To teach individuals who are blind and deaf-blind the skills that lead to independence, employment and community integration.
ABL is also a consumer organization which promotes the general welfare of the visually impaired, blind and deaf-blind, educates the public about blindness, and informs consumers of services available to them.
Our History ...
Affiliated Blind of Louisiana, Inc. was founded in 1983 as a private, non-profit organization dedicated to providing special services and training to Louisiana's visually-impaired, blind and deaf-blind populations. Although numerous services were provided by ABL during its early years, creation of a training center was always envisioned by the original founders. In 1989 Mr. John Lemaire and others founded Affiliated Blind of Louisiana Enterprises, Inc. ABLE was created as a fund-raising entity to help fulfill the dreams of the training center. In less than three years ABLE raised over $1 million through bingo operations.
Potential sites for the training center were explored and in 1990, ABL purchased the Most Holy Sacrament on West St. Mary Boulevard in Lafayette. The cost was $750,000. The convent contained 70,000 square feet of floor space in seven buildings and four acres of property. The original buildings were constructed in 1923. Upon assessment it was determined nearly $3.5 million was needed to bring the buildings up to code and to make them functional as a Training Center.
In 1992, with the help of Senator Bennett Johnston and Congressman Jimmy Hayes, ABL was successful in obtaining a HUD special purpose grant for renovation and adaptive reuse of the convent. Additional renovation assistance came from the Louisiana Rehabilitation Services and from ABL The total project cost exceeded $4 million. There were many items of note concerning the renovations, but one of significance is that the center is one of the first of major renovation projects in Louisiana to meet all of the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
With renovation funds in place, ABL next turned its efforts to securing operational funds for the training center. A three year establishment grant totaling over $3 million was obtained from the Louisiana Rehabilitation Services. This grant was used to purchase furniture and equipment and pay for initial staffing for administration and programming. Smaller training grants were also received from the Louisiana Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Hospitals. Additionally, ABL entered into contract with the City of Lafayette to provide transportation services to Lafayette's residents with disabilities.
In 1993 the first phase of renovation was completed. In 1994, the second and final phase was completed and the center became fully operational. During this time, ABL put an experienced management team in place to join its founder and executive director, John Lemaire. Within a year of this inception, management processes had been implemented, renovations had been completed, training programming had been developed, training and residential staff had been hired, and the center became operational.
Through the years, ABL has grown significantly. The organization has eight chapters and approximately 400 members throughout Louisiana, and over sixty employees throughout its various operations.
If you would like to make a donation, please click on the link below. We thank you so very much for your support.