Tag Archives: blindness

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

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

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

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

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

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

More about the Eyeware App

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

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

Why would I want to experience a Visual Impairment?

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

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

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

Try it for the first time

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

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

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

Thursday, May 18: Full Day Schedule

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

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

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

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

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

LightHouse Listenings presents Erik Weihenmayer with Davia Nelson

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

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

Event details

LightHouse for the Blind Headquarters

1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco

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

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

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

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

About LightHouse Listenings

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

About Erik Weihenmayer

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

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

About Davia Nelson

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

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

Photos from a Day of Braille Literacy: 2017 Northern California Regional Braille Challenge

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

Freshman – 1. Teresa Liu 2. Logon Maschke 3. Melina Mendoza

Sophomore – 1. Luke Pilar 2. Rasheed Ali 3. Alejandro Cervantes

Junior Varsity – 1. Ethan Fung 2. Kaitlyn Austin 3. Rocco Romeo

Varsity – 1. Alexia Arriola

Find a selection of photos from the day-long event below!

 

Four children stand in line before the 2017 Northern California Regional Braille Challenge opening procession.
Four children stand in line before the 2017 Northern California Regional Braille Challenge opening procession.
The young competitors wait in line before the festivities start.
The young competitors wait in line before the festivities start.
A closeup of a student's festive and sparkly red high-tops, with canes visible in the background.
A closeup of a student’s festive and sparkly red high-tops, with canes visible in the background.
Braille Challenge competitors Avery and Darren sit in the front row listening to opening remarks.
Braille Challenge competitors Avery and Darren sit in the front row listening to opening remarks.
Braille challenge competitors Darren and Mikey sit together before the competition begins.
Braille challenge competitors Darren and Mikey sit together before the competition begins.
A shot of the audience shows the kids laughing and one competitor playfully covering her face.
A shot of the audience shows the kids laughing and one competitor playfully covering her face.
Competitor Kaitlyn Austin holds her little sister's hand and leads her to her seat in the LightHouse multipurpose rooms.
Competitor Kaitlyn holds her little sister’s hand and leads her to her seat in the LightHouse multipurpose rooms.
Competitors Rasheed and Teresa sit listening to the day's opening remarks.
Competitors Rasheed and Teresa sit listening to the day’s opening remarks.
 Senior Director of Programs Scott Blanks claps as competitor Nikki enters the main events room (smiling, as usual).
Senior Director of Programs Scott Blanks claps as competitor Nikki enters the main events room (smiling, as usual).
92-year-old Cathy Skivers gives her opening remarks about the importance of braille literacy.
92-year-old Cathy Skivers gives her opening remarks about the importance of braille literacy.
Competitor Miles gets some last minute moral support from his mom before heading into the testing rooms.
Competitor Miles gets some last minute moral support from his mom before heading into the testing rooms.
A close-up of Cathy Skivers' braille notes perched in her lap.
A close-up of Cathy Skivers’ braille notes perched in her lap.
Youth services coordinator Jamey Gump stands in the LightHouse pre-function area speaking to a parent.
Youth services coordinator Jamey Gump stands in the LightHouse pre-function area speaking to a parent.
The apprentice sit in front of their braillers in the 11th Floor Kitchen getting ready for testing to start.
The apprentice sit in front of their braillers in the 11th Floor Kitchen getting ready for testing to start.
The Freshman competitors and their proctors sit at a table together in the LightHouse fitness studio.
The Freshman competitors and their proctors sit at a table together in the LightHouse fitness studio.
College-age students Sergio Lopez-Hernandez, Julie J Bird, Nasir Iqbal and Iman Award offer advice to parents during a panel at Braille Challenge. The main takeaway? "Don't shelter your kids."
