For nearly 20 years the LightHouse has hosted a three-day gathering of professionals in our community, including new TVI’s (teachers of the visually impaired), O&M (Orientation & Mobility) Instructors, Program Managers and Adaptive Technology manufacturers for an engaging program of presentations mixed with opportunities for informal discussion, connection and friendship building.
This year’s goal was to bring in new blood and we succeeded far beyond our expectations with over 75% new attendees, mixing with committed returning participants. Within the relaxed setting of beautiful Enchanted Hills, old and new participants talked about the challenges of working in our field, bringing fresh perspectives and fresh questions to the table. People came from all over California and their differing viewpoints and allied with a number of different school systems.
In addition to fascinating presentations by blind journalist, poet and technologist Deborah Kendrick and solo, blind and intrepid traveler Dr. Zachary Shore, we offered wonderful meals, gentle exercise and nature strolls, swimming and an outdoor movie about blind youth.
“Just wanted to thank you again for the amazing weekend. Great people, amazing place and inspiring speakers – very grateful to have been able to take part. Thanks for everything.”
-Jennifer Hirsh, TVI/O&M, Monterey County Office of ED
In a much-appreciated session called “What the Blindness Field Isn’t Talking About”, California Department of Rehabilitation Director Joe Xavier led a unique Town Hall-type discussion which encouraged the fruitful exchange of ideas and helped providers feel they were heard more clearly by the Department of Rehab.
LightHouse Board President Josh Miele and Director of Access to Information Services Greg Kehret excited the audience with news about our new and ready to distribute Talking Tactile maps: maps of all the Bay Area BART station that “talk” thanks to Smartpen technology. This was followed by a hands-on demonstration as treasure seekers used tactile maps and Smartpens to find bottles of wine.
Wine connoisseur Hoby Wedler, a graduate student in chemistry at U.C. Davis, led a blind wine tasting, taking the group through the process of how to understand the nuances of various fine Napa wines. His background in chemistry helped frame the discussion and he offered suggestions on pairing food and wine while making the link between chemistry and wine making.
Thanks to all who attended. It was gratifying to witness the passion of those who have been at it for many years along with the refreshing input from those newer to the game, including some folks our longer-time professionals had mentored. There was a general sense of joy, camaraderie and bonding based on shared experiences, shared successes and dealing with challenges. The response and enthusiasm for the event has us looking forward to doing it again soon.