Braille Monitor                                                    May 2008

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Report from the Trenches

by Barbara Pierce

In October of 1985 the first of the adult training centers operated by National Federation of the Blind affiliates opened for business in Ruston, Louisiana. During the next three years two more would open, one in Denver, Colorado, and the other in Minneapolis, Minnesota. During these past twenty-three years we have heard repeatedly from the center directors and many students and graduates of these programs at national and state conventions. Often their remarks have made their way into the pages of the Braille Monitor. Newspapers have reported on the centersí extraordinary accomplishments, and we have frequently reprinted those articles. But we have never set out to report firsthand on these centersí programs based on Monitor staff membersí spending time actually observing their operations.
This is about to change. During the coming year Dan Frye of the national staff; Sylvia Cooley, a photographer; and I are going to report on the three NFB center programs after spending several days at each one. We begin with a report in this issue on the Louisiana Center for the Blind.

We plan to report as accurately as we can on what we observe. We will not make comparisons that suggest we think one program is superior to another. We may find it useful to point out differences between programs, but we will leave it to readers to determine which program would best meet their needs and interests. Of course we will find differences among them; it would be silly and pointless to suggest that the three centers are identical. Their differences lend character and distinctiveness to each program.

We will not even try to use the same organizing principles for our three reports. We trust that the photos will help those who can appreciate them and will provide insight into the personality of the individual programs. Our hope is that, when we have completed this project, anyone considering NFB center training will be able to read the articles carefully and make a more informed decision about which one would best meet his or her needs and interests.

In this issue we are reporting on our trip to the Louisiana Center for the Blind. We intended to arrive early in the evening of March 4, but because of thunderstorms in Atlanta, we did not arrive in Ruston until 2:30 in the morning of Wednesday, March 5. We said good-bye to the center staff and students on Friday afternoon, March 7. We hope that you enjoy reading about our visit as much as we enjoyed making it.

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