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LightHouse’s Kathy Abrahamson Honored with Deaf-Blind Advocacy Award

LightHouse’s Kathy Abrahamson Honored with Deaf-Blind Advocacy Award

The Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults (HKNC) is the only national rehabilitation center of its kind, educating those with a combination of vision and hearing impairments in its residential program in Sands Point, New York. The HKNC has produced some of our nations most successful and noteworthy deaf-blind advocates, one of which was Robert Smithdas. In addition to being a long-time advocate at HKNC, Smithdas was also the first deaf-blind individual to receive a masters’ degree, with a legacy that stretched from the middle of the 20th century all the way to his retirement in 2009. With Smithdas’ passing in 2014, the HKNC established the Robert J. Smithdas award, given every year to a select few deaf-blind educators and advocates who have demonstrated a long track record of service to the community.

We’re proud to announce that this year one of the two award recipients is our Director of Rehabilitation, Kathy Abrahamson.

A representative from HKNC came to the LightHouse at the end of July to personally present Kathy with the award. Kathy shares this honor with Ingrid Halvorsen, a longtime deaf-blind educator in Illinois. “Dr. Robert J. Smithdas was reknowned for his tireless advocacy and leadership influencing the development of services for individuals who are deaf-blind,” said Sue Ruzenski, HKNC’s Executive Director, “Both Kathy and Ingrid embody Dr. Smithdas passion for empowering the deaf-blind community.”

Direct from the Helen Keller National Center:

Kathy Abrahamson is the Director of Rehabilitation at the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco, California.  The LightHouse has a long history of providing services to the deaf-blind community beginning in the 1950’s with the establishment of Enchanted Hills Camp, and the formation of a deaf-blind social and recreational club in the early 70’s. Kathy has continued this tradition, and has been a strong champion of deaf- blind services since she began at the LightHouse in 1986. She exemplifies the true spirit of the HKNC Affiliate Program by always maintaining a deaf-blind specialist at the LightHouse since 1992.  Her leadership with the California National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program has afforded a unique collaboration with HKNC, and has brought technology to over 300 deaf-blind Californians the past three years. “She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty in the kitchen every year, slinging turkey and dressing at the annual deaf-blind holiday party, and she may be our biggest ally in trying to establish additional deaf-blind services on this coast, from statewide Support Service Provider (SSP) services to residential training,” said Cathy Kirscher, HKNC’s regional representative for California.  “She is a very deserving individual whose presence and advocacy, along with her fantastic team at the Lighthouse, continues to benefit deaf-blind individuals on a daily basis.”

Without a doubt, Kathy is one of our most valuable assets here at the LightHouse, and it gives us great pleasure and pride to see her recognized on a national level. Congrats, Kathy!



Department of Rehabilitation and You

Department of Rehabilitation and You

The California Transition Council for Blind Youth is hosting a teleconference about DOR services and support available for students as they transition from high school into college, work and independence.

What:        Informational Teleconference

When:       March 17, 2015 and May 19, 2015

Time:         4:00 PM to 5:00 PM

Join the Department of Rehabilitation’s Blind Services and community vendors on Tuesday afternoons, March 17, 2015 and May 19, 2015 for a one-hour teleconference to learn about how to help with rehab with DOR services, how DOR works and the process to apply.  Additionally, there will be a variety of agency staff from throughout California who work with blind and low vision youth and young adults on the call identifying available resources such as summer work experiences, career awareness opportunities, independent living skills courses and much more.

This one hour call is specifically geared toward blind and low vision high school and college students, family members, teachers and advocates.

Call in information is:



To reserve your spot, please, please contact Cathleen Coombs at .



Student Grant for Technology

The San Francisco chapter of the California Council of the Blind (CCB) is now taking applications for their $2,500 student education access grant.


Who: A legally blind student ages 8-18 who lives in the following counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, or Sonoma.

What: The San Francisco Chapter of CCB will give a grant in the form of technology products worth up to $2,500 to an applicant who meets the criteria listed above and can best demonstrate the need for accessible equipment to enhance their educational opportunities.

