Disability History in Texas From Isolation to Participation a history of Disability in Texas, 1835 – 1999

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1990's Texas Disability

advocacy groups increased; ADA compliance began; lottery outlets required to be accessible; first handicapped parking placard sold; Texas Accessibility Standards adopted; Braille translation of textbooks facilitated

1990's Governor's Committee and Local Committees

Governor's Committee:

created by law; moved into Governor's Office; Focused on policy recommendations and ADA implementation; supported 30+ local volunteer committees adding rural areas; hosted largest ever President's Committee national conference in Dallas; published first booklet describing key Texas laws affecting disabled persons and reported first data about disabled State employees; presented first entrepreneurship award

Local Committees:

Texas Association of Mayors' Committees formed

Texas Disability Timeline

This timeline contains mostly Texas information. However, national and international information is included when it impacted people in Texas.

1835 Samuel McCulloch, a man who was a free black, becomes the first Texan casualty of the revolution resulting in a disability when a musket ball shatters his right shoulder.
1836 President David Burnet names Peter Grayson, who had a mental illness, Attorney General of the Republic of Texas.
First Congress of the Republic elects Robert "Three-Legged Willy" Williamson judge of the Third Judicial District, making him a member of the Supreme Court.

Jesse Billingsly, who received a permanent injury to his hand in the Battle of San Jacinto, serves in the House of Representatives of the First Congress of the Republic.

Greenburry Logan, a man who was a free black soldier, is wounded at the siege of Bexar causing a permanent disability.
1838 Charles Baudin's French Naval forces aid the young Republic of Texas by attacking the citadel San Juan de Ulloa. He had lost his right arm in battle in 1808.
1840 Henry Augustine, an amputee as a result of the Cherokee War, serves in the House of the Congress of the Republic; by a special act of this Congress he receives a wooden leg.

Robert Williamson, who used a wooden leg since one leg was drawn back at the knee, serves in Congress and later in the Texas Senate.

1843 Henry Augustine, an amputee, serves on the Board of Trustees, San Augustine University.
1847 Welborn Barton, who had a physical disability from childhood, practices medicine, serves as a Mason, was a trustee of Salado College, and teaches Sunday school.
1851 Oliver Cromwell Hartley, who was disabled, is elected to represent Galveston in the state Legislature.
1853 Elisha M. Pease is elected Governor. He would later establish funds for a hospital for the mentally ill and schools for the deaf and blind.
1856 The Texas Deaf and Dumb Asylum, now the Texas School for the Deaf, begins with 3 students. The Blind Asylum begins with 3 students.
1857 The State Lunatic Asylum, now Austin State Hospital opens with about 50 patients.
1858 Last president of the Republic of Texas, Anson Jones, whose left arm was disabled by an injury, dies at the age of 60.
1864 Alois Alzheimer, who first described the disease which was named for him, was born.
1864 Gallaudet University begins.
1865 The Civil War causes 30,000 amputations in the Union Army alone.
1875 Matthew D. Ector, former Confederate general whose leg was amputated in 1864, serves on the Court of Appeals.
1876 Alexander Bell patents the telephone.
1878 William Walsh, who was severely injured in the Civil War and required the use of a crutch, serves as Land Commissoner.
George McCormick, whose leg was amputated during the Civil War, serves as Attorney General.
J.W. Smith invents American Modified Braille.
1879 John Bell Hood dies at the age of 48. Hood was a Confederate general during the Civil War who lost his right leg as well as the use of his left arm while in battle. He gained fame by commanding Hood's Texas Brigade, "perhaps the finest brigade of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia."
1884 John B. Hood Camp of United Confederate Veterans opens to provide a home for disabled and indigent veterans.
1885 North Texas Lunatic Asylum, now Terrell State Hospital opens.
William Hardin, unofficial advisor to the Alabama-Coushatta Indians and soldier who was disabled at San Antonio during the Texas Revolution, dies at the age of 79.
1886 The Bluebonnet Association of the Deaf begins, now the Texas Association of the Deaf.
1887 The Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Institute for Colored Youth begins.
1892 Southwestern Lunatic Asylum opens, later the San Antonio State Hospital.

