The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) website provides the following definition of visual impairments:
Students who are visually impaired include students who are blind, have no vision or have little potential for using vision, or students who have low vision. The term visual impairment does not include students who have learning problems that are primarily the result of visual perceptual and/or visual motor difficulties. The corresponding definition may be found in the State Board of Education Rule 6A-6.03014, Exceptional Student Education Eligibility for Student Who Are Visually Impaired: https://www.flrules.org/gateway/ruleNo.asp?id=6A-6.03014.
The Rule also includes the following definition:
Visual impairments are defined as disorders in the structure and function of the eye that, even with the best correction and treatment, interfere with learning.
Students with visual impairments (VI) face a variety of challenges related to their disability; however, there are many resources and supports available. This web page highlights some of these resources.
FDOE Bureau of
Exceptional Education & Student Services (BEESS), Visual Impairments (VI):
Blind and Partly Sighted
FDOE BEESS administers programs for students with disabilities and for gifted students. This web page lists the FDOE Program Specialist to contact regarding VI related issues; the contact information for VI Coordinators by district; links to Florida publications, projects, and websites; and links to national resources. The web page also includes a link to the Technical Assistance Paper, Questions and Answers, State Board of Education Rule 6A-6.03014, Special Programs for Students Who Are Visually Impaired: http://www.fldoe.org/ese/pdf/y1991-9.pdf; this document includes information regarding changes to the Rule, eligibility, evaluation/re-evaluation, and a complete copy of the Rule.
Florida Deaf-Blind Association (FDBA)
The mission of FDBA is to enhance independence through economic and social opportunities for all people who are deaf-blind in Florida. FDBA educates the general public about deaf-blindness so that all Floridians may better understand the needs of the Deaf-Blind community in order to lend their support. There are four different types of membership: active, associate, student, and organizational/business with a different fee associated with each.
Florida Division of
Blind Services (DBS)
Main web page: http://dbs.myflorida.com/
Contact information by County and District, and Business Enterprises Program (BEP) Consultants: http://dbs.myflorida.com/about-us/contact-blind-services.php
DBS is the Florida state agency responsible for ensuring that people of all ages in the state who are blind or visually impaired can live independently and achieve their goals. The website includes a section for parents, job seekers, the Florida Business Enterprises Program, independent living services, and employer services. Also, DBS’s Bureau of Braille and Talking Book Library administers a free library program of Braille and recorded materials for eligible readers.
The Florida Instructional Materials
Center for the Visually Impaired (FIMC-VI)
FIMC-VI is a statewide resource center designed to assist schools in obtaining specialized materials for students with visual impairments. FIMC-VI serves students with visual impairments enrolled in Florida’s public and private schools as well as teachers, both exceptional student educators and regular educators, who work with visually impaired students. There is no charge for any service offered by FIMC-VI.
Through Listening Project (LTL)
Learning Ally, formerly Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, is the nation’s largest library of accessible educational materials for students who are blind, visually impaired, dyslexic or physically disabled. Audiobooks are available in all K-12 curriculum areas from the top U.S. school publishers to help struggling readers achieve their personal best. State funding helps support access for students in Florida’s public school programs, and individual memberships are available for at-home use. For more information, contact Learning Ally or the Florida Instructional Materials Center for the Visually Handicapped (above).
Florida Outreach Project for Children and Young Adults Who Are Deaf-Blind (FOP)
The Florida Outreach Project at the University of Florida is funded through the U.S. Department of Education for the purpose of providing technical assistance to families and educational teams who support students with deaf-blindness. The project is designed to build the capacity of local school districts to serve these students. A person-centered teaming approach is used, and strengths of staff and students are utilized in designing strategies. Specific services include 1) technical assistance and support (on-site visits with follow-up), 2) a lending library (books, videos, manuals), 3) training for staff and families (locally or at statewide conferences), 4) a mentor teacher program, and 5) identification of eligible students.
Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB)
FSDB, located in Saint Augustine, is a fully accredited public boarding school for students who have sensory impairments. OSBD provides assistance, free of charge, to Florida school districts with a focus on small, mid-sized, and rural districts. The school also operates an outreach program, Outreach Services for the Blind/Visually Impaired and Deaf/Hard of Hearing (OSBD) which is described below.
Outreach Services for
the Blind/Visually Impaired and Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing (OSBD)
OSBD provides a number of services to school districts, parents, and other professionals on issues related to deafness and blindness. Services include onsite observation, consultation, and support; recommendations on accommodations, modifications, and teaching strategies; classroom considerations; curriculum and specialized instructional materials; orientation and mobility evaluations; functional vision assessments; information and referral services; training and workshops for district staff, parents and other professionals; and a directory of local and state services. Services are available by request and are at no charge.
