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Tech Trainers Unite: LightHouse Hosts Blindness Technology Trainers Conference

Tech Trainers Unite: LightHouse Hosts Blindness Technology Trainers Conference

From October 22 through 24, LightHouse’s Access Technology department hosted their second annual Blindness Technology Trainers Conference. Trainers from blindness agencies and other organizations across California gathered to discuss strategies on training blind and low vision students on a variety of accessible technology needed for communication and day-to-day life, from smartphones, to screen readers, to magnification and more.

This year’s theme was Serving Students with Multiple Disabilities. Trainers discussed working with students who experience a range of access needs along with blindness. Topics included: working with students who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing, working with students who use alternative methods to input text because of motor or learning disabilities, and working with students who have traumatic or acquired brain injuries.

The conference included both group discussion and presentations. Kathy Abrahamson, LightHouse Director of Rehabilitation Services, and Accessibility Evangelist Lucy Greco, presented. The conference keynote on Access Technology and Brain Injury was delivered by three guests from the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Executive Director Sassy Outwater-Wright, Director of Rehabilitation Therapy Services Megan Briggs and Amy Ruell, Director of Adjustment Support Services. The keynote provided trainers with a variety of perspectives and experiences to consider when they returned to training their students.

Conference participant Matthew Morgan, who works at the Community Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Stockton, said of the group discussion at the conference, “The questions we posed to each other were great. They were hard and they were challenging.”

Erin Lauridsen, LightHouse Director of Access Technology, noted how powerful it is when blindness technology trainers come together to share ideas. She said, “Technology changes rapidly, and one instructor can’t know everything, but together as a group, the level of knowledge and expertise in the room was truly impressive.”

Erin Lauridsen and student
Erin Lauridsen, LightHouse Director of Access Technology, speaks during the conference.

Professional development opportunities like this conference help LightHouse’s knowledgeable Access Technology staff continue to provide students with high quality training that considers a student’s individual needs. For more information, visit our Accessible Technology webpage or contact skuan@lighthouse-sf.org.

This conference was made possible thanks to a generous grant from Ability Central.

Employment Immersion Students Make Their Mark at Federal Job Fair

Employment Immersion Students Make Their Mark at Federal Job Fair

On September 4, 26 blind and low vision jobseekers who are part of LightHouse’s Employment Immersion Program, assembled at LightHouse Headquarters and walked as a group to the Federal Building in San Francisco for a job fair.

The jobseekers, dressed in business attire and armed with resumes and cover letters, spoke with representatives from twenty Federal agencies including the Department of Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, Transportation Security Administration, Department of Labor and more.

LightHouse’s Employment Immersion Program provides individualized training in job seeking skills to adults who are blind or have low vision. This includes resume and cover letter writing, interviewing, disclosing disability and more. With the unemployment rate for blind people in the United States at 70%, the Employment Immersion Program is dedicated to lowering that rate by providing students with the essential tools they need to be competitive in the job market.

Edward Wong, LightHouse Employment Specialist, remarked that other attendees at the job fair took note of the large group of blind people who sought the same employment opportunities as their sighted peers. “People noticed how many blind people were there. We were the white cane brigade.”

Are you a blind or low vision jobseeker? Visit our Employment Immersion webpage, call 415-694-7359 or email eiteam@lighthouse-sf.org to learn more.

Coming soon – LightHouse East Bay expands services

Coming soon – LightHouse East Bay expands services

LightHouse East Bay, our office at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley, is growing, and along with it, our commitment to providing a continuum of programs and services. The LightHouse has welcomed students from the East Bay into our programs for many years, but recognizes that establishment of a consistent presence in the area will ensure we more effectively reach the large and diverse population of Alameda, Contra Costa, and Solano counties.

Blind and visually impaired residents in the East Bay can look forward to a warm and welcoming location just steps above the Ashby BART station. Our attentive staff will be available five days a week to connect you with an abundance of services, including skills training and community events. LightHouse delivers individualized training in Orientation & Mobility, Access Technology, employment readiness, Braille, Independent Living skills, as well as hosting events to bring blind people together with one another and the wider Bay Area community.

