9 Best Charities for the Blind (Complete 2021 List)
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Over 7 million adults in the US have a visual disability – with more than 60,000 of these being school-age children. Facing discrimination at school and in the workplace, blind individuals often don’t have the means to gain education and employment. Preventing them to ultimately live active and independent lives. Many charities are working to change this narrative, however. So we had to ask: What are the best charities for the blind?
The best charities that support blind people include the Seva Foundation, Helen Keller International, Foundation Fighting Blindness, and the National Federation of the Blind. Together, these charities advocate for better policies and provide vital resources (like canes or guide dogs) for the blind.
Whether you want to support the education of blind children, provide guide dogs for blind adults, or help improve laws relating to visual disabilities, there is a charity for you. Keep reading to learn more about what the best charities for the blind are all about, how they work, and what your best way would be to make a contribution.
Here’s What All the Best Charities for the Blind Have in Common
The charities on this list were chosen based on their mission, impact and transparency ratings, and achievements. They all seek to advance the lives of blind people, allowing them to be more self-sufficient and expand beyond the limits of their disability.
From children’s schools to national organizations, they all help blind individuals in their own ways. Their exemplary charity scores indicate their high impact and accountability, as well.
These Are the 9 Best Charities for the Blind
Below are our favorite charities for the blind (you can click on their link to directly jump to their section in this article):
- Seva Foundation
- Helen Keller International
- Foundation Fighting Blindness
- National Federation of the Blind
- Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
- Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired
- JBI International
- Blinded Veterans Association
- Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind
(At the end of this article we’ll also share our six-step approach on how you can select the best charity to support.)
Seva Foundation: Providing Worldwide and Accessible Eyecare
Founded in 1978 by Larry and Girija Brilliant, the Seva Foundation is devoted to curing vision impairments and providing eye care all over the world. At the beginning of the organization, the Brilliants held a conference in Michigan to brainstorm areas they could make the most impact in. They met Dr. G. Venkataswamy, an eye doctor devoted to increasing the accessibility of cataract surgery. This partnership led to the widespread program they have today, which has helped millions regain their sight.
Their impact and transparency ratings: The Seva Foundation has a 93% overall rating on Charity Navigator, including a 91% score in financials and a 97% score in accountability and transparency. On GuideStar, the organization received a platinum seal of transparency.
“Transforming lives by restoring sight.”Seva Foundation
What they do: The Seva Foundation is devoted to providing glasses, surgeries, and medical treatments to help people regain their sight or improve it significantly. They also start vision centers around the world to increase the accessibility of eyecare. In addition, they train workers and create jobs for people in their clinics, which helps the clinic as well as the economy of the community they’re in.
What they’ve achieved: The Seva Foundation has provided eye care to 44 million people in over 20 countries, including surgeries and medicine. They also have restored the sight of 5 million people, and their current annual impact has increased to help 1 million.
Ways to contribute: You can donate to the Seva Foundation online through their website. You can also purchase items from their store, and the proceeds go directly to the organization. They also have a variety of volunteer opportunities for you to get involved with, such as volunteering at one of their events or becoming an intern.
Helen Keller International: Working Across the World to Heal Blindness
Founded in 1915 by Helen Keller, Helen Keller International is devoted to preventing treatable causes of blindness all over the globe, as well as providing low vision individuals with the means to see. They serve in multiple different countries, including the United States, Bangladesh, Indonesia, France, and more. Each year, they provide thousands of vision screenings, eyeglasses, and other services to help both blind and low vision people live independent and fulfilling lives.
Their impact and transparency ratings: Helen Keller International has an 89% overall rating on Charity Navigator, including a 97% rating in accountability and transparency. On GuideStar, they have received a platinum seal of transparency.
“Fighting and treating preventable blindness.”Helen Keller International
What they do: Helen Keller International works to prevent curable diseases that commonly cause blindness, such as trachoma and river blindness. They also help manage diabetes symptoms, which is another common cause of blindness. The organization also performs cataract surgeries in countries that can’t access them. In addition, they provide quality education services to blind children across the globe.
