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LightHouse News

March 23rd is Diabetes Alert Day

Image of a cable car overlaid with floating black spots, simulating how diabetic retinopathy can obstruct vision
Image of a cable car overlaid with floating black spots, simulating how diabetic retinopathy can obstruct vision

March 23, 2010 is the 22nd annual  Diabetes Alert Day. According to LightHouse International, diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of legal blindness in the developed world. Today, some 24 million Americans are living with the disease.

Diabetes can lead to a host of life-threatening complications, such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure and vision loss. The American Diabetes Association recommends that individuals with diabetes have a comprehensive eye exam annually.

To see if you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, the American Diabetes Association offers a simple Diabetes Risk Test online (click here to take the Diabetes Risk Test).

LightHouse International also offers a short quiz to test your knowledge about diabetes and low vision today. (click here to take the Diabetes and Vision Loss quiz).

If you or someone you know are experiencing vision loss, call our information specialists at the LightHouse toll-free at 1-888-400-8933.

Click here to find out more about the services and training you can receive at the LightHouse in order to live more independently with vision loss.

Legally Blind Canadian Skier McKeever Wins Paralympic Cross Country Gold

VANCOUVER, March 15 (Reuters) – Brian McKeever won a gold medal at the Vancouver Paralympics on Monday, less than a month after the legally blind Canadian cross-country skier lost his bid to compete in the Olympics.

McKeever pulled into the lead midway through the 20km cross-country competition for visually-impaired athletes and held on to win Canada’s first gold of this year’s Winter Paralympics.

McKeever was set last month to become the first athlete to compete in both the Winter Olympics and Paralympics but a last-minute decision by Canadian coaches left him out of the 50km competition at the Vancouver Games.

The popular 30-year-old athlete from Canmore, Alberta suffers from Stargardt’s disease, which has left him with only 10 percent normal vision.

McKeever won a place on the Olympic team by winning a 50km race for able-bodied skiers in January. His brother Robin serves as his full-vision guide on the course during the Paralympic races.

(Reporting Allan Dowd, Editing Ed Osmond)

Click here to read  a related article in the New York Times.

LightHouse Names Bryan Bashin as New Executive Director/CEO

On April 1, the LightHouse will welcome new Executive Director/CEO, Bryan Bashin. Bashin’s extensive background in private and public executive leadership, consulting and community service make him an ideal fit for the helm of Northern California’s largest and most established agency serving the blind community. Bashin has been blind since his college days at UC Berkeley, and since then he has dedicated a substantial part of his career to advocating for equality, access, training and mentorship for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

“I believe in treating individuals as individuals, in meeting them where they begin their blindness journey and providing state-of-the-art services that best address their personalized needs,” Bashin said. “I’m honored to step into the chief leadership role at the LightHouse and look forward to continuing the work that I have been passionate about throughout my career – promoting equality and full community participation for people who are blind or visually impaired.”

Bashin joins the LightHouse with strong support from various sectors of the community the LightHouse touches. LightHouse donor, former Board Vice President and subject of the book Crashing Through: From Blindness to Sight, Mike May, says that under Bashin’s leadership, the LightHouse will not only be able to maintain its distinction as a leading service provider and advocate of the blind community, but also be “infused with innovation.”

“I got to know Bryan when I joined the Board of the Society for the Blind [in Sacramento, where Bryan served as Executive Director]. He did amazing things with the Society both in terms of building the organization [and] in terms of the attitudes and participatory techniques he implemented. He demonstrated skills as a strong manager of people and money,” said May.

Bashin brings to the LightHouse a unique blend of professional experiences that include Executive Editor for the Center for Science and Reporting, Assistant Regional Commissioner for the United States Department of Education – Rehabilitation Services, Expert Witness on rehabilitation and economic aspects of employment of the blind and Executive Director of Society for the Blind in Sacramento. At the Society, fundraising income grew by 300 percent over four years under Bashin’s leadership. Additionally, he spearheaded technological and access enhancements that bolstered programs and created employment opportunities for blind and visually impaired professionals. In joining the LightHouse team, Bashin follows in the footsteps of Anita Shafer Aaron who served as CEO for nearly 20 years. Bashin will continue Aaron’s strong programmatic focus and advocacy for the rights of persons who are blind or visually impaired.