This expansion coincides with the exciting news that we’ve been awarded a grant by the Senior Assistance Foundation Eastbay to provide training free of charge to residents of Alameda County over the age of 55. If you know of someone who qualifies, please contact LightHouse concierge Esmeralda Soto, at esoto@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7323.

We’ll have more to share on our progress at LightHouse East Bay throughout the coming months. If you have questions about LightHouse programs, contact Esmeralda Soto at 415-694-7323 or info@lighthouse-sf.org.

A YES Summer student reflects on their first week

A YES Summer student reflects on their first week

The following is a reflection from Amber, a YES Student from LightHouse’s Summer Academy. For more information about YES’ Summer Academy, check out our round-up and photos from last year.

“In my short time of being at the LightHouse, I have had an exceptional time with many different learning experiences including work/living skills and also self-discovery.

Before coming to LightHouse, I had never met another visually impaired person. I have always been insecure about my vision, but here I’ve heard many inspiring stories about self acceptance.  One mentor who I identified with was Tim Elder, who spoke of hiding his vision loss by sitting in the back of the class and not acknowledging his vision. He then spoke of the gradual process of self-acceptance, and that was inspiring. Hearing about his accomplishments, like going to law school, being an attorney and helping others, was motivating and I aspire to have that level of self-acceptance someday.

There were other talks of self acceptance such as Lisamaria from Be Confident, Be You. She spoke of her method called “BAANG” which stands for blindness skills, advocacy, academics, networking and getting involved. This method was important and definitely something I will incorporate into my own journey of self acceptance. Her quote, “Tell yourself there are no such things as mistakes, only room for growth” is something I will think about every time I have to do something out of my comfort zone. It is very true each mistake we make can be a learning tool. Her last step of getting involved to not only benefit ourselves but to change the perception of blindness to the general public. That is great perspective that I had never thought of.

I am looking forward to spending the next four weeks at the LightHouse!”

Access Technology

Access Technology

The Access Technology department at LightHouse is here to facilitate the use of accessible technology among people of all ages and levels of expertise, as well as groups and companies seeking education or consulting.

We welcome those with changing vision or visual impairment to come explore ways to make their phone, computer or other devices easier and more comfortable to use. We’re here to help you find new technology tools to stay productive at work, or keep in touch with friends and family.

Training

Whether you’re just getting started with access technology, or you need to update your skills to keep pace with the latest and greatest tools and apps, LightHouse is here to help.

We have a variety of resources to educate and introduce you to different technology, and the ways you can use them. Our staff will take the time to learn about you, your needs and interests and the technologies you may have used in the past.

With an instructor, you can explore whether magnification, speech, Braille or a combination of these tools will best suit your needs.

You can meet one-on-one with an access technology instructor, and work on skills that will help you achieve your personal and professional goals. We also have group workshops to build skills and connect with the LightHouse community.

A male student uses magnification during an Access Technology training at LightHouse.

Corporate Accessibility Consulting

We invite companies updating their technology, or seeking an accessibility evaluation to make an appointment with the Access Tech department. Contact us about your company’s specific needs, and we can discuss how to help.

Here are a few of the services we offer:

Design consulting —We can help you plan and design a product that is accessible from the ground up.

Functional accessibility review — We utilize our expert access technologists to assess your website or app from an accessibility perspective.

User testing sessions — We organize our blind and visually impaired user testers of all backgrounds and levels of vision to provide feedback on your product or service.

Press for our consulting services:

TechCrunch: LightHouse Access Tech Director Erin Lauridsen interview on ‘Bullish’

The Verge: Soundscape, our new design consulting project with Microsoft

CNN: Erin Lauridsen on Google’s AI Technology 

Connect with us:

To sign up for access technology training, contact skuan@lighthouse-sf.org.

