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Video: Meet Blind Photographer Alice Wingwall at LightHouse

Although the notion of a blind photographer may strike some as counterintuitive, for Alice Wingwall, it couldn’t be a more natural form of expression. “Almost everyone asks the same question: “How can you possibly, how can you [take photographs]?” she observes. “I realize they are making a statement, not asking a question… My response is that any photograph begins as an idea in the brain.”

This November, we’re thrilled to host a special exhibition of work by acclaimed blind photographer Alice Wingwall at our headquarters starting on Thursday, November 9.

Vivid and complex, Wingwall’s photographs often incorporate double exposures and overlaid, juxtaposed images. Her work explores a wide range of subjects, from European architecture to self-portraits and sumptuous landscapes of the California coastline. Wingwall often works in collaboration with her husband, architect Donlyn Lyndon, as well as other designers, artists, friends and family to fine-tune her camera angles and, in editing, to select her favorite images.

Beyond photography, Wingwall has created works using textiles, sculpture and multimedia collages as well. She began studying art at Indiana University before receiving degrees at the University of California, Berkeley and in Paris at the École du Louvre, the Ecole Metiers d’Art (stained glass studio), and the Atelier del Debbio for stone carving. She subsequently taught at the University of Oregon Honors College and helped found the sculpture program at Wellesley College.

Her photographic work is featured in the exhibition “Sight Unseen,” mounted by the California Museum of Photography in Riverside and now touring various cities internationally. A film about her work, “Miss Blindsight: the Wingwall Auditions,” which she co-edited, premiered as the Best Independent Film of the Year 2000 at the New England Film and Video Festival.

We hope that you’ll join us for drinks and refreshments on Thursday, November 9 from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. at LightHouse for the Blind (1155 Market Street, in the ground floor lobby) to explore Alice’s work and to learn more about her process and passion for photography.

More about past art openings at LightHouse for the Blind: Meet Charles Blackwell, jazz painter.

Donate to support arts programming at LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

RSVP to dbrown@lighthouse-sf.org by November 6.

What We Will Need to Rebuild EHC

Dear LightHouse Community,

I’ve just returned from my first permitted visit to our Enchanted Hills Camp, evacuated three weeks ago with only an hour’s notice. Over the past weeks I’ve known, intellectually, many of the facts and losses caused by the fire, but visiting camp in person deepened my understanding of the damage to this very special place and why it’s essential that we rebuild it better and stronger than ever.

As I drove up to camp with camp director Tony Fletcher, most of the way up Mt. Veeder Road looked strangely untouched and beautiful. But about two miles from camp, we began to see the burned-down shells of nearly half of our neighbors’ houses, barns and outbuildings. The air turned pungent with sweet but ominous smoke and we were surprised to see hot spots still smoldering three weeks after the fires.

Such was the magnitude of the great fire, at $3.3 billion in damages it is likely the worst in California history. Talking with locals who monitored the course of the fires, it appears that Enchanted Hills was located almost in the exact location where the huge Nuns fire and Partrick fires converged. Today, the whole face of 2,600-foot Mt. Veeder appears blackened by the unprecedented inferno.

We turned into the driveway, past the main camp sign smashed by a fire truck on entry, then made our way past an improvised barricade designed to keep others out. Immediately, I heard the buzz of a portable generator powering our water system pumps; we’ve already stored away about 10,000 gallons of water fire departments used in fighting the fires on our property. The generator reminded us that there is no electricity at all at camp, and with the massive burnout of our power system’s poles and wires it’s likely it will be months until we get power everywhere we need it. We will appreciate a sizable electrical contracting company to help with our massive electric power rebuild. The fire has been very big so some of the trucks needed to help in order to carry water for the fire. As the electricity connection was out because of the big fire, good thing that semi trucks has well-charged lighting for semi trucks.

Many meadows around camp are untouched by fire, thanks to a protective heritage first undertaken starting in 2008. The open spaces, unchoked by underbrush, clearly helped protect almost all of upper camp’s buildings. A walk inside the Hogan, Lakeside cabins, or the Kiva show the spaces unburned by fire, though likely needing smoke remediation, deep cleaning and repainting. Same for the gathering house and dining hall. We’ll need painters, best carpet cleaning service and commercial dry cleaners to help with our walls, bedding and permeable surfaces.

Donate to #RebuildEHC

Walking down to the pool, camp begins to feel more like a wasteland. The decking has burned so completely as to reveal a three-foot deep pit underneath. The bathhouse has nothing left, as well as all storage buildings and the beautiful shade structure build by the Davis Kiwanis Club. With all of the delicate bushes and trees burned around the pool, the place is a stark counterpoint to the boisterous fun I remember from thousands of campers and their families.

But one detail gave me heart: The pool’s level was down three feet from normal. Why? We heard that after the fire department had drained our 20,000 gallon tanks in upper camp, they turned to the abundant pool water to help save our camp structures. Maybe that is where Los Angeles Engine #98 got the water they used to save parts of the Redwood Grove theater? We hope to find out more about these details soon. We need to repair and rejuvenate all the lost recreational spaces at camp, including the Redwood Grove Theater.

