The Unseen Minority: A Social History of Blindness in the United States

Historical Chronologies

Chronology of Events in the History of Education of People Who Are Visually Impaired*

1749 In his "Letter on the Blind for the Use of Those Who See," Denis Diderot states that learning through touch involves different mental processes than those involved with sight.
1774 Letter on the Education of the Blind is published by Demodocus, who is thought to be a blind man.
1776 Abbé de l'Epée publishes a book on instructing people who are deaf-mutes, which may have influenced Haüy to teach blind children.
1779 Thomas Jefferson's education bill calls for state-sponsored education of girls as well as boys.
1780 Proponents of humanism and the Enlightenment form the Société Philantropique in France, which is interested in aiding people who are blind.
1784 Valentine Haüy establishes L'Institution Nationale des Jeunes Aveugles (Institute for Blind Youths), the first school for children who are blind in Paris. He experiments with various sizes and forms of raised Roman letters to teach students who are blind to read.
1791 The first school for the blind in England opens in Liverpool.
1808 Charles Barbier invents Écriture Nocturne (night writing) for use by French soldiers at night.
1809 Louis Braille is born in Coupvray, France.
1817 The American Asylum for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf (now the American School for the Deaf) in Hartford, Connecticut, the first educational program for exceptional children and youths, is formally established in the United States with Rev. Thomas H. Gallaudet as the principal.
1823 The first state school for the deaf is established in Kentucky.
1825–50 Teachers of blind students, often blind graduates of residential schools, are prepared through apprenticeship programs during this period.
1827 James Gall publishes First Book for Teaching the Art of Reading to the Blind , the first English-language work in raised type.
1829 The first U.S. patent for a typewriter is issued.
1829 Louis Braille publishes an explanation of his embossed dot code, which was inspired by Barbier.
1829 The New England Asylum for the Blind (later the Perkins School for the Blind) is incorporated in Watertown, Massachusetts.
1831 The New York Institution for the Education of the Blind (now the New York Institute for Special Education) is incorporated.
1831 Samuel Gridley Howe becomes the director of the New England Asylum for the Blind (now the Perkins School for the Blind).
1832 The first students are accepted at the Perkins School for the Blind and the New York Institution for the Blind.
1832 The Scottish Art Society offers a prize for the best and most practical system of embossing for people who are blind. A medal is awarded to Dr. Edmund Fry for his modified Roman form.
1832 The Pennsylvania Institution for the Instruction of the Blind (later the Overbrook School for the Blind) is founded.
1833 Gospel of St. Mark , the first book in raised print in the United States, is printed in Philadelphia.
1834 Louis Braille perfects the literary braille code.
1835 Acts of the Apostles is the first book embossed in Boston Line Type, a tactile code developed by Samuel Gridley Howe.
1836 Henry Martyn Taylor devises a tangible mathematics apparatus for computations.
1837 The Perkins School for the Blind establishes a printing plant, later named the Howe Memorial Press.
1837 Ohio establishes the first state-supported residential school for the blind.
1837 Laura Bridgman, the first child who is deaf-blind to be educated, is admitted to Perkins School for the Blind.
1839 A state-supported normal school for training general education teachers is started in Lexington, Massachusetts.
1842 Charles Dickens describes his visit to the Perkins School for the Blind in American Notes .
1847 Dr. Robert Moon develops his raised-line type, referred to as Moon Type.
1851 Herman von Helmholtz invents the ophthalmoscope.
1852 Boston Line Type becomes the predominant reading medium for people who are blind in the United States until braille, a point system, is later adopted.
1852 Louis Braille dies of pulmonary consumption.
1854 France officially adopts braille as a reading mode for people who are blind.
1855 Dr. William Moon and the Moon Society volunteers begin touring Britain and instructing people who are blind in reading in their homes.
1858 The Kentucky legislature establishes the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) as an offshoot of the Kentucky School for the Blind.
1859–1952 John Dewey, the American educator and philosopher, advocates individualized learning and direct experience as the tenets for educational programs.
1860 The Missouri School for the Blind becomes the first institute in the United States to use braille.
1866 Samuel Gridley Howe, the first director of the Perkins School for the Blind, expresses concern about segregated education for students who are blind in residential schools.
1868 The first conference of Executives of American Schools for the Deaf is held.
1868 William B. Wait develops the New York Point raised-dot system at the New York Institution for the Blind.
1868 Braille is accepted in Great Britain.
1871 The first pamphlet on braille music notation is published.
1871 Stereotype plates are created for braille production.
1871 The American Association of Instructors of the Blind (AAIB) is founded and endorses New York Point.
1872 The Scottish Education Act calls for educating children who are blind with sighted children.
1873 The first Congress of Teachers of the Blind is held in Vienna.
1876 Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone.
