Tag Archive

low vision

Adaptations Featured Products for the Month of June

Adaptations Featured Products for the Month of June

With every month brings exciting new products and discounts to Adaptations. This June we are all about giving our shoppers the best deals out there.

To honor LightHouse Day on June 10, Adaptations is offering 10% all LightHouse hoodies, t-shirts, and tote bags for the entire month of June! Rep your favorite blindness organization and save money doing it when you enter the promo code LH10 at checkout. LightHouse Day is just around the corner, show up for our virtual celebration in true LightHouse style.

10% isn’t our only discount we’re giving out this month. How’s 50% sound? 2021 has made it to the halfway mark and so has the price on our Braille calendars. Pencil in—or rather stylus in—all your important dates and appointments for the next six months on our 50% off calendars. It’s never too late in the year to get organized.

In case you just can’t get enough of our deals, check out the Adaptations Discount Corner. We regularly add new products to our collection of low-priced treasures essential for any blind or low vision shopper. Looking for a backup cane? Maybe a new magnifier? If you are looking for a deal on a talking watch or wireless headphone, the Adaptations Discount Corner has got you covered.

Visit Adaptations.org today and start filling up that virtual shopping cart with all our discounted goodies! If you need assistance navigating our online store, you can always download the Be My Eyes App and chat directly with our knowledgeable and friendly shopping assistants. Adaptations is all about making accessibility easy and affordable. For any additional help or inquiries, contact us by calling 1-888-400-8933 or email adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org. Happy shopping and even happier saving, everyone!

Lighthouse Day to feature Mayor Breed and New Blindness Book Author, June 10

Lighthouse Day to feature Mayor Breed and New Blindness Book Author, June 10

Each year we gather friends to celebrate Lighthouse Day, honoring our 119 years of service and looking forward into the future.

For the second year we will use Zoom to keep social distance as we gather, electronically, celebrating how LightHouse has grown and diversified and reassert our belief in our community and pride in our work.

To help us do this we have invited blind author Dr. M. Leona Godin who will discuss her just-released book, There Plant Eyes: a Personal and Cultural History of Blindness.

We invite you to a conversation between Dr. Godin and LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin to discuss the main themes in the book and learn of the author spending much of her life in San Francisco and beginning her journey into blindness there. This conversation will be a key part of the LightHouse Day celebration.

What: Lighthouse Day

When: Thursday, June 10 from noon to 1:00 pm Pacific

Where: via Zoom or phone

RSVP: To events@lighthouse-sf.org or call Andrea Vecchione at 415-694-7311. The first 10 folks to RSVP will receive a box of Quail Point chocolates, which are delicious, we can vouch for that!

From the book jacket:

From Homer to Helen Keller, from Dune to Stevie Wonder, from the invention of braille to the science of echolocation, M. Leona Godin explores the fascinating history of blindness, interweaving it with her own story of gradually losing her sight.

There Plant Eyes probes the ways in which blindness has shaped our ocular centric culture, challenging deeply ingrained ideas about what it means to be “blind.” For millennia, blind-ness has been used to signify such things as thoughtlessness (“blind faith”), irrationality (“blind rage”), and unconsciousness (“blind evolution”). But at the same time, blind people have been othered as the recipients of special powers as compensation for lost sight (from the poetic gifts of John Milton to the heightened senses of the comic book hero Daredevil).

Godin—who began losing her vision at age ten—illuminates the often-surprising history of both the condition of blindness and the myths and ideas that have grown up around it over the course of generations. She combines an analysis of blindness in art and culture (from King Lear to Star Wars) with a study of the science of blindness and key developments in accessibility (the white cane, embossed printing, digital technology) to paint a vivid personal and cultural history.

Adaptations LightHouse Day Discount

Don’t forget to visit Adaptations.org for all your LightHouse gear! To celebrate 119 years of service to the blind and low vision community,  Adaptations is giving 10% off during the entire month of June on all LightHouse hoodies, t-shirts and tote bags! Use the  discount code LH10 at checkout to receive your discount. Happy shopping!

