Category Archives: LightHouse News

“Fear kept me away”: Our Sexual Health Coordinator on Why Her Department Exists

When Sexual Health Services Program Coordinator Laura Millar plans a new sexuality workshop or spends months gathering a LightHouse contingent to march in Pride, she does it from the perspective of someone who needed a strong community around blindness and sexuality when there wasn’t one.

“I do it for the isolated me,” says Laura, strong in her vulnerability. She does it for her former self who wasn’t yet ready to accept her blindness but needed resources, community and a place to share and ask questions.

Legally blind herself, Laura conducts research that examines how individuals who are blind or low vision learn about and navigate the world of dating, sex and intimate relationships. She offers workshops, trainings and in-services for adults and teens who are blind or have low vision, their family members and the organizations that serve them, ensuring that sexual health information and services are comprehensive, inclusive and accessible for everyone.

But the work Laura does is mostly uncharted territory. The main researcher on sex education for the visually impaired, Gaylen Kapperman, acknowledges in a 2013 Sex Education Instruction, that “little information has been reported in the literature on all aspects of sexuality as it pertains to those who are visually impaired.”

“If no one’s showing you these things or talking about these things, where do you go?” says Laura.

Studies show that 61% of blind adults or those with low vision say their vision status had a negative impact on the way they were able to participate in sex education. With mainstream sex education barely covering the bases (only 24 states mandate sex ed at all; 20 require it to be medically accurate) where does that leave people who are blind or have low vision? And for people who lose their sight later in life, many are confronted with identity issues and questions about dating and exploring sexuality without sight.

This was the case for Laura. Throughout her Master of Public Health and Masters in Sexuality Studies, she was losing her sight to RP and found that when she explored different communities or took workshops around sexual health, she was always the token blind person or disabled person in attendance. This also meant that the courses were geared towards the “able-bodied” and rarely were familiar with the needs of individuals with disabilities.

She was also new to the Bay Area, pregnant and coming to terms with becoming a single mother. She had just relocated to start graduate school and didn’t know anyone other than the acquaintances in her new cohort, most of whom didn’t even know she was blind.

She first took out her cane when she was pregnant, after she fell trying to catch the bus. But she says it was out of necessity and not because she was ready to “be seen”. Throughout her pregnancy, she spent her time at school or in bed, online. In her isolation, she turned to adult blogging and sought solace in an online relationship.

“The whole world was at my fingertips, in a computer,” she says. “If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have had a lot of meaningful human connection during that time. But it’s not the same as being in community.”

And as far as reaching out to the blindness community, Laura says, “Fear kept me away.” She was holding out hope for a cure for her blindness, and still lived life as if she were fully sighted, without learning any adaptive skills. When she finally sought services at LightHouse, a whole world of resources opened up to her.

As Laura reaches just over a year as the Sexual Health Services Program Coordinator at LightHouse, she’s heard countless stories similar to her own from other blind people. Stories about internet connections and online relationships, but also the dark side of isolation that involves self harm, self mutilation and self deprecation.

Laura acknowledges that a lot of people have similar feelings when it comes to understanding their sexuality. She finds this to be especially true in the blind community and disability spaces. “As a society we are incredibly uncomfortable talking about sex and disability, and that is without even getting into anything too taboo,” she says.

Laura’s programming is helping to change all of that. Over the next couple of weeks World of Sex will explore the kink community with Society of Janus presenters to demystify the kink community. “This is a wonderful opportunity for those who are curious to explore in a safe and supportive community” she says. For more information about those events visit the LightHouse Calendar.

“Each class, each workshop, normalizes the pieces of us,” says Laura. “I think every person that comes to something I do or is brave enough to show up, walks away with a little piece of them feeling seen. Even if it’s only themselves, seeing themselves. It’s healing. Being seen is as much about the outward being seen as the inward.”

Like her students, part of Laura’s journey with coming to terms with her own blindness and becoming a leader has been about unpacking her fear and embracing discomfort.

