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Arts and Entertainment

This Weekend, Life is a Cabaret: Join us on January 9 and 10 for the Annual Great American Songbook Benefit

Portrait of Anne and Steve GillThe Gill Family, with the help of fabulously talented Menlo School students, alumni and faculty continue their tradition of special concerts in honor of their daughter Anne, a longtime Enchanted Hills camper. This year the two concerts explore the work of the highly successful songwriting team John Kander and Fred Ebb, best known for musicals Cabaret, Chicago and Fosse as well as the iconic song (known to many of us as a signature piece for Frank Sinatra) New York, New York.

What: Life is a Cabaret: An Evening with Kander and Ebb
When: Two Performances – Saturday, January 9 and Sunday January 10, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Spieker Ballroom at the Menlo School, 50 Valparaiso Ave., Atherton 94027
$15 donation requested. Seating is on a first come, first seated basis
All proceeds benefit our Enchanted Hills Camp Special Needs Session

For more information contact Steve or Nancy Gill at (650) 948-4648 or nancyggill@yahoo.com.

Touching a Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie HouseUntil last month, blind people had no way to explore Robie House. Visiting the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in Chicago — a go-to architectural landmark — is a highly sensory, highly visual experience. A cramped low ceiling first guides visitors through a wooden entry hall leading to old playrooms, bedrooms and other private spaces, until you emerge, dramatically, into the main room. For the sighted, this spatial drama, and the ensuing architectural detail revealed in the tour, is quintessential to getting to know a Frank Lloyd Wright building. And now those details that make Robie House so unique and arresting are accessible to the blind, as well.

Generally, to preserve these special buildings, visitors cannot touch the fine details. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ADA, the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust started offering Touch Tours of several Wright sites in Chicago, and as such, asked the LightHouse to provide tactile plans and accessible architectural details to assist in the guided tour of spaces, affording visitors a spatial understanding of the house without compromising preservation efforts. Using our new tactile plans, blind visitors can experience and understand the architectural elements which make Robie house unique: the window and door geometry, wood fixtures and accents, signature angles, as well as the East and West “prows” bookending the house in the dining and living rooms.

The Robie House is built in the Prairie Style of architecture, characterized by long, flat lines and incorporating colors and materials from the surrounding environment. Influenced by Japanese art and architecture, this American architectural style prioritizes the connection between inside and outside, removing the heavy interior and exterior walls of the Victorian era. To achieve this, 127 art glass windows and doors line the exterior of the home, bringing light, warmth (and cold), and nature into the open floor plan. The wall of windows, open plan, and use of structural steel are common elements found in Modern Architecture, a typology arguably influenced by Wright’s designs, which took hold decades later in Europe and the US.

Visitors touch a planter in the form of Wright’s logo- on the exterior wall of the yard of Robie House.

Robie House staff are now using our braille-labeled, physical model to orient blind guests to the forms of the building. Guests receive a booklet with tactile drawings, large print and braille, including a diagrammatic site plan of the ground level, main floor detailed floor plan, and art glass window detail.

“The guests lit up when they felt their way through the window detail,” says Joe Barrett, Daily Operations Manager at Robie House when describing a recent touch tour. “The diagrammatic page was invaluable as a tool to express the open floor plan and the layout of the rooms.” This forced Barrett to think creatively about his tours, as well; at one point, he took the guests out onto the South Balcony, and said he “was able to convey the tone of the windows and lighting by referring to the warmth of the sun pushed through the glass… It was incredible for me, just as it was for them. You guys provided us with such fantastic tools that only made their experience better.”

For more information or inquiries about making your exhibition accessible, email MADLab@lighthouse-sf.org.

Buy Tickets Now for Superfest: International Disability Film Festival

Man in fur coat stares intently at the camera. Scene from the film To Be or Not To Be - made and acted by people with disabilities.Join us for the 29th year of the Superfest International Disability Film Festival. Our two-day festival features films that celebrate disability as a generative and creative force in cinema and culture.