Building the Perfect Access Technology Partnership

Building the Perfect Access Technology Partnership

By Erin Lauridsen, Director of Access Technology

I’m Erin Lauridsen, I’m blind and proud of it, which means that I am profoundly personally invested in my work in digital accessibility. In the course of my career so far, I’ve worked with many companies at all points along their accessibility journeys. In the course of this work, I’ve at times encountered openness and innovation, but at other times, I have encountered friction born of a lack of cultural competence around disability. On this tenth Global Accessibility Awareness Day, I want to share with you the keys to bringing disability cultural competence to your accessibility work, as I see them. Whether you work in compliance, user experience, marketing, engineering, or leadership, these are reflections from my lived experience of disability, and the ways it influences and is impacted by my work in corporate accessibility and how we work together.

I introduced myself to you as blind. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard hesitation in the voice of someone approaching a conversation with me about blindness or accessibility, because they are afraid of using the wrong word, or afraid naming my disability will be seen as negative. People with disabilities use many different terms to describe our identities, or in some cases, we may not consider disability to be central to our identity at all. In the vision world, you may hear ‘blind’, which can represent anything from total blindness to a decrease in visual acuity significant enough to impact reading or driving. You may hear ‘visual impairment’, a clinical term for the same range. You may also hear ‘low vision’, a term to represent the less than perfect but still usable range of visual functioning, and you may hear ‘vision loss’, a term common among older adults, or those who have acquired blindness later in life. Those are just the first four terms that come to mind, I have heard many others over the years, and this is just one of many disabilities you might discuss. Which term a person uses is influenced by their preferences, lived experience and cultural identity. For myself, blindness is a lifelong part of me, so vision loss doesn’t ring true. Visual impairment conjures memories of childhood appointments with professionals who wanted to cramp my carefree kid style with clinical evaluations, and I don’t have enough usable vision for low vision to fit well. I’m happy to call myself blind: it’s concise and makes me think of the affinity I feel when I hear another cane tapping down Bay area streets, or having a late night chat with other blind cooks about knife sharpening techniques. So, if you are entering or starting a conversation about disability, how on earth do you choose which term to use? Here’s my advice: when you are working with an individual, check in about preferred terms. Ask how they identify. When you are speaking or writing about specific disabilities, reach out to disability lead organizations and advocacy groups to learn about identity language. Be open to following our lead on language, even if it is language that feels new or uncomfortable to you.

I often navigate conversations grounded in someone’s fear or imaginings about what the lived experience of disability must be like. This often leads to over-engineering solutions or solving for a nonexistent or trivial problem. I have more than one story about a person coming to LightHouse with a multi-part camera and processor system for text recognition or object identification, who became defensive when learning that the blind people in the room can read text quickly with our phones, and wouldn’t be willing to carry around a bulky camera just so it could shout out “refrigerator” “toilet” “goat” as we encountered these things in our wanderings. Others have taken the time to listen deeply to how blind people read text and explore our environments, and the innovations they are working on will take current good solutions to the next level. If you are designing or coding for a disability that you do not live, check your assumptions with the community. Listen to what our friction points are, and work with us to identify good solutions.

In this work, I often must balance the need for disability awareness and education with jarring requests for personal disclosure. Once when I was explaining how being able to adjust brightness is useful to people with many different eye conditions, I used myself as an example of someone who does best with reduced glare. The researcher I was speaking with exclaimed, “Oh, is that why your eyes move that way!” I hope my next eye movement was an exasperated eye-roll, as we’d abruptly shifted from talking about how I customize technology settings to my needs, to talking about my body. If you are doing product research, or educating yourself about disability in the course of accessibility work, you can start by asking about tools and technologies rather than about medical diagnoses or the functional limitations of someone’s body. You can learn a lot more about how I use an app by asking what accessibility features I run on my phone than by asking what eye condition I have or how much I can see. Take the time to consider why you are asking a personal question, and in what setting you are posing it. While you might be curious about how I pick up after my guide dog, it really isn’t the best topic for our business lunch. However, if you want to innovate a solution to find trash cans on busy city streets, I’m all about sharing my dog walking routine in that context.

