Lighthouse Guild’s New Tech Center Helps Visually Impaired Achieve Independence
March 9, 2022
By Roger Clark, NY1
NEW YORK – Edward Plumacher is legally blind due to an eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa. He is an adaptive technology specialist at Lighthouse Guild, a nonprofit which works with other blind and visually impaired people. Plumacher’s job is to assess what types of technology can best help them.
“The goal is to keep them working if they are working, if they have lost their job because of their visual impairment or going through rehabilitation, we want to give them the skill set that they need to go back to work,” said Plumacher.
Plumacher works in Lighthouse Guild’s brand new technology center on the Upper West Side, a one-stop resource where exams, assessments and training are available, plus an opportunity to try out the latest technology designed to help the visually impaired. That includes everything from wearable devices that convert text to speech, virtual reality, and magnifiers. It’s all part of what the Lighthouse Guild has been doing through providing services for the visually impaired for more than a century.
“What we are trying to do here is create a community of developers and entrepreneurs and engineers and academics and physicians but critically users, bringing everybody together so we can advance technology for people who are blind and visually impaired,” said Dr. Calvin Roberts, president and CEO of Lighthouse Guild.
There’s even a smart home setup featuring a kitchen, office and living area.
“The whole idea behind this was to set up an environment that’s similar to a New York City apartment,” said Paul Misiti, Lighthouse Guild’s chief operating officer.
The center also features a research lab where patients like William Graham can do valuable eye movement training.
“The center brings in patients to Lighthouse Guild who probably otherwise wouldn’t find us, there are solutions to the needs they have and in the past there has not been one place they can come try things,” said Dr. William Seiple, Lighthouse Guild’s chief research officer.
Alice Massa is also legally blind from glaucoma and an eye disease called macular degeneration. A longtime occupational therapist, she now works with Lighthouse Guild to help others with similar conditions.
“We see if we can help people not only become as independent as they would like to be, but as spontaneous.”
As Massa put it, you don’t realize how important spontaneity is, until you don’t have it.
Find out more about Lighthouse Guild at lighthouseguild.org.