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Blind Community

Lighthouse Day to feature Mayor Breed and New Blindness Book Author, June 10

Lighthouse Day to feature Mayor Breed and New Blindness Book Author, June 10

Each year we gather friends to celebrate Lighthouse Day, honoring our 119 years of service and looking forward into the future.

For the second year we will use Zoom to keep social distance as we gather, electronically, celebrating how LightHouse has grown and diversified and reassert our belief in our community and pride in our work.

To help us do this we have invited blind author Dr. M. Leona Godin who will discuss her just-released book, There Plant Eyes: a Personal and Cultural History of Blindness.

We invite you to a conversation between Dr. Godin and LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin to discuss the main themes in the book and learn of the author spending much of her life in San Francisco and beginning her journey into blindness there. This conversation will be a key part of the LightHouse Day celebration.

What: Lighthouse Day

When: Thursday, June 10 from noon to 1:00 pm Pacific

Where: via Zoom or phone

RSVP: To events@lighthouse-sf.org or call Andrea Vecchione at 415-694-7311. The first 10 folks to RSVP will receive a box of Quail Point chocolates, which are delicious, we can vouch for that!

From the book jacket:

From Homer to Helen Keller, from Dune to Stevie Wonder, from the invention of braille to the science of echolocation, M. Leona Godin explores the fascinating history of blindness, interweaving it with her own story of gradually losing her sight.

There Plant Eyes probes the ways in which blindness has shaped our ocular centric culture, challenging deeply ingrained ideas about what it means to be “blind.” For millennia, blind-ness has been used to signify such things as thoughtlessness (“blind faith”), irrationality (“blind rage”), and unconsciousness (“blind evolution”). But at the same time, blind people have been othered as the recipients of special powers as compensation for lost sight (from the poetic gifts of John Milton to the heightened senses of the comic book hero Daredevil).

Godin—who began losing her vision at age ten—illuminates the often-surprising history of both the condition of blindness and the myths and ideas that have grown up around it over the course of generations. She combines an analysis of blindness in art and culture (from King Lear to Star Wars) with a study of the science of blindness and key developments in accessibility (the white cane, embossed printing, digital technology) to paint a vivid personal and cultural history.

Adaptations LightHouse Day Discount

Don’t forget to visit Adaptations.org for all your LightHouse gear! To celebrate 119 years of service to the blind and low vision community,  Adaptations is giving 10% off during the entire month of June on all LightHouse hoodies, t-shirts and tote bags! Use the  discount code LH10 at checkout to receive your discount. Happy shopping!

LightHouse’s Ann Wai-Yee Kwong Believes in the Importance of Addressing Culture for Success in Blindness

LightHouse’s Ann Wai-Yee Kwong Believes in the Importance of Addressing Culture for Success in Blindness

The transition from childhood to young adulthood can be a difficult time in any young person’s life—but for those with limited resources, or a lack of information about what resources are available, the transition can become overwhelmingly difficult. For many students who are blind or have low vision, especially those facing cultural adversity, the information and resources regarding next steps towards a productive and successful future after high school simply are not provided. Most of the support given to students who are blind or have low vision and their families is offered through the public-school system. However, because there is a limited number of TVIs (teachers of the visually impaired) and other qualified VI educators in public schools, resources can be limited and are often stretched between school districts, making the actual time a blind or low vision student spends with these VI educators and mentors very minimal. Of these students, many are first generation American, introducing the additional difficulties of struggling with language barriers. These students are constantly having to balance learning to adapt to American culture in their schools where they are receiving an education, maintaining homelife culture within their families, and navigating this new world of blind culture and building their adaptive education and independence skillsets.

LightHouse Transition Program Specialist Ann Wai-Yee Kwong runs programs made up of trainings and informational workshops—some of which are offered in Spanish to support the blind and low vision Spanish speaking community—for young adults and their families to prepare for their futures and the transition from childhood into adulthood. Ann’s education and professional experience coupled with her own personal experiences as a blind woman who emigrated from Hong Kong as a child make her highly qualified in this area. Her unique brand of passion and empathy stemmed from her own transition experience makes her the ideal mentor to help pave a successful path towards furthering education and employment for our youth.

