On July 26, 1990, the Americans With Disabilities Act was signed into law. This landmark civil rights law prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation and all public and private places open to the general public.
Over the past 25 years, Lehigh Valley agencies and organizations have worked diligently to advocate and remove barriers to people with disabilities Beginning July 26, 2015, many of these groups have joined together with the Lehigh Valley Arts Council (http://www.lvartscouncil.org) to create Arts & Access (http://www.ARTSandACCESS.org), a series of events highlighting the accessibility and inclusiveness of the region’s art and culture. On July 24, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network is hosting a free launch party with music, cake and ice cream on its south Allentown campus to encourage the public’s participation in Arts & Access events as well as support other upcoming initiatives. Some other collaborators include the Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living, Center for Vision Loss and the Partnership for a Disability Friendly Community.
Then on July 26, an audio-described performance of Hello, Dolly! for those who are visually impaired will be held at Muhlenberg College. Audio-description incudes a “describer” who uses natural pauses in the action of a play or musical to provide detailed visual images via an electronic transmitter to audience members who are blind or visually impaired. These audience members wear a headset. For more information go to http://www.muhlenberg.edu/main/academics/theatre-dance/smt. Audio-description has been a great help to those with significant vision loss. People can understand better what is boing on and no longer find themselves being bored because they can’t see the nuances of what is happening on stage. The Center for Vision Loss is proud to say that we have worked diligently for the past few years to promote the use of this feature in the Lehigh Valley.
Obviously we all want the good works of the ADA to continue because it benefits all of us. Good Shepherd invites everyone to sign the ADA Pledge, a petition that’s a part of a nationwide effort to promote renewed support of the ADA and its goals. To sign the pledge go to http://www.ADAanniversary.org/pledge.
The Center for Vision Loss has been busy over the past few weeks and we wanted to take this opportunity to bring you up-to-date on our latest happenings:
VOLUNTEER RECOGNITION was held on Thursday, May 7. We feted our volunteers with an Oriental party theme resplendent with various kinds of Oriental decorations and wonderful Oriental cuisine. The following volunteers were presented with Appreciation Awards: Cheryl Petrakovich-“Annie’s Angel Award” given to the volunteer who has made the greatest impact on improving a customer’s quality of life; Joseph Chunko-“Looking Beyond Vision Award” given to a volunteer or board member who has been the most active in promoting the agency in a positive light within the community; Sarah Zieff Morse-“Knight in Shining Armor Award” given to a volunteer who has shown the most versatility in service and comes to our rescue when the need arises; James Van Horn-Helen Keller Award for Independence given to a blind/visually impaired customer who has been most supportive of the projects of the agency exemplifying independence and new vision; Peter Carr-“Anne Sullivan Sprit Award” given to a volunteer or staff member whose deep commitment to helping others exemplifies the spirit of Anne Sullivan’s teaching and friendship and Amy Crowe, “Helping Hands Community Outreach Award” given to the volunteer who has worked tirelessly to benefit those with vision loss. Thank you to all the winners-we couldn’t do our work without your time, abilities and friendship. And thank you to all of our staff and friends who helped make our Gathering Room the perfect representation of Oriental life!
LIONS’ FISHING DAY was held on Saturday, May 9 at Mike Schmalzer’s Pond north of Bath. This annual day of fun, food and fishing is sponsored by the Moore Township Lions Club. Great fun was had by all from the sumptuous breakfast to the delicious lunch–with some fish caught in between! Thank you to all the Lions and other volunteers who make this event something our customers look forward to every year.
A SOCK HOP was held on Saturday, May 16, sponsored by the Emmaus Lioness-Lions Club. This is a new event which was enjoyed by customers and Lions and Lionesses alike. Our Gathering Room resounded with 50’s-style music and good food. Where else could you go on a Saturday night to relive those oldies but goodies of the record world! Thank you, to all who helped make this event successful and, a little birdie told us, that the Sock Hop will probably be reprised in 2016!
MONROE BINGO fundraiser was held on Sunday, May 17 at the West End Fire Company, Brodheadsville, to benefit our Vision Rehabilitation Services in Monroe County. This is the second year for this event which is superbly organized by Carla Nemeroff, a Monroe County Office caseworker. A great time was had by all the players and we give a big shout-out to the donors who provided such wonderful basket raffle items, the Monroe Office staff and other volunteers who assisted Carla, and the folks at the West End Fire Company. It was a great day to play bingo, have fun and support the Center for Vision Loss!
