Founded in 1931 as the Florida Association of Workers for the Blind, Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired has changed more than just its name during its 85-year history as Florida’s premier rehabilitation organization of serving the blind. Miami Lighthouse now serves nearly 15,000 people each year and reaches and additional 3,300 through community education and outreach programs. With the merger of the Miami Dade Optometric Physicians Association’s Dr. Bruce Heiken Memorial Fund in 2007, the mission was expanded to include comprehensive eye exams and prescription glasses for underserved schoolchildren throughout Florida using our fleet of mobile eye care units and network of optometrists.
Innovative new programs for all ages have empowered a wider range of people ranging from mothers’ play days with their blind toddlers to adult education/GED and ESOL classes for adults offered in collaboration with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Health monitoring, arts and recreation are offered daily to visually impaired seniors as part of a Miami-Dade County and Florida Division of Blind Services elder care program. As the recipient of one of the highly coveted Florida Blue Foundation Sapphire Awards for innovation in health care, Miami Lighthouse was invited to apply for and was subsequently awarded their “Advance Innovation and Promote Solutions in the Health Care System” grant which provides low vision assessments at senior centers throughout Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties, continuing education for health care professionals working with seniors affected by age-related eye disease and an expanded internship program with Florida International University building upon other academic collaborations throughout the United States. Its nationally recognized music inclusion program with its state-of-the-art sound studio prepares students for higher education and employment in the mainstream music industry. Changing focus from its original sheltered workshop model, the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind has built a strong job readiness training program to prepare its clients for competitive, integrated employment.
With a priority for early learning, this fall Miami Lighthouse launched its pre-kindergarten pilot program for visually impaired children and their sighted peers, and construction has begun on our new Lighthouse Learning Center for Children™. To view building progress, please visit the “Learning Center Contraction” tab. Adjacent to our main building and slated to open fall semester 2017, this new facility will have five classrooms for blind and visually impaired children from birth to age five. Our goal is to level the academic playing when these visually impaired children enter the school system with their sighted peers.
In the 1950s, Miami Lighthouse donated nearly a half million dollars as seed money for Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and signed over land to the University of Miami School of Medicine. The collaboration with the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute continues today. Recently, Bascom Palmer and Second Sight in collaboration with Miami Lighthouse’s Certified Low Vision Rehabilitation Therapist and a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist designed and implemented the rehabilitation protocol for Florida’s first Argus II artificial retinal implant recipient, which will be replicated with subsequent patients.