Tag Archives: blindness

“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.

LightHouse Announces Three Inaugural Holman Prizewinners

This fall, three exceptional blind individuals will set off around the world on adventures they never imagined possible as winners of The Holman Prize for Blind Ambition. Today, we are pleased to share their names with the world.

The three winners, Ahmet Ustunel, Penny Melville-Brown, and Ojok Simon, were announced Thursday, June 29, 2017 after a rigorous judging process that narrowed down the applicants to eleven highly competitive finalists. Each winning project embodies its own sense of adventure and ambition – whether it takes the winners around the world or allows them to build and foster social impact in their immediate community.

Created to honor “blind ambition” in all its forms, the annual $25,000 awards will spring-board future generations of entrepreneurs, adventurers and ambassadors in the blindness community.

With over 200 applicants from 27 countries, The Holman Prize saw stiff competition in its first year. All applicants were required to upload 90-second YouTube videos to pitch their idea for a dream project with a $25,000 budget, and later asked to submit formal proposals.

Named after the 19th century explorer James Holman (known around the world as “the blind traveler”) The Holman Prize aims to launch worthy projects that will change the public perception of blindness for years to come.

“We are thrilled to support these three individuals,” LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin noted Thursday with the announcement. “They are all incredibly ambitious in different ways, and their projects will have a real effect on the way blindness is perceived globally. I think about Ahmet’s determination, Penny’s cultural savvy, and Ojok’s entrepreneurial spirit – this is what blindness looks like today. These three will change minds about what blind people can accomplish.”

The 2017 Holman Prize Winners

The Three Holman Prizewinners will fly to San Francisco in September 2017 for a week-long orientation before starting their projects on October 1. Once they land in San Francisco, the winners will not only meet and learn from each other, but they will engage with other blind teachers, technologists and leaders from LightHouse’s extended network. The winners will also create comprehensive plans to document and share their experiences along the way through video, audio, writing and other storytelling mediums.

Ahmet Ustunel’s project has a clear, unprecedented goal: to kayak solo, without eyesight, from Europe to Asia. With potential for a dramatic climax and high stakes, Ustunel’s proposal to cross the 3-mile Bosphorus Strait caught the attention of the Holman Prize Committee and proved to be a compelling and unprecedented undertaking. By training in California and working to develop a suite of non-visual guidance technology to thrive on his own in the water, Ustunel hopes to join the ranks of other great blind outdoor heroes such as Erik Weihenmayer, Lonnie Bedwell and others.

Get to know Ahmet.

Penny Melville-Brown has a project with a universal focus: food. With a deep belief in the power of food to connect people, Penny’s project is a bid to claim a place at the stove for blind chefs everywhere. Penny’s intentions are less about competition and perfection and more about connecting with others through culture and shared experience. Maybe she’s the blind Julia Child – or the blind Anthony Bourdain – either way, as Penny documents her travels and successes in her series, “Baking Blind,” the world will follow along with her.

Get to know Penny.

Ojok Simon will take on a drastically different kind of project than his fellow winners. Simon seeks to raise employment rates for blind and partially sighted individuals in rural regions of his home country of Uganda. His method? Teach them a very specialized and somewhat unlikely skill: beekeeping. For decades, Simon has been a passionate beekeeper finding ways to tend bees in nontraditional and non visual ways. Simon wants to impart his warm attitude and entrepreneurial spirit on other blind individuals in Africa and abroad, rather than seeing them relegated to poverty and reliance on charity.

Get to know Ojok.

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, contact press@lighthouse-sf.org.

 

#BeSeen in the Streets: Photos from Pride 2017

We’d like to express our gratitude to everyone who marched with us in San Francisco Pride on Sunday. Our contingent added up to more than 100 people. It was an empowering and joyful day and we’ve got the photos to show for it!

Serena Olsen wears a Rosie the Riveter headscarf and raises her hand proudly above her head as she marches with her white cane. Photo by Sarahbeth Maney.
Renae Davidson, Jordan Castor, and Ashley Butala smile and  laugh as they march together. Photo by Sarahbeth Maney.
Volunteers Rochelle Quinney and her friends and family hold the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired banner. Photo by Sarahbeth Maney.
Kate Williams smiles and high-fives spectators along the parade route.
Vanessa Brash and Philip Berg march together. Vanessa holds a large with sign that says “Love” in text and braille. Photo by Sarahbeth Maney.
Melissa Hadiyanto and Robert Alminana walk arm in arm. Photo by Sarahbeth Maney.
Robert Alminana smiles and holds a sign that says “The first Pride was a riot”.
A black lab guide dog sits at the feet of his owner, who wears neon rainbow knee-high socks.
A girl wearing a Pikachu hat jumps into the air in front of the LightHouse banner while bubbles float around her.
Lisamaria Martinez carries her infant daughter while holding a “Blind and Proud” sign in one hand and her white cane in the other. Her husband Joe Bakker pushes a stroller in the background.
The LightHouse group marches down Market Street holding rainbow signs that say “Blind and Proud”.
Serena Garcia and Gaby Leal walk together down Market Street. Serena holds her hand high.
Joshua York and Laura Millar smile while marching alongside the LightHouse van. Laura holds a sign that reads “Blind and Proud”.

