Looking ahead, New Hampshire Association for the Blind changes its 105-year-old name

  • Andrea and Hannah Poirier, mother and daughter, share their story during a Future In Sight mission tour Wednesday. Courtesy

  • Randy Pierce, the chairman of the Future In Sight board, his guide dog Autumn, and David Morgan, Future In Sight's president and CEO, pose for a photo at the Walker Street office Wednesday, March 1, 2017. Courtesy—Future In Sight

  • Future In Sight teaches its clients to leverage technology for accessibility. Courtesy—Future In Sight

Monitor staff
Published: 3/1/2017 8:11:14 PM

The only statewide nonprofit dedicated to serving people with vision impairments is changing its name after 105 years.

In an effort to reach more people who might benefit from its services, the New Hampshire Association for the Blind announced Wednesday that it will rebrand as Future In Sight.

The old name belied the Concord-based organization’s modern mission, President and CEO David Morgan said. In fact, 93 percent of its clients have lesser vision impairments than blindness.

When doctors told patients who weren’t blind to visit the New Hampshire Association for the Blind, it led to a situation that was “very awkward” for both parties, Morgan said. “So what we’ve started doing over the last year is really start to change that conversation.”

The result, he said, was that referrals from doctors have increased by one-third.

“What we discovered is far too often the word ‘blind’ inhibited a conversation,” he said. “In some respects for folks it’s a death sentence when they first hear it. ... ‘What? I’m blind? You’re asking me to go see the New Hampshire Association for the Blind?’ ”

Morgan, who took over as the nonprofit’s leader in November 2015, said the emphasis on communication has been only one of the ways that Future In Sight is working to expand its reach. Of the 30,000 people living in New Hampshire with visual impairments, the organization helped 1,100 people last year in-state and 125 from out of state.

But those numbers are growing, Morgan said, as he tries to install the culture of a startup in a 35-employee company that originated in 1912. In the past 16 months, the organization began treating babies for the first time, organizing recreational outings for its clients and influencing curricula for the vision impaired.

Morgan said, for instance, that he saw children ages 3 and younger lose out on the ability to work with specialized teachers when the state restructured its services.

“As the state dismantled their programs, someone has to step into that gap and say, ‘Wait a second, we can helps babies and families,’ ” Morgan said. “We’re doing it everywhere in the state now.”

Over the past six months, Morgan said his nonprofit won three contracts with the state Department of Education, “so we will literally be writing the guidelines that transform education for children with vision loss.”

Future In Sight recently organized a snowshoeing event at Gunstock Mountain for its clients and has upcoming plans for rock climbing, accessible sewing for seniors and “birding by ear” at Crotched Mountain.

It’s also using group classes to get clients out of their homes and teach accessibility technology on a scale that wouldn’t be possible with in-home, one-on-one visits, he said.

“If you’ve been around for 105 years and no one knows you’re here, then the history and the heritage is an amazing thing – and you always want to celebrate that – but you’ve got to grow, you’ve got to learn to adapt and innovate,” he said.

He added: “Too many folks aren’t aware of those simple technologies that can really transform a child’s life, a senior’s life.”

Morgan said each Future In Sight client is paired with a social worker to coordinate the services that he or she might benefit from. More information is at futureinsight.org.

(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325, nreid@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at
@NickBReid.)




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