In addition to the surviving theater benches, the beautiful redwood trees still stand tall, only a few with darkened trunks. The needles far above were still green and the graceful giants will likely all survive.

We hiked down to Rose Resnick’s favorite part of camp, the lower chapel, with its creek still running even now in late October. I could feel the spirits of 90 years of blind campers down there, the girls and boys savoring the smells of quintessential California woodland. At the blackened Lower Chapel, I found the creek, but its surroundings seemed very different. All the California bay trees and Douglas firs had burned away, revealing for the first time the full Creekside formerly hidden in a green thicket of plants.

What remained was a clear, parklike stand of redwoods with an occasional oak. I fear for the titanic erosion that likely will happen this winter. We need groups, companies or organized associations who will be willing to spread seed, plant seedlings and participate in a multi-year effort to reforest EHC with the right native species and ensure for erosion control.

Walking around the Lower Chapel is now treacherous. Five-foot holes edge what’s left of the walkway, places in which hundred-foot trees used to stand.  The creek bridge and all railings are gone, as is just about all of the thousands of feet of guide rope and supports first installed in the 1950s. Safe and accessible walkways, including natural cane-detectible edging, will be a multi-year project, but one that will open up this jewel for future generations of all abilities.

As we stood in lower camp and the sun peeked out of the smoky clouds, a few local birds began to sing. There have been some squirrel sightings already, and, ironically, an unusual number of rattlesnakes have been on the move, displaced from their homes. The disturbed and newly-sunny hillsides may also be ideal for poison oak in the early years after the fire. We’ll need naturalists, botanists and those willing to get their hands dirty by removing unwanted plants and weeds as we beautify, landscape and care for camp’s new ground cover because they will be building a new home, while planing and Choosing the right house plan for you.

Donate to #RebuildEHC

I walked up the road to see what was left of the 2,000 square-foot 1927 camp cafeteria and roller rink. I found the little ramp leading up from the road to the front door, but the building had burned so furiously that only a thin ash pile remained. Tony Fletcher poked around and found the antique glass front doorknob. As I held it in my hands, the glass broke, the last remnant of nearly 90 years of blind activities in the building. They called stone bathtubs haltom city tx to help them renovate the old house.

And so it went throughout the afternoon, and the more time I spent at camp the more the list of needs grew ever longer. Where were those massive picnic tables built by our neighbors? Couldn’t even find a trace of ash where they had once stood. What about the recreation field sports shed, crammed with low ropes, beep baseballs and every other kind of sports equipment? Only the concrete slab remains. What about the dozens of outdoor speakers and miles of wire strung by Mike May so that the entire camp could enjoy camp wide radio broadcasts?

For most of camp, the system is dust. All of those clever Wi-Fi access points we set up over the last year or two also don’t exist. It’s going to take wave after wave of volunteers and craftspeople to build things back even better.

Sometimes it’s the enormity of the little things that are gone that got to me. Beds, mattresses and bedding for 120 kids vanished without a trace. Dozens of dressers, chairs, desks and well-used campfire seating. Beloved cabin and trail signs and nature boxes evaporated. These are the things that blind people touched and benefited from every day. We’ll now start to build beautiful warm things for generations of campers to come.

And build it we will. I was met on property by Napa County Supervisor Ryan Gregory. As we walked through treacherous lower camp I asked him how property owners like us can possibly pay for all the debris removal or the felling of dangerous weakened trees. He said there are county programs that may be slow in operation, but they will come.

Supervisor Gregory also walked with us to the remains of our staff house, once the home of five valued camp employees. He wants to help EHC and our neighbors in any way possible. To that end, he’s paying out of his own pocket for a neighborhood informational meeting this Thursday at 5:00 p.m., held in our intact dining hall. We expect more than 100 neighbors to meet each other for the first time since the fire and band together as we build back a community stronger than ever.

If all goes as forecast the Thursday meeting will adjourn and three days of soaking rains will begin, permanently ending the fire season and beginning a new season of cleanup and reconstruction.

While I am writing this, I’ve just gotten the good news that our contractors have been able to restore some limited electrical power to our water pump house and some parts of upper camp. If our crews can do the impossible, Supervisor Gregory will be able to host our neighbors tomorrow in a dining hall brightened for the first time in nearly a month. Keep your fingers crossed for this humble victory.

And so the reconstruction begins. Of Enchanted Hills staff, all were displaced by the fires and four of them lost their homes and jobs. I am glad to learn that four of the five have already found work and a place to stay. The fifth is about to begin some long-planned international travel and will be in touch with us upon his return next year.

Our Spring House, home to our amazing site managers Donny and janet Lay, is being cleaned so they will resume full-time living on property just days from now. We’ll haul off more than a dozen refrigerators, permanently fouled by a month-long power outage.

We’ve begun accumulating tens of thousands of gallons of treated water from our spring, essential to cleanup and the health of our contractors and staff. And most importantly, we’ve begun to hear from many of you directly.

