1799

SeeAbility was established and became the first school for young blind people in the south of England, with the goal of teaching people with sight loss key skills in the hope they could learn a trade and become self-sufficient. We were founded by four philanthropists:

Samuel Bosanquet Jnr
A partially sighted man coming from a wealthy family, a businessman and owner of what would become Lloyds Bank.

Thomas Boddington
Director of the Bank of England.

James Ware
An eye surgeon and Fellow of the Royal Society. He is considered one of the founding fathers of modern ophthalmology in Britain.

William Houlston
A tireless worker for many charities, and the first secretary for the school.

 

1801

The school had 30 pupils, which would become 46 males and 47 females by 1817. Income was raised through donations and sales of goods produced in the workshops.

The School for the Indigent Blind, 1813

 

1901

After 102 years in London, the school's site at the junction of Lambeth and London roads was sold to the Baker Street and Waterloo railway company and the school moved to Leatherhead in Surrey (see photo at the top of the page).

  

1911

The school was granted Royal Patronage by King George V and became The Royal School for the Blind. In its day the facilities were considered state of the art, although by today’s standards the pupils were cared for in a very institutional manner, living in dormitory-style accommodation and forbidden to mix with members of the opposite sex. There was little incentive to learn even basic daily living skills as everything was done for them.

 

1980

The entire ethos of The Royal School for the Blind had changed. The dormitories were gradually remodelled into flats, pupils had become residents and were able to mix with one another, and we refocused our energy on enabling the people we supported to achieve independence according to their individual potential.

People who used our services became actively involved in making decisions about how to run their home and their lives. They were encouraged to make informed choices, take responsibility for their lives and develop a realistic understanding of the implications of their actions. The aim was to encourage fuller integration into the wider community and the lifestyles associated with it.

Lady takes part in an art class at The Royal School for the Blind, 1980

 

 1982

Princess Diana became our Patron and made a number of visits to our services until stepping down in 1996. Since 1999 The Duchess of Gloucester has been our Patron. Chris Anderson, pictured with Princess Diana, is still supported by SeeAbility today.

Princess Diana with Chris Anderson, still supported by SeeAbility today

 

1994

We changed our operating name to SeeAbility and adopted the ethos: seeing beyond disability. In the two years prior, we had begun expanding our services in community-based settings, helping people with sight loss and disabilities in their own homes.

 

2005

SeeAbility launched an eye care and vision information service for people who have learning disabilities. In a joint study with RNIB, we found adults with learning disabilities are ten times more likely to have sight problems than others.

In 2013 we began working to prevent avoidable sight loss for this group of people at a much earlier age and launched Children in Focus to transform eye care for disabled children in special schools in England. 

Lana, a pupil at The Village School

 

Over the last decade

We have expanded our accommodation and support services across southern England, more than doubling turnover and operating locations. We recently received our first ‘outstanding’ award from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for our Fairways residential service in Fleet. Our CQC reports are the equal to any provider in the sector with 100% compliance.

Today we are one of the oldest specialist organisations for people with visual impairment in the world.