Spokane, Washington – When COVID shut down the country, sending many home from work and play, there was a group of people who felt the isolation extra hard.
“You may not think about it, but the pandemic created greater isolation for people who are blind,” said Shawn Dobbs, Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for Lighthouse for the Blind. “Some of that is still going on – it can be really isolating to be blind even without a pandemic going on.”
Lighthouse for the Blind, which recently received some grant funding from the Avista Foundation, started in 1918 in Seattle. In 2008, the organization opened an office in Spokane, and many don’t realize that it’s a nationwide organization.
The organization seeks to help blind and vision impaired people fully participate in their community, and gain key skills that can help them stay independent.
Lighthouse creates jobs in its manufacturing plants for blind and visually impaired people, and it also provides job skills training for blind people so it’s easier for them to advance at their place of employment.
“The funding from Avista will help us provide training and equipment for 50 individuals either in our facility or at their homes,” Dobbs said. “Computer training for people who are blind is a very important tool to help them gain access to the internet, so they can attend virtual workshops, shop online or go attend church services.”
Dobbs said that sometimes the clients helped by Lighthouse for the Blind have some vision, and they can be helped greatly with simple magnification tools or software that can read sentences out loud.
“There have been many improvements in terms of read back, and there is also software that will type what you say,” Dobbs said. The tricky part is getting the right technology to the people who really need it.
“Blind people are like everyone else: some learn technology quickly and use it a lot, others not so much,” Dobbs said. “But our computer training program provides training in all these areas.”
Lighthouse for the Blind has several manufacturing plants across the country, including South Carolina, Seattle, and China Lake in California. It also provides goods and services to many military bases.
“We do a lot and we are passionate about what we do,” Dobbs said. “Not only do we provide training, we also provide good manufacturing jobs, where people with better skills can become leaders.”
At Avista, we recognize our unique position gives us the chance to contribute in an impactful way and make a real difference in people's lives. Since 2002, the Avista Foundation has made grants totaling over $13 million to organizations that support vulnerable and limited income populations, education, and economic and cultural vitality. For more information on grant applications and geographical areas covered, please visit avistafoundation.com.