Mission Statement: The Pacific Training Centre for the Blind (PTCB) is committed to empowering its students to achieve independence, employment and freedom by offering empowering blindness skills training based on a positive, world-renowned model.Instructors instill a belief in blind people’s capabilities and in the limitless possibilities open to them and adopt a non-custodial approach (i.e. it is not about sighted people doing things for the blind; it is about blind people doing things for themselves, and it is about blind teachers working with blind students to increase skills and confidence).
The PTCB is a non-profit registered charitable organization, incorporated in 2011, that delivers its Blind People in Charge program, Skills Focused program, Home Stay program, and new blind seniors and blind youth projects at the Victoria Disability Resource Centre in downtown Victoria. Currently there are seven part time staff, four instructors, one program coordinator, one administrative assistant, and an executive director.All programs provide essential blindness/independence skills training to blind, deafblind and low vision adults in Greater Victoria and elsewhere. The programs, provided entirely free of charge to blind people, fill a gap in service delivery, and are the only programs of their kind in Western Canada that offer regular, intensive, group-based blindness skills training to adults who are blind, losing their vision or who are deafblind. They are also the only programs that use an empowering, problem-solving model of instruction, called Structured Discovery learning, where blind people are the instructors, administrators and board members. Thus, students at the centre learn from teachers who have actual lived experience of being blind; they gain confidence and raise their own expectations of the capabilities and potential of blind people.The PTCB seeks to address the high unemployment rate (75% nationally), isolation, and low average annual income, between $10,000 and $20,000, of blind working-age adults. The Centre also works to address the lack of adequate, consistent or intensive rehabilitation available to blind Canadians. Since it started, the centre has provided intensive service to nearly 100 blind people and consultation, outreach and education to over 700 blind people, their families and the greater community.The centre provides the opportunity for blind people to learn how to live without sight in a safe environment. It is not about sighted people doing things for the blind; it is about blind people doing things for themselves, and it is about blind teachers working with blind students to increase skills and confidence. Blind people learn from and teach each other in a supportive, can-do atmosphere. Instructors help students of all ages develop positive strategies for coping with blindness and vision loss in a sighted world. The organization has had students as young as 19 and the eldest participant was 89 years young.The program increases expectations of the capabilities of blind people both among the blind community and the general public. Those who are exposed to this positive philosophy of blindness are more likely to hire a blind person for a job or volunteer position, to welcome a blind person into a social or community group, and generally to treat blind people on a par with sighted counterparts.
About Blind, Deafblind, and Low-Vision Clients
Due to a lack of adequate rehabilitation, blind, deafblind and low-vision people often lack basic life and employment skills. The majority of blind people stay in their homes and do not take part in community life, leading to isolation and disconnection from others. They are particularly vulnerable to gaps in service delivery, as they often experience failure in the transition from school to the work world. PTCB regularly receives inquiries from blind youth/parents asking for assistance in these areas, and more youth are contacting the centre. Studies show that 75% of blind Canadians are unemployed and exist on minimal incomes provided through disability. Compared to the rest population with disabilities, only 25% report being employed versus 51% of people with disabilities in general. Without these services, blind, deafblind and low-vision people in and around Victoria will continue to face isolation, mental health struggles, unemployment, and other challenges.There is a severe lack of intensive rehabilitation available to blind people in the province, and specifically in the Greater Victoria area. Many blind people in Victoria have never had the opportunity to learn the skills of independence, or have recently lost their vision and have nowhere to go to access regular training in these techniques. The PTCB aims to change this reality. The PTCB aims to fill an important gap in services provided to this local population.
The model PTCB uses is ground-breaking in Canada and involves an entirely new approach to teaching independence skills to blind people. PTCB programs use an empowering, experiential style of learning where blind people learn to problem-solve and take charge of their own lives. The program features confidence-building activities and a focus on a positive philosophy of blindness. This vital training connects participants with support and resources for career-path planning and offers job shadowing and internship opportunities with local businesses and community groups.All programs provide essential blindness/independence skills training to blind, deafblind and low vision adults in Greater Victoria and elsewhere.The programs, provided entirely free of charge to blind people, fill a gap in service delivery, and are the only programs of their kind in Western Canada that offer regular, intensive, group-based blindness skills training to adults who are blind, losing their vision or who are deafblind. They are also the only programs that use an empowering, problem-solving model of instruction, called Structured Discovery learning, where blind people are the instructors, administrators and board members. Thus, students at the centre learn from teachers who have actual lived experience of being blind; they gain confidence and raise their own expectations of the capabilities and potential of blind people.
In January 2019, with the help of a capacity-building grant from the United Way, the PTCB earned accreditation from the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). The PTCB obtained the full three-year accreditation, which is uncommon for a first application. The accreditation will need to be renewed in 2022. CARF Accreditation will allow the centre to achieve a higher level in professionalism and community-recognition and will assist the PTCB to grow and gain more government and private training contracts.The PTCB is the only blindness service-provider in BC that is accredited. Throughout 2018, the PTCB went through the extensive application and survey process required for this important accreditation; staff and board members are ecstatic about the success of this process.The PTCB has been accredited for a period of three years for its Blind People in Charge program. By pursuing and achieving accreditation, the PTCB has demonstrated that it meets international standards for quality and is committed to pursuing excellence. This accreditation decision represents the highest level of accreditation that can be awarded to an organization and shows the organization’s substantial conformance to the CARF standards. An organization receiving a Three-Year Accreditation has put itself through a rigorous peer review process and has demonstrated to a team of surveyors during an on-site visit that its programs and services are of the highest quality, measurable, and accountable. CARF is an independent, non-profit accrediting body whose mission is to promote the quality, value, and optimal outcomes of services through a consultative accreditation process that centers on enhancing the lives of the persons served. Founded in 1966 as the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, and now known as CARF, the accrediting body establishes consumer-focused standards to help organizations measure and improve the quality of their programs and services. Attaining and maintaining CARF-accredited status requires a significant effort, strong teamwork, and a commitment at all levels of an organization to providing quality services and enhancing the lives of the people it serves.
Much of the PTCB’s work is accomplished through in-kind contributions of time, labour, equipment and professional services. The organization is currently serving 40 students and participants, with many more on the waitlist. This program is critical to blind people in Victoria, who have nowhere else to turn. Any all and all donations have an immediate, direct, and positive effect on the lives of blind people in Victoria by giving more blind people the opportunity to join the PTCB program and begin the journey to a better life. We need your help!
What People Are Saying
"I love coming to the centre. I am happy when I come here. Everyone makes me feel so good and I don't feel alone anymore. Now I know I can be independent. The staff here listen to me and what I want, and they don't just tell me what to do. This is very empowering."
— Charmaine, PTCB student
"I didn’t think I would be able to do anything without my sight. I couldn’t get help and didn’t know where to go. Losing my sight so suddenly has been such a shock. Now I know it is possible even though I have a long journey ahead of me."
— Michelle, PTCB student
"When I started using the long white cane, it changed my whole travel experience. I stopped running into everything and tripping and also people moved out of the way for me. … It gave me more dignity in myself. It has definitely given me a sense of freedom and confidence."
— Michelle, PTCB student
"I learned how to do my own banking, grocery shopping, cooking and travelling everywhere independently. I learned how to count my own paper money and started to learn Braille... it fills me with a sense of confidence to try new things myself. The whole staff has been amazing and so patient with me."
— Michelle, PTCB student
"I was scared before to use the stove, but I used it today and was so proud of myself. I made my own lunch."
— Charmaine, PTCB student