As one of Calderdale’s longest running charities, we are aware of changing times, and the need to adapt the way we provide support around sight loss, so it reflects the changed challenges and opportunities in any given era.
As we draw towards the third decade of the 21st Century, the key challenges for people with sight loss are:-
- Increased reliance on technologies that may not be accessible to people with sight loss, so finding alternative ways of achieving things important. Such problems can be observed in the design of products with touch screens, including washing machines, which used to have dials (for instance).
- People living longer and more independent lives than previously. This results in more people entering later life, with more of them encountering issues with their sight. Giving people the tools for this own independence is therefore vital.
- It would seem impossible to function without being able to get the information you need, and to communicate in a digital world. Yet, this is a problem encountered on a daily basis by people with sight loss. This change cannot be underestimated as a barrier to independence. If you can’t send a text, read an email, or read a bill on the internet, things can go wrong easily. In these circumstances, our services are positioned to:
- Help with any kind of technology in a person-centred way
- Providing eye health and information to people with sight loss
- Fostering the development of peer and group-based social support, so that people with sight loss can learn from each other
- Developing services for people who are encountering sight loss very late in life, and who require home-based contact and support
Our team of staff and volunteers are a positive and skilled bunch, who are taking us into this new period of service delivery. (insert team photo somewhere around here). Our team keenly works in partnership with professionals and other organisations, so that we work efficiently, and with good understandings of each other’s strengths. Details of our full range of services can be found in our How We Can Help page.
1888 to 1918
It was in the year 1879 that a local gentleman named James Pearson was instrumental in raising a sum of money for the benefit of the local Blind of Halifax. He found however that there was no Society of Committee to administer a fund of this nature. He immediately took steps to rectify this and a Committee was formed. This Committee with its limited funds did splendid work, for which the local blind had every reason to be grateful. The Committee soon realised that something beyond the administration of small gifts in the form of relief was necessary if the blind were to be properly looked after.
In the year 1888 the Society for Home Teaching and Assistance to the Halifax Blind came into being. The Society in addition to giving relief, appointed a teacher to visit the blind in their own homes to teach them Braille and to generally assist them in their many difficulties. It was found that the Committee could be kept in touch with the requirements of the blind with the help of the home teacher.
In 1909 the distressing case of Samuel Stephenson who lost his sight whilst following his employment so impressed some of his friends that they held a meeting in the office of Mr. L. Shepherd, Solicitor, of 22 George Street to consider what could be done to help him.
A committee known as the Blind Fund Committee was formed consisting of Mr. L. Shepherd, Chairman, Mr. J. M. Bowman, Hon. Treasurer, Mr. H. Whitley, Hon. Secretary, Mr. J. Priestley, Mr. Ambler (Sr.), Mr. Ambler (Jr.), Mr. Lumb, Mr. Andrews and Mr. F. Heseltine. A deputation consisting of the Chairman and Treasurer was appointed to meet the proprietors of the Halifax Courier to lay the case before them for their consideration. Mr. W. E. Dennison representing the Courier attended a subsequent meeting of the Blind Fund Committee and informed them that the Courier was prepared to make a public appeal through the columns of the Couriers. Mr. Dennison, however, pointed out that there were many blind persons in the district who were in a state of absolute penury, and that the Blind Society which was already in existence was quite unable to adequately deal with the situation, owing to the shortage of funds. The Blind Fund Committee had no hesitation on resolving to extend the appeal to a larger heart of purpose, of handing the whole sum raised to the Blind Society, provided that a suitable pension according to the sum raised be assured to Mr. Stephenson. This sympathetic interest in the Blind was favourably received by the blind Society, and it was agreed that Mr. Stephenson should receive five shillings per week for life for the first £1,000 raised and two shillings and sixpence for every further £1,000. The goal of £3,000 was reached on the 11 October 1909 after 10 months solid work, and a net sum of £3,060 was handed over to the Blind Society. The expenses amounted to 2% of the amount collected. Steady progress was made and, in 1910, through the enthusiasm of Mr. Dennison and the proprietors of the Courier the Blind Society was able to pay a pension of ten shillings per week to Mr.Stephenson and one shilling per week to thirty other blind people in the district.