Pattillo Higgins, who experienced a wound at the age of 17 that led to an amputation of his arm, incorporates the Gladys City Oil, Gas, and Manufacturing Company with partner George Washington O'Brien. The men hoped to find oil atop Spindletop Hill in Beaumont despite popular opinion that the Gulf Coast region lacked any oil potential.

1894 Thomas Gore, who was blind, practices law in Corsicana, later campaigns for the Populist and Democratic parties, and then serves in Congress representing Oklahoma.
1903 Lou Gehrig born.
1904 A colony for the epileptic insane, now the Abilene State School begins serving 100 patients.
1914 Jonas Salk, developer of the Salk polio vaccine, born.
1916 Joseph Mansfield, a wheelchair user, represents Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives, and serves as a vestryman in the Episcopal Church.
1917 State School for the Feeble Minded, now the Austin State School opens with 65 female students.
1918 Texas State Library provides raised-letter books for persons who are blind.
1919 The Rusk Penitentiary becomes a hospital for the "Negro insane."

1920 Congress passes The Federal Vocational Rehabilitation Act providing services for persons with disabilities.
1921 Disabled American Veterans (World War) forms in Fort Worth.
1922 The Northwest Insane Asylum, now Wichita Falls State Hospital opens.
Adam Rankin Johnson, Confederate general and blinded during the Civil War, dies at the age of 88.
1923 Department of Texas, Disabled American Veterans, World War I, forms.
1926 "Blind Willie" Johnson, Texas blues performer, begins recording for Columbia Records.

1929 Texas Legislature passes the Texas Vocational Rehabilitation Act beginning the State Board of Vocational Education, now the Texas Rehabilitation Committee, with a staff of two and budget of $12,500.
1931 Texas Legislature creates the State Committee for the Blind with a volunteer staff, and later budgets $8,250 which was used to hire home teachers located in six Texas cities.
1933 Wiley Post, blind in one eye, becomes the first solo flyer to circle the earth.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt serves 1st term as President.

1934 Austin State School Farm Colony for Men for persons with mental retardation begins.
1935 Alcoholics Anonymous begins.
Dr. Alexis Carrel, a Nobel prize winner, publishes Man the Unknown in which he suggests the removal of the mentally ill and the criminal by small euthanasia institutions.
1937 Gonzales Warm Springs Foundation for Crippled Children begins serving children with polio. Curtis Veach of Childress, Texas becomes first Texan to receive a seeing eye dog.
1939 Department of Public Welfare begins, known today as the Department of Human Services.
Big Spring State Hospital begins.

Dallas Society for Crippled Children opens, later becoming the Easter Seal Society for Children.

Hitler orders widespread "mercy killing" of the sick and disabled, code named Aktion T4, which accounts for almost a hundred thousand deaths before being "suspended." However, it actually continued using drugs and starvation instead of gassing.
1941 Laurence Melton, an amputee, becomes national commander, Disabled American Veterans, and later secures an executive order from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for government agencies to cooperate in the hiring of the physically handicapped which later became the President's Committee for the Hiring of the Handicapped.
1943 Congress expands the Vocational Rehabilitation Act to include persons with hidden disabilities such as mental health and mental retardation.
1944 James Fields wounded and rendered speechless, leads his depleted army platoon using hand signals, scatters the enemy, and later becomes an independent oil operator.
1945 National Employment of the Physically Handicapped Week begins.
1946 Mexia State School begins.
The film "The Best Years of Our Lives" premieres; Harold Russel later wins an Academy Award. He lost both hands in a wartime accident.
1947 Representative Jefferson Mansfield dies after 31 years of service in the United States Congress; 27 of those years were served in a wheelchair following paralysis in 1920.
President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities begins.
1948 First Texas Mayors' Committee for People with Disabilities, Harris County Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities, begins.
1949 Governor Shivers appoints first Governor's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped now the Texas Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities.
1950 The Association for Retarded Children of Texas forms by a group of concerned parents of children with mental retardation.
1951 Kerrville State Home opens.
Vernon State Home opens.

