The Association for the Blind (AFTB), a private nonprofit organization, was established on October 14, 1936 by a dedicated group of volunteers led by Mrs. Fred J. Sahlman and members of the American Foundation for the Blind. The agency was later chartered and incorporated on April 19, 1937. The AFTB seeks to improve the quality of life for the visually impaired through services, programs and advocacy by promoting independence and self-sufficiency, and by helping individuals participate fully in their communities.
In 1957 the AFTB expanded services from Charleston County to include the entire Tri-County area. Job opportunities for the visually impaired were chair caning, medical transcription and light industry. Recreational programs included beep ball, bowling and other recreational activities, and informal educational classes.
In July 2006 the AFTB in collaboration with the S.C. Commission for the Blind began offering computer classes to individuals who are blind or severely vision impaired. A qualified legally blind instructor teaches keyboarding, the internet and the use of e-mail. This is the only computer training program available for the visually impaired in the Lowcountry.
In 2009 the AFTB launched the ReFocusprogram to provide complete mobile eye exams including refraction and prescription eye glasses, eye disease education, prevention, and follow up referrals to medically indigent adults at area outreach clinics. Within one year, the ReFocus program served over 1,000 medically indigent adults showing the need for this program in the Lowcountry.
In 2010 the ReFocus program expanded to include medically indigent pre-Kindergarten children in Title 1 schools. This portion of the ReFocus program was a collaborative effort among the Association for the Blind, the Charleston County School District, MUSC's Storm Eye Institute and the College of Charleston's School of Education, Health and Human Performance.
In April 2012 the AFTB launched the Look Forward program to empower visually impaired members to live full lives through the pursuit of education and social connections. The AFTB offices transitioned to a “Center” based model and is the primary site for recurring events, such as classes and special activities.