What they’ve achieved: Since 1994, Helen Keller International has performed vision screenings on 2 million children and given out 300,000 pairs of prescription glasses in the United States. In France, they screen at least 1000 children each year and provide up to 150 children with free glasses. They also started a vitamin A supplementation program in Bangladesh to eliminate vitamin A deficiencies in the region, a common cause of childhood blindness. From 1982 to 2005, they decreased the blindness rate from 3.76% to 0.04% among children.
Ways to contribute: You can donate to Helen Keller International through their website. You can also give a gift to one of their specific programs and get a customizable ecard to send to your loved ones. You can also designate them as your charity of choice on Amazon Smile, and a portion of your purchase amount will go to them.
Foundation Fighting Blindness: Researching Vision Restoration and Blindness Prevention
Founded in 1971, Foundation Fighting Blindness began as a passionate group that looked for cures to retinal diseases, leading to their current mission of funding research to prevent and cure vision loss. In 2014, the organization launched a campaign called Envision 20/20 to fund research that could end blindness, for which they raised over $100 million. Today, they’re considered the “world’s leading private source for inherited retinal disease research funding.” They fund research on vision-restoring cures such as gene therapy to help bring about the future of eye care.
“Driving research to save and restore sight.”Foundation Fighting Blindness
What they do: Foundation Fighting Blindness primarily focuses on their mission of funding research into treatments and practices that could prevent or end blindness. They fund research projects all over the world, including Australia, Italy, Mexico, and more. They also fund research studies at specific well-recognized institutions, such as the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, part of Harvard Medical School.
What they’ve achieved: So far, Foundation Fighting Blindness has raised $816 million in research to prevent sight loss and restore sight in blind individuals. In 2020 alone, they devoted $6.5 million to fund 15 new research projects, including gene-editing treatments and retinal regeneration therapy. They also provide over $21 million in grants each year to support blindness-related research organizations.
Ways to contribute: You can directly donate to the Foundation Fighting Blindness online. Or you can also start up a Facebook fundraiser to raise money for the organization. They also have a store where you can buy merchandise, proceeds of which go directly to the charity.
National Federation of the Blind: Largest National Organization for the Blind in the US
Founded in 1940, the National Federation of the Blind began as a group of blind individuals from seven US states who desired “the economic and social welfare of the blind,” as well as influence national policy towards blind people. They met up in Pennsylvania and drafted a constitution, thus forming the first national organization for the blind. Currently, they are the largest national organization for the blind in the United States and continue to operate across the United States and in some international capacities.
Their impact and transparency ratings: The National Federation of the Blind has a 90% rating on Charity Navigator, including a 97% accountability and transparency rating. They also have a GuideStar gold seal of transparency for their commitment to being open and honest about the inner workings of their organization.
“To serve as a means for blind people to come together to work collectively to improve our lives.”National Federation of the Blind
What they do: The National Federation of the Blind has many programs and services including a free white cane program, which allows blind people to have increased navigational abilities. They also advocate for disability rights and frequently defend the rights of blind people through legal battles and lawsuits.
What they’ve achieved: The National Federation of the Blind has established three adult training centers across the US, which together have helped hundreds of blind adults to lead independent lives. They have also provided 64,000 free white canes to blind individuals since 2008. In addition, they’ve also carried out strong advocacy efforts in blindness discrimination cases, such as their $150,000 settlement with Nash General Hospital for its failure to provide blind-accessible medical documents. In addition, they have taken over Braille Transcriber Certification from the Library of Congress and have worked to influence state training programs for the blind to require training in the use of the white can.
Ways to contribute: You can donate online through their website. You can also donate stocks, clothing, or a vehicle if it suits you better than monetary donations.
Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Lighting the Way to an Independent Future for Blind People
In 1902, Josephine Rowan organized a group of women originally called The Reading Room for the Blind to help blind individuals like her brother read printed materials. What started with a few meetings in the basement of the San Francisco Public Library grew into a full-fledged charity that now has its own headquarters building, with every corner carefully designed to help blind people. Today, Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired use their variety of programs to increase work opportunities for the blind, teach assisted technology, and much more.
Their impact and transparency ratings: Lighthouse for the Blind has a 4-out-of-4 star rating on Charity Navigator and a perfect 100% score in accountability and transparency. On GuideStar, they received the platinum seal of transparency, which is their highest honor.
