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Blind

Stay the Week – Learn and Connect at our New Headquarters

Students and instructors from the January class gather for a group photo in front of the fireplace at Enchanted Hills RetreatJoin us this month for our first Changing Vision Changing Life (CVCL) Immersion Training at our new Headquarters offices at 1155 Market Street in San Francisco.

Our new Student Residences can accommodate 2 to 3 students per room. Each Student Residence offers wireless internet connections, recharging stations and a personal bureau.  Students will be provided with a continental breakfast, lunch and dinner. The lodging is akin to a modern Bed and Breakfast – private men’s and women’s facilities are a short walk down the hall from each room. Student lodging is secure and comfortable both for learning and for connecting with others when there is a break from training.

Dates for our upcoming training sessions in 2016, all at our new Headquarters in San Francisco

Where: LightHouse for the Blind, 1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco, California 94103

Session Dates:

June Session: June 13th to 17th (Deadline for sign-up is June 3rd.)
July Session: July 10th to 15th (note: all training in Spanish) (Deadline for sign-up is July 1st.)
August Session: August 16th to 22nd (training starts at our Napa site and finishes in San Francisco) (Deadline for sign-up is August 5th.)
September Session: September 18th to 23rd (Deadline for sign-up is August 9th.)

Over 160 active adults from all parts of Northern California have participated in the LightHouse immersion training programs at the Enchanted Hills Retreat in Napa. Providing a second venue to facilitate Changing Vision Changing Life Immersion brings to our students the urban feel of training as well as the additional access a city has to offer, such as visiting the library for the blind; attending an audio described movie at a local movie theater or participating in an accessible art tour at one of the many museums in San Francisco.

You can be one of the first to go through our 2016 Immersion training in San Francisco. In our new urban environment you and your peers will be immersed in building a foundation of independent living skills, access technology skills, orientation and mobility and peer support to get you started on your journey of living your life the way you want in maintaining your independence. All of this along with the energy and vibrancy of one of the most beautiful cities in the world surrounding you.

The CVCL curriculum, presented in four or five sessions per day, includes: ways to read printed materials; understanding how lighting, contrast and magnification can help you every day; techniques for organizing and labeling in your home or office; best methods for taking notes; basic cooking skills; traveling and moving safely and confidently in your home and in the community and understanding how accessible computers and other high and low tech equipment can enhance your life.

Evening discussions focus inwards, from conversations about holding yourself accountable on your journey, to self-advocacy to questions about how friends, family and partners can understand/support you and your path. Sometimes the process is planned, other times it becomes very organic. Each person and every group of students is different and we individualize much of the experience depending on your own aspirations.

Gaining understanding of what is available to you, getting hands-on with new skills and developing renewed confidence with changing vision is the overall theme of the week. While the experience is different for everyone, the act of coming together with other adult students and teachers who are blind or have low vision, to learn or relearn skills and get back into the stream of life, is a pivotal part of the week-long experience.

Transportation access to San Francisco from Humboldt County will be provided for North Coast students and for those who reside in the bay area, 1155 Market sits right above the Civic Center BART and is only a short cab ride or bus from the Cal Train Station and the temporary Trans Bay Terminal.

Blind or low vision students who are interested should have a genuine interest in learning the skills for moving forward; enjoy learning with a group of peers and are able to participate full day (from 9:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. every day) of active learning and physical participation (urban mobility and public transit in San Francisco).

Note, there is no cost to attend if you are 55 or older and living in San Francisco, Alameda, Marin, Humboldt or Del Norte counties. Limited scholarships are available for persons under 55 and not eligible for Department of Rehabilitation Services.

The Changing Vision Changing Life Immersion Training is open to adults who are ready for a jump start or a recharge as their vision has changed. Be the first student to join us in San Francisco. Interested? Contact LightHouse staff in San Francisco, San Rafael or Eureka:

Press

Press

The LightHouse has a rich, 118-year history, and is constantly forging ahead into new territory. Below is a review of selected recent publications covering the LightHouse’s activities and programs.

For general press inquiries, or if you are a filmmaker, photographer, editor or other media producer who’d like to cover our organization, please send a note to press@lighthouse-sf.org.

Recent Stories

LightHouse Industries photo essay.

