National Federation of the Blind of Florida

 

RESOLUTION 2006-3

 

Concerning the Florida Orientation and Adjustment Center

 

 

          WHEREAS,

The Orientation and Adjustment Center operated by the Florida Division of Blind Services is primarily for the purpose of assisting blind and visually impaired Floridians to adjust their attitudes about blindness; and

 

          WHEREAS,

There are centuries old myths, misconceptions and stereotypes about blindness and the blind which have become generally accepted by the public and by the blind themselves; and

 

          WHEREAS,

These myths, misconceptions and stereotypes result in limited expectations by both the public and the blind themselves; and

 

          WHEREAS,

The teaching of the various skills of blindness such as Braille, cane travel, assistive technology, etcetera are only a part of the training necessary to overcome these myths, misconceptions and stereotypes; and

 

          WHEREAS,

The acquisition of blindness skills alone will not adequately prepare blind Floridians to succeed in order to live a full and productive life as an active participant in society; and

 

          WHEREAS,

It is essential to encourage blind Floridians to challenge the myths, misconceptions and stereotypes, gain confidence through activities that challenge their own beliefs and stretch their expectation; and

 

          WHEREAS,

The Director of the Division of Blind Services, Craig Kaiser, has set forth new policies for the operation of the Orientation and Adjustment Center designed to focus on the adjustment to blindness aspect of the residential rehabilitation experience

 

Now therefore BE IT RESOLVED that

the National Federation of the Blind of Florida assembled this 28th day of May, 2006, in the City of Orlando, Florida endorses and supports the changes being implemented by Director Kiser as embodied in the DBS document quoted below:

 

 

“Orientation and Adjustment Center

May 1, 2006

 

1.           Students enrolled in the Orientation and Adjustment Center (general Rehabilitation track) will be required to participate on a fulltime basis for an average period of six to nine months.  A six-month stay will represent the minimum period of time that any student will be expected to participate in this residential rehabilitation program.

 

2.           Students enrolled in the Orientation and Adjustment Center will participate in the full curriculum, and will not be permitted to customize their program by excluding specific courses in their Individualized Center Plan (ICP.)  All students will take core courses in: Braille; Orientation and Mobility; Key Boarding and Adaptive Technology; Home Management; Personal Management, and Seminar Class.  All students will be invited to select one optional course to take for their personal growth and training.  These optional courses will include:  Arts and Crafts, Horticulture, tailored Academic Instruction, or other course offerings that may be made available to students from time-to-time.

 

3.           Consideration will be given to expanding periods of course instruction for classes in Orientation and Mobility and Home Management.  These courses traditionally are better received with more time than the traditional 50-minute period.

 

4.           Class instructors and all center staff will emphasize problem solving, self-sufficiency, and independence in all interactions with students.  Students, when faced with a question or challenge, will be encouraged to engage in exploration and critical thinking to identify solutions to their situations.  Use of the Socratic method and basic principles of Structured Discovery theory will be effective tools for facilitating this objective.  In short, staff are not to immediately offer help when it is requested, but are to encourage students to seek answers to their own questions.

 

5.           All students in training at the Orientation and Adjustment Center are to carry the cane issued by the agency with them at all times during their residential rehabilitation program.  This practice will positively contribute to their increased independent travel skills and may also be useful in helping students to acknowledge and cope with public identification as a blind person and emotional acceptance of their limited sight.  Similarly, blind agency staff members are urged to carry a cane or use a dog when on duty.  In addition to being necessary for safe travel, it will serve as positive modeling for students who look to them for role guidance.

 

6.           Students enrolled in the Orientation and Adjustment Center who use a guide dog may keep and use their service animal during training, but will be expected to participate in cane travel during formal Orientation and mobility classes.  During these instances, the students guide dog will need to be resting and not in use.  Instructors at the Orientation and Adjustment Center are not trained to offer travel instruction with a service animal, and it is the policy of this program that the foundations of independent mobility must first be mastered with a cane before students exercise their option to use a guide dog for traveling.  Barring these qualifications, students with guide dogs will be welcome to attend the program with their service animal.

