“The movie is breaking down barriers and myths about vision loss.”
- Guy Woodland, Senior VP, New Hampshire Association for the Blind
We released our Outreach Toolkit in June 2010 so that ambitious individuals and organizations of all sizes could use it as a template to spark further conversation about vision loss, and to increase awareness about the resources available in their local communities for the visually impaired. In addition to utilizing the Toolkit, we hoped they would bring their own innovative ideas to the table and many have risen to the occasion.
One such organization is the New Hampshire Association for the Blind (NHAB). For the past year, NHAB has been one of the greatest champions of Going Blind and our ensuing outreach effort, Going Blind and Going Forward. Since licensing the film for educational distribution in January 2011, they have helped organize 21 screenings throughout the state of New Hampshire and they remain committed to bringing Going Blind into as many communities and venues statewide as possible.
NHAB has worked diligently to screen the film to an incredibly diverse group of people. They have partnered with various organizations such as the local Concord Lion’s Club, VA Medical Centers, universities, libraries, hospitals, community halls, and retirement homes to host screenings of Going Blind, which are often followed by panel discussions with blind and low vision members of the community, advocates, and medical professionals.
In the past year the film has become a key component of their public education initiative and Guy Woodland, Senior VP of NHAB, explains they have already seen an impact; attendees of their Going Blind screenings “have been empowered by the movie to seek out specialized vision rehabilitation services for the first time.” George F. Theriault, President and CEO of NHAB, also notes that the film has made an impact on the medical community as well: “Eye medical professionals serving on the panels have commented that, having seen the film, they better understand how they can help patients by referring them to NHAB for rehabilitative services. Some have also said they now feel more comfortable discussing vision loss with their patients.”
At this point, with over a dozen screenings under their belt, NHAB is a well-oiled machine. To get the word out about each event, NHAB advertises on its own website and newsletter and mails invitations to blind and visually impaired members of the community, family members, and donors, while the organizations that NHAB partners with can do the same within their own network of contacts. To ensure an even wider reach, Mr. Woodland recently wrote a letter to the editor advertising a screening in a local newspaper and they often recruit volunteers to disseminate posters in order to inform the general public outside of the visually impaired community.
Additionally, NHAB puts a tremendous amount of effort into making these events accessible to interested members of the community. With the help of a sponsor, NHAB is often able to cover the cost of travel and has even worked with senior housing units to bus local seniors to screening locations when they are unable to transport themselves.
2012 marks the 100th anniversary of NHAB and their theme for the year is living better with vision loss, a theme that Mr. Woodland believes compliments the film so well. For this reason, NHAB will be screening Going Blind and has invited director Joseph Lovett to be a guest speaker at the Palace Theatre in New Hampshire in May 2012 as a part of the centennial celebration. To promote their anniversary screening of Going Blind, NHAB has partnered with a local ABC affiliate to produce a PSA about the event.
Mr. Woodland describes Going Blind and these events as a great vehicle “to build some hope, to allow people to share struggles they are having dealing with vision loss. It has been a big help.” Mr. Theriault adds, the “film is helping to overcome many deep-seated misunderstandings and misconceptions about blindness and vision loss,” and also that, “our effort is having a positive public awareness impact.” The feedback we have received indicates a great level of interest in the film and these community sponsored events as well as a definite need to continue to reach as many people as possible.
We are very grateful to NHAB and the other individuals and organizations all across the country, and the world, that have partnered with us in spreading the message of hope and raising awareness about the resources and services available. We sincerely hope others will follow in their footsteps and will continue to develop their own new and creative ideas.