“Just by trusting myself and getting plugged in with other people on the same journey, I’ve finally been able to step out and be ‘blind and proud’,” she says.

A mentor once told her “‘You have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.’ Without those words, I don’t actually know that I’d be here,” she says. “I can’t tell you the number of times, I’ve been so uncomfortable. But no one else is doing this, and it needs to be done.”

Read the Bay Area Reporter’s recent write-up about the LightHouse Sexual Health Services Department.

A New Gathering Place: EHC’s Redwood Grove Theater

Over the weekend, Enchanted Hills Construction Manager George Wurtzel placed the last screw in the final hand-constructed and carved redwood benches that are the signature seating of Enchanted Hills’ new 120-person Redwood Grove Theater. It’s a project that has come to fruition over the last 10 years through patience, perseverance and unrivaled community support. And it’s ready just in time for our annual Music Academy Concert on August 12.

RSVP for our Summer Music BBQ this Saturday, 4 p.m. at Enchanted Hills in Napa.

The idea for the theater was born out of a piece of Enchanted Hills’ history relayed to us by longtime Enchanted Hills friend, counselor and historian Hope Sinclair. Hope’s father, Philip Webster, bought the land in 1927 and operated a boy’s camp there for more than 20 years. Hope herself spent much of her childhood at camp in the 1930s and 1940s and developed a detailed love for the nature and history of the place.

From conversations with Hope about the site’s history, Camp Director Tony Fletcher learned that a section of lower camp was often used for meetings and talent shows during its time as a boys camp, due to its natural acoustics. When new CEO Bryan Bashin toured camp in 2010 he instantly saw the potential to restore the disused and junk-filled natural bowl into an outdoor space of unparalleled beauty and usefulness: an outdoor theater area to host concerts, movie nights and large gatherings that would be shady in the summertime and make the most of the area’s fantastic acoustics.

Listen to this video from an impromptu performance in the theater to hear the breathtaking natural acoustics.

It was in keeping with EHC’s mission and the spirit instilled in camp by founder Rose Resnick, who was a talented musician and former concert pianist who helped make music and performance the part of everyday life at EHC that it remains today.

Starting in 2007 with the EHC fire abatement plan, a bowl started to appear as  a troupe of goats hired to clear brush in lower camp. EHC then wrangled various volunteer groups including California Conservation Core, 4H Club and the Greater Napa Kiwanis Club to help clear the area even more, and over the next 10 years the project was brought to completion with the care and collaboration of Bill Cinquini, Alan Butler, Tim Gregory Construction and George Wurtzel, EHC staff and a successful 2015 Indiegogo campaign.

“Getting the Redwood Grove built was a little bit like the LightHouse in microcosm,” says LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin. “Waves of volunteers, AmeriCorps, metal recyclers, architects, the Kiwanis club, donations from Adobe Lumber, and of course our blind  camp construction manager, George Wurtzel, who built the benches with his own hands—this is the community and cooperation I find as beautiful and harmonious as the music you’ll hear on Saturday.”

And Tony doesn’t see the project as totally complete—yet. “This project took the creativity and commitment of many many people. I’m most satisfied to think about all the different folks who have had something to do with this. And I don’t see it as done. The theater could ultimately hold as many as 499 people, so I see it as an evolving process. Hopefully it will continually grow and develop over decades to follow.”

Thank you to the many organizations and individuals who helped bring the Redwood Grove Theater into being. We hope you’ll visit us up at camp on August 12 to witness the beautiful and one-of-a-kind fruits of our labors. Learn more and RSVP for the Music Academy Concert here.