Texas Legislature places the Texas School for the Deaf under the Texas Education Agency where it claimed the distinction of being the oldest publicly funded school in continuous operation in Texas.

1952 Texas State Library adds talking book services for children who were blind.
1953 First heart lung machine.
1954 United Cerebral Palsy of Texas organizes.

Linus Pauling receives Nobel Prize for his work in chemistry, later promotes decreasing incidence of genetic diseases by requiring everyone to be tested for such, and to be publicly identified if they are a carrier.

1955 Criss Cole, who was blind, serves in the Texas House of Representatives.
Salk vaccine becomes viewed as "safe", potent and effective.
1957 Texas Research Institute of Mental Sciences begins in Houston.

State Welfare Department adds Aid to Permanently and Totally Disabled.

1958 First Pacemaker introduced.
1959 The Goodwill Industries of Austin begins.

Texas Institute for Rehabilitation and Research, an expansion of the Southwestern Poliomyelitis Respiratory Center, opens in Houston.

1960 Denton State School for persons with mental retardation begins.
1961 The drug Thalidomide is found to cause birth defects.

John H. Griffin, disabled World War II veteran, publishes his best known work, Black Like Me.

1962 Lufkin State School and Rio Grande State Center for Human Development begin.

S.A. Kirk coins the term "learning disabilities."

National "Employ the Handicapped Week" name changes.

Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter, Little Persons of America begins.

1963 Criss Cole, who was blind, serves in the Texas Senate.

Shriners Hospitals for Crippled Children, Galveston Burns Institute opens.

1965 Texas Legislature creates the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation (MHMR).

Mental Health Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County begins.

The Learning Disabilities Association of Texas forms including parents and professionals.

"Ironside" begins starring Raymond Burr using a wheelchair.

1966 Texas Constitution allows the State vocational rehabilitation agencies to contract with private providers


Texas State Library Talking Book Program expands to Texans with certain physical disabilities


Dallas County, Lubbock Regional, Amarillo Regional, Bexar County MHMR Centers, and El Paso Center for MHMR Services begin.

Concho Valley Center for Human Advancement (formerly MHMR Center for Greater West Texas) begins.
1967 Texas Legislature allows certain state colleges to offer an elective course in "dactylology" (sign language).

Vocational rehabilitation extends services to persons with behavioral disorders.

Texas Committee for the Deaf begins.

First successful heart transplant.

Austin-Travis County Regional, Hidalgo County and Central Counties MHMR Centers begin.
Paul Moreno, a wheelchair user, serves in the Texas House of Representatives.
1968 Richmond State School and Amarillo State Center for Human Development MHMR open.

Regional Center of East Texas and Heart of Texas and Northeast Texas MHMR Centers open.

Patsy Smith, disabled as a result of childhood Polio, serves as first woman judge of the 72nd District Court.

Congress passes Federal Architectural Barriers Act.

1969 Texas Legislature requires certain public facilities to be accessible.

Texas Legislature creates the Texas Rehabilitation Committee as a separate state agency.

Lubbock and San Angelo State Schools begin; Wichita Falls Community Center for MHMR Services, Tarrant County MHMR Services, Beaumont and Laredo State Centers for Human Development begin.

Easter Seal Society for Crippled Children and Adults of Bexar County begins.

Big Spring State Hospital begins Texas MHMR's first community outreach program.

Criss Cole, who was blind, becomes President Pro Tempore of the Texas Senate.

Nueces County MHMR Community Center begins.

Special Olympics of Texas begins.

