Tag Archive

21st Century LightHouse

The LightHouse Community to Join the 47th Annual PRIDE Parade

The LightHouse Community to Join the 47th Annual PRIDE Parade

We’re excited to announce that LightHouse will march in the 47th annual San Francisco Pride parade on June 24th and 25th! On February 18th, we invite you to join us at the LightHouse headquarters at 6:00 p.m. to participate in a community led effort, get to know each other, share dinner together and discuss how we want to be represented in the parade, and the events leading up to Pride.

The San Francisco Pride Celebration and Parade is the largest gathering of the LGBT community and allies in the nation. The mission of the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride Celebration Committee is to educate the world, commemorate LGBT heritage, celebrate LGBT culture, and liberate LGBT people.

The LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired is proud to support this mission and invites our LGBT community members, their families and allies to join the LightHouse and participate in this year’s Pride parade and events leading up to the parade!

We need your participation, but first we need your voice!  Please tell us how YOU would like to participate by filling out the 3 question survey in the “Community Pulse Check” below and attending the kick off dinner to share your ideas.

Please email Laura Millar at info@lighthouse-sf.org or call 415-431-1481 to RSVP for the kickoff and planning dinner, February 18 at LightHouse.

Community Pulse Check

Welcome to our first community pulse check!  The community pulse check is a short poll that will help us better understand the community we serve at the LightHouse and to hear your voice. Fill out the survey below or visit the external link to submit your input!

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LightHouse Announces the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition

LightHouse Announces the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition

“The Holman Prize is not meant to save the world or congratulate someone for leaving the house. This prize will spark unanticipated accomplishments in the blindness community. You will see blind people doing things that surprise and perhaps even confuse you. These new LightHouse prizes will change perceptions about what blind people are capable of doing.”

— Bryan Bashin, CEO at LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Meet The Holman Prize for Blind Ambition – LightHouse’s new initiative to support the ambitions of blind and low vision people worldwide. Beginning in 2017, The Holman Prize will announce an annual set of awards funding projects in a range of amounts – up to $25,000 per project – that will finance and support blind adventurers worldwide in pursuing their most ambitious projects.

Chronicled in a 2006 novel by Jason Roberts, the explorer James Holman became the first blind person to circumnavigate the globe in 1832. In his spirit, The Holman Prize celebrates people who want to shape their own future instead of having it laid out for them.

The Holman Prize is specifically for legally blind individuals with a penchant for exploration of all types. LightHouse’s initial 2017 prizes will provide financial backing for a as many as three individuals to explore the world and push their limits through travel, connections, construction and communication. 

The ideal candidate is someone who is willing to probe their environment and eager to savor the richness of a world that is so often thought of as inaccessible to the blind. This exploration may involve travel, community organizing, scholarship, daring art or projects we haven’t even considered. We’re looking for intrepid travelers, creative problem solvers, effective communicators, natural ambassadors, passionate advocates, joyful builders, active boundary-pushers and experience seekers.

In January 2017, The Holman Prize application process kicks off with a challenge: blind applicants must submit a first-round pitch in the form of a 90-second YouTube video. The deadline for these phase one applications is February 28, 2017 at 12 noon PST. All pitch videos will be compiled into the LightHouse Media playlist below. As an extra incentive, the blind applicant who creates the most popular YouTube video, will secure themselves a spot as a coveted spot as a Holman Prize finalist, to be interviewed this spring by our esteemed committee. Learn more about the submissions process here, and watch our intro video below:

“We recognize that asking a blind person to upload a video may challenge some people’s ideas of what blind people are capable of — of what blind people can or should do,“ says LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin, “The video uploading and later public speaking will certainly require creativity, and these are the qualities we seek to encourage with the Holman Prize. These are the types of people we want to apply.” 

Semifinalists will be notified in March and go through a formal application process, after which finalists will be notified and a winner will be selected by a committee of leaders, thinkers and explorers from throughout the blind world. We expect the Holman Prizewinners to start their projects in Fall 2017 and they will be recognized at the Holman Prize Gala in 2018.

Follow the Holman Prize on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Visit holmanprize.org for more information on how to Buy Instagram followers.

Know Someone With Changing Vision? Our Next Immersion Training Sessions are Coming Up

Know Someone With Changing Vision? Our Next Immersion Training Sessions are Coming Up

Photo: Class Picture of the September CVCL Immersion Training Session 2 Class

Fall is a time for harvest and abundance. Over the past four years, 250 students have harvested their skills and received an abundance of support, opportunities to connect and a rich introduction to skills ranging from accessing print, learning about technology to organizing their households and traveling independently.

