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First Annual Report Of The Massachusetts Commission For The Blind

Creator: n/a
Date: 1908
Publisher: Wright & Potter, Boston
Source: Mount Holyoke College Library

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Inspection of the foregoing discloses an apparent decrease in the period 1895-1905 in the total number of the blind, and in each of the principal age groups. The fluctuations in the absolute and relative numbers from census to census and within the same classes are noteworthy, and suggest the probability that the three sets of figures are not strictly comparable . . . The number of blind persons to the million of population in Massachusetts, as determined by the United States census, was 893 in 1880, 738 in 1890 and 1,159 in 1900; and as determined by the State census, was 1,843 in 1885, 1,593 in 1895 and 933 in 1905. On the whole, it may be doubted that any very considerable diminution of the relative number of blind in the State has taken place since 1895.


Since the publication of the foregoing the preliminary figures given above for 1900 and 1905 have been replaced by final figures. The federal census ("The Blind and the Deaf, 1900," Washington, 1906) gives 2,217 as the total number of the blind in Massachusetts in 1900, instead of 3,252; and the State census gives 3,676 (Census of 1905, Bulletin 12, the blind) for 1905, instead of 2,802. Accordingly, the number of blind per million of population should be 790 for 1900 and 1,224 for 1905.


The returns of the enumeration of the federal census gave 101,123 as the number of blind persons in the United States in 1900. The revised figures of the federal census are 64,763 or 852 per million of population for the United States; and 2,217, or 790 per million, for Massachusetts, -- the elimination for correction amounting to 35.95 per cent. of the preliminary figures for the United States and 31.83 per cent. for Massachusetts. It is altogether probable that the revised figures of the federal census are too small, as the names of 19,884 persons returned as blind, but who failed to reply to the post cards of inquiry sent out by the Bureau of the Census, were eliminated from the revised figures.


According to the revised returns of the State census, the total number of blind for 1905, viz., 3,676, exceeded the preliminary figures by 874, or 31.19 per cent. This increase is partially accounted for by the fact that the Bureau of Statistics of Labor in revising the original returns took account of several hundred names contained in the 3,635 records compiled by the commission on the Adult Blind in 1904 and 1905. The 3,635 records were made up of 2,802 returned by the census enumerators and 833 records by the agents of the commission and of the Association for promoting the Interests of the Adult Blind.


The following statement discloses a wide variance between the proportional figures published by the federal census and the State census: --


Number of Blind per Million of Population in Massachusetts.


CENSUS OF --Federal Census.CENSUS OF -- State Census.


According to the federal census, the relative number of the blind in the State increased 7.05 per cent. in the period 1890-1900; while according to the State census, that number decreased 30.15 per cent. in the period 1895-1905.


Two facts should be noted in connection with these discrepancies: (1) the test of blindness used in the federal census differs from that used in the State census; and (2) the test has been modified in the case of each census. Thus, in the "Report on the Insane, Feeble-minded, Deaf and Dumb and Blind, in the United States at the Eleventh Census: 1890," it is noted that: --


This result as regards Massachusetts is due to the fact that in the State census the term "blind" included all who "cannot distinguish forms or colors distinctly," -- that is, not only the totally blind, but those with defective vision; while in the United States census only those were reported as "blind" who could not count accurately the number of fingers of another person held up before them at the distance of a foot.


In the instructions to enumerators of the twelfth census of the United States, 1900, the following occurs: --


Should it appear that the sight is so seriously impaired that it is impossible for the person to read a book, even with the aid of glasses, then you will note such person as "blind," even though, as a matter of fact, he or she may have some slight power of sight.


In taking the Massachusetts census of 1905, the definition provided for the guidance of the enumerators was as follows: --


This class includes persons who by the aid of glasses are yet unable to distinguish form or color, to count the fingers on the hand within one foot from the eye, or read writing or ordinary print. (Bulletin No. 12, The Blind.)


Manifestly, the attempt to draw conclusive inferences as to the precise amount of increase or decrease in the proportional number of the blind in the period 1890-1905 would be hazardous.


It is a popular mistake to suppose that only such persons as cannot perceive light are to be accounted blind. Every school and institution for the blind contains a considerable number of persons who are not totally blind. Thus Dr. C. F. Fraser, superintendent) of the Halifax School for the Blind in Nova Scotia, in the twenty-eighth report of that institution says: --

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