Recovery Act Impact: Massachusetts Commission for the Blind
MCB received $1 million in stimulus funding for vocation rehabilitation services and it is using its collaboration with TIC to launch Vocational Opportunities in Communication Education (VOICE), a job training program in which students receive hands-on training in MCB's radio studios.
According to LeBreck, the unemployment rate in the blind community is at 70 percent. "We are really trying to create programs that will be sustainable and change attitudes," she said. "Employers don't have an awareness about what it is blind people can do. This program is helping to change that."
Joseph Weisse, Information Services Director for MCB, noted that the MCB deliberately developed VOICE to mirror a typical job situation, requiring applicants to submit a resume, have an interview, demonstrate their computer skills and
"This is absolutely a ground breaking program," said Ron Bersani, Executive Director of the TIC. "There is nothing like this anywhere in the country."
In addition to the program, MCB was able to use stimulus funds to build a new studio - and renovate its old ones -- with custom built technology modified for use by visually impaired people. The new studios and the VOICE participants has
Katherine Crocker, who is in the first group of VOICE participants, said she was able to cover an event on location with New England Eye Mobile, a mobile clinic, and interview someone in Canada about GPS technology. "I've always wanted to be involved in a radio studio," said Crocker, who graduated from Bridgewater State College in 2009 and couldn't find a job. "This is my dream job.
In the studio, Jay Rufo, VOICE's instructor, said the trainees interviewed a blind martial arts instructor, a blind weather forecaster and Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. JudyAnn Bigby. "Not only do the participants enjoy this but it is a confidence builder," he said. "It is amazing. People who couldn't get their feet in the door are now finishing a 60 minute program, editing it and producing it."