Thomas is a man in his mid-fifties residing in New Jersey who worked for thirty years at an airport in the New York City area until March of last year. That is when the unthinkable happened. Thomas contracted COVID-19 and was hospitalized for two months. Thomas was able to recover from his illness and finally go home with only one apparent side effect. The virus caused him to go completely blind.
Thomas is now trying to learn how to live his life as a person who is blind. He is ready to begin the journey of learning the tools, tips and techniques needed to regain the independence he enjoyed before losing his vision. Thomas is very eager to begin that journey. However, due to state wide shutdowns he is finding it extremely difficult to get the help he needs.
David is a man in his fifties who lost all of his vision due to Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). David has been regularly attending individual assistive technology lessons here at the Lighthouse for the past fifteen months. He is also a regular member of the Spanish speaking adjustment to blindness support group. Through the years I have had the opportunity to work with people extremely driven to overcome their challenges and succeed in reaching their goals through sheer determination and hard work. David is without doubt one of those people. Not only is David completely blind, he has newly arrived to the United States from Venezuela and speaks little to no English. His largest barrier at this time is not his visual impairment, but his inability to communicate without an interpreter.
Maggie has been a Lighthouse client for almost three years. She suffers from glaucoma and damaged corneas, causing a great deal of pain and extreme light sensitivity. She administers eye drops multiple times a day and attends frequent eye appointments. Compounding these challenges, Maggie was recently let go from her job due to COVID-19.
Despite her circumstances, Maggie always sees the glass half full and never seems defeated. She shows up with a smile and a “can do” attitude. Maggie frequently networks with other Lighthouse clients to help them cope with their vision loss. She leads by example by lending a hand to those in need.
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.
Marilyn, or Lyn as she is familiarly called, has been a Collier County resident for over 30 years. She has been visually impaired for the past 16 years with macular degeneration. Lyn has been a Lighthouse client for several years and, at 92-years-old, she still tries to regularly communicate with the staff. Most Tuesdays, Lyn would visit the Lighthouse of Collier.
She has taken every class offered, participated in countless events, and has visited the office as a historian to maintain the scrapbooks. With the help of her dear friend Jasmine, a Lighthouse volunteer, she makes sure that all the activities, news, and stories of the Lighthouse are remembered. She is preserving memories by arranging photos, news, and stories, as well as journaling in an attractive layout. The books are created and organized by year.
Lyn has become the Lighthouse’s cheerleader. She is a true advocate, and enjoys telling others about the services provided by the organization. She says, “I discovered an abundant amount of resources to help me with everyday living at the Lighthouse of Collier. I am so grateful that there finally was a place for people like me to get the help I needed so badly to get my life back again. Thank you, Lighthouse of Collier. You were my beacon in the night.”
A 74-year-old woman named Ann with wet and dry macular degeneration has been coming to the Lighthouse since 2017. At first, she was wary and distant. She would come to workshops but interact minimally and, some thought, distantly. Ann came across as very unhappy.
Today Ann not only participates in the workshops but she is social and outgoing, commonly smiling and laughing with the group. She has even become active with her Lighthouse peers outside of their group sessions. The members regularly call and check up on each other. Ann is also moving forward with her learning, seeking to become more technologically skilled to stay connected with her new group of friends. She currently uses some of these new abilities to participate weekly in the virtual coffee chat.
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.
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.
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.