“Independence for people who are blind or visually impaired.”Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
What they do: Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired aims to provide different services to improve the quality of life of blind people. These include teaching braille, personalized job training, STEM education, and more. They also team up with scientists and designers to improve and optimize technologies for the blind.
What they’ve achieved: Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired have provided 1300 individuals with over 5000 tools to aid those with low vision or blindness through their adaptations store. They have logged 24,390 total program hours every year, including adult and senior programs, youth programs, and mobility services. Each year, they also provide three individuals with $25,000 grants to encourage them to explore new horizons and chart new territory to push past the limits of their disability. In addition, they have worked with large companies such as Google, Amazon, McGraw Hill Education, and more to improve technology accessibility for the blind.
Ways to contribute: You can donate to Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired through their website, which gives a variety of payment options, including one-time, weekly, monthly, and more to suit your needs. You can also sign up to volunteer on a regular basis or at one of their regular events.
Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Convenient Online Education Resources for Blind People
In 1920, William Hadley founded Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired to help visually impaired individuals like himself receive support and resources. Together with Dr. E.V.L. Brown, they launched the first “braille by mail” curriculum, mailing reading lessons to blind learners all over the world. Their Illinois headquarters currently offers these education resources all over the world, which serve thousands.
Their impact and transparency ratings: Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired has an 88% overall rating on Charity Navigator, including a 97% score in accountability and transparency. On GuideStar, the organization received a platinum award for transparency.
“When vision fades, Hadley shines for you.”Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired
What they do: Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired primarily provides educational resources for blind individuals and those suffering from vision loss. These include teaching daily living skills, reading braille, working, and more. They also provide an emotional support network, understanding the toll that vision loss plays on a person’s mental state.
What they’ve achieved: The Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired offers (virtual) workshops that reach all across the US and to 100 countries around the world. Currently, over 14,000 learners access their nearly 60,000 free educational workshops every year. This means that each learner has accessed about 4 workshops each. Overall, they have achieved an impressive 97% satisfaction rate from the learners who have taken their courses.
JBI International: Providing Blind-Accessible Reading and Resources
Founded in 1931 by Leopold Dubov, JBI International is devoted to providing reading materials in audio, large-print, and braille formats to blind and otherwise reading disabled individuals. Formerly known as Jewish Braille Institute, the organization changed their name to JBI International in 2002 to better reflect their worldwide mission after they stopped operating solely in the US. Indeed, they operate in many different parts of the world, from Latin America to Western Europe to Israel and many more. Each year, they serve tens of thousands of people, bringing Jewish cultural and educational life to blind people and those who wouldn’t otherwise have access to it.
Their impact and transparency ratings: JBI International has an 88% rating on Charity Navigator, including a 97% rating in accountability and transparency. On GuideStar, the organization received a silver seal of transparency.
“Providing Jewish interest books for the blind and visually impaired.”JBI International
What they do: JBI International mainly focuses on providing books in a variety of different formats – audio, braille, and large print – to blind and other individuals who don’t have easy access to reading materials. They also operate a JBI Low Vision clinic in Israel, which is dedicated to screening and treating those with vision issues, including children and senior adults. They also offer summer retreats for blind children in Russia.
What they’ve achieved: JBI Library currently has the largest collection of Jewish interest books in the world, including 13,000 Talking Books. In 2019 alone, they distributed 16,000 Talking Books and 19,000 periodicals and cultural programs. They also have 4250 digital books in their collection and are still working to convert more physical books to digital ones.
Ways to contribute: You can donate to JBI International through their website. You can also sign up to volunteer in a variety of different positions, such as narrating Talking Books (audio books available in physical and digital copies) and producing computerized braille. You can also name a Talking Book in honor of a loved one or special occasion, proceeds of which go directly to bringing Talking Books to blind people.
Blinded Veterans Association: By Blind Veterans, For Blind Veterans
Founded in 1945 by about 100 war-blinded soldiers returning from World War II, the Blinded Veterans Association works to support blinded veterans in both medical and mental capacities. In 1948, they founded the Blind Rehabilitation Center, which helped soldiers cope with vision loss and adapt to live fulfilling and independent lives. Today they continue their mission, providing blinded veterans services to help improve their quality of life, as well as being legal advocates for blind veterans all across the US.