For design consulting and user testing services, contact elauridsen@lighthouse-sf.org.

 

LightHouse Announces the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition

LightHouse Announces the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition

“The Holman Prize is not meant to save the world or congratulate someone for leaving the house. This prize will spark unanticipated accomplishments in the blindness community. You will see blind people doing things that surprise and perhaps even confuse you. These new LightHouse prizes will change perceptions about what blind people are capable of doing.”

— Bryan Bashin, CEO at LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Meet The Holman Prize for Blind Ambition – LightHouse’s new initiative to support the ambitions of blind and low vision people worldwide. Beginning in 2017, The Holman Prize will announce an annual set of awards funding projects in a range of amounts – up to $25,000 per project – that will finance and support blind adventurers worldwide in pursuing their most ambitious projects.

Chronicled in a 2006 novel by Jason Roberts, the explorer James Holman became the first blind person to circumnavigate the globe in 1832. In his spirit, The Holman Prize celebrates people who want to shape their own future instead of having it laid out for them.

The Holman Prize is specifically for legally blind individuals with a penchant for exploration of all types. LightHouse’s initial 2017 prizes will provide financial backing for a as many as three individuals to explore the world and push their limits through travel, connections, construction and communication. 

The ideal candidate is someone who is willing to probe their environment and eager to savor the richness of a world that is so often thought of as inaccessible to the blind. This exploration may involve travel, community organizing, scholarship, daring art or projects we haven’t even considered. We’re looking for intrepid travelers, creative problem solvers, effective communicators, natural ambassadors, passionate advocates, joyful builders, active boundary-pushers and experience seekers.

In January 2017, The Holman Prize application process kicks off with a challenge: blind applicants must submit a first-round pitch in the form of a 90-second YouTube video. The deadline for these phase one applications is February 28, 2017 at 12 noon PST. All pitch videos will be compiled into the LightHouse Media playlist below. As an extra incentive, the blind applicant who creates the most popular YouTube video, will secure themselves a spot as a coveted spot as a Holman Prize finalist, to be interviewed this spring by our esteemed committee. Learn more about the submissions process here, and watch our intro video below:

“We recognize that asking a blind person to upload a video may challenge some people’s ideas of what blind people are capable of — of what blind people can or should do,“ says LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin, “The video uploading and later public speaking will certainly require creativity, and these are the qualities we seek to encourage with the Holman Prize. These are the types of people we want to apply.” 

Semifinalists will be notified in March and go through a formal application process, after which finalists will be notified and a winner will be selected by a committee of leaders, thinkers and explorers from throughout the blind world. We expect the Holman Prizewinners to start their projects in Fall 2017 and they will be recognized at the Holman Prize Gala in 2018.

Follow the Holman Prize on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Visit holmanprize.org for more information on how to Buy Instagram followers.

YES Workshops: Making Work Fun!

YES Workshops: Making Work Fun!

Photo: Group of YES students sit around a conference table watching a presentation.

The December YES workshop is Making Work Fun!

Each month the LightHouse offers a special YES (Youth Employment Series) workshop aimed at youth ages 14 to 26. This December we’ll focus on showing students that work can be fun and enriching — particularly when you have the practical skills to augment your big ideas.

This interactive LightHouse-sponsored training emphasizes the vocational enrichment of youth who are blind or have low vision, increasing and providing individuals access to a multifaceted array of mentorship, advocacy skills and alternative accessible techniques.

When: Saturday, December 3, 2016, 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Where: LightHouse HQ, 1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco, 94103
Who:  Candidates must be transition-aged students ages 14 to 26 who are blind or have low vision. They must be eligible for transitional rehabilitation services, deemed legally blind by a physician or accredited agency, and able to fulfill the training and work required by the program.

