Tag Archives: CVCL

Student Spotlight: Ruth Hartman

Ruth Hartman has distinct memories of her ‘Grandma Pearl’ using a Perkins brailler. She can picture her hands passing over the pages of braille she transcribed for Dr. Abraham Nemeth, who developed the Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics in the 1960s. Pearl Hartman, who was sighted, was Nemeth’s personal braille transcriber. She never would have guessed at that time that her granddaughter Ruth would go blind, many years later.

So when Ruth sat down to a brailler at a Changing Vision Changing Life Immersion retreat at Enchanted Hills Camp in February 2016, she was enthralled.

“When I sat down and tried to type a few words on the brailler, or felt braille for the first time, it brought back wonderful memories and connections to my grandmother,” she says, nostalgia coloring her voice. “I’ve always loved words. I like math. There was something about solving the puzzle of braille that I found really enthralling. I’m a busy person but I’ve carved out hundreds of hours to learn braille in the last year.”

And it’s true—Ruth is a busy person. She runs her own marketing and communications business, called Wordcraft. She’s a leader at her synagogue, teaches peer counseling, and dedicates her time to vegetarian cooking and bread baking. She’s an avid reader, follows politics and baseball, and raised two daughters who are now in their 20s. She’s done all of this as her vision declined due to a progressive condition over the last 30 years. But two years ago, she felt like she needed to make a change.

“I was feeling more the loss and grief and fear and the feelings of panic were getting more difficult to manage as my central vision was deteriorating more,” she says. “I needed to make some kind of mental breakthrough—but I didn’t know what it was.”

And in fall of 2015, Ruth heard an interview on KQED that piqued her interest. It was LightHouse Executive Director Bryan Bashin speaking about the Donald Sirkin bequest, his philosophies on blindness and his plans for the future of LightHouse.

His bold perspective on blindness lit a fire under Ruth, and without hesitating she signed up for the Immersion Retreat at Enchanted Hills Camp in February 2016. She found the immersion excruciatingly difficult, but she stuck it out. And after a week navigating on her own and hearing stories from other students, she had the change of heart she was searching for.

“The breakthrough was a shift from ‘I’m a sighted person who is slowly and inexorably and tragically losing my eyesight’, to ‘I’m a blind person, just like all these other blind people here, who is living a pretty good life as a blind person’,” she says. “That might sound obvious or not like a big deal, but for me it was very profound. It made me feel like blind people are my people. That was a big thing — and I still think about each of the people there and what their stories were.”

“We were all in it together and there were all these resources that were being offered. I start thinking, ‘What do I need to shift to live my life really understanding that I’m a blind person and there are resources available and I can find my way from A to B, even if I don’t have someone there by my elbow’. So that was kind of the mindset that led me from one LightHouse service to the next.”

CVCL led her on a long path with LightHouse, from orientation and mobility classes with Katt Jones, counseling with Rachel Longan, braille instruction with Divina Carlson, and access tech instruction with Shen Kuan. Ruth also enthusiastically marched in the 1155 Market Street Grand Opening parade in June 2015, bringing her full-circle from her initial introduction to the organization.

“There’s no feeling of tragedy in the air at LightHouse,” she says. “A lot of sighted people say things to a blind person, like oh I can’t imagine. And there’s nobody at LightHouse who can’t imagine. Everyone understands.”

LightHouse helped show her a path forward, but it was Ruth who stayed highly motivated and kept coming back for more. Along with seeking braille instruction at LightHouse, Ruth took three classes at Hadley School for the Blind and practiced consistently on her own. She’s also starting to make the transition from magnification to using a screen reader, which will allow her to extend her work life for several years.

Now, she’s in the midst of reading her very first braille book: Carol by Patricia Highsmith.

“There’s something about holding a book in your hands, something about hearing the words in your head instead of in your ears,” she says. “I don’t have a lot of speed at braille, but I think I will enjoy braille for the rest of my life.”

To sign up for a Changing Vision Changing Life retreat, contact Debbie Bacon, Rehabilitation Counselor at dbacon@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7357. The next CVCL sessions take place June 12 through 16 at Enchanted Hills Camp in Napa and July 17 through 21 at LightHouse Headquarters in downtown San Francisco.

To sign up for Braille Instruction, contact Braille Instructor Divina Carlson at dcarlson@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7367.

This Spring, CVCL Answers the Tough Questions for New Students

“I’ve often thought about what I would do if I were to drop a sewing needle.” The instructor intones the answer in a gentle voice: “Listen for the direction and how far from you it has fallen.” Obvious? Not to me.”

When Eleanor Lew came to LightHouse in 2016, dropping a sewing needle or traveling through the dark were questions without obvious answers. These are just a couple of the hundreds of seemingly answerless riddles that we help people solve in our weeklong skills training, Changing Vision Changing Life.

