Category Archives: LightHouse News

Enchanted Hills Camp and Retreat incurs serious fire damage, makes commitment to rebuild

Help rebuild Enchanted Hills Camp stronger and better than ever.

On October 17, Enchanted Hills Camp staff – cooks, craftsmen and the property managers who work and live at the specialized Napa camp and training center for the blind – reunited at LightHouse for the Blind’s headquarters in downtown San Francisco to discuss the future of their 67-year-old camp. When the 311-acre property on Mount Veeder in Napa found itself at the center of multiple advancing fires last week, the future of the West Coast’s oldest camp for people who are blind and visually impaired was suddenly uncertain. Camp staff was able to evacuate before the mountain closed to the public, and took refuge with friends and family while waiting several days for news about their home.

On Sunday, the LightHouse finally received a few photographs of the beloved summer camp, though much of it was hard to recognize. More than a dozen structures, which housed hundreds of campers each summer, had been laid to waste by uncontrolled flames that had crossed the boundary lines into camp on the second weekend of fires in Northern California. The damage accounts for more than half of the camp’s capacity, and though reports are still inconclusive, likely includes a brand new natural redwood theater, with hand-carved benches crafted by blind artisans this summer.

“The silver lining,” says Enchanted Hills Camp director Tony Fletcher, “is though the student and staff housing is largely gone, Enchanted Hills’ core, its historic gathering spaces, remain largely intact. Because of our commitment to a fire abatement plan and all the help we’ve received enacting it over the past decade, many of these beloved buildings were spared.”

On Monday evening, LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin sent a letter to the extended blindness community throughout the United States, sharing details of the damage but also with reassurances of Enchanted Hills’ future:

“I want the large and extended LightHouse community to know that we are committed to building back Enchanted Hills Camp stronger and better than ever, both as a camp for the blind and a treasured Napa retreat center. The reconstruction of lower camp will give us opportunities to build in accessibility and modern comforts for generations of campers to come. But before that we need to tend to our staff, our operations and the planning, reforestation and construction that likely will occupy us for years to come.”

As of Tuesday morning, certain structures and vegetation was still ablaze in restricted parts of the hilly camp, though kept in check by firefighters, and it will be days if not weeks before camp staff can return to view the damage.

The LightHouse has started a dedicated fund to rebuild Enchanted Hills Camp. Should you wish to help, please consider making a donation — big or small. If you have any leads for our displaced staff in the Napa area, please email Taccarra Burrell at tburrell@lighthouse-sf.org.

Now, more than ever, Enchanted Hills needs your support and donations.

#RebuildEHC

Win Two Free Tickets to Tomorrow’s Accessible Pre-Screening of ‘Wonderstruck’ at Mill Valley Film Festival

Following in the footsteps of accessible festivals like Superfest International Disability Film Festival, more mainstream festivals like Mill Valley Film Festival (October 5 – 15) are starting to catch on to the importance of accessible viewing.

In collaboration with our partners at accessible moviegoing app Actiview, we’re offering you (and a plus one) a chance to attend Mill Valley’s VIP accessible pre-screening of the 2017 film ‘Wonderstruck’ (Julianne Moore, Amazon). The screening is tomorrow, Friday, October 13 at 7 p.m. at The Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA 94901). Actiview will be providing Audio Description and Closed Captioning through their app, which you can download online.

There will be press, potentially some of the people that worked on the movie, and more. It’s an opportunity to show filmmakers that access is crucial—and that blind and deaf people want to attend their movies!

The film travels through two different eras — 1927 and 1977 — and follows two deaf children who secretly wish their lives were different. In the earlier time period, Rose (Millicent Simmonds) begins a quest to find her idol, actress Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore). Fifty years later, Ben (Oakes Fegley) searches for his father in New York. “Wonderstruck” is adapted from a novel of the same name by Brian Selznick. In his Cannes Film Festival review, Variety’s Owen Glieberman praised Haynes’ direction, writing, “For a while it plays like two movies in one, and Haynes is so on his game in staging each of them that the audience gets swept right up in the bittersweet mixed-media rapture of his filmmaking.”

To enter to win tickets, contact LightHouse Producer Camilla Sterne at csterne@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7306 before 10 a.m. on Friday, October 13. Please be absolutely certain you can attend the screening before you enter!

Actiview is collaborating with Mill Valley on a number of accessible screenings throughout the weekend, particularly two on Sunday, October 15 that you can still purchase tickets for! It’s a great opportunity to try out the app and see a few well-regarded new films, for only $15 with advanced ticket purchase.

Here’s the info:

Breathe (Andrew Garfield, Bleeker Street)
Watch the trailer.
Sunday 10/15 Century Larkspur Theater at 11:30am.
Tickets available in advance for $15

Last Flag Flying (Steve Carell, Lionsgate)
Watch the trailer.
Sunday 10/15 Century Larkspur Theater at 2pm.
Tickets available in advance for $15

Superfest Filmmaker Reid Davenport Tells the Story of Deaf parents with Hearing Children

Reid Davenport is an award-winning documentarian whose films focus on people with disabilities. Founder and co-director of Through My Lens, Davenport has been creating films and public speaking for five years. As a man with cerebral palsy, his hope is to inspire disabled students to share their personal stories, as he has done. “There is a tremendous space for amateur videos now on YouTube and social media and a few people with disabilities have already grasped that fact and taken back the narrative,” he says. “That’s what we want to encourage, take back and start to chip away at the misrepresentations of disability.”

Reid Davenport speaks onstage to an audience. 

 

Reid’s short film On Beat, co-directed by Cheng Zhang, will be shown on Sunday, November 5 at The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco for 2017’s Superfest International Disability Festival.

On Beat follows Larry and Tanisha Cotton, a Deaf couple with three hearing children. The family uses music to bond and express themselves. Davenport and Zhang discovered the Cotton family with another story in mind, having heard about Uber’s efforts to hire Deaf drivers (Larry is a driver), but once he came across their gospel group, he knew he had a different story to tell.

Davenport and co-director Cheng Zhang collaborated by playing off each other’s strengths. Because “her strength was shooting,” and Davenport “was more involved in the interviewing,” they “balanced each other quite well.” Davenport also brought a disability aesthetic to the film, as he has in other projects as well, by “shying away from medicalization of the disability, trying not to make a portrait a pathological impairment, instead focusing on the social impact of being disabled.”

The main thing Davenport wants other filmmakers to know is that with the proliferation of social media comes a unique opportunity. “The authority over the audience that they have is unprecedented, so they need to tell their stories.” He urges them to embrace stories about disability and not shy away from it.

Watch the trailer to On Beat below and buy your tickets to catch it at Superfest today:

October 15 is White Cane Day, so we’re giving you a 10 percent discount on White Canes

Blind people have used white canes as a tool to navigate throughout the world for hundreds of years. Since 1964, Americans have commemorated this symbol of freedom and independence by recognizing October 15 as White Cane Safety Day. In 2011, White Cane Safety Day was also named Blind Americans Equality Day by President Barack Obama.

During the week beginning October 15, the Adaptations Store will celebrate White Cane Safety by taking 10 percent off of all of the canes we have in stock to commemorate this invaluable tool.

You may think one long, white cane is just like another, but think again. Canes can be as unique as the people who carry them, which is why we offer such a plethora of options for you to choose from. Our canes range from lightweight to heavy, from rigid, solid canes comprised of a single piece of material, to canes that collapse into 5, 6 or 7 sections. We also offer telescoping canes in a myriad of styles with customizable grips and tips for you to make the selection that fits you best. Our cane tips range from the standard pencil to a rolling marshmallow, from steel to ceramic, so you can outfit your cane to suit your preferred amount of feedback and detection.