We’ve established a link for tax-deductible donations earmarked exclusively for camp reconstruction. Donate to help rebuild EHC in the aftermath of devastating fire damage.

We’ve also built a convenient way for people moved by our situation to give immediately by texting. Simply text ‘RebuildEHC’ to  501-55 and specify your donation amount when prompted.

Next Summer at EHC

Though we’ve suffered the greatest loss in our history, I want you to know we’re already thinking about ways we might build back camp in time to host limited groups this summer. If we can muster the contractors, materials and volunteers groups, our plucky camp staff and community will make a mighty effort to hold some special sessions as early as summer 2018. It won’t be anything like last year, but we intend to pioneer our own future in ways that will build a stronger camp and a stronger community for it.

In appreciation,

Bryan Bashin, CEO

LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Five Reasons to Look Forward to Superfest this Weekend

Get ready for the 31st year of Superfest International Disability Film Festival this weekend on November 4 and 5 in San Francisco and Berkeley. We’re thrilled to have such a spectacular and diverse lineup, co-produced with our friends at the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University.

November 4, 2017, 2 p.m. & 6 p.m.

The Magnes Collection of Art and Life, Berkeley

Buy tickets to Saturday’s Superfest showings.

November 5, 2017, 1 p.m.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco

Buy tickets to Sunday’s Superfest showing​.

 


Why are we excited for Superfest this year?

 

1) This will be our 31st year!  

Superfest first debuted in a small showcase located in Los Angeles and is now co-hosted by San Francisco’s Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University. We are proud to be the longest running disability-related film festival in the world.

2) Leaders from local disability organizations will introduce each film!

Not only does Superfest have a great selection of films, but it is also a chance to learn more about leaders and organizations making a positive difference in the Bay Area.

3) This year we received over 160 submissions, a new record in both numbers and geographic diversity.

Learn why Deej received our Best of Festival – Feature award, a refreshing look at autism told with the autistic person and documentary subject getting the final word.

While we cannot feature each and every film, the 15 selected films have been shot and filmed in nine countries and represent an important array of issues and perspectives. There will also be nine filmmakers, a festival record, joining us from all over the world to preview their work.

4) Free access tours at The Contemporary Jewish Museum

Arrive early on Sunday for described and ASL interpreted tours of the museum!

5) Superfest is as accessible as it gets!

Access is always a process, but we are proud that Superfest models what access can look like for film festivals internationally. We provide open captioning, audio description, integrated seating for wheelchair riders, a scent-free zone, ASL interpreting, and more.

Our decision to use open audio description has been core to our festival. At the same time, we understand that it creates a barrier for some festival goers. Thanks to our community’s support, this year we are introducing a second screening room on Saturday to provide another form of access. Since space is limited and available on a first come first serve basis, please contact Emily Beitiks to reserve a spot at beitiks@sfsu.edu. Read more about audio description on the Longmore Institute’s blog.

To buy your tickets today, check out www.superfestfilm.com.

Superfest 2017 Ups the Ante on Film Festival Diversity and Accessibility

Get ready for the 31st year of Superfest International Disability Film Festival on November 4 and 5 in San Francisco and Berkeley. We’re thrilled to announce our spectacular and diverse lineup, co-produced with the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University.

“When you’re a showing a film by or about someone with a disability, you can’t ignore the needs of the disabled audience,” says Emily Beitiks, Associate Director of the Longmore Institute, which co-sponsors the festival with LightHouse for the Blind. “The technology exists. It’s something every modern film festival needs to consider.”

As always, Superfest will be furnished with a wide range of accessible accommodations: audio description, open captions, ASL interpretation, audience-integrated wheelchair seating, close-up seating for people with low vision or who are deaf or hard of hearing, a chemical free and scent free area set back from rest of audience, a place to retreat, gender neutral restrooms, easy access to public transportation including BART and MUNI, and ramp access to the stage.

At Superfest 2017, more people with disabilities will be telling their own stories through film than ever before. Our filmmakers are geographically diverse as well; we’ll be screening films shot and produced in Myanmar, Colombia, Germany, Vietnam, Australia, Japan, Canada, Italy and the United States. Furthermore, we will welcome filmmakers from more than half of these films in dialogue with our local community and each other to deepen the global conversation and movement around disability film.

Our best-of-festival feature, Deej, embodies this value as a one-of-a-kind collaboration between a veteran filmmaker and a nonspeaking autistic person. Director and producer Robert Rooy and subject and producer DJ Savarese share editorial control as they attempt to navigate the challenges of representing autism on-screen and the resources for parents with autistic children to help them out.

A local film, On Beat, tells the story of two deaf parents with hearing children who unite over a shared love of music. Get to know the filmmaker here.

And, without further ado, a complete list of our SuperFest 2017 films…

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 4, AFTERNOON

Buy tickets for Saturday’s showing.

