According to the Royal National Institute of Blind People, by 2050 4.1 million people in the UK will be affected by visual impairments. Established in 1911 (before the existence of the NHS), the Bournemouth Blind Society is a charity run community with a membership of around 350 people.
I have entitled this project ‘thus it is I see’, which is taken from a poem on the wall of the society which talks in first person about being visually impaired. The first verse reads ‘I may not see the way you do with eyes so bright and quick, but I know where flowers abound and where the grass grows thick’. I believe this verse captures the soul of the members of the society: warm and gentle, smart and inspiring.
I was struck by the openness and spirit of the members, staff, and volunteers, making the centre a communal place of friendship, a safe and uplifting place. Chief Executive Philip Tarrant says; ‘we try to make sure that we operate like a large family’. With a lot of the members being elderly, the society is a lifeline for some, being the only family and support they have. The society is open to the members four days a week and offers help and support both emotionally and practically, helping the members manage in their own homes through the Sight and Hearing Resource Centre on the premises which is open Monday to Friday.
This is a documentation of the society as I experienced it, coming in as an outsider, who was so warmly welcomed, trusted and so kind-heartedly accepted. The book is dedicated to everyone at the society who showed me kindness and educated me, and most importantly, who I grew to know, thank you.