Who is Braille Institute?

Braille Institute is a non-profit organization offering a broad range of free programs, classes and services serving thousands of students of all ages to empower themselves to live more enriching lives with blindness and vision loss. We serve the community from six centers and 220 community outreach locations throughout Southern California, and lead popular national programs like Braille Challenge and Cane Quest. Our staff and volunteers understand losing your vision can be scary, and we believe it is not the end of independence, but a new way of living.

Watch our short video below!

Video Thumbnail. Activating this link will launch a YouTube video that is not accessible for blind users. To view this video in an accessible format, please visit the Braille Institute YouTube channel.

Video transcript

Today’s world is a visual one. We are inundated with a never-ending stream of images and we have adapted to absorb and make sense of this data in the blink of an eye. But if you cannot see, what then? How do you make sense of our world?

There is a place, a place of community, a place where possibility and hope exist side-by-side. A place where the visual world is transformed and made accessible. We are Braille Institute.

When vision fades because of age, disease or trauma, or if a child is born blind, it feels as if the world has been turned on its side, but ours is a community that listens, teaches and shares solutions with all those who come through our doors. We are Braille Institute.

The cadence of the tap of a white cane heralds determination and vitality born from discovering the world by touch and sound. The quiet turn of a braille page signals ever-expanding horizons as literary worlds are revealed.

A friendly voice shares the latest news and enriches a stranger’s day. Hands reach out to guide, embrace and show the way. We are Braille Institute.

While we have buildings of brick and mortar, we are more than just a place. We have machines and devices designed to help those who can no longer see, but we are more than a repository of technology. It is our people, and the connections they make to others within these walls that define who we are.

Each of us may sometimes feel desperate or lost, unable to dream about a future, but here, the individuals of our community cheer for one another, encourage daily victories, And support dreams that should never be given up on. We are Braille Institute.

We are translators of the visual world, people from all walks of life with hearts that sing a song of courage and promise. We empower others to live complete lives and define a vision for the life they desire. We are Braille Institute.

We are volunteers, coaches and friends that share their hands and hearts with anyone who reaches out. We are Braille Institute.

We are a staff that understand this is more than a job, it is a calling, it is work that is substantive and important. We are Braille Institute.

We are teachers that make the classroom come alive when students realize, “I can do this!” We counsel, we give guidance, we create our community with love, dignity and respect. We are Braille Institute.

We are donors who proudly give so that those we serve can be the architects of their own future. We are Braille Institute.

Losing your sight does not mean you lose your vision. Those in our community know this with absolute certainty. Whether sighted or blind, life is about finding your way with strength, courage, grace and joy. This is what we aspire to do. We are Braille Institute.

Possibility and hope exist side-by-side within our walls and within our hearts. Some say miracles happen here. But for us it is simply what we do every day. We are Braille Institute.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who does Braille Institute serve?

We serve people of all ages who have a visual impairment. This means we help families with babies who are born with conditions affecting their sight and we work with seniors who have developed eye conditions like Macular Degeneration, Cataracts or Glaucoma.

Do I need to be totally blind to receive your services?

No. Nearly 90% of Braille Institute students and patrons have some remaining vision. While some of our students are totally blind, anyone who has vision loss that is not corrected by glasses and is affecting their daily living activities (like reading, cooking, driving) can contact us about our free programs and services.

How much does it cost to get services from Braille Institute?

Programs and services from Braille Institute are entirely free of charge to everyone, thanks to the support of our generous donors.

Do I need insurance to use Braille Institute services?

No, because all of our programs are free you do not need insurance to use Braille Institute services.

Do you offer programs in languages other than English?

Yes! Our six centers offer programs in Spanish as well as English. Also, our Los Angeles Center has an active program for people who read American Sign Language. For more information on Spanish language programs and services, call or visit the center closest to you.

I just started losing my vision, how can Braille Institute help?

If you are newly experiencing vision loss, you’ve come to the right place. Braille Institute offers a broad range of free programs and services at our 6 centers and hundreds of community locations in Southern California. Our programs include:

  • Adult Programs like one-on-one consultations and small group classes to help adults with little-to-no vision build practical living skills and gain or regain independence.
  • Youth Programs including weekend classes, a music program, and our popular nationwide events like Braille Challenge and Cane Quest.
  • Child Development Programs to help families develop early intervention plans to address their child’s specific development needs.
  • Library Services with free access to digital book machines and downloadable ebooks, as well as book clubs, special youth collections, and a Telephone Reader Program where patrons can listen to publications in both English and Spanish.

