Program helping blind Montanans learn daily tasks

Posted at 8:57 AM, Jun 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-26 10:57:43-04

HELENA – The Montana Association for the Blind is holding its Summer Orientation Program this month to help individuals with blindness overcome daily tasks.

The program is held on the Carroll College campus and both students and staff said it’s a remarkable program.

“We are an independent training program for adults who have lost or are losing their vision,” said Program Director Jocelyn DaHaas.

The Summer Orientation Program was founded in the 1940s by the local Lyons Club to help soldiers returning from World War II who lost their vision.

The one-month program has 23 students in class this summer and will help them learn various tasks like using a cane to walk, reading Braille, and learning how to adapt to everyday life activities.

The program is open to all adults at no charge.

DaHaas said people living with blindness, especially if they’re new to it, can often feel isolated.

The program helps them not only learn how to adjust but also meet people who are going through the same situation.

“Students, as my assistant says, come in like rabbits and fly out like eagles because they learn what they can do,” said DaHaas.

Most of the staff at the Summer Orientation Program has a visual impairment of some kind and some instructors like Judy Neely are even former students.

Neely has macular degeneration and has lived with blindness most of her life. Neely said it’s important to help people regain control of their lives.

“We want our students to know to take care of themselves if that person that helps them, family or friends, isn’t there,” said Neely. “It’s for dignity.”

Staff said their favorite part of the program is seeing their students grow and become more confident.

“That’s the best part of working here, is helping other people,” said Neely. “The happiness that I get out of being someone that makes a difference in someone else’s life benefits me every bit as much as the things I do for them."

The Montana Association for the Blind will hold its Dining in the Dark fundraiser on Saturday, June 30th at the Kleffner Ranch. Attendees will be blindfolded for the dinner portion, which will give them a glimpse at what it is like to live with blindness.

The event directly benefits the Summer Orientation Program. Call (406) 586-2276 for more information about the fundraiser.

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