Over A Century of Service to the Community
What began as the Missouri Association for the Blind in 1911 has grown from a small organization to one which now serves more than 1,500 individuals of all ages annually through comprehensive Vision Rehabilitation and Special Education Services. Founded by James Jones, Col. James Butler and others, the original objectives were:
- Prevention of Blindness
- Conservation of Eyesight
- Social Service
- Promotion of Employment
- Recreation for the Blind
Today’s St. Louis Society for the Blind and Visually Impaired provides specialized education and training for individuals in order to enhance their independence, health, safety, adjustment, developmental growth, and social interaction.
The programs and services offered by the Society have grown considerably since our inception in 1911. In addition to serving the growing number of individuals with age-related eye conditions, over the years the Society has reached out to under-served individuals who are blind or visually impaired by expanding services to area school-age children, veterans needing assistance through the Veteran’s Administration and younger adults.
The Society takes an active role in professional and community organizations through membership in VisionServe Alliance, Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals and Community Health Charities of Kansas and Missouri. Various staff members have been elected to leadership positions in these organizations statewide and nationally.
Most staff hold national or state certification or licensure in their areas of expertise.
Organizations from which Society personnel hold licenses or certifications include the Academy for Certification of Vision Education and Rehabilitation Professionals, Academy of Certified Social Workers, National Board in Certification of Occupational Therapists, State of Illinois and State of Missouri.
The Society also directly supports related national organizations by making office space available in their building for the national headquarters of VisionServe Alliance and the National Association for Pseudoxanthoma Elasticum (NAPE).
The history of the Society contains a number of accomplishments and important contributions to the community as well as to individuals. Some of these highlights include:
1911 – Committee appointed by Social Service Conference of St. Louis studies “needs of the Blind”, which led to the Missouri Association for the Blind
1912 – Established the first workshop for the adult blind, first broom sent to President Wilson
1913 – Formal incorporation in the State of Missouri, cost of incorporation $9
1913 – Helped pass ordinance making conjunctivitis and trachoma in newborns reportable Diseases
1915 – Pushed legislation that created the State Missouri Commission for the Blind, Society founder Jame Jones one of first state commissioner.
1915 – Began teaching braille in individuals’ homes
1921 – First state pension for the blind established due to the Association’s efforts
1922 – Founded Eye Research Bureau
1924 – Established sight conservation classes for visually handicapped children in schools
1925 – Began awarding Leslie Dana Gold Medal for the Prevention of Blindness
1930 – Name changed adopted to St. Louis Society for the Blind
1934 – helped establish the Missouri Blind Pension
1938 – Helped pass a city ordinance prohibiting sale of fireworks in the city
1941 – Purchased first agency vehicle for staff to visit individuals, 1942 Plymouth Deluxe, price $804.21
1940’s – Visual screening in public schools conducted by school nurse, with training program conducted by the Society
1940’s – Education programs on the dangers of eye injuries from B-B guns
1958 – In conjunction with Washington University School of Medicine, helped fund the local Eye Bank united by short wave radio with other eye banks around the country the St. Louis eye bank supplied corneas for transplant to needed areas in Europe, the Far East and throughout Latin America
1962 – Fund-raising letters sent out under the direction of Red Schoendienst, General Fund Chairman
1973 – Hired the first full-time Orientation & Mobility Specialist to teach independent travel skills
1980 – Purchased property in Webster Groves to move from the Continental Building, first property owned
1986 – Added “Visually Impaired” to name in recognition that majority of individuals served were not totally blind
1989 – Established first Low Vision Clinic at the Society office
1990 – First Social Worker hired for counseling and assessments
1991 – Recreation and Leisure Program for older adults instituted
1992 – Published booklet for Missouri school-age students, parents and teachers to guide high school students transitioning into college or adult life
1996 – First Orientation & Mobility Services to school-age students in area school districts
1997 – Formal agreement with UMSL School of Optometry to expand Low Vision Clinic with UMSL Faculty
1999 – Hired first Certified Teacher of the Visually Impaired and expanded services to school districts in Illinois and Missouri
2003 – Expanded services to include Adaptive Technology and Internet Training for computers
2003 – Awarded Missouri Supreme Court Judge Richard Teitelman with Lifetime Achievement Award as first Missouri Supreme Court Judge who is legally blind
2004 – Staff are lead authors and developers of national publication on “Managing Vision Changes” for OASIS, through a grant from The National Eye Institute and Healthy Vision 2010
2005 – Veteran’s Administration begins contracting with Society to provide computer training to veterans
2005 – Special Education Services expands to more than three full-time staff, serving over 20 districts and as far as 80 miles away
2006 – Completed Technology Training Center Expansion
2006 – Co-Sponsored first area day camp program for teens who are blind and visually impaired
2007 – Co-Sponsored year-around program for school-age students to teach daily living skills
2009 – Expanded Low Vision Clinic by hiring full-time Optometrist as Low Vision Specialist
2010 – Developed new logo and tag line connecting history of organization and geography of St. Louis to services to individuals
2011 – Celebrated 100 Years of Service with a variety of community events and activities for individuals and family members of all ages
2012 – Further implementation of Strategic Plan led to wider support of transportation to services and full implementation of the first Development Program