Silver Linings Playbook

The challenges of 2020 opened up a new world of opportunity

Hindsight, as the saying goes, is 2020. As we reflect on the year that was, we have come to realize how significant our impact can be. Just as The Chicago Lighthouse helps clients find strength by overcoming obstacles, the challenges of 2020 have helped us rediscover our own potential to create more avenues for access and inclusion in our state, our nation and the world.

Remote platforms are helping us reach more people than ever before. Thanks to Zoom, eight teens and 20 teachers from the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired in Jacksonville, Illinois (a four-hour drive from The Lighthouse) attended their first Youth Transition Program Career Fair. Work-from-home capabilities have enabled us to create jobs for people with disabilities who live outside of our geographic area or have mobility issues.

Our rapid transition to remote services is a testament to our ability to adapt to any challenge we encounter. Such agility has been the key to our organization’s longevity, and it will continue to serve us well into the future.

The Lighthouse has pioneered independence and employment for people who were blind or visually impaired since the 1920s. By the ‘50s, we opened the area’s first Low Vision Clinic. In the ‘70s, we launched an Early Intervention Program for infants and toddlers with low vision. Today, The Lighthouse continues to innovate in a variety of ways:

  • Partnering with non-profits around the country to bring our social enterprise model to more areas, creating even more job opportunities for people with disabilities and Veterans.
  • Continuing to work with pioneering Assistive Technology companies such as OrCam and IrisVision to bring the most advanced devices to our clients, which are sold through our Tools for Living® stores.
  • Participating in groundbreaking research projects, including a clinical trial of an Intracortical Visual Prosthesis, which will provide critical information about the vision produced by stimulation of an electrode array implanted in the brain.
  • Our planned accessible housing project, an apartment building for people who are blind or visually impaired and one of the first to be financed through Low Income Housing Tax Credits in the United States, will become a model for similar ventures throughout the country.

Those initiatives are just the beginning. The adjustments we made during the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that when we work together, the possibilities are limitless. Our work advocating for access and inclusion—in our classrooms, in our workplaces and in our society—is more important than ever.

Throughout the past year, The Chicago Lighthouse remained a beacon of hope for some of the most vulnerable in our community. With 2020 behind us, we look forward to all the opportunities ahead, and the chance to create a brighter future.

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