Page images

work is costly but, if the teachers are the right sort, the possibilities of good are very great.

Sales ServiceThe need for such an effort comes as an outgrowth of the work of the home teachers. It is surprising how many articles that are salable the blind people will make, and how much joy there comes to them when they realize that what they make can be sold. There must be some central agency, however, to collect the goods and arrange for sales, which must be advertised effectively and persistently. As the work grows it is found there is so much labor in cutting and preparing materials, and in inspecting and handling the work as it is sent in, that the teachers cannot do it all themselves, and help with sight must be employed to aid in the effort.

Relief and Assistance—There are a dozen states giving pensions to blind people, and New York City has special municipal grants in the form of pensions. Connecticut has favored, however, a carefully supervised system of relief. The Board is therefore allowed to help needy blind people, not to exceed $30 a month. The help is varied in form, and practically none of the assistance that is given is paid directly to the blind person in the form of money. Necessarily there goes with the relief giving much personal service, advice and assistance which cannot be computed in terms of money nor statistics.

Conservation of Vision-It is most important to conserve the sight in children through sight saving classes in public schools. Unless this Board points the way in this important field the work is likely to be neglected. Recognizing this the Board has appointed a special committee to further the effort, and the plans which are being carried out in New Haven are outlined in the last bi-ennial report of the Board.

Prevention of Blindness—This is an important field which calls for more information of an authoritative nature upon the part of the public in regard to preventive measures in dealing with the eyes. . This Board has taken an especial interest in certain conditions which are likely to result in total or partial blindness, and has been able to do some preventive work with individuals threatened with loss of sight through syphilis and trachoma. We believe that one person could give full time to this important field with results that would fully justify the expense.

Publicity and Information—False notions regarding the blind

[ocr errors]

and what they can and cannot do, take such persistent lodgment in the public mind that workers in this field realize that they can do the cause a service by giving wide publicity to sane statements concerning the work. The workers are encouraged to give talks on the work for the blind. We have prepared nearly 200 lantern slides depicting phases of the work in Connecticut, and Mr. Reasor has an address which is given with some of these slides. One address by Mr. Reasor has been broadcasted by radio.

In connection with the sales which have been given and with the home teaching work, an opportunity has been offered for considerable favorable newspaper publicity. Not a little material acceptable to newspapers has been prepared in this office and has been sent to daily and weekly papers in Connecticut. It has had an educational value. Letters containing information and specific requests have been sent to the first selectman of every town in the State, to the health officers and to all the eye specialists in the State.



There are three institutions for the blind in this state, a nursery at Farmington, a school at Hartford, and a trades department at Wethersfield. The last named is for adults. Each of these is a separate department of the Connecticut Institute for the Blind, which is a private corporation without stock. The board of directors of the Connecticut Institute is responsible for the conduct and upkeep of these departments. The state gave a considerable part of the money for the buildings at the trades department and school, and has a lien against them, and the Board of Education of the Blind is charged with visiting, inspecting and reporting concerning each of the departments, but, strictly speaking, they are privately owned and conducted. The Board of Education of the Blind arranges for the education and board of blind people from this state at the above departments or elsewhere, if it is deemed best. In cooperation with the above-named institutions the Board plans for the future of the pupils and when they have left the institution assists them to attain self support, in part or in whole.

Any who desire further information regarding the work for the blind in Connecticut should address their communications to the Secretary of this Board at Room 62, State Capitol, Hartford.

"Try to realize what blindness means to those whose joyous activity is stricken to inactivity. It is to live, long, long days, and life is made up of days. It is to live immured, baffled, impotent, all God's world shut out. It is to sit helpless, defrauded, while your spirit strains and tugs at its fetters, and your shoulders ache with the burden they are denied the rightful burden of labor."


[graphic][merged small][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Note: Mr. Smith was born in East Hampton, Conn., September 17, 1837, and died in Middletown, Conn., May 9, 1924. This sketch was written several years before his death by one of his friends. At that time the Revised Braille had not been accepted as the compromise type for the blind.

The alphabet by which most blind persons read our present-day literature with the touch of the finger is no longer the embossed Roman lettering, that sighted people could easily read with the eyes, but consists of a series of embossed points that can be much more easily read by the blind than the old line type. The highest flowering of punctography (or printing for the blind in points) is

the American Improved Braille alphabet, later known simply as the "American Braille", which has been supplanting other alphabets for the blind in this country, gradually and firmly against the strongest opposition, but all the more permanently on that account.

The story of the man who perfected this alphabet, interwoven as it is with the story of American Braille, has never before been told in print. But in view of the universal acceptance that seems destined for this alphabet its perfector has won a sure fame in the annals of education for the blind.

To transform a blight into a blessing, a calamity into a victory, is in itself an achievement worthy of the noblest quality of character. A young man twenty-three years of age, Joel West Smith by name, was celebrating with a group of other young men on the Fourth of July, 1862, a recent victory of the Union army, when a loaded cannon prematurely discharged its roaring fire and the young man, too near the mouth of the gun, caught the side-sweep of the blast in his face. After weeks of suffering the net result of careful treatment was the renewal of his health, but a total loss of sight. When the accident occurred he was employed in a country store in East Hampton, Connecticut, his native town. He cherished the ambitions of an industrious country boy to become a merchant in that village. But now at one stunning blow he was left with only the prospects of a pauper, never dreaming that he could ever earn an independent livelihood, never dreaming of the career of wide influence that would develop through the years, touching the lives of thousands of Bartimei.

Although nearly a half century has passed since the disaster, Joel West Smith is still a young man as compared with his father, when the writer first met him. Over ninety years of age, the elder Smith read his Bible and his magazines every day without glasses, attending the furnace in the winter and his flourishing garden in the summer. His memory, however, of the events of last week were dimmer than of the stirring days of the War of 1812.

The September after he lost his sight, having heard of the New York Institution for the Blind, Mr. Smith resolved to visit the school. His first hour there was a complete and happy revelation to him. A blind person answered the ringing of the door-bell, another blind man escorted him about the building, still another played upon the organ; and scores of the blind were engaged in

« PreviousContinue »