On the bright side: Blind workers on a roll making toilet paper at San Leandro factory – San Francisco Chronicle

Vital Coronavirus Information Is Failing the Blind and Visually Impaired – Vice News

COVID-19 concerns cancel Napa summer camp for blind students – The Napa Valley Register

NBC Bay Area Visits 2019 Project Innovation Recipient – NBC Bay Area

Local residents looking to climb Mount Kilimanjaro apply for Holman Prize – BC Local News

Why Do Some Crosswalks Make a Machine Gun Sound? – KQED News

California Sounds: An Architect Who Listens to Buildings – KQED News

Listen: Bryan Bashin, CEO of LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, to give us a taste of what it’s like to navigate a loud and chaotic city while blind. – KQED News

“LightHouse Expands to Support East Bay” – KCBS News

“Cane Trainer” – The Specialist Podcast

“Visually Impaired Musicians Overcome Obstacles with Technology at Napa Camp” – Napa Valley Register

“A Hands-On Guy Doing Hands-On Work in the Information Age” – The Braille Monitor profiles Enchanted Hills Construction Manager George Wurtzel

“The Best Party at SXSW Was in a Rented House Full of Blind People” – Re/code reviews our panel at SXSW 2016

“Blind People Don’t Need Your Help – They Need Better Design” – San Francisco Magazine

“Travelers in the Dark” – The New York Times provides a look into our flagship blindness skills immersion program

“Blind Architect drafts different blueprint for success” – CBS Evening News

“Pixar’s New App Gives the Blind a New Way to Experience Movies” – The California Report

“In Savvy Real Estate Play, LightHouse for the Blind to move to $45M new HQ” – San Francisco Business Times 

“An Architect Lost His Sight and Kept Working Thanks to Breakthrough Technologies for the Blind” – Dwell

“Forbes Honors Two LightHouse Mentors in Annual ’30 Under 30′” – LightHouse

“Is Braille Relevant in the Digital Age” – KALW Radio

“A Guiding Hand for the Blind” – The Wall Street Journal profiles Employment Program Manager Kate Williams

“This Tactile Map of Burning Man is Awesome, No Matter Your Level of Sight” – CityLab

Coverage of Donald Sirkin’s historic bequest on KQED’s The Leap PodcastNPR Weekend Edition, KQED Forum, KTVU News, and in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

“Craftsman’s blindness Doesn’t Hinder his Woodworking Vision” – Napa Valley Register

“40 Years After Acid Attack, a Life Well-Lived,” profile of board past-president Josh Miele in the New York Times

“New Technologies Map Mass Transit and More for the Blind” – WNYC’s The Takeaway

“Nonprofits Need to Stay in MId-Market Despite Rising Rents” – San Francisco Chronicle

“Blind Teens Tap Into Sense at Chemistry Camp” – National Public Radio

 

 

Disney – Pixar is Making Movies Better for Blind People

concept art: a landscape from Pixar's new film, 'The Good Dinosaur'

On a warm, sunny morning last month, a group of LightHouse employees piled into a van and drove north to Skywalker Ranch, George Lucas’ historic outpost in the rolling hills of Marin County. But we weren’t there to talk Wookies and Ewoks; we were being hosted, along with a handful of other blindness organizations, by Pixar Animation Studios

Some might be surprised to hear that Pixar and Disney (which now owns the Emeryville-based animation studio) would be seeking out blind and low vision individuals to test animated movies, but that’s exactly what was happening last month. In Lucas’ private theater, a group of almost thirty sat for a test screening of Pixar’s summer hit, Inside Out, each with a light set of headphones and a specially-loaded iPad on their lap. A small group of some of Pixar and Disney’s greatest movers and shakers waited patiently for feedback of a brand new technology they’ve been working on for some time now. Specifically, they’re on a mission to figure out two things: What is good audio description, and how can it best be delivered.

Many blind moviegoers and television fans don’t use audio description (also called Descriptive Video Service or DVS). Due to a combination of factors, including a range of DVS standards and practices, there are lots of blind and visually impaired folks who feel like it’s just not for them. Personally, I was one of those people — I had never watched a full film with audio description, and I’m told that about half of the group gathered at Skywalker was in the same boat.