Holli Clark of Santa Cruz County has participated in both sessions and had this to say about her experience:

“Just a note to share my big thanks for the wonderful Immersion experience! One of my big reasons for wanting to go for Immersion training was because I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. I figured there were better ways of doing things than I had made up over the years. I was certainly correct in that, and am delighted to be learning many new skills. This translates to being more productive, efficient, confident, independent and safer. [The] week was packed with immeasurable value. I learned so much from each trainer and really appreciated your focus on scheduling us according to individual needs…Your staff are both exceptional trainers in their fields as well as wonderful, caring people.”

Sydney and Holli

Photo: Cooking Instructor Sydney Ferrario and CVCL student Holli Clark stand together in the Betty Ruhland Teaching Kitchen at the LightHouse

 We’re offering one last CVCL session before year’s end, and another in February. Details on both follow:

December Changing Vision Changing Life (CVCL) Immersion Training Session 2
This session is facilitated from the new LightHouse Building in the heart of San Francisco.  The focus of this week’s training is “boots hit the ground in training”. Students participating in this week must have already received basic skills training in orientation and mobility, access technology or independent living and must be committed to focusing intently in all three of these skill areas in a small group and individual learning environment. (Please note: students do not need to have attended a previous CVCL session to attend CVCL 2 in San Francisco.)

This five day session is designed for students who are committed to full days of instruction, homework and practice in the evening and will take full advantage of the professional training time, mentoring and peer support and self-study that will be available.

Students will participate in a minimum of three of the following areas:

  1. Access Technology, including:
  • Computer training (Mac or PC) – using the software you are currently learning
  • Smart Phone Training – Apple or Android
  • Tablet Training – Apple or Android
  1. Orientation and Mobility Training 1:1
  2. Introduction to Braille
  3. Smart Cooking for Independence
  4. Low Vision Training – Using your Tools to Your Benefit
  5. Independent living skills

When: CVCL 2 will run from Monday, December 5th (arrival at 9:30 a.m. – training starts at 10:00 a.m.) through Friday, December 9 (leave at 11:00 a.m.)

Where: The session will be held in our headquarters building at 1155 Market St., 10th Floor in San Francisco. Participants will stay overnight throughout the week in our Student Residences.

Cost: There is a $1,300 fee for this training but you may qualify for partial or full scholarship if you are not already working with the Department of Rehabilitation or the Veterans Administration. It is highly recommended that all students have a solution for taking notes, such as the Victor Reader Stream (training will be provided in how to use this recording device)


February Changing Vision Changing Life Immersion Training Session 1
This session is held at Enchanted Hills Retreat in Napa and is specifically geared for students new to blindness and low vision. For five days, up to 14 adult students have the opportunity to develop basic skills in a range of areas – access technology; orientation and mobility; organization and labeling; magnification and lighting; cooking; braille and community, state and national resources.

The week is full, active, emotional and supportive and students are given the opportunity to meet others, to harvest their own skills and determine the direction of the quality of their lives. There are three scholarship openings for persons 55 and better living in Humboldt, Del Norte, San Francisco, Marin or Alameda County who are not consumers of the Department of Rehabilitation or the VA. For those who are consumers of the Department of Rehabilitation, we encourage you to discuss this opportunity with your counselor.

When: CVCL I will run from February 6th – 10th.

Where: The session will be held in at Enchanted Hills Retreat in Napa. Participants will stay overnight throughout the week in our lakeside lodgings. Transportation is available from San Francisco, Berkeley and Marin County.

Cost: There is a $1,300 fee for this training but you may qualify for partial or full scholarship if you are not already working with the Department of Rehabilitation or the Veterans Administration.


For More Information, to Register for Session 1 or Session 2, or if you have questions, please contact Debbie Bacon at dbacon@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7357 in San Francisco; Jeff Carlson at jcarlson@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-258-8496 in Marin County or Janet Pomerantz at jpomerantz@lighthouse-sf.org or 707-268-5646 in Humboldt County.


LightHouse Expands to Support East Bay

LightHouse Expands to Support East Bay

Photo: The front of the Ed Roberts Campus.

With the imminent closure of the Lions Center in Oakland, the LightHouse has stepped up to bring services to those who are blind or have low vision in the East Bay. To do this we’ll be expanding the services we offer at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley. We sent out a press release earlier in the month and have received the attention of major bay area outlets such as KCBS and the East Bay Times.

Listen to Holly Quan’s report which aired on KCBS on August 29, 2016.

Read the article in the East Bay Times.

Thank You to Our Community Partners

Thank You to Our Community Partners

Photo: Student and volunteer Dennis O’Hanlon tells the story of how the LightHouse assisted him in his journey back to work during the LightHouse Grand Opening Donor Event.