2015’s selections showcase innovation, artistry, stunning images and poetic, unique perspectives; they will wow us and take us places we’ve never been. Whether you’re part of the disability community or just love the movies — Superfest is not to be missed.

Each event will include a film screening followed by awards and a filmmaker Q&A.

For more information about the festival, including film descriptions and schedule, visit www.superfestfilm.com.

Saturday Night at The Magnes Collection, Berkeley Saturday, November 14 Reception begins at 5:00 p.m.
Program 6:00 to 9:30 p.m.
Tickets: $12
Address: The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life
2121 Allston Way, Berkeley

Buy Tickets for Saturday

Sunday at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco Sunday, November 15
Morning screening, 10:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.
Afternoon screening, 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Half day: $12 / Full day tickets: $24
The Contemporary Jewish Museum
736 Mission Street, San Francisco

Buy Tickets for Sunday

Presented by:
LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
The Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State

Thank you to our generous sponsors
Woman of Her Word, Contemporary Jewish Museum, Guide Dogs for the Blind, State Street, The George Lucas Foundation, Golden Gate Regional Foundation, Telecare Corporation

And: Bi-Rite Market • Sierra Nevada Brewing Company • Trader Joe’s: Rockridgelogos

Buy Superfest Early Bird Tickets Through October 15

Scene from The Gift (of Impermanence): Axis Dance Company short featuring dancers with and without disabilities. Two dancers on hands and knees.  Dancer in forefront extends her leg to rest on other dancer’s back. Her expression is expectant. Join us for the 29th year of the Superfest International Disability Film Festival. Our two-day festival features films that celebrate disability as a generative and creative force in cinema and culture.

Early bird tickets for Saturday night available through October 15th (see below).

2015’s selections showcase innovation, artistry, stunning images, and poetic, unique perspectives; they will wow us and take us places we’ve never been. Whether you’re part of the disability community or just love the movies — Superfest is not to be missed.

Each event will include a film screening followed by awards and a filmmaker Q&A.

For more information about the festival, including film descriptions and schedule, visit www.superfestfilm.com.

Saturday Night at The Magnes Collection, Berkeley
Saturday, November 14
Reception begins at 5:00 p.m.
Program 6:00 to 9:30 p.m.
Tickets through October 15th: $8.00
After October 15th: $12.00
Address: The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life
2121 Allston Way, Berkeley

Buy Tickets for Saturday

Sunday at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco
Sunday, November 15
Morning screening, 10:30 to 1:15
Afternoon screening, 2:00 to 5:00
Half day: $12 / Full day tickets: $24
The Contemporary Jewish Museum
736 Mission Street, San Francisco

Buy Tickets for Sunday

Presented by:
The Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State
LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Thank you to our generous sponsors.
Woman of Her Word, Contemporary Jewish Museum, Guide Dogs for the Blind, State Street, The George Lucas Foundation, Golden Gate Regional Foundation, Telecare Corporation

And: Bi-Rite Market • Sierra Nevada Brewing Company • Trader Joe’s: Rockridge


Community Means Everyone – Lisamaria Martinez, Director of Community Services

Lisamaria MartinezOne in a continuing series of staff profiles

“People who are blind go to the gym, Pier 39, volunteer at soup kitchens…we are everywhere in the community,” Lisamaria Martinez, LightHouse’s Director of Community Services, stresses when discussing Community Services’ significance to LightHouse programming. “We don’t do ‘blind things,’ we do everything, from whitewater rafting trips and cooking classes to excursions to the de Young art museum. In this way, we reinforce in our students the understanding that they are 100% members of society, while also teaching those who see us that, ‘yeah, we’re blind and we belong right next to you in the movie theater, at the gym, or cruising the Farmer’s Market.’”

