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

Historical Chronologies

A Summary of Legislation*

1827 P.L. 19-8, the first federal legislation concerning persons who are blind, provides land in Florida and Kentucky for facilities for people with disabilities.
1857 P.L. 34-46 establishes the Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb in the District of Columbia.
1879 P.L. 45-186, the Congressional Act of 1879, An Act to Promote the Education of the Blind, authorizes funds for the American Printing House for the Blind (APH).
1894 The Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, Collegiate Division, is renamed Gallaudet College.
1906 P.L. 59-288 modifies the requirements of P.L. 45-186.
1911 The National Library for the Blind is incorporated in the District of Columbia.
1919 P.L. 66-24 provides additional funds to APH.
1931 The Pratt-Smoot Act (P.L. 71-787) provides funding for literature for adults who are blind.
1941 P.L. 77-270 amends P.L. 45-186, an act promoting the circulation of reading matter for persons who are blind, to include braillewriters and other appliances when mailed for repair.
1949 P.L. 81-290 provides for the sending of braillewriters to or from persons who are blind at the same rates as provided, regardless of the purpose for which they are mailed.
1958 P.L. 85-926 provides funding for personnel preparation in mental retardation.
1961 P.L. 87-276 provides funds for preparing teachers of persons who are hearing-impaired and speech-impaired.
1963 P.L. 88-164 extends funding for personnel preparation for all categories of children with disabilities.
1964 P.L. 88-164, Title II, supports universities in creating departments for teachers of exceptional children.
1965 P.L. 89-313, Title I, amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to provide support for education of children with disabilities in state-operated and state-supported schools and in hospitals.
1968 P.L. 90-489 amends the Public Health Service Act to provide for the establishment of the National Eye Institute in the National Institutes of Health.
1968 P.L. 90-538, the Handicapped Children's Early Education Assistance Act, authorizes preschool and early education programs for children with disabilities.
1968 P.L. 91-61 provides for a National Center on Educational Media and Materials for the Handicapped.
1969 P.L. 89-750, Title VI, is amended to establish programs for students with learning disabilities.
1972 P.L. 92-318, the Education Amendments of 1972, prohibits discrimination against people who are blind.
1973 Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in organizations that receive federal funds.
1975 P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, guarantees a free appropriate public education, with special education, related services, and Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), for each child with a disability.
1976 Taylor vs. Maryland School for the Blind affirms the right of educators to make educational decisions as long as the decisions are not arbitrary or capricious.
1976 P.L. 94-553 provides for the Register of Copyrights to establish, by regulation, standardized forms and procedures by which copyright owners may voluntarily grant to the Library of Congress a license to reproduce the copyrighted material by means of braille or similar tactile symbols or phonorecords or both and to distribute them solely for the use of people who are blind or physically disabled.
1976 Vocational education legislation is expanded to include children with disabilities.
1978 P.L. 95-602, the Rehabilitation Act of 1978, authorizes funds to integrate children with disabilities into recreational programs and to provide rehabilitation for persons with severe disabilities for whom employment may not be the primary goal.
1984 P.L. 98-221, the Rehabilitation Acts Amendment of 1984, provides for the operation of the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults.
1986 P.L. 99-457, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act Amendments, extends mandated special education programs of P.L. 94-142 to children aged 3–5 and initiates early intervention programs for infants and toddlers from birth to age 2.
1988 P.L. 100-630 makes certain technical and conforming amendments to the Education for All Handicapped Children Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
1990 The Americans with Disabilities Act (P.L. 101-336) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.
1990 P.L. 101-476 strengthens the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, and renames it the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
1997 P.L. 105-17 strengthens IDEA, affirms that children with visual impairments will receive instruction in braille unless the IEP team decides otherwise, and adds orientation and mobility as a related service under the act.

* Source: Reprinted from G. L. Scholl, "A Summary of Legislation," 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. 53–54.

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