All Articles by LightHouse Staff

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Blind Explorer Erik Weihenmayer on Occasionally Forgetting His Socks and Being a Blind Ambassador

The Cover of Erik's Book, No BarriersOn May 2, we’re welcoming blind explorer Erik Weihenmayer as our guest for the next installment of LightHouse Listenings — a live event “for ears only”. Erik will join Davia Nelson of NPR’s The Kitchen Sisters for a candid conversation about his work as an athlete, adventurer, author, activist and motivational speaker, as well as his new book (relaunched April 24) No Barriers

Many of us are familiar with Weihenmayer’s worldly feats — climbing Mount Everest and kayaking the Grand Canyon, to name two. But while it’s easy to focus on the dazzling peaks (literal and figurative) of Erik’s achievements, this doesn’t leave much room to talk about the nitty gritty, behind-the-scenes of traveling the world as a blind person. What goes into planning a trip like this? How do you ignore the haters? What silly things has he forgotten?

With our Holman Prize semifinalists filling out their proposals and preparing to embark on adventures of their own, we decided to grill Erik for more than just lofty inspiration. The Holman Prize Team collected some practical advice for blind travelers including fully immersing yourself in the experience, getting to know the currency and occasionally making time to do some adventuring in your very own backyard.

Here’s the full conversation:


Holman: When putting together the trip of a lifetime, how long should you take to research and plan? Any rule of thumb for time spent planning versus the actual execution?

Erik: What gets attention, and what people remember, is the summit, the big rapid or whatever that “apex” is – but I don’t think people realize for every hour of summiting, there’s a hundred hours of tedious planning. It’s sitting behind the compute writing everyone you know, trying to raise money, trying to understand the business side of how to make it happen, promoting it in the right way, and all the tedious hours that go into training.

Holman: When you walk out the door, what do you most often forget?

Erik: First of all, when I get on the plane I feel relief, I take a nap. One of the hardest parts – the planning – is over. Now it’s just put your plan into place – execute well, and that’s completely different from all the planning, all the worrying, all the anxiety, all the orchestration. You get on that plane and you’re like, ok, stage one of the adventure is done.

That being said, I’ve forgotten all kinds of things – even socks. Imagine going up Mount Everest and realizing “Oh my god! I thought you were going to bring all the socks!” and then you have four pairs of socks for going all the way up the mountain. Then there we were, looking for yak-wool socks in the markets of Namche Bazaar, and trust me, those aren’t as warm as SmartWool.

I’ve forgotten books. When you’re blind, and you’re not really getting stimulation from looking out the window, sometimes you need a good book to help you – with jet lag especially. If you have insomnia don’t forget those books, or music, or podcasts or whatever you need.

One thing I tell people is to be careful to separate the experience itself from the promotion of the experience. Of course you have to send out the travel blog or the video or the Facebook update, and that stuff’s important to spread the message, but there has to be a very clear line. You have to be ready to immerse yourself in the experience, and that’s a tricky thing in the modern world – being there to actually be there, not for your résumé.

Holman: What are the cultural considerations of traveling around the world as a blind person? Any tools you recommend for assimilating when moving from country to country? Any must-have items, besides the obvious?

Erik: In the developing countries I’ve been in, bringing a dog would be really hard. It’s kind of you and your cane. Going from America to a developing country, people don’t know about blindness. The blind people in their communities maybe don’t come out as much. In many places, blind people stay in their huts, cook, and are sheltered.

I went to Russia once and was getting ready to speak at a bank. All the people with different challenges – blind people, wheelchair riders, etc. – would come up in my talk, and they told me ‘You will shock people if you talk about them, because we don’t see those people in our culture.’ They’re hidden away.

For that reason, definitely try to connect with the local blindness organization. Stop in and share knowledge. When I was in Katmandu, I went to the association and it was great, we had lunch together and talked. It was wonderful.

Always go knowledgeable. Learn the money, learn how to identify the money. And if you speak the language, you are golden. If you know the language, then everyone is relying on you to translate and you’re getting pushed to the front to talk and interact with the local people.

Understand that when you go into one of these not-first world countries, there’s chaos. You’re stepping in pig poop, there’s open gutters with sewage, and it’s not ADA compliant. But that’s part of what makes it fun, too. I remember walking through the streets of Katmandu and a guy came by on his moped, and literally his moped bumped me. His hot tail pipe burned my leg. It wasn’t a disaster, you just have to be able to handle these sorts of inconveniences.

Holman: When traveling, how do you keep track of your story? Do you take notes, keep a journal, or somehow otherwise keep track of your milestones with a physical inventory, or do you keep it all in your head?

