Employee and Community Services (ECS)
In addition to employment, the Lighthouse provides a wide range of programs and services for blind and visually impaired employees, and Deaf-Blind employees and community members. In 2010, the Lighthouse continued to expand and advance the programs and services we provide to individuals who are blind, Deaf-Blind, and blind with developmental disabilities. Thank you to the donors and volunteers who make the continued success of these programs possible, we could not do it without your support.
Orientation and Mobility (O&M)
Orientation and Mobility (O&M) instructors continue to assist blind and Deaf-Blind individuals in learning skills to travel independently and safely. Skills instruction includes white cane travel, bus and street route planning, electronic travel aid training, and supplemental guide dog training. O&M instructors meet the needs of numerous employees as they navigate through the ever-changing transit landscape of the greater Seattle area, providing ongoing route planning and safe travel techniques. Training includes bus travel, route planning, assistive technology assessment, safety techniques for low-vision travelers, relocation and route planning for new community members, and supplemental training for guide dog users.
Computer Training Program (CTP)
The Lighthouse’s Computer Training Program (CTP) is designed to increase and support independence, self-sufficiency, and upward mobility in the workplace for blind adults through appropriate training and access to computer technology. In order for our employees to succeed in the workplace, the Lighthouse provides comprehensive training and support for each individual. In September of 2010, the Lighthouse was fortunate to receive a grant from the Employees Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound to purchase new computer equipment for the CTP, allowing the purchase of ten refreshable braille displays, upgrading antiquated equipment that was not meeting the needs of program participants. With the purchase and installation of the new displays, CTP instructors are now able to provide instruction on various types of displays.
The Lighthouse’s nationally recognized Deaf-Blind Program has provided employment, services, and support to Deaf-Blind individuals in our community for over thirty years.
The Lighthouse’s Deaf-Blind Technology Training Center (TTC) serves the Deaf-Blind community by building skills through the use of computers and assistive technology. Designed specifically to address a glaring need for access to current information and technology within the Deaf-Blind community, the TTC program offers training on assistive technologies for both work and independent living. Lighthouse instructors provide individualized training to Deaf-Blind participants to support personal independence, opportunities for upward mobility in the workplace, and increased technological literacy.
For the 32nd year, the Lighthouse hosted an accessible, week-long retreat designed expressly for Deaf-Blind adults. Over 80 Deaf-Blind individuals attended our Annual Deaf-Blind Retreat in 2010, supported by over 120 sign language interpreting volunteers. Deaf-Blind individuals traveled from 17 states, three Canadian Provinces, and countries such as Japan, Holland, and Australia to take part in a week of hope, inspiration, and connection. While ordinary daily life presents barriers for Deaf-Blind individuals, the retreat offers a welcoming community of peers and friends who truly understand the experience of living with a dual disability. The retreat is an essential part of the Lighthouse’s mission to serve the needs of people with visual disabilities.
Seattle Lighthouse’s Deaf-Blind Community Classes provide an accessible forum for Deaf-Blind individuals from the Lighthouse and the community to learn, socialize, and access information unavailable in their everyday lives. Deaf-Blind community members connect with each other, learn leadership and presentation skills, explore a wide range of subjects, and help American Sign Language interpreting students develop much needed Deaf-Blind interpreting skills. Over 70 members of the Deaf-Blind community participate in community classes each year, held bi-weekly at Seattle Central Community College.
Braille Training Program
Currently in its third year, Seattle Lighthouse’s Braille Training Program continued to expand throughout the year, providing braille literacy instruction to employees who are blind or visually impaired, Deaf-Blind, or sighted. In March of 2010, Seattle Lighthouse celebrated the opening of its Braille Reading Library, providing current books and periodicals in braille to encourage the expanded use of braille among Lighthouse employees. The Braille Blazers Reading Club enjoys the new space for their weekly sessions that provide a fun, interactive way for more advanced braille readers to continue to improve their braille competencies and reading speed. Through the Braille Training Program, the Lighthouse furthers its commitment to increase braille literacy and use amongst employees, seeking to decrease the 90% braille illiteracy rate among blind adults in the United States.
Other Employee Supports
The Lighthouse also provides an in-house American Sign Language (ASL) interpreting department to ensure effective communication for Deaf-Blind employees and spoken language accommodations for hearing blind employees. There are over 100 computer workstations adapted for use by visually impaired employees. The Lighthouse also continues to provide outreach and educational programs for the community at large, including a local school program to educate elementary school students about blindness and Deaf-Blindness.
Thanks to the generous donations from community donors, all Employee and Community Service programs are available free-of-cost to participants, with the exception of the annual Deaf-Blind Retreat, Deaf-Blind Community Class, and mentorships offered to community interpreters. There is a tuition fee to attend the Deaf-Blind Retreat, with scholarship funds available.