Monday, June 27, 2011

"Left at the Next Traffic Light" - by Lighthouse Braille Instructor Julie Brannon

The Inland Northwest Lighthouse Braille Rally from the Perspective of a Braille Reading Navigator

By Julie Brannon

The title is an example of driving directions that 19 navigators read from their braille driving directions to trusting drivers at the Inland Northwest Lighthouse Braille Rally, held Saturday, June 11th in Spokane, WA. Many of those drivers were members of the Porsche Club of America, Inland Northwest Region.

The purpose of the rally was two-fold, as a public awareness event for the Inland Northwest Lighthouse, and also, as a education tool for the public to understand the benefits and abilities of braille readers.

I don’t remember the day, but I do remember the excitement that I felt when Inland Northwest Lighthouse employee, Kevin Daniel, called to ask if I’d be interested in participating in the Braille Rally. As I hung up the phone, all that went through my mind, and I suspect many other navigators was, “Wow! A chance to be a back seat (or rather front seat) driver!”

The dynamics were fascinating. This was never verbalized, but I think my driver and other drivers were at first a bit weary trusting the braille directions that were being read, and I know I felt a load of responsibility acting as a human GPS, “what if I get my driver and myself totally lost?” As we wound around corners, and looked for some obscure streets, I began to not trust my reading when my driver would say, “that one I’m not familiar with.” You see, I had a veteran resident and driver who knew most of the streets and locations the route sent us on, so his very occasional lack of familiarity with a particular street made me question both myself and the braille printer. But, I continued to scrutinize the directions, being very sure that I was reading what was brailled, and guess what? We made it!

Excitement mounted as we passed every check point where white flags were waved. Checkpoint spotters stood by to mark down our arrival times at those check points.

As each car arrived back at the Inland Northwest Lighthouse parking lot, a flurry of cheers, shouting, bravos, and clapping could be heard all around.

By the time my driver and I got back to the finish line, it felt like the almost two hours spent together on this joint venture made us a real driving team. This was a day to remember, and for those of us navigating the cars, what a feeling of exhilaration to know we could actually direct a driver around a circuitous route.

Monday, June 13, 2011

United Blind of Seattle's Annual 'Friend Day'

On Saturday, June 18th, United Blind of Seattle will hold their annual Friend Day at the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library. United Blind of Seattle, a local chapter of the American Council of the Blind, holds their annual Friend Day for the sole purpose of introducing anyone who is interested to the local chapter affiliated with both the state and national organizations of the American Council of the Blind. Friend Day provides interaction with current members, snacks, presentations about all components of the organization, and a wonderful chance to understand why members see the American Council of the Blind as an important part of their lives. Friend Day is an open event for anyone and everyone who is interested in learning about the American Council of the Blind. Come join us!

When: Saturday, June 18th from 1:0opm-3:00pm

Where: Washington Talking Book and Braille Library, 2021 9th Avenue, Seattle Washington

For additional information, please contact Julie Brannon at 206-547-7444 or email

Monday, June 6, 2011

First Annual Spokane Braille Rally

On Saturday, June 11th, Inland Northwest Lighthouse (INL) will be kicking off the First Annual Spokane Braille Rally! Beginning at INL at 9:00am, the Spokane Braille Rally is a contest in which cars leave a starting point at a carefully recorded time, and traverse a route through the city of Spokane to a finish point. The rally will feature a navigator (blind or visually impaired person) who will provide navigation clues to a driver (vehicle operator). The pair completing the contest with the least amount of penalty points will be the winner!

During the rally, there will also be the Drive and Shine Car Show, held in the INL parking lot from 10:00am to 2:00pm. At the end of the event there will be a presentation of awards for the rally and the car show at 12:30pm at INL. There will be food, prizes, and fun for the whole family!

For more information on how you can participate, please visit

If you plan on joining us, RSVP if you can to

Thank you to our wonderful INL Advisory Council Members: Traci Anderson, Bonnie Bell, Joel Crosby, Craig Dias, Lori Elston, Jeremy Lewis, Jack McIlory, Don Morgan, David Troyke, Jennifer VanVleet, and Lorna Walsh.