College-age students Sergio Lopez-Hernandez, Julie J Bird, Nasir Iqbal and Iman Award offer advice to parents during a panel at Braille Challenge. The main takeaway? “Don’t shelter your kids.”
Competitor Rasheed sits typing at his brailler with headphones in. He is silhouetted against large windows that show the buildings of San Francisco in the background.
Competitor Rasheed sits typing at his brailler with headphones in. He is silhouetted against large windows that show the buildings of San Francisco in the background.
Sophomore competitor Luke wears headphones while completing the speed and accuracy portion of the Braille Challenge.
Sophomore competitor Luke wears headphones while completing the speed and accuracy portion of the Braille Challenge.
IMG_5320
A pink-cheeked Teresa Liu types away at her Perkins Brailler during the spelling portion of the 2017 Braille Challenge. She competed at the Freshman level.
A closeup of the brailled Braille Challenge medals.
A closeup of the brailled Braille Challenge medals.
LightHouse employee BJ Epstein helps check the kids' tests behind the scenes.
LightHouse employee BJ Epstein helps check the kids’ tests behind the scenes.
A stack of freshly brailled tests.
A stack of freshly brailled tests.
Apprentice competitor Avery leans closer to her brailler and furrows her brow intently.
Apprentice competitor Avery leans closer to her brailler and furrows her brow intently.
Junior Varsity competitor Ethan works on the graphs and charts portion of the test.
Junior Varsity competitor Ethan works on the graphs and charts portion of the test.
Junior Varsity competitor Kaitlyn reads a braille chart. She is wearing a royal blue tracksuit that nicely matches her royal blue brailler.
Junior Varsity competitor Kaitlyn reads a braille chart. She is wearing a royal blue tracksuit that nicely matches her royal blue brailler.
Another Junior Varsity tester is deep in concentration during the test.
Another Junior Varsity tester is deep in concentration during the test.
Sophomore competitors in the 11th floor conference room at the LightHouse. Natural light streams onto them through the large window.
Sophomore competitors in the 11th floor conference room at the LightHouse. Natural light streams onto them through the large window.
Friends and family wait on the 11th floor couches for testers to finish up.
Friends and family wait on the 11th floor couches for testers to finish up.
Sophomore competitors are hard at work in the 11th Floor Craft Room.
Sophomore competitors are hard at work in the 11th Floor Craft Room.
Competitor Avery poses with her smiling family, who made shirts that say "Team Avery Bravery" in braille on the front and in text on the back.
Competitor Avery poses with her smiling family, who made shirts that say “Team Avery Bravery” in braille on the front and in text on the back.
Youth Services Coordinator Richie Flores and guest speaker Caitlin Hernandez works with Sophomore competitor Alejandro in the craft room before testing.
Youth Services Coordinator Richie Flores and guest speaker Caitlin Hernandez works with Sophomore competitor Alejandro in the craft room before testing.
Apprentice competitor Miles feels proctor Donna's braille embossed bracelet.
Apprentice competitor Miles feels proctor Donna’s braille embossed bracelet.
Competitor Rasheed sits next to his dad, who rests a loving hand on his head while speaking to him.
Competitor Rasheed sits next to his dad, who rests a loving hand on his head while speaking to him.
IMG_5529
A crowd of students, parents and community members play a game after the testing is over.
Junior Varsity Competitor Monse smiles while holding her cane and a braille notetaker.
Junior Varsity Competitor Monse smiles while holding her cane and a braille notetaker.
A shot of the crowd in their seats — with two students chatting up front.
A shot of the crowd in their seats — with two students chatting up front.
Stuart (formerly of California School for the Blind) and proctor Donna sit close while listening to closing remarks.
Stuart (formerly of California School for the Blind) and proctor Donna sit close while listening to closing remarks.
Sisters Maryam and Mariyah giggle while playing a game after the competition is over.
Sisters Maryam and Mariyah giggle while playing a game after the competition is over.
A competitor's little sister walks holding her dad's hand.
A competitor’s little sister walks holding her dad’s hand.
Sophomore competitor Alejandro sits next to his little sister in the multipurpose rooms.
Sophomore competitor Alejandro sits next to his little sister in the multipurpose rooms.
IMG_5649A yellow lab on duty lays on the floor and turns its head to look directly into the camera.
A yellow lab on duty lays on the floor and turns its head to look directly into the camera.
Varsity competitor Alexia sits up front in the LightHouse multipurpose rooms, holding her braille notetaker
Varsity competitor Alexia sits up front in the LightHouse multipurpose rooms, holding her braille notetaker
College-age panelist Nasir grabs a handful of braille fortune cookies.
College-age panelist Nasir grabs a handful of braille fortune cookies.
Competitor Darren sits on a piano bench with his dad and little sister reading his braille fortune from a fortune cookie. The message? "Never give up."
Competitor Darren sits on a piano bench with his dad and little sister reading his braille fortune from a fortune cookie. The message? “Never give up.”

