Blind center aims to reduce stigma

April 10, 2014


Staff Reporter


The Louisiana Center for the Blind is working to change what it means to be blind.


“We’re trying to take the negative connotations of blindness and change them into a more positive view,” said Pam Allen, executive director for the Louisiana Center of the Blind in Ruston.


According to the American Federation of the Blind, only 36.8 percent of working age adults with significant vision loss are employed.


“The problem is that sometimes people assume wrongly that a person maybe can’t do a certain job because that person can’t see,” Allen said.


According to the AFB, 8.3 million Americans with vision loss are poor or near poor.


“We want to help them understand that because you are losing your vision, it doesn’t mean that you have to give up on the goals and the hopes and the dreams that you have,” Allen said.


Ninety percent of blind children are not being taught Braille, according to teachblindstudents.org. Add to that a 45 percent high school graduation rate amongst blind students and there exists a need for teachers for blind students.


Louisiana Tech’s Teaching Blind Students Program is at the forefront of the problem, working diligently to secure grant funding to educate and certify students to teach blind students.


“It is a five-year grant that would provide tuition and fee assistance to students so they can train as a teacher and become certified to teach blind students,” said Edward Bell, director of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Tech.


Allen said these new teachers, many of whom are graduates of Tech, would be equipped with the skills to teach blind students.


“Blindness is just a characteristic like your height or hair color,” Allen said. “It’s just one thing.”


The LCB in Ruston offers a wide array of services to the blind.


“We do this in a variety of ways,” Allen said. “We do it through working directly with blind people. They all come here because they want to be independent, they want to work, they want to go to college, they want to raise their families and they want to be active in the community.”


They need teachers just as students without vision loss need teachers and Tech’s TBS program is working to fill that need.


“They will be prepared as certified teachers to teach children who are blind or visually impaired,” Bell said.


Working to remove the negative connotations of blindness is one of the main goals at the LCB in Ruston Allen said.


“We as blind people are trying to get out there, take part in our community and change those perceptions,” she said.


Email comments to rcp022@latech.edu.



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