Perkins School for the Blind

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Perkins School for the Blind
Perkins School for the Blind Enterprise Logo.png
175 North Beacon Street
Watertown, Massachusetts 02472
Type Non-profit
Founded 1829 (1829)
President Dave Power
Campus size 38 acres (15 ha)

Perkins School for the Blind, in Watertown, Massachusetts, is the oldest school for the blind in the United States. It has also been known as the Perkins Institution for the Blind. The Perkins mission is to prepare children and young adults who are blind with the education, tools and skills they need to realize their potential.[1]

Perkins manufactures its own Perkins brailler and braille teaching tool, the Perkins SMART Brailler®, at the Perkins Solutions[2] division housed within the Watertown campus's former Howe Press, which is used to print embossed, tactile books for the blind.[3]


The Howe Building Tower from afar on Perkins School for the Blind's campus, in Watertown, Mass.

Founded in 1829, Perkins was the first school for the blind established in the United States.[4] The school was originally named the New England Asylum for the Blind and was incorporated on March 2, 1829. The name was eventually changed to Perkins School For the Blind. John Dix Fisher first considered the idea of a school for blind children based upon his visits to Paris at the National Institute for the Blind and was inspired to create such a school in Boston.[5]

The school is named in honor of Thomas Handasyd Perkins, one of the organization's incorporators and a Boston shipping merchant who began losing his sight at the time of establishment. In 1833, the school outgrew the Pleasant Street house of the father of its founder Samuel Gridley Howe, and Perkins donated his Pearl Street mansion as the school's second home. In 1839, Perkins sold the mansion and donated the proceeds. This gift allowed the purchase of a more spacious building in South Boston. In 1885, 6 acres (24,000 m2) were purchased in the Hyde Square section of Jamaica Plain, a residential district of Boston, to build a kindergarten. This property was home to both Laura Bridgman and Helen Keller. The school moved to its present campus, in Watertown, Massachusetts, in the autumn of 1912.

Charles Dickens visited Perkins in 1842 during a lecture tour of America and was amazed at the work Howe was doing with Laura Bridgman, a deaf-blind girl who had come to the school in 1837 from New Hampshire. He wrote about his visit in his book, American Notes.

In 1887, Perkins director Michael Anagnos sent graduate Anne Sullivan to teach Helen Keller in Alabama. After working with her pupil at the Keller home, Sullivan returned to Perkins with Keller in 1888 and resided there intermittently until 1893.

In 1931, Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library (BTBL) was created.

In 1951, David Abraham successfully produced the first Perkins Brailler. By 1977, about 100,000 Perkins Braillers had been produced and distributed worldwide.

Perkins today

In the 21st century, Perkins has expanded its mission online to include resources for families with blind and visually impaired children,[6] and teachers of the visually impaired (TVIs).[7] Perkins has also worked with its local partners in Asian countries to host an online community where educators, caregivers and families can network strategies on how to transition their students through life.[8]

In 2011, Perkins completed construction of the Grousbeck Center for Students and Technology on its 38-acre campus in Watertown, Massachusetts. This state-of-the-art facility houses the latest in accessible technology for people who are blind or visually impaired.[9]

Perkins International

Perkins partners with local groups in 67 countries—schools, universities, NGOs, nonprofits, government agencies, and parent networks—to educate and empower people who are blind, deafblind or visually impaired, who may have additional disabilities.[10] The organization does this through disseminating resources, such as Perkins Braillers, funding and expertise on the ground in these countries. One such example of this work in the African countries of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya is Perkins role in the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust, Inc. (KBT).[11]

Special educators from other countries are also invited to the Watertown campus every year, for an intensive study of blindness and multiple-disability education, which they then bring back to their respective regions.[12]

Perkins Solutions

Perkins Solutions concentrates on a broad array of assistive technology and accessibility assessment, training, and consulting. The range of Perkins Braillers ship to 175 countries and includes the Classic Brailler, the Next Generation Brailler and the Smart Brailler launched in 2012 with text-to-speech output, visual display, and applications for teaching braille. This subsidiary of Perkins also partners with associations for the blind and partially sighted, education ministers and resellers around the globe in an effort to provide accessible equipment—including Perkins Braillers, brailler repair and assistive technology—to all who need it.[13]

National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program

On June 8, 2012, in conjunction with the Helen Keller National Center (HKNC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Perkins School for the Blind was selected to conduct nationwide outreach for the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP). [14]

Mandated by the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) and established by the FCC, the NDBEDP will aid individuals with combined vision and hearing loss connect with family, friends and their community by distributing accessible communications technology. Perkins and partners' outreach campaign to educate people on this program is called iCanConnect,[15] which will aim to inform the nearly one million people in the United States with some sort of combined hearing and vision loss on the types of equipment—e.g. screen-enlargement software, video phones and electronic refreshable braille displays[16]—available to them free of charge.


Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library works in conjunction with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) at its Watertown chapter.[17]

Perkins has collaborated with the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired on a Web resource called, an online hub for information related to literacy for students who are blind or visually impaired, including those with additional disabilities or deafblindness.[18]

The international nonprofit has also worked in conjunction with the American Foundation for the Blind to ensure that Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) be taught in mainstream schools.[19]

Perkins is a member Council of Schools for the Blind.


  1. "About Perkins School for the Blind". Perkins School for the Blind. Retrieved October 23, 2015. 
  2. "Assistive Technology for the Blind". Perkins Solutions. Retrieved October 23, 2015. 
  3. "Perkins School for the Blind History Museum". Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  4. "History". Perkins. Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  5. French, Kimberly. Perkins School for the Blind. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2004. Print. Page 7.
  6. "Resources for Parents of Blind & Disabled Babies & Children". Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  7. "Welcome to". Perkins eLearning. Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  8. "Transition Planning Asia". Transition Planning Asia. Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  9. Robert Campbell (March 18, 2012). "A Perkins School building to navigate with multiple senses – Arts". The Boston Globe. Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  10. "About Perkins International". Perkins International. Retrieved October 23, 2015. 
  11. "Kilimanjaro Blind Trust Partners". Kilimanjaro Blind Trust. Retrieved October 23, 2015. 
  12. "Educational Leadership Program". Perkins International. Retrieved October 23, 2015. 
  13. "Assistive Technology for the Blind". Perkins Solutions. Retrieved October 23, 2015. 
  14. "National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program". Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  15. "The National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program". Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  16. "iCanConnect Campaign". March 5, 2014. Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  17. "NLS Announces Awards – News Releases (Library of Congress)". June 19, 2009. Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  18. "History". Paths to Literacy. Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  19. "About Us". Retrieved April 15, 2014.  External link in |publisher= (help)

Further reading

  • French, Kimberly. Perkins School for the Blind: The Campus History Series. Perkins School for the Blind, 2004.
  • The Education of Laura Bridgman: First Deaf and Blind Person to Learn Language
  • The Imprisoned Guest: Samuel Howe and Laura Bridgman, The Original Deaf-Blind Girl
  • Mirror, Mirror on the Wall. The Diary of Bess Brennan
  • Trent, James W., Jr. The Manliest Man: Samuel G. Howe and the Contours of Nineteenth-Century American Reform. University of Massachusetts Press, 2012.

External links

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