Often I hear that a company has designed or tested for accessibility by focusing on only one user with a disability. Perhaps they have a blind engineer on their team, or they may have connected with one end user of their product who has invested in giving them a great deal of feedback. While these are both wonderful things, neither is comprehensive, because disability intersects with every part of the human condition, and may create different challenges and opportunities based on those intersections. The skills and tools I use to navigate digital spaces are influenced by my economic privilege, my early access to education, and my linguistic and cultural background. Despite a preference for Braille reading, having had access to screen readers early in life has improved my ability to process complex web pages quickly using text to speech. The same task presents a significant hurdle for some of the adult learners I have worked with, especially those who are learning language or literacy skills along with digital access. You may have watched a blind coder execute complex keyboard sequences to control a screen reader, but an older adult with arthritis may be challenged by pressing multiple keys at once. Just as with any customer base, it’s important to avoid designing or remediating for one person or one persona. Have professional experts as well as end users with disabilities engaged in the design and testing of your products. Please do hire that blind engineer though, she’s spent her whole life innovating and hacking solutions for a world that often doesn’t consider her in the scope of design, and that skill set is going to make your product better.

Sometimes people reach out to me for help with an empathy lab or asking for a blindfold experience, and I do my best to help them find another way to learn. You can not try on the many intersections of a lived experience, and I can’t instill all the skills, culture, and adventures of a blind life by putting a blindfold on your face. Please avoid using empathy exercises that encourage you to try on a disability experience for a brief moment or a day. Instead, invest your time in learning from the lived experiences of people with disabilities, and learning about the tools and technologies we use. If you try a screen reader for a moment, you may find it challenging in the way that switching modalities can be challenging for anyone, but if you invest quality time in learning how screen readers work, you may discover, and then fix, a pain point with your product. Recognize that digital accessibility is not just a topic limited to your livelihood, but consider it as a way to build stronger communities and relationships throughout your life. For example, you can incorporate image descriptions in to your personal social media posts, not just your company’s website.

I hope these reflections will encourage you to take the next step on your personal or company accessibility journey. Ask yourself how you can more deeply engage with the people your accessibility work impacts, and take the next step to increase that dialogue. Whether you’re just beginning, or are part of a robust accessibility initiative, there is always more to learn. I hope I get to meet you along the way.

This Month’s 30% & Growing Welcomes Back Former LightHouse Employee and Host, Serena Olsen

This Month’s 30% & Growing Welcomes Back Former LightHouse Employee and Host, Serena Olsen

Since April of 2016, LightHouse has been hosting a monthly meet up and casual networking social hour for blind and low vision jobseekers and working professionals called 30% & Growing. The name references the percentage of blind adults who were employed in the United States when the program first started.

Back then, the program was hosted by former LightHouse employee Serena Olsen. When the pandemic hit, we took 30% & Growing from busy Bay Area restaurants and pubs to Zoom. The virtual platform opened up the invitation to blind adults all over. In December of last year, our beloved 30% & Growing hostess Serena left the LightHouse and passed the baton onto our witty, friendly, and charismatic Community Outreach Coordinator, Sheri Albers.

Sheri has been a delightful virtual hostess for the past several months and has put her own flare and fun into the 30% & Growing meetups, introducing a blind or low vision guest of honor at each monthly event. This month we welcome back our dear friend and new Bay Area blogger, Serena Olsen.

“I enjoy hosting the program very much. I recognized its value from the very first time I started attending as a guest over a year ago, and I wanted to make sure that it continued, as well as the spirit that it was founded on,” says Sheri.

Every third Thursday of the month. about ten adults who are blind or have low vision come together from all over to spend quality time sharing stories, laughter and resources.

“Each meetup seems to be unique on its own,” Sheri says. “I enjoyed and received a very positive response from the April event when I introduced yoga and meditation as a coping mechanism for the stress of working at home during the pandemic.”

Vidya, a regular attendee, reflects on her favorite 30% & Growing moments.

“I find 30% to be like a mystery box, as you never know where conversations can lead. In one session we had a young lady who was launching her own drink product and was in the process of pitching her ideas to get funding. During the next session, she shared that she had received the first round of funding to launch the product. It was so inspiring to see blind entrepreneurs with the drive, motivation, passion and energy to find opportunities in the marketplace. It was heartening to hear such stories that provide motivation for the rest of us.

“For me, 30% is an opportunity to connect with working blind community members and to get exposure to how other people manage and meet challenges with working and blindness in their everyday lives. I use the meetups for building self-motivation, positive thinking and independent living.”

