San Francisco's LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired recently moved to its new facility at 1155 Market Street, 10th Floor, San Francisco, California. One of the rooms at this new LightHouse is named “Bill Gerrey, WA6NPC Amateur Radio Station.” It is a state-of-the-art amateur radio station that is named in honor of Bill Gerrey, a blind engineer, who is researcher and engineer at The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute. Bill Gerrey earned a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering from California Polytechnic University. His interest in devices for the blind goes back to early childhood, since his father, who was also blind, kindled his interests in radio and early recording machines and he got his amateur-radio license (WA6NPC) as a teenager. Ham radio is one of his main interests and deepest love. Bill has developed many unique instruments for use by blind radio hams and technicians, and methods of making electronic hobbies and careers more accessible to those with visual impairments. This designated room at the LightHouse is a place where the next generation of blind and visually-impaired hams will be able to practice and gain experience. This amateur radio station is being built through donations of equipment and cash from friends and supporters of the Lighthouse and Bill.
Of the new LightHouse building, the board president said “though the space will be exceptionally advanced, a lot of what is great won’t be noticed. For example, people with low vision navigate much easier in high contrast, well-lit environments. We worked to design a space that looks normal, but uses contrast and specialized lighting. Acoustics is another area that is innovative in our new space. For people who are blind, sound can be used for wayfinding. We have worked with our acoustic designers to create a sound environment that helps guide people through the space, so sound does not overwhelm, but instead assists.” Further information about the LightHouse can be seen at http://lighthouse-sf.org.