1877 Thomas Edison invents the tin foil phonograph and lists "Books for Blind People" on his patent application.
1878 Joel W. Smith at the Perkins School for the Blind develops the American raised-point system, modeled closely on braille, which becomes the foundation for American braille.
1880 Helen Keller is born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, on June 27.
1880 Anne Sullivan enters the Perkins School for the Blind.
1882 The Pennsylvania Institution starts an organized kindergarten for students who are blind.
1887 Anne Sullivan gives Helen Keller, age 7, an understanding of language.
1887 The Perkins School for the Blind founds a kindergarten for babies who are blind.
1888 The International Congress for Standardization of Braille Music Notation is held in Cologne, Germany.
1891 Thomas H. Gallaudet begins the first teacher training program for students who are deaf.
1892 Frank Hall and Gustav A. Sieber develop the braillewriter, the first mechanical device for writing braille.
1893 The first nursery for neglected babies who are blind is started in Hartford, Connecticut.
1893 The Blind and Deaf Children Act in England provides compulsory elementary education for children aged 5–16.
1895 The American Blind People's Higher Education and General Improvement Association (later the American Association of Workers for the Blind) is founded.
1895 The Royal Normal College in England starts a college to train persons who are blind as teachers.
1898 Alexander Graham Bell states: "Handicapped children have a right to an education in the public school."
1898 The first day school for the blind is established in England.
1899 The braille shorthand system is developed.
1899 Chicago establishes the first day school classes for "crippled children."
1900 Wisconsin and Michigan authorize subsidies for the excess cost of classes for students who are deaf in public schools, the first financial support for any children with disabilities.
1900 The Tactile Print Investigating Committee is appointed to resolve the problem of numerous tactile reading systems.
1900 Day school classes for students with visual impairments are established in Chicago.
1902 A library and reading room for people who are blind opens in San Francisco.
1903 The Story of My Life , by Helen Keller, is published.
1904 Helen Keller, the first deaf-blind person to earn a college degree, graduates from Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
1905 The American Blind People's Higher Education and General Improvement Association becomes the American Association of Workers for the Blind (AAWB).
1905 Britain adopts the uniform braille code.
1905 The New York Association for the Blind (now Lighthouse International) is founded.
1905 The Uniform Type Committee is formed.
1907 Helen Keller, who had learned four embossed codes, pleads for a single code.
1907 The first issue of Outlook for the Blind is published in April by Charles Campbell (and later by the American Foundation for the Blind); it becomes The New Outlook for the Blind in January 1952 and then the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness in January 1976.
1908 The first class for "high myopes" begins in London.
1909 The First White House Conference on Children and Youth is held.
1909 Robert B. Irwin organizes braille reading classes in Cleveland public schools.
1909 Ohio appoints the first state supervisor of education for children who are visually impaired.
1910 The Arthur Sunshine Home and Kindergarten for Blind Babies opens in Summit, New Jersey.
1911 New York State makes education compulsory for students who are blind.
1912 Students who are blind in public day-school classes become eligible to receive APH materials.
1913 Robert B. Irwin uses 36-point type in books for "partially seeing" students.
1913 The first classes for "partially seeing" students are started in Roxbury, Massachusetts, and Cleveland, Ohio.
1913 The Uniform Type Committee recommends a system based on British braille.
1914 Robert B. Irwin and H.H. Goddard adapt the Binet Test for Blind Pupils.
1915 The National Society for the Prevention of Blindness (NSPB) is founded.
1916 Samuel P. Hayes establishes departments of psychological research at Overbrook and Perkins.
1918 The University of California offers the first university preparation course for teachers of students who are blind.
1918 APH adopts Revised Standard English Braille for textbooks.
1919 The Blind, Their Condition, and the Work Done for Them in the United States , by Harry Best, is published.
1920 Barr, Stroud, and Fournier d'Albe patent the optophone, the first reading machine for people who are blind, which translates printed letters into musical tones.
1921 Edward E. Allen establishes a formal teacher training program at Perkins School for the Blind.
1921 The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is founded.
1921 Teachers College at Columbia University offers the first summer program for teachers of students who are partially sighted.
1921 The American Red Cross adopts braille transcribing as part of its volunteer service.
1922 The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is founded.
1923 APH expands its tangible apparatus facilities.
1925 Peabody College for Teachers establishes the first summer preparation program for teachers of students who are blind.
