The long view

A snapshot of some landmarks in the lives of deaf and disabled people across the world since the 13th century – from oppression to work, education and choice about where to live.

Statue of the sphinx surrounded by trees in Chiswich House Gardens Credit - Courtesy of Historic England.

13th century

1234 The founding of Maison Dieu in Faversham, Kent
1260 Hospice des Quinze-Vingts, a hospital for the blind is opened in Paris
1326 Georghospital in Germany includes a ‘madhouse’
1377 Guild of blind beggars recorded in Padua, Italy. Regulates begging and organises pensions for elderly blind.
1403 Bethlem Hospital found in London.
1409 Humane treatment of patients in mental hospitals recorded     in Spain at asylums such as Valencia, Seville, Valladolid, Palma Mallorca, Toledo.

16th century

1590 Training provided for blind people in Northern China. Lu K’un orders city officials to train blind people in music, storytelling and fortune-telling.

17th century

1601  Poor Law Act in England
1670 Hotel des Invalides, Paris. Home and hospital for war veterans.
1680 Waichi Sugiyama opens acupuncture school for blind people in Japan.
1682  Royal Hospital Chelsea opens for poor, sick and disabled soldiers.

18th century

 1704  The Royal Naval College, hospital for disabled seamen.
 1713  Vagrancy acts allowed the detention of ‘lunaticks or mad persons’.
 1749  Diderot’s ‘Essay on Blindness’ is published.
 1755  Samuel Heinicke School for the Deaf is opened in Leipzing, Germany, the first in the world.
 1756  Edward Rushton is born on November 13th.
 1760  Institution Nationale des Sourds-Muets à Paris, France. A school for the deaf.
 1772  Liverpool workhouse opened on Brownlow Hill.
 1784   Institut National des Jeunes Aveugles, France. First school for the blind in the world.
 1784  School for the Deaf opens in Rome, Italy.
 1791  School for the Indigent Blind opens in Liverpool. Later the Warnock report uses this as a starting point for the special education of deaf and disabled children.
 1792  Royal School for the Deaf opens in London (later moves to Margate).
 1792  Liverpool Lunatic asylum opens.
 1793  Royal Blind School, Edinburgh.
 1793  Bristol School of Industry for the Blind.
 1793  The Retreat, York. This psychiatric hospital had ‘no cells, no chains, no cold baths and no beatings’.
 1797  Poussin and Pinel unshackled asylum patients in Paris, France.
 1799  School for the Indigent Blind, London.

Schools founded in late 18th century and early 19th century are described as being ‘solely concerned to provide vocational training for future employment’ whereas schools founded towards the middle of the 19th century were more concerned  to include a ‘genuinely educational element’.