And yet, once the narration kicked in and we got the levels right, the audio described Inside Out was a ball. We laughed, we (well, some of us) cried. Most of all, there wasn’t one person in the theater that felt left out of the experience. None of us needed to whisper back and forth quizzically about what was happening onscreen; none of of us sat silently spacing out during action sequences; and most importantly, we all smiled at the same time.

Paul Cichocki, the post-production supervisor at Pixar who oversees foreign language and audio described soundtracks, has been running these kind of focus groups for years, but this year they’re trying a few, exciting new things. “All studios make an effort to do this descriptive audio track,” he told me, “but we wanted to place the same kind of attention to the quality of audio narration as we do to the films themselves.” Disney’s aim, under the guidance of Paul and others, is to innovate rather than placate, to find an elegant solution to the seemingly daunting challenge of helping blind folks enjoy the movies as much as anyone else.

After the film, I sat at a table with Inside Out’s producer Jonas Rivera (who also produced Up) and a few other blind elementary and high school students and talked about our experience. We had all found the audio description satisfactory, useful, and even pleasurable — even those of us who had never used the tool before — but Rivera was nonetheless eager to improve the experience in any way possible.

“Did you understand what memories looked like?” He asked about clarity of action, about the choice of narrator, about how to properly introduce all the characters without overloading the listener. As the kids and adults responded, he took studious notes. “If this was me, when Joy sees Bing Bong disappear, I would amplify that maybe — but maybe that’s not right. Does it feel like the narrator is too robotic maybe? A little too literal, in some ways?” Jonas scribbled on a notepad as the kids talked. Simultaneously, at six other tables, a different Disney or Pixar employee did the same with other groups.

a voice actress works on the audio description for "The Good Dinosaur"When I spoke to Paul again this week, he had just gotten back from LA, where he was working with the voice actor recording audio description for Pixar’s new film, The Good Dinosaur. Usually the narrator’s script for an audio described film is contracted out to a specialized agency — in Pixar’s case it’s WGBH in Burbank, which handles most broadcast and film audio description on the west coast. Even with contractors like WGBH, Paul is totally hands-on. “I don’t know of any other studio that sits down and reviews the script for the narration track,” he told me this week. “We have the producer, the director, the writer, the film editor and myself comb through that script and make changes. I sent 3-4 rounds of changes to WGBH for The Good Dinosaur. And it’s about helping them, too — they don’t get direct feedback very often about what’s good and bad about their script.  We want to up that standard for the whole community — so that blind people can feel like they really saw the movie.”

Check back on the LightHouse blog again soon for more exciting news from Disney•Pixar.

article by Will Butler

Disney•Pixar is Making Movies Better for Blind People

concept art: a landscape from Pixar's new film, 'The Good Dinosaur'

On a warm, sunny morning last month, a group of LightHouse employees piled into a van and drove north to Skywalker Ranch, George Lucas’ historic outpost in the rolling hills of Marin County. But we weren’t there to talk Wookies and Ewoks; we were being hosted, along with a handful of other blindness organizations, by Pixar Animation Studios

Some might be surprised to hear that Pixar and Disney (which now owns the Emeryville-based animation studio) would be seeking out blind and low vision individuals to test animated movies, but that’s exactly what was happening last month. In Lucas’ private theater, a group of almost thirty sat for a test screening of Pixar’s summer hit, Inside Out, each with a light set of headphones and a specially-loaded iPad on their lap. A small group of some of Pixar and Disney’s greatest movers and shakers waited patiently for feedback of a brand new technology they’ve been working on for some time now. Specifically, they’re on a mission to figure out two things: What is good audio description, and how can it best be delivered.

Many blind moviegoers and television fans don’t use audio description (also called Descriptive Video Service or DVS). Due to a combination of factors, including a range of DVS standards and practices, there are lots of blind and visually impaired folks who feel like it’s just not for them. Personally, I was one of those people — I had never watched a full film with audio description, and I’m told that about half of the group gathered at Skywalker was in the same boat.

And yet, once the narration kicked in and we got the levels right, the audio described Inside Out was a ball. We laughed, we (well, some of us) cried. Most of all, there wasn’t one person in the theater that felt left out of the experience. None of us needed to whisper back and forth quizzically about what was happening onscreen; none of of us sat silently spacing out during action sequences; and most importantly, we all smiled at the same time.