Get Your Hands Dirty in the LightHouse Teaching Kitchen this Month

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

Learn more about these sessions and sign up.

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 dbacon@lighthouse-sf.org. If you have questions about class content please contact Sydney Ferrario, Instructor, at 415-694-7612 or sferrario@lighthouse-sf.org.

Cooking student Jane Flower cubes butter in the LightHouse Teaching Kitchen.
Cooking student Jane Flower cubes butter in the LightHouse Teaching Kitchen.
Sydney guides Jane's hand over the top of a tin measuring cup to level out the amount of flour.
Sydney guides Jane’s hand over the top of a tin measuring cup to level out the amount of flour.
Jane scoops baking soda and uses her fingertip to feel how full the measuring scoop is.
Jane scoops baking soda and uses her fingertip to feel how full the measuring scoop is.
Jane smiles while Sydney explains a technique for mixing.
Jane smiles while Sydney explains a technique for mixing.
Jane closes her eyes while peeling an apple to feel how much of the apple she has peeled. She slowly turns the apple while peeling strips of skin away from her.
Jane closes her eyes while peeling an apple to feel how much of the apple she has peeled. She slowly turns the apple while peeling strips of skin away from her.
Sydney guides Jane's hands while using a sharp knife to thinly and evenly slice apples. The trick is always curling your fingers away from the knife.
Sydney guides Jane’s hands while using a sharp knife to thinly and evenly slice apples. The trick is always curling your fingers away from the knife.
Jane and Sydney knead pastry dough side by side.
Jane and Sydney knead pastry dough side by side.
Sydney guides Jane's hands along a wooden rolling pin over a hefty ball of pastry dough.
Sydney guides Jane’s hands along a wooden rolling pin over a hefty ball of pastry dough.
Jane and Sydney laugh while leaning over a tray of apple pastries. The dough is spread flat with thin apple slices arranged tidily in the center. They are ready to start folding the dough around the apples.
Jane and Sydney laugh while leaning over a tray of apple pastries. The dough is spread flat with thin apple slices arranged tidily in the center. They are ready to start folding the dough around the apples.
A closeup of Sydney and Jane's hands as they fold the pastry dough around the fresh apple filling.
A closeup of Sydney and Jane’s hands as they fold the pastry dough around the fresh apple filling.
The perfectly prepared pastries are ready to go in the oven.
The perfectly prepared pastries are ready to go in the oven.
Sydney and Jane use a wooden toothpick to test the fresh-out-of-the-oven pastries.
Sydney and Jane use a wooden toothpick to test the fresh-out-of-the-oven pastries.
The finished pastry is golden and flakey with a cinnamon apple filling peaking out of its circular center.
The finished pastry is golden and flakey with a cinnamon apple filling peaking out of its circular center. Ta da!

March’s Employment Immersion Workshop Emphasizes Building Confidence for Job Readiness

“We don’t care if you’re young, old, totally blind, low vision, have a college degree or no college degree,” says Employment Program Manager Kate Williams. “It doesn’t matter as long as you have a real desire to go to work. We furnish our Employment Immersion students with the tools to make sure that happens, by building their confidence and giving them the techniques to conduct a successful job search.”

Everyone in the blindness community knows the statistics: At least 60 — possibly even as many as 70 percent — of legally blind people remain unemployed. That’s why back in 2011 we established a program to give blind job seekers the practical skills they need to get the jobs they want.

Since then, our Employment Immersion program alumni have reached more than $2.8m in annual salaries and achieved an exemplary 43% placement average for alumni, which far exceeds the national average in job placement of people who are blind or visually impaired (the statewide average is 14%). Our programming is constantly evolving to meet changes in technology and the job market.

On March 13, we’ll kick off our all new Employment Immersion Job Preparation Workshop at the LightHouse headquarters, which runs until April 7 and meets every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The workshop’s robust and proven curriculum emphasizes confidence building to ensure job readiness — and features our tried and true lineup of classes that walk students through every step of the job application process.

In the blindness community, we know that one size does not fit all, and this is reflected in the curriculum of this four-week workshop. With a combination of short lectures, interactive activities, expert speakers and candid, honest discussions, each blind or low vision student has an opportunity to explore their interests, aptitudes, and think outside the box about which part of the job market holds the highest promise for their talents and ambitions.

