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Miami Lighthouse for the Blind Helps Light the Way to Independence

By Kelly Church

Serving the South Florida visually impaired community for 85 years, the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind provides vision rehabilitation, eye health services and education that promotes independence. The goal is through resources and services provided by Miami Lighthouse, those with vision impairments can gain hope, confidence and independence in their everyday lives.

Cameron Sisser, Director of External Relations for the organization says, "Miami Lighthouse offers something special for the visually impaired in our community, we teach those in our programs whether they are a blind baby or someone who is elderly, that 'it's possible to see without sight'."

Miami Lighthouse for the Blind is Florida's oldest and largest private agency serving the blind and visually impaired. In addition to services offered to the blind community, the organization provides eye care services to low-income children through their subsidiary, The Florida Heiken Children's Vision Program. Children selected to participate in this program have either failed state-mandated vision tests or have been referred to the program via school counselors. Schoolchildren taking advantage of the vision program have no other options for receiving eye care.

Miami Lighthouse's Early Intervention Program serves visually impaired babies, toddlers and their parents. This program offers in-home services, consultations, playgroups to encourage socializing, family support groups and professional development workshops to learn how to manage in a classroom and other daily activities.

"Early intervention program objectives are to enhance all areas of child development-cognitive, communicative, daily living, orientation and mobility, sensory and motor, in order for the child to transition successfully to kindergarten," Sisser says.

The Braille program at Miami Lighthouse is another way the organization helps to improve the lives of those living with visual impairments. In addition to offering Braille lessons, the organization also features a Music Braille program that encourages the use of Braille in creating music. Students will learn to read sheet music in Braille and translate that to creating music with their instruments. In fact, Sisser says "Miami Lighthouse is one of the only organizations in the country that offers all-inclusive music, Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI), audio instruction and youth development programs for the visually impaired."

Miami Lighthouse also takes responsibility for working with schools in the area to ensure that the blind and visually impaired are able to transition easily. The most valuable lesson that the organization provides is that independence is achievable when living with visual impairments. The staff strives to instill independence in all children and students that walk through their doors and let them take that with them throughout the rest of their lives.

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