Tag Archive

orientation and mobility

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.

Reading Tactile Maps

Lesson Plans

Learning to read a tactile map can be a challenge. LightHouse O&M instructor Sarah McIntyre has put together two lesson plans to help students get acquainted with TMAPs.

Download Sarah’s Lesson Plans: Reading a TMAP and Using a TMAP While Exploring.

Other Resources

Teaching Tactile Graphics (Lucia Hasty for Perkins)

Related Posts: Putting the Mobile in Mobility

Related Pages: Frequently Asked Questions, How to Use TMAP to Make Maps, Reading Tactile Maps, Learn more about TMAP

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
LIGHTHOUSE ERC RECEPTION : 415-694-7675
ED ROBERTS FRONT DESK: 415-694-7675 ext. 7770 
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

Grove Building 317 3rd St 
Box 3
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. 

Maps, at Your Fingertips: The LightHouse Store Announces On-Demand Tactile Maps

Maps, at Your Fingertips: The LightHouse Store Announces On-Demand Tactile Maps

Have you ever wanted to get to know the lay of the land before heading to a new city, campus or neighborhood? Wish you could just generate a quick, raised-line aerial map the way others do with Google? Whether it’s the blocks around your kid’s new school or a conference in San Diego — it’s not always easy to get a quick overview of a neighborhood before visiting. And unfortunately, mobile web mapping systems like Google or Apple Maps tend to fall short for blind users when it comes to getting the “big picture.”

Thanks to a collaboration between the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute and our Media and Accessible Design Lab, we’re pleased to announce that you can now order on-demand tactile maps of the area of your choosing for just $19 (plus shipping and handling) from our Adaptations Store. The tactile street maps depict the area around a user-specified address or intersection, using raised lines along with a circle marking the point of interest in the center of the map. Braille and large print labels indicate street names and other critical area information like cardinal directions, scale, and main streets. For those who are new to tactile maps, this is a great way to get started with this invaluable, always dependable tool for blind and low vision travelers. And for O&M teachers, or those learning how to travel with a dog or cane, this new instant service will make a tremendous difference.

To order a map, just call our product specialists at the Adaptations Store at 1-888-400-8933 and specify the destination of the map you’re interested in. Within two business days we’ll place your order, ship it or make it available for pick up at the store.

What’s in the package?

  • 3 signature Tactile and ink-printed Maps, generated by the MAD Lab at LightHouse for the Blind, of the area surrounding your point of interest: printed at simple, moderate and dense map scale ratios
  • A tactile map key
  • An explainer page
  • All materials are printed on 11” X 11.5” sheets of embossed paper and include ink / large print labels in addition to braille

Never used a tactile map before? Stop by the Adaptations Store in person and take a look at our pre-printed maps of the area around LightHouse Headquarters at 1155 Market St. We’ll help you get a feel for using tactile maps and you can even take a pre-printed tactile map with you for $19.

This Spring, CVCL Answers the Tough Questions for New Students

This Spring, CVCL Answers the Tough Questions for New Students

“I’ve often thought about what I would do if I were to drop a sewing needle.” The instructor intones the answer in a gentle voice: “Listen for the direction and how far from you it has fallen.” Obvious? Not to me.”

When Eleanor Lew came to LightHouse in 2016, dropping a sewing needle or traveling through the dark were questions without obvious answers. These are just a couple of the hundreds of seemingly answerless riddles that we help people solve in our weeklong skills training, Changing Vision Changing Life.

Initially only held a few times a year, CVCL now happens every month. It trades locations between San Francisco and Napa to give students a holistic, two-part experience that builds confidence in all areas, introduces them to other individuals peers who motivate each other through peer learning, and gets them on the right track towards being happy, healthy people — regardless of level of eyesight.

“Introducing us to the scope of low-vision rehabilitation services so that we can live independently and maintain quality of life is the purported reason for the camp,” Eleanor writes. “But the healing power of connection is what surprises us.”

There are hundreds of stories like Eleanor’s that come out of CVCL each year. If you want to know more about her transformation, read about it in the New York Times and tell your friends with changing vision to get in touch with Debbie Bacon at dbacon@lighthouse-sf.org or by calling 415-694-7357.


