SNFWB History

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The Scottish National Federation of Institutions and Societies for the Blind was constituted on 4th June 1917 to bring together the organisations for the “out-door blind” (the societies), and the “in-door blind” (the workshops).

It had thirteen members, these being:

  1. The Royal Glasgow Asylum for the Blind
  2. The Royal Blind Asylum and School, Edinburgh
  3. The Royal Dundee Institution for the Blind
  4. The Aberdeen Asylum for the Blind
  5. The Mission to the Outdoor Blind for Glasgow and the West of Scotland
  6. The Edinburgh and South-East Scotland Society for Teaching the Blind to Read
  7. The Stirling, Linlithgow and Clackmannan Society for Teaching the Blind
  8. The Fife and Kinross Society for Teaching the Blind
  9. The Dundee and Lochee Mission to the Outdoor Blind
  10. The Forfarshire Mission to the Blind
  11. The Aberdeen Town and County Association for Teaching the Blind
  12. The Mission to Outdoor Blind for Dumfries and Galloway
  13. The Society for Teaching the Blind to Read in the County and City of Perth

It is interesting to note that, until very recently, all these organisations, except the Stirling Society, were still members.

The objects of the Federation were:

  1. The promotion and protection of the interests of the Blind in Scotland by the co-operation and mutual assistance of the various affiliated members.
  2. To act as a medium for expressing the views of these members on matters affecting the well being of the Blind. The Federation shall not, however, interfere with the administration or internal affairs of the affiliated organisations
  3. The holding of an Annual Conference for the consideration and discussion of matters relating to the Blind.

These are very similar to our present day objects.

In 1925 the Northern Counties Institute for the Blind, Inverness had joined and the Federation had overseen the implementation of the Blind Person’s Act (1920) which had introduced the payment of an old age pension at 50 to those registered blind and had placed duties on the councils of the day for the employment and training of the Blind. In 1933 the Blind Electors Bill was passed, which allowed blind people to vote with a companion.

In 1955 it was agreed to invite local authorities into membership and 24 took up the offer. The annual report shows discussion on the training of Home teachers for the Blind, Talking Books and the introduction of a register for Partially Sighted people.

Though Scottish national organisations, such as the Scottish National Institute for the War Blinded, had previously become members, it was not until 1968 that Guide Dogs became a member and 1977 when RNIB was admitted.

The report for 1987 shows that the definition of blindness contained in the 1948 National Assistance Act was finally made law in Scotland. The same Act abolished the early pension for registered blind people and, almost forty years later, campaigning continued for a “Blindness Allowance” to be paid. Great consternation was also evident that Alwyn House, the Industrial Assessment Centre owned by Edinburgh Society was to be closed. This was, of course, bought by RNIB, who ran it for many years thereafter.

By 1994 the Federation was providing activity holidays for blind and partially sighted children and was praising the new training course for rehabilitation workers which Guide Dogs had begun at Forfar.

In 1999 the ScotsVip group was founded, (Scottish Confederation of Technical and Social Services for visually impaired people) and the voluntary Scottish Concessionary Travel Scheme was introduced.

2001 saw the launch of the first Scottish Parliamentary Cross Party Group on Visual Impairment, under the chairmanship of Kate McLean MSP.