Visual Aid Volunteers
VAVF members include volunteer consultants with expertise in specialized areas of Braille and tape production. There is a requested membership fee, which is used towards operating expenses. Each year, depending on the availability of contributed funds, scholarships are awarded to Florida students with visual impairments. VAVF also publishes a quarterly newsletter which is sent to all members to keep them informed and up-to-date on important news and Braille code changes.
National and International Resources with Florida Chapters
American Council of the Blind (ACB)
ACB is a national organization of individuals who are dedicated to improving the quality of life of individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Some of the ACB programs and services include “The Braille Forum”, which is a free monthly publication available in a variety of formats; scholarship awards; and participation in national legislation and advocacy. Members of the American Council of the Blind pay dues in an ACB state affiliate (the Florida Council for the Blind is listed below) or special interest organization, or are members-at-large.
Florida Council of the Blind (FCB)
Project Insight: 1 (800)26-SIGHT/(800)267-4448
FCB, a state affiliate of the American Council of the Blind (ACB - see information above), is a statewide organization of individuals with blindness who are working to make life better through public education, legislative actions, and providing a statewide information and referral service through Project Insight. They also offer educational, social, and economic opportunities specific to the needs of individuals who are blind. There is a fee to become a member; however, there are many resources that can be accessed for free.
Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER)
AER develops and promotes professional excellence through support of those who provide services to people with visual impairments. The organization offers professional support through involvement in local Chapters (the link to the Florida Chapter is below); regional and international conferences; publications; professional development through the AER job exchange; continuing education opportunities; professional recognition; scholarships to students who are legally blind and are studying for a career in the field of services to the blind or visually impaired; and advocacy. There is a fee to become a member.
Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired
The mission of the Florida Chapter of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (FAER) is to provide vision professionals residing or working in Florida opportunities for professional growth, networking, continuing education, and camaraderie through newsletters, meetings and conferences, and electronic communications. As mentioned above, there is a fee to become a member.
Lions Clubs International
Main page: http://www.lionsclubs.org/EN/index.php
Lions Clubs International Sight Program: http://www.lionsclubs.org/EN/our-work/sight-programs/index.php
The Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF): http://www.lcif.org/EN/index.php
Lions Clubs International is the world's largest service club organization. It is best known for fighting blindness, but members also work in a variety of community projects that include supporting local children and schools through scholarships, recreation and mentoring. It also offers international programs such as the Peace Poster Contest, Youth Camps and Exchange, and Lions Quest; and its Leo Program provides personal development through youth volunteer opportunities. The Lions Club International Foundation has awarded millions of dollars in grants to support humanitarian projects around the world. There are fees associated with becoming a member. Interested individuals should contact their local chapter (see Lions of South Florida and Bahamas listed below).
Lions of Florida and the Bahamas
Main web page: http://lionsofflorida.org/index.html
Alphabetical list of Lions Clubs in Florida: http://lionsclubs.org/EN/find-a-club.php?f=1&city=%&cs=FLORIDA
The Lions of Florida and the Bahamas are part of Lions Clubs International (see the entry above), the world’s largest community service organization. There are different types of membership and membership fees, so interested individuals should communicate with a local Lions Club. 100% of all funds received from the public are returned to the community through projects and services. Below are a few examples of community projects and services:|
- Eye glasses and surgery for those in need
- Guide dogs for individuals who are blind
- Eye testing and screening
- Scholarships for worthy students
- Community Leader Awards
- Three Eye Banks in Florida
- Girl and Boy Scout Programs
- Little Leagues and recreational programs
- Youth Drug Prevention Programs
- Youth Exchange Programs
- Community Health Fairs
- Drug training for teachers (Lions Quest)
- Eye/tissue banks for organs and corneas
- Camps for children with visual impairments
- Schools for individuals who are blind and have an additional disability
for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI)
NAPVI is an independent, non-profit, parent support group directed entirely by parents of children with visual impairments. Some of the NAPVI supports and services include:
- AWARENESS magazine for families and professionals
- Lectures on education of students with visual impairments for parents and professionals
- Legislative advocacy in Washington D.C. for all students with visual impairments
- Website with national and local conferences/workshops, and resources for parents and families
- Consultative and financial support to 20 state affiliate parent support groups
- A toll-free line to answer individual requests for information, support, & services for parents, teachers, students and doctors
There are three different types of NAPVI membership, with different dues for each: Parent/Guardian, Agency/Community Group, and Professional. Parent/Guardian NAPVI membership includes membership in the local State chapter. The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind [FSDB] is a Florida NAPVI Chapter (see section above). Membership assistance for parents and guardians is available upon request.
