Tag Archive

LightHouse student

LightHouse Student Anusha Touts the Independence Blindness Skills Training Gives Her

LightHouse Student Anusha Touts the Independence Blindness Skills Training Gives Her

Anusha wearing hoop earrings and a pale green gownWhether we are working with the families of our Little Learners at a home visit, or our senior students in the Changing Vision Changing Life program, LightHouse strives for mission moments—those pivotal moments in a student’s success, clarity, or independence. For LightHouse student Anusha, that moment happened during an orientation and mobility lesson with LightHouse O&M instructor, Katt Jones.
Anusha moved to the United States from India last year to attend Law School at UC Berkeley. Newly blind, Anusha began to lose her sight four years ago due to a condition that has caused significant damage to her optic nerve. Knowing that Anusha’s plan was to live independently in the US, Anusha’s aunt conducted her own internet research and came across LightHouse for the Blind in San Francisco. She suggested to her niece that she should get in touch. And, after settling into life as a law student, another blind student at the Cal Berkeley Disabled Students Office referred Anusha to LightHouse for services and resources that would help her acclimate to her new environment. Last August, Anusha began O&M lessons with Katt. We asked Anusha to share more of this experience with the LightHouse Lately readers:

What was your experience with blindness services and orientation and mobility before coming to LightHouse?
“I received very basic training in India, but it was not enough for me to be independent. And at the time, back home, I was always around family or friends, so there was not really a need for me to become independent. Between that and COVID, there was not an urgency to learn blindness skills at that time.”
What has receiving O&M services brought to your life?
“It has given me a lot of freedom!” [Writer’s note: When Anusha said this, you could hear the emotion, the smile, and the empowerment in her voice.]

“I don’t have to depend on anyone to go to classes. Back in India, I was always depending on someone to take me to places— to go to classes, to take me back. Always having to depend on someone is not the most… it wasn’t a fun experience, I’ll just say. Now I really enjoy going around on my own. I am still working on my skills, but I go to classes independently, I go around my dorm and my campus independently. It is very liberating. I love having this kind of freedom. I really appreciate the services, and I really appreciate Katt’s training. They have connected me with so many resources, and my life has become so much easier than it was.”
Will you be continuing with any other LightHouse services?
“Yes! I’ve been working with Dawn Leafling on my Independent Living Skills since January. I have also connected with Ed Wong in the Employment Immersion department, and I look forward to starting the employment program with him at the end of March.”

What advice would you give to anyone who is blind or has low vision and is skeptical about receiving blindness services?
“I actually have a friend who is going through this—they are losing their eyesight. I don’t know if they are ready to start classes yet, but they have already spoken to me about my experience with LightHouse. I shared my experience and my own story. I told them how it has made me become free and do things independently. I shared my story of how far I’ve come. I think that helps—sharing your own story. I think it helps people understand, ‘Okay this is someone who is going through something similar, and they have overcome the challenges, and so can I.’

“It is going to be a daunting process going through all the trainings and learning all the skills,” Anusha advises, “but it is worth it, having the freedom and the independence. I know it can be difficult at times. Sometimes I think about all the juggling I have to do—all the skills, the classes, law school—sometimes I am just so exhausted. But then, I look at the end result. I look at all the things I am able to do, and I think, ‘Okay, this is completely worth it.’ Especially working with LightHouse. All of the instructors have been so kind, so compassionate. I love their enthusiasm and love for their work. Even on days when I feel like I don’t want to do it, it is their support that helps me get through.”
To learn more about the programs and services LightHouse provides, please visit the LightHouse website, or email info@lighthouse-sf.org for questions, inquiries, or intakes.

Student Profile: Marie Vuong

Student Profile: Marie Vuong

On Monday mornings, adults gather at the LightHouse for The Business of Blindness: Coffee With Mike Cole. Mike, who is blind himself and retired after a long career in the field of blindness, chats with attendees over different issues related to blindness from daily living, to dealing with getting benefits to blindness philosophy.

One of the regular attendees of Mike’s class is Marie Vuong, who has been coming to the adult daytime programs at the LightHouse since 2011. In 2009, Marie’s optometrist noticed something unusual in her left eye and urged Marie to see an ophthalmologist. Marie found out that her retina had detached. She soon developed cataracts on both eyes.

With her vision changing, Marie decided to research various senior centers, most of which offered medical services and support groups for seniors with changing vision. But Marie was looking for something different: She was drawn to the LightHouse because of its recreational activities. “I came to the LightHouse because I wanted to learn things,” she said firmly.

Serena Olson, Adult Program Coordinator at Lighthouse, explains that when people first come to the LightHouse for services, some are ready to jump right in to intensive one-on-one training offered by Rehabilitation Services or Accessible Technology. Others are looking for social interaction, to form relationships with other blind adults. Serena works hard to ensure that social recreational programs “put learning and growth in the context of something fun.”

One of the programs is Stronger Seniors, an exercise class that is taught by LightHouse Health and Wellness Program Coordinator Amber Sherrard. Amber leads a class that leaves her students energized no matter their fitness level. Says Marie of the class, “A lot of good things come from Amber’s class. The exercise is very helpful.”  

Marie’s participation in LightHouse classes motivated her to become a more involved community member. She is a regular at LightHouse’s Thursday knitting class. She and other students have knitted beanies and blankets for premature babies at Kaiser Permanente. Marie enjoyed her visits to Kaiser to drop off the beanies and blankets so much that she was motivated to volunteer at Kaiser’s information desk. Marie feels fortunate that the city she once dreamed about visiting is now her home, though her path to San Francisco was not easy. 

Marie grew up in what was formerly South Vietnam. She was working in Saigon when North Vietnam won the Vietnam War and Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. After several years, she made the decision to leave the country as tensions in the region remained high after the war. 

Marie and her four year-old son tried to leave Vietnam three times. In September 1981, they were finally successful in walking hundreds of miles across Vietnam, staying in a series of safe houses along the way. They boarded a riverboat not meant for the open seas. With only a few pounds of rice for the 28 people onboard and mostly rain water to drink, they made the perilous journey to a Malaysian island. On the way they encountered pirates who took personal possessions from the passengers including money they had hidden in their clothing. When Marie and her son finally reached a refugee camp, she had a medical examination and found out she was pregnant. 

After five and a half months, a Canadian immigration official was able to get her in touch with her brother who was already in America, and Marie and her family were able to emigrate soon after.  

Marie’s vision has changed over the last nine years, but she puts it in perspective when she reflects on fleeing Vietnam. “I’m happy with what I have done,” she says.  “When I have to face a problem, I always look back at leaving my home in Vietnam behind and coming to the United States. If I can do that, with my eyes, why do I have to worry?”

 For more information on the weekly schedule of LightHouse programs, check out the online calendar, call the Events Hotline at 415-694-7325, or pick up a Braille or large print schedule in the LightHouse reception area.