VISIONS Fall 2020 Update

VISIONS Has Been Helping Participants Stay Social While Social Distancing

In March, VISIONS had to pause all in-person services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This pause did not stop our amazing staff from thinking outside the box, and quickly adapting to new technology in order to keep VISIONS moving forward with service provision and ensuring financial sustainability.

Over the past six months, VISIONS staff completely rethought and optimized their services to run virtually; while our fundraising staff came up with creative ways to keep supporters entertained and informed while lifting their spirits; all while our administrative staff worked tirelessly with local and federal government officials to ensure the agency would have no layoffs, salary reductions, or major cuts to our overall funding.

Here is what we have been up to:

VISIONS Center on Blindness (VCB) and Vocational Rehabilitation Center (VRC)

Children and adults line up by an outdoor sink as one of VCB's staff helps one of the children properly wash their hands.
  • In July, VCB and the VRC resumed providing programs and services to participants. All VCB and VRC staff and participants take precautions and steps to minimize the risk of illness as recommended by the CDC and local officials when taking part in any in-person programs.
  • In response to the continued stay-at-home orders in July, VCB held its very first "Virtual VCB" sessions. These sessions brought interactive games, discussion groups, health and wellness activities, talent showcases, and opportunities for participants to connect (or reconnect) with their friends directly from their homes. We are happy to have provided this service to 46 participants!
  • The VRC hosted its latest Residential 15-week Employment Readiness and Pre-ETS (Pre-Employment Transition Services) Program, starting with 4 weeks of remote instruction over Zoom, followed by in-person instruction for the remaining weeks.
A group of children and teenagers wearing masks stand outside on a large grassy field, keeping to social distancing.
  • In August, VCB hosted three Family Week Sessions for children who are blind or visually impaired, as well as their families. Children and their parents enjoyed fun activities and games, while connecting with other families and joining our growing community of VCB families.
An older woman wearing a mask and holding a cane (left) walks along a path, being assisted by a younger woman wearing a mask (right).
  • VCB also hosted two Caregiver Respite weekends, allowing caregivers of children or adults with visual impairments to relax, and engage in VCB traditional programming, such as daily walks, fitness sessions, Bingo, Karaoke and movie night.
A group of seven participants wearing masks sit inside of VISIONS Vocational Rehabilitation Center's lobby.
  • Congratulations to the VRC's Summer 2020 Pre-ETS and Employment Readiness Class! We are very proud of our participants for staying focused and committed to completing the program, even in the midst of a pandemic. They have shown true perseverance in the most challenging environment, and we cannot wait to see where their career paths lead to next!

Department of Workforce Development

A laptop features a Zoom conference with a PowerPoint on screen, being shared with more than 21 participants.
  • Our Workforce department hosted virtual work readiness trainings, including an Alternative to Work Program for college students who were unable to work this summer because of canceled internships. A total of 10 college, and recent college graduates successfully completed the program which included a final capstone project and presentation.
  • Deanna Calamusa, Workforce Specialist teamed up with our Social Work staff and launched a virtual social work group to provide virtual group counseling to job seekers.
  • Despite stay at home orders, we have continued to offer job-seeking services and successfully helped legally blind job seekers become successfully employed across a number of sectors, including software engineers, customer service representatives, warehouse workers, and administrative assistants.
  • Our workforce department continues to host weekly job seeker action meetings that are open to all legally blind job seekers which provide participants with learning and networking spaces to connect with their peers and employers looking to fill open positions.

Rehabilitation Services

Left: A woman wearing a clear face shield uses a signature guide to sign a document. Right: A woman wearing a mask sits on her couch and knits using thick white fabric.
  • Staff worked hard to bring our traditionally in-person Vision Rehabilitation experience to participants' homes, by sending care packages that included folding boards, laundry bags, spreaders and dust broom sets. Orientation & Mobility (O&M) staff also introduced participants to a variety of navigation applications they can use on their phones.
  • All general Vision Rehabilitation Services have resumed in person, offered by our certified professional staff including in-home Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT), and Orientation & Mobility (O&M) training in our entire coverage area (NYC, Long Island, Westchester, and the Lower Hudson Valley). All rehabilitation staff take precautions and steps to minimize the risk of illness as recommended by the CDC and local officials.
  • We are continuing to make referrals and even cover the cost of low vision exams for our adaptive living program (ALP) participants. Additionally, our staff perform critical home safety checks for participants who are worried about falling in their home or in their community.
  • Our licensed social workers are providing remote counseling and benefits review to eligible participants, as well as in-person counseling for those who do not want to receive remote services.

Youth Services

A large computer monitor shows a massive Zoom conference with over 42 participants.
  • Participants of VISIONS Pre-College and Summer Transition Programs learned about resume preparation, social media advocacy, and beatboxing, through a weekly literacy club put together by New York Cares; while college-bound participants learned about utilizing research databases and how to find a summer internship through a workshop put together by the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library.
  • Volunteers from VISIONS Bronx-Westchester, Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan Advisory Boards participated in several career panels, and provided insights about their various careers and career journeys.