Long-time consumer and LightHouse Board member Margie Donovan believes that Bashin will continue to strengthen the role of the LightHouse in serving the blind community in Northern California and beyond. “Bryan will be a welcomed leader, forging new pathways in services to LightHouse clients,” said Donovan.

Currently, the LightHouse serves thousands of individuals annually through a combination of vision rehabilitation, education, recreation and employment services. Further, our accessible web-site and on-line networks serve as a critical resource for blind and visually impaired individuals across the region and beyond. Our advocacy on behalf of individuals with vision loss in areas of employment, transportation, healthcare and technology has an immeasurable reach across the state, touching the lives of not just the blind community, but the community as a whole as we promote equality and accessibility. We welcome Bryan Bashin as he joins us in strengthening who we are today and helping us define the future of the LightHouse.

Berkeley Art Museum Offers Two for One Admission for LightHouse Community

Staff and LightHouse News subscribers of the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired are eligible for 2 for 1 admission to a career-spanning retrospective of the celebrated self-taught artist James Castle at the Berkeley Art Museum:

If you are not a subscriber, you can sign up to receive the LightHouse monthly email newsletter, LightHouse News. Click here to sign up for LightHouse News:

James Castle: A Retrospective (through April 25)
Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

Born profoundly deaf, James Castle (1899–1977) was a prodigious artist who, without formal training, created a remarkable and vast body of work over the course of his life in rural Idaho. His drawings, cardboard constructions, paintings, and, even books of drawn text became his chief means of communicating with the world. Despite the barrenness of Castle’s surroundings and the solitary quality of his life, his works lack any sense of loneliness, pain, or worry. On the contrary, making art for Castle was clearly an act of confident pleasure and curiosity, an act in which he immersed his full awareness. This retrospective is the first comprehensive museum exhibition of his drawings, books, and paper constructions. For more about the exhibition visit:

*Staff and Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired e-news subscribers should identify themselves as staff or e-news subscribers with the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired at the BAM/PFA admissions desk (2626 Bancroft Way) to obtain 2 for 1 admission through April 25. Continue reading Berkeley Art Museum Offers Two for One Admission for LightHouse Community

Adaptations Offers Special Discount at Video Magnifier Tech Seminar

We sat down with LightHouse assistant director of business services Sam Rodriquez to ask if there are going to be any special discounts during this Friday’s Technology Seminar. Here’s the scoop from Sam: “Adaptations is offering a special 15% discount on portable video magnifiers just on the day of the seminar. These magnifiers are such useful tools and we hope the discount will help put them into the hands of more people who can benefit from them.

Click here to view the full list of portable video magnifiers available at Adaptations.

If you are able to join us at the LightHouse for Friday’s Tech Seminar, be sure to check out Adaptations’ Clearance Table. The store is continually adding discontinued items to the table such as talking watches, magnifiers, sunglasses and more. Adaptations is open Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Beginning April 1st, the store will no longer be open on the third Saturday of each month).

Photo of Adaptations Store Manager Sam Rodriguez using the Ruby video magnifier
Photo of Adaptations Store Manager Sam Rodriguez using the Ruby video magnifier

Friends of Charlie Fundraiser a Resounding Success!

The 6th annual Friends of Charlie fundraiser for EHC at the Twin Peaks Tavern on Saturday, February 27th was a resounding success. Together we raised $14,000 for Enchanted Hills Camp! The LightHouse wishes to thank the Castro Lions, the Twin Peaks, the Mix, American Storage and all of the donors of silent auction and raffle items, as well as individual donors, Matthew Wright, Bob Golovich, LightHouse Board member Brad Bertetta and everyone else who gave in support of the event. Very special thanks goes to LightHouse Board member Leslie Murphy, for her leadership of and fundraising for the event, George Clark and Tom Moore for their ongoing support and to Larry Holmes’ for his work in making the raffle a success. Thank you to all who attended the event, including our dedicated LightHouse staff and Board members!

