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November 3, 2013 at 5:11 PM

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Program helps blind prepare for future


MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Bronson Goo, left, shows Dan Lovell, who has very limited vision and is wearing dark glasses that simulate total blindness, in safely loading wood planks onto a table saw locating the saw blade on Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. The woodworking class is one of many offered at the Orientation & Training Center, a program of the Department of Services for the Blind, in Seattle. Lovell's woodwork class project is to make a cedar chest for his sister.

"Blindness does not have to be a detriment or a deterrent to live a full life and be a productive member of society," says Keiko Namekata, program manager for the Orientation Training Center, a program run by the state Department of Services for the Blind.

Offered in six-week terms, the program helps people who either are blind or have limited vision to relearn basic life skills without the use of sight. The classes teach mobility, cooking, woodworking, reading and computer use, Namekata says.

The ultimate goal is to teach people who are vision-impaired the skills they will need for vocational training, future employment and independent living.

The classes emphasize use of the senses -- touch, hearing, and smell, to relearn how to navigate their environment and use technology, Namekata says.

The program exposes students to a variety of activities in a safe, predictable environment, he says. It helps them build self-confidence, develop a positive attitude surrounded by other students who are working toward breaking down those same barriers, says Namekata.

"If you did something you didn't think you could, and you did it, you start to develop some sense of confidence," she says.


MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Bronson Goo, left, and Dan Lovell make straight cuts across a wooden plank during the woodworking class.

MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Kirsten Hammond, bottom, learns how to read braille from Joy Iverson how to read braille on an enlarged scale, at the Orientation & Training Center.

MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Robin Loen, left, helps Victor Santos learn how to safely navigate corridors and climb staircases.

For more information, visit:http://www.dsb.wa.gov/ Or call toll free: 800-552-7103 or 206-906-550

MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Victor Santos, left, with the help of Robin Loen takes baby steps down the staircase as they practice indoor mobility.

MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Al Yardley, center right, instructs students on how to use the ZoomText software, which helps users with limited vision to access computers by enlarging portions of the screen.

MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Julie Harlow reacts as she collects chocolates to put into a bowl for cooking during a class. Harlow is a first-term student and has been legally blind for most of her life. She was always cooking in the kitchen for her family before a recent automobile accident rendered her blind. After losing her vision, she has been afraid to venture into kitchen tasks. Taking classes at the center has helped her regain confidence.

MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Marvin Cutayan confidently cooks a fried-rice dish during a cooking class.

MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Without sight, Julie Harlow uses a knife to cut up almonds during a cooking class.

MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Julie Harlow, left, listens to Donna Lawrence, a cooking instructor, as Harlow washes the dishes.

MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Jim Portillo, center, helps Nick Nathan learn how to use the text-to-speech program on a screen reader that helps users navigate computer-operating systems with clear audio feedback.

MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Joanne Goldy, left, who has very limited vision, uses a walking cane with Mary Lorenz during a mobility class.

Most Popular Comments
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Worthwhile Org. that is really changing and improving peoples lives. We need more... MORE
What a great program!! Helping people gain skills and confidence to live their lives... MORE

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