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1500-010 1 of 2

DELAWARE COMMISSION FOR THE BLIND

Prior to 1906, there was no organized program for assisting blind persons within the State of Delaware. In that year a group of concerned citizens came together to address such deficiencies, calling themselves the Delaware Committee for the Blind. Edward Mauldin and C. Reginald Van Trump, a blind Wilmington businessman, were instrumental in the early growth of the organization..1 In 1907 the State did provide for one of indigent blind persons in Delaware.2 This was woefully inadequate, of the one instructor was to provide instruction in the students’ homes throughout the entire state. Finally, in 1909, Mauldin, Van Trump and the Committee appealed to the Legislature for funding. The legislature responded with a $1500 appropriation (matched by the City of Wilmington) and created the Commission for the Blind to supervise and control the education, training and welfare of blind persons in Delaware.3

Seven members were appointed by Superior Court judges and the new group chose its own chairman, secretary and treasurer. They were then to appoint qualified instructors of the blind, and take applications under consideration from blind persons requesting instruction or services. The Legislature concurrently strengthened the Delaware Laws by requiring parents of blind children between the ages of seven and eighteen to have those children receive schooling for a minimum of six months each year, unless the children were physically or mentally unable to do so..4 By 1913, the State Treasurer was even permitted to pay a small stipend for up to two years to any blind person who was receiving instruction in a trade.5

In 1945, the Legislature greatly expanded the role of the Commission in dealing with the problems of the blind. The Commission was to administer assistance to the blind upon request and proof of need; designate appropriate procedures for securing competent tests for blindness; cooperate with Federal authorities in administering programs benefiting the blind; establish performance standards for blind employees; designate qualified ophthalmologists to administer necessary tests to prospective recipients of assistance; establish criteria for designation of legal blindness; and cooperative with any other state agencies in order to further the cause of the blind.6

A procedure for requesting assistance was established as well. Applications to the Commission for assistance was to be made by the blind person, after which the Commission would initiate an investigation of the applicant’s background and circumstances surrounding their blindness. Upon successful completion of the investigation, the applicant was to be examined by a qualified ophthalmologist and the assistance, usually monetary, would be granted. It could be recalled or adjusted at a later date if circumstances warranted.7

Fearing that some blind persons of lesser means might “slip through the cracks,” the Legislature in 1947 required that health and social agencies report the existence of previously unregistered blind persons to the Commission in order that assistance might be offered..8 New sensitivity to the plight of the handicapped also dictated that any future legislative references to “dumb” or “crippled” persons be eliminated.9

The State reorganization of 1969 created the Department of Health and Social Services (RG 1500), and the members of the Commission for the Blind were carried over to form a new Council on the Blind that serves as an advisory group to the Director of the Division of Social Services, within the new Department.10 Council was again moved in 1978 to the newly created Division for the Visually Impaired, within the Department. Its advisory responsibilities remained unchanged.11

1500-010 2 of 2

DELAWARE COMMISSION FOR THE BLIND

1 “50 Years of Usefulness,” Delaware Commission for the Blind, 1959.

2 24 D.L., ch. 142

3 25 D.L., ch. 73

4 Ibid

5 27 D.L., ch. 102

6 45 D.L., ch. 83

7 Ibid

8 46 D.L., ch. 88

9 45 D.L., ch. 217

10 57 D.L., ch. 301

11 61 D.L., ch. 329

jrf/June 1, 1988; July 26, 1988; January 3, 1989