CHIEF

Directed by Amir Jaffer

United States, 2016, Documentary Short

This reverent ode to the service dog tells the story of German immigrant Sonja Ohldag, who is diagnosed with a seizure disorder after moving to the U.S. in 1999. Unable to afford a service animal from an organization, Sonja trains her dogs herself and takes a chance on Chief, who is not your average service dog.

MIND/GAME: THE UNQUIET JOURNEY OF CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW

Directed by Rick Goldsmith

United States, 2015, Feature Documentary

Basketball superstar Chamique Holdsclaw faced six felony counts, the possibility of prison and public attacks on her character. Her rollercoaster attempts at recovery from near suicide reveal an uphill battle against the stigma of psychiatric disability and show a deep journey that is powerful, revelatory, instructive and real.

WHEN BRENDEN MET HIROE

Directed by Steve Mayer-Miller

Australia/Japan 2016, Documentary Short

A photographer from Australia returns to Japan to reunite with his friend Hiroe, who he met at a blind and deaf/blind workshop the year before. The pair spends an unforgettable day together.

THE BARBER OF AUGUSTA

Directed by Michèle Hozer

Canada, 2016, Documentary Short

Liane Yasumoto’s Jury’s Choice Award

Toronto native Matthew Genser goes to great lengths to find his unexpected superpower: cutting hair. Like all superheroes, he has a dark side; but in his costume, he’s invincible. Put on your cape and get lined up!

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 4, EVENING

TRAVELLER

Directed by Nwaye Zar Che Soe, Mine Aung Lin Tun, Pyae Zaw Phyo

Myanmar/Japan, 2014, Documentary Short

Disability Justice Award

Co-presented with CAAMFest

A young woman born with a disability searches for a career despite rampant discrimination. She travels to Japan where she finds strength in disability activism and community, and returns home with a newfound sense of pride.

ON THE OUTS: REENTRY FOR INMATES WITH DISABILITIES

Directed by Jordan Melograna

United States, 2016, Documentary short

“On the Outs” follows three inmates with disabilities as they prepare for reentry, get discharged and navigate the challenges of returning to their old lives. Produced by the Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities (AVID) Prison Project, this documentary scrutinizes the prison institution and its treatment of inmates with physical and emotional disabilities.

STAB: LIFE AS A VOODOO DOLL

Directed by Jeanette Castillo

United States, 2017, Animated Short

An animated comic medical memoir dedicated to all those who live with chronic illness or disability. Writer and director Jeanette Castillo pairs her tongue-and-cheek personal account of living with Type 1 diabetes with criticism of the American healthcare system.

SIGN

Directed by Andrew Keenan-Bolger

United States, 2016, Short

Two men meet on a train—and a tender and unspoken love story unfolds. Through vignettes, music and sign language, “Sign” follows the relationship between Ben (hearing) and Aaron (Deaf) as they navigate life’s milestones side by side.

IN CRYSTAL SKIN

Directed by Michaela O’Brien

United States/Colombia, 2016, Documentary Short

Best of Festival, Short

In Bogotá, Colombia, a charismatic 11-year-­old named Maria lives with the limitations imposed by a rare skin disease. Her fierce bond with her mother is tested and strengthened as they struggle to preserve Maria’s swiftly passing childhood.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 5, AFTERNOON

Buy tickets for Sunday’s showing.

DEEJ

Directed by Rob Rooy

United States, 2017, Documentary Feature

Best of Festival, Feature

After being abandoned by his birth parents, DJ found not only a loving family but a life in words through a text-to-voice synthesizer. Told by DJ himself, “Deej” was filmed over six years in the American Midwest and chronicles his journey to become Oberlin’s first non-speaking, autistic student.

LEFTY & LOOSEY

Directed by Zico Abrar

United States, 2016, Fictional Short

In this techy ode to film noir, two amputee veterans turned private investigators uncover a diabolical plot and must overcome their fears to crack the code and save the world.

RHIZOPHORA

Directed by Julia Metzger-Traber, Davide De Lillis

Germany/Vietnam, 2015, Documentary Short

Forty years after the Vietnam War, the toxic remnants of Agent Orange have not faded. In this dreamlike meditation on the impact of war and the resilience of humanity, “Rhizophora” follows 11 disabled Vietnamese youth on a whimsical, poignant and whirling journey through a day in their lives.

ON BEAT

Directed by Cheng Zhang, Reid Davenport

United States, 2015, Documentary Short

This documentary short follows the lives of a deaf couple with hearing children and the unexpected outlet that brings their family closer together.

WELL DONE

Directed by Riccardo Di Gerlando

Italy, 2016, Short

A sharply-dressed young man with Down syndrome sneaks out of his house to visit an art museum and causes a disruption. Through humor and irreverence, this film reminds us that art can be interpreted by everyone, not just the “experts.”

THE CHILI STORY

Directed by Patty Berne

United States, 2014, Animated Short

P.K. Walker Innovation in Craft Award

A true story about desire and the arousal of taboo on a BART train.

