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LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Camper Jane Reflects on Adult Camp at EHC

Camper Jane Reflects on Adult Camp at EHC

Enchanted Hills Camp (EHC) kicked off the first six weeks of summer with four fun-filled camp sessions for our youngest and eldest campers. We opened our cabin doors in early June to our first bunch of campers at Deafblind Camp. Our LightHouse Little Learners and their families made their EHC debut the following weekend and began what is sure to be a new summer tradition. We were delighted to welcome back our campers 21 and older for the first Adult Camp session since the summer of 2019.  First-time campers and longtime friends made the most of their time in our enchanted redwood retreat: hiking, swimming, boating, fishing, crafting, creating, playing, and laughing. We look forward to hosting more campers in August.

Ever since EHC was founded by Rose Resnick (blind activist, educator, and leader) in 1950, LightHouse has been proud to provide a happy and blind-positive environment where blind and low vision people of all ages can grow, explore, and connect – with nature, with each other, with themselves – but the true magic of Enchanted Hills Camp is our campers and the value each and every one of them brings to EHC. Camper Jane reflected on her time at camp this summer:

One Tap at a Time

Thank you, Rose Resnick, for your visionary spirit. You aimed beyond boundaries. You forged pathways of lifelines and lifetime connections.

You and I met back in the 1970s. You, the persistent, passionate, and sincere woman who wrote and delivered her 60-second advocacy speeches on behalf of the blind every few months on KGO-TV, Channel 7 in San Francisco. Me, the Assistant Director of Community Affairs handled the “Speak Freely” community messages. Your name was memorable, as was your demeanor: gentle, kind, and articulate. I laugh to myself now as I realize how routinely we had always prepared hand- written cue cards for each guest to read and deliver their messages. And, of course, now I realize your hands were reading braille notes!

Fast forward to today, nearly 50 years later. I’m basking in the afterglow of experiencing Enchanted Hills Camp 2022… the magnitude and magnificence of sincere love, care, compassion, kindness, support, and camaraderie.

Here are a few of my lasting impressions….
—Priceless. Seen and acknowledged as an asset. Not a liability.
—Poetry Workshop poem: Same. Same. You. Me.
—Beyond imagination. The wholly huge support of our young counselors. Not a moment to fear, knowing their gentle voices, guiding, and helping hands, and support were always nearby.
—According to the accordion, and tunes of Venus and Mars life abounds with upright and downright jamming music, spontaneity, twilight zones, and picnics!
—Wouldn’t it be wonderful to greet morning light as birds do… bursting into perfect pitch and song? Greeting the new day with sounds of joy and delight! I’m afraid of what’s ahead…
—Been too long since I’ve freely laughed and smiled and clapped hands, stomped my feet, hooted and hollered, listened to live music and simply shared comfort and joy with others!
— “Something” in the way Dylan and Hanna harmonize and “wOOooooOO!” Believing in HOW. NOW.
—First time holding a bow and arrow. It won’t be the last. New revelation: it’s a meditative art. Focus. Hold deep breath. Extend reach. Let go.
—At the chapel, outside finds inside. One strike on Bill’s meditative bowl. Maddie makes it sing. With mallet, she traces the rim again and again.
—Thanks, Brent. You illuminated life’s orientation beyond South, West, North, East. Adding upwards to Sky, downwards to earth, and hands covering our hearts completing the connection to ourselves.
—Rose knew. Rose knows. No one could be finer than Tony as the guiding heart, mind, body, and soul of Enchanted Hills Camp.

We don’t walk alone. We hold our heads high. We’re less afraid of the dark. We walk on with the tap of our white canes, guide dogs, human guides and enchanted hearts and souls graced by nature with Rose.

LightHouse To Host COVID-19 Booster Clinic for 1st & 2nd Booster Shots

LightHouse To Host COVID-19 Booster Clinic for 1st & 2nd Booster Shots

Members of the LightHouse community, their friends and families, and members of the wider community are invited to receive either their first or second COVID-19 vaccine booster shot on Tuesdays, June 7 and June 14. Each vaccination clinic runs between 1:00 and 4:00 pm at our 1155 Market Street San Francisco headquarters.