During the 20 years 1899 to 1918 there were 325 Pensions of £10 per annum obtained through the efforts of the Blind Society representing a money value of £3,230.
1919 to 1925
Whilst the Society had been active in the matters of relief and Home Teaching, nothing of a tangible nature was undertaken on behalf of the blind people capable of working. In 1919 a scheme for the provision of a Work Shop was promoted. In 1920 a Work Shop was purchased for the sum of £1,300 and a grant of £200 was received from the Gardeners Trust for the Blind towards the cost of equipment. Work commenced on July 1921. The Committee however, soon realised that if progress was to be made in this direction bigger premises would be needed at an early date, the building recently purchased, whilst suitable and convenient for many purposes was not large enough for the Society’s growing requirements. The Committee had intended to build an extension and plans were actually approved, but before any further steps were taken the Committee purchases premises at 93 Gibbet Street below Francis Street. After some alterations the men’s department was transferred there in August 1922. The property at 93 Gibbet Street had the additional advantage of a shop, where the Society commenced a retail trade of various articles made by the blind.
One of the most outstanding events in the history of the Blind Society was the gift of £10,000 from the Trustees of the late J. W. Horsfall. The gift made it possible to provide a Home for Aged Blind and a new Work Shop. A site was purchased at SavilePark containing a splendid building which was originally used as a Sanatorium for the residents of Crossley and Porter School. The Home was given the name of J. W. Horsfall Home for the Blind and was opened by Mr. Percy Horsfall, son of J. W. Horsfall, and on the same occasion a foundation stone was laid for the new Work Shop. Both ceremonies were presided over by Mr. James Pearson JP. The new Work Shop was completed in record time and was opened by the Right Honourable Neville Chamberlain the Minister of Health on 26th October 1925. the Work Shop was soon found to be too small, but the Trustees of the late J. W. Horsfall , appreciating our requirements, gave £1,500 to make an extension, which increased the accommodation by one third.
In 1922, the name of the Society was changed from ‘the Society of Home Teaching and Assistance to the Halifax Blind’ to ‘the Halifax Society for the Blind’ and it covered the ancient Parish of Halifax.
1926 to 1948
The Committee acquired premises at 13 Bull Green In 1926. This was eventually demolished and premises at Nos. 12 and 14 fountain Street were then acquired.
In 1930, the society had 363 blind persons on the register, including 30 employed in the workshops, 14 trainees, 1 home worker, and 8 in the Institution’s Home.)
In 1948, great changes took place which altered the Society’s work: The National Assistance Act. The payment of assistance was taken over, the two Home Teachers, Mr. and Mrs. Hodgson, were transferred to the staff of the Welfare Office of Halifax County Borough, and the Work Shop became the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour and Education.
1962 to Present
The Society decided to purchase land in Fleetwood and, in 1962, the Fleetwood Holiday Home was opened for use by members The Society continued pretty much business as usual from their offices on the second floor of 3 Wards End for the next three decades or so.
On reaching its first 100 years in 1988, a large exhibition was officially opened on 29 October by Mr David Blunkett MP for Sheffield at the North Bridge Leisure centre in Halifax to celebrate the Centenary of the Society. FORMER Home Secretary David Blunkett later returned to Halifax to play his part again for the Society.
Following the closure of the Fleetwood Holiday Home in 2004 due to insufficient members requiring holidays there, the Society purchased 34 Clare Road, Halifax for use as office and Social Centre for the members. This Victorian terrace situated just two hundred yards from the town centre had formerly been offices and required extensive refurbishment on the ground floor to make it suitable for a social area for members. An architect was brought in to advice and draw up plans and the Society was able to gain a grant towards the refurbishment of the building. The plans included – a kitchen, disabled toilet and rear disabled access.
After six months of work, on 4 July 2008, Mr Blunkett cut the ribbon and formally declared the Fleetwood Room open in front of Halifax MP Linda Riordan, a reporter and photographer from the Halifax Evening Courier, and some of the group’s 500 members.
We are trying to build up a fuller and illustrated picture of how and where our organisation has worked over the years, and would appreciate the any old photos that will help build this picture. Please get in touch if you can help.