Special thanks to:

Sponsor logos: George Lucas Family Foundation, Zellerbach Family Foundation, Ned Nobari Foundation, Golden Gate Regional FoundationSponsor Logos: Telecare, Barron & Lam LLP, Gatepath, JetBlue, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Contemporary Jewish Museum, Shauna Farabaugh Somatic Sex Education

Next Weekend is Superfest: Meet Filmmaker Michaela O’Brien

Now in its 31st year, Superfest International Disability Film Festival (November 4 – 5, in multiple locations in San Francisco and Berkeley) is gearing up for its spectacular, diverse lineup of films shot and produced in Myanmar, Colombia, Germany, Vietnam, Australia, Japan, Canada, Italy and the United States.  

To get you excited for Superfest, we spoke with filmmaker Michaela O’Brien about her short documentary film In Crystal Skin, winner of the Superfest’s 2017 “Best of Festival – Short” award. The film tells the story of Maria, a charismatic eleven­-year-­old growing up in Bogotá, Colombia with an unusual skin disorder. Her fierce bond with her mother is tested and strengthened as they struggle to preserve Maria’s swiftly passing childhood.

O’Brien’s film will be featured at Superfest’s 6 p.m. screening on Saturday, November 4 at the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life in Berkeley. Buy your tickets today.

Protagonist Maria and her mother ride in a car.


Read the conversation below between Michaela and the Longmore Institute on Disability’s Celina Garcia. 

Celina Garcia: What made you decide to make this film? What drew you to this subject?

Michaela O’Brien: In Crystal Skin began in 2010 after I traveled to Colombia to work as a photographer with a foundation that served children in Bogotá.  While shooting, I met one of the main characters, and her grit and optimism captured my interest. The film was born from that chance encounter.

As a two-woman crew, Melissa and I filled all production roles while living alongside our characters in their homes. This allowed us to intimately experience their day-to-day routines and gave a rawness to our storytelling. We did all of our fundraising from a grassroots level by hosting events in our neighborhood and crowdsourcing through Indiegogo. It took a lot of stamina to keep an independent film afloat over the course of four years. We committed ourselves to raising funds, taking the time to do so between work and graduate school, but our dedication to the strength of the film’s characters kept us focused.

Emotionally engaging and visually stirring, In Crystal Skin offers glimpses of the fortitude embodied by those with Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB). This documentary highlights a dedicated network of patients, parents and doctors battling just one of the world’s 7,000 rare diseases. Our hope is that the personal experiences captured in this film will spur much needed dialogue about managing life with a rare disease.

CG: What were your preconceptions of Maria’s disability before making this film, and what did you learn through the process? How did that inform your stylistic/filmic decisions in building this story?

MO’B: While making In Crystal Skin I have learned a great deal about hope and perseverance from patients. I am continually impressed with patient’s ability to remain positive in the face of adversity. The people I have met with rare diseases want to move forward in life just like anyone else, and they have dreams and aspirations which they live to fulfill. One of the most beautiful forms of intelligence that those with rare diseases have is the understanding of uniqueness, and how to be proud of it. EB and rare disease patients desire to understand and express their individuality and deserve that utmost respect for that courageous act.

There are many moments from filming in Bogotá, Colombia with the subjects of In Crystal Skin which stand out in my mind. One particular conversation was with a young mother named Jackeline, whose 12-year-old daughter has dystrophic EB. One day while filming she broke down in tears and expressed very candidly the difficulties of being a mother of a child with a rare disease – the barriers it puts on a young woman basically confined to the house in order to provide constant care for her child, the financial burdens it places on a low-income family, and the difficulties of wanting your child to be treated normally, while understanding the fragility of their physical and emotional well-being. We talked for hours and in a way it was a cathartic experience both for her and for me. The conversations I have had both on and off camera bring the film closer to understanding the uniqueness of managing life with a rare disease.

CG: Why is film an important medium for increasing understanding of people with disabilities?

MO’B: Living with a rare disease which currently has no cure is tremendously difficult both for the patient and their family or caretaker. There is no end in sight for their disease or for the difficulties it causes. It can be a struggle to muster hope for the future when science can offer patients no resolution. EB is a disease of constant management, it requires intense care and maintenance, so though there is no cure, patients with EB hope for products and orphan drugs to alleviate their wounds and lessen the routine of constant care. Filmmaking is an exercise in relating to humanity by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.

For both a filmmaker and a viewer, it can be an extremely powerful and transformative experience. Through the strength and struggle of the film’s characters, In Crystal Skin sheds light on life experiences rarely heard of, but which are universally relatable.

CG: What does being a part of Superfest, where your film will be seen by a primarily disabled audience, mean to you as a filmmaker?

MO’B: I am so excited to have the film at Superfest! To have the film be viewed by disabled and rare disease communities was one of the ultimate goals of the film. With In Crystal Skin I hope to empower disabled individuals and their families to share their stories and give voice to those who are very much in need of further scientific research and increased dialogue to spur social change and resources for the disabled.

CG: What do you think about the newly audio described version of your film?

