VISIONS Insights Newsletter

Winter 2020, Issue 15

Join our mailing list and stay up-to-date on all things VISIONS, including future newsletters, events, and stories.

A monitor on a desk shows VISIONS NDEAM title graphic, featuring Russell Shaffer of Walmart.

Celebrating NDEAM

VISIONS hosted its first virtual celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) on October 29th. The celebration acknowledged the great milestones happening within disability hiring, the 75th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This celebration included live networking with businesses that VISIONS partners with, such as Amazon, Google, Northwell Health, the MTA, Port Authority of NY and NJ, and many others. Amazon and Northwell Health received NDEAM employer partner awards for their great commitment to not only hiring legally blind job seekers, but creating a truly inclusive workplace environment. The focal point of the event was a fireside Chat (Q&A), with Russell Shaffer, Senior Director, Global Culture, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Walmart Inc. Russell spoke about unconscious bias in the workplace and trends in disability hiring.

Graphic: VISIONS Cookbook, Cooking Blind & Sighted book cover

Help Support VISIONS While Learning Some New Delicious Recipes!

The pandemic has been difficult in so many ways. Many restaurants have closed, food delivery costs have risen, and most of us are eating at home more often. To raise your spirits and add some excitement to your kitchen, we are creating a cookbook that features recipes from supporters like you and from restaurants in your communities. The cookbook, Cooking Blind & Sighted, will go on sale through our website and will be available in digital (accessible PDF or text-only) and physical (large print or braille) formats in mid-December, 2020.

Order your copy today for only $20 by visiting www.bit.ly/2ZJTmUs

Executive Director/CEO, Nancy D. Miller

Headshot of Nancy D. Miller wearing a white shirt and beige sweater

Dear Friends, To say that this has been a challenging time to lead a nonprofit is an understatement. However, we are grounded by the mission of VISIONS and the values of our women founders. Since 1926, we have offered services equitably for blind and visually impaired participants, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, income level, immigration status, gender, and gender identity. VISIONS is proud to offer free independent living training, mobility instruction, technology training, job readiness and job placement services, to a diverse group of blind participants in the NYC Metropolitan area, New Jersey, and the Hudson Valley. For many of our blind participants, we are the #1 place they turn to in good times and bad. We are keeping in touch daily with hundreds of our blind participants and families to be sure that they have access to food, medication and social connections while isolated at home. Your support has truly made a difference in our ability to reach blind participants in need. We are especially proud of VISIONS continued service provision for blind older adults during the pandemic, through technology training, check-ins and 100 virtual classes offered on a weekly basis. Donna is a participant and volunteer at our senior center, and we invite you to read her story below. Thank you for investing in VISIONS programs and their impact.

VISIONS Insights Newsletter: A Publication About VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired

President, Board of Directors
Robert Schonbrunn
Past President, Board of Directors
Nancy T. Jones
Vice President, Board of Directors
Dr. Cynthia Stuen
Treasurer, Board of Directors
Burton M. Strauss, Jr.
Assistant Treasurer, Board of Directors
Kenneth J. Gralak
Secretary, Board of Directors
Jasmine M. Campirides
Executive Director/CEO
Nancy D. Miller

Newsletter Staff

Executive Director/CEO
Nancy D. Miller
Editor, Chief Development Officer
Russell C. Martello
Newsletter Design & Layout
Ryan Melendez

Celebrating 95 Years of Service

New VISIONS Staff and Advisory Board Members

Full Time

Tara B. Olson
Marc L.Wentz
Meghan Fink
Jessica Lewis

Part Time

Joanie Gonzalez
Alyssa Gersony
Carmen D. Zapata

Interns

Avian Perez
Frank Sivilli

Manhattan Advisory

Griffin Pinkow
Foreseeable Future Foundation

Brooklyn Advisory

Kalle Levon
NYU Tandon School of Engineering

Queens Advisory

Frank Bravin
Sharima Khairullah
Office for People With Disabilities

VISIONS Welcomes Two New Board Members

Headshot of Anusha Sharma

Anusha Sharma

Anusha Sharma is a leader in the tech industry and currently works as a Regional Vice-President at a financial technology start-up. Prior to joining the board, she organized a self-defense workshop fundraiser for VISIONS. In addition to chairing the HR committee of the board, Anusha firmly believes in volunteering with VISIONS clients and regularly provides mentorship and mock interviews to clients looking to (re-)enter the workforce. Anusha also volunteers as a sexual assault and domestic violence counselor in hospital emergency departments.