To register to attend the LightHouse vaccination clinic at 1155 Market Street, you will first need to make an appointment by calling 415-694-7648 or by emailing info@lighthouse-sf.org. Voicemail messages can be left for callback outside of these hours.

This line is available to speakers of both Spanish and English. Other language interpreters are available once you leave a voicemail requesting a callback.

Please note: Any COVID-19 vaccines can be used for booster vaccination, regardless of the vaccine product used for primary immunization. Both Pfizer & Moderna booster vaccines will be available during the two clinic dates.

These clinics are for booster vaccinations only and the clinics are for people ages 18 and older. Vaccines for children ages 5-11 years old will not be available at the LightHouse. However, staff can refer to other sites in the city offering pediatric vaccines.

Eligibility For Those Getting Their First Booster at LightHouse

Pfizer-BioNTech & Moderna COVID-19 vaccine recipients

The CDC recommends a booster of either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

  • For most people, at least five months after the final dose in the primary series
  • For people who are moderately or severely immuno-compromised, at least three months after the final dose in the primary series

Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine recipients:

The CDC recommends a booster of either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

  • For most people, at least two months after the primary dose of the Johnson & Johnson Janssen COVID-19 vaccine
  • For people who are moderately or severely immuno-compromised, at least two months after the additional dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

Eligibility For Those Getting Their Second Booster at LightHouse

Pfizer-BioNTech & Moderna COVID-19 vaccine recipients

People in the following groups can choose to get a second booster of either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at least four months after the 1st booster:

  • Adults ages 50 years and older
  • People who are moderately or severely immuno-compromised

Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine recipients:

People in the following groups can choose to get a second booster of either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at least four months after the 1st booster:

  • Anyone who got a Johnson & Johnson J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine for both their primary dose and booster
  • Adults ages 50 years and older
  • People who are moderately or severely immuno-compromised

Dates & Location

Dates
Tuesday, June 7 and Tuesday, June 14, both from 1:00 to 4:30 pm
Address
LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
San Francisco headquarters
1155 Market Street, 10th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103

Accessibility

  • ASL interpreting will be available at the clinic.
  • LightHouse volunteers will be on site to provide instructions and help navigating

Getting to Your Appointment

Please visit the directions to San Francisco LightHouse webpage for detailed information on how to get to your appointment by public transit and rideshare.

Please note masks are mandatory indoors at the LightHouse and we practice six feet social distancing. The LightHouse is proud to be able to offer our headquarters as a central, easy, and welcoming location for our extended community to receive booster vaccinations and we welcome back volunteers and nurses from the San Francisco Department of Public Health for a second COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Clinic.

LightHouse Staffers Reflect on Returning to In-Person Work

LightHouse Staffers Reflect on Returning to In-Person Work

Photo Caption 1: Director of People and Culture, Mario Burton, stands at the podium while Chief Operating Officer, Brandon Cox, and Assistant Director of Facilities, Julia M. Stewart, look on. Their video images are displayed infinitely on the large screen TV behind them as if reflected in an infinity mirror

Photo Caption 2: Vice President of Programs, Scott Blanks, listens as Community Outreach Coordinator, Sheri Albers, talks on a large screen TV

More than two years ago, on March 13, 2020, to keep everyone safe during the pandemic, LightHouse closed its physical doors, stopped all in-person programming, and sent non-essential employees home to work remotely. Immediately LightHouse came up with a plethora of virtual classes to continue serving our community and  some limited in-person services outdoors. Over the last 26 months, there have been many changes, including an influx of new staff hired during the pandemic. On May 4, staff members masked up and gathered at LightHouse headquarters to celebrate their colleagues’ return to in-person work. Below are reflections from several staff members.

Wael Ghobrial: Graphic Designer
Started at LightHouse: April 2022

“I saw a group of people with a lot of motivation and determination to make change. Before I was excited to work at LightHouse, but now, I’m VERY excited”

Sequence Gilder: Admin Assistant, DeafBlind Telecommunications Program
Started at LightHouse: March 2022

“I have been at the LightHouse for two months, and from what I can see, have landed my feathers in the right nest! I look forward to meeting everyone in person again. You all keep me learning, smiling, and feeling continuous passion about what I do!”

