Our story begins in November 1913, where Local vicars’ wives formed a committee called ‘The Midland Counties Union of Societies and Institutions in aid of the Blind’. They met every 2 months with a goal to supporting visually impaired people in the parish, like Arthur Coles, the first recorded person to receive funding and a college education to learn braille shorthand and typing. The tireless volunteers worked closely with the Education Committee of the Council to support many other adults and children including Arthur Sculthorpe, who later became chairperson of the DeafBlind Association and was instrumental in opening Rainbow Court complex for DeafBlind people.
Following the passing of the ‘Blind Persons Act’ in 1920, local councils were now responsible for the care and welfare of the blind. Along with the Ministry of Health, the council was required to pay a grant to local charities that supported blind people. ‘Peterborough Blind Society’ emerged, a formal charity which had now doubled in size since it began 7 years earlier. Funding remained tight, but thanks to additional grants, the charity was able to provide funding for some home teachers and could provide white walking sticks to those who needed them. In 1925 Peterborough Association for the Blind was formed to support the 100 “civilian” blind people in Peterborough.
Such was the demand for support from the visually impaired people of Peterborough, that a request for additional funds was sent to the County Council on September 19th 1932. Not only did the charity provide equipment, but they also looked after the welfare of the members who often felt neglected by the employees in the workhouses.
The Association has had its share of challenges over the years since 1913 but in 2009 was desperately in need of more people to help support Peterborough’s visually impaired residents. Thankfully the volunteers came, and until June 2013, Peterborough Association for the Blind was still a charity run entirely by volunteers. Their hard work and dedication means the association can continue to provide services and support from its new city centre location.