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O&M

Another Great YES Summer Academy Completed

Another Great YES Summer Academy Completed

Photo 1: YES Academy students gather together at a Muni station in San Francisco. From left to right: Daisy Soto (YES Coordinator), Monse, Adam, Heriberto, Omar, Nicole (mentor), Eman, Katya, Rocco, Jisselle (mentor), Andrew (mentor), and Dlan

Photo 2:  YES Summer Academy students Rocco, Hari and Adam pose together in front of a heart sculpture at Pier 39 in San Francisco

This summer, eight high school and college students joined LightHouse for our annual YES (Youth Employment Services) Academy. LightHouse Youth Services Coordinator, Daisy Soto, recaps the experience:

This year’s YES Summer Academy students spent 28 days learning and honing skills that will help prepare them for the workforce. During their first week, students received lessons from LightHouse staff on Orientation & Mobility (O&M), Independent Living Skills, and Access Technology essentials for employment. The second week focused on community-building and navigation skills. With the support of Youth Program staff and mentors, participants independently navigated new locations such as Angel Island, San Francisco State University, and Peer 39. They had the opportunity to take a variety of public transit systems (BART, Muni, cable cars, ferry, etc.) and worked on problem-solving strategies when exploring all of these new locations.

During their last two weeks, all students successfully completed their work experience practicums, which included some working as janitorial and food safety assistants and internships at LightHouse Sirkin Center. Weekends were filled with cooking challenges, walks on the Golden Gate Bridge and around Lake Merritt in Oakland, and an abundance of karaoke nights! YES participants left the program with not only an updated cover letter, resume, and job experiences in hand, but with increased pride and confidence as they take on employment and educational goals. It was certainly a summer filled with laughter and learning for all!

Photo 3: YES Academy student Hari explores a tactile map with LightHouse Orientation & Mobility Instructor Joshua Lopez

Photo 4: YES Summer Academy students and staff member cooking dinner in the accessible kitchen at LightHouse. From left to right: Dlan, Katya, Devin Upson (LightHouse Orientation & Mobility Instructor), and Rocco

As we wrap up a successful summer, the LightHouse Youth Programs team welcomes a new season filled with an array of educational, social, and recreational programs for youth and transition-aged students. Join like-minded blind and low vision academics for College Spaces, create cool art with fellow woodworkers in-person with Polishing in the Park, or hang out with your LightHouse and EHC besties every Friday night for the weekly virtual Daredevils watch party. Also this fall, LightHouse students ages 16 – 25 have the opportunity to join the LightHouse Youth Council. Do you have an idea for future programs or want to make a positive impact in your community? Learn more about the LightHouse Youth Council here. We look forward to an awesome autumn with the LightHouse Youth Programs team!

Navigating Campus with the SunuBand from Adaptations

As many of us are heading back to school or back to work after the summer break, there’s no better time to sharpen your independent traveling skills. Whether you are exploring a new campus or commuting to a familiar space, the SunuBand is a super helpful device for any blind, Deafblind, or low vision traveler.
 
The SunuBand is worn like a watch and contains a small sensor that detects objects within a set distance. Set it to Indoor Mode to detect objects like furniture and doorways at a close distance, and Outdoor Mode extends the detection range to several meters. Simply turn your wrist to aim the sensor. When the unit is quiet, the path is clear—if it begins to vibrate, the user knows they are approaching an obstacle in their way. 
 
Waiting in line at the campus bookstore? The SunuBand can help you keep your spot in line while still remaining a respectful distance from the person in front of you. The tiny sensor will vibrate to indicate when you are too close, and as the vibration subsides, you’ll be alerted that the line is moving forward.  
 
Navigating busy streets, sidewalks, and crosswalks has never been easier. The SunuBand will alert you to both moving and still objects in your pathway. It’s a favorite of Orientation & Mobily (O&M) professionals around the world, and it can add a layer of dimension to a blind person’s travel that helps avoid those objects at face-level that our canes miss. The device also pairs seamlessly with a smart phone app, making setting and controlling alerts from the device even easier. Whether you are a cane-user or have a guide dog, the SunuBand is the perfect companion device.
 
Pick up your SunuBand from Adaptations by ordering online for the unbelievably low price of just $179. You can also call 888-400-8933 or email adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org to have it shipped to you, or to make an appointment to buy it in person. Order yours today before they sell out!