MO’B: Having the film audio described was an interesting process. It was difficult for me to get used to because it becomes so much more an auditory experience and I had become used to mainly relying on the visuals with less dialogue. I am very pleased that having the film audio described will make it more accessible to the visually impaired.

Join us Saturday, November 4 at 6 p.m. to experience this important film for yourself!

Enchanted Hills Camp and Retreat incurs serious fire damage, makes commitment to rebuild

Help rebuild Enchanted Hills Camp stronger and better than ever.

On October 17, Enchanted Hills Camp staff – cooks, craftsmen and the property managers who work and live at the specialized Napa camp and training center for the blind – reunited at LightHouse for the Blind’s headquarters in downtown San Francisco to discuss the future of their 67-year-old camp. When the 311-acre property on Mount Veeder in Napa found itself at the center of multiple advancing fires last week, the future of the West Coast’s oldest camp for people who are blind and visually impaired was suddenly uncertain. Camp staff was able to evacuate before the mountain closed to the public, and took refuge with friends and family while waiting several days for news about their home.

On Sunday, the LightHouse finally received a few photographs of the beloved summer camp, though much of it was hard to recognize. More than a dozen structures, which housed hundreds of campers each summer, had been laid to waste by uncontrolled flames that had crossed the boundary lines into camp on the second weekend of fires in Northern California. The damage accounts for more than half of the camp’s capacity, and though reports are still inconclusive, likely includes a brand new natural redwood theater, with hand-carved benches crafted by blind artisans this summer.

“The silver lining,” says Enchanted Hills Camp director Tony Fletcher, “is though the student and staff housing is largely gone, Enchanted Hills’ core, its historic gathering spaces, remain largely intact. Because of our commitment to a fire abatement plan and all the help we’ve received enacting it over the past decade, many of these beloved buildings were spared.” Our tip is to get your heater repaired and hire furnace repair boise id to avoid these kinds of accidents.

On Monday evening, LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin sent a letter to the extended blindness community throughout the United States, sharing details of the damage but also with reassurances of Enchanted Hills’ future:

“I want the large and extended LightHouse community to know that we are committed to building back Enchanted Hills Camp stronger and better than ever, both as a camp for the blind and a treasured Napa retreat center. The reconstruction of lower camp will give us opportunities to build in accessibility and modern comforts for generations of campers to come. But before that we need to tend to our staff, our operations and the planning, reforestation and construction that likely will occupy us for years to come.”

As of Tuesday morning, certain structures and vegetation was still ablaze in restricted parts of the hilly camp, though kept in check by firefighters, and it will be days if not weeks before camp staff can return to view the damage.

The LightHouse has started a dedicated fund to rebuild Enchanted Hills Camp. Should you wish to help, please consider making a donation — big or small. If you have any leads for our displaced staff in the Napa area, please email Taccarra Burrell at tburrell@lighthouse-sf.org.

Now, more than ever, Enchanted Hills needs your support and donations.

#RebuildEHC

Win Two Free Tickets to Tomorrow’s Accessible Pre-Screening of ‘Wonderstruck’ at Mill Valley Film Festival

Following in the footsteps of accessible festivals like Superfest International Disability Film Festival, more mainstream festivals like Mill Valley Film Festival (October 5 – 15) are starting to catch on to the importance of accessible viewing.

In collaboration with our partners at accessible moviegoing app Actiview, we’re offering you (and a plus one) a chance to attend Mill Valley’s VIP accessible pre-screening of the 2017 film ‘Wonderstruck’ (Julianne Moore, Amazon). The screening is tomorrow, Friday, October 13 at 7 p.m. at The Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA 94901). Actiview will be providing Audio Description and Closed Captioning through their app, which you can download online.

There will be press, potentially some of the people that worked on the movie, and more. It’s an opportunity to show filmmakers that access is crucial—and that blind and deaf people want to attend their movies!

The film travels through two different eras — 1927 and 1977 — and follows two deaf children who secretly wish their lives were different. In the earlier time period, Rose (Millicent Simmonds) begins a quest to find her idol, actress Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore). Fifty years later, Ben (Oakes Fegley) searches for his father in New York. “Wonderstruck” is adapted from a novel of the same name by Brian Selznick. In his Cannes Film Festival review, Variety’s Owen Glieberman praised Haynes’ direction, writing, “For a while it plays like two movies in one, and Haynes is so on his game in staging each of them that the audience gets swept right up in the bittersweet mixed-media rapture of his filmmaking.”

To enter to win tickets, contact LightHouse Producer Camilla Sterne at csterne@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7306 before 10 a.m. on Friday, October 13. Please be absolutely certain you can attend the screening before you enter!

Actiview is collaborating with Mill Valley on a number of accessible screenings throughout the weekend, particularly two on Sunday, October 15 that you can still purchase tickets for! It’s a great opportunity to try out the app and see a few well-regarded new films, for only $15 with advanced ticket purchase.

