Stability Amongst Chaos – NFB Center Pandemic Preparedness and Protocol by Robert Parsons

From the Editor: As blind students encounter final examinations and are at the precipice of their summer break, there are a myriad of thoughts that could possibly be running through their heads. The months June, July and August are opportunities for students to academically challenge themselves in coursework, expand their horizons with internship and employment opportunities, and spend much needed time with their families. There is, however, another option that many blind students reserve for the summer months: sharpening their skills at a training center. With the beginning of March heralding in stay-at-home orders for many states, with the remainder to soon follow, academic, personal, and vocational plans for the spring semester and summer months were and are still thrown into question. Luckily, the National Association of Blind Students was able to contact our three prestigious NFB training centers, LCB, CCB, and BLIND, Inc., to understand the actions taken at the onset of the covid-19 crisis and the plan of action for coming months while states transition from stay-at-home orders.

On Friday, March 13, state government officials throughout the nation echoed the federal government’s call for shelter-in-place regulations to begin to contain the spread of covid-19. Prior to this declaration, the wonderful administration at our three training centers were already developing a course of action to navigate these unprecedented coming days. Julie Deden, executive director of the Colorado Center for the Blind, explained that they provided their students with individual in-person instruction from their apartments during the times where it was recommended for social collaboration to happen in very small groups. Once the social distancing rules took effect, however, the staff transitioned to virtual training sessions with the use of FaceTime and Zoom. Julie also explained that students at the center are currently receiving instruction in this manner until social distancing regulations and orders are lifted.

Similarly, the staff at BLIND, Inc. transitioned into virtual and individualized instruction after stay-at-home orders were announced in the state of Minnesota. Jennifer Kennedy explained during an interview that BLIND, Inc., however, also made an important decision to not provide their transition-age youth training program this summer. With housing and logistical issues for students being a concern, the center will still be accepting students for the adjustment to blindness and college preparatory programs throughout the summer and future, with virtual instruction being provided.

While facing a similar transition into virtual service delivery, Pam Allen expressed the importance of good training and retention of skills of blindness in this social climate. Skills like braille and cooking, even if it is the smallest of meals, will provide blind people with tools that can be enhanced each day. Pam also explained that the Louisiana Center for the Blind, like Colorado’s, are also accepting students for their adjustment to blindness, seniors, and STEP programs. The method of instruction for these programs will be virtual, with an emphasis on skill retention and sharpening. “During this challenging time, it is most important that fundamental skills of blindness are promoted, used, and advanced,” stated the executive director as she discussed that blind people, with the experiential knowledge of problem solving every day, are capable of thriving under such health and political recommendations of shelter-in-place.

With NABS eagerly brainstorming and creating engaging programming for our first-ever virtual national convention, the executive directors of our three training centers were asked about their intended contributions to the agenda. Jennifer, Julie and Pam all shared that the staff are actively brainstorming possible ways to provide exciting programming for attendees. They encourage students to stay tuned for announcements on both NABS and their individual state list serves. Overall, the National Federation of the Blind’s spirit and philosophy is unwavering, even in the face of national health emergencies. The dedication and support that BLIND Inc., CCB, and LCB provide its students during these challenging times is a testament to this. All three NFB training centers and their staff are appreciative of the enthusiasm and support that the National Association of Blind Students bring to their institutions and believe that it is students and their willingness to advocate for premier training that keeps problem solving and skills of blindness so prevalent in our membership.

The message that the directors and staff of CCB, BLIND Inc., and LCB have for students that are wondering what they can do during their break to sharpen their skills include:

  • Cooking and Exploring with Different Dishes
  • Challenging Yourself with Special Home Management Projects
  • Reading
  • Beginning New Hobbies
  • Taking Time to Check-in on Family and Friends
  • Practicing Cane Technique and Mobility (In a Safe Space)
  • Taking Time to Research the Literature and history of the Federation.

For more information about our NFB training centers or to complete an application/express interest, please contact:

Jennifer Kennedy
Executive Director | Blindness Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND Inc.)

Julie Deden
Executive Director | Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB)

Pam Allen
Executive Director | Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB)