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San Francisco

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

 

Our New Building

Overlooking San Francisco’s UN Plaza and with sweeping views of City Hall and downtown, the new LightHouse for the Blind building is a singular architectural landmark – unprecedented in the world of blindness and social service organizations. Complete with short-term residential facilities, extensive training and community spaces, and state-of-the-art technological advancements, the New LightHouse is worth a visit. Below are several pieces that tell the story of our new building and its design.

Photo: people training at LightHouse

Architectural Record:  “LightTouch: An agency employes subtle design strategies to better serve its visually impaired clientele.”

Every element of the design—from circulation to lighting to mechanical equipment and the tactile and acoustic properties of surface materials—was shaped to the advantage of users whose visual challenges and compensating skills span an enormous range. The perceptions that LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin most wanted to upend were those of new clients and their supporters. “Bryan wanted a space that was uplifting, not a woe-is-me experience,” said Mark Cavagnero, whose San Francisco–based firm was selected by a design committee as the architect for the $13 million project. Even so, the environment couldn’t be so “soft and gentle,” says Cavagnero, that clients would be unprepared for the hard corners of the real world. The LightHouse also had an extremely unusual resource in Chris Downey, a successful Bay Area architect who became blind during an operation to remove a brain tumor in 2008. Downey, who immediately decided to continue in his chosen career, joined the LightHouse board in 2009 and is now its president.

Slack logoSlack profiles great places to work: “Designing for everyone: How the new LightHouse for the Blind models building for inclusivity”

The cement floor is intentionally bare so that the sound of footsteps falling and canes tapping informs you that the space is full of life. If your hand were to graze against the furniture in the lobby, the material would be soft to the touch, as would the smooth wooden handrail to guide you up and down the staircase.

Arup group: “Design by ear: The New LightHouse for the Blind” – Our acoustical designers on how they made the building sonically beautiful:

Hear the Sounds of the New LightHouse with our Acoustic Designers

Good acoustic design benefits everyone – that’s the best takeaway you could have from experiencing the new LightHouse for the Blind headquarters. San Francisco-based  Arup, the consulting firm of engineers who fine-tuned the LightHouse’s new facility in downtown San Francisco, worked hard to ensure that not only does our new space assist in wayfinding and orientation for blind people, but that it is inviting, logical and appealing for people with all kinds of vision.

Watch the in-depth interview below, featuring LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin and Arup Senior Acoustics and Audiovisual Consultant Shane Myrbeck.

Tours

Tours are hosted by our Information Concierge Esmeralda Soto by appointment. Email esoto@lighthouse-sf.org to schedule an individual or group appointment.

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In 2016, the LightHouse completed the move from its old location at 214 Van Ness Ave., where it was situated for more than two decades, to a new, state-of-the-art headquarters at 1155 Market Street in the heart of downtown San Francisco.

A rare example worldwide of physical space designed by and for blind individuals, with the leadership of world-renowned architect Mark Cavagnero and blind architect Chris Downey, the New LightHouse is not only a blindness center fit for the 21st Century, but has dozens of subtle but meaningful features which may not be obvious to those unfamiliar with universal design. Held together by an elegant three-story staircase which serves as the top-floor office’s centerpiece, the New LightHouse also includes short-term residential facilities, a large teaching kitchen, a HAM radio room, technology centers, studios and computer labs, among many other technological and practical meeting spaces for blind education, community building and skills training.

Does Your Credit Union Work For You?

photo of a credit card on a laptop keyboard

There are certain things today that we take for granted — like the fact that a blind person can (and should) have independent access to their banking. Having control over your own funds, potentially one of the most important aspects of living an independent life, wasn’t a given for blind folks until the ’90s, when attorneys representing the disabled prevailed in a tireless process of education and negotiation to ensure that ATMs would work for the blind.

Today, there are still strides to be made. The web is always evolving, and often when a change is made, a site is redesigned, or an app is updated, access for the disabled is not part of the conversation. With most large national banks now complying with accessibility law, the Bay Area-based Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) is turning its attention to Credit Unions. DRA is interested in learning about screen reader users’ experiences in selecting and joining, and using a credit union.

DRA seeks adult plaintiffs who live, work or attend school in San Francisco or San Mateo Counties. You must be a screen reader user and have interest in locating, joining, or switching credit unions. You may not be a member of more than two credit unions already. If you meet these conditions, please contact Meredith Weaver at DRA by phone (510) 665-8644 or email mweaver@dralegal.org.

History

In 1902, Mrs. Josephine Rowan, whose brother was blind, organized a group of women to establish The Reading Room for the Blind in the basement of the San Francisco Public Library, with the intent of helping blind and visually impaired individuals access printed material. Thus California’s first private agency for the blind was born.

In 1914, the Reading Room changed its name to the San Francisco Association for the Blind, and Ruth Quinan was hired as Superintendent of the Association. Her first action was to create the trademark “Blindcraft” for the growing production of brooms and baskets. Quinan served as Superintendent and later President of the Association until her death in 1955 – over 40 years of service. During her leadership, the Association dramatically expanded its production activities and added a cooking school to the range of services offered.

