Did you know that less than 10% of the 1.3 million residents of the United States who are blind or have low vision are Braille readers? One reason for this is the common misconception that Braille is difficult to learn. Not at the LightHouse! We are setting out to put a stop to this rumor. Here is a helpful tip from Divina Carlson, Braille instructor and tactile reader extraordinaire:
“If you learn letters ‘a through j’ in Braille, you also learn the numbers ‘0 through 9’. Imagine, learning the first ten letters of the alphabet in Braille will allow you to access the Braille numbers on the elevator buttons, room signage, Braille playing cards and more! In the short time it takes you to learn the first ten letters of the alphabet, you can now access every combination of numbers in the world.”
Want to find out exactly how Braille works? Visit the LightHouse website, or contact Divina Carlson at Brailletraining@lighthouse-sf.org. Sign up for lessons today and learn just how valuable (and easy!) Braille truly is. For more Braille tips and tricks, follow LightHouse on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram .
LightHouse is thrilled to announce the upcoming 2022 Northern California Braille Challenge! We have had the privilege of hosting the event at our headquarters in San Francisco in previous years, most recently in February of 2020. For many years LightHouse, the California School for the Blind, and the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired have participated in this annual event that honors Braille literacy in a fun and friendly competition for blind and low vision students across the San Francisco Bay Area and other regions of northern California.
This year the Braille Challenge will be hosted by our friends at the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired on Saturday March 5 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm at the Vista Center, located at 101 N. Bascom Ave in San Jose, California.
We invite all blind and low vision students in grades1 through 12 who are knowledgeable of or in the process of learning Braille to join us in this fun academic contest that will put your Braille literacy to the test! Show off your Braille reading and writing capabilities as your fingers glide across the embossed pages and dance atop the buttons of a Perkins Brailler! This is the only academic Braille contest of its kind, so don’t miss out!
You can register for the 2022 Braille Challenge here, registration deadline is Monday, February 7, 2022. For more information about the event, please visit the Vista Center website. If you have any additional questions, please contact email@example.com.
We can’t wait to see all this year’s blind and low vision scholars showcase their Braille knowledge! Good luck to all participants, and we’ll see you on March 5!
Happy holidays from everyone’s favorite blindness accessibility store, Adaptations! With the end-of-the-year holidays just weeks away, you’ll want to head on over to Adaptations.org to make those last-minute holiday purchases. Dazzle your loved ones with tactile and Braille holiday cards, designed and produced in-house by LightHouse’s MAD Lab and sold exclusively at our store. Scroll through our Braille calendars and planners for the new year and be sure to check out the Adaptations Discount Corner for special deals on a variety of blindness products. But you’ll want to hurry, as the days are counting down to the LightHouse organization-wide Winter Break.
While we invite all our shoppers to order during the LightHouse Winter Break. Our last day to ship physical items in 2021 will be Wednesday, December 22. Orders received by Monday, December 20 will ship on Wednesday, December 22. Any Items ordered between December 21 and January 2 will ship after LightHouse returns on January 3. Feel free to shop within the break period to secure your must-have items, just note that there will be a slight hold on shipping until our return in January. We thank you for your business and wish every one of our customers a very special, happy, and healthy holiday season!
Have you ever wished you had a handy, portable on-the-go way to jot down a quick Braille note? Or maybe keep a current “to do” or “grocery” Braille list conveniently on your refrigerator or at your desk? Don’t we all. So, our Adaptations crew decided it’s time we now carry the new paperless Versa Slate.
This sleek paperless Braille slate is designed to hold 4 lines containing up to 20 cells each. The stylus attaches magnetically to the body of the slate and the entire package can be placed inside a magnetic carrying case. The slate will stay affixed to any metal surface and the dots can be erased by a sequence of buttons on the underside of the slate. The Versa Slate also makes a great practice tool for anyone who is just learning Braille. Awesome, right? There you have it folks, the perfect on-the-go Braille note taker and fridge-friendly reminder list!
Shop the Versa Slate with Case, along with our many other Braille writing tools, online at Adaptations.org. If you need assistance shopping, have questions for our knowledgeable staff, or are seeking advice on which product will best suit your specific preferences and needs, you can email Adaptations at firstname.lastname@example.org, give us a call at 888-400-8933, or chat with us via the Be My Eyes mobile app. Let Adaptations help you shop gifts for that special blind or low vision someone in your life (or yourself!) this holiday season.
