Category Archive

LightHouse News

LightHouse for the Blind Announces New Communications Director – Lee Kumutat

Lee Kumutat stands with her guide dog
Lee Kumutat stands by a large window with her guide dog Frankie, a black lab

 

Originally from Australia, Ms. Kumutat moved to the UK after a ten-year career working in assistive technology marketing, sales and development. Ms. Kumutat is excited to have relocated to San Francisco to work to increase LightHouse’s name recognition, expand student participation and oversee a dynamic team creating high quality content to support all of LightHouse’s life-changing programs for people of all ages who are blind or have low vision.

 

Bryan Bashin, CEO of LightHouse for the Blind, is thrilled to have Ms. Kumutat join the management team.

“Lee has had such a strong background in blindness technology, tech training, journalism and production, making her a perfect fit for the Lighthouse’s 21-st Century mission. The fact she is blind adds that extra street cred to this world-class communications professional. I look forward to Lee’s role-modeling for the next generation of blind professionals.”

Ms. Kumutat said, “the LightHouse believes in developing partnerships and understanding between blind and visually impaired people and those who are sighted. As a blind person, I am passionate about being visible and fully participating within our communities. LightHouse makes that possible for thousands of people and I am excited to be taking up this challenging role.”

Holman Prize for Blind Ambition 2020-Applications open January 15

Two previous Holman Prize winners stand outside a transportation terminal
Holman Prize 2019 winners Alu and Mona stand together at the San Francisco Transbay Terminal

 

Are you blind or visually impaired? Will you be over the age of 18 on October 1, 2020? Creative and entrepreneurial, with ambitious, far-reaching dreams? Submissions for the Holman Prize, LightHouse for the Blind’s annual competition to win up to $25,000 for blind adventurers and creators to complete their most ambitious projects, are open January 15!

How to Apply to the Holman Prize? The initial application is a 90 second YouTube video describing the project, what the prize money would fund and a brief application form. Semifinalists will later be asked to provide in-depth written proposals. Later, finalists will be interviewed by LightHouse staff in order to select a winner. All the information you need, including terms and conditions, can be found here: https://holman.lighthouse-sf.org/

Now in its fourth year, the San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired’s Holman Prize for Blind Ambition is an international competition that is awarded annually to three blind individuals who wish to push their limits. It is named for James Holman, a nineteenth century blind explorer and author, who was the most prolific traveler before the era of modern transportation.

Past winners have completed feats like traversing the Bosporus Straight via solo kayak, hosting the first conference in Mexico for blind children and their families led by blind professionals, and creating an app to enable blind citizen scientists to participate in the search for exoplanets by listening to space. Our nine winners so far have come from five countries on four continents and have all found unique ways to forever change the world’s perception of blindness.

We all know ambitious blind people. Please spread the word about the Holman Prize to encourage your blind friends and associates to apply. Copy this announcement and send to your network and join our social media community for updates:

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram

A big idea, a quick application form and a 90 second pitch video are all you need to apply. For inspiration here is the YouTube Playlist of 2019 Holman Prize Finalists

Application information is available here: holmanprize.org/apply. If you have any questions, please contact us at holman@lighthouse-sf.org.

Applications close March 15 at 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

LightHouse Remembers Cathy Skivers (1925-2019)

LightHouse Remembers Cathy Skivers (1925-2019)

Dear LightHouse Family,

Last week we learned of the passing of Cathy Skivers, one of the longest-lived and most influential leaders in the California blindness community. I’ve known Cathy for more than 20 years, and in that time we developed a special respect and love for one another. I worked especially closely with her 18 years ago as she played a key part in assembling the Blind Alliance for Rehab Change, which eventually succeeded in passing SB105, creating a specialized division within the Department of Rehabilitation for the blind and deaf. Cathy followed with interest the growth and expansion of LightHouse, and even in her 90s attended the Braille Challenge here.

A photo of young Cathy Skivers
A photo of a young Cathy Skivers

In 2018 LightHouse awarded Cathy one of its highest honors, the Newel Perry Award. We simply couldn’t think of another Californian who had devoted fully 70 years in activism on behalf of the blind. Read the full text of the program accompanying the award, below.

I had the honor of speaking with Cathy just a few days before she passed. Cathy repeated the wish she often expressed to me, that she promised Dr. Perry at the end of his life that she would work to unify the factionalism in the California blindness community. She urged me and LightHouse to continue our work to be a place open and welcoming to all blind people of all ideologies and perspectives.  It’s a charge LightHouse will continue to champion as we inherit part of this great woman’s legacy.

Sincerely,

Bryan Bashin, CEO
LightHouse for the Blind

P.S. We are privileged to have in the archives an interview Cathy gave to several LightHouse employees about her longstanding relationship with California blindness leader Newel Perry. You can can download the interview here or listen to it below.

