In mid-March, like all Rhode Island businesses, our offices closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in compliance with guidance from public health officials.
At the time we thought at most that we might be shut down for three or four weeks as public health officials put plans in place to curb the spread of the virus.
Weeks turned into months, and ultimately our staff was not able to to start returning to the office part-time until June 1 and full time on July 6.
During that period, we were not able to provide face-to-face services, which is primarily what we do. Our low vision evaluations, independent living skills training, assistive technology assessments, support group meetings, Yoga classes, Book Club gatherings, ceramics workshops, and recreational outings all involve people getting together in person, which suddenly, without warning, became impossible.
Despite that challenge, the IN-SIGHT staff stepped up their creativity and found new ways to be able to connect with people who are blind and visually impaired. During the time that our offices were mostly closed:
- A total of 429 clients received some type of service from our staff.
- We had more than 1,350 individual interactions with clients via phone or email.
- 14 of our reading volunteers provided more than 262 hours of service on IN-SIGHT Radio, which continued to broadcast throughout the closure.
- We hosted several ongoing virtual groups including the monthly Book Club (10 regular participants), monthly diabetes education group (7 participants), and weekly Positive Outlook support group meetings (16 regular participants).
- We hosted virtual Yoga classes each week for 16 weeks, with an average of 18 participants following along with the videos at home.
- 33 people attended virtual workshops that our staff facilitated including The Blind Poet (24 participants), Smart Home Technology (11 participants), and So You Think You are Ready for a Guide Dog, a 4 part series (30 participants).
- Our vision rehabilitation teacher Carla Ferreira produced 50, two-minute independent living podcasts that were shared on our website and social media channels.
As we begin to restart our in-person services in July, we are doing so with a high priority on health and safety. We have implemented several common sense procedures to keep everyone safe. We also plan to continue offering opportunities for people to connect with us virtually until everyone feels comfortable with in-person services.