The terraced seating and stage of the Redwood Grove Theater surrounded by lush redwoods.
The terraced seating and stage of the Redwood Grove Theater surrounded by lush redwoods. Photo by Marilyn Bogerd.
A view from behind the stage of the Redwood Grove Theater.
A view from behind the stage of the Redwood Grove Theater. Photo by Marilyn Bogerd.
A side view of a crowd listening to music in the Redwood Grove Theater.
A side view of a crowd listening to music in the Redwood Grove Theater. Photo by Marilyn Bogerd.
A closeup of the redwood benches, which were individually designed and hand carved by EHC Construction Manager George Wurtzel.
A closeup of the redwood benches, which were individually designed and carved by EHC Construction Manager George Wurtzel. Photo by Marilyn Bogerd.
A detail ivy pattern carved into the back of one of the benches.
A detail ivy pattern carved into the back of one of the benches. Photo by Marilyn Bogerd.

Are you up to the LightHouse 5K Challenge?

Recently, our Community Services Department asked our community of blind individuals some questions about how they live their lives and get exercise. One question was: Do you think you’d be able to run a 5k race?

Most respondents said no. Surprised?

Whether it’s a normal response – many folks just don’t have an interest in distance running – or a testament to misconceptions about blindness, we decided a 5k was a goal worth taking on, and a realistic one, to boot.

Running 5 kilometers sounds like a lot of work, and maybe the letter “k” turns people off of making the effort. Also, a common misconception about running a race is that you must run the entire time, which is not necessarily true. Many people who participate may walk for the majority of the race. Another reason blind people may shy away from a 5K is the fear of losing their way or not being able to keep up. Well, with a bit of training and help from LightHouse’s fitness partners resource many blind people may be unaware of–such problems can easily be solved.

The LightHouse’s own Serena Olsen set out this year on a mission to change fitness goals for blind people around the Bay Area. It’s called the National Fitness Challenge, put on by the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) and the Anthem Foundation to celebrate fitness goals for the wider blindness community.

August is the NFC’s halfway point, and we’ve already seen a ton of progress from our 25 participants, who were all given complimentary Fitbits to help them track their progress through the year – and it’s all part of a national effort to get the low vision community out and about. Here’s some data on all the blind people exercising their way through the summer:

“Through the first 5 months of the 2017 National Fitness Challenge, our 342 participants and 13 cities have gone over 320,000,000 steps and 141,000 miles, surpassing the number of steps from the entire 2016 Fitness Challenge.
Even during the warm weather of summer, cities have increased their activity levels on an individual and group level. Groups like Memphis and Fort Wayne showed their desire to participate in the different sports available to the blind and visually impaired with Paralympic Day events, while other groups like St Louis and Knoxville continued increasing their steps through monthly walking meetups.”

With the challenge running until November, there’s still a lot of ground to cover, so in the spirit of setting new goals and mixing things up, Serena has set the group’s sights on the 5K.

“Your muscles and vital organs benefit from the increased bloodflow,” Serena sounds like a doctor when she rattles off the reasons, adding. “There is a feeling of accomplishment and a sense of community.” To prepare her NFC team, Serena also holds weekly running (and walking and jogging) club every Saturday morning at Lake Merritt in Oakland. It’s a perfect opportunity to prepare.

Email solsen@lighthouse-sf.org to find your fitness partner and start running.

To really up the ante, Serena takes the challenge, too—she will personally register for and participate in every event where another NFC participant signs up.

“As the coordinator, it is important for me to be a good role model,” she says.

Pasted below is a list of local 5 & 10K run/walks happening all over the Bay Area throughout summer and well into fall.  The National Fitness challenge will reimburse you for your registration fees (conditions apply. Be sure to click through and read more details about specific events).

10K on the Bay

August 27, Hayward

Alameda Running Festival

September 16, Alameda

East Bay Front Runner’s Pride Run & Walk

October 14, Oakland

Night Nation Run, San Francisco

October 14, Berkeley

 

Forward a copy of your registration to Serena at solsen@lighthouse-sf.org and she will join you in your efforts, matching whatever you register for-5K, 10K, you drive it and I will see you at the starting line at the event!