Leon Payne, country and western singer and composer who was blinded in childhood, dies at the age of 52. George Jones would record a tribute album of Payne's songs in 1971.

1970 Central Plains Comprehensive Community MHMR Center, Sabine Valley Regional MHMR Center, Gulf Bend MHMR Center and Corpus Christi State School begin.

Leander Rehabilitation Center begins.

1971 Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center for the blind opens.

Mobility Impaired Grappling Hurdles Together begins at The University of Texas.

Abilene Regional MHMR Center begins.

Governor Preston Smith appoints the first Texas Developmental Disabilities Planning and Advisory Council.

1972 The 47 foot high scoreboard at Memorial Stadium at the University of Texas at Austin is dedicated to Freddie Steinmark, who had his leg amputated and later died as a result of cancer. Steinmark was a defensive back for the Longhorns on their national championship team of 1969.
1973 MHMR of Southeast Texas, Permian Basin Community Center for MHMR, and Gulf Coast Regional MHMR Center begin.

Lynden Olsen, who was an amputee, serves in the Texas House of Representatives.

1974 MHMR Center for Central Texas begins in Brownwood.

Travis County Services for the Deaf launches.

MHMR Authority of Brazos Valley, MHMR Services of Texoma, and Deep East Texas Regional MHMR Services begin.

Texas State Library expands Talking Books services to certain persons with learning disabilities.

Brenham State School opens


Reclamation, Inc., launches for self-advocacy by persons with mental illness.

1975 The Coalition for Barrier-Free Living begins in Houston.
"Spectrum: Focus on Deaf Artists" starts in Austin.

El Paso State Center opens.

First handicapped parking ID sold.

Congress passes the Education for All Handicapped Children Act.

1976 Austin Special Transit begins.

Fort Worth State School opens.

Texas White House Conference on the Handicapped convenes in Austin.

Southwest Wheelchair Athletic Association forms.

Federal Communications Committee reserves Line 21 on television sets for closed captions.
1977 Texas sells first handicapped parking stickers for license plates.

Pecan Valley MHMR Center begins in Stephenville.

Association for Individuals with Disabilities begins in Dallas.

Travis County Council for the Deaf launches.

Independent Living Research Utilization begins.

Secretary of Health Education and Welfare (HEW) signs Federal 504 Regulations, after a sit-in in by persons with disabilities in nine cities. When FBI agents prevented people from leaving the HEW building in Washington D.C., a person who was deaf signed out the window to another person who was deaf and he communicated with the media.

Congress passes the Targeted Jobs Tax Credit, encouraging employment of people with disabilities.

Advocacy, Inc. starts.

White House Conference on the Handicapped convenes in Washington D.C.
1978 San Antonio State School opens.

Coalition of Texans with Disabilities forms.

ADAPT demands lifts on buses in Denver.

Launch, Inc. starts for self-advocacy of adults with learning disabilities.

1979 Texas Legislature recognizes American Sign Language as a language that may be taught in public schools or state colleges.

Texas Legislature establishes the Southwest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf.

Navarro County MHMR Center begins in Corsicana.

Leander State Center opens.

Waco Center for Youth comes under direction of Texas MHMR.

Austin Resource Center for Independent Living forms.

Governor's Committee issues the first awards for employment of people with disabilities.

First documented case of AIDS.

"Facts of Life" premieres; Geri Jewell, a person with cerebral palsy, sometimes appears on this show.
1980 Austin City Council names February 21 "Charles S. Eskridge Day" in honor of his work for the mentally ill and mentally retarded.

Houston Center for Independent Living begins


Southwest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf begins instruction.

Texas Advocates begins - first Texas self-advocacy organization for persons with mental retardation


Tony McGregor, an artist who is deaf, wins honor from the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

Blind Lemon Jefferson is inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.

Miller Reese invents electric hearing aid.

