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History of the Commission

In 1920 Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Fees Act, also referred to as the National Civilian Rehabilitation Act. This law provided the funding for states to offer vocational guidance, training, occupational adjustment and placement services to individuals with disabilities. It was the beginning of the Public Vocational Rehabilitation Program, or VR. In addition, the law allowed for separation of state VR agencies into those that serve individuals who were legally blind and those that provide services to individuals with other types of disabilities.

In 1936, the Randolph-Sheppard Act gave people who were legally blind the rights to operate vending and food-service venues in federally owned properties, and this ultimately led to the establishment of the Business Enterprise Program (BEP) in 48 states.

Over the decades, new laws, as well as amendments to existing laws, expanded the scope of services offered by vocational rehabilitation agencies.

During the 1950s, the South Carolina Department of Public Welfare was providing services for South Carolinians who were blind or severely visually impaired. The department’s Division of the Blind taught crafts, supervised vending operations and placed clients in limited forms of employment. However, recognizing the need for increasing the services available to those with visual impairments, the South Carolina Aurora Club of the Blind, now known as the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, at its 1964 convention passed a resolution calling for the creation of a separate agency to serve individuals who are blind.

Early the following year, a nine-member legislative committee was formed to explore the feasibility of creating a State Commission for the Blind, and after careful study, it recommended establishing the new agency. The committee based its decision on data which indicated that South Carolina ranked among the top 10 states in the number of new cases of blindness reported and the incidence of blindness per 1,000 population.

The South Carolina Commission for the Blind (SCCB) was created by legislative enactment in 1966 and began functioning as a separate agency in January 1967. By the end of the decade, it had grown from operating out of one office to numerous locations around the state and had served more than 12,000 individuals.

Today, SCCB continues to provide specialized services to citizens of South Carolina who are blind and visually impaired. New legislation, such as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, have streamlined and strengthened the services offered through Vocational Rehabilitation, making it easier to assist individuals in gaining economic and social independence.

In addition to vocational rehabilitation, SCCB also provides the following unique services:

  • The Business Enterprise Program provides an opportunity for qualified individuals to become entrepreneurs and operate their own business. Under the Randolph-Sheppard Act, SCCB is the State Licensing Agency for individuals who are blind or visually impaired who operate vending facilities.
  • Children’s Services, which is fully state funded, provides assistance to children who are visually impaired, ages 3 to 12, ensuring they have assistive technology available at home, not just in the school.
  • Older Blind Services, for individuals at age 55 and older with severe visual impairments, focuses on assistance that helps them remain independent and in their own homes.
  • Prevention Services, also fully state funded, provides sight saving services, cataract surgeries and eyeglasses, for individuals who do not have insurance.