Disability History Timeline
1756 - Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, the first hospital built in the United States, included a section for people who had mental health diagnoses in the basement. These patients were chained to the walls of the basement and put on display for a fee.
- Valentin Hauy
established the first “Institution for Blind Children” and developed embossed print that helped people who are blind learn to read.
- Philipe Pinel
, the leading French psychiatrist of his day, was the first to say that the people with disabilities were “diseased” as opposed to “sinful” or “immoral.” He removed the chains and restraints from the inmates at the Bicetre asylum
, and later from those at Salpetriere.
- Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard
proved that children with intellectual disabilities could learn to some extent. "Victor, the Wild Boy of Aveyron
," as he was called, was chosen by Itard as an experimental subject to prove the validity of John Locke’s tabula rasa, or "blank slate" concept, meaning that a person could become, or be made into, whatever one wants.
Jean Marc Gaspard Itard
Dr. Benjamin Rush
- Dorthea Dix
becomes an advocate for people with disabilities who are housed in jails and poorhouses.
1842 - A training school for individuals with disabilities was developed in Berlin.
- Eduoard Seguin
saw the potential benefits of a physiological method in treating people with intellectual disabilities. He believed that mental deficiency was caused by a weakness of the nervous system, and could be cured through a process of motor and sensory training. Seguin believed that if his pupils could gain more control over their central nervous systems they would in turn gain control over their wills.
1848 - Samuel Gridley Howe founded the first residential institution for people with intellectual disabilities at the Perkins Institution in Boston, based on Seguin’s methods.
Samuel Gridley Howe
1852 - 1857 - Several boarding schools for children with disabilities began to open on the East Coast.
1861 - 1865 - The American Civil War resulted in 30,000 amputations and acquired disabilities in the Union Army alone, bringing disability issues and awareness to the American consciousness.
1869 - The first wheelchair patent is registered with the U.S. Patent Office.
1875 - States begin building custodial institutions, which provided only basic care and confinement at the lowest cost. Training schools that were originally meant to help individuals learn to be productive at home and in their community were quickly turning into life-long asylums.
1896 - Rhode Island opened the first public special education class in the U.S.