Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Leaders and Legends: Lt Col. Edwin Albert Baker

Lt Col. Edwin Albert Baker
Inducted 2002
Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field

Edwin Albert Baker (1893-1968) was born in his family's stone farm house near Kingston (Ontario, Canada), on the shore of Lake Ontario. Until he entered Queen's University at Kingston, he attended the local school and helped on the farm. A few months after graduating in the then new course in electrical engineering, he enlisted with the 6th Field Company of Engineers. By October, 1915, Lt. Col. Baker was in the muddy Belgian trenches, where a sniper's bullet blinded him. He went to St. Dunstan's in England for rehabilitation where he studied braille, typing and business administration, and took up such aids to self assurance as fencing and sculling. In December, 1919, on the anniversary of his parents' wedding, he and "Bill" were married and they had four children.

In 1918, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) was founded by Col. Baker and 6 other blind and visually impaired Canadians. Col. Baker was the Institute's Managing Director from 1920 until his retirement in 1962. He made a practice of recruiting groups of inspired, able, dedicated women and imaginative, competent business and professional men who would work for and with the blind for their rehabilitation and to develop programs to prevent blindness. Under his leadership CNIB began to gather information about blind and visually impaired people in Canada, which ultimately resulted in the development of the first nation-wide database on the incidence and causes of blindness.

Col. Baker felt that services for the blind had to be initiated at all levels. He advocated to have classes for visually impaired children placed into schools, persuaded the Federal Government to start compulsory treatment of ophthalmia neonatorum, organized eye examinations for Native People in remote areas and initiated many more projects that have helped save the sight of thousands of people. His work with the CNIB and the World Council for the Welfare of the blind (WCWB) required almost constant travel. Furthermore, his duties as trustee of the American Foundation for the Blind, as one of the directors of the American Foundation for Overseas Blind, as president of the American Association of Workers for the Blind, and as executive council member of the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind, with headquarters in London, England, added much to those travel demands.

Over the years, Col. Baker had many honors bestowed upon him such as the Order of the British Empire in 1935, an honorary Lieutenant Colonel in 1938, presentation to His Majesty King George VI in 1939 and Her Majesty the Queen in 1957, the Migel Medal for outstanding service to the blind from AFB in 1951, the Shotwell Memorial Award from AAWB in 1952, and the bestowment by the Canadian Government its highest award, Companion of the Order of Canada.

Col. E.A. Baker Edwin Albert Baker's Hall of Fame Plaque

Plaque sponsored by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind

About the Hall of Fame

The Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field is dedicated to preserving, honoring, and promoting the tradition of excellence manifested by the specific individuals inducted into the Hall of Fame and through the history of outstanding services provided to people who are blind or visually impaired.

These significant professional colleagues of the recent and distant past are a fascinating cross-section of heroes and pioneers who not only shaped our rich history, philosophy, knowledge and skills, but also give us insights into current and future challenges. These giants shared their personal lives and showed us strategies to ensure that services for blind persons remain unique and specialized. Enjoy their lives and contributions and reflect upon your own list of heroes.

Hall of Fame: Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field is a project of the entire field of blindness. It is curated by the American Printing House for the Blind, a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization.

Visit the virtual Hall of Fame for the inspiring stories of many more heroes of the field of blindness.

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