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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

New clinic helps individuals who are blind or visually impaired run

Photo of two guides helping a visually impaired individual walk
Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital
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A new West Michigan clinic is helping individuals with visual impairments increase their mobility, by walking and running with a guide. The clinic is offered through a partnership between the Mary Free Bed Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports and the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ABVI).

During the clinic, 15 people who are blind or visually impaired are paired with a volunteer, who works with them one-on-one over the three-week program. Together, the individuals build trust, while they learn about the logistics and techniques of running with a sighted guide.

"I think it will increase people’s self confidence, because we will understand we can participate. We can be involved. We can do things,” Charis Austin, a client advocate for the clinic said.

The program takes place at the Mary Free Bed YMCA on Burton street. Austin said this is the first concentrated effort of its kind she's seen in the West Michigan area.

For Rehab Counseling and Vision Rehab Therapy Student, Robert Parsons, it’s a unique experience, as he got to work on and participate in the program.

“It’s one thing to create a great project, it’s another thing to create it and be a recipient of the service you created," Parsons explained, "...That’s the part I think that’s most rewarding is being able to get out there on the trails with my private guide and powerwalk all over the place."

Parsons said its a personal and profession goal of his to create equal opportunities to the blind and visually impaired community.

"It's important that people with disabilities, regardless of the type, are able to be comfortable with being able to access community resources in the same manner or similar with sighted counterparts," he said.

For more information on resources for blind and visually impaired individuals, click here.

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