Tag Archives: deaf-blind

LightHouse’s Kathy Abrahamson Honored with Deaf-Blind Advocacy Award

The Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults (HKNC) is the only national rehabilitation center of its kind, educating those with a combination of vision and hearing impairments in its residential program in Sands Point, New York. The HKNC has produced some of our nations most successful and noteworthy deaf-blind advocates, one of which was Robert Smithdas. In addition to being a long-time advocate at HKNC, Smithdas was also the first deaf-blind individual to receive a masters’ degree, with a legacy that stretched from the middle of the 20th century all the way to his retirement in 2009. With Smithdas’ passing in 2014, the HKNC established the Robert J. Smithdas award, given every year to a select few deaf-blind educators and advocates who have demonstrated a long track record of service to the community.

We’re proud to announce that this year one of the two award recipients is our Director of Rehabilitation, Kathy Abrahamson.

A representative from HKNC came to the LightHouse at the end of July to personally present Kathy with the award. Kathy shares this honor with Ingrid Halvorsen, a longtime deaf-blind educator in Illinois. “Dr. Robert J. Smithdas was reknowned for his tireless advocacy and leadership influencing the development of services for individuals who are deaf-blind,” said Sue Ruzenski, HKNC’s Executive Director, “Both Kathy and Ingrid embody Dr. Smithdas passion for empowering the deaf-blind community.”

Direct from the Helen Keller National Center:

Kathy Abrahamson is the Director of Rehabilitation at the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco, California.  The LightHouse has a long history of providing services to the deaf-blind community beginning in the 1950’s with the establishment of Enchanted Hills Camp, and the formation of a deaf-blind social and recreational club in the early 70’s. Kathy has continued this tradition, and has been a strong champion of deaf- blind services since she began at the LightHouse in 1986. She exemplifies the true spirit of the HKNC Affiliate Program by always maintaining a deaf-blind specialist at the LightHouse since 1992.  Her leadership with the California National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program has afforded a unique collaboration with HKNC, and has brought technology to over 300 deaf-blind Californians the past three years. “She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty in the kitchen every year, slinging turkey and dressing at the annual deaf-blind holiday party, and she may be our biggest ally in trying to establish additional deaf-blind services on this coast, from statewide Support Service Provider (SSP) services to residential training,” said Cathy Kirscher, HKNC’s regional representative for California.  “She is a very deserving individual whose presence and advocacy, along with her fantastic team at the Lighthouse, continues to benefit deaf-blind individuals on a daily basis.”

Without a doubt, Kathy is one of our most valuable assets here at the LightHouse, and it gives us great pleasure and pride to see her recognized on a national level. Congrats, Kathy!

 

 

LightHouse Rehabilitation Director Kathy Abrahamson Honored with Deaf-Blind Advocacy Award

(Left to Right) Bapin Bhattacharyya, Sook Hee Choi, Kathy Abrahamson (holding award), Bryan Bashin, Cathy Kirscher

We’re proud to announce that this year one of the two recipients of the Robert J. Smithdas award is our Director of Rehabilitation, Kathy Abrahamson.

The Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults (HKNC) is the only national rehabilitation center of its kind, educating those with a combination of vision and hearing impairments in its residential program in Sands Point, New York. The HKNC has produced some of our nation’s most successful and noteworthy deaf-blind advocates, one of whom was Robert Smithdas. In addition to being a long-time advocate at HKNC, Smithdas was also the first deaf-blind individual to receive a masters’ degree, with a legacy that stretched from the middle of the 20th century all the way to his retirement in 2009. With Smithdas’ passing in 2014, the HKNC established the Robert J. Smithdas award, given every year to a select few deaf-blind educators and advocates who have demonstrated a long track record of service to the community.

The LightHouse Deaf-Blind Telecommunications Program has given away free of charge more than $1.5 million in needed telecommunications equipment to Deaf-Blind people throughout California. This program, the largest of its kind in the United States, is a model of collaboration between the LightHouse and HKNC.

A representative from HKNC came to the LightHouse at the end of July to personally present Kathy with the award. Kathy shares this honor with Ingrid Halvorsen, a longtime deaf-blind educator in Illinois. “Dr. Robert J. Smithdas was renowned for his tireless advocacy and leadership influencing the development of services for individuals who are deaf-blind,” said Sue Ruzenski, HKNC’s Executive Director, “Both Kathy and Ingrid embody Dr. Smithdas passion for empowering the deaf-blind community.”

