Nearly half of the respondents to a recent Johns Hopkins survey said that losing their sight would be more detrimental to their health than losing their hearing, memory, speech or a limb. The decline in quality of life and loss of independence were cited as primary fears.
Born blind, Scott Blanks leads what he calls an "ordinary" but "fulfilling" life. He's so tech savvy that he was interviewed by CNET. He’s active on Twitter (@blindconfucius). He loves hockey (he calls it the “most sonically beautiful sport”). He’s married with two kids. And daily, Scott takes the subway from Oakland to San Francisco to his job at the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Read Scott’s story in his own words.
The LightHouse, which promotes the independence, equality and self-reliance of blind or visually impaired people, provides blindness skills training and resources. As the organization’s senior director of programs, Scott says that the goal of LightHouse’s staff “is to work ourselves out of a job. If we get to a point where the person no longer needs us, that's success.”
In 2015, the LightHouse moved into its new headquarters to expand its geographic range and triple the number of students served. With three floors totaling 39,000 square feet of space, the new LightHouse office provides hands-on training for every stage of someone’s journey to independence, from basic mobility tools to employment immersion programs to counseling and therapy.
Over 30 percent of the LightHouse staff is visually impaired. The architect of the new office, Mark Cavagnero, is blind and a board member. Joseph Chen (pictured in LightHouse's yoga and meditation studio), who was the board treasurer during the move to the new headquarters, says, “We couldn't have moved into these new headquarters without Enterprise's New Markets Tax Credit support."
Transit-accessibility was a driving force behind the location of the new site. Overlooking Union Square near City Hall, the LightHouse is located across the street from a subway station and numerous trolley and bus stops along Market Street.
Liz Klein, whose sight has progressively declined in recent years, is both a student and volunteer at the Lighthouse. In this picture, she is learning how to sauté vegetables from Sydney Ferrario, a Kitchen Skills teacher. An on-site kitchen allows Sydney to teach everything from where to set down a knife (at the 12:00 position), to how to chop vegetables (with the knuckles folded in), to cleaning up and washing the dishes. Read Liz’s story in her own words.
A dedicated staff provides braille translation, audio recordings and large-print production services. Restaurant menus, business cards, maps and graphics, and Apple user guides are some of the more common texts translated into braille. Above, Julie Sadlier inserts paper into a braille printer.
Learning braille starts with feeling how the tennis balls are positioned in a muffin tin. Each letter and number consists of one or more “bumps” within a possible six-bump frame (two columns, three rows). LightHouse instructor Divina Carlson teaches Rudy Borja that tennis balls in the two upper spots represent the letter C.
To serve students from out of state or attending multi-day programs, the LightHouse provides short-term dorms for intensive on-site training.
Enterprise is proud to have supported the LightHouse’s move and expanded resources with a $15 million New Markets Tax Credit investment. Linking people to opportunity, especially through a program like the LightHouse’s, which empowers people to realize their potential and live full lives, is central to our mission.