Submit completed application and essay to:

Charlie Dorris

by March 31, 2015

To request an application and instruction form or for further details, contact:

Charlie Dorris:            415-775-0487 (or)

Ellie Lee:                     415-378-6079

Higher Education Funding for Blind/Low Vision Students

There is valuable funding out there for college (or college-bound) blind and low vision students.The trick is knowing about it.  Take a minute to read up on these education funding options and share them with anyone who may be interested and qualified. Spread the word to our community so more students can take advantage of these worthwhile opportunities. After all, more funding equals more access to education.

  • Federal Student Aid, an office of the US Department of Education, publishes helpful audio highlights about applying for Federal Student Aid. These audio highlights also provide information on nonfederal sources of aid. Federal Student Aid publications are also available in Braille. Visit this site for more detailed information and a list of braille publications.
  • Learning Ally, a provider of digital audio textbooks for students who are blind, low vision, or learning disabled, recognizes 15 high school and college graduates each year through their National Achievement Awards program. Click here to learn more about the scholarship awards.

Do you know of other higher education resources, scholarships, or grants available to blind students? Please email them to so we can spread the word.

And don’t forget these two education opportunities for lower and high school students:

California Youth Leadership Forum

Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship

Apply for the DOR’s Youth Leadership Forum 2015

Apply for the DOR’s Youth Leadership Forum 2015

Are you a high school junior or senior with a disability? Apply to attend the DOR’s Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) in summer 2015.

Students posing at YLF
(c) California YLF

YLF is a fun, five day career and leadership training program for students with disabilities. Accepted students get to stay in a college dorm, meet other high school kids with disabilities, and learn from adults with disabilities who are leading exciting lives. Previous attendees swear it is a life-changing experience that leads to lasting friendships and more independence. The program features information, speakers, activities, and resources relating to employment, education, independence and adaptive technology.

YLF will be held July 27-31, 2015 in Sacramento. Students will stay on campus at California State University, Sacramento.

Applications are now available and are due February 27, 2015. Please help us spread the word about this exciting opportunity.

Image: 3 students posing at YLF.

First Online International Deaf-Blind Conference

On January 24th and 25th, 2015, the global DeafBlind community will come together for two days of learning and networking in the world’s first-ever online international conference for the DeafBlind. No transportation, special technology, or webcam required — anyone can access this exciting event with a high-speed internet connection. In addition to spoken English and American Sign Language, the conference will be automatically captioned and subtitled into 78 languages for sighted people and translated into synthesized voice in 35 languages for people who are blind or low vision.

The conference is supported by Translate Your World (, makers of easy-to-use speech translation software that generates text and voice directly from a speaker’s words.  This software enables hearing people to communicate with people who are deaf or blind simply by going to a webpage.

The line-up of speakers and presenters includes many stars from the DeafBlind community. Teachers, counselors, medical professionals, diversity specialists, support service providers, corporate communication leaders, sign language interpreters, governmental representatives, plus family and members of the Deaf, Blind, and DeafBlind communities are encouraged to attend.

To see the speaker line up, register, and learn more about the technology, go to:


Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship Support Student’s Interests and Passions

Part of the annual CTEBVI (California Transcribers and Educators for the Blind and Visually Impaired) conference, The Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship is now accepting applications.

This scholarship awards a total of $1,000 to one or more California-based blind/low vision students grades K-12. It isn’t just about earning money for tuition, books or college–the scholarship is about cultivating self-discovery and supporting unique interests and passions. Last year’s winner 10-year-old Heaven Vallejos used the money to train, run, and finish her first 5K race.

[image: Heaven Vallejos runs her first 5K with the help of friends]

Heaven Vallejos runs her first 5K

Visit this site for more information and to download the application. Applications are due February 27, 2015.

Tips for applying: Be creative! Previous winners have used the funds for lessons for music, cooking, and sports, or to help investigate specific areas of their academic careers.






MTC Sponsors an Internship Program for College Students Attending a 4-Year School

MTC sponsors an internship program for college students attending a 4-year school. We have one position in our Finance department that we are recruiting for, we also have a list of online schools that give free laptops to their students from to help all of those who don’t have the resources.