Lisamaria, who also goes by the nickname “LM,” has always been an advocate for the blind: “It’s natural for me because I’ve been blind since I was a young child.” In 1999, LM moved north from Southern California to study social welfare at U.C. Berkeley, and began volunteering at the LightHouse, supervising teens on weekend activities like ski trips. After graduating in 2003, she worked at the Hatlen Center for the Blind as a living skills and braille instructor. In 2005, LM enrolled in a Master’s in Educational Psychology program with an emphasis in Orientation & Mobility [e.g. white cane travel] at Louisiana Tech, “where the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness lives. They created the first Master’s Degree Program that uses non-visual techniques for cane travel instruction. Before they created their specialized program, blind instructors couldn’t be certified to teach fellow blind individuals Orientation and Mobility Skills.” After earning her Master’s degree, LM moved back to the Bay Area to do contract work for the Department of Rehabilitation and Lion’s Center for the Blind as an Orientation & Mobility, Living Skills, and Braille instructor.

“In 2008, I learned about a Technology Sales Associate job opening in Adaptations, the LightHouse’s store. I got the job and fell in love with the people at the LightHouse.” Within a year LM moved to the LightHouse Fundraising and Development Department as a Public Affairs Coordinator, and this position evolved into Donor Relations Coordinator. “I like working with people,” she said, “so Public Affairs/Donor Relations was an exciting opportunity to work with different groups —fundraisers, donors, journalists, and government officials. Though I enjoyed strengthening press contacts and interfacing with donors, I missed my students. In October 2014, I was promoted to the position of Director of Community Services, a role I’m ecstatic to fill.”

Under LM’s leadership, Community Services oversees youth, adult and senior programming, psychological services, fees-for-services to educate organizations about the needs and concerns of the blind, and Adaptations. LM sees Community Services as fulfilling two purposes, enabling blind people to fully participate in Bay Area specific opportunities and events while also educating Bay Area communities about blindness. “Community Services isn’t just about providing services to our students, it’s also about making sure students are integrated into the community as blind people living normal, active, fulfilling, satisfying lives,” LM emphasizes. “Riding a bike, taking a hike, going on international trips, that’s how I want my sons to see blind people: as a life worth no less than any sighted person’s life.”

“In addition to working at the LightHouse, my family, (4.5-year-old Erik, and 5-month-old Zakary, and her husband, Joe) keeps me exceptionally busy. And when I’m not taking the boys to places like the Oakland Zoo, I’m usually working as an advocate for causes that interest me.” LM is currently serving on the Alameda County Transit Accessibility Advisory Committee and the California School for the Blind’s (CSB) Community Advisory committee. She also holds various leadership positions with the National Federation of the Blind. She says, “I’m an avid reader, usually devouring three or four books a week, which is why I serve on the Board of Trustees for the National Braille Press. I’m a strong supporter of getting Braille kids’ books into the hands of blind kids and blind parents. Without Braille books, many blind parents cannot read to their kids. My son, Erik, loves reading Braille books with me before he heads off to bed. We read and giggle ourselves to sleep.”

LM excels at bringing people together and facilitating discussions at the LightHouse. “I use my experiences, like my past involvement with judo, to strengthen Community Services programming and activities. For example, I’m passionate about fitness; I was the only U.S. female in the 70-kilo class to qualify for the blind national judo team in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. At the LightHouse I’ve expanded health and fitness offerings to include classes at Fitness SF, where blind folks are welcomed and encouraged to get fit along sighted peers. Come join us and get fit!”

In the next year LightHouse will be moving to a state-of-the-art, 21st Century blindness headquarters, and Community Services will grow to include more programming for students of all ages, from blind parents with young kids to seniors navigating blindness for the first time. LM encourages feedback from students and potential students, saying, “The new space will give us so many more opportunities to do new, fun, and creative activities, not just for youth and seniors, but for folks in between. I welcome all suggestions and ideas. What activities would you like to see expanded? What events would you go to and when would you like to go to them? Are there those of you who are working or parenting during the day but would come to LightHouse activities in the evening or on weekends? Let me know.”

