Each spring, the LightHouse offers a Provider’s Weekend retreat for professionals working in the blindness field, at our Enchanted Hills Camp in Napa. This year over forty participants from around the state, representing a diversity of agencies of and for the blind, engaged in a weekend rich with dialogue, idea sharing and camaraderie. Attendees, most of whom are blind, included teachers and educators of the visually impaired, staff from guide dog schools, engineers and scientists, Veteran’s Administration representatives, access and computer technology specialists, youth and transition coordinators and staff from the Department of Rehabilitation.
We asked Lion’s Blind Center Employment Specialist Serena Olsen, who is relatively new to the blindness field, to share her fresh perspective on Provider’s Weekend. Here’s what she had to say:
My very first impression upon falling out of the bus and wandering off to find my cabin was that I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful California day or a more perfect setting to enjoy it. The grounds at Enchanted Hills are lovely and well-maintained.
Throughout the weekend attendees participated in a variety of sessions and activities; the subject of one discussion on day one was a little-known but important figure in the organized blind movement, Newel Perry; others joined Mike May of Sendero Group as he demonstrated their GPS technology during an excursion to a local winery. Interwoven that day and throughout the weekend were delicious family-style meals, swimming, hiking and gatherings around the campfire where we dialogued about best practices and the future of our services, in the spirit of collaboration and unity. The balance between work and play during the weekend was really great–though I simultaneously felt that I wanted both more work time and more pool time!
Saturday morning LightHouse Director of Rehabilitation Kathy Abrahamson facilitated the most sober and profound part of the agenda, a discussion on what motivates people. Her presentation was brilliantly simple and very powerful as she spoke about what motivates clients to progress toward success and what are the best practices for getting them there.
The final two presentations of the morning session demonstrated both what is now available, in terms of technology, to make learning more accessible as well as even more efficient and effective ways of developing this technology. Roger Tower, a representative of the company Independence Science, demonstrated products developed to make science accessible, particularly in classroom/lab settings. Independence Science offers Tactile Adaptation Kits that contain items such as tactile molecule models, tactile beakers and measurement tools, and supplies for tactile adaptation. More info at: independencescience.com.
Josh Miele, president of the LightHouse Board then spoke about LightHouse Labs, an emerging project of the LightHouse that is serving as a technology think-tank for the blind, whose mission is based on the idea of blind people imagining the products and technology they want or need and developing them with accessibility in mind right from the beginning.
On Sunday, we took an exhilarating hike which ended at the Cathedral, a gathering place situated in an outdoor setting. Once seated in this beautiful space, we had a wonderful dialogue. The overarching message of this discussion validated the approach I tend to take in my profession: the most powerful work is being done through one-to-one community-based connections and that these connections can be made in any context, even those not addressing blindness.
Roger Tower said something during his presentation that has stayed with me: “Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I’ll remember, involve me and I’ll understand.” Provider’s Weekend was a great experience and I would most definitely do it again!
If you are interested in attending next year’s Provider’s Weekend, or are interested in becoming a sponsor for Provider’s Weekend, please contact Tony Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 694-7319.
Note: Roger Tower, of technology company Independence Science, blogged about visiting the Fulton Winery & Vineyard with a group of Provider’s Weekend participants. The group used Provider’s Weekend sponsor Sendero Group’s GPS technology to get to the winery.