The Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center (CCRC) is a comprehensive vocational rehabilitation (VR) training facility operated by the DARS Division for Blind Services (DBS). CCRC works in partnership with consumers to help them achieve their employment and independent living goals. The adult residential training facility in Austin offers training in core skills such as orientation and mobility, Braille, daily living, career development, and assistive technology.
The training at CCRC addresses each consumer's specific needs. Services are provided at CCRC and in the community to help the consumer gain independence. VR consumers travel from all corners of the state to receive services at CCRC.
CCRC was named in honor of Judge Criss Cole, who lost his sight while serving as a Marine during World War II. As a member of the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate, he was instrumental in providing access to services for people with disabilities.
The dedicated team at CCRC is committed to providing a positive environment that enables consumers to develop a positive attitude toward blindness, core skills and confidence. It is CCRC's goal to empower consumers to fully participate in their employment, community and society.
College Prep Training Program
For the first time in 2015, CCRC awarded two college scholarships to graduates of the College Prep Training Program. This intense two-week program prepared 16 consumers for success in college and beyond through field trips to local colleges, skills training in time management, note-taking and organization, and assistance with accommodations and assistive technologies.
Software Engineer Regains Career with Help of Technology
Barry Armour, 43, of El Paso was a software engineer for more than 15 years in Dallas before losing his vision three years ago due to diabetic retinopathy, a condition that often occurs in people who have diabetes. Although Barry loved working on the computer, after losing his vision he felt that it was no longer possible for him to do so until he was referred to the DARS Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center (CCRC) by a counselor in his local DARS field office.
At CCRC, Barry learned that there were many assistive technologies available that could help him remain independent and that would allow him to continue working as a software engineer. "I had never heard of assistive technology when I had my sight and did not believe I could continue working as a software engineer since I couldn't see the computer screen," explained Barry. "At the time, I had not heard of JAWS, a screen-reading software. To me, "Jaws" was a movie!"
At CCRC, Barry not only learned how to use the assistive technology he would need to return to his career, but also gained many other nonvisual skills for daily life, employment and independence. Barry received orientation and mobility training to help him navigate his environment, and he also learned Braille, a nonvisual reading technique.
After his graduation from CCRC in April, Barry was approached by an Austin company, Knowability, and was encouraged to apply for open positions with the company. Barry was eventually offered and accepted a job as a web and mobile accessibility tester. "I get to approach my job from two perspectives, because not only am I a user of the technology I am testing but, as an engineer, I get to make a difference in the lives of others," he explained.
Barry is thankful that the loss of his vision did not force him to change careers. He is grateful for all that he learned at CCRC and how those skills helped him transition back into the workforce.