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Center for blind unveiled

Albany ARC Blind Services Director Collie Robinson, center, 
welcomes guests to the Albany ARC Center for the Blind prior 
to its ribbon-cutting Tuesday morning.

Albany ARC Blind Services Director Collie Robinson, center, welcomes guests to the Albany ARC Center for the Blind prior to its ribbon-cutting Tuesday morning.

ALBANY, Ga. -- Imagine not being able to do the basic things most of us take for granted such as using a computer, making the bed or taking a shower.

There are people living in the community dealing with these challenges every day. Now, there is a place for them to go.

The Albany Advocacy Resource Center's Center for the Blind opened its doors with a ribbon-cutting at its 1500-B Gillionville Road location Tuesday.

"This is one of ARC's big moments," said Albany ARC Blind Services Director Collie Robinson at the event. "This is something that has been a goal and a dream for some time."

The services to be provided at the center include a low-vision clinic, job readiness program, computer classes, training in independent living skills and personal social adjustment as well as Braille lessons.

While there are other centers for the blind and visually impaired in the state, the Albany facility is the first to have a residential component, which will allow out-of-town Georgians to utilize its services.

"Now they don't have to go out of state," said Albany ARC Executive Director Annette Bowling. "(The residential component) allows a place to stay while coming from out of town. It's for the whole state."

The facility will also serve people who are classified as the "older blind" -- those ages 55 or older who are not expecting to re-enter the work force.

"They will receive training in areas they would need (i.e. independent living skills)," Robinson said. "Our purpose is to teach individuals to live independently."

The facility can serve eight to 12 individuals for eight weeks at a time. It is expected to start taking clients within the next week. There had already been four referrals made to the facility as of its opening, Bowling said.

The center, which was roughly 18 months in the making, developed as part of a collaborative effort between ARC and Georgia Department of Labor officials.

"I know there are a number of people that have worked on this; this is a fantastic thing for Georgia," said Paul Raymond, director of blind services for the state's Department of Labor Rehabilitation Services.

Labor Department officials say the residential component is one of the most valuable aspects of the center.

"(When utilizing an out-of-state facility) clients would be gone for several months at a time. Now they can come here during the week and go home on the weekends," Raymond said. "We are in the business of helping people prepare for jobs. We need to rebuild (blind and visually impaired people's) self-confidence so they can do that."

Some of the out-of-state facilities utilized in the past are in Louisiana, Colorado, Alabama, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Referrals to the center generally come from the Labor Department's rehabilitation services division.

"This is something that is very much needed in the community," Robinson said. "Albany welcomes a center of this sort."