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Bryan Bashin

A Ride to Remember

A Ride to Remember

Recently LightHouse CEO, Bryan Bashin, and Community Outreach Coordinator, Sheri Albers, took a ride with Waymo to experience fully autonomous driving technology. Waymo has sponsored the LightHouse Holman Prize for Blind Ambition for the past two years and we have also worked together on accessibility testing. So when Waymo invited them to take part in a journey in an autonomous vehicle, they did not have to ask twice.
 
Their ride was caught on camera and below is part of the blog Waymo has written about the experience.

Watch the video of the ride with audio description and check out Waymo’s blog post and find out more about Bryan and Sheri’s ride.

Autonomous Vehicles Represent a New Form of Independence for People Who Are Blind
 
Like so many other people who have had the chance to go to college, Bryan Bashin’s experience transformed his life. For many people, it’s about learning to see the world in a new light. For Bashin, it was about learning how to live in the world without being able to see.

 
Bryan has been blind since he was a teenager, but confidently navigating the world wasn’t something he initially knew how to do.
 
“Like so many blind people, I didn’t know how to be blind,” Bryan shared. That all changed as he attended college, entered his twenties, and met other blind people who were boldly creating the lives they wanted.
 
“Part of my growth was to find blind people who were just living life and living the way they wanted to, going where they wanted, doing what they wanted to do,” Bryan said.
 
Now, as CEO of LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco, Bryan makes it his mission to equip others to find the same sense of independence and freedom that he found.
 
“My purpose is to make sure that other blind people who are newly blind or just learning to deal with blindness, have the same opportunities so that they can have the life they want,” Bryan said.
 
Sheri Albers, Community Outreach Coordinator for LightHouse, said she now has her dream job telling people in the Bay Area about LightHouse and the support and resources available to them. 
 
“I grew up with an eye disease that was degenerative, losing my vision slowly over my life, but I didn’t have any services,” Sheri said. “I kind of struggled and fended for myself.”

Now, in her job at LightHouse, Sheri gets to go out into the community and help connect people with resources.
 
“In a way, it’s me telling my story about what I did not have as a blind person growing up, and what they have at their fingertips with LightHouse, so to speak,” Sheri said. Sheri’s new mantra is “Where has LightHouse been all my life?”
 
Sheri said that for people experiencing vision loss later in life, losing the ability to drive can be devastating. Without training and mentorship a newly-blind person may often be understandably overwhelmed at first. “The depression of that, and the realization of the potential loss of the independence from that, sets in,” Sheri explained.
 
Sheri emphasized that, for people who are blind, the ability to easily and conveniently go from point A to point B is fundamentally about mobility equity.

“Every day, a hundred million Americans get in cars when they want, go where they want to go, do it by themselves, and have that tranquility,” Sheri said, adding that most sighted people are not refused entrance to ride-hailing vehicles because they have a guide dog or asked insulting questions about how they became blind. “Those hundred million Americans are just living their lives,” said Sheri. “We want that too.”
 
To that end, LightHouse has joined the Waymo-led public education campaign, Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving, a partnership dedicated to fostering conversation and raising awareness about how fully autonomous driving technology could offer a safe mobility option to connect people and communities.
 
“So the chance to have autonomy in vehicles is a means to get us to where we want to go, which is living in the world, being part of the world,” Bryan emphasized. “It’s not just about going to a place; it’s about having possession of your own life.”
 
For people who are blind, fully autonomous driving technology represents a new way to get around without depending on anyone else, going wherever they want to go, at whatever time they choose.
 
Bryan and Sheri recently took a ride with Waymo to experience fully autonomous driving technology for themselves.

Waymo has been operating the Trusted Tester Program, offering autonomous rides, with autonomous specialists behind the wheel, to riders in San Francisco and recently began offering fully autonomous rides, with no human driver behind the wheel, to its San Francisco employees.
 
As Bryan and Sheri settled into the Waymo vehicle, Bryan asked Sheri if she was ready to begin the ride. She nodded ‘yes.’
 
“Here we go,” Bryan said as he pressed the Start button to begin the ride.
 
Bryan and Sheri were immediately impressed by how the car confidently began the trip.
 
“There was no hesitation at all,” Sheri said. 
 
After their ride, Bryan and Sheri reflected on the significance of what they had just experienced.

“You could feel a zillion sensors in that machine just noticing everything. It was cautious, but it felt like a machine that was super aware,” Bryan said.

Sheri said the ride represented the beautiful freedom, independence and autonomy of being able to go wherever she chooses.
 
“To have been able to experience the exhilaration of riding in an autonomous vehicle today as blind people, oh my goodness, I mean, it is just inexplicable joy,” Sheri said. 
 
Bryan said that, for people who are blind, advocating for and embracing innovative new ways to have freedom and autonomy has been part of playing an active role in shaping their own destinies.

Curious About the Worldview of LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin?

Curious About the Worldview of LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin?

