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Disability-Specific Skills Training: Frequently Asked Questions​​

Where can someone go to get the special skills he or she will need to live and work as​ a blind or partially sighted person?

There are a number of resources available; however, these are contingent upon​ where you live. In many developed countries, you can receive specialized training in orientation and mobility (skills for “getting around”), home and personal management (taking care of yourself and your possessions), and communication skills (reading, writing, and calculating with braille, the use of optical devices, enlarged print, or assistive technology).

In Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, and many other countries, most disability-specific skills training is provided by national, charitable or consumer organizations, such as, CNIB (in Canada), RNIB (in the UK), VisionAustralia, Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind, National Organization of Spanish Blind People (ONCE), or through the countries’ national health services. In the United States and some other countries, there are both private and public rehabilitation agencies that provide such training.

Training may be offered in an individual’s home, usually by rehabilitation teachers or therapists (depending on the instructor’s credentials – a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist, for example, received disability-specific skills training and passed a competency test to be certified by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation Professionals), or at a facility often called a rehabilitation training center or orientation center.

To find providers near you, either visit the Living Independently Resources section or search online using terms such as rehabilitation centre for the blind, orientation centre for the blind, low vision training, skills training for people who are blind or partially sighted, blind training centre, as well as your geographical location (i.e. city, province/state etc.).

What if I can’t go to a rehabilitation centre or other facility to receive training and there are no rehabilitation workers available to come to my home?

There are numerous courses available online through organizations such as the Hadley School for the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind (or the Canadian Federation of the Blind), the Carroll Center for the Blind and others.

Check the Resources section for details on who offers what and how to reach them. Many of these courses are available without cost or at a reduced cost. If you are unsure of whether you qualify or if you cannot find what you need or want, make contact with a local librarian, rehabilitation worker, or someone with vision loss who can help you find the resources you need in your local community. The Hadley School for the Blind offers its disability-specific courses internationally.

Who sells the adaptive equipment, tools, and technology?

There are many vendors who sell adaptive equipment, tools, and technology -everything from braille printers/ embossers or talking watches and alarm clocks to screen enlargement or speech output software. The key to finding such resources is to search online, if possible, by entering the name of the device or tool you are seeking as well as your city and/ or country. You can also check with local rehabilitation agencies and charitable organizations to see if they have what you need. Often they will operate small shops with specialty devices and tools. If you are unable to access the Internet independently, ask a reference librarian for assistance in doing your research.

Why would I want to learn braille when there is all this modern technology that talks to me?

The braille code is easy to memorize and can be extraordinarily helpful to meet your day-to-day needs for note-taking and labeling – even if you choose to do the bulk of your reading by listening. If you are already literate (you learned to read and write as a sighted person), you may find that extensive reading and writing is more easily accomplished with a computer and speech output software or using electronic books.

However, nothing beats braille for those quick reading and writing tasks, such as, jotting down a person’s telephone number, or tasks where you want to maintain confidentiality, such as, writing out your social security number, bank account, or a password. In addition, many adventitiously blind people (people who had vision at some point) find that braille labels on their CDs, DVDs, paper files, and other items help them stay organized and enable them to quickly retrieve items. Learning braille as a disability-specific skill can help you in many ways be more independent and employable.

Won’t walking with a white cane make me appear pitiful or helpless to others and, ultimately, make me more vulnerable?

Absolutely not! Walking properly with a white cane helps you move comfortably through space without tripping, stumbling, or bumping into things. People who are well-trained in orientation and mobility can use a white cane to navigate safely while walking beside heavily trafficked streets, cross roads, or safely manage stairs and drop-offs such as curbs or subway landings independently.

Moving confidently through space makes a person appear capable, not vulnerable. People with partial sight who choose not to use a long cane often cannot see well enough to avoid dangerous situations such as open manholes or large crevices in pavement. They may walk into plate glass windows or doors and miss other environmental obstacles. They may shuffle, trying to find obstacles or curbs with their feet – this can make them appear hesitant or awkward. Moving comfortably and safely through the environment is what makes people appear confident, capable, and in control.​​​​​​​​

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