The LightHouse wishes to thank its devoted friends and community partners who have recently shown their support by providing significant funds to help our programs go further and reach higher:

Delong-Sweet Family Foundation – for Enchanted Hills Camp
Disability Communications Fund – for Technology Training
Robert Foster – for Enchanted Hills Camp
Patricia Heim and Sergius Lashutka – for Enchanted Hills Camp
Jerry Kuns and Theresa Postello – for Enchanted Hills Camp
Marco A. Vidal Fund – for general operating support – LightHouse of Marin
Jane and Robert Micks – for general operating support – LightHouse North Coast
Mutual of America – for the Campaign for a 21st Century LightHouse
Susan O’Sullivan – for the Campaign for a 21st Century LightHouse
The Palisades Educational Foundation – for general operating support
Fred Ruhland – for the Campaign for a 21st Century LightHouse
Frederic and Kristine Silva – for the Campaign for a 21st Century LightHouse
Todd Stevenot and Anne Sandbach – for the Campaign for a 21st Century LightHouse
Telecare Corporation – for Superfest International Disability Film Festival
Wells Fargo – for sponsorship for our Grand Opening Celebration and for Employment Immersion
Workday Foundation – for Enchanted Hills Camp

What a Celebration! LightHouse Grand Opening and “Blind and Proud” Parade Highlights a Momentous Moment in LightHouse’s 114 Year History. Thank you to Everyone Who Participated, including our Fantastic Volunteers.

What a Celebration! LightHouse Grand Opening and “Blind and Proud” Parade Highlights a Momentous Moment in LightHouse’s 114 Year History. Thank you to Everyone Who Participated, including our Fantastic Volunteers.

We came, we marched, and we conquered the streets!

The San Francisco police estimated that more than 1,000 marchers, blind and sighted, took over Civic Center for the most boisterous Blind and Proud parade ever. In addition to our own community, dozens of volunteers from area tech companies and organizations helped with the important logistics that a major event like our Grand Opening celebration requires.

Thanks so very much to all of the wonderful LightHouse volunteers who gave their time to help us get ready for our Grand Opening parade and celebration, marched with us, offered sighted assistance during the parade or assisted us with our packed open house. Your participation made our Grand Opening Celebration a fantastic, best-ever event and we THANK YOU.

ribbon cutting ceremony

Photo: LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin cuts an orange ribbon in front of 1155 Market Street, officially inaugurating the new LightHouse building. Photo credit: Chelsea Dier

The outpouring of volunteering was followed almost immediately by the launch of our new Volunteer Program where 45 new volunteers attended the first Orientation at our new headquarters building. Thank you to all who were able to make it. And for those who are eager to volunteer for the LightHouse but couldn’t join us, be assured that the fun and opportunity to serve our community will continue.

Here’s what we have coming up:

Volunteer in our Adult and Senior Program:
We always need more volunteers to work with our Adult and Senior programs on weekdays. Every Monday, Wednesday and the third and fourth Friday of each month, we invite you to help us setup for the gathering and, upon request, serve as sighted guides for new students in our large new headquarters or accompany students who wish to explore the sprawling farmer’s market just across the street.

Become a Personal Services Volunteer:
Link up with a student who has requested assistance with grocery shopping, reading mail, or needs a sighted guide around the neighborhood. You work with your match to decide when and where you will work together.

Our next Volunteer Orientation is Saturday, July 9th and we’d love to see you there.

Please contact Justine Harris-Richburgh, our Volunteer Engagement Specialist, at volunteer@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7320 to RSVP or get more information about the Orientation or any aspect of our Volunteer Program. A completed volunteer registration is required and can be found on the volunteer page of our website where you can sign up to stay in the know of upcoming volunteer opportunities.

Contribute to LightHouse’s Campaign for a 21st Century LightHouse

Contribute to LightHouse’s Campaign for a 21st Century LightHouse

Program and Naming Opportunities at the New LightHouse
We are more than grateful to the generous donors who have made substantial commitments to fund our new building. Some naming opportunities are still available.

Here is our current list of named rooms:
Betty Ruhland Teaching Kitchen
Bill Gerrey, WA6NPC Amateur Radio Station
Dove’s Nest Craft Studio
Harold S. Dobbs Board Conference Room
Herbst 10th Floor Reception and Community Learning Center
Joseph K. Chan Low Vision Clinic
Kebbel Family Tech Labs #1, #2, #3
Mutual of America Staff Lounge
Polara Video Conference Center
Susan O’Sullivan Room in memory of Audrey Baker
US Bank Finance Suite
Winifred Downing Braille Room

Why have we built a new LightHouse? Newly-blind neighbors and experienced blind residents will welcome what will surely be the most advanced blindness center in the West. Under one roof we’ve gathered advanced tools, built respectful and private spaces for learning, conversation and mentorship, and crowned the effort with the capacity to host students, family members and researchers for overnight stays when an immersive and intensive learning experience is optimal.

