Founded in 1911, Bournemouth Blind Society is the oldest established independent charity in Bournemouth. Formerly known as both Bournemouth Blind Aid Society and BSVI (Bournemouth Society for the Visually Impaired), the charity was formed following the launch of a nationwide campaign by the National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) to raise funds.
Three public spirited local sisters, the Misses Rooper, together with a blind solicitor, Mr L V C Homer decided to address the needs of blind people in Bournemouth.
The founders knew of ten blind people in the area who they felt would benefit directly from assistance and within three months a further seventy had been identified.
Our current building was built in 1927 as a social hall and residential home for blind women. The building and services offered became so popular that in 1950 another storey was added and a second social centre, Hannington Hall, was opened.
Residents were honoured to receive a visit from the deaf and blind American author/lecturer Helen Keller in 1949/50. Helen was an advocate for people with disability.
In the late 1980’s the Community Care Act meant that more people were being cared for in their own homes.
After a short period of refurbishment, Max Bygraves reopened the building in October 1998 as a new activity and social hub for visually impaired people.
In September 2000, the Bournemouth Blind Aid Society changed its name to Bournemouth Society for the Visually Impaired. The charity purchased its own minibus providing subsidised transport and offered its members a full programme of social activities.
In conjunction with Bournemouth Social Services, a Sight and Hearing Resource Centre opened, fully equipped with items designed to assist visually impaired and hearing impaired people with independent daily living.
In 2003 a Rehabilitation Kitchen was opened by David Blunkett. The kitchen is available to teach Daily Living Skills to people who have recently lost their sight.
In 2007 members were thrilled to meet HRH Earl of Wessex who launched the Floating Support service.
In 2008 the Emotional Support service was established by Caterina Husbands, BACP.
In 2012, the Society sadly said goodbye to Dorothy Cook, who had been associated with the Charity since 1955 and was President from 2007. Over the years Dorothy had helped organise social activities, holidays, outings and garden fetes, in addition to writing the newsletter and helping to cook Christmas lunches. Her dedication to the organisation was evident in her baking of cakes for the Christmas Fayre a few days before passing away.
On 1st April 2015, the Trustees re-branded the charity as Bournemouth Blind Society whose aims are to strengthen and develop its services to visually impaired people living in the Bournemouth area.
During October 2016 the Society proudly held its first Art Exhibition at Bournemouth Library. Visitors were impressed with the pieces on display in a range of different media – paintings (acrylic and watercolour), clay, collage, mosaics, quilting, knitting and free stitch.
The work promoted the clear message that sight loss does NOT mean having to give up hobbies or artistic pursuits.
Our brand new AT suite was opened by the Mayor of Bournemouth, Councillor Eddie Coope, on 1st December 2016.
In November 2018 the members honoured those who fought in the Great War (1914-1918). Many of their fathers had been in the forces and it was poignant that we should remember their actions. We particularly remembered those soldiers who came back from the trenches suffering from sight loss due to gas attacks. The Society was able to support such soldiers living in the Bournemouth area 100 years ago.