Direct from the Helen Keller National Center:

Kathy Abrahamson is the Director of Rehabilitation at the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco, California.  The LightHouse has a long history of providing services to the deaf-blind community beginning in the 1950’s with the establishment of Enchanted Hills Camp, and the formation of a deaf-blind social and recreational club in the early 70’s. Kathy has continued this tradition, and has been a strong champion of deaf- blind services since she began at the LightHouse in 1986. She exemplifies the true spirit of the HKNC Affiliate Program by always maintaining a deaf-blind specialist at the LightHouse since 1992.  Her leadership with the California National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program has afforded a unique collaboration with HKNC, and has brought technology to over 300 deaf-blind Californians the past three years. “She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty in the kitchen every year, slinging turkey and dressing at the annual deaf-blind holiday party, and she may be our biggest ally in trying to establish additional deaf-blind services on this coast, from statewide Support Service Provider (SSP) services to residential training,” said Cathy Kirscher, HKNC’s regional representative for California.  “She is a very deserving individual whose presence and advocacy, along with her fantastic team at the Lighthouse, continues to benefit deaf-blind individuals on a daily basis.”
Without a doubt, Kathy is one of our most valuable assets here at the LightHouse, and it gives us great pleasure and pride to see her recognized on a national level. Congrats, Kathy! If you want to give a contribution to the LightHouse in honor of Kathy and her accomplishments, click here.

August Deaf-Blind Camp Session Still has Openings

Deaf-Blind students, teachers and teacher’s kids sign the word 'Paparazzi' (aimed in fun at the photographer)It’s not too late to enroll – we still have a few openings in our upcoming Deaf-Blind Session at Enchanted Hills Camp. The session is for adults 18 years and older with both some visual impairment and deafness. Most of the campers use American Sign Language as their primary mode of communication.

One camper told us, “I have been coming to Enchanted Hills Camp for more than 30 years. EHC is my second home. I always feel welcome and I can communicate with my friends and volunteers without any barriers.”

You can count on a plethora of recreational activities to take part in, including swimming, hiking, games, crafts, archery, campfires (complete with s’mores) and more.

One of the great attractions of the session is the free flow of communication that we make possible, in a variety of ways that meet our campers’ needs. This includes using American Sign Language, tactile sign language, spoken English or amplified sound. We do this with the help provided by our volunteer SSPs (Support Service Providers).

Support Service Providers are specially trained professionals who enable people who are deaf-blind or have limited vision or hearing to access their environments and communicate. (Source: http://www.aadb.org/information/ssp/ssp.html.) SSP’s make sure every announcement or instruction between camp staff and camper is communicated to the camper via tactile sign language.

Says LightHouse Deaf-Blind Specialist Sook Hee Choi, “Everyone enjoys the camp – campers meet new friends and also talk with old friends, catching up with news. People who are sighted and hearing take this for granted, but for Deaf-Blind campers, this can only happen when they are physically present and able to touch each other through tactile sign language.”

When: Sunday, August 9 through Thursday, August 13
Campers must be 18 years or older and independent in daily living needs, health support and orientation and mobility.
The fee to attend is $100 for deaf-blind campers; volunteer SSPs attend at no cost.

If you are interested in applying for the camp or becoming a volunteer SSP for the session, please contact Sook Hee Choi, Deaf-Blind Specialist at schoi@lighthouse-sf.org.

Instructor Ben Oude Kamphuis shows camper Tony So how to hold a bow and arrow during Archery Class at last year’s Deaf-Blind camp session

Equipment and Training Free to Deaf-Blind People

LightHouse student Angela Palmer (left) and LightHouse Deaf-Blind Specialist Sook Hee Choi talk technology using Tactile Sign LanguageThe LightHouse continues to provide telecommunication equipment and training to eligible deaf-blind Californians. We are nearing the end of our third year, and over 300 Californians who are deaf-blind or legally blind and hard of hearing have received accessible equipment to use for communication (email or phone use) with friends and family.

While everyone’s needs and technology abilities are different, we have been able to provide a range of equipment depending on need and skills, for example: iPhones with Braille displays; computers with screen readers and noise canceling headsets to hear JAWs; assistance with upgrading software such as ZoomText or JAWS; or providing braille displays to folks who can no longer hear the speech on the screen reader, but can read email using a braille display.