Thank you to our generous Sponsors: Numerica Credit Union, Coffman Engineers, Hoyte Lewis & Associates, LLC., Haskins Steel Co., Inc., David Troyke, Western Peterbilt, Inc., U.S. Bank, BDO, Wells Fargo Insurance Services USA, Inc., Northern Quest Resort & Casino, Platinum Town Car, and The Pacific Northwest Inlander.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lighthouse Board of Trustees Approve New Accessibility Policy

The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. is very excited to announce that the Board of Trustees approved the Lighthouse's new Accessibility and Training Policy on March 22, 2011. The Lighthouse is proud to have the support of the Board of Trustees in making accessibility a top priority at all Lighthouse locations. Thank you to Training and Accessibility Ad Hoc Committee members Bruce Walker, Fred Mendoza, Patrick Sullivan, Marlaina Lieburg, Dr. Phil Hatlen, Tami Berk, Constance Engelstad, Kirk Adams, Peggy Martinez, and Ron Morey. Thank you to Sub Committee Members Mark Landreneau, Don Swaney, Deng Kong, Julie Brannon, Mike King, Meg Johnson, and Dana Van Dussen for their invaluable input and support. Seattle Lighthouse's Peggy Martinez, in her new role as Accessibility Manager, will oversee the process, and is hard at work gathering employee feedback, ideas, and input to implement the policy.

The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.

Accessibility and Training Policy

Title: Accessibility and Training

Submitted by: Ad Hoc Committee on Accessibility and Training

Date: September 27, 2010

Revised by Sub Committee 12/10, and by Ad Hoc 1/4/2011

Approved by Board of Trustees 3/22/11

Approved By: Sub Committee, Accessibility Ad Hoc, and Board of Trustees

Scope: Organization Wide

Purpose: To establish with clarity the commitment of the Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. to promote, facilitate and encourage innovative accessibility and training initiatives throughout its organization.

Policy: It is the policy of the Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. and the Board of Trustees to encourage, develop and implement innovative accessibility and training initiatives at all levels of the organization. This commitment extends to providing appropriate human and financial resource support in an on-going and intentional effort to promote employment of people who are blind, Deaf-Blind, or blind with other disabilities. This commitment is crucial to support the implementation of initiatives which align with the strategic goals and mission of the Lighthouse, and includes the support of the CEO.

Procedure: In order to effectively implement this policy the following initiatives will be undertaken:

  • The CEO will establish a standing management committee named “Accessibility and Training”. The Accessibility Manager will serve as chair, and the committee will include representatives from Administration, Operations, Deaf-Blind Program, Employee & Community Services, Information Technology, Finance, and qualified community members that represent our diverse population. The Committee may call on other departments as needed for specialized input. The committee will draft its own Charter to be approved by the CEO and will meet at least one time per quarter, or more often as determined by the Accessibility Manager. The committee will develop an in-depth awareness of existing accessibility and training initiatives at the Lighthouse, as well as fully understanding the barriers and obstacles that limit opportunities for advancement. It is the role of this committee, along with the Accessibility Manager, to eliminate identified barriers and to lead in navigating identified obstacles.
  • Ensure accessibility is taken into account as a basic criteria of each new product, service, and built environment including facilities that the Lighthouse considers developing.
  • Annually the Accessibility Manager is responsible to develop and present a budget to the CEO. The Accessibility Manager will receive input from this committee as well as other staff and stakeholders to develop a specific list of initiatives as well as discretionary funds required to meet stated accessibility training goals. It will include an amount to meet the needs of unforeseen opportunities that may arise during the year.
  • Minutes of each committee meeting will be documented by a member designated by the chairperson. These minutes will be distributed to appropriate staff and stakeholders.
  • Annually the chairperson of the committee will report to the Board of Trustees on progress made during the preceding year.
  • The committee will review annually all initiatives in place to assess their value and recommend continuation, expansion, modification, further observation or abandonment. Recommendations will be developed and reviewed with department supervisors, managers and the CEO.
  • The committee will provide input into the development of Accessibility standards for all Lighthouse locations, and will review these standards on a regular basis to be determined by the committee.

Friday, March 11, 2011

"An Interpretation of the Lighthouse" - by Inland Northwest Lighthouse Employee Jennifer Marshall

The lights come on in a timely manner so business can ensue as usual. Inspecting the grounds for the nights prowlers, investigating for new discoveries as we go.

Coffee is lovingly made to cease the morning chill. The air smells like glue, wood and cardboard, greeting our nostrils and subconsciously preparing our hands for the fun to come .A new day can begin almost as seamlessly as the one before it ended. Friendly “hello’s” and “good morning’s” echo off the walls like bird calls against a canyon. A sense of being in your home away from home resounds off the wallboard adorned walls.

