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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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It may be remarked in passing that experience has shown, e.g., in Chicago and Milwaukee, that by well-directed effort much more can be accomplished towards teaching the blind and seeing together in public day schools than has usually been supposed.


The number of blind persons belonging in Massachusetts, of the age group 0-20 years inclusive, on Nov. 30, 1907, may be given as 357. That number is made up of 129 included in our register June 1, 167 who were then pupils at the Perkins Institution, and 61 whose names were added to the register between June 1 and Nov. 30, 1907. It may be noted here that the total number of blind at the Perkins Institution always includes a considerable number from other States. The 357 young blind may be classified by age periods as follows: --


AGE PERIOD Number Per Cent
0-4 years, 32 9.0
5-16 years, 230 64.5
17-20 years, 91 25.5
Unknown, 4 1.0
Totals, 357 100.0


Of the 129 specified above, 42, or 32.55 per cent. were found to be unsound mentally; that is, 40 were either mentally defective or backward, 1 was epileptic and 1 was insane. The proportion of mentally defective, using the term in its general sense, to the whole number of young blind, viz., 357, was 11.76 per cent. What proportion of the blind in the age groups twenty to fifty-nine and sixty or over are weak in mind or defective as respects one or other of the organs of special sense cannot be stated; indeed, it cannot be determined without the aid of experts in psychiatry and neurology. Of the 357 young blind, 193, or 54.06 per cent., became blind before reaching the age of one year. It does not appear how many of them owed their blindness to ophthalmia of the new-born (which is a preventable infectious disease), and one of the most prolific causes of blindness; but it is quite probable that a large proportion, say from one-third to one-half, were rendered blind by preventable causes.


We have had a leaflet printed for distribution among parents, which contains practical directions and advice derived from an expert in the care and training of blind children; but the limitation of infectious diseases can only be accomplished through the combined efforts of physicians and boards of health. Preventable blindness occurs most frequently among the vicious, the ignorant and the uncleanly classes. It is gratifying to note that the American Medical Association has recently appointed a special committee to consider preventable blindness and to recommend practicable measures of prevention.


Chapter 75, section 49, of the Revised Laws, as amended by chapter 251, Acts of 1905 (see X., Appendix A), now makes it the duty of nurses, relatives or other attendants, as well as physicians, to make prompt report to selectmen and boards of health in case any infant under their charge, within two weeks after its birth, should show the symptoms which characterize ophthalmia neonatorum.


Once it was organized and in possession of office quarters, the commission took up the industrial side of its work. We found only four agencies actively engaged in the attempt to improve the industrial condition of the blind. They were: (1) the work shop for adults, in South Boston, where, thanks to the co-operation of the Perkins Institution, a group of blind men ranging from 15 to 20 had made fair wages for many years in caning chairs and making and repairing mattresses; (2) the salesroom of the Perkins Institution, at Boylston Street, conducted for the convenience of patrons of the work shop at South Boston. The salesroom also rendered, substantial service to the Alumnae Association of the Perkins Institution, whose efforts to provide blind women with work in their homes has been already alluded to; (3) the experiment station for the trade training of the blind, maintained at Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, by the Massachusetts Association for promoting the Interests of the Adult Blind, for the purpose of testing the value of hand weaving as a remunerative occupation for blind women and men; and (4) the work shop for the blind at Pittsfield, started in 1905 by a local branch of the Massachusetts association. All but the work shop for adults at South Boston were still in the experimental stage, and in need of adequate financial support.


We soon decided to undertake the maintenance of the experiment station and the shop at Pittsfield. Accordingly, having concluded the necessary negotiations, based on full and explicit statements of their financial condition, the commission assumed their Maintenance and liabilities and took over their assets at a fair appraisal. The experiment station was taken over on Sept. 1, 1006, the amount paid for stock, plant, etc., being $3,164.04; and the Pittsfield shop was taken over as of Sept. 1, 1906, at a cost of $110.21.


During the past year both have been moved into larger and more convenient quarters, and both have been reorganized. On Dec. 13, 1906, we opened a salesroom for the benefit of our industries at 383 Boylston Street, Boston, in two rooms on the second floor leased from the Perkins Institution, whose salesrooms are located on the first floor of the same building.

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