Blindfold Immersion Training – ‘a Counselor’s introduction to the field of Blind & Visual Impairment Services’ (BVIS) at Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center (CCRC)

ASSIGNMENT; = ‘reflect & answer’;

1) When I think about blindness – I______,

2) If I had a friend or family member who was blind – I would______,

3) If I became blind – I would______,

4) If my child were blind – I would______,

5) Other than driving or flying – a person who is blind cannot______,

6) If I could ask someone who is blind a serious or personal question – I would ask____________?

Four of us (Lauren – a BVIS Rehab Teacher, Me – a BVIS Brain Injury Team Member , Sandra – a BVIS Administrator, & Priscilla – a BVIS Case Manager), are asked to consider these questions during a specialized two-week training course held at the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center (CCRC) in Austin, Texas where adult and college-prep students having (or acquiring) visual impairment conditions learn to overcome barriers to functioning.

CCRC in Austin, Texas

Named in honor of Texas Judge and Senator Criss Cole, whom after losing his sight while serving in the Marine Corps during World War II became a strong legislative supporter of Persons With Disabilities (PWD’s), he transformed this historic State Commission for the Blind program into into one addressing differing individual needs by providing courses including; a) Daily Living Skills (DLS), b) Orientation Orientation & Mobility (O&M), Information Technology (IT), c) Vocational Rehabilitation Career Guidance (VR), d) Industrial Arts (IA), c) Counseling Services, d) Medical Condition education, e) Independent Living (IL), e) Job Skills / Work Readiness preparation, f) Recreation, and g) More (such as college-prep, deaf-blind training, social events / community participation, especially Symposium, where all have a chance to voice opinions in a respectful forum).

A Braille Cell Model built under blindfold

These courses and programs may be customized into three general categories that legally blind CCRC students in the State of Texas may choose from: I – the Confidence Building Training Program, II – the Proficiency Focus Training Program or, III – the Career Focus Training Program.

NOT losing fingers while operating power tools!

Confidence building is #1 because when losing vision, the ‘loss’ may be replaced with ‘gain’ of self-direction, of being able to obtain information to make realistic choice, and of being able to overcome fears of unseen things, such as screeching vibrations of a screaming power-saw, biting viciously into measured wood just inches away from nervously-grasping fingers.

Safely operating an electric drill-press

Also part of building confidence; safety is #1 in the IA Shop, where the actual Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety meetings given by the instructors are taken extremely seriously by participants before attempting any activity involving workplace hazards with potential risks, which are listened-to a little more carefully than one could previously imagine before experiencing this training.

Identifying and organizing baking components

While confidence may be the single most important component of adjustment to blindness; program #2 trains people to become proficient at obtaining skills enhancing quality of life while obtaining skills to master independent living, alternative non-visual techniques, also encouraging participation in structured activities to gain practical experience in the community like that offered by the Work Internship & Networking Program (WIN) .

Peeking at middle of hamburger at end of day – whew, no ‘pink’

Although operating computers and hand-held devices using voice, touch, and sound is a premium skill taught; being able to identify ingredients then measure them, to crack eggs, to keep pan centered on burner, to use spatula, to determine when finished by smell with sizzle, to dress the bun, to set the table, and to clean a kitchen being aware of potential germs, insects, and poison is a typical part of every proficient burger chef’s life, whether sighted or not, because tasting is sweet (or sour or salty) if not raw?

At work, headed to downtown Austin on the bus

Going to work is the essence of #3, the career focus training program at CCRC, where ‘the rubber meets the road’ which may be crossed or traveled-down during academic training, on the job employee training, even executive training such as that provided by Business Enterprise of Texas (BET) which offers managerial or entrepreneurial training to those demonstrating advanced initiative and problem-solving abilities.

Paying respect at the statue of Criss Cole

Criss Cole symbolizes the leadership potential of all people with blindness and visual impairment, a message expressed by the CCRC Philosophy: “Persons who are blind have the right to actively participate in employment, community and society. We are committed to providing assessment and training services for each individual in a manner that promotes the integration of basic blindness skills into everyday life. We will actively support and encourage consumers as they strive to achieve competence and confidence in reaching their work and independent living goals.”

[*SPECIAL THANKS TO: Valerie, Scott, John, Allison, Julie, Kirt, Billy, Mariel, Winford, Jesse, Toby, Latoya, Kathy, Judy, Owesia, Kelly, Chase, Rhonda and every individual that spoke-up at the Symposium..! Because of *YOU – my life has been changed in ways that mere words are not adequate to express.

DESSERT? (brownies cooked to perfection – not too chewy & not burnt)

Report adapted from existing documentation provided by CCRC