MEDICAL STUDENTS from the Lehigh Valley Health Network visited the Lehigh Valley Office on Thursday, May 28. These 10 students are just beginning their medical studies as part of LVHN’s partnership with the University of Florida. The students have been learning about local community resources which could eventually help the patients they will be treating. The students were a receptive and delightful group and appreciated knowing about blindness/visually impairment and the kinds of programs and services we provide and stated that this is the kind of useful information that will benefit them when they take their work into a clinic setting.
HIGHMARK WALK FOR A HEALTHY COMMUNITY stepped out in a lively manner on Saturday, May 30. Held at DeSales University for the first time, 17 walkers from the Center for Vision Loss along with many other agency donors raised $5,340 to support our children’s summer Camp I CAN!. Team Schiaffo raised the most money as a team and Melanie Huth, Lehigh Valley caseworker, won the casework challenge. The Center for Vision Loss has participated in the Highmark Walk since its beginning 11 years ago. We thank Highmark very much for supporting this fundraising event which hosted 29 non-profits this year. Because of Highmark’s sponsorship, all of the participating agencies can keep 100% of the money they raise to support their efforts in the community.
BETTER LIGHT FOR BETTER SIGHT was held on Wednesday, June 17. This program, facilitated by Vision Rehabilitation teacher Dianne Michels, provided a forum in which our customers could discover how a variety of light sources can help them use their remaining vision to complete everyday tasks. This worthwhile program was extra special because it was streamed live to other Pennsylvania Association for the Blind agencies across the Commonwealth.
The Green Pond Country Club, Bethlehem, was the scene of the Center for Vision Loss’s first blindness awareness dinner, A Taste of the Shadows, on October 14, 2014. Seventy-four friends, sponsors, customers, staff and volunteers premiered this dining in the dark event where guests were asked to eat a four-course meal while wearing blindfolds. The evening opened with a reception featuring tasty hors d’oeuvres, a wine-tasting by Franklin Hill Vineyards and the sweet sounds of the Celtic harp played by Maddie Link, a high school junior who is visually impaired.
The agency’s sighted guides then gathered the guests into their table seating groups to share information about the dinner portion of the event. All were asked to wear blindfolds to simulate loss of vision. Each guide led their table into the dining room in conga line fashion and individually seated their guests. They explained how the table was set and provided tips on how a person with a visual impairment finds their plates, utensils, water glass, coffee cup and more. Dinner was a four-course taste treat featuring cold pumpkin soup, kale salad, a chicken or salmon entrée and chocolate cups filled with mousse for dessert. The dining room resounded with chatter and laughter as guests were challenged to perform their everyday task without the benefit of their vision.
Executive Director Doug Yingling took to the podium following the meal. He noted that loss of vision is challenging at any age because it impacts an individual’s quality of life and independence. He thanked the guests for giving up their sight for a short time to experience how challenging vision loss can be and indicated that he hoped they would leave the event with a new perspective.
Brian Drake, Green Pond’s Banquet and Catering Manager, talked about the menu. He noted that the food was prepared to offer the best taste experience using many ingredients vital for good eye health such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, C and E, and lutein, lycopene and zeaxanthin.
Rita Lang, the Center for Vision Loss’s Manager of Innovative Programming and Volunteer Coordinator, who is herself visually impaired, then invited guests to comment on their experiences. Comments ranged from “I felt very uncomfortable at first but now I realize what a person with vision loss goes through every day” to “I now better appreciate the work of the Center for Vision Loss in helping people with vision loss improve their independence in performing daily tasks.”
We heartily thank our wonderful event sponsors: viamedia, Air Products, Minuteman Press of the Lehigh Valley, Fox Optical & Gallery, LLC, TD Bank, Advanced Family Eye Care, Buckno, Lisicky & Company, Lehigh Eye Specialists, Lehigh Valley Health Network and Ed & Rosalie Vogrins.
Jefferson Elementary School in the Allentown School District stands one block away from the Center for Vision loss. Thousands of students have walked through the hallways, played in the gymnasium and been exposed to life-long learning here over the past 100 plus years of the school’s existence. Each fall, school administrators invite local businesses to attend an Annual Breakfast where they share information about the school’s needs and challenges and encourage the participants to become one of the school’s Community Partner of the Month.