To find out more about this program, contact Sook Hee Choi, Deaf-Blind Specialist at schoi@lighthouse-sf.org. Sook Hee will send to you program information and an application.

 

First Online International Deaf-Blind Conference

On January 24th and 25th, 2015, the global DeafBlind community will come together for two days of learning and networking in the world’s first-ever online international conference for the DeafBlind. No transportation, special technology, or webcam required — anyone can access this exciting event with a high-speed internet connection. In addition to spoken English and American Sign Language, the conference will be automatically captioned and subtitled into 78 languages for sighted people and translated into synthesized voice in 35 languages for people who are blind or low vision.

The conference is supported by Translate Your World (www.TranslateYourWorld.com), makers of easy-to-use speech translation software that generates text and voice directly from a speaker’s words.  This software enables hearing people to communicate with people who are deaf or blind simply by going to a webpage.

The line-up of speakers and presenters includes many stars from the DeafBlind community. Teachers, counselors, medical professionals, diversity specialists, support service providers, corporate communication leaders, sign language interpreters, governmental representatives, plus family and members of the Deaf, Blind, and DeafBlind communities are encouraged to attend.

To see the speaker line up, register, and learn more about the technology, go to: www.deafblindtip.com

 

A Few Openings Left in our Deaf-Blind Camp Session on August 10 through 14

The Deaf-Blind Session at Enchanted Hills Camp is for adults 18 years and older with both some visual impairment and deafness. Most of the campers use American Sign Language as their primary mode of communication. Says LightHouse Deaf-Blind Specialist Sook Hee Choi, “Everyone enjoys the camp. Campers meet new friends and also talk with old friends, catching up with news. People who are sighted and hearing take this for granted, but for Deaf-Blind campers, this can only happen when they are physically present and able to touch each other through tactile sign language.”

When: Sunday, August 10 through Thursday, August 14

Please contact LightHouse Deaf-Blind Specialist Sook Hee Choi for more information. VP: 415-431-4572 or schoi@lighthouse-sf.org.

Read about our Deaf-Blind Camp session here.

Hands signing into hands reading

Adaptations Store August Product of the Month – The Meteor Pocket Watch

Now available at Adaptations – the Vibrating Meteor Pocket Watch. This unique, elegant and stylish pocket watch is great for someone who is deaf-blind or prefers to track the time quietly and discreetly. It is built out of smooth resin and is artfully shaped like a crescent moon, making it easy to use with one hand.

Unlike conventional talking watches, the Meteor Pocket Watch utilizes three buttons and a series of quiet vibrations to tell the time. When you press the first button it vibrates to tell the hour. The second button vibrates to tell the tens of minutes and the third button vibrates to tell the units of minutes. For example, at 2:14 p.m. the hour button will shake twice, the tens of minutes button will shake once, and the units of minutes button will shake four times.

The Meteor Pocket Watch is constructed of ABS resin, which gives its crescent moon shape a pleasant feel. It is waterproof up to 30 feet or 10 meters and weighs one ounce. With a rounded bottom, the Meteor fits in the palm of your hand and will slide easily into your pocket. It comes in three distinctive colors: red, dark blue, and black and is available for $127. Call Adaptations at (415) 694-7301 with any questions or stop by the store for a demonstration.
Meteor Pocket Watch

Become Empowered, Define Your Future, Discover You!

Discover You
A seminar presented by The Bay Area Chapters of the National Federation of the Blind of California & LightHouse for the Blind

 

Join the National Federation of the Blind of California and LightHouse for the Blind for an action-packed day. Come learn how you can live the life you want. Blind leaders in the community will present on topics such as employment, technology and recreation. Learn about your options and how you can advocate and raise expectations so that blindness need not hold you back from accomplishing your dreams.

What? A free seminar where you can learn the skills essential to success.
Continental breakfast, lunch and happy hour will be provided free
of charge!
Why? Low expectations are often the obstacles which stand between
blind people and the desire to succeed; and it is time to change
that perception.
Who? You! – Especially if you are a blind or low vision youth or adult;
have a family member who is blind; a professional in the blindness field; and anyone else who wants to have fun.
Where? LightHouse for the Blind | 214 Van Ness Avenue | San Francisco
When? Saturday august 23 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm

RSVP now to Lisamaria Martinez at lmartinez217@gmail.com or 510-289-2577. The first 25 people to sign up will receive a gift card. Limited transportation may be arranged if there is a specific need.