19th century

 1800  Liverpool Blind School moves to London Road, March 1st.
 1804  The Blind Asylum, Glasgow.
 1804  Imperial Royal Institute for the Education of the Blind, Vienna is the first blind school in Austria.
 1805  The Asylum and School for the Indigent Blind, Norwich.
 1806  Johann-August-Zeune-Schule für Blinde, Steglitz (near Berlin), has a museum which opened in 1891 – first blind school in Germany.
 1807   Jaroslav Ježek Conservatory, Prague is the first blind school in Bohemia.
 1808  The Institute for Educating the Blind, Amsterdam, now the Visio Center for Blind and Partially Sighted People is first blind school in Netherlands.
 1809  Manillaskolan,Stockholm General Institute for Deaf and Blind was the first school in Sweden.
 1809  School for the Blind, St Petersburg was the first school in Russia.
 1810  Richmond Nat. Institution for the Industrious Blind, Dublin. First blind school in Ireland (Protestant).
 1811  Royal Institute for the Blind, Copenhagen. First blind school in Denmark.
 1812  First edition of newspaper ‘Russkii Invalid’ (‘Disabled Russian’). Published until 1917.
 1812  Blind School in Aberdeen.
 1814  Edward Rushton died November 22nd in Liverpool.
 1815  Molyneux Asylum for Blind Females, Dublin, Ireland. (Catholic).
 1816  Claremont Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, Dublin, Ireland.
 1816  Blind School in Brussels, the first in Belgium.
 1817  American School for the Deaf, Hartford, CT .Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons.
 1818  McLean Asylum for the Insane, MA, USA.
 1818  Blind School in Naples, the first in Italy.
 1819  Royal Blind School chapel opens, Liverpool, St Mary’s Chapel, Duncan Street.
 1820  Blind school in Barcelona, Spain.
 1820  Liverpool Institute for Curing Diseases of the Eye opens.
 1824  Memoir of Edward Rushton written by William Shepherd.
 1825  Braille invented.
 1827  Glasgow Blind School.
 1829  Perkins School for the Blind, Boston. First blind school in the USA.
 1831  The New York Institution for the Blind.
 1831  Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, and the Blind, Belfast.
 1832  Overbrook School for the Blind, Philadelphia PA, USA.
 1833  Wilberforce School for the Blind, York.
 1834  Poor Law Act.350 new workhouses built.
 1834  Limerick Asylum for Blind Females.
 1836  Istituto dei Ciechi di Milano  (Milan Institute for the Blind), Italy.
 1838  London Society for Teaching the Blind to Read.
 1838  West of England Institute for the Blind, Exeter.
 1838  Royal Victoria School for the Blind, Newcastle upon Tyne.
 1839  Henshaw’s Blind Asylum, Manchester.
 1840  Cork Blind and Deaf and Dumb Asylum, Ireland.
 1841  Liverpool Catholic Blind Asylum.
 1844  Precursor to American Psychiatric Association founded, known as ‘The Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane’.
 1845  Lunatics Act.
 1847  General Institution for the Blind, Birmingham. Offers industrial training as well as a general curriculum.
 1849  Sheltered Workshop for the Blind, Boston MA, USA. Developed at the Perkins Institute.
 1851  Liverpool School for the Indigent Blind, chapel is consecrated in new location Hope Street, May 25th.
 1851  Liverpool School moves to Hardman Street, July 11th.
 1858  American Printing House for the Blind (APH). Established to print books for blind people.
 1860  Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children, Sydney, Australia.
 1866  College for the Blind Sons of Gentlemen, Worcester .
 1868 Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) established. Founded as ‘British and Foreign Blind Association’.
 1868 Normansfield Hospital was founded by John Langdon Down – a home for people with learning disabilities.
 1868  Lebanese Evangelical School for the Blind, Lebanon. First blind school in the Middle East.
 1870  Liverpool workshops for the outdoor blind opened in Cornwallis Street.
 1870 Forster Education Act. England and Wales: School Boards were established to provide education where not enough voluntary places but no explicit provision for special needs. Some schools establish special classes for blind and deaf children on a voluntary basis.
1873 1st International Conference on Education of the Blind, Vienna.
 1873  St Saviour’s Deaf Church founded at its first site in Central London (close to the eventual site of Selfridges).
 1876  The Charity Organisation Society begins campaigning for blind children to receive education and for school boards to provide it.
 1876  Elementary School for the Blind and Old People, Beijing, is the first in China.
 1878  Kyoto School for Blind and Deaf  is the first blind school in Japan.
 1880  Tokyo School for the Deaf, Japan.
 1886 Royal Commission on the Blind and Deaf , England and Wales: The Royal Commission reported in 1889 and advised compulsory education be provided for 5-16 year olds over 2 stages 5-12 then routed to technical or academic education, special boarding schools for those who are delicate, neglected or live far away.
 1886  Idiot’s Act separate act for ‘Idiots and imbeciles” (people with learning disabilities)
 1887  Sharp Memorial School for the Blind in Dehradun, India is the first blind schoo in the country.
 1890  British Deaf Association founded
 1892  Chiswick House becomes an asylum.
 1893 Elementary Education (Deaf and Blind) Act England and Wales:  Education established as a right but not consistently implemented – generally happened in cities but not smaller areas. There was no control over voluntary schools until the Local Education Act of 1902.
 1894  The Guild of the Brave Poor Things founded in Bristol.
 1896  Committee on Defective and Epileptic Children.  Education department established this committee to look at the education needs of the “feeble-minded and defective children” and how to differentiate between the educable and non-educable and provision for children with epilepsy. This is a useful source of information about early definitions.
 1898 Committee on Defective and Epileptic Children reported.  Recommendations not fully taken forward because determined too expensive.
1899  National League of the Blind and Disabled established as a Trade Union.
 1899 Elementary Education (Defective and Epileptic Children) Act,       England and Wales. It offered better educational provision for ‘defective and epileptic’ children. The powers and responsibilities granted by this Act were slow to be taken up – only 133 out of 327 Local Authorities had done so within 10 years.
 1899  Wavertree School opens, January 12th.

