LWL-Berufsbildungswerk Soest

Vocational Training Centre for the Blind and Visually Impaired Persons

1.      The Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe (LWL)

1.1      Basic Information


The LWL-Berufskolleg Soest, Special Vocational School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the LWL-Berufsbildungswerk Soest, Vocational Training Centre for the Blind and Visually Impaired, are educational establishments of the Landschaftsverband Westfalen Lippe (LWL) with parliament and central administration in Münster (Westphalia).
The Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe (LWL) is a municipal association that provides services to the 8.5 million people in the Westphalia-Lippe region. The LWL has approx. 13000 employees and provides services in the areas of social welfare, psychiatry, hospital treatment orders, youth/schooling and culture. The region has 35 special schools, 19 hospitals, 17 museums and is one of the largest German support payers for disabled persons. The LWL fulfils tasks in the areas of social welfare, care for disabled persons and youth welfare, as well as psychiatry and culture, that are best performed for the whole of Westphalia. The nine urban districts and 18 regions in Westphalia-Lippe are members of the LWL. They support and finance the regional association, which is controlled by an assembly consisting of 100 members appointed by local authorities.
The LWL is responsible for the following areas in the region of Westphalia-Lippe:

  • Care for disabled persons
  • Integration office / main welfare office
  • Pensions office
  • Psychiatry
  • Hospital treatment orders
  • Special schools
  • Youth welfare
  • Culture


1.2      Activities in Special Education

At the 35 special schools of the LWL approximately 6200 handicapped children and adolescents are taught and cared for. The LWL is responsible for the setting up and the running of schools for physically handicapped, the hearing impaired, the deaf, those with speech impairments as well as the visually impaired and blind. The sponsorship of schools by the LWL also includes the organizing and financing of transportation services and providing accommodation at boarding schools when distances are prohibitively long for daily transportation. The teachers are employees of the state. In addition the LWL partially funds positions for therapeutic and nursing staff at the schools. The LWL also supports mainstream education of impaired children in local schools by financing technical aids.
In the area of Westphalia-Lippe there are 7 schools for visually impaired and blind children. The centre in Soest is the only one that offers vocational education in addition to the classes 1 – 10 as well as highschool education. While the primary and secondary schools (grade 1 – 10) offer their services only for pupils in their region, the vocational education in Soest is offered not only for visually handicapped students from Westphalia-Lippe but also for students from other lands of the Federal Republic of Germany. All in all there are about 400 children and young adults attending the centre.

2.                The Vocational Education for Visually Impaired and Blind Persons in Soest

The school for the blind was established in 1847. There has been a vocational program in addition to the academic education already in the 1850s. It has been continuously developed in response to the changes in society and labour market. The continuing development in aids for the blind has also been a catalyst for change. Because vocational education in Germany is organised in the so called dual system, nowadays there are two educational institutions responsible for the vocational education of visually handicapped persons, which work hand in hand: The  LWL-Berufskolleg is a vocational school and is mainly responsible for the academic part of the vocational education. The LWL-Berufsbildungswerk is mainly responsible for the practical part of the vocational education.

2.1             LWL-Berufskolleg Soest - Vocational College for Visually Impaired and Blind Persons

The LWL-Berufskolleg Soest has mainly two tasks: It offers full-time-classes for visually impaired adolescents, who want to prepare themselves for a vocational education in the dual system or intend to reach a higher level of education. This might be prerecquisit, for example, to be admitted to a university. The LWL-Berufskolleg offers classes at all academic levels. In addition to the full-time-classes the LWL-Berufskolleg also offers so called part-time-classes for vocational students participating in dual system programs. They visit the vocational school either one day per week or two times per year for 6 weeks.

2.2             LWL-Berufsbildungswerk Soest - Vocational Training Center for Visually Handicapped Persons

The LWL-Berufsbildungswerk Soest prepares visually hand­icap­ped young adults (age 18 - 25) for  compe­titive employment. Vocational edu­cation is offered in the following pro­grams:

  • Commercial occupations including switchbo­ard operator and telemarketers, transcriptionist as well as bookkeeper and sales personnel.
  • Metal working occupations including compu­terised shaping and lathe opera­ting as well as welding.
  • Housekeeping occupations including coo­king, sewing, laundry and room cleaning.
  • Craftsmanship for the blind as bas­ket and chair caning and broom ma­king.


The programs last 2 to 3 1/2 years. Stu­dents ha­ve to pass an examination and are certified by the chamber of indu­stry and commerce. The programs are financed by the Agency of Labour.
To prepare oneself for the programs visually impaired and blind people can participate in different assessment programs as well as adjustment for blindness training (BTG). A special unit of the institute offers low vision counselling and training as well for the students as for blind and visually impaired employees.
In addition the programs offer orientation and mo­bility training, daily living skills and training of social skills. They also include periods of practical training in companies and administration in their home communities. All participants are also part-time-students of the LWL-Berufskolleg.

3.                Experience and Current Developments

The LWL-Berufskolleg as well as the LWL-Berufsbildungswerk Soest are mainly engaged in business classes. Education is based on electronic data processing in all fields of vocational training. So there are personal computers at all workplaces of the students. These computers are in a network. Standard software is the Microsoft Office Package and special business software (KHK). In addition to their vocational training students acquire among others the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) .
In 1999 the LWL-Berufskolleg and the LWL-Berufsbildungswerk Soest started a research project on the vocational education of visually handicapped young adults in their local communities. The project is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Labour, Berlin. The experiences and results of the project led to the new program “MobiliS” – Support and Counselling for Mainstream Vocational Education for the Blind and Visually Impaired. This program is being offered in addition to the in house programs and con be combined with them.
For all students individual education programs are worked out by teams including the students themselves. Trying to meet the interests of the students and to improve their chances of vocational integration the LWL-Berufsbilldungswerk Soest more and more combines elements of special education in the institute with practical learning in administration and companies of common labour market.

For further information please call:

Erwin Denninghaus
Tel.: +49 2921 684-223
or Mail to Erwin.Denninghaus@lwl.org