Strive to enhance communication, promote equality and create opportunities for the blind and visually impaired.
Guide Dogs of Hawai‘i, a 501(C) (3) non-profit statewide organization has been conquering barriers in Hawai‘i for those without sight since 1955. We have transformed the lives of the blind and visually impaired by giving them hope and a chance to live a meaningful life. We have given the blind a guide dog and with that, mobility, and an opportunity to conquer barriers and live independently.
(The following article was published in the Star Advertiser on August 24, 2020 where Cassie Ordonio interviews multiple blind community members, including GDH Director Jeanne Torres, who are navigating the changes of COVID-19.)
For eight years, the world slowly disappeared for Mary Bafile. After she was diagnosed with macular degeneration, Bafile lost 90% of her vision.
Now blind during the coronavirus pandemic, the 73-year-old Hilo resident has to navigate a learning curve while keeping herself safe from the virus.
“I’m afraid to get too close to people because at my age I won’t survive it,” she said.
As a congenitally blind person, it has become obvious to me that my reliance on touch as a primary mode of experiencing the world puts me at odds with current best practices for avoiding the coronavirus. The principle guidance for safeguarding against COVID-19 is to (1) curtail physical contact with those around us (or the things they touch), (2) limit touching of our body (especially of the face), and (3) maintain a minimum proximity bubble during social interactions (ideally of 6-feet or more). In this essay, I discuss how an unanticipated consequence of following this tri-part guidance for staying ‘safe’ is the effective demonization of touch, which has led to many unforeseen challenges for more than 12 million people in the U.S. (and over 285 million people worldwide) who are blind or visually impaired (BVI).
One of our favorite activities People finally got the chance to free swim without fear of drifting off, relaxed conversations over lunch and interactive play amongst our clients was certainly a sight to behold! Swimmers played marco Polo and water tag. Others did somersaults and handstands. Those who hung out at our spot laughed, joked and appreciated the time to be away from everyday stress.
We close the first quarter with Camp Get Ahead for our youths from March 17 to 21. Twelve youths, under the supervision of 12 round the clock staff and volunteers, experienced new things, built and strengthened relationships and worked on skills toward independence. This first GDH Camp Get Ahead was a huge success. Youths participated in a variety of activities such as tie dying, sculpturing, creative arts, music, swimming, scavenger hunt, kick ball game against the wonderers, daily living skills building, workshops on guide dogs and social skills. The youths each performed for their own talent show. It was amazing to see each participant work on a specific social skill during camp and finish with huge successes. It was sad to see them all go home at the end because each has become special to our staff and volunteers. However, the greater reward was watching them leave with greater confidence in themselves, ray to conquer barriers.
They created their own kick ball team and named it “Wonderers”. Together with a pep squad, they practiced for their game against’ GDH youths who called themselves “Visionaries” at the Youth Camp Get Ahead.
It is with bittersweet emotion that I share a change in Luke’s guide dog career. As of Tuesday, 14, 2018, Luke formally retired from guide dog services. He has been adopted by a fine family of 3, who I am confident will love and care for him as I have.
At our last Voter Registration event, Anthony Akamine gave a presentation, on behalf of the Office of Elections, about assistive technologies that are available for voters who are blind or visually impaired. These include