Honoring the Visionary Founders of the Blind Children’s Center During Women’s History Month

As the world celebrates Women’s History Month, it is important to reflect on the impact of the visionary women who paved the way for positive change in the lives of young children who are blind or visually impaired. The story of the Blind Children’s Center is rooted in a pivotal moment from the 1936 Delta Gamma Fraternity Convention. Ruth Billow, a Delta Gamma from the University of Akron who was blind, addressed the Convention and advocated for “Aid to the Blind” to become the fraternity’s official philanthropy. 

United under philanthropy, a group of LA County Delta Gamma alumnae chapters came together to identify the specific needs of their community, in which they discovered a critical gap. Despite the presence of several schools for the blind, there were no resources available for preschool children or their parents. Wanting to fill this gap, these dedicated women began their mission to establish a place that would cater to this population, resulting in over 80 years of change-making history. 

Unaware of the profound impact the facility would have on their community, a team of volunteers, led by UCLA’s retiring Head of Medicine, Dr. Lillian Ray Titcomb, founded the Nursery School for Visually Handicapped Children in a private home on October 3, 1938, the first of five schools a part of Delta Gamma’s Service for Sight initiative. By 1940 it became clear that the original school required expansion into a permanent building tailored to accommodate the needs of the children.

At the 1946 Delta Gamma National Convention, these women launched a fundraising campaign and sought opportunities beyond the Delta Gamma community to generate publicity and donations. Articles in Photoplay, Screen Guild, McCalls, Look and the Saturday Evening Post positioned them to become nationally recognized as a model program, where guests and educational and medical professionals came to learn about these transformative efforts. 

With the continued attention, a Building Committee was later formed to find a location and an architect for a permanent facility. The founder and fellow committee members engaged Paul R. Williams, one of the finest architects of his generation, to design the new building. This collaboration to help blind children emerged during a time of discrimination, yet stood as a beacon of hope and inclusivity in the face of adversity.

The Delta Gamma women were not aware that their efforts in creating equal opportunities would make history and lay the groundwork for an inclusive environment where children, regardless of vision, could learn and grow for almost a century. The founders have inspired generations and continue to leave behind a legacy of compassion and service.

For more information about the Blind Children’s Center history, visit: https://www.blindchildrenscenter.org/who-weare/.

Meet the Blind Children’s Center

Parents in Los Angeles are fortunate to have a number, and often a variety, of top-tier facilities and programs to help our children, from various types of therapists and therapies to learning aids and tools.

Add the Blind Children’s Center (BCC) to that list.

Developed in 1938 through the foresight of a dedicated team of Southern California Delta Gamma Fraternity alumnae volunteers, it was led by UCLA’s retiring Head of Medicine, Dr. Lillian Titcomb. Together, they founded the Nursery School for Visually Handicapped Children in a private home and, in 1954, expanded to build BCC’s current permanent home in East Hollywood to serve more children and families in the community. The Blind Children’s Center was the first of five schools founded as part of Delta Gamma Fraternity’s Service for Sight initiative.

The BCC prepares infants, toddlers and preschoolers of all abilities to thrive through inclusive, family-focused early childhood education, with a specialized focus on children who are blind or visually impaired. But its programs have been expanded in recent years to bring children with vision loss, autism, disabilities and/or complex medical conditions together with their typically developing peers to create inclusive environments where all children can experience belonging and reach their potential.

And more growth is coming. In partnership with the Los Angeles County Office of Education, the BCC broke ground in June 2023 to expand its facility infrastructure, build additional classrooms, install a nature-based playground and more. Renovations will enable BCC to increase enrollment to serve nearly 100 students each year, according to Jasmin Joya, community relations manager.

“The Blind Children’s Center serves children from birth to 5 years old and pregnant mothers,” Joya says, noting that the center offers these programs:

  • Inclusive Infant/Toddler Early Head Start Programs. The Infant Program is for pregnant mothers and children from birth to 3 years old. Parents/caregivers and their children meet two days per week for three hours in a small group setting that is staffed by Parent Educators
  • Center-Based Toddler Program is for children from 18-36 months-old, is fully inclusive, has small size classes in the BCC’s licensed child-care center and is staffed by teachers.
  • The Inclusive Preschool Head Start Program is for children 3-5 years old, also offers small size classes in its licensed childcare center and is staffed by a teacher and two associates.

BCC’s programs provide comprehensive education, health, mental health and nutrition services, as well as coordinated therapeutic services, including sensory development, orientation and mobility, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech/language development and braille pre-literacy skills. Joya notes that the BCC served more than 50 families last year.

We asked Bianca Ciebrant, BCC Program Director, about the most gratifying part of her job. “It comes years after the family has left BCC,” she says. “When students return to visit when they are in 3rd grade, 7th grade, high school and share their own stories of successes, challenges and accomplishments, that is most gratifying. When their parents say, ‘Remember when the teacher worked every day with him on a particular skill, and now he shows others how to do it!’ Or ‘Remember how much I hated to do something and now it’s my favorite thing to do!’ When families share those stories and are really reflecting on the dedication that BCC staff had with their child to guide and teach them, always touches my heart.”

“Another gratifying moment comes when parents become advocates and join organizations for children with visual impairments or special needs on higher levels.,” Bianca adds. “We currently have a mom who has been with us for over 10 years as her older child attended BCC and now her younger child. Both children have special needs. She started as a quiet, new parent and now is the chair of our Policy Committee and represents BCC on a county level at the LACOE PC meetings. To see her growth over the past 10 years and know that this is just the beginning, makes me proud of the work we do.”

To learn more about the BCC, visit blindchildrenscenter.org.

L.A. Parent