Headshot of Yan Tuiggy Zhang

Yan "Tuiggy" Zhang

Tuiggy Zhang has over 15 years of experience auditing closely-held companies and companies publicly listed in the U.S. She has completed audit engagements for a variety of industries, spanning manufacturing, telecommunications, information technology, gaming and gambling, SPAC, broker dealers, private equity, and not-for-profits. She also advises her clients on complex accounting and reporting issues. Additionally, Tuiggy has completed audits performed in connection with initial public offerings and business combinations, as well as financial due diligence and reports related to potential acquisitions. In addition, she is well-versed in financial reporting consulting, internal control testing, and SOX compliance.

VISIONS In The News

PIX 11: Judge rules NYC crosswalks fail to protect blind pedestrians

By Aliza Chasan , Associated Press

NEW YORK — A judge ruled most crosswalks in New York City violate laws protecting the disabled by failing to properly protect blind pedestrians.

U.S. District Judge Paul. A. Engelmayer said the city has violated three laws protecting the disabled with its failure to equip most crosswalk signals to aid the blind or those with bad eyesight. The judge said it is yet to be decided what the ramifications of the ruling will be because the first phase of the court proceeding was only to assess liability.

“Most significantly, the Court finds, on the undisputed facts, that the near-total absence at the City’s signalized intersections of crossing information accessible to blind and low vision pedestrians denies such persons meaningful access to these intersections, in violation of all three statutes cited above,” Judge Engelmayer wrote in his decision.

The American Council of the Blind of New York, Inc., Michael Golfo and Christina Curry filed the lawsuit against New York City, the New York City Department of Transportation, Mayor Bill de Blasio and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

A city Law Department spokesperson did not immediately comment.

Article Note: VISIONS staff member Khadija Bari was interviewed about the ruling as she crossed the street near Selis Manor.

To read this story online and watch the accompanying video, visit www.bit.ly/3pQ1NIY

VISIONS Community and Staff Updates

The Staten Island Foundation, Logo

Staten Island Foundation Grants $5K For Operation Low Vision Seniors

The Staten Island Foundation recently awarded VISIONS a $5,000 grant for a new borough program, Operation Low Vision Seniors. VISIONS will provide four North Shore nursing home facilities with a comprehensive professional development training via ZOOM. Specifically designed to assist facility social workers, recreational/activities coordinators and assistant nursing staff, they will learn how to effectively engage low vision residents during COVID. Once the training has been provided, Holly Bonner, Staten Island Borough Coordinator, will work with staff to identify low vision intervention tools that will be useful for residents such as magnifiers, large print games and lighting devices. VISIONS will send the requested materials to each nursing home facility and will maintain continued communication to offer support during the pandemic to staff and clients.

Image of Holly Bonner standing outside, alongside her dog guide.

Visually Impaired Education Program

During the pandemic, VISIONS Community Outreach Department added the Visually Impaired Education Program (VIEP) to their current presentations. Led by Holly Bonner, Staten Island Borough Coordinator, VIEP helps educate and engage children and adults about the blind/visually impaired community; diminishing pre-imposed stereotypes associated with blindness. Attendees learn about terminology relating to blindness & visual impairments, basic etiquette practices, braille and adaptive technology, and the role of dog guides. Through Zoom, Holly was able to conduct 16 VIEP sessions to various summer camps, local libraries and scout troops. Over 600 children participated in VIEP programming. In December, VIEP is being offered to the Westchester Library System If you or someone you know would like to bring VIEP to your community, contact Holly Bonner at hbonner@visionsvcb.org.

Headshot of Travis Joseph

2020 Harriette K. and Burton M. Strauss Jr. Scholarship Recipient

VISIONS once again congratulates Travis Joseph, who received the Harriette K. and Burton M. Strauss Jr. Scholarship for the second year in a row! This scholarship provides financial assistance for employees of VISIONS, who are enrolled as a college or university student. Travis is continuing to pursue his degree in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy at Hunter College. Many thanks to Scholarship Committee volunteers: Norma Eversley, Beth Strauss, Harriette K. Strauss, and Francis Tabone, and Harriette K. and Burton M. Strauss Jr. for providing our staff with this opportunity.