1925 The Perkins-Harvard course for teachers gives graduate college credits.
1925 The Carnegie Corporation funds an APH study of braille interpoint equipment.
1927 Frank Dyer patents his process for producing long-playing records.
1928 The first issue of Teacher's Forum is published by AFB.
1928 The crusade begins to eliminate ophthalmia neonatorum by putting silver nitrate in newborn babies' eyes.
1928 AFB supervises the distribution of radios to citizens who are blind, the foundation's first direct service for these individuals.
1929 The Seeing Eye, the first dog guide school in the United States, is incorporated.
1930 The White House Conference on Child Health and Protection assigns a committee to study the needs of exceptional children. Recommendations include the establishment of braille day-school classes throughout the country and special attention directed toward vocational adjustments, social training, and kindergarten training.
1930 The National Institute for the Blind introduces a high-speed rotary press for embossed type.
1930 NSPB and AFB cooperate on a standard eye examination report.
1930 The Hayes-Binet test for pupils who are blind is developed by Samuel P. Hayes.
1931 The Library of Congress establishes the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and begins to distribute braille materials and phonograph records to readers who are blind in accordance with the Pratt-Smoot Act of 1930.
1931 The first World Conference on Work for the Blind is held in New York.
1931 Three states issue certificates to special education teachers of children who are blind.
1932 AFB develops Talking Books, long-playing records and playback machines.
1932 AAIB establishes a committee to develop a teacher certification program.
1932 Standard English Braille is adopted as uniform type by the American and British Uniform Type Committees.
1933 APH adopts Standard English Braille Grade 2 for junior and senior high school textbooks.
1933 The Blind in School and Society , by Thomas Cutsforth, a doctoral candidate who is blind, is published by AFB.
1934 The first Talking Books on long-playing records are produced.
1934 The American Medical Association (AMA) defines legal blindness.
1934 AAIB establishes teacher certification guidelines.
1934 Dog guides are permitted on the day coaches of three major railroads.
1935 Columbia University starts a year-round program for teachers of students who are blind at Teachers College.
1935 The Social Security Act is passed. It adopts the AMA's definition of legal blindness.
1935 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signs an executive order allotting funds to the Library of Congress to develop a Talking Book machine.
1936 APH produces recorded material.
1937 Ralph G. Hurlin develops a formula to estimate the population of people who are blind.
1938 AAIB sets up its teacher certification program.
1938 Father Thomas Carroll begins work at the Catholic Guild for the Blind.
1939 The dictaphone is used as an instructional aid in sight-saving classes.
1939 Visagraph, a device that produces raised print or diagrams, is demonstrated at the World's Fair by Robert E. Naumburg.
1939–45 Berthold Lowenfeld explores the educational role of recorded books and demonstrates the value of Talking Books in the teaching process.
1940 The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is founded.
1941 The growing incidence of visual impairments in premature infants, later identified as retrolental fibroplasia (RLF), is noted in infants.
1942 Alfred Kestenbaum, a physician, develops the microlense, a simple reading device.
1942 Interim Hayes-Binet Tests for the Blind are developed.
1942 The first textbook on children with low vision, Education and Health of the Partially Sighted Child by Winifred Hathaway, is published.
1944 Richard E. Hoover at the Valley Forge Hospital and Russell Williams at Hines Hospital and others develop long-cane mobility techniques.
1944 Retrolental fibroplasia (now known as retinopathy of prematurity) is identified by Dr. Theodore Terry and others at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.
1945 The National Braille Association is established.
1947 APH begins the regular publication of large-type books.
1947 The Perkins Brailler, an improvement over older methods, is designed and developed by David Abraham of Howe Press.
1948 The Council for Education of the Partially Seeing is established as a division of the Council for Exceptional Children.
1948 Recording for the Blind (now Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic) is established.
1950 Blindness: Modern Approaches to the Unseen Environment , by Paul Zahl is published.
1950 Vision: Its Development in Infant and Child , by Arnold Gesell, is published.
1951 First issue of the International Journal for the Education of the Blind (now Education of the Visually Handicapped ) is published by AAIB.
1953 The Nemeth Braille Mathematics Code is established.
1953 Father Thomas Carroll holds the Gloucester Conference to define the role and training of mobility instructors.
1953 The first low vision clinics open at the New York Lighthouse and the Industrial Home for the Blind.
1953 National Aid to the Visually Handicapped, a private organization dedicated solely to producing large-type textbooks for school-age children, is founded in San Francisco.
