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.

(See the end of this page for subscribing via email, RSS, browsing articles by subject, blog archive, APH resources, writing for Fred's Head, and disclaimers.)


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Leaders and Legends: William Allen Hadley

William Allen Hadley
Inducted 2005
Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field

William Hadley (1860-1941) was born in Indiana and graduated from Earlham College in 1881. He was married to Jessie and they had two daughters. After receiving a masters degree from the University of Minnesota he taught in Minnesota, was Superintendent of Schools in Wilmar, MN. For one year he was a student at the University of Berlin, then taught at Marietta College in Ohio. Later he taught in Peoria, IL and at a Chicago High School for 15 years.

William Hadley

His favorite hobby was reading books in English, German, Latin and Greek. He was described as a devout Quaker, a strong, quiet man with a capacity for courage, able to stand up to problems and adversities and enjoying intellectual adventures and possessing a deep concern for human beings.

In 1915 at the age of 55 he suddenly went blind from a detached retina. His ophthalmologist and friend, Dr. E.V.L. Brown, suggested that he teach himself Braille, which he did. William Hadley soon discovered that there were few educational opportunities for blind adults and he felt compelled to assist others to acquire communication skills. In 1920 he established The Hadley School for the Blind, thus fulfilling a dream of teaching other blind persons by correspondence. He served as its President for more than 15 years and remained active on the Board of Trustees until his death.

William Hadley sitting at his desk

Dr. Hadley's first student was a farmer's wife in Kansas who had suddenly lost her vision and wished to regain her ability to read and write. Teaching most of the early courses himself, he began by brailling each individual volume of textbooks by hand and personally answering lessons with letters of correction and encouragement. Within a year he was teaching about ninety students in the United States, Canada and China at no charge to the students. A variety of courses included reading and writing Braille, English grammar, business correspondence and Biblical literature.

Over the years the school's role and mission have evolved until today there are over 90 courses available in Braille, large print, audiocassette or online. The almost 10,000 students in over 100 countries include blind persons, their family members and professionals working in the blindness field. All who have benefited from these courses owe a debt of gratitude to William Hadley and his visionary outlook.

He received an honorary Doctor of Laws in 1931 and a Doctor of Humanities in 1933 from Beloit College. The Bosma Industries for the Blind honored him as the 2004 recipient of the Hasbrook award, given to a true pioneer in the blindness field.

William Hadley William Hadley's Hall of Fame Plaque

Plaque sponsored by the Hadley School 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.

No comments:

Subscribe to receive posts via email

* indicates required

Browse Articles by Subject

Follow us on Twitter


Write for us

Your input and support in the evolution of Fred's Head are invaluable! Contact us about contributing original writing or for suggestions for updating existing articles. Email us at


The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) makes every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the Fred's Head articles; however, APH makes no warranty, guarantee, or promise, expressed or implied, concerning the content or accuracy of the information provided in Fred's Head. APH does not endorse any technique, product, device, service, organization, or other information presented in Fred's Head, other than products and services directly offered by APH.

The products produced by the American Printing House for the Blind are instructional/teaching materials and are intended to be used by trained professionals, parents, and other adults with children who are blind and visually impaired. These materials are not intended as toys for use by children in unstructured play or in an unsupervised environment.

The information and techniques contained in Fred's Head are provided without legal consideration (free-of-charge) and are not warranted by APH to be safe or effective. All users of this service assume the risk of any injury or damage that may result from the use of the information provided.

Information in Fred's Head is not intended as a substitute for professional advice or treatment. Consult your physician before utilizing information regarding your health that may be presented on this site. Consult other professionals as appropriate for legal, financial, and related advice.

Fred's Head articles may contain links to other websites. APH is not responsible for the content of these sites.

Fred's Head articles created by APH staff are (C) copyright American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. You must request permission from APH to reprint these articles. Email to request permission.

Any submissions to Fred's Head should be free of copyright restrictions and should be the intellectual property of the submitter. By submitting information to Fred's Head, you are granting APH permission to publish this information.

Fair Use Notice: This website may contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright holder(s). This site is operated on the assumption that using this information constitutes 'fair use' of said copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law.

Opinions appearing in Fred's Head records are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Printing House for the Blind.