Erik: Everybody’s different, but writing in a journal throughout the trip is really great. Even bring a digital recorder and just jot notes down or turn it on and capture an experience you might want to remember later. And if everyone takes a journal, then you can go back and read everyone else’s, too. It become a collective consciousness type of thing. If you plan on writing about the experience, you can’t beat a firsthand account of how you were feeling on any given day.

Holman: Ever been an amazing adventure in your own community?

Erik: There’s incredible adventure all around us. Recently my wife and I rode our tandem bike up to this ghost town called Animas Forks, and explored all the old buildings where these miners lived through the harshest of winters. I went to South Carolina last year, to Beaufort, and we took a tour, learned about this language, almost like a separate language that the African-American culture spoke, based on their language from Ghana. There are incredible cultures and adventure right under our noses, you don’t necessarily have to go to the other side of the world.

Holman: Is it more important to do something first or do something best?

Erik: It depends on what your goal is. I’ve never looked at adventure in terms of “hey, I survived it!” The point of these adventures isn’t just to survive. You don’t learn anything from being in a survival stage. You want to be ready. I think it’s more important to take the time to flourish in these environments or cultures. What you’re trying to do is learn things.

If you can prepare for something, and be first, it’s pretty fun, but at the same time, you can be a pioneer without being the first. Because pioneering is mostly in your mind. It’s not about being the first “out there,” as long as it’s a meaningful experience for you. It’s icing on the cake – but it’s not quite enough in itself.

Holman: If people don’t believe in your ability to do something, how do you proceed?

Erik: It’s a tricky one, because even though I’ve done a lot of big cool things in my life, I may be sitting in the airport trying to figure out how to get on the right bus. You’re still  a human being, and still confused in that moment. It’s ok to ask for help and accept help.

It is a balancing act of accepting help and also being practical about what you can do and what you don’t need help with. Honestly, people could argue with this, but getting out there and flailing and bleeding is perfectly acceptable. People want to immediately grab you, and help you, people don’t want to see that flailing. You tap someone’s foot with the cane and they freak out. You have to say “No, that’s how the cane works.”

I think that you’re teaching by being out there and being positive. If you become the grumpy blind guy, you’ve lost. You’ve got to be graceful, and be the consummate ambassador, and if you’re lucky enough to have the time to educate people, do it in a nice way.

That’s not to say that if someone grabs me in the airport in some kind of wrestling move I won’t react. I actually wrestled, so I might instinctively do a move to free myself! But for the most part you have to be graceful, because people don’t know. And when it comes to ignorance, you’re not going to educate every person.

Meet Erik at LightHouse Headquarters on May 2 for his talk at 7:00 p.m. Reception begins at 6:00 p.m., with complimentary wine and beer included in your ticket.

The cost is $10 in advance and $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets can be purchased through our Eventbrite page.

If you are unable to buy your ticket via Eventbrite, contact Events Manager Dagny Brown at dbrown@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7311.

 

Guide Dog Users: Have Your Voice Heard on AB1705 Regarding the California Guide Dog Board

On April 25, the Business and Professions Committee will hear California Assembly Bill 1705 starting at 9:00 a.m. The hearing will determine whether to extend the term of the California State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind to January 1, 2022. Under the existing bill, the board will sunset on January 1, 2018. This is an impactful decision that affects many members of the LightHouse community. Take a moment to gain some background on the bill and let your voice be heard in the outcome of this vote.  

The California State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind was established in the 1940s, in response to an influx of people with insufficient skill, expertise or knowledge claiming to be guide dog trainers. The guide dogs they provided weren’t trained properly and, rather, were ineffective and dangerous to blind people. At that time, a state-mandated governing body for guide dogs was a necessary regulatory and safety measure.

Now, however, the usefulness of this Board is being called into question by numerous blindness organizations and prominent guide dog users, including California Council of the Blind.
California is the only state with a board of this kind, most likely because the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF), established in 1989, serves a similar purpose. IGDF is the industry-elected body responsible for the development, monitoring and evaluation of guide dog training standards applied within all IGDF-member organizations.

In light of this body, many think having a state-mandated board is redundant and a misuse of state resources, as well as a drain on the time and resources of the California guide dog schools, all of whom are accredited by IGDF.

LightHouse Board Member Gena Harper, who has been a guide dog user for 35 years, is taking a firm stance on the matter.

“As a blind person, the presence of the board is frustrating,” she says. “It is patronizing that the state feels the need to have a protective body over guide dogs for the blind, especially when that body doesn’t actually do anything to provide the protections it claims.”

If you are a guide dog user who has traveled to or from the state of California or spent time in that state, and/or if you anticipate traveling with your guide dog to California, we urge you to let your voice be heard on this matter. Contact the Legislative Committee described below to express your view on extending the term of the State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind.

To have your voice heard, contact the committee members below and relay your stance on AB1705. Voting YES will extend the board’s term for four years, while voting NO will uphold the dismantling date of January 1, 2018.