And a 5K isn’t the only way to stay fit. While it is a great challenge to get people out there, socializing and exercising, there are simple ways to increase your steps every day that Serena mentioned. “Tooth brushing is one of those things where you’re brain can focus on something else. This is the perfect opportunity to pace,” she revealed. “Sometimes I will even march in place while I’m washing my hands.”

Contact Serena Olsen at solsen@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7316 for more info or to get involved.

Our Burning Man Maps for the Blind are Back

Burning Man has ten tenets — perhaps the first and foremost being “radical inclusion”. On their website, the first principle reads, “Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.”

It’s a philosophy that we share at LightHouse, and one that led MAD Lab designer and longtime Burner Julie Sadlier to debut a one-of-a-kind tactile Burning Man map two years ago. In other words, a Burning Man map for blind people.

This year, we’ve updated and improved the hybrid tactile-visual map for Burning Man 2017. The maps, with updated art placement, will be available at several locations in Black Rock City, including the Playa Information Booth, Mobility Camp and the CBT Project (at 7 and Fire), and here at the LightHouse headquarters starting August 23. To pre-order a map, contact our Adaptations Store at 1-888-400-8933 or adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org.

Calling it “awesome, no matter your level of sight,” The Atlantic’s CityLab aptly pointed out that you don’t have to be blind to use our map. Complete with braille, visual, and tactile representations of the event’s streets, information booths, first aid tents, restrooms, bus stops, camping, parking, and notable attractions such as artwork, Mobility Camp, The Temple and of course, The Man, the map is a great tool for anybody getting to know the festival – and one that is equally accessible to those with no vision. Now that’s radical inclusivity.

The map’s creator Julie Sadlier, said the response at Black Rock City over the last two years has been incredible, so much so that the leader of Mobility Camp, “Rat Lady”, contacted her way back in February to make sure she would be designing an updated version of the map for 2017.

“I had multiple people coming to my camp, even when I wasn’t there people were dropping off brailled business cards so they could talk more about the map,” says Julie. “Someone at Playa Information dismantled one copy and hung it on the wall to spread the word.”

It’s this type of openness and inclusivity, we’ve found, that opens unexpected doors and embodies the spirit of the LightHouse for the Blind as well as Burning Man. We look forward to printing even more than last year and to hearing your stories when you get back from the playa!

To get a copy of our map, call the Adaptations Store (1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco) at 1-888-400-8933, or email adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org. If you or your organization would like to design a fully accessible, inclusive map of, well – anything – email madlab@lighthouse-sf.org.

Yoga with Kimm: New Class Times

Photo: Kimm Ropicky sits in a yoga pose (photo by Karolina Zapolska).

Yoga helps promote physical, mental and spiritual balance and can provide you with a foundation of flexibility and centeredness. If you experience challenges with balance and mobility, yoga can assist you in increasing your strength and tone, providing you with the confidence you may be striving for in your daily life.

No experience with yoga is necessary – Instructor Kimm Ropicky will work with you no matter what level of experience you have. Class times are below and you must register prior to attending, or complete registration upon your first day of participation.

Who: Students ages 14 and up and their blind or sighted friends.
Where: the 11th Floor Fitness Studio at LightHouse Headquarters, 1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco, California 94103.
When: Mondays and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. Each class is 75 minutes. Yoga mats, blocks and belts will be provided.
Class fee: $10 per class. This class is open to the public, blind or sighted, so bring a friend!
Please note: Classes close 10 minutes after the start time.
Space is limited, so sign up now.

Special trial offer for LightHouse Students! If you are a LightHouse Student and want to try out a yoga class for free, please speak with our Information Concierge, Esmeralda Soto, for a complimentary yoga class pass. You may speak to Esmeralda when you visit the LightHouse or call her at 415-694-7323. (Passes must be picked up in person, are for LightHouse Students only and must be submitted to the yoga instructor.)

Contact Serena Olsen at solsen@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7316.

