Tag Archives: orientation and mobility

Maps, at Your Fingertips: The LightHouse Store Announces On-Demand Tactile Maps

Have you ever wanted to get to know the lay of the land before heading to a new city, campus or neighborhood? Wish you could just generate a quick, raised-line aerial map the way others do with Google? Whether it’s the blocks around your kid’s new school or a conference in San Diego — it’s not always easy to get a quick overview of a neighborhood before visiting. And unfortunately, mobile web mapping systems like Google or Apple Maps tend to fall short for blind users when it comes to getting the “big picture.”

Thanks to a collaboration between the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute and our Media and Accessible Design Lab, we’re pleased to announce that you can now order on-demand tactile maps of the area of your choosing for just $19 (plus shipping and handling) from our Adaptations Store. The tactile street maps depict the area around a user-specified address or intersection, using raised lines along with a circle marking the point of interest in the center of the map. Braille and large print labels indicate street names and other critical area information like cardinal directions, scale, and main streets. For those who are new to tactile maps, this is a great way to get started with this invaluable, always dependable tool for blind and low vision travelers. And for O&M teachers, or those learning how to travel with a dog or cane, this new instant service will make a tremendous difference.

To order a map, just call our product specialists at the Adaptations Store at 1-888-400-8933 and specify the destination of the map you’re interested in. Within two business days we’ll place your order, ship it or make it available for pick up at the store.

What’s in the package?

  • 3 signature Tactile and ink-printed Maps, generated by the MAD Lab at LightHouse for the Blind, of the area surrounding your point of interest: printed at simple, moderate and dense map scale ratios
  • A tactile map key
  • An explainer page
  • All materials are printed on 11” X 11.5” sheets of embossed paper and include ink / large print labels in addition to braille

Never used a tactile map before? Stop by the Adaptations Store in person and take a look at our pre-printed maps of the area around LightHouse Headquarters at 1155 Market St. We’ll help you get a feel for using tactile maps and you can even take a pre-printed tactile map with you for $19.

This Spring, CVCL Answers the Tough Questions for New Students

“I’ve often thought about what I would do if I were to drop a sewing needle.” The instructor intones the answer in a gentle voice: “Listen for the direction and how far from you it has fallen.” Obvious? Not to me.”

When Eleanor Lew came to LightHouse in 2016, dropping a sewing needle or traveling through the dark were questions without obvious answers. These are just a couple of the hundreds of seemingly answerless riddles that we help people solve in our weeklong skills training, Changing Vision Changing Life.

Initially only held a few times a year, CVCL now happens every month. It trades locations between San Francisco and Napa to give students a holistic, two-part experience that builds confidence in all areas, introduces them to other individuals peers who motivate each other through peer learning, and gets them on the right track towards being happy, healthy people — regardless of level of eyesight.

“Introducing us to the scope of low-vision rehabilitation services so that we can live independently and maintain quality of life is the purported reason for the camp,” Eleanor writes. “But the healing power of connection is what surprises us.”

There are hundreds of stories like Eleanor’s that come out of CVCL each year. If you want to know more about her transformation, read about it in the New York Times and tell your friends with changing vision to get in touch with Debbie Bacon at dbacon@lighthouse-sf.org or by calling 415-694-7357.


Sign Up for our upcoming CVCL sessions:

CVCL II (San Francisco): March 20 – 24

CVCL I (Napa): April 3 – 7

CVCL II (San Francisco): May 8 – 12

CVCL I: (Napa): June 12 – 16

CVCL II (San Francisco): July 17 – 21

 

Jennifer Huey – “When Life Gives You a White Cane, Blaze a Trail!”

Jennifer HueyThe following is one in a monthly series featuring the extraordinary people who make up the LightHouse staff.

“My first goal is to make my students feel comfortable by demystifying Orientation and Mobility. People ask, ‘What’s that?’ I tell them that Orientation and Mobility is a fancy phrase to describe the set of skills people who are blind or have low vision use to safely navigate the world around them,” Jennifer Huey, one of LightHouse’s Certified Orientation and Mobility Instructors, tells us. She continues, “For example, I teach students how to properly use a white cane. In addition to cane travel, I teach people how to use all their senses to move about independently. People wonder how a blind person can cross a busy intersection, walk with a white cane and an umbrella or find an exit. I teach students those critical skills, which we call Orientation and Mobility or O&M.”

