“Hi, my name is Gene, and I have been a member of Austin Clubhouse for a little over a year. I struggle with anxiety and depression along with being totally blind and hearing impaired. Before the Clubhouse it was hard for me to go anywhere and feel accepted and for people to get to know me. I didn’t really do much because I would often get frustrated because I can’t hear well enough to communicate with people in noisy situations.

Being able to come to the Clubhouse I am able to get to know people, build relationships and not be so depressed because I am no longer so isolated. Members and staff are patient with me when I can’t hear and communicate but everyone works with me and does the best they can.

For a long time, when I first came to the Clubhouse, I did a few different things like working in the kitchen to help with lunch, reach out calls, stapling applications, stuffing envelopes, signing birthday cards and other cards that are sent out regularly. Although this work was okay, I’m all about computers and technology and really wanted to contribute in that way.

But the systems the Clubhouse uses were totally unfamiliar to me and the world of technology is not particularly set up for people who are blind so we have to work toward exploring what is accessible to me and what isn’t. Now, the Clubhouse and I are working together to find ways that I can help with technology related projects and my other interests!

For anyone who doesn’t know, people who are blind access computers with something called screen reading software. Screen readers allow the computer to talk, and convert what is on the screen to speech. If a braille display is connected, that information can also be displayed in braille.

Since staff and members of the Clubhouse did not have any experience with adaptive technology, I am having to educate them, and help them to allow me to incorporate my skills into their curriculum so that I can get as much out of participating at the Clubhouse as I can.

What I like about the Clubhouse, is that I feel I am able to contribute to society in ways that I have been struggling to otherwise. I also benefit from the good, balanced meals I get here, and am also able to socialize, interact with people, and get out of the house.

For most of my life I have had to learn things on my own, and it hasn’t been easy. But I think I am slowly coming up with some strategies that are allowing me to be able to contribute more, and the Clubhouse has become a part of that. Moving forward I am looking forward to finding and exploring other ways to add to my arsenal!”