Orientation and Mobility Specialist

POSITION:   Orientation and Mobility Specialist (bilingual preferred)

REPORTS TO:  Assistant Director Rehabilitation Services

STATUS:  Exempt

 

Role Overview

The Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS or NOMC) provides in-person and virtual orientation and mobility to blind, low-vision deaf-blind youth, adults, and seniors from diverse backgrounds. The Orientation and Mobility Specialist will conduct assessments and provide training reflecting recent and progressive travel and orientation techniques and trends, focusing on student’s travel needs in the home, work, academic sites, and community.

The OMS must have the ability to assess and teach to differing skill levels, as well as to train on varied mobility devices and options such as: monocular, tints, GPS Apps, and use (i.e., Blind Square, Google Maps), Audible Pedestrian Signals and tactile maps (public streets, transit hubs, and public spaces and buildings). It is expected that all OMS’s provide instruction that takes into consideration understanding of student’s abilities and potential concomitant health conditions. Knowledge and understanding of primary eye conditions, including Cortical Visual Impairment is imperative. Knowledge of health associated with aging, head injury, diabetes and mental health and developmental disabilities is extremely helpful. Together the OMS and the student develop and revise goals to achieve the student’s intended mobility outcomes.

Flexibility and ‘thinking outside of the box’ are essential to this position. The philosophy of our trainers is that of facilitation of skills for independent (as defined with each student) travel. Our team also provides training with the student using a training shade where best applied for learning and instruction. The OMS must be able to work with and provide information and training to family and friends, community members, volunteers and service providers and effectively communicate and collaborate with referral agencies in providing services to shared students. The cross-cultural community of the LightHouse is increasing, and second language ability is preferred and cultural sensitivity to disability is integral to this position. The duties of the OMS may include (but are not limited to): conducting of assessments, writing individual training plans with the student, and facilitating individual and group instruction as needed. Additionally, the OMS may be requested to coordinate specific training projects with colleagues or represent the LightHouse in the community, this may be ongoing or short term. Orientation and mobility instruction may occur virtually (Zoom), on-site of LightHouse facilities, in the home, workplace, academic sites or the student’s community, including travel on all forms of San Francisco Bay Area-wide public transportation and Paratransit.

While most of the training occurs throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area, the OMS must be open and flexible to working from all LightHouse locations and sometimes beyond, as needed for special projects. Additionally, the OMS must be able to balance their training schedule to accommodate week-long seminar training Enchanted Hills Camp and Retreat; immersive training in San Francisco with our Guide Dogs for the Blind collaboration (orientation skill development) or travel to locations outside the greater bay area overnight to accommodate training for students who live outside the area. Training may occur in either urban (all areas of a city) or rural settings. The OMS may also be asked to teach and assess for urgent and basic daily living skills. The OMS is a professional within the Lighthouse Training Team, sharing resources, recommendations, referrals, and skills with each other. All our training team practice hone their teaching skills under occlusion as needed, providing feedback, and discussing strategies for training.

Diversity and Inclusion: LightHouse intentionally and actively works to minimize barriers to employment faced by many marginalized groups. As a result, we welcome applicants from diverse backgrounds and abilities, including but not limited to applicants who possess various disabilities, racial and ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientation, gender identities, and ages. 

Minimum Qualifications:

Education or equivalent:  University Master’s Degree or BA in Orientation and Mobility or MA/BA with National Orientation and Mobility Certification (NOMC) from the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB). If, COMS, then Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP) preferred (needed to work with VA).

Experience:  A minimum of two years teaching Orientation and Mobility preferred. A history of teaching basic independent living skills (home-to-work skills) with adults and/ or seniors necessary.

Other: Fluency (speaking, reading, and writing) in Spanish, Cantonese, ASL or Russian preferred. Multicultural teaching experience preferred; excellent verbal and written communication skills; strong interpersonal skills to relate to staff, blind and visually impaired students, and persons in the community with varied backgrounds and viewpoints. Strong user of Smart Phone/Tablets, Microsoft Office Programs and databases and virtual platform(s) (Zoom), essential. Ability to travel throughout the LightHouse service area (private vehicle or public transit). Current CPR and First Aid certification required.

An ability to formulate individual, sequential training plans. Knowledge of Smart Phone accessibility related to O&M and Braille/tactile mapping experience desired.