1954 A study links RLF to high oxygen treatment in premature babies.
1954 The National Association for Visually Handicapped (NAVH) is founded.
1954 The U.S. Office of Education holds a conference on the qualifications and preparation of teachers of exceptional children.
1954 The Pine Brook Report (from AFB) identifies different educational options for students who are blind or visually impaired and the type of teacher preparation required.
1955 The Perkins School for the Blind starts the first training program for teachers of deaf-blind students in association with Boston University.
1956 The Subnormal Vision Clinic (later called the Low Vision Center) is established at the Maryland Workshop for the Blind.
1956 Educational materials from APH are made available to day- school pupils.
1957 The thermoform machine is developed to reproduce raised-line diagrams or graphics.
1957 The Visotoner, a reading device that produces sounds for letters, and Visotactor, a reading machine that produces vibrations to the fingers, are developed.
1957 Peabody College for Teachers of Vanderbilt University in Nashville sets up a year-round program for teachers of students who are blind.
1957 The Industrial Home for the Blind reports on its optical aids service and defines the basic model for what has become the standard low vision service.
1957 Richard Hoover, an ophthalmologist, presents the functional definitions of blindness.
1957 The Maxfield-Buccholz Social Maturity Scale for Blind Preschool Children is published.
1958 A Psychiatrist Works with Blindness , by Louis Cholden, is published by AFB.
1959 The American Optometric Association establishes the Committee on Aid to the Partially Sighted.
1960 Boston College starts the first university program for O&M instructors.
1961 Gerald Fonda evaluates telescopic spectacles for mobility.
1961 Father Thomas Carroll publishes Blindness: What It Is, What It Does and How to Live With It .
1961 The American Council of the Blind (ACB) is founded.
1962 The concept of the instructional materials centers is formulated through the recommendations of a presidential task force.
1962 The Model Reporting Area for Blindness Statistics begins to publish data on the incidence (new cases) and prevalence (existing cases) of blindness.
1963 Computers are adapted to produce braille outputs.
1963 Dr. Ruth Kaarlela coordinates the first graduate Home Teacher of the Adult Blind training program (later Department of Blind Rehabilitation) at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo.
1963 Natalie Barraga studies the increased visual behavior of children and develops a visual efficiency scale and sequential learning activities and materials for training children with low vision.
1964–65 The rubella (German measles) epidemic in pregnant women causes handicapping conditions, including deafness and blindness in babies.
1965 The prototype of the Sonicguide (the Kay binaural sensory aid) is invented.
1965 Samuel C. Ashcroft, Carol Halliday, and Natalie Barraga replicate Barraga's original study on visual efficiency.
1966 The CEC Project on Professional Standards defines visually handicapped to include both blind and partially sighted.
1966 The report of the Commission on Standards and Accreditation of Services for the Blind attempts to set standards for services to people who are visually impaired.
1967 Ruth Holmes replicates Barraga's 1963 study (published in 1964) and reports on the visual efficiency training of adolescents with low vision.
1967 San Francisco State University and Florida State University establish the first programs to train mobility instructors of children.
1967 The National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) is founded.
1968 Helen Keller dies.
1968 AAIB becomes the Association for Education of the Visually Handicapped (AEVH).
1968 Certification of mobility instructors by AAWB begins.
1968 Federally funded deaf-blind programs are established.
1969 The Making of Blind Men, A Study of Adult Socialization , by Robert Scott, is published by the Russell Sage Foundation.
1969 Samuel Genensky, a mathematician with low vision, and his colleagues at the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, California, report on their development of closed-circuit television (CCTV).
1970 Natalie Barraga's Teachers Guide for the Development of Visual Learning Abilities and Utilization of Low Vision , including the Visual Efficiency Scale, is published by APH.
1970 The U.S. Office of Education sponsors Low Vision Conferences around the United States.
1970 Eleanor E. Faye's book, The Low Vision Patient: Clinical Experience with Adults and Children , is published.
1970 CCTVs become commercially available.
1970 The Mowat sensor is developed.
1971 The Optacon tactile reading machine is developed by John Linvill and James C. Bliss.
1971 "Blindness and Services to the Blind in the United States: A Report of the Subcommittee on Rehabilitation, National Institution on Neurological Diseases and Blindness" is published by the Organization for Social and Technical Innovation.
1971 Virginia Bishop's textbook, Teaching the Visually Limited Child , is published.
1972 Western Michigan University institutes the first required course on low vision as part of its program for preparing O&M personnel.