Sabrina Bolus: Adult Programs Coordinator
Started at LightHouse: March 2022

“I’m glad to be part of the LightHouse team! I felt a sense of camaraderie and reconnected with and met many of the other beautiful people I worked alongside, learned from, and played with online. The food on The Fourth was good, too. The New Yorker in me chose the pastrami. My favorite part? The scavenger hunt!”

Jeffrey Colon: Director of Access Technology
Started at LightHouse: April 2020

“The first time that I came to our headquarters, the office was empty; It felt strange. There were no students, no community partners and only a few work colleagues. I wondered how it was going to work. I learned a lot and how to make adjustments when working remotely. When I finally met with my colleagues in person, I said to myself, “This is what this organization is! All of us with just one mission.”

Danette Davis: Orientation & Mobility Specialist
Started at LightHouse: 2016

“It’s great to be back in person with colleagues, back to feeling like part of a team. It’s been a long couple of years out on the streets with students but connecting with colleagues only virtually. So, I’m happy and ready for the opening.“

Katt Jones: Orientation & Mobility Specialist
Started at LightHouse: 2015

“As an O&M Specialist, even pre-COVID I was mostly working outside of the office. The biggest adjustment was the six months we were virtual-only. In October 2020, I began to teach in person again, outdoors only. May 4 was pretty amazing for me to see so much of staff in person and to match new faces to their voices on Zoom. I’m excited to see what we are able to do in the future as we adjust to in-person work and services.”

Divina Carlson: Braille Instructor
Started at LightHouse: 1993

“Going back in person for the first time after 26 months felt like the first day at school; you didn’t know what to expect. I was excited to meet our colleagues, new and old. At the end of a long day with the all-staff meeting, several nice breakout sessions and lunch, I was exhausted but happy to see everyone.”

Tony Fletcher: Director of Enchanted Hills Camp
Started at LightHouse: 1990

“It is wonderful to be back at the office and reconnect with my colleagues. It didn’t take long to realize what a special team of professionals we have at LightHouse and to admire how much our organization has grown even with the pandemic trying to slow us down. I was reminded how much I missed the collaboration and enthusiasm that comes from being together in person.”

Scott Blanks, LightHouse Vice President of Programs, who started in 2014, gives some general impressions and informs the LightHouse Community on how they can find out more about future programs.

“Much like the world over, The pandemic has wrought changes upon the LightHouse, impacting staff and students alike. These past 26 months have challenged us in ways we couldn’t have imagined in early 2020. Across the organization, we have remained committed to supporting the blind and low vision community towards their personal and professional goals, while striving to keep everyone safe and healthy. We will continue to make this promise as we gradually transition select services and programs from virtual settings to hybrid or in-person offerings at our multiple locations.

“Students currently enrolled in LightHouse programs will be kept up-to-date by teachers and program leads on what changes to expect over the coming months. If you have yet to participate with us, you can learn what’s possible by calling 415-431-1481, or emailing info@lighthouse-sf.org.”

Accessible Pedestrian Signals – Are They Working For You?

Accessible Pedestrian Signals – Are They Working For You?

By Sheri Albers, Community Outreach Coordinator

Many years ago, during my initial Orientation & Mobility training, I was taught to cross an intersection by listening for the “surge” and always going with parallel traffic. This was in the days before an Audio Pedestrian Signal (APS). The intention of the APS was never to replace my learned blindness skills, but to enhance my safe travel experience. Sometimes when I am downtown in San Francisco, there is so much noise from people, music, or construction, that it can be difficult to discern the traffic patterns with an elevated level of confidence. Intersections are also more complicated due to the high volume of hybrid vehicles which eliminate the phenomena of the “surge” because there is a lack of sound. I am always relieved to find an APS as a backup to let me know that it’s safe to cross. I was also elated to learn of the vibration feature to notify DeafBlind people!

