SoCal Strong: Braille Institute Los Angeles goes virtual to help students keep learning during pandemic

Teachers at the Braille Institute have added a wide variety of online classes to help keep students connected during the pandemic.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Essentially every aspect of life has in some way been altered by the coronavirus pandemic, and individuals living with low or no vision, are really feeling the changes.

Under the state's first safer-at-home order, all in-person instruction at the Braille Institute Los Angeles was forced to cancel. The nonprofit serves more than 37,000 people, teaching blind individuals and those with vision loss the skills for maneuvering their daily lives.

"I think when you stop learning you're no longer alive. I think that it's just part of my world to always experiment. And you know, life is a challenge," said Norma, a student at the Braille Institute Los Angeles.

But quickly, educators at the institute adopted virtual models, accommodating students based on need. And now the Braille Institute offers a wide variety of online classes: everything from cooking, to art, even yoga. Instructor Noah Haytin says the new model is allowing students to take more classes than ever before.

"It's really just heartening to know, that more and more students are participating in this wide range of classes that we have, and enjoying it," said Haytin.

Norma began losing her vision years ago. She's spent her lifetime making art, from paintings to ceramics and jewelry. Now she's enrolled in a creative arts class at the Braille Institute, and enjoys her support group, "How to Live the Blind Life."

"That's an inspiration for me to learn about about people who have adjusted to living without sight," said Norma.

Classes are offered in the mornings and afternoons, five days a week. The Braille Institute is even providing wellness checks. Everyone involved is excited for the day they can learn in-person again, but are grateful for the virtual resources while we remain safer apart.

"The students have taught us so much about resilience, it's really impressive and moving to be a part of it," said Haytin. "And I'm just so appreciative to still be able to do what I love."
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