Their impact and transparency ratings: Blinded Veterans Association has a 67% rating on Charity Navigator, a rating that is primarily due to the fact that they spend around ⅓ of funds on fundraising efforts. However, with those fundraising efforts they achieve a perfect 100% score in impact and results – arguably the most important part. On GuideStar, the organization has received a platinum seal of transparency.
“Serves as ambassadors and mentors for all veterans and their families coping with sight loss.”Blinded Veterans Association
What they do: Blinded Veterans Association is focused on providing services to help blinded veterans adjust to life without sight. They also provide emotional support and mentorship to blinded veterans and their families to help them cope with sight loss.
What they’ve achieved: Blinded Veterans Association is the only congressional chartered organization devoted specifically to helping blind veterans. Their advocacy efforts led to blind veterans being eligible for Specially Adapted Housing grants and increased the grant amount to $98,640, which gives them funding for accessibility-related home modifications. They also partnered with medical organizations to increase funding for the Vision Research Program, allowing them to fund 198 research papers researching combat-induced blindness.
Ways to contribute: You can donate to the Blinded Veterans Association directly via PayPal. You can also designate them as your charity of choice on Round Up, an app that automatically rounds up your bill to the nearest dollar and donates the spare change. You can also support them on Amazon Smile, and a portion of your order amount will go directly to their mission.
Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind: Providing Seeing Eyes for Blind People
Founded in 1946, Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind began as a group of five people who sought to provide guide dogs to blind or visually impaired veterans returning from World War II. They began a guide dog school in New York and trained guide dogs there. Today, they maintain their campus but expanded to include a puppy nursery, kennel, and residence for students throughout the US and Canada. They continue their mission of providing guide dogs at no cost to support the livelihood and independence of blind individuals.
Their impact and transparency ratings: Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind has a 4-star rating on Charity Navigator, including a 97% score in accountability and transparency. GuideStar gave the organization a platinum seal for transparency.
“Improving the quality of life for people who are blind.”Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind
What they do: Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind seeks to train and place guide dogs with blind people throughout the US and Canada. Each year, Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind adds hundreds of new puppies to their program in hopes of becoming future guide dogs. They provide personalized guide dog training for each individual they serve. They also are quite prominent in advocacy and promote education for public understanding, as well as advancing disability and accessibility rights.
What they’ve achieved: Every year, Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind provides hundreds of blind people with trained guide dogs for free. Annually they invest more than $5 million in dog training for the blind, where they add over 400 puppies into their puppy program, about 125 of which will go into their breeding program. Overall, 165 puppies will go through their 3-6 month training each year, in order to become guide dogs for blind people.
Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind online. You can also start a fundraising event online, including a virtual bake sale or puppy sponsorship campaign. You can also purchase a variety of items from their shop either as gifts or for yourself, where over 50% of the proceeds go to the organization.
How Can You Select the Best Charities to Support?
The charities on the list are, we deem, the best charities for the blind. However, you may have a particular charity you want to support. Let’s look at what you can do to ensure your contribution has the most significant impact.
- Check out the charity website. Charities that are worthy of your donations are transparent in their mission and their figures. Familiarise yourself with their history, mission, and values. Their website usually is the best place to start.
- Identify the charity’s mission. Without a goal, the charity is likely to fail. If the charity’s mission isn’t clear, it’s probably worth looking for a charity that does have a clear mission.
- Check if the charity has measurable goals. An effective charity has clear goals. You want to know your donation will help the charity reach its goals. But if it doesn’t have targets, it’s likely to fail or squander your gift. The charity should be able to account for its spending and supply evidence of the work they do.
- Assess the successes or goals the charity has achieved. You wouldn’t invest in a business if it kept missing its targets. In the same way, charities are like this too. If no one is assessing the progress a charity makes in reaching its targets, the chances are not making positive change.
- Check the charity’s financials and stats. Trustworthy organizations will publish financial statements and reports each year. Some might be exempt from having to do so, but they should be able to provide them to public members who are interested in donating.
- Locate sources who work with or benefit from the charity. Word of mouth and first-hand experience of a charity’s work lets you know the charity’s quality. If you’re able to do so, check out the charity for yourself or speak to someone familiar with it. This way, your donation will go to the right place.
