Tag Archives: Changing Vision Changing Lives

Know Someone With Changing Vision? Our Next Immersion Training Sessions are Coming Up

Photo: Class Picture of the September CVCL Immersion Training Session 2 Class

Fall is a time for harvest and abundance. Over the past four years, 250 students have harvested their skills and received an abundance of support, opportunities to connect and a rich introduction to skills ranging from accessing print, learning about technology to organizing their households and traveling independently.

Holli Clark of Santa Cruz County has participated in both sessions and had this to say about her experience:

“Just a note to share my big thanks for the wonderful Immersion experience! One of my big reasons for wanting to go for Immersion training was because I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. I figured there were better ways of doing things than I had made up over the years. I was certainly correct in that, and am delighted to be learning many new skills. This translates to being more productive, efficient, confident, independent and safer. [The] week was packed with immeasurable value. I learned so much from each trainer and really appreciated your focus on scheduling us according to individual needs…Your staff are both exceptional trainers in their fields as well as wonderful, caring people.”

Sydney and Holli

Photo: Cooking Instructor Sydney Ferrario and CVCL student Holli Clark stand together in the Betty Ruhland Teaching Kitchen at the LightHouse

 We’re offering one last CVCL session before year’s end, and another in February. Details on both follow:

December Changing Vision Changing Life (CVCL) Immersion Training Session 2
This session is facilitated from the new LightHouse Building in the heart of San Francisco.  The focus of this week’s training is “boots hit the ground in training”. Students participating in this week must have already received basic skills training in orientation and mobility, access technology or independent living and must be committed to focusing intently in all three of these skill areas in a small group and individual learning environment. (Please note: students do not need to have attended a previous CVCL session to attend CVCL 2 in San Francisco.)

This five day session is designed for students who are committed to full days of instruction, homework and practice in the evening and will take full advantage of the professional training time, mentoring and peer support and self-study that will be available.

Students will participate in a minimum of three of the following areas:

  1. 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
  1. Orientation and Mobility Training 1:1
  2. Introduction to Braille
  3. Smart Cooking for Independence
  4. Low Vision Training – Using your Tools to Your Benefit
  5. Independent living skills

When: CVCL 2 will run from Monday, December 5th (arrival at 9:30 a.m. – training starts at 10:00 a.m.) through Friday, December 9 (leave at 11:00 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 $1,300 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. It is highly recommended that all students have a solution for taking notes, such as the Victor Reader Stream (training will be provided in how to use this recording device)

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February Changing Vision Changing Life Immersion Training Session 1
This session is held at Enchanted Hills Retreat in Napa and is specifically geared for students new to blindness and low vision. For five days, up to 14 adult students have the opportunity to develop basic skills in a range of areas – access technology; orientation and mobility; organization and labeling; magnification and lighting; cooking; braille and community, state and national resources.

The week is full, active, emotional and supportive and students are given the opportunity to meet others, to harvest their own skills and determine the direction of the quality of their lives. There are three scholarship openings for persons 55 and better living in Humboldt, Del Norte, San Francisco, Marin or Alameda County who are not consumers of the Department of Rehabilitation or the VA. For those who are consumers of the Department of Rehabilitation, we encourage you to discuss this opportunity with your counselor.

When: CVCL I will run from February 6th – 10th.

Where: The session will be held in at Enchanted Hills Retreat in Napa. Participants will stay overnight throughout the week in our lakeside lodgings. Transportation is available from San Francisco, Berkeley and Marin County.

Cost: There is a $1,300 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.

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For More Information, to Register for Session 1 or Session 2, or if you have questions, please contact Debbie Bacon at dbacon@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7357 in San Francisco; Jeff Carlson at jcarlson@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-258-8496 in Marin County or Janet Pomerantz at jpomerantz@lighthouse-sf.org or 707-268-5646 in Humboldt County.

 

Changing Vision Changing Life II – Begins Sunday, September 18

Photo: Cooking Instructor Sydney Ferrario preps food with students.

