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The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired was established by the Sixth Texas Legislature on August 16, 1856, as The Blind Institute, with five members of the board of trustees appointed by Governor Elisha M. Pease. The location of the first Blind Institute was at the residence of Mr. W. L. Hill who leased the premises for the purpose of establishing a school for the blind. Dr. S. W. Baker, family doctor and close personal friend of Governor Pease, was the first superintendent. By 1857, three students were in attendance with one student being 25 years of age at the time of his admittance to The Blind Institute. Parents of the students paid tuition and expenses but, as needed, the tuition and expenses of the students were met by the Institute.

Originally, students were expected to work while at the Institute, making brooms and other marketable products. 

The second location of the school was Block 71 of what is presently known as the Little Campus of the University of Texas. The Little Campus is now known as the Arno Nowotny Building. The cost of the new facilities was $12,390.00 and was completed in late 1857.

In 1888, a reunion of former students was held with 58% of the 24 attending being self-supporting and 42% being at home. Concerns were mentioned throughout the history of the school about gainful employment of the students when they left the school.

Technology was continually evaluated: the telegraph; the typewriter; and the phonograph were new. There was some reservation about spending money on these "new" things that may or may not have benefited the blind students.

In 1905, the name of the school was officially changed to The Blind Institute by the Texas Legislature. In 1916, the school's name was again changed by the Texas Legislature, this time to The Texas School for the Blind. A 73 acre site between Lamar and Burnet Roads was donated by the citizens of Austin for a new school for the blind.

Continuing problems existed with the number of pupils in relation to the number and size of the buildings. Frequent requests were made for appropriations for the construction and remodeling of buildings.

In 1965, The School for Deaf, Blind, & Orphans (black students) was integrated into the Texas School for the Blind. In the early 1970s, the Deaf-Blind program was begun at what was known as the Confederate Widows' Home located on Cedar Street and 35th Street in the Hyde Park neighborhood. In the early 1980s, the deaf-blind program was moved onto the present site on the main campus and the Confederate Widows' Home was sold. The proceeds from this sale were used for a new facility for the deaf-blind program on the main campus. The Deaf-Blind Program became known as Life Skills Program and is now referred to as the Functional Academics or the Basic Skills program.

Modular homes were purchased and brought on to the main campus in the 1980s, both to provide housing and to be used to teach independent living skills.

The year 1975 marked a turning point in the population served by the Texas School for the Blind. The Texas legislature enacted H.B. 1673 adding statewide responsibilities to the Schools enabling statutes and mission. Governance of the School was transferred from TEA to a subcommittee of the Texas State Board of Education. The U.S. Congress enacted the Education of All Handicapped Children Act, significantly impacting the provision of special education services to children, guaranteeing a free appropriate public education to all handicapped children in the least restrictive environment. One effect on the School was an increase in the number of children with multiple handicaps requesting the services of this school. Prior to 1975, all students served at the Texas School for the Blind were academic or applied academics students. Since 1975, the population of students with multiple disabilities has continued to increase which, in turn, has caused a shift in programs at the Texas School for the Blind. The school was renamed in 1989 to Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in order to reflect more accurately the population it serves.