Our new line-up includes two telescoping canes, one from Ambutech, which adjusts and can be locked at the length you prefer between 31 and 69 inches. Another is a 9-section, light-weight mini telescoping cane available in 6 lengths, ranging from 51 to 61 inches. It collapses into its handle, making the entire cane only about 12 inches when completely collapsed. This cane

is so small it fits in your pocket, and makes a great backup cane so you won’t find yourself stuck without a cane. These small, compact canes are made by Chris Park, the manufacturer of both our rigid, lightweight canes as well as our 7-section folding canes. It is a wonderful solution for those who travel with dog guides, just in case your dog gets sick and you find yourself in a pinch. Take this versatile cane with you when you go out to see a movie or attend an event at a crowded venue.

If your cane is beginning to show its age, we can make it shine with a new coat of reflective tape, a new tip to give it a completely different feel, or perhaps a new denim or leather holster for hands free carrying.

During the week of October 15, to kick off White Cane Safety, we’ll give you 10 percent off of the cane of your choice if you call the Adaptations Store between Monday, October 16 and Friday, October 20. Canes are essential to the health, well-being and safety of blind people and visually impaired people, from beginners to veteran travelers alike. Don’t deprive yourself of this basic right to travel when and where you wish! Picking up a cane for yourself or a friend today.

Call our staff at 1-888-400-8933 to inquire about item pick up and mail orders or email us at adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org.

 

A Blind Baker, Beekeeper and Kayaker Unite in San Francisco

Fourteen months ago, LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin proposed a wild new idea: What if we create a prize to fund a blind person to do something ambitious? What if we fund their dreams ahead of time, to get them out in the world leading, creating, exploring and changing the face of blindness rather than simply rewarding them for past achievement?

Turns out dreaming big sometimes pays off, because in January this year we announced the very first Holman Prize for Blind Ambition, an annual set of awards – three in the first year – of up to $25,000 each financing and supporting blind people worldwide in pursuing an ambitious project of their design.

After a rigorous application process including a social media competition, multiple rounds of judging and a detailed project proposal, we found our inaugural Holman Prizewinners, an unlikely trio from vastly different walks of life. The three winners, kayaker Ahmet Ustunel, baker Penny Melville-Brown and beekeeper Ojok Simon each have one-of-a-kind projects that allow them to build and foster social impact in their immediate community.

Read what the San Francisco Chronicle has to say about the inaugural Holman Prizewinners.

This week, we hosted the prizewinners in San Francisco for a full week of trainings, meetings, skill-sharing and fun before they commence their projects starting October 1. It was a busy week, but was more than we could have ever hoped for.

We started out the week by heading to One Market Restaurant, where Penny baked with some of San Francisco’s top pastry chefs, exchanging tips and tricks, learning new methods, and even teaching them a few non-visual techniques. We want to extend a huge thank you to Michael Dellar for opening the restaurant to us and extending himself to give the blindness community such a warm welcome in the food and hospitality world. Watch this video of Penny and Mac folding a peach galette together.

Penny laughs in the One Market Restaurant kitchen with pastry chef Mac while plating a peach galette.
Penny laughs in the One Market Restaurant kitchen with pastry chef Mac while plating a peach galette.
Penny smiles with One Market pastry chefs Mac and Jan, who she just presented with the pewter medals she will give to all her baking partners along her journey.
Penny smiles with One Market pastry chefs Mac and Jan, who she just presented with the pewter medals she will give to all her baking partners along her journey.

Penny is finishing out her American adventure with three more major cooking stops: China Live in San Francisco, Cheeseboard in Berkeley, and Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland. She’s planning lots of updates and videos, which will be coming out weekly starting next week at Baking Blind.

Ahmet Ustunel, who actually lives in the same bustling SF downtown as LightHouse headquarters, was more of a tour guide than visitor this week. He took us to Lowell High School, where he teaches, and gave his fellow prizewinners a tour. Not only did Ahmet introduce us to some of his blind students, but also let Ojok climb up onto the roof of Lowell’s garden shed to investigate the beehive there!

