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Department of Rehabilitation

Video: Meet Braille Skateboarding’s First Blind Employee

In 2013, Alex Harding moved to the US from Sierra Leone, by himself, with only a $100 bill in his pocket.

Alex was young, but full of curiosity and a desire to learn and grow in the US job market. Still, as a person with low vision, Alex was at a disadvantage. As his vision changed, it became a struggle to show employers that he could work. In 2016, he signed up for the LightHouse’s Employment Immersion Program, and today he manages the facility of one of the web’s most popular skateboarding brands, Braille Skateboarding.

This is his story.

Braille Skateboarding is a tenant of LightHouse for the Blind at the Sirkin Center in San Leandro. We established a rental agreement with Braille Skateboarding because of their commitment to employ blind people like Alex.

If you’re blind, have low vision or have just experienced a change in vision and you want to gain the skills and confidence to jump back into the working world, we have a new four-week program just for you. To sign up, email Angela Denise Davis at adavis@lighthouse-sf.org or contact your local Department of Rehabilitation counselor and ask to be enrolled.

Get Ready for the School Year: Parent and Student Workshop on August 27 [postponed]

Note: this event has been postponed. For questions, contact jgump@lighthouse-sf.org.

Join LightHouse students, parents and teachers for a day-long workshop aimed at helping blind students and their families be more prepared for the coming school year and beyond.

The day will start with a panel of students, parents and teachers who will speak about challenges that specifically affect blind students, such as how to make sure handouts are available in accessible formats and ideas on how parents can help their children with their homework.

Next youth and adults will break into separate groups. Parents and teachers will focus on topics such as Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), the role Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) plays in their child’s education and extra-curricular options for youth who are blind. Students will also learn about how DOR works, discuss transitioning to college, living skills and the importance of balancing work and play.

The day will wrap-up with an opportunity for families to get to know one another.

Who: Families with at least one youth under 18 and at least one family member of any age who is blind or has low vision.
When: Saturday, August 27, from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
Where: LightHouse Building, 1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco, 94103
Waiver: Each youth participant must fill out and submit a LightHouse Youth Program Application if they have not done so already.

If you would like more information or to RSVP for this event please contact Jamey Gump, Youth Services Coordinator, at 415-694-7372 or by email at jgump@lighthouse-sf.org by Wednesday August 24.

Getting Started

What Does “Blind” Really Mean? Am I Blind? What about “Visually Impaired”?

Of the 285 million people in the world who are blind or have low vision, only a relatively small percentage have no light perception. For everyone else, blindness is a gradation. Some people see quite clearly, in certain light conditions. Others see only shapes and colors. For some, their field of vision is complex and hard to explain. The diversity of these extra functions is what makes blindness particularly confusing to the unacquainted observer. For those with changing vision, the daunting part is not usually the fear of darkness, but the fear of admitting that you’re different. The LightHouse is here to educate not only the public, but those blind individuals who don’t have prior familiarity with the experience of blindness about the immense potential, normalcy, and joy available to anyone living with differences in their eyesight. Even if you don’t think of yourself as “blind,” the LightHouse likely has something to offer you.

What Happens Here?

For starters, we’re not just “here,” we’re all over. With a beautiful, brand new high-rise headquarters in the heart of downtown San Francisco, we pride ourselves on offering the cutting edge of all things related to blindness. Whether you want to learn how to use your new iPhone, make the perfect omelette, travel across the country or learn how to access a half million books and newspapers, we’ve got a class and a trainer for you. On any given day, you’ll find students in SF training on accessible technology, engaging in mentoring and community-oriented projects and workshops, or getting out of the city to explore nature, go to conferences, or just go have fun.

Teens wearing athletic jerseys after playing sports

We make maps that you can read without your eyes, and we outfit world-class museums to ensure that everyone can enjoy them. At our historic camp and retreat in the rolling hills of Napa County, we offer science and math camps for blind kids, teach accessible horseback riding and music instruction, and host families and individuals of all ages and backgrounds. People come from all parts of California — and dozens of countries around the world —  to take advantage of what the LightHouse has to offer.

In addition to San Francisco and Napa, we offer regular classes of varying length and content in Eureka, San Rafael, and Berkeley. Each location has its own personality and service offerings, and people come from all around the state to take advantage of different curricula and instructors. When getting to know our programs, we can work with you to customize your experience based not only on where you live, but what you want to learn.

We also operate a sprawling light manufacturing plant in San Leandro where blind and sighted employees work together in various for-profit business ventures with an increasingly-expanded service base.

Interested in Receiving Services?

When you’re blind or have low vision, getting the services you need is not always an easy or intuitive process. And yet there are lots of ways to ensure that you get the training and information you need with as little headache and cost to you as possible. In California, we serve many working-age youth and adults through the California Department of Rehabilitation, which supports blind and low vision individuals who want to work. Individuals who apply for services through DOR can often benefit from our programs without charge and will be supplied needed equipment, fees for training and guidance. There is also funding available for Older Individuals who are Blind, and OIB funding often covers adults over the age of 55 who want to acquire skills to improve their lives. When it comes to funding and accommodations, this is just the beginning. The important thing to remember is that we can walk you through this process.

Call 415-694-7323 or email info@lighthouse-sf.org to join the thousands of people already benefiting from what the LightHouse has to offer.