One of the main aims of our founder, Sir Arthur Pearson, was to build up the confidence of Service men returning blinded from the First World War. As a blind man himself, he wanted to offer the training and support to blinded veterans to ensure that they could lead fulfilling lives and support themselves and their families, with many having successful careers.
Sir Arthur would visit men who had returned blinded from the war in hospital and invite them to our hostel in Regent's Park to receive free and comprehensive training. On these visits, he would give each man a 'Braille' watch; a specially designed timepiece with raised dots to indicate the hours and specially strengthened hands.
Sir Arthur wrote in his autobiography of how these watches had a value way beyond their considerable practical use saying: 'Now when for the first time he held in his hand a watch by which he could tell the hour he was delighted, and he was still more delighted to find that he was able to do something like other people which blindness had seemed to prevent. It was a little discovery that, like a spark, set alight all kinds of hopes.'
This single 'spark' was Sir Arthur's first step in the road to giving back independence to blind veterans. Once with us in Regent's Park they would learn practical skills such as reading Braille, typewriting, how to weave, mat making, poultry farming and telephony.
100 years later we are still providing free and comprehensive lifelong support for ex-Service men and women with sight loss, although now we provide a talking watch rather than the specially designed 'Braille' watches of Sir Arthur's day.
Throughout 2015 we'll be revealing many different objects that show the ways that we provide care, as well as objects that demonstrate blind veterans amazing achievements over the last 100 years, so make sure you visit regularly to keep up to date.
The next big reveal will be on the second week of January!
Happy New Year!
Throughout 2015 we will be celebrating our history through 100 objects that represent Blind Veterans UK and the work that we do.
The first object we are revealing is a very special letter dating from 1916, written by our founder Sir Arthur Pearson.
In 2003, Billy trained to take on the world record to be the Fastest Blind Man on a Motorbike! He broke the Guinness World Record by 24 mph and was recorded as the fastest blind man on a motorbike travelling at an incredible speed of 165 mph.
Braille typewriters are an early important object in our charity's history as they functioned hand in hand with the charity's aim of teaching independence to veterans with severe vision impairment.
Our very first minute book, which documents the early years of our charity from 1915 to 1921.