History

Helen Keller Services Historical Timeline

1893 – Under the auspices of The Mizpah Circle, The Industrial Home for the Blind officially opens its doors at its original location of 96 Lexington Avenue in Brooklyn.

1894 – The Industrial Home for the Blind houses 17 men who are blind, 10 of whom are employed producing cane seats, hair mattresses and brooms. In the organization’s very first annual report, Mr. Morford states, “The growth of the institution has ever since been a steady healthful nature and there has been nothing spasmodical in its advancement.”

1895 - The Industrial Home for the Blind is officially incorporated under the laws of the state of New York. The agency’s first mission was, “to teach a trade to the blind so that they may earn their own living and become self-supporting.”

1899 – The Industrial Home for the Blind moves to a new residence and factory building on 512-516-520 Gates Avenue in Brooklyn. Eventually, 55 men are employed at this location; 16 of whom reside at the facility.

1906 – Mr. Morford participates in a study of the needs of individuals who are blind and reside in the state of New York. This study helps to inaugurate The New York State Commission for the Blind, an agency that today remains a longtime, important partner of the agency.

1917 - The Industrial Home for the Blind creates rehabilitation services for individuals who are deaf-blind. Mr. Morford hires a young Peter J. Salmon, a man who would later be instrumental in significantly expanding these programs for deaf-blind people.

1920 - The Industrial Home for the Blind hires its first professionally trained social workers and subsequently begins a social services department to aid people who are blind.

1928 –The Industrial Home for the Blind hits a milestone by serving over 600 individuals who are blind or deaf-blind.

1929 – The agency begins to provide vocational counseling and job placement services.

1941 – The Industrial Home for the Blind moves to a new location at 1000 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.

1942 – The events of World War II enabled the public to realize how people who are blind can make significant contributions to the economy. The high-quality work performed by employees of The Industrial Home for the Blind is recognized by the military, as the agency is awarded the Army-Navy “E” Pennant for exceptional performance, high production of goods, and low absenteeism.

1943 – Helen Keller visits The Industrial Home for the Blind and declares, “True celebration will be the continued progress of the Brooklyn Industrial Home. When it has opened all doors for the blind to health, happiness, and integration into normal society, its mission of restoring love and constructive faith will be fulfilled.”

1945 – Thanks to the personal commitment of Dr. Peter J. Salmon, a formal program for people who are deaf-blind is created.

1946 – The agency opens recreational day centers for senior citizens who are blind (discontinued in 2012).

1947 – The Industrial Home for the Blind establishes the nation’s first comprehensive rehabilitation center for individuals who are blind and visually impaired, signaling an overall organizational shift from the original single focus of employment to a more comprehensive program of education and rehabilitation.

1949 – The Industrial Home purchases the Burwood Home in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, a residence facility for elderly individuals who are blind or deaf-blind (sold in 1985).

1951 – The Industrial Home for the Blind advocates for the registration of children who are blind in mainstream Long Island public schools.

1952 – The agency creates a nursery for infants and children with visual impairments. Additionally, The Industrial Home for the Blind employs New York’s first itinerant teacher for students who are blind on Long Island.

1953 – The organization opens a Low Vision Center, the first of its kind, in Brooklyn. Its goal is to provide diagnostic services, specialized low vision aids, and glasses for individuals with functional residual vision. A day camp that provides social, physical, and recreational activities for children and youth, who are visually impaired, also begins in Long Island (officially renamed Camp Helen Keller in 1998). The Industrial Home for the Blind opens The Braille Library in Hempstead, New York (discontinued in 2012).

1956 – The Industrial Home for the Blind and The United States Office of Vocational Rehabilitation collaborates on a two-year study to determine the needs of the deaf-blind population. The study concludes that individuals who are deaf-blind would best be served on a regional basis, thus establishing the federally-funded Anne Sullivan Macy Service.

1958 – The agency’s first speech and hearing service for people who are blind is formed.

1967 – As a result of the longstanding commitment to the dead-blind population of Dr. Peter J. Salmon and others, The Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults is established by a unanimous act of Congress. The Industrial Home for the Blind establishes the Preschool Vision Screening Program (discontinued in 2012).

1969 - The Industrial Home for the Blind is formally designated to operate The Helen Keller National Center, and temporary training facilities are set up in New Hyde Park, New York. The New England regional office opens in Boston, Massachusetts (relocated to Watertown in 2011).

1970 –The Helen Keller National Center opens its Southwest regional office in San Francisco, California and its Southeast regional office in Atlanta, Georgia.