20th century

 1902 Rehabilitation Act, England and Wales: This fundamentally altered the structure of education provision. School boards were abolished, a two-tier system was introduced, and a power to provider secondary education.  for blind, deaf and defective children. This was the basis for special education until 1944.
 1907 US Eugenics Sterilization Law, USA for ‘confirmed idiots, imbeciles and rapists’ in state institutions in 24 states.
1907 London County Council made provision for partially sighted children and by 1913 8 LAs were making similar provision.
 1912 First Eugenics Congress, London. Attended by H G Wells and W Churchill.
 1913  Fukui Prefectural School for the Blind, Japan.
 1913  Mental Deficiency Act, UK. Requires school boards to segregate ‘mental defectives’.
 1914  Elementary Education Act, UK. Says that ‘feeble-minded’ childdren must be sent to special schools.
 1918  Sunshine nurseries, RNIB began nursery education for blind children with the establishment of Sunshine Home.
 1920 Blind Persons Act, UK. Local authorities must ‘promote the welfare of blind persons’.
 1921 Chorleywood College. Secondary school for girls established by RNIB.
 1921  American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), USA.
 1921 All-Russian Cooperative of Disabled People (VIKO) in Russia         provides work and leisure opportunities for people with disabilities.
 1925  All-Union Society of the Blind (AUSB) founded in Russia.
 1926  All-Union Society of the Deaf (AUSD), Russia.
 1927  St Petersburg Library for the Blind founded, Russia.
 1927  UK Mental Deficiency Act.
 1929  Wood Committee Report of the Mental Deficiency Committee England and Wales: Interestingly this committee pressed for closer association between mainstream and special needs education. The idea of stigma from separation was discussed.
 1931  Demolition of School Chapel commences.
 1931  Guide Dog Training opens, Wallasey.
 1932 New extension on Liverpool School of the Indigent Blind’s Hardman Street site opens in place of the chapel.
 1933  Philharmonic Hall Fire opposite Liverpool School.
 1934 Board of Education Committee, UK.  In 1934 the Board of Education Committee of Inquiry into Problems relating to Partially Sighted Children recommended that where possible these children should be educated in classes within ordinary schools and should not be taught alongside the blind. The Committee found that provision for 2,000 partially sighted children was being made in 37 schools and that a further 18 schools for the blind offered special education for the partially sighted. Nevertheless many partially sighted children were being educated as if they were blind (Gillard 2011).
 1935 The League of the Physically Handicapped formed in NY, USA to protest against discrimination by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
 1939  Nazi Euthanasia Programme in Germany murders 240,000 disabled people.
 1939  Evacuation of the Wavertree and Hardman Street Schools for the Blind, UK to the former North Wales School for Blind Children in Rhyl.
 1941  Education Green Paper (for after the war).
 1944  Education Act, UK,England and Wales: Special education subsumed into general education responsibilities of Local Education Authority. Children with disabilities were to be educated within mainstream education were possible but in special schools where disabilities were serious. There was an obligation to established the needs of all disabled children, there was the creation of ‘Child Guidance Clinics’.
 1944  Disabled Persons (Employment) Act, UK promised sheltered employment, reserved occupations, & employment quotas for disabled people.
 1945  Handicapped Pupils and School Health Service Regulations, England and Wales: defined 11 categories of pupils. The regulations prescribed that blind, deaf, epileptic, physically handicapped and aphasic children were severely disabled and should be educated in special schools. Blind children should be educated in special boarding schools. The regulations also provided detailed guidance for the provision of education services.
 1945  The Akropong School for the Blind, Ghana. First blind school in South Saharan Africa.
1946  National Health Services Act.Safeguarded the special education of children in hospital.
 1946 Special Educational Treatment Pamphlet No.5, UK. This was guidance issued under the Handicapped pupils regulation set out above. It set out that blind children (around 1200) should be educated in special schools. More seriously affected partially sighted children should also be considered for special schools but others could be educated in mainstream or open schools.
 1950 Buigiri School for the Blind Tanzania. First blind school in Tanzania
 1955  The Underwood Committee, UK. This committee was set up in 1950 and took 5 years to report, producing a report entitled “Report of the Committee on Maladjusted Children”. The report is not seen as “novel or revolutionary” and is noted mainly for its use of the term “maladjustment”. A quick scan suggests emphasis on definitions and service provision.
 1957  Hardman Street School closes.
 1959  Mental Health Act UK.
 1960  First Paralympics held (in Rome).
 1964  The Blind School in Kabul established, Afghanistan.
 1968  First International Special Olympics Games.
 1970  Education (Handicapped Children) Act, England and Wales: all handicapped children however serious the disability to be included in the framework of special education.
 1970  Philippine National School for the Blind, Philippines.
 1973  Rehabilitation Act, USA protection from discrimination
 1975 UN Declaration of the Rights of Disabled Persons calls for full economic and social integration of disabled people
 1976  Education Act, England and Wales: Aim was to push more integration and provision within mainstream education
 1976  Grove Road housing scheme, Sutton-in-Ashfield.
 1976 Union of Physically Impaired Against Segregation set up – the first organisation to argue for a ‘social model of disability’
 1978  National Council on Disability founded USA.
 1981  Care in the Community green paper in the UK signalled end of asylums
 1981 The Education Act paved the way for the integration of children with ‘special needs’.
  1981  UN International Year of Disabled Persons.
 1983  Mental Health Act, UK.
 1984  Disabled People South Africa formed.
 1986  Southern African Federation of Disabled People (SAFOD) includes 10 southern african countries
 1986 Madrassa An-Noor for the Blind, Malawi. First Muslim school for the blind
 1990  Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), USA
 1991 Disability Living Allowance introduced, UK
 1991 Law of the Protection of the Rights of the Disabled, China
 1992  Disability Discrimination Act, Australia
 1995 Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) made discrimination against disabled people illegal
 1998 Hibiki no Kai (Echo Society) Founded in Japan. Social group for blind people (founded because Japan doesn’t have equivalent to ADA or DDA).

21st century

2006 UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Members agree to provide equal rights and root out discrimination.
2007 Mental Health Act.
2016 School for disabled and blind people opened in Kobane, Syria.

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