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Coming Soon to a Neighborhood Near You . . .

By Glenda Embree, Supervisor of Program Specialists, Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind)

The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) is excited about innovative projects being pursued across the State. Our goal in making these grants and contracts available is to expand services to people with visual impairments of all ages through the creative efforts of nonprofit organizations.

Several of these projects especially benefit children. Here's a sneak preview of projects being explored:

Region XIII Education Service Center in Austin proposes a summer career exploration program for approximately 16 students, 12 to 14 years old. These students would be introduced to a variety of jobs to familiarize them to the connection between personal interests and skills, individual transition planning, and postgraduate work selection.

The Lighthouse of Houston is pursuing a summer transition program for approximately 16 students who are blind or visually impaired. The project will enable students to live in a supervised apartment setting, participate in recreational activities, and gain vocational skills that will assist them in the transition from school to work.

The River Performing and Visual Arts Center in Houston presents an after-school arts program for an estimated 500 students, including 75 with visual disabilities. A descriptive service for students who are visually impaired or blind will be provided in collaboration with Dr. Sidney Berger and the University of Houston Children's Theater Festival.

A proposal from Amarillo entitled "Lifetime Independence for Everyone" will create an Independent Living Center for 100 or more children and their families in the Panhandle and South Plains areas. Services will support children who have visual impairments and their families for the purpose of maximizing full inclusion for children with disabilities.

The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired suggests a unique project entitled "What Families Need to Know." An estimated 660 family members of children who are blind or visually impaired will interact with each other and with blind adults in weekend (Saturday-Sunday) workshops to help them gain a new, more powerful vision of the options and potential for their children. Sessions for blind and visually impaired children and their siblings will be held separately from those held for parents.

Access Arts Austin proposes to increase the availability of audio description services in art, entertainment, employment, and education settings. The project will produce training materials for video descriptors. Training tapes would be duplicated and used throughout Texas.

The National Federation of the Blind of Texas (NFBT) requested funds to continue Newsline services to blind Texans and additional funds to expand into Lubbock and Tyler. With the support of the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) , NFBT has been providing Newsline service to blind Texans for more than two years. The service started in Austin and Houston and then expanded to the Dallas/Fort Worth and San Antonio areas. The expansion into Lubbock and Tyler is estimated to add 750 new subscribers. It is projected that Newsline will be serving 1,900 people by the end of the first grant year and 2,700 people by the end of the second year of the two grants.

Commission staff are working through details on the projects. For more information on our progress, call Edgenie Lindquist at (512) 459-2579.

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