FRANKFORT, Ky. (July 27, 2023) – Gov. Andy Beshear congratulated the Charles W. McDowell Center for the Blind on their newly renovated residential facility in Louisville that trains people who are blind or visually impaired for employment, economic self-sufficiency and independence.
The residential part of the center closed in March 2020 because of the COVID pandemic. Since that time, the center has repaired the plumbing and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, and renovated and updated the dorm space to enhance comfort and safety features for consumers. Renovations cost about $655,000 and was paid for with federal and state government funds.
“Congratulations to the Charles W. McDowell Center for the Blind on their renovated facility and their return to residential services,” said Gov. Beshear. “This is an exciting day because this is the only training center in Kentucky for adults who are significantly impacted by vision loss, and it offers vital services to our blind community.”
The center celebrated yesterday with an open house and tours of the renovated 14 dormitory rooms and one apartment and educated the public about its rehabilitation services for people who are blind or visually impaired and about the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation in the Kentucky Education and Labor Cabinet.
“Since March 2020, the residential part of the McDowell Center has been closed because of the pandemic, but today we are making another stride toward returning to in-person services for our citizens. I commend the Office for Vocational Rehabilitation for making the best use of the time the residential services were suspended to make this significant investment in the people of Kentucky who are blind or visually impaired who need a residential facility with high-quality services and resources,” said Kentucky Education and Labor Cabinet Secretary Jamie Link.
The 44,000-square-foot center houses classrooms, a dormitory wing that can house 15 people, cafeteria, auditorium and recreation room. Since the McDowell Center was opened in 1994, approximately 3,000 residential and day students have been served. The highly specialized staff offers a range of skill classes including Braille, orientation and mobility, home management, computer literacy and assistive technology. Training, resources and support are designed to help people who are blind or visually impaired gain independence, confidence and skills to enter or maintain employment. The center started offering virtual classes for off-site students during the pandemic.
Robert Rogers, of Stanton, began classes at the McDowell Center in February 2023 to help him get a job and increase his ability to function more independently in his personal and professional life. The 57-year-old has had extensive computer training, learned to use a white cane for better travel mobility and narrowed vocational goals through worksite visits, career exploration and meeting with business owners.
“The McDowell Center gave me a new way of seeing things. I’ve regained my independence and learned to experience the world in a different way. It’s like seeing with my mind instead of my eyes now,” Rogers said. “I see a really good future with the employment opportunities and the skills I’m learning at the McDowell Center, I may be doing more now than I’ve ever done.”
Participants who toured the center were able to experience Braille, home management and computer screen reader demonstrations, and learn about assistive technology equipment and devices designed for people with low vision.
“Over the last 29 years, the Charles McDowell Center has represented hope, possibility and support to Kentuckians with vision loss. Approximately 3,000 individuals have received blindness skills training during that time. The building upgrades and improvements will allow us to carry that tradition of providing quality services to individuals with vision loss for many years to come,” said Cora McNabb, executive director of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.
For more information about the McDowell Center, please visit their website.
The Charles W. McDowell Center for the Blind was built in 1994 to provide a state-of-art training facility and to house vocational rehabilitation counseling staff and support staff. The McDowell Center training center is one program under the umbrella of the Blind Services Division in the Office for Vocational Rehabilitation. The McDowell Center is named for Charles W. McDowell, a former leader of the Office for the Blind and champion for services to blind and visually impaired Kentuckians. The McDowell Center is a 44,000 square foot facility located in Jefferson County.
The Division of Blind Services provides job counseling, education, job training and assistive technology services to Kentuckians who are blind and visually impaired so that they can have opportunities for employment and independence.
The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation provides vocational rehabilitation opportunities and services to eligible individuals with disabilities to assist with entry or re-entry into employment and becoming more independent and productive in the community and workplace.