Meet Jon Steinberg, Member of Wayfinder’s Impact Council

Jon Steinberg brings a unique perspective to Wayfinder’s Impact Council. He is the only member who has vision loss, graduated from a Wayfinder program, and works for Wayfinder.

Around the age of 14, Jon started having trouble seeing in the dark. But in his 20s, he lived the typical life of a sighted person. He drove a car, read books, watched movies and traveled. During his sophomore year in college, doctors diagnosed him with retinitis pigmentosa, a rare, progressive genetic disorder of the eyes. He was going blind.

By the time he received a master’s of fine arts in creative writing, his eyesight was rapidly deteriorating. “I had all these cool degrees but I couldn’t get from point A to B,” Jon recalls. “I didn’t feel comfortable getting on a bus to go to the grocery store.” Jon knew he needed to learn how to live without his eyesight.

He entered Wayfinder’s Hatlen Center, an immersive residential program in Northern California for adults with vision loss who want to learn to live independently. “When I got to Hatlen, I had just turned 31, and I’d never even operated an oven or stove before,” he explains. He learned braille, cooking, adaptive software for computers, and how to navigate independently using a white cane and public transportation.

After graduating from Hatlen, Jon moved to Los Angeles, continued writing, met and married Lisa, and started a podcast with her called “Living in the Sprawl.” “My mission is to visit all 88 incorporated cities in L.A. County, plus all the recognized unincorporated areas, using public transit. I get acquainted with the food, history and places of interest,” he explains. Also, he hosts “Visionaries,” a podcast in which he talks to leaders in the wider disabled community.

Jon’s memoir, And So It Went, was published in late 2022, and he has a book of fiction coming out. It will be the first of what he calls his California Gothic Quartet, darker stories set in the four major population centers in the state.

When a Wayfinder staff member approached Jon about joining the Impact Council two years ago, he jumped at the opportunity. “If there’s any way I can do my part for this wonderful organization, I will do it,” he says. Jon didn’t know that a few months later, he’d be asked to do even more for the organization. Wayfinder’s Davidson Program for Independence, the equivalent of Hatlen in Southern California, needed an independent-living skills instructor. “I took the job because of the unbelievable experience I had at Hatlen,” Jon says. “I want to make that same positive difference in the lives of my students.”

Jon developed a curriculum at Wayfinder that he calls the Three Cs: cooking, cleaning, and care of clothing. He also assists Davidson students with self-advocacy, financial literacy and any other skills they want to develop. “If a student needs help learning to shave, I’m there,” says Jon. “If they need help figuring out how to get their GED, I’m there.”

Jon wants the Impact Council to help elevate Wayfinder to the recognition level of other elite nonprofits. “I want Wayfinder to be one of the places people think of first when they are considering making charitable donations,” he says.

Wayfinder means the world to Jon. “It changed my life,” he says. “Wayfinder gave me a gift I thought was going to be impossible for
me to receive. They gave me back my independence, my life, my confidence and control.”


Would you like to make an impact? Join us!

Contact Vanessa Botshekan, Assoc. Vice President for Development & Donor Relations or 323-295-4555 x205


May 9, 2024