Twenty people become blind each week in the Greater Bay Area. Each year, a thousand Bay Area neighbors enter their blindness journey tentative, afraid and with a deep need to learn techniques and gain the self-confidence to live life to the fullest. This is our mission; and with your support, we will build a new headquarters to serve blind kids, teens, adults and seniors for the next century of innovative practices impacting the blind community globally.

Contributions to the Campaign for a 21st Century LightHouse will provide tangible benefits for the blind kids to seniors that benefit from the joy and learning of the LightHouse for the next century. To learn more about the campaign, for naming opportunities or how a deferred gift can be used to leave an enduring legacy in you or a loved one’s honor, contact 415-694-7333 or jsachs@lighthouse-sf.org.

New LightHouse Board President Chris Downey – Imagining the Future of Blindness

Chris Downey and Hans Bogdanos on the Golden Gate Bridge during his 2011 Blind Cycle Challenge for the LightHouseAt the beginning of January we warmly welcomed LightHouse board member Chris Downey as he stepped up to begin a term as LightHouse Board president. Chris’s background and skills could not be more synergistic with the year ahead as we complete the design and construction of our new San Francisco headquarters. An architect with more than 20 years’ experience in the field, Chris became fully blind in 2008. Chris went on to use his experiences to consult on building design for the blind and visually impaired. Recent projects include a new Department of Veterans Affairs blind rehabilitation center, a remodeler job to the housing for the blind in New York City, and the new Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco. As one of the few practicing blind architects in the world, Chris has been featured in local, national and international media stories and speaks regularly about architecture and blindness. He also teaches accessibility and universal design at UC Berkeley. LightHouse sat down to chat about his journey with blindness and our strong connection.

LightHouse (LH): “Your situation is a little unusual in that you went from full vision to no vision. How has that played out for you?”

Chris: “It is unusual. I had a benign brain tumor in the optic nerve area. I underwent surgery to have the tumor removed. When I woke up from the procedure, I was completely blind. Most people experience diminishing vision over time, so they have time to adjust. I had to learn how to do everything differently very quickly”

LH: “How did you first connect with the LightHouse?”

Chris: “A hospital social worker connected me to the LightHouse. It’s funny, I had a visual memory of the San Francisco building with the braille façade, and so as an architect, I already had a connection with the building. I started by learning O&M skills and braille through the East Bay office.

Many people take six months to a year to go to intensive blind skills-learning programs. I was 45-years-old, in my mid-career years. I had a family, a young son. It was not an option for me to drop out of my life for that long. I was fortunate to be able to go to Enchanted Hills Camp in Napa and participate in an intensive week-long learning session. Connecting with highly productive blind people in this kind of learning environment is very effective. Had there been a San Francisco location with a short, live-in immersive program, that would have been even more ideal. The new LightHouse headquarters will allow us to offer that experience in San Francisco.”

LH: “How did you come to join the LightHouse Board?”

Chris: “Through cycling! I had been an avid cyclist before the surgery. Within 4 months after, I started riding tandem with some of my old cycling buddies. I was cycling again before I could walk the streets. I had been active at my son’s school in Piedmont. Some of the dads from the school got together and bought me a tandem bike from a local bike shop in Piedmont. Well, it so happened that then-LightHouse Executive Director Anita Aaron stopped into the same shop that week to buy a tandem bike as well. The shop owner told her that he had just sold a tandem bike to another blind person. I had returned to work as soon as I could after the surgery and was learning how to do architecture without sight, and had started consulting. Anita was aware of my work as a blind architect and she got the conversation about joining the board started. I joined in 2010.”

LH: “How have things evolved at the LightHouse since then?”

Chris: “Bryan Bashin came on as CEO soon after I joined. The first big change that Bryan made was at Enchanted Hills Camp. We had been contracting out the operations of the camp. Bryan brought the camp management in-house. He hired more blind counselors and blind leadership, and added more camp sessions and types of sessions, including expanding intensive, immersive learning programs. Even at that time, there was a desire bring this immersive programing to San Francisco, but we were limited by our small space. The question of how we could offer week-long sessions in San Francisco arose. The answer was that we had to increase our space. We realized we needed to buy a new property. Things came together beautifully – we had the phenomenal luck of finding a building that was central and that already housed organizations whose work was in line with ours (including the Mayor’s Office on Disability).”