Moving at the Speed of Light: LightHouse is in a NASCAR Race This Weekend

There’s plenty of hubbub happening this weekend at Sonoma Raceway, and LightHouse will be right there in the thick of it as an associate sponsor on board the No. 23 EarthWater Limited Toyota Camry of Alon Day, thanks to the generous support of NASCAR’s BK Racing team.

Day’s Toyota Camry will be repping the LightHouse logo on the right and left back quarter panels, complete with the “L” and “H” braille dots that will no doubt turn heads both on television and from the stands as the 200-mile per hour vehicle pulls in to refuel. Thanks to BK Racing, we’ll also have a few NASCAR enthusiasts from the LightHouse community behind the scenes for VIP pre-race garage and pit tours, as well as a meet and greet with Alon Day. They’ll also be sitting with his crew chief atop the pit box during the race, so whether you’re watching from the grandstands or the ESPN telecast, look out for those white canes.

“Blind people aspire to participate in all aspects of culture, including NASCAR,” says LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin. “We love the drive, energy and daring along lines of excellence and our community is thrilled to be a part of it as a sponsor for Alon Day’s debut.”

“I’m very proud to have a great organization like Lighthouse for the Blind on the car for my Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut,” says Day. “The work that they do for blind individuals in California and around the world is truly inspiring.”

“I am excited to have Lighthouse for the Blind on our car this weekend,” said Team Owner, Ron Devine. “The work they do is special, and it’s an honor to have them join us for the race. If you’d like to donate, you can visit their donate page at lighthouse-sf.org/donate/form/.”

About BK Racing

BK Racing is a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Racing team headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. The team was founded in 2012 after owners Ron Devine and Wayne Press acquired Red Bull Racing. BK Racing’s staff of highly skilled mechanics and engineers fields the No. 23 & 83 entries in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series as a Toyota Racing team. The 2017 season will be BK Racing’s 6th consecutive full-time season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Follow us on Twitter @BKRacing_2383, Facebook, and Instagram @bkracing_2383. Visit us at BKRacingTeam.com.

And speaking of cars…

Are you looking for potential write-offs to reduce your tax burden for 2017? One way to get a tax write-off is to donate a vehicle to benefit the LightHouse. Donating your car, truck, van, SUV, boat, motorcycle, ATV, RV, trailer or airplane is as simple as can be, with the help of our trusted partner CARS (Charitable Adult Rides and Services). CARS has been serving the LightHouse as our car donation processor for many years and you can count on them to handle your car donation with ease.

If you have any questions about the donation process or you are ready to donate a vehicle to benefit LightHouse programs and services, call CARS toll-free at 844-740-4483, seven days a week. Thank you from the LightHouse!

Camper Spotlight: Billy Lei

Nineteen-year-old Enchanted Hills camper Billy Lei bubbles with enthusiasm as he describes his first session at EHC, saying, “I loved Enchanted Hills from the first moment I got there. I loved the space, the trees, the people, all of it!”

Billy moved with his family from China to Sacramento eight years ago. They moved in part to give Billy the education he couldn’t get in China, where children with disabilities are often shuttered away. It was a big change. He says, “I was just eleven when I came here. I didn’t know the language and remember having to adjust to the hotter weather and different food.” Despite these challenges, Billy began to sharpen his English, dig into academics and learn how to relate to his American peers.

And Billy wanted to do more than that. At first, he might have been mistaken for shy, but he explains, “…that’s not really my nature. I learned a lot in school, but I wanted to become more confident and push myself even more.” That is exactly what he did at Enchanted Hills.

Since 1950, Enchanted Hills Camp, sprawling across 311 idyllic acres in the redwoods of Napa, is the place where children and adults who are blind or have low vision try new things, experience the grandeur of wilderness and make lifelong friends. Each year Enchanted Hills offers more than 550 campers the chance to enjoy nature while learning all kinds of skills, from archery to tactile crafts, from campfire-building to horseback riding.

Billy jumped at the chance to go to camp. Once there he learned to navigate the undulating campus and enjoy all that the camp had to offer. He tells us, “There’s so much that I love about Enchanted Hills. I love nature – I love hiking and the feeling of open space, the sound of the birds – it’s a happy place to be and I can really relax my mind. I love all kinds of physical activity and I took my very first martial arts class there. I liked it so much that I continue to take classes here at home.”

