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Braille Institute: Creating impact and value with free programs and services

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Richard Ybarra

Since 1993, Braille Institute San Diego has helped more than 15,000 area residents of all ages who are blind or visually impaired with a broad range of free programs and services.

“My favorite thing about Braille Institute is the opportunity to build relationships with people, and continue being active in the world. I learn from others and enjoy meeting people,” says Curtis L., a student at Braille Institute San Diego.

Today, the majority of Braille Institute students and clients still have some vision, but their sight loss has progressed to a point that regular eye glasses no longer help them. Many Braille Institute students are learning how to cope or live more fulfilling lives despite their vision loss, which is most commonly due to progressive ocular diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and retinitis pigmentosa.

More Than ‘Just’ Braille

Students at Braille Institute benefit from free classes, which are offered in both English and Spanish. The broad range of classes, programs, and services for students include skills-based and enrichment classes, seminars, library services, low vision consultations, career counseling, recreational activities, and more.

"Braille Institute is about more than just braille," said Avimael V., a student at Braille Institute San Diego.

Braille Institute’s diverse offerings provide opportunities for students of all ages, including Child Development programs for toddlers, Youth Programs for children and teens, and Adult Programs.

Technology is Key

One area that students are finding particularly helpful is technology training. The training focuses on teaching people who are visually impaired how to leverage everyday technology (like iPads and iPhones). The center’s Connection Pointe, an interactive technology classroom with state-of-the-art mainstream and adaptive devices, is tailored for students with little or no previous technology experience to learn at their own pace. Students receive customized, one-on-one instruction for any device they want to learn. Thanks to generous philanthropic support, the program was created as part of the Braille Institute Digital Literacy initiative to help people with low or no vision learn how common devices like smart phones, iPads, and handheld digital magnifiers can help them stay connected to the world around them.

Richard Ybarra, Executive Director, Braille Institute San Diego, believes that students are regaining a new sense of self and independence through Braille Institute’s free technology programs, since technology allows students to explore their interests and passions just as a sighted person would.

“You can lose your eyesight, but you can never lose your vision,” says Ybarra. When he met with a group of teenagers who are blind or visually impaired, he acknowledged their collective strength and shared experiences, following with: “I still have my eyesight, but I hope someday to have as much vision as all of you in this room.”

A Community Champion

Whether through free Braille Institute classes, the free audio-book and braille Library program — which serves more than 30,000 people — or free outreach presentations that bring Braille Institute programs and services into the community, Braille Institute leaders, volunteers, donors, staff, students and clients stand ready to champion the best ways to serve those who seek support.

At Braille Institute, we demonstrate that vision loss is not the end of independence, but the beginning of a new way of living. Our free services help people of all ages learn practical skills and techniques.


This Saturday, July 18, Braille Institute San Diego will open its doors to the community to celebrate students, volunteers, and staff for Summerfest 2015! If you are interested in learning more about Braille Institute, you are welcome to attend this annual event featuring BBQ, a kids zone, an arts and crafts expo, and a resource fair.


For more information about Braille Institute San Diego, or to find out how you can support our center, call 1-800-BRAILLE, visit BrailleInstitute.org, or email Richard Ybarra at RMYbarra@brailleinstitute.org.

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