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Bryan Bashin

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.