Initially only held a few times a year, CVCL now happens every month. It trades locations between San Francisco and Napa to give students a holistic, two-part experience that builds confidence in all areas, introduces them to other individuals peers who motivate each other through peer learning, and gets them on the right track towards being happy, healthy people — regardless of level of eyesight.

“Introducing us to the scope of low-vision rehabilitation services so that we can live independently and maintain quality of life is the purported reason for the camp,” Eleanor writes. “But the healing power of connection is what surprises us.”

There are hundreds of stories like Eleanor’s that come out of CVCL each year. If you want to know more about her transformation, read about it in the New York Times and tell your friends with changing vision to get in touch with Debbie Bacon at dbacon@lighthouse-sf.org or by calling 415-694-7357.


Sign Up for our upcoming CVCL sessions:

CVCL II (San Francisco): March 20 – 24

CVCL I (Napa): April 3 – 7

CVCL II (San Francisco): May 8 – 12

CVCL I: (Napa): June 12 – 16

CVCL II (San Francisco): July 17 – 21

 

Stay the Week – Learn and Connect at our New Headquarters

Students and instructors from the January class gather for a group photo in front of the fireplace at Enchanted Hills RetreatJoin us this month for our first Changing Vision Changing Life (CVCL) Immersion Training at our new Headquarters offices at 1155 Market Street in San Francisco.

Our new Student Residences can accommodate 2 to 3 students per room. Each Student Residence offers wireless internet connections, recharging stations and a personal bureau.  Students will be provided with a continental breakfast, lunch and dinner. The lodging is akin to a modern Bed and Breakfast – private men’s and women’s facilities are a short walk down the hall from each room. Student lodging is secure and comfortable both for learning and for connecting with others when there is a break from training.

Dates for our upcoming training sessions in 2016, all at our new Headquarters in San Francisco

Where: LightHouse for the Blind, 1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco, California 94103

Session Dates:

June Session: June 13th to 17th (Deadline for sign-up is June 3rd.)
July Session: July 10th to 15th (note: all training in Spanish) (Deadline for sign-up is July 1st.)
August Session: August 16th to 22nd (training starts at our Napa site and finishes in San Francisco) (Deadline for sign-up is August 5th.)
September Session: September 18th to 23rd (Deadline for sign-up is August 9th.)

Over 160 active adults from all parts of Northern California have participated in the LightHouse immersion training programs at the Enchanted Hills Retreat in Napa. Providing a second venue to facilitate Changing Vision Changing Life Immersion brings to our students the urban feel of training as well as the additional access a city has to offer, such as visiting the library for the blind; attending an audio described movie at a local movie theater or participating in an accessible art tour at one of the many museums in San Francisco.

You can be one of the first to go through our 2016 Immersion training in San Francisco. In our new urban environment you and your peers will be immersed in building a foundation of independent living skills, access technology skills, orientation and mobility and peer support to get you started on your journey of living your life the way you want in maintaining your independence. All of this along with the energy and vibrancy of one of the most beautiful cities in the world surrounding you.

The CVCL curriculum, presented in four or five sessions per day, includes: ways to read printed materials; understanding how lighting, contrast and magnification can help you every day; techniques for organizing and labeling in your home or office; best methods for taking notes; basic cooking skills; traveling and moving safely and confidently in your home and in the community and understanding how accessible computers and other high and low tech equipment can enhance your life.

Evening discussions focus inwards, from conversations about holding yourself accountable on your journey, to self-advocacy to questions about how friends, family and partners can understand/support you and your path. Sometimes the process is planned, other times it becomes very organic. Each person and every group of students is different and we individualize much of the experience depending on your own aspirations.

Gaining understanding of what is available to you, getting hands-on with new skills and developing renewed confidence with changing vision is the overall theme of the week. While the experience is different for everyone, the act of coming together with other adult students and teachers who are blind or have low vision, to learn or relearn skills and get back into the stream of life, is a pivotal part of the week-long experience.

Transportation access to San Francisco from Humboldt County will be provided for North Coast students and for those who reside in the bay area, 1155 Market sits right above the Civic Center BART and is only a short cab ride or bus from the Cal Train Station and the temporary Trans Bay Terminal.

Blind or low vision students who are interested should have a genuine interest in learning the skills for moving forward; enjoy learning with a group of peers and are able to participate full day (from 9:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. every day) of active learning and physical participation (urban mobility and public transit in San Francisco).

Note, there is no cost to attend if you are 55 or older and living in San Francisco, Alameda, Marin, Humboldt or Del Norte counties. Limited scholarships are available for persons under 55 and not eligible for Department of Rehabilitation Services.

The Changing Vision Changing Life Immersion Training is open to adults who are ready for a jump start or a recharge as their vision has changed. Be the first student to join us in San Francisco. Interested? Contact LightHouse staff in San Francisco, San Rafael or Eureka: