Tours of the Helen Keller National Center training building and different displays in the large conference room demonstrated their mission "to enable each deaf-blind person to live and work in the community of their choice." The public was invited to the facility for the annual open house recently for three hours, with many children and their parents attending.
The comprehensive tours of the training area, one section of the 25-acre site, lasted over an hour. In the halls, the tour guide, Nancy O'Donnell, pointed out how water fountains are recessed so people with visual problems don't have obstacles such as water fountains in their way. Different materials help identify the doorways so people with sight problems can find their way to exits. The tour guide also used sign language as she spoke so that all those who happen to be walking by can be included. She explained that there used to be more students in the training rooms and halls but in the past few years students are working offsite at restaurants, banks, libraries and retail stores such as Sears, JC Penny, Home Goods, TJ Maxx and Auto Barn.
In one independent training room a microwave for the deaf-blind was demonstrated as were other kitchen equipment such as a measuring cup that vibrates when full. In the art room students can relax and unwind after all the intensive training. A young man demonstrated his skills on the pottery wheel. In the technology room special computers produced a Braille copy of what was on the computer screen. A library is available for both staff and residents who live in the dormitories. A fully equipped gym with a trainer had several students dancing. A video was shown at the end of the tour.
In the conference room you could use the cane while wearing a blindfold. Two tables showed gadgets to help the students live independently such as one that tells you the denomination of paper money. At one table a deaf-blind man communicated with a Deaf-Blind Communicator. Helen Keller volunteers staffed another table, showing off their pins, "helping hands have hearts of gold." Available at one table was information for adults with vision and/or hearing problems and at two other tables, low vision and hearing aids. Also in evidence were many different breeds of dogs assisting their owners.