances, such as unexpected medical bills, family care, or who are suffering from a disaster are given special consideration on a case-by-case basis. Please visit our Prevention of Blindness services page for more information and to download an Eye Care Application.

How is the Sight Center Funded?

The Sight Center is funded primarily through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the form of a contract to provide our services. Since the contract amount has stayed the same since 1979, we have looked towards other ways to fund our programs and we do charge a fee for some services based on income. We are a United Way funded organization, which helps pay for some services, but we supplement our operating expenses by billing health insurances for our low vision program, fundraise, and operate an endowment and investment fund to keep the organization financially stable.

Does the Sight Center provide any in-classroom education?

The Sight Center prides itself on being experts in vision and the preservation of vision and operates an outreach and education program to local area schools. Sight Center staff goes into schools to teach kids about vision and promotes sensitivity to blind people. They give kids a taste of what it is like to have limited vision through a variety of exercises in an effort to promote awareness and educate them why it is important for proper eye care.

What organizations does the Sight Center work within the community?

The Sight Center works closely with the Veterans Affairs Hospital and proudly serve veterans. Affordable Care Hearing Aid is another organization we partner with to help promote both of our missions. We also work with the Intermediate Unit, the Lions Club, and the Save-an-Eye fund through the Save-an-Eye annual football game.

What are some conditions that may cause vision loss?

Among others, some of the more common conditions that may cause vision loss include diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, retinitis pigmentosa, or eye injuries.

Do I need a doctor to refer me to your organization?

People can refer themselves and don’t necessarily need a doctor’s referral to benefit from our services.

What counties does the Sight Center serve?

Erie, Warren, Mckean, Elk, Cameron, Jefferson, and Potter counties. We are a sister agency for the Pennsylvania Association of the Blind–27 agencies in total cover all 67 counties in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Where is your new location?

We moved in 2010 from 24th and Cherry (Otherwise known as “That Place on Cherry Street”) to 2545 West 26th Street, Erie PA 16506.

What is the best way to support the Sight Center?

Donations are always appreciated and can be submitted through our Donate page.

How can I get involved?

If you are interested in volunteering with the Sight Center, please visit our Volunteer page and fill out the related form. Thank you for your interest!