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      New Center for Blind offers training, independence

      Red and green balloons mark the ribbon cutting for the Albany ARC Center for the Blind and Older Blind.

      But what if you were one of the 200,000 Georgians that can TMt see those balloons?

      "We will help individuals to maintain or obtain independent living skills that they need to live independently in their lives and in the community," said Collie Robinson, the new center's Director of Blind Services.

      She understands the difficulties facing the visually impaired because she suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, a disease of the retina that has progressed to the point where she is now legally blind.

      The facility is a unique one in Georgia. It TMs the only one with a residential component where students learn to make their own beds and how to dress.

      The center also includes a kitchen and a bathroom with showers, all specially-engineered to teach fundamental life skills like cooking, cleaning, mobility, and money identification.

      Tracey Jackson lost his sight in a motorcycle accident at the age of nine and is now a computer and adaptive training instructor, working with software designed for the visually impaired, like Jaws for Windows.

      "It reads the information from the screen using a synthetic voice so that individuals that are totally blind like myself can actually use a computer," said Jackson.

      He also uses a Palm Pilot that has a Braille display and a computer-generated voice that he admits takes some getting used to.

      Despite advancements like ocular implants and retina reconstructions, there TMs no cure for blindness but with help from the ARC Center for the Blind, those with visual impairments may start to see their own world a little clearly.