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Foster Partnerships to Increase Awareness Of Your Service in Key Communities

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Richard Ybarra

For Braille Institute San Diego, one key to success has been building relationships with other community groups, in order to expand awareness of the free opportunities available for its clients and students.

Like many organizations, Braille Institute's goal is to help as many people as possible, and the staff works toward this goal by finding organizations whose services are supplemental, with those that Braille Institute offers. Then, they set clear parameters of what the center and partnering organizations will each contribute to ensure a meaningful partnership.

Visualizing Your Options

Braille Institute San Diego's Visualizing Your Options program allows the center to partner with community agencies, retirement facilities and health organizations who service adults experiencing vision difficulties.

"Visualizing Your Options is a mutually beneficial system, a two-way street, so that people learn about access to the services that are right for them," says Richard Ybarra, Executive Director, Braille Institute San Diego.

The Visualizing Your Options partnership works with organizations interested in learning more about vision, vision loss, how to assist people with vision impairment and more. There are three participation levels that enable organizations to become Low Vision Wellness Partners, with each building on the previous level. The first level includes hosting classes together for the partner organization's constituents. The next level brings Braille Institute services, including library programs and staff consultations, onsite to the partner organization, and the last level involves possible co-branding and corporate sponsorships.

According to Ybarra, "It's crucial to build trust in establishing a partnership. We show that Braille Institute wants to partner with other organizations to leverage and elevate resources so that our common communities can benefit. And, perhaps most important to the success of partnership programs, we are disciplined in our follow up."

Throughout this process, conversations are structured so that both organizations learn how their respective constituents can benefit from the new relationship. When the two groups are in sync from the start, clients from both organizations quickly gain knowledge and access to needed programs and services — and both organizations are, in turn, more successful.

Creating Community Events

Braille Institute also partners with San Diego's medical community to host free events that educate the public on the latest updates for people with low vision. One example is the center's annual Low Vision Seminar and Technology Fair. It is a free event open to the community and it takes place Thursday, April 30 from 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at the center.

This event was crafted to bring together local medical experts, low vision specialty vendors and community organizations to help anyone interested in learning more about managing low vision.

"The Low Vision Seminar is our signature public event — it's a must-attend for anyone and everyone interested in vision health and wellness. We join with our expert colleagues from the health field to provide the latest information, news, research and technology available for families and their loved ones facing any number of sight challenges," says Ybarra.

The medical experts involved in the event will share updates on low vision conditions and treatment options, as well as how people dealing with diminishing vision can use technology to improve their daily living. For the event this year, keynote Speaker Nikolas London, M.D., M.S., from Retina Consultants San Diego, will discuss the latest advances in Macular Degeneration, Diabetic Retinopathy, and a bit on Glaucoma. Thomas Hixson, O.D. from La Mesa Vision Care Center Optometry, will address the benefits of magnification and accessible technology for those with diminished sight.

Listening to Constituents

Feedback from Braille Institute students has shown that people who are blind and visually impaired are eager to hear about medical updates as well as how they can access technology. Given this strong feedback from adult learners, Braille Institute includes a hands-on Technology Fair on April 30 to display the latest in assistive technology devices, including magnifiers, closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs), computer screen reader programs, and more. Other community partners like the Department of Rehabilitation (DoR) and the Veteran's Administration (VA), will be at the event so that those in attendance can benefit from the bigger picture community network. It is hoped that event attendees will see how the organizations work together to deliver comprehensive services for key communities — in this case, to help those with low vision.

"We are glad that these partner organizations will be at the Low Vision Seminar and Technology Fair so that event participants can learn about opportunities and how to access appropriate services," says Vicki Zimmerman-Fox, Braille Institute San Diego's Field Services and Low Vision Manager.

For more information on creating key community partnerships or to see Braille Institute partnerships in action at the April 30 Low Vision Seminar and Technology Fair, call 1-800-BRAILLE, visit BrailleInstitute.org, or email Richard Ybarra at RMYbarra@brailleinstitute.org.

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