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In February 1882, at the age of nineteen months, before she had learned to speak, Helen Keller became blind and deaf as a result of a sudden illness, possibly scarlet fever or typhoid.

Communication with the child became extremely difficult and she became uncontrollable.

She sought to ameliorate conditions for the blind through legislation and was a proponent of medical research and rehabilitation for blind veterans domestically as well as for the indigent blind abroad.

Within the United States, her support of a government bill frequently brought ratification in the state or federal legislature, including the appropriation of funds for the Talking Book Program during the Roosevelt Administration in 1935.

Keller's advocacy work spanned six decades, from 1899 when she and Anne Sullivan Macy considered creating a school for deaf, mute, and blind children, to 1959 when she drafted a letter to Senator Lister Hill of Alabama, supporting a bill to create an International Center for Medical Health Research.