As we begin reopening public spaces, LightHouse is excitedly awaiting the “ok” to resume 30% & Growing in person.

Sheri is enthusiastic for that day.

“Once we get the green light, I want to get the 30%ers back out into the world where we can have our Happy Hours done right! That is what this event was created for!”

For more information about 30% & Growing, you can visit our  online calendar. To RSVP to this month’s event on Thursday, May 20 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm, email Sheri at SAlbers@lighthouse-sf.org or give her a call at 415-694-7331. Check out Serena’s blog at ItStartsWithQuiche.com.

Learn more about LightHouse’s Adult and Community Services Programs on our website.

LightHouse Eye Clinic Returns

LightHouse Eye Clinic Returns

We’re pleased to announce the reopening of the LightHouse Eye Clinic at our 1155 Market Street San Francisco headquarters. LightHouse, in partnership with the University of California, Berkeley School of Optometry will offer general eye exams and low vision exams. The clinical staff include Dr. Crystal Wen, a graduate from the UC Berkeley School of Optometry, along with residency-trained doctors and senior optometry interns.

General eye exams are offered on Wednesdays. Low vision exams are offered on Fridays.

General Eye Exams

General eye exams are available Wednesdays beginning May 26. The clinic is open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. To schedule an appointment, call 510-642-5726.

Low Vision Exams

If you are a person who has low vision, you can schedule a low vision exam beginning Friday, May 28. The clinic is open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. To schedule, call 510-642-5726. For questions about low vision exams, email the LightHouse’s Rehabilitation Counselor, Debbie Bacon at DBacon@LightHouse-sf.org.

The low vision exam includes an hour-and-a-half long low vision evaluation by a board-certified low vision optometrist and a follow-up visit with a LightHouse Rehabilitation Training Specialist. If you are unsure whether you are a candidate for a low vision exam, speak with your primary eye care professional or give us a call. Our staff will be happy to guide you through the process.

We will be following all COVID-19 safety guidelines for the City of San Francisco. We look forward to welcoming you to the LightHouse Eye Clinic.

Holman Prize for Blind Ambition 2020 – Applications open January 15

Holman Prize for Blind Ambition 2020 – Applications open January 15

Are you blind or visually impaired? Will you be over the age of 18 on October 1, 2020? Creative and entrepreneurial, with ambitious, far-reaching dreams? Submissions for the Holman Prize, LightHouse for the Blind’s annual competition to win up to $25,000 for blind adventurers and creators to complete their most ambitious projects, are open January 15!

How to Apply to the Holman Prize? The initial application is a 90 second YouTube video describing the project, what the prize money would fund and a brief application form. Semifinalists will later be asked to provide in-depth written proposals. Later, finalists will be interviewed by LightHouse staff in order to select a winner. All the information you need, including terms and conditions, can be found here: holmanprize.org.

Now in its fourth year, the San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired’s Holman Prize for Blind Ambition is an international competition that is awarded annually to three blind individuals who wish to push their limits. It is named for James Holman, a nineteenth century blind explorer and author, who was the most prolific traveler before the era of modern transportation.

Past winners have completed feats like traversing the Bosporus Straight via solo kayak, hosting the first conference in Mexico for blind children and their families led by blind professionals, and creating an app to enable blind citizen scientists to participate in the search for exoplanets by listening to space. Our nine winners so far have come from five countries on four continents and have all found unique ways to forever change the world’s perception of blindness.

We all know ambitious blind people. Please spread the word about the Holman Prize to encourage your blind friends and associates to apply. Copy this announcement and send to your network and join our social media community for updates:

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram

A big idea, a quick application form and a 90 second pitch video are all you need to apply. For inspiration here is the YouTube Playlist of 2019 Holman Prize Finalists

Application information is available here: holmanprize.org/apply. If you have any questions, please contact us at holman@lighthouse-sf.org.

Applications close March 15 at 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

Photo by Sarika Dagar

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.

Red Szell reflects on how the Holman Prize got him to the top of the rock

Red Szell reflects on how the Holman Prize got him to the top of the rock

Each year, the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition, funded by LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco, provides three blind people up to $25,000 each to carry out an ambitious idea. On June 22, 2019, Holman Prize winner Red Szell successfully completed his extreme blind triathlon, which included a 10-mile off-road tandem bike ride, an open-water swim and a 213-foot climb up Am Buachaille, a vertical rock formation off the coast of Scotland. We interviewed Red shortly after his successful climb to get his reflections on training for his Holman Prize adventure.

