LightHouse Deaf-Blind Project Is Changing Lives

Since 2012 the LightHouse has been the California agency leading the statewide Deaf-Blind Telecommunication Project supported by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The goal of this project is to help deaf-blind individuals from all over California communicate more effectively with their friends, family and service providers. As the lead agency of the project, the LightHouse has distributed accessible telecommunication equipment such as smartphones, computers and braille displays to eligible clients. Critical technology and braille training are also offered to help clients gain the skills to use the devices effectively.

The impact of this grant has been life changing. Our team, consisting of Deaf-Blind Specialist Sook Hee Choi, Access Technology Specialist Shen Kuan and Helen Keller Southwest Regional Rep Cathy Kirscher, plus several deaf and deaf-blind technology trainers, has assessed, supplied with equipment and trained more than 170 people who are deaf-blind.

Teresa Lambert (L) and trainer Mussie Gebre using an iPhone & Focus 14 portable Braille display
For example, Teresa Lambert has grown up deaf-blind and due to Usher Syndrome I her visual field has been narrowing significantly. Through the LightHouse Teresa received an iPhone and a portable Focus 14 braille display that allows her to access it. For the first time, she can email and text effectively, allowing her to be more independent and to connect with friends, family members, doctors and businesses, without asking for help.

Sisters Amanda and Cynthia Lee have also benefited from the grant and training through the LightHouse. Both of them are deaf-blind, also due to Usher Syndrome I. For much of their lives they had no way to contact family or paratransit and had to rely on others to make these calls. Though neither of them knew braille they knew this skill was necessary in order to take their independence to the next level. They began braille training and after furious practice over a month’s time they learned enough braille to be able to use iPhones and Focus 14 braille displays. Now they are confidently keeping their own schedules independently.

Sook Hee said, “Through this grant, we’ve discovered many people who have been isolated for a long time. They’ve never heard the word, “Wi-Fi”, let alone understood the concept. The response from people who are deaf-blind, blind and hard of hearing and those who are deaf and low vision (legally blind) has been tremendous.”

If you are a deaf-blind Californian (age 15 and over), and low income, you may qualify for this pilot program (eligibility is established by the FCC). Please email to receive an application. Expect a 1-2 month wait to process new applications, complete equipment assessments and finally receive equipment. We look forward to hearing from you!