APH Founder's Day: 161 Years of Accessibility

1883 engraving of the APH building.

Our Throwback object this week is coming a day early, and truthfully, it is a story without an object.  Today is our Founder’s Day.  One hundred and sixty-one years ago, the American Printing House for the Blind came into being when its chartering legislation was signed into law by Kentucky Governor Charles Morehead on January 23, 1858.  It was a humble beginning.  Due to the difficulties posed by the Civil War, APH would not be able to assemble its equipment and emboss its first book in raised letters until 1866.   We did not own a building, we operated in a borrowed basement workroom, and it would be years before we assembled a paid staff.  It was a much different world.  For children that were blind, their only hopes for an education were scattered schools founded to teach them, often a day or more away by train from their families. And those schools were chronically underfunded and often lacked even the most basic educational tools.  The library of the Kentucky School for the Blind held fifty titles in a tactile format in 1850.  Fifty.

But a beginning it was.  Today APH is the largest company of its type in the world.  We emboss millions of pages of braille, print millions of pages of large type, record hours and hours of talking books, and manufacture countless educational aids.  We operate online databases helping teachers and parents and adult consumers find the tools they need for education and for life.  But it all started, in 1858, with the flourish of a governor’s pen.

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