Here’s the info:

Breathe (Andrew Garfield, Bleeker Street)
Watch the trailer.
Sunday 10/15 Century Larkspur Theater at 11:30am.
Tickets available in advance for $15

Last Flag Flying (Steve Carell, Lionsgate)
Watch the trailer.
Sunday 10/15 Century Larkspur Theater at 2pm.
Tickets available in advance for $15

Superfest Filmmaker Reid Davenport Tells the Story of Deaf parents with Hearing Children

Reid Davenport is an award-winning documentarian whose films focus on people with disabilities. Founder and co-director of Through My Lens, Davenport has been creating films and public speaking for five years. As a man with cerebral palsy, his hope is to inspire disabled students to share their personal stories, as he has done. “There is a tremendous space for amateur videos now on YouTube and social media and a few people with disabilities have already grasped that fact and taken back the narrative,” he says. “That’s what we want to encourage, take back and start to chip away at the misrepresentations of disability.”

Reid Davenport speaks onstage to an audience. 

 

Reid’s short film On Beat, co-directed by Cheng Zhang, will be shown on Sunday, November 5 at The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco for 2017’s Superfest International Disability Festival.

On Beat follows Larry and Tanisha Cotton, a Deaf couple with three hearing children. The family uses music to bond and express themselves. Davenport and Zhang discovered the Cotton family with another story in mind, having heard about Uber’s efforts to hire Deaf drivers (Larry is a driver), but once he came across their gospel group, he knew he had a different story to tell.

Davenport and co-director Cheng Zhang collaborated by playing off each other’s strengths. Because “her strength was shooting,” and Davenport “was more involved in the interviewing,” they “balanced each other quite well.” Davenport also brought a disability aesthetic to the film, as he has in other projects as well, by “shying away from medicalization of the disability, trying not to make a portrait a pathological impairment, instead focusing on the social impact of being disabled.”

The main thing Davenport wants other filmmakers to know is that with the proliferation of social media comes a unique opportunity. “The authority over the audience that they have is unprecedented, so they need to tell their stories.” He urges them to embrace stories about disability and not shy away from it.

Watch the trailer to On Beat below and buy your tickets to catch it at Superfest today:

October 15 is White Cane Day, so we’re giving you a 10 percent discount on White Canes

Blind people have used white canes as a tool to navigate throughout the world for hundreds of years. Since 1964, Americans have commemorated this symbol of freedom and independence by recognizing October 15 as White Cane Safety Day. In 2011, White Cane Safety Day was also named Blind Americans Equality Day by President Barack Obama.

During the week beginning October 15, the Adaptations Store will celebrate White Cane Safety by taking 10 percent off of all of the canes we have in stock to commemorate this invaluable tool.

You may think one long, white cane is just like another, but think again. Canes can be as unique as the people who carry them, which is why we offer such a plethora of options for you to choose from. Our canes range from lightweight to heavy, from rigid, solid canes comprised of a single piece of material, to canes that collapse into 5, 6 or 7 sections. We also offer telescoping canes in a myriad of styles with customizable grips and tips for you to make the selection that fits you best. Our cane tips range from the standard pencil to a rolling marshmallow, from steel to ceramic, so you can outfit your cane to suit your preferred amount of feedback and detection.

Our new line-up includes two telescoping canes, one from Ambutech, which adjusts and can be locked at the length you prefer between 31 and 69 inches. Another is a 9-section, light-weight mini telescoping cane available in 6 lengths, ranging from 51 to 61 inches. It collapses into its handle, making the entire cane only about 12 inches when completely collapsed. This cane

is so small it fits in your pocket, and makes a great backup cane so you won’t find yourself stuck without a cane. These small, compact canes are made by Chris Park, the manufacturer of both our rigid, lightweight canes as well as our 7-section folding canes. It is a wonderful solution for those who travel with dog guides, just in case your dog gets sick and you find yourself in a pinch. Take this versatile cane with you when you go out to see a movie or attend an event at a crowded venue.

If your cane is beginning to show its age, we can make it shine with a new coat of reflective tape, a new tip to give it a completely different feel, or perhaps a new denim or leather holster for hands free carrying.

During the week of October 15, to kick off White Cane Safety, we’ll give you 10 percent off of the cane of your choice if you call the Adaptations Store between Monday, October 16 and Friday, October 20. Canes are essential to the health, well-being and safety of blind people and visually impaired people, from beginners to veteran travelers alike. Don’t deprive yourself of this basic right to travel when and where you wish! Picking up a cane for yourself or a friend today.

Call our staff at 1-888-400-8933 to inquire about item pick up and mail orders or email us at adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org.

 

A Blind Baker, Beekeeper and Kayaker Unite in San Francisco

Fourteen months ago, LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin proposed a wild new idea: What if we create a prize to fund a blind person to do something ambitious? What if we fund their dreams ahead of time, to get them out in the world leading, creating, exploring and changing the face of blindness rather than simply rewarding them for past achievement?

Turns out dreaming big sometimes pays off, because in January this year we announced the very first Holman Prize for Blind Ambition, an annual set of awards – three in the first year – of up to $25,000 each financing and supporting blind people worldwide in pursuing an ambitious project of their design.

