Tag Archive

Accessible Reading and Braille

LightHouse Expands to Support East Bay

Photo: The front of the Ed Roberts Campus.

With the imminent closure of the Lions Center in Oakland, the LightHouse has stepped up to bring services to those who are blind or have low vision in the East Bay. To do this we’ll be expanding the services we offer at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley. We sent out a press release earlier in the month and have received the attention of major bay area outlets such as KCBS and the East Bay Times.

Listen to Holly Quan’s report which aired on KCBS on August 29, 2016.

Read the article in the East Bay Times.

Victor Reader Stream (VRS) 101 – A Class for Those who Already Own a New (2nd Generation) Victor Reader Stream

Do you own a New Generation Victor Reader Stream (VRS), but not not know how to use it? Let the LightHouse ensure that you become “victorious” in the use of this technology.

LightHouse Access Technology Trainer, Jeff Buckwalter, will facilitate a two-week intensive training course on Tuesdays and Fridays in September for students who have not yet taken a VRS class from us before.

When: Tuesdays and Fridays, September 13, 16, 20 and 23.Time: 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Location: The LightHouse Building, 1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco, 94103

Cost: There is a $450.00 fee for this training but you may qualify for partial or full scholarship if you are not already working with the Department of Rehabilitation or the Veterans Administration.

If you don’t know all that the VRS can do, here are just a few things you will learn how to do in this class: access an enormous library of books and magazines in the palm of your hands; download and listen to audiobooks by your favorite authors; subscribe and listen to your favorite podcasts; listen to the latest newspapers and magazines; record critical phone numbers and calendar information with the touch of a button as well as accessing and reading text and audio files.

This class is open only to persons who currently own a New (2nd) Generation Victor Reader Stream and have not taken a VRS class from us before. If you are an active client of the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) or the Veterans Administration (VA), contact your case worker for eligibility and to sign up. If you are 55 and older living in the counties of San Francisco, Alameda or Marin, you may be eligible to take this class at no charge.

Contact Shen Kuan at 415-694-7312 or skuan@lighthouse-sf.org to sign up.

Our Volunteers Want to Read Your Mail During Our Off the Page Event on Saturday, August 13

Do you need an extra set of eyes to get you through a stack of mail, magazines or newsprint? On Saturday, August 13, the LightHouse is hosting an Off the Page Volunteer Event, the first of many. This month’s Off the Page event will be presented by volunteers from Oracle.

When: Saturday, August 13, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Where: LightHouse for the Blind, 1155 Market Street, 10th Floor, San Francisco, 94103

At the new LightHouse building we have cozy, closed-door reading rooms available so that you and a vetted volunteer can go through your mail or paperwork privately. Refreshments will be available. This is a great way to potentially schedule additional reading time with a volunteer ongoing.

There are four slots available on August 13, so be sure to RSVP soon before they’re all filled up. Email 1altruism@lighthouse-sf.org (please put the words, “Off The Page” in the subject line) or call our volunteer reservation line at 415-694-7646.

Changing Vision Changing Life II – A New Addition to Our Immersion Training

PHOTO: Cooking Instructor Sydney Ferrario preps food with students.

Are you ready to kick your skills up a notch? We’ve added a brand-new session to our Changing Vision Changing Life Series of small group trainings: The Changing Vision Changing Life (CVCL) II Immersion.

This motivating six-day overnight session is designed for students who may have participated in CVCL instruction in the past and are now focused on practicing the skills they’ve learned in a more intensive and structured manner.

Note: You don’t need to have attended a previous CVCL session to attend this one. However, you need to have had some basic training in Orientation and Mobility, independent living skills and/or access technology.

This session is great for students who are currently training in all of the areas above and can benefit from multiple days of one-on-one and small group instruction.