Then, the noise commences. A cacophony of men music and machines envelopes us as we undertake the days challenges. Hammers swing and staples fly. A camaraderie builds as we do. We yell at and with one another inharmoniously beseeching for our needs. It is this place where we create something that would not have been the same otherwise, something very unique and special. We gain strength knowing everything we accomplish and empowerment accomplishing all that we undertake. Day by day, overcoming figurative as well as literal obstacles. Growing with one another to really be all that we are and could become. We are our own inspirational and educational teachers.

Suddenly a sing song voice is perceived over the others. It musically chimes out “yoo hoo”. A chorus of others follows. Then the sound of a hammer drumming away across a building table. Almost pushing the masses toward anarchy (but only almost). Now a forklift maneuvers around in the next aisle over beep beep beeping its own harmonious little ditty. The minutes wined into hours when a palpable sense of relief washes over with one word. Lunch. What an experience! The smells of 40 kinds of food being made intermingling, while the microwaves hum and beep along. Some may stay while others will go however we will all return.

Breaks break up the day and work breaks up the breaks. Once every few months when you least expect it the fire alarm shrilly screams out in protest to get out of the building. But don’t fret this is only a test. On birthdays we are privileged enough to be gifted with delightful baked goods lovingly prepared much like our products. Ingredients tossed inside with just the perfect amount to bring about completion. Much like the Lighthouse has become more than a place to work this poem has evolved into a detailed tirade. So I will bring it to a close.

We prevail daily, continuing enhancing and let’s not forget earning. Meshing together as only strangers brought together by a similar desire can. We share a commonality and have become a sordid family. I hope that I have been able to convey to you today what and how much this place means to the people involved. Thank you.

- Jennifer Marshall, Inland Northwest Lighthouse Employee

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Blind Driver Challenge

I’ve been pretty fortunate to witness some great events in my lifetime - but on Saturday, January 29, 2011, at 11:30am, being present for the first blind driver to go around the Daytona Speedway was the best of them all.

I was surrounded by about 300 very enthusiastic National Federation of the Blind/Blind Driver Challenge event supporters, and a gathering crowd of Daytona race fans.

On Saturday, none of that seemed to matter. It felt like the moment was everything, and that a blind person would be driving a car for the first time in history on one of the world’s largest driving stages, and I’d be there with 300 other people who are blind to bare first-hand witness. Once the announcer began, I distinctly felt a rush of excitement. Over the speedway loud system, the announcer broadcast each step of the driver’s progress, from key receipt to driver prep to the slow journey around the track. The once energetic, boisterous, and loud assembled audience, was now dead silent - as if any noise might disturb the blind driver, who of course wasn’t at all close enough to hear. Once the blind driven car successfully completed the lap, a thunderous cheer like I’ve never heard before rose from the group. It was “blind” pandemonium!

Yes, this was a very calculated and structured drive under particular conditions. Yes, the speed was slow and measured. And, yes, it was just the initial and first step towards a person who is blind being able to independently operate an automobile. But it was dramatic, inspiring, and allowed us all to take an encouraging peak at what the future of being blind might be like.

- Kevin Daniel, Inland Northwest Lighthouse Executive Director

Inland Northwest Lighthouse Employees Attend Spokane City Council Meeting

On January 10th, Inland Northwest Lighthouse employees Ryan Strickland and Mark Shiveley had the opportunity to speak at the Spokane City Council meeting. The issue they addressed was the proposal to use funds that were designated for transportation to retrofit sidewalks that had become uneven and broken. Mark and Ryan stressed the importance of well maintained sidewalks for all pedestrians, including people who are blind and visually-impaired. They were able to share their personal experience from both the perspective of a dog guide user and a cane traveler. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, the proposal didn’t pass. We were heartened, however, by encouraging words from Council Member Richard Rush on the overall progress and understanding of these issues compared to just a few years ago:

“Thank all of you for your excellent contribution to the dialogue at City Council yesterday. I was wonderful to have such a professional, knowledgeable and credentialed group pushing our community toward healthy and sustainable outcomes."

"Going into yesterday’s meeting I genuinely believed our position had a chance to prevail. In retrospect it is clear there are other political agendas afoot that prevented this outcome from being realized. The good news is that the dialogue we had yesterday at Council would have been inconceivable just two years ago. The conversation has moved significantly due to your efforts. Thank you!"

"I have to add that you are on the right side of history, just a little ahead of it. That is the definition of leadership. I deeply appreciate your sharing of this leadership role with me as we continue this endeavor. Best wishes!” - Richard Rush, Spokane City Council, District 2 Position 1

Many thanks to Ryan and Mark for attending the meeting, and for speaking to the importance of travel safety for blind and visually impaired individuals in our community.

- Paula Hoffman, Vice President of Government Affairs