Years of Advancement for Visual Rehabilitation Services
Founded in 1972, Florida Agencies Serving the Blind (Florida ASB) first formed as Florida Association of Agencies Serving the Blind (FAASB). At the time, we were a coalition of the only four “Lighthouses for the Blind” providing rehabilitation services in Florida.
By 1974, Donald Wedewer, Director, Florida Bureau of Blind Services, resolved to transform the agency to better serve blind Floridians. A WWII war hero who lost both legs and his sight in the war— he understood the need firsthand. Building on Helen Keller’s original advocacy to the Florida Legislature, Wedewer moved the Bureau to the Department of Education, raised it to Division status, and created a partnership with FAASB.
Now known as Florida ASB, our 16 member agencies and other partners together serve all 67 counties in Florida. To this day, we improve and grow professional rehabilitation services available for Floridians living with blindness and visual impairment.
At Florida Agencies Serving the Blind, our mission is to serve as the organizational support empowering private agencies serving Floridians with blindness and visual impairment. As a united voice, we help agencies in Florida provide state-of-the-art professional vision rehabilitation services to enhance the quality of individual and community life.
History & Humble Beginnings
1972 – Organization of an association of 4 private agencies to meet with Director of Florida Council of the Blind (precursor to Division of Blind Services (DBS)) for mutual discussion and planning.
1974 – DBS Director Donald Wedewer begins to develop a state-wide network of “Lighthouses” which become Florida ASB.
1988 – May 16, Florida ASB incorporated with 13 private nonprofit agencies serving the blind as its membership.
2000 – Florida blind babies program established by Florida legislature with primary impetus from a few member agencies.
2004 – Strategic plan developed, first executive director hired: Skip Koch, former director of FIRE—later known as Lighthouse of the Big Bend.
2005 – Update of strategic plan, Vision Caucus established in Florida Legislature under leadership of Representative Dennis Baxley.
2006 – Lobbyist Bill Hebrock assists Florida ASB with lobbying the State Legislature to create the State of Vision license plate, which becomes new revenue stream for Florida ASB and member agencies.
2007 – First annual Vision Summit in Tallahassee.
2008 – Bill Hebrock assists FLORIDA ASB with obtaining License Plate renewal checkoffs for Blind Seniors and Driver’s License renewal checkoffs for Blind Babies/Children as an additional revenue stream for our member agencies.
2015 – Florida ASB successfully obtains new funding for Blind Children’s Program. DBS contracts directly with Florida ASB, which results in new revenue supporting Florida ASB advocacy, collaborations, and member agencies’ programs.
2016 – First Joint Consumer-DBS-Florida ASB Summit in Fort Myers, FL.
2017- Rebranding completed, creating Florida Agencies Serving the Blind: Moving Beyond Vision Loss and the new logo. An 18th member is accepted: Florida Outreach Center for the Blind. Physician’s Referral portal created in partnership with Florida Society for Ophthalmology.
“Because of the training I have received at the Lighthouse, I have been able to succeed in making several of my dreams come true which includes getting a job, traveling independently, and helping others. From taking the bus to work, flying on an airplane to different conferences, or riding my tandem bike 360 miles to the Florida Keys to raise money for charity, because of the Lighthouse I can do all of those things – fearlessly.”
Sandy Burke, former client, Lighthouse of SW Florida