Note: Yoga may require intense physical exertion. While it can be modified to meet your needs, we suggest that if you have any concerns prior to participating, please consult your doctor.

About Kimm Ropicky

Kimm’s yoga journey began in the Midwest during a college elective course. While the location of her practice has changed since then, her focus on body alignment, strength, and flexibility remains. Over the years, her practice has grown increasingly mindful, expanding to encompass more than just the physical poses. For Kimm, yoga has become a safe space to work through emotions and relieve stress. It is this focus that led her to become a teacher, deepen her personal practice, and begin to share this mindful space with everyone who enters her classes.

Kimm provides her students with a playful, core-focused yoga, designed to promote strength, flexibility and focus. Her creative sequencing encourages students of all levels to try something new. Hands-on assists and thorough explanations of body alignment create a safe and supportive environment to learn and explore. Kimm is certified with Pete Guinosso’s “Lighting the Path” Teacher Training and has achieved RYT-200 designation (successfully completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training program) with Yoga Alliance.

Everything EHC Podcast: A Peek into our Camp’s Day-to-Day

Enchanted Hills Camp’s Enrichment Area Leader Masceo Williams is putting a fresh spin on Enchanted Hills Camp in Napa, California through his new podcast, Everything EHC.

“Years from now, I want people to be able to look back and see what we were doing in the past. There are so many interesting people here, and I want to be able to capture their stories through the podcast,” says Masceo (pronounced May-cee-o).

Masceo, who is blind, got involved with camp in 2014 as the nature area leader and has continued being an active member of the EHC community. He started the podcast to raise awareness about the camp within the blind community, and show what camp has done for the diverse group of both blind and sighted individuals who come back year after year.

Though LightHouse can’t take any credit for producing the podcast, LightHouse and EHC employees have featured in numerous episodes. As Masceo said in his first episode, the podcast is “recorded at EHC, by EHC, and for EHC.” The 30 episodes recorded so far, with the promise of many more to come over the summer, cover everything from camp history to band and movie reviews. In each episode, Masceo interviews a featured guest and collects a wide variety of perspectives on camp. He has featured camp director Tony Fletcher, camp counselors and other leaders, and both campers and parents during the summer’s first session of family camp.

By speaking to so many individuals, some who are new to camp and others who are very familiar with EHC’s charm, he conveys the true enchantment and beauty found there. EHC is a place where blind campers—adults and children—can find independence and lifelong friends all in the space of a few days. The property is also rented out during the off-season, allowing others to partake in its mystique while simultaneously benefitting the blind community.

Listen to a few of our favorites:

Episode 1: Get to know Camp Director Tony Fletcher

Episode 12: Chilling with Camp Counselor Nasir & Volunteer Vinay

Episode 18: With Camp regular Ken Rossi

LightHouse’s MAD Lab Receives the Robert S. Bray Award for Innovation in Tactile Graphics

Last week, the American Council of the Blind awarded LightHouse’s Media and Accessible Design Lab with the Robert S. Bray Award for Media Excellence at the annual conference in Reno, Nevada. The Bray Award is given to a person or a company that has improved communication technology or devices, or expanded access to such devices for all blind people.

Last year, the award was presented to LightHouse partner Apple for the company’s strides in accessibility and continued dedication to inclusion-based innovation for blind users.

MAD Lab Alternative Media Specialist Frank Welte attended the conference and accepted the award on behalf of MAD Lab.

“It was exciting to see MAD Lab recognized at a national level for the cutting edge work we’re doing in making high quality tactile graphics available to the blind community,” he says. “It’s an indication that we’re coming into a golden age in the creation of and availability of tactile graphics that are accessible to blind people. We’re seeing that greater attention is being paid to effective use of tactile graphics to communicate visual information to blind people.”

The MAD Lab has earned a reputation for producing fabulous tactile media of all kinds, including raised line drawings, tactile graphics and tactile maps like this one for Alcatraz or this one of California, and other GGRNA maps – for everything from Burning Man to BART. We are thrilled to be on the forefront of tactile innovation, education and literacy.