Job Responsibilities and Qualifications:

  • Assess individual needs of students and set goals for instruction.
  • Provide professionally written student assessments, goal development, and training summaries / recommendations, monthly to all third-party contracting sources (such as the Department of Rehabilitation, Veterans Administration, Regional Center, and other third-party vendors).
  • Maintain weekly and monthly database entries regarding units of service provided to students, along with notes, goal-planning and reports for all direct services provided.
  • Function as Agency liaison in traffic, community transportation services and auditory signal issues or projects as requested.
  • Provide cane travel, route travel with dog guide users & teams and human guide instruction.
  • Maintain updated information regarding Paratransit programs, providing registration assistance and training in the programs, as necessary.
  • Provide orientation and route training in all environments and on various forms of public transit.
  • Assess for and teach basic and essential independent living skills to blind and low-vision students such as labeling, money organization, use of an ATM, and home safety practices (5-minute lessons).
  • Provide training in a range of all indoor and out-of-door environments: all urban city environments, rural environments, professional and academic campuses and buildings, homes, skilled nursing facilities etc.
  • Facilitate or co-facilitate classes, including our Changing Visions, Changing Lives immersion and community workshops.
  • Conduct outreach, training and collaboration with local universities and school’s disabled student programs, in providing campus orientation.
  • Conduct student home safety assessments and community agency environmental evaluations.
  • Provide consultation and/or training to staff in community agencies regarding environmental modifications and strategies in collaborating with persons who are blind or low vision.
  • Attend and participate in All-Staff meetings, monthly Consumer Review, and departmental meetings (Training Services).
  • Timely completion of requisite documentation, billing, reports etc. in a timely manner (monthly). All completed in Salesforce Database.
  • Participate in Agency public outreach and education as requested.
  • Maintain timely communication and responses to students (within 48 hours of referral).
  • Maintain professional communication via e-mail and voice mail on a timely and ongoing basis.
  • Other Duties:  Please note this job description is not designed to cover or contain a comprehensive listing of activities, duties or responsibilities that are required of the employee for this job. Duties, responsibilities, and activities may change at any time with or without notice.

Supervisory Responsibility

Supervise and provide instruction to Orientation and Mobility Interns as requested. (Must have MA/ACVREP Certification plus three years’ experience for Intern supervision.)

Physical Requirements

Physical stamina and the ability to work indoors and outdoors and walk up to 7 hours at a time (all terrains including stairs). Ability to work during inclement weather. Requires the ability to lift 25 pounds on a frequent basis and up to 50 pounds on an occasional basis with the assistance of another person as needed. 

Working Conditions 

The Orientation and Mobility Specialist is expected to follow directions from state, local government, and public health officials regarding the wearing of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). As a result, this job may be required to be performed using a mask and gloves for the protection of this employee, all Lighthouse employees, and students. The OMS will follow all COVID-19 Guidelines in working with students, including ensuring all students (and family members of students) wear PPE during their training with the student (at the LightHouse and/or the home of the student).

  • LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired is an equal opportunity employer to all. Qualified applicants are considered regardless of age, race, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, marital status, pregnancy, disability, medical condition, genetic information, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, religion, military veteran status, political affiliation, height, weight, or any other factor unrelated to the job.
  • We strive to maintain a scent-free environment and a drug-free workplace free of harassment, in accordance with California law. Employees are expected to behave in accordance with these objectives.
  • All LightHouse employees are hired for an indefinite and unspecified duration and consequently, no employee is guaranteed employment for a specified length of time. Employment is at the mutual consent of the employee and LightHouse. Accordingly, either the employee or LightHouse can terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without cause (“employment at will”).

TO APPLY:

Please send a cover letter and résumé as Word attachments (no PDFs please), to hr@lighthouse-sf.org, including the job title in the subject line. We will not consider videos or hyperlinks to online profiles. Due to time constraints, we will only respond to complete submissions in which there is serious interest. Thank you for your understanding.

How TMAP Reinvigorated How Angela Reynolds Serves Students

How TMAP Reinvigorated How Angela Reynolds Serves Students

Since 2016, LightHouse’s Media and Accessible Design Laboratory (MAD Lab) has been continuously developing their innovative Tactile Maps Automated Production (TMAP) software and perfecting its outcoming product. TMAP, a tool to generate tactile street maps, has grown since its early days and has become a widely used Orientation & Mobility (O&M) tool among O&M instructors and blind and low vision travelers. The expansion of TMAP is due to MAD Lab’s reliable presence at O&M conferences, webinars, and various blindness podcasts and presentations.

We are proud to announce that TMAP has made its way across the world! We chatted with O&M instructor Angela Reynolds of the Orientation and Mobility Association of Australia (OMAA) about her experience with TMAP.