VISIONS Caregiver Program Offers Caregivers an Introduction to Medicaid

On October 23rd, VISIONS invited Kim Lerner, LMSW, Director of the Benefits Outreach Program at LiveOn NY to present to participants of our Caregiver Program about the basics of Medicaid.

LiveOn NY is an organization that impacts NYC's aging population in the form of advocacy, policy, and program development. Kim spoke about the basics of Medicaid, including eligibility criteria, documents needed to apply, the Medicaid Spend Down Program, The Medicaid Look-Back Period, Pooled Income Trusts, and the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP). Over 10 participants joined the virtual workshop. The participants asked insightful questions and were grateful for the information provided by Kim. One participant stated, "This was good. It was very informative and now I know what to do."

If you are someone you need needs assistance from VISIONS Caregiver Program, please reach out to us at 212-625-1616, ext. 129 or 646-486-4444, ext. 216. VISIONS Caregiver Program is funded by the NYS Office of the Aging and the U.S. Administration on Aging’s National Family Caregiver Support Program through the NYC Department for the Aging.

Grants In Action

The Lavelle Fund for the Blind

We are grateful to the Lavelle Fund for the Blind for awarding VISIONS Workforce Department with a second, four-year grant to fund the Colleges to Careers program. In the first four years of this project, nearly 70 students of varying age, income, geographic location, ethnicity, and career interest enrolled in the Lavelle Brother Kearney Scholarship Program. In total, VISIONS helped place more than 20 graduates of this program into jobs that were commensurate with their education and interests. We are also proud to have successfully placed several students into jobs during the pandemic.

While earning a higher education degree, participant-scholars are excited by the prospects of working and will gain a better understanding of the importance of job readiness, and having the ability to refine their work skills. One student stated that “This Program challenges all students, by bringing us outside of our comfort zones” and another said that “this program has given me the chance to do some amazing opportunities and meet extraordinary people”. 

The Kessler Foundation

We are thankful to the Kessler Foundation for awarding VISIONS Workforce Department a one-year grant to fund the development of jobs in New Jersey. Despite the "stay-at-home" pause in response to the pandemic, VISIONS successfully reached its goal of assisting 6 legally blind job seekers with obtaining competitive employment.

Staff from VISIONS Workforce Department made stronger connections with the New Jersey Commission for the Blind (NJCBVI) and connected with NJ job seekers who were previously unaware of our services. This generous funding has allowed the Workforce team to provide job carving, and job coaching services for participants placed as warehouse associates at Amazon. Additionally, the success of this project helped VISIONS apply for a long-term contract with the NJCBVI to provide job placement services for participants throughout the State of New Jersey.

Image of a young man wearing a light blue face mask and gray sweater, standing on an underground subway platform.

C.R. is a level two contact tracer working in the community. He is a Brother James Kearney scholarship recipient and he received job placement services from the Workforce department.

VISIONS Creates New Falls Prevention Course

Graphic of an O I B T A C PowerPoint title slide. Text reads: Fall Prevention Interventions for Older Individuals Who Are Visually Impaired.

VISIONS recently developed a falls prevention course for The Older Individuals who are Blind Technical Assistance Center (OIB-TAC). OIB-TAC  is a division of the National Research & Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision (NRTC) at Mississippi State University (MSU). MSU’s OIB-TAC offers access to courses that promote independence, community involvement and well-being for older adults who are blind or who have low vision.

While there are many falls prevention programs available, this program focuses specifically on individuals who are blind or visually impaired.  VISIONS offers a unique perspective on this important topic which often does not include the impact of vision loss on falls. This course expands how professionals assess and provide training on falls prevention to those with vision loss. VISIONS staff members involved in this project included Teddy Kern (Director of Occupational Therapy and Medical Coordinator), Travis Joseph (Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant), Julie Spodnick, M.Ed., (Registered Physical Therapist, Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist) and Bill Hixson (Senior Director of Rehabilitation Services, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist, Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist, Licensed Occupational Therapist).

Donna's Story

"The community of seniors at Selis Manor are committed to staying connected and helping people like me deal with my new reality, and above all, having some fun! Although we await the time when we can finally meet face to face, I feel less isolated even during these trying times."  

– Donna, VISIONS Center on Aging Participant

VISIONS Insights Newsletter is Going Digital in 2021!

Graphic of the cover of VISIONS Insights newsletter on an iPad.

