Learning wood and metal work skills

If you think being blind or having low vision means saying goodbye to favourite pastimes and hobbies... think again.

Vision Australia's Assist program helps people who are blind or have low vision to gain confidence in using power tools, whilst also enabling skills transfer for future employment opportunities.

A person who is blind operating a huge panel saw or belt sander may seem unlikely, but to Industrial Skills Instructor Brett Behan, it's all in a days work.

"It basically comes down to training," Brett said. "Once people know how to use the machines properly, there's no reason they can't use them."

The machines are the same as what you'd find in any other workshop - they are simply equipped with adaptive technology which "speaks" the measurements to the user. Similarly, talking tape measures are another tool which ensure accuracy.

Offering metal work and wood working lessons, Assist operates out of Vision Australia's centre in Kensington, Victoria.

Much more than learning new skills, participants also enjoy the social interaction with like-minded mates and discover a new found confidence in their abilities.

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Photo of Bindi using a plane against a plank of wood.

Meet participants

Nick

For Nick, this is his second stint in the Assist program after having recently left his job due to poor health.

"I was moping around home and my wife suggested that I come back to Assist," Nick said. "I spend five to six hours on dialysis every second day so it's nice to have a break."

Halfway through the Level Two Woodwork Course, Nick is currently making a pine coffee table. "I like to get a bit ahead with my work so I can help the other guys," he said.

Blind in one eye with poor vision in the other, Nick is also in a wheelchair but says he can use most of the equipment. "There are only about two machines I need help with," Nick explained.

Henrie

Fellow Level Two wood worker, 63 year old Henrie says the social aspects of Assist have been a major boost for him personally. "I've always been optimistic but losing my sight was a slap in the face," he said.

Spending 30 years in the US Army in public relations, the former professional photographer was understandably devastated when he lost his sight three years ago due to diabetic retinopathy.

"Coming in here and learning new things, creating something and meeting new people gets your mind off things and makes you realise that you can still do things," Henrie said.

"I've turned around from being depressed... now I'm happy," he said.

The Assist program offers courses in wood work and metal work. Level One and Level Two classes run in both metal work and wood work.

Open Access is also offered to wood work students who have completed both Level One and Two, enabling them to come into the workshop and create something of their own liking while also having guidance and assistance if needed.

With the metal work course being more recent, Open Access in metal work will also be offered once students complete the Level One and Two courses.

Course information

To find out more

For more information, please call Vision Australia on 1300 847 466.



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