By Joyell Nevins
Two groups, one vision: The La Mesa Lions Club has partnered with San Diego Futures Foundation (SDFF) to distribute refurbished computers to the visually impaired on low income.
“The Lions’ first service is to the blind,” said project overseer Allison Depner. “If you’ve grown up blind, you know about the Lions.”
That’s because back in 1925, Helen Keller, an activist who was blind and deaf herself, issued a special challenge at the Lions Club International Convention. According to their history, she dared the Lions to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.” (You can read the transcript and watch a re-enactment of this speech on Lionsclubs.org.)
The Lions accepted that challenge and continue to serve the blind almost 100 years later. Lions Eyes Banks provide eye tissue, clubs sponsor free vision screenings and recreational camps for the visually impaired, and Lions across the country recycle and distribute eyeglasses to those in need.
The La Mesa Lions have been collecting and distributing used eyeglasses since 2005. Now they will be aiding in the distribution of computers as well.
Depner is the adaptive technology instructor at SDFF and a La Mesa Lions member. She also is blind herself, and knows the importance of getting technology and the necessary training into the hands of those who don’t have it.
“If you’re blind, and you want to use a computer, you need training. I have done a lot of teaching myself [how to use a computer],” she said. “Not everybody has the time or resources to do that — and they shouldn’t have to do that!”
But the first step is getting a personal computer. SDFF’s mission is to “bridge the digital divide” in the San Diego community. They do this by making information technology and training available to underserved populations.
SDFF provides refurbished computers at a discounted rate (about $200–$300) to foster families, veterans, nonprofits, seniors, the disabled, and those on low income. Although there is no separate speech technology added to the computers given to the blind, Depner notes that many Windows programs come with speech software and a magnifier already built in.
Regardless of software, Depner was noticing that for some of the visually impaired, if they were on a fixed income, even that price was unaffordable.
So she approached her local Lions. Depner has been a member of the Lions organization since 2009, and a member of the La Mesa Lions since January. She loves the heart of service and community efforts the La Mesa Lions make, and thought this would be an effectual partnership.
The Lions agreed — SDFF provides the computers, they pay the cost, and the visually impaired get the technology. On Oct. 25, the La Mesa Lions held their first official fundraiser dinner for the Adaptive Technology Program to a sold-out crowd.
The evening hosted representatives from SDFF, and showcased videos of the students who will be using the computers. Donations raised from the evening were earmarked specifically for the blind project.
And this is just the beginning. Depner hopes to one day also expand the training available to the blind. Her goal is to get enough funds to install speech technology software on the computers the blind are receiving.
To get involved or donate, email firstname.lastname@example.org or come to their meetings on Tuesdays at noon at the La Mesa Community Center.
For more information about the SDFF, visit sdfutures.org.