Tag Archive

Accessible Reading and Braille

Meet LightHouse Access Technology Specialist Amy Mason

The Lighthouse Access Technology Department offers up-to-date training in the latest accessible methods. Meet Amy Mason, one of our Access Technology Specialists, who trains students who are blind or have low vision on ways to make their phone, computer or other devices easier and more comfortable to use.

Amy began her journey with access technology while in high school in Cedar Bluffs, Nebraska, when her vision was changing. At first, she learned to use a rudimentary screen magnifier, then she moved on to using the popular screen reader, JAWS. But in college, although she used a computer, she had no idea how to set one up and did not keep up with newer versions of Microsoft Windows.

After getting her Bachelor’s degree, she continued her education at South East Community College in Lincoln, Nebraska, focusing on computer networking. She also taught computers to kids during the summer. It was important to her that her students learn not just how to use a computer but how to problem solve when their computer didn’t work. One of her teaching tricks was to unplug all the computers and disconnect the cables in the classroom. Her students were required to put them together before class, including troubleshooting if something wasn’t working. For example, if their computer wasn’t making sound, even with the cable for sound plugged in, Amy would prompt them with questions like, “Did you plug the auxiliary cable back into the right place?”

Amy has brought her sound techniques for getting students to problem-solve and explore to LightHouse. “It’s okay to try things,” she says. “It’s a lot like exploring a new neighborhood or cooking a new dish. You have to learn new skills, new information, and new landmarks, but a lot of your key concepts stay the same.” When students encounter something unfamiliar while using technology, Amy encourages them to apply the skills they’ve already learned and problem-solve.

Amy’s experiences have informed her teaching strategies. She relates how when she was growing up, her father brought a computer home with several tutorials, including one that taught computer basics. One sentence really stood out as she was going through the tutorial: “The computer is no more intelligent than a toaster.” Now, in explaining her approach to teaching, Amy uses the metaphor of a toaster to help her students understand the basic functions of a computer. “What you’re doing with a computer at its most basic level is no more complex than what you’re doing with a toaster,” she states, with amusement. “With a computer, you’re giving input, with a toaster, you’re giving it bread. Then you add in variables, such as ‘I want this input to be put out in this format’, or ‘I want the bread to be medium dark’. Then you execute the program. If you’re using the computer, you might get a spreadsheet. If you’re using a toaster, you get toast.”

During the course of training our students learn how to use a number of technologies. Among the things Amy can teach you are how to use a screen magnifier such as ZoomText, screen readers such as JAWS, your smartphone, email and other programs on your computer, and for braille users, how to use refreshable braille.

Amy is concerned with accessibility, but also has expertise in the user experience. Besides technology training, the LightHouse Access Technology Department works with developers to evaluate websites and mobile applications for accessibility. Amy likes to educate developers on the impact poor accessibility or a poor user experience has on a blind person. For instance, developers may not realize that many blind people do not use a mouse at all though the software they use assumes they do. As Amy explains, “if a someone has to press tab 52 times on a keyboard to get to where a mouse user can get with one click, well that is not a great user experience.”

Amy trains her students to become their own teachers, so that when they finish their training program at LightHouse, they are confident enough to problem-solve when their technology downloads an update. With her help she hopes they will be able to work through any changes the update brings because “they’ll have the tools they would need to explore.”

When Amy is not training you may find her hard at work on hobbies such as drawing and crocheting. Amy is owned by two especially opinionated cats.

Let LightHouse get you connected with access tech. If you are interested in Access Technology Training at LightHouse, visit our access technology webpage or email skuan@lighthouse-sf.org.

Coming soon – LightHouse East Bay expands services

LightHouse East Bay, our office at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley, is growing, and along with it, our commitment to providing a continuum of programs and services. The LightHouse has welcomed students from the East Bay into our programs for many years, but recognizes that establishment of a consistent presence in the area will ensure we more effectively reach the large and diverse population of Alameda, Contra Costa, and Solano counties.