STARTING JANUARY 11th, Resumes will be reviewed every Friday after 12:00 noon, Pacific Standard Time.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is hiring part-time college interns for a one-year assignment. These Internships are for aspiring professionals looking for an opportunity to gain professional work experience and training in an array of finance and accounting fields. To be considered you must be able to work onsite in our Oakland office, must attach a copy of your most current unofficial transcripts. Students will be working with MTC’s Finance Section. These positions are part-time, with a maximum of 1,000 hours per year.

MTC has not yet declared if it will offer additional college internship positions this year. The best thing to do is go to the MTC Employment Opportunities page ( and submit a Job Interest Card (select the Internship category). If we do have the College Internship program this year, you will be notified via email that the program is open and accepting applications.


New! SF LightHouse Youth Advocacy Support Group

The mission of the SF LightHouse Youth Advocacy Group is to arm youth and their parents with the tools and resources needed to become more informed, prepared, engaged, and confident in all aspects of scholastic and social life.

This group is designed specifically for parents, middle school students, high school students, and college students (both undergraduate and post-graduate). The SF Youth Advocacy Group will leverage the positive attitudes, philosophy and beliefs of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) as it relates to the abilities of the blind student, and the supportive role it has with parents. The SF Youth Advocacy Group is a proactive collaboration between the NFB San Francisco Chapter and SF LightHouse in order to offer a wide array of community-building and strengthening opportunities for blind and low vision youth and their families.

Some of the topics the advocacy group will cover include:

  • College Life: life on the university and community college campus
  • Rehabilitation: how to work with your counselor to get to your goals
  • IEP 101(for students only): All you need to know about Individual Educational Programs (IEPs). An IEP is a blueprint for a student’s academic goals or educational path.
  • Advocating for your child: tips, tricks and resources for parents of blind children
  • Self-Advocacy: growing up and fitting in at middle school and high school (focus on developing age-appropriate habits and expectations for one’s self)
  • Cane/guide dogs: pros and cons between these two methods of independent travel.
  • Getting and staying active: how to get involved in sports and other physical and/or outdoor activities
  • Community Service/Civic Engagement: how to become more involved in your community through volunteerism and activism

The LH Youth Advocacy Group will meet every 2nd Saturday of the month from 12 to 1:00 p.m. at the SF LightHouse, beginning on December 8, 2012.

To RSVP, please contact Darian Smith at or John Liang, Director of Community Services at

About The Facilitator

San Francisco resident Darian Smith is a former LightHouse client via Enchanted Hills Camp and other LightHouse-related youth recreation/education and employment programs. A community and campus organizer, Darian has held many leadership positions at City College of San Francisco. He is also an active member of the National Federation of the Blind where he currently serves as president of the San Francisco Chapter. A service-oriented person, Darian has served as a camp counselor, mentor, and member of AmeriCorps. Darian is a fervent believer that youth and students who are blind or visually impaired can achieve whatever personal, professional, academic or social goals they set for themselves, and he encourages everyone to set their sights high. When asked to talk about his hopes for the group, Darian said “I want to help answer questions that students have long sought answers for, but did not know where to get those answers. Through finding answers within the group and in the community, I hope we can strengthen ourselves and our belief in what’s possible”.

Employment Opportunity: Librarian (Digital Reference) (Vacancy #: 120125)

NLS Operations Alert

No. 12-89

DATE         :November 16, 2012

TO                :Network Libraries

FROM         :Stephen Prine, Acting Head, Reference Section

SUBJECT   :NLS vacancy announcement

NLS has posted the following vacancy announcement for a Digital Reference Librarian position:

Librarian (Digital Reference Librarian) (Vacancy #: 120125)
GS-1410-09 — Library Services (National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Partnerships and Outreach Programs) — $51,630.00–$67,114.00
Opening Date: November 6, 2012
Closing Date: December 6, 2012

Details of the position and the application process are at USA Jobs at the following URL:

For more information contact:

Stephen Prine

Acting Head, Reference Section