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O&M

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!

Blind & Low Vision Skills Training

Blind & Low Vision Skills Training

Our team of teachers and specialists (many of whom are low vision/blind themselves) are highly trained in low vision and blind skills techniques and strategies.

We provide solutions to help you maintain your independence. From learning essential safe travel skills in your home and community to accessing your mail or favorite book, the LightHouse can accommodate any individual seeking to enhance self-reliance.

Our teachers will meet you at your level of readiness and desire to move forward. Every person has their own journey and pace for learning new skills. As long as you are open to learning how you can do something in a new way with your changing vision, we are ready to provide the training and support you need.

For those who are new to low vision, blindness or have a recent change in their vision, we recommend our flagship program, CVCL.

Immersion Training: Changing Vision, Changing Life 

Changing Vision, Changing Life (CVCL) is an introductory immersion program for adults who are newly blind or have experienced a change in vision. The program introduces basic and essential skills to live confidently at home and in the community. Topics include magnification, organizational skills, time management, use of adaptive aids and accessing print materials provide students solutions and strategies for living with low vision or blindness. In addition, each class session includes a discussion on adjusting to changing vision.

While CVCL introduces students to invaluable blindness or low vision training and techniques, the bigger purpose is to bring people together, learning and sharing experiences together. CVCL instinctively motivates students to study further and know the right choices for later. Many students who attend CVCL return to leading full, active lives while remaining enthusiastically engaged with the LightHouse.

Students need not live in the Bay Area to attend CVCL. Our facilities in Napa and San Francisco are equipped with lodging and meals to keep you comfortable and nourished throughout the training.

Read about CVCL in the New York Times!

In addition to CVCL, listed below are the core learning opportunities in which you can participate as a student. All of these skills can be learned from our headquarters in San Francisco and most of them from our satellite offices: LightHouse of Marin, LightHouse of the North Coast, or LightHouse of the East Bay.

Orientation and Mobility (O&M)

“Orientation” refers to the ability to know where you are and where you want to go, whether you’re moving from one room to another, walking route from your home to downtown, taking a bus from one place to another or ‘orienting’ to a new worksite or school campus.

“Mobility” refers to the ability to move safely, efficiently, and effectively from one place to another. This means walking confidently without tripping or falling, street crossing and use of public transportation. Learning mobility also includes learning the use of essential tools such as a cane or even a monocular for those with low vision, and strategies, such as listening for traffic patterns when crossing the street or using accessible pedestrian signals.

LightHouse teachers recognize that traveling ‘independently’ is done in so many ways and once basic skills are learned, students can concurrently learn alternate systems for travel such as Human Guide skills and transit using community Paratransit. Additionally, LightHouse Orientation and Mobility Specialists also provide training in navigation systems such as the Trekker Breeze; current mobility applications on smartphones for travel such as BlindSquare or orientation devices such as the Brain Port.

The ability to move about independently, with confidence and grace is an essential step towards self-confidence, independence and living a full life.

Essential Living Skills

Essential living skills, often called Independent Living Skills or Daily Living Skills, are the essential skills you use in your daily routine. Your approach to these skills can change if your vision changes. Our team of skilled Certified Rehabilitation Specialist, Independent Living Skills and Kitchen Skills Teachers provide you the tips, strategies, simple modifications and tools to continue your routine at home, school or work. Many of these skills are transferable other areas of your life, for example, cleaning/clearing a table requires tactile and/or visual scanning patterns or techniques, as does orientation and mobility, reading Braille or reading using a video magnifier.

Work with your teacher to prioritize the most essential skills for your independent living and daily routine. Here are some of the areas we address:

  • Personal Hygiene Care
  • Food Preparation and Kitchen Skills (from list making and shopping to cooking)
  • Clothing Care and developing and managing your wardrobe
  • Paper Management (bills, correspondences)
  • Organizational and labeling (visual and non visual)
  • Household Management and housekeeping
  • Record Keeping and financial/household document management
  • Money/banking management
  • Time and Calendaring Management Tools
  • Shopping (from on-line to in-store shopping)
  • Social and Recreational Involvement – getting back to a routine of fun!
  • Smartphone training and relevant apps

Braille

Braille, an accessible tactile reading and writing system, is essential to blind literacy. It is also crucial in pursuing education and employment.

The LightHouse is dedicated to teaching Braille, and offers individual sessions every day of the week. Our programs support businesses, schools and community agencies with the aim of providing and maintaining access to Braille.

Adult students of all ages can benefit from learning Braille for simple label writing and labeling and playing cards with friends and family, to learning contracted braille for note-taking and reading text books or documents or learning refreshable displays in tandem with computer use or smartphones.

To receive low vision or blind skills training, contact:

LightHouse Headquarters San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area (including LightHouse of the East Bay): Debbie Bacon, Rehabilitation Counselor – dbacon@lighthouse-sf.org.

LightHouse Marin, for Marin County: Jeff Carlson, Social Worker – jcarlson@lighthouse-sf.org.

LightHouse North Coast, for Humboldt and Del Norte Counties: Janet Pomerantz, Social Worker – jpomerantz@lighthouse-sf.org.