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 atlighthouse-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 atBKRacingTeam.com.
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.”
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.”
“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.
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:
Last 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.
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.
“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.”
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.
In 2014, Erik Weihenmayer, the first and only blind person to ever reach the summit of Mount Everest, attempted a new and daunting challenge: to ride 277 miles of thunderous, wild rapids down the Colorado River in a solo kayak. Why would he take such a gamble? How exactly did he pull it off? Discover the answers to these questions, and more, when Erik joins us at LightHouse on May 2 for a far-reaching and candid conversation with Davia Nelson, of NPR’s award-winning production team TheKitchen Sisters.
The event is the latest installment in our ongoing series LightHouse Listenings and follows, most recently, a live production of the podcast The World According to Sound. A “listening party for ears only,” the LightHouse Listenings series is a celebration of the aural medium, and is designed to create a space for conversation, creativity, and sound that connects blind and sighted audiences over a shared experience. At each event, we provide sleep shades in order to give you the option to focus solely on what you’re hearing.
This unique event is an opportunity to meet Erik during his national No Barriers tour and to hear the blind adventurer in conversation with one of the world’s finest radio journalists, Davia Nelson.
Davia’s work has taken her all over the world, from interviewing hummus chefs in Ramallah, to wine physicists in France and “kitchen botanists” in India. We can’t imagine anyone better suited to interview Erik about imagination, non-visual exploration and what drives him along his incredible journeys.
We’re proud to program and host this one-of-a-kind event, which will include braille passages from Erik’s book, read aloud, a meet-and-greet reception with attendees and an open bar. Books will be available onsite for purchase.
About LightHouse Listenings
This year, we began putting on regular listening parties for ears only – from live podcast recordings to pre-recorded material. To bring your sound experience to a live audience in San Francisco, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Erik Weihenmayer
Over the past two decades, Erik Weihenmayer’s name has become synonymous with determination and ambition. In 2008, when he reached the top of Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia, he completed his quest to climb all of the Seven Summits-the tallest peak on each of the seven continents.
Erik is the author of the best-selling memoir Touch the Top of the World, which was made into a feature film, as well as The Adversity Advantage, which shows readers how to turn everyday struggles into everyday greatness. His latest book, No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon is more than an adventure story, it illuminates how we overcome the barriers that get in our way. He is an internationally recognized speaker and brings his message of living a No Barriers Life to audiences around the world.
About Davia Nelson
Davia Nelson is one half of The Kitchen Sisters, producers of the du-Pont Columbia and James Beard Award-winning series Hidden Kitchens, as heard on NPR’s Morning Edition, and two Peabody Award-winning NPR series, Lost & Found Sound and The Sonic Memorial Project.
The Kitchen Sisters are also the producers of The Hidden World of Girls, heard on NPR andhosted by Tina Fey. Their first book Hidden Kitchens: Stories, Recipes & MoreFrom NPR’s Kitchen Sisters was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.
On February 25, we welcomed 22 students and their families to the 2017 Northern California Regional Braille Challenge at the LightHouse headquarters. It was a lively day packed with speeches by keynote speakers, testing for students, parent workshops, games and a final award ceremony (complete with a surprise musical performance by a group of contestants).
Hosted in collaboration with Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, California School for the Blind and Braille Institute of America, the Regional Braille Challenge is the first leg of a two-part contest for K-12 youth who read braille. It is designed to encourage and reward students for fine-tuning their braille reading and writing skills.
Any parent or student on Saturday would tell you that Braille Challenge is an unparalleled platform for promoting braille literacy and bringing braille readers of all ages into one space — whether as contestants or judges. It’s also a chance for kids to connect with their blind friends, chuckle about inside jokes, and for parents to learn more about having a child with vision loss and how best to support them (hint from one of our college panelists: “Don’t shelter them!”)
Braille Challenge is not about winning (though we don’t mind a little friendly competition) but we’d like to recognize the students who placed!
Here are the winners of each level of competition. Once all of the Braille Challenge regionals are complete the Braille Institute will invite the top 10% of all of the students that competed in all of the various regionals to the national Braille Challenge later this year.
2017 Northern California Regional Braille Challenge Winners
Apprentice 1. Miles Lima 2. Darren Ou 3. Mikey Diaz
If you walk into the LightHouse teaching kitchen on any given day, you’ll find our Cooking Instructor Sydney Ferrario cheerfully bustling around the kitchen, hoisting giant tubs of flour or dicing mounds of plump vegetables. We’ve seen (and tasted) a lot of gourmet concoctions from the LightHouse kitchen thanks to Sydney’s patient guidance.
Not only is she lively, informative, and knows her way around a stand mixer, but she also has plenty of adaptive techniques for cooking and baking to share with her students. She’ll show you that there’s nothing to fear about the kitchen, the oven, or even chopping unwieldy apples with a very sharp knife (hint: it’s all about curling the fingers away from the sharp blade).
Here are some photos from Sydney’s ‘What’s the Scoop? Measure and Mix Cooking Class’. She had a lovely one-on-one with Jane Flower who is Outreach Manager at Guide Dogs for the Blind. Sydney walked Jane through tips for measuring, mixing, chopping and kneading dough to create a warm and flaky apple pastry. Take a moment to check out some shots from the class — and take a look at our upcoming schedule of cooking classes at the LightHouse in March.
Orientation to the Kitchen – March 7 and 9
What’s the Scoop? Measure and Mix – March 14 and 16
On the Edge: Knife Skills – March 21 and 23
The Heat is On! Oven and Stovetop Strategies – March 28 and 30
All participants must be registered students of the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. To enroll as a LightHouse student, please contact Debbie Bacon at 415-694-7357 or email@example.com. If you have questions about class content please contact Sydney Ferrario, Instructor, at 415-694-7612 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Northern California's leading provider of services, advocacy and community for those who are blind or visually impaired.