The Hatlen Center for the Blind

Spring 2011 eNewsletter


The most important point of difference between the Hatlen Program and other programs is that our students are not living in a simulated real-life setting-they are living independently in apartments among sighted neighbors in the real world with guidance from our highly trained staff of professionals. To learn more, apply, or donate, visit or call (510) 234-4984  


Meet Ayami

Working Students

Conference 2011

Thank You For Your Support

Letter from Director / 2010 Donations  

AyaMeet Ayami Azemoto

Photo of Aya

I am from Japan, and I have been visually impaired since I was born. I started to learn English when I was 8 years old. I liked it. In Japan a lot of movies are American movies, but because of my vision, I cannot see the subtitles. If you know English, you don't need subtitles. I always wanted to study English more. I was also interested in exploring other countries.


I found a scholarship for people with disabilities in Japan. I had to take a test, and I passed. Then I found out about The Hatlen Center. I know the Manager of the Japanese Braille Library, and he introduced me to Ron Hideshima, the technology instructor at The Hatlen Center, when Ron was visiting Japan. Ron told me how to apply to the program. Since I have been in the program, Ron taught me to use the Japanese Jaws (speech software) which will be very helpful to me when I return to college in Japan. I learned to pay bills. I had never written a check before! I also learned how to cook. I could do a little bit, but I didn't cook very often. I had never been to the grocery store just by myself, and I had never bought groceries to last one week. One of the best things was that my teacher, Katie, found a school for me to go to learn English 3 mornings a week. I am a lot more comfortable speaking English now, because I have to speak all day every day.


I like mobility best. At first I didn't know anything about how to walk in America. There are a lot of differences. I knew just a little bit about using a cane when I came. I learned a lot in mobility and I like it very much. I learned something new every week, and then I could go places all by myself. I am very grateful and glad for that because I liked getting out and going places in the Bay Area. While I was in the program, I flew to Boston to Perkins School for the Blind to visit my girlfriend from Japan who is doing an internship there. When I came to The Hatlen Center it was the first time I had ever flown alone, but it was a Japanese airline and I didn't have to speak English, but when I flew to Boston I had to speak English. I didn't have any problems! Now I feel like I can go anywhere and do anything I want. If I want to live in America again, even though I don't know everything, I know I can figure it out. Coming to stay at The Hatlen Center for the Blind was so nice an experience for me.


JobsCongratulations To Our Working Students! 

Hatlen Center student Rachel Feinberg has landed a part-time job at the Photo of Rachel

San Francisco Lighthouse in their store called Adaptations. Rachel hails from North Carolina, but is very excited about staying on permanently in the Bay Area, where opportunities abound. For Rachel, who has a college degree, plus excellent technology skills and a can-do attitude, we foresee nothing but blue skies ahead  


Photo of Priscilla

Priscilla Jimenezwho will graduate from The Hatlen Center in July, has been working toward her goal of becoming a Spanish/English translator. First, Priscilla began very graciously to help our staff translate during phone calls and interviews with applicants whose families do not speak English. Next, one of our donors, Michelle Chackerian, connected Priscilla with a career translator, Teresa Garza. Teresa began to mentor Priscilla and helped her translate The Hatlen Center brochure into Spanish. Then, the most exciting news of all: Priscilla was selected by the Lions Blind Center to participate in a work experience program to help with the Center's translating needs. With her bright smile, positive outlook, and willingness to work hard, Priscilla is sure to be successful in all her endeavors.


Board Member Receives Award

Photo of Mike Cole and wife Gina Cole
Mike Cole with wife Gina

The California Teachers and Educators of the Blind and Visually

Impaired (CTE) presented Board member Mike Cole with the prestigious Fred Sinclair Award during the Saturday night banquet of the CTE conference in Oakland on March 12. Mike performed the yeoman work of chairing this important conference twice in the 1990's, and everyone in the field is so grateful for his volunteer work. CTE is a California organization with a national presence; and educators, parents, children who are blind or visually impaired, Braille transcribers, and adaptive technology vendors come from all over the country to network and learn about what is new in the various workshops. We are so proud of Mike, who is one of the founders of our Center, for receiving this award. Mike worked here as a teacher and also as Executive Director for a total of 22 years, and although he left the Center in 1995 for a job with the State, he has never left our Board of Directors.

Hatlen Center Workshop 

Led by Program Director Patti Maffei and Living Skills Instructor Samir Shaibi, a panel of our students presented a workshop for CTE attendees. After showing our award-winning video, "Independence In Sight", the students were asked to talk about their experiences growing up as well as their experiences at The Hatlen Center as they transition into the real world. The audience listened attentively and you can see by their evaluation comments below that they were inspired by our confident and independent young students.


"Wow, the student panel was amazing. As a TVI who works with so many high schools students I will always make sure my students know about the opportunities the Hatlen Center has to offer."

"Great panel. There's no way that each of these young adults won't be able to accomplish their life purpose and goals."

Photo of Hatlen Center panel
Left to right - Back row: Patti and Samir. Front row: Nelson, Priscilla, Rachel, and Dion 

The Hatlen Center has a long and cherished friendship as well as strong organizational ties with the Contra Costa Braille Transcribers. We are so proud to be affiliated with this amazing group of Braille volunteers, and are particularly gratified by their loyal support and generosity to the Center.  

CCBT presenting check to Patty Williams

Photo of Ron teaching Priscilla how to use her notetaker


Longtime friends of The Hatlen Center, the Thomas J Long Foundation most recently awarded us a grant to make vital upgrades to our arsenal of adaptive equipment in our Tech Lab. We now offer training on the BrailleSense QWERTY, BrailleNote APEX, and the BookSense XT. Our tech instructor, Ronald Hideshima, strives to provide our students with training on the most advanced technologies available, and thanks to the Thomas J Long Foundation we are able to continue offering the most comprehensive and up-to-date Access Technology program in the US!     



Photo of Nick Jackson with his new furniture
Nick Jackson with his new furniture

Thanks to a grant from The Gibney Family Foundation, each student's bedroom now has a new dresser and a new nightstand.  In addition, we were able to add new lighting in the living rooms and bedrooms.  The new lights not only help to create an inviting atmosphere that shows off the new furniture, but also provide a brightness and contrast that enhances the environment for our low vision students.  Everyone is so proud of our new furniture, and we are all so grateful to the entire Gibney family for supporting our mission.



Many of our students are on Medi-Cal, and recent cuts have eliminated dental care for people over 21. Fortunately, the Soroptimists International of Richmond awarded us a grant that enabled us to pay for our students to visit the dentist.  The Hatlen Center promotes healthy lifestyle choices as part of our independence training, and proper dental care is an important preventative measure for a multitude of ailments. Thank you for filling in the gap and helping our students!   



Our loyal family of donors is an amazing blessing for which all of us here at The Hatlen Center are deeply grateful.  I say "family" of donors, because it truly does feel like our family--a group of people whose constant support through thick and thin can be counted on no matter what happens. Every contribution to our program helps us continue our work of changing young peoples' lives forever.  Just as important, each dollar represents the gift of your faith in our program. That faith gives us all a tremendous boost of energy and keeps our spirits high...a priceless gift bestowed upon us by each and every person listed on our DONOR LIST 2010


You will be pleased to know that your investment has paid off. The Hatlen Center is not only holding on, it is thriving. Word of our success continues to spread throughout the state and the country, and our wait list is strong. Thank you so much for your support. 

--Patricia Williams, Executive Director