History

The Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, one of the oldest non-profits in Michigan, was founded in 1913 by Roberta Griffith, who lost her sight as a child. She’s believed to be the first blind woman in the United States to graduate from a school for sighted students. She completed her studies at Western Reserve University in three years instead of four.

Roberta was passionate about helping others who faced similar challenges. She partnered with Helen Keller to standardize braille code throughout the nation and worked to “mainstream” blind children within Grand Rapids Public Schools. Her proudest accomplishment was ABVI, which has grown to serve adults and children in 13 West Michigan counties. She was recognized for her efforts with induction into the Michigan Woman’s Hall of Fame.

In 2020, ABVI became an independent subsidiary of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. Both organizations have for more than a century served people with disabilities using therapeutic interventions and specialized technology. And they both were founded by forward-thinking women dedicated to making life better for others and helping society understand that people with disabilities are valuable and engaged citizens.

Roberta Griffith Headshot