VISIONS Center on Aging

  • Staff have reached out to an average of 350 participants each month to perform wellness checks.
  • Over 100 classes each week are offered on a wide range of topics, from technology, to discussion and support groups, to health and wellness.
  • VISIONS Center on Aging is proud to be an authorized partner in the GetFoodNYC COVID-19 Emergency Food Distribution Program. Staff have worked to help participants in need register to receive free food, delivered safely to their homes.

COVID-19 Relief Grants in Action

  • Goldman Sachs Charitable:
    General support in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • The William G. & Helen C. Hoffman Foundation:
    General support for VISIONS lost service revenue and staff expenses related to COVID-19
  • The New York Community Trust:
    To cover frontline staff costs to serve people who are blind and visually impaired during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Robin Hood Foundation:
    General support in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • S & P Global Foundation:
    General support in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • VASCA:
    General support in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Kessler Foundation:
    Remote Workforce training in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Please Give A Round of Applause for Our Fundraising Concert Performers!

These performers have donated their time, and musical talents to entertain and lift the spirits of our staff, participants, and supporters throughout the pandemic. We are grateful for their contributions and hope you decide to take a look into their music and other performances.

Tenants of Selis Manor Received a Series of Special Surprises from Council Speaker Corey Johnson!

Three volunteers wearing masks stand in front of a large table filled with take-home plates of food.

The blind tenants of Selis Manor on 23rd Street were delighted to receive generous meal donations made possible by Speaker Corey Johnson's office. VISIONS Community Center staff organized and arranged for the tenants to pick up their meals when they were delivered for lunch. VISIONS Center Senior Director Ann DeShazo coordinated with VISIONS staff, the tenants association, and the building management to safely distribute the meals that were taken back to each apartment. The tenants enjoyed the unexpected catered hot meals, and have had glowing reviews for the Council Speaker and the nonprofit meal donor. Helen Murphy had a special message for Council Speaker Corey Johnson, thanking him for his generous and thoughtful donation. "The food was out of this world... Thank you for the food, it was so kind of you."

To register for VISIONS programs at Selis Manor, e-mail Diana Cruz (dcruz@visionsvcb.org) or Ann DeShazo (adeshazo@visionsvcb.org), or call 646-486-4444.

We are thrilled that there have been no reported cases of contracting COVID-19 by staff or clients since our in person reopening. We also hope you and your families continue to stay safe and healthy, and look forward to a bright future ahead, where we celebrate 95 years of providing services to people with visual impairments and their families.

Sincerely,

Nancy D. Miller signature

Nancy D. Miller
Executive Director/CEO

Free COVID-19 Resources

Below are some free tools, blogs, articles, and resources for people affected by COVID-19. If you would like to suggest any additional resources, e-mail info@visionsvcb.org.

Technology

Freedom Scientific will be offering use of their software "JAWS", "ZoomText" and "ZoomText Fusion" free of charge until June 30, 2020

NFB-NEWSLINE is a free audio news service for anyone who is blind, low-vision, deafblind, or otherwise print-disabled that offers access to more than 500 publications, emergency weather alerts, job listings, and more.

TechOwl's article about using Zoom on mobile devices introduces readers to the program and helps introduce basic concepts, ideal for users who rely on assistive technology.

Benefits

Learn more about what you need to know about filing for unemployment insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Links available in various languages if you scroll down.

The National Council of Aging (NCOA) and FamilyWize are partnering to make older adults and their caregivers aware of another option to save on their prescription medications. The FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card is free to everyone. Even if you have insurance, you can show the FamilyWize card to make sure you get the best price — FamilyWize or insurance.

The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is currently offering relief to individuals, businesses, and nonprofits affected by COVID-19. The website below consolidates these resources for your convenience.

General Resources

FamilyConnect is a service offered by the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) to give parents and other family members of visually impaired children–and professionals who work with them–a supportive place for sharing and finding resources on raising their children from birth to adulthood.

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) has created a blog full of inspirational stories, current events, and resources tailored to people with visual impairments.

Blindline® is a uniquely comprehensive information and referral service for people who are blind or visually impaired, their family members, caregivers, and professionals in the field of blindness. The service includes a toll-free telephone number as well as a fully accessible website, Blindline.org, both of which are linked to a New York State database with more than 2,500 accessible products and services, such as:

Mental Health Resources

Graphic of a red circle with a white outlined heart inside of it

Access to free mental health resources is more crucial than ever during these uncertain times. Below are some of the free mental health resources individuals can take advantage of right now:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

NYC Well: 888-692-9355

National Disaster Distress Line: 1-800-985-5990

If you are feeling unwell physically or mentally, call 911 immediately!

For More Information

If you require assistance with learning more about or applying for additional relief benefits, please contact:

Elizabeth Lee
Director of Caregiver and Senior Services
646-486-4444, ext. 214
elee@visionsvcb.org

Diana Cruz
Senior Center Director
(646) 486-4444, ext. 215
dcruz@visionsvcb.org

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To view previous updates, click here

Stay Safe. Stay Healthy. We Will Persevere!

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