Hearing Impairment Series-Disabled Legend Laura Bridgman

Laura Dewey Bridgman was born on 21 December, 1829 in Hanover, New Hampshire, USA and died on 24 May, 1889. Laura was buried at Dana Cemetery in Hanover, New Hampshire, USA.

Laura is known as the 1st deaf-blind American child to gain a significant education in the English language, 50 years before the more famous Helen Keller. However, there are accounts of deaf-blind people communicating in tactile sign language before this time, and the deafblind Victorine Morriseau (1789-1832) had successfully learned French as a child some years earlier.

Laura was , being the 3rd daughter of Daniel Bridgman (d. 1868), a substantial Baptist farmer, and his wife Harmony, daughter of Cushman Downer, and granddaughter of Joseph Downer, one of the 5 1st settlers (1761) of Thetford, Vermont. Laura was a delicate infant, puny and rickety, and was subject to fits up to 20 months old, but otherwise seemed to have normal sense. However, Laura’s family was struck with scarlet fever when she was 2 years old. The illness killed her 2 older sisters and a brother and left her deaf, blind, and without a sense of smell or taste. Though she gradually recovered health she remained a deaf-blind, but was kindly treated and was in particular made a sort of playmate by an eccentric bachelor friend of the Bridgmans, Mr Asa Tenney, who as soon as she could walk used to take her for rambles a-field. Laura learned through touch to sew and knit as a child but had no language.

In 1837 Mr James Barrett, of Dartmouth College, saw her and mentioned her case to Dr Mussey, the head of the medical department, who wrote an account which attracted the attention of Dr Samuel Gridley Howe, the director of the Perkins School for the Blind at Boston. Dr Howe determined to try to get the child into the Institution and to attempt to educate her; her parents assented, and in October 1837 Laura entered the school.

Laura Bridgman was a comely child and of a sensitive and affectionate nature and was imitative in so far as she could follow the actions of others. However, she was limited in her communication to the narrower uses of touch. Laura’s mother, preoccupied with house-work, had already ceased to be able to control her, and her father’s authority was due to fear of superior force, not to reason. Dr Howe had been recently met Julia Brace, a deaf-blind resident at the American School for the Deaf who communicated using tactile sign, and developed a plan to teach the young Laura Bridgman to read and write through tactile means — something that had not been attempted previously, to his knowledge. At first he and his assistant, Lydia Drew, used words printed with raised letters, and later they progressed to using a manual alphabet expressed through tactile sign. Eventually she received a broad education.

Dr Howe taught words before the individual letters, and his 1st experiment consisting in pasting upon several common articles such as keys, spoons, knives, &c., little paper labels with the names of the articles printed in raised letters, which he got her to feel and differentiate; then he gave her the same labels by themselves, which she learned to associate with the articles they referred to, until, with the spoon or knife alone before her she could find the right label for each from a mixed heap. The next stage was to give her the component letters and teach her to combine them in the words she knew, and gradually in this way she learned all the alphabet and the 10 digits. The whole process depended, of course, on her having a human intelligence, which only required stimulation, and her own interest in learning became keener as she progressed.

Dr Howe devoted himself with the utmost patience and assiduity to her education and was rewarded by increasing success. On the 24th of July 1839 she 1st wrote her own name legibly. On the 20th of June 1840 she had her 1st arithmetic lesson, by the aid of a metallic case perforated with square holes, square types being used; and in 19 days she could add a column of figures amounting to 30. Laura was in good health and happy, and was treated by Dr Howe as his daughter. Laura’s case already began to interest the public, and others were brought to Dr Howe for treatment.

In 1841 Laura began to keep a journal, in which she recorded her own day’s work and thoughts. In January 1842 Charles Dickens visited the Institution, and afterwards wrote enthusiastically in his American Notes of Dr Howe’s success with Laura. In 1843 funds were obtained for devoting a special teacher to her, and first Miss Swift, then Miss Wight, and then Miss Paddock, were appointed; Laura by this time was learning geography and elementary astronomy. By degrees she was given religious instruction, but Dr Howe was intent upon not inculcating dogma before she had grasped the essential truths of Christianity and the story of the Bible.

