Let’s Envision the Future Together
As we close out another year of service for people who are blind, visually impaired, disabled, and Veterans in the Chicagoland area, I want to take this time to reflect on all that we accomplished in 2019, the decade between 2010 and 2020, and provide a glimpse into the future.
The Past Year
As 2019 comes to an end, we have much to celebrate. From welcoming Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to The Lighthouse to our Center Stage for Access and Inclusion event at Navy Pier, we continued our mission of emphasizing inclusion and opportunities for all.
For instance, we continued to expand our social enterprises to provide more opportunities for people who are blind, visually impaired, disabled, and Veterans. Last May, we officially opened an expanded, state-of-the-art Customer Care Center serving the University of Illinois Health System. With more than a third of its workforce comprised of people who are disabled or Veterans, these businesses create opportunities for our clients who might otherwise struggle to find employment.
We also deepened ties with outside companies to ensure our clients have access to cutting-edge technologies and services. Of particular note is our partnership with technology innovator OrCam to become the Midwest’s premier distributor of the company’s MyEye 2. Recently named one of Time Magazine’s 100 best inventions for 2019, this life-changing device enables people with visual impairments to comprehend printed text on any surface, as well as identify faces and products, and helps them live more independent lives.
The Past Decade
Our momentous 2019 capped a decade of enormous expansion for The Chicago Lighthouse. For example, we expanded our mission to provide services for people with disabilities beyond visual impairments as well as for Veterans. Through our Judy and Ray McCaskey Preschool (founded in 2013), Youth Transitions Program (launched in 2016), and new Beatrice Cummings Mayer Seniors’ Center (opened in 2017), we now offer programs for our clients at every life stage.
In 2012, we opened The Chicago Lighthouse North in Glenview. Located at 222 Waukegan Road, it provides low-vision Care, a Tools for Living™ store, The Sandy Forsythe Assistive Technology Center, and a place for our North Shore families and Seniors to form a community of care. Clearly, Lighthouse North is an opportunity to fulfill our mission of inclusion and acceptance throughout the North Shore.
We also greatly expanded our low-vision patient care. In 2010, we opened the Forsythe Center for Comprehensive Vision Care, where we now employ nine low-vision optometrists, three occupational therapists, and a psychologist to help patients better process the effects of vision loss. Meanwhile, Dr. Gerald Fishman and the Pangere Center for Inherited Retinal Diseases will celebrate their 10th anniversary at The Chicago Lighthouse in 2020. Dr. Fishman and the Center continue to be recognized as a nationwide leader in the diagnosis, treatment, and genetic counseling of inherited retinal diseases.
As we expanded our service mission, we also opened the first of our Customer Care Centers, which help generate revenues to help fund our essential services. Since opening in 2013, The Chicago Lighthouse’s Care Centers have provided nearly 3,000 jobs for people with disabilities, Veterans, and others throughout Chicagoland.
Coming in 2020
And there is much more to come. As 2020 begins, we look forward to opening our new Hilton Center for Prosthetic Vision Rehabilitation. As the first such facility in the United States, the Center will focus on new vision restoration therapies and devices. We are also planning to expand our partnerships with companies like OrCam to help people who are blind and visually impaired to incorporate technology and live more independently.
Finally, as we mark the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we will soon launch our Envision the Future Endowment Campaign to ensure The Chicago Lighthouse will be able to provide services for generations to come.
As we head into the busy holiday season, I want to thank everyone who has supported The Chicago Lighthouse throughout 2019 and the past decade, and those who will do so in the future. We would not be able to provide the services we do without our Board members, donors, employees, and volunteers, all of whom make The Chicago Lighthouse the incredible and innovative place that it is.
I wish all of you and your families Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!
Janet P. Szlyk, Ph.D.
President and Chief Executive Officer
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