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TRENTON – Calling it an example of supported employment efforts statewide for people with disabilities, DHS Commissioner Jennifer Velez reported that through the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CBVI), over 2,500 individuals received job training, placement and assistive technology last year, which allowed them to find and sustain employment."Most often, the obstacles preventing an individual with disabilities from working involve very simple solutions," said DHS Commissioner Jennifer Velez. "In many cases, working with schools and employers to provide appropriate assistive technologies and offering specialized training is the key."

According to statistics, the cost of a lifetime of social service support for a person who is blind and never works can be as much as $916,000. In New Jersey, there are an estimated 118,000 individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Therefore, through multiple programs and services, CBVI’s mission and focus is to provide clients with the tools necessary to learn, live and work as independently as possible.

In September, administrators of the Siloam Foundation for the Visually Handicapped and the Korean Blind Union, based in Seoul, South Korea visited the Joseph Kohn Training Center in order to develop efforts to advance educational and employment opportunities for individuals who are blind and visually impaired in their country.

"It’s extremely gratifying to have other states and countries modeling their programs after ours," said Vito DeSantis, Executive Director of CBVI. "The Commission has made great strides to meet the educational and employments needs of our clients – evolving our services as necessary to stay current and ensure success."

CBVI offers a 20-week program at its Joseph Kohn Training Center with a curriculum that develops an Individualized Training Plan that maps goals and outcomes for employment. In addition, the Commission partners with the National Employment Team to access information on the local and federal levels, and in private industry to establish internship and employment opportunities. Right now, collaborations with companies such as Best Buy, TJ Maxx, defense commissaries and Pearl Interactive Network are creating new and exciting career options.

Another effective program at the Commission is the Business Enterprise Program (BEP) that has worked to help men and women who are legally blind become independent business operators and entrepreneurs. Each day, thousands of customers are served at the 65 BEP facilities currently open in New Jersey, including all state agency vending machine locations, newspaper stands, snack bars and full service cafeterias.

Governor Chris Christie issued a proclamation declaring October in New Jersey as National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

CBVI was established in 1910 after Helen Keller lobbied the New Jersey Legislature to develop and organize a state agency for residents found to be blind. Last year, the Commission celebrated 100 years of service in the areas of education, employment, independence and eye health.

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