A man of ability whose capability outshone any disability his sight loss may have caused him.
This is the overriding sentiment being expressed by people in NCBI who knew, worked with and respected the late Des Murphy, well known advocate for people with impaired vision.
Des’s long connections with NCBI came about in the mid 70s when he himself made contact with the charity as his sight deteriorated. Working as a Senior Public Relations Manager with Glaxo, he was curious as to what aids and devices might be able to support him in his work.
Then based in Armitage House in Lower Hatch Street, NCBI did not specifically support people with information or training on how to make best use of low vision with the help of devices.
Des saw this as a major shortcoming and thus established connections with the charity which were to be far reaching and highly productive. He led a collaborative venture between NCBI and St Mary’s School for Blind Girls in Merrion for the establishment of a low vision clinic in the school headed up by the late Bernadette Culliton.
The NCBI moved to its current Whitworth Road premises in 1988 and Des played a major part in this development as it was he who first saw the premises for sale and drew the Board’s attention to its availability.
Former CEO of NCBI, Des Kenny, has fond memories of working with the late Des Murphy. “He was instrumental in ending the “radio for the blind” advertisements on RTÉ Radio and replacing them with ads crafted by him with new wording to tell the public that the work of NCBI was more than about providing radio sets to “compensate for the loneliness and darkness” brought to people with blindness. The “wireless for the blind” advertisements were fashioned around emotive images of loneliness and helplessness in order to stimulate donations. Des Murphy believed in building images of able people who, with assistance, could have their independence maintained or restored, depending on the onset of sight loss.”
“He was an active volunteer who used his own experience of managing with his own considerably reduced vision, to interpret and to work for a new future for NCBI when it was moving from just a “care” service to one which also would embody the rehabilitation and technology tools to support a person’s self-fulfillment as an active and valued participating member of society.”
Fiona Kelty, Access and Awareness Coordinator with NCBI worked closely with Des Murphy for some years. She recalls his dedication saying it has resulted in far reaching and lasting improvements in the lives of people with sight loss. “Out of all the voluntary work that Des did for NCBI and people with impaired vision generally, one thing in particular has had continuing nationwide relevance. He took Dublin City Council to the Equality Tribunal for turning off the audible signals at pedestrian crossings in the city centre, and won his case — on the grounds that he had previously been able to get around the city independently.”
“The main gain was that DCC agreed that they would not switch off or remove audible signals, and that whenever they were installing pedestrian crossings, in future, they would ensure that they were sufficiently far apart so that sounds from one audible crossing could not be confused with sounds from another. DCC also committed to meaningful consultation and communication with NCBI before making decisions about pedestrian crossings.”
“Des was on the Board of NCBI for many years, and continued to be involved in access issues for many years after he resigned from that position. I asked him to replace me on the Disability Focus Group of the Community Forum, which he did for some years. He was also an advocate for NCBI on the Bus Éireann Users Group, for many years. Unfortunately, due to failing health, he eventually had to resign from these positions, but remained interested, although no longer so active. I was very sorry to hear of his death.”
This is echoed by all of us in NCBI who knew and worked with Des Murphy. His shadow is a bright one.