Alabama Freedom Center for the Blind

A Structured Discovery Program

  • The Alabama Freedom Center for the Blind Mission

    Discover how we are limitless!

    The Alabama Freedom Center for the Blind’s (AFCB) mission is to guide adults who are blind through the necessary skills and processes of adjustment to blindness so that the student can lead the independent, productive, and fulfilling life of his or her choice.

    The Alabama Freedom Center for the Blind Purpose

    Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB) and Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS) has recognized the need for a residential training facility for the blind located in an urban environment which utilizes the nontraditional instructional and philosophical methodology of Structured Discovery.

    Located in Birmingham, within the AFCB, students learn that the challenges of blindness can be overcome through proper use of the techniques of blindness and through problem solving strategies.

    Through the classes taught, experiences provided and the relationships developed with staff and other students, participants come to internalize the truth about blindness — that it is a part of who they are — just as any other characteristic, like skin color, height or gender. With that acceptance, each student can then rise to the level of their true potential unfettered by artificial limitations as defined by societal misconceptions.

    The truth is that proper training in the techniques of blindness - combined with the students’ ability be confident in who they are as blind people, recognizing that the lack of eyesight takes nothing away from their individual dignity, respectability or capacity - will result in as student who is equal to the challenges of life. By the end of their training, students will be prepared to enter vocational training, postsecondary education or the workforce with the confidence and skills to succeed!

    Alabama Freedom Center for the Blind (AFCB) Overview

    “Refuse to be average. Be limitless. Don’t soar as high as an eagle. Fly higher.”~ AIDB President John Mascia, Au.D.

    In partnership with ADRS, residential Structured Discovery program fosters confidence-building techniques by moving students who are blind from instructor-guided learning into an environment focused on personal cognitive skills that define independence in travel, technology, daily living and job skills.

    A distinct philosophy using learning shades, white canes and instructors who have been immersed in the philosophy, Structured Discovery learning is a method for acquiring a set of cognitive problem-solving and perceptual skills with the student actively participating in the learning process. Learning occurs in consciously-structured problem situations in which the student must discover a satisfactory solution. The cognitive techniques employed are reinforced and generalized with the instructor's assistance. The ultimate goal is for roles to become reversed where confidence and empowerment result in self-analysis. Simply: The student no longer requires the instructor as the student has become a confident and capable problem-solver.

    The AFCB is an intense, hands-on nine-month immersion into Braille, Independent Living, Assistive Technology, Cane Travel, Residential Living, and confidence-building activities which gives adults in Alabama and the Southeast geographic access to this proven service option. Structured Discovery encourages and empowers the student, while honing existing and building new skill sets.

    The AFCB is currently located at 3827 6th Ave. S. in Avondale neighborhood of Birmingham. 

    Anticipated Student Outcomes

    Student Objectives include Individual Assessment; Developing Self-Confidence and High Expectations; Personal Adjustment to Blindness or Visual Impairment; Acquiring Competent Alternative Blind / Blindness Skills, and Enhanced Employment Skills and/or Post-Secondary Options.

    Objectively, student success will be measured in a quantifiable number of skills successfully completed within each area of blindness skills taught to achieve graduation. Likewise, a student will be considered successful if the program graduate has been accepted into and is pursuing further vocational education, such as attending a trade school, a vending program, or university degree. A student will also be deemed successful if that graduate has acquired employment. 

    To learn more, contact Jessica Edmiston at (256) 761-3402 or Edmiston.Jessica@AIDB.org for more information and/or to schedule your tour. We’d love to show you around, introduce you to our staff and students, and get you on your way to living the life you want. 

     

  • Staff Directory

    Headshot of Sarah BelserSarah Belser
    Independent Living Instructor
    (205) 201-6991

    "Structured Discovery empowers the student to not only believe in their capabilities, but more importantly, discover the capabilities they never knew they possessed."

     

     

    Headshot of Christopher MisterkaChristopher Misterka
    Orientation and Mobility Instructor
    (205) 983-7866

    "Independence cannot be given to you, it is something we all must fight for. Something built from blood, sweat, and tears. Once found, however, then there is no better personal feeling."

     

     

    Headshot of Anna TrotmanAnna Trotman
    Braille Instructor
    (205) 202-2465 

    "I believe in the philosophy of the structured discovery program because it empowers blind individuals through building self-confidence and problem solving skills that help them to become more independent in their lives.  With a positive attitude, the proper training, and great role models, a blind person can do anything they want and live their life to the fullest."

     

    Headshot of Jeffrey WilsonJeffrey Wilson
    Assistive Technology Instructor
    (205) 648-7003

    "My reason for believing in the structured discovery philosophy is because of the problem solving techniques which are learned through this method of teaching. Structured discovery also give blind people a chance to be a roll model in top leadership positions. Also through structured discovery, blind students get an opportunity to truly see what blind people can do."

Student Testimonials

  • "Structured Discovery has been a life-changer for me. Prior to me going to the program, I struggled with my everyday, my everything. I had no motivation. I really didn’t care what happen from one minute to the next -- all because my vision had greatly diminished and was all but gone. But then I accepted the Structured Discovery challenge and learned through various classes and coaching that I still mattered and had abilities that were usable out there in the world. I no longer discount myself thanks to this program. I am currently going through the hiring process to work for the IRS as the Mailroom Supervisor. It’s a totally a solo job where if I don’t get it right, their information is not gotten out or received so it’s a pretty important position and because of my new leash on things, they have entrusted me to deliver! So thank you all for what you’ve done for me!"
    November 2017 Graduate Keith Abrams