This September, Dawn Sellers, Center for Vision Loss’s Manager of Community Outreach and Special Projects, attended that Annual Breakfast. As part of her duties, Dawn provides free vision screenings for the children at Jefferson’s kindergarten registrations. This year, she also signed Center for Vision Loss up as the September Community Partner of the Month. When the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind encouraged all of its member agencies to consider doing a special project for White Cane Day on October 15, Dawn immediately contacted Renee Mosser, assistant principal, to find out if she would be interested in having Center for Vision Loss talk to the students about blindness and white cane awareness as part of their studies about the importance of respecting people who are different from them. Mrs. Mosser loved the idea and told Dawn that her audience would be the winning classrooms of a “best behaved classroom” challenge among the 4th and 5th grade classes.
Dawn consulted with Rita Lang, the Center for Vision Loss’s Manager of Innovative Programing, who herself is visually impaired. Together they decided to invite two agency customers, Jeff Gerhard and Dianne Michels, to join them in the school presentations on September 22 and September 29, 2014. The children discovered that this year marked the 55th anniversary of the White Cane Law which celebrates the White Cane as a symbol of a blind or visually impaired person’s ability to achieve a full and independent life. Both Jeff and Dianne also brought their guide dogs. Jeff stressed the importance of not distracting a guide dog because they are working. He also noted that the white cane is an obstacle finder while a dog is an obstacle avoider. Dianne commented that she chooses to use a guide dog rather than a white cane because she likes to walk faster and feel more independent. Rita, who strictly uses a white cane, talked about orientation and mobility and learning to read Braille. The students particularly loved the fact that Rita attended Jefferson as a student!
The group then asked the children to close their eyes and imagine standing on the sidewalk in front of their home when it was time to go to school. Which way should they turn? How many streets must they cross? Are there traffic lights or stop signs at the intersections? Would they hear a car coming? Are the streets busy? Could they find their classroom in the school? Would they feel frightened or disoriented in a crowded hallway? The final question was how many doorways do you pass when you go to the lavatory? Not many children got it right!
the culmination of the White Cane Day project was a poster contest. The children were invited to answer the question “When I see a person with a white cane it means…? and then draw a picture to depict what they had learned.
Forty students took up the challenge. Center for Vision Loss staff reviewed all the colorful and creative entries. On October 21, 2014, Dawn, Rita and Executive Director Doug Yingling visited the winners’ classrooms with Mrs. Mosser. They presented the top 6 artists with a prize package that included a Center for Vision Loss Dr. Optical Coloring Book, activity calendar, construction paper, a paint box, crayons and trivia game cards. The rest of the children who participated in the contest received a box of crayons.
In the eyes of our agency, however, all of the children who took part in this project were winners. They learned about vision loss and the importance of understanding and sensitivity in dealing with people who are not like themselves for whatever reason. We hope that our White Cane Day Project can continue next year at Jefferson School and perhaps spread to other schools, as well.
Camp I CAN!, our first summer day camp for children 7-13 who are blind or visually impaired, literally did end on a high note. Our campers worked together with camp staff to compose and sing a camp song for the last-day-of-camp on Friday, July 31. And sing they did! It was great fun to hear their enthusiasm as they entertained their parents, family and friends.
Camp I CAN!, jointly sponsored by the Center for Vision Loss and the Department of Labor and Industry, Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (BBVS), was held from July 21-24 and July 28-31, 2014. The goal of the camp was to introduce the participants to essential orientation and mobility training, lifeskills education and socialization through various interactive activities, crafts and field trips. Each activity was designed around educational interventions geared to each camper’s visual strengths and weaknesses to ensure that they would experience successful outcomes and find activities in which they excelled.
But forget about all of the dry explanation–this camp was FUN! In the morning sessions, the kids would work on their orientation and mobility, vision rehabilitation and lifeskills. Then in the afternoon, they would apply them through interactive activities including field trips. Trout Park, Jordan Lanes, TD Bank, Allentown Fire Department, the Brass Rail and the Lehigh Valley Zoo all captured the attention of our campers.
Our camp was developed by Rita Lang, our Manager of Innovative Programs and Camp Director, along with our caseworkers Gretchen Evans, Lisa Vasquez and Melanie Huth. Alyssa Johnson was the assistant camp director. Guest instructors included John Ford (Orientation and Mobility), Dianne Michaels (Vision Rehabilitation) and Amy Killeen and Jana Lindsay (BBVA Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors). Jeremiah Dubas, Erin Rapp and Amy Crowe provided volunteer support. Staff support included Stephanie Houck, Shirley Moyer, Carla Nemeroff, and Peter Carr. If we left anyone out of this list, we apologize because everyone really pitched in to make the days go by very quickly.
We hope you enjoy the pictures attached to this article. You can find more on our Facebook page at facebook.com/lowvision845 so check it out and don’t forget to like us! And next year be on the lookout for Camp I CAN! 2015–we’ll have some more neat things planned.
