Changing Vision Changing Life Immersion Retreat Jumpstarts Blind and Low Vision North Coasters

Since June 2013, the LightHouse has connected blind and low vision North Coast residents with each other through participation in our novel week-long Immersion Training at Enchanted Hills Retreat in Napa. Thus far, fifteen North Coast residents living in cities such as Crescent City, McKinleyville, Weitchepec, Legget and Eureka have jumpstarted their training at Enchanted Hills Retreat in Napa, with many continuing their training upon return to the North Coast. Participating students have goals that range from independent living skills and learning Braille, to getting back into the workforce.

Crescent City resident Judi Lewis has participated in two trainings, the first week to provide her with an overview of the skills she desired to be successful while meeting others who share her challenge; and the second time to hone her braille, Orientation & Mobility and Access Technology skills. Judi will also receive follow-up braille and technology training upon returning home and has aspirations of returning to school.

Said Judi, “The Immersion was wonderful. The first time it was a bit overwhelming, the second time around I knew what I was looking for and could hone in on my specific training needs. The staff was wonderful to work with and provided all the information that I needed to make the progress that I expected to make.”

LightHouse Rehabilitation Counselor Debbie Bacon trains Immersion participant Judi Lewis on how to use a video magnifier (Photo Credit: Patti Rose)

The Immersion provided many opportunities for newly blind and low vision students to work with blind teachers and interns who not only provided training but were themselves examples of independent and successful blind people. For example, instructor Juliannah Harris, who is getting her Masters in Assistive Technology Training, worked individually with students to assess their technology needs and provide them with an understanding of the helpful tools that would make maintaining their independence and confidence at home much more possible.

North Coast residents with employment related goals work with the California State Department of Rehabilitation out of Santa Rosa, doing initial and follow up support and training with the North Coast staff. During the Immersion Retreat, Haruyo Nishimura, who is Blind Field Services Counselor for the California Department of Rehabilitation, in Santa Rosa, collaborates creatively with North Coast staff to ensure her clients living in distant areas receive the training they can benefit from.

Haruyo has made presentations, asked and answered questions and worked one-on-one with individuals. She told us, “The greatest benefit about the Immersion for clients on the North Coast is that it decreases isolation and allows people to feel supported and to know that they are not alone. The support from staff and clients is tremendous and I have heard that from all of my clients.”

Are you blind or low vision with the urge to become more independent and enjoy your life more fully?
For over 50 years, Enchanted Hills has offered an accessible summer camp for blind children, and adults. More recently Enchanted Hills has established itself as a residential training center–complete with mobility training, adaptive cooking, and access technology and low vision solutions. The week-long “Changing Vision, Changing Life,” immersion sessions are transformative for people willing to meet new people, try new strategies, and take the next steps towards independence.

The next opportunity to join us in Napa for the Changing Vision Changing Lives Immersion Retreat is March 30th through April 4. If you live in Humboldt or Del Norte County and want to participate, please contact LightHouse Social Worker Janet Pomerantz at 707- 268-5646 or

This same opportunity is available to those living in San Francisco, Marin County and the greater Bay Area and South Bay. If you live in these areas and are interested, please contact Debbie Bacon at 415-694-7357 or