Q: I have a friend who has very bad eyesight, lives alone and is having trouble doing her everyday chores. Would the Braille organization be able to help her or does Braille only serve those who are blind?

A: The Braille Institute of America serves those with issues from low vision to no vision. Its programs are designed to help patrons of any age maximize their remaining eyesight and learn to use practical skills and techniques to make their daily lives more manageable. There are classes in Braille.

Ninety percent of Braille’s patrons have some vision.

Regional centers are in Los Angeles, Anaheim, Rancho Mirage, San Diego and Santa Barbara.

The Santa Barbara regional center serves Ventura County. There are support groups offered throughout the county. You will find these support groups at senior centers in Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Oxnard and Camarillo. The support in Ventura group meets at the Ventura TowneHouse and in Ojai at the Little House.

These support groups meet regularly and provide participants with tools to live a satisfying and fulfilling life. Trained volunteers and Braille staff members lead the meeting.

The institute has free talking-book machines, and its library consists of more than 1 million units of books in Braille, digital cartridges, cassettes, large print and descriptive videos representing 93,000 titles and more than 70 magazines available in different formats. The institute’s free library services program is available to people with visual impairment and other disabilities that prevent them from reading standard print.

Other available services include mobility instructors who make home visits and can instruct clients on the proper way to use a white cane, a licensed therapist who can help patrons adjust to a low-vision diagnosis, instructors who teach independent-living skills and low-vision rehabilitation specialists who can help the patron maximize remaining vision.

As this is volunteer recognition month, I want to mention that the Braille Institute uses volunteers in many of its programs. If you are thinking of volunteering, this is an organization that could put your talents to good use.

Volunteers serve as class instructors and guides, provide reading and other assistance opportunities, and help with outreach efforts in the community. There are also some evening opportunities and special weekend events.

Braille Institute volunteers must be at least 16. No previous experience working with people with impaired vision is necessary.

Call Brenda at 886-6025 for more information about the Braille Institute and its programs.


Thursday: “Maximizing Your Vision” seminar, 1 p.m. at the Moorpark Active Adult Center, 799 Moorpark Ave. in Moorpark.

April 28: Empowered Caregiver Series seminar, “The Importance of Self-Care for Caregivers,” 5:30-7 p.m. at Senior Concerns Day Care Center, 401 Hodencamp Road in Thousand Oaks. Call 497-0189 for reservations.

May 3: History Comes Alive presentation, “Building the Norwegian Grade” with Gerry Olsen, 2 p.m. at the Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks. Call 381-2744 for tickets, which are $5, and more information.

May 23: Fundraiser for Conejo Senior Volunteer Program at the Conejo Players Theatre performance of “The Graduate,” 1 p.m. reception, 2 p.m. curtain call followed by a raffle. Tickets are $20 and include a raffle ticket and can be purchased at the Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks. Call 381-2742 for more information.

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