The Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (BSBP) recently presented its Achievement Honor Roll Awards in Lansing. The awards are presented annually to BSBP consumers who are exemplary in achieving their goals for employment and/or independent living after vision loss; employers who have shown leadership in hiring people who are blind or visually impaired based on their abilities; and community partners recognized for their collaboration with the BSBP in increasing opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired to achieve independence and/or employment.
“Our Achievement Honor Roll winners have made a wide variety of contributions that have had a tremendous impact on our state’s blind community,” said BSBP Director Ed Rodgers. “The BSBP will continue to work with consumers and our partners to provide a diverse set of quality services to ensure that blind individuals have the opportunities they need to achieve active employability and independence.”
Achievement Honor Roll Award Winners
Gwendolyn Womack – Southfield
Gwendolyn is a perfect example of how gaining independent living skills can be completely empowering. Although she was initially hesitant about independent living training, Gwendolyn spent four weeks at the BSBP Training Center where she gained confidence in herself and obtained new skills that will help her to continue to live independently. With her newly acquired independence, she has resumed hobbies that she thought she could no longer participate in.
Isabell Florence – Mount Morris
Isabell “Izzy, is someone who has faced and overcome many challenges in her life. Many of her teachers, advisors and even family members discouraged her independence because she is visually and hearing impaired. She received training at the BSBP Training Center in Kalamazoo and continued her education into college, eventually graduating with honors. Isabell earned her master’s in Blind Rehabilitation from Western Michigan University, and now teaches sign language at Mott Community College. She recently became a trainer/assessor for the National Deaf Blind Equipment Distribution Program.
Marsha Katona – Oxford
Marsha has had visual difficulties her entire life. She started at the BSBP Training Center after leaving her job as a teacher’s assistant following a parent’s complaint about a blind person working around their small children. At the Training Center, Marsha learned a variety of skills including a diverse set of computer skills. After returning home from the Training Center, she received extensive one-on-one technology training in JAWS (Job access With Speech) Victor Reader Stream and IPad. Marsha was then hired for an assistive technology position with the Rochester Hills Public Library.
Kia Collier – Detroit
Kia started with the bureau more than nine years ago determined to learn how to be an independent mother, wife and student. In 2010, with BSBP’s assistance, Kia graduated from Marygrove College with honors. After graduation, she obtained a special education position at a small charter school on Detroit’s east side. Kia has worked hard over the past several years and she recently accepted a new position as a special education teacher.
Sara Purvayn – Menominee
Sara was struggling with her vision loss when she contacted the BSBP. With training provided by the BSBP, she learned how to use household appliances with better efficiency by labeling the dials and buttons. Sara began enjoying talking books and writing letters using writing guides, and utilized magnifiers to aid her in reading printed information. Through the Dazor 5D Magnifier, Sara is now able to see her piano music so that she can play again.
Sarah Kruger – Ypsilanti
Sarah graduated from the accelerated Social Work program at the University of Michigan. She has shown tremendous determination and hard work to obtain her degree. After graduation Sarah was hired at a non-profit organization, providing professional mental health services to the community as a behavioral health therapist.
George Johnson – East Jordan
George has been working with wood since he was a child. As a person who lost his vision gradually, he has been able to develop accommodations for his low vision. To assist George in becoming self-employed in a career in wood working, the BSBP provided him with services including, a teacher assessment, skills of blindness training, low vision devices, mobility training, vocational training, adaptive technology training, and instruction in small business development. George has successfully demonstrated his ability to overcome barriers relating to his blindness and is now gainfully self-employed.
Dolores Smith – Detroit
Dolores is a perfect example of how independent living can empower an individual. Throughout her skills of blindness training, Dolores maintained a positive attitude and was energetic and eager to learn. The training has enhanced her independence in the home as well as in the community and she continues to apply her new skills in order to maintain a high level of independence.
Dr. Paul Gayeff – Escanaba
Dr. Gayeff is the Upper Peninsula’s only low vision specialist and has served in that capacity for decades. His dedication to his patients and his willingness to collaborate with the BSBP have made it possible for literally generations of consumers – school children, working adults, and senior citizens to receive specialized eye care close to home. Without his career-long contribution, countless Michigan citizens would have gone without a critical element of their successful vision rehabilitation. Now, after long service to his community, Dr. Gayeff is in the process of retiring. Even at this juncture, he still honors his commitment to persons with visual impairments by working one day per week to provide low vision evaluations.