For a rate sheet or an informal quote on a business project, contact MADLab@lighthouse-sf.org or call 415-694-7349.

Our Blind Music Academy is Going on Tour in August and You’re Invited

In its fourth year, LightHouse’s summer Music Academy continues to grow and expand, literally. Each year, Music Academy culminates with a performance by blind students from all over the world. This time around the group will take the stage at Enchanted Hills’ brand new Redwood Grove Theater, which was completed this summer and features redwood benches made at camp by blind woodworker George Wurtzel. The students will also hit the road to perform at our headquarters in San Francisco. 

A view of the new redwood amphitheater dappled in sunlight at EHC.

Experience the power of Music Academy by joining us at one of these free concerts:

About Music Academy

Enchanted Hills Camp has paired up with Bill McCann, founder and president of Dancing Dots Braille Music Technology to craft a Music Academy for blind musicians ages 16 to 24 years old who are serious about music or might be thinking of entering the profession. Bill McCann pioneered this specialized music academy model both in Canada and the United States. The academy introduces students to using non-visual techniques to compose music, read the works of others, learn performance skills and gain the capacity to compete for and win employment in the music field.

With its specialized emphasis, our talent pool and ambition continues to grow. This year we’re excited to host students from all over the world, who will spend a week focused on not only becoming better performers but achieving fluency in braille music and other accessible forms of musical notation.

Musicians ages 18 and over who are participating in the Music Academy are invited to stay on for the extended section of our Music Academy program. The extended program starts August 13 and ends August 16 and will be held in San Francisco at LightHouse for the Blind. We will shuttle those qualifying participants to LightHouse for the Blind from the Enchanted Hills Camp. We will also provide a shuttle service to the SFO airport at the end of the program on August 16.

We still have openings in this year’s Music Academy! If you have questions about the session please contact Taccarra Burrell at tburrell@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7318.

A special thank you to our Music Academy Sponsors:

 

Chateau Montelena Winery Logo

 

Cotati Food Service Logo

YES Academy Week One: Cane skills, cooking and mock interviews

It’s been a lively week at LightHouse headquarters with our three-week Summer Youth Employment Series (YES) underway. The 10th and 11th floors have been warm with the chatter of blind and visually impaired youth attending four classes a day including orientation & mobility, technology, living skills and job readiness trainings.

Many of the students at YES Academy are getting their first introductions to life skills like using a white cane, cooking, doing laundry, interviewing for jobs and volunteering. But it isn’t all work and no play. They also explored the city of San Francisco, including a ghost tour of Chinatown and a scavenger hunt at Fisherman’s Wharf.

This week they’re headed to camp and kayak in Tomales Bay, and then they’re off to Enchanted Hills Camp to spend a few days breathing the fresh air and learning the fundamentals of woodworking with blind woodworker George Wurtzel. The final week, a select group will attend the National Federation of the Blind Convention in Orlando, Florida. Here, students will meet thousands of blind role models from across the country, network with the National Association of Blind Students, peruse the aisles of the exhibition hall, participate in a nation-wide accessible job-fair and attend informative seminars.

“When we picked up the students at the airport not a single one of them was using a cane,” says Youth Services Coordinator Jamey Gump when we asked him about the most gratifying aspect of leading the program. “Now many of them feel confident to use their canes. It’s an important landmark for them to be comfortable with themselves and be able to identify as blind to allow the public to understand their needs.”

Romesha Laird is one of the YES students who started off the week having never used a cane before. She’s quickly taken to the mobility training and has found it an incredibly useful tool as she goes through this busy week of fun and self discovery.

“I’m just learning to use a cane,” she says. “I used to trip a lot and the cane makes me feel more confident. After this week, I feel a lot more motivated to use my cane when I’m walking around.”