How did you discover TMAP?

“I heard Greg Kehret [Director of LightHouse’s MAD Lab] talking about TMAP on Kassy Maloney’s podcast ‘A Step Forward’ in February this year. I thought it sounded like a great practical resource and immediately created an account and started experimenting with it.”

What was your experience/relationship with tactile maps before discovering TMAP?

“I commenced working as an O&M in 2001. Early in my career, I had access to PIAF [Pictures in a Flash] machines in the offices I worked in so I would create tactile maps when required. For the last 15 years I’ve worked in a country region in northeast Victoria, and I’ve worked from home, our office is a three-hour drive away. This means I don’t have a PIAF machine or any type of embosser at my disposal. If I need a tactile map, I have to be very organized and create and order the map at least three weeks in advance to ensure I had it in time for the O&M session. At times, I have to admit, it was difficult to be this organized or predict the need for a map this far ahead. Sometimes during a session, it would become clear that a client would benefit from a map to increase their spatial understanding of a travel route, but I simply couldn’t get the map created in time for the next session.

“To address these gaps, I crafted my own maps. I used a variety of materials to do this such as cardboard strips pasted onto cardboard to create street maps. Often clients would assist by creating the braille labels so it would be a collaborative process. Other times I’d create a quick map when we were on the go during an O&M session by using a magnetic board and magnetic strips and symbols that I’d created, often embellished with Wiki Stix, foam stick on symbols and tactile dots. I’ve made maps out of lollies [candy] with children and larger street maps out of cut out pieces of wood, sandpaper and felt.

“I think maps are so important to develop spatial understanding so people can start to create a mental map of the areas they’re travelling through, so I pursued many options to create maps, however it was time-consuming because of how long it took to create a map.”

How has having a TMAP account affected your work?

“I’ve been so excited to discover TMAP! It has filled some major barriers that I was experiencing with my capacity to provide good quality and timely maps to clients. I’m very impressed with how easy it is to use, the ability to set a scale to provide a big picture map or a more detailed smaller view of an area, the north compass rose, the key and the embedded braille, braille, did I mention braille?! The braille is a major game changer. The other aspect of TMAP to create tactile maps is how quickly I can create a map, it’s so fast and I can quickly download it to my computer and email it through to another staff member and request them to put it through the PIAF machine for me.

“Since I’ve had access to TMAP is has reinvigorated my passion for tactile maps. It’s also resulted in me revisiting and thinking about the development of foundational O&M skills and how to teach tactile mapping skills to both children and adults. Map reading is a learnt skill, and the skills of tactile mapping are learnt in a graded and methodical way.  Even with the emergence of GPS technology there remains a strong need for tactile maps to increase spatial skill development, mental mapping and to use as a tool for enhanced and accessible learning of travel routes and environments.

“Due to the maps being sourced via Open Street Maps I find that the resulting maps are accurate and can really add value to the development of the conceptual understanding of the shapes of roads. And the TMAP software is working well in Australia and the fact that it’s free is also so exciting.”

How have your clients responded to working with TMAP?

“I have been providing services to a lady for a number of years on and off. She lost her vision due to retinoblastoma when she was 17 months old. She is an avid map lover and often requests maps from me so she can increase her spatial understanding of the areas she travels. Prior to TMAP, I had been crafting cardboard street maps and trying to put them together to create a big picture of the two towns she travels in regularly. Each map took me about 2 hours to make and there were issues with scale when we put them together. I am no cartographer! She was doing the braille labels and we’d stick them on together. Ultimately, I couldn’t keep up with her requests for maps, she wanted more, and I didn’t have enough time in my day to make the maps. This year when I discovered TMAP I was able to pump out multiple tactile maps for her so quickly and we spent several hours excitedly going over the maps together. This is also the other aspect that I really love about TMAP tactile maps, is the ability to sit down and share the experience of reading and looking at a map. She had the Braille version, and I had the text version and we read the map together in a really natural way. It felt accessible to both of us. Through TMAP, she learned that the street she has lived on for 25 years had a pronounced curve, it was curved like the shape of a horseshoe or the print letter U. She had always thought her street was straight.”

