Although the Florida Outreach Center for the Blind operates for the blind, many sighted people helped out in its recent move. Three of the four staff members there are blind, as is about half the members of the board of directors for this nonprofit institution. The new digs are in Palm Springs, at Dolan Road and Congress Avenue. The old place in West Palm Beach was only half the size. The Center was started in 2003 by Carolyn Lapp, who was blinded at age 14 in a car accident. Previously, Carolyn had organized seven different chapters for the National Federation for the Blind.
The Center offers free services to a clientele of at least 100 blind or legally blind individuals. It teaches the blind how to live independently by taking care of their own cooking, clothes washing and working at jobs involving computer skills, reading machines, Braille reading and new gadgets and apps for the sight-impaired. One such app, for use on a cell phone, can tell the difference between different denominations of currency. Training can occur at the center or at the homes of clients, which is preferred by elderly individuals.
The Center’s instructors teach many skills, including:
- reading and writing Braille
- working a phone
- text-reading programs, such as JAWS and NonVisual Desktop Access
- Solo reading machine – it can read aloud a newspaper or book page, in English or Spanish, in a male or female voice
Events and Activities
The Center has quite a few special events and activities, including:
- Easter egg hunt (using “eggs” that beep)
- Dining in the Dark Fundraiser
- Talking-book library
- Weekly group meetings
- Craft classes
- Workshops on topics of interest to the blind
All the volunteer help facilitated the move to larger quarters. For example, several of the movers volunteered their services. It’s estimated that there are 48,000 visually impaired individuals living in central Florida, and that number is expected to double over the next two decades. Because the Center doesn’t charge its clients for its services, it must rely in part on the donations of the greater community, which it accepts via PayPal or by mailed check. Also, the Center always welcomes volunteers to help out in all areas. If you go to the Center website, you can subscribe to their newsletter so that you are always up to date with the latest developments