Royal National Institute of Blind People

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is a UK charity offering information, support and advice to almost two million people in the UK with sight loss.[2]

ChairmanEleanor Southwood
Interim Chief ExecutiveEliot Lyne[1]


The RNIB was founded by Thomas Rhodes Armitage, a doctor who suffered from eyesight problems.

In 1868, Armitage founded an organisation known as the British and Foreign Society for Improving Embossed Literature for the Blind.[3] This later became the British and Foreign Blind Association.[3] In 1875 Her Majesty Queen Victoria became the organisation's first patron.[3]

The organisation received a Royal Charter in 1948, and changed its name to Royal National Institute for the Blind in 1953.[3] In 2002, RNIB membership was introduced and the organisation's name changed to Royal National Institute of the Blind.[3] In June 2007 the organisation changed its name again, to Royal National Institute of Blind People.[3]


RNIB is a national organization with branches and services throughout the United Kingdom including Northern Ireland.[3] The charity's headquarters are in London, England. RNIB's patron is Queen Elizabeth II.

In October 2008, RNIB and Action for Blind People agreed in principle to combine some services across England. The new arrangement began in April 2009, resulting in Action for Blind People becoming an Associate Charity of RNIB.[4]


In 2002 RNIB became a membership organisation, enabling a greater proportion of blind and partially sighted people to get involved and have a say on how the organisation delivers services and what work it does.[5]


RNIB is governed by a Board of Trustees. The Board has 24 members, more than 50 per cent of whom must be blind or partially sighted. A number of committees support the work of the Board.[6]


RNIB's work is supported by more than 3000 volunteers throughout the UK.[7]

RNIB's work

Eliminating avoidable sight loss

Every day another 100 people in the UK will start to lose their sight, and RNIB can only reach 1 in 3 of them[8] - but many causes of sight loss are preventable if they are caught early.[9] RNIB works to eliminate avoidable sight loss. To this end, RNIB leads on the UK Vision Strategy, developed by a large eye health and sight loss alliance, to set the direction for the eye health of the nation.[10]

Support and information

RNIB provides support, information and advice for people affected by sight loss, as well as for eye health and other professionals. In 2007/08 over 280,000 people a month contacted RNIB for general information on sight loss, to lend their voice to a campaign, for expert advice, or to buy an accessible product.[11]

RNIB runs a telephone Helpline to provide information and support for anyone affected by a sight problem. Another telephone service, Talk and Support, offers people the chance to socialise and receive support as part of a telephone group. As well as telephone advice, RNIB maintains an accessible website and print and audio publications.

To support people coming to terms with sight loss, RNIB organises "Finding your feet" weekend breaks. There are also courses in learning braille, and a range of information and products to help people affected by sight loss to live their daily life independently.

RNIB works to increase access to information for blind and partially sighted people.[12] This ranges from campaigning for more audio description on television, cinemas and at sports venues to getting books, bills and other written material available in accessible formats (such as braille, large print or audio). RNIB runs a radio station, Insight Radio - Europe's first radio station dedicated to the blind and partially sighted community. Insight Radio broadcasts online, on Sky channel 0188, on Freesat channel 777 and on 101 FM in the Glasgow area.

Education and residential care

RNIB owns several educational establishments and residential care homes:

RNIB Sunshine House School and Children's Home

Sunshine House is a specialist primary school, children's home and service for families in Northwood, Middlesex. The school educates blind and partially sighted children with significant learning difficulties and disabilities between the ages of 2 and 11 years. The residential accommodation is open to children aged between 2 and 14 years who are blind or partially sighted with significant learning difficulties and disabilities, whether they also attend the school. Children stay at Sunshine House overnight up to four nights per week, up to 50 weeks per year.[13]

RNIB Pears Centre for Specialist Learning

RNIB Pears Centre for Specialist Learning (Formerly RNIB Rushton School and Children's Home) was established in 1957 and is based near Coventry, Warwickshire. It provides specialist education and individually tailored care and therapies for children and young people with complex needs who are blind or partially sighted, between the ages of 4 and 19. Children can live in residential accommodation onsite or attend on a day basis.[14]

In 2012, RNIB completed a redevelopment project of the Pears Centre site with new purpose-built facilities costing £30 million. The new facility provides more places for children in the school and residential care home.[15]

In 2019 Pears was closed down and the children and young adults were moved to other establishments.

