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low vision

LightHouse Welcomes New Chief Executive Officer, Sharon Giovinazzo!

LightHouse Welcomes New Chief Executive Officer, Sharon Giovinazzo!

We are excited to announce that Sharon Giovinazzo has been named as our new  Chief Executive Officer and will be joining us in this role on October 25.

Sharon Giovinazzo brings more than two decades of experience leading organizations dedicated to advocating for and serving the needs of the blind and visually impaired. She will join LightHouse after serving as President and CEO of the World Services for the Blind.

“I am honored to join the leadership team at LightHouse as its new CEO,” said Sharon Giovinazzo. “This organization has a long and successful track record of driving and achieving independence, equality and self-reliance for the community. This commitment to a focused driven mission, impact and success mirrors my own values, and I look forward to working with a dynamic team to advance the organization’s priorities and expand its reach.”

In her new role as CEO of LightHouse, Giovinazzo will be responsible for leading the organization’s dedicated team of blindness advocates, educators, and professionals while growing the value of the organization to its members, donors, sponsors, partners, and other stakeholders. She will drive efforts to promote the independence and equality of the community, while strengthening the organization and its programs.

“We’re pleased that Sharon will join us as CEO of LightHouse,” said Dr Sharon Sacks, LightHouse Board Chair. “Her strategic drive and her long, distinguished career advocating for and guiding the community make her the perfect choice to lead the LightHouse into the next phase of its development. We’re thrilled to welcome her aboard.”

Giovinazzo brings extensive experience in organizational management, strategic planning, community impact, public policy and advocacy. Prior to her role as President and CEO of the World Services for the Blind, she served for nearly a decade in various roles for the Raleigh Lions Clinic for the Blind (RLCB) where she assisted in the development and implementation of the agency’s $34 million budget, including determining staffing and operational needs and expenditures.

Prior to that, during her tenure with National Industries for the Blind (NIB), Giovinazzo is credited with providing the leadership for cultivating and understanding the AbilityOne programs with Congress, Federal Executive Branch Agencies, consumer and commercial organizations concerned with disability policy. Throughout her career, Sharon has been an advocate for public policy in legislative affairs and regulations. Prior to the NIB, she held positions with the Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI) in Utica, NY; was appointed Chair to the State Rehabilitation Council in 2006 and supervised the operations of a DEPMEDS training facility with the US Army.

Sharon Giovinazzo holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Services Management from SUNY Empire State College and a dual master’s as an MSW and an MBA. Additionally, she holds a Certificate of Management in Business Administration from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

We look forward to welcoming Sharon Giovinazzo to LightHouse  next month!

Giving Tuesday is Here! Help Make Enchanted Hills Camp More Accessible and Sustainable.

Giving Tuesday is Here! Help Make Enchanted Hills Camp More Accessible and Sustainable.

Please join LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Enchanted Hills Camp on Tuesday, November 30 for Giving Tuesday, and help us meet our accessibility and sustainability goals!

This year the funds we raise on Giving Tuesday will go towards the purchase of two wheelchair accessible electric vehicle shuttles for Enchanted Hills Camp as a part of our larger vision to make EHC fully accessible and carbon neutral by 2030. The shuttles will be charged on site by our own solar array.

Donations will also go towards camperships to send 40 kids who are blind or have low vision to Enchanted Hills Camp next year.

Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving that kicks off the charitable season and end-of-year giving, and harnesses the generosity of people from around the world to bring about real change to the communities they know and love.

This is a philanthropic movement that connects diverse groups of individuals, communities and organizations around the world for one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving. LightHouse joined the Giving Tuesday movement in 2016 and continues to receive many very generous gifts from our diverse group of donors, volunteers, staff, board members and friends.

Please take part in this year’s Giving Tuesday on (or before) November 30 and consider a gift to Enchanted Hills Camp for the Blind. We sincerely thank Waymo for jump starting our 2021 Giving Tuesday with a very generous donation of $10,000.

Donate here to support LightHouse and Enchanted Hills Camp.

Giving Tuesday is Coming! Tuesday After Thanksgiving You Can Make EHC More Inclusive

Giving Tuesday is Coming! Tuesday After Thanksgiving You Can Make EHC More Inclusive

Please join LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Enchanted Hills Camp on Tuesday, November 30 for Giving Tuesday, and help us meet our accessibility and sustainability goals!

This year the funds we raise on Giving Tuesday will go towards the purchase of two wheelchair accessible electric vehicle shuttles for Enchanted Hills Camp as a part of our larger vision to make EHC fully accessible and carbon neutral by 2030. The shuttles will be charged on site by our own solar array.

Donations will also go towards camperships to send 40 kids who are blind or have low vision to Enchanted Hills Camp next year.

Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving that kicks off the charitable season and end-of-year giving, and harnesses the generosity of people from around the world to bring about real change to the communities they know and love.

This is a philanthropic movement that connects diverse groups of individuals, communities and organizations around the world for one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving. LightHouse joined the Giving Tuesday movement in 2016 and continues to receive many very generous gifts from our diverse group of donors, volunteers, staff, board members and friends.

Please take part in this year’s Giving Tuesday on (or before) November 30 and consider a gift to Enchanted Hills Camp for the Blind. We sincerely thank Waymo for jump starting our 2021 Giving Tuesday with a very generous donation of $10,000.

Donate here to support LightHouse and Enchanted Hills Camp.

LightHouse Public Board Meeting: Thursday November 4, 5:30pm – 8:30pm Via Zoom

LightHouse Public Board Meeting: Thursday November 4, 5:30pm – 8:30pm Via Zoom

Members of the public are invited to attend this meeting of the Board of Directors of San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, during which thirty minutes will be reserved for public comment. In an effort to provide a fair and equitable speaking opportunity for all members of the public, up to three minutes will be provided for each person’s questions or comments. At this meeting, the Board welcomes Board nominations, questions, and comments from the public on the operations and services of the LightHouse. As time is limited, members of the public are asked to sign up to speak no later than 5:00 PM the day before the meeting by email.

Contact information for the LightHouse is provided at the end of this notice.

Members of the public who would like to speak are encouraged to sign up early, as the 30-minute public comment session can accommodate no more than 10 speakers.

Board Member Nominations

Members of the public can bring potential Board candidates to the attention of the Board’s Nominations committee at this meeting (by email: include no more than 500 words describing why the potential Board candidate should be considered).  The Board will review and evaluate each potential Board candidate in addition to those made by the LightHouse staff and other members of the Board, using the Board nomination and selection guidelines at https://lighthouse-sf.org/about/board-of-directors-nomination-guidelines/.

Board of Directors Meeting Agenda

A typical LightHouse Board meeting usually includes Executive and staff reports, Board Committee reports, and an Executive Session (which is closed to the public).  A meeting agenda can be obtained upon request by email three business days prior to the meeting.

Contact Information

To request agendas, sign up for public comment or to write about prospective Board nominees please contact us at the below address:

Board-request@lighthouse-sf.org

Administrative Office Hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Blind Chemist Hoby Wedler Leads first “Cooking with Community Class” for Youth

Blind Chemist Hoby Wedler Leads first “Cooking with Community Class” for Youth

Calling all cooks and aspiring cooks in middle and high school who are blind or have low vision: LightHouse Youth Programs is pleased to announce a new class: Cooking Creates Community. This happens the second Saturday of the month from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm. This monthly virtual cooking lesson and conversation will be led by LightHouse staff and a rotating guest mentor who is blind or has low vision and who has a passion for cooking, baking or anything food-related.

This class is a chance for blind and low vision students to connect with their peers and learn some basic independent cooking skills at home from cool mentors who will answer student questions and share advice.

Those who sign up for the program will be emailed the list of equipment and supplies needed, along with the recipe and the Zoom link they’ll use for that month’s event. As a bonus, for students who sign up by the fourth of each month, LightHouse’s Youth team will mail the ingredients for that month’s recipe directly to them, on the house.