Sign Up for our upcoming CVCL sessions:

CVCL II (San Francisco): March 20 – 24

CVCL I (Napa): April 3 – 7

CVCL II (San Francisco): May 8 – 12

CVCL I: (Napa): June 12 – 16

CVCL II (San Francisco): July 17 – 21

 

Jennifer Huey – “When Life Gives You a White Cane, Blaze a Trail!”

Jennifer HueyThe following is one in a monthly series featuring the extraordinary people who make up the LightHouse staff.

“My first goal is to make my students feel comfortable by demystifying Orientation and Mobility. People ask, ‘What’s that?’ I tell them that Orientation and Mobility is a fancy phrase to describe the set of skills people who are blind or have low vision use to safely navigate the world around them,” Jennifer Huey, one of LightHouse’s Certified Orientation and Mobility Instructors, tells us. She continues, “For example, I teach students how to properly use a white cane. In addition to cane travel, I teach people how to use all their senses to move about independently. People wonder how a blind person can cross a busy intersection, walk with a white cane and an umbrella or find an exit. I teach students those critical skills, which we call Orientation and Mobility or O&M.”

Jennifer comes to the LightHouse after being in the court reporting industry for over 20 years. “It was time for a career change. I wanted to make a tangible difference in the lives of others. My job in the court reporting field was just that – a job. Jennifer reflected on her history when considering a second career. “My mom developed eye cancer several years ago, which was a wakeup call to my family. Life is short; do what you love. On a more literal level, my mother’s diagnosis, coupled with my twin sister’s congenital monocular (‘single eye’) vision, led me to the field of blind services. I went back to San Francisco State (she got her Bachelor’s degree in Communicative Disorders, with a minor in Special Education there as well) to earn my Master’s in Special Education, with a special emphasis in O&M.”

Kathy Abrahamson, LightHouse’s Director of Rehabilitation, was one of Jennifer’s instructors at SF State. “Kathy was infectious, with her bubbly personality and passion for helping people. She talked so highly of the LightHouse, and the satisfaction she felt in her career. Like my classmate Robert Alminana (who is also an O&M instructor at the LightHouse), I knew I wanted to work here.”

Students who meet Jennifer are quickly put at ease by her warmth and great cheer. “We laugh a lot. I’m empowering people to live their lives, why not start living during our training? I learn about students’ concerns, many of which are similar to all students, but I also dig deeper to learn more about the individual I’m working alongside. That’s a key point: I’m working with—beside—my students, not teaching at them. One of my major goals for every student is that they understand that their white cane (if they need a cane) is a tool and not something stigmatizing. We reach that point together by setting personal goals that have an immediate impact, like learning how to deftly use a white cane and navigate a busy sidewalk.”

Born and raised in San Francisco, Jennifer certainly hasn’t let city lines keep her boxed in. “I love traveling. My last big trip was last August, when I went on a mission to bring assistive equipment like wheelchairs, crutches, canes and training to the Ugandan disability community. I set up a website to fundraise for adult and child-sized canes, various cane tips and cane accessories, to be distributed free of charge to Ugandans in need. It was an incredible journey – I can’t wait for my next trip.” Jennifer is also a thrill seeker, having skydived twice, and she loves drama, from movies to musicals. She emphatically states: “Go to Shakespeare in the Park. Do it! You’ll love it!”

If you’re wondering if you should sign up for Orientation and Mobility training at the LightHouse, Jennifer has this to say: “Pick up the phone, shoot us an email, stop by…you have to be the one to make the first step. I assure you, you’re in control of your training, but we’re here to help you figure out what you need to thrive.”

To get started, call us at 415.431.1481 or write us at info@lighthouse-sf.org.

Robert Alminana: “Life Doesn’t Come to You; You Have to Go After Life.”

AlfredoRobertThe following is one in a monthly series featuring the extraordinary people who make up the LightHouse staff.