RNIB Community Living Service

RNIB's Community Living Service provides support, work experience, rehabilitation services and 52-week residential care and supported living for young adults with sight loss, multiple disabilities and complex needs, from the age of 18 up to 40 years. The centre is based in Redhill, Surrey and consists of 13 self-contained flats and several shared houses.

RNIB College Loughborough

RNIB College Loughborough is based in Loughborough, Leicestershire, and supports students with sight loss and other disabilities. The college provides further education programmes to learners aged 16–25 and adult employment programmes for adult learners aged 18–63 who are unemployed and looking to develop their skills or retrain and gain employment. The college offers residential or day programmes.[16]

Residential care for older people

RNIB owns three residential homes for older people who are blind, partially sighted or deafblind and require permanent or short-term accommodation. RNIB's homes are based in Somerset (RNIB Kathleen Chambers House), North Yorkshire (RNIB Tate House) and East Sussex (RNIB Wavertree House). The homes contain special adaptations and equipment for blind or partially sighted people including talking notice boards, talking lifts, braille embossers, magnifiers and libraries of large print, braille and audiobooks.[17]

Accessible products

RNIB runs an Online shop and several Resource Centres, which sell accessible products, gifts and publications. RNIB sources, designs and supplies products to help blind and partially sighted people live independently, and to make everyday tasks easier.[18] Products include talking clocks and watches, large button telephones, mobility aids, cookery aids and tactile toys and games.


The RNIB National Library Service contains more than 40,000 titles, making it the largest specialist library in the UK for readers with sight loss.[19] It stocks books in accessible formats, such as braille and giant print. It also stocks braille music. The RNIB National Library Service was created in 2007 when the RNIB's library services merged with the National Library for the Blind.

Audio books are provided through the Talking Book service. RNIB's Talking Books are recorded in DAISY format. Unlike regular CDs, Daisy's digital format allows listeners to use the CD in the same way as a print book, by creating bookmarks, speeding up and slowing down playback and jumping easily around the content.[20]

RNIB's online shop supplies accessible books, music and maps.

Good design

RNIB encourages good design to make websites, information, products, services and buildings accessible to people with sight problems.[21] RNIB's "See it right" guidelines give practical advice on how to design and produce accessible information.[22]

Transcription Centres convert print and other material into accessible formats, such as braille, audio and large print. They also handle requests for transcription of mathematical documents, music and tactile maps and diagrams.

RNIB runs a number of training and consultancy services to help businesses and individuals create accessible services and products. Training includes courses on understanding sight loss, health and social care training, leisure industry training, disability awareness, and recruitment related training.[23] Consultancy services include product design, access design (covering built, pedestrian and transport environments), and web access.[24]


In line with RNIB's 2009–14 strategy, RNIB campaigns and lobbies on three main priorities, as well as on reactive issues.[25] The three main campaign priorities are:

  • preventing avoidable sight loss
  • supporting independent living
  • creating an inclusive society.[26]

RNIB have been involved in several successful campaigns including ensuring that disabled people receive accessible travel information on buses and coaches across Europe [27] and lobbying the UK government to review Personal Independence Payment assessment criteria.[28]

Personal Independence Payment

From April 2013, Personal Independence payment (PIP) will replace Disability Living Allowance in the UK.[29] RNIB's PIP campaign has focussed on the PIP assessment criteria that will be used to calculate the rate of payment received by individuals. So far, the campaign has prompted thousands of blind and partially sighted people to write to and visit their MPs in order to express their concerns about the upcoming changes.[30]

Talking cash machine campaign

RNIB is campaigning for banks in the UK to make their cash machines accessible to blind and partially sighted people by enabling them to talk to the user through headphones that can be plugged into the ATM. Barclays Bank committed to make more that 75 per cent of its ATMs talk, and fulfilled this commitment in November 2012. Nationwide, LINK and the Co-operative Bank have now also committed to providing talking ATMs. RNIB are now focussing on expanding the activity, and are encouraging people to write to HSBC and Santander to ask them to make their cash machines accessible.[31]