It’s a new month, and our online store Adaptations has exciting new products to shop for. One of the greatest benefits of shopping with Adaptations is our collection of one-of-a-kind items designed and produced in-house by our Media and Accessible Design Laboratory (MAD Lab) team that are sold exclusively online at Adaptations.org. And what’s even better, these new MAD Lab products have arrived just in time for the gift-giving season.
One of our featured products this month is a Braille booklet containing a calendar filled with holidays, religious observances and culturally significant dates as well as a comprehensive list of blindness-specific events and days to remember. It also contains key LightHouse contact information, no need to go online to find a number to call us. This compact 5×8-inch booklet is packed with great information and is the first of its kind. Never forget an important date or event again with MAD Lab’s excellent newly designed Braille calendar.
Another new Adaptation’s exclusive MAD Lab creation is truly the perfect holiday gift for all the blind and low vision Lord of the Rings fans out there. Check out this fun and accessible Middle Earth Tactile Maps Bundle. Emerge yourself in a world of legends, grand adventure, and of course hobbits, as you explore these fantastic maps! This is a must-have for the Lord of the Rings fanatic in your life.
You can browse our new MAD Lab products, as well as the whole MAD Lab collection by visiting Adaptations.org. If you need assistance shopping, have questions for our knowledgeable staff, or are seeking advice on which product will best suit your specific preferences and needs, email Adaptations at email@example.com. You can also give us a call at 1-888-400-8933, or chat with us via the Be My Eyes mobile app by finding LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired under specialized help. Happy shopping, everyone!
LightHouse provides business and government accessibility services to those who have low vision, are blind or Deaf-blind. One way we do this this is by partnering with other organizations and city and county-wide task forces on projects and programs across the Bay Area to promote accessibility. LightHouse’s Media and Accessible Design Laboratory (MAD Lab) has their accessible handiwork displayed all over museums and other public spaces in the Bay Area. Now we’re venturing outdoors!
In May 2020, the MAD Lab partnered with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) on a long-term project creating accessible tactile signage and outdoor exhibits in parks and outdoor recreational spaces in the Bay Area. Our team devoted hundreds of hours in design, production, project management (and love, of course!) to bring durable, in-place tactile maps and informational plaques to eleven different GGNRA parks.
This project began after the culmination of Gray vs. GGNRA, a landmark settlement agreement to significantly improve access to GGNRA parks. This agreement is the first comprehensive settlement in the country that will increase the accessibility of a federal park system, and MAD Lab has been engaged with GGNRA, providing solutions and services every step of the way. These new maps and Braille park guides will significantly improve access and enhance the experience for thousands of GGNRA park goers with blindness, low vision or mobility disabilities for generations to come.
MAD Lab’s work is proudly displayed at Muir Beach, Fort Mason, Fort Funston, Battery Alexander, Gerbode Valley, Mori Point, and Eagles Point. Among the next parks to have MAD Lab signage are Crissy Field, Tennessee Valley, and the Presidio Coastal Trail. We encourage all our community to go out and explore these maps and outdoor informational signage in person. And when you do, tag us on social media @lighthouse_sf on Twitter and @lighthouseblind on Instagram.
In a world that has grown more and more digital, things like braille and tactile literacy may seem less and less prevalent, but for Divina Carlson, LightHouse braille Instructor, it’s just the opposite.
LightHouse has had the pleasure of calling Divina a “member of the family” for 27 years. After immigrating from The Philippines in 1989, Divina obtained her AA at the Community College of San Francisco, and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from San Francisco State University. She had her first ever formal blindness skills training from LightHouse after arriving in the United States. She became the LightHouse braille instructor in 1993.
Before LightHouse had to temporarily shut down in- person services in March, Divina was seeing about ten students regularly, working roughly 140 hours per quarter, teaching them to read and write braille and conducting student assessments. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has turned all LightHouse programs virtual, however, Divina has seen a significant influx of students and braille services. In the past six months she has taken on more than twice as many students and has nearly doubled her instruction time. While there has a been bit of adjustment in her teaching approaches, braille student participation has never looked better.
“Even before COVID, I actually started teaching braille remotely to some of my students who cannot come to LightHouse due to various reasons,” She said. “[Students] just have to have the braille materials needed and a hands-free speakerphone at home. When the quarantine happened, I already had ideas about how I would work with my students.”
Divina acknowledges there are challenges.