Share your ideas or just find out more by contacting LM at info@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-431-1481.

Whodunnit? LightHouse Youth Program Presents: Celebrity Murder Mystery Party

Join the LightHouse Youth Program for our first ever Murder Mystery Party. Here’s the premise: Participants spend the evening role-playing as their favorite celebrity who are, of course, attending an A-list after-party at Kanye West’s Hollywood mansion. During the party Kanye is shot dead! Lead investigator Jamey Gump has been called in to assist the guests in solving the crime of the century.

Who: Low vision and blind youth (ages 14 -24)
What: Murder Mystery Party
When: 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 24
Where: LightHouse San Francisco Headquarters
Dress Code: Show up dressed as your favorite celebrity.
Waiver: Each participant must complete a LightHouse Youth Program Application, if you have not done so already
Cost: Pizza dinner will provided for those that RSVP
RSVP: You must RSVP by October 21 to Jamey Gump, Youth Services Coordinator, at jgump@lighthouse-sf.org or (415) 694-7372

Art with Ruthie – For LightHouse Youth

Open Studio is about exploring your creativity and expressing yourself. Ruthie Campbell Miller, an Art Therapist who specializes in working with people with low vision, will facilitate the group with a balance of structure and freedom. The sessions will begin with a brief meditative centering exercise, followed by time for individual art-making, and will close with optional time for sharing. A wide variety of art materials will be offered.

Who: Blind and Low Vision Youth, ages
When:  1:00 to 3:00 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month
Where:  LightHouse San Francisco Headquarters
Waiver: Each participant must submit a LightHouse Youth Program waiver forms if they have not done so for a previous outing or event.
Cost: FREE for low vision and blind youth

If you would like more information or to RSVP, please contact Jamey Gump, Youth Services Coordinator, at (415) 694-7372, or by email at jgump@lighthouse-sf.org. Space is limited, interested participants must RSVP. 

Join Expert George Wurtzel for an Innovative Class in Woodworking

A photo montage of George Wurtzel working with wood and walking, white cane in hand, at Enchanted Hills

Deadline to sign up: November 5, 2015

Join expert George Wurtzel at our first workshop for both beginners and experienced woodworkers. This class will touch on wood turning, hand tool work and an introduction to power tools. We’ll learn how to measure accurately without sight, using click rules, gauge blocks, Vernier calipers and talking tape measures. We’ll talk about wood types and construction techniques. We will learn when to glue, when to nail and when to use screws. We’ll also touch on finishing techniques.

Who: Adults 21 and older who wish to learn about woodworking
Where: Enchanted Hills Camp
When: Thursday, November 12 through Sunday, November 15, 2015
Cost: $300.00 plus $40.00 for transportation

To sign up for this special workshop, contact Camp Director Tony Fletcher at tfletcher@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7319 for an application or with any questions.

Please contact George in advance if you have something in particular you would like him to cover. We also encourage attendees to bring their ideas for a project in wood to the first class and think outside the box for some outrageous sculpture project. George can be reached at gwurtzel@lighthouse-sf.org. Future classes include leather working, ceramics (both slip style and wheel thrown) and sculpture using a variety of materials – wood, ceramics, metal, rock, Hydra stone and anything at hand.

Start The Music: Accessible Festivals Are A Reality

the Accessible Festivals team

It’s summer, which also means it’s Music Festival Season, and last week a coworker at the LightHouse sent me a Salon.com article which I read with great interest. It was called: “‘You are not welcome here’: At concerts and music festivals, fans with disabilities are too often shut out, endangered and ignored.”.

As a blind/low vision person who makes music, wrote about it for a living, and has attended dozens of music festivals, I was eager to compare my own experience of concert-going with the author of the piece. As it turns out, she is a good enough writer, with optimism for an inclusive future, but the overall tone of the piece (most notably the title) greatly misrepresents the reality of the situation, and discredits how far musical events have come in the 25 years since the passage of the ADA.

