PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Iris Network in Portland serves around 600 people a year through its five different divisions, including its rehab center.
There are 12 clients who spend 12 weeks living in the Iris Network's dorm learning from mobility specialist Mike Dionne. He navigates clients around sidewalks and through intersections. It teaches them the skills they'll need when they lose their sight, or in Jesse Workman's case brush up on the skills they already have. The 43-year-old has been blind since birth.
"So it's an ongoing process to keep your skills refined because we're very very highly trained," said Workman. "It's like any skill, if you get out of practice a little bit you get a little rusty."
There are five programs within the Iris Network. It's rehab center, community based services, Iris Park Apartments, assisted technology and employment services. With each one there's never a limit put on a person who is blind, or visually impaired. Just a little bit more work that goes into figuring out a way that works for the individual according to Director of Programs and Services Rabih Dow.
"Re-orienting your own mind set to interacting with the world around you and not to be overwhelmed by your disability where you lose your identity, you lose who you are," said Dow.
According to Dow, around 10% of the clients at the Iris Network are totally blind and another 10% are those who were born with vision impairment. The rest received a diagnosis like macular degeneration later on in life.