Since LightHouse chatted with Angela, she presented a paper at the Orientation & Mobility Association of Australasia online Symposium in Australia back in September. Our MAD Lab director, Greg Kehret, joined Angela for a joint presentation about TMAP. There has been a very positive response following the presentation, and several more O&Ms in Australia have created their own TMAP accounts and are starting to experiment and create tactile maps for their clients, as well. Nothing fills our hearts and fuels our ambition and dedication more than hearing feedback like Angela’s. LightHouse is thrilled to see MAD Lab’s services are vastly expanding and positively changing the lives of blind and low vision individuals worldwide. “I often highly recommend TMAP to other O&M’s,” Angela tells us.

Don’t have a local embosser but still want TMAPs for you or your students? No problem. LightHouse can produce the maps and mail them to you. Order online at Adaptations.org or call 1-888-400-8933.

Participants Get the Feel of Streets of San Francisco at SFMTA Sponsored Workshop

Participants Get the Feel of Streets of San Francisco at SFMTA Sponsored Workshop

On April 8, LightHouse, in partnership with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), held a second Tactile Intersections Workshop to promote the citywide campaign Safety—It’s Your Turn. The campaign is designed to encourage safer driving around left turns. Individuals who are blind or have low vision who live or work in San Francisco joined LightHouse Orientation & Mobility (O&M) Specialist Sarah McIntyre and Senior Accessible Media and Braille Specialist Frank Welte for the workshop where they received an overview of interpreting and comprehending tactile diagrams of various intersections found throughout San Francisco.

Upon registering for the workshop, participants were sent a packet of the tactile intersection diagrams (designed and produced in-house by LightHouse’s Media and Accessible Design Lab) to follow along from home with Sarah and Frank as they guided students through understanding what the different tactile traffic lines and symbols on each diagram represented. The two LightHouse employees made a dynamic duo as they offered valuable insights, as Sarah has the many years’ experience teaching O&M and working alongside blind and low vision people, while Frank has the first-hand knowledge and experiences of traveling in cities all over the country as a blind man.

“Understanding how various common types of intersections are configured and how traffic flows through them makes it possible for a blind traveler to cross streets efficiently and safely in a wide variety of situations.” Frank said. “The intersection diagrams produced by the LightHouse make it much easier for Orientation & Mobility students to acquire this important knowledge.”

I had the opportunity to participate in last week’s workshop. As a person who has low vision and as a non-driver, I found the workshop incredibly informative. The geography of San Francisco is unique with its many neighborhoods and busy city streets that spread out across climbing hills and flat shorelines, but while it makes for a beautiful landscape, it also makes for many complicated travel routes, both in car and on foot. Exploring the different types of intersections and gaining an understanding of what all the painted lines along the city streets actually mean helped me form and understand my own mental map of the city and specifically different busy traffic areas within my own neighborhood.

“I’ve used the intersection diagrams in two different ways,” Sarah McIntyre explained. First, with students who started learning intersection analysis and street crossing skills in person, I’ve used the intersection diagrams to reinforce and strengthen what they had begun learning.

“Second, with students who are learning spatial awareness skills and have progressed to the point of examining TMAPs [tactile street maps produced using an automated tool], I’ve used the intersection diagrams to discuss the different types of intersections found along their routes.”

Building confidence, independence and knowledge for those in the blind and low vision community is at the heart of every service LightHouse provides. It is a very empowering experience to partner with local agencies like SFMTA to help increase safety and awareness, not just for San Francisco’s blind and low vision residents and commuters, but for everyone who travels the streets of our beloved San Francisco.

If you missed out on the workshop but are interested in obtaining a copy of the Tactile Intersections Diagrams packet, you can do so by ordering the diagrams from the LightHouse store, Adaptations, by calling (888) 400-8933 or finding LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired under specialized help in the Be My Eyes app. For more information about the fantastic strides the city is making to improve traffic safety visit SFMTA’s Safety—It’s Your Turn page on their website. For any inquiries about Orientation & Mobility lessons and services provided by LightHouse, contact info@lighthouse-sf.org or Esmerelda Soto at 415-694-7323.

Get In-Touch with MAD Lab’s Tactile Intersection Crossings and Attend a Workshop, April 8

Get In-Touch with MAD Lab’s Tactile Intersection Crossings and Attend a Workshop, April 8

By Kathy Abrahamson, Director of Rehabilitation Services
 
We’re pleased to announce that we received a Safety – It’s Your Turn community grant from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) to support safer left turn education and encourage walking and biking, especially for San Franciscans who are blind or have low vision. Part of the outreach for the Safety – It’s Your Turn education campaign is to raise awareness of the new “left turn calming” intersections designed to slow drivers as they make left turns on the streets of San Francisco. These newly designed intersections use small speed bumps and vertical barriers to encourage drivers to slow down, square their left turns, and watch for people in the crosswalk. Currently there are seven such intersections in San Francisco. 
 
