Vision · Opportunities · Innovation · Choices · Expertise .
Oregon Commission for the Blind, June 2020
Photo of OCB Director Dacia Johnson

I am proud that Governor Brown has led a conversation in Oregon to emphasize that when it comes to Racial Justice, words are not enough. We all must commit to fundamental change and seek out ways in which we can do our part.

In this effort, we as an agency are learning more about what can be done by accessing resources such as those compiled here:

This edition of The Voice speaks to how individuals who are blind have successfully leveraged the opportunities provided to them to reach for their educational and career related goals and objectives. We also feature small businesses run by individuals who are blind that are working through the current challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We all know that our lives are enriched by activities that we enjoy outside of work. Read about one individual’s passion for gardening as it has been re-imagined through her newly-acquired braille skills. I am proud to share some stories about Oregonians who are blind demonstrating their resiliency during this time.
Photo of OCB SWEP student Daniel Bair standing outside by a vertical art mosaic made by students of James John Elementary.
Many people are familiar with OCB’s work helping seniors and adults, but helping youth successfully transition from school to the workforce though pre-employment activities, or “Pre-ETS”, is another significant part of what we do.

Perhaps because we’ve held it for 45 years, one of our more well-known Pre-ETS programs is the Summer Work Experience Program (SWEP).

Serving youth ages 16-20 with low vision, SWEP helps prepare youth to live independently and enter the workforce.

With programs in Portland and Salem, students typically work between 25-30 hours per week at worksites related to their career interests.

> Pictured at right, 2019 SWEP student Daniel Bair outside his worksite, James John Elementary.
Photo of Daniel Bair with SWEP instructor.
They live together in dormitory settings where they develop independent living skills from laundry to cooking and budgeting. They also participate in college and career prep activities and countless social and recreational activities.

We’d like to share the exciting progress of one of our students, Daniel Bair. During SWEP 2019, Daniel worked at the SUN (Schools Uniting Neighborhoods) program at James John Elementary.

There he managed child safety, provided active learning opportunities, and developed curricula as appropriate.

The experience increased Daniel’s experience and professional skill set in education settings, as well as his understanding of instructing and working with children.
Photo of OCB SWEP student Daniel Bair with instructors and mentors. From left SWEP dorm staff Brooke Lessley. Cinda Jackson of James John Elementary. Daniel Bair. SWEP job coach Emily Recchia.
"Daniel is an incredible young man with a big heart and a beautiful spirit,” says Cinda Jackson, his supervisor at James John.

“He brought so much joy to the James John Elementary students he worked with during our SEI SUN Summer Program last year," continues Jackson.

"His presence reminded students that nothing was impossible and they could do anything they wanted to do if they put their mind to it."

< Pictured from left: SWEP dorm staff Brooke Lessley, Cinda Jackson of James John Elementary, Daniel Bair, and SWEP job coach Emily Recchia.
Photo of OCB SWEP student Daniel Bair playing an indoor basketball net game with another SWEP student.
“Daniel is so bright and empathetic, and an excellent mentor to his peers. I’m sure he is going to be an excellent teacher someday,” says Carolyn Frank, OCB's Portland SWEP Coordinator. “I am impressed with how hard he worked during SWEP, and how hard he worked to get where he is now.”

This year, Daniel graduated from Forest Grove High School. He is an active member of his goalball team and choir, and has excelled academically, taking AP classes to prepare for college.

As the result of his hard work and extracurricular activities, Daniel has earned multiple scholarships and honors that will support him with education and beyond.
Photo of OCB SWEP student Daniel Bair playing the violin in the SWEP residence hall common room.
His high school awarded him the Harold Alfred Wyatt scholarship, and he was offered free tuition from two universities, including the University of Oregon where he will attend this fall.

He was also designated a Ford Family Scholar, a competitive program which will cover up to 90% of unmet financial need.

Daniel would like to apply his passion for helping others and his lived experience to a career instructing students experiencing vision loss.

He is sure to become a leader in his field, and the OCB team is so honored to be part of his journey!
Photo of smiling AmyRose holding up her Dean's Award of Excellence certificate.
In May, the dean of Clackamas Community College honored OCB student AmyRose Bonano with the Dean’s Award. Over 50 people–staff, family, and fellow students gathered on May 29 for an inspiring ceremony via Zoom.

Two of her college teachers commended her on her perseverance, excellent attitude, and infectious enthusiasm. One of the teachers said that he was challenged by her to be a better teacher because he learned to explain things in new and different ways.

In horticulture class, AmyRose says she made braille labels for all of her plants and samples, and took braille notes on the salient qualities of each plant she studied.

“I am proud of AmyRose and what she has been able to achieve,” says Chris Cooke, her braille instructor at OCB. “It hasn’t always been easy, but AmyRose has risen to the challenge and she is very deserving of this award.”

Congratulations AmyRose!
Photo of former OCB client Stan Moore fixing a bike in his Medford Bike Shop. Photo from Mail Tribune.
Former OCB client Stan Moore opened a bicycle repair and pool maintenance business in Medford with the help of Oregon Commission for the Blind, as reported in a 2005 news report in the Mail Tribune .

< Photo at left of Stan fixing a bike in his shop, taken by Jamie Lusch for the Mail Tribune.

T his June, the newspaper again reported on Stan, this time to publish a heart-warming story on the community's response when Stan's shop was hit by back-to-back burglaries:

His story was also covered by Medford-area TV news station Kobi 5:  

We wish Stan the best of luck with his bike business as Oregon starts to reopen. The next time you are in the Medford area, be sure to check out his shop!
Photo of the Bonneville Power Administration cafe dining area dim and deserted. The highly polished floor reflects the empty tables and chairs. Tall paned windows overlook a lonely gray landscape of buildings and stark branched trees.
Business Enterprise Vending Facility Managers severely impacted during COVID-19 Pandemic

The Oregon Commission for the Blind’s Business Enterprise Program trains and licenses Oregonians who are blind to independently operate food service businesses that serve the public, state, federal, and local government employees.

In late March of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic compelled government agencies to close their doors and move their staff to telework, all Business Enterprise locations were forced to close. These closures have deeply impacted our Vending Facility Managers' ability to earn an income.

But there is some good news! Several locations such as the Department of Motor Vehicles headquarters and the Employment Department have been able to reopen on a limited basis with strict sanitation measures in place, while many staff continue telework. Other locations will slowly reopen as staff return to work.

As Oregon begins reopening, please support your local Business Enterprise food service operation, or grab a snack at a rest-area vending machine as you travel this summer!
Photo of hand placing braille sign in vegetable bed next to young tomato plant.
OCB's classes are meant to help our clients become gainfully employed, but they also help them live full and vibrant lives.

This spring, Bailee Lynn Patterson took the skills she learned at OCB and put them to good use creating an accessible garden.

First she used her new tech skills to research the best materials and methods to build garden beds. Some of the websites were not very accessible, so her OCB tech instructor Julie helped her.
Then Bailee combined the woodshop skills her instructor Trina taught her with the braille skills she learned from instructor Chris to cleverly design her own braille vegetable markers with drill holes for braille dots, pictured below. 
Photo of braille garden sign in process of being made with tape for grids and geometric beads nailed on for braille bumps.
Last, she created a big braille sign to hang on the garden fence using wooden beads to spell out braille letters, pictured at left.

The garden has no print signage at all. Bailee told her family and friends that if they want to know what’s growing there, they'll have to learn braille!

We hope Bailee gets lots of delicious, healthy veggies this summer, and we are delighted that OCB could contribute to the skills that led her to create this beautiful, inspiring garden.
Photo of finished garden bed
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