What does this mean

After this issue (Winter, 2020), we will no longer print physical editions of our newsletter unless specifically requested. We will continue to publish future editions on our website (www.visionsvcb.org/news/insights-newsletters).

How will I know about future newsletter releases?

Along with the newsletter, you will receive a card you can fill out and mail back to us to be placed on our e-mail list. Once on the list, you will receive VISIONS updates including future newsletters, appeals, and event invitations.

Benefits of Going All-Digital

  • Accessibility: If you use a screen reader like VoiceOver or JAWS, our online newsletters will be optimized for easy readability, with the ability to jump between stories, and better image descriptions. Additionally, should you choose to make a donation, our donation form is easy-to-use, accessible, and just a click away.
  • You Help Support More Participants: By not receiving a paper newsletter, you allow the money that would have been spent to print and mail that newsletter, to be put back into providing free services for our participants across NYC, Long Island, the Lower Hudson Valley, and New Jersey!

Questions or Concerns?

If you have any questions or concerns about this transition, we are always happy to help. E-mail marketing@visionsvcb.org

Thank You for Your Continuing Support of VISIONS!

Participant Feedback

“I just wanted to take the time to Thank You again for all you do my family especially my dad are grateful for you and a place like Visons. We received the air conditioner and it's working wonders in this heat wave. My dad misses you and all at visions he cant wait ti get back. He gets so bored at home” – Jackie

“I was born sighted and learning to accept vision loss...VISIONS is 5 stars if I can only give it 5 stars, [cause now] I'm basically a pro.” – Hildegard M.

“I just feel you have been so helpful to me. In the small ways, they make a big difference in my life, and I thank you very much.” – Levy G.

“VISIONS is the best. They are so caring. I couldn't praise them enough. Whatever they did, they did with love and care. I cannot tell you how thankful I am. You forget your problems when you are cared for people who know what you need.” – Rita M.

Volunteer Feedback

Testimonials from Great NonProfits. To read more, visit www.bit.ly/VISIONSGN

“ volunteered here last summer and had such an amazing experience. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly (especially Natasha!), and willing to help. From volunteering to go on walks with the senior citizens to opening and helping with mail, I was able to learn a lot and reach beyond my comfort zone...” – Christina.

“The staff are extremely kind, welcoming and friendly. From my experience volunteering, I can say that the work this nonprofit does has a positive impact on everyone involved..” – Annonymous

“Absolutely love volunteering here. There are such great people running VISIONS that take time to help everyone and anyone who needs it!...” – Katelyn

“I have been volunteering at VISIONS for almost a year now. The community that VISIONS fosters is truly amazing. All the participants of the program, staff, and employees are friendly and welcoming...” – Audrey.

Independent Living Program Graduation at the VRC

A young man wearing a mask, sitting in front of a computer at VISIONS Vocational Rehabilitation Center
Two participants and an instructor all wearing masks stand in a kitchen and make brownies, utilizing adaptive kitchen tools.
An instructor at VISIONS Vocational Rehabilitation Center works with two participants on safely using the oven.

On September 28, 2020, four blind participants of VISIONS Vocational Rehabilitation Center (VRC) Intensive Five Week Independent Living Program successfully completed their services. Beginning in late August, participants immediately experienced a storm that resulted in the loss of power to the campus for over a week. Still, they persisted!

Participants spent days learning Orientation & Mobility (O&M) skills throughout the 30+ acre campus of VISIONS Center on Blindness (VCB) as well as within the local community, utilizing a variety of assistive technology to navigate safely, manage money, as well as medication. Participants also utilized the VRC’s training kitchen to learn safe knife-handling and kitchen skills, including the use of an oven as well as a gas and electric stove.

Daily instruction began at 9am, when participants got a knock on their door for daily COVID screenings and temperature readings, until the evening, when they took part in group discussions, stress management activities, or simply spent their down time reading books and relaxing after a long day.

Following completion of this program, participants immediately launched into a 44-hour, Intensive Eight-Day Work Readiness Program, taught by VISIONS VRC staff and the VISIONS Work Readiness team.

Topics included interpersonal communication, dealing with difficult people, creating a resume from scratch, skills assessments, learning about benefits, mock interviewing, and self-advocacy. Participants learned a great deal about securing a job as a person who is blind or visually impaired.

