If you or a loved one is blind or visually impaired, living in the state of Massachusetts, you should be aware of the resources that are available to you, and which services each resource provides. What follows is a list of organizations and service providers that you can contact in Massachusetts that can help you with a wide range of issues facing people living with low vision, their contact information, and a brief description of the services they provide.
The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. Probably the first organization that you should contact upon discovering that you or a family member is or will be blind, or upon moving to the state of Massachusetts, is the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB). MCB is the state government agency that deals specifically with people with visual impairments that render them legally blind (legally blind = 20/200 or worse visual acuity when best corrected with lenses or contacts, or a 10 degree or less field of vision). You will have to register with the Commission for the Blind, and have a case file opened up. It is upon becoming registered with MCB, and therefore the state of Massachusetts, that you become entitled to vision services offered by the Commission and other organizations on this list.
Services offered or referred and funded by the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind include, but are not limited to, braille instruction, mobility instruction (cane and sighted guide traveling), assistive technology (reading machines, computer programs, etc.), vocational rehabilitation, social services, medical assistance, independent living skills assistance. Upon registering with MCB, a case manager will be assigned to the legally blind individual who will help you to determine which services will be most beneficial to suit his or her needs. Legally blind residents of Massachusetts must be registered with the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind in order to be issued a Certificate of Blindness, which will be as important to a legally blind resident as a driver’s license is to sited citizens. The Certificate of Blindness
The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (Boston Office) is located at 48 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116. Telephone: (800) 392-6450. TDD Telephone: (800) 392-6556. Website: http://www.mass.gov/mcb.
The Carroll Center for the Blind. The Carroll Center for the Blind is an organization that provides vocational and practical living training to the blind and visually impaired. Most courses can be funded by the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, if properly referred. Courses offered by the Carroll Center include Independent Living Skills, Computer Training (including voice recognition, overlay programs, keystroke shortcuts, and braille display software and hardware), educational and employment placement services, professional enhancement services, and orientation and mobility training (cane traveling and sighted guide training). Most services offered by the Carroll Center are paid for with appropriate referral by the state of Massachusetts through the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind.
The Carroll Center for the Blind is located at 770 Centre Street, Newton, MA 02458. Telephone: (800) 852-3131. Website: http://www.carroll.org.
Perkins School for the Blind. Perkins School for the Blind is most likely the most well known school for the blind in the world; it educated both Laura Bridgman and Helen Keller. For most of its tenure, the Perkins School educated people with visual impairments with a full array of vision and rehab curriculum while also providing a complete elementary through high school education. Since the Chapter 766 mainstreaming initiative was passed in the federal government in 1972, most visually impaired children are educated in the public schools with the assistance of special education programming. Schools specializing in education for the blind and visually impaired currently educate those with other cognitive and developmental disabilities as well as visual impairments. However, acceptance to Perkins School for the Blind is not limited to children with developmental disabilities. They also offer services to children who are being jointly served by the public school system. For families with children who are visually impaired who require full educational services for those with developmental disabilities, or for those who might be interested in enhancing the education of their children with no or low vision, Perkins School for the Blind is an excellent resource.
Perkins School for the Blind is located at 175 North Beacon Street, Watertown, MA 02472. Telephone: (617) 924-3434. Website: http://www.perkins.pvt.k12.ma.us.
The Carroll Center Store. For the “stuff” you or your visually impaired family member needs, in the state of Massachusetts, your best resource is currently the store at the Carroll Center for the Blind. Most states have at least one store for vision resources, which carries an array of useful items to make life easier for the visually impaired. At the Carroll Center Store, you can pick up helpful items such as braille paper, canes and cane accessories, braille and talking watches, braille kitchen timers, playing cards, board games and dice, raised “locater” dots for marking items in your household, kitchen gadgets, magnifying devices, braille labelers, and other items to make life safer and more productive for the blind and visually impaired.
The Carroll Center Store is located at 770 Centre Street, Newton, MA 02458. Telephone: (800) 852-3131. Website: http://www.carroll.org.
The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) is a department of the Library of Congress that contracts to have printed materials such as works of literature, popular fiction, autobiographies, how-to manuals and other resources produced in braille and audio book format. These materials are available to blind and physically disabled consumers through no cost mail order or from any of their regional branches. To find a comprehensive list of NLS’s holdings, visit http://www.loc.gov/nls/index.html.
There are two branches of the NLS libraries in the state of Massachusetts. The regional branch of the Braille and Talking Book Library in Watertown serves Braille and talking book readers in the states of Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia. The Braille and Talking Book Library is located at Perkins School for the Blind, 175 North Beacon Street, Watertown, MA 02472. Telephone: (800) 852-3133. Website: http://www.perkinslibrary.org.
The subregional branch is located in Worcester, and serves talking book readers only. The Talking Book Library is located at the Worcester Public Library, 3 Salem Square, Worcester, MA 01608. Telephone: (800) 762-0085. Website: http://www.worcpublib.org/talkingbook/index.htm.
National Braille Press. National Braille Press is the oldest braille publishing company in the Massachusetts, and is nationally renowned. In the post Chapter 766 world, their mission is braille literacy, an issue that has declined since mainstreaming and the providing of note takers and materials on tape have become the norm. National Braille Press publishes a wide array of books and materials in braille and on tape, including literature and popular fiction, how-to manuals, lifestyle guides, educational materials, autobiographies and myriad other offerings to blind and visually impaired consumers. Their promotion of braille literacy for blind and visually impaired children include a book of the month club, a children’s book catalog in braille and print (utilizing beautiful plastic braille overlays to the print version of the books which allow blind parents to read along with sighted children and sighted parents to read along with blind children), and a catalog of popular young adult titles, like the Harry Potter series, which engage young readers in their learning of braille.
National braille press is located at 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, MA 02115. Telephone: (617) 266-6160. Website: http://www.braille.com.
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. For routine care or visually related emergencies, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary is second to none in the United States. First in research into diseases of the eye and a teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School, it is helpful to know that Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) is located in the city of Boston.
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary is located at 234 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02114. Telephone: (617) 523-7900. TDD Telephone: (617) 523-5498. Website: http://www.meei.harvard.edu.
By contacting these resources for the blind and visually impaired in Massachusetts should provide you with the basic information you’ll need to ensure that you are able to start the process of qualifying for and obtaining the services that you or your family member will need. There are myriad other organizations out there with various social, rehabilitative, and political leanings that may suit your needs as well and will be worth exploring as you become acclimated to your community.