Step-by-step training includes:

  • Using personality indicators like Meyers Briggs and Gallup StrengthFinder to identify core strengths as a springboard to build a career
  • Resume and cover letter building
  • Job search techniques, networking and the hidden job market
  • The application process
  • Blindness disclosure and requesting accommodations
  • Interview preparation including self presentation and body language
  • Free professional and online portrait photographs courtesy of LightHouse for the Blind
  • How to approach an interview and role playing
  • Job retention

Williams, who is a Purpose Prize Winner and nationally recognized job coach by the Wall Street Journal, is the driving force behind these achievements. She knows what it takes to get blind jobseekers into positions that suit them and keep them there — and the payoff doesn’t end on payday.

“We spend a great deal of time on encouraging our attendees to connect,” says Williams. “My motto is ‘People hire people.’ We help students make connections during the job search and interview process that are genuine and show their own authenticity. We’re fostering relationship building — which is a lifelong skill.”

With an increase in referrals as LightHouse steps in as the key provider of services in the East Bay, our Employment Immersion Program is growing and evolving to meet higher standards and increasing volume of blind jobseekers. We’re proud to bring on our new dedicated trainer Angela Denise Davis, who will add new levels of depth and expertise to our classes. This year alone we saw our alumni land jobs in major tech startups, media companies, athletic brands and more. The sky’s the limit, once the skills are there.

Keep chipping away at those employment statistics and sign up for the Employment Job Preparation Workshop this spring. The workshop is open to people who are blind or have low vision, from any background, seeking any job. To sign up, contact Employment Immersion Program Manager Kate Williams at kwilliams@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7324, or Employment Immersion Trainer Angela Davis at adavis@lighthouse-sf.org.

 

LightHouse Announces the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition

“The Holman Prize is not meant to save the world or congratulate someone for leaving the house. This prize will spark unanticipated accomplishments in the blindness community. You will see blind people doing things that surprise and perhaps even confuse you. These new LightHouse prizes will change perceptions about what blind people are capable of doing.”

— Bryan Bashin, CEO at LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Meet The Holman Prize for Blind Ambition – LightHouse’s new initiative to support the ambitions of blind and low vision people worldwide. Beginning in 2017, The Holman Prize will announce an annual set of awards funding projects in a range of amounts – up to $25,000 per project – that will finance and support blind adventurers worldwide in pursuing their most ambitious projects.

Chronicled in a 2006 novel by Jason Roberts, the explorer James Holman became the first blind person to circumnavigate the globe in 1832. In his spirit, The Holman Prize celebrates people who want to shape their own future instead of having it laid out for them.

The Holman Prize is specifically for legally blind individuals with a penchant for exploration of all types. LightHouse’s initial 2017 prizes will provide financial backing for a as many as three individuals to explore the world and push their limits through travel, connections, construction and communication. 

The ideal candidate is someone who is willing to probe their environment and eager to savor the richness of a world that is so often thought of as inaccessible to the blind. This exploration may involve travel, community organizing, scholarship, daring art or projects we haven’t even considered. We’re looking for intrepid travelers, creative problem solvers, effective communicators, natural ambassadors, passionate advocates, joyful builders, active boundary-pushers and experience seekers.

In January 2017, The Holman Prize application process kicks off with a challenge: blind applicants must submit a first-round pitch in the form of a 90-second YouTube video. The deadline for these phase one applications is February 28, 2017 at 12 noon PST. All pitch videos will be compiled into the LightHouse Media playlist below. As an extra incentive, the blind applicant who creates the most popular YouTube video, will secure themselves a spot as a coveted spot as a Holman Prize finalist, to be interviewed this spring by our esteemed committee. Learn more about the submissions process here, and watch our intro video below:

“We recognize that asking a blind person to upload a video may challenge some people’s ideas of what blind people are capable of — of what blind people can or should do,“ says LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin, “The video uploading and later public speaking will certainly require creativity, and these are the qualities we seek to encourage with the Holman Prize. These are the types of people we want to apply.” 

Semifinalists will be notified in March and go through a formal application process, after which finalists will be notified and a winner will be selected by a committee of leaders, thinkers and explorers from throughout the blind world. We expect the Holman Prizewinners to start their projects in Fall 2017 and they will be recognized at the Holman Prize Gala in 2018.

Follow the Holman Prize on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Visit holmanprize.org for more information.