1972 The Banks pocket brailler is developed by Alfred Banks in San Diego, California, and produced by International Business Machines.
1972 Head Start programs are mandated to take children with disabilities.
1973 Berthold Lowenfeld's book, The Visually Handicapped Child in School , is published.
1974 CEC revises Professional Standards and Guidelines in Special Education.
1975 The talking calculator with audio and visual output is developed.
1975 The first microcomputer is developed.
1975 Eleanor E. Faye and Clare Hood's book, Low Vision , is published.
1976 Large-print calculators become available.
1976 Four states require by law that all general classroom teachers must be prepared to include exceptional pupils in their classes.
1976 Raymond C. Kurzweil develops the Kurzweil Reader, a prototype translator of printed material into synthesized speech.
1976 The Unseen Minority: A Social History of Blindness in the United States , by Frances Koestler, is published.
1976 New Outlook for the Blind is renamed the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness .
1977 The White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals is held.
1977 Susan Jay Spungin publishes her teachers' competence study.
1977 The Association of Instructional Resource Centers for the Visually Handicapped is founded.
1977 The first mass-market personal computers are launched.
1978 The Rehabilitation Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Education (RSA) funds university O&M programs for all disabilities ("Generic O&M") at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (funding discontinued in 1983).
1979 The American Council of Blind Parents is formed by ACB.
1979 The Department of Health, Education & Welfare becomes two separate departments—Education and Health and Human Services; RSA is transferred to the Department of Education.
1979 The first Special Study Institute for State Education Consultants for the Visually Handicapped is sponsored by the University of Michigan with federal funds.
1980 The National Association of Parents of the Visually Impaired (NAPVI) is established.
1980 Foundations of Orientation and Mobility , edited by Richard L. Welsh and Bruce B. Blasch, is published by AFB.
1981 Autoimmunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is identified.
1981 Viewscan, a reading aid, and the Viewscan Text System (VTS) are developed.
1982 The North American Conference on Visually Handicapped Infants and Preschool Children is held.
1983 The Rehabilitation Optometry Journal (later renamed the Journal of Vision Rehabilitation ) is founded by Randall Jose.
1983 Understanding Low Vision , edited by Randall Jose, is published by AFB.
1983 Vision Research: A National Plan: 1983–87 , is published by the National Eye Institute and includes a panel on low vision.
1983 The Pennsylvania College of Optometry offers a master's degree in low vision rehabilitation.
1983 The first braille embosser attachment to a microcomputer is developed.
1983 Project C.A.B.L.E. (Computer Access for Blind Employment) is established at the Carroll Center.
1983 AFB assumes the sponsorship of the Special Study Institutes for Educational Leadership personnel, which is renamed the Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute.
1984 AAWB and AEVH merge as the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of Blind and Visually Impaired (AERBVI).
1984 The Peabody Preschool O&M Project (HCEEP Model Demonstration Project) is funded.
1984 Microcomputers become widely used by people with visual impairments.
1984 NFB creates the Division of Parents of Blind Children.
1985 The World Council for the Welfare of the Blind and the International Federation of the Blind merge as the World Blind Union.
1986 AFB opens the National Technology Center.
1989 The Profession of Orientation and Mobility in the 1980s , by William Jacobson, is published by AFB.
1989 The World Wide Web revolutionizes communication through the Internet.
1990 Preschool Orientation and Mobility Screening , by B. Dodson-Burk and E. Hill, is published by Division 9 of AER.
1993 First bienniel "Getting in Touch with Literacy" conference is held in Little Rock, Arkansas.
1995 The National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those With Multiple Disabilities, is endorsed by organizations nationwide.
1996 Foundations of Low Vision , edited by Anne L. Corn and Alan J. Koenig, is published by AFB.
1997 The second edition of Foundations of Orientation and Mobility , edited by Bruce B. Blasch, William R. Wiener, and Richard L. Welsh, is published by AFB.
1998 The Virginia Murray Sowell Center for Research and Education in Visual Impairment is established at Texas Tech University.
2000 Academy for certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals is established.
2000 American Foundation for the Blind National Literacy Center established.

* Source: Reprinted from G. L. Scholl, "Chronology of Events in the History of Education of People Who Are Visually Impaired," in M. C. Holbrook & A. J. Koenig, Eds., Foundations of Education, Vol. I: History and Theory of Teaching Children and Youths with Visual Impairments (2nd ed.) (New York: AFB Press, 2000), pp. 41–52.

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