1971 – The Industrial Home for the Blind expands its nursery for infants and children who are blind, made possible through a partnership with New York City Board of Education’s Rubella Program. The Helen Keller National Center opens its North Central regional office in Chicago.

1973 – The East Central regional office in Pennsylvania is established.

1974 – The South Central regional office for The Helen Keller National Center opens in Dallas, Texas (relocated to Austin in 2012).

1976 – The headquarters of The Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults officially opens at its permanent location of 141 Middle Neck Road in Sands Point, New York.

1977 – The Helen Keller National Center establishes its Northwest regional office in Seattle, Washington and its Rocky Mountain regional office in Denver, Colorado.

1978 – The Great Plains office opens in Shawnee Mission, Kansas.

1979 – The Industrial Home for the Blind opens a Rehabilitation Center in Hempstead, New York.

1983 – The organization obtains a multi-year contract with The New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities. As a result, The Day Habilitation Program for individuals who are blind and developmentally disabled begins at the agency’s Hempstead office.

1984 –President Ronald Reagan signs a proclamation officially declaring the last week of June every year as Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week.

1985 – The Industrial Home for the Blind changes its name to Helen Keller Services for the Blind in memory of longtime friend and supporter Helen Keller.

1988 - The nursery for infants and young children who are visually impaired with additional disabilities becomes The Children’s Learning Center in Brooklyn. This is made possible thanks to newly established partnerships with The New York State Education Department and the New York City Department of Education. Additionally, the agency’s first Assistive Technology Center launches in Hempstead.

1989 – Helen Keller Services for the Blind opens a Rehabilitation Center in Huntington, New York. The Helen Keller National Center starts its Older Adults Program.

1990 – Helen Keller Services for the Blind creates the Annual Golf Classic, an event designed to raise funds for various programs and services. The agency opens a second Assistive Technology Center in Brooklyn.

1994 – Helen’s Walk, a public event designed to engage members of the community and individuals who are deaf-blind, begins in Sands Point (renamed Helen’s Run/Walk in 2013).

1999 – Helen Keller Services for the Blind opens an additional Low Vision Center and Assistive Technology Center at its location in Huntington.

2002 – Helen Keller Services for the Blind creates the Individualized Residential Alternative in North Bellmore, New York, a group home for several of the agency’s Day Habilitation consumers.

2003 –The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust Conference Center is completed at The Helen Keller National Center. A woodshop, conference center, board room, and 10 offices are added to the headquarters as a result.

2004 – The Parent and Early Education Resource Center opens in Brooklyn to provide educational and support services for parents of children who are blind and/or multi-handicapped.

2006 – The Helen Keller National Center begins collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on a Rubella biomarker study.

2008 – The Destiny Home for individuals who are deaf-blind with intellectual disabilities is established in Port Washington, New York.

2009 – Northern Illinois University collaborates with The Helen Keller National Center to offer a Certificate in Deaf-Blind Rehabilitation, which includes an online program and an eight day practicum at the Sands Point facility.

2010 – A Support Service Provider program is established at The Helen Keller National Center’s location in San Diego, California.

2011 – The Children’s Learning Center celebrates the matriculation of 19 preschoolers, the largest graduating class in the preschool’s history. The Helen Keller National Center begins collaboration with the National Institutes of Health on a genetic study of Usher Syndrome.

2012 – Helen Keller Services for the Blind opens the Low Vision Center in Sands Point. A Support Service Provider program is created for The Helen Keller National Center’s location in Lakewood, CO. Thanks to the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act and subsequent partnership with Perkins School for the Blind, The National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program begins.

2013 – Camp Helen Keller celebrates its 60th anniversary.

2014 – Sands Point Garden Club celebrates complete renovation of HKNC's Sensory Garden for students with dedications in memory of longtime Long Island advocates. HKNC establishes the Dr. Robert J. Smithdas Award in memory of the Center's co-founder and former director of community education, who passed away earlier in the year at age 89. The inaugural award presentation coincides with Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week, and award recipients include Congressmen Kevin Yoder (R-KS), Mark Takano (D-CA) and Steve Israel (D-NY).

2015 – A rebranding initiative is launched, introducing a new name and new logos to better identify the organization and its two divisions. The new name, Helen Keller Services (HKS), is now used to identify the entire organization and clarify the relationship between its two divisions: Helen Keller Services for the Blind and the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults (HKNC). HKSB opens new Suffolk County location in Ronkonkoma. Made possible through generous funding obtained by State Senator Philip Boyle (4th Senate District), the new office is larger and more centrally located for clients. The 3900-square-foot facility includes a low vision eye service, rehabilitation services and an assistive technology center.