LH: “Can you talk about your personal journey learning to live as a blind person?”

Chris: “I had been an architect for 20 years, and had two university degrees in architecture. I knew I wanted to continue working, but I could not find any blind architects to help me figure it out. There are no self-help books. I went back to my old office. They were incredibly optimistic that I could do it and wanted to help me figure it out. Scott Blanks (now LightHouse’s Senior Director of Programs) had been a mentor of mine and taught me blind tech skills early on. He started coming to the office to train me. Scott is so functional, the office staff insisted that Scott was not blind. Scott raised the expectation at my workplace as to what I could do. They expected that I would be as seamless as Scott. I started to get excited about what I could do.

I was trained to really focus on the environment as an architect, visually, of course. But now I started to focus on the environment through a multi-modality sensory experience – sound, airflow and tactile elements gave me a whole new palette to design with. I got really excited and started to work in a whole new way. Now, I say, if you’re going to lose your sight, get into architecture. You will learn to value other ways of doing things, and free your creativity and problem solve in new ways.” (Check out Chris’ TED Talk on designing for the blind.)

LH: “What’s your vision for your role as LightHouse Board president?”

Chris: “First, I am focused on making the new space our home, as well as taking our new program ideas and making them into a living form, which is exciting and a lot of work. Working as a consultant with the incredibly creative Mark Cavagnero Associates Architects has been amazing. In the process of designing a space for the blind, questions have been asked that have never been asked before. My role is to help nurture the creative process between blind LightHouse staff and volunteers and the architects.

Though the space will be exceptionally advanced, a lot of what is great won’t be noticed. For example, people with low vision can navigate much easier in high contrast, well-lit environments. We worked together to design a space that looks normal, but uses contrast and specialized lighting. Acoustics is another area that is innovative in our new space. Acoustic design is typically not much more than reducing outside noise or separating mechanical spaces to reduce noise. For people who are blind, sound can be used for wayfinding, so we looked at whether there were opportunities to use sound to facilitate navigation. We have worked with our acoustic designers to create a sound environment that helps guide people through the space, so sound does not overwhelm, but instead assists. We are doing more than functional design however. We are asking, how can we make the space delightful to someone without sight? The grip of hand rail, what you feel when you touch the reception desk are things we have considered that are not typically thought about in architecture.

Secondly, we have been incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity of our recent bequest.” (Learn about the LightHouse bequest.) “We are ready to dive into our next strategic plan in 2016. It is the dawn of new day, and it is thrilling to plan for a very exciting future for the LightHouse.”



Tours are hosted by our Information Concierge Esmeralda Soto by appointment. Email esoto@lighthouse-sf.org to schedule an individual or group appointment.


In 2016, the LightHouse completed the move from its old location at 214 Van Ness Ave., where it was situated for more than two decades, to a new, state-of-the-art headquarters at 1155 Market Street in the heart of downtown San Francisco.

A rare example worldwide of physical space designed by and for blind individuals, with the leadership of world-renowned architect Mark Cavagnero and blind architect Chris Downey, the New LightHouse is not only a blindness center fit for the 21st Century, but has dozens of subtle but meaningful features which may not be obvious to those unfamiliar with universal design. Held together by an elegant three-story staircase which serves as the top-floor office’s centerpiece, the New LightHouse also includes short-term residential facilities, a large teaching kitchen, a HAM radio room, technology centers, studios and computer labs, among many other technological and practical meeting spaces for blind education, community building and skills training.

On the Future of Blindness

The LightHouse's new West Coast Center at 1155 Market St.

This morning, KQED public radio hosted LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin to discuss the future of blindness. It wasn’t, as many discussions of blindness are, a roundup of medical cures or sob stories. Rather, it was a lucid and exciting look at the opportunities and even joys of living life with blindness or visual impairment.

This week, a new podcast called The Leap takes a deep dive into the makings of the LightHouse’s very bright future. Science reporter Amy Standen profiles an historic gift, from a fellow member of our blindness community far afield — who never stopped struggling with his changing vision. Now, with this act of generosity from Donald Sirkin, the LightHouse marches proudly ahead to become a truly 21st century hub for blindness skills training, technology development, advocacy and community support.

Get involved:

– Learn about our new West Coast Center of Excellence, under construction at 1155 Market Street in San Francisco

– Read about our Changing Vision, Changing Life introduction to blindness skills retreat

– Attend our 29th Annual Disability Film Festival, November 14-15

– Explore planned giving, workplace giving and volunteer opportunities

Media contact: press@lighthouse-sf.org