Camp Director Tony Fletcher says, “Billy is a great role model for the younger campers and he always takes advantage of the opportunities offered to him. We’ve seen how EHC can be a gateway to the deep learning of the rest of the LightHouse. Billy has run with this. He really threw himself into camp life. Now he’s getting ready to take on the working world as an active member of LightHouse’s Youth programs. He is learning how to do a great job interview.”

This summer, hundreds of young campers will set up their cabins and meet blind friends, old and new. Together they will gain confidence and a sense of pride in who they are. Please donate to help us continue to make camp a place for blind kids to discover themselves.

View the full list of our camp sessions here. We still have spaces at our STEAM Camp, the special tech track in our youth camp session, from July 12 to 15 — learn more about this dynamic and educational session on our website.

A Blind Poet in the LightHouse Studio: Watch “Vision” by Leah Gardner

“I’m a woman who’s a blind, depressed lesbian,” says Leah Gardner, with a good-humored chuckle. “That’s who I am. That’s my reality and I’m okay with it.”

Leah is also a part-time tech trainer at LightHouse and a slam poet. She will be marching with our San Francisco Pride Contingent this Sunday, June 25 to #BeSeen.

Leah hasn’t participated in Pride in about 15 years — since she was a young poet in New Hampshire and Vermont — but when she heard about our blind and visually impaired contingent from our weekly newsletter, she decided it was time to march again. In her late 20s, marching in Pride offered her a lot of hope, along with a sense acceptance and celebration in who she was and what she offered to a community. After a tough couple of years, Leah is ready to feel that hope again.

“There’s a lot of excitement building for me, just in terms of being part of this,” she says. “Every time that I participated in the New Hampshire and Vermont marches, it was with wonderful friends but they were all sighted. It was not part of a visually impaired community, as key to me as that was in my life. This year carries this newness to it. It will be a completely original experience of sharing this day with people who are also blind and GLBTQ. So I’m really energized.”

We’re asking folks to use the hashtag #BeSeen and think about what that means in the context of Pride.

“I think a lot of people are very comfortable with talking about sexuality but the vision loss and the reality of that creates a lot of shame,” says Leah. “And in my case I also deal with severe depression, which adds some challenges in finding a way to form bonds with other people. We all have some shame about something, some facet of our personality. This ‘Being Seen’ concept to me has become about saying no to that shame.”

And Leah is no stranger to thinking about the intersection of blindness and sexuality. One of the poems she has performed most over the years is a poem called “Vision” about a gay friend who was losing his sight. The poem unpacks the shame and fear that often accompanies both sexuality and disability, and is a testament to the courage it takes to go through a world that isn’t always kind to people it deems outside of the norm. In advance of San Francisco Pride, we asked Leah to perform “Vision” in the LightHouse studio. Watch the video below.

Leah will present this poem live at our “All Eyes on Allies: Pride Training and Community Building” on June 22 where she also discuss what it means to show up to Pride as an ally for people with multiple marginalized identities. This training will also teach volunteers how to be effective human guides.

We hope you’ll volunteer to be part of our contingent. Sign up to march with us on June 25 at our Eventbrite page.

Watch Live: A Virtual Reality Event for Global Accessibility Awareness Day

May 18th is the 6th Annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and today we’re hosting architects, engineers, educators and designers for a very special “Virtual Reality Tour of Blindness.” The UK-based startup Theia Immersive has developed a robust, nuanced set of virtual and augmented reality filters to simulate all types of visual impairment, from color blindness to glaucoma and more. Today, they present from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. in a mini-conference held at LightHouse’s headquarters in San Francisco. You can watch live, here:

Get Paid to Help the Blind from Home: Aira Seeks Part-time Agents in San Francisco

 

Aira logoLast week, LightHouse Staff spent the day with Aira, one of the leading startups to emerge in the remote sighted assistant space. Equipped with a wearable camera or mobile app, blind users can use Aira’s platform to receive on-demand sight assistance from trained professionals – privately and discreetly. The “agent,” who uses Aira’s dashboard software to keep notes on your preferences, track your surroundings through GPS and zoom in on far-away visuals. The result is a highly proficient “expert” who can efficiently identify, explain and Google anything your heart desires, opening up the blind user to a more accessible, frictionless environment.

Aira’s agents are the backbone of their operation, and it’s safe to say these paid professionals have some of the coolest jobs you could imagine. Aira has put out an announcement that they are hiring agents in the San Francisco Bay Area, to work from home or from the co-working spaces available at LightHouse.