Disability Advocates of Kent County (DAKC) – Grand Rapids
The BSBP has collaborated with DAKC on a number of initiatives including job readiness, employment workshops, common disability agenda, assisting consumers seeking determinations from the Social Security Administration (SSA), and peer mentoring. DAKC has augmented their services to meet the needs of BSBP consumers. BSBP consumers may receive services associated with transportation advocacy through Concerned Citizen’s for Improved Transportation. DAKC also helped BSBP consumers find affordable housing.
Braille, English, Acculturation and Mobility (BEAM) Program – Troy
As a result of a successful collaboration with the Chaldean Community Foundation and the BSBP, a mini-skills of blindness training program was established for persons within the Arabic-speaking community who need vocational rehabilitation. The Braille, English, Acculturation and Mobility (BEAM) program provides an opportunity for small groups of students to rotate one hour classes of Braille, English, mobility and computers. The major focus of acculturation has been on the Americans with Disability Act and resources for persons with disabilities.
The Chaldean Community Foundation, Macomb Literacy Partners and Women In God’s Services – Macomb, Oakland Counties
The Chaldean Community Foundation, Macomb Literacy Partner and Women In God’s Services (W.I.N.G.S) have been key community partners in providing 11 individuals in Macomb and Oakland counties who are blind or visually impaired an opportunity to gain independence. The Chaldean Community Foundation arranged for a training site at St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church in Troy. The church provided transportation for those students and found a resource for donated desktop computers. Macomb Literacy Partners facilitated a group of English as a Second Language (ESL) tutors, and W.I.N.G.S. provided additional interpreting support. A significant amount of successful organization, planning, communication and teamwork between volunteers and the BSBP has made this endeavor a success.
Natasha Maxwell, Owner, Make Your Dreams Come True, Inc. – St. Clair Shores
Ms. Natasha Maxwell trains and provides opportunities for people to work at home. Make Your Dreams Come True, Inc. contracts with various companies around the country to provide customer services workers to trouble shoot issues from the general public as well as sales. Make Your Dreams Come True has given BSBP consumers who have families and transportation issues, the opportunity to work from home. By offering online training and job placement assistance, and with the BSBP providing computer equipment, Make Your Dreams Come True has given blind individuals employment opportunities with such companies as Itrum, Inc., Sears, Apple, and others.
Tom Werkema, Owner, Werkema Machine Shop – Grand Rapids
Mr. Tom Werkema, hired a BSBP consumer as a computer numerical control/machine operator. In order to meet the needs of the consumer, Tom used devices provided by BSBP such as a White Cane, Talking Tape Measure, and Talking Caliper. Tom, who is also a pilot, also gives rides to children and transition students at camps for the visually impaired all over the Midwest.
Catholic Social Services – Ann Arbor
Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County (CSSWC) in Ann Arbor, made it possible for BSBP consumer Steve Sheldon to gain full-time employment. By combining duties from various positions, Steve is now successfully employed at CSSWC.
The Bureau of Services for Blind Persons provides training and other services for individuals who are blind or visually impaired to achieve employment and/or independence in the careers of their choice.
The BSBP programs and services include:
The BSBP Business Enterprise Program (BEP) that provides blind individuals with opportunities for employment. The BEP operates vending routes and cafeteria facilities in state and federal government facilities as well as in a limited number of private sector buildings. The role of the BEP is to guide and assist the operator in achieving upward mobility.
The BSBP Vocational Rehabilitation Program helps blind citizens become employed in a career that suits their current or abilities. The program provides diagnostic evaluations and vocational counseling at no cost.
The BSBP Braille and Talking Book Library serves people with visual impairments and offers a diverse set of materials.
The BSBP also has services that can help the blind and visually impaired access cutting-edge technology and provides training on the accessibility of the iPhone, iPad and Android operating system, and the capabilities of many screen reader programs.
For more information about BSBP visit www.michigan.gov/bsbp or call toll-free: 1-800-292-4200, TTY 888-864-1212
The Bureau of Services for Blind Persons is a part of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).