Paul Cichocki, the post-production supervisor at Pixar who oversees foreign language and audio described soundtracks, has been running these kind of focus groups for years, but this year they’re trying a few, exciting new things. “All studios make an effort to do this descriptive audio track,” he told me, “but we wanted to place the same kind of attention to the quality of audio narration as we do to the films themselves.” Disney’s aim, under the guidance of Paul and others, is to innovate rather than placate, to find an elegant solution to the seemingly daunting challenge of helping blind folks enjoy the movies as much as anyone else.

After the film, I sat at a table with Inside Out’s producer Jonas Rivera (who also produced Up) and a few other blind elementary and high school students and talked about our experience. We had all found the audio description satisfactory, useful, and even pleasurable — even those of us who had never used the tool before — but Rivera was nonetheless eager to improve the experience in any way possible.

“Did you understand what memories looked like?” He asked about clarity of action, about the choice of narrator, about how to properly introduce all the characters without overloading the listener. As the kids and adults responded, he took studious notes. “If this was me, when Joy sees Bing Bong disappear, I would amplify that maybe — but maybe that’s not right. Does it feel like the narrator is too robotic maybe? A little too literal, in some ways?” Jonas scribbled on a notepad as the kids talked. Simultaneously, at six other tables, a different Disney or Pixar employee did the same with other groups.

a voice actress works on the audio description for "The Good Dinosaur"When I spoke to Paul again this week, he had just gotten back from LA, where he was working with the voice actor recording audio description for Pixar’s new film, The Good Dinosaur. Usually the narrator’s script for an audio described film is contracted out to a specialized agency — in Pixar’s case it’s WGBH in Burbank, which handles most broadcast and film audio description on the west coast. Even with contractors like WGBH, Paul is totally hands-on. “I don’t know of any other studio that sits down and reviews the script for the narration track,” he told me this week. “We have the producer, the director, the writer, the film editor and myself comb through that script and make changes. I sent 3-4 rounds of changes to WGBH for The Good Dinosaur. And it’s about helping them, too — they don’t get direct feedback very often about what’s good and bad about their script.  We want to up that standard for the whole community — so that blind people can feel like they really saw the movie.”

Check back on the LightHouse blog again soon for more exciting news from Disney•Pixar.

article by Will Butler

Blind & Low Vision Skills Training

Blind & Low Vision Skills Training

Our team of teachers and specialists (many of whom are low vision/blind themselves) are highly trained in low vision and blind skills techniques and strategies.

We provide solutions to help you maintain your independence. From learning essential safe travel skills in your home and community to accessing your mail or favorite book, the LightHouse can accommodate any individual seeking to enhance self-reliance.

Our teachers will meet you at your level of readiness and desire to move forward. Every person has their own journey and pace for learning new skills. As long as you are open to learning how you can do something in a new way with your changing vision, we are ready to provide the training and support you need.

For those who are new to low vision, blindness or have a recent change in their vision, we recommend our flagship program, CVCL.

Immersion Training: Changing Vision, Changing Life 

Changing Vision, Changing Life (CVCL) is an introductory immersion program for adults who are newly blind or have experienced a change in vision. The program introduces basic and essential skills to live confidently at home and in the community. Topics include magnification, organizational skills, time management, use of adaptive aids and accessing print materials provide students solutions and strategies for living with low vision or blindness. In addition, each class session includes a discussion on adjusting to changing vision.

While CVCL introduces students to invaluable blindness or low vision training and techniques, the bigger purpose is to bring people together, learning and sharing experiences together. CVCL instinctively motivates students to study further and know the right choices for later. Many students who attend CVCL return to leading full, active lives while remaining enthusiastically engaged with the LightHouse.

Students need not live in the Bay Area to attend CVCL. Our facilities in Napa and San Francisco are equipped with lodging and meals to keep you comfortable and nourished throughout the training.

Read about CVCL in the New York Times!

In addition to CVCL, listed below are the core learning opportunities in which you can participate as a student. All of these skills can be learned from our headquarters in San Francisco and most of them from our satellite offices: LightHouse of Marin, LightHouse of the North Coast, or LightHouse of the East Bay.

