Perkins International: Redefining Blindness

perkins international
People who are blind still have yet to see a world in which they are given the same opportunities as their sighted peers, but there is one organization paving the way for this to happen. Perkins International is a collaborative effort with a mission to provide education and services to those all around the world who are blind or visually impaired.

This progressive, multi-faceted organization works on local, national and global levels in more than 60 countries, joining forces with a number of nonprofits and Disabled Persons Organizations along with academic institutions, foundations and government agencies.

Together they are committed to strengthening disability policies, increasing access to information and assistive technology, expanding education opportunities and transitional outcomes, and building sustainable local capacity.

In addition, there are five areas of focus (distinct lines of businesses) that operate every day to carry out these goals, driven by a team of experts with a passion for actively seeking the next innovative challenge to evolve as an organization.

  1. Perkins School for the Blind – Operates as the headquarters for the Community Services programs including itinerant services, independence courses for public school students, evaluations and assessments for communities, and training for professionals.
  2. Perkins International – Works to develop sustainable capacity in 67 countries via local and on-the-ground partnerships. It provides resources, training and advocacy to improve the lives of 4.5 million children around the world without access to education due to blindness.
  3. Perkins Products – Develops and distributes accessible technology in 170 countries, ranging from the classic mechanical Perkins Brailler to cutting-edge tools like the LightAide. The U.S. Department of Commerce recent presented Perkins Products with the President’s “E” Award, the highest recognition of any U.S. entity may receive for contributing to the increase of American exports.
  4. Perkins eLearning – Serves as an online portal designed to provide resources and support to anyone, anywhere, in the field of blindness education. It offers high-quality webcasts and webinars on a variety of topics, and it provides professional development and graduate level credits to educators via online workshops.
  5. Perkins Library – Considered to be one of our nation’s oldest accessibility services since 1835, this library circulates thousands of items in braille, audio, electronic and large print formats to about 28 thousand patrons in the U.S.

These five focus areas allow people with blindness the accessibility that they need for leverage in a world where opportunities are scarce even for those who have vision.

Recently, Perkins President and CEO Dave Power spoke at TEDxBeaconStreet about how we’re making the world accessible with new innovations in braille technology, facial recognition software and transportation that will help increase independence for people who are blind.

“The technology is pretty exciting, but technology isn’t the biggest barrier,” he said. “We, sighted people, are much more of an obstacle.”

So what can we do to change this?

“We need to make the world more accessible for them,” Power said. “We need to help them access information, navigate from place to place and find their way into our workforce and into our communities.

Chelsee Yee

Sources: Perkins, YouTube
Photo: Perkins