RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) -
The goal of the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired is to teach students the skills of blindness and debunk certain perceptions.
As a teen, Nicole Burton was forced to make a life-changing adjustment after she lost her eyesight due to a rare disorder called Devic’s disease, or neuromyelitis optica, that damages the optic nerves.
“I lost my eyesight when I was 18,” Burton said.
Burton is a student at VRCBVI, learning the skills of blindness so that she can have a successful career. Like Burton, most students at the Richmond rehabilitation center are focused on gaining skills to make them competitive in the workforce.
“A lot of times, before people have come into the center, they’ve been focused on everything that they cannot do, and they focus on the limitations,” said Melody Roane, the director of VRCBVI. “When they come here, we want them to focus on everything that they can do.”
As a legally blind woman, Roane knows first-hand the challenges VRCBVI students can overcome. The program offers personalized training, from cane travel and braille, to cooking and keyboarding.
With unique tools and computer software, Burton and her classmates learn a different, but effective way to type words on the screen. Their motto is, “blindness isn’t a hindrance, it’s simply a difference.”
The skills and confidence that students learn at VRCBVI extend beyond the classroom and out into the real world.
Becky Keller is one of the center’s mobility instructors who teaches students how to properly travel with a cane. She and Burton spend one-on-one time together getting around town.
“My job is to help them gain the skills, along with the confidence, to be able to get up and go wherever they want to go, whenever they want to go,” Keller said.
For Burton, VRCBVI has revived her confidence and given her the chance to bond with some very special people.
“A lot of good friends, great instructors, they’re very polite and they make you feel like family,” she said. “We feel like brothers and sisters around here.”
That’s why the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired is positively Richmond.