Orientation and Mobility (O&M)

“Orientation” refers to the ability to know where you are and where you want to go, whether you’re moving from one room to another, walking route from your home to downtown, taking a bus from one place to another or ‘orienting’ to a new worksite or school campus.

“Mobility” refers to the ability to move safely, efficiently, and effectively from one place to another. This means walking confidently without tripping or falling, street crossing and use of public transportation. Learning mobility also includes learning the use of essential tools such as a cane or even a monocular for those with low vision, and strategies, such as listening for traffic patterns when crossing the street or using accessible pedestrian signals.

LightHouse teachers recognize that traveling ‘independently’ is done in so many ways and once basic skills are learned, students can concurrently learn alternate systems for travel such as Human Guide skills and transit using community Paratransit. Additionally, LightHouse Orientation and Mobility Specialists also provide training in navigation systems such as the Trekker Breeze; current mobility applications on smartphones for travel such as BlindSquare or orientation devices such as the Brain Port.

The ability to move about independently, with confidence and grace is an essential step towards self-confidence, independence and living a full life.

Essential Living Skills

Essential living skills, often called Independent Living Skills or Daily Living Skills, are the essential skills you use in your daily routine. Your approach to these skills can change if your vision changes. Our team of skilled Certified Rehabilitation Specialist, Independent Living Skills and Kitchen Skills Teachers provide you the tips, strategies, simple modifications and tools to continue your routine at home, school or work. Many of these skills are transferable other areas of your life, for example, cleaning/clearing a table requires tactile and/or visual scanning patterns or techniques, as does orientation and mobility, reading Braille or reading using a video magnifier.

Work with your teacher to prioritize the most essential skills for your independent living and daily routine. Here are some of the areas we address:

  • Personal Hygiene Care
  • Food Preparation and Kitchen Skills (from list making and shopping to cooking)
  • Clothing Care and developing and managing your wardrobe
  • Paper Management (bills, correspondences)
  • Organizational and labeling (visual and non visual)
  • Household Management and housekeeping
  • Record Keeping and financial/household document management
  • Money/banking management
  • Time and Calendaring Management Tools
  • Shopping (from on-line to in-store shopping)
  • Social and Recreational Involvement – getting back to a routine of fun!
  • Smartphone training and relevant apps

Braille

Braille, an accessible tactile reading and writing system, is essential to blind literacy. It is also crucial in pursuing education and employment.

The LightHouse is dedicated to teaching Braille, and offers individual sessions every day of the week. Our programs support businesses, schools and community agencies with the aim of providing and maintaining access to Braille.

Adult students of all ages can benefit from learning Braille for simple label writing and labeling and playing cards with friends and family, to learning contracted braille for note-taking and reading text books or documents or learning refreshable displays in tandem with computer use or smartphones.

To receive low vision or blind skills training, contact:

LightHouse Headquarters San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area (including LightHouse of the East Bay): Debbie Bacon, Rehabilitation Counselor – dbacon@lighthouse-sf.org.

LightHouse Marin, for Marin County: Jeff Carlson, Social Worker – jcarlson@lighthouse-sf.org.

LightHouse North Coast, for Humboldt and Del Norte Counties: Janet Pomerantz, Social Worker – jpomerantz@lighthouse-sf.org.

Deaf-Blind Programs

Deaf-Blind Programs

The Deaf-blind Program provides training, resources and support to persons who are both vision- and hearing-impaired. The goal of the program is to ensure that deaf-blind individuals have access to information, technology, and the skills needed to live independent and joyful lives.

Independent Living Skills Training

Training in activities of daily living is critical for deaf-blind individuals to maintain independence. Training includes meal preparation, shopping skills, labeling and organization skills and systems in the home and at work. Students will be given a multitude of examples of how accessible technology can be of use in daily activities.

Orientation and Mobility Training

Upon referral, LightHouse Orientation and Mobility instructors provide training to enhance an individual’s ability to travel independently and safely in their community.