Save Our Sight campaign

Every day, 100 people in the UK start to lose their sight. Yet over 50 percent of sight loss can be avoided.[8] RNIB's Save Our Sight (SOS) campaign aims to:

  • work with local councils to improve eye health in the community
  • challenge avoidable sight loss
  • promote timely access to vital sight saving treatments
  • encourage regular eye checks.[32]


For every pound donated, RNIB spends 87p directly on helping blind and partially sighted people, 11p on raising more funds, and 2p on administration.[33] RNIB organises fundraising events in the UK and overseas, as well as raffles, recycling schemes, legacy donations, online fundraising and corporate partnerships.[34]

Sooty boxes

Since the 1950s, the well-known and well-loved children's fictional puppet character Sooty is an exclusive feature to the charity's collection boxes. And since RNIB have started collecting donation funds with Sooty Boxes, the charity so far have raised over £11.5m in total.[35]


RNIB produce a number of magazines for professionals, carers and blind and partially sighted people.

Insight magazine

Insight magazine is aimed at parents and professionals who support blind and partially sighted children and young people, including those with complex needs. The magazine covers a number of areas including information about learning and development, news and personal stories. Insight was first published by RNIB in January 2006; prior to this RNIB produced VisAbility and Eye Contact.[36]

NB magazine

NB (New Beacon) magazine is aimed at health and social care professionals who work with blind and partially sighted people. NB supports RNIB's focus on prevention, independent living and inclusion. The magazine covers a number of areas including eye health, rehabilitation and case studies. NB was first published by in 1917 as The Beacon; the magazine changed its name in 1930 to New Beacon and became known as NB in 2006. NB celebrated its 1,000th issue in 2001.[37]


Vision magazine is a bi-monthly publication produced exclusively for RNIB members. The magazine covers a range of topics including news, recipes, reviews and people profiles. Vision was first published in spring 2002, and is distributed to all of RNIB's 10,500 member in a number of formats. In 2009 Vision won a MemCom award for best magazine in the charity/other membership category.[38]

See also


  1. "Our structure - RNIB - See differently". RNIB. RNIB. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  2. RNIB
  3. History of RNIB
  4. Association with Action for Blind People Archived 2011-09-30 at the Wayback Machine
  5. RNIB offers membership Archived 2011-09-30 at the Wayback Machine
  6. How we are governed
  7. "Volunteering". 18 February 2014.
  8. "Key information and statistics on sight loss in the UK". 3 March 2014.
  9. Eye health Archived 2010-09-02 at the Wayback Machine
  10. Who's involved in the UK Vision Strategy Archived 2010-08-22 at the Wayback Machine
  11. "Annual review archive". 24 February 2014.
  12. Accessible information
  13. "RNIB Sunshine House School". 20 February 2014.
  14. "RNIB Pears Centre for Specialist Learning". 20 February 2014.
  15. Redevelopment of Rushton/The Pears Centre Archived 2012-03-28 at the Wayback Machine
  16. "RNIB College Loughborough". 19 February 2014.
  17. Living at Kathleen Chambers House
  18. "RNIB Online Shop".
  19. Sight, Reading. "RNIB - Key organisations - Reading Sight".
  20. About Daisy audio books Archived 2010-12-01 at the Wayback Machine
  21. Accessible environments
  22. RNIB's See it Right guidelines
  23. RNIB training and conferences
  24. Solutions for business
  25. RNIB campaigns
  26. RNIB's 2009/14 strategy
  27. "Travel, mobility and living skills research". 3 March 2014.
  28. RNIB, Personal Independence Payment
  29. "2010 to 2015 government policy: welfare reform". GOV.UK.
  30. "Personal Independence Payment (PIP)". 18 February 2014.
  31. RNIB, Talking ATMs Archived 2013-03-30 at the Wayback Machine
  32. "Looking after your eyes". 19 February 2014.
  33. Annual review and report
  34. Fundraising for RNIB
  36. "History of RNIB". 24 February 2014.
  37. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-27. Retrieved 2013-03-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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