DEDICATED TO IMPROVING THE LIVES OF BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED PEOPLE

Military Appreciation Month: Recognizing Pioneering Work in Blind Rehabilitation

May is also Military Appreciation Month, a fitting time to recognize the role of the military and Veterans Administration (VA) in the history of vocational rehabilitation. Since World War II, the military and VA have made substantial contributions to the field of blind rehabilitation. In 1944, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, through an executive order proclaimed “No blinded servicemen from WW II would be returned to their homes without adequate training to meet the problems of necessity imposed upon them by their blindness.” Subsequently, the training and social adjustment of blinded soldiers became the responsibility of the military, with vocational rehabilitation handled by the VA. The experience of blinded soldier Russ Williams paved the way in adapting the assistive techniques he learned in teaching others. Williams, who was appointed the first Chief of the Hines Blind Rehabilitation Center, “developed a sequential learning experience built on little blocks of success until the patient ultimately achieved his established goals. The Hines experience created an atmosphere of respect for what blind people could do.” Today the legacy continues, with nine additional Blind Rehabilitation Centers in operation, along with Visual Impairment Service Teams, including outreach programs, and blind rehabilitation university training programs, which have educated rehabilitation professionals who serve in private and public agencies. Read more about the History of Blind Rehabilitation Service.