New and transformative programs for the blind
CONCORD, NH — The New Hampshire Department of Education is working to break down barriers, promote independence and provide ongoing support to individuals who are blind or vision impaired, regardless of their age.
Within NHED’s Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation is a unified team of employees creating new and exciting initiatives aimed to boost employment opportunities and build confidence for those with vision challenges – and their work has inspired many New Hampshire residents.
“I came away from the Silver Retreat feeling liberated. I had the feeling, prior to the retreat, that my useful life was over. I knew I had a lot more to give, but I felt the weight of my limitations,” said Ed Babcock, who was previously diagnosed with glaucoma and began working with the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation. “Not only did the days in Portsmouth show me how wrong it was to live under these self-imposed limitations, it also exposed me to other visually impaired people who were living fulfilling lives that really mattered. I discovered that I could do this!”
Babcock recently attended a Silver Retreat in Portsmouth and walked away with a new purpose, he said. The Silver Retreats are a unique offering from NHED that were formed specifically for older individuals who are losing their sight. The five-day intensive retreats offer up to 10 individuals with numerous experiences and resources such as cooking classes, travel guidance, navigating with a cane, and exposure to new technology and apps geared to elevate the lives of people with vision impairment.
In addition to the Silver Retreats, NHED also provides an Interdisciplinary Collaborative Engagement (ICE) program and Youth Empowerment Solutions (YES) program for the state’s blind, vision impaired, and deaf-blind Pre-Employment Transition Services and transitioned-aged youth ages 14 to 22.
The goal of these programs is to provide students with skills of independent living, specifically soft skills that may lead to employment. The programs include in-person and remote instruction with engaging activities designed to push the limits of students by having them undertake tasks that society has suggested or blatantly conveyed that this community cannot enjoy, according to Daniel Frye, administrator for Services for the Blind and Vision Impaired within the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation.
“While some of this instruction is fun, its biggest value is the promotion of self-confidence,” said Frye, who is blind himself. “Providing these resources at both ends of the age spectrum is critical, as it empowers blind people and gives them a sense of independence so that they can reach greater potential in employment and retirement.”