Live Accessible Changes Lives for the Blind
Live Accessible hopes to fill in the gaps.
Guiding the Blind Community with the Lighthouse of Collier
What is the Lighthouse of Collier County?Founded in 2009 and celebrating their 10th anniversary this April, the Lighthouse of Collier County (LOC) is a blind and visually impaired professional care service center. They provide training and rehabilitation services for people of all ages, at no charge, to help those in the community who are blind or visually impaired. All their programs are tailored to each individual’s specific needs and sessions (both group and individual) are conducted year-round. Being the only rehabilitation center for blindness and vision loss in Collier County, LOC has made a commitment to their community. However, actions speak louder than words! So, what have they done thus far to prove this commitment? Well, to date they have offered and provided services to roughly 14,000 children and adults in the Collier County only! Additionally, their goal is not just to help people get through today but to give them their independence back and help them get themselves through every day to come! And if that doesn’t shout commitment and care, I don’t know what does! Their mission is to foster independence and enhance the quality of life for the blind, visually impaired and their caregivers. We had the opportunity to speak with LOC’s Executive Director Scott Flagel and asked him to elaborate on their mission. “It’s very straightforward and simple; we are here for the blind, visually impaired, and their caregivers and the whole mission is to enhance the quality of their life”. He went on to say, “It’s not clinical in nature. It’s really to make sure someone can live independently and to make their life more manageable”.
Staff, Instructors and AccreditationsCommitted to ensuring all rehabilitation training will be instructed by certified and qualified staff, LOC’s instructors all are required to meet or exceed the contract standards established by the Florida Division of Blind Services. Currently, they employ the following certified positions:
- Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapists (CVRT’s)
- Certified Assistive Technology Instructors
- Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS)
- Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI)
- VIISA Certified
Services ProvidedThe programs and services provided continue to increase and expand based upon needs in the community. Additionally, they come with no financial burden what so ever; “We do not charge for services, so it does not matter where you live in collier county, if you need services you get them and there is no cost to you”, said Scott Flagel. Blindness can happen to anyone and it does not care whether you are rich or poor, so why should the services you can receive be any different! Please see below for the complete list of their services:
- Independent Daily Living Skills
- Vocational Rehabilitation
- Orientation and Mobility
- Assistive Technology
- Early Intervention/Babies (birth – 5yrs)
- Children’s Programs (5yrs to 14yrs)
- Transition Program (14yrs to 22yrs)
- Support Group for Individuals who are Blind/Visually Impaired
- Care Takers and Parent Support Group
- Braille Training Program
- Lecture Lunch (Brown Bag Lunch) Series
- Recreation and Social Activities
11 Facts You Should Know About LHON
Onset effects Young AdultsWhen Dreamscape founder learned of his disability, he was only 16 years old. Often, we listen to similar stories of those effected by LHON. People usually develop LHON mid-late teens, and is described as loss of sharpness and a fading of color vision. The vision loss mainly affects central vision, which is needed for tasks such as reading, driving and recognizing faces. In a small percentage of cases, the central vision loss can improve; but in most cases loss of vision is permanent. It’s only after a year or so living with the disability, is when people fully adapt to their new surroundings. With the help of accessible technology, and charities like Dreamscape Foundation, you too can find the freedom you are looking for!
LHON is Painless but Quick ActingYou can rest a bit easier to learn that LHON’s onset is a painless one. The experience on the other hand, can throw quite a curve ball. It only takes a few moments for the central vision loss to kick in, leaving only peripheral view. We often hear stories of rapid blindness, usually after rubbing ones eye. In some cases, one eye will start to be effected before the other. The other eye’s condition soon worsens, at an average of 8 weeks after the initial onset. LHON is still has a cloudy reputation, as most people have never heard of the hereditary disability. It’s a good reminder to know that most of the visually disabled are not 100% blind! This can be a common misunderstanding, due to outdated stereotypes of the blind.
LHON is Transmitted by the MotherLHON is passed down to children primarily due to mutations in the mitochondrial (rather than the male nuclear) genome, and only the egg contributes mitochondria to the embryo. Mitochondria constantly convert energy locked in our food into energy that the cell can use, and are small sub-units that reside within the cell. LHON follows a mitochondrial pattern of inheritance, also known as maternal inheritance. Only egg cells contribute mitochondria to a developing embryo, therefore only females can pass mitochondrial conditions to their children. Fathers affected by LHON or carrying LHON mutations do not pass the condition to their children.
Discovery of DisabilityThis disease was first written and described by the German ophthalmologist Theodor Leber in 1871, only 31 years old at the time. In said paper, Leber described 4 families in which a number of young men suffered abrupt loss of vision in both eyes either simultaneously or sequentially. This disease was initially thought to be nuclear linked but was subsequently shown to be mitochondrial.
