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AIDB Partners with Sight Savers of America

 A student from E. H. Gentry works with Sight Savers America to try an Assistive Technology Device.Through E. H. Gentry Facility’s partnership with Sight Savers of America, we have several tools to better serve our students and consumers throughout Alabama.

For over 30 years, the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB) has worked directly with students, consumers, and community partners to provide assistive technology support and training. This collaboration not only improves the quality of life for individuals but also breaks down barriers to empower them to succeed in the life and career of their choosing.

One such partner is Sight Savers of America. In 1997, after realizing the unmet eye care needs of children in Alabama, Jeff Haddox founded Sight Savers of America. Since that time, this nonprofit organization has grown to serve individuals who are blind or visually impaired in 16 states. Today, Sight Savers of America provides equipment for home use for children who may have access at school, but not at home, as well as for older adults who do not qualify for services through VRS as they are no longer working. 

The partnership between AIDB and Sight Savers of America began over 10 years ago to provide assistive technology, filling a void as most retirees and families with young children cannot afford the high-tech equipment that this partnership provides. Initially, Sight Savers of America would refer qualifying individuals to the Assistive Technology for the Blind department at E. H. Gentry Facility. AIDB specialists would evaluate the skills of the people referred and make recommendations for appropriate technology. These items would then be purchased by Sight Savers who then schedule a time with an AIDB specialist to provide delivery, orientation, and training with the consumer. Many Alabama residents have been able to receive helpful technology at no cost through this partnership.  

“It’s important to discover an individual’s skills, and goals during the assessment process to recommend appropriate technology,” said Doug Nixon, Manager of Assistive Technology Field Services at E. H. Gentry Facility. “For example, a college student recently came to us, and we envisioned they would want to use the most high-tech things available. But really, they just wanted a braille notetaker to successfully write their notes in class. Recommending the tools and resources that are appropriate and that will help them succeed is key.” 

Over the years, the partnership between AIDB and Sight Savers of America has grown, and so have the opportunities for cross-collaboration and training! Staff from Sight Savers of America routinely visits the E. H. Gentry Facility Assistive Technology Lab to provide training to students receiving assistive technology such as the MyEye. This device attaches to the temple of a user's glasses for hands-free use and uses an onboard camera to help individuals who are blind or visually impaired to be independent by reading print and identifying color, currency, and light. It can also read barcodes on household products, preserve privacy while reading mail, and even read a restaurant menu! 

“We provide this equipment at no cost to children and adults with demonstrated financial need,” said Dawn K. DeCarlo, O.D., Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, Sight Savers America. “The correct adaptive equipment empowers children to maximize their remaining vision and functional abilities, resulting in improved academic performance and overall quality of life. Similarly, having the correct high-tech vision or blindness aid can enable senior adults with vision loss to age in their homes and maintain their independence. These devices are truly life-changing.”

As technology and resources evolve, the partnership will undoubtedly continue to transform the lives of Alabamians across the state!