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New Center Brings Critical Low Vision Exams and Services to the South Bay

San Jose, CA – March 4, 2021 – Vista Center for the Blind & Visually Impaired – a leading nonprofit in evaluation, counseling, education and training services for blind and visually impaired community members – celebrates the opening of its latest Low Vision Clinic. The new clinic, located at Vista Center’s San Jose location, joins the Palo Alto and Santa Cruz clinics to provide greater access to much-needed services for Bay Area residents living with low vision.

Vista Center will celebrate the opening on March 11, 2021, from 5:30-6:15 p.m. with a virtual event featuring a tour of the Low Vision Clinic and a conversation with Dr. Selma Chin, Vista Center’s Chief Low Vision Specialist, as well as messages from community leaders. Learn more information about the event or register to attend.

Demand for low vision services in the Bay Area has been increasing for several years and it has been challenging to meet the need. Since it can be difficult for people with vision impairment to travel to appointments, Vista Center was committed to opening a clinic in San Jose to increase access in the South Bay. Karae Lisle, Executive Director of Vista Center, said, “We’ve been eager to provide these life-changing exams and resources to our visually-impaired community members in the greater San Jose area. We are thrilled to expand our reach and make it easier for people with vision loss to get the help they need. Without a doubt, these services improve the confidence, independence, and quality of life for our clients.”

Vista Center Board Chair John Glass stated, “Vista Center’s San Jose Low Vision Clinic would not have been possible without the support of many generous donors. Santa Clara County provided funds for state-of-the-art equipment for the Clinic. In addition, the Vista Center Foundation provided monetary resources to help bring this critical service to life. We simply could not have done it without them.”

Vista Center’s Low Vision Clinics provide comprehensive low vision care to meet the needs of people with impaired vision. Each clinic is staffed by low vision optometrists who assess clients’ eyesight and determine which low vision aids are best suited to live a quality life, with their remaining vision. By opening a clinic devoted to low vision, Vista Center is able to carry the most current and expansive low vision devices that are not always available in a private care setting. With the opening of the San Jose Low Vision Clinic, Vista Center will be able to serve more patients and reduce wait times for appointments, especially important for patients who are eager to maintain their independence.

In addition to low vision exams, Vista’s San Jose office offers an expanded range of vision loss rehabilitation services such as Adapted Daily Living Skills, Orientation & Mobility, Assistive Technology, Support Groups, Counseling, Youth & Family Services and Shared Paths Adult Recreation.

About Vista Center for the Blind & Visually Impaired
For over 80 years, Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired has empowered individuals who are blind or visually impaired to embrace life to the fullest through evaluation, counseling, education and training. Headquartered in Palo Alto, Vista Center is able to offer life-changing services and programs due to the generous support of the community - including financial contributions from grantors, foundations, and individuals; in-kind donations; and volunteerism.

More information about Vista Center’s services and programs can be found at



Vista Center is proud to partner with a diverse group of companies and organizations in a myriad of exciting ways. Select the links below to access information about one such exciting partnership as Vista Center celebrates Mojo Vision!

FastCompany, WIRED, c|net, Forbes, IEEE, TechCrunch, USAToday, Mashable and the BBC

Visit the Mojo Vision website for more information:

Bay Area adventures, eyesight not required

To read the original article on the San Jose Mercury website, please read here.

Vista Center helps blind residents get active

By Marisa Kendall
Bay Area News Group
Published November 2019
Photos byDai Sugano/Bay Area News Group

After she was diagnosed in 2007 with disorders of the eyes that lead to blindness, Candy Jelinski fell into a depression.

Jelinski, who had always been very involved in her community, suddenly had to quit her job managing a Wendy’s restaurant and resign from her position coaching high school soccer in Michigan.

“My whole life got changed around, so you, of course, go into a dark place,” she said.

But when she moved to the Bay Area six years ago and joined Palo Alto’s Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, light began to penetrate that darkness.

The 54-year-old San Jose woman went on her first kayaking trip led by Vista’s Shared Paths program and the experience boosted her confidence and inspired her to take on a long list of challenges she previously thought were out of her reach.

Jelinski became a sea kayaking guide herself, started taking classes at West Valley College in Saratoga for her associate degree, and began working toward becoming a personal trainer. She’s taken up kickboxing, running, swimming and yoga, and plans to compete in a triathlon next year.

Image: Vista Center client with boxking gloves on for  kickboxing
Image: Vista Center client wearing boxing gloves for kickboxing

“My whole life got changed around, so you, of course, go into a dark place,” Jelinski said.

