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The Leonard A. Robinson Collection

Identifier: 02-C2015.1

Scope and Contents

The Leonard A. Robinson Collection spans the years 1927-1990, with the majority of material dating from 1927 to 1975. The collection primarily covers Robinson’s work advocating for and directing federal programs to expand the economic and employment opportunities for the blind as authorized by the Randolph-Sheppard Act of 1936. The collection also covers Robinson’s activities involving the Foundation for the Handicapped and Elderly, Inc., Swing Trim, Inc., and Robinson’s book, Light at the Tunnel End. The collection includes correspondence, reports, printed matter, photographs, technical drawings, and news-clippings. Three scrapbooks and two copies of Light at the Tunnel End are also included. The majority of materials in the collection pertain to Robinson’s work as Director of Blind Services for the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. The department was created as a result of legislation focused on the economic rehabilitation of blind citizens, namely the Randolph-Sheppard Act. Robinson’s work as an advocate for the blind, both in Cleveland, Ohio and at the national level, are also included. Robinson’s later career included the stewardship of the Foundation for the Handicapped and Elderly, Inc., which was integral to the development of the George Washington University low vision clinic; the writing and publication of Light at the Tunnel End, which is a history of the Randolph-Sheppard Act; and his role as a stockholder in Swing Trim, Inc., which was involved in the design, patenting, and sales of an exerciser that could be assembled by the blind.


  • Created: 1927-1990
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1927-1975
  • Other: Date acquired: 12/31/2015


Conditions Governing Access

Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Jacobus tenBroek Library. Consult the Archives staff for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Jacobus tenBroek Library holds copyright on some, but not all, of the material in our collections. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Archives staff. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Jacobus tenBroek Library are also responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations who hold copyright.

Biographical or Historical Information

Leonard A. Robinson (1904-1980) was a blind lawyer and advocate who worked for the Vocational Rehabilitation Service in the District of Columbia. The program was administered by the Federal Government from 1938-1954 and by the Government of the District of Columbia from 1954-1975.

Upon graduating from Western Reserve University Law School and being admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1929, Robinson began practicing law and served as a member of the Cleveland Chapter of the Welfare Sightless Association in Cleveland, OH. While attending the World Conference on Work for the Blind in New York City in April 1931, Robinson met Joseph F. Clunk of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind of Toronto, Canada, after which Robinson began directing his efforts towards the passage of legislation to create federal work programs for the blind (Bledsoe 1972, 57; Robinson 1975, 13). Two years later Robinson drafted a bill to create blind operated vending stands in federal buildings and Matthew Dunn, a blind representative from Pennsylvania, introduced the bill to the House of Representatives in 1933 (Hiestand 1950, 14; Robinson 1975, 29-33; Koestler 1976, 195-6). The legislation failed, but after meeting Jennings Randolph of West Virginia, the pair worked to draft the Randolph-Sheppard Act which  was successfully passed in 1936 (Koestler 1976, 197). Robinson started working for the Federal Government in 1938 as assistant to the supervisor of the vending stand program and served as Director of Blind Services from 1947 until his retirement in 1971.

Selected References

  • Bledsoe, Warren. “History and Philosophy of Work for the Blind.” In Social Rehabilitation Services for the Blind, edited by Richard E. Hardy and John G. Cull, 5-68. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, Publisher, 1972.
  • Hiestand, R.R. “The True Story of Vending Stands in Government Buildings.” Light 22, no. 1 (1959): 13-16).
  • Koestler, Frances A. The Unseen Minority. New York, NY: David McKay Company, Inc., 1976.
  • Robinson, Leonard A. Light at the Tunnel End. Silver Spring, MD: Foundation for the Handicapped and Elderly, Inc., 1975.
  • Chronology

  • 1904, Mar. Born, Knoxville, TN
  • 1911, Oct. Lost sight in left eye
  • 1915 Lost sight in right eye
  • 1924, Jun.17-20 Graduated from the Pennsylvania Institution for the Instruction of the Blind and West Philadelphia High School
  • 1927, Jun. 8 B.A., University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN
  • 1929, Jun. L.L.B., Western Reserve University Law School, Cleveland, OH
  • 1929, Aug. Admitted to the Ohio Bar
  • 1929-1938 Lawyer, Cleveland, OH
  • 1931, Apr. World Conference on Work for the Blind, New York, NY
  • 1936, Jun. 20 The Randolph-Sheppard Act is signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • 1937. Feb. Married Sonia Berman (1911-1990?)
  • 1938-1940 Assistant to the supervisor, blind vending stand administration, Washington, D.C.
  • 1940-1947 Caseworker, District Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Service, Washington, D.C.
  • 1947-1971 Director of Blind Services, Vocational Rehabilitation Service, Washington, D.C.
  • 1970 Awarded the Leo Axlrod Memorial Award
  • 1970, Jul. 18 Awarded the Ambassador Award of the American Council of the Blind
  • 1971 Foundation for the Handicapped and Elderly, Inc. established
  • 1971, Mar. 31 Retirement from government service
  • 1971, Apr. 2 Presidential Citation
  • 1971, Jul. Low Vision Clinic at George Washington University Medical Center established, Washington, D.C.
  • 1974, Dec. 7 Rehabilitation Act Amendments signed into law as Public Law 93-516
  • 1975 Light at the Tunnel End published
  • 1980, May 17 Died, Washington, D.C.
  • Note written by David Durden


    2.08 Linear Feet

    6 boxes, 3 oversize folders other_unmapped

    Language of Materials



    Correspondence, photographs, and documents related to the professional career of Leonard A. Robinson, a blind lawyer and government employee who was involved in the passage of the Randolph-Sheppard Act and the development of Blind Services in the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation for the Federal Government and Washington, D.C. The collection contains materials related to the writing and publishing of Robinson’s book, Light at the Tunnel End.

    Arrangement Note

    The collection is organized into 6 series:

  • Series 1: Official Papers, 1932-1971
  • Series 2: Foundation for the Handicapped and Elderly, Inc., 1970-1976
  • Series 3: Light at the Tunnel End, 1934-1976
  • Series 4: Swing Trim, Inc., 1967-1973
  • Series 5: Personal Documents and Correspondence, 1927-1980
  • Series 6: Supplementary Materials, 1935-1990
  • Physical Access Requirements


    Technical Access Requirements


    Source of Acquisition

    Amy Wexler

    Method of Acquisition

    The papers of Leonard A. Robinson were donated to the Jacobus tenBroek Library in 2015 by Amy Wexler, daughter-in-law of the creator. Deed of gift agreement on file.

    Related Materials

    An exhibit highlighting the life and career of Robinson’s work to develop services for the blind is available through Digital Maryland. The collection contains letters and photographs spanning the years 1927 to 1975 with special attention placed on Robinson’s personal successes, and his continued role in the success of the Randolph-Sheppard Act.

    Other Descriptive Information

    Some correspondence is in contracted Braille.

    Processing Information

    Processed by David Durden, February 2017

    Archon Finding Aid Title
    David Durden
    Description rules
    Describing Archives: A Content Standard
    Language of description
    Script of description
    Code for undetermined script
    Language of description note

    Repository Details

    Part of the Jacobus tenBroek Library, National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute Repository

    200 East Wells Street
    at Jernigan Place
    Baltimore MD 21230 US
    (410) 659-9314