GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The pandemic has changed and expanded the way many of us communicate. The same goes for those who are blind or have visual impairments with unique challenges.

Leaders with the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons say they’ve had to learn to adjust to offering virtual services just like everybody else.

“One of the unintended positive consequences of COVID is that we learned how to provide virtual services,” Field Services Division Director for Bureau of Services for Blind Persons, Lisa Kiesel said.

Agency staff continue to teach braille, which is a communication method used by blind and visually impaired individuals. It allows them to read by sliding their finger tips across raised dots to make out words.

This month has been proclaimed as Braille Literacy Month by Governor Gretchen Whitmer in hopes to raise awareness about services that are offered at the training center in Kalamazoo.

The pandemic forced staff at the training center to cancel face-to-face instruction which was done either at the business or at a client’s home or business.

Though it was a learning process for everyone to get adjusted to the changes, the work didn’t stop.

“Braille is an equaling of the playing field for people who are blind, people who are employed, children who are learning how to read,” Kiesel said. “That is their print. In some senses, it’s the best kept secret that people don’t think about until you have Braille Literacy Month.”

The BSBP is back doing in-person visits as of July but during the pandemic, they had to change the way they provided services.

Staffers say they were able to ramp up accessibility with the help of their braille library and technology. They say this ensured their clients had the same access and opportunities as everyone else.

“With that ability they are able to access employment opportunities and community inclusion opportunities. It’s just awesome with technology,” Kiesel. “Those resources are awesome with technology. As a former colleague of mine says, it levels the playing field.”

Leaders say it’s up to schools and businesses to seek out methods to support the blind and visually impaired.
If you would like to find ways to better serve this group or you are in need of services, you can learn more information here.