Alice Betteridge

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Alice Betteridge (1901 at Sawyers Gully, near Maitland, New South Wales – 1966, Woollahra) is known as the first deafblind child to be educated in Australia.

Born in the Hunter Region to parents George and Emily, Betteridge became blind at the age of two from suspected meningitis. Her mother took her to the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children in 1904, but she was thought to be too young, and was sent home after a few months. She returned to the school in 1908, aged 7, to begin her education as the school's first deafblind student.

In a story that echoes that of Helen Keller, Betteridge's teacher Roberta Reid fingerspelled words into her pupil's hand, until Betteridge made the connection between the words spelled and the objects she was touching. The breakthrough came when Reid spelled the word "shoe" while placing a shoe in Alice's hand. Her education then progressed rapidly, and in a few short months she knew 200 nouns and several verbs, including "run," "jump," and "laugh," and soon began learning to read braille. In 1920 when she graduated, she was dux of the school. After graduating she remained at the school as a teacher for 9 years, before leaving Darlinghurst and returning to the family farm in Denman.

In 1939, Betteridge married Will Chapman (also deafblind), with whom she had been corresponding by mail for some time, and moved to live with him in Melbourne. They were married for 9 years before he died of a heart attack in 1948. Betteridge returned to Sydney, and was well regarded for her intelligence, good nature and her independence, even travelling overseas. She died from cancer aged 65.

The Alice Betteridge School at the RIDBC for students with a sensory and intellectual disability is named in her honour.


  • Thompson, V. (1990). A girl like Alice: The story of the Australian Helen Keller. North Rocks, NSW: North Rocks Press. ISBN 0-949050-02-4

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