How Can You Best Support These Charities?
After you’ve made your decision, it’s time for you to decide on how you’d like to help the charities you’ve chosen. Check how you can help – each charity runs specific programs that have unique aims. Find out what the aim of such programs is and whether they are right for you.
Here are a few ways you can help your chosen charity:
- Donate money. You can find donation pages on the website of most charities. Your donation can be a one-time payment, or you can set it to be deducted regularly at different intervals. You can mostly pay via credit card, but some charities also take PayPal or Bitcoin payments.
- Buy their official merchandise. The charities can also raise money by selling merchandise. So, you can support them by buying the mugs, shirts, caps, pens, pencils, and any other such items they may be selling. Ideally, you should buy as much as you can to share and spread the word about the charity’s activities.
- Donate a percentage of your online purchases. If you bought anything on sites like Amazon lately, you’d find a prompt asking you to donate to your favorite charities through their Amazon Smile program. You can set this up so that your chosen charities will get a fraction of your online purchases.
- Engage in volunteer work. As you’ve seen from our descriptions above, some charities engage in a lot of local and grassroots programs. You can help by taking on and organizing the program in your local area.
- Help their fundraising efforts. You can spread the word about the charity in your workplace, school, church, etc., and hold creative fundraising drives on social media or offline within your small circles.
- Share their stories. Most charities have compelling stories that you can share with your audience to attract more people to the cause.
Now it is just up to you to select the charity that resonates most with you. And whichever charity you end up choosing and contributing to, we are sure that they will immensely appreciate your support. Hopefully, the information within this article has made this selection process a bit easier for you to support charities dedicated to the blind – based on the causes that matter most to you.
PS: Finally, I want to leave you with a thought-provoking TED talk from Dan Pallotta, a leading philanthropic activist and fundraiser, about what is wrong with the way we think about charities – and what we can do about it:
- Seva Foundation: Home Page
- Charity Navigator: Seva Foundation
- GuideStar: Seva Foundation
- Seva Foundation: Mission
- Seva Foundation: Donate
- Seva Foundation: Shop
- Seva Foundation: Volunteer
- Helen Keller International: Home Page
- Charity Navigator: Helen Keller International
- GuideStar: Helen Keller International
- Helen Keller International: What We Do
- Vitamin A Study: Helen Keller International
- Helen Keller International: Donate
- Helen Keller International: Gift
- Helen Keller International: More Ways to Give
- Foundation Fighting Blindness: Home Page
- Charity Navigator: Foundation Fighting Blindness
- GuideStar: Foundation Fighting Blindness
- Foundation Fighting Blindness: About Us
- Foundation Fighting Blindness: 2020 Annual Report
- Foundation Fighting Blindness: Donate
- Foundation Fighting Blindness: Facebook Fundraisers
- Foundation Fighting Blindness: Shop
- National Federation of the Blind: Home Page
- Charity Navigator: National Federation of the Blind
- GuideStar: National Federation of the Blind
- National Federation of the Blind: Free White Cane Program
- National Federation of the Blind: 2021 Presidential Report
- National Federation of the Blind: Ways to Give
- Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Home Page
- Charity Navigator: Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
- GuideStar: Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
- Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired: About Us
- Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Annual Report 2020
- Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Donate
- Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Volunteer
- Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Home
- Charity Navigator: Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired
- GuideStar: Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired
- Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired: About Us
- Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Support Hadley
- Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Volunteer
- JBI International: Home Page
- Charity Navigator: JBI International
- GuideStar: JBI International
- JBI International: About Us
- JBI International: 2019 Annual Report
- JBI International: Donate
- JBI International: Volunteer
- JBI International: Name-A-Book
- Blinded Veterans Association: Home Page
- Charity Navigator: Blinded Veterans Association
- GuideStar: Blinded Veterans Association
- Blinded Veterans Association: Historical Achievements
- PayPal Donate Page: Blinded Veterans Association
- Blinded Veterans Association: Round Up
- Amazon Smile: Blinded Veterans Association
- Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind: Home Page
- Charity Navigator: Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind
- GuideStar: Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind
- Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind: About Us
- Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind: Corporate Puppies with a Purpose
- Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind: Donate
- Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind: Fundraisers
- Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind: Shop