Creating an Inclusive Space for the Blind and Visually Impaired Community in Northwest Indiana May 15, 2024

Based in Gary, IN, The Blind Social Center (TBSC) was founded in 2014 by Tony and Connie Blair to support members of the blind and visually impaired community in Northwest Indiana by providing programming and opportunities for socialization in an inclusive environment. For the Blairs, the mission has always been deeply personal, since Tony lost his sight in 2008 after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of glaucoma. While he and Connie were able to access resources and support during an intensive six-month program offered by Bosma Enterprises in Indianapolis that helped them navigate the transition and continue to live enriching and fulfilling lives, the Blairs recognized that there was a significant unmet need for similar programming in their community.

In the past decade, the Blairs have built an organization that ensures that individuals and families in the region no longer have to leave the area to access vital services and programming designed specifically for members of the blind and visually impaired community. Serving more than 1,000 patrons each year, TBSC provides Braille training, keyboard/computer training, personal management, nutrition education, fitness training, arts and crafts, and more – with a goal to help each individual develop the skills needed to achieve their economic, educational, physical, and personal goals.

In April, the nonprofit celebrated the start of a new chapter in its growth trajectory by welcoming members of the community for the first time into a newly built, 3,970-square-foot facility in Gary’s Junedale neighborhood that will further expand the organization’s capacity. Developed with financing from IFF, the building includes a kitchen, a multipurpose room for educational workshops and social and independent learning, a dining hall for community and corporate events and programs that support the sustainability of the organization by generating additional revenue, administrative offices, and more. In its new location, TBSC is positioned to raise additional grant funding that will enable the organization to continue adding new programming over time.

Currently in the final phase of construction, TBSC expects to fully ramp up its programming in the new facility by the end of the summer once punch list items are completed and new furniture and equipment is delivered and installed.

Scroll down for a sneak peak of TBSC’s new home!