One of the organizational goals of LightHouse is to strengthen partnerships with state and local agencies, and advocate for our community. We have worked on many projects with San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), including the most recent “Safety – It’s Your Turn” Campaign to help make intersections safer for pedestrians as they are crossing streets when there are drivers making left turns. Discussions to increase communication with SFMTA on intersection safety ARE ongoing, and the focus has now turned to APS. LightHouse is concerned that there is a need for more APSs throughout the city, that there is little known about how to request an APS, and that the SFMTA website is confusing to navigate.

What is an Accessible Pedestrian Signal?

An Accessible Pedestrian Signal (APS) is a pedestrian push button that communicates when to cross the street in a non-visual manner, such as audible tones, speech messages and vibrating surfaces. Read more on the SFMTA website about APS.

Watch a short video where Polara partnered with LightHouse to show how APS work in San Francisco.

There was an SFMTA policy established in 2010 that required the transit agency to report to LightHouse on a semiannual basis the number of APS installations, status of request for APS, and status of APS maintenance requests. Through my discussions with the SFMTA APS Team, I was able to convey the importance of this report and re-establish this practice. These reports will begin to be distributed starting July 2022 and updated every six months.

Is there an intersection in San Francisco near you or the places you frequent that needs an APS? How do you request one?

There are two ways to request an APS. The first is to call 311. The second way is to fill out an online form at the San Francisco 311 Customer Service Center website. If outside the city, call 415-701-2311. When you call, all you need to do is submit your name, contact information, the desired intersection and the format in which you wish to receive a response. SFMTA will respond to you withing 90 days with the status of your request.

Is there an APS near in San Francisco that needs repair?

Any maintenance concerns regarding APS buttons, including volume, should be submitted by contacting 311 as noted above. SFMTA will make any necessary repairs typically within 24 hours of receiving the maintenance request.

Learn All About San Francisco APS by Listening to an Interview and Attending an Online Discussion

To learn much more about APS in San Francisco, please listen to my interview with Bryant Woo who is a Senior Traffic Engineer on the SFMTA APS team. According to Mr. Woo, as of March 31, 2022, 33% of all intersections with traffic signals in San Francisco have an Accessible Pedestrian Signal. SFMTA is proud to say that our city is the leader in the country for this statistic. Woo goes on to say, “We are not happy until we hit 100%!” If you have any questions for Mr. Woo about matters concerning APS, you may contact him by email at Bryant.Woo@sfmta.com.

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

Positions Open for Blind Community Members on LightHouse Blind Advisory Panel

Positions Open for Blind Community Members on LightHouse Blind Advisory Panel

The LightHouse Board of Directors wishes to formalize an ongoing independent structure through which it can learn from blind people in our community their current needs for programs and services.  As these needs change, and as COVID and changing demographics reveal new unmet needs, it’s a best practice to operate an independent ongoing advisory platform from which our Board can learn what LightHouse is doing right, and what it needs to improve upon.

Therefore as the Lighthouse Board seeks to broaden its input about community needs for programs and services, it has decided to implement a common best practice in our field by formalizing a Blind Advisory Committee. As the body charged with drafting Lighthouse policy, the Board of Directors seeks the broadest sources of input from staff, partners and stakeholders, including, now, direct input from its community.

This is not a first for the LightHouse: over the years there have been various forms of blind input. For his first four years, CEO Bryan Bashin hosted a “Dialogue with the Director”, an open forum for all community members, which was a direct route for community members to give their opinions. As Lighthouse programs and services have grown it is imperative that new regular methods for our Board of Directors to be informed about current community needs are developed. Coming out of COVID, too, the needs of our community may have changed greatly, and the Board is interested in hearing directly from community members. This will be especially important as Lighthouse conducts its next Strategic Plan process later in 2022.

Sharon Sacks, LightHouse Board Chair shared her vision for the Blind Advisory Committee:

“As Lighthouse programs continue to evolve and grow, its Board of Directors is committed to engaging and receiving input from our greater community. This group will be chaired by members of the LightHouse board in order to effectively transfer communication from the community directly to the Board. The Lighthouse Board encourages individuals who are blind or low vision to apply to participate in this unique and important committee.

