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Our History

1907-1920
1921-1940
1941-1960
1961-1980
1981-2000
2001-Present


1907-1920

May 1907

The first formal meeting of the Buffalo Association for the Blind was held. Mr. Carlton Sprague was elected president. 

July 1907

A broom factory employing blind workers was opened at 489 Ellicott Street. A horse and wagon aided in marketing and distribution efforts. 

December 1908

A Certificate of Incorporation for the agency was issued, stating in part its objective "to improve the condition of the blind within the County of Erie." 

November 1913

The Wishbone Club, the agency's first social club, was formed to promote social life among its membership of blind women. 

January 1916

Rug weaving, chair caning and basketmaking were added to workshop activities. 

February 1917

The agency worked with the New York State Commission for the Blind in providing home visits to blind community members. In one year alone, nearly 1,400 home calls were made for the purposes of tutoring, sick calls and friendly visitation. 

1919

To fuel fundraising efforts, the agency joined with eight other social agencies in the city to form the "Federation of Charities and Social Agencies for Financial and Other Purposes," which ultimately became the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County. 

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1921-1940

June 1923

Rapid growth necessitated the relocation of the agency's headquarters to the old Lutheran Church at Michigan and Goodell Streets. The property included five small apartments that were rented to blind tenants. 

July 1926

Edna Stainton was hired as the first executive secretary to coordinate the increasing activities of the agency's various departments. 

July 1927

Dr. Conrad Wettlaufer, Board President, donated the necessary funds to remodel agency headquarters to house the Buffalo Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic, also known as the Wettlaufer Clinic. 

1936

As part of the WPA, the agency became a distributor of Talking Book Machines. Manufactured under the aegis of the Library of Congress, the machines read pre-recorded books and magazines. 

September 1937

The agency's first news and cigar stand, operated by blind vendor Anthony Obstarczyk, opened on the first floor of the Erie County Office Building. 

December 1937

A telegram from Helen Keller recognized the agency's 30th anniversary, commending the organization's "pioneer work in broadening the field of opportunity for sightless people." 

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1941-1960

May 1946

The Board of Directors voted to purchase the property at 864 Delaware Avenue to better accommodate the growing organization. 

September 1946

The agency's first preschool, the Michael Nursery School, was opened to help prepare blind children for mainstream schooling. 

June 1949

The first client to the agency's newly established "Testing and Rehabilitation Center" was accepted, receiving training in skills of daily living and household carpentry. 

December 1949

The Lighthouse Unit, a women's service guild, was organized. Sixty women signed up to begin the tradition of volunteerism and fundraising that lasted until the group's disbandment in 1999. 

January 1953

Sub-contract work stitching cardboard cartons for the Iroquois Brewing Co. was secured in the workshop. Soon after, broom production was phased out as more sub-contract jobs were accepted. 

January 1957

The agency became a member of Industries for the Blind of New York State, an organization that secures orders from state institutions for workshops for the blind throughout New York State.

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1961-1980

January 1962       

Renovations began on the agency's current building at 1170 Main Street due to an urgent need for more space.

July 1964       

The agency initiated an Orientation and Mobility program, including training in the use of the white cane.

April 1971       

A new rehabilitation center replaced the phased out testing and rehabilitation center. This new and improved program included counseling and training in self-care, home-making, and communication techniques, as well as vocational evaluation.

December 1971       

The agency became an affiliate of National Industries for the Blind, a workshop development organization.

January 1974       

An open house was held to announce the agency's new name: the Blind Association of Western New York. The name reflected the agency's widened scope of services for individuals throughout the eight western counties of New York State.

1975       

The agency acquired its first closed circuit television visual aid, the Visualtek, which enabled people with some functional vision to read books and other written materials.

1976       

The Low Vision Clinic opened, providing people with impaired sight with specialized optometric exams and prescriptions.

1979       

The Skills of Daily Living apartment was opened, featuring a living room, bathroom, laundry area and kitchen where clients could train in performing day-to-day activities.

Fall 1980       

The Technical Advisory Committee developed the first-ever Braille desk calendar, filling a strong need expressed by blind professional workers.

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1981-2000

March 1983       

The Visually Impaired Preschool (VIP), a home-based program for infants and pre-schoolers up to age five, was initiated.

August 1983       

The first Ride in Plain Sight bike tour was held, an annual fundraiser that featured tandem bicycles ridden by visually impaired cyclists with sighted partners. In 1988, a stationary bike corporate challenge was added to the event.

October 1985       

The agency developed its first long range plan, intended to serve as a proactive guide to meeting changing trends and future challenges.

January 1987       

Senior Vision Services was started, a program serving Erie County senior citizens who, while not legally blind, are experiencing diminishing sight.

September 1992       

GuildCare, an adult day health care program, is opened as a joint initiative with the Jewish Guild for the Blind. A second GuildCare program was established in Niagara Falls in 1996.

November 1993       

The agency opened its first apartment building, Excelsior Manor, in the city's Lovejoy area. This project, like the many similar projects to follow, provided affordable, specially designed housing for visually impaired or physically disabled tenants.

February 1996       

The agency began overseeing switchboard operations at the Buffalo Veterans Administration Medical Center, employing a full staff of blind and visually impaired operators.

March 1996       

GuildCare Niagara Falls, an adult day health care program, is opened as a joint initiative with the Jewish Guild for the Blind. Guildcare Buffalo was opened in September 1992.

May 1996       

A $5.2 million capital campaign to renovate the agency’s headquarters was launched.

June 1997       

A grand opening celebration was held for Gratwick Manor, the second housing project for visually impaired or physically disabled tenants.

August 1999       

The National Statler Center for Careers in Hospitality Service, a program that prepares visually impaired or physically handicapped individuals for careers in the hospitality industry, was kicked off with a visit from New York State Governor George Pataki.

September 1999       

The National Statler Center for Careers in Hospitality Service conducted its first class with students.

December 1999       

Austin Manor, the agency's third housing project, opened its doors to visually impaired or physically disabled tenants.

December 1999       

The agency changed its name to the Elizabeth Pierce Olmsted, M.D. Center for the Visually Impaired.

October 2000       

A grand opening celebration was held to show off the completed renovations. New features include an education center/auditorium, an expanded vision rehabilitation clinic, a resource library and an atrium.

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2001-Present

May 2001       

Olmsted Center adopted the theme line "Where Challenges Meet Solutions".

September 2001       

Olmsted Center's manufacturing division supplied all the U.S. Flags at the opening game at Yankee Stadium following the tragedy on September 11, 2001. This was the largest distribution of flags in New York State.

January 2003       

The manufacturing division at Olmsted Center secured its first federal contract with the Department of Defense for flight jerseys for the Navy.

February 2003       

Elizabeth Harvey Apartments in the North Tonawanda, the agency's fourth housing project, opened its doors to visually impaired and physically disabled tenants.

May 2003       

The agency began overseeing switchboard operations at the Erie Veterans Administration Medical Center in Erie, Pennsylvania, employing a full staff of blind and visually impaired operators.

January 2005       

Statler Center accepts its first international student from Canada.

February 2006       

Construction is completed on the Haskell Stovroff Apartments in Cheektowaga, New York. This is the agency's fifth housing project to open it doors to visually impaired and physically disabled tenants.

March 2006       

Construction begins on the Ira G. Ross Eye Institute. The Ross Eye Institute is a unique and nationally innovative collaboration among the Department of Ophthalmology of the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Olmsted Center for the Visually Impaired, and University Ophthalmology Services. Envisioned as the premier research, ophthalmologic education and subspecialty eye care program in Western New York, this Institute will include a nationally unique state-of-art, university and human services linked campus that will provide a continuum of integrated prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services to individuals of all ages in need of holistic vision care; as well as, new research facilities at the medical school.

November 2006

Olmsted Center brings property management of all five of its properties in-house. 

January 2007

Statler Center hosted its first class outside of Buffalo, New York. The Blind Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, became home to Statler Center for 10 weeks and became the 23rd graduating class since its inception in 1999. 

March 2007

After gaining approval in June 2006 from the New York State Public Health Council to open a subsidiary Article 28 Diagnostic and Treatment Center, the Paul T. Bulger Vision Rehabilitation Clinic opened its doors. This new holistic medical center will be housed within Olmsted Center within the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and adjacent to the future Ross Eye Institute. The Bulger Vision Clinic will provide the services of a physiatrist, nurse practitioner and occupational therapist in addition to the optometric, rehabilitation teaching, social work and orientation and mobility instruction previously offered. Treatment will address not only vision loss, but other physical, cognitive and emotional issues which may relate to visual impairment. 

May 2007 

Statler Center was awarded $457,000 from the Lavelle Fund for the Blind, Inc. This money will allow Statler Center to train and work with disabled people more strategically in career development. In this model, job placement will actually be “front-loaded” through the development of corporate relationships with businesses that have shown commitment to hiring the disabled, have positions available, and are willing to partner in advance with Statler Center for training and job placement.

June 2007

The Olmsted Institute of Business and Technology is established.

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