INSIGHT for the Blind, Inc. is the result of the imagination, determination and selflessness of Caroline E. Mansur (October 14, 1921 – September 15, 2013) and her husband Ted (also deceased), who retired to Fort Lauderdale from Washington, D. C. In early 1975 they researched the need for recorded books for the blind by inquiring of the Broward County Librarian, who in turn wrote the State Librarian, who referred the Mansurs to the Florida Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped at Daytona Beach.
The need did, in fact, exist. Caroline and Ted then made a personal visit to the Library in Daytona where they were told to expect no monetary assistance from any governmental agency, and were further advised to set up a non-profit charitable corporation to handle donated funds. Then with the help of their friends, Virginia Bishop, Nan Knox and Judge George Richardson, Jr. Insight was founded.
The history of the early years of Insight reads like a primer on how to start and fund a 501 (c )(3) nonprofit agency – they did it all by-the-book. The five founders set up a speakers group and all of the service clubs in Broward County were contacted - groups such as Civitans, Lions, Kiwanis, and Rotary, the Broward Ophthalmologists, and other business and professional groups -- asking each group for financial support. Of course, club members were encouraged to volunteer time to Insight, as well as money.
The next problem was housing. The Fort Lauderdale Board of Realtors was contacted; but nothing affordable was available. When Judge Richardson heard that response he offered an unoccupied suite of offices – at the perfect price – FREE! Two years later Insight was able to pay rent.
Among the groups visited was the Telephone Pioneers, who agreed to build the first soundproof recording booth, with its members providing the materials and labor. (In 1983 the Pioneers donated the materials and labor and built Insight’s current home.) It should be added here that the Pioneers had, for a number of years, been repairing the playback machines used by readers throughout the country.
It was thus that Insight began recording for the Florida Division of Blind services. From the beginning it was clear that Insight for the Blind was well managed and the completed recorded product was professional and on a par with the best studios in the country. An initial request by Insight to record books was denied, but in 1977 the Library of Congress asked Insight as now one of only ten studios in America with the expertise to record Talking Books; to join the team! Today Insight remains the only all-volunteer studio recording Talking Books and still totally funded by the private sector.
That short history of Insight for the Blind doesn’t mention the tens of thousands of volunteer hours that went into recording thousands of books and magazines that are available to millions of blind and print handicapped folks across America and even those US citizens living around the world. More to the point, the driving force underlying all of this successful community service for 37 years was; Caroline Mansur. Of course her legacy continues each and every day.
To use her words, Caroline was inspired to found Insight as the result of a conversation with a young blind man named Erik. He said that he could cope with the challenges of being blind but it was only frustrating to him to know that there was a world out there that he could not read. While Caroline never relented in her quest to do more she always thought about that individual who was waiting for the mailman and the arrival of their next Talking Book – oh what a wonderful day that would always be!