Romesha is a high school student from San Bernardino, and when she’s not learning to making quick biscuits in the teaching kitchen or learning skills that will help her toward her goal of attending a four year college, she’s an avid cheerleader.

This week she discovered a mentor in YES Academy Counselor Danielle Fernandez.

“I really look up to Danielle,” she says. “She taught me a lot and showed me around. She also has the same condition as me, so we relate and understand each other.”

Romesha has already made up her mind that she’ll be headed back to YES next year.

“I am going to come back next year to learn more and get more experience and visit everyone at the LightHouse,” she says smiling.

Here are a few photos of Romesha practicing mobility in downtown San Francisco and volunteering to braille business cards in the MAD Lab.

Romesha smiles as she walks down Market Street with her white cane.
Romesha smiles as she walks down Market Street with her white cane.
Romesha helps emboss business cards with fellow YES Academy students in one of the LightHouse volunteer rooms.
Romesha helps emboss business cards with fellow YES Academy students in one of the LightHouse volunteer rooms.

Stay posted for more YES Academy updates in the coming weeks!

Meet Penny Melville-Brown: Blind Baker and Holman Prizewinner

The LightHouse for the Blind announces Penny Melville-Brown of “Baking Blind” as one of the first three winners of the Holman Prize.

British Royal Navy veteran Penny Melville-Brown is not your average chef. First of all, she is, in fact, blind. But beyond that, Penny has a deep and unique understanding of food’s ability to break down cultural barriers and to connect people – blind and sighted alike – across the globe.

Today, LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco announces Penny as one of three winners of the 2017 Holman Prize for Blind Ambition, a brand-new award for blind adventurers of all kinds.

Penny preps food wearing an apron in the kitchen

“While food is a mainstay across the media and popular culture, it is almost impossible to find any inclusion of visually impaired people,” Penny says.  With her Holman Prize project, Penny hopes to change that.

With the $25,000 Holman Prize, Penny will travel to Costa Rica, Malawi, Australia, China and the United States, all over the course of a year. Along the way, she will meet chefs, teach blind people and community leaders the techniques and panache of blind baking, and film these encounters to ensure that people change their assumptions about the capabilities of blind chefs.

Equal parts travelogue and instructional video series, Penny’s video blog will teach all of us, sighted or otherwise, something new about the art of cooking.

Penny dishes up some food in the kitchen, smilingPenny also has a special connection with the namesake of the Holman Prize, James Holman, a 19th Century world traveler known as the first blind man to circumnavigate the globe. Both became blind while serving in the British Royal Navy (albeit nearly 200 years apart). Now, like Holman, Penny will take off around the world, crossing multiple continents to teach others about the capabilities of those with disabilities.

Penny is one of three inaugural winners of the Holman Prize. Her fellow prizewinners, Ahmet Ustunel and Ojok Simon, hail from the US and Uganda respectively, and also have ambitious adventures planned over a range of geographies and subjects. Ustunel is planning a solo kayak journey from Europe to Asia, while Simon is planning to build out a blind-led social enterprise for beekeepers in Uganda.

They will all meet at the Lighthouse in San Francisco in September.

Penny began hosting and producing regular video segments this year for a program she calls “Baking Blind”. She takes pride in her collaborations, which will only grow with the help of The Holman Prize. A YouTube original, she can be seen in her videos making everything from apple tarts to lamb tajines and quail eggs in soy sauce.

Read about all three Holman Prize winners in-depth.

Holman Honorees: Meet the 2017 finalists.

Meet the blind judges who picked the winners.

Support The Holman Prize

The LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, is actively seeking sponsorships and support for the 2018 Holman Prize, including donations of equipment for the winner’s projects. To offer your support, contact holman@lighthouse-sf.org. Individuals may donate any amount using LightHouse’s secure form. For sponsorship inquiries, email us or call +1 (415) 694-7333.

 

For press inquiries, email press@lighthouse-sf.org.