The Learning and Labor of the Blind

Before the widespread adoption of Braille in the late 1800s, a variety of different types of raised printing were used to make books for blind readers. Educators and institutions created curricula, and often their own systems of tactile writing, based on very different assumptions about the role their students could, or should play in broader society.  Unfortunately, many of their methods downplayed or ignored the needs of blind people in a society centered around sight.

This exhibit explores the variety of tactile books and their users, drawing out the stories about the lived experiences of blind people in the 19th century. While these alphabets and educational methods shaped the development of public education, our modern approaches to accessibility stem from the insistence of blind individuals that they be seen and heard on their own terms.

The Learning and Labor of the Blind will be on display in the second floor gallery of Smathers Library until April 26, 2024. It is free and open to the public between the hours of 9AM-6PM, Monday-Thursday, and 9-5PM on Friday.