California School for the Blind
Report Card 2012/2013


Education of
Deaf-Blind Children

in the 60s

for the 70s

of the 70s

Newel Perry, Pupil,
Scholar, Teacher Leader

CSB History


Education of Deaf-Blind Children

In the 19th Century there were approximately fifty-four deaf-blind persons who lived in America, according to William Wade of Pennsylvania, a friend of Helen Keller and other deaf-blind persons. At this time, sixteen were in school. They attended either schools for the deaf or schools for the blind. Perkins School for the Blind and the new York Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf each had three students.

In 1891, it was recommended by the American Association of the Instructors of the Blind that deaf-blind pupils be educated in schools for the blind.

Perkins School for the Blind established the first special department for the deaf-blind in 1933. From 1937 to 1957, seven other departments were organized. In 1937, the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind opened the second deaf-blind department.

Richard E. French, the Superintendent of the California School for the Blind (commonly known as "C.S.B."), sought legislation as early as 1936 to admit deaf-blind children into the school. His secretary, Marie Clisham, played a major role in this effort. The school was not given authorization until 1943 to admit the deaf-blind. They were the third school in the country to establish a deaf-blind program and did so the year they received authorization.

The deaf-blind students were taught separately in the younger children's cottage. The school decided to expand the building in 1948, and the addition was completed in 1949. Upon completion, Helen Keller came to dedicate the building, and it was named the Helen Keller Unit.

Miss Inis B. Hall was the first teacher of the deaf-blind at the California School for the Blind. She earned a reputation for teaching the deaf-blind at the Perkins School for the Blind, and through her leadership helped establish the first deaf-blind department in the country at Perkins. She was a trained teacher of the deaf who had learned from Sophia Alcorn how to teach speech through the Vibration method known as Tadoma.

Jackie Coker was the first deaf-blind student to be graduated from C.S.B. She attended the school from 1946 to 1949 and entered the school as a high school sophomore. There were seven deaf-blind students attending the program at that time. Jackie went on to college and now works at the Department of Rehabilitation in Sacramento.

In 1964-65, a rubella epidemic hit the United States. Prior to this time an estimated 140 deaf-blind were born per year, but the number of deaf-blind children born in the epidemic years rose to 2,000. In 1968, the C.S.B. Deaf-Blind Department doubled in size and doubled again in 1969, due to the epidemic.

In 1969, the Deaf-Blind Institute was established for the parents of deaf-blind children. Parents would come and stay at the school with their deaf-blind children. It was not only a time for education but a time for sharing among people who had a common bond because of their children. The institute was not continued after the school moved to Fremont.

Evelyn Greenleaf became the first principal of the C.S.B. Deaf-Blind Department, in 1970. She had taught in the Department for eleven years prior to taking the position.

In 1971, the Deaf-Blind Assessment Center was established at the California School for the Blind. Deaf-blind children from the Southwestern Region (California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, the Trust Territories of the Pacific, and the Navajo Nation) came to the School for a short period of time to be assessed. The Assessment Center closed at the end of the 1982-83 school year, due to loss of Federal funding.

A career preparation program was developed for deaf-blind teenagers by Charles Zemalis and Willie Evans in 1974. Deaf-blind students worked in the school's infirmary, in the pre-career workshop, and other places on campus, and later off campus at businesses in the community.

The school moved to Fremont from Berkeley in 1980, and deaf-blind classes are still in operation on the campus.

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