Ojok and Lowell student Ellie show Ahmet the ropes as he feels a beehive box.
Ojok and Lowell student Ellie show Ahmet the ropes as he feels a beehive box.

We’ll be honest: For a minute there, we were a little worried Ojok almost wasn’t going to make here from Uganda due to a passport snafu, but with a lot of faith and a little luck, we welcomed him with open arms on Wednesday afternoon. He wasted no time – and within 12 hours he was running along Ocean beach and talking bees with fellow blind beekeeper Aerial Gilbert.

On Thursday the Holman crew headed over to the Arkansas Friendship Garden on Connecticut Street in the SF hills, where the journalist and author Meredith May keeps an active colony of bees regularly producing honey. Within minutes, Ojok had his hands in the hives – with no gloves, we might add – gently manipulating all the little worker bees without being stung once. At the end of the afternoon, everyone even got to dig their hands into some honeycomb and taste the sweet stuff right out of the hive.

Aerial Gilbert wears a protective hat and examines a wooden beehive frame.
Aerial Gilbert wears a protective hat and examines a wooden beehive frame.
Ojok holds up a beehive in a wooden frame for everyone to examine.
Ojok holds up a beehive in a wooden frame for everyone to examine.
Ojok smiles with his white bee hat and net catching the light, while bees fly around him.
Ojok smiles with his white bee hat and net catching the light, while bees fly around him.

Ojok then produced a small jar of honey that he had brought with him from Uganda, and the group got to taste the difference between the fruity, nectar-like honey of San Francisco’s Italian bees and the smoky, meaty honey made by Ojok’s Africanized “killer” bees. Ojok will return to Uganda next week and begin expanding the Hive Uganda program, which already has 38 blind and low vision sighted beekeepers, to teach honey farming to dozens more over the course of the next year.

On Friday, Ahmet took us out on the water – which, as he’s told us many times, is “his favorite place in the world.” The prizewinners and some documentary filmmakers hopped on a few sailboats with blind sailor Walt Raineri and the Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors (BAADS), who took them all for a spin around McCovey Cove. Ahmet showed off some prototypes of the system he’ll use to autonomously navigate the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey next year, including directional and depth-sensing tools, all of which provide audible feedback. Learn more about his sonar technology from our livestream. As Ahmet’s project beings, you can follow him on Facebook and Instagram – and keep an eye out for him at your local waterway this fall while he trains for his big crossing, make sure to his page, he is the kind of guy that will buy instagram video views to motivate himself on social media!

Ahmet shows his sonar navigation system to a fellow blind sailor named Ben.
Ahmet shows his sonar navigation system to a fellow blind sailor named Ben.
Ahmet stands up in the boat while preparing to set out to McCovey Cove.
Ahmet stands up in the boat while preparing to set out to McCovey Cove.

If the live-streams, descriptions and photos weren’t enough, don’t worry: We had our cameras and microphones following along with the prizewinners all week long, and we’ll be soon bringing you scenes from the week.

Our New Onsite Optometrist is Taking Appointments for Regular Checkups

This month we’re pleased to welcome Dr. Jill Lobingier, who is now providing regular eye exams and checkups for community members in our new in-house optometric clinic. These general health checkups are a great supplement to our low vision clinic, and we’re happy to provide all of our neighbors a convenient new option for eye care here in SF.

The LightHouse Eye Center is a satellite clinic of the U.C. Berkeley School of Optometry located on the 10th Floor of the LightHouse Building in downtown San Francisco. The clinical staff includes a U.C. Berkeley School of Optometry graduate and residency trained doctors of optometry and senior optometry interns.

The clinic is located in our state-of-the-art building just adjacent to the Civic Center BART stop. With the same quality service and expertise found at UC Berkeley, the LightHouse Eye Center operates right in the heart of San Francisco, providing primary eye care such as glasses and contact lens prescriptions with thorough ocular health examinations as well as low vision services for the visually impaired. The eye clinic now serves both people with low vision and fully-sighted family members and friends, and anyone else interested in a regular optometric checkup.