For this project, LightHouse Orientation and Mobility Specialist, Sarah McIntyre and the talented designers of Lighthouse’s Media and Accessible Design Lab have developed a tactile diagram of this new “left turn traffic calming intersection as well as a book of 13 detailed tactile diagrams of intersection types that may be found around San Francisco’s streets. Both of these tactile references are being made available to blind and low vision San Franciscans at no charge to the first sixty who contact the LightHouse with interest of obtaining a copy, and, participating in an informational workshop about these resources. 
 
The Tactile Diagram Workshop will be held Thursday, April 8 from 3:00 – 4:30 pm via Zoom. Invitation is open to those San Franciscans who have received a book of diagrams. The workshop will provide an overview of the intersections and basic information in how to use and read the diagrams. Each book provides information in both braille and large print. An electronic version of the text information from the book can be provided upon request. San Francisco Unified Orientation and Mobility Specialists are encouraged to ensure a copy for their students for supplemental training and support.
 
The goal of the project is to provide overall knowledge of the availability of tactile maps so that travelers who are blind or have low vision have the best understanding of their city streets and we graciously thank the SFMTA for the ability to produce the books for our San Francisco blind and low vision community. If you are a San Franciscan who is blind or has low vision and would like one copy of the LightHouse Tactile Intersection Book, along with the supplemental traffic calming intersection diagram, please email Briana Kusuma, LightHouse Program Associate at BKusuma@lighthouse-sf.org. Briana will send one copy (per person/household) via Free Matter for the Blind and sign you up for participation in the April 8 Tactile Diagram Workshop. For those persons who would like to purchase a copy of this book, please visit Adaptations, the LightHouse Store online, email adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org or call 1-888-400-8933.
 
For more information about the Safety – It’s Your Turn campaign visit VisionZeroSF.org/leftturns.

Get Moving: LightHouse Offers Six-Week Online Orientation & Mobility Course

Get Moving: LightHouse Offers Six-Week Online Orientation & Mobility Course

Are you new to cane travel? Want to learn more about tactile maps and GPS? We’re offering a comprehensive six-week online course in Orientation & Mobility (O&M) to help you travel independently. Courses are taught by Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialists.

There will be two sessions:

Session I: For those working with their state’s vocational rehabilitation department or commission for the blind (available in all 50 states).

When: July 28 through September 3, Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:00 a.m. to noon Pacific.

Instructors: Robert Alminana and Jennifer Huey

Session II: For those who are 55 and over, who aren’t in a vocational rehabilitation plan and living in Northern California.

When: Date:  August 17 through September 28, Mondays and Wednesdays 10:00 a.m. to noon Pacific. No class on Labor Day, September 7.

Instructors: Danette Davis and Chris Williams

Who qualifies for this course?

Session I

  • State Department of Rehabilitation or Commission for the Blind Consumers in all 50 states.

Session II

  • Department of Veteran Affairs consumers
  • People 55 and over

What do you need to take this course?

Solid internet access and be able to access Zoom via phone and/or video and have computer skills to receive and read articles, watch videos and/or listen to podcasts.

What is this course about?

This is a comprehensive six-week, twelve-class course using the Zoom conferencing platform to introduce students to foundational O&M concepts, skills, and current technologies for safe, independent travel. Participants will meet twice a week for a total instruction time of 24 hours.

The course covers O&M fundamentals including the benefits of O&M skills for travel and employment; sensory, spatial and environmental awareness; orientation strategies and skills; tactile graphics and TMAP; human guide; protective techniques; long cane basics; street crossing sequence; intersection analysis, public transit and trip planning, introduction to electronic travel devices and GPS and wayfinding techniques.

Who would benefit from the course?

  • People who are blind or have low vision who are new to O&M.
  • People who have had a recent change in vision.
  • People who haven’t used their O&M skills in a while.
  • People looking for an O&M refresher.

How will participants benefit?

  • Participants will acquire strong foundational skills that are critical for safe, independent travel that will help them gain and retain employment.
  • Participants will receive structured, organized instruction that will prepare them for subsequent individualized training with a certified O&M specialist.

How does the course fit in with consumer’s overall O&M training program?