In this session, students will work on all of the following:

Access Technology, including

  • Computer training (Mac or PC) – using the software you are currently learning
  • Smart Phone Training – Apple or Android
  • Tablet Training – Apple or Android

Peer Group Support – Moving Forward
Advocacy – Taking Control
Orientation and Mobility Training 1:1
Introduction to Braille
Smart Cooking for Independence
Low Vision Training – Using your Tools to Your Benefit
Physical and Recreational Exploration to Enhance Mobility

When: This session will run from Sunday, September 18 (arrival at 3:30 p.m.) through Friday, September 23 (leave at 10:30 a.m.)

Where: The session will be held in our headquarters building at 1155 Market St., 10th Floor in San Francisco. Participants will stay overnight throughout the week in our Student Residences.

Cost: There is a $1300 fee for this training but you may qualify for partial or full scholarship if you are not already working with the Department of Rehabilitation or the Veterans Administration.

To find out if this session is the best fit for you please contact Debbie Bacon at dbacon@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-357.

LightHouse Has a New Digital Printer That Will Create the Next Generation of Tactile Maps and Signage

PHOTO: Naomi Rosenberg (Designer, Accessible Media Specialist), BJ Epstein (Project Manager, MADLab) and Julie Sadlier (Designer, Accessible Media Specialist) stand next to the new UV flatbed printer holding examples of newly printed tactile maps and signage.

The LightHouse, through MADLab, has earned a reputation for producing fabulous tactile maps of all kinds for clients as diverse as South by Southwest, where we created maps of the Austin Convention Center for blind attendees to transit systems such as the Bay Area’s BART system and the City of Calgary, Canada’s Transit system. Up until now, these maps were printed on paper with its limited shelf life. But we wanted to be able to produce durable, physically long-lasting, braille and tactile maps and ADA signage for museums, amusement parks, trailheads and more.

tactile map

PHOTO: Tactile street map of LightHouse’s new location

Enter our new UV flatbed printer. It’s essentially an inkjet printer that prints melted plastic, accreting layer on top of layer, until the final, tactile image is built up. The new printer can print onto a range of materials including wood and metal.

Among the projects we’ve used it for are mid-Market tactile maps that cover the location of our new headquarters building (see photo, above). We’ve produced maps for the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando for the International Deaf Blind Exposition, we’ve created a variety of ADA signage and we’ve honored our significant donors with acrylic panels that are placed on the walls of our soaring three-level staircase.



PHOTO: A photo of one of the panels of our donor appreciation wall, with our staircase and a view of City Hall prominent in the background.

MADLab Project Manager BJ Epstein told us, “The DCS is a game changer for us, and for the blind and low vision community. Not only can we now produce accessible signage, but also mountable tactile maps. Because of the unique ability to print both visual and tactile elements in one machine, our clients will be able to provide an inclusive experience to their guests, no matter what their level of sight may be. Our expertise at designing for the blind community was developed on our paper maps. Now, we are translating that expertise to more permanent and durable media.

“These maps can be used indoors or outdoors. They are cleanable; a bonus for something that will get touched a lot. And not only are they useful, but they are beautiful objects to touch and to see. We are so excited to be able to offer this amazing product to our clients.”

Now Available at Adaptations: the Newest Aftershokz Headphones model, the Trekz Titanium

The Adaptations Store is an official vendor for Aftershokz products, and to celebrate, we are showcasing several models of their Bluetooth headphones, including the just released Trekz Titanium headphones.

The Trekz Titanium Headphone is perfect for use while exercising – they’re lightweight, sweat-proof, bone conduction headphones that communicate with your device via Bluetooth.

All our Aftershokz headphones rest on your jawbone and send sound directly to your eardrum, without blocking your ears. These headphones are very popular among many different communities, including runners and commuters, but they can be particularly handy for the blind and those with low vision. Folks who navigate the streets using VoiceOver or other audio navigation tools can maintain an awareness of their surrounding environment without compromising their own personal safety.

