November Newsletter

November 10, 2020

A Letter from our CEO

Dear ASB Donors, Colleagues and Friends:

If 2020 has taught us anything so far, it’s that new thinking in the face of uncertainty can reveal new opportunities and new approaches for our work together.

For Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired that has meant an ongoing evolution of our education and training programs as we continue to serve as a trusted resource for inspiration, skill-building and support for so many throughout the COVID-19 crisis.  Although our facilities at 919 Walnut Street have been closed since March, we have stayed connected with hundreds of Philadelphians with low vision and blindness, providing weekly life skills training, home management instruction, technology programs, braille instruction, enrichment activities, support groups and more all conducted online and by phone.  We’re actively managing intakes of new referrals from physicians, social workers and other sources in order to provide a seamless continuation of support, and we’re continuing our role as a central point of coordination for participant-centered care and access to agencies and services beyond ASB.  With a constant stream of referrals from our healthcare and community partners, we are reminded that even as our world changes, our community’s needs remain.  In our women’s peer support group, a participant new to the program shared that the session made her day.  Each of our sessions have this ability, and it is important now more than ever to continue facilitating our high quality programs.

Given the continued uncertainty of COVID-19’s trajectory and out of an abundance of caution for our staff and participants, our offices at 919 Walnut will remain closed through January 11, 2021.  This decision is also aligned with state and city mitigation directives advising businesses to continue virtual operations or telework if they are able.  We plan to expand our remote programming and support through this virtual era and beyond.

While focused on our work throughout this time, we have also been keenly aware of the deep sense of loss felt by so many, particularly by our participants, colleagues and partners in the Black community, over the continual loss of Black lives in cities across the country, including Philadelphia.  In our role, we will continue to be mindful of the support our participants and colleagues may need in this regard and will continue to provide referrals to organizations and resources that specialize in mental health support as well as social justice reform. 

As always, we will continue to seek new ways to stay connected with those we serve, and we remain deeply grateful for our partners and friends who continue to support us in this important work.  Thank you for all you do for ASB.
Until next time, be well.
Karla S. McCaney
President & CEO

ASB: Apart Together in 2020

Since mid-March, ASB has gone all-virtual.  From braille instruction and adaptive technology training to weekly office hours and a health speaker series, our staff are regularly engaging with participants remotely to help develop skills and confidence. 

Our weekly line-up includes:

  • Home management skills
  • Access Technology Training
  • iPhone, Amazon Alexa and smart phone application training
  • Braille instruction
  • Health speaker series, Diabetes Information & Support in partnership with Jefferson College of Pharmacy
  • Men’s and women’s peer support groups
  • Hearing loss peer support group
  • Storytelling, home gardening club, book club and trivia
  • Keeping Up with the Times current events group, in partnership with the Free Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

Be sure to check the At Home Resources & Support on too.  These new pages include upcoming webinars, conference calls, audio books, mobile applications, ASB’s Video Library and more that participants can connect to. 

We’re posting new resources weekly for participants to find new ways to continue practicing their skills, discover new hobbies and activities or new ways to enjoy the things they already love.  If your organization would like to be included in our line-up of activities and resources, please let us know by contacting Beth Deering, Chief Program Officer for ASB.

Let’s Move!

Being mindful of fitness and exercise is always a good idea – even more so when so many of us are staying at home and have curtailed activities as a result of the pandemic.  As part of our virtual programming, ASB is now offering classes to encourage participants to get moving in ways that are comfortable and accessible for them. 

In collaboration with Artreach, Sharon Friedler and Jon Sherman from Ballet X provided a movement workshop to individuals interested in exploring dance and movement techniques.  This workshop explored modified, seated movements based off of Sharon and Jon’s extensive involvement and program development with the organization, Dance for PD.  Also new this fall are weekly adaptive yoga classes with Kerri Hanlon of Yoga Home.

Coming soon is our Mind, Body, Wellness program – a new virtual movement group offered in partnership the Jefferson School of Pharmacy and the Pennsylvania Ballet.  This program will discuss items such as medication management, nutrition and exercise, including virtual dance instruction with the Pennsylvania Ballet. 

