History of the GDABVI


Greater Detroit Agency for the Blind and Visually Impaired (GDABVI) was established in 1961 as a non-profit organization called the Metropolitan Society for the Blind to provide direct services to people in the metropolitan Detroit area who were blind or visually impaired, and to provide consultation and staff training to health agencies and educational institutions.

In 1970, the Metropolitan Society for the Blind merged with the Detroit Society for the Prevention of Blindness and became the Greater Detroit Society for the Blind. In 1993, the agency was renamed to honor the founding director, McAllister Upshaw, and became Upshaw Institute for the Blind.

In 2005, the organization sought out a more clearly recognizable identity, changing its name to the Greater Detroit Agency for the Blind and Visually Impaired. As it has since its conception, it continues to help residents with visual impairments to achieve and maintain independence.

The agency has worked with many other community resources to improve awareness about blindness and its impact on individuals, their families, and the community.

Human beings use their vision to learn a great deal about the world in which they live. Loss of vision is often accompanied by a sense of being isolated or dependent upon others. Agency staff help blind or visually impaired individuals to develop skills and attitudes of independence. At the same time, the agency tries to make the community aware of attitudes which place limitations on people who are blind or visually impaired.

GDABVI is funded through support from the United Way of Southeastern Michigan, federal grants, and private contributions.

A Chronological List of GDABVI Milestones of Service

  • 1962 – The agency helped establish an outpatient diagnostic and personal adjustment training program at the Rehabilitation Institute.
  • 1963 – The agency initiated what is now the national practice of teaching cane travel in public schools
  • 1965 – Rehabilitation services offered to deaf-blind persons
  • 1967 – First Careers Day for school-age blind persons, their parents, teachers and counselors
  • 1969 – Early Intervention Services developed for blind children and their families
  • 1970 – Metropolitan Society for the Blind merged with Detroit Society for the Prevention of Blindness to form the Greater Detroit Society for the Blind
  • 1970 – Participated in the reorganization of the Council of Agencies Serving the Blind in metropolitan Detroit
  • 1972 – Job Readiness Clinics were developed to assist individuals who were blind entering the work force
  • 1974 – Published the print edition of the Occupational Information Library for the Blind, a directory to 500 jobs performed by blind persons. Braille and cassette editions followed
  • 1977 – Introduced the radio reading service concept to Detroit, a closed-circuit broadcasting program in which volunteers read newspapers and other information
  • 1985 – The 4-Sights Network premiered as a means for visually impaired persons to gain access to information in an electronic form
  • 1989 – Co-sponsored the National Association of Parents of the Visually Impaired biannual national conference which led to the establishment in 1990 of the Michigan Parents of Children with Visual Impairments
  • 1992 – The Michigan Eye Health Resource Center was created to disseminate video, film, and other information materials on blindness and eye health to schools, senior centers, health facilities, and other organizations.
  • 1993 – Name changed to Upshaw Institute for the Blind to honor founding executive director McAllister Upshaw.
  • 1997 – First Activities of Daily Living – Computer Camp for visually impaired youth held at Western Michigan University.
  • 1997 – Upshaw Institute for the Blind website is created.
  • 1999 – First Visually Impaired Technology Blizzard held in conjunction with Wayne County School Programs for the Visually Impaired.
  • 1999 – First annual Back to School Carnival for Visually Impaired Students
  • 2000 – Named Best Managed Non-Profit Organization under $3 million budget for 2000 by Crain’s Detroit Business (December 18-24, 2000 issue)
  • 2005 – Upshaw Institute for the Blind changes its name to Greater Detroit Agency for the Blind and Visually Impaired
  • 2007 – Held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the GDABVI Sensory Garden.
  • 2011 – Celebrated the GDABVI’s 50th Anniversary with a dinner ceremony in Detroit. The Agency received national recognition for its services and legacy through letters of support from the Governor of Michigan, Mayor of Detroit and two U.S. Senators.
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