The last several years in particular have seen tons of progress in the accessibility of music festivals, and if you read further, you may be convinced that, even if you’re completely blind, there is a place for you on the polo fields of Coachella, the ferris wheel of Treasure Island, or the foggy enclaves of Outside Lands.

First, it’s important to dispel the misattributions that support the Salon.com article. In the story, the author details several circumstances in which she was discriminated against as a disabled concert-goer: a parking attendant refused her a handicapped spot, an usher scowled and denied her an elevator, and so on. These instances are certainly regrettable, but to be bluntly honest, the problem does not actually seem to be with the venues themselves — which were equipped with said facilities — but are in fact caused by a lack of communication between humans.

If you have a so-called “invisible” disability, such problems will plague you not just at concerts and music festivals but literally everywhere you go — unless you come prepared with a communication device. Even if it’s just a little 10-second speech, well-rehearsed and easy to understand, you need to have a believable way of informing people of your situation. As blind and visually impaired individuals, we are fortunate to have the white cane, which accomplishes all of this crucial communication in a single sighted glance. And in all my experience at music festivals around the country, I have not only never been treated poorly with the cane, but I’d even argue that my experience was even better than most.

But it’s not just about blind people having a particular advantage. Austin Whitney, a law student at UC Berkeley and paraplegic since 2007, founded Accessible Festivals in 2014 specifically to ensure that people with disabilities — any disability you can imagine — are accommodated appropriately at music festivals in America and all over the world. Whitney first worked as a consultant, starting with Goldenvoice (who put on events such as Coachella and Hangout Fest), and eventually realized that his skills were not only useful, but in high demand. Now he works year-round in addition to attending law school, and employs dozens of people at individual events across the country, particularly in summer months.

Talking to Whitney, he says that the range of disability that he and his team can accommodate is only expanding. “It’s everything from 18 year olds with a temporary disability like a broken leg to 90 year olds with an air tank,” he said. Other disabilities also include dietary considerations, physical and mental differences, as well as deafness and visual disabilities. “90% of my work is just problem solving,” Whitney says, “It’s just talking to people one-on-one. What are the problems, how can we mitigate them, how can we make this work for you?”

By all measures, Whitney’s work has been a success. In the years since he’s started attending festivals, things have changed dramatically. In 2008, for instance, he and his wheelchair had to be carried, by his friends, separately down the bleachers of an entire football stadium in order to make it into the general admission area for the Electric Daisy Carnival Festival. Last year, Whitney went back to EDC and employed seventeen people to serve 200 attendees with disabilities — almost double the previous year’s number. Word, he says, spreads fast.

Accessible Festivals is not only trying to make sure festivals meet basic legal requirements, but ensure that the events are actually comfortable and enjoyable for disabled patrons in new and creative ways. “You can have an ADA compliant festival, but it doesn’t mean it’s very welcoming to people with disabilities,” he points out.

For people with visual disabilities or blindness, Whitney admits he’s still learning what the best accommodations are, but has come up with some great new solutions as of late to improve the blind experience of festivals to a great degree. The first of these is braille set times — because even though much of that info is available on smartphones, large music festivals tend to be black holes for cell reception, and nothing beats a hard copy when your iPhone battery is dead.

Whitney and his team have also started to offer blind and low vision festival-goers personal orientation tours of the festival grounds, in order to get them familiar and comfortable as the venue fills up and the lights get low. As soon as the gates open, Whitney or another employee will happily take a blind patron around the area, show them where everything is, and even go so far as to explore all the food options and talk about menus, maybe even meeting certain vendors, before the herds of people arrive later in the day. In the crashing din of a festival environment, often our usual methods of listening and talking can reak down, which could make an advance orientation particularly valuable. This, in my own opinion, is a great accommodation; It’s something that even your sighted friends might not think to do for you.