For the October 9 class, blind chemist Dr. Hoby Wedler, who has worked with LightHouse Youth in the past, will share his secrets to the best mashed potatoes. By walking students through his simple recipe and a conversation about how he chooses his seasonings, students will learn to make a dish that can be added to most meals. Sign up by October fourth to get ingredients as well as Hoby’s new line of seasoning, Happy Paprika, that they can try with this dish.

The first class will be Saturday, October 9 from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm.

The classes to round out the year are Saturday, November 13 and Saturday, December 11.

RSVP to Jamey Gump at JGump@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7372.

Celebrate Disability Culture at Palo Alto Art Center In-Person or Virtually

Celebrate Disability Culture at Palo Alto Art Center In-Person or Virtually

You’re invited to The Art of Disability Culture: Artists with Disabilities Dispelling Myths, Dissolving Barriers, and Disrupting Prejudice, running September 11 through December 11 at the Palo Alto Art Center in Palo Alto California. This exhibit celebrates the “diverse, personal, and infinitely varied disability experience.”

There are several blind people among the 20 artists whose work is featured in the exhibit: From tactile paintings created during the height of the pandemic by Catherine Lecce-Chong, to an audio comic by Chad Allen, to ceramics by Don Katz, to a site-specific environmental installation by Jennifer Justice, to a healing labyrinth installation by Maia Scott, to a large-scale sculpture made from discarded materials by Matthaus Lam.

The exhibition will feature audio description which will be available for all works of art onsite and on the website. There will also be Braille  labels. Public programs will include American Sign Language interpretation and live captioning and social narratives will be available online for visitors with autism. The art center is also wheelchair accessible.

There are two free public programs both with in-person and virtual options. The programs will include American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and live captioning. The Palo Alto Art Center facility is fully wheelchair accessible.

Friday Night at the Art Center Opening reception
September 17 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Join us onsite or virtually for this unique hybrid and accessible celebration of The Art of Disability Culture. This event will feature in-person and virtual exhibition walkthroughs, a chance to hear from exhibiting artists, hands-on art activities, a spoken word performance by award-winning author Joy Elan, and a specialty cocktail (Reasonable Accommodation) and bar provided by the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation.

Event will be hosted onsite and online. Register for the September 17 Art of Disability Culture event.

Community Day Celebration
Sunday, October 10, 2021, noon to 4:00 pm  

Learn more about The Art of Disability Culture exhibition in this unique hybrid community day celebration. Participate in exhibition walkthroughs with the curator; enjoy hands-on art activities; an introduction by Northern California’s only stuttering female comedian Nina G; gallery activities; Canine Companions, a performance by Bay Area native, African, Indigenous, Deaf, Disabled, Producer, Choreographer, Actor, and Dancer Antoine Hunter; and Mozzeria, the Deaf-owned Neapolitan pizza truck.

Event will be hosted onsite and online; online registration links: Register for the October 0 Art of Disability Culture event.

Welcome back, EHC!

Welcome back, EHC!

As visitors wind their way up Mt. Veeder Road, past the lush redwoods, sparkling lake, and rolling green hills of Napa, the once quiet grounds of Enchanted Hills Camp are again filled with the delightful sounds of happy campers. The crunching of leaves and twigs under excited footsteps, clicking of canes, splashes of water, nays and baas of EHC’s four-legged residents and the jolly echoed shouts and laughter from campers fill the air—it is, once again, summertime at Enchanted Hills Camp!

On July 5, Enchanted Hills Camp reopened its grounds to 45 eager teen campers. After being closed for over a year, EHC has been thrilled to reopen this summer, abiding by CDC state and federal COVID-19 safety protocols. Although the limited campers, mask wearing, social distance, and required vaccinations of both campers and staff has certainly changed the look of camp this summer, the fun and festivities haven’t changed in the slightest!

“Campers are filling their days horseback riding, kayaking, playing disc golf, participating in Teen Talk rap sessions and talent shows. The kids are dancing, hiking, taking overnight camping trips into the woods, solar cooking, and fishing. They can care for our EHC animal friends (milking goats and collecting eggs from chickens) and do some wood polishing and wood working. They are putting on drama productions, training in martial arts and archery, playing goalball and bowling, and making ice cream and arts and crafts, just to name a few activities.” Enchanted Hills Camp Director, Tony Fletcher, tells LightHouse Lately.

