Choosing items for the timeline was tough - only eleven items about our school would fit the design - So much history in the 162 years we've been in Austin. This doesn't begin to cover it all, but is a good representation of why we are who we are where we are.
What's on the timeline:
1. Our school's first home - the Neill-Cochran house. This was first occupied by Washington Hill. It was out of town, of course (like all our campuses). Hill was a surveyor and was gone for many days, leaving his wife at home. Mrs. Hill, afraid of the Commanche Indian horse trails that were a mere 15 yards behind her home, moved into a location that was safer, close to the Capitol. The Neill-Cochran house lives at 23rd and San Gabriel - now considered part of the heart of downtown Austin. Washington Hill rented his house for $900.00 a year to the state so that it could establish a blind school.
The school opened in 1856, but only had one student who arrived on December 29th - Robert McEachern. The first three students were named, 'Robert'. The next year a handful more joined the school.
2. Custer's occupation - Our school was closed during one year - at the end of the Civil War. General George Custer and his troops occupied our second home, located again out of town on land that would become the property of UT. The Blind Institute moved in 1858 after the grand school was built. Custer occupied this location during an 'uneventful' five months.
During his time in Austin, he used our FIRST home - what would become the Neill-Cochran house, as a hospital. Many ghost stories arose from that house because many soldiers died there. Custer left both places a mess, despite his strict intolerance for destruction of property within his rule over his men.
3. In 1887, at the very end of the session of Congress, a bill was introduced that created the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institute for Colored Youths. This would later become the Deaf, Blind and Orphan school and in the 1960s, it would disperse its pupils to the Blind and Deaf schools, respectively. From this place came many talented teachers and students, one of which is Arizona Drane(s) who arrived with her mother (who stayed with her at school). She would later create the booming sound of Gospel music, a precursor to rock 'n roll. The school was the home of the BDO tigers, an unbeatable basketball team led by 'coach' Matthew Caldwell. The newspapers accused the players of being on steroids, but this wasn't the case. The deaf winning basketball team, however, was split up in the 60s when Caldwell was placed at the Blind School.
4. Mattie White, a black teacher for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind School was probably one of the most respected women in town at that time. She also started a school for girls.
5.Frank Rainey - who was a fine physician, appointed to his position by the governor, brought us books and expanded the Broom-making and other such trades areas for the students. However, it was E E Bramlette who was not a physician when he was nominated for the superintency, that brought a change to the 'Blind Institute' and truly made it into a school, moving us onto this piece of land in 1917. While he was superintendent, he had the name changed from the Texas Blind Institute to Texas School for the Blind, as well. He created a bigger library and filled it with books that were Braille, New York Point and Moon Type. After his stint as superintendent, he became the head of the American Printing House.
6 and 7.The opening of our school. The school was almost finished when we moved into it on October 23, 1917, but it was close enough. Bramlette talks about the task of moving from our second home - which we occupied for almost 60 years to the new one, on the spot where the school rests today. Yet the doors opened and classes started, although a little late. The structures were in the 'cottage' style, three buildings on one side the main building and three on the other side. The main building separated the boys' dorms from the girls' dorms. A new kindergarten as well as a farmer's cottage would be finished in the next few years. Bramlette made a statement about the school not being an asylum, but a school. His influence and the buildings that were created under his tenure remained until 2009 when the old campus was destroyed and new buildings with a new design replacing them. The construction project ended in 2012.
8. The time line lists these items, but of course, there are many more milestones for blind education than what is listed here.
- 1921 - The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is founded with the help of philanthropist M.C. Migel. Here is a little history of AFB from the site itself.
- 1940 - The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) was established. A blind faction felt like the AFB wasn't always working for their best interests and thus a change was needed. Now, both organizations work for more independence, greater education and resources and providing a sense of community.
- 1944 - Richard E. Hoover at the Valley Forge Hospital and Russell Williams at Hines Hospital and others develop long-cane mobility techniques. A good resource on the history of why these men were so important, read: "O&M Living History -- Where Did Our O&M Techniques Come From?" by Dona Sauerburger, COMS
- 1953 - The Nemeth Braille Mathematics Code is established. Abraham Nemeth created a special code for himself, but passed it on to another interested professor who then helped it become a good writing system for mathematics for the blind. Nemeth used it to calculated extensive formulas and worked out how standard Braille code could also be used for these complicated mathematical problems.
- 1970 - CCTVs become commercially available. Closed-Circuit Television Systems, when the camera is aimed at an object, it magnifies it for a screen attached to it. CCTVs are usually known as cameras that record in places where recording events or people is considered 'necessary'. In this case, the term is being replace with 'Video Magnifier' and refers to newer technology that allows for greater magnification much easier. Check AFB's site for a better understanding.
- 1989 - The World Wide Web revolutionizes communication through the Internet. Internet accessibility for all is still in progress, but working on this, along with a crackpot group of programmers and business leaders, is Jim Allan, the original webmaster and accessibility guru for TSBVI. In the earlier days, web accessibility was not on the radar of those who created web pages. These days, accessibility on the World Wide Web is a challenge and responsibilty for web designers and those who program for the web.
9.. Retrolenta Fibroplasia - Most theories of this particular national anomaly is that there was an idea that extra oxygen in premature babies would help them survive. This didn't work and the result was that these children were blinded or died. In fact, a large number children across the US were, in fact, blinded by this oxygen 'therapy'. This 1942 anomaly was not resolved until the early 50s, when British scientists theorized and then confirmed that the babies had been 'oxygen poisoned'. The populations of blind children grew and many schools for the blind saw a great increase in their blind populations.
10. In 1964, a Rubella (German Measles) epidemic in the United States caused children of mothers with this affliction to be born deaf and/or blind, with other problems such as heart problems, delayed growth and other medical conditions. This is the main reason that TSBVI began their Deaf-Blind program - because the population of Deaf-Blind children had increased substantially.
11. 1975 and beyond. Up until the mid-Seventies, schools for the blind mostly served only blind students. But the increase in 'other disabilities' became the responsibility of these schools when blindness was the predominant affect. In 1979, TSB changed to TSBVI and served the 'visually impaired' children as well as blind students, but the school now serves many populations and has grown exponentially within the last few years - as our Outreach department now serves close to 10,000 students through educational support for teachers and parents - across Texas.
At the same time, legislation, promoted by Natalie Barraga and signed into law by Dolph Briscoe, spelled out that children shoul learn in the 'least restrictive environment' leading schools like TSBVI to create programs for sending students back to their districts and into a regular curriculum for sighted children.
This backfired, in a good way, when later, Ann Corn and Phil Hatlen (with others) created an Expanded Core Curriculum to serve visually impaired students and to provide necessary skills for those students to flourish in the world. These skills are spelled out in the National Agenda and include orientation and mobility, socialization, technology and others.