WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) — There is an assumption that all blind and visually impaired students go to specific schools to meet their needs, such as the Governor Morehead school in Raleigh.
This is false. Most attend regular public schools where there’s a lack of special needs teachers.
“This field is one that is not garnering a lot of interest,” said Robin Bliven, Pitt County’s lead teacher for the visually impaired program. “So if we don’t have people going to university to study to be teachers for the visually impaired, we’re not getting certified people in the field.”
Without certified teachers, blind students struggle and desperately need that extra assistance to be as successful as their peers both at school and at home.
“It’s an absolute critical need for us as a county,” said Bliven. “And nationally its reported as a shortage and really as a crisis.”
This is where the Blind Center of North Carolina comes in – specifically director, Liz Liles.
“I just can’t sit back and wait for something to happen,” said Liz Liles, executive director of the Blind Center of North Carolina. “I wanted to advocate, I want to be a part of helping to fill that need.”
“I’m going to have the opportunity to go back to school to be a teacher for the visually impaired,” said Liles. “And to provide those services here at the blind center.”
Liles is headed to NC Central University, where she will take what she learns and it bring back to eastern North Carolina.
“Right now we have found that there are over 200 individuals in Beaufort County alone who are blind,” said Liles. “Those students will have the full opportunity to come here and learn braille, to also have assistant technology resource.”
Giving the students the chance to stay in their own community and be as successful if they had went to a specifically designated blind school.
“Provide those students with a safe place where they can come here,” said Liles. “They can connect, they can hear they are cared and loved for. They can receive the services that they need and they can also have everything to make their life more successful.”
Liles hopes this program will begin in about five years, after she has completed all of her schooling.
While the community waits for Liz to complete her four year degree, the Blind Center is beginning to collect donations for the resources they’ll need to teach these students.
It’s called the “Fight for Sight” campaign to help out, click here.