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LightHouse Legacy Society: Be a Changemaker, Improving the Lives of Blind and Low Vision People for Years to Come

In the LightHouse’s 113 year history bequests and other types of planned gifts have been transformative, allowing the LightHouse to flourish and grow as a leader in programs to empower the Blind Community. Over 500 gifts from estates, from small to large have been contributed to the LightHouse.

We are now launching the LightHouse Legacy Society for those who have chosen to include the LightHouse in their will, living trust or other estate plans. LightHouse Legacy Society members will be recognized (if they wish) on the LightHouse web site, in our annual report, LightHouse News and on a special donor wall in braille and tactile letters. And LightHouse Legacy Society members will be invited to exclusive events, to meet peers and get an insider’s look into emerging technology and programs for the blind.

As you can tell, it’s an exciting time at the LightHouse. As we grow and aim to serve three times as many members of the blind, visually impaired and deaf-blind community, from small children to elders, your involvement is essential. Our leadership in the field and our ground-breaking programs are possible because of donors like you.

Are you interested in being an inaugural member in the LightHouse Legacy Society? Or would you like information about including the LightHouse or Enchanted Hills in your Estate Plans? Contact Jennifer Sachs at 415-694-7333 or jsachs@lighthouse-sf.org.

A Few Spots Still Open in Our Innovative Introduction to Blindness Group at Our Napa Retreat

Immersion students and teachers pose next to Lake Lokoya on a crisp, chilly dayAre you an adult who is experiencing changing vision? We invite you to join us for this week-long training in the fresh air and verdant grounds of our Enchanted Hills Retreat. You’ll learn a boatload of best practices for maintaining your independence while enjoying this beautiful setting.

In the last three years the Lighthouse has offered the pioneering Changing Vision Changing Life immersion training programs at our Enchanted Hills Retreat in Napa. Each training session brings together up to 25 adult students of all ages, from Northern California and the Central Valley, who are either new to low vision or blindness, or have had a significant change in vision and have requested additional training. We invite adults to join us for this week-long training in the fresh air and verdant grounds of our Enchanted Hills Retreat. You’ll learn a boatload of best practices for maintaining your independence while enjoying this beautiful setting.

These sessions are always free to participants 55 years or older, but you’ll need to make arrangements by calling Debbie Bacon by April 6, 2015.

  • Dates of our next session: April 12 through 17, 2015
  • Transportation is provided from San Rafael, San Francisco, Emeryville Amtrak and Ashby BART
  • There is no cost to attend if you are 55 or older and living in San Francisco, Alameda, Marin, Humboldt or Del Norte counties.
  • For more information please contact Debbie Bacon, LightHouse Rehabilitation Counselor, at 415-694-7357 or dbacon@lighthouse-sf.org

Some of the areas we’ll cover during the week include ways to read printed materials; understanding how lighting, contrast and magnification can help you every day; suggestions for organizing and labeling in your home or office; best methods for taking notes and keeping a calendar; basic cooking skills; traveling and moving safely and confidently in your home and in the community; managing finances; the joys of an accessible computer and other low tech equipment and more. We’ll also make suggestions on how to talk to your family and friends about what would help you best.

While gaining new skills and confidence with changing vision is the overall theme of the week, the experience of coming together with other adults, both students and teachers, who are low vision or blind, to learn or relearn skills, and to get back into the stream of life remains a pivotal part of the week long experience. And it doesn’t stop there – we will also follow-up with you to see how you are doing and help keep you focused on what you’ve just learned.

Our next Changing Vision Changing Life session is April 12 through April 17. Just call or email Debbie Bacon by April 6 at 415-694-7357 or dbacon@lighthouse-sf.org for more information. We look forward to seeing you at Enchanted Hills.

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, 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.

Getting Started

Getting Started

What does “blind” really mean?

Am I blind?

What about “visually impaired”?

Of the 285 million people in the world who are blind or have low vision, only a relatively small percentage have no light perception. For everyone else, blindness is a gradation. Some people see quite clearly, in certain light conditions. Others see only shapes and colors. For some, their field of vision is complex and hard to explain. The diversity of these extra functions is what makes blindness particularly confusing to the unacquainted observer. For those with changing vision, the daunting part is not usually the fear of darkness, but the fear of admitting that you’re different.

The LightHouse is here to educate not only the public, but those blind individuals who don’t have prior familiarity with the experience of blindness about the immense potential, normalcy, and joy available to anyone living with differences in their eyesight. Even if you don’t think of yourself as “blind,” the LightHouse likely has something to offer you.

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What happens here?

For starters, we’re not just “here,” we’re all over. With a beautiful, brand new high-rise headquarters in the heart of downtown San Francisco, we pride ourselves on offering the cutting edge of all things related to blindness.

Whether you want to learn how to use your new iPhone, make the perfect omelette, travel across the country or learn how to access a half million books and newspapers, we’ve got a class and a trainer for you. On any given day, you’ll find students in SF training on accessible technology, engaging in mentoring and community-oriented projects and workshops, or getting out of the city to explore nature, go to conferences, or just go have fun.

Teens wearing athletic jerseys after playing sports

We make maps that you can read without your eyes, and we outfit world-class museums to ensure that everyone can enjoy them. At our historic camp and retreat in the rolling hills of Napa County, we offer science and math camps for blind kids, teach accessible horseback riding and music instruction, and host families and individuals of all ages and backgrounds. People come from all parts of California — and dozens of countries around the world —  to take advantage of what the LightHouse has to offer.

In addition to San Francisco and Napa, we offer regular classes of varying length and content in Eureka, San Rafael, and Berkeley. Each location has its own personality and service offerings, and people come from all around the state to take advantage of different curricula and instructors. When getting to know our programs, we can work with you to customize your experience based not only on where you live, but what you want to learn.

We also operate a sprawling light manufacturing plant in San Leandro where blind and sighted employees work together in various for-profit business ventures with an increasingly-expanded service base.

Interested in receiving services?

There are many ways to ensure that you get the training and information you need with as little headache and cost to you as possible. In California, we serve many working-age youth and adults through the California Department of Rehabilitation, which supports blind and low vision individuals who want to work. Individuals who apply for services through DOR can often benefit from our programs without charge and will be supplied needed equipment, fees for training and guidance. There is also funding available for Older Individuals who are Blind, and OIB funding often covers adults over the age of 55 who want to acquire skills to improve their lives.

When it comes to funding and accommodations, this is just the beginning. The important thing to remember is that we can walk you through this process.

Call 415-694-7323 or email info@lighthouse-sf.org to join the thousands of people already benefiting from what the LightHouse has to offer.