The Blinded American Veterans Foundation was launched in 1985 by three American veterans who lost their sight during service in Korea and Vietnam — John Fales (USMC), Don Garner (USN) and Dennis Wyant (USN).
All had achieved successful careers despite their blindness. But the realization among them that many sensory disabled veterans had not had the opportunities afforded them led to their determination to form the Foundation and pursue its three main goals: Research, Rehabilitation and Re-employment.
From the beginning, it was determined that BAVF would not be a membership organization or a substitute for already established veterans service organizations. Instead, the Foundation was designed to become a nationwide focal point and clearinghouse for research, information dissemination and educational efforts. As a result, BAVF concentrates on:
- Supporting medical research on sensory disabilities, as well as the development of improved sensory prosthetics.
- Outreach programs to further identify issues of personal importance to veterans with sensory disabilities.
- Informational programs directed at state and federal government agencies, the Congress and state legislatures, the private business sector and the general public.
- The development of a nationwide volunteer corps to assist veterans with sensory disabilities.
Since its founding in 1985, BAVF has made major strides toward achieving its goals of advanced research, improved rehabilitation programs and wider re-employment opportunities. A few examples:
- The Americane, which was developed through R & D grants from BAVF, has been certified by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a sensory aid and-with the assistance of the Disabled American Veterans’ Blind National Chapter-has given more than 2,500 blinded vets greater mobility and independence.
- Thousands of blinded vets have received an audio version of the Veterans Benefit Handbook and many of them for the first time now have full awareness of the range of benefits available to them. Copies of the audio disks have also been donated to the Library of Congress and many other public libraries across the nation.
- Direct financial grants to VAMC’s and Blind Rehabilitation Centers and Clinics have assisted in covering budget shortfalls, improved vital computer training capabilities and assisting visual impairment coordinators–as well as establishing educational trust funds for training VIC’s.
Additionally, for the first time since the inception of the Blind Rehabilitation Program at the end of WWII, BAVF funded a nationwide comprehensive survey and analysis of how the program is faring-its strengths, its weaknesses and how it may be improved. In 2000, the BAVF also conducted a nationwide follow-up study to determine what progress, if any,-has been made and to press for further improvement.
These are but a few of the Foundation’s achievements, and even fewer of its hopes for the future. But most importantly, BAVF’s accomplishments–as was the intent of its founders-have been realized through the selfless efforts of hundreds of volunteers.
At the main entrance of the Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington, D.C., there are inscribed the words of Abraham Lincoln, taken from his Gettysburg address:
“To provide for them who have borne the battle, their widows, and their orphans.”
No other words could more eloquently express the aims of the Blinded American Veterans Foundation. There are not words adequate enough to express BAVF’s gratitude to the many friends who have helped us along our way.
GuideStar link regarding BAVF.