For nearly a century, Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired has been working to build a more inclusive society. Our innovative programming removes barriers to education, jobs, information, and critical eye care for the blind and visually impaired of all ages, races, abilities, and socio-economic status. Recognized by Charity Navigator for excellence in serving the community, we transform the lives of 90,000 families annually. This commitment to ensuring the blind attain independence began in the late 1920s when blind activist Dolly Gamble enlisted the Miami Lions and Miami Rotary clubs to form the Florida Association of Workers for the Blind, which would later become Miami Lighthouse.
Continuing that legacy, our programs build inclusive cultures. This starts with our early intervention Blind Babies program and in Pre-K. Sighted peers are part of the equality equation at our Lighthouse Learning Center, which benefits students beyond the chalkboard. University of Miami evaluation research showed improvements in social and emotional development for both sighted and visually impaired children who learn together. Our impact is even felt beyond our community, both nationally and internationally. We partner with a sister institution in Israel holding virtual quarterly meetings to share best practices through our innovative learning models.
We ensure the blind and visually impaired can land their dream careers and lead productive, fulfilling lives through our GED and ESOL classes for adults, offered in collaboration with Miami-Dade County Schools Adult Education; our nationally recognized braille music program, which trains students from Miami and around the world for employment in sound engineering and the music industry; our job-readiness training program that prepares teens and adults for mainstream, competitive, integrated employment; and our social group and arts programming for seniors. We also work to ensure technology opens doors and that everyone, regardless of their ability to see, has the same access to education, e-commerce, and voter information from the keyboard. In addition to technology training for adults, we have, with our ADA Compliance Meter, counseled organizations, companies, state election boards and presidential campaigns on inclusive website design, which resulted in improvements being made to WhiteHouse.Gov in 2021.
Knowing that our programs must be as diverse as the communities we serve, Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired also advances health equity. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued to support families and seniors in need with vital grocery deliveries and remote learning and partnered with the Florida Department of Health for vaccine distribution at the Lighthouse to make the challenging and tech-dependent process more accessible. Underserved children across Florida have accessed free critical eye care and prescription glasses via our Florida Heiken Children's Vision Program’s traveling fleet of mobile, eye-care units. This program has been cited by the American Optometric Association as a national model other states should adopt.
Miami Lighthouse has always been about collaboration. In the late 1920’s, soon after Helen Keller exhorted the Lions Club to be “knights for the blind,” a dedicated group of Floridians, led by Thomas Grady, who enlisted the Lions Club, and Dolly Gamble, a remarkable, young, blind activist and promoter of Braille literacy, worked together to found the Florida Association of Workers for the Blind. During the Depression, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, Mrs. Charles Brickell, and Mrs. Harvey Firestone, among other notables, hosted garden party fundraisers.
As early as 1943, University of Miami Trustee Dr. Bascom Palmer and Miami Lighthouse discussed establishment of an eye clinic to serve the local community. Dr. Palmer made it his life’s work to raise funds and support for the eye hospital in cooperation with Miami Lighthouse, and finally, the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute was dedicated in 1962. Six years later, Miami Lighthouse contributed substantial funds to build a hospital to house the Institute. A strong collaboration between Miami Lighthouse and Bascom Palmer Eye Institute continues to this day, as both institutions transform lives through vision-related services and research.
As a center of learning, we fulfill our education mission by partnering with Florida International University on continuing education “Living with Low Vision” workshops for Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists and Nurses. To date, more than 100 occupational therapy students have completed their practicum experience and universities throughout the U.S. also partner on orientation and mobility practicums at Miami Lighthouse.
Miami Lighthouse also contracts with the School Board of Miami-Dade County Public Schools (the 3rd largest school district in the U.S.) for our Birth to 2, pre-kindergarten, new kindergarten, functional vision and learning media assessments, Braille transcribing, Braille music distance learning, Adult Basic Education/ GED, English as a Second Language for visually impaired adults, and the Florida Heiken Children’s Vision Program.
Miami Lighthouse is AER accredited distinguishing that an agency or school operates at the highest level of quality and is positioned to generate the outcomes needed by the clients.
Miami Lighthouse received the prestigious 2020 award for "Best in Nonprofit" campaign by PRWeek referred to as the "Oscars of the PR industry".
Miami Lighthouse ranks among the elite 1% of U.S. nonprofits having earned 13 consecutive 4-star ratings from Charity Navigator, the nation's premier independent nonprofit evaluator. Receiving such a distinction reflects our sound fiscal management, responsible use of donor dollars, and financial strength.
Miami Lighthouse has earned the Gold participation level through the GuideStar Exchange which is a testament to Miami Lighthouse's commitment to data transparency.
Early Intervention Blind Babies Program Named the Children's Trust 2016 Program of the Year. This most prestigious award recognizes this Early Intervention Program, in particular, for including parents as teachers.
Miami Lighthouse Learning Center for Children™ is a Florida gold seal and nationally Accredited Professional Preschool Learning Environment (APPLE)
Miami Lighthouse was recognized at the 2015 Florida Blue Foundation Sapphire Awards luncheon as an organization that has demonstrated excellence and innovation in community health.
Miami Lighthouse received the prestigious 2015 Beacon Award in Education at the 13th Annual Beacon Council Awards.
Miami Lighthouse is a two-time Charity Partner (2013 and 2014) of the Marlins Foundation and a 2017 Major League Baseball All-Star Game Legacy Partner. Our Florida Heiken Children's Vision Program has received over $300,000 in charitable donations through these partnerships.
Miami Lighthouse received the prestigious 2008 Concern Award from Health Foundation of South Florida.
Miami Lighthouse received a Silver medal at the 2016 Miami Today Gold Medal Awards Ceremony.
Miami Lighthouse named "Best of Miami" Charity 2017 by the New Times.
Miami Lighthouse received United Homecare's 2012 Thelma Gibson Community Service Award at the 18th Annual Claude Pepper Memorial Awards Ceremony.
Miami Lighthouse received the prestigious South Florida Business Journal 2011 Excellence in Health Care Award in the Community Outreach category.
Miami Lighthouse honored by being named the recipient of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce 2010 Non-Profit Business Diamond Award.