It all started in 1928 when a small group of deafblind people and their carers founded the National Deaf Blind Helpers League, an organisation offering mutual support and understanding in the face of conditions they found ‘unjustifiably cruel and hard.’ This was later renamed the National Deaf Blind League.
Braille Rainbow, the first magazine for deafblind people, was launched. 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 is still produced by Deafblind UK.
‘Fellowship House’ – the UK’s first holiday home specifically for people with dual sensory impairments, opened after tireless fundraising efforts by members of the National Deafblind Helpers League.
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 people with reduced sight and hearing could live independently, with appropriate support available if required.
Arthur’s 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 UK.
Further flats, bedsits and an office block/community room were added in to Rainbow Court.
A unique see-by-touch garden was developed at Rainbow Court, stocked with plants specially chosen for their textures and fragrances.
In September 1996 the National Deaf Blind League became Deafblind UK. The office complex at Rainbow Court was redeveloped to become the National Training and Rehabilitation Centre for deafblind people and those who support them.
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’ was set up to raise funds for a National Centrefor Deafblindness and was launched in April 2000 by HRH the Duke of York.
The National Centre for Deafblindness was officially opened in Peterborough. This is now the organisation’s headquarters as well as a fully accessible conference centre for local businesses.
Deafblind UK launched the social enterprise, About Me Care and Support (About Me) which 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.
The first ever member forums were held across the UK. These were events for Deafblind UK’s members to meet senior managers and give them feedback about the services they receive.
Today, Deafblind UK and About Me Care and Support supports more people than ever before to live the lives they want.