New campers, 17-year-old twin sisters, Madison and Paige from Arroyo Grande, California, share their first impressions and experience at teen camp.

“We heard about Enchanted Hills Camp through our DOR [Department of Rehabilitation] counselor, so we were interested. We loved it once we got here! It is so much fun! There is so much to do, you never feel bored or like you are just sitting around waiting for something fun. Right now, we are working on a play, and we’ve done a lot of arts and crafts. We also tie-dyed bandanas. We are definitely coming back next summer!”

Both girls have nystagmus and ocular albinism and have low vision.

“With nystagmus it is hard to focus my eyes on things, like when I am reading my eyes jump across the page. The ocular albinism makes my eyes very sensitive to the sunlight,” Madison explains.

Aside from each other, neither Paige nor Madison knew any other peers with visual impairments prior to going to camp. Learning more about low vision and the blind community has become an interest and priority for these young women.

“We have never been around anyone with vision like ours or people with less vision. We want to be more involved in the blind and visually impaired community,” Paige says. “We have made a lot of new friends at camp. It is so relieving to be around people like us.”

Madison and Paige reflected on their camp experience:

“Overall, I have learned a lot about people who are visually impaired, and not just about people who have what I have. I have learned so much about adaptability and the blind community, and I am very grateful for that,” Paige says.

“I am also so grateful for camp. I have never seen anyone use a cane before, and it is so interesting to me to see how everyone gets around using their canes. I like how specific people are when they describe how to get to places and how they tap the walls as a guide. I’ve also learned how to guide people who can’t see, and I think it is so helpful and interesting,” says Madison.

In their remaining days at Enchanted Hills Camp Paige and Madison are excitedly looking forward to performing the play, making bath bombs, and trying their hand at archery, as well as hanging out with their new friends and strengthening their bond to the blind and low vision community. “We can’t wait to come back next summer!” they told LightHouse Lately.

There are still available spaces for EHC’s STEM camp, running from July 26 through August 1 for campers aged 13- to 20-years-old. Visit Enchanted Hills Camp STEM Camp Applications to get your application in as soon as possible. We also have limited availability left for Music Camp, also running July 26 through August 1. This session is for campers ranging from high school to college ages. Fill out the Enchanted Hills Camp Music Camp Applications here. For more information about Enchanted Hills Camp, visit the EHC website.

San Francisco’s Aquatic Park and Pier Wants Your Input

San Francisco’s Aquatic Park and Pier Wants Your Input

San Francisco’s scenic and historic waterfront is revamping the space and creating a new community-led project entitled the Aquatic Park and Pier Project. The Maritime National Park Association is working towards realizing this area’s full potential and creating a beautiful and safe recreation area for families and visitors of San Francisco for generations to come, but they need the community’s help.

Last week our Media and Accessible Design Laboratory (MAD Lab) director, Greg Kehret, represented the LightHouse at a discussion attended by several people in the disability rights community. The group discussed the renovation of Aquatic Park and Pier in San Francisco. Those in the disability rights community are concerned with getting input from people with disabilities to ensure the park is inclusive and accessible to all park goers. They have shared a link to a survey, Aquatic Park and Pier Vision Study, and are encouraging the community to provide feedback on the details of the project and desired park features and, as well as general concerns.

The results of this survey, along with an upcoming Visioning Session on August 11, at 6:00 pm will be compiled into a report given to the National Park Service for their consideration. The visioning session is open to the public, so all are welcome to attend. For more information about the Aquatic Park and Pier Project, including getting involved, providing feedback, or volunteering you can visit the website link.

And, of course, if you know of a local park, public space or other large venue whose accessible design could benefit from the tactile maps and input provided by Lighthouse’s MAD Lab, feel free to contact them at madlab@lighthouse-sf.org or by visiting our website.