After a rigorous application process including a social media competition, multiple rounds of judging and a detailed project proposal, we found our inaugural Holman Prizewinners, an unlikely trio from vastly different walks of life. The three winners, kayaker Ahmet Ustunel, baker Penny Melville-Brown and beekeeper Ojok Simon each have one-of-a-kind projects that allow them to build and foster social impact in their immediate community.

Read what the San Francisco Chronicle has to say about the inaugural Holman Prizewinners.

This week, we hosted the prizewinners in San Francisco for a full week of trainings, meetings, skill-sharing and fun before they commence their projects starting October 1. It was a busy week, but was more than we could have ever hoped for.

We started out the week by heading to One Market Restaurant, where Penny baked with some of San Francisco’s top pastry chefs, exchanging tips and tricks, learning new methods, and even teaching them a few non-visual techniques. We want to extend a huge thank you to Michael Dellar for opening the restaurant to us and extending himself to give the blindness community such a warm welcome in the food and hospitality world. Watch this video of Penny and Mac folding a peach galette together.

Penny laughs in the One Market Restaurant kitchen with pastry chef Mac while plating a peach galette.
Penny laughs in the One Market Restaurant kitchen with pastry chef Mac while plating a peach galette.
Penny smiles with One Market pastry chefs Mac and Jan, who she just presented with the pewter medals she will give to all her baking partners along her journey.
Penny smiles with One Market pastry chefs Mac and Jan, who she just presented with the pewter medals she will give to all her baking partners along her journey.

Penny is finishing out her American adventure with three more major cooking stops: China Live in San Francisco, Cheeseboard in Berkeley, and Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland. She’s planning lots of updates and videos, which will be coming out weekly starting next week at Baking Blind.

Ahmet Ustunel, who actually lives in the same bustling SF downtown as LightHouse headquarters, was more of a tour guide than visitor this week. He took us to Lowell High School, where he teaches, and gave his fellow prizewinners a tour. Not only did Ahmet introduce us to some of his blind students, but also let Ojok climb up onto the roof of Lowell’s garden shed to investigate the beehive there!

Ojok and Lowell student Ellie show Ahmet the ropes as he feels a beehive box.
Ojok and Lowell student Ellie show Ahmet the ropes as he feels a beehive box.

We’ll be honest: For a minute there, we were a little worried Ojok almost wasn’t going to make here from Uganda due to a passport snafu, but with a lot of faith and a little luck, we welcomed him with open arms on Wednesday afternoon. He wasted no time – and within 12 hours he was running along Ocean beach and talking bees with fellow blind beekeeper Aerial Gilbert.

On Thursday the Holman crew headed over to the Arkansas Friendship Garden on Connecticut Street in the SF hills, where the journalist and author Meredith May keeps an active colony of bees regularly producing honey. Within minutes, Ojok had his hands in the hives – with no gloves, we might add – gently manipulating all the little worker bees without being stung once. At the end of the afternoon, everyone even got to dig their hands into some honeycomb and taste the sweet stuff right out of the hive.

Aerial Gilbert wears a protective hat and examines a wooden beehive frame.
Aerial Gilbert wears a protective hat and examines a wooden beehive frame.
Ojok holds up a beehive in a wooden frame for everyone to examine.
Ojok holds up a beehive in a wooden frame for everyone to examine.
Ojok smiles with his white bee hat and net catching the light, while bees fly around him.
Ojok smiles with his white bee hat and net catching the light, while bees fly around him.

Ojok then produced a small jar of honey that he had brought with him from Uganda, and the group got to taste the difference between the fruity, nectar-like honey of San Francisco’s Italian bees and the smoky, meaty honey made by Ojok’s Africanized “killer” bees. Ojok will return to Uganda next week and begin expanding the Hive Uganda program, which already has 38 blind and low vision sighted beekeepers, to teach honey farming to dozens more over the course of the next year.

On Friday, Ahmet took us out on the water – which, as he’s told us many times, is “his favorite place in the world.” The prizewinners and some documentary filmmakers hopped on a few sailboats with blind sailor Walt Raineri and the Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors (BAADS), who took them all for a spin around McCovey Cove. Ahmet showed off some prototypes of the system he’ll use to autonomously navigate the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey next year, including directional and depth-sensing tools, all of which provide audible feedback. Learn more about his sonar technology from our livestream. As Ahmet’s project beings, you can follow him on Facebook and Instagram – and keep an eye out for him at your local waterway this fall while he trains for his big crossing, make sure to his page, he is the kind of guy that will buy instagram video views to motivate himself on social media!

Ahmet shows his sonar navigation system to a fellow blind sailor named Ben.
Ahmet shows his sonar navigation system to a fellow blind sailor named Ben.
Ahmet stands up in the boat while preparing to set out to McCovey Cove.
Ahmet stands up in the boat while preparing to set out to McCovey Cove.

If the live-streams, descriptions and photos weren’t enough, don’t worry: We had our cameras and microphones following along with the prizewinners all week long, and we’ll be soon bringing you scenes from the week.