History of the Society

The movement for the welfare of blind people in Sunderland began in 1873 with the formation of a mission to the blind in their own homes under the title of the "Home Teaching Society for the Blind". The primary objects of the Society were to promote the spiritual welfare of the blind, to provide visits to blind people within their own homes and elsewhere, to care for sick, aged and helpless blind people and to provide suitable reading matter.The Committee soon came to the decisiom that, in addition to looking after the spiritual needs of blind people, an attempt should be made to provide assistance in cases of temporary sickness, to train blind people in suitable industries and to render any other assistance necessary.

Blind and visually impaired people suffered from a lack of suitable education at this time. Two of the founders of the Society brought a claim before Sunderland School Board which resulted in the opening of a class for blind and visually impaired pupils in 1882. Today blind and visually impaired children taught in special schools throughout the Country, governed by Local Education authorities. It is interesting to note that Sunderland was quite possibly the first Local Authority in the Country to undertake the work of educating blind children.

A workshop for the blind and visually impaired was set up in Villiers Street, Sunderland in 1877 in order to teach mattress making, cork and mat making, caning chairs and sewing mattress covers.

In 1883 the Society was renamed "Sunderland and Durhan County Institute for the Blind". Royal Patronage was bestowed upon the Society by Queen Victoria and in 1989 the Society became the "Sunderland and North Durham Royal Society for the Blind".