Orientation and Training Center

An OTC student working on a laptop in the OTC computer classroom.

The Orientation and Training Center (OTC), located in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood, provides comprehensive and intensive training in the adaptive skills of blindness to adults interested in employment.

Through a highly-interactive facility and program, students explore a world of recreation, community involvement and volunteerism with the purpose of grounding them in adaptive skills. 


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are “adaptive skills for vision loss?”

People who are blind or have low vision use adaptive techniques and skills to accommodate vision loss.  These skills include using Braille and specialized computer software, traveling with a white cane, cooking and cleaning.  Adaptive skills enable people with disabilities to be independent and successful in the home, in school, on the job, and in their communities.

How do I know if the OTC will be right for me?

The OTC provides intensive instruction in a wide range of skill areas, with a focus on developing competence and confidence.  The OTC offers both full- and part-time educational opportunities for adults who may be new to learning the adaptive skills or who just need a refresher.

What if I don’t live in Seattle?

Students who live outside of a daily commuting distance may want to live in one of our residential apartments, near the center. The OTC funds the cost of rent and basic utilities during full-time training and a $75 weekly stipend is provided to provide for food and incidentals.

Can I be a part-time student?

Yes, however, part-time students do not have the option of staying at our residential facility and must be able to commute daily.

What does the OTC require of commuting students?

  • Medical Management.  Participants must be able to meet their own personal medical needs.
  • Personal Care. Participants must be able to meet their own personal care needs, such as dressing, grooming, bathing, eating properly, toileting, etc., unless restricted by another disability.
  • Permanent Residence. All participants must have a permanent residence while attending the OTC Program.
  • General Criminal History Record Check. All prospective students of the OTC must undergo and pass a State of Washington background check before being admitted to the OTC.

What does the OTC require of residential students?

All of the same requirements as commuting students (listed above) and:

  • Personal Items.  Residential students provide their own personal items such as clothing, hygiene products, bedding, bath linens, and hangers for clothing.
  • Cleanliness and Maintenance. Students will purchase cleaning supplies and will maintain the condition of their apartments, furniture, and fixtures.

How long can I expect to be in the program?

The OTC runs on a six-week term cycle. The length of stay in the program depends on the level of skills needed by the student and how quickly the student moves through the curriculum. Length may vary from two to five terms.

What classes does the OTC offer?

  • Braille
  • Career Class
  • Computers
  • Orientation and Mobility (O&M)—learning non-visual skills for traveling with a white cane
  • Health and Wellness
  • Home Economics—cleaning, clothing care, meal planning and preparation
  • Home Maintenance and Management
  • Seminar 

For more information, review the class list below.

How long does each class last?

Each class typically runs one to two hours per day, depending on the needs of the student and the nature of the curriculum.

What if I am interested in intensive training but can’t attend the regular six-week term?

The OTC offers two training opportunities for adults interested in employment.

Intensive Workshops

For those participants who cannot attend the regular six-week term, the OTC offers week-long intensive workshops twice per year (spring and fall).  Course content depends on the participant needs and can include any of the wide-range of topics offered at the Center.

Braille Distance Course

The OTC offers Braille instruction to DSB participants interested in learning Braille but not able to attend the OTC program or have limited resources in their community for weekly instruction.  The class meets weekly for two hours via toll-free phone.

Besides classes, what else can the OTC do for me?

You will have opportunities to:

  • Meet, interact with, and learn from other students who are blind or have low vision.
  • Work with blind and low vision teachers and other employed people in Career and Seminar classes.
  • Share your talents and contribute to our communities through volunteer work and tutoring fellow students.
  • Participate in challenge and recreational activities like tandem cycling, rock climbing, and kayaking.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle with yoga and fitness classes.