Blind and visually impaired residents in the East Bay can look forward to a warm and welcoming location just steps above the Ashby BART station. Our attentive staff will be available five days a week to connect you with an abundance of services, including skills training and community events. LightHouse delivers individualized training in Orientation & Mobility, Access Technology, employment readiness, Braille, Independent Living skills, as well as hosting events to bring blind people together with one another and the wider Bay Area community.

This expansion coincides with the exciting news that we’ve been awarded a grant by the Senior Assistance Foundation Eastbay to provide training free of charge to residents of Alameda County over the age of 55. If you know of someone who qualifies, please contact LightHouse concierge Esmeralda Soto, at esoto@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7323.

We’ll have more to share on our progress at LightHouse East Bay throughout the coming months. If you have questions about LightHouse programs, contact Esmeralda Soto at 415-694-7323 or info@lighthouse-sf.org.

A New Milestone: LightHouse’s Employment Immersion Alumni Hit $2.5M Salary Mark

Photo: Kate Williams stands on the sweeping ramp inside the Ed Roberts Campus where LightHouse has its Berkeley office.

Everyone in the blindness community knows the ominous statistics: At least 60 – possibly even as many as 70 percent – of legally blind people remain unemployed. That’s why back in 2011 we made a commitment to blind jobseekers to establish a program that gave them the practical skills they needed to get the jobs they wanted.

Today, we’re proud to announce that the alumni of our program reached over $2.5M in salaries – $2,513,630 to be exact – and the number is growing every week. That is $2.5M in value added to our economy; $2.5M of worker time for people who didn’t know if they had what it took to compete in the job market; $2.5M that doesn’t even factor in the amount those individuals would have otherwise collected from social security and state financial aid.

Kate Williams, our Employment Immersion Program Manager, Purpose Prize Winner, and job coach nationally recognized by the Wall Street Journal, is the driving force behind these achievements. In the last six months alone, Kate and her team have helped sixteen blind and low vision jobseekers find new employment. That is sixteen people who six months ago, had to rely solely on assistance from others.

We can’t take all the credit, though. The LightHouse students who have been through our program have received rigorous and enthusiastic support from family, friends, private donors, foundations, grants and the CA State Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) which sends many students through our classes. At the end of the day, though, it’s about letting our students stand on their own two feet and enjoy a little bit of financial security. As one student told Kate last week: “It was just nice to be able to actually buy someone else dinner, for once.”

Here’s to more dinners together, and more success stories in 2016.

The Employment Immersion Program is for people who are blind or have low vision, from any background, seeking any job.

The next Employment Immersion session will begin on January 10, 2017:

Where: The LightHouse Building, 1155 Market St., 10th Floor, 94103
When: January 10 through February 9, 2017
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

To learn more, contact Employment Immersion Coordinator Wanda Pearson at wpearson@lighthouse-sf.org or call 415-694-7359.

Employment Immersion is hiring a new job development professional. If you have the skills to help blind and low vision jobseekers thrive, apply here.

Off the Page: Twitter Volunteers will Help You With those Pesky Print Materials

When: Friday, November 11, 2016, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Where: the LightHouse Building, 1155 Market Street, 10th Floor, San Francisco, 94103

Sign up to have paper documents read, get assistance with the completion of printed applications and much more by our vetted and professional volunteers from Twitter. If you’re actively looking for a job, come and have your resume reviewed by one of our professional Twitter volunteers.

Don’t miss out on this prime opportunity to meet one-on-one with a volunteer.

RSVP or get more information about our program by contacting our Volunteer Engagement Specialist Justine Harris-Richburgh at volunteer@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7320.

Adaptations Products of the Month for October: Canes, Calendars and New Store Hours

Photo: Adaptations sales associate Starrly Winchester holds up an EZ2See Weekly Planner.

The President of the United States annually recognizes White Cane Day by the Blind Americans Equality Day Proclamation on October 15 to acknowledge the abilities and to promote equal opportunity for those who are blind .