Rudy Salas, Jr. (Chair) Dem – 32

assemblymember.salas@assembly.ca.gov

Capitol Office, Room 4016

P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0032; (916) 319-2032

William P. Brough (Vice Chair) Rep – 73

assemblymember.brough@assembly.ca.gov

Capitol Office, Room 3141

P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0073; (916) 319-2073

Dr. Joaquin Arambula Dem – 31

assemblymember.arambula@assembly.ca.gov

Capitol Office, Room 5155

P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0031; (916) 319-2031

Catharine B. Baker        Rep – 16

assemblymember.Baker@assembly.ca.gov    

Capitol Office, Room 2130

P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0016; (916) 319-2016

Richard Bloom   Dem – 50

assemblymember.Bloom@assembly.ca.gov

Capitol Office, Room 2003

P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0050; (916) 319-2050

David Chiu        Dem – 17

assemblymember.chiu@assembly.ca.gov

Capitol Office, Room 4112

P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0017; (916) 319-2017

Jordan Cunningham     Rep – 35

assemblymember.cunningham@assembly.ca.gov

Capitol Office, Room 4102

P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0035; (916) 319-2035

Brian Dahle      Rep – 01  

assemblymember.dahle@assembly.ca.gov

Capitol Office, Room 4098

P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0001; (916) 319-2001

Susan Talamantes Eggman        Dem – 13

assemblymember.eggman@assembly.ca.gov

Capitol Office, Room 4117

P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0013; (916) 319-2013

Mike A. Gipson Dem – 64

assemblymember.gipson@assembly.ca.gov

Capitol Office, Room 3173

P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0064; (916) 319-2064

Timothy S. Grayson      Dem – 14

assemblymember.grayson@assembly.ca.gov

Capitol Office, Room 4164

P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0014; (916) 319-2014

Chris R. Holden Dem – 41

assemblymember.holden@assembly.ca.gov

Capitol Office, Room 5136

P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0041; (916) 319-2041

Evan Low          Dem – 28

assemblymember.low@assembly.ca.gov

Capitol Office, Room 4126

P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0028; (916) 319-2028

Kevin Mullin    Dem – 22

assemblymember.mullin@assembly.ca.gov

Capitol Office, Room 3160

P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0022; (916) 319-2022

Marc Steinorth  Rep – 40

assemblymember.steinorth@assembly.ca.gov

Capitol Office, Room 5128

P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0040; (916) 319-2040

Philip Y. Ting    Dem – 19

assemblymember.ting@assembly.ca.gov

Capitol Office, Room 6026

P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0019; (916) 319-2019

 

See Your Designs Through Someone Else’s Eyes: A New Virtual Reality Experience

On May 18th, LightHouse for the Blind presents Eyeware, So You Can See Your Designs Through Someone Else’s Eyes

“Looking through the eyes” of another is a nice empathetic metaphor, but it can quite literally be a valuable exercise. Next month, a mini-conference at LightHouse for the Blind in San Francisco spotlights a new real-time, immersive ocular simulation that allows individuals to experience how people with low vision, color blindness or a variety of eye conditions navigate built environments.

LightHouse invites architects, developers, educators, designers and anyone who strives to build accessible environments – including transport systems, urban spaces, buildings, automotive design, interiors, software interfaces and prototyping – to explore a new opportunity in inclusive design: Join us to try on Eyeware.

On May 18, we’re inviting designers and planners to move beyond metaphors and look at the world a little differently. For years, vision professionals have simulated various eye conditions through goggles, plastic filters and other low tech solutions. Here, users are invited to try on a more efficient solution. The first demonstration of its kind, Eyeware will demo new virtual and augmented reality technology developed by Theia Immersive Systems that allows designers and consumers to step into a real-time simulation of someone else’s eyesight.

LightHouse welcomes Theia in their first North American presentation and workshop at 1155 Market St. (10th Floor) in San Francisco. Co-presented by Yahoo and welcoming a host of other companies dedicated to universal design, this event will take place in two sessions, with one morning presentation geared toward physical space, and an afternoon session focused on interface design. All are invited to a complimentary lunchtime event with two active simulation rooms. The event will likely sell out, so RSVP now.

More about the Eyeware App

Utilizing a robust set of proprietary visual filters (“like Instagram for your eyeballs”), Theia Immersive Systems’ Eyeware App is the gateway to a software suite that allows design professionals to see the world with a variety of eye conditions including color blindness, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and even certain rare conditions that cumulatively affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

Eyeware can be used with a cardboard or custom headset to deliver a combination VR + AR experience, giving anyone with so-called “normal” vision a new level of insight. The Eyeware filters, when applied, give designers additional tools to audit, manipulate and run wayfinding routes in both preexisting and newly rendered environments. Theia’s design tools can be deployed anywhere in the design process to facilitate collaboration, design review and visual accessibility for professionals, clients and users both sighted and blind – moving designers beyond simple notions of brightness and contrast into nuanced aesthetic palettes that work for all types of vision. The Eyeware App, available now for iOS and Android, sets the stage for a comprehensive design suite from Theia, now in Beta.

