DEDICATED TO IMPROVING THE LIVES OF BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED PEOPLE

Resources for Partners May 8,2020

Last week, we asked questions of you, our grantees, about how you are progressing during the pandemic. We received several answers that will be shared with our board and assist us in making decisions about funding in the future. Thanks to all who responded, and please continue to do so.

Successes:
Staff have been retained and have the technology to work remotely
Many services have continued through video conferencing and phone. One grantee reported being able to continue O&M and VRT in a virtual environment.
Support groups are varied and well attended; new groups are being introduced
Summer youth programs are being converted to virtual formats
Telehealth options are being introduced for medical programs
e-learning classes for vision professionals are taking place
New clients are being enrolled and being referred to state vocational rehab for sponsorship

Challenges:
Attainment of contracted outcomes is in jeopardy for traditional face to face services.
Many fundraising events have had to be canceled due to social distancing rules
Some segments of the blind community have had personal and financial supports withdrawn due to job loss and ineligibility issues
Getting adaptive aids delivered to clients living in high crime areas limits ability to provide services

Staff: Our question was prompted by the realization that many staff who are also parents or other caregivers are now doing extra jobs as teachers and aides of all sorts.
Staff meetings occur on a regular basis, often more than once a week
Accessing platforms like Zoom is difficult for some, especially for staff whose communication is usually tactile sign and Braille
The news of their employers receiving PPP grants has re-energized many staff members who are eagerly generating new ideas for service delivery

What providers need from funders:
Providers need general operating dollars as they face an uncertain future regarding outcomes-based contracts that require in-person services.
Some funders are already being very proactive in repurposing grants
Help with obtaining PPE as you begin to reopen and provide services in person
Support for program innovations such as telehealth and other remote service delivery
A stimulus package

Virtual staff meetings

Goat-2-Meeting offers virtual tours of animal sanctuaries, including at Catskill Animal Sanctuary in the Hudson Valley. There are fees depending on the length and type of tour. For example, a 10-minute corporate meeting cameo for unlimited guests requires a donation of $100. Google Catskill Animal Sanctuary or visit for more information.

Employer Flexibility and the Future of Work

In an article titled “We Have Been Disabled: How The Pandemic Has Proven The Social Model Of Disability” in Forbes Magazine, Nancy Doyle, an organizational psychologist specializing in neurodiversity, posited that as a result of social distancing, all employees require the flexibility of employers that we formerly called “accommodations” for employees with disabilities. “This led me to thinking about how the current environment is leading to disability accommodations becoming widely available, not because of some ethical awakening or increased empathy but because now everyone is disabled. If we follow the logic of the social model of disability, we are now working in an environment that is not ideal for the vast majority rather than an unseen minority.” Doyle further states that “as business leaders planning a return to work, we can sort the last few weeks into categories:
·New things we will keep
·New things we will cease
·Old things we will reinstate
·Old things we will drop”
Full text of the article is here.

Appealing to Donors

Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation this week sent its subscriber list a detailed “fact sheet” about changes to IRS donation rules under the CARES act. First on the list, “Individuals who do not itemize their deductions can take up to $300 in charitable contributions.” To read the entire text here.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

The Mental Health Association of America website has a comprehensive list of information on COVID-19, from assistance with various mental health stressors created by the pandemic, to financial assistance to individuals, to government policies.

This year’s Mental Health Month theme, #Tools2Thrive, encourages individuals to take steps toward prioritizing mental health throughout all of life’s moments.

Local Mental Health Associations offer numerous peer support programs. My local MHA is able to accept up to 250 people for its peer run Zoom or Go To Meeting sessions, which include a women’s group and a Peer Cafe for older teens and college students. For more information.

Music fun!

The Daisy Jopling Music Mentorship Foundation, located in Peekskill, NY, is offering free beat boxing and body percussion classes for students now through mid-June. While classes began on April 22, enrollment remains open. Classes are conducted via Zoom. For more information and to enroll, contact francine torres.

The Filomen M. D’Agostino Music School, which is affiliated with 92Y in New York, is finishing up its Spring semester and preparing for the summer. Course offerings for the July semester will be announced May 15th, with new classes and projects which will be open to new students who are visually impaired. We can all look forward to enjoying their virtual concert on YouTube or on the FMDG at the end of the Spring semester.

Finally, Iain Forrest is a medical student in NYC who is planning to be a pediatric ophthalmologist. As Eyeglasses, he plays electric cello in the Music Under New York program and now does free performances above ground. Find many Eyeglasses performances on his You Tube channel. His version of the song “Young and Beautiful” is worth a listen.

If you have difficulty with accessing any of the suggested links, please let us know.