A new outlook: Kalamazoo organization helps visually impaired

Posted at 11:09 PM, Apr 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-11 15:00:36-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Bureau of Services for Blind Persons is hoping to give those with visual impairments a new outlook on life through their training center in Kalamazoo.

The facility is the only one of its kind in the state of Michigan, and offers assistance with everyday activities.

“We have the living style skills, how to learn to eat, how to learn to do laundry, how to vacuum a room, there is equipment for that. We do have I believe it’s 3 or 4 apartments, we teach them how to clean and take care of an apartment and they learn everything," says Edward Rodgers, director for the Bureau of Services for Blinds Persons in Michigan.

Darold Gholston, an artist from Detroit, started attending the Center in Jan. 2016 after he lost most of his eyesight in a freak accident.

“I lost my vision playing catch. I was playing catch with a young man who was a semi-pro baseball player and we were throwing the ball back and forth. He reared back and threw it really hard and I missed it, and it caught me right between the eyes," Gholston said. "It broke my orbit and broke my nose and I fell back and hit my head."

Gholston said he lost the majority of his eyesight over a three year period. He's now blind in his left and has about 10 percent of his vision in his right eye. He says a friend and counselor convinced him to give the training center a try.

"At first I was really apprehensive to come and my counselor back home kept encouraging me to come to the center. She said that you will have a great experience, the wealth of knowledge you will gain, and you will gain some things that will benefit you for a lifetime," said Gholston.

“It will give people encouragement to go on with their life and not give up and to remind them that there is life after losing their sight and you are still worthy of living, and there is a lot of life to be lived.”

Some, like Gholston, take up residency at the center while others come in for day sessions. Rodgers says they help about 30 people at a time, with the goal of giving them a sense of independence, whether it's for their personal life, or to help them re-enter the workforce.

“It’s really life in general, and teaching blind people to adapt. The hurtle of blindness is not a hurdle that ends your life, it simply is a challenge that they have to overcome. All of us have challenges in our life, and blindness is just another one of those,” Rodgers said.

Those attending the center need to be at least 16 years old and must be a client of the Michigan Bureau of Services for Blind Persons.