“It’s given me a whole new perspective on what I can do,” she said.
To expand its services and reach more visually impaired people like Jelinski, Vista Center is hoping to raise $6,100 for Shared Paths to support clients on regular adventures that range from sea kayaking trips, yoga classes and theater productions with audio descriptions to hiking and other outdoor outings.

On a recent morning, a small group of Vista Center members arrived in Half Moon Bay for a tour of Sweet Farm — a three-year-old animal sanctuary that cares for rescued farm animals, grows fruits and vegetables, and advocates a vegan lifestyle. Vista Center members walked the farm’s grounds, meeting quirky residents like Bruno, the one-eared goat; Polly, the chicken with extra toes on each foot; and Maggie, the tiny cow whose growth was stunted from malnutrition. They fed carrots to Maggie and the other cows, pet Paco the llama and his buddy, Sturgis the 35-year-old horse, and learned about each animal’s history from Sweet Farm staff.

Her face inches from his, 71-year-old Mary Castellano cooed endearments to the brown-and-white llama on the other side of the fence.

“Hi, Paco! How are you, beautiful?”

It was her first time on a farm since she was a kid. And it was a trip Castellano, who suffers from vision loss caused by macular degeneration, never could have made on her own. But on this sunny, fall day in Half Moon Bay, Vista Center was there to lead.

Image: Vista Center member Kenneth Carey, center, touches a chicken during a tour at Sweet Farm, an animal sanctuary in Half Moon Bay.

Image: Llamas at the animal sanctuary greet the guests.

“It provides opportunities for them to be physically active, which is hard for a lot of people with visual impairments,” said Valerie Campos, who serves as director of adult services, and orientation and mobility instructor, for the Vista Center. “And it provides a way for them to connect with others.”

Vista Center, which started in 1936 as the Palo Alto Society for the Blind, is a nonprofit that provides counseling, life skills classes, information services and more to community members who have experienced vision loss. The center charges a fee for some of its services, but people are never turned away, even if they can’t pay, Campos said. The center began offering its Shared Paths excursions about two years ago, and now signs up between eight and 20 members for each trip.

On the Half Moon Bay trip, it was 51-year-old Mark Walton’s first time petting a cow, goat or horse. Walton, who works as a business consultant, lost about 80% of his vision to a degenerative illness. He was active and athletic before he began going blind, but has since had to stop driving or playing sports. Now, Shared Paths is helping him return to that active lifestyle.

Image: Mark Walton, center left, takes a hike with fellow visually-impaired clients and staff through Sweet Farm.

“I just have a broader outlook for what I can do for myself, and how much I can enjoy life,” Walton said.

Walton is now planning to travel to Costa Rica in February with Environmental Traveling Companions, the same organization that working with Shared Paths to support Jelinski’s kayaking trip. ETC offers outdoor activities for people with visual or hearing impairments, physical or developmental disabilities and life-threatening illnesses.

“I have no idea what excursions we’re going to do,” Walton said. “But I’m ready to do them all.”

As for Jelinksi, this year, her life came full circle — she was the lead kayak during the Shared Paths outing in Tomales Bay.

“It was truly the blind leading the blind,” joked Jelinski.

Donations through Wish Book would allow Vista Center to host more trips, and also to reduce or eliminate fees from the trips it currently offers. While hikes are free, overnight kayak trips are pricey — $120 per person.

“We really want to do other events and activities, we’re just limited in our funds,” Campos said. “Very limited. We have zero funding right now, actually.”

Image: Strolling through the garden at Sweet Farm.

About Vista Center
Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, headquartered in Palo Alto, CA, is the premier regional resource nonprofit for vision loss rehabilitation services. For more than 75 years, Vista Center has served over 3,000 people annually, and offers a wide range of comprehensive programs and services that empower visually impaired community members to embrace life to the fullest through evaluation, counseling, education and training in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Mateo and San Benito counties. 

We believe that vision loss need not be a barrier to independent living in the age of technology, heightened diversity, and inclusion in our community.

Contact Information:
Karae Lisle, Executive Director
Vista Center for the Blind & Visually Impaired

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“Silicon Valley Tech Helps Individuals Who Are Blind” (Vista Center)

“Aptos Chamber 2018 Awards Dinner – Vista Center Honored” (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

“MCHS Benefits Vista Center, pg. 16” (Gentry Magazine)

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Northern California Braille challenge contestant, Luke Pilar, went to the Nationals!” (Vista Center) 

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Shared Visions client newsletter

Shared Visions focuses on programs and services for the blind and visually impaired. It is published three times a year and distributed to over 1500 Vista Center clients.

Shared Visions Fall 2018 (Word) | Shared Visions 2018 (pdf)

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