Topics that will be addressed in December include but are not limited to:

  • Learning about the adapted form of self-defense for the blind from One Touch Project, the leading accessible form of self-defense practice.
  • Personality Profile assessment to help gauge students’ personal employable traits.
  • Learning various methods to access the internet, email and communicate professionally online using adaptive technology.
  • A how-to tutorial in drawing tactile pictures in braille.
  • A chance to engage with a working individual in the blind community.
  • Finally, students will be offered take-home sample materials and models on how to apply their new skills in daily life.

Is There a Cost to Attend YES Workshops?

The cost to attend the LightHouse Youth Employment Series workshops is $175 per day-long workshop. In addition to the day’s activities and curriculum, students will receive a light breakfast, lunch and refreshments throughout the day. Department of Rehabilitation authorizations or other payment source must be secured before students will be eligible to participate.

If you have any questions or wish to apply, please contact Youth Services Coordinator Richie Flores at rflores@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7328.

Would you like to be a YES Protégé?

Sign up for YES workshops! We are currently seeking protégés for the Youth Employment Series (YES). Protégés will benefit from vocational and blindness skills training, meaningful work and volunteer opportunities, as well as career-specific mentorships with the working blind. This informative monthly series will provide transition-aged youth who are blind or have low vision with vital skills that will help them become more successful as they pursue their academic and employment dreams.

Blind Soldering: See Photos from Our First-ever Electrical Workshop

Blind Soldering: See Photos from Our First-ever Electrical Workshop

On November 6, the LightHouse held its first-ever soldering workshop for people who are blind or have low vision. It was a huge success, and we have the photographs to prove it! Scroll down for more.

Soldering is a fundamental skill in electronics work that involves using a hot iron to fuse metal to form a permanent connection between electronic components. The aim of the workshop was to help students make their own accessible continuity testers – one of the most fundamental tools for students working in electronics without vision.

While most continuity testers use lights to indicate the strength of electric currents, accessible continuity testers emit a range of tones — high for a free path and low for an impeded path. Unfortunately, accessible continuity testers cannot be purchased, and previous manufacturers have ceased production. Each student left the workshop with a fully-functioning accessible continuity tester for use in their future work; and the skills to solder it themselves.

LightHouse extends a special thanks to Dr. Joshua Miele, Associate Director of the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, for facilitating the workshop.

“Blind people are makers. We can do things like soldering and building robots and woodworking,” says Dr. Miele. “We might use slightly different techniques, but the outcome is the same. The LightHouse is all about teaching these alternative techniques so that people can engage in the activities they love, whether they’re sighted or not.”

Here are a few lovely shots from the workshop, by photographer Erin Conger:

