History of Vocational Rehabilitation
Founding Father Serves Despite Disability: Stephen Hopkins, a man with cerebral palsy, is one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Hopkins is known for saying “my hands may tremble, my heart does not.”
Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind was founded in St. Augustine. In 1882, Thomas Hines Coleman, a young deaf man, was preparing to graduate from Gallaudet University. He graduated from the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind and knew he wanted to make education for children his life’s work. Florida was one of the few states that had not made provision for the education of children who were deaf/hard of hearing or who had visual impairments. Coleman wrote Governor William D. Bloxham and he replied favorably toward the establishment of such a school. As their correspondence continued, the sum of $20,000 was reached as a minimum appropriation to start the school. The school is now the largest school of its type in the United States with 47 buildings on 82 acres. Notable alumni: Ray Charles attended St. Augustine School where he learned to read Braille; Ashley Fiolek, national women’s motocross champion; Marcus Roberts, jazz pianist; Joseph “Joe” Walker, sports broadcaster; and Sir Charles Atkins, Florida blues legend.
Ray Charles was a legendary musician often called the “Genius,” who pioneered the genre of soul music during the 1950s. Born Ray Charles Robinson on September 23, 1930, in Albany, Georgia, he was raised in Greenville, Florida, and started playing the piano before he was five. At age six, he contracted glaucoma that eventually left him blind. He studied composition (writing music in Braille) and learned to play the alto saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, and organ while attending the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and the Blind from 1937 to 1945.
Soldier’s Rehabilitation Act helped to establish federally-funded rehabilitation services such as training and job placement services to assist men injured due to active duty or work-related injuries. Over the years, the program has evolved to protect the rights of people with disabilities in such areas as employment, education, public transportation and building accessibility.
Welding Tool Adaptation for Amputee at Walter Reed 1919
Herbert A. Everest (disabled American mining engineer) and Harry C. Jennings patent a design for a folding crossframe wheelchair that can be packed into a car. The earliest record of a wheelchair dates back to the 6th century as an inscription on a stone slate in China.
Wheelchair designs from 1920 to 2020.
The Florida Council for the Blind acquired a U.S. Army convalescent center in Daytona Beach. Currently operates as the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 is amended to bring people with disabilities (other than blindness) into sheltered workshops.
Florida Senator Verle Pope talking with his new employee Scott Trees. Scott at 16 years old was rejected by Legion Boy’s State because of his handicap. He was born without hands or toes.
--Florida Memory, State Archives
Performed by VR customer George Dennehy.