Laura grew up a happy, cheerful girl, loving, optimistic, but with a nervous system inclining to irritability, and requiring careful education in self-control. In 1860 her eldest sister Mary’s death helped to bring on a religious crisis, and through the influence of some of her family she was received into the Baptist church; she became for some years after this more self-conscious and rather pietistic. In 1867 she began writing compositions which she called poems; the best-known is called “Holy Home.”

In 1872, Dr Howe having been enabled to build some separate cottages (each under a matron) for the blind girls, Laura was moved from the larger house of the Institution into one of them, and there she continued her quiet life. The death of Dr Howe in 1876 was a great grief to her; but before he died he had made arrangements by which she would be financially provided for in her home at the Institution for the rest of her life. In 1887 her jubilee was celebrated there, but in 1889 she was taken ill, and she died on the 24th of May. Laura’s name has become familiar everywhere as ,an example of the education of a deaf-blind. Helen Keller’s mother Kate Keller read Dickens’ account and was inspired to seek advice which led to her hiring a teacher and former pupil of the same school, Anne Sullivan. Anne learned the manual alphabet from Laura which she took back to Helen, along with a doll that Laura had made for her.

A Liberty ship was named after her.

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Dyslexia Series-Disabled Legend Gaston Caperton

William Gaston Caperton III was born on 21 February, 1940 in Charleston, Kanawha County, West Virginia.

Gaston was twice elected as governor of the U.S. state of West Virginia and served from 1989 until 1997. Gaston is currently the president of the College Board, which administers the nationally-recognized SAT and AP tests. Gaston is a member of the Democratic Party.

Gaston attended Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon.

After graduation he returned to Charleston to manage a family-owned insurance firm. Gaston’s soon became its principal owner and, under his watch, it became the tenth largest privately owned insurance brokerage firm in the nation. Gaston Caperton also owned a bank and mortgage banking firm. Gaston Caperton was elected governor in his first attempt to seek public office in 1988.

In the 1988 gubernatorial election, Gaston, initially considered a long-shot for his party’s nomination, defeated the Republican Party incumbent, Arch A. Moore, Jr. In the 1992 election, Gaston was challenged by Charlotte Pritt in the Democratic primary. Gaston won the primary and the general election, defeating the Republican candidate, West Virginia Secretary of Agriculture Cleve Benedict, and Pritt, running as a write-in candidate. Gaston was constitutionally prohibited from running for a third consecutive term in 1996.

During his first term as the state’s 31st governor, Gaston supported the passages of ethics, road-building, and education bills. Gaston raised taxes in an effort to improve West Virginia’s finances, thereby reducing debts exceeding $500 million and creating a $100 million surplus. Due to the reforms, Financial World magazine called the state the most improved in the nation. Critics accused Gaston of failing to keep a campaign promise not to raise taxes, but defenders claimed that the previous governor had misstated the condition of the state’s finances and failed to disclose the need for tax increases.

Publicly, Governor Gaston Caperton emphasized that education was his first priority. Gaston Caperton supported a school-building program that led to $800 million in investments for 58 new schools and 780 school renovations, directly benefiting two-thirds of West Virginia’s public school students. After a brief strike by the state’s public educators, Gaston raised teacher’s salaries from 49th to 31st in the nation and trained more than 19,000 educators through a statewide Center for Professional Development with the goal of putting technology to its best use in West Virginia’s classrooms. Gaston encouraged the use of computers and technology in West Virginia public schools, resulting in the West Virginia Basic Skills Computer Program, which began with kindergarten and extended through 6th grade. Gaston’s common refrain for “computers in every classroom” since has been expanded to include grades 7-12. In 1996, West Virginia’s advances in education technology gained national recognition when Gaston received the Computerworld Smithsonian Award. Award sponsors called Gaston a “visionary” who “fundamentally changed the education system in America” by using technological innovations. Information about Gaston and his work is included in the Smithsonian’s Permanent Research Collection. In January 1997, the magazine Education Week, conducted a study of the nation’s education system and held out West Virginia for the state’s use of technology in education.