In honor of White Cane Safety Day we invite you to save 10% on all cane and cane accessory purchases at the Adaptations Store during the entire month of October. This includes canes, tips, and cane holsters.

Refresh your Cane at Adaptations
Did you know? Adaptations can apply new white and/or red reflective tape to your cane for less than five dollars. Be sure to refresh your cane with us.

Now available at Adaptations: 2017 Calendars

planner

Photo: Double page from the EZ2See Weekly Planner

We are excited to announce that in addition to the usual calendars we carry we have a new calendar to offer for 2017 – the EZ2See Weekly Planner. The EZ2See Planner features 8 and 1/2 by 11 inch large-print pages (one set of pages for every week in the year), large daily cells that are 3 and 1/4 by 11 inches, a cover that is laminated to protect it from moisture, black page edges, and more. We are selling the EZ2See Calendar for $20.00.

We also have large print wall calendars, large print desk calendars and a free braille calendar produced by the American Action Fund (AAF).

Stop by the Adaptations Store to check out our calendar selection and start your year off right.

Please Note: New Store Hours for Adaptations!
We’ve increased our store hours to better serve you.

Monday: Store hours may vary. Please call 415-694-7301 to confirm.
Tuesday:
10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday:
10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Thursday:
10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Friday:
10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
We are also open every 2nd Saturday of the month, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. In 2016, these Saturdays are October 8, November 12 and December 10.

Adaptations is located at the new LightHouse Building, 1155 Market St., 10th floor, San Francisco, 94103. Call us at 415-694-7301 or email us at adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org with any questions.

This December – Learn How to Use Your iPhone

Do you own an iPhone? Would you like to do more than make phone calls or ask Siri for today’s weather report?

Join us for a 2-day workshop in December for beginning iPhone users using VoiceOver (speech feedback). Our highly skilled instructors will provide hands-on instruction to make your iPhone use more complete. Learn to tap, flick and rotate your way through your phone for maximum efficiency.

When: December 15 and 16, 2016, 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (Bring your lunch)
Where: the LightHouse Building, 1155 Market St., 10th floor, San Francisco, 94103
Cost: $150.00. Scholarships may be available to persons 55 and over living in the counties of San Francisco, Alameda and Marin.
To participate you must own an iPhone.
Space is limited, so sign up now.

Over the two-day workshop you will learn to take advantage of the following features of your iPhone:

  • Effective Use of Siri
  • Using your Calendar and reminder features
  • Setting alarms using your clock and your timer when cooking
  • Creating Phone Contacts
  • Text Messaging
  • Overview of native (built-in) Apps

For questions, eligibility or to signup, contact Shen Kuan at 415-694-7312 or skuan@lighthouse-sf.org.

LightHouse’s 5-week Keyboarding Class, beginning October 3

LightHouse’s 5-week Keyboarding Class teaches students how to use the computer keyboard correctly for effective AT (Assistive Technology) Computing using the latest screen reader and/or magnification software.

This keyboarding class will focus on touch typing techniques, listening skills and the accuracy and speed that are necessary for competitive employment and academic advancement. Students will attend weekly classes and instructor-guided lab practices.

Where: the LightHouse Building, 1155 Market St., 10th floor, San Francisco, 94103
When: 15 classes from October 3 through November 4, 2016
Dates of classes: Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on the following dates: October 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 24, 26, 28 and 31 and November 2 and 4
LightHouse Instructors: Christina Daniels, Shen Kuan and Jeff Buckwalter
Cost: $1,125.00 per student. You may qualify for partial or full scholarship if you are 55 or older and not currently working with the Department of Rehabilitation or the Veterans Administration.

Space is limited, so sign up now.

For more information or to sign up, please contact Shen Kuan at 415-694-7312 or skuan@lighthouse-sf.org.

Learn Essential Touch Typing Skills

LightHouse’s 5-week Keyboarding Class teaches students how to use the computer keyboard correctly for effective AT (Assistive Technology) Computing using the latest screen reader and/or magnification software.