Sears, Roebuck & Co. sells television decoders for closed captioning.
1981 Texas celebrates International Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP) by nominating Pat Pound and Allen B. Clark, Jr. to receive awards at a special gala at the Baltimore Convention Center in Maryland.
Edna Marie Moore, noted Texas artist, donates a bluebonnet picture to the state in honor of the IYDP. She was a wheelchair user.

San Antonio Independent Living Services forms.

Victor Galloway becomes the first deaf superintendent at the Texas School for the Deaf.

Texas Head Injury Association forms later becoming the Brain Injury Association of Texas.

Texas Legislature starts the nations' first interpreter certification program to provide qualified sign language interpreters to serve the state's deaf population.
Andrew Foster, who was the founder of the Negro Baseball League and had mental illness, is elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
1982 Governor's Committee publishes a report of a transportation barriers questionnaire.
1983 Texas Legislature prohibits employment discrimination against persons with disabilities.

Texas Legislature creates the Texas Planning Council for Developmental Disabilities.

Texas Legislature provides increased access to polling places for people with disabilities.
Governor's Committee presents first Barbara Jordan Awards for excellence in communicating the realities of persons with disabilities.

Texas Diabetes Council begins.

Dallas Center for Independent Living opens.

National ADAPT organizes to secure access on buses.

World Institute on Disability launches.
1984 Texas Alliance for the Mentally Ill begins.

Arnett Cobb, disabled as a result of a car crash, shares a Grammy with B.B. King for best traditional blues performance.

President Reagan issues National Policy for Persons with Disabilities.
Congress passes Federal Voting Accessibility Act.

President's Committee begins services to employers, called the Job Accommodation Network.

Advocacy, Inc. files a federal complaint against Southwest Airlines for denying a woman who was deaf-blind the right to fly unaccompanied.
1985 Texas Association of the Deaf celebrates its centennial convention in Austin.

Texas Cancer Council begins.

Disability Rally Day convenes at the State Capitol.
Governor's Committee co-sponsors Disabled Hispanic Texans: Rehabilitation & Employment Conference.
1986 Dallas Mayor's Committee for the Employment of People with Disabilities awards first annual scholarship for individuals with disabilities.
Congress passes the Air Carrier Access Act.

Disabled Women's Political Caucus forms in Washington, D.C.

Nellie Moone of San Francisco stops a city bus with her crutch until a lift equipped bus is sent.
1987 Texas Legislature creates a pilot attendant care delivery system, allowing individuals with disabilities to supervise their own attendants.

Austin City Council passes a Disability Rights Ordinance.

Secretary of Transportation rules that Southwest Airlines discriminated against a deaf-blind person who was not allowed to fly independently.

Marlee Matlin wins an Oscar for her performance in "Children of a Lesser God."

1988 Time magazine publishes a letter from Governor's Committee for Disabled Persons vice chairperson Kathy Weldon commending Gallaudet University's students for urging to have a president who is deaf.

Texas Mental Health Consumers begins.

300 people parade in Dallas to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that includes equal rights in Section 504.

First volunteer parking enforcement program starts through efforts of Beaumont Mayor's Committee.

Congress expands National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Congress passes Fair Housing Act.

Grupo Dignidad, Igualidad y Oportunidad (Dignity, Equality and Opportunity Group) begins.

Dr. I. King Jordan becomes first hearing impaired President of Gallaudet University.

1989 Texas Legislature allows public schools to give language credit for American Sign Language.
Texas Legislature establishes Relay Texas to provide telephone access for persons who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or speech-impaired.

Texas athlete Todd Freeland competes in the Oita International Wheelchair Marathon in Japan.

Congress passes Hearing Aid Compatibility Act, making telephones accessible for hearing aid users.

"Life Goes On" with actor Christopher Burke, who has Down Syndrome, airs on ABC.

1990 President George Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act at the largest bill signing ceremony ever on the White House grounds.