Why would I want to experience a Visual Impairment?

From the subtle, gauzy effects of cataracts to the more dramatic challenges of tunnel vision or retinopathy, changes in vision are incredibly hard to convey in words, photographs or standard-ratio video. Fully sighted designers can guess, but rarely know exactly how to optimize their products for low vision.

Developed by the UK Transport Systems Catapult’s spinoff – now called Theia Immersive Systems – to tackle the challenges of public transit, the new virtual and augmented reality software will join the toolkit of accessibility best practices observed by agencies such as the LightHouse and Arch4Blind in communicating the nuances of various eye conditions and their implications for design. With Theia’s tools, the designer now has a direct connection to the experience of a variety of clients and users.

From testing out physical interfaces for low lighting conditions, to evaluating for effective color contrast in side-by-side comparison, to actually strapping on the gear and diving into your CAD model or environment design, these tools give designers an edge on ensuring the project’s visual accessibility from the outset.

Try it for the first time

Join us at the LightHouse to hear Theia’s creators discuss concepts, applications and exciting emerging use cases, including integrations with 3D audio and force-feedback synthetic touch. There will be ample time to try out the technology in custom simulations generated specifically for the LightHouse facility.

The Theia and LightHouse teams will also be available for meetings to share more information about product rollout, support and partnerships for maximizing the potential of these exciting new tools.

RSVP for the event on Eventbrite. Trouble with Eventbrite? Email dbrown@lighthouse-sf.org.

Thursday, May 18: Full Day Schedule

10 a.m.
Theia Immersive Systems – Presentation
“Ocular Simulations for Interior and Exterior Environments”
Fee: $10 (includes cost of VR cardboard)

11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
VR + AR Activations
Free to attend
Experience Theia’s ocular simulations over a variety of environments and interfaces in LightHouse’s custom-outfitted simulation rooms.

12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Complimentary Lunch

1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Theia Immersive Systems – presentation
“Ocular Simulations for Physical and Digital Interfaces”
Fee: $10 (includes cost of VR cardboard)

2:30 p.m. – 4 p.m.
VR + AR Activations
Free to attend
Experience Theia’s ocular simulations over a variety of environments and interfaces in LightHouse’s custom-outfitted simulation rooms.

LightHouse Listenings presents Erik Weihenmayer with Davia Nelson

In 2014, Erik Weihenmayer, the first and only blind person to ever reach the summit of Mount Everest, attempted a new and daunting challenge: to ride 277 miles of thunderous, wild rapids down the Colorado River in a solo kayak. Why would he take such a gamble? How exactly did he pull it off? Discover the answers to these questions, and more, when Erik joins us at LightHouse on May 2 for a far-reaching and candid conversation with Davia Nelson, of NPR’s award-winning production team The Kitchen Sisters.

The event is the latest installment in our ongoing series LightHouse Listenings and follows, most recently, a live production of the podcast The World According to Sound. A “listening party for ears only,” the LightHouse Listenings series is a celebration of the aural medium, and is designed to create a space for conversation, creativity, and sound that connects blind and sighted audiences over a shared experience. At each event, we provide sleep shades in order to give you the option to focus solely on what you’re hearing.

Event details

LightHouse for the Blind Headquarters

1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco

Cost: $10 in advance. $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets can be purchased through our Eventbrite page. Reception begins at 6pm; the event at 7pm. If you experience any difficulties with accessibility, contact Events Manager Dagny Brown at dbrown@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7311.

This unique event is an opportunity to meet Erik during his national No Barriers tour and to hear the blind adventurer in conversation with one of the world’s finest radio journalists, Davia Nelson.

Davia’s work has taken her all over the world, from interviewing hummus chefs in Ramallah, to wine physicists in France and “kitchen botanists” in India. We can’t imagine anyone better suited to interview Erik about imagination, non-visual exploration and what drives him along his incredible journeys.

We’re proud to program and host this one-of-a-kind event, which will include braille passages from Erik’s book, read aloud, a meet-and-greet reception with attendees and an open bar. Books will be available onsite for purchase.

About LightHouse Listenings

This year, we began putting on regular listening parties for ears only – from live podcast recordings to pre-recorded material. To bring your sound experience to a live audience in San Francisco, contact dbrown@lighthouse-sf.org.

About Erik Weihenmayer

Over the past two decades, Erik Weihenmayer’s name has become synonymous with determination and ambition. In 2008, when he reached the top of Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia, he completed his quest to climb all of the Seven Summits-the tallest peak on each of the seven continents.

