Our 225th anniversary

SeeAbility. Supporting people to live, love, thrive and belong for the last 225 years. 

For 225 years, we’ve pushed towards an inclusive society, where people with learning disabilities, autism and sight loss can live, love, thrive and belong. 

It’s been 225 years of driving change forward. 

225 years of challenging what society believes people with disabilities can do and achieve. 

225 years of seeing and recognising ability, and ambition alongside people we support.

We have different forms assigned to us in the school of life, different gifts imparted. Iron is useful, though it does not sparkle like the diamond. Gold has not the fragrance of a flower. So different persons have various modes of excellence, and we must have an eye to all.

William Wilberforce, Vice-President in 1799

The past

When SeeAbility was founded 225 years ago in 1799, the four founding philanthropists had the ambitious goal of ensuring people with sight loss had a home and could learn skills to lead an independent life. 

Since 1799, over 60 prime ministers have come and gone, 10 British monarchs have reigned, and tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people have been supported by SeeAbility. 

We have had so many successes in that time, at an individual level of people we support achieving their goals, as well as huge national achievements with our eye care work. 

Over two centuries our support has grown and developed but, as in our founding moments in 1799, we remain ambitious for, and alongside, people we support. 

Whether that’s through our expertise in eye care for people with learning disabilities, our social care support for people with complex support needs, or our campaigning and advocacy work to raise the voices of people with lived experience – all our work reaches towards an inclusive society, where people with learning disabilities, autism and sight loss can live, love, thrive and belong. 

The present

Tim sitting on

We’re proud to challenge society to improve and become more inclusive, and proud to support people to challenge what they expect from their lives and from others. 

A lot has changed for people with disabilities since 1799, but we still live in a world that is often not ready for people with disabilities. Where people face barriers for both the small everyday ambitions and the big life changing ones. 

Our team of people with lived experience are calling for: 

  • Greater public awareness and understanding of the value of social care for working age people and how people draw on it to live ordinary lives.
  • All party manifestoes and agendas to feature actions or commitments that will improve the lives of people with a learning disability.
  • The health and care agenda at NHS England to move forward for people with learning disabilities and autism, from ending long stay hospital use, to better eye care.

We need to see more people with lived experience getting jobs and having their voices heard. Diverse opinions and experiences at all levels means that more people will be able to participate in and change society, as equal citizens. 

We want to see a focus on improving access to eye care for people with learning disabilities, with it being recognised as critical for reducing health inequalities from an early age. 

We are calling for equal pay for social care, valuing social care work alongside the NHS, with support work being recognised for the vital role that it plays in changing lives. As many people work in social care as they do in the NHS (over 1.5 million people). Recent research showed that support workers in the UK are undervalued by 36% compared to the pay of their NHS peers (Unfair To Care 2024). 
Alongside Learning Disability England in the Good Lives Manifesto, we call for an immediate uplift to pay, funded by the government, so frontline care and supporter workers receive at least the midpoint of the hourly ‘basic pay’ level of NHS Band 3 staff in 2024/25. 
Increased pay for those working in social care will attract the best talent and reduce turnover, improving quality of support, which will in turn raise quality of life for people who draw on social care. 

The future

We refuse to give up on a world that needs to change. SeeAbility wants to drive that change to ensure an inclusive, welcoming society for everyone. 

We believe that together, we can change the world, so people with disabilities can fulfil their ambitions, big or small. 

We’ve come a long way, but we’re not there yet. You can join us on our journey and help us get closer to our ambitious vision of inclusive communities where everyone can live, love, thrive and belong.