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The Ohio State School for the Blind

Downtown Connector Trail (Columbus)

Disability

View of the front entrance of the former Ohio State School for the Blind that’s now occupied by the Columbus Department of Health.

The Ohio State School for the Blind (OSB) was opened in Columbus, Ohio, in 1837, as the first state-supported residential school for youth who are blind or have visual impairment. [1] The school served a small number of pupils over its first few decades of operation, but the institution’s success inspired a dramatic increase in admissions. In 1869, construction began for a larger facility to accommodate the growing number of students, but it wasn’t fully opened and occupied until 1874. The building was designed to comfortably hold 250 students and 65 staff members within its campus. Additionally, the rooms, staircases and hallways of the building were intentionally designed for the convenience, health and happiness of students with visual impairments. [2]

Since its founding, OSB’s curriculum has ensured students graduate with academic proficiency in reading and writing as well as practical and work-related skills that lead to self-sufficiency and employment opportunities. [3] In a 1908 speech at the Ohio Conference of Charities and Corrections, the superintendent of OSB, Edward M. Van Cleve, explained that the institution was “not a hospital, not a home, not an asylum, but a school.” [4] During this time period, while other institutions for people with disabilities were designed largely to provide shelter and services, Van Cleve fervently categorized OSB as a school that was part of the Ohio public school system and had a shared mission to educate well-rounded citizens.

Students at the school were taught mechanical skills and craftwork, and had the opportunity to study music and other related skills, with a goal of achieving gainful employment upon their graduation.

Using a young boy named Harry to describe the opportunities provided to students, Van Cleve stated, “...And he comes at last to commencement day with a pretty fair high school education and a taste for reading good books and with a gainful occupation in his hands. That’s what the school does for Harry.” [5]

For over a century, thousands of students have benefited from the wide range of academic, extracurricular and job-related programming offered at the Ohio State School for the Blind. The original 1874 building is now occupied by the Columbus Department of Health; OSB moved its facilities next to the Ohio School for the Deaf in 1953. When visiting this site, be sure to admire the architecture and history at a distance, as the building is currently in use.

 

References

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