History of Miami Lighthouse
A HISTORY OF BUILDING INDEPENDENT FUTURES AND A MORE INCLUSIVE SOCIETY
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.
A HISTORY OF COLLABORATION
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 our Florida Heiken Children’s Vision Program