This keyboarding class will focus on touch typing techniques, listening skills and the accuracy and speed that are necessary for competitive employment and academic advancement. Students will attend weekly classes and instructor-guided lab practices.

Where: the new LightHouse Building, 1155 Market St, 10th floor, San Francisco, 94103

When: 15 classes between October 3 and November 4, 2016

Dates of classes: Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on the following dates:
October 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 24, 26, 28 and 31 and November 2 and 4

LightHouse Instructors: Christina Daniels, Shen Kuan and Jeff Buckwalter

Cost: $1,125.00 per student. You may qualify for partial or full scholarship if you are 55 or older and not currently working with the Department of Rehabilitation or the Veterans Administration.

Space is limited, so sign up now. For more information or to sign up, please contact Shen Kuan at 415-694-7312 or skuan@lighthouse-sf.org.

Two-Week YES Academy Takes Blind Kids from San Francisco to Orlando to More Independence

Photo: YES group sit around one of the many tables in the conference hall. LightHouse Youth Coordinator Jamey Gump sits at 9 o’clock, then going clockwise around the table: student Kyle Garcia, LightHouse mentor Sergio Lopez, student Billy Lei, LightHouse mentor Danielle Fernandez, students Robin Patche, Kevin Brousard, Christina Parra, Santiago Hernandez and Jacob Obeso.

In July close to a dozen LightHouse Youth attended our inaugural YES Academy – a two-week session for students ages 16 to 24 with the aim of teaching them to be more independent, confident and successful. During the first week of the training, students stayed at the new LightHouse Building in San Francisco. The students experienced full days that included classroom work, assignments and challenges both inside and outside our offices, mixed with time to relax, talk, have fun, compare notes and enjoy making friends and bonding with fellow blind students.

students in teaching kitchen

Photo: YES Academy students gather in our teaching kitchen for lunch.

Throughout the first week students benefited from a robust curriculum including outstanding blind college students as well as blind speakers representing a wide variety of career choices, a tour of the UC Berkeley campus, discussions that focused on becoming more independent and on finding work, including the use of adaptive technology, the importance of organization, best practices for writing resumes and cover letters and how to go on a job interview. They also experienced the excitement and fun of navigating the Bay Area while practicing their mobility skills. They traveled throughout the San Francisco on public transportation, participated in the San Francisco Pride Parade, walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, visited Pier 39 and went to the movies (using the recently-launched Disney Movies Anywhere audio-description iPhone app to watch the film Finding Dory.)

 

students cross golden gate bridge

Photo: Brandishing white canes and dog guides, YES Academy students cross the Golden Gate Bridge.

YES Academy and Fortune Dragon

Photo: Students Christina Parra, Robin Patche and Moe Josefowicz stand next to the colorful Fortune Dragon statue that sits in front of San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum.

Week two brought the adventure all had been waiting for: the cross-country flight to Orlando, Florida where the group attended the annual National Federation of the Blind (NFB) National Convention. For some it was their very first time on an airplane. LightHouse Youth Services Coordinator Jamey Gump, who supervised the group throughout the two-week period told us, “The kids pretty much were struck by the scale and diversity of the conference right away. Imagine you are maybe the only kid in your school or in your community who is blind. Now imagine the impact of walking into a hall where there are thousands of blind people with their white canes or dog guides. Or attending a huge banquet where pretty much everyone there can relate in one way or another to your life experience? That’s amazingly empowering.”

Serena and Santiago

Photo: LightHouse Evening and Weekend Coordinator Serena Olsen stands with student Santiago Hernandez next to seated audience members in the NFB Conference Hall.

Included in their schedule: exploring the Exhibit Hall where vendors displayed adaptive technology and attending the Conference General Session, the National Association of Blind Students seminar and a youth mixer with kids from all across the country including Arizona and Maryland.

