Employee and Community Services (ECS)
The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. provides a wide range of programs and services for blind and visually impaired employees, and Deaf-Blind employees and community members. Throughout 2011, 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. Orientation and Mobility 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.
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 33rd year, the Lighthouse hosted an accessible, week-long retreat designed expressly for Deaf-Blind adults. Over eighty Deaf-Blind individuals attended our annual Deaf-Blind Retreat in 2011, supported by over 120 sign language interpreting volunteers. 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, providing a week full of access, inspiration, and connection for Deaf-Blind individuals.
Seattle Lighthouse’s Deaf-Blind Community Classes provide a free and accessible forum for Deaf-Blind individuals from the Lighthouse and the community to learn, socialize, and access information unavailable in their everyday lives. Students connect with each other, learn leadership and presentation skills, explore a wide range of subjects, and help American Sign Language interpreters develop Deaf-Blind interpreting skills. Over 70 members of the Deaf-Blind community participate in community classes each year.
Braille Training Program
Entering its fourth 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. The Braille Reading Library continues to provide current books and periodicals in braille, encouraging expanded use of braille among Lighthouse employees. The Braille Blazers Reading Club continued meeting bi-weekly in 2011, with each member’s braille reading speed increasing each year. 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 over 100 computer workstations adapted for use by visually impaired employees. The Lighthouse continues to provide outreach and educational programs for the community at large, including a local school tour program to educate elementary school students about blindness and Deaf-Blindness.
In March of last year, The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. Board of Trustees approved our new Accessibility and Training Policy, reinforcing Accessibility as a top priority at all Lighthouse locations. The policy clarifies the Lighthouse’s commitment to promote, facilitate, and encourage innovative accessibility and training initiatives throughout the organization, a commitment crucial to supporting and implementing initiatives which align with the strategic goals and mission of the Lighthouse. Peggy Martinez, the Lighthouse’s Accessibility Manger, responds to employee’s challenges as they take on a new position or as their vision changes over time. Peggy assesses an individual’s needs and brings the expertise of the organization to find a solution through assistive technology and training.
The Lighthouse has a Support Services Program that began in September to supply services to employees in whatever area seems feasible and is necessary. Initiatives have included supporting the English as a Second Language training program at the Lighthouse, the development of a concentrated blindness awareness training program, providing monthly informational speakers on a variety of topics interesting to employees, and the creation of a sharing group for persons adjusting to being newly blind.