As the Association grew, the need to expand facilities emerged. In 1924, three members of the Cowell family stepped forward with the generous offer to buy land and construct the building that would house the Association’s expanding services. With the support of Isabel, Helen and S.H. Cowell, the Association moved to a new facility at 1097 Howard Street later that year. For the next two decades, the Association continued manufacturing and selling brooms, baskets and furniture produced by blind workers, and began teaching braille, instructing white cane technique and providing counseling. This made the organization quite unusual. In the 20th century blind people doing any kind of work was unheard of, and the industrial opportunities the LightHouse provided 100 years ago were considered the most progressive options then available.

In 1950, Rose Resnick and Nina Brandt founded Enchanted Hills Camp on 343 acres of land in the foothills west of Napa Valley, under the auspices of Recreation for the Blind, Inc. This organization soon after merged with The Association to become the San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind. In the sixties, the LightHouse expanded its employment opportunities to include deaf-blind individuals, and in the seventies, the agency collaborated with ophthalmologists at Pacific Presbyterian Medical Center to establish experimental services for people with low vision.

In 1977, Jewel and Jim McGinnis (who were members of Blind San Franciscans, Inc.), identified a service that was not available through any of the agencies then serving the blind and visually impaired. They founded Broadcast Services for the Blind, which offered the reading of printed materials such as newspapers, magazines and literature on the radio. In 1989, the LightHouse merged with Broadcast Services for the Blind.

Finally, in 1993, the Rose Resnick Center and the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired merged to form Rose Resnick LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, thus providing a broader continuum of services to better meet the needs of those who were blind or had low vision.

In 1996, two years after Rose Resnick LightHouse purchased 214 Van Ness in San Francisco, the LightHouse designed a comprehensive “living with Vision Loss” training program, providing rehabilitative and orientation and mobility training throughout the greater Bay Area for the first time. Today, the LightHouse provides services throughout Northern California and serves thousands of blind and visually impaired youth, adults and seniors.

As successor to many organizations, the Board of Directors streamlined the name of the organization for the new Millenium to be simply, “Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.” Rose Resnick passed away in August 2007, just two months short of her 100th birthday, but still today we carry on her legacy and value her many years of leadership. Enchanted Hills Camp for the Blind is busier than ever, as both a summer camp, retreat center, and training facility, and every day we become more effective and relied upon for providing a seamless continuum of services and outreach into the community.

Over the last several years, LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin has conducted a series of interviews, collecting the oral histories of significant members of the blindness community, which you can listen to at our LightHouse Podcasts page.

The Next 114 Years

In the spring of 2016, the LightHouse moved from the 1906 converted garage it occupied since 1993 into a new, state-of-the-art location in the heart of downtown San Francisco. Designed for the blind, by the blind, the new LightHouse for the Blind will triple the available space for programs and community services. The new headquarters uses innovative lighting and architectural design features to set a new standard of universal design for people with all levels of eyesight. Onsite dorms will accommodate blind people of all ages and their families from all over the US for intensive, immersive training. With this new headquarters the LightHouse’s reach and influence will grow exponentially.  We’re envisioning partnering with blind, deaf-blind and other organizations across the US and the world, to house their students in our dorms and provide groundbreaking programs not offered anywhere else. Our new headquarters overlooks UN plaza and is one of the most transit-accessible blindness centers in the world.

About

Headquartered in San Francisco, California, LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired provides education, training, advocacy, and community for blind individuals in California and around the world. Founded and based in San Francisco since 1902, the LightHouse is one of the largest and most established comprehensive blindness organizations in North America, with a wide variety of programs to suit a wide variety of needs, as well as a rich network of blindness advocates and professionals.

LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, tax EIN 94-1415317.

Fast Facts

Each year:

  • 650 of our students learn to use a white cane and other skills needed to stay active and independent.
  • 320 of our students get training in technology ranging from basic keyboarding skills to talking GPS and cell phone apps specifically for people who are blind.
  • 100 young people participate in our enrichment programs such as STEAM activities, job and college prep, and outdoor adventures.
  • 180 of our deaf-blind students learn skills like braille and receive accessible tech equipment.
  • 420 of our campers enjoy a quintessential camp experience at Enchanted Hills Camp in Napa.
  • 60 of our blind jobseekers gain skills needed for employment.
  • 1,300 blind people buy more than 5,000 low vision and blindness tools at Adaptations Store.
  • 650 of our volunteers give their time to further our mission.

Each month:

  • 100 people access support services such as counseling, support groups, information and referral and case management.
  • 50+ social and recreational activities engage people who are blind in a supportive community.
  • 10 tours and outreach events educate the community about our mission and services.

Each day:

  • People who are blind become part of the LightHouse community, take steps to maximize their independence, and advocate for themselves and others.

Links

If you are blind or have low vision, and would like to benefit from our services, visit our programs page.

If you would like to support the LightHouse, visit our donate or volunteer pages.

If you are interested in our new headquarters at 1155 Market St. in San Francisco, visit our tours page.

To participate in our summer camp sessions, classes and workshops in Napa, visit our Enchanted Hills page.

For press inquiries or to read about LightHouse in the news, visit our press page.

For canes, technology, and other assistive devices at our store, visit our shop page.