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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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One cannot help being impressed with the popular belief that no one is blind who sees light, and with the idea that this is a school for the blind, and hence it is a school for those who cannot see light. Of the 106 pupils now in attendance at the institution, 25 are totally blind, while the remaining 81 have more or less vision, some being able to distinguish colors and move about with ease, while others can barely distinguish the rays of the noonday sun. So far as education is concerned, those boys and girls are all practically blind, that is, no one of them has sufficient sight to enable them to study in the public schools, and this is the only school in which any of them can be trained so as to become useful men and women.


The 3,983 blind returned by the Massachusetts census in 1895 were classified as follows, by degree of blindness and age: --


Under 21 Years of Age. 21 Years of Age and Over. Total. Per Cent.
Totally blind, 201 1,383 1,564 39.27
Semiblind, 375 2,044 2,419 80.73
Totals, 576 3,407 3,983 100.00


Similarly, the 2,217 blind reported by the federal census for Massachusetts for 1900 were classified as follows: --


Under 20 Years of Age20 Years of Age and OverUnknown AgeTotal Per Cent
Totally blind, 155 1,104 1 1,280 56.83
Partially blind, 148 806 3 957 43.17
Totals, 303 1,910 4 2,217 100.00


According to the federal census, there were 64,763 blind in the United States in 1900, classified as follows: --


Under 20 Years of Age20 Years of Age and OverUnknown AgeTotal Per Cent
Totally blind, 4,123 31,363 159 35,645 55.04
Partially blind4,185 24,802 131 29,118 44.96
Totals8,308 56,165 290 64,763 100.00


The foregoing statements disclose a fact which has come to be clearly recognized within the last half century; namely, that by far the greater proportion of the blind are adults. Thus, the 3,407 blind persons twenty-one years of age or over in 1805 equalled 85.53 per cent. of all the blind in the State; and similarly, the blind persons twenty years of age or over (1,910) equalled 90.22 per cent. of the total number of blind returned by the federal census of 1900. Again, of the 3,676 blind reported by the State census of 905, 3,174, or 86.34 per cent., were twenty-one years of age or over. They are subdivided as follows: (1) twenty-one to sixty years, 1,372, or 37.33 per cent. of the whole number of blind; (2) sixty-one to eighty years, 1,377, or 37.46; (3) eighty-one years or over, 416, or 11.31 per cent.; and age not given, 9, or .24 per cent. Speaking broadly, while 9.44 per cent. (357) of the whole number were children, 11.31 per cent. (416) were in their second childhood.


Of the total number of the blind reported by the federal census or 1900, 56,165, or 86.72 per cent., were twenty years of age or over. Furthermore, it is a fact, and a fact of capital importance, that most of the adult blind become blind when adults, and are thereby debarred from entering the schools for the blind, which, contrary to the general impression, are seldom willing to undertake either the literary or industrial education of any who are over twenty.


The first conclusive showing that the majority of the adult blind in Massachusetts became so after school age was made in 1905 by the Commission on the Adult Blind, from whose report the following tabular statement is compiled: --


The Blind in Massachusetts, 1905. -- Age Period when Blindness occurred.


PRESENT AGE.0-19.20-39.40-59.60 or OverNot stated.UnknownTotal.
0-19 Years354-----354
20-59 years, 410 283 260-33-986
60 or over, 71 106 34390631-1,457
Unknown, -----5 5
Totals, 8353896039066452,802
0-19 Years, 354-----354
20 or over,481389 60390664 -2,443
Unknown, ------5


Inspection of the foregoing discloses the fact that of the 2,802 blind, included in the preliminary returns of the State census of 1905, 2,443 were adults; of whom 1,808, or 77.69 per cent., became blind after reaching the age of twenty years, against 481, or 19.69 per cent., who became blind before reaching that age. According to the report on the blind in 1900, published by the federal census in 1906, there were 1,910 adult blind persons in the State in 1900, of whom 1,453, or 76.07 per cent., were reported to have become blind in adult life. In the same report the number of the adult blind in the United States is given as 56,165; and 41,044, or 73.77 per cent., are reported to have become blind after reaching the age of twenty, against 12,326, or 21.94 per cent., who became blind before reaching that age.


It is noteworthy that the larger part of the adult blind in this State may properly be characterized as "aged," inasmuch as 1,457, or 50.63 per cent., of the 2,443 adults included in the last tabular statement are found in the age group sixty years or over. Of that 1,457 it appears that 960, or 60.57 per cent., were at least sixty years old when they became blind. Experience shows that something can be done towards teaching some of the aged blind to read, and giving them occupation; but the blind who are from twenty to sixty years of age are they whose needs should be chiefly considered in seeking to provide industrial training and opportunity for the adult blind.

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