Newington House

In March 1915, the organisation that is now known as Royal Blind decided to take steps to help veterans blinded during World War One. A committee was set up that recommended the establishment of a centre to provide rehabilitation and training to blinded soldiers and sailors.

Newington HouseScottish War Blinded began to receive blinded soldiers at a small hostel at No. 37 Grange Loan, Edinburgh in late 1915.  By March 1916 they moved to Newington House.

Recognition from the War Office was granted to Scottish War Blinded for the training of blinded soldiers in July 1916 providing means to appoint permanent visitors to key military hospitals, such as No 2 General Hospital in Chelsea.

In addition, working partnerships had been developed with principal outdoor teaching societies for the blind such as The Edinburgh Society for Teaching the Blind, the Fife and Kinross Society for Teaching the Blind and the Aberdeen Association for the Blind.

The committee formed the Newington House Fund in 1916 to secure the long-term future of the institution, placing adverts in the local and national press asking for contributions. The Scottish public responded generously donating a total of £18, 971.00 by September 1917.

Rehabilitation and Training

In 1915, Scottish War Blinded provided rehabilitation and training to support veterans cope with the enormous impact visual impairment had personally, emotionally and vocationally. Residential facilities were provided and a thorough initial assessment was carried out to devise individualised rehabilitation and training plans.

Many soldiers indicated symptoms of severe psychological disturbance and respiratory conditions, providing further challenges to the effective delivery of rehabilitation and training programmes.

Rehabilitation focused upon pre-vocational skills assisting independent living and establishing a strong foundation towards employability and raising self-esteem.

These included:

  • Low Vision Skills: Employment of usable vision and of low vision devices and techniques
  • Communication: Instruction in adaptive forms of reading and writing, such as Braille, mathematical calculations and listening
  • Personal Management: Observing personal hygiene, grooming, medicinal management and clothing care
  • Orientation & Movement: Learning to navigate home and public environments confidently via long cane training and employment of useable vision
  • Home Management: General home care, kitchen skills, home repair and management of finances
  • Leisure Time Activities: Handcrafts, adapted games and active forms of recreation

Upon completion of rehabilitation, veterans were provided a range of vocational training opportunities such as basket-weaving, mat-making, boot and shoe repairing, machine knitting, net making, carpentry, poultry farming, piano tuning and music. Scottish War Blinded members were supported into independent living across Scotland with the assistance of an £150 grant and after-care supervisors providing regular visits, advice and assistance.As a result, Scottish War Blinded members settled across Scotland, finding employment in a diverse range of occupations, as well as working for Royal Blind’s workshops or as music instructors at the Royal Blind School.