Local Organization Continues to Serve the Blind Community Despite COVID-19
Tampa, FL (Dec. 29, 2020) – Lighthouse for the Blind & Low Vision, a local organization that provides comprehensive rehabilitation programs for blind or visually impaired persons residing in Hillsborough, Polk, and Hardee counties, recently celebrated the end of another successful year. Despite the challenges caused by the impact of COVID-19, the organization pivoted from offering programs on-site to providing services through virtual or phone sessions to support those who recently lost part or all of their vision. 124 clients graduated after participating in the Independent Living Programs, including Orientation and Mobility, Assistive Technology, and Independent Living classes.
The organization’s programs are designed to help people gain the skills needed to perform daily living tasks independently and maintain their employment through assistive technology and devices. Since October of this year, the organization has served 78 clients through its Vocational Rehabilitation Program and provided 1,895 hours of Rehabilitation Engineering since April. These programs have helped to prepare people as they seek employment or work to maintain their jobs. “I am very proud of the staff’s hard work. They went above and beyond to keep our clients engaged virtually in a time where many of them would have felt abandoned. We never missed a day of service, and I am happy about that, ” said Sheryl Brown, President & CEO.
Clients of all ages are taught adaptive skills and techniques, including cooking, traveling safely, self-advocacy, reading braille, shopping, and using the white cane. Additionally, the organization focuses on helping persons use adaptive computer technology like the screen reader and magnification and speech programs that make creating PowerPoint presentations, using social media, and searching the web possible. “Before COVID-19, services were offered on-site at two locations in Tampa and Winter Haven. We also did one-on-one sessions at clients’ homes to assist them in using the cane, and transportation was available to take clients to both locations. All this changed with the pandemic, but we remained committed to offering our services to the community. For many of our graduates, the new normal means gaining their independence, and we are pleased to be a part of that,” said Brown.
Although the Lighthouse for the Blind & Low Vision staff refer to the people they serve as clients, the services they provide are offered free of cost to the individuals and their families. They continue to encourage anyone who has an uncorrectable visual impairment that significantly affects their daily activities or interferes with employment and employment-related tasks to review their eligibility guidelines to see if they qualify to receive some or all of their services. Additionally, community members can help support these programs and allow the organization to continue to offer them at no charge by donating.
Sheryl Brown, President/CEO