Erik is the author of the best-selling memoir Touch the Top of the World, which was made into
a feature film, as well as The Adversity
Advantage, which shows readers how to turn
everyday struggles into everyday greatness. His
latest book, No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to
Kayak the Grand Canyon is more than an
adventure story, it illuminates how we overcome the barriers that get in our way. He is an internationally recognized speaker and brings his message of living a No Barriers Life to audiences around the world.

About Davia Nelson

Davia Nelson is one half of The Kitchen Sisters, producers of the du-Pont Columbia and James Beard Award-winning series Hidden Kitchens, as heard on NPR’s Morning Edition, and two Peabody Award-winning NPR series, Lost & Found Sound and The Sonic Memorial Project.

The Kitchen Sisters are also the producers of The Hidden World of Girls, heard on NPR and hosted by Tina Fey. Their first book Hidden Kitchens: Stories, Recipes & More From NPR’s Kitchen Sisters was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Artist Exhibition: LightHouse Features Blind Painter Charles Blackwell

On March 23, we hosted the opening of painter Charles Blackwell’s art exhibition in our headquarters building lobby at 1155 Market Street. Blackwell is a longtime member of the LightHouse community, and we are thrilled to provide a platform for his bright and expressive acrylic and pastel paintings, along with braille descriptions of each one.

“My blindness, in a sense, gives me the originality,” says artist Blackwell of his lively, jazz-inspired paintings, which are on display starting today in the 1155 Market Street lobby. “Before, I was trained. I could do a sketch of you in a minute and a half. I could have been a courtroom artist. I can’t do that no more, so I just had to take another approach. I use my fingers, I use the bottom of a paintbrush, I pour paint onto the paper. I’d much rather do that. That’s what I’m after — that improvisation, that serendipity.”

Blackwell’s paintings will be up in the lobby until October. Get a taste of photos and descriptions below, or come by our headquarters and ask at reception for braille or large print titles, prices, and descriptions of the paintings.

FullSizeRender

A shot of the lobby with paintings hanging on the righthand wall as you walk in.

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An image of three paintings, from left to right: 

73 Miles Away X the Speed of Light     

24 x 39.5 inches

$1,400

Acrylic on Canvas

Quick, bold strokes of paint form the uneven figure of a saxophonist in the right quadrant of the canvas. The figure leans into his yellow and orange instrument. Short blue, gray, tan and green brush strokes give the background depth and accent an ovular silver and yellow globe in the top left corner.

(#5) Drummer in the Thick of It    

20 x 24 inches

$350

Acrylic on Canvas

A drummer keeps time with wire brushes on a pair of golden cymbals. He is seated, wearing green pants and blue shirt. His face sports a classic drummer’s grimace — as though he just settled into a particularly groovy beat. The paint strokes are thick and bold — black outlines filled with jewel tones of blue, pink, gold, yellow and green.

(#20) Hummin’ Down That One Lonely String

2011

30 x 40 inches

$1,600

Acrylic on Canvas

A bass player in a blue suit plays on a textured stand-up bass. His loosely depicted face is jovial. The background is a patchwork of lines in primary colors with a large golden orb in the top right and a window in the top left. The number 3 stands out against the lines in the background.

A standing, bowed saxophonist emerges into the canvas on the right. He plays a golden saxophone that is almost the length of his body. A smaller figure playing a trumpet is behind him. Both figures play into a silver old-fashioned microphone in the bottom left-hand corner of the canvas. Two golden spotlights hang in the top left corner of the image. The background is a repetitive rhythm of short, blunt strokes of blue, pink, purple, yellow and maroon.

(#1001) After the Movement of the Blue Note Mystery

24 x 30 inches

$880

Acrylic on Canvas

A standing, bowed saxophonist emerges into the canvas on the right. He plays a golden saxophone that is almost the length of his body. A smaller figure playing a trumpet is behind him. Both figures play into a silver old-fashioned microphone in the bottom left-hand corner of the canvas. Two golden spotlights hang in the top left corner of the image. The background is a repetitive rhythm of short, blunt strokes of blue, pink, purple, yellow and maroon.

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(#14) Savory Smoky 1967 Night Club

2013

26 x 34 inches

$875

Ink on Paper

A freely depicted trumpet player, saxophonist and drummer are grouped at the right of the painting, all in smoky tones. Their instruments are accentuated with yellow. The background is a warm wash of yellow with a few red accents.

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(#1004) Downstairs in the Dark of Blue with Rahsaan Roland Kirk Inflated

57 x 38 inches

$3,800

Acrylic on Canvas

Jazz artist Rahsaan Roland Kirk wears sunglasses and plays three saxophones at once. Directly behind him is a trumpet player, and in the background, a small bassist and a drummer. A mask adorns the wall and a banana hangs from the sky to the right of Kirk. All of the figures are made up of bold lively pinks, purples, yellows, reds and blues. The background is a deep blue patterned with straight but variable lines.