Join Sexual Health and Disability Advocates and Researchers for a Conversation on Sex, Intimacy and Disability

Join us at LightHouse for the Blind on January 12 at 6:30 p.m. for an open community discussion about sex, intimacy and disability. Through this conversation, we hope to challenge the common misconception that having a disability diminishes one’s sexuality. This panel will create a safe place for people of all abilities to come together and proudly claim that having a disability is a natural and normal enhancement of the human experience.

Who: Members of disability communities and their loved ones, disability rights advocates and allies, members of the professional communities who serve the disabled (e.g. educators, health care professionals, social workers etc.), sexual health and disability scholars, and  anyone else who is interested. Must be 18+ years old to attend.

When: January 12, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.  

Where: LightHouse Headquarters, 1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103

Cost: Free to Attend.

This conversation is an opportunity to come together and discuss how we can challenge the harmful stereotypes and misunderstandings about disability, disability rights and sexuality. This panel features an incredible lineup of panelists who are all disabled. Many work and/or volunteer their time to promote and educate their communities to improve the sexual rights of individuals with disabilities. See a list of panelists and read their bios below.

Panelists will have the opportunity to share their own experiences, talk about their work and the topics they are passionate about. The remainder of the time will be allotted to and an audience Q&A to invite a community dialogue. We expect people from all walks of life to attend this event and for the conversation to cover a wide range of informative and educational topics. Please note that the conversation is adult in nature and so we are restricting the space to adults age 18 and over.

Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to explore the impact of ableism on sexuality and the disabled. Come prepared to ask questions, and learn different ways to promote sexual freedom and expression as a human right for all people regardless of their abilities.

To register for this event please e-mail Laura Millar at lmillar@lighthouse-sf.org or call her at 415-694-7345.

Moderator

Laura Millar, MPH, M.A.

Laura Millar is LightHouse for the Blind’s Program Coordinator for Sexual Health Services. Legally blind herself with a Master of Public Health as well as a Masters in Sexuality Studies, she conducts research that examines how individuals with vision loss learn about and navigate the world of dating, sex and intimate relationships. Millar offers workshops, trainings and in-services for individuals 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.

Panelists

Rafe Eric Biggs, PhD

Rafe Eric Biggs, PhD, is the founder of Sexability, an organization committed to transforming sexuality and disability. He is a sexual health educator working with people with disabilities and healthcare professionals who support them. He earned his Masters and Doctorate in Organizational Psychology from Alliant International University and is a member of American Society of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (ASSECT).

In 2004 Biggs had a life altering experience. While traveling on spiritual retreat in India, he fell from a building and broke his neck. In an instant, he became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down.

For the last decade he has counseled individuals and educated healthcare professionals on sexuality and disability including San Francisco State University, Alliant International University, UC Berkeley and Alta Bates Hospital. He started the Sexuality and Disability Support Group at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley, CA.

Biggs was featured on the TLC show Strange Sex Surrogate Manhood. He is an expert on non-genital orgasms and has been featured in Huffington Post, The Sun, International Business Times, and Chat Magazine. He can be contacted at rafe@sexabilty.org and is based in Berkeley, CA.

Ligia Andrade (Zuniga), M.A. 

Ligia Andrade Zuniga, M.A., is dedicated to educating and empowering individuals living with disabilities on various aspects of independent living, particularly in the area of sexuality. She is a Director and Sexuality and Disability Educator for Sexability, an organization providing sexuality education to individuals with disabilities.

Andrade holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services with an emphasis in Administration and Counseling, and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California. She became interested in sexuality and disability seven and a half years ago after realizing there was very limited information, accessibility and support available regarding sexuality for quadriplegic women living with spinal cord injury, specifically for young women of color and women in the Latino Spanish-speaking community.

Andrade acquired a spinal cord injury in 2009 following an automobile accident and has since been actively and deeply involved in the community advocating for individuals with disabilities. She has been a peer supporter for seven years through the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Spinal Cord Injury Peer Support Program. For the past three years Andrade has served as a Commissioner for the San Mateo County Commission on Disabilities where she chairs the Legislation, Outreach, and Advocacy Committee, and is the Treasurer for the Board of Directors of the Center for Independence of Individuals with Disabilities (CID). She also chairs the San Mateo County Public Authority Advisory Committee, and also serves on the San Mateo County Cal-Medi Connect Advisory Committee. Ligia recently joined the United Spinal Association, where she co-chairs the Employment Committee on the Advocacy Alliance.