  • This will be the first of two parts in a combined O&M training curriculum.
  • The second part will be an individualized, face-to-face, hands-on learning and practice instruction program when public safety mandates allow. (Available to consumers in the LightHouse training area only.)

What is the cost of this course?

Session I: $1,165.00 (990.00 for the course + $175.00 for materials

Session II: Course is provided at no charge to people living in San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Marin, Humboldt, Del Norte and Trinity counties.  If you live outside those areas, the cost is $990.00. Scholarships are available. Course materials for the 6 week-course are $50 and may be waived based on scholarship availability.

What materials will be used during the course?  

  • Bump dots, mixed
  • Tactile Maps (TMAP)
  • Intersection map set
  • Wikki Stix
  • Additional materials supplied by LightHouse for The Blind: tactile activity sheets; rubber bands; signature guide; Kanga-Pak; sleep shade.

How to register for one of these courses?

Session I:  Robert Alminana at ralminana@lighthouse-sf.org or Jennifer Huey at jhuey@lighthouse-sf.org.

Session II:  Danette Davis at ddavis@lighthouse-sf.org or Chris Williams at cwilliams@lighthouse-sf.org.

Putting the mobile in mobility: LightHouse O&M Instructors serve virtual lessons

Putting the mobile in mobility: LightHouse O&M Instructors serve virtual lessons

Since mid-March, all LightHouse programs have been online, in accordance with shelter in place orders and to keep our students safe. Our program staff had to adapt quickly to ensure there wasn’t a long gap in training for students. Through online classes and phone appointments, we’ve continued to teach accessible technology, braille and independent living skills

But how do you adapt Orientation & Mobility (O&M), something that relies heavily on in-person training with limited social distancing, for a virtual class? LightHouse O&M instructors share how they’ve found ways to continue working with their students.

A tactile diagram of a typical four-way intersection with two lanes of traffic in each direction on each street; four city blocks are connected by crosswalks.

Sarah McIntyre acknowledges that it’s been an adjustment. She’s meeting the challenge by teaching herself new skills so she can better work with her students.

“I have a student who’s just started a new job and although she doesn’t know when she’s going to start work [in person], she’s nervous about teaching herself a new route. I am not able to get there to teach her in person, so what do I do? I send her a TMAP.”

TMAP (Tactile Maps Automated Production), designed by LightHouse’s Media and Accessible Design Lab, cover an area of several blocks surrounding a given address, TMAP uses both braille and large print to identify streets, represented by crisp, raised lines that can be easily followed with the fingertips. Sarah also realized that she could create a different type of tactile representation for her students as well.

“I have downloaded a free program called Inkscape and in a week, taught myself how to draw street intersections. Fortunately, I’ve just bought a swell paper printer and can print tactile graphics of the intersections at home. I mail these out to students, and we talk about concepts such as intersection analysis and street crossing timings.”

Tactile graphics are just one way LightHouse O&M instructors have continued working with students. Katt Jones incorporates technology into her students’ online trainings.

“It’s about maps and apps. I’m helping them apply the tech skills they’ve learned with their Access Technology instructors. We’re working on route planning with Apple and Google Maps and exploring surroundings with BlindSquare and Microsoft Soundscape. Sometimes I have my students share the screen on their smart phone through Zoom [the videoconferencing app] so I can monitor what they’re doing. It can be challenging when they are using [the iPhone screen reader] VoiceOver, because I can’t hear what their VoiceOver is saying. One student called me using her Amazon Echo so that I was able to hear her use VoiceOver on her iPhone.”

When students use Zoom on their iPhone, the person on the other end of the call cannot clearly hear VoiceOver, which makes it challenging for an instructor to monitor how the student is using their screen reader. Because Katt’s student called her using the Amazon Echo smart speaker, Katt was able to clearly hear the student’s VoiceOver on their iPhone through the Amazon Echo call.

But while technology and TMAP certainly have their place, now more than ever, one of the most basic and vital tools is the trusty white cane as Danette Davis observes.

“I have my students stand up with their canes at home and we talk about the cane mechanics of intersection crossing. One time, a student put their phone case on a lanyard and walked down their hallway in their apartment building so I could watch how their cane moved.”

Other O&M instructors have also found creative ways to work with their students remotely. When a student didn’t yet have tactile maps, Chris Williams had the student create intersections with pencils. Dawn Leeflang has students problem-solve the scenario of a bus never showing up. Jennifer Huey has gone outside to record the surge of oncoming parallel traffic so her students can hear what that sounds like. Marie Trudelle has students use a GPS app to practice making turns and tracking cardinal directions.

