|New York Association for the Blind
111 East 57th Street
New York, N.Y. 10022
A Century of Leadership and Counting
|East 57th Street (1927)
Founded in 1905 by Winifred and Edith Holt, the Lighthouse quickly became a pioneer in the field of Vision Rehabilitation. Today it is a leading worldwide resource in helping people overcome the challenges of vision loss.
Envisioning the Possibilities
A trip to Florence, Italy, for the two young Holt sisters provided the inspiration for their mission to serve those without sight. During a concert there, Winifred noticed a group of blind school children in the audience who were enthralled by the music. She discovered that a free ticket program provided the children with access to the concert. Winifred was inspired to do the same back home in New York City and the Holt sisters established the Lighthouse Free Ticket Bureau in 1903.
As Winifred and Edith gathered information on blind school children for their ticket program, they became increasingly aware of the world of adults who were blind -- its numbers, its hardships, its wants and its needs.
With a borrowed $400 and only their dress allowances, Winifred and Edith Holt lit the Lighthouse lamp. They founded "Lighthouse No. 1" to help people without sight help themselves. The visionary sisters broke down many barriers--and opened their family brownstone at 44 East 78th Street to all those in need.
The Holts were the very first Lighthouse volunteers. Their contributions, and those of all who followed, have been invaluable.
Launching a century-old commitment to research, the Lighthouse organized the first census of people who were blind in New York State, totaling 9,585 cases.
The Early Years
The Lighthouse was officially incorporated as The New York Association for the Blind, Inc. A home teaching program of counseling and instruction began, marking our first community-based direct service--the forerunner of today's professional vision rehabilitation services. This program was often staffed by teachers who were blind.
An original Lighthouse goal was the prevention of blindness. Winifred Holt undertook this mission personally when she traveled to Albany to draft a bill making the use of a medical measure at birth mandatory to prevent "ophthalmia neonatorum." In addition, Winifred was responsible for establishing the first lay committee to address blindness prevention. She also participated in founding the New York State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped.
The Lighthouse was instrumental in persuading the New York City Board of Education to admit children with impaired vision to public schools for the first time.
Almost from the first day the Holts founded the Lighthouse in their parlor, they were inundated with requests from people who were blind to find gainful employment. They met the need by establishing a workshop on East 42nd Street for men to make marketable products, and by opening their home to women to create handcraft items. Teachers provided all-important training in workshop, clerical, sales and business skills to thousands of New Yorkers. "Light Through Work" became the Lighthouse motto.
|Bourne Workshop, E. 35th Street (1931)
When the need for expanded space arose, the first Bourne Workshop was opened on East 35th Street, thanks to a donation by Emily Bourne. The workshop grew over time to accommodate more employees and, in 1951, moved to Long Island City and became known as Lighthouse Industries.
1912 also saw the first of several Lighthouse camps for children with impaired vision. Called the River Lighthouse, the camp opened in Cornwall-on-the-Hudson, NY. The success of this summer program led to expansion and the launch of Camp Munger in Bear Mountain, NY in 1923.
Dedication and Inspiration
Music was the inspiration for Winifred's life-long work. From the earliest days, music classes were offered at The Lighthouse and in 1913, our music school was officially founded.
Winifred's mission took her around the world twice. She organized "Le Phare de Bordeaux," the first Lighthouse on the Continent to help soldiers blinded in World War I, followed by others in Paris, Rome, Warsaw, Canton and several in Japan. Winifred's reach extended to the Middle East, India, South America and numerous destinations en route, where "Lighthouse work" was launched.
A small kindergarten group was formed at The Lighthouse in 1925 followed by the founding of the Lighthouse Nursery School in 1933 -- the first non-residential nursery school for children who were blind in the US, enabling them to stay at home with their families.
By 1967, the Lighthouse opened a child development center, later named the Jean Stralem Child Development Center in 1994.
1945 Our Bourne Workshop contribution to the war effort garnered the impressive Army and Navy "E" Award for Merit. Winifred accepted the award at Carnegie Hall, while Eleanor Roosevelt looked on. This was to be Winifred's proudest moment--and her last public address.
The "indomitable" Winifred Holt died shortly thereafter, but her extraordinary legacy and limitless "vision" for people without sight continued to live on.
The Lighthouse forged an affiliation with the Ophthalmological Foundation, which became the research arm of the Lighthouse at that time. The Foundation was the first to devote its resources to the research of blindness.