FullSizeRender

Kulu se Mama in Conference with Moe Betta over Lucy

16 x 22 inches

$750

Acrylic on Canvas Board

Three African-inspired figures stand, statue-like, in a row. The smallest, on the left, is a female form, perhaps in the distance. The figure in the center is indigo blue and the other two are covered in geometric patterns in bright red and yellow.

Stop by our headquarters at 1155 Market Street to view the full exhibition! 

Cycle for Sight: Join Team LightHouse in Napa on April 22!

“She’s game for things that a lot of people aren’t,” says Marc Sutton of his fitness partner Ginger Jui. “She’s willing to go on dirt, she’s willing to go down steep stairs. The more you ride with someone, the more you have that built trust. I feel safe with her, but I feel like it’s not an overcautious safe — it’s just like, alright, let’s go have fun… something exciting is going to happen here. Let’s see what it is.”

Marc and Ginger have been riding tandem together for going on eight years. For Marc, who is blind, riding with Ginger creates a physical outlet that gets him out of his mind and into his body. For Ginger, it’s a pedaling meditation and a chance to catch up and talk about life. Both have gained a lifelong friendship. Get to know their story in the video below.

Every spring, LightHouse rallies a team of blind and sighted cyclists like Marc and Ginger to ride and train together for Napa Rotary’s Cycle for Sight and raise funds for Enchanted Hills Camp. You can ride on your own or join a tandem team for the 15, 25 or 50 mile routes through wine country with more than 2,500 other cyclists.

Start by signing up for Cycle for Sight and select Team LightHouse at signup. Then contact Tony Fletcher at tfletcher@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7319  if you’re interested in being part of a tandem team. Check out the existing members of our team!

If you’re curious about riding tandem but haven’t done it before, don’t fret — we’re offering free trainings in early April, so you can join the event with confidence. Mark your calendars for these upcoming training sessions at Bay Area Outreach & Recreation Program (BORP) at 3075 Adeline St #200 in Berkeley. Tandem bikes will be provided onsite, so contact Dagny Brown at dbrown@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7311 to reserve your spot.

April 6 – 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

April 13 – 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

April 15 – 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Members of Team LightHouse get a snazzy biking jersey and the opportunity to help raise vital funds for Enchanted Hills Camp for the Blind. All participating cyclists will receive an individual rider profile on our Cycle for Sight page, with a built in donation form. If you’re interested you can crowd fund via your individual rider page after you sign up and answer a few questions about yourself.

Raise $300 or more to receive a free stay the evening before the ride at Enchanted Hills, including meals! We also offer a prize for the person or tandem team who raises the most contributions. All proceeds support Enchanted Hills Camp. We hope you’ll join us!

Visit www.cycle4sight.com for route information, start times and more info.

Maker Faire: LightHouse & Oracle Present an Accessible Weekend-long Retreat for Blind Makers

“Blind people are makers. Since 1917 LightHouse blind workers under the Blindcraft label have made everything from fine rattan furniture to advanced basketry and even chains and rope for the US Navy. Today, blind people solder, build robots and do advanced woodworking,” says Dr. Joshua Miele, Associate Director of the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, organizer of the local Blind Arduino Meetup and LightHouse Board Member. “We might use slightly different techniques, but the outcome is the same. The LightHouse is all about teaching these alternative techniques so that people can engage in the activities they love, whether they’re sighted or not.”


At LightHouse, we know a lot of accomplished blind makers, which is why we offer blind soldering workshops, science and craft courses both in San Francisco and Enchanted Hills Camp in Napa. This spring, we’re looking for up to 20 young makers to attend the very first “Maker Faire, Made Accessible”: May 18 – 22.

The new LightHouse Maker Faire Made Accessible will be a packed weekend of hands-on experience for blind young adults interested in the maker movement. The weekend will include an overnight stay at LightHouse with a series of events and a daylong trip to the Maker Faire in San Mateo. Expect hands-on learning, guided tours of Bay Area’s Maker Faire facilitated by Oracle volunteers, and demonstrations by blind makers eager to show other blind makers the tricks of their trade. Thanks to a generous grant from Oracle we’ll be offering full scholarships to cover fees and travel expenses for a few lucky participants — so sign up early! The deadline to register is May 5.

Maker Faire Logo

Maker Faire is a celebration of the Maker Movement, a showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness. The Bay Area’s Maker Faire is the largest Maker Faire in the nation, right in the heart of Silicon Valley in Northern California. Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is a gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students and commercial exhibitors. “Makers” come to Maker Faire to show and share what they have made and what they have learned.

The weekend will use LightHouse headquarters as a home base to expand upon and explore all that Maker Faire has to offer. Our core group will consist of blind makers age 14-30, but we encourage those outside the age range to apply.

