New centre for visually impaired is ‘state of the art facility’ – says top Lions official
An almost complete purpose-built facility will help enrich the lives of people with visual impairment, according to a visiting Lions Club top official.
Paula Umreiko, the governor of the Nassau County, New York and Bermuda district Lions Club, made the remark following a tour of Beacon House, which is set to be the new headquarters of the charity Vision Bermuda, formerly the Bermuda Society for the Blind.
The Lions Club has donated more than $210,000 to the renovation project on Dundonald Street.
Part of that sum – $50,000 – was provided by the Lions Club International Foundation.
Plans for a new facility have been in the pipeline for ten years, but building work did not get under way until October 2020. Work on the $750,000 rebuild is expected to be complete in September.
Following a tour of the site yesterday, Ms Umreiko said: “I feel this project is a phenomenal advancement for those with visual impairment in the islands of Bermuda.
“I believe that now there’s a state of the art facility, it will enable a lot of people to have better lives, have better job opportunities and to be more enriched by the skills that they will gain here.
“The Lions’ motto is ‘We Serve’ and where there’s a need we make every effort to be there with whatever acts of kindness we can do with manpower as well as financially.
“At the end of the day if we serve and can change a life – even if we don’t know about it – that’s are objective, our goal, our dream, and that’s why we’re here on Earth.”
The building incorporates special design features such as contrasting colour schemes, special lighting, and sound insulation, to help the visually impaired.
Patrick Caton the project manager, said: “The technological innovations include extensive use of sound abatement materials in the floors and the ceilings.
“When people are visually impaired they tend to use ambient sound as part of their location services and the way that different surfaces sound under cane or other echoes is key to helping them orient themselves in certain spaces.
“At this location, on the corner of two busy streets, it’s important to minimise the amount of outside distraction.
“The IT system is actually very clever because we have an integrated one that manages energy usage, access control, cameras, all from one master controller. All of those services are easily accessible to people with vision impairments.
“We can install companion apps on their smartphones that can be controlled by voice.
“The access card readers have voice feedback, the cameras have voice feedback, so everybody is able to interact in different ways. They now have lots of cues directing them how to get there.
“Contrast is key. We need clear delineation of levels and spaces and surfaces.
“For example, the light switches and the plates that they’re mounted on are completely different colours so that people can orient themselves easily and it stands out against the background wall colouring.
“We’ve put a lot of thought into making appliances as disability-friendly, so there will be raised level indicators and some will have audible feedback.
“They all have high contrast dials and displays so that people with low vision can operate them as effectively as possible.”
A spokesman for Vision Bermuda said: “We are incredibly grateful for the generous cash and in-kind donations that we have received thus far.
“Our capital campaign has received tremendous support from the Hamilton Lions Club and the Lions Clubs International Foundation, members of the board, and many private and corporate donors.”
The charity still needs an estimated $90,000 to fund interior fittings, furniture and equipment.
Donations can be made at Vision Bermuda’s website, or directly to Vision Bermuda’s bank account at Butterfield Bank, account 20006060513842100, marked ‘Capital campaign’.