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Bronx School Leads The Way For Visually Impaired

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While scientific advances have made it far easier for blind or visually impaired students to prepare for mainstream careers, many still prefer to do the learning at schools designed specifically for them. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Felix Castro plans to work as a computer technician, and Danielle Cowan wants to become a writer. Just a few years ago, blind and visually impaired students wouldn't have been able to use a computer, let alone repair them as a career, and instantly translating words from Braille to print back to Braille again, like Danielle does everyday, would have been equally impossible.

"Even if I can't see, I can still fix computers like anyone else can," Castro said.

Technology has made it possible for students with visual impairments to be more independent than ever, and at the New York Institute for Special Education in the Bronx, learning to use special technology is a key part of the education.

"There is a 70 percent unemployment rate among adult blind and visually impaired people, and we hope to change that by educating our kids to help educate their employers and be ready for society," said New York Institute for Special Education Principal Joe Catavero.


In New York City, blind or visually impaired students can attend any school in the public system and can get extra help. However, students NY1 spoke with said it's not as easy to make use of the specialized technology in the public schools.

"My science teacher had to give me a homework about bugs or plants or whatever the case may be, she would hand my visions teacher the homework for her to Braille out. It would come to me one or two days later," said New York Institute for Special Education student Christian Diaz.

"In the public high school, I really didn't have any help at all as far as seeing print in such large print. The computers in that school didn't have the type of programs as here," said New York Institute for Special Education student John Diodato.

Technology has opened many doors for students at the publicly funded private institute, but it is not without its challenges. It takes considerable time to learn how to use the devices, and they remain very expensive.

The BrailleNote device, which has email, Microsoft Office, a scientific calculator and a GPS system, costs about $5,500.

Linda Ciero, a teacher who is also blind, said when she went to school, blind and visually impaired students needed help to do assignments they can now do on their own. The newfound independence, she said, seems magical.

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