World Services for the Blind
aka: Lions World Services for the Blind
World Services for the Blind (WSB), located in Little Rock (Pulaski County), offers career-path professional training for adults who are blind or visually impaired. The mission of the organization is to educate adults who are blind or visually impaired for careers and independent lives.
Founded by Roy Kumpe and the Lions Clubs of Arkansas in 1946, the organization was first known as the Prevocational Adjustment Center for the Adult Blind. The passage by the U.S. Congress of the Randolph-Sheppard Act of 1936 created the first significant employment opportunities for blind individuals in Arkansas and throughout the nation. The Prevocational Adjustment Center’s original mission was to train Arkansans who were blind or visually impaired to operate vending stands in state and federal courthouses as permitted by this new legislation. The name was later changed to Arkansas Enterprises for the Blind Rehabilitation Center (AEB). The first client arrived at the center in spring of 1947, and the formal dedication was held on May 5, 1947. During the 1950s, services were expanded to assist other states in preparing blind individuals for the workplace.
Because of the widespread demand for the training and services offered by AEB and the increase in need for professional staff to serve the blind, the 1960s and 1970s saw tremendous growth for the rehabilitation center. To better reflect the scope of the organization and to acknowledge the support of Lions International, the legal name was changed in 1989 to Lions World Services for the Blind, though the name was later shortened to World Services for the Blind. Since 1947, more than 13,000 people from all fifty states and fifty-eight other countries have come to WSB for the specialized training offered by the facility. Lions World Services for the Blind has become the largest and most comprehensive vocational training center for people who are blind or visually impaired. As of 2013, the center provides housing and food service daily to more than 100 blind individuals and staff.
WSB offers a comprehensive personal adjustment program. The program includes thirty learning areas such as how to use Braille and adaptive optical equipment, how to travel safely by using a long cane, and how to be self-sufficient. This incorporates learning to do the simple things that most with vision take for granted, such as cooking, cleaning, crossing a street, and simply walking to a store.
Career-path professional training is offered in eleven occupational programs, including small engine repair, Microsoft systems engineering and programming, desktop support, customer service, and assistive technology instruction. WSB also offers courses that train clients for careers with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Since its inception, this partnership with the IRS has led to employment for more than 1,300 blind or visually impaired clients from across the United States.
In conjunction with the occupational training programs, WSB has a Career Training Center to provide job-seeking skills so clients who have successfully completed training can secure employment and be competitive in today’s employment market.
Through a combination of these programs, World Services for the Blind makes productive and independent lives possible for people who are blind or visually impaired. The service and vocational programs can evolve with the changing labor market. In mid-2011, WSB expanded in-state services to meet the needs of older visually impaired Arkansans, and independent living services are now offered in the person’s home.
On March 4, 2021, the WSB campus in Little Rock suffered a fire, and several residents had to be hospitalized for smoke inhalation. The campus was closed temporarily for clean-up.
For additional information:
Dickerson, L. Roy Kumpe: A Leader in Rehabilitation of the Blind. New York: American Foundation for the Blind, 1986.
Kumpe, Roy. The Lion’s Share. Little Rock: Rose Publishing Company, 1983.
Robertson, Jim. Beyond Darkness. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse Press, 2009.
World Services for the Blind. http://www.wsblind.org (accessed January 25, 2022).
Larry R. Dickerson and Larry Morgan
Lions World Services for the Blind
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