In honor of World Sight Day, tenth-grader Minnah Stein and Community Youth Development came together to bring representatives from Lighthouse for the Blind of Manasota to Pine View Oct. 8. Students were introduced to technology for the visually impaired, such as new smartphone applications and walking sticks, by representatives Randy Reed and Madeline Spencer.
Lighthouse is a non-profit agency that has employed, supported, taught and trained those of all ages who are losing or have lost their vision for about 30 years. Vision impairment cases can range from being solely blind, deaf-blind or blind with other disabilities. Director of Development for Lighthouse, Lisa Howard, said, “Those who are visually impaired have a condition that cannot be fixed, so at Lighthouse, we teach them how to do everyday things a little bit differently.”
Stein originally was inspired to do something in honor of World Sight Day when she noticed the event on social media. She requested Lighthouse to have representatives to speak to the school. “It’s important for people to know about their surroundings and I think bringing the Lighthouse here offers students the ability learn more,” Stein said.
Lighthouse Representative Randy Reed, who was born blind, is a certified vision rehabilitation therapist for Lighthouse, where he teaches a ten-week course for the visually impaired on how to become independent. “We talk about how to get dressed, how to pour your own drink, how to organize your money and basically all the little things you do from the moment you wake up to when you go to bed,” Reed said.
During the event, Reed demonstrated how he uses his smartphone just as those with their vision do through an application called “Screen Reader,” which Apple created in 2009. Screen Reader does just as it name implies: read the words that appear on the screen. The phone’s sensor beneath the screen detects where the finger has landed and reads the name of the app or option it tapped on. If the user wants to use the app or option they selected, they can double tap to open it.
Spencer, a certified orientation and mobility specialist, teaches the use of the white cane to her students. A white cane is a type of walking stick that visually impaired people can use to sense what is in front of them. Spencer demonstrated the cane by taking two volunteers and giving them vision-impairing glasses that ranged from slight blurriness to complete blackness. The volunteers were given the challenge of finding their seats with obstacles located in their paths, which proved to be very difficult.
The representatives also demonstrated a commonly played game among the blind community called goalball. Without vision, players must use the sound and movement of the ball to determine its position. “It is typically played on a court with two teams of three with this big, heavy ball full of bells. One person rolls or throws the ball across the court and tries to get it into the opponents goal while the defense tries to stop it,” Reed said. “The team who wins scores ten times in one half or the most times in two halves.”
“It’s important for people to know about their surroundings, and I think bringing the Lighthouse here offers students the ability to learn more,” Stein said. The representatives stressed that being blind is not a setback and that the visually impaired should be accommodated in public places. When asked what it is like to be blind, Reed said, “It’s all that ever was for me. One of my favorite answers is: it’s like being human without eyes.”