THE NEWEL PERRY AWARD

For nearly 60 years, Newel Perry originated, organized and led the blindness movement in California and beyond. Dr. Perry became blind as a child in rural northern California in the 1870s, was the first blind graduate of Berkeley High School in 1892, went on to academic distinction at UC Berkeley and eventually earned a doctorate in advanced mathematics in Germany. Nearly all of the pivotal blind legislation in the first half of the 20th century in California was the result of Perry and his followers who eventually established the California Council of the Blind in 1934.

In 2018, LightHouse’s awarded the Newel Perry Award to Cathy, one of the few living people who worked directly with Dr. Perry and continued his work for another 70 years. Cathy came to California from Missouri in 1948, in part after reading the articles of Dr. Perry as a young girl. Upon arriving, Dr. Perry helped her get her first job and then the two began a lifelong collaboration to help blind people gain the support they needed to succeed in life.

Over the next three generations, Cathy helped hundreds of blind Californians believe in themselves, find jobs and live independently. Her longtime advocacy eventually helped her get elected president of the California Council of the Blind, its first female president in 63 years. Cathy served on state and national boards throughout her life, and she counted as her second proudest achievement the passage of SB105, establishing a specialized division for the blind within the Department of Rehabilitation. Her proudest accomplishment, she said, were her five sons, who she raised as a single parent while working for the IRS. Cathy continued to be moved by the promise she made to Dr. Perry at the end of his life, to work to find a way to unite all blind organizations for greatest effectiveness.

 

Watch Holman Prizewinner Red Szell’s Documentary

Watch Holman Prizewinner Red Szell’s Documentary

In June 2019, Holman Prizewinner Red Szell successfully completed his extreme blind triathlon, which included a 10-mile off-road tandem bike ride, an open-water swim and a 213-foot climb up Am Buachaille, a vertical rock formation off the coast of Scotland. His journey is chronicled in the documentary short, Shared Vision, which was screened at the Banff Centre Mountain Film + Book Festival on November 2, 2019.

Watch the documentary, with audio description.

 

Adaptations Online Store Now Open

Adaptations Online Store Now Open

Just in time for holiday shopping, LightHouse for the Blind’s Adaptations Store is launching its new online store. Now you can shop 24/7 at www.adaptations.org and have our products sent directly to your door.

We are opening with a SALE!

Visitors save 10% at checkout when they use code LH10. In addition, now you can take 20% off the cost of TMAP orders on the site when you use code TMAP20 at checkout.

Discount codes are valid through December 20, 2019.

You can always contact Adaptations directly to talk with an expert for ordering and product guidance at 1-888-400-8933 or adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org. Our brick and mortar store in San Francisco is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and the second Saturday of each month from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Adaptations blindness technology store has been a brick and mortar operation since 1993. Nationwide demand for our popular items and unique line of LightHouse products has prompted us to go online.

LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired provides education, training, advocacy and community for blind individuals in California and around the world. Founded in 1902, the LightHouse is one of the largest and most established comprehensive blindness organizations in North America, with a wide variety of programs, as well as a rich network of blindness advocates and professionals.

To support the LightHouse click here.

Welcome to Windows 10

Welcome to Windows 10

Come join the LightHouse access tech team as we explore features and functions of Windows 10, yes Windows 10.

Do you have concerns, are you skeptical, do you wonder why you can’t stick with Windows 7 instead of learning a new operating system? The time has come to make the transition and we will help to allay your concerns and share our knowledge of the differences between Windows 7 and Windows 10. We will point out some of the new features of Windows 10, explore similarities and differences between the two operating systems and explain why the transition has become necessary.

You must be an enrolled LightHouse student to participate. To sign up for the class, contact Shen Kuan at 415-694-7312 or skuan@lighthouse-sf.org This class is free to participants through support from the City of San Francisco’s SF Connected program.

Tech Trainers Unite: LightHouse Hosts Blindness Technology Trainers Conference

Tech Trainers Unite: LightHouse Hosts Blindness Technology Trainers Conference

From October 22 through 24, LightHouse’s Access Technology department hosted their second annual Blindness Technology Trainers Conference. Trainers from blindness agencies and other organizations across California gathered to discuss strategies on training blind and low vision students on a variety of accessible technology needed for communication and day-to-day life, from smartphones, to screen readers, to magnification and more.

This year’s theme was Serving Students with Multiple Disabilities. Trainers discussed working with students who experience a range of access needs along with blindness. Topics included: working with students who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing, working with students who use alternative methods to input text because of motor or learning disabilities, and working with students who have traumatic or acquired brain injuries.

The conference included both group discussion and presentations. Kathy Abrahamson, LightHouse Director of Rehabilitation Services, and Accessibility Evangelist Lucy Greco, presented. The conference keynote on Access Technology and Brain Injury was delivered by three guests from the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Executive Director Sassy Outwater-Wright, Director of Rehabilitation Therapy Services Megan Briggs and Amy Ruell, Director of Adjustment Support Services. The keynote provided trainers with a variety of perspectives and experiences to consider when they returned to training their students.

