Over 100 organizations from across the country came on board last year as Outreach Partners to help with the public television broadcast initiative. Many Outreach Partner organizations have hosted and continue to host community screenings to help raise awareness in their communities, see Spotlight on New Hampshire Association for the Blind. To help spread the word about television airings, we alerted Outreach Partners to local scheduled broadcasts, and many publicized them through agency newsletters, email blasts and social media. Additionally, we asked Outreach Partners to host community screenings of the film at the same time as the broadcast to raise awareness in their areas, and in October, several notable Going Blind screening events occurred.
In Kentucky, the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government’s Office of Aging Services and Disability Support used the Going Blind Outreach Toolkit and partnered with the Lexington VA Medical Center, Independence Place, Inc., (a local disabilities organization), and Bluegrass Council of the Blind to host a screening event. The full-day event started with a White Cane Safety Awareness Walk down Lexington’s Main Street led by Vice Mayor, Linda Gorton. Both blind attendees and sighted attendees who wore low vision simulation goggles walked together. Reporters from local Noon News shows on CBS, WKYT, WLEX, and Talk Radio 690 came to get footage of the event in which over 80 participated.
In Orlando, Florida, Myrna Ubides-Pagan, Assistant Director of University of Central Florida (UCF) Student Disability Services, in partnership with the Lighthouse of Central Florida (LCF), organized a World Sight Day event at UCF, which she wrote about for campus newspapers. A panel discussion of blind students shared their experiences navigating campus as blind and visually impaired. The event included a skit in which sighted participants wore simulator goggles and learned ways in which students with visual impairment are often excluded from classroom participation. Many visually impaired students will not speak up if they have trouble seeing the board and so the simulation experience gave sighted students a chance to “see” what it is like to have an obstacle such as visual impairment. The Lighthouse of Central Florida answered questions from the audience and spoke about causes of blindness and the day concluded with a Going Blind screening.
In South Dakota, as part of the Sioux Falls White Cane Day Taskforce, South Dakota VAMC Vision Impairment Services Team (VIST) Coordinator Anna Perry organized a march through downtown Sioux Falls. The march followed with a screening of Going Blind and a post-screening panel discussion. One veteran attending the march noted that, as per usual, motorists failed to yield to pedestrians, only this time there were police escorts to help those with canes.
In Minnesota, the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO), a national organization based in St. Paul, hosted a screening and panel discussion featuring local doctors. Janice Prestwood, General Manager, provided the following account of the evening:
“Approximatley 70 attended the screening, each with their own story of why they were there. Stories ranged from being an ophthalmic tech, to a gentleman whose 5-year-old nephew was recently diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma, to several people with glaucoma. Several of the attendees were blind themselves and came with lead dogs, family, etc.
We had several partners with us last night, including the MN Academy of Ophthalmology, the Woodbury MN Lions group, Blind, Inc., and the MN Low Vision Store. I am proud that we were able to provide many of the attendees with additional local information on where to go for help.”
In New York, Syracuse’s VAMC partnered with Aurora of Central New York, a blind services organization. The two institutions co-hosted a Going Blind screening with breaks throughout to provide time for audience questions. VAMC VIST Coordinator Nancy Chaffee says, “It was a great way to share information about visual impairments.” The two organizations plan to have a large screening of the film in February 2013, and are currently fundraising for that.
We released our Outreach Toolkit so that individuals and organizations of all sizes could use it as a template for further conversation about vision loss, and to increase awareness about the available resources in their local communities. We’ve been impressed by organizations that have not only followed the toolkit, but have implemented innovative ideas on how to use the film to engage audience members. It’s inspiring that these October screening events were interactive, participatory and large-scale.