The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired: 100 Years on 45th Street
Authors: William Daugherty, Superintendent, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Keywords: TSBVI, DeafBlind, blind, visually impaired
Founded by the Texas Legislature in 1856 as the Blind Asylum, The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) has had several names and several locations over the past 161 years. The current 45th Street location in Austin was constructed in 1916, and the first classes were held in November of 1917. In conjunction with the school’s annual Parent Weekend event, TSBVI will have a small celebration in honor of this milestone on Saturday, November 11 at 2:00 PM in the school’s auditorium. The public is invited.
Records and reports from the TSBVI’s early years on 45th Street tell us that the school grew much of its own food on the campus’s 73 acres (now 40 acres). The curriculum focused heavily on music, domestic skills, and trades such as broom making and chair caning. Over time the curriculum grew to be more academic in nature. In the 1950’s many students began coming to TSBVI as a result of being administered too much oxygen as newborns in incubators. Later, an epidemic of rubella caused a large spike in the number of children with DeafBlindness. The epidemic led the school to develop curriculum and instruction related to communication skills, behavior intervention, and multiple disabilities. In the mid 1970’s the passage of federal special education law led to more and more students being educated in their local schools. During the next two decades or so, TSBVI began to develop new areas of service such as curricular publications, statewide outreach service, and short term programs, in order to support the majority of students who were in the independent school districts across the state.
The school changed its name from the Texas School for the Blind to the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in the 1980’s in recognition that many of TSBVI’s students had low vision. Soon after, the separate program for students with DeafBlindness and multiple disabilities combined with the regular elementary, middle and high school to form what we refer to today as Comprehensive Programs. Comprehensive Programs, Short Term Programs (ISD students only), and Statewide Outreach now compose the three main service delivery arms of TSBVI, and each are among the highest quality programs of their type in the nation. The school’s curricular publications and website have grown to be highly valued resources at the state, national, and international levels.
Over the past ten years, the 1917 campus has been totally rebuilt into the modern and beautiful school we have today. An attractive campus and an outstanding mission align well at TSBVI. In practice, our mission is to look for opportunities to serve every student with a visual impairment in the state, regardless of where they attend school. This diversified service delivery model that extends well beyond the TSBVI campus has led to ever higher levels of collaboration with parents, schools, education service centers, universities and other organizations concerned with blindness and visual impairment. The continued support of the school and its mission by the Texas Legislature over the past 100 years has been an essential ingredient in TSBVI’s success, and not all schools for the blind in the U.S. have had such support from the state level. It is this support that has allowed TSBVI to develop into a center of expertise worthy of a celebration on November 11, 2017. You are welcome to join us.