Is there someone at Braille Institute that I can talk to concerning how I am feeling about losing my vision?

Yes. There are a variety of ways to obtain support in your emotional adjustment to vision loss.

  • One-on-one short-term adjustment counseling is available through many of our centers and even in your home, in some circumstances.
  • Support groups led by staff and peer facilitators are available at most centers as well as in several community locations.

Call or visit one of our six centers today!

I can’t get to your center, do you have a location close to where I live?

We understand sometimes it is difficult to get to one of our centers. We proudly offer ways to reach you in your community. Options include:

  • Mobile Solutions vehicles travel throughout Southern California to bring our services directly to you. This may include low vision consultations, technology instruction, and library services.
  • In-Home Services are also available through many of our centers as an option to people in the community.
  • Classes in Your Community which are designed for adults who don’t live near one of our centers. Our outreach efforts bring our programs, events and seminars to more than 220 community locations. With topics ranging from home management to knowing your rights and resources, Braille Institute classes in the community can provide you with the skills you need to live your life to the fullest.
  • Orientation and Mobility Braille Institute Orientation and Mobility Consultants work with one-on-one with Braille Institute students to help them learn to get around town safely using public transportation and other transportation options. Often, they will travel with the student from their home to Braille Institute to help the student learn how to travel independently along their usual routes.
  • Connecting with Technology Access to technology means empowering yourself and our blind and visually impaired students are leaders in their own right. Our six centers offer state-of-the-art Connection Pointe centers with accessible technology to help our students empower themselves. We also offer technology classes and training sessions, and an exciting internship program. To learn more about using technology, visit our Connection Pointe page.

For more information about Braille Institute programs and services near you, call or visit the center closest to you.

My doctor told me to contact you. How do I get started?

It is easy to start your journey with Braille Institute. Though not mandatory, it is helpful to bring a completed Physician Referral Form from an ophthalmologist, optometrist or health care provider. To schedule a Low Vision Consultation or to talk with someone about programs that may help you, call the center closest to you and ask to speak with a Low Vision Consultant or Registrar.

When are classes offered at Braille Institute Centers?

Classes based at our centers are offered on a semester basis, although registration in most classes is possible at any time. There are three Braille Institute semesters, which run from September through December, January through March, and May through July. Most classes are 2 hours and take place Monday through Friday between the hours of 10AM and 4PM.

What classes are offered at each of your centers?

Braille Institute offers hundreds of exciting classes centered around daily living as well as arts and healthy living options. Some of our most popular classes include cooking and kitchen orientation and mobility as well our music classes. Please visit the webpage of the regional center near you for class schedules.

How do I register for programs at Braille Institute?

Call or visit the center closest to you and ask to speak to the registrar to set up an appointment. You may also call our general hotline at 1-800-BRAILLE (272-4553) Monday through Friday, from 9AM to 4PM to arrange an appointment.

How do I refer a client or patron to Braille Institute?

To refer someone to Braille Institute, please complete our Physician Referral Form, them mail or fax the form to the Braille Institute the location closest to them. Alternatively, have the person call1-800-BRAILLE (272-4553) Monday through Friday, from 9AM to 4PM. A physician referral is helpful, though not mandatory to begin receiving Braille Institute services.

I am a doctor, teacher or other community organization, and would like to request material for the people I work with. How can I do that?

Please call 1-800-BRAILLE (272-4553) and ask to speak with the Braille Institute Marketing department to request the latest materials from Braille Institute. We can provide free referral pads, general brochures and much more.

How can I stay up-to-date with information about new programs from Braille Institute?

Connect with us on Facebook or sign up to begin receiving emails about the latest developments at Braille Institute.

Have a question that we haven’t answered here?

Connect with us!

Our rich History dates back nearly one hundred years. We are funded almost entirely through private, individual and foundation sources. Generous donors and dedicated efforts by our volunteers enable Braille Institute staff to provide training, programs and services all free of charge.

Our award-winning Library features more than one million volumes in audio, large-print and braille formats. For those whose vision has diminished to the point where reading print is difficult, audio books are the perfect solution.

“…My husband became a patron of Braille Institute’s library services and enjoyed their talking books immensely. The books gave him great pleasure and allowed him to continue to feel connected to literature.” —Marjorie Roberts, Donor

For more information call 1-800-BRAILLE (272-4553) Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (PST).