The Legacy of Margaret Bluhm

A black and white photo of Margaret and Clarence Bluhm.

Margaret & Clarence Bluhm were the original founders of the Foundation for Blind Children, along with several other families whose children were blind. In 1952, they began meeting for support and to advocate for their children. Margaret was the primary force in contacting agencies and individuals from around the country to help them learn the best strategies for educating their children, and in 1955, FBC was incorporated. Margaret’s inspiration was her daughter, Barbara, who was totally blind. However, Margaret became an advocate for everyone’s children who were blind or visually impaired. The first legislative action of this group took 2 years but allowed children who were blind to attend public schools for the first time in Arizona in 1957, far ahead of the required integration of all children in 1973. Margaret is credited in Foundations of Education, History and Theory of Teaching and Youths With Visual Impairment as being a pioneer in establishing early education services and obtaining state-supported and state and federally funded services for blind and visually impaired children in Arizona.

Margaret could best be described as a unifier! She collaborated and strategized with her friend and compatriot, Frank Kells (then director of PCB/ACBVI and recipient of the AZ AER Worker of the Year Award 1972), others parents of blind children, local state and private agencies, local chapters of consumer groups and professional organizations who served individuals with blindness and visual impairment to advocate for and create family-friendly services for children at the local level in the Phoenix area. These included ACBVI (then known as Phoenix Center for the Blind), State Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired (SRBVI under RSA/Rehabilitation Services Administration), the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, AER (then known as AAWB/AEVH), the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), and the Arizona Council for the Blind (ACB). The cooperative work of all those groups preserved specialized services for people with visual impairments during the first round of attempts to generalize all services. In the early 1970’s as the first director of FBC, Margaret pushed for more state funded services for those graduating from high school. Many of us throughout Arizona consider Margaret to be not only a sterling role model, but also our personal friend and professional mentor.

Margaret died tragically in January 1989, the victim of a home invasion. Her husband, Clarence, and her daughter, Barbara, were also victims of this sad and tragic occurrence. In November 1989, the Arizona AER board voted to commemorate Margaret’s legacy by renaming the Arizona AER Worker of the Year Award to the Margaret Bluhm Arizona AER Worker of the Year Award. Unanimously approved, the award was renamed and is awarded annually to an outstanding service provider in our field, thus honoring and remembering this inspiring and much loved friend and pioneer in our field.