Other Useful LHON Facts
- LHON affects both males and females, but more commonly found in men.
- The birth prevalence of LHON is approximately 1 in 50,000 people.
- More than 50% of men and more than 85% of women with a mitochondrial mutation will never experience vision loss.
- Without a known family history of LHON the diagnosis usually requires a neuro-ophthalmological evaluation and blood testing for mitochondrial DNA assessment.
- “LHON Plus” is a name given to a rare variant of the disorder with eye disease together with other conditions. (Many cases of LHON plus have been comparable to multiple sclerosis because of the lack of muscular control.)
- In 1988 Wallace et al. identified the nature of the first known causative mutation (50-70% of all LHON cases).
- The other two mutations known to cause LHON were identified in 1991 (8-25% of all LHON cases) and 1992 (10-15% of all LHON cases).
Perseverance Paves a Path
There are days when our disabilities feel debilitating. From physical to cognitive limitations, seemingly easy activities most people take for granted can feel like Mount Everest. Yet whether you were born with a disability or you develop one, it’s important to remember that your condition is not the end of life. For motivation, we’ve brought a handful of stories to the table not only to inspire but to remind us that doors will open to those whose perseverance paves a path.
Henry Webler Chased His Love for Science in Spite of His Lack of SightIf anyone knows the fight for accessibility, it’s Henry Webler. His heart had no room for limitations when it became enamored with science at a young age. While in high school his own teacher tried to dissuade him from pursuing a career in science due to his blindness, Webler refused to take no for an answer. He knew what he wanted and he was determined to do whatever necessary to make that dream come to fruition. Yet there were hurdles; many hurdles. In a world where accessibility isn’t universal to every environment and field, you have to speak up and find solutions for your limitations if you want to succeed. Webler realized this, but he wasn’t afraid to be innovative and vocal about his needs. Eventually, the same teacher he doubted became one of his biggest advocates as he carved a path that led to success. Now 30, Webler has a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the University of California and is the Founder of the nonprofit Accessible Science. The organization provides resources and tools to blind students so they can participate in the exploration and learning of science in spite of their limitations.
Mandy Harvey Finds the Music Even After She Lost Her HearingWhen Mandy Harvey sings, her pitch is perfect. Her whole body seems to immerse itself in her music as she weaves a profound blend of melody and lyrics. A natural musician, you would never know while listening to her performance that she is deaf. Harvey wasn’t born deaf but rather lost her hearing at the pivotal age of eighteen, just as she was chasing her dreams through the vocal music education program at Colorado State University. It’s a tragedy that would stop many in their tracks. Understandably so, for how can you learn to create an art tied to the sense that was stolen from you by connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome type 3? Harvey left school when her hearing obstructed her education and for two years fell into a deep depression. Yet her heart refused to give up. Harvey found a way to find the music inside of her again. She had to; it was a part of who she was. Using a visual tuner, she sang until the device turned green. Her father heard and wept, and Harvey realized her gift hadn’t left her. It was still there and she could embrace it. The epiphany began a new chapter that started in clubs and music halls until it led to the stage of America’s Got Talent. Through the challenges and loss, she rediscovered herself and the career she had yearned for nearly all her life.
Finding Open Doors in Spite of Your DisabilityFor some, Webler and Harvey’s stories may feel unobtainable. We marvel at these individuals as anomalies, as if their achievements are exceptions to the rule. Yet the truth is that while we may have our limitations, there is power in perseverance. Webler and Harvey are both everyday people who simply refused to give up. As Dreamscape Foundation Founder Joe Sehwani said after he lost his vision, “I had only lost my sight – not my vision. In fact, LHON gave me a clarity I didn’t have before. It gave my life purpose.” We can either view our disability as a weakness or we can find new vision by carving a path for ourselves and our desires. While the challenges may not make it easy, the satisfaction of achieving your dream is worth it. Will you fight to make them accessible? Next »« Previous
eSight Eyewear Gives Sight Back to the Blind
The idea that a pair of glasses can restore vision to the blind sounds like something straight out of science fiction. Just the thought sparks images of Geordi La Forge, the blind lieutenant commander from Star Trek whose futuristic visor enabled him to see. Yet, like many things born from imagination, this miraculous invention didn’t stay in the realm of fiction. Today it exists through a company called eSight, who brought to market an incredible piece of eyewear that literally gives sight to the blind. Does it sound too impossible to fathom? Get ready. We’re about to peel back your skepticism and make you a believer. Dreamscape Foundation recently caught up with Gary Foster, eSight’s Coaching Program Manager and an avid user of eSight’s life-changing eyewear.