With vision insurance, primary care eye exams typically cost between $10 and $20 copayment (Accepted providers include Blue Shield of California, Vision Service Plan, Eyemed, March Vision, Medi-Cal, Medicare). We do not have an optical center on site, but can order contact lenses and at the completion of your exam you will receive a copy of your prescription, which can be filled at your local optical retailer.

Call (510) 642-5726 to schedule your appointment or click HERE, and select “LIGHTHOUSE SAN FRANCISCO” as the exam type for online scheduling.

About Dr. Jill Lobingier


Portrait Shot of Dr. Lobingier

Dr. Jill Lobingier is originally from the Pacific Northwest. She received her bachelor’s degree in piano performance at Whitman College and then moved to Seattle to work as a certified optometric vision therapist. Dr. Lobingier graduated with honorsfrom University of California Berkeley School of Optometry in 2016. While in optometry school, Dr. Lobingier received the RobertGreer Smiling headshot of Dr. LobingierExcellence in Low Vision Award and the College of Optometrists in Vision Development Binocular Vision Award. Following graduation Dr. Lobingier completed a residency at the San Francisco VA Medical Center where she received extensive training in ocular disease and evidence-based medicine. With her diverse background, Dr. Lobingier enjoys seeing patients of all different ages and optometric needs.

 

Your Chance to Name a Space at the New LightHouse Headquarters

Several naming opportunities are still available as part of our Campaign to Build a 21st Century LightHouse, a project that has enabled the LightHouse to grow our programs, serve more people and expand our impact. Thank you for being a part of it, and helping us provide transformative services for people who are blind or have low vision.

Every named room is marked by a permanent sign accessible in large print, braille and tactile lettering. These attractive signs are a distinctive hallmark of the new LightHouse and we’d be delighted to honor you, your family or friends with the opportunity.

The new LightHouse welcomes all who are blind or have low vision. From teens looking to meet other blind kids and do some fun weekend activities, to adults adjusting to changing vision and learning the skills they need to go back to work and everything else they want to do. A community of peers and mentors, the LightHouse is for blind people to gain skills, find support and grow.

Contributions to the Campaign for a 21st Century LightHouse will provide tangible benefits for the blind kids, teens, adults and seniors that benefit from the joy and learning of the LightHouse for the next century. To learn more about the campaign, naming opportunities or how a gift from your estate can be used to name a space and leave an enduring legacy in you or a loved one’s honor, contact 415-694-7333 or jsachs@lighthouse-sf.org.

Here is our current list of naming opportunities:

Access Technology Demo Room

Adaptations Store

10th Floor Reception

Auditorium-Multi-Purpose Room (capacity 150)

Blindness Skills Training Area

Conference Room 925

Fitness Gym and Yoga Studio

Immersion Student Lounge

Integrating Stairwell

Living Room 11th Floor

Living Room-9th Floor

Volunteer Area

Thank you to our donors who have named rooms:

10th Floor: Herbst 10th Floor Reception and Community Learning Center

Art Room: Dove’s Nest Craft Studio

Board Room: Harold S. Dobbs Board Conference Room

Braille Room: Winifred Downing Braille Room

DPR Conference Toom 955

Enchanted Hills Office: Gena Harper and Mike May Enchanted Hills Camp and Retreat Office

Executive Suite: Michael and Leslye Dellar Executive Office

Finance Offices: US Bank Finance Suite

Ham Radio Room: Bill Gerrey, WA6NPC Amateur Radio Station

MADLab: Jerry Kuns and Theresa Postello MADLab

Pre-function Lounge: Susan O’Sullivan Room in memory of Audrey Baker

Recording Studio: Mike Cole Recording Studio

Staff Lounge: Mutual of America Staff Lounge

STEM Lab: Innovation Lab by Toyota

Student Kitchen: Hilda Angelica Cavagnero Student Kitchen

Student Residence: Erman Vincent Cavagnero Student Residence

Teaching Kitchen: Betty Ruhland Teaching Kitchen

Tech Training Rooms: Kebbel Family Tech Labs #1, #2, #3

UC Berkeley Clinic: Joseph K. Chan Low Vision Clinic

Video Conference Room: Polara Video Conference Center

Help Build New Programs for the Year Ahead

At Tribo51, we’re always dreaming up new recreational and educational programming to offer to our students — right now it’s yoga, qi gong, cooking classes, health workshops, guest speakers, bingo and even game nights.

