FARGO — A school for the blind in the northern valley is experimenting with bringing its classes to the rest of North Dakota.
North Dakota Vision Services/School for the Blind, based in Grand Forks, has offices scattered throughout the state, but classes are almost always held at their headquarters.
Instructors hosted experimental classes at North Dakota State University Crossroads Lutheran Campus Ministry on the week of Nov. 11. For Allan Peterson, of Fargo, this is an incredible convenience.
"Because we don't drive," Peterson explained with a laugh. "They don't let us on the roads, you know."
Peterson spent Thursday learning how to use his iPhone. While it may seem counter-intuitive at first, his smartphone recognizes gestures and swipes to navigate menus. As he scrolls, the voice assistant tells him what he's doing.
Instructor Tracy Wicken helped him learn to use the iPhone's camera to read him a paper document.
Peterson already uses technology to his advantage in many ways. He wears a pair of sunglasses with a camera in the center that sends signals to his brain via a surgically attached implant. This allows him to "see" outlines of what is in front of him. He said this technology doesn't give him his sight back in a traditional sense, but helps him stay aware of his surroundings.
When it comes to using other tech tools, like his smartphone, he said there is a shortage of one-on-one training in the F-M area.
"There's so much equipment out there," he said, "but the training is the real issue."
For students like Melissa Peterson, these classes are a great way for her to buff up her braille skills. She already knows the basics, but takes every opportunity to improve.
"Everybody is really nice and very patient, and that's what I like," she said of the classes.
Allan and many others at Crossroads hope the traveling class goes from experimental to permanent — filling the gaps and helping them live more independently.
North Dakota Vision Services has offices in eight North Dakota regions. You can learn what they have to offer by clicking here.