The Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind is the oldest Lighthouse for the Blind in the state of Texas. It was founded in 1931 by Eva Cameron, a visually impaired woman who devoted her life to encouraging and training those who were experiencing similar challenges and barriers to lead fulfilling, productive lives.
The agency began its job training with a hand loom and a few sewing machines. Clients were taught skills such as chair caning, sewing, mat making and constructing mops and brooms. With only a handful of volunteers, Cameron incorporated the agency in 1941 and began to receive funding from the Dallas Community Chest.
During World War II, the Lighthouse clients produced pillow cases and mop heads for the federal government and did sorting and hand assembly for local defense industry contractors. As the war ended, so did the contracts. The Lighthouse began an affiliation with the National industries for the Blind (NIB) in 1945 and through NIB, was able to re-establish contracts with the federal government and develop new contracts with the U.S. military.
The agency diversified its products in the 1950s and made a variety of household items which were sold door-to-door by visually impaired salesmen. A specially outfitted truck transported the salesmen to various Dallas neighborhoods where they sold the goods to local housewives. Sales of dust pans, clothespins, fly swatters and other household goods provided a good income to both the salesmen and the agency.
In 1952, the adjunct Hexter Memorial Lighthouse, named after Dallas philanthropists Victor and Minnie Hexter, was dedicated to serve the visually impaired African American community in Dallas. The Hexter Lighthouse served more than 300 clients annually until it was combined with the original Dallas Lighthouse.
Through the 1960s and 70s, the Lighthouse expanded its mission to include formal vocational training and rehabilitation services through federal and state funding. An on-site program for seniors was established to help individuals who had lost their vision late in life to remain independent and in their homes. This program was the first of its kind in the state of Texas.
The Viola Burg Center was built in 1980 and continues to serve as the agency’s home base. The Industrial & Sewing Centers were renovated and expanded to the current 50,000-square-foot configuration which allowed for additional machinery to be installed and a wider variety of products to be manufactured.
The 1990s saw the Lighthouse launch its business services operation which included its Technology Lab and business training programs for clients to receive the job training required to work effectively in an office environment.
Today, the Lighthouse is improving and enhancing the Industrial and Sewing Centers to accommodate more government and commercial customers. Programs are being added for both community and business services to provide more clients with essential training that will enable them to secure and enjoy a productive future.
Our mission hasn’t changed since Eva Cameron envisioned a Dallas agency where visually impaired individuals could find promise and opportunity in their situations, where they could find skills and tools to enable them to overcome the challenges they faced, and where they were shown a way to continue to live their lives with dignity and hope.