LightHouse Evening and Weekend Coordinator Serena Olsen, who supervised the kids overnight and in Orlando loved seeing changes in the kids, even in such a short period of time. She said, “Overall I saw a growing awareness among the group that it’s “okay” to be blind. I watched them become more comfortable in their own skin as blind people. For some or all of them there’s this idea of leaving home for the first time and that you can’t take your parents with you to, say, college. YES Academy gave them the chance to try new strategies and succeed, or even fail sometimes, in a safe space.”

Student Sarkis (Sako) Meehran Gekchyan summed up the feelings of many who attended, by saying, “The experience I had at The YES Academy was invaluable. I can safely say that no other program for the blind that I have participated in has impacted me so strongly, so positively and so permanently as this one. The lessons I have learned from staying at the LightHouse and the NFB convention have stuck. Doing this program was exactly what I needed. I was able to see blind people who took charge of their lives and were making a positive change not only for themselves but for others. I learned a lot both from my fellow students and the speakers and the mentors. It was the first time I ever felt a deep sense of pride in my blindness, the first time I actually felt like a part of the blind Community. The very people I once tried to distance myself from are now one of my greatest sources of inspiration and most importantly my second family.”

If you have any questions about YES Academy, please contact Youth Services Coordinators Jamey Gump at jgump@lighthouse-sf.org/415-694-7372 or Richie Flores at rflores@lighthouse-sf.org/415-694-7328.

Throughout the year we hold individual LightHouse YES workshops. Our first workshop is on Saturday, September 10.

Read more about YES workshops.

Off the Page Volunteer Event Presented by Oracle a Huge Success

Photo: Oracle volunteers working with braille in the MADLab printing room.

Last month we held our first Off the Page Volunteer Event, presented by Oracle, and it was a win-win experience for all parties. Twelve excited Oracle volunteers arrived at the new LightHouse Building to provide reading services, assistance with resumes and guided tours of Sound Commons, the new art installation presented by the Exploratorium that is across the street from the LightHouse. But that’s not all. Oracle volunteers also assisted with making up the beds in our Student Residences, helped our Rehabilitation Department prep for the next Changing Vision Changing Life Immersion session and collated braille material in our MADLab.

A huge Thank You to our wonderful volunteers from Oracle. Here’s what a few of our students had to say:

“It was nice to hear from someone who has experience in the field I want to work in. My volunteer helped me by going over my resume and giving me tips on how to improve it, and he added value to my resume by providing content. While he did not need to read anything for me, he gave me valuable tips and information on what to expect in an office setting. I really enjoyed working with Oracle volunteers and if they were to volunteer again I would definitely participate.”
LightHouse student Chris S.

“Thank you so much for arranging for volunteer reader Chanel to work with me. She was terrific! I hope she continues to connect with the LightHouse. I got everything accomplished I wanted to. She listened carefully to how I wanted things done and with great intelligence, we got through everything just fine. I took a few minutes to write out the alphabet in braille on a 3×5 card for her and she was fascinated. So, thanks for arranging the day.”
LightHouse student Gil J.

oracle volunteers selfie

Oracle volunteers pose for a group selfie.

Participate in Off the Page
Off The Page is a LightHouse volunteer event which connects corporate volunteer readers to those who need reading and resume overview services.

Our next Off the Page event is Saturday, October 29 and we’d love for you to join us. To sign up, please contact Justine Harris-Richburgh, our Volunteer Engagement Specialist, at 415-694-7320 or volunteer@lighthouse-sf.org.

We also can match you with a volunteer on another day.
If you’d like to meet with a volunteer reader here at the LightHouse on some other day, we can set this up. Please contact Justine Harris-Richburgh, our Volunteer Engagement Specialist, at 415-694-7320 or volunteer@lighthouse-sf.org.

Would you like to volunteer?
We are always looking for enthusiastic volunteers who want to give back for a single day or any amount of time. If you’re interested in becoming a Personal Service Volunteer or would like to learn more about how to get your professional or school group involved in volunteering for the LightHouse, please contact Justine Harris-Richburgh, our Volunteer Engagement Specialist, at volunteer@lighthouse-sf.org, 415-694-7320 or complete your group or individual volunteer application  – we would love to have you!

Volunteer