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Labor and Economic Opportunity

More than 11,000 blind, visually impaired Michiganders receive services over 50-year span

Bureau of Services for Blind Persons Training Center hosts 50th anniversary celebration

 

Friday, Dec. 6, 2019
CONTACT: Camara Lewis, 517-930-4928

Kalamazoo, Mich.—The Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (BSBP) Training Center proudly celebrates 50 years of service to aid blind and visually impaired Michiganders in independent living and employable job-readiness skills.

In celebration of their 50th anniversary, the Training Center hosted an open house on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, for community and business partners, complete with a ceremony, tours of the school and an opportunity to break out of their holiday-themed escape room in Kalamazoo, MI.

“The Bureau of Services for Blind Persons Training Center has a long-standing history of providing exceptional vocational education to Michigan’s blind and visually impaired residents,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. “I commend all of the devoted educators, volunteers, participants and staff who have contributed to its growth and excellence in service over the past 50 years, and I encourage all Michiganders to join me in recognizing this historic milestone.”

Participants who fill the classrooms now face a world in which change is happening at a faster pace and assistive technologies have advanced, further removing barriers to success. While they utilize tools to help them learn lifelong skills, participants also develop critical proficiencies to make decisions based on self-determination and recognizing their unique value to an employer and the communities in which they live.

“The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) is committed to removing barriers to employment for all Michiganders through programs like those offered by the BSBP Training Center,” LEO Workforce Development Director Stephanie Beckhorn said. “The Training Center plays a critical role in providing essential services to the blind and visually impaired to help them achieve equal economic opportunities for success—leading to diversity in the workplace and further building vibrant communities of inclusion.”

In seeking to prepare participants for the world of work, challenge and responsibility, the Training Center also offers blind and visually impaired individuals an opportunity to live in a safe and controlled environment.

“While the Training Center has evolved since opening its’ doors in 1969, the pride and commitment to service that began 50 years ago remains intact,” BSBP Director Bill Robinson said. “BSBP and the Training Center staff work diligently to ensure that legally blind individuals can live independently, continue their education and work free from barriers.”

Much has changed over the last 50 years, but the impact felt by past participants is arguably the same. Programming at the Training Center has expanded beyond its original intent of practical aspects of independent living and adjustment to blindness – now, programming across 24 courses extends to transferable skills for employment and preparation for postsecondary education.

“I’m grateful for the services the BSBP Training Center provided – equipping me with tools so that I am not only experiencing success in education, but also at the employment level,” Rashid Deme, former student, 2019 Honor Roll Recipient and National Federation of the Blind scholarship recipient said. “Though I am blind, this is not truly a defining barrier to my education and career goals in my eyes, it is a mere challenge that society sees. Everyone from the staff to participants that I’ve met and interacted with while cultivating knowledge at the Training Center has made the work seem effortless.”

Deme added, it is the dedication of the staff, the experiences that you share with other participants, that encouraged me to thrive and achieve the success I am experiencing. As I continue on my path of becoming a Human Rights attorney, I am advocating for my peers so that everyone feels achieved in their own right.

BSBP has maintained its reputation for effectiveness through the hard work and dedication of teachers, staff, parents and participants who have worked collaboratively over the years. The impact BSBP has had will only grow stronger.

Visit www.michigan.gov/bsbp to learn more about the services available to Michigan’s legally blind population.

Additional photos from the event can be found here: flic.kr/s/aHsmJRgfWM