RNIB, the Royal National Institute of Blind People, is the UK’s leading sight loss charity. We offer practical and emotional support to blind and partially sighted people, their families and carers. We raise awareness of the experiences of blind and partially sighted people and campaign for change to make our society more accessible for all. We want to change our world so there are no barriers to people with sight loss.
Who we are
RNIB is the leading sight loss charity in the UK and is driving the creation of a world where there are no barriers for people with sight loss.
To do this, we have made changing public perceptions and behaviours a key priority. We are asking people to see sight loss differently, reversing inaccurate perceptions and changing public behaviours so everyone expects equal participation from people with sight loss. We also want a fully accessible society. Not only will this be better for blind and partially sighted people – it will be better for everyone. We believe standards for design of mainstream environments and solutions should be accessible by default. Ultimately, we want to drive change so that the public, including decision- makers across society, alter behaviours so they automatically include blind and partially sighted people.
Why our support is needed more than ever
Today around two million people live with sight loss in the UK. And it can be tough. From difficulty accessing treatment and services, to a lack of emotional and practical support, blind and partially sighted people each face their own set of challenges every day. Feelings of isolation are unacceptably high, and only one in four blind, or partially sighted, people of working age have a job. Educational attainment is also unacceptably worse for blind and partially sighted people. And we know the numbers of people with sight loss will increase dramatically. By 2050, around 500 people could start to lose their sight every day – that’s one person every three minutes.
We were founded on 16 October 1868 as the British and Foreign Society for Improving the Embossed Literature of the Blind. The first meeting, at 33 Cambridge Square, London, involved our founder, Dr Armitage (partially sighted), Daniel Conolly (blind), WW Fenn (blind), and Dr James Gale (blind). On 10 March 1869, we became the British and Foreign Blind Association for Improving the Embossed Literature of the Blind and Promoting the Employment of the Blind. Within five months, the growing intention to also promote employment opportunities was reflected in a name change to the British and Foreign Blind Society – for improving the embossed literature of the Blind and promoting their employment. In November 1869 the rapidly expanding organisation became an Association, the British and Foreign Blind Association, for improving the Embossed Literature, and promoting the employment of the Blind. In 1871, after committing ourselves to braille and having published a major report stressing the link between education and employment for blind people, we once again changed our name, becoming the British and Foreign Blind Association for Promoting the Education and Employment of the Blind. This name remained through our incorporation in 1902. In 1914, we moved (for the second time) to larger premises in Great Portland Street and took this opportunity to change our name to reflect our status as a national body involved in all aspects of blind welfare and became The National Institute for the Blind, or NIB. Our name was officially changed to the Royal National Institute for the Blind in 1953, having received the Royal Charter in 1949. In 2002 our name changed to the Royal National Institute of the Blind rather than ‘for’ blind people when we became a Membership organisation. To coincide with the launch of the UK Vision Strategy in 2008, we renamed ourselves the Royal National Institute of Blind People.
Our Royal Charter
Her Majesty Queen Victoria became our first Patron in 1875. Queen Victoria took a great interest in our work and on many occasions used blind scribes provided by us to take down dictation. We received our Royal Charter in 1949, although our name wouldn’t officially include “Royal” for five more years. Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II became our Patron on her accession to the throne in 1952 and was a passionate advocate for the rights of blind and partially sighted people. She generously hosted many receptions for our organisation – and always enjoyed meeting our service-users, volunteers and supporters.