In 2019, who would have ever predicted this pandemic that was only supposed to last weeks would create so many enduring changes for everyone? For many of us, social distancing requirements led to change in how we live, work, and connect with others. For many families of children with low vision and blindness, limited opportunities for face-to-face meetups led to increased feelings of social isolation. However, not all outcomes of the pandemic have been negative.
The obstacles to in-person meetups led to creative problem solving with web-based meeting platforms and in this case, Zoom. On March 25, 2021, the Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind (BESB) in Connecticut hosted an online open house, a Community of Support virtual event. Parents and families served by BESB were invited to meet and converse with each other, BESB TVIs, and representatives from 15 vision-related organizations. Participants and organizations from as far away as Kentucky, Utah, and Texas were able to connect with Connecticut families.
BESB wanted the event to appeal to as many of our families as possible. We chose organizations with expertise across a broad range of topics, from child development to specific eye conditions and general parent support. Some of the organizations included BESB VR services, TSBVI, Sophia Sees Hope, CVI Now, Baby Talk, Family Connect, Lighthouse Guild, and the New England Consortium on Deaf Blindness.
We received a lot of positive feedback after the event. Organizations came away saying they had not done something like this before and would love to do another one. We had 30 families involved in the virtual event, which is about double our typical in-person event. Families felt they were able to learn about organizations that they did not have any previous knowledge of. Many of the families commented that it was very helpful not to need daycare for their child as they could log on from home.
Create Your Own Virtual Community of Support
Overall, this was a wonderful event that emerged out of necessity due to the pandemic. I believe that making use of virtual platforms is a positive and enduring change that we can use to our advantage. Cost and scheduling would have been prohibitive for an in-person event of this size and scope. BESB looks forward to using this format to engage more speakers. No longer is it always necessary to pay to fly in speakers, dealing with travel schedules and hotel costs. I encourage you to find ways to create your own Virtual Community of Support. Sharing information and making connections benefits us all.