COMMUNITY PROFILE: Visions Center on Blindness in New Hempstead trains clients to lead independent lives

BY BARRY WARNER

New Hempstead Mayor Lawrence Dessau (center) is presenting a Community Development Fund check for new kitchen equipment to members of the VCB staff and a representative of the Lions Club

Visions (VCB), a 35-acre nonprofit residential rehabilitation and training center located on Summit Park Road, was founded in 1951 and adopted by local Lions Clubs that offered volunteers and financial support. Year-round on weekends and during summer sessions, VCB serves hundreds of people of all ages.

Betsy Fabricant, senior administrator said, “VCB’s mission is to give people with vision loss the tools to lead an independent and successful life, at home and in the community. With proper adaptation and training, blind and visually impaired people of all ages can face obstacles and function in this world. Socialization is provided, so the participants can build confidence and feel safe in the community. Necessary training is presented to help babies and toddlers perform the activities of daily living. Also, plans are developed to work with the parents to help them cope with the difficulties of caring for a child who is blind in a supportive environment. In addition, we make them aware of the resources available to furnish their child opportunities for a full life.”

VCB weekend participants are mixing the bananas and vanilla wafer ingredients to prepare banana pudding in the kitchen area

Program activities encourage networking between participants, orientation to new surroundings, physical activities, group experiences, skill development and support. VCB’s adaptive activities encourage physical fitness, health and wellness that include swimming, pedal boating, fishing, mini-golf and dancing. Vision rehabilitation instruction includes adaptive independent living skills, orientation and mobility, cooking classes and computer technology.

New Hempstead Mayor Lawrence Dessau said, “I have been mayor for 25 years and VCB meets the requirements for Community Development Funding, so I am presenting a check of $8,000 for a new kitchen stove, dishwasher and food warmer.”

Legal blindness is defined as vision of 20/200 or less in the better eye with the best correction possible. Total blindness is the inability to tell light from dark or the total inability to see. Visual impairment or low vision is a severe reduction in vision that cannot be corrected with standard glasses or contact lenses and reduces a person’s ability to function at certain or all tasks.

William Hixson, Director of Rehabilitation Services is instructing Kevaughn on the use of the long cane, which is the primary mobility tool for the visually impaired

Louis Braille designed his Braille system between the years 1812-1814. Braille is used by people who are blind for reading and writing. Braille is read by passing the fingers over characters that are arranged in a space called a Braille cell made up of one to six embossed points.

Visions VCB Summer 2013 Tentative Schedule includes:

. Session 1, 7/15-7/19, ‘Residential Work Readiness Program’- Career exploration, job seeking skills and networking.

. Session 2, 7/18-7/22, ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’- Adults who are blind have other special needs.

. Session 3, 7/27-8/6, ‘Active and Independent’- Adults who are blind including their families. Children up to age 14 can attend with their parents.

. Session 4A, 8/10-8/16,‘Youth Leadership Institute’- A week-long crash course for recent high school graduates who are blind and who will be attending college in the fall.

. Session 4B, 8/11-8/16, ‘First Steps’- Babies and Toddlers up to age 5 who are blind and multi-disabled up to age 21; parents must attend.

. Session 5, ‘Rehab and Rec’ for Blind children with Families’; ‘Tween Pre-Voc’- Children who are Blind (entering grades 1-9 & ages 6-14). Parents must attend. Siblings welcome.

Khaled Musa, co-director said, “In the computer lab we use the ‘Job Access with Speech’ program which reads aloud what is on the screen and gives the person whose vision loss prevents them from seeing screen content a set of tools to navigate and access the web pages and screen content. Also, ‘Window Eyes’ provides blind users access to Windows-based computers by speaking the contents of the Windows screens.”

The VCB campus is specially designed to encourage freedom of movement and independence. All walkways are paved, guide rails border every path and ramps lead to dormitories and other facilities. Cottages are available for families and sighted siblings to create a comfortable environment where parents can participate with other families to learn how to care for their children and discover the range of rehabilitation services available to their children.

VCB is open year-round on weekends and fulltime during summer sessions. Staff and participants are multi-lingual and many staff members are blind. VCB is free, although participant voluntary contributions are welcomed.

For more information contact Carmen Thorne or Khaled Musa, VCB Co-Administrators at 212-625-1616 x 107 or 130 or cthorne@visionsvcb.org or kmusa@visionsvcb.org.