Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

Resources for Partners April 3,2020

Good morning, all — Over the last week, new resources and ideas for dealing with a changing world keep emerging. We will share what we learn, and use this bulletin to stay in touch, something we all need right now.

With each day, the cry for people to observe social distancing gets louder. For people dealing with mental health issues, including the stress and anxiety of our times, and for so many people who are blind or visually impaired, social distancing means further isolation.
“Physically distant but socially connected!” is how the mental health community is changing the thinking. Brilliant!

Following last week’s resources memo, some of you shared new resources and adaptations you are making to continue your services.

The first one came in the same day from Amy Peters at Perkins School:
Perkins’ Paths to Literacy (a site in Perkins’ e-Learning portal), American Printing House for the Blind, and California State have partnered together to launch the Virtual Excel Academy, providing daily, virtual presentations for students with visual impairments. (I’ve also attached a flier for the Virtual Excel Academy, which is located online here:  Virtual Expanded Core Education Learning (ExCEL) Academy for Students with Visual Impairments

Adapting an employment program

From Theresa Kane at Polus Center in Massachusetts
• Interns have started a blog, where each chooses a topic related to their job search and the others respond

• We’ve been forwarding links to blogs, articles, webinars, etc. to spark conversation. 

• They all just did the MBTI assessment and completed a series of questions after reading their results, and we are doing virtual meetings next week for each of them to discuss their responses, and then the following week we will be turning it from that general self-awareness to how they will answer interview questions. We are also planning to do virtual interviews, first with us and then with a service offered through Massachusetts Commission for the Blind.

• We spent much of this week trying to master the Zoom online platform and we will be offering a series of motivational speakers, webinars on work readiness, and check-in meetings. While these are being designed for transition age students (14-22), we are inviting our adult interns to participate as well. 

• One of our programs “After High School What?” is being made into a webinar, and the two guys who run that program are both blind so they are going to be teaching the rest of us how to navigate the various online tools.

A week ago AFB sent a link to its information hub.
I just looked, and it appears to have grown in just one week. In the education section, the item that stood out for me was: “free Aira for any college student for the remainder of the spring semester ending in May 2020. If you know of a student who could benefit from Aira for their distance learning, please email [email protected] for more information on the program.”

A source for mental health assistance for older people in NYC:

Service Program for Older People is providing behavioral health care for older adults via approved tele-health connection during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Our intake office remains open via virtual connection and we are accepting referrals for our clinic, bereavement support groups, and PROS/Personalized Recovery Oriented Services.
• Our clinic provides psychotherapeutic and psychiatric services for adults age 55 and older. 

• Our PROS program offers rehabilitation support for adults with serious mental illness (age 55 and older). 

• We offer peer-led bereavement support groups for adults of all ages for a modest fee. We accept Medicare, Medicaid, and third-party insurance.

• Call our intake staff at 212-787-7120 x514.  

Susan Olivo, ED at Lavelle Fund for the Blind shared information on financial relief.

On Friday, I attended a Philanthropy NY webinar on local, state and federal initiatives related to Covid-19 and nonprofits.  Tim Delaney, CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits talked about an SBA loan program that sounds very compelling, and I hope that you can share this with the appropriate NYS agencies.  Essentially,  there is emergency support available for small-to-mid sized nonprofits in the form of a loan. To be eligible, nonprofits must have been in existence on March 1, 2020 or earlier and have 500 or fewer employees. Under this new program, loans are forgivable if the nonprofit keeps staff on the payroll between March 1 and June 30th. This, in essence, turns the loan into a general operating support grant.  Forgivable loans of this type can be taken out for as much as $10MM and can be used to meet payroll and associated costs, facilities costs and debt service.  Here is a link to a March 26th article by Tim Delaney in the Non Profit Quarterly, which explains in more detail.

There is a great deal of discussion in the media today about the stimulus funding that will become available and the confusion surrounding it at this time. As we receive more information, we’ll be happy to share it, and urge you to share your experiences as well. is a site both informative and irreverent. As grantmakers, it can teach us how to be better at what we do. For nonprofit leaders, it’s a great place to share and to vent. You may find it provides the moment of respite you need.

As you create new ways to serve your communities, please let us know of strategies and resources that have proven effective. We’ll keep sharing.

Warm regards and our best wishes for continued health and safety for you and your staffs.

Janice O’Connor

Dianna Kelly-Naghizadeh

The Board of Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation