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Finding Independence Through Structured Discovery

Finding Independence through Structured Discovery

‘I feel like a wilted flower coming to life…’

“I lost my vision four and a half years ago and I thought life was over for me,” said Sandra Tyler. But this independent lady is fighting to regain her confidence and the ability to live without limits.

Sandra was living in Virginia when her son asked her to come live with him and his wife so that they could care for her after she lost her sight. “But their idea of taking care of me was sitting at home and doing everything for me,” said Sandra. “It didn’t sit well with me. I’m very independent. I raised three children on my own and sometimes worked two jobs to support them. When I lost my sight it was devastating for me. It took me about a year and a half to come to terms with it. Just going to the grocery store was horrible,” Sandra said.

Sandre enrolled in the Structured Discovery Program at the Alabama Freedom Center for the Blind, part of AIDB’s Birmingham Regional Center in partnership with the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services. Structured Discovery is a statewide, nine-month, residential program that fosters confidence-building techniques by moving students who are low vision and blind into an environment focused on personal 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 problem-solving skills. It is an intense, hands-on immersion into Braille, independent living, assistive technology, cane travel, residential living, and confidence- building activities.

“This program is so awesome! I’m lovingly known as Granny here because I’m the oldest one in Structured Discovery. I’m 56 years old so it’s like a new life, a new birth, for me. I feel like I’m 15!” exclaims Sandra. “Words cannot express how I feel about this program that teaches you the skills to do what you did before you were blind, and now I think I do it better than I did as a sighted person because I don’t have all the distractions.” “When I signed up for the program, I wanted to learn the technology, that was interesting to me,” said Sandra. “I’m an awesome cook and I wanted to learn to do that too. A requirement of the program is to prepare a meal for 20 people. My first meal for eight I did pork sliders, cole slaw, potato salad and pineapple upside down cake. I felt like a wilted flower coming to life again.”

Sandra says that she cannot wait to graduate the program and live her “normal life” on her own. “My family will be so shocked that they don’t have to take me to the grocery store. My cane and I can travel on my own and I can even take my granddaughter to the movies by myself! “It’s limitless! I can stand tall and say I’m blind and I’m loving life, living life to the fullest.”

To learn more about the Structured Discovery Program, contact Coordinator
Cindy Jones-Yeager at (205) 201.6991 or or visit