Sam is a retired physician in his 70s. He was originally enrolled under the Division of Blind Services Older Blind program, and was encouraged to participate in various classes and events. After 9 months of inactivity, despite regular invitations, the Division of Blind Services advised his case be closed.
However, during the pandemic, Lighthouse case managers could recommend new clients for support under the legislative grant. Sam was proposed as a candidate, as he had requested technology training but was unwilling to make the physical trip to the office. The Lighthouse instructor contacted Sam and he was indeed interested. Sam’s vision had decreased and he struggled with accessing his iPad and iPhone. Sam was pleased to be able to receive services from his home.
Kathy is a young, working-age woman who went completely blind about eight years ago. She has been receiving services from the Lighthouse on and off for the past five years. The first four of those years, Kathy made minimal progress while she struggled with medical issues. However, over the past year her health has improved, making it possible for her to attend classes on a regular basis.
In that time, Kathy learned how to navigate a computer using only JAWS screen reading software and Windows keyboard commands. She is quick to grasp and retain new concepts with little assistance. In fact, she often troubleshoots a problem on her own. Kathy’s newly learned computer skills make it easy for her to attend remote classes the Lighthouse offers. She regularly attends the Tuesday coffee chat, independent living workshops, Wednesday support group, and history/book club, and meets for individual technology lessons.
As a new client with the Lighthouse in 2013, single, totally blind, and having just moved from Chicago to Naples, Susan required extensive orientation and mobility support. After several months of instruction, Susan learned to navigate her apartment community and nearby shopping areas. She also gained an understanding of the city layout after being provided with her own tactile/braille map of Naples.
Susan became a familiar face at the Lighthouse. She attended braille classes, pursued technology training for JAWS screen reading and voiceover, and received one-on-one lessons to learn skills such as using her Instant Pot, creating calendar appointments through her Google Home Mini, and help with tips to sort and identify her medications. Over time, Susan’s technology skills were so advanced that she was one of only a few clients who had mastered the ability to play podcasts and free library movies on her iPhone.
Joe is a 91-year-old man losing his vision from dry macular degeneration. For more than two years, he has been a regular participant in the Thursday afternoon support group at the Lighthouse. He reported that hearing his fellow group members talk about how much they are doing with voiceover and JAWS, a screen reading program, inspired him to learn. He went out and got himself an iPhone and an authorization to run JAWS on his laptop.
Joe’s goal then became to learn enough about the iPhone to download books from the free National Library Service offered through the Library of Congress, read his email, and learn how to use independence apps for the blind and visually impaired. He also wanted to use JAWS to help him continue banking and paying his bills online.
Since he began coming to the Lighthouse for lessons, he has learned how to navigate the National Library Service website to download books and magazines, read email, and use the voice memo app on his phone to input and retrieve audio messages. He is also well on his way to independently maneuvering through his bank website on his computer using JAWS.
Joe takes learning very seriously. He works hard and learns something new during every lesson. Joe once commented, “I know I am old, but I’m not dead. I still have a few functioning brain cells that allow me to learn new ways to stay independent.” He credited his group for inspiring him and giving him the courage to never give up.
Ronald is a retired middle school teacher and self-proclaimed magician. Since January 2018, Ronald has been homebound after a stroke caused left-side paralysis and vision loss. Ronald had been a social and active person, and struggled with asking for help, ultimately finding himself feeling isolated. Ronald came to the Lighthouse with the goals of learning how to order grocery delivery so as not to rely on his elderly neighbor, how to use Paratransit, and attend a weekly support group. Before COVID-19, Ronald was making progress. He used Paratransit for the first time to attend a support group, where he met three others who also had disabilities and lived alone.
Ronald learned to use basic key commands on a screen to enlarge web searches, and to review and purchase items that his cousin added to his online shopping cart. Also, Ronald learned about GoGo Grocery, a service of GoGo Grandparent, which takes phone orders and completes the delivery without having to use a computer. Ronald stills needs encouragement to use the computer, but soon this plan B will become routine.
Carol is an 84-year-old woman who lives in a senior community and has felt lonely and isolated during the pandemic. When she first became a Lighthouse client, she didn’t know how to use her iPhone. She always had trouble answering calls, getting voiceover to work, and came to rely on and enjoy going to the Lighthouse to practice using her phone.
Recently, Lighthouse staff called Carol to check on her and to let her know that office closures had been extended. She was surprised to hear from the Lighthouse during this time of isolation. The staff person thoughtfully asked her how she was and if she had any questions regarding when the Lighthouse would reopen so she could resume her visits. While Carol misses her in-person interactions at the Lighthouse, she clearly appreciated the phone call and the information provided. This personal touch helped a senior feel cared for and connected.
Annie is an 82-year-old woman living with dry macular degeneration. For the past nine months, she has been regularly attending the adjustment to blindness support group at Lighthouse of Collier. In that time, Annie has grown from a passive listener to a regular participant, confident in her ability to contribute to the group conversation.
When joining the group, Annie did not have a mobile phone and had no interest in owning one. However, after several months of listening to group members discuss the various tasks that a smart phone can accomplish, Annie started believing she could learn to use one. She spent the next month or so asking questions about which phone she should purchase. Soon after, she bought an iPhone and began scheduling weekly assistive technology lessons.
A little over four years ago, Bob lost his wife of more than 30 years to diabetes. Naturally, he felt depressed and isolated. His situation was even more difficult as he is totally blind and profoundly hearing impaired due to a condition called Usher syndrome. Without a partner at home or family nearby to help him drive, shop, or read mail, Bob was vulnerable. A concerned neighbor urged Bob to go to the Lighthouse for help. Bob enrolled in classes to learn how to access his iPhone, attended support groups, and received orientation and mobility training.
Now, Bob has mastered the use of his iPhone. He can send texts, read emails, schedule calendar appointments, use Uber, and other important tools. He has also developed a close network of friends who are blind or visually impaired, and who help each other navigate difficult times.
Dan is an 83-year-old man who was referred to Lighthouse of Collier by his home health care nurse. Dan is a self-described “hermit” who lives alone in a trailer in southeast Naples and receives limited income. His son lived nearby but recently moved out-of-state. About 10 years ago, Dan stopped driving due to legal blindness and other health conditions. Without help, Dan’s situation could be tenuous.
Dan was unaware that he could have fresh groceries delivered to his home. The Lighthouse instructor downloaded the Walmart grocery app and helped Dan learn to search for and add items to his favorites list. With practice, Dan will be able to order healthy, fresh foods. Dan is close to reaching his goals and keeping his independence.
Purchase Seeing Beyond Blindness
If you would like to own one of these cocktail table books, please donate a suggested selling price of $35.00 to Lighthouse of Collier and we will send you one straight away.
Lighthouse of Collier dedicated the book to Art Bookbinder, a man who could see beyond blindness. He was a great friend and leader. May he rest in peace. August 1942 – April 2020.