LightHouse of the North Coast has a New Home

LightHouse of the North Coast has a New Home

LightHouse North Coast office has moved to the Grove Building at 317 Third Street in Old Town, Eureka. Third Street borders the Morris Graves Museum, and the cross streets are D and E. After almost ten years of being housed in the Humboldt Senior Resource Center, The Senior Center is expanding its programs and will use the former LightHouse space to continue to grow the many needed programs for seniors and their families. While we at LightHouse say a very gracious thank you to the Humboldt Senior Resource Center and feel fortunate to have worked alongside such dedicated colleagues who continue to develop comprehensive programs for seniors, we will not say Good-Bye as we will still be at a very accessible location in Old Town, and there for any person who is blind or low vision who needs information, support or training.

LightHouse of the North Coast continues our 20-year tradition of serving the low vision and blind community and their families from our new location. We are excited to be in our new building which houses several other non-profit organizations, as well as the office of U.S. Representative of California, congressman Jared Huffman.
 
While our doors are currently closed to in person services, we continue to provide resources and numerous classes via Zoom. If you or someone you know lives in the Humboldt, Del Norte, or Trinity counties, please contact us to take advantage of some of our remote classes until we open our doors later in September. We anticipate opening our doors in early September. Our services include:

  • Lighting and magnification assessments
  • Home safety and mobility instruction
  • Assistive technology training
  • Independent living skills training and beginning Braille.

Please feel free to contact Janet Pomerantz, MSW, for further information at jpomerantz@lighthouse-sf.org or by calling 707 268-5646. We look forward to hearing from you and meeting you when we reopen in September.

A Perfect Teacher-Student Partnership

A Perfect Teacher-Student Partnership

LightHouse offers a variety of resources, trainings, and programs for individuals who are blind or have low vision taught by expert instructors and educators, most of whom are also blind or have low vision. Our dedicated staff work with their students to form and enhance blindness skills to improve their sense of autonomy and self-confidence. The greatest aspect of being part of such a close-knit community of blind leaders and learners is being able to share successes and accomplishments, or “mission moments,” with the LightHouse community.

Access Technology Instructor Kacie Cappello’s favorite part of the job is watching a student’s hard work pay off.

“Many come into training intimidated by technology and full of self-doubt. The skills they learn allow for greater independence and better social connection. When a student realizes they can do something like buy their own groceries online or send email to a friend, I get to watch their confidence grow as they find their empowerment. That means the world to me.”

Kacie’s role is to provide information, guidance, and structure, but the student is the one taking on the challenge of learning a new skill. That requires commitment and practice. One of her ambitions for her students is for them to have autonomy over their digital information.

“To me, maintaining anonymity means having the ability to effectively manage your information, privacy, and digital presence. Access technology skills help students keep track of things like account details and participate in online life on their own terms.”

LightHouse student Eva G. struggled with independently accessing her computer and other devices at home and sought out access technology training with LightHouse. She began working with Kacie one-on-one for virtual training sessions.

“I lost my vision at a quite advanced stage at the age of 84. I am 91 now. I did not think I would be able to learn anything because of my age. When I had sight growing up in school, I was never taught computers or typing or anything like that.  Honestly, the first time I had a lesson with Kacie I thought to myself, ‘I will never get this,’ but Kacie was so patient and persistent. It was amazing to me how after a while I started to get used to it.

“To me, it is really important to be as independent as I can be. It means a lot to be because I’ve always been in touch with a lot of different people throughout my life. But when I suddenly had to ask someone to write my emails and read them back to me it just wasn’t the same. The first time I was able to have an email read to me by the computer and then answer it myself was such a gift. It felt like the best thing that has happened to me.

“In retrospect I do still think it was kind of magic. I feel so grateful for the LightHouse and for Kacie and what she has taught me.”

These are the moments that strengthen the blind community. One individual’s success becomes a shared accomplishment for all of LightHouse and our community. To inquire about programs offered by LightHouse, you can visit our website.

For information about Access Technology, send your emails AT@lighthouse-sf.org  or call 415-431-1481.