Have you already received basic skills training in orientation and mobility, access technology or independent living and are committed to focus more intently in all three of these skill areas in a small group and individual learning environment? Changing Vision Changing Life may be for you. 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 five-night 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.


We will also be offering Changing Vision Changing Life sessions in November and December, 2016:

CVCL I (for those who are very new to low vision/blindness and have not had skills instruction):
When: Monday, November 7 through Friday, November 11
Where: This session will take place at Enchanted Hills Retreat in Napa
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.

CVCL II (for those persons who have had training and are ready for more focused instruction)
When: Monday, December 5 through Friday, December 9
Where: This session will take place at the new LightHouse Building, 1155 Market St., San Francisco, 94103. Participants will stay 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 which session is the best fit for you please contact Debbie Bacon at dbacon@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-357.

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:

What I Learned at Blind Bootcamp, Part 2: Why We Meet

Valli Ferrel, one of the program's first students, leads a tour of Spring Mountain Winery where she directs PR

This is Part 2 in a series. Click here to read Part 1.

by Will Butler

Earlier this week I started writing about what it’s like to immerse yourself in our adult training retreat at Enchanted Hills Camp in Napa. Now that it’s over, you’d think it’d be easier for me to sum up in retrospect, but the truth of the matter is I’m still processing it all. The amount of information that was given to us was immense. The strength of personal connections made between all the students, aged 25-77, was unlike anything I’ve ever seen occur over the course of five days. The disparity between how we behaved when we arrived and how we behaved when we left was remarkable. The skills, tools, and adaptations we learned were all custom-made, personalized little gifts  — in many ways, they won’t mean anything to our spouses or family or friends — and it’s hard to imagine ever describing it to someone who wasn’t there in a way that’s meaningful. But I guarantee that if you stumbled upon the twelve blind folks eating dinner at Gott’s Roadside on Thursday evening, you’d recognize immediately that they had been through something special together.

But enough vagueness; if you’ve read this far I’m sure you actually want to know: what did we spend all our time doing? The truth is, we learned how to live on all levels, from the most mundane to the most abstract and emotionally elusive.

Getting better at everyday tasks (which in these circles is called independent living skills or ILS) was, at least for me and a few others, a priority. For starters, we had an entire session dedicated to helping you find stuff. Boring as it may sound, these are the questions newly blind people find themselves agonizing over: If I drop a pill bottle, what’s the fastest way to find it? Can I wipe down a counter and be sure it’s clean? How do I put in the right batteries? How do I shave? With our training shades over our eyes for anyone who still relied on some eyesight, we were taken step by step through these everyday simplicities and reassured that, yes, there was an easy way to do all of them. Later on, we did this with cooking as well, cleaning, chopping, and preparing dozens of pounds of marinated vegetables for dinner, all the while learning blind-oriented knife skills, measurement and identification techniques. I was surprised to find that my cooking skills were better than I would have thought, and that discovery if nothing else was worth the class. Suddenly, when I get home, I wanted to cook again.

At another session, we went in-depth on labeling and organizing, talking strategies but also getting hands on with solutions. Many blind people eagerly embrace new technology, but simple, low-tech hardware and quick dollar store solutions are still mainstays of everyday adaptation. Stickers, high contrast cutting boards, talking calculators, magnets, velcro, buttons, bumps, signature guides, safety pins, sock locks, knife holders, innovative dishware, extra-thin silicon oven mitts and above all rubber bands (for tagging shampoo/conditioner bottles, etc.); there was a never-ending list of items to add to the efficient-living arsenal. These are things that blend in, seem obvious once suggested, but are also ideas I would never have come up with on my own. We also exchanged advice. How exactly do you deal with the grocery store? What do you do when your husband wants help dressing himself? How do you sort your clothes? We were all at different levels, and yet we could all relate. You’ve never seen a group so eager to talk about their dresser drawers.