Alex Ghenis

Alex Ghenis is a long-time Berkeley resident, disability activist, researcher and educator. In his freshman year at UC Berkeley, Alex co-founded the “Are Cripples Screwed?” panel discussions with his close friend, Kash Moore, and has been speaking about sex and disability for the past 10 years since.

Ghenis was also the dating and relationship columnist “Axel Grande” for National Spinal Cord Injury Association’s Life in Action magazine, where he covered topics including meeting people and “getting physical.” His goal is to help people with disabilities have better understanding of our own sexuality – and educate the entire public so that we are viewed as sexy and worthy of love.

Kevin Mintz, Ph.D.

Kevin Todd Mintz is a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at Stanford University. He holds an AB in Government from Harvard College, an MSc in Political Theory from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a Doctorate of Human Sexuality from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. His Ph.D. dissertation, Sex-Positive Political Theory: Pleasure, Power, Public Policy, and the Pursuit of Sexual Liberation, focuses on developing a justification for political institutions and civil society taking proactive roles in promoting sexual liberties.

His research interests include the application of sexology to political theory, LGBTQi activism and disability politics.

Senya Hawkins, M.A., MFTi

Senya Hawkins, M.A, MFTi, is a registered marriage and family therapist intern with a master’s degree in psychology. He currently works as the Assistant Director of Progress Foundation’s Supported Living Program. Hawkins’ areas of expertise include systems change social-psychology, vocational rehabilitation, gender and sexuality. He also facilitates groups and workshops on the topics of sex and disability, social and vocational skill building, diversity and managing disabilities in the workplace (www.senyahawkins.com). Hawkins is in the process of finishing his final exams for licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist.

Hawkins is dedicated to demystifying sexuality and providing information about sex and gender to groups who are often under-educated on these subjects. His goal is to help increase accessibility in bedrooms and communities by encouraging communities to become more aware, more empathetic, more experienced and more knowledgeable about sexuality and gender.

Robin Wilson-Beattie

Robin Wilson-Beattie is a disability and sexuality health educator and writer, teaching the world to embrace and explore your sexuality,  regardless of ability. She is a member of the Association of American Sexual Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT), the Women of Color Sexual Health Network (WOCSHN),  and a certified graduate and member of the San Francisco Sexuality Information Training (SFSI).

Wilson-Beattie has been involved in sexuality education and awareness since high school. After acquiring a physical disability, she began speaking on sexuality and disability topics and issues in 2008. She consults with individuals and organizations on issues of adaptive sexual support, and has had written articles and curriculum on this subject. Wilson-Beattie is a nationally recognized self and systems disability advocate. She is a deep-fried Southern girl, Sex Geek, comic book nerd, mid-century buff and proud Mama of one amazing daughter. Find her on Twitter @SexAbled, or like sexAbled on Facebook.

Hear a New Blindness Story in This Week’s Pop-Up Magazine – Win Tickets

Win two tickets to Pop-Up Magazine at the Paramount Theater in Oakland this Thursday, November 10: email “Pop Up” to wbutler@lighthouse-sf.org.

When we started LightHouse Interpoint this spring, we had a vision of a literary magazine featuring stories by the world’s best blind writers. So far we’ve published work by world travelers, parents, professors, journalists, and regular blind people who have something interesting to say.

The LightHouse has always imagined Interpoint being bigger than just online essays, though, and this week we’re proud to announce that we have an Interpoint story, written and edited by blind people, going on tour with Pop-Up Magazine. The piece premiered at the Los Angeles Ace Hotel Theater on Thursday night to a massive audience response, and will be performed on all the stops of Pop-Up Magazine’s November tour, which means you can see it live in San Francisco, Oakland, Chicago, Boston, and Brooklyn.

Below find the full tour schedule and links to buy tickets. More about Pop-Up Magazine:

Called “a sensation” by the New York Times and referred to by the SF Chronicle as “Fast-paced, loose, often funny, and wholly unpredictable,” Pop Up Magazine is a signature San Francisco event which takes the live storytelling of radio programs like This American Life to the next level: in the form of a live, unrecorded show. With events that have sold out venues such as Davies Symphony Hall and the Greek Theater in Berkeley, Pop-Up presents the highest calibre of storytelling with all the excitement of a live concert. This month, our writers will be sharing the stage with the likes of Ira Glass, Gillian Jacobs, Joshua Bearman and Mallory Ortberg, among many others.