The LightHouse Board is looking for people who are in touch with today’s community needs, as well as those who may have experience with new or different programs and services which might be operated by the LightHouse.  The new Blind Advisory Committee will consist of nine people, including two places that will be offered to the National Federation of the Blind of California’s San Francisco chapter and the California Council of the Blind. Applications are encouraged from people who are blind or have low vision living throughout northern California, with a particular emphasis in the in nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

Those applying will be asked to meet with the Board’s committee to determine who the Board believes would be the best set of individuals to serve, with many considerations including diversity as we ensure that the distribution according to age, intersectional disability, gender, and blindness/low vision be representative of the northern  California demographics of blindness.  LightHouse Blind Advisory Committee members will be asked to serve a term of two years.

The Committee will meet quarterly approximately three weeks before each Board meeting which will be chaired by a LightHouse Board member.  The Board member will report on the Committee’s observations, suggestions, and recommendations at each Board meeting.

Bryan Bashin, CEO of LightHouse said: “Considering the vast changes in service needs and delivery we’ve seen over the pandemic, it’s more important than ever that the Lighthouse stay relevant to the changing needs of the people our mission requires us to serve.  The Board’s new Blind Advisory Committee will help our governing board stay freshly informed about the needs of blind people today.  This committee will complement input the Board gets from their personal and professional networks, as well as Lighthouse staff.  I welcome the input, especially in areas we may not be familiar with.  Lighthouse has existed for 120 years because it is open to new input and change, and the Blind Advisory Committee will help us learn things we may not now know.”

Apply for the Blind Advisory Committee

2021 Holman Prizewinner Robert Malunda’s “Gateway to Elation”

2021 Holman Prizewinner Robert Malunda’s “Gateway to Elation”

(Listen to the complete interview above.)

Last July, fifteen blind and low vision judges from all over the world met to choose which three of the fourteen 2021 Holman Prize finalists would become the next Holman Prizewinners. After hours of passionate discussions and debate held over an entire weekend via Zoom, LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin and the LightHouse Communications team that help facilitate the annual Holman Prize Award were tasked with the honorable job of breaking the great congratulatory news to the newly named 2021 Holman Prizewinners. Meanwhile, in a home a world away in Zimbabwe, Africa, Holman finalist Robert Malunda was hard at work turning his dreams of making trainings, resources, and education for the blind and low vision individuals of Zimbabwe a reality.

“Congratulations, Robert! You are one of the winners of the 2021 Holman Prize!” Bryan Bashin excitedly exclaimed.

Though his demeanor was calm, you couldn’t help but hear the ear-to-ear smile in the prizewinner’s voice as he graciously accepted the award and expressed the kindest and most sincere gratitude. “Thank you, so much,” said Robert Malunda. “I am truly grateful. I will not let James Holman or the Holman Prize down,” he stated, as the audible happiness and pride in his voice brought joyful tears to the eyes of the LightHouse staff as they continued to congratulate him.

Robert Malunda was born on August 15, 1988, in Bulawayo in the Matabeleland region of Zimbabwe. As an infant, Robert developed glaucoma. Due to limited availability of specialists and treatments, Robert lost his sight completely around three years old. Growing up blind in Zimbabwe can be incredibly difficult, as resources for blind and low vision children are very limited, but Robert’s family was determined to send their son to school.

“It was a very important decision, taking me to school,” Robert explains. “Most blind people in Zimbabwe do not go to school. So, I was taken to school at a relatively young age—around six years old. I was taught the same skills as a sighted person, but it was mostly academic in the mainstream school.”

While attending primary school as a child, Robert received fairly regular Braille instruction by a visiting teacher and was taught the same curriculum as sighted children, however, he did not receive any regular blindness skills education, such as orientation and mobility or assistive technology training. And although Robert was very successful in the classroom with his knowledge of Braille and applying his impeccable auditory-learning skills, having a lack of further blindness education left him with a disadvantage. It was when Robert attended Midlands State University of Zimbabwe that he found himself in the proverbial “pickle.”