This is not to make it sound like it was all low-tech either. Personally, as a Mac person I’d been putting off learning JAWS, the screenreader software which is PC-only and also happens to be the industry standard for word processing. To me it seemed daunting, unnecessary because I am low vision and not totally blind. And yet, put me in front of a PC and I’m admittedly useless. To my surprise, our tech instructor Julianna had me up and running (and surfing Facebook) without any visual cues within an hour. That’s the power of having a human teach you how to do these things. It was about getting advice and giving it. If you knew something someone else didn’t yet, it felt good to share your strategy with them. Though the solution may be simple you could feel that the other person really deeply appreciated it.

Tech solutions were different for different people. Some brought touchscreen devices, iPhones, iPads or laptops that they wanted to get better at using. Others learned how to load up their Victor reader (another portable, more tactile audio player) with documents, podcasts, books and news. For some, it was enough to learn about Wilson, the compact voice memo recorder that could help them keep notes and to-do lists, or the Pen Friend, a smart audio pen that allows to record your own labels. And with the absolute surge in the iPhone’s general popularity in recent years, the motto of the week seemed to be “there’s an app for that.” Nearly every month now an app comes along that can significantly change a blind person’s life. Apps such as KNFB Reader, Tap Tap See, Be My Eyes, and hundreds more have absolutely proliferated, and we couldn’t live in a better time for cool blind tech. This is what Sydney was responding to when she exclaimed with joy and relief in our very first solutions session.

It wasn’t simply about taking down a list of items to buy, either. This was one of the first opportunities some of us had to try stuff out and see if it worked. You could sit down with one technology, play with it for a while, then try an alternative. All of it was at our fingertips, in one room, all week long.

Because of the nature of my vision, mobility has not always been a problem for me, but even so I met with Katt Jones for a one-on-one assessment. We talked about everything to do with cane travel; some things I had picked up naturally but didn’t know the names for. She showed me a more elegant and efficient way to locate doorknobs. She corrected my technique approaching and scaling stairs. We talked about “how to train your human,” or in other words, how to help people help you. She took me to downtown Napa, where we walked back and forth across a massive intersection, analyzed the ins and outs of curb cuts, and then went to Trader Joe’s. Some things were new, and for the things that weren’t, it felt good to have a certified O&M instructor tell me confidently that I was doing things right. Even walking around the grocery store alone, I already felt more comfortable than usual, even if it was just in my head.

There were also the more interpersonal, emotional discussions. What to do when a loved one says something hurtful, how to hold your own in household duties, and how to be honest and expect honesty back were all topics we explored. Then came the embarrassing stories, the stories about humility and moving forward with grace, the stories which will not be published here.

The week really showed the wide range of experience within the blind community. There were those with degenerative conditions, people who had been in accidents, victims of violence, and some with less explicable or diagnosable visual impairments. There were those who had lived full, vibrant lives and those who were just beginning their journeys. There were kids from low-income backgrounds alongside retired college professors. And all of them went through some sort of metamorphosis. For some it was just social, and for others very physical. There were adult students too timid to take one step on their own when they arrived Sunday evening; and within days, even 24 hours for some, they were calmly navigating the hills and paths of Enchanted Hills entirely by themselves.

The big takeaway, for me, was that the best learning comes from peers and role models. Jamey Gump’s teenage counsellors in training were right there along side us most of the week, and it was pretty cool to see their training mirror our own. They looked to each other as everything from mentors to mere curiosities, and above all just people they could feel comfortable around. We all stood in a line on Wednesday night and did the “cookie challenge,” wherein contestants tilt their head back and race to get an Oreo from their forehead to their mouth with no hands. One of Sook Hee Choi’s deafblind students was the winner. Thursday night there was a talent show, which involved jokes, skits, a tap dance, and a no-holes-barred Billy Joel-esque piano ballad from Shane, EHC’s arts and enrichment counsellor for the summer. In the morning, all the kids and adults — each their on their own training program — mingled like happy campers. Kids who I had earlier assumed were completely blind approached and said cheery hellos to me of their own accord. And, kept busy every day from breakfast to sunset it wasn’t until about the time I left that I stopped and realized how much I’d been enjoying the whole week.