The Lighthouse Story
The Lighthouse Story
The Lighthouse was officially established as a not for profit agency in 1985 by a group of people who themselves, were visually impaired. Together with the support of area eye specialists and community donors, these volunteers spent countless hours to secure funding and the 501(c) 3 status for the agency originally known as Mana-Sota Lighthouse for the Blind.
Starting small, the first classes were held in donated church space in both Sarasota and Manatee counties, with training provided by community volunteers. As the agency grew, the need to expand facilities emerged. In 1990, the board of directors authorized the purchase of a small office building located near the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport on North Tamiami Trail. While convenient to clients in both Manatee and Sarasota counties, the building needed significant structural changes in order to properly serve the blind and visually impaired community. To that end, the Lighthouse applied for and received a grant from the State of Florida and the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation allowing for the installation of an elevator and upgrades upgrade to both the interior and exterior of the building. Furniture was donated by a local Barnett Bank and volunteer drivers were enlisted to provide transportation to clients seeking services at the “new” Lighthouse of Manasota. In time and with demand for services growing, clients began to utilize the SCAT Plus and Handibus of Manatee County, door to door para-transit services to individuals who, due to their disability, are not capable of using the local fixed route bus services.
At that same time, the first paid Executive Director and university trained instructors were hired. Initially, the Independent Living Adult Program was the main course taught. Over time, Orientation and Mobility training, the PAK (Parent and Kids) Summer Camp, Early Intervention Blind Babies Program were added. In 2001, computer training with adaptive software was introduced as a new program option for clients. With the expansion of the new program services and university trained staff added, the Mana-Sota Lighthouse for the Blind had the foundation necessary to obtain the National Accreditation Council certification. Soon after, the board of directors adopted a new name, logo and byline, Lighthouse of Manasota – Shining new light on living with vision loss to help increase community awareness for people experiencing varying levels of vision loss.
By 2019, Lighthouse realized that our name should once again be updated. “Manasota” is no longer used for the Manatee-Sarasota area, only for an area near Englewood. The word also neglects 3 of the counties we serve, Charlotte, DeSoto and Highlands. The name also should describe what we do. The new name is Lighthouse Vision Loss Education Center.
Who we are
Lighthouse Vision Loss Education Center is the only nationally accredited, private, non-profit agency providing rehabilitation training to blind and visually impaired individuals of all ages residing in a five county region that includes Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto, Charlotte and Highlands. The communities we serve include the cities of Sarasota, Bradenton, Palmetto, Ellenton, Osprey, Nokomis, Venice, Englewood, North Port, Port Charlotte, Arcadia, Sebring and Avon Park.
Our programs offer a holistic approach by providing training and rehabilitation to foster independence, productivity, and improved quality of life. Based in Sarasota, Florida, the Lighthouse provides free, professionally taught courses and sponsors support groups across five counties. Through interview and assessment, classes and resources are carefully chosen to provide each client with skills to live independently and with confidence to undertake activities. The Lighthouse offers education, support and motivation within an environment that is enriching for individuals with vision loss.
The Lighthouse supports and participates in White Cane Day activities and Florida State Legislature’s Annual Vision Summit. The Lighthouse is a member of the Florida Agencies Serving the Blind (FASB). The Lighthouse promotes all efforts that support people who are blind or have limited vision.
We extend our education into the community through presentations, speaking engagements and mini-courses. Call the Lighthouse today for a presentation to your retirement community, church or civic group. Speakers are available by calling:
(941) 359-1404 or Toll Free 1 (877) 770-1404
The Lighthouse Vision Loss Education Center is fully accredited by The National Accreditation Council for Blind and Low Vision Services (NAC), and is a member of the Florida Agencies Serving the Blind (FASB). Funding is partially provided by the State of Florida Division of Blind Services. Additional funding required to meet the Lighthouse Vision Loss Education Center’s annual budget is provided through endowment funds, individual donations, corporate and foundation grants. Find out more about how you can help support the organization’s important mission.