“Before, I used to depend on the sight of my friends for studying. There were no books or accessible resources for the blind, so we had to ask friends to read for us. So, that is when I asked myself how I can do what I need to do for university by myself. I heard a lot of things about computers. I knew there are really a lot of great things about computers and what they can do for other people, so I was inquisitive on how this can be of help to the blind. I started to teach myself to use Microsoft Word and other word processing programs. I wanted to learn more and teach other blind people how to use these computers, too.”

At university, Robert began exploring what little he could on the computers made available to the students at the school. He shared his ambition with a friend in the United Kingdom. They then sent Robert a computer of his own. He began working with screen reading software programs like JAWS, and through much trial and error he was able to successfully navigate his way through university, sharing and teaching the tech skills he’d learned with his friends and peers along the way.

Learning how to be independent with the help of computers is what gave Robert the idea for his organization and Holman Prize project, Gateway to Elation. The purpose of this organization is to provide computer, orientation & mobility, and social skills training to blind Zimbabweans in rural areas across the country. Many blind people do not have any formal education like Robert was able to receive, therefore the employment and independence rate of the blind in Zimbabwe is very, very low. Robert Malunda will personally travel to these areas of the country where there are no government provided services or funding of any kind for blind people.

“My vision has been to reach as many people as possible,” Robert explains. “My Holman year will be spent mostly traveling around the country meeting new people and new blind people, those in the rural areas and even those in the cities, because life for a blind person is almost the same for those in the city as in the rural areas, because we face the same challenges. We can’t access information; we can’t access what other people do access easily…. Blind people in Zimbabwe often experience isolation. I envision a Zimbabwe where blind people are knowledgeable, independent and socially interactive.”

Technology training may have been the driving force for Gateway to Elation in the beginning, but Robert recognizes the isolation experienced by so many blind and low vision people in Zimbabwe reaches far beyond the lack of access to assistive technology. For example, there is a huge stigma about using a white cane. This is a problem seen everywhere in the world, but particularly in Zimbabwe, Robert explained.

“In primary school, I had heard that there is something called Mobility and Orientation, but it was not something I was taught. I did not even own a cane, which I think was a disadvantage for me. I received my first cane at 16, I did not use it. I think it was understood if you weren’t using the cane when you were young, then naturally it would mean that you won’t use it when you grow up. But for me, I realized that stigmatization needs to change. When I was at university it was difficult especially trying to navigate a big campus. Using a cane is very important for being independent if you want to go out on your own or do your own shopping. Being at university isn’t like a being at school as a child when these things are done for you.”

Robert wants to break the barriers and stigma of blind people and their use of a white cane for independent travel. Implementing orientation and mobility practices at an early age will help change the misconceptions of cane users and empower young blind and low vision children to take pride in using their canes and grow to become independent people. Robert also believes that by introducing social skills exercises while providing trainings for groups of blind and low vision people will create opportunity for socialization and community for those who ordinarily would not have these experiences. The isolation of people with varying disabilities in Zimbabwe from the general public makes it increasingly harder for these people to seek the resources and education needed to adapt to their environment.

Robert’s dream of building Gateway to Elation has been growing since 2016 and in 2018 he began researching funding opportunities.

“When I was searching for grants for Gateway to Elation was when I came across the LightHouse for the Blind and the Holman Prize. I made a pitch video that year, and then I did another pitch in 2019, I still have those pitches with me, but I did not actually apply. It was finally in 2021 when I decided to apply.”

Robert’s passion for his work can be heard in every word he speaks, and his expectations of changing the lives of blind and low vision people in Zimbabwe for the better do not end after the completion of his Holman Prize year.

“I also want to start a podcast. Even after my Holman Prize year ends, the podcast and YouTube channels will continue to document the lives of other blind people. The more people I reach the more blind people will be empowered and the more blind people can become more employable. The end goal is for them to be employed or able to use these skills for the betterment of their lives, either in school or professionally.”

Since winning the Holman Prize, Robert and Gateway to Elation have received wonderful responses. “It is a very prestigious award, the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition,” Robert explains. “The value and all the popularity of Gateway to Elation among the people of Zimbabwe, it is really amazing.”

For more about Robert Malunda and his journey teaching the blind across Zimbabwe, you can follow his organization Gateway to Elation on Facebook and on the Gateway to Elation website. Stay tuned for more updates on his progress and accomplishments as the Holman Prizewinner’s year continues.

