Today is Helen Keller’s birthday. Most people know of the advocacy and accomplishments of this remarkable woman. But there are many others who paved the way for the blind to be taught to live and have careers. One of these individuals was Roberta Griffen.
Roberta was born in 1867 in Pittsburgh Pa. Little is known about her early years. The opinion at the time was blind and others that were handicapped could be trained for minimal tasks. Roberta stayed home for her first twelve years.before moving to Bay City Michigan in 1879.
She entered the Michigan school for the blind in Lansing with 40 other students.
She learned to braille, use a typewriter, sewing and other skills she would need to have a career. She completed high school in Cleveland where the school offered an expanded program. After high school, Roberta was accepted at Western College on probation. She was to keep up with other students with little accommodations.
She bought all of her texts and paid fellow students to read the assignments to her. Her skilled typing allowed her to type lessons. She was told that she must keep up with her classmates.
Roberta finished college in three years. She supplemented her income by giving piano lessons. Roberta invented an embossed score to read music.
Ms. Griffen moved with her mother to a two story home to give classes in the day and a have living quarters on the top floor. Among Roberta’s accomplishments were working with Helen Keller to standardize the braille alphabet and contractions. Teaching skills to blind mothers while volunteers offered childcare for the children.
Roberta’s passions was preventing blindness in babies. This is what Caused Roberta’s blindness.
In 1913, Ms. Griffen pushed for a reading room in the new library to be dedicated with tools and reading material for the blind. In 1916, the Association for the Blind was formed and expanded to continue to this day. One of 17 libraries for the blind, they formed the start of the National Library for the Blind Network.
Roberta died in 1944 and was one of sixteen women honored in the Michigan Hall of Fame.
I learned that each person can use his or her skills to promote advocacy in their chosen field. Physical or mental challenges can be overcome with assistance and support from others.
Happy Birthday Helen. Thanks for paving the way for the rest of us.
Helen Keller with an imagined cochlear implant.
This is hearing?
Helen awoke in a hospital bed.
She was dressed in a gown with lots of ties.
She felt insect like buzzing first in the front of her head, then to the side and finally in the back.
There was a large hand holding hers.
Quickly, she fingered spelled,”Where am I?”
The hand slowly spelled,”You are in a hospital. You have had a cochlear implant.”
What you feel in your head is the start of hearing. With training you will learn to identify sounds.”
She continued to have headaches as a response to the buzzing in her head.
Helen thought,”If this is hearing, I would rather be deaf!”