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Blind and visually impaired receive COVID-19 vaccines at Phoenix nonprofit

Steve Welker and Orbit
Posted at 4:07 PM, Apr 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-19 20:25:18-04

PHOENIX — A Valley nonprofit is making sure people who are blind and visually impaired have access to COVID vaccines. The Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired teamed up with Terros Health to offer free shots Monday.

"It's like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders," said Steve Welker, the chair of the board at ACBVI.

Welker became permanently blind after a car crash nearly 30 years ago. He started going to the Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually impaired for help, and eventually joined the board.

"Becoming blind as an adult, you have to learn how to do everything all over again. You have to learn how to cook and clean and shower and shave---all those things you take for granted, I had to learn how to do them again, and I learned them here," he said.

He and his guide dog Orbit were at the center Monday for the vaccine clinic. They hoped to give out about 50 Moderna shots.

"Really good, really good," said Margo Schafer after she got her shot.

"It's good to be back to normal," said Chad Hagaman, a student at the center.

Welker said COVID has been especially difficult for the visually impaired.

"We can't tell how far we are from people, we can't tell if somebody has a mask on. And so it was a worry for the last year. And I think blind people have been more worried than sighted people for that reason," said Welker.

The vaccine registration process and finding a ride to appointments have also created challenges for many.

"It was hard to get through the Arizona -the 211 system, a lot of it wasn't accessible. The website was clouded up," said Hagaman.

"Blind people don't have a car they couldn't go through that procedure, so they'd have to get somebody to take them down there. And it would just get overwhelming for our clients," said Welker.

ACBVI has helped people find appointments and rides, but Welker said Monday was a big step toward reopening fully and getting help to those who need it.

"We're running at about 20% capacity, we want to get our clients back into this facility and get the rehabbed," said Welker.

The Center for the Blind still wants to offer help with registration or transportation. Also, ACBVI is able to communicate in American Sign Language and produced materials that explain what to expect through each step of the process.

Registration assistance is available at and 602-273-7411.