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Read an article about the workshop written by
Yvonne Frauenfelder for
The Kenwood Press.

(You'll need Adobe Acrobat Reader to read the PDF.)

I am an itinerant teacher and have a caseload of 20 students in the public schools. Your books and materials are a terrific help in teaching concepts such as size relations, directionality, pre-reading concepts and even daily living skills. I used your materials over 20 years ago when I was a teacher in San Mateo. Your group is fantastic. It's amazing you have endured for all these many years.

Cheryl Leidich,
Denver, Colorado



Volunteer WorkersThe Visual Aids Workshop is unique to the Oakmont Adult Community in Santa Rosa, California. It is the inspiration of Winifred Thiltgen, who retired in Oakmont. There she saw a visiting artist demonstrate books for blind children. The idea clicked, as during her teaching career, visually impaired children were mainstreamed in her classes. Winifred visited local teachers of the visually impaired to learn of specific needs. Ten friends joined her, and the first year they made eighteen books with tactile illustrations. In 1971 the Oakmont Visual Aids Workshop was born!! Winifred passed away in 2002, but the Workshop she founded lives on.

Mariko's GameSuggestions from teachers at California Teachers & Educators of the Visually Handicapped Conferences led to the creation of other kinds of Tactile Aids. Among them are cards to teach Basic Braille, items to assist with Math Study, and several games.

As all items produced are Brailled, the Workshop was fortunate to find several proficient Braillists in Oakmont. Three Workshop members learned to Braille in order to assist. The generous contribution of two electronic Mountbatten Braillers by the Northbay Lions Club in 1996 has relieved our Braillists of some of the tedium of repetition. Paired with computers programmed by our engineer-member, the ease, speed, and efficiency of these electronic Braillers greatly aid production.

The cover and pages of each book are hand lettered with primary school printing for children who are partially sighted or mentally challenged. Every page has a tactile illustration. Members joke about returning to kindergarten as they cut and glue the many pieces. Covers are handmade with cardboard and wallpaper from outdated sample books.

The Workshop is the fortunate recipient of two Thermoforms — one from the Thermoform Corporation, and one from the Petaluma Transcribers group. They have proven invaluable in the creative hands of our engineer-member. Basic Braille cards were file cards with each dot glued on by hand. Now they are made with the Thermoform, as are two of our games. Originally there were eight wooden items among our Aids. First they were made by Oakmonters in their garages, and later, in the carpenter shop of the Sonoma Jail Industries. When that shop closed our engineer-member devised ways to copy them using the Thermoform.

Monday Workshop Donations and discounts from our local Safeway, Ace Hardware, Printing Shop, Lumber Mill, Framing Shops, and Wallpaper Stores have benefited the Workshop’s treasury.

Monday mornings find a large Oakmont community room filled with over seventy-five women diligently creating Tactile Aids. Each item is made by a group of two or more members. Braillists, printers, and others also work at home during the week so that materials are ready for completion on Mondays.

Volunteer Workers About every three months, the men join the women for Mailing Day. All completed Aids are laid out on tables. The women gather them as ordered by each teacher, and they are recorded. The men pack them and take them to the Post Office. Often 100 boxes are shipped. Since 1971, over 100,000 Tactile Aids have been sent free of charge to educators of visually impaired children throughout the world.

Volunteer WorkersOakmonters support the Workshop with both their time and money. The Annual Visual Aids Bridge Marathon yields a large donation. Volunteer Nurses provide a blood pressure service, and each person donates to the Workshop. Funds also come from memorials, and from those to whom the Tactile Aids are given. We receive no government support except for the international agreements that allow free postage for materials for the blind. We will welcome your tax deductible donation to aid our efforts.


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Oakmont Visual Aids Workshop
6575 Oakmont Drive, Suite 7 • Santa Rosa, CA 95409-5969
Fax: (707) 539-6537

© 2012 Oakmont Visual Aids Workshop