Date of Conferral

2010

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Human Services

Advisor

Dorothy A. Scotten

Abstract

More U.S. men and women are returning from military service obligations with physical and mental disabilities which complicate their transition to civilian life. Few researchers, however, have examined the post service experiences of blind veterans and whether they are affected by societal expectations of people living with disabilities. The purpose of this qualitative study was to gain knowledge about the experiences of U.S. veterans who suffered vision loss, and the influence of societal expectations on their lives. Hermeneutic phenomenological methodology was used to explore the personal meanings 8 veterans, who lost their vision during active service, attached to their experiences as they transition into daily routines. Using a 4 stage hermeneutic analysis and an interpretive lens resulted in the emergence of 6 major themes: (1) Never give up, (2) Mantras and declarations, (3) Previous beliefs and helping, (4) Struggles after vision loss (5) Current thought about disabilities and (6) Independence. Key findings suggested the veterans' previous thoughts about disabilities hindered their initial adjustments to losing their vision. All of them experienced a time of distress that aligned with their previous thoughts concerning people living with obvious disabilities requiring help, and independent skills training programs greatly contributed to their increased confidence to live independently. Blind veterans' personal descriptions of becoming blind may provide social workers, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and other human service professionals with information they can use to enhance programming and services for these individuals. Other implications for positive social change include the possible development of social change initiatives to change public perceptions of blind veterans.

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