Horizons for the Blind is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing products and services to people who are blind or visually impaired. In addition, we specialize in partnering with companies and nonprofit organizations to transcribe billing and financial statements, newsletters and documents in a variety of accessible formats.
Our mission is to improve the quality of life for people who are blind or visually impaired, by increasing accessibility to consumer information, education, recreation and employment.
Horizons for the Blind was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization in 1977 by Founder and Executive Director Camille Caffarelli. Blind since birth, Caffarelli realized even as a child that experiencing life and interacting with the world should not be limited to those who viewed things in traditional ways.
Caffarelli’s husband died of a brain tumor in 1975 when their three sons were still very young. Faced with these challenges, she set upon a lifelong mission of making the printed word more accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.
Horizons has become a leading provider of transcription services to the business community. We process over 30,000 billing statements a month in braille, large print and audio formats for financial institutions, utility companies, cable TV and cell phone service providers. We also produce restaurant menus, hotel directories, trade show documents and cell phone manuals in braille and large print formats.
Horizons believes that reading billing and financial statements, as well as other documents in an accessible format, is a fundamental right. People who are blind or visually impaired should have the same right to get this information, without assistance, as sighted consumers. This not only speaks to the issue of accessibility but also of privacy, independence and self reliance.
From two volunteers working out of Caffarelli’s basement in Chicago, Horizons has grown to a staff of over 50 employees, nearly half of whom are blind or visually impaired. We are proud that we utilize blind and low vision employees to produce all of our products. This not only ensures that the information is accessible and understandable to the end user but also provides employment opportunity and fosters self sufficiency for this underserved population.
directionsforme™ (www.directionsforme.org) is a new Internet based service, developed by Horizons for the Blind, that makes consumer packaging information available in an accessible online format for people who are blind, visually impaired or simply have trouble reading the small print on packages and labels.
Directions provides users a one-stop source for preparation directions, nutrition facts, ingredients, allergy warnings and more. The easy-to-use format makes directionsforme™ appealing to a wide range of consumers. Gaining comprehensive access to this information will foster self sufficiency and allow consumers to lead more healthy and independent lives. Not needing to ask for help in reading the directions on a cake mix is a simple yet profound impact that Directions will make.
For the blind and visually impaired consumer, this important information is often ignored because of the difficulty in accessing it. Some of this information is of a convenient nature but drug interaction and allergy warnings could be life threatening.
The site was designed to be completely accessible with text-to-speech screen readers like JAWS, magnifiers and web-enabled cell phones. Unlike manufacturer’s websites, this information is presented in a simple and consistent format.
Regardless of the product or brand, all packaging information will be formatted and displayed in the same manner. Users will be able to access this data exactly the same way, every time and will no longer have to search a variety of sites with different formats and varying levels of accessibilities.
Horizons is proud that we use blind and visually impaired consumers to field test the site to ensure its accessibility and usability. In addition we subcontracted a web developer who is blind to build the site. This proved to be a great benefit to have someone who could relate to the project from both the user and technical sides.
Directions now offers an affordable barcode scanner for sale on the site. Users can utilize the scanner to quickly identify products and access product information.