Starting on Thursday, May 18 we’ll welcome 20 blind participants from across the country and the region to the LightHouse Headquarters in San Francisco. Students will stay at the new LightHouse student residences, which houses up to 29 students.

On Friday, May 19, students will participate in tutorials, workshops and presentations with blind mentors who are makers themselves. They will offer hands-on demonstrations, exhibit their own work, and provide tailored guidance and consultation.

A woman touches a light sculpture at the Bay Area Maker Faire.On Saturday, May 20 students will travel as a group to the Maker Faire for guided tours with Oracle volunteers. Volunteers will accompany students one-on-one to describe the projects showcased at the various booths, and stop off at a few booths of blind makers.

And finally, on Sunday May, 21, former LightHouse Board Member Jerry Kuns will lead participants on a guided walking tour of San Francisco.

To sign up for Maker Faire 2017, receive an application, and determine your eligibility for full scholarship, including travel, please contact youth@lighthouse-sf.org or by phone at 415-694-7372.

This Is What Blind Ambition Looks Like: Announcing the 2017 Holman Prize Semifinalists

In January we announced the inaugural Holman Prize for Blind Ambition, an annual set of awards of up to $25,000 that finance and support blind people worldwide in pursuing their most ambitious projects. All applicants were met with a challenge in the first round: create a 90-second video to sum up a project of their choice and promote it through social media to garner widespread support. 

Between January and March, we received more than 200 video pitches from 28 countries on six continents. Projects ranged in focus across travel, activism, scholarship, craft, sport and much more. Our candidates’ pitches were viewed more than 65,000 times on YouTube: that’s thousands of people watching videos that chip away at stereotypes of blindness and offer a multifaceted view into the wide ranging and one-of-a-kind ambitions of blind people worldwide.

Seeing the range, scope and heart of our applicants’ videos was a joy, and their ideas blew us away. Deciding on a list of semifinalists proved to be difficult for our team, but we narrowed it down to 51 projects of all kinds from around the world.

Here is the list of semifinalists for the 2017 Holman Prize. In June, their proposals will be reviewed by LightHouse’s prestigious Holman Committee — comprised of highly accomplished blind men and women from around the world.

Click on each name to watch their original pitch video (or peruse our YouTube playlist), share, and spread the word: This is what blind ambition looks like.


Iman (California) wants to make a “reality TV”-style documentary about the lives of blind people.

Saghatel (Armenia) wants to develop his conflict resolution program in the Middle East.

Dan B. (Colorado) wants to complete an endurance run along the Great Wall of China.

James (Tennessee) wants to provide white canes to blind people in developing countries.

Joshua B. (Louisiana) wants to bring Braille training to Kyrgyzstan.

John (Texas) wants to establish an art gallery for visually impaired artists.

Georgie (United Kindom) wants to paint the Seven Modern Wonders of the World.

Melanie (Australia) wants to learn to dogsled, ice-climb and ski across Alaska.

Jack & Dan (New Jersey) want to ride across America nonstop with four blind cyclists.

Peggy (New Mexico) wants to illuminate the lives of blind people in American history.

Arne (Denmark) wants to ski to the North Pole.

Christina (California) wants to make a musical theater pilgrimage around the world.

Angela Denise (California) wants to build community with her ukulele from Hawaii to Australia.

Brett (Manitoba, Canada) wants to expand his public good clothing brand, The Blind Kid.

Muttasim (Sudan) wants to return to his birthplace in Sudan to become a catalyst for change.

Ioana (Montreal, Canada) wants to transcribe, record and perform classical guitar globally.

Natalie (California) wants to produce a new R&B album called “Blindsided.”

Riikka (Finland) wants to launch a one-year training program for aspiring singers.

Nicole (California) wants to travel around America and gather stories.

Jennifer (California) wants to develop a tactile-audio graphic novel called “Beulah.”

Caroline (Malawi) wants to provide better accessibility for blind students in her country.

Yves (Switzerland) wants to improve access to zoology education – specifically, penguins.

Marty (New York) wants to produce a documentary about discrimination against people with disabilities in the military.

Mirjana (Sweden) wants to trek through the mountains with a film crew.

Abigail (New York) wants to produce a podcast about disability culture.

Antonio (Philippines) wants to train blind people to become radio operators.

Felipe (Brazil) wants to further his political career, eventually becoming Brazil’s first blind president.

Alex L. (Minnesota) wants to teach ballroom, latin and swing dance to blind people around the U.S.

Rachel (Colorado) wants to document her world travels in a video series called “The Unseen Traveler.”

Dan M. (Michigan) wants to skateboard around the world and connect with blindness organizations along the way.

Linn (Norway) wants to record her debut album with friends in the Nigerian Afrobeat scene.

