Perkins' Milestones

Founded in the 19th century, Perkins has enjoyed a long, exciting history. Here are a few highlights:

1829
Dr. John Fisher charters the first school for the blind in the U.S. after observing educational practices in France for people who are blind.
1832

The school opens with Samuel Gridley Howe as the first director, using rooms in his father’s downtown Boston home.

1833

Enrollment grows and Thomas Perkins, vice president and school trustee, offers his larger home to the school.

1837

Laura Bridgman enrolls in the school and becomes the first documented person who is deafblind to be educated.

1838

Bursting at the seams with 65 students, Thomas Perkins sells his house and puts the funds toward the school’s relocation to a hotel in South Boston. The school is named for Perkins in honor of his generosity.

1842

Charles Dickens, the author of American classics such as “David Copperfield,” visits Perkins and documents Howe’s work with Laura Bridgman in “American Notes.”

1881

Howe Press opens to produce braille books.

1887

Perkins graduate Anne Sullivan travels to Alabama to teach Helen Keller. The pair relocates to Perkins the following year and stays until 1893.

1912

A new campus is built on the banks of the Charles River in Watertown, Massachusetts, the school’s current site.

1951

The first Perkins Brailler is designed and produced by David Abraham at Howe Press.

1955

The school’s name changes from Perkins Institution for the Blind to Perkins School for the Blind.

1989

Perkins creates the Hilton/Perkins Program, known today as Perkins International, to provide services to children who are blind or deafblind with multiple disabilities around the world.

2003

Perkins opens the Thomas and Bessie Pappas Horticulture Center, a greenhouse for students to study horticulture and benefit from horticultural therapy.

2008

Perkins Products unveils the Next Generation Brailler, an update on the classic that is 25 percent lighter than the original and easy to use.

2011

Perkins opens the new Lower School, which features larger, more accessible classrooms and a bigger auditorium.

Perkins celebrates the opening of the Grousbeck Center for Students & Technology, the first campus-wide space for student recreation and technology.

2012

Perkins Products unveils the SMART Brailler®, a revolutionary tool that combines audio feedback and a digital screen to change the way people who are blind and sighted can learn braille.

The Federal Communications Commission names Perkins, in partnership with Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-blind Youth and Adults, responsible for the marketing and outreach portion of its new National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program, which provides communications technology free of charge to low-income people who have combined vision and hearing loss.

2013

Perkins Products is presented with the President’s “E” Award, the highest recognition any U.S. entity may receive for contributing to the increase of American exports.

2014

Perkins establishes the Perkins-Business Partnership (PBP), an alliance between Perkins and some of the region's best-known businesses and nonprofits that works to break down barriers to employment and expand opportunities for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

2015

Perkins names Princess Ameerah Al-Taweel of Saudi Arabia special ambassador to the Middle East, where she will advocate for increased access to high-quality education and services for children who are visually impaired in the Arab region. 

2016

Perkins launches BlindWays, a mobile app that helps people who are visually impaired locate MBTA bus stops independently.