“Producing the assessment tools can take time, as I cannot mail the students the assessment and braille readiness materials, I normally use at the LightHouse office. Once the preparations for these materials are in place, however, I am able to work with some of these new students.”
Over the years, Divina has created some of these braille learning tools herself. Flashcards, Unified English Braille (UEB) study books, and basic reading materials are produced in-house by the Media and Accessible Design Laboratory (MAD Lab). Divina has been coordinating the production of these resources with the essential workers of the MAD Lab staff. Once materials are embossed and collated, they are mailed to Divina who then distributes them to her students.
Remote teaching also has its advantages.
“I think that new students who want to learn braille now have the time to do it during the quarantine. The cancellation rate is lower since factors of transportation and commuting to the LightHouse office for their braille training is no longer an issue. Thus, I am able to teach braille to students who otherwise will not come in person to LightHouse for braille training.”
The expansion of LightHouse’s braille instruction services is a terrific sign for tactile readers. Despite the increasing availability of screen readers and other access technology that eliminates having to read tactilely, braille readers are on the rise. The shelter-in-place orders have given people everywhere the extra time to focus on learning and practicing new things, with braille being no exception.
As it stands today, fewer than 10% of the blind population in the U.S. are braille readers, according to research conducted by the National Federation of the Blind. So, what is in store for the future of braille and services like those provided by Divina?
“I would like to say that braille literacy has improved during the past few years. braille becomes more relevant nowadays with the advancement of technology. braille readers include people who are DeafBlind, ESL students, blind computer programmers, and more who can communicate, read, and access computers and smartphones by using their refreshable braille displays. Furthermore, most airline companies, restaurants, commercial buildings, schools, hotels, etc., have braille signage and braille handouts available. These are just some of the things, besides accessing braille labels, games and calendars at home that blind people can do independently as braille readers. With this in mind, students are encouraged to learn braille knowing that these are ways to support their braille literacy.”
Divina gives one final thought on why audio is not a replacement for braille.
“Listening to words is not the same as reading words. As one of my students said, ‘Learning braille, I can read again through my fingertips.’”
Interested in learning braille or want a refresher? Contact Debbie Bacon at DBacon@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7357.
Photos by Sarika Dagar
Every four years, there’s a leap day and every three years, the LightHouse hosts the Northern California Regional Braille Challenge. This year, those two events coincided. On February 29. the Braille Challenge titled, Leap into Literacy, took over LightHouse headquarters.
The Braille Challenge is a North American contest that tests the braille skills of students in grades K-12. Students are drilled in five categories: reading comprehension, proofreading, spelling, charts & graphs, and speed & accuracy. If a student has one of the top scores in their testing level across the nation, they advance to the finals.
This year LightHouse partnered with the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the California School for the Blind to present the challenge for the Northern California region.
The day kicked off with attorney and LightHouse board member Michael Nuñez, sharing how he uses braille on-the-job and how it was vital to his success throughout his education, from elementary school to law school. He explained that braille helped him to master legal terms and concepts in a way that screen readers and human readers could not. “To me, braille provides independence and freedom,” he said during his keynote speech.
LightHouse Youth Employment Services students were runners during the competition: taking completed tests from the examination rooms to the scoring room. They also observed and noted the leadership and decision-making skills needed to put an event of this kind on in order to discuss it as a group later. Frank Welte, Senior Accessible Media and Braille Specialist at the LightHouse, served as a scorer. He said, “I have been a volunteer scorer for many years. I keep coming back because it is an opportunity for me to apply my professional skills as a certified braille transcriber and to express my passion for braille for the benefit of the next generation of braille readers and their families. Besides, the event generates a lot of positive energy, and it’s just plain fun!”
Students entertained their families, teachers and other guests with music and singing while the tests were scored. Afterwards, prizes were awarded. February 29 only happens once every four years, but the Braille Challenge shows one reason of many why braille should be used and celebrated every day.
This Valentine’s Day, give your loved one real feels with our new line of fun, touchable greeting cards. Our Adaptations Store is offering three designs, each with ink-print, tactile and braille designs on a white background.
Adaptations is the only place in Northern California with a comprehensive offering of tools, technology, and other solutions for blind and visually impaired people. The store is located at our San Francisco headquarters at 1155 Market Street, on the 10th floor. Store hours are Monday through Friday, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. We are also open on the second Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Although we do not take online orders at the current time, we encourage you to call our staff at 1-888-400-8933 to inquire about item pick up or mail orders or email our store staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.