Survey of Cripples in New York City
Caption: A coalition of 41 organizations, associations, and hospitals organized a survey of polio survivors after an outbreak in New York City in 1916. They developed recommendations for education, care, and assistive devices like braces and crutches.Read plain text of document
Polio was a mass-disabling event that spanned nearly 50 years between the time the virus appeared in 1908 to the discovery of a vaccine in 1955. Most people who caught polio became sick, but many people died and many others became partially or totally paralyzed. Children were especially likely to catch the virus because their immune systems were less developed. In New York City, a major outbreak took place in 1916, killing more than 2,000 people and disabling thousands more. Many children who survived polio were cared for at home or lived at hospitals.
Several years after the 1916 outbreak, representatives from charitable organizations and hospitals held a conference initiated by the New York Committee for After Care of Infantile Paralysis Cases. They decided to conduct a broad-reaching survey, going door-to-door in some neighborhoods to estimate how many “cripples” lived in the city and to investigate how they became disabled. They also came up with recommendations for how to care for and educate disabled children and older polio survivors. The writer of the report felt that education was “more important, if possible, for cripples than for a normal child.” They recommended that the Board of Education be responsible for instructing physically disabled children, including in homes, hospitals, and care facilities. The report explained that home instruction worked “reasonably well” but that education in hospitals and care facilities was “less satisfactory.”
Creator: Henry C. Wright, Survey of Cripples in New York City (New York: The New York Committee on After Care of Infantile Paralysis Cases, October 1920), via Google Books.
Source: Henry C. Wright, Survey of Cripples in New York City (New York: The New York Committee on After Care of Infantile Paralysis Cases, October 1920), via Google Books.
Copyright: Public domain
How to cite: “Survey of Cripples in New York City” in New York City Civil Rights History Project, Accessed: [Month Day, Year], https://nyccivilrightshistory.org/gallery/survey-of-cripples."
- How many of the city’s physically disabled residents were children in 1920?
- Based on the recommendations of the author of this report, what kind of education do you think disabled children might have received at this time?
- Why does the author think education was so important for physically disabled children?
- Sometimes physical disabilities are the result of ongoing environmental or social dangers. What causes physical disabilities in your communities today? What kinds of educational support do disabled people receive?