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Royal Society for the Blind

The Royal Society for the Blind of South Australia (RSB) has a long and proud history, with its origins dating back to 1884.

It all started with the vision of one man, Mr Andrew Whyte Hendry, who was blind. After hearing of the disadvantages faced by an acquaintance who was blind, Mr Hendry had the idea of starting an industrial training school where people who were blind could learn an occupation, thereby providing them with the skills to be active and valued members of the community.

In 1883, Mr Hendry joined forces with Mr Charles Goode (who was to receive a Knighthood in 1910-1911 for his dedicated services to the blind) to develop a working committee around the idea. In 1884, a suitable premises was found in Brougham Place, North Adelaide. Mr Goode was appointed Chairman of the Board, Mr Hendry was appointed Manager and The Institution for the Blind, as it was then known, was born. The main activity initially was the production of baskets, brushes and mats.

In 1903, The Institution for the Blind became The Royal Institution of the Blind and with the passing of the Royal Society for the Blind South Australia Act, 1934-1974, the Royal Institution for the Blind became the Royal Society for the Blind – the same RSB that is still going strong today and serving over 10,500 South Australians who are blind or vision impaired.

A memorable event for the State’s blind community occurred in 1950 when Miss Helen Keller, the American woman who had been blind and deaf since birth but had overcome these disabilities to great success, visited Adelaide. Miss Keller visited both the Royal Institute for the Blind and Melrose House (a hostel for the aged and unemployable blind) and was greatly impressed by both facitlities.

As it was back in 1884, the RSB’s goal today is to assist South Australians who are
blind or vision impaired achieve the quality of life to which they aspire. In recent years, the focus has been on expanding low vision and regional services, assisting
clients to gain competitive employment, providing access to new technology, enhancing mobility and educating the community on vision impairment.

Milestones in the RSB’s History

The Institute of the Blind is founded and housed in an old church in Brougham Place, North Adelaide.

The Institute employs 68 people.

‘The Institute’ is re named the Royal Institute for the Blind.

Andrew Whyte Hendry organises the building of larger premises (including recreation rooms and a braille library) opposite the Children’s Hospital on King William Street.

Melrose House established to provide accommodation for the frail blind elderly.

The Institute moves to Gilles Plains and changes its name by Act of Parliament to The Royal Society for the Blind. Services are expanded to include assistance with daily living, recreation and study needs.

The first regional RSB office established in Mount Gambier

Knapman House is opened to provide the best low vision care and assessment in South Australia

Opening of RSB Port Augusta office to service the mid north region.

Opening of RSB Noarlunga Office

Appointment of dedicated Multicultural Case Worker

Introduction of Client Surveys

Opening of Adaptive Technology Centre

Introduction of Orientation & Mobility Services
Launch of first web site

Creation of Future Solutions Service
Introduction of Young Business Leaders Program
Creation of 3VI CD Rom package for children

Attainment of ISO 9000 Quality Accreditation
Introduction of Braille and Equipment Subsidy Scheme
Launch of 3V1 web site for children

OMA Course created and delivered

Opening of the RSB Elizabeth office
South Australian Books in the Sky (BiTS) pilot launched

Creation of memorandum of Understanding with Deaf SA and CanDo4Kids
Introduction of audio described theatre
Launch of 23rd Talking Newspaper

RSB Victor Harbor office opened
Service Excellence and Disability Employment Service Accreditation.
Australian launch of Ultracane

National Books in The Sky (BiTS) pilot launched
Hosting of inaugural TechFest
Creation of equipment long term loan pool

Creation of RSB Guide Dog Service
Construction of a day-kennel facility at the RSB’s Gilles Plains site
Supply of Audio Navigators to 150 vision impaired South Australian children
Adaptive equipment assistance to the vision impaired community in Tonga

Article courtesy of the Royal Society for the Blind of South Australia

2 Responses to “Royal Society for the Blind”

  1. Cedric Roberts Says:

    I attended a road transport technology conference in Adelaide at the end of July 2008.
    I took the opportunity to visit your establishment and bought a Schweizer Leuchtlupen magnifying glass (x4)from a very helpful young lady. I wrote her name down at the time but have misplaced the note.
    This device has assisted me greatly in reviewing technical documents & I could not do without it. It certainly has changed my life and made it bearable as the ‘floater’ is not dispersing. I wish her and her family a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year and God Bless You.
    Kind regards Cedric

  2. Janet Counsell Says:

    My elderly mother was nursed by Andrew Whyte hendrys wife ( i think) and she heard that a biography of him was written by a grand daughter. Can you tell me the title or author of this book please?

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