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NJ Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired Hosts Seminar on Employment and Independence
TRENTON - The New Jersey Department Human Services’ Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CBVI) hosted a day-long seminar, focusing on supporting the independence and employment of people with vision loss. The seminar was held this week in New Brunswick. 
 
 
The keynote speaker was Joanne M. Wilson, Executive Director of the National Federation of the Blind and a former Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, U.S. Department of Education.  Ms. Wilson, a resident of Ruston, Louisiana, discussed emerging national Vocational Rehabilitation policy that promotes integrated, gainful employment for people with disabilities and the value of Vocational Rehabilitation Employment programs that lead to securing and maintaining jobs in the workforce.

 

“This event brings us together to unify our efforts in support of people who are blind and visually impaired,” said CBVI’s Executive Director Daniel Frye. “Our mission is to provide educational, personal and professional skills that are necessary for people with significant vision loss to obtain full inclusion in community life, including employment, independent living, and social self-sufficiency.”

Consumer Awards were presented to four individuals. “Today’s honorees demonstrate remarkable personal achievement and professional accomplishment,” said Executive Director Frye.  “The measure of our work, is the success of our many consumers and partners, who together, advance the quality of life for people who are blind and visually impaired.”

 

Margaret Battle Winchester, a 94-year-old resident of Bridgeton, lost her vision as a young woman. While raising her children, she began reaching out to others with vision loss.  In 1978, she established, with the help of the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders, a day program for people who are blind, to improve the quality of their lives.  Her continued efforts led to the construction of the Margaret Winchester Enrichment Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Inc., dedicated in 1990, where she continues to serve as the President of its Board of Directors. Ms. Winchester’s numerous awards include: the Harriet Tubman Award from the Martin Luther King Academy, the Outstanding Older Worker – National Prime Time Award (presented by Pres. G.W. Bush) and the Community Hero Award from the United Way of Greater Cumberland County.

 

Nicky Guacos, a 61-year-old entrepreneur from Metuchen, lost his vision as a young man. That did not prevent him from assuming the management of his family’s restaurants. He became involved with CBVI’s Business Enterprise NJ program, where he became the manager of the cafeteria at the Joseph Kohn Training Center for the Blind. Today, he is the owner and CEO of Colorado Cafe Associates, a restaurant management and consultant company. Mr. Guacos serves as president of the National Association of Blind Merchants, is the chair of the NJ State Employment and Training Commission’s Disabilities Committee and is an appointed member of the Government Affairs Committee for the National Automatic Merchandising Association.

 

Jessica Calvo, a 24-year-old resident of Clifton, has taken full advantage of CBVI’s Education, Independent Living and Vocational Rehabilitation services through her years of Primary and Secondary education, as well as college.  Following graduation, she went to work as a part-time teacher at Verona High school. She has since accepted a full time position there as a Spanish teacher.  Ms. Calvo has made herself available to others who are blind and striving to succeed in the teaching field.

 

Adam Anthony, a 40-year-old resident of Ramsey, participated in CBVI’s vocational evaluation and blindness skills training program at the Joseph Kohn Training Center in New Brunswick. He took extra braille lessons and created a braille journal of his experiences.  He became president of the Student Organization and offered encouragement to others.  He spent two weeks in the “Independent Apartment” at that facility, managing food shopping, meal preparation and completing housekeeping tasks necessary to maintaining an independent life. Mr. Anthony has returned to the center several times to support the graduation of others. 

 

CBVI employees 272 staff members who provide education, employment, independent living and eye health services. CBVI services and programs are available to visually impaired and legally blind New Jersey residents. Many of the services and programs are available free of charge to state residents. More information about CBVI is available online or by calling 877-685-8878.

 
 
 
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