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Core Curriculum

The OTC runs on a six-week term cycle and offers the following core curriculum classes each term:

  • Braille - Learn to read and write UEB braille code which includes uncontracted Braille for personal use, as well as learning contracted Braille for reading published materials.)
  • Career Class - Explore vocations by taking interest and personality inventories. Connect with employed blind people who will share information on their jobs. Learn about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and how it applies to both the job search and the prevention of job discrimination.
  • Computers - Learn Microsoft applications (such as Outlook, Word, and Excel) and how to navigate the Internet using speech, Braille, large print access technology or various combinations.
  • Health and Wellness - Health and Wellness class are a mix of group and individual sessions designed to help the student feel healthy and engaged during their time at the OTC. Group classes include yoga, orientation to the apartment gym and a guided class with Rainier Health and Fitness. 
  • Home Economics - Learn adaptive skills in cleaning, clothing care, and meal preparation so that you can manage your home, meeting your personal and family needs.
  • Home Maintenance & Management - Learn a variety of skills related to using tools safely and maintaining one's home.
  • Orientation and Mobility (O&M) - Learn how to use non-visual skills and the long white cane to maximize safe and independent travel.
  • Seminar - Discuss issues related to blindness, hear special speakers, and plan and lead group discussions on topics coordinated by the students and staff.

Additional Courses

The OTC offers the following courses on an as-needed or rotational basis:

  • Braille Distance Course - The OTC offers Braille instruction to DSB customers interested in learning Braille but not able to attend the OTC program or have limited resources in their community for weekly instruction. The class meets weekly for two hours via toll-free phone.
  • Dependable Strengths - Founded by Dr. Bernard Haldane, the Dependable Strengths Class presents a new and innovative way for students to showcase their unique talents and strengths to potential employers. Using group discussion and individual work, the class leads students through a structured, time-tested process to (1) identify their dependable strengths and (2) express those dependable strengths to employers in both verbal and written form.
  • Intensive Workshops - For those customers who cannot attend the regular six-week term, the OTC offers week-long intensive workshops twice per year (spring and fall). Course content depends on the customer needs and can include any of the wide-range of topics offered at the Center.
  • Other Classes - Based on need or student goals, the OTC may schedule classes or workshops throughout the year. These classes may include—diabetic health and education, food safety and nutrition, self-defense, first aid, and CPR.


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Work Experience/Externships

The Orientation and Training Center collaborates with businesses in the Seattle area to offer unpaid internships to students who would benefit from real-life work experience.

Based on the student’s career interests, aptitudes and strengths, students participating in STEP complete an internship during their final term at the OTC.

What jobs can people who are blind or have low vision do?

Almost any job you can think of, people who are blind or have low vision can do and are doing! Customer service, clerical, sales, computers/IT, teaching/training, bookkeeping, outreach, managing people and programs, assembly and production, cooking…just to name a few.

What will my business gain?

Businesses gain temporary employees with a variety of skills and talents for little or no cost to you.  STEP participants can help you meet your bottom line while they receive on-the-job experience.

How long are the internships?

We ask that interns work three or more days per week, for at least a couple of hours each day, and two to three months at a time. But we will be flexible to work with the business’ timeframe.

What are the business’ responsibilities? 

Provides all of the workplace training, equipment, and support to the intern, as they would for any volunteer or intern. Businesses hiring interns do not have to provide specialized equipment for the intern, such as talking computer programs, etc.

What are DSB’s responsibilities?

Pre-screens individuals to select the most qualified person to be your intern.

  • Ensures that the person has the requisite skills needed to get to work on time and be ready to go.
  • Provides the individual with any needed specialized equipment, such as talking computer programs, Braille displays, etc.

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Life in Action Days 

The OTC encourages students to participate in and help organize recreational and community activities called Life in Action Days. Activities take place four to six times per year and have one of three areas of focus:

  • Career - Attending Job Fairs, or visiting local WorkSource Centers
  • Culture - Visiting Museums, Libraries, and Educational Centers or Volunteering in the Community
  • Physical - Bicycle Riding, Rock Climbing, or Kayaking and Canoeing

Life in Action activities provide students with opportunities to:

  • Explore a variety of recreational activities.
  • Find out more about educational and career planning.
  • Interact with the public.
  • Build self-esteem.
  • Gain greater self-confidence.

For more information on the OTC contact us at info@dsb.wa.gov or 800-552-7103.

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