Jennifer comes to the LightHouse after being in the court reporting industry for over 20 years. “It was time for a career change. I wanted to make a tangible difference in the lives of others. My job in the court reporting field was just that – a job. Jennifer reflected on her history when considering a second career. “My mom developed eye cancer several years ago, which was a wakeup call to my family. Life is short; do what you love. On a more literal level, my mother’s diagnosis, coupled with my twin sister’s congenital monocular (‘single eye’) vision, led me to the field of blind services. I went back to San Francisco State (she got her Bachelor’s degree in Communicative Disorders, with a minor in Special Education there as well) to earn my Master’s in Special Education, with a special emphasis in O&M.”

Kathy Abrahamson, LightHouse’s Director of Rehabilitation, was one of Jennifer’s instructors at SF State. “Kathy was infectious, with her bubbly personality and passion for helping people. She talked so highly of the LightHouse, and the satisfaction she felt in her career. Like my classmate Robert Alminana (who is also an O&M instructor at the LightHouse), I knew I wanted to work here.”

Students who meet Jennifer are quickly put at ease by her warmth and great cheer. “We laugh a lot. I’m empowering people to live their lives, why not start living during our training? I learn about students’ concerns, many of which are similar to all students, but I also dig deeper to learn more about the individual I’m working alongside. That’s a key point: I’m working with—beside—my students, not teaching at them. One of my major goals for every student is that they understand that their white cane (if they need a cane) is a tool and not something stigmatizing. We reach that point together by setting personal goals that have an immediate impact, like learning how to deftly use a white cane and navigate a busy sidewalk.”

Born and raised in San Francisco, Jennifer certainly hasn’t let city lines keep her boxed in. “I love traveling. My last big trip was last August, when I went on a mission to bring assistive equipment like wheelchairs, crutches, canes and training to the Ugandan disability community. I set up a website to fundraise for adult and child-sized canes, various cane tips and cane accessories, to be distributed free of charge to Ugandans in need. It was an incredible journey – I can’t wait for my next trip.” Jennifer is also a thrill seeker, having skydived twice, and she loves drama, from movies to musicals. She emphatically states: “Go to Shakespeare in the Park. Do it! You’ll love it!”

If you’re wondering if you should sign up for Orientation and Mobility training at the LightHouse, Jennifer has this to say: “Pick up the phone, shoot us an email, stop by…you have to be the one to make the first step. I assure you, you’re in control of your training, but we’re here to help you figure out what you need to thrive.”

To get started, call us at 415.431.1481 or write us at info@lighthouse-sf.org.

Robert Alminana: “Life Doesn’t Come to You; You Have to Go After Life.”

AlfredoRobertThe following is one in a monthly series featuring the extraordinary people who make up the LightHouse staff.

“There is a quote I really want you to include in my profile,” says Robert Alminana, an Orientation and Mobility Specialist at the LightHouse. He reaches for a well-loved book he’d brought with him: Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

“One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eyes,” he quotes from the book. The message, with its obvious relevance to the LightHouse and the blindness community, is also one of Robert’s guiding principle. He says, “I’ve spent my life helping people and communities find better ways to live by uncovering hidden potential.”

It’s possible that Robert’s desire to help people stems from his unique history. “I’ve lived—really lived—in nine countries on three continents. I speak five languages. I grew up with parents who are bilingual, bi-national, and bicultural. Because of this, I don’t identify with a particular country or nationality. Instead, I see myself more as a global citizen, finding it easier to identify with individuals despite our perceived differences.” Living within so many cultures has also made Robert more conscious of the struggles that make us more similar than different. “We’re all trying to find our place in the world regardless of the part of the world we’re from. I’m passionate about helping people find their place in the world, because I know that everyone has a place.”

