Visually impaired job training center closes


It may seem like Lorraine Brown is looking closely at the words she types, but she is not. She is listening as her computer reads them back to her. Brown is a grandmother who is blind, but she has worked for data entry and technology training companies. She says she owes it all to the Sensory Access Foundation.

"I wouldn't have gotten any of my jobs," says Brown.

The state's only job training and placement center for the blind and visually-impaired closed Wednesday. The foundation is now selling off its assets to pay for employees salaries. They're calling it, "The State of California Put Us Out of Business Sale."

The executive director, Diana Drews, says the state cut their funding by 63 percent.

As the state tightened its own budget, training continued. Right now, 70 percent of the blind population is unemployed.

Drews expects that number to rise with the center's closing.

"Trying to get them another job is going to be nearly impossible because they don't have us there to help them to be that conduit that they need to maybe upgrade the skills they need," says Drews.

Not having the center could make competing for a job even harder. The unemployment rate in Santa Clara County is 12.1 percent, higher than the national average of 9.7 percent.

Those at Trans Access are trying to help. They find jobs for those with all kinds of disabilities, not just the blind.

"Unfortunately, the impact is going to be we're not always going to be able to serve them because we're not going to be as qualified to serve as Sensory Foundation," says Trans Access executive director Maria Nicolacoudis.

Trans Access is helping, financially, by buying some of the foundation's furniture.

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