During the post-war era, the field of rehabilitation services expanded rapidly. In recognition of the growing need to serve people with partial sight, in addition to blindness, the Lighthouse Low Vision Service was founded. This trailblazing service--the nation's largest low vision clinic at the time--was dedicated as the Eleanor E. Faye Low Vision Service in 1994. Dr. Faye, a leader in low vision care, pioneered the Lighthouse low vision service model.
The Lighthouse merged with the Blind Service Agency of Westchester, enhancing the delivery of services to residents of Westchester County.
The Women's Committee launched the first POSH Sale to benefit our programs and services. This fashion fundraiser has become a long-standing New York City tradition.
We established the first professional training program in low vision care--the only program accredited by the American Medical Association at that time.
The Pisart Award was inaugurated to recognize "a person who has made a noteworthy contribution to the prevention, cure or treatment of severe vision impairment or blindness." This annual $30,000 award was made possible by longtime Lighthouse volunteer, Madame Georgette Pisart, through her will.
Following such outstanding and dedicated Lighthouse leaders as Daisy Fiske Rogers, Marian Held and Wesley Sprague, Barbara Silverstone, DSW, a noted gerontologist, joined the Lighthouse to spearhead the organization. She focused much-needed attention on the growing incidence of age-related vision impairment due to Macular Degeneration, Diabetic Retinopathy, Glaucoma and Cataracts . The next year, we founded the Lighthouse National Center for Vision and Aging to strategically address the service needs of older Americans with impaired vision, and to work collaboratively with professional aging, health and vision networks.
Always breaking down more barriers, the Lighthouse was the first organization of its kind on the East Coast to provide rehabilitation and counseling to people with Aids-Related Vision Impairment. AIDS- Related Vision Impairment
The New York Association for the Blind, Inc., became The Lighthouse Inc., reflecting the deep philosophical shift embraced by the organization--away from defining people by their disability and toward emphasizing their individual potential.
Shaping the Field
The Lighthouse established the National Vision Rehabilitation Cooperative to champion issues related to vision impairment and vision rehabilitation. In 2004, this cadre of agencies across the country became the National Vision Rehabilitation Association -- their mission--to advance access to professional vision rehabilitation services for all Americans.
The Center for Education was formally established to educate professionals, paraprofessionals, people with vision loss, their families and the general public about vision impairment and the benefits of vision rehabilitation.
The Lighthouse's long-standing commitment to research was underscored by the dedication of the Arlene R. Gordon Research Institute.
The Lighthouse Inc. became Lighthouse International, in recognition of our global reach--and outreach--on behalf of 180 million people who are visually impaired worldwide.
Our international programs, forged under the direction of Mary Ann Lang, PhD, stretch around the world, following in Winifred's footsteps. And our first annual "train-the-trainers" program, which is designed to strengthen the provision of low vision care in areas of the world where resources are scarce, was initiated in Mexico for the Latin American region. Since then, the Lions Club International has fostered the development of these prototypical programs in the Dominican Republic.
New York Lighthouse Vision Rehabilitation Services--the leading provider in the State--was created as a division of Lighthouse International.
In 1914, Winifred Holt was selected as a US delegate to the International Conference for the Blind in England.
Eighty-five years later, the Lighthouse hosted Vision'99, the triennial international conference on low vision, which attracted the largest, most diverse group of professionals ever gathered for this meeting.
Mapping the Future
The publication of The Lighthouse Handbook on Vision Impairment and Vision Rehabilitation, published by Oxford University Press, defined--for the first time--a consolidated field of vision rehabilitation that addresses the full continuum of vision impairment, from partial sight to blindness.
In appreciation of the significant contribution made by the late Henry Grunwald to break the silence barrier and raise public awareness of vision impairment, the Lighthouse established The Henry Grunwald Award for Public Service and named him as the first recipient.
We received the largest individual commitment for financial support in our history: a gift from The Sol Goldman Charitable Trust of $10 million to name our headquarters The Sol and Lillian Goldman Building. This gift supports our cornerstone vision rehabilitation services for people who are blind or partially sighted in our second century.
We launched the Lighthouse Electronic Vision Rehabilitation Record, a state-of-the-art, computerized system that will create, for the first time, evidence-based benchmarks for successful service delivery--against which all professional vision rehabilitation services can be evaluated.
2005 - 2009
In 2005, Lighthouse International celebrated its centennial.
We continue to offer new and innovative ways to help people overcome the challenges of visions loss to enjoy productive, active and independent lives.
We serve as both a resource of information and a service provider as we look ahead to the next 100 years!