“I try to do things that people think blind people can’t do,” Amber Sherrard said on a recent afternoon at LightHouse, “That’s my main goal.” Amber had just spent the weekend with 11 blind students doing just that –– climbing, flying and suspended in mid-air.
Amber offers a variety of fitness programs and excursions to the community at LightHouse, and has no interest in advancing stereotypes about blind people by keeping options limited to new and emerging sports such as Goalball which, despite their value, are often thought of as the only sports that are accessible.
Amber Sherrard, LightHouse’s Health and Wellness Program Coordinator, views liberated movement as foundational to overall wellbeing and believes these skills are crucial for moving through the world with aplomb.
Amber facilitates activities from pole dancing to hiking to chair fitness classes for people with limited mobility. Amber’s chair fitness class includes a mix of yogic movements, stretching, strength and balance exercises, and posture improvement training.
“Sometimes blind people don’t do certain things because there are no other blind people there,” she said. “Our community provides a safe space for people to try different things, and learn, so they feel more comfortable doing things independently.”
Besides classes, Amber also organizes and facilitates a themed wellness retreat every three months. The most recent retreat featured indoor skydiving, acro yoga and rock climbing at Mission Cliffs in San Francisco.
“These programs do change that perspective for people like volunteers or community members; I think it helps them to demolish misconceptions about blind people,” she said.
Amber said her favorite programs take place outside of LightHouse, where the activities take on a symbolic and practical significance for people outside of the immediate group. She views educating the public about the capability of blind people as one of the most gratifying parts of her job.
September also saw the kickoff of LightHouse’s new hiking group, which had 35 participants of all different backgrounds and mobility levels taking on a 5-mile journey around Angel Island on a beautiful Sunday morning. In October, the group will meet again on October 7th for a hike around the Lakeside Nature Trail at the Lafayette Reservoir.
“It definitely changes the perception of blindness itself, especially when we do activities outside of these four walls,” Amber said. “People get to see that blind people are out living their best life, too!”
Amber also holds educational programs and seminars on nutrition, which she said is critical, as obesity disproportionately affects people with disabilities.
The scope of Amber’s work extends beyond the classes proper; she noted that students often apply practical skills, and most often confidence, to their lives beyond exercise. She said that students often remark to her that they feel better equipped to handle obstacles at home and in the workplace.
“It definitely provides a sense of empowerment,” she said of the classes.
Looking forward, Amber said that she hopes to continue to serve students by offering a changing variety of activities, including kickboxing and hip hop dance.
Here are some upcoming classes at LightHouse:
Every Wednesday at 10 a.m.: Meditation
Every Wednesday at 11 a.m.: Chair Fitness
Every Wednesday at 5 p.m.: Yoga for Every Body
September 29th, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.: Yoga Workshop: Keeping the Balance: backbends and Balance Poses 101
October 24h, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.: Diabetes Empowerment Education Program (DEEP)
October 27th, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.: Yoga Workshop: Flow in the Dark: A celebration for Meet the Blind Month