Growing up as a blind, first generation Chinese American in Los Angeles, Ann had little knowledge of what resources were available to her outside of what public school is legally obligated to provide.

“I had never heard of the landmark legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), nor learned about disability history,” Ann shares.

Historically, in many cultures across the globe, disabilities of any sort have been portrayed in limiting and negative terms. Blindness is often equated through language as a lack of knowledge. Phrases like “the blind leading the blind” create harmful societal expectations and stereotypes, many times leading to a lack of self-worth or self-confidence within the blindness community.

“It was not until I went to college that I discovered many of my peers with disabilities also shared, for the first time, the experience of feeling empowered as we cultivated disability community and found pride in our identities.  Subsequently, although the ADA has provided many educational rights and opportunities for persons with disabilities, there remains a great deal of work around shifting the negative societal perceptions of disabilities as well as in employment, where the employment rate of persons with disabilities, 19.3%, continues to lag far behind that of non-disabled persons, 66.3% in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

This motivated Ann to build a career educating youth who are blind or have low vision about what blindness resources are available and how to make the most of these opportunities. She knows that understanding your options and developing healthy, positive social and personal ideologies about what it means to be blind are essential in working towards a successful future.

Over the years Ann has partnered with various blindness advocacy groups, government agencies like the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) as well as many VI educators. These partnerships have catalyzed her passion and informed her work with youth who are blind or have low vision, which then molded and inspired the programs she has started at LightHouse.

“The Youth Employment Services (YES) program and curriculum is based on research, best practices, and the nationally recognized Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). I strive to provide meaningful work-based experiences for youth to fill the gap for employers, creating a talented pool of future professionals.”

While creating equal opportunities and building a dynamic skillset and experience for blind and low vision youth is the mission of the work Ann does, for her, it is the social and emotional growth that is the most rewarding accomplishment.

“The best part of my job is building trust with my students and watching them build that confidence, because that is transferable. Once you instill that confidence in someone, that can’t be taken away,” Ann believes.

“My most rewarding experience while working at LightHouse is the genuine sense of community and family, we are able to build, especially during the YES Summer Academy when staff and students spend four full weeks working, learning, and living under one roof. This heartfelt sentiment is also expressed by our students, and I had not previously felt this in other blindness programs in my prior work, making this unique to LightHouse.”

The work Ann and the Youth Programs department is doing is starting to change the misconceptions of the lives people who are blind or have low vision can live, for both the blind community and those who are sighted. Ideas for new groundbreaking programs and plans to grow and expand the reach of Youth Programs is constantly underway.

Ann is continuing to further educate herself in the field of education, leadership, and advocacy. She is currently working towards her PhD in Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her growing knowledge and passion are packed into every LightHouse program she runs and is reflected in the future of every student she mentors. Because of incredible mentors like Ann Wai-Yee Kwong, the future of kids everywhere who are blind or have low vision is bolder than it’s ever been.

To learn more about our transition programs for youth, contact Ann at AKwong@lighthouse-sf.org or by phone or text at 415-484-8377.

Health and Wellness Program

Health and Wellness Program

LightHouse offers weekly fitness classes and weekend workshops. Make new friends and have fun while getting fit!

LightHouse’s Health and Wellness Program features:

  • Weekly exercise classes for seniors and those wanting low-impact exercise. Wednesdays at 11 AM.
  • DEEP (Diabetes Empowerment Education Program) a six-week course on Diabetes Management and Healthy Living.
  • Weekend Health and Wellness Retreats at Enchanted Hills Camp for the Blind in Napa
  • Regularly scheduled yoga and meditation classes.
  • Healthier Living Series: a six-week course offering practical solutions for chronic disease management, weight management, stress reduction and healthy living.
  • Try It Workshops to try new forms of exercise such as kickboxing, tandem cycling, rock climbing, dance, and more!
  • A full gym membership for $10 a month to Fitness SF, with six locations in the Bay Area. Membership includes private group instruction from a certified personal trainer.
To learn more or to join our programs for people who are blind or have low vision, email asherrard@lighthouse-sf.org or call (415) 694-7353.