2021 marks 90 years since National Council for the Blind of Ireland was officially formed. As a part of the celebrations, we look back on its origins and how its mission, vision and values are still very much the same as those at the forefront of the founders’ minds all those years ago.
The National Council for the Welfare of the Blind of Ireland was founded on March 10th 1931, in the Standard Hotel, Harcourt Street, Dublin. At the time, there were over 13 organisations on the island of Ireland, looking after a registered 400 blind people. There was no official register for the blind in existence in Ireland.
Not only was it the first voluntary body dealing with a disability group founded in the Irish Free State, but it set precedents in the provision of welfare and educational advancement for disadvantaged people in Ireland.
When founded, the services included ‘lady visitor’ home visitor service to poor older blind persons, home teaching service, Braille and Moon and handicrafts and referral to other charities for financial aid. Trying to secure financial independence as well as improving educational and employment outcomes was core to the work and remains so today.
The principal founder included Alice Stanley Armitage. Ms Armitage spearheaded the call for the government to give financial assistance to the very poor. A blind person could receive the Old Age Pension at 50 years of age at the rate of 10/ – per week, provided the income did not exceed £15:12s. 6d. per annum. Those under the age of 50 received allowances at varying rates, the maximum income allowed in most countries being lower than that for the old-age pension.
The change of name to National Council for the Blind of Ireland occurred following the fourth general meeting in April 1935. NCBI has been operating nationwide since its conception in multiple settings. This ranged from NCBI sharing premises with other charities like St. Vincent de Paul or operating from the teacher’s home or the homes of the Branch Chairperson or Secretary; from the parish or church-related venues, or later from the Health Board venues.
In 1987, NCBI moved its Head Office to what was known as the Drumcondra Hospital on Whitworth Road, Drumcondra, Dublin 9. Since then, this permanent base, together with its regional offices across the country, ensures that people who are blind or vision impaired can have access to quality services, programmes, and supports all designed to ensure they can live life confidently and independently.