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Advocacy: American Foundation for the Blind

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      The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a non-profit group working to expand possibilities for the more than 25 million people with vision loss in the United States. It was established on June 28, 1921 in Vinton, Iowa by members of the American Association of Instructors for the Blind (AAIB) and the American Association of Workers for the Blind (AAWB). 

      The American Foundation for the Blind has worked over the years to promote professionalism in the field and study of blindness. They have conducted significant research on employment issues and rehabilitation services for the blind. The AFB has been active in a wide range of programs, products, and projects dealing with vision loss. They have sponsored numerous conferences and symposiums over the years, and have published many conference proceedings and peer-reviewed research articles and books. They publish the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness and AccessWorld.

      For more history on the American Foundation for the Blind, please visit  For more general information on the AFB, please visit their website at

      Helen Keller & AFB Advocate in Iowa

      February 1-3, 1925 the AFB brought Helen Keller to Des Moines, Iowa to advocate on behalf of the blind. During her three-day stay, Ms. Keller spoke before the Des Moines club, at the Hoyt Sherman Auditorium, and to a joint session of the Iowa Legislature. A newspaper article written at the time noted that Ms. Keller asked, “Will you not help me make my dream of better days for the sightless come true? Helping the blind to help themselves is a very practical way of giving thanks for the blessing of sight you enjoy.” Ms. Keller was accompanied by her teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy. The article included Mrs. Macy's reaction to the crowd: “In commenting afterwards on the noon meeting, Mrs. Macy stated with what surprise she noted the intelligence displayed in regard to the blind and with what definite knowledge and interest in the movement Governor Hammill spoke at the club.”

      As noted in a newspaper clipping titled “Solons Hear Helen Keller,” Ms. Keller, Mrs. Macy, and Charles B. Hayes, director of the American Foundation for the Blind, appeared before the legislature to support a bill introduced by Senator White of Tama county to create a state commission to supervise training and seek employment for Iowa’s blind. The bill included a biennial appropriation of $25,000.

      On April 1, 1925, the Iowa Commission for the Blind was established.


      Quotations from undated newspaper clipping titled “Helen Keller Makes Stirring Plea for Blind: Business Men Marvel at Her Life Story” and “Solons Hear Helen Keller”. Source of clippings not identified. Additional newspaper clippings on Helen Keller's visit to Iowa can be found in box 2, folder 4 in the Iowa Blind History Archive.

      Image: Photo and headline from newspaper clipping of article titled "Helen Keller, Blind and Deaf, Tingles with Joy of Living." Pictured in photo are Miss Polly Thomson, Miss Helen Keller, and Mrs. Anne Sullivan Macy. Title above the photo reads "Blind Leader is City's Guest." Written in pencil is the date Feb. 2, 1925. Newspaper clipping from box 2, folder 4 in the Iowa Blind History Archive.