What We Do

Our mission is to empower individuals with blindness and visual impairment to lead safe, dignified, independent and rewarding lives and to prevent vision loss for adults in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester Counties as well as children in Charleston County Title I schools.

For over 80 years we have been serving individuals with visual needs. We have three main programs supporting our mission; Focus on Children, Focus on Adults and Own Your Life. Through our programs and services we are committed to preventing unnecessary vision loss and to empowering our blind and visually impaired clients with the skills they need to lead more independent lives. In addition, we provide guide dog scholarships for our clients as well as opportunities for social engagement.

Please enjoy our video and more in-depth program information below.

Focus on Children Program

Focus on Children is a school-based program serving pre-k, predominantly Head Start and Child Development children in 22 Charleston County schools, 21 of which are Title I. Through Focus on Children, ABVI provides eye screenings to each child in the beginning of the school year. Children not passing the screening are offered a free, in-school, full dilated eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. We provide the children needing glasses with free, prescription glasses, delivered to the school within 2-3 weeks following the exam. We refer children requiring additional optical attention to local eye care professionals.

The primary goals of Focus on Children are to restore vision and prevent the incidence of unnecessary vision loss. ABVI seeks to lower the number of children in Charleston County whose educational career is negatively impacted by undiagnosed and untreated visual impairments. South Carolina does not mandate vision screenings or exams prior to school enrollment, resulting in many children entering school with undetected vision problems. Failure to detect and address visual impairments at an early age can cause a negative ripple effect in a child’s educational career.

80% of a child’s learning is visual, so children suffering with undiagnosed vision problems may be placed at an academic disadvantage to those children with proper vision.

The Vision Impact Institute estimates that 25% of school-age children in the U.S. have some form of vision impairment which negatively impacts their ability to learn. Through our program, we aim to catch and address vision impairments in children at an early age before permanent damages or interruption in the child’s educational career occurs.

For information on donating your services as an eye care professional or to volunteer, please contact Brooks Harken, Director of Programs: 843-723-6915 or bharken@abvisc.org.

For information on sponsoring a school, please contact Anne Reid, Director of Development: 843-723.6915 or areid@abvisc.org.

Focus on Adults Program

Through Focus on Adults, we provide free vision screenings, comprehensive eye exams, prescription eye wear and referrals to uninsured or underinsured adults in the Charleston Tri-County area living on an income at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. We host monthly vision clinics at our office serving up to 40 individuals each for a total of approximately 480 individuals per year.

Vision care is a basic human need, but many of the individuals we serve through our program have not had an eye exam in years, if ever, due to expense. Individuals with glasses often arrive at our clinic with complaints of blurred vision and headaches because of outdated, ineffective prescriptions. We also see many people who have lost, or are at-risk of losing, their job because of poor vision.

Studies show that half of all blindness and visual impairment can be prevented with early detection and treatment. Many eye conditions, however, are symptomless at first, so regular eye exams are extremely important. Many adults, particularly low-income adults, fail to have their eyes checked regularly. The common barriers include a lack of awareness and a lack of financial resources.

Through Focus on Adults, we are working to correct vision, prevent vision loss and to educate our patients and the community on the importance of vision care.

For more information about Focus on Adults , please contact Lorraine DeNicola, Manager of Client Services: 843-723-6915 or ldenicola@abvisc.org.

Own Your Life Program

Our Own Your Life program helps blind and visually impaired individuals in the Charleston Tri-County area achieve independence in their personal lives and develop skills to gain employment. Through this program we are helping to create, foster and sustain opportunities for our clients to set and reach their personal and professional goals. Classes taught in this program are geared towards championing our clients, enriching their lives and making them less dependent on others.
Own Your Life offers two tracks our clients can pursue: Employee Development and Personal Enrichment.

Amanda-Duffus-workingEmployee Development

The Employee Development track is designed to train our blind and visually impaired clients in the adaptive skills they need to join the workforce. Participants attend classes in assistive technology, computers training, daily living skills, braille, Orientation & Mobility, interview skills and resume building to develop job-readiness skills.

Employee Development is a rewarding, in-depth, soft-skills program, and clients must apply and interview to qualify.

 

Personal Enrichment

In Personal Enrichment, our clients are offered classes in daily living skills with topics including personal hygiene, cooking, money management, home maintenance and more. Clients may also participate in assistive technology training, braille, group therapy, art therapy and iPad and computer tutoring.

By teaching our clients to perform these basic skills without sighted assistance, we are helping them lead safe, dignified, independent and rewarding lives.

For more information about Own Your Life or becoming a client, please contact Lorraine DeNicola, Manager of Client Services: 843-723-6915 or ldenicola@abvisc.org.

Guide Dog Scholarship

ABVI provides guide dog scholarships to help defray the cost of veterinary visits, proper grooming and premium dog food. For many active blind individuals guide dogs are their means to independence. They are navigators, travel partners and best friends.

People may not realize the extensive work that goes into a guide dog team. As a puppy, the dog works for 12-18 months with a puppy walker working on socialization and basic training. This is followed by 6 months of advanced harness training with a professional guide dog instructor. When ready, the dog is carefully paired with a handler who will live with the dog at a center to train for 2 to 4 weeks. Kimberly Taylor, ABVI’s Manager of Own Your Life, describes the program as the dog’s equivalent of a Ph.D.!

Guide dog scholarship applications are mailed to clients in early May, and awards are made in June. These scholarships are made possible through a bequest from Katie Lee Beard and contributions from other generous donors.

 For more information, please contact Kimberly Taylor, Manager of Own Your Life: 843-723-6915 or ktaylor@abvisc.org.

Special Events
Fishing, FIsherman, Weekend on the Lake

ABVI’s Happy Fishermen

ABVI encourages our clients to remain engaged in community activities throughout the year such as festivals, sporting events and group outings. Below are a few of our clients’ favorite events.

Santee Lions Club

The Santee Lions Club treats our clients and their loved ones to a fishing weekend in Santee every spring. Transportation, meals and accommodations are provided at no cost to the clients or their guests. Our clients look forward to this trip each year!

Good Cheer Luncheon

ABVI clients and their family and friends celebrate the holidays with a festive luncheon each year thanks to the generous donations made possible by The Post and Courier’s Good Cheer Fund. This is a favorite tradition of ABVI clients, Board, Advancement Committee, staff and volunteers.

Piccolo Spoleto Festival

Thanks to the generous donation of tickets by the Office of Cultural Affairs, our clients are able to enjoy wonderful events each year.

Charleston RiverDogs Games

Thanks to the generous donation of tickets by the RiverDogs, our clients are able to enjoy baseball games each year.