Participants left the program having completed a number of employment applications. We look forward to supporting each participant through our Workforce Department, and celebrating when they land positions in their field of choice.

Follow VISIONS On Social Media
and Help Spread the Word!

Click on any of the social media buttons below to view our pages. You can search for VISIONSVCB on any of these social networks where you have an account and follow each page. Still having trouble? e-mail marketing@visionsvcb.org and we can send you direct links to each of our social media pages.

Screenshot of a Facebook post, highlighting the Share button a user can click to help spread the word about VISIONS.

In addition to following VISIONS on social media, you can help spread the word by sharing our posts. Sharing our posts allows your friends and followers to see what VISIONS is doing, and gives them the chance to like, comment, or follow VISIONS. The more people share our posts, the more people learn how we help participants see what is possible.

To share a post on Facebook, look for the share icon at the bottom right corner of a post or picture, and tap it. From there, you can share it to your feed, or send it to somebody else.

Bonus, you can create posts using our hashtags, #SeeWhatIsPossible, and #VISIONSVCB and people will be able to see those posts and learn even more about VISIONS!

VISIONS Would Like to Thank the Following Donors: 6/1/20 – 11/25/20

$10,000 or more:

Anonymous
Capital One
Con Edison Company of New York, Inc.
Estate of Arlene Rapp
Estate of Harriet S. Muller
Estate of Mannie Corman
Kessler Foundation
Lavelle Fund for the Blind, Inc.
OSIA NYS Grand Lodge Foundation, Inc.
Robin Hood Foundation
The New York Community Trust
William G. & Helen C. Hoffman Fdn.

$1,000 - $9,999:

Tammy Bordeaux
Mr. & Mrs. Mal L. Barasch
Sandra Bass
Steven E. and Joy Blair - Bernstein
Franco Chiaramonte
Douglass Winthrop Advisors, LLC
Christina H. Eisenbeis
Estate of Eli & Diane Rudolph
Norma P. Eversley
Michael S. and Julia Featherston
Dr. Andrew and Lois Fisher
Judith Rock Goldman
Alice R. and Edwin B. Howard, Jr.

Human Services Council of New York
Inspired Memory Care Inc.
Steven E. and Catherine G. Kent
Theodore Peter and Linda Klingos
Lions Club of Larchmont
Lions Club of Mount Vernon
Marble Collegiate Church
Dr. James McGroarty
Metzger-Price Fund, Inc.
Nancy D. and Gerald Miller
Oyster Bay Lions Club
Denise G. and Jonathan D. Rabinowitz
PDG Jagadish B. Rao
Rita J. & Stanley H. Kaplan Family Fdn., Inc.
Rye City Lions Club
S&P Global Ratings
Dr. Cynthia Stuen and Rev. William Weisenbach
The Doolittle Trust
The Hudson Gateway Realtor Foundation
The Staten Island Foundation
Frederick L. White
John Winthrop

Special Thanks To:

NYC Department for the Aging
NYS Commission for the Blind
NYSPSP

We Also Want to Thank the Following for Their Donation of Goods and Services:

Alphapointe/Carroll Foreman
Drew Bordeaux
Rita Brackeen
Catholic Guild for the Blind/Judith Katzen
Hudson Square BID/Susy Changar
Los Ciegos Del Barrio/Alvin Suarez
Manhattan Chamber of Commerce
Mind Over Matter/Joshua Margolis
Michael Oruch
Public Health Solutions/Joseph A. Tubiolo, Jr.
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP
Naomi Weinberg
Aegea West

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How You Can Support VISIONS

The best way you can support VISIONS: Make a Donation!

Whether it is making an individual donation, or giving us a lead for a Foundation Grant, or Corporate Sponsor that is aligned with our mission, every bit helps!

How You Can Donate:

Other Ways to Support VISIONS

Join a Borough Advisory Board

Grouped by borough, members of VISIONS Advisory Boards help promote the issues important to the agency, represent VISIONS at community events, assist in raising funds to support the amazing work we do, and help solicit new contributors for our annual fundraising events.

Volunteer At Our Senior Center

VISIONS Center on Aging located in Manhattan is always looking for volunteers. Volunteers may assist participants with reading mail, and other types of written materials, escorting them in the community for shopping and appointments, and helping in a variety of programs (i.e. quilting, arts & crafts, knitting, photography, ceramics, and technology training).

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