Robert Alminana, who works with many students who don’t have smart phones or internet access, talks about how he’s shifted the focus of his training.

“I’m doing a lot of assessments, asking students questions [about their mobility skills]. I’m helping students with Paratransit and DMV [Disabled Person] Placard applications. We are planning transit routes.”

Several of the instructors expressed that one of the things they miss most is not getting the “mileage” with students, that is, the in-person walking that is the heart of most O&M lessons. Gina Di Grazia found a workaround for one of her students, Jim. One time, she observed Jim using his white cane to walk a pedestrian pathway that runs through grass, thanks to a real time video his wife took through a cell phone. Gina comments that Jim seemed primed for the unorthodox approach to cane skills training.

“He is brand new to cane use and running with it.”

LightHouse continues to accept new students for O&M training by appointment, including Department of Rehabilitation and Veterans Affairs students. For more information, please contact Debbie Bacon at dbacon@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7357.

YES Academy Week One: Cane skills, cooking and mock interviews

YES Academy Week One: Cane skills, cooking and mock interviews

It’s been a lively week at LightHouse headquarters with our three-week Summer Youth Employment Series (YES) underway. The 10th and 11th floors have been warm with the chatter of blind and visually impaired youth attending four classes a day including orientation & mobility, technology, living skills and job readiness trainings.

Many of the students at YES Academy are getting their first introductions to life skills like using a white cane, cooking, doing laundry, interviewing for jobs and volunteering. But it isn’t all work and no play. They also explored the city of San Francisco, including a ghost tour of Chinatown and a scavenger hunt at Fisherman’s Wharf.

This week they’re headed to camp and kayak in Tomales Bay, and then they’re off to Enchanted Hills Camp to spend a few days breathing the fresh air and learning the fundamentals of woodworking with blind woodworker George Wurtzel. The final week, a select group will attend the National Federation of the Blind Convention in Orlando, Florida. Here, students will meet thousands of blind role models from across the country, network with the National Association of Blind Students, peruse the aisles of the exhibition hall, participate in a nation-wide accessible job-fair and attend informative seminars.

“When we picked up the students at the airport not a single one of them was using a cane,” says Youth Services Coordinator Jamey Gump when we asked him about the most gratifying aspect of leading the program. “Now many of them feel confident to use their canes. It’s an important landmark for them to be comfortable with themselves and be able to identify as blind to allow the public to understand their needs.”

Romesha Laird is one of the YES students who started off the week having never used a cane before. She’s quickly taken to the mobility training and has found it an incredibly useful tool as she goes through this busy week of fun and self discovery.

“I’m just learning to use a cane,” she says. “I used to trip a lot and the cane makes me feel more confident. After this week, I feel a lot more motivated to use my cane when I’m walking around.”

Romesha is a high school student from San Bernardino, and when she’s not learning to making quick biscuits in the teaching kitchen or learning skills that will help her toward her goal of attending a four year college, she’s an avid cheerleader.

This week she discovered a mentor in YES Academy Counselor Danielle Fernandez.

“I really look up to Danielle,” she says. “She taught me a lot and showed me around. She also has the same condition as me, so we relate and understand each other.”

Romesha has already made up her mind that she’ll be headed back to YES next year.

“I am going to come back next year to learn more and get more experience and visit everyone at the LightHouse,” she says smiling.

Here are a few photos of Romesha practicing mobility in downtown San Francisco and volunteering to braille business cards in the MAD Lab.

Romesha smiles as she walks down Market Street with her white cane.
Romesha smiles as she walks down Market Street with her white cane.
Romesha helps emboss business cards with fellow YES Academy students in one of the LightHouse volunteer rooms.
Romesha helps emboss business cards with fellow YES Academy students in one of the LightHouse volunteer rooms.

Stay posted for more YES Academy updates in the coming weeks!

‘The Specialist’ Podcast On Going Blind, and How We Help

Katt Jones and Marco SalsicciaLightHouse O&M instructor Katt Jones was featured on this week’s episode of The Specialist, a new KALW podcast about the important jobs you don’t think about. Host Casey Miner takes us through a day-in-the-life of someone, in this case Jones, who helps blind people learn how to get around. Miner also takes a deep dive with Marco Salsiccia, LightHouse student and Accessibility Specialist at Lyft, about what it’s like to lost your vision all at once, and what happens next. Listen to the whole episode here and tell us what you think in the comments!