Friends of Charlie Photo: LightHouse Board member Leslie Murphy, LightHouse Interim Executive Director and EHC Director Tony Fletcher and Charlie Wilson
Friends of Charlie Photo: LightHouse Board member Leslie Murphy, LightHouse Interim Executive Director and EHC Director Tony Fletcher and Charlie Wilson
Photo: LightHouse Interim Executive Director and EHC Director Tony Fletcher lets Friends of Charlie supporter select the winning raffle ticket
Photo: LightHouse Interim Executive Director and EHC Director Tony Fletcher lets a Friends of Charlie supporter select the winning raffle ticket

Teaching the Brain to See

Mike May’s story was featured on Quest. Well, his brain was featured on Quest.  Check the link below.

Thanks to stem cells and other cutting-edge technologies, doctors hope they may one day be able to restore sight to people who were born without it, or lost it, later in life. But a rare case in the  SF Bay Area suggests that curing blindness may be more than meets the eye.  teaching the brain to see

LightHouse Tech Seminar: Video Magnifiers

March 5, 2010
1:00 – 3:00 PM (PST)

LightHouse for the Blind
214 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94102

Image of handwriting magnified by the Sapphire Portable Video Magnifier
Image of handwriting magnified by the Sapphire Portable Video Magnifier

Video magnifiers are ideal for low vision reading. With the touch of a button, you can enlarge words in a newspaper, bestseller, or grocery list. Text becomes crisp and bright and can appear in various colors!

Learn about the Pebble Hand Held, the Sapphire Portable, the Mano Portable, and the Graduate PC Based Portable and many more! Many of these video magnifiers are available at Adaptations, the LightHouse store, which will feature special day-of-event discounts.

To participate:
Listen live at

Listen via free tele-conference 877-228-2883, Guest  Code 0904

Come in person see the product demos!

Accommodations are available upon request.
RSVP and get details at 1-888-400-8933 or


Make your voices heard at next MUNI public meeting!

The next public hearing to discuss cuts to MUNI, especially for disabled riders, will be Friday, Feb. 26,  9 a.m. through 1 p.m. (ASL Interpreters will be provided) at San Francisco City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 400.

For more info, contact:
Jamie Osborne
Fixed Route Accessibility Coordinator
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

415.701.4439 | TTY 415.701.4730

Spotlight: LightHouse Braille Student Raymond Marcus

Image_DivinImage_LightHouse Braille instructor Divina Fontanilla teaches Raymond Marcus to use a slate and stylusa Fontanilla teaches Braille to Raymond Marcus
LightHouse Braille instructor Divina Fontanilla teaches Raymond Marcus to use a slate and stylus

When 48-year-old Raymond Marcus first came to the LightHouse, he had no interest in trying to learn Braille, even though he had once carefully studied the letters on a free Braille alphabet card someone had given him years ago.

Marcus has had problems with his vision all his life due to Retinitis Pigmentosa, which has left him with limited vision. He attended a vision loss rehabilitation class twelve years ago, but he says, “I was just going through the motions. I wasn’t really benefiting from it. At the time I had a lot of resentment towards my vision.”

But in October, 2008 he learned about the LightHouse and began attending our peer-led support group. “It really helped to hear other people’s stories.” This experience encouraged him to take advantage of other LightHouse services. He completed Orientation and Mobility Training and the Living With Vision Loss series. Then, social worker Linda Porelle gently suggested the possibility of learning Braille.

“It was too intimidating,” said Marcus, “I didn’t think I could do it.”

Marcus took the initial test anyway, and found to his surprise that he was better at it than he thought he would be.

He began weekly Braille classes with LightHouse Braille instructor Divina Fontanilla this January. Using a Perkins Brailler borrowed from the LightHouse, he started with simple tasks such as making labels and taking down phone numbers and addresses and moved on to basic reading.

He loves the result of his efforts. “I am amazed that I can read without worrying about having enough light. I can take my Braille with me on the bus, on Paratransit, anywhere,” said Marcus. “With Braille playing cards, I can even sit and play cards with my aunt and cousin.” He is also using a Braille calendar, and writing by hand with a slate and stylus.

Now, just five classes letter, Marcus is pages away from completing the course in Grade One Braille. About to move on to learning the more challenging Grade Two Braille he says, “I’m kind of intimidated to memorize more letters and all the combinations of syllables. But all I can do is try and see what happens.

“My experience at the LightHouse has been a series of new beginnings. One class would end and something new would begin. I never know what the next thing will be, and it’s still continuing today.”