Conference participant Matthew Morgan, who works at the Community Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Stockton, said of the group discussion at the conference, “The questions we posed to each other were great. They were hard and they were challenging.”

Erin Lauridsen, LightHouse Director of Access Technology, noted how powerful it is when blindness technology trainers come together to share ideas. She said, “Technology changes rapidly, and one instructor can’t know everything, but together as a group, the level of knowledge and expertise in the room was truly impressive.”

Erin Lauridsen and student
Erin Lauridsen, LightHouse Director of Access Technology, speaks during the conference.

Professional development opportunities like this conference help LightHouse’s knowledgeable Access Technology staff continue to provide students with high quality training that considers a student’s individual needs. For more information, visit our Accessible Technology webpage or contact skuan@lighthouse-sf.org.

This conference was made possible thanks to a generous grant from Ability Central.

During the month of November – enjoy a very special blind wine tasting at One Market

During the month of November – enjoy a very special blind wine tasting at One Market

Attention lovers of good wine and food. Throughout November, the celebrated San Francisco destination restaurant One Market is fundraising for LightHouse. For only $15.00 you can enjoy a blind wine tasting of three terrific wines, with all proceeds to benefit LightHouse for the Blind.

When: Throughout the month of November, 2019.
Where: One Market Restaurant, 1 Market Street, San Francisco, CA, 415.777.5577, onemarket.com.
Just let your server know you are interested in the Wine Tasting benefiting LightHouse for the Blind.

Image: Wine being poured into a wine glass, with the words: "Throughout November, blind tasting, 3 great wines only $15. All proceeds benefit LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. One Market Restaurant, San Francisco, 415.777.5577, onemarket.com. Top 10 American Restaurants in the U.S. --Gayot Guide."

Created by Chef Bradley Ogden and restaurateur, and Managing Partner, Michael Dellar in 1993, One Market Restaurant has become a standard for sophisticated dining in San Francisco. For the past 14 years One Market has offered the award-winning farm-to-table cuisine of Chef/Partner Mark Dommen. One Market also boasts one of the city’s most impressive wine lists curated by Sommelier and Wine Director Tonya Pitts.

Ed Wong Brings Career Advice and Bread to the LightHouse

Ed Wong Brings Career Advice and Bread to the LightHouse

LightHouse Employment Specialist Ed Wong explains that he “took the total San Francisco route” when it came to his education. Born in San Francisco, Ed went to City College of San Francisco and San Francisco State University where he received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.

Ed has a lot of experience working in job placement, but once worked a very different side of the field. During the late 1990s dot-com bubble, when investors poured money into a flurry of internet startups, Ed worked at a now-defunct website called HotJobs where people could search online for jobs. He worked with companies who wanted to place their job advertisements on the website.

Several years later, Ed became a job recruiter for the Human Resources Department of the City and County of San Francisco where he worked to fill positions at that agency. This is when Ed first heard about the LightHouse. One of Ed’s projects was to recruit people with disabilities to fill jobs. “LightHouse was the organization that gave me the most qualified candidates,” he beams.

Because of the work San Francisco’s Human Resources Department was doing with LightHouse, Ed began learning about the blindness community. Getting to know blind jobseekers with different work histories made him better at his job. “I learned to speak with different hiring managers about hiring people with disabilities,” he elaborates.

Ed recently joined the LightHouse team as an Employment Specialist and works with LightHouse students who are looking for jobs. Besides teaching the fundamentals of resume writing and job interviewing skills, Ed also serves as a career mentor. He understands that being unemployed is frustrating. “A lot of people identify their worth with employment and it’s detrimental when they aren’t employed,” he remarks. One thing Ed does is work with students on crafting their “elevator pitch”, that is, a 30-second summary of the work experience and skills they bring to a job. “When they get good at that pitch, they just exude confidence,” he declares. While Ed serves as a guide, each student must take an active role in their job search. “I’m here to help, but students also have to search for their own positions.”

Ed has been married nearly twenty years and has two teenage sons. “One of the challenges I have right now is helping them navigate high school,” he explains. Luckily, he and his sons have time to enjoy fun things like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and savory Chinese pancakes at House of Pancakes on Taraval in San Francisco.

Another thing Ed enjoys doing is feeding his coworkers. “My mother-in-law’s good friend works at a bakery. The owner invited me to take the bread that isn’t going to be sold.” So once a week, Ed brings freshly baked bread for his fellow LightHouse staff to enjoy.

Ed describes how his work with students at LightHouse has impacted him: “Once you place a person in a job and see where it takes them, it’s an overwhelming feeling of joy and fulfillment.”

Want to learn more about LightHouse’s employment programs? Visit our Employment Immersion Programs page, or contact Wanda Pearson at 415-694-7359 or eiteam@lighthouse-sf.org.