Anyone looking to buy fortune cookies in braille, I can tell you where to get them. Turns out the one place in the world embossing the fortunes and bringing them to a shop in Chinatown to get them made into cookies is right here in our midst…

The California School for the Blind just turned 150 years old, though many in the Bay Area probably don’t know the state magnet school is right here in Fremont. The school draws young people with visual impairments from all over California. The 80 full-time students live on campus during the week and go home on the weekends.

I visited the campus to do a story about The Rocket Shop — the school’s student-run cafe that just won an award from the state. Besides being stocked with lunch and snack food, it sells T-shirts in braille, and, yes, their Lucky Touch fortune cookies — another student-run program.

The Rocket Shop opened two years ago as a vocational training program to teach kids about the assistive technologies and social skills needed to run a retail establishment. Here’s a video of Eduardo Mendez demonstrating the school’s talking cash register and bill reader:

The choice of a food stand for vocational training was no accident. A Federal Act passed in 1936 (the Randolph Sheppard Act) gives people who are blind preference when awarding food-vending contracts in Federal buildings. Most states now extend that priority to state and municipal buildings as well.

When I asked the two students I interviewed about their career goals, though, they each had something very different in mind. They said they loved the experience at the Rocket Shop because of all the skills they’ve learned — from handling money to more experience with social interactions. But Eduardo Mendez, 20, of Santa Rosa said he’s working toward being a forensic scientist in a coroner’s office. And Jot Purewall, 19, of San Jose, said she’d like to work as a massage therapist.

For anyone interested in learning more and visiting the campus, the school has its Spring Concert open to the public next Thursday (5/12) at 7:30 pm and Wednesday (5/11) at 1:30 pm.

Listen to Rachel Dornhelm’s California Report story on the school:

Fremont’s Innovative California School for the Blind; Video: Talking Money Reader Demonstration 6 May,2011Rachel Dornhelm


Rachel Dornhelm

Rachel Dornhelm has worked as a reporter, editor and producer in public radio for the last twelve years. She got her start in New York City at WNYC and went on to work with the national business program Marketplace, WBUR’s “On Point” and KQED News in San Francisco. Her work has been honored by the LA Press Club and the SF-Peninsula Press Club.

Rachel has a BA with honors in anthropology from Rice University and did graduate work at NYU.

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