McKinleyville California Has a Champion/Advocate and Support Group for the Blind and Visually Impaired

by Audrey Demmitt, RN and VisionAware Support Group Facilitator

Overview of Group

Doug Rose sitting with hand on brailler

McKinleyville Low Vision Support Group, also known as “The Bumpers,” has been meeting since 1998. It is a small group in a small town doing important work; providing support to the visually impaired and advocating for their needs in a rural community. Doug Rose attended this group for 5 years before he stepped up to lead it. He was uniquely prepared for this role by years of experience working for a variety of agencies in the field of blind services. Doug has been blind since early childhood and knows what it takes to live with vision loss. He has been facilitating this group for 8 years.Doug is a long-time advocate for the visually impaired and an active member of the American Council of the Blind (ACB), a national consumer-based advocacy organization working on behalf of blind and visually impaired Americans throughout the country. The California Council of the Blind is the California affiliate of the ACB, and is a statewide membership organization, with 40 local chapters and statewide special interest associations.

Advocacy Achievements

Led by Rose, the group has been successful in many advocacy efforts in the McKinleyville area.

Services for the Visually Impaired

There was a time when there were no services for the visually impaired near Mckinleyville. Doug and some support group members are affiliated with the Humboldt Council of the Blind and they actively lobbied to change that. Now the San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired operates Lighthouse North Coast 3-4 days a week in Eureka, just 12 miles away. This satellite office is dedicated to seniors with vision loss and several group members have received services there.

Accessible Pedestrian Crossing Signals

In addition, the Humboldt ACB chapter worked to bring accessible pedestrian crossing signals to their community. After the new pedestrian signals were installed, several people found the time was too short to cross the street safely, so they wrote a letter to give this feedback to the city and the signal time was lengthen on their request. Doug says, “The ACB has a great Pedestrian Safety Handbook which teaches how to advocate for these issues.”

Audio Description Services

The Humboldt Council of the Blind also successfully advocated for audio description and closed captioning services at a local theater. Doug enlists support group members’ help with phone call and email campaigns when the California Council of the Blind needs advocacy work on current legislation.

Meeting Information

The McKinleyville Low Vision Support Group meets the last Monday of each month from 11:00am to 12:00pm at Azalea Hall Senior Center, 1620 Azelea, McKinleyville, CA. Favorite presentations have included vendor demonstrations of accessible equipment, Emergency Preparedness for earthquakes by the Red Cross, the California Telephone Access Project, and lessons from Low Vision Focus from the Hadley Institute. This group welcomes all ages, eye conditions and family and friends of those who are affected by vision loss.

Senior Center Without Walls

Doug facilitates another support group which is quite unique. He volunteers with a program called Senior Center Without Walls and leads a low vision support group on a weekly tele-conference call. Senior Center Without Walls is an award-winning program offering activities, education, friendly conversation, and an assortment of classes, support groups, and presentations to seniors in the United States, Canada and other locations internationally. Each week, seniors can access over 70 groups by phone or online, all from the comfort of home. Their mission is to provide community to isolated seniors.

Low-Vision Support Group “The Eyes Have It”

The Low-Vision Support Group is called “The Eyes Have It” and it meets every Wednesday from 1:00pm – 1:45pm on a toll-free conference call. There are 10-20 people who call in from all over the US to meet others living with low vision and share solutions and techniques for continuing to live a full life.

Doug says many callers live alone and are housebound with multiple health challenges and states,”That phone is their life-line and allows them to stay connected to others.” The group discusses topics like transportation options, Talking Books and vision rehabilitation skills from the Hadley Institute. Doug is working on a hands-on presentation on writing skills. VisionAware will feature this group in the future.

It is obvious that Doug Rose is a champion for people who are blind and visually impaired in his community, making a difference through his advocacy and support group activities. Though leading this type of support group has its challenges and limitations, it offers a meaningful alternative to seniors who have few options.

To learn more about these support groups, contact Doug Rose at: