This year Blind Service Association (BSA) celebrates its 98th Anniversary providing services to Blind and Visually Impaired children, adolescents and adults in the Chicagoland area. Originally founded in 1924 by Mrs. Gottfried D. Bernstein, a housewife in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, Blind Service Association grew out of a need to give the printed page a voice to the blind community.
Recognizing there were few services available for blind children after World War I, Mrs. Bernstein began reading stories to blind children in her home. As soon as the word got out about the woman who reads to blind children, others in the neighborhood, including adults sought Mrs. Bernstein's help in getting their material read. Mrs. Bernstein realized that she couldn't personally satisfy all the people who asked for her help in reading printed material so she called on her synagogue to donate space and her friends to donate their time to read to the blind.
In 1930, Mrs. Bernstein and her friends incorporated and decided to establish a permanent home in Chicago's Downtown Loop where reading help would be accessible to all blind people in the Chicago area. Relocating proved fruitful as it attracted blind and visually impaired students at a time when brailled texts, and other accessible materials, were largely unavailable. Also with this move, BSA was able to steadily recruit more volunteers and extend their services.
Since its founding, Blind Service Association has continued to grow. Today, thanks to the dedication of over 250 volunteers, more than 1200 blind and visually impaired people of all ages use BSA's services. Mrs. Gottfried Bernstein's spirit splendidly lives on in the commitment and dedication of our volunteers and staff.