“There is a quote I really want you to include in my profile,” says Robert Alminana, an Orientation and Mobility Specialist at the LightHouse. He reaches for a well-loved book he’d brought with him: Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

“One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eyes,” he quotes from the book. The message, with its obvious relevance to the LightHouse and the blindness community, is also one of Robert’s guiding principle. He says, “I’ve spent my life helping people and communities find better ways to live by uncovering hidden potential.”

It’s possible that Robert’s desire to help people stems from his unique history. “I’ve lived—really lived—in nine countries on three continents. I speak five languages. I grew up with parents who are bilingual, bi-national, and bicultural. Because of this, I don’t identify with a particular country or nationality. Instead, I see myself more as a global citizen, finding it easier to identify with individuals despite our perceived differences.” Living within so many cultures has also made Robert more conscious of the struggles that make us more similar than different. “We’re all trying to find our place in the world regardless of the part of the world we’re from. I’m passionate about helping people find their place in the world, because I know that everyone has a place.”

This fervor for empowering people to feel grounded is what led Robert to Orientation and Mobility. “I used to be an urban planner, with special emphasis on designing communities that make people feel welcomed and at peace, which I know has dramatically positive effects on behavior and the way we relate to one another. I literally worked to create communities that provide people with a ‘sense of place,’ an endeavor that takes time to materialize. I left that field because I wanted to work one-on-one with people and see the results of my work on a more intimate and immediate level. Orientation and Mobility fulfilled that need.”

Instead of designing beautiful, sustainable communities for large groups of people, Robert now works with individuals who are blind teaching them to navigate whatever space they find themselves. “I dreamed of changing the world on a large scale, and did some of that with the urban planning work I conducted. Now, my dream is being fulfilled on a different scale. I’m changing the world for one person by teaching him or her practical skills to move through the world.”

Speaking philosophically, Robert stresses that there are billions of individual worlds—we all live in our own world. “Working one-on-one with a dozen students a week might not seem like the stereotypical ‘world change’ one thinks of, but seeing the immediate impact Orientation and Mobility skills have on people has shown me that I’m changing worlds instead of one single world.”

Robert’s journey to the LightHouse started when he became a LightHouse Volunteer. He tells us, “I enrolled in my Master’s in Special Education program at SF State to become an Orientation and Mobility specialist, but had to wait eight months for classes to start. I was anxious to get going, so I asked Dr. Sandy Rosen, Coordinator, Orientation and Mobility Program at San Francisco State, if she had any recommendations. She suggested I volunteer at the LightHouse. I started off as a Personal Services Volunteer, working with one person – this was an incredibly rewarding experience. I also worked on some projects with MUNI and recording print text to alternative formats.” Robert’s experiences remind us that LightHouse has many different volunteering opportunities, from working one-on-one with students to administrative work.”

After graduating with a Master’s in Special Education in the field of Visual Impairments, Orientation and Mobility, Robert joined the team at LightHouse as an O&M Instructor. He tells us, “I’m also the President Elect of the Northern California Association of O&M Specialists (N-CAOMS), and I have my ACVREP (Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals) certification, which enables me to design programs to meet our students’ needs.”

Robert goes on to say, “I love what I do at the LightHouse—helping people gain the independence and confidence required to thrive in the world around them. I want people to know that if they’re struggling with getting to where they need to be, they should make an appointment today. There are so many wonderful things to do and people to meet. Life doesn’t come to you; you have to go after life.”

Robert enjoys being philosophical, even when he’s not at work. “What do I do on the weekends or outside of work? I love reading. Some of my favorite authors include Albert Camus, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Marguerite Yourcenar, Gabriel García Márquez, John Steinbeck and Jane Jacobs. I enjoy going to art and science museums. Traveling is also important to me, and nature is a big part of my life. My last trip was to Alaska. I was absolutely blown away by the quality—and quantity—of the natural beauty. The train trip from Anchorage to Denali was so beautiful it overwhelmed me. Every panorama was filled with life and splendor.”

If you’d like become a more independent traveler the LightHouse can teach you how. Contact us at 415-831-1481 to get started.

Ready to give back? The LightHouse has a robust Volunteer Program and we invite you to enroll. For more information, contact Justine, our Volunteer Coordinator, at 1altruism@lighthouse-sf.org.