National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
NFB provides public education about blindness; information and referral services; scholarships; literature and publications about blindness, aids, appliances, and other adaptive equipment for individuals who are blind; advocacy services and protection of civil rights; development and evaluation of technology; and support for persons who are blind and their families. Membership in an NFB chapter or division (see below for information regarding the NFB of Florida) includes membership in the national body of the NFB. There is a fee for becoming a member. NFB-Link services provide mentoring relationships for individuals who would like resources and guidance on a variety of topics related to blindness. Program services are free of charge.
National Federation of the Blind (NFB) of Florida
The NFB of Florida is the state affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind (see information above on NFB). It has local chapters throughout Florida and special interest Divisions and Committees, which may be accessed through the following link: http://www.nfbflorida.org/chapters/index.htm. There is a fee to become a member.
American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
AFB focuses on “broadening access to technology; elevating the quality of information and tools for the professionals who serve people with vision loss; and promoting independent and healthy living for people with vision loss by providing them and their families with relevant and timely resources.” The website offers multiple options for accessing information, including:
Family Connect (http://www.familyconnect.org/parentsitehome.asp) gives parents of children who are blind or visually impaired a place to support each other, share stories and concerns, and find resources on raising their children from birth to adulthood.
Career Connect (http://www.afb.org/cc) is a free resource for people who want to learn about the range and diversity of jobs performed by adults who are blind or visually impaired throughout the United States and Canada. The website includes information for job seekers, their circle of support, and employers.
Career Connect for Professionals (http://www.afb.org/Section.asp?SectionID=7&TopicID=271) provides resources for professionals who are working with people who are blind or have low vision who are working or preparing for employment.
Career Clusters (http://www.afb.org/CareerConnect/users/browse_by_cluster.asp) provide information on careers in law, education, counseling, and health care.
Other AFB resources include
Tips for Exploring Careers:
Job Seeker's Toolkit:
The National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities, Revised:
AFB’s Directory of Services: There is an option to access a directory, but it requires a pass code, which is only provided with a paid subscription.
Back to School Issue
of Access World (July 2011)
This issue includes articles on note-taking, research papers, studying STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) courses, career exploration, and more.
Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Division on Visual Impairments
The CEC Division on Visual Impairments is dedicated to advocating for effective policies, practices, and services that address the unique educational needs of children and youth who have visual impairments, including those with additional exceptionalities. This special interest division offers a variety of resources designed to assist members of the IEP team who implement appropriate adaptations, as well as university faculty who prepare prospective teachers of students with visual impairments. Some of the members of the CEC Division on Visual Impairments include teachers of children with visual impairments, administrators, orientation and mobility specialists, university faculty, students preparing for a career in visual impairment, and parents. There is a membership fee for joining the CEC, and an additional fee for becoming a member of the CEC Division on Visual Impairments. The primary CEC website (http://www.cec.sped.org/) also has a link to resources related to blindness and visual impairments in the Teaching and Learning Center under "Exceptionality."
NBA is the only national organization solely dedicated to the professional development of individuals who prepare and produce Braille materials. There is a fee to become a member, however, membership provides an annual subscription to the Bulletin, a journal which contains articles about modification of codes, new materials and equipment, tips to transcribers, and other reports; semi-annual Professional Development Conferences; special rates on print publications; Transcribers' Connections, a service that provides opportunities for certified transcribers and proofreaders to connect with agencies and individuals who are looking for specific expertise; and access to NBA Skills committee chairs to answer questions and provide assistance in all areas of Braille transcribing.
NBP promotes the literacy of children who are blind through Braille and provides access to information that empowers individuals who are blind to actively engage in work, family, and community affairs. NBP offers a wide range of Braille books, magazines, and other resources which provide individuals who are blind with important tools for communicating, working, managing their healthcare, and staying current with the world. Some publications are free, and others involve a fee.
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities
(NICHY): Blindness/Visual Impairment
This web page provides information regarding definitions and characteristics of visual impairments, as well as educational implications. The NICHY Fact Sheet on Visual Impairments may be accessed through the web page or the following link: http://nichcy.org/wp-content/uploads/docs/fs13.pdf
The V.I. guide is a website for parents and teachers which provides information regarding resources related to visual impairments in the following areas: visual-related services, special education services, assistive products, legal (e.g. Federal and state laws impacting individuals with visual impairments), medical conditions and treatments related to eye diseases, organizations that provide services or support to individuals with visual impairments, entertainment related, research, books and magazines, networking options, and parenting.
See also “Visual Processing Disorders” in the A-Z Library.
| The development of this website was funded by the University of South Florida St. Petersburg
through a grant by the Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services,
Florida Department of Education (2010 - 2011, 291-2621A-1C008).