December 21, 2011

WBRC's Return to Menlo Park - A Look Back

WBRC continues to unpack and organize from our move to our new location in Menlo Park December 2nd through 6th of 2011.  Many people are unaware that WBRC originated in Menlo Park and that in a way we are returning to our roots.  Following is a look back at our prior Menlo Park days.

The following information and photographs have been gathered from 'Flight to Freedom 1967-1992: A history of the first 25 years of the Western Blind Rehabilitation Center United States Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center Palo Alto, California' edited by L. Eugene Apple, Ph.D. and Gregory L. Goodrich, Ph.D.

Photo: L.E. 'Gene' Apple, first Chief of the WBRC, with nurses
and volunteer Marie Dunlap (second from right) in front of the entrance
to building 209 (the original Menlo Park location of the WBRC). 

The Western Blind Rehabilitation Center began operation as a regional comprehensive rehabilitation facility in July of 1967 at the Menlo Park Campus of the Veterans Administration Palo Alto Health Care System.  The Center opened in building 209 as part of a three story building.  The WBRC occupied 20,000 square feet of this building and had 20 beds for inpatient care. 

WBRC was the second comprehensive rehabilitation center for blinded veterans established by the Veteran's Administration.  It had 5 skill areas for training which were Orientation and Mobility, Manual Skills, Braille, Written Communications, and Counseling.  An Activities of Daily Living and a Low Vision program were added shortly afterwards.

Photo: An early WBRC picnic at the Menlo Park Division.  Gene Apple,
WBRC Chief is sitting down to eat in the forground.  Also shown, standing
at the extreme right of the picture is Jim Doyle, WBRC Assistant Chief.

In January 1972 the WBRC moved to building 205 in Menlo Park after the 1971 San Fernando earthquake and resulting new VA earthquake building standards condemn building 209.  It was anticipated that this building would be phased out within a few years because of further revision to building codes.

Photo: The WBRC Visual Skills Department Staff shortly after the move
to Building 48 in 1977.  Clockwise from left Dee Quillman, Chief of Visual Skills,
with instructors Neil Greiner, Nancy Darling, Helen Shaw, and Gail Webb.

During the mid 1970's the WBRC staff were sent to the VA Medical Center in San Diego to inspect space being made available to Blind Rehabilitation.  Plans were made to move equipment and patients to San Diego.  Projected costs determined this approach unfeasible and planning was begun for a new freestanding building on the Palo Alto Division grounds.  The WBRC moved to the newly constructed building 48 in Palo Alto in 1977.

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