Children with visual impairments in our local schools make their way through campuses using walking canes or strumming their fingers over a system of tiny raised dots placed in accessible locations. To fully engage in the classroom, these students often need more specialized accommodations such as braille textbooks, magnification tools, and innovative apps.
State and federal funding guarantees access to technology and special education services while students are in school. However, regulations do not permit equipment for use at home. Much of the equipment is costly – averaging as much as $2,500 per device – which makes them unaffordable for lower-income families. Limitations to access prevents children from attaining core literacy skills and from becoming more independent in navigating their environments.
IFB Solutions, locally known for years as Industries for the Blind, is providing life-changing opportunities for people who are blind by offering training and employment opportunities, student enrichment experiences through after-school programs and camps, and access to community low vision centers.
IFB has created the Focus on Literacy program to ensure necessary equipment is provided to the families of children with vision loss at no cost. According to the data from teachers for the visually impaired, there are 200 children with visual impairments who live in Forsyth County and surrounding areas.
IFB applied for a grant from the Clemmons Community Foundation during this year’s competitive grant process and was awarded $5,000 to assist with “Focus on Literacy.” The grant was made possible through funds established by community donors, including the Thad and Mary Bingham Fund.
The generosity of these donors will allow IFB to partner with the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to identify ten K-12 students from lower-income families in Clemmons and Lewisville who have unique low vision needs. Children will receive free eye exams to help determine the best technology for them to use at home, including lamps, talking watches, video magnifiers, and other recycled or gently used products through the Recycle for Sight program.
After the completion of an exam, IFB will provide a device, at no cost, and proper training so that the children can use the devices to improve their quality of life, in and out of the classroom. In addition, IFB clinicians can refer them to other providers who may better assist any eye health and safety concerns.
Through programs like “Focus on Literacy,” our donors have the opportunity to support experiences for children with visual impairments as they are inspired to expand what they can do and learn. With appropriate technology these children will – perhaps for the first time – explore new activities and take on greater responsibility.
“The technology wasn’t there for me, especially like what we have now,” says Chris Flynt, IFB’s Director of Programs and the Low Vision Centers. He, too, is blind. “So being able to provide the kids with the technologies that we have, it almost ensures they should succeed in their school life. Thanks to this equipment, students are able to read independently, complete homework assignments and develop their abilities and talents in the home environment.”
With these supportive initiatives IFB is inspiring new dreams and empowering opportunities for those with blindness or vision loss to be fully involved in their communities, from school to home and beyond, as they lead active, independent lives.
This article was originally published in the Clemmons Courier.
Inspiring Community is a monthly spotlight on the organizations and local programs funded with a grant from the Clemmons Community Foundation.