Blindness and Education in the 1800s

The 1880s saw the introduction of compulsory elementary education for the blind throughout the United States. Britain followed suit in 1893, by passing the Elementary Education Act. This act ensured that blind people up to the age of 16 years were entitled to an elementary-level education as well as to vocational training.

By this time, reading codes - chiefly Braille and New York Point - had gained favor among educators; embossed letters proved difficult to learn and cumbersome to use, and so dot codes were either newly created or imported from well-established schools in Europe. (Though New York Point was widely accepted for a time, Braille has since emerged the victor in what some blindness historians have dubbed “the War of the Dots.”)

The more respected residential schools were staffed by competent teachers who kept abreast of the latest developments in educational theory. While some of their methods seem archaic by today’s standards - particularly where their vocational training options are concerned - their efforts did pave the way for the education and integration of blind students in the 20th century.