My Visit to the Cleveland Sight Center

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I drive by the Cleveland Sight Center regularly, so I have always been aware of their presence in the community.  However, I recently had the opportunity to take a tour of their new facility and I was quite impressed by their services and staff – I had no idea of the depth of resources available to those who are visually impaired in the Cleveland area!

Our tour began with an overview of the organization.  They serve people who are blind or visually impaired, from birth through older adulthood, as well as their families.  From various recreation and training programs to self-help groups and vocational training, their services are quite comprehensive.  We are fortunate to have such a great resource in our area, for if it weren’t for the Cleveland Sight Center, Northeast Ohioans would have to travel as far as Toledo or Lancaster to receive similar services.

Our first stop on the tour was their store, the EYE-Dea Shop, where they offered everything from the latest assistive technology to bingo cards in braille.  My favorite item was a small sensor that resembled a garage door opener.  When we held it up to something, such as a piece of clothing, it “told” us the color.  As a person who is sighted, I first thought this gadget was novel, but I came to realize it is an invaluable tool for a person who is blind.  If you are curious about other items offered in the EYE-Dea Shop, check out their online store.

Next, we visited their call center, the Ohio Contact Center, where they provide corporate clients with inbound/outbound telephone and e-commerce support, among other services.  This relatively new business offering seems to be really going strong.  Adjacent to the call center was a recording studio in which volunteers read books and make recordings for the Cleveland Sight Center’s online radio station.

As we continued toward our final stop on the tour, we noticed several architectural features of the building that were designed to assist those who are visually impaired.  For instance, hand guides for both children and adults lined the hallways and the walls were painted different, bold colors, which signified the purpose of each section of the building.  In addition, the texture of the floor was unique in front of each of the restrooms.  As our tour progressed, several members of our group began announcing “Restrooms!” each time their feet felt the change in texture.  I’m sure the staff and clients of the Cleveland Sight Center found this amusing.

Our tour concluded with a visit to a classroom in which life skills were being taught to a group of people.  The room resembled a large kitchen and was lined with every household appliance imaginable.  One client was emptying a dishwasher and sorting silverware.  Another was chopping vegetables.  Our guide pointed to several adhesive touch dots that had been applied to the various buttons and knobs throughout the room, allowing users to differentiate between numbers and settings on the appliances.

My visit to the Cleveland Sight Center was educational in many ways.  It allowed me to increase my knowledge of a century-old Cleveland institution, as well as better understand the needs of and local opportunities for those who are blind or visually impaired.  If you have the opportunity to visit their facility or participate in one of their many programs, you won’t be disappointed.

- Posted by Jill Fowler

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