The workshop was held in LightHouse's Innovation Lab on the 11th floor. A close-up of the sign outside the STEM lab in room 1145 reads “Innovation Lab Sponsored by Toyota”. A large window reveals a few students hard at work inside the lab.
The workshop was held in LightHouse’s Innovation Lab on the 11th floor. A close-up of the sign outside the STEM lab in room 1145 reads “Innovation Lab Sponsored by Toyota”. A large window reveals a few students hard at work inside the lab.
A diverse array of students, instructors, and volunteers are hard at work in the LightHouse’s Innovation Lab. A Be My Eyes poster stands out in the background as an indicator of the space’s many uses.
A diverse array of students, instructors, and volunteers are hard at work in the LightHouse’s Innovation Lab. A Be My Eyes poster stands out in the background as an indicator of the space’s many uses, including as a home base for two accessibility start-ups.
Baskets hold some of the essential components for making continuity testers: stainless steel forceps, insulated handle-wire strippers, wire cutters, wrenches, and Phillips-Head screwdrivers. A few spools of insulated wire — also essential — sit to the left.
Baskets hold some of the essential components for making continuity testers: stainless steel forceps, insulated handle-wire strippers, wire cutters, wrenches, and Phillips-Head screwdrivers. A few spools of insulated wire — also essential — sit to the left.
Red, green, black and white insulated wire spools sit on a table. Color indicators help sighted individuals distinguish between wires, while vision impaired students use a system of knots to differentiate between them.
Red, green, black and white insulated wire spools sit on a table. Color indicators help sighted individuals distinguish between wires, while vision impaired students use a system of knots to differentiate between them.
A close up of a student’s hand resting on the table near a soldering iron set in its station. A soldering iron is a handheld tool with an insulated handle and heated metal tip used to melt solder.
A close up of a student’s hand resting on the table near a soldering iron set in its station. A soldering iron is a handheld tool with an insulated handle and heated metal tip used to melt solder.
A group of 13 students, instructors, and volunteers are hard at work around the long central table in LightHouse’s Innovation Lab.
A group of 13 students, instructors, and volunteers are hard at work around the long central table in LightHouse’s Innovation Lab.
Six students and volunteers sit around two tables, hard at work. The grey work surface is scattered with castaway bits of wire and solder. The lab’s large windows offer a view of neighboring grey buildings.
Six students and volunteers sit around two tables, hard at work. The grey work surface is scattered with castaway bits of wire and solder. The lab’s large windows offer a view of neighboring grey buildings.
A student’s fingers slide down the length of a pair of stainless steel forceps to find the point of contact on the circuit board. This technique helps students who are blind create landmarks for soldering throughout the process.
A student’s fingers slide down the length of a pair of stainless steel forceps to find the point of contact on the circuit board. This technique helps students who are blind create landmarks for soldering throughout the process.
A curl of smoke rises from the tip of a hot soldering iron as a student melts points of solder onto his circuit board.
A curl of smoke rises from the tip of a hot soldering iron as a student melts points of solder onto his circuit board.
A female soldering student wearing reflective sunglasses and a colorful headband leans over her work station, deep in a concentration. A steel vice is used to steady a yellow circuit board for ease of work while soldering.
A female soldering student wearing reflective sunglasses and a colorful headband leans over her work station, deep in concentration. A steel vice is used to steady a yellow circuit board for ease of work while soldering.
Workshop facilitator Dr. Joshua Miele of the Smith-Kettlewell Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Low Vision and Blindness oversees the work of a male soldering student.
Workshop facilitator Dr. Joshua Miele of the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute oversees the work of a male soldering student.
A man in a grey shirt and suspenders clasps a yellow circuit board. Behind him, the student with the tawny shirt is hard at working with his soldering iron in hand. A smattering of tools are sprawled across the table next to a folded cane.
A man in a grey shirt and suspenders clasps a yellow circuit board. Behind him, a student in a  tawny shirt is holding a soldering iron in hand. A smattering of tools are sprawled across the table next to a folded cane.
Clasping a pair of yellow wire-strippers, a female student in a teal shirt uses the instrument’s notched jaws to remove the insulation from a section of yellow wire. Her other tools are scattered on the table in front of her. Other students are hard at work in the background.
Clasping a pair of yellow wire-strippers, a female student in a teal shirt uses the instrument’s notched jaws to remove the insulation from a section of yellow wire. Her other tools are scattered on the table in front of her.
Two older male students collaborate at a busy soldering station.
Two older male students collaborate at a busy soldering station.
A middle-aged blonde male bends over his workstation.
A middle-aged blonde male student bends over his workstation.
A grey-haired student in a black polo shirt glides his hands over the notches on his circuit board.
A grey-haired student in a black polo shirt glides his hands over the notches on his circuit board.
A man with long gray hair and a purple shirt sits facing away at one of the high top work surfaces in the Innovation Lab. His glossy black guide dog is on the floor at his feet, staring directly into the camera.
A man with long gray hair and a purple shirt sits facing away at one of the high top work surfaces in the Innovation Lab. His glossy black guide dog is on the floor at his feet, staring directly into the camera.
A smiling grey-haired male student wearing a black hoodie and a white button-up sits at the table grasping a completed continuity tester.
A smiling grey-haired male student wearing a black hoodie and a white button-up sits at the table grasping a completed continuity tester.

