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Superintendents believed that persons with different disabilities should be placed in different quarters. This led to the development of the colony plan where an institution might have a separate building for persons with epilepsy called an "epileptic colony," another such building for "low-grades," and perhaps a "girls cottage" for women with various disabilities.

During this period, many people with disabilities were considered a burden because of economic hard times. Census reports counted persons with disabilities under the same category as other social problems such as crime, prostitution, vagrancy; and concluded that many persons with "feeblemindedness" were living in the community. While parents with children with disabilities sought relief, institutions sought to expand their facilities.

Low Grades, 1890