Dr. Bob Melrose served on the Board of Directors of Community Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired for several years. It was there he met and became friends with Joni Bauer, M.S., COMS, who has served as the Center’s Orientation & Mobility Specialist/Independent Living Skills Instructor for 40 years.
February is Low Vision Month, so Dr. Bob sat down with Joni for a discussion regarding the ways Community Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired serves residents of San Joaquin County who are visually impaired.
Dr. Bob: Joni, sometimes I think your organization is the best-kept secret in San Joaquin County. Could you please explain your organization’s mission and services?
Joni: Thank you, Dr. Bob, for the opportunity to share information about Community Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The agency has been a part of the community since 1949. Our mission is to provide the means by which people who are visually impaired can improve and sustain their capabilities and potentials to reestablish purpose and selfesteem in their lives and in society. Most of our clients experience vision impairment significant enough to impede their ability to perform tasks of daily living. Community Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired helps them adjust to vision loss and provides the skills to live independently, navigate their homes and communities, develop computer literacy using assistive technology, and participate in social and recreational activities. The agency also offers youth summer camps and a monthly educational and support program for youth 14 to 21 years of age who are transitioning from high school to college or employment.
Dr. Bob: Who is eligible for these services?
Joni: Anyone whose vision impairment impedes his or her ability to perform tasks of daily living is eligible for services.
Dr. Bob: What are the costs of your services?
Joni: Community Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired relies on the generosity of the community to provide direct services. The Center asks clients to pay for program supplies and devices. Some clients, though, are mutual consumers of other agencies that may cover the costs of assistive devices.
Community Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired collaborates with the Blind Field Services division of the State Department of Rehabilitation to assist people ages 16-55 obtain employment or re-enter the workforce. The agency also receives funding from the Older Individuals Who Are Blind (OIB) program to provide services and assistive devices to anyone at least 55 years of age who is severely visually impaired.
United Way of San Joaquin County Community Impact Funds provide some funding to offset orientation and mobility, and independent living skills training for those who choose not to pursue vocational goals.
The Center continually seeks grants from service organizations like Rotary and Lions, corporations, public and private entities, etc. to fund vital services for adults and youth who are blind or visually impaired that improve and sustain their capabilities and potentials to re-establish purpose and self-esteem in their lives and in society.
Dr. Bob: What does someone have to do to get an appointment to see you?
Joni: Actually, the process is easy. Anyone interested in obtaining information about services should contact the case manager at (209) 466-3836, extension 201 to schedule an appointment for an intake. The case manager will help the individual develop goals and create a service plan if desired. She also refers individuals to other entities that assist individuals who experience vision impairment: The California Telephone Access Program, Braille and Talking Book Library, U.S. Currency Reader Program, and more. Most people just do not know about all of the things available to them that can make their lives easier.
Dr. Bob: You have also recently moved. Where are you located now and why did the Center need to move?
Joni: Yes, we moved after 50 years! Our new address is 2453 Grand Canal Boulevard, Suite 5, Stockton, just west of the Stockton Hilton Hotel. The new location affords access to shopping, restaurants, and local businesses. A survey in 2014 that included all stakeholders—board members, staff, clients, contractors, etc.—revealed safety as the paramount issue: No one felt safe at the previous location. The former and current floor plans bear resemblance, which makes orientation to the new facility much easier!
Dr. Bob: What can people do if they wanted to support Community Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired?
Joni: That’s easy! Visit www.communitycenterfortheblind.org and click the blue DONATE button at the top right corner of the page. Or, mail a check payable to Community Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired to 2453 Grand Canal Boulevard, Suite 5, Stockton, California 95207.
Dr. Bob: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us about Community Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Your efforts towards the visually impaired citizens of San Joaquin County have had, and continue to have a profound impact on the lives of your clients.
Joni: Thank you, Dr. Bob, for your kind words and your support through the years.