In the coming year, we want to give the community a chance to  weigh in on programs, so we’ve put together a survey to collect your input so we can continue to design fun and engaging programs that you’ll feel compelled to attend.

Fill out this two-question survey here or in the scroll box below by September 20th and be entered in a drawing to win a Chipotle gift certificate for lunch for two. We value your time and input!

Create your survey with SurveyMonkey

Video: Meet Braille Skateboarding’s First Blind Employee

In 2013, Alex Harding moved to the US from Sierra Leone, by himself, with only a $100 bill in his pocket.

Alex was young, but full of curiosity and a desire to learn and grow in the US job market. Still, as a person with low vision, Alex was at a disadvantage. As his vision changed, it became a struggle to show employers that he could work. In 2016, he signed up for the LightHouse’s Employment Immersion Program, and today he manages the facility of one of the web’s most popular skateboarding brands, Braille Skateboarding.

This is his story.

Braille Skateboarding is a tenant of LightHouse for the Blind at the Sirkin Center in San Leandro. We established a rental agreement with Braille Skateboarding because of their commitment to employ blind people like Alex.

If you’re blind, have low vision or have just experienced a change in vision and you want to gain the skills and confidence to jump back into the working world, we have a new four-week program just for you. To sign up, email Angela Denise Davis at adavis@lighthouse-sf.org or contact your local Department of Rehabilitation counselor and ask to be enrolled.

Pick Up Your Back to School Accessibility Kit

A black LightHouse tote with tactile maps, boldline paper and a full page writing guide peeking out.
A black LightHouse tote with tactile maps, bold line paper and a full page writing guide peeking out.

Are you a teacher or educator working with blind and visually impaired students? Or maybe just a parent looking for tools to help your blind child do their homework? If so, the Adaptations Store has you covered for the school year ahead.

Just in time to head back to school, our Premier Kit for Teachers of Blind Students and scar cream is a newly-introduced, premium accessibility kit containing more than 20 hand-picked products you will find yourself reaching for again and again throughout the school year, in the same way you find yourself going back to the orogoldstores.com products over and over.

With the Premier Kit, you can:

  • Create markings and labels using a Dymo tape labeler, which comes with three rolls of clear, adhesive labeling tape
  • Need to create a label or a sign containing more than one line? No problem. The kit includes clear plastic adhesive sheets that can be cut into any size or shape
  • Bump Dots and Locator Dots can be a great way to add a simple tactile mark wherever you may need one
  • A slate and stylus for brailling, Bold Writer Pens and items like our boldline tablet or a full-page writing guide offer numerous choices to both students and teachers alike
  • Create helpful shapes and diagrams using the included package of Wikki Stix
  • Teach a student about geographic locations in and around the country with our included maps of both the state of California as well as the continental US.
  • Use the pocket-sized contractions guide to refresh students’ knowledge of the Unified English Braille Code
  • Practice reading by playing a game with a set of tactile dice or a pack of playing cards
  • The Braille/large print ruler can be used to teach the concept of measuring, and a talking keychain clock is a great way to show young students about telling time
  • Braille alphabet cards for those beginners who are new to Braille, or for showing the concept of Braille to sighted classmates

All of these helpful items come packaged conveniently in an easy-to-carry LightHouse tote bag.

The Premier Kit for Teachers of Blind Students retails for $125 from the LightHouse for the Blind’s Adaptations Store, and can be shipped anywhere in the US. Give us a call at 415-694-7301 between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, to order yours today!