On September 11th, I went to visit The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired to check out some repairs donated by Mr. Handyman (Read my Examiner article). While there, I was BLOWN away by the facility, the programs, and the services offered. As the Director of PR, Dominic Calabrese, took me on a tour of the place, I literally kept saying “Wow” and “This is awesome!” Up until the moment that I walked in that building, I felt like I was up to speed on the issues facing disabled individuals. But, I realized that lack of mobility and lack of sight are two different monsters (in the same family). Learning about the challenges faced by the blind and visually impaired completely opened my mind.
1. The facility houses a school for blind and developmental disabled young people between the ages of 3-21. The Chicago Lighthouse Development Center provides free, year-round services for students who need the additional attention that public schools often can’t provide.
2. There is a clock factory at the Chicago Lighthouse. Yes, I’m talking a full out factory. See, The Chicago Lighthouse has been producing clocks for federal agencies for over 32 years. Today, the facility continues to employ visually impaired workers and cranks out clocks for the government, some colleges, and companies.
3. There’s a house band that rehearses in-house and performs at Lighthouse functions and across the city. The day that I visited, they performed with Bears coach and legend Mike Ditka! I missed the performance but I definitely plan on making my way back to hear them. The word is that they are GOOD!
4. Ever tried to wash clothes or do other living skills with your eyes closed? Probably not. But, if you did, then you would know how crucial your sight is to these tasks. Visually impaired adults can learn independent living skills in a room equipped with a washer, dryer, kitchen appliances, and more. Other lessons include learning spatial cues, reading Braille, and folding/stuffing.
5. Providing employment opportunities for blind/visually impaired individuals is a huge priority at the Chicago Lighthouse. While there I found out that the unemployment rate for the blind/visually impaired is 70%! In addition to the employment seeking resources, the Chicago Lighthouse also employs many great and dedicated visually impaired employees. They also have employment partnerships with local companies
6. Our veterans are some of our most important citizens. They’ve sacrificed their lives for us, and as they deal with their vision issues, The Chicago Lighthouse will be right their supporting them. The organization distributes low vision equipment and independent living aids to veterans around the country. This includes canes, talking watches, magnifiers, etc!
7. The Chicago Lighthouse has been providing services to the blind and visually impaired for 103 years, and is regarded as a nationwide leader in issues related to this population.
I only listed 7 reasons, but this list could honestly go on for awhile. There are computer labs to teach office skills, a radio station, a national help line for technology for the visually impaired. Honestly, I can’t imagine navigating this world without my sight, but everyday, plenty of people wake up and do it for themselves. I think that it’s so wonderful that The Chicago Lighthouse is around to provide support and programs for this population. I’m looking forward to building a relationship with The Chicago Lighthouse now and in the future.
Thanks to the staff for their amazing hospitality!