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World Services for the Blind

By Deanna McGill |  Photography by Lori Sparkman Photography | Shot on location at World Services for the Blind

   World Services for the Blind offers life skills and career training programs for unique individuals. Provided at a singular location, World Services for the Blind is the most comprehensive rehabilitation center for people who are blind or visually impaired. This innovative approach places students first,  tailoring services specific to each client’s needs, cultivating opportunities for independent living and competitive careers in today’s high-tech job market. 

   This wouldn’t be possible without the leadership of Sharon Giovinazzo. After Sharon’s husband passed away, she sought a career change. “They were looking for a visionary and I was looking for a challenge,” describes Sharon. She joined as CEO in 2015 and also as COO for the World Services for the Blind Foundation. It’s proven to be a match made in heaven. 

   Blindness can strike anyone at any time without discrimination. Only one percent of the world’s blind population is born blind. “Chances are someone close to you will need our services at some point,” explains Sharon. With a legacy that spans 75 years, World Services for the Blind has helped more than 17,000 individuals from 50 states and 60 countries. Despite these impressive outcomes, the organization might be the best-kept secret in this state. “Different from the Arkansas School for the Blind, we serve a population that spans the decades beyond high school, but because we serve a little known population few people are aware of our impact,” adds Sharon. 

   The World Services for the Blind Foundation was established to enhance opportunities for World Services for the Blind. World Services for the Blind provides a voice for those who haven’t yet found their voice, while the World Services for the Blind Foundation advocates for the visually impaired population and educates not only this same group, but also Arkansans. “Independence means different things to different people. It could be the ability to live and travel on one’s own, be consumers, or the opportunity to go to college, train in a vocation and join the workforce,” says World Services for the Blind Foundation Development Associate Bec Dwyer-Coop. This shared mission aligns with Arkansas values – promoting the benefits of working, living, and contributing to the economy. “We are simply adding people with disabilities to that mix of working, living and being an important factor to society,” explains Sharon. 

   It is a tall order to fill, but incredibly rewarding for Sharon. Similar to the starfish parable revered in World Services for the Blind circles, the impact of the organization’s mission fulfillment work is witnessed everyday – one life at a time. Sharon echoes Helen Keller’s wisdom, “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”  At World Services for the Blind, no task is too small to make a big difference in Arkansas – one starfish at a time – helping visually impaired individuals achieve sustainable independence. Bec adds, “It mattered to that one.”

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