“The Curious Worldview” is the name of a podcast in which presenter Ryan Faulkner-Hogg makes it his mission to interview people who have a different worldview from his and from the majority of people. Scrolling through the 80-odd episodes, it’s an eclectic collection of intriguing and fascinating randomness: from a discussion of the Chinese-Taipan relationship, to nihilism (and if you had to look that up, I did too).
 
One of Faulkner-Hogg’s most recent guests was our very own LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin. It’s a focused meandering conversation on many topics including Bryan’s enduring love of 18th century blind traveling pioneer James Holman and why he should not be forgotten. Bryan and Faulkner-Hogg discuss the best thing about going blind according to Bryan, enablement versus disablement and why Bryan thinks modern civil planning inhibits life for people who are blind or have low vision.
 
It’s an interesting and incisive listen, so do yourself a favor and download it
 
Download on Apple Podcasts
Download on Spotify
Find more ways to download on the Curious Worldview website.

You can also find “The Curious Worldview” podcast and download the April 11, 2022 episode (episode 83) using your favorite way to access podcasts.
 
If you have a smart speaker such as a HomePod, Google Home or Amazon Echo, you can ask it to “Play episode 83 of The Curious Worldview podcast”.

San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind Announces Chief Executive Officer Search

San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind Announces Chief Executive Officer Search

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact:
Dr. Sharon Sacks
boardchair@LightHouse-sf.org

San Francisco, CA –

  • LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, California’s oldest and most diverse blindness organization serving people who are blind or have low vision, announced today that it is initiating a search to identify its next CEO.

The CEO search was implemented after the LightHouse’s longtime CEO, Bryan Bashin, announced to the Board his intention to leave the organization after the successful completion of its $50 million design and construction project at Enchanted Hills Camp in 2023.

“This is an optimistic and hopeful time for the LightHouse. Emerging after two years of pandemic, we’re very well-poised to initiate strong growth in our programs and services to meet the new post-pandemic needs of 40,000 people who are blind or have low vision throughout northern California,” Bashin said. “We have the infrastructure, resources and heart to bring our blind-positive values to people in our region, nation and beyond.”
 
Founded in 1902, the LightHouse’s mission has grown to serve the rehabilitative, educational and community needs of people who are blind or have low vision in northern California and beyond. With a world-class retreat in Napa, a new social enterprise in Alameda and a state-of-the-art headquarters in San Francisco, it now serves everyone from blind infants, youth, adults and seniors with the richest set of comprehensive offerings anywhere. With a growing number of national programs and an internationalist orientation, the LightHouse is poised to bring best practices and community formation in blindness to a wider audience.
 
To identify Mr. Bashin’s successor, the LightHouse is drawing on the steps in its succession plan to guide the process of selecting a new CEO. It has formed a search committee to oversee the process and has retained executive search firm Vetted Solutions to coordinate the search.

Headquartered in Washington DC, with offices in Chicago and Los Angeles, Vetted Solutions has a demonstrated track record of executive recruiting within the nonprofit space and a client-focused approach to the process. Led by President and Founder, Jim Zaniello, FASAE, the LightHouse will be served by a focused team of recruiters who have both nonprofit and large organizational experience providing a comprehensive approach to identifying potential candidates.
 
“LightHouse is committed to take the time needed to find the right person,” said LightHouse Board Chair Dr. Sharon Sacks. “We’ve been fortunate to have had a tradition of strong leadership and we’ll involve every part of our organization to find the person who can take the LightHouse to the next level.”
 
The public search will commence in May 2022 and the organization’s goal is to have a new CEO identified by year’s end. Mr. Bashin will continue as LightHouse CEO until the new CEO begins. Candidates interested in receiving the position profile when it is available should email SFLightHouseCEOSearch@vettedsolutions.com.

“The Board of Directors of LightHouse recognizes the critical importance of this position to the long-term health of the organization and we are well prepared for this transition. We will keep our membership updated on the progress of the search through announcements on both the LightHouse website and via other online communications channels,” said Board Chair Dr. Sharon Sacks.
 
About the LightHouse
 
Founded in 1902, LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired provides skills, resources and community for the advancement of all individuals who are blind or have low vision. Our innovative programs have been featured in 60 Minutes, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and beyond. The blind community comes to LightHouse to learn how to travel independently with a white cane, to rejoin the workforce, use accessible technology and meet a community of mentors and peers. From unique tactile maps to an unparalleled camp for blind campers, to a world prize for blind ambition, LightHouse offers programs unavailable elsewhere

LightHouse has an audacious mission: to transform the lives of the 40,000-blind people in the greater Bay Area and beyond. We do this through tech design, disability advocacy, consultation, classes and community formation in San Francisco and at our four satellite offices and Enchanted Hills Camp in Napa. We are a fun, fascinating, widely diverse, warm and friendly community. We work in downtown San Francisco in a 40,000 square foot state-of-the-art workspace renowned for its universal design, steps from Civic Center BART. LightHouse is working for nothing less than to change the future for blind people and the wider community.
 