Red’s triathlon training began in earnest last October. “I had a pretty high level of fitness from climbing and swimming,” Red, age 49, says, “but I had to ramp it up because I would be outside for twelve hours.” Red began incorporating running on a treadmill into his training regimen but injured his right Achilles tendon in January. With the help of twice-weekly physiotherapy sessions and some modifications to his training techniques, Red was able to continue preparing to climb Am Buachaille. Despite the ordeal, Red’s injury ultimately provided some benefits. “It actually helped my climbing because we worked on ankle stability and stretching,” he explained.

Besides the physical training required to successfully complete his Holman Prize goal, Red also had to navigate logistics, such as planning a practice climbing trip to Sardinia, finding a videographer to film the triathlon, getting the tandem bike from London to Scotland and more. “Being the CEO of my own project is something that I never really expected to do,” he admits. “That is a very difficult challenge but also immensely enjoyable and character-building. I feel a genuine sense of achievement and personal growth that has resulted from being awarded a Holman Prize.”

Red has always loved climbing, spending his teenage years climbing in the Welsh mountains in Wales. When he was 20, he was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a progressive condition that eventually causes blindness. As Red’s vision continued changing, he became depressed and stopped climbing. More than twenty years later, Red, now a father and journalist, had learned blindness skills. His passion for climbing was reignited at a birthday party for his daughter at a climbing gym. He decided it was time to learn to climb as a blind man.

In 2013, Red became the first blind man to climb the Old Man of Hoy, another sea stack in Scotland. Red declares that was “a personal achievement.” Successfully climbing Am Buachaille was different, however, because of the scope of the Holman Prize as a worldwide competition. Red remarks that the Holman Prize demonstrates to everyone “what blind people can achieve with the right support and determination.”

Red sitting on a rocky beach at Sandwood Bay, on the far north-west coast of mainland Scotland, with Am Buachaille towering behind him.
Red sitting on a rocky beach at Sandwood Bay, on the far north-west coast of mainland Scotland, with Am Buachaille towering behind him.

Going forward, Red will include his Holman Prize experience in the presentations he gives about being a blind climber, but more importantly, he will encourage other blind people to apply for the Holman Prize. From applying for the prize, to winning it, to carrying it out, Red views the Holman Prize as “a journey of self-discovery.” Listen to Red talk about his harrowing adventure here. Red’s experience will be documented in a forthcoming audio-described documentary of his “Extreme Triathlon” full of Red’s humor and outrageous Scottish scenery, called Shared Vision.

Do you have Holman Prize aspirations? Holman Prize submissions open in January 2020. For more information about the Holman Prize, visit HolmanPrize.org.

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.

LightHouse Satellite Offices

At LightHouse’s satellite locations, we are often training in the community, so please contact us to schedule an appointment.

Our satellite offices offer most services as our headquarters, and we’re always happy to refer you to the proper service and support. Below you’ll find a listing of services and locations.

Low Vision and Blindness training/support include:

  • Providing local, State and National Resources and Information
  • Counseling and Support Groups
  • Living Skills Assessment and Training  
  • Access Technology Assessment and Training
  • Orientation and Mobility Assessment and Training
  • Maximizing low vision through magnification, lighting and glare reduction strategies
  • Equipment Loan Program

LightHouse East Bay

Ed Roberts Campus
3075 Adeline, Suite 110
Berkeley, CA 94703
TEL: 415-431-1481
FAX: 510-845-8705
VIDEO PHONE: 510-356-0018
TTY: 510-845-8703
EMAIL: info@lighthouse-sf.org

Deaf-Blind Specialist: deaf-blind@lighthouse-sf.org

LightHouse North Coast

Humboldt Senior Resource Center
1910 California Street, Third Floor
Eureka, CA 95501
TEL: 707-268-5646
FAX: 707-268-5647
TTY: 707-268-5655
EMAIL: northcoast@lighthouse-sf.org

On our North Coast Resources page, you’ll find a listing of resources for people experiencing changing vision, people who are blind or who have low vision and senior citizens.