Welcome To Swain County

Social Services

Services for the Blind

Link to the District Office

Social Worker for the Blind — Independent Living & Medical Eye Care

Celeste Wiggins, Social Worker for the Blind III in Swain, Macon, Clay, Cherokee and Graham Counties

The Independent Living Services/Medical Eye Care Program of the N.C. Division of Services for the Blind serves citizens throughout the State who are blind or visually impaired. Specialized services provided through the Independent Living Services Program enable these citizens to attain their highest level of independence and self-sufficiency in their own homes and communities. Specialized services provided through the Medical Eye Care Program seek to prevent blindness and where possible, to restore vision in individuals who have suffered loss of sight. A core group of specialists consisting of Social Workers for the Blind, Orientation and Mobility Specialists, and Nursing Eye Care Consultants provide these services through a statewide network of field service delivery. These specialists provide a variety of services to persons to enable them to develop their independence in daily living skills, to obtain the service they need to become or remain self-sufficient, and to prevent or correct vision problems.

The primary purpose of the Social Worker for the Blind (SWB) is enabling the blind, visually impaired, and individuals with cases of sudden vision loss to facilitate both a psycho-social, and physical adjustment, so that person can function at their highest level of independence, and self-sufficiency, in everyday life. The SWB is the agency representative charged with full responsibility at the local level. This SWB position involves responsibility for providing a program of services such as specialized counseling, and teaching services to all blind and visually impaired persons residing in the areas of Swain, Graham, Macon, Clay and Cherokee Counties.

Upon receiving a medical eye report from the individual's physician or eye specialist containing the diagnosis, visual acuity, and prognosis, the (SWB) contacts the consumer, goes to their home, and assesses their needs and potential abilities. In many cases, it is beneficial for the SWB to obtain additional assessments such as medical reports, audiological evaluations, psychological evaluations, physical/ occupational therapy assessments and speech evaluations. The SWB evaluates these materials to enable them to make recommendations.

The SWB develops an Independent Living Services Plan with each consumer. This diagnostic tool assesses the consumer's visual and physical health status, medications, educational program, family status, and functional abilities. The latter includes assessing the consumer's needs in specific demands of daily living skills such as orientation and mobility, telling time, identifying money, use of the telephone, sewing, self-feeding, and eating skills, cooking, reading, and writing etc. As stated, once the person's strengths and needs are identified, the service goal and service plan is developed. The SWB instructs consumers on an individual basis in their homes, a facility etc. how to use adaptive techniques, and adaptive aids, and appliances, which will enhance their lives and ability to function independently. The SWB might teach the consumer how to identify canned foods in their cabinets, how to identify paper money and coins, how to use the microwave, how to tie their shoe, or the SWB may place bump dots on their kitchen appliances so the consumer can "feel" the correct settings for cooking, prepare a simple meal etc. The SWB teaches/demonstrates to the consumer how to use different kinds of magnifiers, clocks, calculators, computers etc.

As blindness is traumatic, the SWB provides counseling and encouragement/support. The SWB often helps to re-structure family roles, tries to get the consumer involved in a support group, and establish a support system. The three primary goals in this this service program are: 1) Personal Self-Sufficiency 2) Preventing or reducing inappropriate Institutional care, and 3) Preventing or remedying abuse, neglect, or exploitation.

The SWB frequently provides direct teaching in the areas of self-help and demands of daily living skills. The SWB purchases (at no cost to the consumer), low vision aids that will enable the consumer to maintain many of their independent living skills. The SWB also co-ordinates services from specialty providers such as orientation and mobility specialists, and nursing eye care consultants. The SWB has the ultimate responsibility of monitoring service provision and act as coordinator/manager of the case. The objective is to diagnose the consumer's real needs by educated observation and listening skills, and then to assess and provide a service program that will identify the diagnosed barriers to enable the consumer to function as his highest level.

In the case of a child, the goal would be self-sufficiency and the child, hopefully, would be able to function independently in a sighted world, achieve an adequate education, and eventually be situated in a satisfying and self-supporting employment position. On the other hand, an elderly individual might be in a situation where he/she would be enabled to remain in his/her own home, although in ill health, through the support of health support, and chore, or homemaker services. In this situation, the SWB would assess what is needed in each individual case and to develop the needed therapy to achieve the desired goal.

The SWB monitors the service plans, goals, and needs within the caseload quarterly, and updates the Independent Living Service Plan at least annually. The SWB is responsible for Outreach to different civic organizations, clubs etc. to enhance their understanding of how to relate to the visually impaired and make them aware of opportunities for the blind in the community in areas such as recreation and leisure areas. The SWB takes a group of Visually Impaired Persons (VIP's) to Camp Dogwood each year, and a group of VIP's to the VIP Fishing Tournament at the Outer Banks, and is responsible for their supervision and wellbeing on both trips. Both recreational events are sponsored by the local Lions Clubs in each County.

The SWB is responsible for managing the allotted budget in each county, as well as being responsible for management of all fiscal matters pertaining to each consumer in the caseload. The SWB is responsible for the purchase of aids and appliances for each consumer and the travel budget.


Department of Social Services
80 Academy Street
Bryson City, NC 28713

Mailing Address
PO Box 610
Bryson City, NC 28713


Sheila Sutton, Director
Phone 828-488-6921
Fax 828-488-8271

Office Hours