The 2022 Holman Prize  applications are now open! Do you have your own Holman objective? Turn your idea into a tangible passion project and think about how you can present what Blind Ambition means to you in a 90-second pitch video and submit your application between now and March 20. For more information visit the Holman Prize website. Have fun dreaming up your Holman Prize Ambition, and who knows? You might just be one of this year’s three amazing winners!

Let Your Fingers do the Reading: Get Ready for the 2022 Braille Challenge

Let Your Fingers do the Reading: Get Ready for the 2022 Braille Challenge

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 ajine@vistacenter.org.

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!

Applications for the LightHouse for the Blind – San Francisco 2022 Holman Prize open January 21

Applications for the LightHouse for the Blind – San Francisco 2022 Holman Prize open January 21

Now in its sixth year, the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition annually awards up to $25,000 each to three blind people from around the world who have an incredible idea that will shatter misconceptions about blindness.

The Holman Prize is named after James Holman, a blind 19th century explorer who is the most prolific private traveler of anyone, blind or sighted, before the era of modern transportation.

The only qualifications for the Holman Prize are that you must be blind or legally blind, speak English and that you must be 18 years old by October 1, 2022.

When applications open on January 21, all you have to do is make a 90-second video pitching your idea and upload it to YouTube, and fill out the application form on the Holman Prize website.

Your idea can involve great personal growth or literally be on any topic, as long as you are the originator and leader of your ambitious Holman Prize objective and you are blind or legally blind: technology, the Arts, Braille, accessibility, transportation, travel, community, learning a skill, teaching a skill, launching a business, providing a service – smashing any boundary and changing perceptions.

You will have until March 20, 2022 to submit your application, but don’t leave it to the last minute because during the application period, you can be collecting as many ‘likes’ on YouTube as possible, so you’re in the running for the “People’s Choice Award.” The applicant whose video has the most “likes” automatically becomes a semi finalist.

We are thrilled to announce that Waymo is again sponsoring the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition this year. Thank you Waymo for your continued support of this global prize.

For more information on the Holman Prize visit the Holman Prize website and if you don’t find your answer there, email us at holman@lighthouse-sf.org.

Spread the word about the Holman Prize and follow Holman Prize on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

We can’t wait to watch your videos and celebrate your blind ambition!

For inspiration, check out the 2021 Holman Prize finalist video playlist.

More information about the Holman Prize!

Tax Time Will Soon Be Upon Us, Let LightHouse and AARP Help You Through It

Tax Time Will Soon Be Upon Us, Let LightHouse and AARP Help You Through It

LightHouse is partnering with AARP’s Tax-Aide Program to provide free tax filing support at 1155 Market Street this tax filing season. AARP will be at LightHouse HQ on Tuesdays and Thursdays from February 1 – April 15. Appointments are required and they can be made for 10 am, 11:15 am, and 12:30 pm. Appointments can be scheduled by leaving a voicemail at 415 – 694 – 7648 or completing this form: https://forms.office.com/r/GfZJ4wRnGV

Due to the “red” level of COVID-19 spread that the CDC has determined SF to be in, this will be a “same day drop off” structure. Tax payers will come to 1155 and drop off their materials with AARP tax preparers. They will then wait in MPR C or Reception while their taxes are being prepared. They may leave but it is preferred that they stay. The appointments are scheduled for one hour and fifteen minutes and most taxes will be able to be completed in that time.

This is open to anyone who needs support filing their federal and CA state tax returns for the tax years 2021, 2020, and 2019 (note: each year requires a separate appointment). There is no requirement based on age, income level, or SF residency.

COVID-19 Requirements:

  • Masks must be worn at all times. The Centers for Disease Control and the State of California are recommending that you double mask or wear an N95 mask. LightHouse will provide a second disposable mask if needed to ensure your safety and the safety of our staff and volunteers.
  • We will be practicing physical distancing at this location

There are some specific requirements and not all taxes will be able to be completed by AARP volunteers, these will be addressed when the appointments are made.

If you have any questions, please call 415 -694 -7648. Thank you.