Whether we are working with the families of our Little Learners at a home visit, or our senior students in the Changing Vision Changing Life program, LightHouse strives for mission moments—those pivotal moments in a student’s success, clarity, or independence. For LightHouse student Anusha, that moment happened during an orientation and mobility lesson with LightHouse O&M instructor, Katt Jones.
Anusha moved to the United States from India last year to attend Law School at UC Berkeley. Newly blind, Anusha began to lose her sight four years ago due to a condition that has caused significant damage to her optic nerve. Knowing that Anusha’s plan was to live independently in the US, Anusha’s aunt conducted her own internet research and came across LightHouse for the Blind in San Francisco. She suggested to her niece that she should get in touch. And, after settling into life as a law student, another blind student at the Cal Berkeley Disabled Students Office referred Anusha to LightHouse for services and resources that would help her acclimate to her new environment. Last August, Anusha began O&M lessons with Katt. We asked Anusha to share more of this experience with the LightHouse Lately readers:
What was your experience with blindness services and orientation and mobility before coming to LightHouse?
“I received very basic training in India, but it was not enough for me to be independent. And at the time, back home, I was always around family or friends, so there was not really a need for me to become independent. Between that and COVID, there was not an urgency to learn blindness skills at that time.”
What has receiving O&M services brought to your life?
“It has given me a lot of freedom!” [Writer’s note: When Anusha said this, you could hear the emotion, the smile, and the empowerment in her voice.]
“I don’t have to depend on anyone to go to classes. Back in India, I was always depending on someone to take me to places— to go to classes, to take me back. Always having to depend on someone is not the most… it wasn’t a fun experience, I’ll just say. Now I really enjoy going around on my own. I am still working on my skills, but I go to classes independently, I go around my dorm and my campus independently. It is very liberating. I love having this kind of freedom. I really appreciate the services, and I really appreciate Katt’s training. They have connected me with so many resources, and my life has become so much easier than it was.”
Will you be continuing with any other LightHouse services?
“Yes! I’ve been working with Dawn Leafling on my Independent Living Skills since January. I have also connected with Ed Wong in the Employment Immersion department, and I look forward to starting the employment program with him at the end of March.”
What advice would you give to anyone who is blind or has low vision and is skeptical about receiving blindness services?
“I actually have a friend who is going through this—they are losing their eyesight. I don’t know if they are ready to start classes yet, but they have already spoken to me about my experience with LightHouse. I shared my experience and my own story. I told them how it has made me become free and do things independently. I shared my story of how far I’ve come. I think that helps—sharing your own story. I think it helps people understand, ‘Okay this is someone who is going through something similar, and they have overcome the challenges, and so can I.’
“It is going to be a daunting process going through all the trainings and learning all the skills,” Anusha advises, “but it is worth it, having the freedom and the independence. I know it can be difficult at times. Sometimes I think about all the juggling I have to do—all the skills, the classes, law school—sometimes I am just so exhausted. But then, I look at the end result. I look at all the things I am able to do, and I think, ‘Okay, this is completely worth it.’ Especially working with LightHouse. All of the instructors have been so kind, so compassionate. I love their enthusiasm and love for their work. Even on days when I feel like I don’t want to do it, it is their support that helps me get through.”
To learn more about the programs and services LightHouse provides, please visit the LightHouse website, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for questions, inquiries, or intakes.