Penny (England) wants to expand her video blog, “Baking Blind,” to include travel, promotion and guests.

Graham (California) wants to go on a solo singer-songwriter tour, performing across the U.S. and UK.

Laura (California) wants to publish a tactile children’s book called “The Adventures of Penny the Guide Dog.”

Nino & Marie (Michigan) want to ride tandem bikes from France to Romania.

Dan P. (Georgia) wants to build a car to go 225 miles per hour — becoming “the world’s fastest blind man.”

Boonsiri (Thailand) wants to establish the Mae Sot Blind Centre for Children in Thailand.

Den (California) wants to follow in James Holman’s footsteps and circumnavigate the globe.

Serena (California) wants to study the art of making and roasting coffee and open a blind-run coffee shop.

Jamie (Colorado) wants to lead blind students in designing and creating balloon payloads to launch into space.

Alex S. (United Kingdom) wants to assemble a blind crew for a transatlantic sailing trip.

Jana S. (Indiana) wants to produce audio portraits of the U.S. National Parks.

Kaiti (Ohio) wants to start her own music therapy practice.

Ojok (Uganda) wants to teach blind people to be keep bees and sell their honey as a source of income.

Chandni (London) wants to work with exercise instructors to make fitness classes accessible to the blind.

Gary (Canada) wants to finance a Eurotrip for the Canadian Blind Hockey team to drum up support for the sport.

Penn (Colorado) wants to establish a four-day adventure camp for blind youths.

Deon (California) wants to travel and photograph guide dogs and their human masters for a coffee table book.

Ahmet (California) wants to kayak across the Bosphorus Strait between Turkey and Asia.

Poonam (India) wants to solo travel the world on public transportation and see who she meets along the way.

Christopher V. (South Africa) wants to take an eight-month expedition through the Mediterranean.


Find the Holman Prize on Facebook + Instagram + Twitter

 

The National Fitness Challenge is Off to a Racing Start

The San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind & Visually Impaired is a proud partner with the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) and the Anthem Foundation in rolling out the 2017 National Fitness Challenge (NFC) in the Bay Area.

The campaign provides 25 participants with Fitbits to track their steps and fitness activity from March through November 2017. The goal of the NFC is to raise the fitness and activity levels of participants to recommendations set by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) of 10,000 steps and 30 active minutes per day and to improve overall fitness levels in the blind and low vision community.

In addition to helping participants find creative ways to increase their daily steps by matching them with fitness partners and offering discounted gym memberships, the LightHouse supports participants throughout the course of the campaign with a wide variety of fitness programming and services. We also organize attendance to special events, including VIP access to the annual Cycle for Sight tandem bike ride in Napa on Saturday, April 22 and joining a blind centipede in San Francisco’s annual Bay to Breakers run on Sunday, May 21.

At the LightHouse, you can:

Blindness is not the barrier many think it is to achieving your fitness goals and enjoying greater well-being — and the LightHouse is here to help get into the rhythm.  It’s not too late to join the NFC if you already have a Fitbit — we welcome new participants to join throughout the campaign.

For more information on the National Fitness Challenge, LightHouse services mentioned here, Cycle for Sight or Bay to Breakers, contact Evening & Weekend Program Coordinator Serena Olsen at solsen@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7316.

This Spring, CVCL Answers the Tough Questions for New Students

“I’ve often thought about what I would do if I were to drop a sewing needle.” The instructor intones the answer in a gentle voice: “Listen for the direction and how far from you it has fallen.” Obvious? Not to me.”

When Eleanor Lew came to LightHouse in 2016, dropping a sewing needle or traveling through the dark were questions without obvious answers. These are just a couple of the hundreds of seemingly answerless riddles that we help people solve in our weeklong skills training, Changing Vision Changing Life.

Initially only held a few times a year, CVCL now happens every month. It trades locations between San Francisco and Napa to give students a holistic, two-part experience that builds confidence in all areas, introduces them to other individuals peers who motivate each other through peer learning, and gets them on the right track towards being happy, healthy people — regardless of level of eyesight.

“Introducing us to the scope of low-vision rehabilitation services so that we can live independently and maintain quality of life is the purported reason for the camp,” Eleanor writes. “But the healing power of connection is what surprises us.”

There are hundreds of stories like Eleanor’s that come out of CVCL each year. If you want to know more about her transformation, read about it in the New York Times and tell your friends with changing vision to get in touch with Debbie Bacon at dbacon@lighthouse-sf.org or by calling 415-694-7357.


Sign Up for our upcoming CVCL sessions:

CVCL II (San Francisco): March 20 – 24

CVCL I (Napa): April 3 – 7

CVCL II (San Francisco): May 8 – 12

CVCL I: (Napa): June 12 – 16

CVCL II (San Francisco): July 17 – 21