A Few Openings Left in our Deaf-Blind Camp Session on August 10 through 14

The Deaf-Blind Session at Enchanted Hills Camp is for adults 18 years and older with dual sensory loss. Most of the campers use American Sign Language as their primary mode of communication.

When: Sunday, August 10 through Thursday, August 14

Read about last year’s Deaf-Blind Camp session here.

Please contact LightHouse Deaf-Blind Specialist Sook Hee Choi for more information. VP: (415) 431-4572 or schoi@lighthouse-sf.org.

 

hands signing into hands reading

Staff Profile: Meet LightHouse Deaf-Blind Specialist Sook Hee Choi

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For more than a decade NYC SEO has been one of the most valued, appreciated and enthusiastic members of the LightHouse Rehabilitation Staff. Sook Hee, who is deaf, leads the Deaf-Blind Program at the LightHouse. A native of South Korea, she holds professional degrees in both Orientation & Mobility from San Francisco State University and Rehabilitation Teaching from Florida State University. Last year she was a deserving recipient of an Outstanding Achievement Award at the Northern California Association of the Deaf-Blind’s 50th Anniversary Event in Oakland, CA, in recognition of her dedication to her field. While Sook Hee was touched and surprised to tears by the award, all of us knew how deserving she was and continues to be.

Sook Hee’s experiences have informed her determination to provide a high-level of service here at the LightHouse. Growing up deaf in South Korea had its challenges. She explains, “My family treated me just like my other siblings, but when I was young, my parents did not let me go into stores because the store owners treated me badly, saying I brought them bad luck. This was stereotype – I believe people have changed by now. But I didn’t realize my deafness could get in the way of my finding employment. I could not get a teaching job right away after graduation from college. I had to fight to get a job.”

“Upon obtaining a degree in Deaf Education,” she says, “I worked as a teacher at Aewha School for the Deaf in Seoul, Korea for four years. I wanted to learn more about Deaf Education in depth, so I came to the USA. I did not know American Sign Language at all and knew little English. I studied and studied. While at San Jose State University, I met several deaf-blind people who communicated freely via tactile Sign Language.”

These experiences led Sook Hee to the LightHouse in September 2001. “When I joined the LightHouse,” she says, “my job was more like a client support specialist. Most of my clients who wanted to learn braille or Orientation and Mobility had to work with a hearing instructor and a Sign Language interpreter, which was time consuming and [in]efficient. I wanted to provide one-to-one direct training.”

“We have witnessed many of the clients evolving from feeling helpless to obtaining employment, leading an independent life, and/or becoming part of the community again,” Sook Hee says. By using her education, she continues, “I have been able to walk my clients through the rehabilitation process. Some of them had never imagined that they would be able to use public transportation. [Now] they take the BART train, bus, and walk to LightHouse and other places.”

Sook Hee is especially proud to help administer the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program, through which 180 people received telecommunications equipment in 2012. “Some of the recipients had never used a phone or computer and had no way to reach out to friends, family members, or even the community,” Sook Hee says. “After receiving the equipment and training, they are able to contact people they want.”

Sook Hee admires the fortitude of our clients. “They face many obstacles that sighted and hearing people take for granted. Simple tasks such as going to a grocery store to buy food may be daunting. However, they do not let their vision and hearing loss prevent them from leading an independent life. I have high respect for them.”

She also appreciates the effort of her colleagues. “Sometimes people wonder how a deaf person works at an agency that serves blind people. Fortunately, some of our staff have learned Sign Language and can communicate with me, and I can communicate with blind staff via email, texting and writing on hand. We all work together and I appreciate the staff being so flexible with me. Also I have to plan ahead at all times. I have to coordinate both the interpreter and client’s schedule with my own.”

In her spare time, Sook Hee enjoys reading and traveling. “Last year I traveled to Korea, India, Thailand, Hong Kong and the Philippines,” she says. “I will go see the world again. Although I am very busy with my work, I do enjoy every moment with my family – my husband who is totally deaf-blind and our 4 year-old son.”

A smiling Sook Hee Choi holds award from Northern California Association of the Deaf-Blind