Going Blind: An ASB Panel Discussion

ASB was a proud participant in Disability Pride Philadelphia Week, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  In honor of the occasion, we hosted a panel discussion on July 7 on the film Going Blind: Coming Out of the Dark About Vision Loss. In the film, Peabody-award-winning director, Joseph Lovett, tells the stories of everyday people adapting to vision loss and shares his personal journey with glaucoma.

As part of the event, registrants were able to screen the film in advance of the panel discussion.  Moderated by ASB’s Chief Program Officer Beth Deering, the panel included:

  • Filmmaker Joseph Lovett
  • Clinical Associate and Director of Vision Rehabilitation at the Scheie Eye Institute, Dr. Ranjoo Prasad
  • ASB’s Director of Education and Enrichment and President of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, Lynn Heitz

More than 35 people joined the conversation to share their thoughts on the film and their own experiences of vision loss.

Many thanks to our friends at Readers Digest for connecting us with Joseph Lovett!

New Participant Navigator Position Strengthens ASB Capacity

ASB is in the second year of implementing a three-year strategic plan that was crafted based on input from our stakeholders and a discerning analysis of peer organizations and the public and private health and human services landscape that serves our population here in the Philadelphia region.  Central to that plan is elevating ASB’s role as a true partner to and reliable “first call” for physicians, health care providers, and related agencies when seeking support for their patients and clients, no matter where they are on the vision care continuum.  To achieve that, ASB has been adding more structure and experienced personnel to bring best practices to our education and training curriculum and to effectively expand our information and referral resources. 

Our latest addition is a new Participant Navigator position that will streamline onboarding for participants new to ASB and serve as a consistent contact for community healthcare providers and agencies to stay informed on their patients’ intake journey and participation in ASB programming.  We are pleased to announce Lexi Jones will be fulfilling this role.

Lexi comes to ASB with 10 years of social work experience and a true passion for making a difference in others’ lives through her work.  Lexi is looking forward to formalizing ASB’s intake processes and building consistent and clear systems for referring organizations and ASB’s participants.  Outside of work, Lexi enjoys creating art and gardening. Lexi earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Temple University and currently resides in Montgomery County.

Four New Board Members Join ASB

Four new board members have been elected to ASB’s Board of Directors.  “I am so excited for the momentum that these women will bring to ASB,” said ASB’s Chairman of the Board Tom Teesdale. “Their breadth of experience will help ASB fulfill its mission of providing education, training and resources to help individuals who are living with low vision gain independence, build community and improve their quality of life.”

Please join us in welcoming:

Dr. Jacqueline P. Candido, Senior Director of Program Design and Delivery at the University of Pennsylvania College of Liberal & Professional Studies.  Dr. Candido brings business, technology and academia experience to the board, along with her extensive education in visual impairments and accessible technology.  Dr. Candido’s nearly 20 years of work in the virtual online education sector will help guide ASB as it continues to build out its remote learning capacity.

Alice Donavin Day joins the board with an extensive nonprofit and education background, with experience in marketing, advertising and psychotherapy.  Ms. Day is currently an Executive Coach at the Wharton School of Business, where she provides coaching support for MBA and Executive MBA students.

Karen L. Graves MBA, MPA is Chief Compliance Officer at Spectrum Health Services and joins the ASB Board of Directors having worked more than 20 years in nonprofit accounting and organizational operations, and brings her experience in HR, operations, finance and accounting.

Dr. Ranjoo Prasad is Clinical Associate and Director of Vision Rehabilitation at the Scheie Eye Institute and Staff Optometrist at the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center.  Dr. Prasad focuses on general optometry, contact lens and low-vision rehabilitation of a diverse patient population in a tertiary care setting.  Dr. Prasad teaches low-vision rehabilitation to ophthalmology residents from Scheie Eye Institute and Temple University, and leads implementation of the vision-loss support group.

Read more here.

ASB Receives Philadelphia
Foundation Grant

We are deeply grateful to the Eleanor M. Mathers Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation and to Philadelphia Foundation President and CEO Pedro A. Ramos for a new $30,000 grant to ASB for general operating support.  The funds are especially helpful now as we continue to respond to the COVID-19 crisis by evolving all of our education programming and support services for remote delivery.