In 1925, Helen Keller asked the International Association of Lions Clubs to be “Knights for the Blind” and Lions around the world took her words to heart and have been working with the blind since then. In 1997 the Indiana Lions State Committee for the Indiana School for the Blind was founded and became part of our Indiana Lions commitment to help the blind. In 2007, at the Indiana Lions State Convention the Lions voted by more than a two-thirds majority to create the State’s fifth State Project – the Indiana Lions for the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Inc.
Established in 1847, The Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired is accredited by state and national certifying organizations. The School, which has an enrollment of approximately 175 students, offers pre-school through high school programs, free of charge on a residential or day school basis, to the young people of Indiana who are blind and visually impaired.
The School provides students with instruction in the same coursework required of all school-aged children in Indiana. Specialized classes include orientation and mobility, adaptive physical education, independent living skills, vocational education, music instruction, Braille and specially adapted computer technology. Also available are experiences and opportunities to participate in recreational activities, on and off campus jobs, band, chorus, piano, Leo Club, scouting, creative dance, and ham radio as well as involvement in competitive speech, track and field, wrestling, cheerleading and swimming.
After graduation, students enter the work force or continue their education at colleges or technical school. Graduates of ISBVI are involved in such careers as law, education, radio announcing, computer technology, business, sales, manufacturing, supportive employment, and health services.
Most people do not realize it, but the ISBVI has an Outreach Program that works with another 1,000 students out in their own community schools. These students need extra help in specific areas such as large print books, special teaching methods, and unique educational tools.
The Indiana Lions for the ISBVI has three representatives for each of the eight different subdistricts who meet together four times a year to coordinate efforts in helping the children at the ISBVI. In 2001, this group accomplished a major goal—playground equipment specially constructed for the blind. By putting together several groups with the common interest of the ISBVI, the Indiana Lions for the ISBVI spearheaded the building of special playground equipment which cost $90,000.
For visually impaired children, time devoted to physical activity is particularly well spent. Blindness imposes restrictions on a child’s movement, natural play, and curiosity about the extended environment. As a result, many blind and visually impaired students become passive and uninterested in movement and play. Sighted children are in control of their environment. They are able to see and avoid potential hazards. Blind children must overcome the fear of injury from physical obstacles and objects that they cannot anticipate or see. Sighted children also learn incidentally and automatically how to play from mimicking their friends. Blind children do not. To benefit from physical activity, therefore, visually impaired children need assistance, instruction prompts from adults, and safe and adapted equipment. Research and experience have shown that blind children, given proper support, equipment, and instruction, can engage in meaningful physical activity and develop coordination and confidence. Adequate playground facilities play a critical role in the growth process as visually impaired students strive for independence and self-sufficiency.
In 2004, the Indiana Lions for the School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Committee, with the assistance of Lions Clubs International Foundation and other organizations, purchased $150,000 worth of computers (100 in all), and the assistive technology to go with them. It is just amazing to observe these young people using the technology of the 21st century just like their sighted counterpart young people do. It has made learning much easier for these students.
Some of our future objectives may include working in the areas of replacing materials, furniture, and other needs in the dormitory areas, assisting the faculty and staff with additional and updated teaching materials for the blind students, and assistance with the Outreach Programs. There also may be other areas which need the help that the Lions of Indiana may give. Already, many Lions, spouses, and friends have worked at the School by painting walls and areas which very much needed to be painted.
Each year, the School hosts “Brian’s Trike Race.” This is a race of tricycles which are ridden by adults, and high school-aged students as a fund raiser for the Project and the School.