Whitney says it’s all about being a creative problem solver and not being intimidated by new situations. Recently, when a low vision girl and her boyfriend could not get close enough for her to appreciate any of Taylor Swift’s dance moves, Whitney recruited two of his staff and two more festival security employees equipped with flashlights to escort the two, VIP-style, to the front row. It’s not a typical accommodation, but as someone who’s toughed it out at lots of inaccessible festivals — riding on peoples backs and all — Whitney says it was a service he was happy to provide.

In all, Accessible Festivals will have a presence at 35 music festivals in 2015, and odds are there’s one near you. Whitney doesn’t want anyone with a disability to be scared anymore, even if things prove to be more difficult than they should be. “Festivals are making an effort,” he says, “Go out to them — I’ve been to a lot of festivals where my disability wasn’t accommodated but I still had a good time. Sometimes you just have to go with a good attitude. Some bull—- might happen, but I don’t look back on any of them as negative experiences.”

Questions, comments or feedback? Leave a comment below, or email Will Butler at communications@lighthouse-sf.org.

Staff Profile – Molly Irish

Molly Irish and student Diane Stevenson on a LightHouse outing to Ghirardelli Square With an air of quiet determination and serenity, Community Services Coordinator Molly Irish ensures that each week we offer interesting and engaging programming for our blind adult and senior students. She sees that we offer a variety of activities and classes including a weekly Memorial quilting group, the Beanie’s for Babies knitting group, bingo nights, birthday celebrations and outings to museums, shopping centers and other fun and/or cultural destinations.

One of Molly’s exceptional talents is her ability to fill hungry stomachs with delicious, wholesome food and to teach folks to do the same. “I hate bland food, so I try to teach our students how to prepare food that is healthy and tastes good. We update tried-and-true recipes like BBQ Chicken, meatloaf and sweet yams to teach them how to make healthier choices by lowering the amount of sugar, added fats and salt in the recipes.” Recently, Molly taught blind teens how to prepare sushi in our Cooking 101 class for youth.

Molly has been working for the LightHouse for almost 16 years. She’s known for being a patient and non-judgmental listener. “I love my job – my students, who quickly become my friends, know that I appreciate their hard work, and that I care about them.” Molly’s philosophy on working with blind students is simple: “I don’t insult them by babying them, and I encourage them to remain active and live life in the driver’s seat.”

Molly met her husband Mike, who works for our Industries division, at the LightHouse. She goes on to say, “Mike is blind and he has never let his blindness stand in his way. He operates chainsaws, table saws, you name it. He doesn’t use his blindness as an excuse and we both believe that doing nothing isn’t living, it’s just surviving.” Though Molly is sighted she’s picked up a few essential blindness skills from her students. “I’ve learned braille, ASL (American Sign Language) and tactile sign language, which I use with our deaf-blind students. I want to be able to work with everyone.”

Molly’s zest for life is intrinsic to her being; outside of work she is busy with hobbies galore including, we learned, motorcycle riding. “It’s different when you’re on a motorcycle,” she says. “You get to your destination using the same roads you would with your car, but on a bike the drive is as important as the destination.”

She also loves to fish and told us, “I’ve been tying my own flies for fly-fishing for over twenty years. I love hooking a rainbow trout, partly because of the fight they give, and partly because I cannot wait to fry up that delicious, light-pink fish. I’m also an archer – I’ve shot two “robin hoods” (a “robin hood” is when an archer shoots an arrow into a bull’s-eye, then sends the next arrow straight into the shaft of the first) and I’ve taken home first prizes in four competitions. I don’t hunt with my compound bow, but I do love practicing on 3D (life-like) animal targets.”

If you’d like to add more zest to your life, consider joining Molly at a future LightHouse outing or class. Molly also reminds us to, “sign up for the Beth’s List email – it’s the best way to get weekly updates on what’s happing at the LightHouse and in our community.” To sign up for Beth’s Weekly Events List send your request to info@lighthouse-sf.org.