Employment Access Program

This program for deaf-blind clients of the California Department of Rehabilitation assists individuals in developing skills to find and retain employment. The following areas are covered:

Pre-vocational Skills Assessment

Each program participant receives an assessment of his/her skills in activities of daily living, communication, job-readiness and access technology in order to determine what training would assist the participant in obtaining employment.

Communication skills training:

Includes training on a variety of specialized tools and systems, such as FM and other assistive-listening devices; tactile communication, such as Print on Palm and Tactile American Sign Language; telecommunication systems and assistive technology; and recruiting and working with certified interpreters and with Support Service Providers (SSP)

FCC Free Equipment Program

The LightHouse continues to provide telecommunication equipment and training to eligible deaf-blind Californians. In our initial three years of the FCC grant we’ve distributed over $1 million in free telecommunications devices to over 300 deaf-blind Californians. This means phone, email and other valuable ways to connect with friends, family and potential professional connections.

We have been able to provide a range of equipment depending on need and skills, for example: iPhones with Braille displays; computers with screen readers and noise canceling headsets to hear JAWs; assistance with upgrading software such as ZoomText or JAWS; or providing braille displays to folks who can no longer hear the speech on the screen reader, but can read email using a braille display.

To find out more about any of these programs, contact Sook Hee Choi, Deaf-Blind Specialist at schoi@LightHouse-sf.org. Read more about our Sook Hee and here accomplishments here.

Getting Started

Getting Started

What does “blind” really mean?

Am I blind?

What about “visually impaired”?

Of the 285 million people in the world who are blind or have low vision, only a relatively small percentage have no light perception. For everyone else, blindness is a gradation. Some people see quite clearly, in certain light conditions. Others see only shapes and colors. For some, their field of vision is complex and hard to explain. The diversity of these extra functions is what makes blindness particularly confusing to the unacquainted observer. For those with changing vision, the daunting part is not usually the fear of darkness, but the fear of admitting that you’re different.

The LightHouse is here to educate not only the public, but those blind individuals who don’t have prior familiarity with the experience of blindness about the immense potential, normalcy, and joy available to anyone living with differences in their eyesight. Even if you don’t think of yourself as “blind,” the LightHouse likely has something to offer you.

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter

What happens here?

For starters, we’re not just “here,” we’re all over. With a beautiful, brand new high-rise headquarters in the heart of downtown San Francisco, we pride ourselves on offering the cutting edge of all things related to blindness.

Whether you want to learn how to use your new iPhone, make the perfect omelette, travel across the country or learn how to access a half million books and newspapers, we’ve got a class and a trainer for you. On any given day, you’ll find students in SF training on accessible technology, engaging in mentoring and community-oriented projects and workshops, or getting out of the city to explore nature, go to conferences, or just go have fun.

Teens wearing athletic jerseys after playing sports

We make maps that you can read without your eyes, and we outfit world-class museums to ensure that everyone can enjoy them. At our historic camp and retreat in the rolling hills of Napa County, we offer science and math camps for blind kids, teach accessible horseback riding and music instruction, and host families and individuals of all ages and backgrounds. People come from all parts of California — and dozens of countries around the world —  to take advantage of what the LightHouse has to offer.

In addition to San Francisco and Napa, we offer regular classes of varying length and content in Eureka, San Rafael, and Berkeley. Each location has its own personality and service offerings, and people come from all around the state to take advantage of different curricula and instructors. When getting to know our programs, we can work with you to customize your experience based not only on where you live, but what you want to learn.

We also operate a sprawling light manufacturing plant in San Leandro where blind and sighted employees work together in various for-profit business ventures with an increasingly-expanded service base.

Interested in receiving services?

There are many ways to ensure that you get the training and information you need with as little headache and cost to you as possible. In California, we serve many working-age youth and adults through the California Department of Rehabilitation, which supports blind and low vision individuals who want to work. Individuals who apply for services through DOR can often benefit from our programs without charge and will be supplied needed equipment, fees for training and guidance. There is also funding available for Older Individuals who are Blind, and OIB funding often covers adults over the age of 55 who want to acquire skills to improve their lives.

When it comes to funding and accommodations, this is just the beginning. The important thing to remember is that we can walk you through this process.

Call 415-694-7323 or email info@lighthouse-sf.org to join the thousands of people already benefiting from what the LightHouse has to offer.