(pictured above: Anastasia Powell and Stephanie Davis with U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry.)
Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind brought its Blind Sensitivity Training to Capitol Hill on May 19 at the request of U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), whose district includes IFB’s manufacturing facility in Asheville.
Led by IFB employees Anastasia Powell and Stephanie Davis, McHenry navigated the hallways outside his office in the Rayburn building using only a cane, and took advantage of new technology delivered via cellphone to receive emails and count money.
Technology plays a huge role in bridging gaps that previously kept people who are blind or visually impaired from everyday activities or from participating in the workforce. Currently, seven out of 10 working-age adults who are blind or visually impaired are unemployed. During the training, Powell demonstrated commonly used technology called JAWS (Job Access with Speech) that converts text from a computer or phone screen to voice, and a new app called Money Reader that scans then reads the denomination of dollar bills.
“I would like to thank the Industries for the Blind for providing this unique training experience,” said McHenry. “With over 6 million Americans either blind or visually impaired, the training provided me a rare opportunity to experience the world as they do. While I could never fully understand what it is like to be blind, this training gave me a new appreciation for these technologies and the tremendous opportunities they provide to blind Americans everywhere.”
The idea for the Capitol Hill training came after McHenry toured the Asheville facility and learned about IFB’s innovative community outreach programs like Blind Sensitivity Training. Other aspects of the training program include guide dog etiquette (tip: let the dog focus on the job of guiding his companion) and demonstrations of how a sighted person should guide someone who is blind. Numerous North Carolina schools, community organizations and businesses have participated in the training.
“IFB promotes a number of outreach programs across North Carolina designed to help people who are blind or visually impaired, and also to educate the communities in which they live,” said Powell. “When Congressman McHenry invited us to take our Blind Sensitivity Training to the nation’s capital, we jumped at the opportunity to showcase the great work happening at IFB on a much larger stage.”