The Utah Council of the Blind (UCB) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit which devotes its funds and efforts to improving the lives of Utah citizens who are blind or visually impaired, 90% of whom live below the poverty level. The majority of the work of the organization is initiated and performed by volunteers. The Board of Trustees, the Executive Director, and all committee chairs work in a volunteer capacity. Some of the programs the UCB runs for the benefit of people who are blind or visually impaired include readers (for personal mail, bill paying, etc.); driver/guides to take people to important appointments or shopping; the credit union of the Utah Council of the Blind for persons who are blind or for their friends or family members; regular activities for fun and/or education; a taxi coupon subsidy program which facilitates a quick ride in an emergency; and many more. See below for a little more detail.
Founded in 1972, the organization offers programs and services to more than 20,000 blind and visually imppaired Utahns. Since transportation is a major challenge for people who cannot drive because of sight loss, the UCB focuses much of its funding on subsidized travel programs in the form of mileage reimbursement and reduced cost cab travel. Because these programs have limits an individual learns to use the programs for emergency and when other resources are not available. The person with sight loss must pay a portion of the program cost.
The subsidized reader program Helps people who cannot read print pay a small amount to a reader to cope with mail and personal correspondence. this is especially useful to seniors who are losing their sight and cannot continue to take care of personal affairs without assistance. Again, the individual pays a portion of the cost.
The Braille project offers the transcription of personal materials into braille for personal use. such items as wills, doctor's instructions, meeting agendas and minutes, appliance instructions, personal recipes and more are made available in braille to be kept for reference and personal record. this project makes items available in braille which there is no other way to read and keep. this also encourages braille literacy. The reading of braille is becoming a lost skill which is a growing concern to us since the most successfully employed people who are blind read braille.
The Adaptive Technology project provides financial assistance to people with sight loss so they can acquire expensive adaptive devices which make them more independent. This may include: a braille writer, a computer with voice or screen enlargement, special magnifiers, digital recorders, talking GPS etc. the individual with sight loss pays 25% of the cost of the adaptive device while grant money is used to pay the remainder.
The teacher/trainer program is another more costly program provided by the UCB. Teams of a sighted and a blind person contract with the organization to provide training in blindness skills for people losing their sight. The teams cover the state from Kanab to Logan. People who are suffering sight loss are given the chance to remain independent in their homes instead of being placed in care centers. by learning to use a white cane, read basic braille, cook safely, organize themselves with the use of adaptive technology etc., these people can remain independent and active in their communities. The teams visit the home and provide this service to all people with sight loss. They also work with the families to help them cope with the sight loss in their loved one.
Other funds are used to provide a ceramic class to encourage artistic expression, scholarships, informational newsletters in five formats, a 800 newsline, educational/recreational/social activities and more.
The UCB offers advocacy and referral and provides a lending service for adaptive technology which has been donated. Its members serve as representatives on a variety of councils and committees and speak regularly at schools and clubs as requested. Frequently they partner with other organizations and agencies to provide services and programs.