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Logo of the John Milton Society for the Blind in Canada

Picture of Helen Keller and John Milton


"The chief handicap of the blind is not blindness, but the attitude of seeing people towards them."
- Helen Keller, 1925



A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SOCIETY

1928

Helen Keller, who was both deaf and blind, persuaded the leaders of several Christian denominations to develop an interdenominational ministry that would bring spiritual guidance and religious literature to deaf and blind persons.  She decided to name the new society after John Milton, the great English writer and poet (1608-1675).

John Milton was chosen because of his strong Christian faith, and because, after losing his eyesight, he did not give up, but continued to write, and went on to create volume after volume of prose and poetry, including a number of Hymns.

John Milton lost his sight soon after he turned forty, and was blind when he wrote his epic poem Paradise Lost, which reflects the inner soul's "Celestial Light" to "see and tell of things invisible to mortal sight."

Helen Keller founded the John Milton Society for the Blind, with its office in New York City, and became its first president.  She remained Honorary President until her death in 1968.


1959

The Reverend Nelson Chappel, a prominent Canadian, was appointed General Secretary of the JMS in New York, a position he held for 3 years until his appointment as Secretary of the World Council of Churches.


1970

Nelson Chappel, newly retired and with failing eyesight himself, realized the need for a ministry in Canada for blind, deafblind and visually impaired persons similar to the organization in the USA.   He enlisted a group of like-minded and influential friends across Canada to form the John Milton Society for the Blind in Canada.

This group of friends included Ruth Reynolds, The Rev. Dr. Wilbur Howard, Lester B. Pearson. Saddie Bending, John Diefenbaker, Tommy Douglas, Paul Hellyer, Irwin Haskett, A.A. Cattanach, Rod Kerr and Walter Dinsdale.


1972

The first edition of the large print newspaper InSight was published with an incentive grant from the Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada.


1974

The first edition of the audio cassette magazine InSound was produced.


1975

The first edition of the Braille magazine InTouch was published.

The Library In Sound, an audio cassette (2 track) tape lending Library, was started.   This name was later changed to the Reverend Aubrey deVere Hunt Library In Sound in honour of its founder.  (His son, the Rev. Gerald Hunt, was the last President of the Society)


1985

The Society was incorporated, with Letters Patent dated February 22 1985.


1995

The 25th Anniversary of the Society was celebrated.


2000

The Reverend Aubrey deVere Hunt Library In Sound was further developed and expanded.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Society, a special program was produced on CD and tape, chronicling the history of the Society and the services we freely offered to Canadians with vision loss.


2002

The Society set up its first web site, and the catalogue of The Reverend Aubrey deVere Hunt Library In Sound became available online.


2003

A partnership was initiated with CNIB, under which the web sites of JMS and CNIB provided links to each other’s online catalogues.


2004

The Board of Directors faced the problem of insufficient income to meet the rising costs of producing and shipping our publications to our readers. With great regret, it was decided that the December 2004 issue of the large print newspaper InSight would have to be the last. What resources were available would be focussed on those publications which benefited the deafblind and those with little or no eyesight.

2005

The Board of Directors was faced with the continuing problem of insufficient income to meet the costs of producing and shipping our publications to our readers. Expenses had exceeded contributions for the past eleven years, and the Society's work had continued only because of bequests, which had been received on a rather irregular basis. Early in 2005, there were sufficient funds on hand to operate the Society for only about six months more.

After considering the report of the Executive Director at its meeting held in March, the Board of Directors made the reluctant but unanimous decision to recommend to the Annual General Meeting of the Society scheduled for April 25 that the Society be dissolved as of July 31, 2005. It was also recommended that any remaining liquid assets at that time be given to a registered charity, and that a suitable repository be found for the Reverend Aubrey deVere Hunt Library In Sound.

The Members present at the Annual General Meeting accepted these recommendations unanimously. There was a feeling of sadness, but also of gratitude to God that for thirty-five years the Society had served its clientelle very well, and that changing times and technology had perhaps made its work less urgent than it had been in an earlier age. The Reverend Dr. Donald Ray, President of the Society from 1986 to 1989, presented a retrospect of the great multitude of Executive Directors, office workers, volunteers, producers, narrators and donors who had contributed so much to the Society's work over the years. the ongoing needs of the blind and deafblind were committed to the love and wisdom of God.

As plans progressed for the closing of the Society at the end of July 2005, the Executive Director searched diligently for a suitable repository for the Aubrey deVere Hunt Library InSound. The concern was to find a place where the collection would stay together, and be useful for some time to come. Success came when the Board of Directors accepted the offer of the Trinidad and Tobago National Library and Information Systems Authority (NALIS) to receive and circulate the collection. NALIS could also use the electronic catalogue which our Volunteer Librarian Dorothy Archer had so painstakingly created over a period of more than five years. More than twenty-five boxes of cassettes began their journey to their new home on July 14, 2005. May the Aubrey deVere Hunt Library InSound continue to spread joy and inspiration for many years to come.


2006

The Rev. Barry Brown continued on a volunteer basis to deal with mail that was addressed to the Society, and to make sure that all accounts payable were properly looked after. In July 2006 the final winding down of the Society occurred, with the revoking of the Society's charitable status and the distribution of what remained in its bank account to a charity that had been approved by the Board of Directors in accordance with the law governing charitable institutions.


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