As Governor, Gaston focused his efforts on economic development, modern roads and infrastructure, prisons and jails, a clean environment, health care, and government management. West Virginia’s economy improved during his eight-year tenure. Unemployment dropped from 9.8% to 6.2%, the result of creating approximately 86,000 new jobs.

Near the end of his second term, Gaston was the 1996 chair of the Democratic Governor’s Association, served on the National Governor’s Association executive committee, and was a member of the Intergovernmental Policy Advisory Committee on U.S. Trade. Gaston was chairman of the Appalachian Regional Commission, Southern Regional Education Board, and the Southern Growth Policy Board. Gaston has received numerous state and national awards and special recognition, including 6 honorary doctoral degrees.

Another product of Gaston’s tenure is the Tamarack, the Best of West Virginia. The facility is a museum, art gallery, and collection of studios for visiting artists that showcases products of West Virginia and organizes the state’s “cottage industry.” Tamarack is the center of an integrated distribution and marketing network for products by more than 1,200 West Virginia artists. The Rosen Group, publisher of Niche magazine, named Gaston the 1997 Humanitarian of the Year for creating a progressive market for the state’s cottage industry.

After completing his second term, the former governor taught at Harvard University in the spring of 1997 as a fellow at the John F. Kennedy Institute of Politics. He founded and now runs the Institute on Education and Government at Columbia University.

Gaston became President and CEO of the College Board on 1 July, 1999. The New York City based College Board is a nonprofit membership association of more than 4,200 schools, colleges and other educational institutions throughout America. Its mission, as expressed by Governor Caperton, is to prepare, inspire and connect students to college success, with a focus on excellence and equity. The College Board is best known for its SAT College admissions exam and for its Advanced Placement Program, which offers high school students access to quality, college-level course work. Since taking the helm of the College Board, Governor Caperton has sought to enhance the standing and expand the reach of these two programs and to launch a series of initiatives. As a result of one of these initiatives, AP courses became more availabile to inner city and rural students.

Gaston Caperton appears concerned about unequal educational opportunity, and he led an effort to encourage students at middle schools to go to college, particularly the least advantaged. Gaston efforts prompted USA Today to label him an “education crusader”. The publication also named him one of the most influential people in America in its feature, “People to Watch: 2001.”

More recently, Governor Caperton led a successful campaign to revise the SAT when the College Board’s trustees requested changes to the test. The College Board introduced a set of changes to the SAT that include a writing test, more critical reading, and advanced math. The goal of the new SAT I is to more closely reflect the course work of the nation’s high school students while maintaining what they describe as the test’s level of rigor and excellence. The new SAT I was administered for the first time in March 2005.

Gaston Caperton was embarrassed when his first wife, Ella Dee Caperton (born Ella Kessel, Miss West Virginia 1964) divorced him during his first term, and unsuccessfully ran in the election for state treasurer. With Dee he had 2 boys, William Gaston Caperton, IV, (“Gat”) and John Caperton. Both sons are married and living with their own families (“Gat” in West Virginia and John in California).

Gaston’s second wife was the Musical Director Conductor of the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, Rachael Worby. Gaston is currently married to his third wife Idit Harel Caperton, an Israeli, MIT PhD, an education technology expert, a mother of 3, and the Founder and CEO of MaMaMedia.

Gaston and Idit Caperton live and work in New York City.

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Epilepsy Series-Disabled Legend Sir Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott was born on 15 August 1771 and died on 21 September 1832. Sir Walter Scott was a prolific Scottish historical novelist and poet popular throughout Europe during his time.

Walter Scott survived a childhood bout of polio in 1773 that would leave him lame. In 1778 Scott returned to Edinburgh for private education to prepare him for school, he was now well able to walk and explore the city as well as the surrounding countryside. His reading included chivalric romances, poems, history and travel books.

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