BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A specialized rehabilitation facility is celebrating five years on the Gulf Coast.
The Blind Rehabilitation Center helps blind and vision impaired veterans become more independent. It's one of only 13 in the country, and it serves veterans by helping them find their independence once again.
"I think all of us want that quality of life," said Debra Gilley, the center's chief. "We don't want to be dependent on other people. We want to keep doing the things we love to do and not have to rely on other people to take care of us."
No matter how impaired their vision, veterans have been training at the Blind Rehab Center at the VA in Biloxi for five years now. The facility opened to veterans in September 2011 and mainly operates on an inpatient basis.
Visually impaired and blind veterans stay on the property for four to six weeks, learning orientation and mobility, living skills, computer skills, and everything in between.
"This is teaching an old dog new tricks," said veteran Peter Hoffman, as he learned to type and edit on an iPad.
One of Tiffany Moore's areas of expertise is teaching kitchen skills. She came to the training center as she began her own journey of becoming legally blind, bringing a high amount of knowledge and empathy to the training she provides to patients.
"For the most part, I had to teach myself how to walk, how to eat, all over again," said Moore. "So, I live with it every day."
At the clinic, veterans are also taught to navigate busy streets on foot. Air Force veteran Carl Lewis has been training to listen for cars and use his cane in a way that lets drivers know he's crossing the street.
"It's just things like that, that you don't think of when you can see that they point out to you so that you pay attention to it when you're visually impaired or completely blind," said Lewis.
Molly Mather helps Lewis and other veterans learn these skills. She believes it's a way of giving back.
"They've served our country and done such a great favor to all of us, sacrificing their time and their freedom," said Mather.
According to Gilley, the faculty and staff of the center couldn't be better suited for their jobs.
"We are just really, really proud of the program that we have," said Gilley.
It's a service she hopes will continue for many years to come.
To find out more about the blind rehab center in Biloxi, please contact the Visual Impairment Services Team (VIST) Coordinator, Susan Guillory at 228-385-6762.