The LightHouse’s Innovation Lab will continue to offer workshops in STEM fields, so stay tuned. It is part of our mission to strengthen the representation of people who are blind or have low vision in the tech industry and other STEM fields.

For more information about future workshops visit the LightHouse Calendar or contact Director of Community Services Lisamaria Martinez via email at info@lighthouse-sf.org or by phone at 415-431-1481.

A New Milestone: LightHouse’s Employment Immersion Alumni Hit $2.5M Salary Mark

A New Milestone: LightHouse’s Employment Immersion Alumni Hit $2.5M Salary Mark

Photo: Kate Williams stands on the sweeping ramp inside the Ed Roberts Campus where LightHouse has its Berkeley office.

Everyone in the blindness community knows the ominous statistics: At least 60 – possibly even as many as 70 percent – of legally blind people remain unemployed. That’s why back in 2011 we made a commitment to blind jobseekers to establish a program that gave them the practical skills they needed to get the jobs they wanted.

Today, we’re proud to announce that the alumni of our program reached over $2.5M in salaries – $2,513,630 to be exact – and the number is growing every week. That is $2.5M in value added to our economy; $2.5M of worker time for people who didn’t know if they had what it took to compete in the job market; $2.5M that doesn’t even factor in the amount those individuals would have otherwise collected from social security and state financial aid.

Kate Williams, our Employment Immersion Program Manager, Purpose Prize Winner, and job coach nationally recognized by the Wall Street Journal, is the driving force behind these achievements. In the last six months alone, Kate and her team have helped sixteen blind and low vision jobseekers find new employment. That is sixteen people who six months ago, had to rely solely on assistance from others.

We can’t take all the credit, though. The LightHouse students who have been through our program have received rigorous and enthusiastic support from family, friends, private donors, foundations, grants and the CA State Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) which sends many students through our classes. At the end of the day, though, it’s about letting our students stand on their own two feet and enjoy a little bit of financial security. As one student told Kate last week: “It was just nice to be able to actually buy someone else dinner, for once.”

Here’s to more dinners together, and more success stories in 2016.

The Employment Immersion Program is for people who are blind or have low vision, from any background, seeking any job.

The next Employment Immersion session will begin on January 10, 2017:

Where: The LightHouse Building, 1155 Market St., 10th Floor, 94103
When: January 10 through February 9, 2017
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

To learn more, contact Employment Immersion Coordinator Wanda Pearson at wpearson@lighthouse-sf.org or call 415-694-7359.

Employment Immersion is hiring a new job development professional. If you have the skills to help blind and low vision jobseekers thrive, apply here.

Come Have Dinner on Us and Learn Some Estate Planning Techniques that May Benefit You and the LightHouse

Come Have Dinner on Us and Learn Some Estate Planning Techniques that May Benefit You and the LightHouse

Portrait of Michael Bland

You are invited to a LightHouse Legacy Society Event at the new LightHouse building, with special guest presenter Michael Bland. Michael is the principal attorney at Guardian Counsel, PC. and is dedicated to assisting his clients design their family’s estate plans to preserve their personal and financial well-being while planning for the future. Michael is an Eagle Scout and was born and raised in Napa, California.

When: Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Where: the LightHouse Building at 1155 Market Street, Floor 10, San Francisco, 94103
Dinner will be served

Please RSVP to Dagny Brown at 415-694-7333 or events@lighthouse-sf.org.

We want to thank our LightHouse Legacy Society Members for including the LightHouse in their estate plans:

Hank Borenko, Margie Donovan, Joan M. Dove, Robert Ray Foster, Gena Harper and Mike May, Dolores Ippolito, Roger Kallen, Justin Kim, Kuhnle Family Endowment, Jerry Kuns and Theresa Postello, Inez E. Martini, Ann Noble and Goran Muhlert, Robert E. O’Donnell, Alicia Jean Rose, Frederic and Kristine Silva, Richard Stevens and Virginia Behm,  David and Regula Weill, Martin and Rosan Weissman, Jennifer Westbrook, Greg Wong.