 

7.           No student enrolled at the orientation and Adjustment Center may use Sighted Guide" technique for traveling, either on or off campus in relation to all formally sponsored instruction, once they have been issued a cane and given a brief orientation to the training campus.

 

8.           In an effort to foster greater student independence and initiative, the cafeteria at the Orientation and Adjustment Center will only provide sandwich and salad bars every evening making it necessary that students wanting a full hot meal use their developing mobility skills to leave campus and acquire their evening meal.  Students will be encouraged to use this opportunity to practice bus or taxi travel, to function independently in a public restaurant, and to develop healthy relations by offering support to one another.  Additional maintenance will be provided to cover such costs.  Staff will not provide shopping trips for students.  Students will be provided information regarding public transportation and location of malls, stores, etc.

 

9.           Extracurricular programs will be established within fiscal constraints to stretch and challenge enrolled students at the Orientation and Adjustment Center.  Some of these programs may include camping, skiing, or other spontaneous events that require students to practice their skills and build their self-confidence by performing tasks that they traditionally believe a person cannot independently manage with non-visual techniques.

 

10.         All students will participate in regularly scheduled seminar" or "philosophy" classes calculated to stimulate student reflection and understanding of the emotional and social issues/barriers faced by blind people living in the everyday world.  Such sessions, at a minimum, should occur once a week, but gradually the frequency of these classes should increase to at least two days per week.

 

11.         All students with residual sight will participate in formal classes and organized extracurricular activities under Vision occluders.  Outside of the scheduled class day (8:00 AM-4:30 PM) and occasionally planned extracurricular activities, students may function without their Vision occluders.  This policy is designed to enable students of the Orientation and Adjustment Center to build confidence in performing daily activities using non-visual techniques.  It is not a policy calculated to minimize the value of ones residual vision where such sight can be efficiently used, but is instead used in training to create an optimal environment for practicing one's non-visual skill development.  Once it has been determined that a particular student has thoroughly mastered use of non-visual techniques, students with useful residual vision may spend their last several weeks in training without Vision occluders to practice low-vision techniques, e.g. use of Zoomtext, etc.  Every effort will be made to minimize student apprehension, which may arise when vision occluder use is originally introduced.  Minor exceptions to this policy may be adopted at the discretion of the Administrator of the Orientation and Adjustment Center to accommodate students with unique circumstances.  The intention, though, is that the vision occluder policy will be enforced with relative uniformity and consistency.  After an evaluation by the Administrator or his/her designee at the Orientation and Training Center, decisions will be reached as to the appropriate tool to use to achieve visual occlusion.  During the initial student evaluation, students may be assessed without Vision occluders, but if it is determined that their vision is sufficiently poor to remain in the program for training, these students will be advised of, and subject to, this vision occlusion policy.  Following sufficient training, class instructors should teach under Vision occluders to demonstrate the efficacy of non-visual approaches where this will encourage their students to embrace this training practice.

 

12.         In light of the extended enrollment obligation, eligible students will be afforded longer access to the four existing student apartments for practicing their independent living skills (e.g. cooking, cleaning, and other home management techniques) before graduating.

 

13.         New staff employed to work at the Orientation and Adjustment Center will undergo training as a fully immersed student for a period of at least three months before they commence their formal teaching responsibilities.  These new hires will take all courses and participate in training activities under the same terms and conditions required of all students, e.g. vision occlusion and cane usage.  A procedure for an abbreviated training of this nature will also be developed for new hires throughout the agency that are not specifically assigned to work in the Orientation and Adjustment Center.  Provision will also be made, on an on-going and staggered basis, to expose existing agency staff to such blindness orientation training.  The Administrator of the Orientation and Adjustment Center will possess the discretion to amend or implement this policy to take account of any unanticipated operational exigencies.”