Deafblind UK was launched in 1928 by a small group of deafblind people and their carers to offer mutual support and understanding in the face of conditions they found ‘unjustifiably cruel and hard.’ Today Deafblind UK is a national charity that is still focused on meeting the specific needs of those with both a hearing and sight loss. Its Chair, plus the majority of the board, are deafblind.
The organisation began as the National Deaf Blind Helpers League, which later became the National Deaf Blind League. In 1929 it launched ‘Braille Rainbow’, the first magazine intended for a deafblind readership. During the Second World War, Rainbow was considered so important that it was one of very few publications exempt from paper rationing. Today, Rainbow is called ‘Open Hand’ and produced by Deafblind UK on a quarterly basis in five different formats.
‘Fellowship House’ – the UK’s first holiday home specifically for deafblind people, opened in 1936 after tireless fundraising efforts by members of the National Deafblind Helpers League.
In 1948, Arthur Sculthorpe, General Secretary of the National Deafblind Helpers League, made the first ever broadcast appeal by a deafblind person on the BBC, raising more than £6,000. He dreamed of a place where deafblind people could live independently, with appropriate support available if required. In 1963, his dream was realised when the charity built a complex of twelve flats at Rainbow Court in Peterborough designed to enable deafblind adults to live independently – the only such development in the United Kingdom.
Further flats, bedsits and an office block/community room were added in 1971 followed by a unique see-by-touch garden in 1990, stocked with plants specially chosen for their textures and fragrances.
In September 1996 the National Deafblind League became Deafblind UK, with a bright new logo and modern image. The office complex at Rainbow Court was redeveloped to become the National Training and Rehabilitation Centre for deafblind people and those who support them.
In May 1999 Dr Philip Gafga became Chair of Deafblind UK, the first deafblind Chair of a national voluntary organisation. He led Deafblind UK’s Directors to approve plans to establish and promote a National Centre for Deafblindness. The ‘Touch Appeal’, set up to raise funds for the new centre, was launched in April 2000 by HRH the Duke of York and the National Centre for Deafblindness was officially opened in 2003.
The charity now supports more people with a combined sight and hearing loss than ever before and its pioneering services go from strength to strength. In 2012, it launched two social enterprises to help many more people to benefit from its expertise and experience.
About Me Care and Support delivers a unique range of care and support to enable people who are deaf, blind or deafblind to remain in the community and choose how they want to live.