SEATTLE — Critical services for the blind in Western Washington will disappear very soon unless someone steps up to save them.
Seattle's Sight Connection has served tens of thousands of people all around Puget Sound over the past half century. However, it will likely have to shut down due to lack of funding.
The organization provides independent living support, eye exams and equipment for the visually impaired. Some 1,200 people across seven counties depend on Sight Connection.
The non-profit's annual budget is about $1.3 million. State and community funding evaporated this year.
Without someone coming forward to save Sight Connection, its 54 years of helping the blind navigate the world will come to an end June 28.
"It's a real tragedy for the whole Puget Sound region that they serve," said Jeanette Silva, who is legally blind. "Where are we going to get those services? The products I purchase are critical for me to do my job and just live my life, and that's gonna be gone."
At 89, Ramon Tolbert never thought he'd find himself in this position. He started going blind about 10 years ago and needs a guide to leave the house.
Tolbert received a talking watch for free thanks to Sight Connection. Things like simply knowing what time it is make life a little less difficult.
"Sight Connection was like my right arm. When it's gone it's gone and I'll have to do without," he said.
And with no other organizations like Sight Connection in the area, he fears his days will only continue to grow darker.
"Being blind and in a wheelchair is tough enough," said Tolbert. "You don't know until you go blind what it really means. Now where do I go for help?"
Anyone who can help keep Sight Connection funded is asked to contact interim CEO Miles Otoupal at email@example.com or (206) 204-6168.