Adaptations is carrying three styles of Aftershokz headphones: the new Trekz Titanium model ($129), the standard Bluetooth model Bluez 2 ($99.95), and the wired Sportz M3 with Microphone ($50).

To purchase these headphones by phone, call us at 415-694-7301 or take a look at them in person at our new store on the 10th floor at 1155 Market Street in San Francisco. Adaptations is open Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Call us at 415-694-7301 or email us at adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org with any questions.

Summer Concerts: Blind Music Academy Announces Three Concert Dates in August

PHOTO: Music academy students jam on keyboards and guitar.

Blind Music Academy Offering Free Concerts in August

In its third year, LightHouse’s summer Music Academy grows and expands. With an emphasis on composition, performance and learning to read and write music in braille for musicians who are blind or have low vision and are ages 16 to 24, our talent pool and ambition continues to grow. This year we’re excited to host students from the United States, Mexico and Canada. And with the opening in May of the LightHouse’s state-of-the-art San Francisco facility, Blind Music Academy will now be held both in the city and the country.

This year we have fourteen dedicated blind musicians, all under the age of 25, who are spending a week honing their skills as musicians and composers. The students are from all over North America, and though some of these individuals are already quite formidable talents, they are spending this week focused on not only becoming better performers but achieving fluency in braille music and other accessible forms of musical notation.

Each year Blind Music Academy culminates with a performance by our blind students, and this time around the group has announced that they will perform not once but three times, with additional concerts in both downtown Napa and San Francisco. Our students include a virtuosic classical pianist from Vera Cruz, Mexico and a locally-known jazz radio DJ and percussionist from El Paso, Texas, and the shows are guaranteed to be musically diverse and exciting.

Experience the power of Music Academy by joining us at one of these three, free concerts:

Blind Music Academy Summer Tour Dates

  • Friday, August 5 – Covenant Presbyterian Church, 7:30 p.m.
    1226 Salvador Ave, Napa, CA 94558
  • Saturday, August 6 – Enchanted Hills Camp, 4:00 p.m., with dinner following.
    3410 Mt Veeder Rd, Napa, CA 94558
  • Tuesday, August 9 – LightHouse for the Blind, 5:30 p.m., with reception following.
    1155 Market Street, 10th Floor, San Francisco 94103

The concerts are free. For those attending the concert at Enchanted Hills Camp, we are requesting a donation if you wish to join us for dinner after the show. Please RSVP for all concerts to Tony Fletcher at tfletcher@lighthouse-sf.org.

Our students walk into the Music Academy session brimming with talent. Take a look for yourself. Watch these videos for two of our students, concert pianist Fernando Apan and percussionist Lawrence Brown:

Fernando Apan interprets Mozart

Fernando Apan: Fantasía Para Piano y Clarinet

Interview with Lawrence Brown

About Blind Music Academy
Enchanted Hills Camp has paired up with Bill McCann, founder and president of Dancing Dots Braille Music Technology. Bill McCann pioneered this specialized music academy model both in Canada and in the United States. Music Academy is for musicians who are blind or have low vision between the ages of 16 to 24 years old who are serious about music or might be thinking of entering the profession. This academy introduces students to using non-visual techniques to compose music, read the works of others, learn performance skills and gain the capacity to compete for and win employment in the music field.

This year’s Music Academy session is full. If you have questions about next year’s session, please contact Taccarra Burrell at tburrell@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7318.

Learn How to Use the Victor Reader Stream and Take One Home When You’re Done

If you are 55 or older, you are eligible for free LightHouse training on the Victor Reader Stream, a handheld accessible media player that is second-to-none. Upon completing the training successfully you’ll be able take your Victor Reader Stream home at no cost, at a savings of $329.00!

The Victor Reader Stream, manufactured by HumanWare, offers you an easy way to access written word and audio files. During this three-week intensive training course beginning on July 26, you will fully learn how to use this versatile technology that gives users the opportunity to hold an enormous library of books and magazines in the palm of their hands.