TV movie "When You Remember Me," about the formative years of ADAPT and the disability movement, airs on ABC.

Disability Policy Consortium forms.
1991 Texas Legislature moves the Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities into the Office of the Governor.

Texas Legislature requires sellers of lottery tickets to comply with the ADA.

Texas Legislature requires textbooks to be available in electronic format to facilitate Braille translation and provides for Braille instruction for students who are blind.

Texas Association of Mayors' Committees for People with Disabilities organizes.

Governor's Committee in conjunction with the Dallas Mayor's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities hosts the largest ever President's Committee national conference in Dallas with more than 6,000 attending.

Texas Deaf Caucus forms.

ADA Texas forms through efforts of the Texas Rehabilitation Committee and the Governor's Committee to train employers, people with disabilities and service providers about the ADA.

"Reasonable Doubt" starring Marlee Matlin (hearing impaired) premiered on NBC.

1992 Governor's Committee publishes "From Institutions to the Community" recommending how the state can increasingly serve Texans with disabilities in their local communities.

First disabled parking placard sold.

Governor Richards announces the closing of the Fort Worth and Travis State Schools.

Texas Assistive Technology Partnership begins.

Jeff Kurz, a Gallaudet University student, becomes the first hearing impaired athlete to be named Scholar-Athlete by the National Football Foundation.
1993 Texas Legislature establishes a birth defects registry and creates financial incentives for teaching students with disabilities in the regular classroom.

Texas Legislature expands the architectural barriers law to all buildings covered by the ADA and increases accessibility of private polling places.

Capital Metro in Austin equips all buses with wheelchair lifts.

Barbara Jordan presents the Barbara Jordan Media Awards for the first (and only) time.

Governor's Committee presents First Governor's Trophy to Dik Johnson.
John Hockenberry, national news correspondent and a wheelchair user, joins ABC's "Day One."
Sewering, an SS member and lung specialist in Germany who sent a 14 year old girl with tuberculosis to be gassed, becomes president-elect of the World Physicians Association. Protests force him to resign.
1994 Texas adopts the Texas Accessibility Standards.
1995 Governor George W. Bush appoints Greg Abbott to the Texas Supreme Court, the first person who uses a wheelchair to serve on Texas' highest court.

Texas Legislature renamed the Texas Committee for the Deaf the Texas Committee for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

First monetary penalties assessed for inaccessibility under the Texas Architectural Barriers Act.

Mattel markets first Barbie doll in a wheelchair and later modifies her house.

Quaker Oats and M.I.T. pay $1.85 million to more than 100 former residents of the Fernald State School in Massachusetts who were fed radiation-spiked cereal in nutrition experiments during the 1940's and 1950's without consent of their parents.

1996 Governor's Committee publishes the first booklet describing key Texas laws affecting persons with disabilities.

Texas Accessibility Standards become equivalent to federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines.

Congress passes the Telecommunication Act requiring captioning and telecommunication access.
1997 Governor's Committee reports first data about State employees with disabilities.

Texas law provides for telecommunications or other adaptive devices to make telephone use accessible for persons with disabilities.

Governor's Committee presents the first Entrepreneurship Award to Chad Raney.

James A. Michener publishes his last book, A Century of Sonnets, after becoming a person with a disability.

Governor George W. Bush joins disability advocates urging that an additional statue depicting Franklin Delano Roosevelt using a wheelchair be erected.

1998 George Bush Presidential Library and Museum opens including an exhibit on the ADA.

Governor's Committee offers information on its new website.

U.S. Supreme Court hears first ADA case and finds on behalf of a person with AIDS who a dentist refused to treat in his office.

Justin Dart Jr., former chairman of the Governor's Committee, receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom in January from President William Clinton.

Lex Frieden, senior vice president at The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research, is named the Henry B. Betts Award laureate for his instrumental role in the development of the ADA


Casey Martin wins the right to use a golf cart as an accommodation for his disability based on the ADA.

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