In 1920 the Oregon Employment Institution for the Blind was established to teach the blind, distribute products made by the blind and compensate the blind for their labor. Professions and trades taught were piano tuning, typing, broom making, rug weaving, and reading and writing in Braille. This institution was under the jurisdiction of the Oregon State Board of Control. Between 1933 and 1957 the institution became the Oregon Blind Trade School (1933), the Oregon Service Center for the Blind (1949), then finally the Oregon Industries for the Blind (1957).
In 1931 the State Advisory Board for the Adult Blind was created to visit the Oregon Employment Institution for the Blind and to make recommendations to the Board of Control concerning training and other matters. In 1937 the State Advisory Board was superseded by the Commission for the Blind and the Prevention of Blindness. This new agency administered appropriations for the Oregon Blind Trade School, maintained a bureau for the prevention of blindness, maintained bureaus of vocational aid, and established training schools and workshops for the employment of blind persons. In 1973 the Commission for the Blind and the Prevention of Blindness was changed to The Commission for the Blind.
The Commission in 1994
The Commission for the Blind operates under ORS Chapter 346 and OAR Chapter 585. The Commission provides vocational rehabilitation and independent living services to blind and visually-impaired Oregonians, enabling them to be self-sufficient. Vocational rehabilitation is designed to educate or train the legally blind with the goal of securing employment for the client. Independent living is designed to provide the legally blind with the life skills necessary to live by themselves.
The Commission is statutorily charged with providing services. The Vocational Rehabilitation Program is required by ORS 346.180 and is designed to:
- aid individuals with visual disabilities in finding employment;
- provide physical restoration to improve employment opportunities;
- establish a program of small business enterprises for blind individuals;
- establish educational and training programs; and
- assist the blind in selling their products or services.
The Industries for the Blind Program is required by ORS 346.190. This program is used to set up training centers for the blind and to create industries for blind workers. One of the program's featured industries is the operation of vending centers in 32 sites (located in state and federal buildings) statewide.
The Commission also provides the following services:
- written communication assistance, including Braille, large-print, and talking books and computers;
- personal, family, educational, and vocational counseling;
- mobility improvement; and
- daily living activities training.
Approximately 80% of the Commission's budget is provided through U.S. Department of Education grant funding. The Commission serves about 1,100 clients-300 in the area of vocational rehabilitation and 800 in independent living.