Paulette Monthei

An Omaha-based non-profit dedicated to helping people with vision loss is opening up its wide range of programs and services to all 55,000 Iowans who may have a sight impairment.

Paulette Monthei, programs manager for Outlook Enrichment, says as COVID-19 pushed many people to stay home, the agency shifted more of its offerings online.

“Prior to the pandemic, we were looking at expanding our remote services,” Monthei says. “The pandemic just pushed us and gave us that little nudge to further our opportunities.”

The organization’s website, www.outlooken.org, was initially designed for people in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area, but now is reaching people with all degrees of vision loss as far away as North Carolina.

“We’re not limited right now because of technology to a geographic area,” Monthei says. “Our full focus is to serve anyone who is in need of our services.”

Monthei, a Des Moines native who’s legally blind, says the goal is to help people with vision loss to find the resources they need to stay independent and to continue doing the things they love to do.

“Our programs and services focus on aspects of an individual’s life, such as accessing technology so they can be independent,” Monthei says. “That can be online banking, accessing Facebook, it really depends on the person’s particular interests. We also have recreational and cultural programs.”

She says Outlook Enrichment created a host of new programs and services to address accessibility challenges presented by COVID-19 — and for life after the pandemic is long gone.

“We also have — through Zoom sessions — book clubs, educational programs such as independent living aids that someone might use within their home,” Monthei says. “This coming week we’ll be talking about Amazon and Walmart and how you can better use them through adoptive technology.”

The adoptive tech training program helps people with vision loss learn how to use smartphones, apps and magnification technology. Those skills can help them maintain employment, facilitate remote learning and stay connected to loved ones.