A huge thank you to Pop-Up Magazine for collaborating so closely with the LightHouse to develop yet another unique, untold story in the Interpoint series. See you at the theater!

Pop-Up Magazine, Dates and Tickets:

11/3 – THE THEATRE AT ACE HOTEL – Los Angeles

SOLD OUT

11/9 – NOURSE THEATER – San Francisco

SOLD OUT

11/10 – PARAMOUNT THEATRE – Oakland

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11/12 – HARRIS THEATER – Chicago

BUY TICKETS

11/15 – WILBUR THEATRE – Boston

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11/17 – KINGS THEATRE – Brooklyn

BUY TICKETS

How vs. Why: Advice from a Blind Filmmaker

 

LightHouse Interpoint is our new literary supplement, featuring written work by some of the world’s most interesting and engaged individuals who are blind or have low vision. Read our submission guidelines here.

The world of a visual storyteller is a world of promises and challenges: how to find the best shot; how to capture the best shot; how to get back to the studio without accidentally erasing the best shot. And as you can imagine, when people see my white cane, they want to know more than ever about these promises and challenges. Above all, they want to know, how do you do it?

What they don’t immediately understand is that I’ve had the good fortune to see some remarkable sights, from the sun rising over the white sands of a New Mexican desert to the moon over El Capitan. I’ve seen the joy on the face of a marathon runner breaking the tape at the finish line, and the anguish of a parent steering her child through another round of chemotherapy. I’ve been a reporter, a photographer, an editor and a filmmaker my whole life, and I can hardly remember a time where I’ve worked more than a few feet from the lens of a camera.

Michael Schwartz holds a camera

Beyond all the day-to-day challenges and promises of visual storytelling, though, filmmakers all face a more important question, the question of not how but why. I can weave those shots together, but why do it unless the story makes the viewer feel something? Continue reading How vs. Why: Advice from a Blind Filmmaker

Anthony Don’t: On Blindness and the Portrayal of Marie-Laure in ‘All The Light We Cannot See’

This is the third installment of A Month of Blind Women, presented by LightHouse Interpoint and The Toast. Interpoint is the new literary supplement from LightHouse for the Blind in San Francisco. Read previous essays at this link.

Cover Art: All The Light We Cannot See

By Sheri Wells-Jensen

 

When I think of All The Light We Cannot See, the latest, most popular portrayal of blindness, there are many scenes that run through my head. Here are two, summarized, for your consideration:

In 1940, under the imminent threat of German invasion, a middle-aged locksmith and his twelve-year-old blind daughter are fleeing Paris. Everything happens quickly and their escape is urgent. The locksmith is working furiously, but, short of running her hands over a toy model of the city, the blind daughter does nothing. Her father asks nothing of her except that she use the bathroom, and so she waits, passive as an upholstered chair, while he assembles their possessions, packs their food, then buttons her into her coat, and leads her out the door.

Why isn’t this adolescent girl participating in her own escape?

Four years later, the locksmith is drawing his now-sixteen-year-old daughter a bath, despite the fact that there is a decidedly maternal female character just downstairs. The locksmith washes his daughter’s hair, and she is docile as he explains that he is leaving. At the end of the bath he hands her a towel and helps her climb onto the tile.

Why is a middle-aged man bathing his sixteen-year-old daughter, even if he does step outside while she puts on her nightgown? Who is this girl? Is she the heroine or the victim of the story? Does she get to be both?

***

This helpless, sexless child is the blind girl who is one of the main characters of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, a book which first enraged me, then began to haunt me and fill me with a kind of appalled despair. The book has raised neither widespread outrage nor offense in most readers. People love it. It won a Pulitzer. Book clubs are gobbling it up. Every morning, on my way to work, I hear ads for it on my local NPR station. And every morning, I feel the same gut-deep sense of despair, a kind of a mental nausea, as Marie-Laure begins to slide into her place in the public consciousness as a reasonable representation of what it’s like to be blind. Continue reading Anthony Don’t: On Blindness and the Portrayal of Marie-Laure in ‘All The Light We Cannot See’