On April 23, 2014, Highmark Blue Shield hosted a wonderful event at the Blue Event Center in Bethlehem to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of its signature fundraiser, Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community in the Bethlehem Region. The Center for Vision Loss was one of four non-profit agencies which have participated in this event since its inception in 2005. “Participating in this event has always been a pleasure,” said Karen Huetter, Development Director. “Because Highmark picks up all the Walk’s logistics, marketing and expenses, each non-profit can keep 100% of the money they raise to support their own programs and services. We could not do that otherwise without massive amounts of help. This year our goal is to raise $5,000 to support our new summer camp for kids 7-13 who are blind or visually impaired. The Walk proceeds will make help us make quite an impact.”
This year’s Walk is Saturday, May 31 at SteelStacks in Bethlehem. The 5K Walk begins at 9 am and the 1-Mile Fun Walk at 9:15 am. If you have not already signed up for the Walk, now’s the time to do so by going to www.walkforahealthycommunity.org. It is easy to register and the event itself does not take a great deal of time. You can walk individually, form a team or be a Virtual Walker and support Center for Vision Loss with a donation. If you have any questions, call us at 610-433-6018, x. 241 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The sounds, tastes and smells of the Hawaiian Islands captured guests at the Center for Vision Loss’s 2014 Volunteer Recognition on Thursday, May 8, 2014. Thanks to the decorating efforts of staff member Stephanie Houck, the Gathering Room in the agency offices became a tropical paradise complete with leis for each volunteer, tiki torches, delicious mocktails, and a few parrots thrown in for good measure.
Rita Lang, Manager of Innovative Programming and Volunteer Coordinator, and Dawn Sellers, Community Outreach Specialist, planned the event to honor the 80+ volunteers which support the agency as Annie’s Angels, vision screeners, office assistants, drivers, activity assistants, special events volunteers, and provide direction for programs and services through board membership and committee work. On behalf of the agency, Rita presented awards to the following volunteers:
Bernie Wolensky, Helping Hands Community Outreach Award; Annette Gozzard, Louis Braille Communications Award; Carla Nemeroff, Anne Sullivan Spirit Award;
Tim Fox, OD, Looking Beyond Vision Award; Barbara Dilliard, Helen Keller Award for Independence; and Rhonda Anderson, Knight in Shining Armor Award. “All of these hard working individuals enhanced the programs and services we provide to the residents of our communities in Lehigh, Northampton, and Monroe Counties, ” said Rita. “We could not forward our mission without their help.”
The Center for Vision Loss congratulates the 2014 award winners and all of our volunteers who add a note of brightness to our lives everyday! If you are interested in exploring volunteer opportunities, please contact Rita Lang at 610-433-6018, x. 231 or email@example.com.
Martin Lang, President of the Center for Vision Loss Endowment Foundation, is pleased to announce the establishment of The Helen Keller Society to commemorate the Center for Vision Loss’s 85 years of service to the community in 2013. This legacy giving designation is open to people of all backgrounds and incomes who want to make sure that the Center for Vision Loss can continue to provide programs and services which improve the lives of people with vision loss and promote healthy vision in the community.
The Center for Vision Loss feels a warm kinship with Helen Keller, the well-known deaf-blind teacher and humanitarian. Through Miss Keller’s urging, local Lions Clubs formed the two original Lehigh County and Northampton County blind associations in 1928. Throughout her life, Miss Keller encouraged blind and visually impaired individuals to look beyond vision to seek their own level of independence. A gift to The Helen Keller Society will provide this opportunity for many in the future.
The Center for Vision Loss Endowment Foundation is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation, established in 1980 to provide funding opportunities based on best investment practices that would ensure the sustainability of the Center for Vision Loss and its mission for the future. Legacy gifts maybe designated for a specific purpose or to remember a person who has held a significant place in your life.
Contributions to The Helen Keller Society may take the form of:
-Gifts of Cash of $1,000 or more
-Gifts by Bequest
-Gifts of Life Insurance
-Gifts of Stocks/Securities
-Gifts by Retirement Accounts
If you are interested in contributing or wish more information please contact:
Martin Lang at 610-439-5040 or firstname.lastname@example.org or
Karen Z. Huetter, Development Director, at 610-433-6018, x. 241 or Karen.email@example.com
Interested donors should always consult with their attorney, tax advisor or financial advisor to discuss the gift which will best suit their personal circumstances.
Click here to download a printable brochure about The Helen Keller Society.