This fervor for empowering people to feel grounded is what led Robert to Orientation and Mobility. “I used to be an urban planner, with special emphasis on designing communities that make people feel welcomed and at peace, which I know has dramatically positive effects on behavior and the way we relate to one another. I literally worked to create communities that provide people with a ‘sense of place,’ an endeavor that takes time to materialize. I left that field because I wanted to work one-on-one with people and see the results of my work on a more intimate and immediate level. Orientation and Mobility fulfilled that need.”

Instead of designing beautiful, sustainable communities for large groups of people, Robert now works with individuals who are blind teaching them to navigate whatever space they find themselves. “I dreamed of changing the world on a large scale, and did some of that with the urban planning work I conducted. Now, my dream is being fulfilled on a different scale. I’m changing the world for one person by teaching him or her practical skills to move through the world.”

Speaking philosophically, Robert stresses that there are billions of individual worlds—we all live in our own world. “Working one-on-one with a dozen students a week might not seem like the stereotypical ‘world change’ one thinks of, but seeing the immediate impact Orientation and Mobility skills have on people has shown me that I’m changing worlds instead of one single world.”

Robert’s journey to the LightHouse started when he became a LightHouse Volunteer. He tells us, “I enrolled in my Master’s in Special Education program at SF State to become an Orientation and Mobility specialist, but had to wait eight months for classes to start. I was anxious to get going, so I asked Dr. Sandy Rosen, Coordinator, Orientation and Mobility Program at San Francisco State, if she had any recommendations. She suggested I volunteer at the LightHouse. I started off as a Personal Services Volunteer, working with one person – this was an incredibly rewarding experience. I also worked on some projects with MUNI and recording print text to alternative formats.” Robert’s experiences remind us that LightHouse has many different volunteering opportunities, from working one-on-one with students to administrative work.”

After graduating with a Master’s in Special Education in the field of Visual Impairments, Orientation and Mobility, Robert joined the team at LightHouse as an O&M Instructor. He tells us, “I’m also the President Elect of the Northern California Association of O&M Specialists (N-CAOMS), and I have my ACVREP (Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals) certification, which enables me to design programs to meet our students’ needs.”

Robert goes on to say, “I love what I do at the LightHouse—helping people gain the independence and confidence required to thrive in the world around them. I want people to know that if they’re struggling with getting to where they need to be, they should make an appointment today. There are so many wonderful things to do and people to meet. Life doesn’t come to you; you have to go after life.”

Robert enjoys being philosophical, even when he’s not at work. “What do I do on the weekends or outside of work? I love reading. Some of my favorite authors include Albert Camus, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Marguerite Yourcenar, Gabriel García Márquez, John Steinbeck and Jane Jacobs. I enjoy going to art and science museums. Traveling is also important to me, and nature is a big part of my life. My last trip was to Alaska. I was absolutely blown away by the quality—and quantity—of the natural beauty. The train trip from Anchorage to Denali was so beautiful it overwhelmed me. Every panorama was filled with life and splendor.”

If you’d like become a more independent traveler the LightHouse can teach you how. Contact us at 415-831-1481 to get started.

Ready to give back? The LightHouse has a robust Volunteer Program and we invite you to enroll. For more information, contact Justine, our Volunteer Coordinator, at 1altruism@lighthouse-sf.org.

This Weekend: Get Paid To Test BlindSquare

blindsquare logoDo you use the BlindSquare App to get around SF? Want to get paid to give feedback? Look no further.

The LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired of San Francisco is working closely with the developer of BlindSquare, a popular navigational tool within the blindness community, to integrate a set of accessibility features (related to San Francisco Muni transit stops) into the BlindSquare application. We will be gathering feedback and data through a series of paid, in-person studies with current BlindSquare users.

We are targeting the weekend of July 18-19 to conduct the research. Scheduling is flexible, and sessions could take place mornings, afternoons, and evenings throughout the weekend. You should plan to devote approximately 2 hours to the study.  Space is limited. If you would like to participate, please answer the following survey questions and send your responses to Frank Welte at fwelte@lighthouse-sf.org:

1.     How would you describe your vision?

a.     No usable vision for navigation

b.     Some usable vision for navigation

2.     Do you own an iPhone?

3.     Do you use the BlindSquare app?

4.     How often do you use the app?

5.     How often do you travel independently outside of the home?

Thank you for your participation, and please spread the word!