Hadley's History: A Dream Realized

William Hadley brailling out lessons (circa 1920)

When he lost his sight at the age of 55, William Hadley faced many challenges. A former high school teacher with a lifelong passion for reading, Hadley wanted to learn braille. He was frustrated, however, in his search for a teacher. So, he taught himself braille instead. 

Hadley's dream was to share his newfound skills with others like him, empowering them to thrive as much as he. Together with Dr. E.V.L. Brown, an ophthalmologist and neighbor, Hadley found a way to reach others from around the corner and across the globe.

The Hadley Correspondence School and the "braille by mail" curriculum launched in 1920.  The very first student, a woman in Kansas, had lost her sight later in life, too, and she was desperate to continue reading. She mailed her lessons to Hadley. He corrected and returned them along with notes of help and encouragement. This was the beginning of the close instructor-learner relationship that is a hallmark of Hadley learning even today.  

Dr. E.V.L. Brown

Dr. Brown was also critical to the founding and success of Hadley. He worked to build and manage an organization that could sustain itself while offering education free of charge. In 1922, Dr. Brown was appointed to be Hadley's first President of the Board of Trustees and would serve in this role until his death in 1953. 

For more than 100 years, Hadley's life has inspired the vision for the organization that bears his name. We continue to this day to leverage new ways to share, pave new paths for connection, and empower those with vision loss to find their way...and thrive.

“When your life’s ambition has failed you, pick up a new thread of endeavor…make your renewal of effort count for other people…because when you think of the other fellow only and not yourself, your own problem fades into insignificance; in unselfishness lies the real thrill of being alive.”

- Dr. William A. Hadley

Ad from Chicago Daily News (6/19/53)
Hadley staff learning braille (circa 1950)
Hadley’s early braille production
Hadley’s early braille production
Recording studio and volunteer reader (1957)
Talking TextBook
Nancy Brown Jones, daughter of E.V.L. Jones, founded our Woman’s Board and raised funds for Hadley
Nancy Brown Jones, daughter of E.V.L. Jones, founded our Woman’s Board and raised funds for Hadley