If you’re interested, read the full posting below.

Aira Agent – Part Time, San Francisco

At Aira, we are giving increased freedom and independence to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. But we need your help as the star of our service!

As an Aira Agent you simply log onto our dashboard from your computer at home and begin answering video calls from our customers who reside across the United States – you will help them to shop, read their mail or computer screen, cook meals or even describe individuals in social settings – the scenarios are varied and unique. You will join a small but growing team of Aira Agents who, along with training, will help you hone your skills and share your calls.

Through a live video stream, you are able to see what they would be seeing, and provide the information they need to make decisions or explore their world.

Hours are flexible. We offer a range of hours per day between the times of 4 a.m PST to 10pm PST.

In order to apply, submit here. To see more about Aira go to Aira Inspiration or the Aira Website.

We are looking for:

  • People that are Enthusiastic, eager, and well spoken.
  • People that love to search the web and find the best info.
  • People that can multitask while remaining focused and calm.
  • People that want to grow with a company- the opportunities are just beginning with Aira.

Volunteer Spotlight: Abby Cochran

When Abby Cochran first found the LightHouse three years ago, she came asking for help – but she wasn’t blind.

Abby, who is fully sighted, had just moved to Berkeley for her Masters degree and was working at a startup in the city called TransitScreen. The company was using bluetooth beacons to send transit data to users phones – particularly useful for blind users at inaccessible signs. She needed user testers though, and someone told her LightHouse was the obvious choice.

“I met a lot of really friendly people who expressed interest in my work and welcomed me,” she says. “They said, ‘Wait, that’s actually a really interesting thing. Can we talk about doing this? It was really welcoming and nice.”

As Abby transitioned into her PhD in Urban Planning at UC Berkeley, LightHouse stuck in the back of her mind. Her social circumstances were changing, her time circumstances were changing, and she was looking for new people and activities to fill her time.

A couple months and a few LightHouse newsletters later, Abby discovered our Fitness Partner’s program.

“At the time it was in the middle of a beautiful week and I was like man, if I’m going out running anyway, I might as well have a buddy,” she says. “That would be the best.”

Abby signed up for a Volunteer Training and Volunteer Coordinator Justine Harris-Richburgh connected her to her new fitness partner who, like Abby, lived in Berkeley and was excited to spend time every weekend getting out and about. The two quickly fell into a rhythm with hikes all around the Bay Area. Abby says they still hike about once a week, usually for half a day.

“Within the first few weeks we were exercising together, he invited me to an event,” she says. “We were doing introductions and meeting people, and he said this is Abby. And they were like ‘Oh, how do you two know each other?’ And we hesitated for a second and looked in each other’s direction and said, ‘Well, we’re… friends.’”

Despite morphing into a supportive friendship, Abby says the fitness outings are both regular and casual. “We might go to see a particular section of the Bay trail,” she says, “or one of us — I won’t say which — might want to go shoe shopping. We’re flexible.”

Abby continues to volunteer at numerous LightHouse events, assisted in our Sexual Health workshop series, connected with other fitness partners, and will work as an Orienteering instructor for STEAM Camp at Enchanted Hills this summer.

So what keeps Abby coming back to LightHouse, time and time again?

“I love the people first,” she says. “I like hanging out with my friends and my friends are now here. I have a really wonderful confluence in the LightHouse. There is a mission that I also think that I’d like to forward, and that is to increase opportunities for those who are blind and low vision, but also everyone with different capabilities to reach the potential and quality of life that they desire. I want to help people do whatever they want. I’m in a privileged position to do so, and I think it would be remiss not to take advantage of that.”

“So that’s the do-gooder response. But I’m also very selfish and everyone is super nice to me and they invite me to fun things and sometimes we go get beers. They’re very supportive.”

Abby found a home at LightHouse, but she also found a valuable network and wealth of information for her research and work. She’ll be writing her dissertation on disability responsive planning, and critically examining accessibility in cities and to show how we define, perceive and measure access determines qualities of the built environment that hinder or enable people in particular ways.

“It evolved as a direct result of my work here,” she says. “This place runs deep. It’s been hugely influential and meeting the network of people here that also have a network in fields that i’m interested in, in city planning, transportation. You cannot remove people from place.”

Browse the various volunteer opportunities we offer and fill out our volunteer sign-up form or our group sign-up form. If you have any questions, contact Justine Harris-Richburgh, Volunteer Engagement Specialist at 1altruism@lighthouse-sf.org or by calling 415-694-7366. All new volunteers are given background checks and are often given a group volunteering opportunity to start. We hope, like Abby, you’ll consider giving your time to the LightHouse (and becoming part of our diverse and growing community in the process)!

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.