Class dates: Tuesdays and Fridays, July 26, 29, August 2, 5, 9, 12
Time: 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Please bring your own lunch.
Location: LightHouse for the Blind, 1155 Market Street, 10th Floor, San Francisco 94103

Sign up now as space is limited. All students must register by Friday, July 22nd. 

Adaptations, the LightHouse Store sells the  Victor Reader Stream for $329.00. Students who fully complete the three-week course and demonstrate independent use of the device will leave the class with a free device.

With the Victor Reader Stream you can:

  • download and listen to audiobooks by your favorite authors
  • subscribe and listen to your favorite podcasts
  • listen to the latest newspapers and magazines
  • record critical phone numbers and calendar information with the touch of a button

To participate in this class you:

  • must be 55 years or older and not currently enrolled with the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) or Veterans Administration (VA)
  • must not currently own a Victor Reader Stream
  • must be an avid reader and interested in downloading books and magazines from online sources

Note: If you are a consumer of DOR or the VA, please speak with your counselor to request individual training from the LightHouse.

Funding for this class is specifically from the Older Individuals who are Blind (OIB) program.

How to Register:
If you are new to the LightHouse, have not participated in LightHouse classes within the past year or have questions, please start by contacting Demenagement ADT and Debbie Bacon at 415.694.7357 or dbacon@lighthouse-sf.org.  If you are a current LightHouse student and meet the criteria we’ve listed above, please register with Shen Kuan at 415.694.7312 or skuan@lighthouse-sf.org.


First Weeklong Immersion Class Pioneers Intensive Blindness Introduction in our New Building

In June we launched the fourth year of the Changing Vision Changing Life (CVCL) Immersion Training program at our new Headquarters offices at 1155 Market Street in San Francisco.

Gaining an 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.

Join us! We have several Changing Vision Changing Life (CVCL) Immersion Training scheduled this summer 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.

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

Jorge Ellington

Student Jorge Ellington arranges his legs into a pretzel-like formation during morning yoga in our new fitness studio during the Changing Vision Changing Life Immersion.

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.

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.

You can’t learn everything about blindness or low vision in a single week. But you’ll emerge hungry for more, understanding why you’ll need to put in the effort required to excel in many nonvisual aspects of life. And you’ll have a whole lot of fun and friendship along the way.

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.

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 among the very first classes in our new building. Interested? Contact LightHouse staff in San Francisco, San Rafael or Eureka:

Disability Rights California announces hotline for voters with disabilities

Troubleshoot problems on June 7 Primary Election Day

Disability Rights California (DRC) will operate a toll-free hotline on Primary Election Day, June 7, for voters with disabilities. The service is designed to help those who have difficulty accessing polling places, casting ballots or simply have questions about voting. The toll-free number for voice calls is 888-569-7955. The statewide number for video calls is 800-719-5798.

About 5.9 million eligible voters in California have one or more disabilities. Their right to vote privately and independently is guaranteed by the Law Firm Near Me and the Help America Vote Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and state and federal constitutions. “DRC wants to ensure this important voting block has full access on Election Day,” said DRC attorney Fred Nisen. “We welcome calls from across the state and can help voters resolve issues, personal injury, file complaints and address barriers to exercising their voting rights.”

Examples of barriers experienced by voters with disabilities:

–    Accessible voting equipment that doesn’t work

–    Poll workers who can’t meet the needs of voters with disabilities

–    No access to ballots for voters living in nursing homes and other residential facilities

–    Polling places with inaccessible parking or steep curb ramps

The hotline will be open between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Election Day, the same hours the polls are open. Individuals who speak languages other than English should state their language and an interpreter will be connected to the call. Callers using the California Relay Service, including Speech-to-Speech, can dial 711.

DRC has several publications about the rights of voters with disabilities.

For more information about Disability Rights California, check out their website, Facebook and twitter @DisabilityCA.