The next CEO will join a unique organization in which blind and sighted professionals work together at every level. Our governing Board of Directors, management and staff are all composed of roughly equal numbers of blind and sighted people, a parity unprecedented in our field.
 
Learn About Us:
www.LightHouse-sf.org

Bryan Bashin Marks 10 Years as LightHouse CEO

Bryan Bashin Marks 10 Years as LightHouse CEO

Photo by Sarika Dagar

Article by Lee Kumutat

Under Bryan’s leadership, LightHouse has grown exponentially in stature, standing and staff. He oversaw the design and completion of our new state-of-the-art home in downtown San Francisco, the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition and a harmonious parity of blind and sighted staff at all levels.

But who is the man behind all these achievements? We put these seven questions to him to try to get a sense.

1.  You are a self-confessed coffee fiend – how do you make your favorite cup?

I roast my own coffee, sourced from an importer in Oakland. The areas of origin change almost monthly.  In the era of sheltering in place, I have a little extra morning time to froth some milk and make a double or even quad latte. My latest love: beans from a farm in Nicaragua with flavor that lingers on the tongue for a whole minute after a sip.

2.  What, for you, is the best thing about being blind?

The Zen of blindness allows me to go deep, to observe more critically, not to be distracted by the superficial, and to see strategically. Having been both sighted, low vision and blind, I can say that savoring the world as a blind person is often a bit slower and can often be beautiful in rich and unexpected ways.

3.  Dogs or cats?

Dogs. They are social creatures, live in the moment and care about others.

4.  What is the best part of a normal day for you at the LightHouse?

Brainstorming programs and operations that never existed and working with a circle of talented and dedicated people to press the field of blindness ever farther.

5.  What makes you angry?

Lost opportunities. Not fulfilling the expectations of the blind community and of our major donor Donald Sirkin to “be bold. Make a difference. Change the world.”

6.  Who are your role models?

In blindness, Newel Perry, the California leader who relentlessly started a revolution of rising expectations among the blind, with the revolutionary idea that the blind could support themselves and become regular contributing members of society. This he did beginning in 1898 with ripples that are still shaking the world today.

7.  If you had one wish, what would it be?

That all blind people can come to see themselves as whole, beautiful, and capable of becoming who and what they dream of.

Watch LightHouse on ’60 Minutes’

Watch LightHouse on ’60 Minutes’

On Sunday, January 13, 2019, 60 Minutes featured LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in a story called “A Different Kind of Vision.” The story profiles of LightHouse Board President Chris Downey, as he celebrates his 10 year anniversary since becoming blind. The story is about taking on and moving past life’s challenges, and is a testament to the power of blindness skills training and vocational rehabilitation like the ones we offer at LightHouse.

Lesley Stahl addresses the camera, an image of Chris Downey in the backgroundHosted by CBS News’ longtime anchor Lesley Stahl and produced by Shari Finkelstein and Jaime Woods, the 13-minute piece follows Chris’ journey through brain cancer, blindness and regaining his confidence and status as a working architect. The LightHouse’s new headquarters, designed with Downey as a consultant, plays a major role in the piece as do the LightHouse’s training programs and an interview with our CEO, Bryan Bashin.

The best part? Chris is unequivocal about every individual’s ability to continue doing what they love, regardless of eyesight. Stahl closes out CBS’ legendary Sunday evening news magazine by asking Chris one of the toughest questions for a confident blind person to answer: “Don’t you still want to be able to see?”

Chris pauses, thinking deeply about the question, and then finally responds, humbly offering: “I don’t really think about having my sight restored. There’d be some logistical liberation to it. But will it make my life better? I don’t think so.”

Watch the story on CBS News.

Oral History: Gil Johnson reflects on eight decades of blindness training, advocacy and community

Oral History: Gil Johnson reflects on eight decades of blindness training, advocacy and community

A distinguished longtime board member and pioneer of rehabilitation services at the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco, there are few denizens of our community more respected and knowledgeable than Gil Johnson. Growing up as a confident, free-thinking young blind man and coming to the LightHouse during a pivotal moment for blindness in the late seventies, Johnson changed the course of our training services and defined the future of the then somewhat fractured LightHouse organization.

In honor of Johnson’s 80th birthday, LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin set out to record an oral history: to capture the nuances of Johnson’s early life, career, and ongoing journey after LightHouse. The result is nearly six hours of humorous, thoughtful reflections on the past, present and future of what it means to be or become blind.

The podcast series was recorded on three separate days and is broken into seven total parts below. Mp3s are available for download or to stream directly.

Part 1 (recorded November 2017, 2 segments): Gil talks about his childhood, development as a young blind man and the early career moves that brought him to the blindness field.

 

Part 2 (recorded December 2017, 3 segments): Gil discusses the state of LightHouse when he arrived in the late 70s, and goes in depth into the challenges and opportunities as he took on the task of innovating in rehabilitative training through the 1980s.

 

Part 3 (recorded August 2018): Gil discusses his transition away from LightHouse, taking on services for the blind in Illinois and the new era for the LightHouse and its community as the 1990s approached.