The Foundation of Royal Blind & Development of Services

The Foundation of Royal Blind & Development of ServicesIn 1793, Royal Blind was founded by the Reverend Dr David Johnston, Dr Thomas Blacklock and Mr David Miller. Established during a time of progressive societal attitudes towards the provision of care and support to disabled people in Europe, it became the third foundation dedicated to improving the welfare of blind people in the world.

The earliest precedent was set in Europe by Valentin Hauy who founded ‘L’Institution Nationale des Jeunnes Aveugles (The National Institution for the Young Blind) in 1784. Based in Paris, pupils were taught writing, recitation, arithmetic, geography, music and handcrafts for occupational purposes.

The Institution's most famous pupil was Louis Braille who would later developed his tactile reading and writing system still in use today. In the UK, Henry Dannett founded the School of Instruction for the Indigent Blind in 1791. The school provided training in music and manual crafts for blind children and adults providing a means to earn a living.

Early fundraising initiatives in 1793, such as the publication of a book of sermons by Dr Blacklock, enabled the purchase of a covenant house on Shakespeare Square (now Waterloo Place) rented for £15 per year. Royal Blind welcomed an admission of nine trainees who were taught handcrafts as a means of gaining employment and actively supporting themselves. His Grace, the Third Duke of Buccleuch became the first President of Royal Blind, beginning an association which continues to the present day.

Based on the early provision of industrial skills, Royal Blind developed a range of services throughout the 19th century including:

The developments lead to The Royal Charter of Incorporation in 1898 recognising the operating units of Royal Blind as:

  • The Industrial Department
  • The Home for the poor blind women
  • The school for blind children
  • The department for printing, typing and piano-tuning

and it’s objectives:

  • To promote the moral, religious, physical and mental welfare of the blind
  • To give education and industrial training to the juvenile blind
  • To provide employment to blind men and women
  • To supplement their earnings, supply clothing and aid them in sickness and old age
  • To grant aid to indigent blind in all parts of Scotland

In the 20th century, the Board of Royal Blind founded a new service, Scottish War Blinded to provide rehabilitation and training to blinded soldiers returning to Scotland from World War One in 1915. 

In recent times, Royal Blind has developed two new services, Forward Vision and Kidscene. In January 2015 the charity announced plans to build a new care home in Paisley, situated alongside a second Scottish War Blinded centre. The developments are scheduled to open in 2017.